That 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!
Back in 2011 when I first jumped back on a bike I didn’t know that this cycling ‘thing’ was going to take over my life, that I’d ditch a career in advertising, throw away a Masters degree and run Wheel Women as a full time activity. Yes, it is an activity – I won’t call it a job, or an occupation. You see, I’ve never seen Wheel Women as a job. I see it is as something I do because my life would be empty without it. It’s the fun AND the frustration I have on a daily basis!
This week the crazy experiment, that persistence, endless frustration and dogged determination all culminated in what some may say is a dream come true. I prefer to think of it has 5 years of thinking, trying, screaming, shouting, passion and hard work.
The Wheel Women HQ opened last night to a crowd of unsuspecting and unknowing members of the group, who turned up to a location they knew well, only to find something a little surprising – a centre dedicated to them and for them. But it’s more than that: it’s a place where any women can come and learn about cycling in a safe and friendly environment, free of judgement, free of foregone conclusions about their riding ability and full of enthusiasm no matter what size, shape, age or ability they present with.
This has been an idea festering in my head since 2011 when I could see the barriers and hurdles I was facing as an older woman new to cycling, when I wrote about it in my ditched Masters – if ONLY there was a place I could go where it felt comfortable and I didn’t feel like a novice or an idiot! Where it felt like home and the messages sent to me weren’t about elite riders – it simply didn’t exist, so I decided to create it myself.
Back then when Wheel Women was a seed of an idea, I wrote:
Create a “hub” or “pop-up” shop (van)…a place of education!!
– a place where women can get advice on bikes
– advice on maintenance
– advice setting routes for their trips
– advice on bikes and buying a new one (demo the diff sorts)
– have ride leaders help women ride the ‘work’ route for a first time to make sure they are comfortable
– sessions of learning: maintenance classes, nutrition, come and try, learn about bikes etc
– join a ride with other women
– a place to enter the cycling world free of intimidation
Back then there were pretty much no women’s specific cycling groups, and those that did exist were basically club groups for road riders. We created something quite unique back then and I think we still have that quality for a whole bunch of reasons – and now the Wheel Women HQ is really the next logical step. A physical home for our riders and others to feel welcome and to promote cycling as a healthy and incredibly FUN alternative to sitting on your butt! It’s a home for the tribe…THE place for women who cycle!
What I feel so excited about now is that all those things I wrote back in 2011 have been addressed – the HQ really IS an ‘education space’. It may morph into other things too over time, and we have also provided a small store so we can help generate some income that helps to keep Wheel Women doing what we do as the core ‘product’…get women on bikes!
We aren’t a bike shop (there are no bikes there!), we won’t compete with bike shops, and we won’t sell ‘bike stuff’ other than our own Team kit and a few useful accessories. Our aim is to help you feel the love of cycling by just having a few little items that shows your love of cycling when you’re off the bike!
We will run skills sessions, start and finish rides, enjoy coffee and the occasional barbie post ride, learn to clean our bikes in the yard and probably just spend time hanging out in the space with each other talking about bikes and gear and kids and food – laughing and crying together!
Our education space is filled with flyers, look-touch-feel examples and lots of inspiring photos of REAL women riders with stats provided by Dr Marilyn Johnson from her research project on Wheel Women, ‘From The Couch To The Bike: an evaluation of a cycling skills program for women’ (Johnson, McCarthy, Bailey, Rose, Monash University 2016).
We really think this is the first of it’s kind and we are incredibly excited about the possibilities and prospects it will bring for women who ride – we hope you all jump on board, come and visit and spread the word. We can’t wait to welcome you all!
PS. Oh and the opening hours may be a little sporadic until we get used to not having to work from the dining room table! Best to message via Facebook first to check if we are there!
Special thanks to: The Wheel Women Coaches and Ride Leaders for their help and assistance during the set up period, Evan Wilson at Cyclic Bicycles for incredible support and assistance and of course Specialized Bicycles who have shown amazing support and commitment to what we do at Wheel Women…THANK YOU!
Where are we: 52 Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington Victoria (that’s Australia!)