Do it YOUR way!

I’m usually pretty quick to post our ride photos. But I decided today to hold off for a while and just digest what for me, was a very moving moment yesterday.

When I go out riding I think my overwhelming emotion is ‘This is FUN’, but I also get a huge sense of freedom – just being able to forget a few of those usual burdens for a while is such a release and a great way to focus. But yesterday I was overcome with a different emotion; an enormous sense of satisfaction! I could see in action something occurring that was really one of the ultimate aims of setting up Wheel Women. And for me is by far the most beautiful part!

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Does my smile say how I feel on the bike?

Kerrie and Lucy turned up yesterday to our usual RIDE Friday. We started later than usual and it was a glorious day for a ride. You can’t beat the path alongside the Maribyrnong on a sunny day…as long as the wind is at your back!

Before we headed out Lucy had her usual trepidations about being too slow, too unfit, too tired…but we soon fixed that. Kerrie was great in encouraging Lucy and assured her that she wasn’t in for a big ride, but instead just wanted coffee and a chat! We started with a conversation about just sticking together, no one gets left behind and that this was not intended to be a fast ride. We all face these moments of self doubt at times! (And I can tell you I have them often).

The great part about Wheel Women is that all our riders are great at encouraging each other and supporting each other. Lucy’s lack of confidence was quickly put to rest…we all know Lucy is a great rider, she just needed some convincing on that particular day!

It’s amazing to see how far both Lucy and Kerrie have come. Lucy started out on her old green clunker back in February last year, barely able to start and stop, or even keep her balance confidently (and she didn’t know how to get the front wheel off either!)…she still loves that bike and I know why! That old green thing started her on a personal journey. Likewise, Kerrie had the infamous black and yellow RockHopper and pushed all 3 tons of it around on every ride. Both ladies have been really committed to learning more, and more, and more – in fact, almost insatiable appetites! I see them both very much as role models and inspiration for so many others.

lucyThat’s Lucy when she first started at Wheel Women, and much later when she had a new flat bar bike…what a difference!

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And that’s Kerrie about 1 week after buying her new road bike, and then fast forward to 2014 looking very relaxed.

Yesterday I watched both Lucy and Kerrie travel up and down that river seemingly without a care in the world, chatting and riding, solving the world’s education problems. Over coffee the two of them suddenly connected over a few topics (they both happen to be maths teachers), and they had a really in-depth conversation about education. It was really great to be there to share their passion with them…though maths is not my strong point!!

On our return,  behind me I could hear the excited talking continue and lots of laughing. They were riding so naturally and self-assuredly that you would never know that their bike journeys started such a short time ago – totally in sync with each other, totally in cotrol and having a GREAT time. The bond which occurred over the coffee break suddenly turned their ride into one that I think sums up Wheel Women’s aim – connectedness and having fun!

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Connectedness is something maybe we don’t often think about; community, neighborhood, friendship group, business colleagues or club. When you feel a sense of connection you feel a sense of belonging. When you feel like you belong you feel like you are supported. When you’re supported you relax…then the ride becomes FUN!

The dynamics at play on this ride were fabulous – Kerrie supported Lucy to get moving and not feel the lack of confidence about not being so fast. But then Lucy supported Kerrie with her ambitions to be teaching kids maths differently so they can break through some barriers…it was so wonderful to see the reciprocation of support and friendship between two women who may not otherwise have met, had it not been for their bikes!

The ride ended with a flat tyre and to top the whole experience off, I watched an extraordinary display of independence as riders. In the past, I know both Kerrie and Lucy said they would have phoned home for help, or got in a taxi. But without fuss, they set the bike down and got on with calmly fixing the flat…as a team! I purposely stood back and watched the interaction, quiet conversation and togetherness of two bike buddies fixing a problem (and laughing heaps) to get them back on the road again. What a moment!

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So many riders at Wheel Women have travelled so far – from Iolanda who just seems to power on and on when we least expect it, to around the block rider Alicia who has completed 2000km on her new bike, and Jenny who rode 100km in Europe when she always said she just rode to keep her husband happy, there’s Jen and Yvonne who did the great Victorian Bike Ride. I can’t forget Ginny who had the guts to get on that bike and set herself a goal to just be a little bit fitter (and she lost a few kilos too), and the few I know who are coming through the other side of various illnesses who have told me the bike is helping them stay healthy AND happy – what an achievement! And what about all the ladies who have had the courage to learn to ride a bike for the first time NOW in their later years…AMAZING!

Put a bunch of women together, without boundaries, without pre-conceived ideas of what a ‘cyclist’ is, make it social and supportive, remove a few barriers and look what happens. Connections are made, support networks are created and friendships grow.

So, to all of you…no matter how much you think you can’t do this, or how hard it might seem, or how fit the other riders may look, or how tiring it is, or how slow you may feel, that maybe your bike isn’t good enough or you don’t think you have the right gear, or whatever other stuff is going on in your lives that makes you feel less than perfect, no matter how crappy you feel, the important thing is to remember this is YOUR journey. You do it YOUR way – regardless! I’ve seen this happen at Wheel Women time and time again…you are so incredibly supportive of each other, no barriers!

What is important is that when it seems too tough or too hard, just get on that bike and ride! I don’t think anyone in Wheel Women would care if you turned up and said honestly ‘I’m having a crap day and I need some help to do this’…do that and watch the team rally! I am constantly inspired by ALL of you and the very personal stories you share with me. That’s what I love so much about everyone at Wheel Women…what a gang to hang out with!

Some quotes to leave you with:

“…The doubting questions of: “Am I fit enough? Am I skilled enough? Am I reliable enough?” …and these doubts were replaced by a feeling of pride as we took little steps to increase our…skill set and become more confident road riders. And I loved it! The feeling of freedom, the refreshing breeze, the exhilaration of being able to go and keep going without obstacles on the path. At the same time we were riding together, with a common purpose, communicating hazards and intentions while still finding time to chat. This was a taste of how I want to ride.” Kerrie

“Wow! Just rode to work on main roads…50 minutes on my old bike and obeying all road rules. Never thought I would have the confidence to do this on my own. In my 50’s. Whoo-hoo for me….What a difference you have made to our lives!” Lucy

#women’scycling #wheelwomen #womenbikes

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2 thoughts on “Do it YOUR way!”

  1. I’m with Lucy except I’m in my 60’s. With Tina’s help I have just bought my new bike, collected it from the City store on Friday and cycled home from work at Royal Parade. I was a bit apprehensive in peak hour but made it reasonably comfortably. Wanted a shower and a sit down when I got home but that’s OK. Thank you to Tina. I’m looking forward to more rides now.

  2. It’s so important for new riders (like me) to hear stories of other women’s cycling journeys. It’s also fantastic that Wheel Women is creating a supportive environment where women feel confident to give cycling a go, this is what will get more women cycling!

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