Wheel Women

This past week, and the week before that, were all about the bike. And the women. And the rides. And the cafes. Put it all together and it’s a winning formula; there is almost nothing I could recommend more! And it’s all due to the women’s cycling group Wheel Women. Have I mentioned them before? Once, twice?? But they’re always worth another mention or more because they do amazing work getting us women on bikes and keeping us there.

I have to say that my involvement with (possibly read: dependence on) Wheel Women is one of the main reasons why going to Canberra for 3 months from September to December 2016 was hard, and why coming home was so good. I really didn’t know if I’d keep up riding in Canberra without my supportive group. Wheel Women’s director kindly put me onto a cyclist in Canberra, but her group was more of a mountain bike club, and the road cycling group she referred me to rode at 6am on a weekday; enough said! She offered some one on one rides, but in the end I sort of bumbled around until I found a few places on my own. It was a nice offer though.

Of course I took my bike, helmet, cycle computer, bike clothes and other accessories (there a lots of add on products that you “need” when you start riding!!) with me to Canberra. But having the stuff with me, and actually using it are two different things. I’ve proved this before. Having to think out where to go, how to get there, what the route will be like, what to do if I got stuck halfway due to accident or mechanical, if I’m up for it etc becomes a barrier very easily. With Wheel Women, organised rides are thought out, planned and advertised by someone else. All I have to do is turn up at a specific place and time and follow the leader; that holds a lot of the attraction for me to keep up riding, I’ll admit. Is that laziness? Maybe. But it’s a winning, working formula and I think it’s an attraction for a lot of us Wheel Women members. I did try to find some new riding locations in Canberra, and I fell in love with Lake Burley Griffin and its surrounding bike paths so that kept me going on rides a bit. A few local rides to brunch or dinner, to sightseeing near our place etc made up the rest of the rides, twenty in all; not terrific for 90 odd days but hey I did something more than look at my bike on the verandah!

As much as I was looking forward to riding with Wheel Women again when I got home to Melbourne, I didn’t get straight back into it because we were away a lot during January; but now that I’m back into it, I feel like I never left. It has amazed me though how quickly your bike fitness diminishes when you aren’t regularly riding. You really do have to do a couple of rides a week to maintain your level, and it is worth maintaining that level of activity so the next bike ride feels better. But on the plus side, it only takes a couple of rides to get back to where you were; it’s a constant state of flux.

What has been the most wonderful thing about returning to Wheel Women rides, aside from the excellent rides, is the response of Wheel Women members. I’m not saying I’m anyone special, or trying to be pompous, or blowing my own horn but the lovely, sweet response I’ve received to being back on rides has been overwhelming. I honestly don’t know whether I feel more humbled or thrilled or excited or overjoyed or loved at each next ride. Catching with my old friends and being welcomed back so warmly; meeting new members and striking up new relationships. Man, it is SUCH a great group of people. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a group of women that are so unanimously supportive of each other, tolerant of others at a lower level, encouraging to all, utterly friendly and so focused on building each other up regardless of individual personalities. It’s such a privilege to be part of Wheel Women!

So, here I am back riding with my cycling group and loving it! But it’s not a group that you make friends and develop relationships with, it’s each of the special women that have made my day each time I’ve gone out riding with them. These women are really special treasures: women who’ve overcome their fears, their past experience, their lack of experience, other people’s unhelpful opinions, their weight, their age and more to tackle what is essentially a sport but for most has become a means to transport, to a broader social life, to permanent skills and, most importantly, to independence. Who knew that so many benefits could come out of trying out cycling?

I certainly had no idea of the depth of experience and privilege I would come to experience when I started cycling with Wheel Women. I wanted to attempt to start bike riding again; that was my entire ambition. A few years hiatus from cycling followed a bad fall off my bike onto my chin and hand, narrowly missing falling into a 3 lane road in peak traffic. This left me shaken and lacking confidence to return to commuting to the train station to travel into uni. Several years down the track, I was off work on sick leave but having been used to working hard, full time I wanted to do something, anything, to fill in a little time in my week. My hubby was riding lots, commuting to work every weekday, long rides on Saturdays and 2 or 3 early start weekday rides plus any other chance he got. I thought it would be nice to get started back on my bike slowly before attempting anything too drastic with him. Knowing my fitness wasn’t great, and I’d recently stacked on a LOT of weight, I wanted a quiet, friendly environment without too much expectation and did I get a lucky break falling into Wheel Women’s arms! They wrote and taught the 8 week program administered by another agency, and so I was involved with them right from Day One. A very good way to start. I’ve talked about some of those early days before and you can read about it in my other blogs.

