“One of the best rides of my life”

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We were talking about the essence of what made a great ride, what would be the pinnacle for us…exactly what would it take to get us there. It wasn’t tough criteria and actually it was unanimous about what was needed to tick the boxes. In fact, in many ways it seemed that we all agreed on something that was just so simple.

It’s a conversation I’ve had with a few close friends recently. Just exactly what does it take to excite the senses, ignite the fire in the belly, get the endorphins pumping and put that smile on the face that doesn’t go away for a long time. I was interested to know because I’ve struggled with having to re-think my riding plans for a little while now. My injuries are classified as ‘chronic’ now and if I’m to keep moving until I’m old, then I need to re-assess what will put that fire in the belly.

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Our riders Left to Right: Dianne feeling pumped to finish, Sharyn wonders why no more hills, Elisabeth wants to kill me, Danika was just smiling the whole way!

 

I was super intrigued though when I kept finding the same answers from those I asked. Running a women’s cycling group whose mission is to get more women riding means we start at a base level. But for those who advance through the ranks and build up to achieving bigger and longer rides means the goal posts shift on a pretty regular basis – and that’s a good thing. What was once something that was exciting can become dull and uninteresting as the fitness grows. Challenges loom ahead of you like bucket lists dangling before you on a Facebook feed…we can get so sucked into the vortex of comparing what WE do, to what others do!

But the reality is that we all do what we can manage…is that 5km to the shop, 2 laps of the oval, or 100km on a road? It doesn’t matter…but what does matter is that we set the criteria for what makes a GREAT ride as something realistsic. Not criteria a magazine or a Facebook feed tells us is the pinnacle of great riding, not criteria that others have told you, not criteria that we see others achieve, but simply what it is that makes you LOVE riding your bike.

I don’t want to be misunderstood here, some of the achievements we see of riders doing massive distances on rides are to be admired and applauded. But yesterday I had one of the best rides I have ever had in my cycling career – it fell well short of epic distances and scaling lofty vertical metres. It also lacked in the hard-core conditions to make any of us qualify as heroes, and it certainly wouldn’t be considered something worthy of a medal, a trophy or even a blog post by most. But I beg to differ. Yesterday I saw magic happen before my eyes and that 30km will go down as one of the most exciting rides I’ve ever had.

But hang on, HANG ON! I’m the person who thinks nothing of 100km…or more, on a any ride. I’ve never been much of a climber, so for me it’s always been the distance that makes me happy. I’ve also figured that facing some of the distances and climbs in appalling conditions has been the trophy I can carry within to know I braved ridiculous conditions to ‘get there in the end’. Hypothermia, dehydration, nursing exhausted riders, nursing my own injuries,…it’s all the ‘pinnacle’. Until yesterday.

So what was it about yesterday that was so incredible…was it just me in a moment of euphoria? No, I don’t think so! It seems everyone who was there felt the magic…

Our Coach Natasha offered her perspective:

“Yesterday I had one of the best rides of my life. I’ve done a lot of different rides in the past from the shortest couple of kms to some really long ones (250+kms), I’ve raced and I’ve commuted.

One of the things that attracted me to riding and coaching with Wheel Women was the sense of community. It seemed to be the only group out there that wasn’t pushing women to ride further, faster. They accept anyone – big or small, fast or slow; and they help women with little confidence and ability grow into safe, skilled bike handlers. The great thing is these women usually continue to ride after they get back on, or begin for the first time.

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Coach Natasha puts this down as one of her best rides ever!

 

I was personally a little sick of the idea that the only fun you can have on a bike involved speed (racing), long distances or steep hills. I was sick of being too slow, too weak, too ‘lazy’ to make it to every training ride, and sick of busting my gut to stay at the base level of fitness required to race in the lower grades.

So why was yesterday’s 30km Amy’s Ride so good? Firstly it was just long enough to be fun but also a challenge if you wanted it to be and were willing to push yourself a little bit harder here and there….

