I recently read an interesting article about how cycling is great for your brain health. I find this area of study quite fascinating. It seems that only 10 or 15 years ago, the learned professionals in the study of the brain were saying that our brains are relatively unchangeable and simply deteriorate as we age. Now it seems there are lots of people saying that the brain is far more malleable than we originally thought and I think it’s great news. So I’ve plagiarised the article I read and provide a summary here. I also found that undertaking a simple Google search on this topic brought up some other really interesting material.
Several new studies have found that cycling improves the way your brain works by making several important structures bigger so you can think faster, remember more, and feel happier.
I was lucky enough to catch up with dual Australian road champion Gracie Elvin via email. Gracie is currently racing the European season and is a member of Orica-AIS. I enjoyed watching her win her second national road title in January last year. Enjoy.
Q: How did you get started in cycling?
A: I always rode my bike a lot when I was younger around my suburb, to school and even to visit my horse who was kept nearby. I loved the MTB days that my high school had, and when my dad set up and old road bike for me when I was 12 I was hooked straight away. I went to a junior skills course and did lots of the local bunch rides and club races until I was ready to race interstate.
Q: In 2014 I watched you win the National road race in Victoria and stand proudly on the podium, how did it feel to win that race and the other national title in 2013?
A: Both my national title wins mean a lot to me. The first time I was just so shocked that I had done it! It wasn’t really the plan for me to win that year, even though it was possible. I was grinning for days after. The next year (2014) the win meant a lot more to me. It felt like I had really proven myself and shown that I am one of Australia’s best.
Is this company really trying to sell to women?
There’s been quite a lot of discussion of late about how to make bike shops and cycling in general more attractive for women, and while I’ve not weighed in to the various discussions until now I thought I’d put in my views.I’m reasonably well qualified to do so. I work in a bike shop and although I’m relatively new to it (two years) it gives me a unique perspective because I can still remember back to when I was a customer of women’s cycling gear.
One of my own issues is actually about the use of the word ‘lady’ instead of my preference for the word ‘woman’. My blog isn’t called ‘Ladies Who Cycle’ and that’s a very deliberate decision on my part. To me the word ‘lady’ is verging on being derogatory because the way in which it is used, often infers that women are inferior when it comes to riding a bike.
Total Women’s Cycling which is a UK-based women’s cycling site recently wrote about a cycling brand that launched a new range of women’s bikes suggesting that women only like to amble along on mountain bikes. Read it for yourself if you want to know more but it’s quite extraordinary. Unsurprisingly the bike range is called ‘MBT Lady’.
I really love the concept of mindfulness but I often struggle to do it. Mindfulness to me is about focusing on the present moment, instead of dwelling on the past or fixating on future events. It’s about being present, even if it’s not something that brings you pleasure.
Mindfulness and cycling go hand-in-hand and here’s why you should practice it while riding:
It will keep you safe
Being mindful while you’re riding a bike ensures that you are aware of potential hazards along the way. Depending on where you ride the hazards could be potholes, rubbish/glass on the road or bike-path, or even pedestrians. If you ride on the road like I do, then the hazards are often cars, so you need to be aware of what drivers are doing and expect them to be unpredictable, and at times erratic. If you’re daydreaming about other things then you’re not focusing on the present moment and keeping yourself safe.
You’ll enjoy the things around you
I love that saying ‘stop and smell the roses’, and it’s something that I try to do both literally and figuratively. When you ride a bike you get to experience things around you that you wouldn’t see, smell or hear in a car, or other mode of transport. If you are focused on the present then you’ll notice beautiful scenery, and also smaller everyday things like friendly people and changes in your neighbourhood.
I know that some of you are probably not into learning about history, but it was my favourite subject at school so you’ll have to indulge me.
Recently my boss John (Ashfield Cycles) mentioned to me that the first ever women’s bike race in Australia actually took place in Ashfield (in Sydney’s inner west). I must admit that I was a bit dubious at the time so I decided to delve into it a bit more and headed to the Ashfield Library where I found a local publication with a whole chapter dedicated to it. So I won’t bore you with the whole tale, but here’s a few highlights.
In February 1888 (that’s 127 years ago) a women’s cycling race was organised at the now defunct Ashfield Recreation Grounds. Ads were placed in The Sydney Morning Herald which listed a two-mile champion race; one, two and three mile handicaps; a half-mile handicap race; and a half-hour tournament all for ‘ladies’, run over three days.
Earlier this year my cycling club LACC started a women’s only bunch ride which I was asked to lead. It started out as part of a pilot program for women’s bunch rides under the auspices of Cycling NSW, and when the pilot program concluded at the end of March, the regular participants voted to keep going with the weekly ride.