Today I want to share the rides I’ve done in this 2 week period. Between the beginning of the week before last and the end of last week (a fortnight all up) I have done 7 bike rides, each and every one of them has been with Wheel Women.  I should say that this is the most I’ve EVER ridden in a similar period. It’s also the only time I’ve gotten on my bike to do a ride THREE days in a row. So I’m kicking goals, as they say, which is not the point of the piece, but I just wanted to make sure you realise that this isn’t a typical or usual or expected run of rides. All the same, I’m thrilled that I did it all, and it’s more points on some fictitious blackboard somewhere out there in the universe that tells me whether I’m doing good or not. I’m doing good! Brain, take note. You seem to very easily let the good things slip through the net while retaining the smallest bad things for my constant reminding. Well, here are some solid facts for you as proof that I can do it, okay?

13th Warburton rail trail, 34.5km

Chatting to Alicia at Woori Yallock

This is cycling to me – riding with my friends and chatting at any opportunity

15th Moonee Ponds Creek trail, Upfield bike path, Capital City trail, 18.5km

Mixed business cafe with the girls

The face of cycling to me – smiles, happiness, water, and a new cafe menu to check out

17th Specialized sale, Capital City trail, Moonee Ponds Creek trail, 16.5km

oo ooh so much stuff

RIDING to a BIKE clothes sale with my BIKE buddies and shopping for BIKE stuff galore…now how to get it home??

18th Otway and Great Ocean Road classic, 30.5km

yep struggling a bit

This is Wheel Women – when the going gets tough, there is always someone beside you keeping you company, someone at the top of the hill encouraging you to get there, someone behind you letting you know you aren’t being left behind and someone at the finish line cheering. It inspires me to dig deeper.

 

23rd Merri Creek trail, Main Yarra trail, 25km

me and kathy

Friends on every ride

24th Williamstown, Maribyrnong River trail, Bay trail west, 30.5km

Classy ladies Sylvia, Robyn, Judy, Alicia, Lyn

We ride, we find thrones…what can we do but be glorious, Lycra-clad queens of cycling?

25th The Women’s Ride, Gardiner Creek trail, 13km

20170325_103008

The aqua and purple team of Wheel Women teaching 30 women how to change a flat tyre after a ride along the Gardiner Creek trail – what a terrific morning!

That’s 168.5km all up in a fortnight in case anyone is counting. I’m sort of stuck at the 30km per ride mark which is my next thing to tackle, alongside mastering hills. But it’s not really the point is it? The point is the company, the enjoyment, the fresh air, the friendship, the new cafes, the new sights and places; the personal achievements are kind of a lovely bonus.

P.S. Aren’t you glad there are keen photographers around to capture all my best moments?! All photo credit to the Wheel Women Facebook page, most likely to a coach or ride leader, or fellow member. Enjoy!

 

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Twitchers Thursday

What a gorgeous day in lovely Melbourne!

reflection, blue sky, Glorious glorious day! A lake on Monbulk Creek in Birdsland Reserve

Glorious glorious day! A lake on Monbulk Creek in Birdsland Reserve

From this end of the day it was a delightful day of friendship, flowers, birds, lunching, sunshine, shopping, driving, discovery and fulfilment.

I love this magenta and red flower, which is yes, surprisingly, a native!

I love this magenta and red flower, which is yes, surprisingly, a native!

Amazing how different it looks when compared to the other end which was a disappointed ‘oh it’s grey outside, it was meant to be sunny’, an exhausted-after-eight-hours-of-sleep ‘I’m so tired, maybe I’ll just keep sleeping a bit longer’, slow-and-fat ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to keep up with the physical demands of the day’ and just-to-give-me-a-boost ‘ooh chocolate, good I wasn’t sure what to have for breakfast’!

Perspective. It never ceases to amaze me! It really is everything!

Still a favourite but thought I was onto a new one! Never heard it call like that

Still a favourite but thought I was onto a new one! Never heard it call like that. From this side you miss all the pretty yellow that makes him striking.

Convincing myself to get out of bed for myself in the morning? Very easy to pike and say, well there’s no shortage of days – I’ll get up tomorrow, or the day after!

Knowing that someone else is waiting? ‘You better get up right now and get yourself sorted this instance Miss’!

In a good way, not a bad way. In a spirit of wanting to be with your friends and getting some motivation out of that, not in a spirit of ‘I have to because they said so’.

Fabulous red and orange kangaroo paw - gorgeous isn't it?

Fabulous red and orange kangaroo paw – gorgeous isn’t it?