For some the 30km ride was a massive challenge and it was great to be there for these riders and experience the camaraderie as we cheered each other on. Some of the more social people in our group spent more time meeting fellow riders, some of us rode a little faster here and there so we could take photos of our friends and cheer them as they rode by. There were mums who were riding with their kids, there was at least one couple where the fitter partner was there to support their other half (and how amazing that they stayed with them and didn’t just do a longer ride on their own). There was gorgeous scenery and the strong scent of eucalyptus, and the descents were a blast!

The volunteers were really supportive and at one point there were a few local ladies camped out by the side of the road to cheer! When we finished there were people to cheer us, and then we cheered others in kind, not like at other longer events I’ve done where most people have gone home by the time you cross the finish line!”

Coach Alicia also felt the same way…so what was going on here?

“Yesterday was one of my best days of riding. If you  think that means I completed a challenging ride or achieved a new personal best, you’d be wrong. I rode 30km! Yes there was some lovely scenery and an awesome downhill, but what made it a great day was being able to talk with and help so many other riders.

As I came to the first hill I could see riders ahead of me struggling, so I rode beside them and distracted them by chatting or offered them advice and generally encouraged them to keep going.  All of them were appreciative.

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Alicia spent so much time chatting with riders she didn’t even know she was exhausted afterwards…but pumped knowing she had inspired so many!

 

After my ride, I stood on the side line with my Wheel Women buddies, cheering on every rider as they came to the finish line. I was touched to have some of the riders whom I’d helped during the ride, take the time to thank me for talking with them.

I felt a wonderful sense of community, that none of us was alone, we were here supporting each other.  That’s what made it one of my best rides.”

But what was it for me that made it incredible?

The air was still and the salt air of the beach permeated the bush smells. We rolled up the hills, puffing, sweating, laughing, chasing, and we screamed down the hills flying as we screamed with glee at the freedom. We’d regroup at the top, cheer as the Wheel Women riders rode past laughing at us, snapped photos of them, cheered riders we didn’t even know, then we’d take off again and chase the group until we could do it all again.

We chatted with riders we didn’t know, we made friends and most of all…we smiled and laughed the whole way. A few of our riders were finding the hills a little tough after my promise of a ‘flat ride’ (yeah sorry…you’ve heard that one before right?) and even they were laughing! Despite the threats to kill me at the finish line, and the promise to drown me at the end, they were laughing and finding the funny side to their moments of misery…they were awesome! We were dripping with sweat and loving it.

One by one our riders rolled in and each one received hugs and high fives. But it was only 30km (some did do 60km) yet watching the girls you’d think it was the end of an epic all day ride…the friendships, the support, the smiles for each other. I wanted to cry as I watched it. I have never felt so proud to be a part of such an amazing group of women. They weren’t out there just supporting our group, they were also cheering every other rider!

I felt like the luckiest person alive to be a part of this!

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There they are (well, a few of them): what an amazing group of women. I am so proud to be a part of this group!

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Playing Ambassador, riding with besties, laughing with the gang who make my day…everyday!

 

NOTE: Thanks to the Amy Gillett Foundation for inviting me to be an Ambassador for the 30km Family Ride at the RACV Great Otway and Ocean Classic Ride by SME360, to Martin Wells of the Amy Gillett Foundation for being so supportive of the group on the day and getting me through a stressful start to the day…and to all those riders who said THANK YOU!

#AMetreMatters #ShareTheRoad

Wheel Women

This is just SO sensational reading this Danika…it’s not just about the bike. It’s the friends, the state of mind, the connections and the finding yourself. Love it!!

L i f e - be IN it!

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…

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The story behind the photo…

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If only we took the time to really see the story in a picture and explore it’s depth, if only we knew the true stories behind the faces, then maybe the picture might hold more significance. This photo for me is not just a great picture taken by Georgie Wilson (@georginamonette), it is the story of courage, challenge, commitment and friendships forged through unlikely circumstances.

For a moment, my breath was taken away when I saw this: it reminded me of what Wheel Women is about and how far we have come in the just over 4 years we’ve been running, and what it means for all the women who have experienced the joy of a ride with us. I am lucky to know the extraordinary stories behind every rider.

