One 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.
I 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.
Here’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
In May 2010, when Lynda Behan suggested that she and a friend get on their bikes and start a regular ride together, she had no idea that four years later she’d have 35 women who wanted to tag along, and Women of Oatley (WoO) would be born.
I met Lynda at a women’s cycling discussion a couple of months ago and I was impressed by her passion and enthusiasm for encouraging other women to start riding.
Back in 2010 it was her husband that encouraged her to start riding, because he rode with a local recreational riding group and thought Lynda should join him. Lynda took it one step further and invited her friend to join her on a ride around a local park and then gradually, two by two, other women began to join them.
Oatley is a southern suburb of Sydney and Lynda and others are very fortunate to have a local park/reserve with a great cycle track but they’ve since ventured much further than their local area.
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.
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.
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.
I recently met the dynamic Donnamaree Cosgrove who together with her husband Kerry owns and runs bike retail store Bikeline in Toowoomba Queensland. Donnamaree mentioned to me that her store had run a women’s successful bike/body skills program last year so I asked her to fill me in on how it worked.
Q: What was the inspiration behind running the course?
A: We already have a strong women’s group the Bikeline WOW (Women On Wheels) Team. Over the years the groups cycling ability has got stronger and we began to notice that we were not catering for the newcomers as well as we once did so we brainstormed some ideas with the staff (two of whom are female). One of our female staff at the time was also a Yoga instructor so the Yoga/stretching component was her idea. Our Body Geometry Fit (Specialized’s bike fit methodology) guy proposed the fit component, the mechanic suggested basic mechanic skills, and of course cycling skills was a no brainer so from that concoction of ingredients, we created “Your Body, Your Bike”.
Q: Who were you targeting?
A: Women in general, but specifically beginners.
Q: How many attended? How long did it run for?
A: 12 women attended and it ran for eight weeks.
Q: Are the participants now regular customers?
A: Absolutely – all now ride Specialized and all are our best ambassadors (Bikeline is Specialized concept store).
Last week Cycling Australia (CA) released the results of a some research they conducted last year with female cyclists in Australia. They surveyed two groups – Cycling Australia members, and non-members who were active riders. The results were not really surprising for me, because as one of the 2,400 respondents I think I have a reasonable handle on the women’s road cycling scene in Australia. However I think the research is great for bike industry and anyone working with female road cyclists, plus it provides a benchmark for future research.
You can read the full report from Cycling Australia here. It’s not overly long but if you want a quick summary, here’s my take:
The top three challenges to riding for the majority of respondents is feeling unsafe on the road, work commitments and lack of time.
Unsurprisingly the issue of safety was high on the agenda and a deterrent for women not riding as often as they would, if they felt safer. 55 per cent of respondents said they don’t have access to safe on-road facilities. Many also said that if they had access to safer bike lanes and off-road pathways they would ride more often.
There’s been a lot of media space devoted to the issue of bike riders using the roads of late, so I thought I’d put my ‘two bobs worth’ forward.
You’ll note that I haven’t called this blog post ‘Cars v Bikes’ because I really don’t think that’s what it’s about. From my observation many drivers (and by no means all drivers) think that they are entitled to use the roads exclusively and that cyclists should vacate ‘their’ roads or at least pull over and let them pass.
As a road cyclist I think I’m pretty considerate. I do most of my riding early in the morning to avoid heavy traffic, I choose not to ride on major roads except where they can’t be avoided, I obey the road rules, I use front and rear lights early in the morning and late in the afternoon, and I travel at a speed where I rarely hold up a driver for more than a few seconds.
And yet, nearly every time I ride my bike I encounter an aggressive driver who either takes my right of way at a roundabout, comes up very fast behind me and then overtakes in a dangerous manner, and occasionally I’ve been beeped at, or yelled at by impatient people.