The same goes for the level of exertion I can put out by myself versus with someone else, or for something else. Yesterday I slow walked 1.5km in 2 hours…not exactly race speed! Today we covered 2.5km in the same or less time, with multiple stops and pauses for birds and beautiful scenery gazing. Still not race speed but a good deal quicker than it would have been if I’d set the pace myself. Again, this is a good thing – it helps me get going to have someone by my side. It might wear me out, but that’s good too 🙂

Tadpoles! Millions of them! Haven't seen them for years, very alert little tiny things, lake, reeds

Tadpoles! Millions of them! Haven’t seen them for years, very alert little tiny things

Something to keep in mind for myself.

As they say, it’s all in the mind! Great saying that, encompasses everything and is both positive and negative at the same time!

Fluffy headed Laughing Kookaburra preening high in the sky over Kuranga Nursery

Fluffy headed Laughing Kookaburra preening high in the sky over Kuranga Nursery

So today we checked out the fabulous native Kuranga Nursery in Mount Evelyn which was a pure delight! Masses of flowering wildflowers and a real education for me in what exactly is meant by the term native plant…so much more than I had thought! So many types of eucalypt, huge numbers of banksias and every colour of Kangaroo Paw. Fascinating! Plus ferns and other plants which I had always assumed were English or European.

Every possible colour of Kangaroo Paw - forgive me for thinking there were two!

Every possible colour of Kangaroo Paw – forgive me for thinking there were two!

They have an AMAZING cafe onsite and we had a fabulous outdoor table in the shade overlooking the nursery and ate a delicious lunch with delectable dessert! They use native ingredients in their cooking and we thoroughly enjoyed every bite!

Our fabulous view from lunch on the most perfect Summer day, colourful

Our fabulous view from lunch on the most perfect Summer day

Pretty flowers attract pretty butterflies and moths - not sure which this is, green leaves

Pretty flowers attract pretty butterflies and moths – not sure which this is

Our next stop had been debated and was decided mostly based on my ability/inability to actually make the most of the originally planned destination: Cranbourne Botanic, or Australian Native Garden. We decided to skip it, we were running shortish on time anyway, and instead we checked out a brand new area for both of us: Birdsland Reserve, Belgrave.

Playing Peekaboo with a Sulfur Crested Cockatoo!

Playing Peekaboo with a Sulfur Crested Cockatoo!

Early into the piece we discovered that this reserve was named Birdsland after a family named Bird who used to live there – its literally named Bird’s Land after them. I thought that maybe this diminished the chance of us seeing birds…but I was wrong! It is also aptly named for the birds there.

I was with an insect enthusiast today...and I think it's starting to show in my photos!, dead log

A long shot to a Dragon Fly, or Damsel Fly – not sure which

Here’s a handy hint if you’re planning to check it out (which you absolutely must if you’re a walker/runner/cyclist/nature enthusiast/bird watcher!). You’ll get to the sign for this reserve and find a car park. Don’t park there – turn up the gravel road and drive in for a few kilometres first; this will take you to the start of the good track (in my opinion, having visited once!).

This is a Damsel Fly - I can't really tell them apart from Dragon Flies so I'm going on trust, green grass

This is a Damsel Fly – I can’t really tell them apart from Dragon Flies so I’m going on trust what I’m told

It was such a beautiful day, weather-wise! Blue sky after lunch, warm sun, cool breeze, dry conditions. Could hardly have ordered a better day for being out and about. Much better for hot, sweaty me than the expected 30 degrees of tomorrow! I do need to look into getting a visor, though; may have gotten a touch too much of the sun.

Nothing nicer than sitting in companionable silence on a shady seat watching the perfect day roll by!

And then back to the bird searching. We managed to find two birds we’d never seen or photographed and it was a great day before that! We heard the Reed-warbler early and my friend caught a few glimpses but so far I’d seen nothing! We really didn’t want to leave without a photo but he made use work for it! The other bird was an incidental ‘oh there’s an easy shot of a bird!” moment, but I’m pretty happy with it!

So here’s my two lifers! Not bad for one day! Thanks to my friend with the sharpest eyes!

A White-eared Honeyeater flitting around in the dead trees on a perfect day at Birdsland Reserve

A White-eared Honeyeater flitting around in the dead trees on a perfect day at Birdsland Reserve

An Australian Reed-Warbler that lives up to it's name to a high degree, confounding us often by disappearing into the thick reeds and singing his heart out

An Australian Reed-Warbler that lives up to it’s name to a high degree, confounding us often by disappearing into the thick reeds and singing his heart out

I also have to give a shout out for my friend for sharing her insect knowledge with me. I loved shooting them, but I think my head is too full of birds and flowers to add insects just now! But it added some fun to the day.

So, a happy day. How ’bout that? Didn’t think I’d have a great day like that this week so it’s pretty awesome! Cheers!