My first Gong ride – 2008
The wonderful Tina McCarthy from Wheel Women recently visited Sydney and ran a bike skills course and asked me along on the Sunday morning. It was great interacting with a great group of female cyclists. One of the questions I was asked was “Have you got any tips for riding the Gong ride?” and I most certainly do.
For those of you who are not Sydneysiders the Gong Ride is Sydney’s biggest mass participation bike ride which is held on the first Sunday of November each year. The ride which has been going for 32 years, is a scenic route from Sydney to Wollongong following the coastline. It’s an awesome event and I’ve participated every year since I’ve been riding, a total of six times. So here’s my tips for enjoying the picturesque Gong ride. These tips apply equally to any mass participation ride that might be held in your home town:
Get your entry in
Don’t procrastinate any longer. If you enter the event you’ve made a commitment to yourself and to others. If you put it off until you get closer to the date you’ll continue to make excuses. You’ll also find that rides like the Gong ride have a restriction of entry numbers and may sell out.
If you’ve ever been to watch a track cycling event you’ve probably watched a very unusual race called the Keirin. I’ve always enjoyed it and for a number of years I’ve been aware that it’s a big sport in Japan where it was developed. Men’s Keirin racing is very popular but women are also involved and it’s growing. Here’s a few insights based on some research I undertook:
Keirin is a track cycling race where between six to nine riders race over about 2 km around a velodrome. It is a relatively new Olympic event, first raced by the men in 2000 and the women in 2012. Keirin has been a big part of Japanese culture since it was introduced in 1948 as an initiative to rebuild after the war. The race starts with a pace setter (typically a motorised “derny”) who starts slowly but gradually increases the speed until peeling off with about 600 or 700 metres left to race. Usually the riders are travelling at about 50 km/hour by this point and have hopefully manoeuvered into their favoured position. Once the “derny” is gone the race is in full flight and the riders fight to take line honours.
The women follow international competition rules in Japan to keep things safer: while the men are renowned for shoulder barging and head butting through their racing, Girl’s Keirin is a bit more ladylike. The women use colourful disc wheels and tri-spokes provided by the JKA –the same colour wheels as the lane colour they draw.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know that I’m a dedicated road bike rider and have almost zero experience on a mountain bike. So I was pretty nervous when I was invited to test a few mountain bikes at the recent Specialized 2015 dealer launch.
I was very fortunate that I had some awesome mountain bikes to trial. The main one I rode was the brand new S-Works Era, a women’s dual suspension 29er which is an amazing bike but I definitely felt I didn’t do it justice. I was lucky enough to ride with an experienced mountain biker, Kate who owns the Specialized store in Batemans Bay. Kate was as great tutor and taught me to take baby steps rather than leap right in.
So I thought it would be useful if I shared a few things I learnt from her. I’ve also borrowed a few ideas from US mountain bike enthusiast Selene Yeager who has some great tips in her book Every Woman’s Guide to Cycling.
Three years and one week ago, I was attending a talk about social media, and how we as business people could utilise it better. For me at the time, it was very relevant because I was working as a public relations consultant and the woman delivering the talk was of the same profession. One thing that she said really resonated with me, “I write a personal blog……………” and a thought jumped into my head. If I’m so interested in women’s cycling, why not start a blog about it.
A week later – 13 August 2011, Women Who Cycle was born. At the time I was very committed to the idea but I hadn’t really thought past my first few blog posts and the basic structure of my site. I looked at other people’s blogs and saw that many of them had been going for years and wondered how they sustained it. I also looked at many blogs that had been started and abandoned down the track, some very fleetingly, and others that hung on for a few years and then petered out.
2015 Dolce Elite
Over the last few days I’ve been lucky enough to attend the annual Specialized dealer launch held this year on Queensland’s sunny Gold Coast.
I’ve seen a plethora of product – the whole 2015 range and I’ve been impressed by the range of women’s specific offerings. Specialized has nominated women’s specific products as one of its key areas of focus for the next few years.
In the presentation I attended they divided the market into a number of experiences (a little bit cheesy I know but it sort of made sense). The ‘experiences’ are: fitness; endurance road; triathlon/performance road; sport trail; and performance XC. For each of these there are a number of bikes and accessories.