For any person seeing this picture I guess it looks very much like a group of middle aged women, who ride bikes. In fact, this is the story of women who are single, some widows, some married, some not, some with children and some who never have, some who work and some don’t…in all shapes and sizes. But above all, it is the story of so many who one day took that first step to go on a ride…in the dark so no one would see, alone and wondering how they would ever manage, or those who just said dammit and dragged that old bike out of the shed. They rose to the challenge regardless of their age, size, fitness or care of what others might say.

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There are so many faces in this picture that started as beginner riders with us, some barely able to do more than a circuit of the park. Some are now coaches with us, some are ride leaders, some climb hills while others are just content with the endorphins from their regular social but active catch up. They are bonded by their love of cycling and their age, background, career or other detail is irrelevant…it is the bike ride that bonds them.

And then there is the bike shop guy. Not afraid to admit most of his clientele are women these days, I think all of us can say we are treated with respect, patience and a willingness to teach us what we need to know. He’s also happy to share a beer with the girls at the end of the week. We are not demeaned and we are treated with importance, as we should be. He is very much a part of Wheel Women and we like that! He is a role model for the supportive males we need in women’s cycling.

What also makes this photo special is seeing the commitment these women have made not just to their own mental and physical health, but to the cause that is Wheel Women. They are representatives of so many with INCREDIBLE stories of adversity, challenge and showing that they CAN.

Every woman I see cycling with us is an Ambassador for Women… to get healthy, ride more and inspire others! The women above reminded me of that. When other women see you out riding, they see themselves in you – they see your shape is theirs, your age is theirs, your grey hair, brown hair or even your cellulite on your legs is like theirs, that tummy that has a few folds is like theirs, and your laughter, smiles and friendships inspire them.

Keep doing what you are doing…you are all the change-makers!!

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NOTE: Cyclic Bicycles, 56 Pin Oak Crescent Flemington for the supportive bike shop guy Evan

Finding the fire in your belly…my little New Year message!

img_3099-1Pink has always been my colour…it’s just something that has stuck. And like a lot of things, they get stuck – including me.

It’s been a tough year I’ll admit – loss of passion, loss of friends, loss of motivation, injury, illness and a bunch of other crap that just seemed to always get in the way of a good time. I’ve struggled to keep fit, struggled to maintain a positive body image and been frustrated that I have not been able to ride as much as I would normally. Continue reading

Out of the comfort zone…folded into a new adventure!

dsc03224You can see my little Brompton has now been embellished with some Cherry Blossoms, after her name!

 

I was so excited to have received a spur of the moment, very short notice invitation to go on a ride with Dayna Andreussi of the Melbourne Brompton Club that I just wasn’t going to pass this up…I don’t often get invited on rides. The perception is usually that I’m too busy, too ‘pro’ (yeah right!), too ‘visible’ or maybe just not interested in riding with anyone else…not so. I jumped at the chance because it was not just an opportunity to have a ride without being encumbered by responsibilities of Wheel Women, but also a chance to meet a fellow women’s riding enthusiast…only this time the bikes were different.

I’ve posted a couple of photos since Thursday when my partner and I purchased two Brompton folding bicycles for a reconnaissance visit to Japan to check out some new cycling routes for our Wheel Women Tours. It sure has been met with mixed reactions…some are excited, some wonder what the hell I’m doing and others think I’ve given up my beloved Specialized Ruby…hardly! No, this is just a chance for trying a different kind of riding for a whole bunch of reasons. Continue reading

The new Ruby 2017…I don’t like BumpDays.

I love avoiding the traffic lights, and I love steering clear of the busy intersections…oh, and those level crossing gates that stop my path every ride! But there is a small problem. It’s called cobbles…yes, when I want to avoid the craziness of inner city Melbourne traffic on my homeward journey, I head for the alleyways. Bump, bump, bounce and OUCH! Painful, but faster.dsc02809

Don’t get me wrong, I love my Ruby Expert and if I was going to ride anywhere and everywhere, then the Expert is like choosing to drive the Great Ocean Road in an open top, automatic Merc: stylish, classic, a little bit of pizzazz and a whole lot of luxury.