I was very happy to continue with it and get real buzz out of encouraging other women to learn more about road cycling and riding in a group.
It’s a straightforward ride, just four short laps around Sydney Olympic Park, a total of about 25 km, followed by a mandatory café visit and we all head home around 7 am. If you’d like to know more about it visit the LACC Women’s Facebook page.
Today I was enjoying reading through the latest articles on one of my favourite online cycling sites Ella Cycling tips when I came across these great posts from pro cycling Verita Stewart. They are entitled Don’t be that cyclist and Do be this cyclist and I would recommend a read. They reminded me of the some of the etiquette of bunch riding so here’s a few tips from me on joining a group bunch ride:
I really enjoy writing about the awesome professional female cyclists on a regular basis, but I equally like to focus on the other end of the spectrum. So this week I’d like to give some kudos to Cycling Australia’s She Rides program. She Rides is a grassroots program aimed at female cyclists who are new to cycling. It could be that they are returning to riding a bike after many years, or in some cases they’ve previously missed out altogether. I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to try road biking six years ago if I hadn’t ridden a bike as a child, so I really commend any woman who takes up cycling as an adult.
Here’s an abridged version of the report I found on the Cycling Australia website last week profiling the She Rides program…..
Cycling Australia’s women’s riding initiative She Rides is celebrating a successful first year of delivery with 90% of 2014 program participants reporting a significant increase in riding knowledge, skills and confidence.
Developed in 2014, She Rides aims to provide women with the opportunity to ride regularly, to ride safely through skills and knowledge, and with motivation by connecting like-minded women to develop regular riding behaviours.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog you probably know that I work in a bike shop. I’m not a mechanic, but I do just about everything else in the shop, including checking-in the majority of bikes that come in for repair. So as a result I’ve learnt heaps about simple bike maintenance and here’s a few tips:
Keep it clean
Keeping your bike clean has a number of benefits, and not just cosmetic ones. Of course it’s nice to keep your beautiful bike looking good, but keeping it free of dirt and grit will actually make it last longer. If you regularly clean your chain and running gear (derailleurs, cassette, chain rings) it will wear out slower. I change the chain on my bike about every 12 months and as a result I’ve not had to replace my rear cassette after four years of riding.
In the shop I regularly see bikes come in that have not been cleaned regularly and they not only need a new chain, but also a new cassette and sometimes new chain rings. This is because a dirty, gritty chain actually wears the teeth of the cassette and chain rings down.
You should wipe your chain down regularly with a cloth and every few months you should actually degrease with a specific bike cleaning product. This cleaning should include the chain, cassette, chain rings and jockey wheels that are part of the rear derailleur. If you ride regularly in wet weather then you should do this more often.
It was great to see some ABC coverage for a women’s cycling training/selection camp last week in Canberra. It’s interesting to note that after reading this story you would assume that Cycling Australia is behind this great initiative, but I believe it’s actually Rochelle Gilmore who made a commitment to take six female cyclists to Europe this year. Rochelle who owns and manages Wiggle Honda in the UK committed to this idea after Cycling Australia suspended its funding of the women’s elite program in Europe. Well done Rochelle.
Here’s the story as it ran on the ABC online:
A group of Australia’s most promising female cyclists have been put to the test in Canberra this week for the opportunity to join the Australian cycling team on tour in Europe.
The riders will remain under the close watch of selectors at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) where they are in the final days of the gruelling knock-out style selection camp, that will conclude on Sunday.
Eight hopeful cyclists have made it through to the final days of the camp, from an initial group of 18, with further cuts to be made in the coming days.
I love words and mojo is amongst my favourites. Apparently it is of African derivation meaning magic, but over time like many words its meaning has changed and it’s now associated with self-confidence. My own interpretation of cycling mojo is when you lose interest, or fall out of love with the wonderful activity of cycling. My own interest has waned at times but I’ve always managed to get it back. Recently one of my favourite cycling buddies lost her cycling mojo and I’d like to help her get it back. Here’s a few tips for any women (or men) out there who find themselves adrift.
Just do it
I sometimes wake up in the early morning and want to go back to sleep, but I force myself to get out of bed because I know that I will be happy when I’m on the bike and when I return from my ride. I have never been on a ride that I have regretted, so I focus on this thought when I’m tempted to turn my alarm clock off and roll over. Just push through that feeling and you’ll be rewarded.
Organise to meet a buddy
If you commit to a friend to meet up for a ride then you are far more likely to get out of bed. My friends and I always leave each other with a ‘thanks for the ride’, because we are grateful for each other’s company, and we might not have turned up if we weren’t committed to each other. The night before a ride send out a few text messages and make a firm commitment to meet up. Then don’t let your friends down.