Here’s a few highlights for both bikes and accessories (complete with Iphone pics – see the Specialized.com website for better shots):
I’m writing this post while flying home from a three week holiday in Peru. Part of the tour my friend and I took was three days of bike riding, as well as a day of rafting and hiking the Inka trail.
During the tour we were well looked after by a number of guides including a guide just for our bike riding section. He was definitely over qualified for the job – Jose-Luis was the national champion of Peru in cross country mountain bike five years ago. He now prefers ride downhill so I dubbed him the loco hombre.
Our first day began at an archaeological site called Tipon near Cusco (where we stayed overnight) which is a Inka site with well preserved terraces high up on a hill that were used for farming. After we’d had a good look around including a short hike up a hill for the view we got ready for our bike debut.
The bikes were entry level hardtail mountain bike. Pretty basic but they did the trick. Our first ride was straight down the big hill which included a couple of switchbacks. We took it pretty easier to get used to the bikes and conditions but in no time we were at the bottom.
Here’s the third and final guest blog post from super tourer Terra Ash. I hope you’ve enjoyed the series. I now I feel inspired to try touring after reading them. Over to Terra……….
You’ve decided to go on your first bike tour, but it’s likely you’ve never had to pack for a trip quite like this before. Longer tours and bagging require more gear and more specialised gear, while shorter tours are a little bit easier to wing.
If you have a tendency to pack too many clothes, it’s a good time to break that habit. Even if you’re having your clothing transported for you on your tour you still don’t want to pack and unpack huge bags every day. For a week long bike tour I will typically bring the following for clothing:
Here’s part 2 of the three part series on bike touring from Terra Ash….
Like most outdoor endeavors, bicycle touring can be a very expensive activity or a relatively inexpensive one. One rule that will help you save money in the long run is to invest in high quality equipment from the beginning to prevent unnecessary replacements. Touring is hard on equipment, so it’s best to pay a little more for a higher quality product.
What to look for in a Touring Bike?
Above all else, make sure your bike fits you. You might be able to ride a bike that is slightly too large or small on your weekly rides but when you’re riding upwards of 50 miles (80 km) for several days straight, an ill-fitting bike will cause major discomfort and could cause injure. Visit a bike shop and get professionally fitted to prevent this from happening.
I must admit that I know almost nothing about touring by bike and have never tried to it out, so I was pleased when seasoned tourer Terra Ash contacted me from Iowa in the US and offered to write a guest blog post or two. That turned into a series of three blog posts about touring that will be published over the next few weeks. Enjoy……….
Terra Ash in Natchez Trace
Bike touring can be one of the most enjoyable forms of cycling. The first time you transport yourself using nothing but your body to travel to your destination you will simultaneously realise how small and big the world is.
A lot of people envision long tours of a week or much longer when they think of bike tours, but bike tours can be overnight trips, week-long trips or much longer endeavours of a year or more. Daily mileage can range from 20 miles (32 km) (or less) to over 100 (160 km).
The first time I ever toured I went on a weekend trip with my significant other and we were hopelessly naive. We were used to riding 30-50 miles (50-80 km) at a time, and didn’t think the 75 miles (120 km) to Jefferson, Iowa, would be a problem for us at all. The tour was sponsored through a local bike club and was completely on trails. We put our tent and sleeping bags on a bus and carried backpacks with clothes on our backs for the full 75 miles (120 km). We had no sunscreen, didn’t eat enough food and I rode the whole way wearing Converse.
A couple of weeks ago I was doing some research for an article I’m writing about cycling clubs that support women for Bicycling Australia magazine, and I came across a Brisbane cycling club that’s attracting lots of women to its ranks, and working hard to support them.
Kangaroo Point Cycling Club (KPCC) which might sound like it has a semi-rural bush setting is in fact based in Brisbane’s inner suburbs and has been around since 1905. It currently has over 200 members and about a quarter of them are women.
I had a chat via email with Club Co-Captain Alix Everton about the great work she and other women (and men) are doing at KPCC.
Q: Do you run any female only rides or other activities for female riders?
Yes, we have our very popular Women Only Weekdays – rides run by women, for women, with ‘no boys allowed’. These rides are always kept at a social pace where nobody gets left behind, so that all experience and ability levels are catered for. Since we started running these rides nearly a year ago, we have developed a consistent core group of ladies who turn up, and have new women coming along to try it out nearly every week. This ride helps our club to reduce barriers to female participation by providing a welcoming, non-threatening, non-competitive cycling environment.