But then again, I do have a Dolce Comp Evo which is probably a better choice for my inner city bone shaking routes. Built for gravel and ready for the rough stuff, it does provide a slightly more stable ride than the Ruby Expert with the wider tyres and alloy frame. But at the end of the day, my wrists hurt, my butt hurts and I can’t wait to sit in an armchair that doesn’t move…ever!

But suddenly, things have changed. I’m plotting routes, I’m looking for the rough roads, I’m finding where the longer laneways are, checking out the level crossings and I’m waiting for November when these babies arrive. Damn it…I rode the new Ruby! Life on a bike will never be the same – I thought I was in love with my Expert, but I think I have already mentally moved on. We had a fleeting affair oh Ruby Expert, but I know now my heart lies with another Ruby. The NEW Ruby Expert!dsc02860

Pathetic, but that’s totally what the new Ruby has done to me. I wasn’t more that 100metres down the road before I was screaming ‘Holy s*&t…what the…?!’ It took less than a minute to be converted such was the dramatic difference the new Ruby makes to the ride. So why all the fuss? Let me explain.

Just when we think the Ruby in it’s many configurations can’t get any better, along comes the new Ruby 2017 complete with Future Shock suspension in the front end and a seat post that moves with you and basically complements the front end movement. And we aren’t talking about big bulky suspension forks that are more at home on a hybrid or MTB. No, we’re talking a small spring inserted into the steerer tube allowing the handlebars to move up and down as the bike rolls over every tiny blip in the road surface.

But that little spring is no ordinary spring…you can choose between comfort, sport and race to suit the ride and a quick change-over is all that is required. Custom springs! Adaptability to the rider style is key and though the bike I tested was fitted with a sport (medium), I would have loved to have tried the other springs…especially the softer comfort one to see what would happen on the really shocking laneways.dsc02812

So why add suspension to a bike we already thought was pretty fantastic? If you’ve ever been on a long road ride and felt the fatigue after hours of tarmac vibrations, you’ll know what we’re dealing with here. The isolation of the suspension to the front end means that the it isn’t the whole bike frame that moves, or the your whole body. It means that the handlebars have the effect of floating over the vibrations creating a level, smooth ride. Vibration fatigue be gone…we didn’t want you anyway!

Though it may seem a little un-noticeable at first, the smoothness is a shock if you spend as much time on the bike as I do. And to cut the confusion, this is not a tool to make every bump iron out, it is a tool to make the vibration decrease. Sure, it helps over some of the larger bumps but it won’t remove those totally, which is certainly what some of our riders had thought was the case.

Add the suspension in the front end to the new seat post arrangement and Specialized has a winning combo…the seat post has been sunk further into the frame so there is an allowance for more forward and aft movement. As you move, the seat post moves and works with what is happening with the front end suspension. The biggest difference I noticed was that the ‘down’ action of any bump was far less severe than on my 2016 Ruby Expert. The ‘thud’ or ‘thwack’ on the end of any bone shaking experience was noticeably less on the new Ruby.

Throw in a metal drain cover, a small little crack or even a change in tarmac surface and I’m sorry, but where did they go? Didn’t even notice riding over them! This is bliss on a bike.

I had the pleasure of trying the Ruby Elite, running Shimano 105 gearing and disc brakes, minus the need for the familiar Zertz dampening inserts found in the older Rubys. The big winner about the bike is that it is perfect for the demographic we deal with at Wheel Women – it isn’t made for racing, it’s made for comfort and long, fun rides. Though the testing that Specialized has done with McLaren (yes, the car company) seems to indicate that the smoother the ride, the faster the bike.dsc02846

First impressions for me were that it was certainly a LOT faster than my 2016 Expert. It’s lighter, though on measurement by just 300gms, fatter tyres at 26mm (I have 24mm Turbo Pro). I wasn’t entirely sure what made the bike seem so much faster, but the descents were considebrably faster and that tested the discs well and truly in the midst of a hail storm and torrential rain. But it was the climbing that impressed me…it felt super light.

