The magic of the bike

Alice Hawkins on the campaign trail

Alice Hawkins on the campaign trail

I know it’s a big call, but I’d like to declare that the humble bicycle has magic powers. I’m sure any non cyclist reading this will think I’m a little strange, but those of you who have been mesmerised by bike riding, will be able to relate. For me, taking up road cycling six years ago has been life changing so I’ll declare it has magical powers. Here’s a few reasons why:

Turns introverts into social butterflies

I was riding with a woman called Ange recently who is a very new convert to road cycling. She confided that when she gets on her trusty road bike she changes from an introvert who usually shuns social interaction, to a woman who wants to chat with anyone else on a bike. She deliberately speeds up when she sees other groups of cyclists so she can have a chat. Evidence indeed of the magic powers.

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Focus on women’s bikes and accessories strong at Trek

Trek 4You may have read my blog post a couple of months ago about women’s product development at Specialized. I also made contact with a few other companies at the same time and so here’s the women’s development story from Trek. I would have preferred to have spoken to someone from Trek, instead here’s some Q&A via email from Emily Bremer who is based at Trek HQ in the US and among other roles is responsible for the marketing of women’s products.

 

 

How many people at Trek work on women’s product development? Are they all women?

Women’s specific product development at Trek is a group effort, and certainly not done just by women. From industrial designers, to engineers, to marketing, and everything in between, women’s product development across categories is a top priority, and I think this is really reflected in the quality of Trek products. Trek is a global company, so it’s really hard to pinpoint a specific number of people working on our women’s specific product. Both men and women work on all Trek and Bontrager products, regardless of riding category or gender.

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Cyclists need to lighten up on those arms and hands

ShouldersOne of my worst habits on the bike, and sadly there are a few, is to hold tension in my shoulders while I’m riding. It doesn’t matter how often I tell myself to relax my shoulders, arms and hands I still find myself stiffening up in this area which leads to soreness and ongoing issues with the muscles in my upper back. So I thought it would be useful to share a few tips I’ve found on the subject which obviously apply equally to men and women. I’ll also continue to focus on these tips myself!

Let it go – Consciously let go of the tension in your arms and shoulders by focusing on that part of your body while you are riding. I regularly check in with myself and literally tell myself to relax my shoulders. Shrugging every 15 minutes or so and relaxing your arms really helps relieve this stress.

 

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Yoga is the yin and cycling is the yang

Yoga - AngeloI was recently approached by a Sydney-based yoga/cycling enthusiast who has developed his own yoga classes just for cyclists called Pedal Stroke Yoga. As a fan of yoga I was intrigued by Angelo’s upcoming workshops so asked him a few questions about what’s behind it.

How can yoga benefit cyclists?

I believe that Yoga is the yin to the cycling yang. Both of these complimentary halves work together to create a ‘high performance’ version of you as a cyclist and also as a human being. My Pedal Stroke Yoga workshops are designed to put back what your cycling takes out. When you are in a Pedal Stroke Yoga class you are essentially performing a full service and maintenance on your body and mind, the same way you do on your bicycle. Your body will outlast that expensive carbon frame bike you own, so why not take the same care with your body that you do with your bike. That way when you do get back on your bike to race, or go on a ride, your body will perform to its maximum potential and maybe even beyond.

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Returning to riding after bub

Melinda Allen

Melinda Allen

Last year I wrote a post about riding while pregnant and I thought I should follow that up with one about returning to riding after giving birth. The most important thing to note is that every women is different and so everyone needs to make their own decisions about how much to cycle during pregnancy and after having a baby.

For the record, this is not a topic that I’m an expert on, because I have not completed any formal training in healthcare or fitness, and I’ve never been pregnant, but I’ve done some research and asked a number of women who have experienced it firsthand for their input.

When to start again?

Some of the women said they were back riding as early as two weeks but it also depended on the type of delivery. Alison Frendin in her article about returning to riding after baby points out that every woman is different – “natural, C-section, episiotomy or tearing? –Obviously if you had a rough time you aren’t going to be ready at six weeks. Still, stitches should be completely gone and C-section mums must wait double the six week period after having this “major surgery”! Even then, lifting or pulling heavy objects and doing any impact exercises is going to put a strain on your abdomen.”

If you want to read Alison’s entire article you’ll find it here.

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Cyclists beware of angry butcherbirds in Spring

The butcherbird wreaking havoc at Concord West

The butcherbird wreaking havoc at Concord West

Last year I wrote a post about Springtime bird attacks, and either I didn’t heed my own advice or the birds in my area are really bad this year, but last week I was attacked by a very aggressive butcherbird!

For those who don’t know about this little ‘terrier’ of a bird, it’s an Australian native and about half the size of a magpie and usually grey or black & white in colour. Since being attacked by one last week I’ve done a little research on these aggressive little so-and-sos.

