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!

 

Smiling!

You can hardly wipe the smile off my face! Just sitting here chilling out in a comfy chair at the end of the day, I’m smiling 🙂 No one’s making me, nothing is happened to draw a smile out of me, there’s just a good humour welling up out of me, and it’s delightful!

I suppose this is what they talk about when they say riding and exercise increase your serotonin levels. When I was unwell, exercise was just torture, even though everyone said how good for you it was supposed to be. I could never understand it! It’s only now that I’ve become fit and can do longer rides that I’m getting some of that effect. Ah well, better late than never!

So, what a great day!

The plan was always for a great day: the Wheel Women Christmas ride! What a cause for excitement, end of year festivities with all the fabulous ladies I ride with at one time or another! Wouldn’t miss it for almost anything!

A bit of a reminder to myself at this time: this is my first Wheel Women Christmas, because I only joined Wheel Women in March! March!! Can you believe it?? I can’t! What kilometers, what skills, what adventures, what misadventures have been gained in barely 9 months! Those who have been there for the misadventures only need these words: velodrome, baby ducks, emergency braking, whoops that hill and corner came out of nowhere! That last one? Today!

What a perfect way to celebrate the year of riding that Wheel Women across Melbourne have had; getting together for a large group ride from Kensington to Williamstown.

[Note: every time I say something like “what a perfect…” and it’s attached to something bike related, it gives me this little jolt, well not jolt, but just a little flashback to March, or was it April, when they told us we were going for a ride, an actual ride not just practicing stopping and starting, and 6 kilometers sounded like a death sentence!!! I have a little giggle to myself now, and have a little moment of wow, how far I’ve come so quickly! Not in a bragging way, just in a ‘Woah! How did that happen?!’ way].

So we gathered together outside Cyclic Bicycles in Kensington. And lucky for me that we did, because Dum Dum Dugan Danika here forgot her helmet! I mean, there are very few essentials in the world of riding, but a helmet you must always have! The day would have quickly soured if Evan from the bike shop wasn’t ready and willing to lend me a helmet! Lucky he opened the store an hour early just for us! A hat tip, and a recommendation that if you’re looking for anything bike related in the general area, he’s your guy!

Riders of all shapes and sizes (I mean that in the best way, and I should know!), and all abilities, with 4 wonderful coaches and great excitement for the day’s activities! There were jingle bells and baubles dangling off bikes, The Tinsel Bike shedding silver Christmas cheer all over the place apparently whenever the brakes were applied, coordinating glistening shoes covers for the coaches, Christmassy T shirts and earrings, and a sleigh bell dinging!! Hard not to get into the spirit with so much effort put in!

We were taking a new route today for me at least, up the hill (!) from Kensington, along the beautiful old Stock Route with cobblestone sections under the shade of huge old peppercorn trees and lined by the original post and rail fences of the stockyards. Then onto the gorgeous riverside bike path that follows the Maribyrong River more or less to Williamstown. I can never get tired of the stunning views we are treated to along this river and out into the bay; really they are such a delight each and every time I ride this way.

And the weather was perfect! It was meant to get hot, but it was overcast so it didn’t heat up and there was a breeze around; ideal conditions!!

So we got to Williamstown, partially along the road this time rather than all on the bike path. I have to say, I did enjoy it a lot more than the path for that section that we swapped because you don’t have to give way and face the rumble strips at every crossroad, it’s a lot smoother and I think I can go faster! Which is always fun 🙂 I know people are nervous of the road, but in that instance I would recommend it! There’s a good sized bike lane and all.

What can I say about arriving in the lush green park in Williamstown, with views of the marina and across the bay to the city?? Need I say more? A champagne toast followed (pink plastic cups!), Lyn’s delicious rumballs then a Christmas speech, and an award!!

This part I am so stoked about! Because…drumroll…I was the recipient! I am so so touched, and thrilled, and encouraged, and heartened by Tina and Tracey and Alicia and Deidre’s choice, and inspired to keep going further and further! What an absolute honour, and of course it would never have happened if it weren’t for Wheel Women and the hard work these 4 ladies put in to keep us riding safely and enjoyably every week!!

The award was for courage and bravery! Warrior status! And it even included a quote from this here blog!! Amazing!! I’m just thrilled over and over!! It’s incredible to have people believe in you, and see the effort that you put in and respect that effort! Every skill I’ve learnt from them has given me the ability to develop bit by bit. I never saw myself going this far from the beginning; I couldn’t see how I’d ever be able. Pottering around the suburbs was more of my vision. But I’ve got the momentum now, so 2016, let’s see what you have in store for me and my bicycle!

As if that didn’t cap the day off as pure amazing, we then had the arrival of Santa!! Dear Ray who is a great friend of all Wheel Women and brings life to every party, had dressed up in a great Father Christmas outfit with huge black boots and all, and was ready to distribute the Kris Kringle gifts! His wife Lyn had to go first, because she was his favourite, said Santa, then we all lined up for our gift and a kiss! Then Ray gave us another delight for the day, his alternate Santa hat that turned on, and the top and the bauble danced around on his head while it sang carols!!! We were in stitches laughing, loving his enthusiasm!! What a great friend, to give us so much Christmas joy!

All that was left was to head to the cafe for eats, drinks, chats and laughs galore! I do so love these ladies who have added such a great social aspect to my life from when I was bored stiff at home alone 5 days a week, right through til now when I’m working half time. It’s such a pleasure to meet up again at the next ride, and pick up right where we left off!! LOVE YOU ALL!!

Well if all of that doesn’t leave me smiling for weeks I don’t know what will! Of course our moods being fickle and subject to sudden change without notice, that won’t be the case. But tonight, I’m smiling!

Thank you to each and every person who made it so!

Oh, I did forget one thing. The award? Came with prizes! All of them exactly what I would have wanted for Christmas!! A Wheel Women riding backpack (now I’m part of the crew! Jokes), a solid high quality bike lock (YAY, out with the old fuddy duddy one!), bright rear and back lights (perfect because although mine allow people to see me, they don’t show me the path ahead!) and the smallest, most adorable set of tyre levers and patch kit!! Absolutely perfect! Couldn’t have picked them out better myself! Thank you, thank you, thank you!