Though I didn’t manage to get onto any big hills, I did manage the usual inner city climbs and in particular the short and sharp Kensington Road hill. The usual experience is that there is a degree of jarring in the wrists particularly when standing in the pedals on a climb. However, this pretty much disappeared! I’m not known for my climbing prowess, so this made a big difference to the comfort zone and the speed I could get up the hill. The dampening of the bumps certainly meant that I didn’t lose speed over some of those rougher patches on the uphill as I would on my Expert.

The other cool part I need to mention is the through axle on both wheels. I was lucky enough to find a tack in the rear wheel and suddenly didn’t know what to do to release the wheel. Where was the quick release…I was crapped off to be honest because I thought that when the axle was removed it would be easy to lose. But on explanation I get it now…there is no question about over tightening, no worries about under tightening and no little springs to lose if you have to pull things apart. I decided I actually quite like it.

So what do I REALLY think? I think the idea is so incredibly simple yet so effective I can’t imagine this NOT making it into every other bike in the Specialized fleet at some point. But if you’re like me where comfort is everything, and relaxation and fun the essence of the ride, …and just sometimes the speed, then this is the bike for you. I can’t wait to spend my summer playing on a new Ruby! Only problem left now…what model?

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NOTE: I am a Specialized Ambassador so call me biased, but I do LOVE LOVE LOVE my Ruby! So when the chance to test what’s new for 2017 came up I wasn’t going to say no. I’ll admit I was skeptical at first because I just didn’t think the Ruby could get any better. I found out it could!

Thanks Cyclic Bicycles and Specialized Australia for the loaner…

 

 

 

First of a kind…maybe. WWHQ!

img_8390That old saying that if you dream hard enough…heard it before right? I have too, and since 2011 when I first started out on this cycling trip I’m sure not a week has gone by where somebody hasn’t told me to keep dreaming my crazy ideas!

I may well be a dreamer, and I know sometimes I dream far too big, but I’m also a believer in following your passion, experimenting, failing and trying again and I’ll admit, a believer in persistence. Perhaps dogged determination might be a better way to put it! Continue reading

45 Minutes To Fitness…oh really? The Before and After of a 100km ride.

Are you serious…that’s all it takes? So for just 45 minutes of my life I’ll be fit, healthy raring to go. Well bring on the active wear, hand me the sweat bands and let’s get this fitness thing sorted once and for all!

Forty five minutes…yep 45 minutes! As I rode past the call to action sign I couldn’t help but cast my mind back to the days when I was unfit – and trust me, it was longer than 45 minutes ago!

TinaThat’s me, several years ago before I set out on a path to feel better about myself…and me now, looking a whole lot happier about everything! It didn’t take 45 minutes…it’s taken years.

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Preparing for the the Rapha Women’s 100

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The legs feel heavy, the mouth is dry and your lips are feeling in desperate need of some lip balm. You might even have the start of a headache and the prospect of some hot chips or even a burger are the ONLY thing on your mind. It definitely isn’t feeling like a great day on the bike. Yep, you’ve bonked!

Ever had those feelings on a ride? We all have bad days on the bike but when you have failed to prepare adequately for a big ride, it’s time to think about your planning.

Taking on a big ride such as the Rapha 100 (Sunday July 17, 2016)) isn’t just about putting km’s in the legs prior to the big day, but in the the week before ride day you also need to really think about all you need for the big day. Continue reading

A reminder of the small things….

Sometimes you just have to smile at your feet. Stop, look down at the happy, crazy socks, marvel at the fact those little plastic things on your cycling shoes make a cool clicking sound at light changes, or perhaps contemplate changing your shoe laces to something loud and fun with bobbles on them. Whatever you do, stop and celebrate the small things.

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Continue reading