As well as having a hook at the end of its beak for stabbing prey (as seen in the photograph), the butcherbird has been described as the Hannibal Lecter of the bird world. It gets its name because it impales its prey on thorns and tree forks. These skewers support victims as they are eaten, or stored for later consumption.

There’s a very aggressive butcherbird frequenting a well-worn cyclist route in my local area, right near Concord West train station and he’s drawn blood on many occasions (I say ‘he’ because it’s usually the male bird who defends the nest, not because I’m being sexist!). He got me from behind last week, clipping me on the chin with a his beak and drawing blood on three separate small cuts. And I’ve spoken to many, many others who’ve suffered the same fate.

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Every woman’s guide to getting started in triathlon: Part 2

Balance babes on bikesHere’s part two of last week’s post on getting started in triathlon. Here, the women of UTS & Balance Tri Club tell us about training and the benefits of joining a tri club…..

 

How do you get around a weakness in one discipline eg. a lot of people seem to struggle in the swim leg? 

For me, the run is my weakness, so I tend to work a bit harder at that.  If you struggle in one area, I would recommend some specialist coaching to give you some tailored tips as to what to work on so that you’re not ‘training the same mistakes’, and then work a bit harder at your weakness – but certainly don’t abandon your strengths!  Triathlon is a multi-sport activity, so make sure you work at all three – Jocie Evison

Don’t be afraid to ask for help – all local pools offer adult learn to swim classes – it is never too late to learn so don’t let that stop you. You should work a little harder on your weak leg, but usually people don’t do that! Try and have a positive attitude towards it. For example, I used to hate the bike, and I always said it “I hate the bike! I hate hills!” Surprisingly I didn’t get any better at it. But as soon as I made the decision to love the bike and be positive, everything got easier & I got better at it! – Sarah Koen

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Every woman’s guide to getting started in triathlon: Part 1

Balance babes transition croppedThe sport of triathlon continues to grow in popularity and one of the things I’ve noticed is that women and men are signing up in equal numbers to test themselves in this challenging three discipline sport. I do confess to not knowing a great deal about triathlon (despite completing four Pink Triathlons) so I asked the women of Balance UTS Tri club for their advice on how to get started. Several of them responded and I’ve compiled their answers below. Stay tuned for Part 2 next week……….

 

What advice can you give to women who are just starting out in triathlon?

I think often as women we are really hard on ourselves in general. Men will often just “give something a crack” without necessarily knowing 100% whether they can do it and I don’t know that women will throw themselves into things with the same careless abandon! I would encourage any women thinking about wanting to start out in triathlons – “give it a go!” Don’t worry about whether you’re fit enough or whether you have the right gear or if you’re going to get the transitions right etc. I did my first race with a pair of old swimmers, my bike that was almost 10 years old and worn out pair of runners and put my helmet on backwards :) 2 years later I’m loving racing, have done lots of different distances and know how to put my helmet on! There are a number of great short races out there that encourage beginners and I find that the culture of triathlons is extremely supportive of all levels, so come and join us! –Natalie Dainer

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Suzuki Brumby’s leading by example at the top level of Australian cycling

Suzuki Brumby 2One of my personal mandates for this blog is to promote women’s cycling at all levels so this week it’s the top ends turn. Recently I caught up with Megan O’Neill Johnston who the Assistant Manager and Head Soigneur for the Canberra-based Suzuki Brumby’s women’s cycling team who had some very interesting insights into how a cycling team runs…..

Q: How long has the team been going?

Suzuki Brumby’s is a Canberra based team that started in 2008 and originally fielded both a men’s and women’s National Road Series (NRS) team, however in 2014 we are an all-female affair.

Q: How many members do you currently have?

We currently have 9 cyclists in the team; 7 who are based in Canberra, 1 in Victoria and 1 in NSW. We are all really close, not only as team mates, but as friends and I think this contributes significantly to the success and character of the team. There is a lot of comradeship and support for each other which I think is imperative in such a mentally tough sport.

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Women’s product development at Specialized HQ

Erin in action, testing products

Erin in action, testing products

As you may have read in my previous post I attended the Specialized dealer launch on the Gold Coast last month and enjoyed seeing and hearing about the emphasis being put on women’s products by Specialized. It got me thinking about how the products are actually developed. I’ve often heard other people from Specialized talking about the women’s product development team so I decided to delve deeper and find out how it all works.

Erin Sprague who heads up the women’s product development team in California was kind enough to chat with me last week via Skype. Erin heads up a team of six including three product managers who oversee the categories of mountain, road and fitness/family plus a product marketing specialist and one other. This team then works with other specialists like engineers, designers and those who focus on product development.

All Specialized’s women’s products are developed by the team of women who have a variety of backgrounds like triathlon, road, mountain, so that they can really understand the requirements of each of these segments.

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