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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!