Like many road cyclists I ride early in the morning to avoid traffic and to get a 20 km plus ride in before I have to get to work. This means that at quite a few times during the year I leave home in the dark. One thing that constantly amazes me is that I see other cyclists riding around with inadequate or even no lights on their bikes. They are also often decked out in dark clothing on dark bikes. I’m not sure if they are trying to be really ‘cool’ or are just plain stupid.
Many cyclists do not realise that it’s actually illegal to ride a bike at night without lights. In the state of NSW (and many other places) where I live if you ride at night you must have a steady or flashing white light that is clearly visible for at least 200 metres and a flashing or steady red light that is clearly visible for at least 200 metres from the rear of the bike. I also take night to mean 5 am when it’s still quite dark at certain times of the year.
I use lights pretty much all the time when I’m riding alone. When it’s dark I use the front light on a steady beam so I can see where I’m going, because even if you are on familiar roads and paths there can be obstacles like sticks, rubbish and rocks that can be a big hazard. When it gets lighter and I can see where I’m going I change my light to a flashing pattern so that other road users can see me. I always use my rear light on a flashing pattern and I nearly always have it on, except when I’m riding in a group and it’s fully light.
I like to think of myself as a bit of a cycling evangelist. That doesn’t mean I give regular sermons about cycling but through this blog, my job and other social occasions I love the opportunity to share my love for cycling with others, particularly women. So here’s 10 reasons why you should think about cycling. They are in no particular order (just the order they jumped into my head). The initial list took me about five minutes to write so you can see that I’m completely enthusiastic about this subject.
Please note that I haven’t called this point ‘weight loss’ because that’s not what it’s all about. Fitness is a key benefit of cycling. I’m in my forties and I’m fitter than I’ve ever been in my life. I also weigh more than I did before I started cycling five years ago, but I’m actually leaner as a result of all those hours on the bike.
2. Café visits
This is one of my favourite benefits. All the road cyclists that I know go to the café after a ride. This means you get to have a good chat and you get to eat yummy food because you’ve just ‘pre-burnt’ your calories. I don’t actually drink coffee (because I hate the taste of it) but I don’t let that stop me being part of the café culture. Hot chocolate doesn’t look that different!
I first heard about the Adelaide-based women only cycling club, The Skinny Lattes a couple of years ago but it wasn’t until now that I made contact. I previously profiled a women’s only club based in Austin, Texas in the US, a country where I’m sure there are plenty of women’s only clubs. However, The Skinny Lattes is the only one I’m aware of in Australia (please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about that). I recently caught up with Belinda Bramley who is the Club Secretary and one of the founding members.
When was the Skinny Lattes formed?
The Skinny Lattes Cycling Club was formed in 2002 by three girlfriends Felicity Laing, Lynette Collins and Belinda Bramley who recognised a need for a women’s specific cycling group.
How many members do you have? How do you join?
Currently we have 90 members. We don’t search for members – they find us. You contact the club via the website, and then we chat with potential new members and if we sound like the right club you join via the Cycling Australia Website.
When I first started riding about five years ago, I was terrified at the idea of riding in a group of people. Every time someone rode close to me I’d move as far away as a could, but over time I’ve grown used to riding in closer proximity to others. In fact, I’ve noticed that the more experienced the other riders are, the closer they are likely to ride beside you, and on the whole this is pretty safe.
So I thought it would be useful to share a few things I’ve learned. This is not a definitive guide and I’m sure there are others both in Australia and around the world who do it differently but these tips will help get you going.
Of course, as a dedicated cyclist your New Year’s resolutions should all be about cycling, so here’s my suggestions when you’re setting yourself some goals for 2014:
Don’t attempt to go from riding zero kilometres per week to riding hundreds because it just won’t happen. Make it realistic and just increase your cycling incrementally. You’re only setting yourself up for failure if you aim too high too quickly.
Make them measurable
Don’t come up with a general statement like ”I’m going to ride my bike more than last year”, instead make it measurable like “I’m going to increase my number of ride days from two to three by 31 March and then by three to four by 30 June” or something similar.
Last week we brought you Rebecca Hay’s advice on eating during a ride and this week we look at eating before you ride. Over to Rebecca once again…
Should I eat before training?
A very common question among cyclists. The answer depends on a few factors:
- what you are planning to do?
- what you want to get out your session? and
- the duration of your training session.
You can apply some very simple rules based on planned intensity and duration of the activity. Even if you are exercising with weight reduction as one of your goals you will find you train better if you have a little fuel on board before an intense training session.
One of the things I often get asked, and particularly from women, is “How do I find some riding buddies?”. There’s no easy answer to this one.
When I first started riding I did ride around on my own a fair bit but over time I found like-minded riding companions who I now consider to be amongst my best friends. I’ve been riding for five years now and over those years I’ve found lots of buddies, both women and men, some of whom have already come and gone in my life.
The first step for me was to find a local group of riders who already met on a formal basis for a weekly ride. For me, this group was called BayBUG which in long form is Canada Bay Bicycle User Group. There are BUGs all over NSW which are formed under the auspices of Bicycle NSW and cater for beginner riders. It was ideal for me, and it gave me an introduction to group riding and plenty of riding buddies.
Over time, as the group got to know each other better we formed some subgroups and started riding on Sunday as well as the regular BayBUG Saturday ride.
One of the major topics amongst my riding friends in the last few weeks at the post-ride café visit, has been aggressive birds. Spring has definitely sprung in my neighbourhood and birds are out in force defending their young.
Thankfully my bird attacks have been uneventful where I’ve heard a click noise on my helmet and been aware of an anonymous object nearby, but a few of my friends have not been so lucky. One of them had a butcherbird attack him on Saturday morning and draw blood on his cheek. Another was attacked by an aggressive magpie last week while visiting an area where he doesn’t normally ride. Both of them stayed calm and managed to stay upright but many are not so lucky.
These stories have prompted me to do some research and put a list of facts and tips together.
Tina McCarthy is changing women’s lives by getting as many of them riding bikes confidently. She has a Melbourne-based business called Wheel Women and focuses on social and recreational female cyclists. Tina contacted me a while back and we’ve kept in touch. I’m very impressed with her enthusiasm and passion. Women Who Cycle asked her a few questions about her business – Wheel Women.
Q: When and Why did you start cycling?
A: I’ve always cycled, for as long as I can remember. I had 3 older brothers so I didn’t have any choice if I wanted to keep up with them. But as an adult life and career kind of got in the way. When my son was born in 1998 I did start cycling a little bit again when he was in the baby seat, and then on the tag-along. But I found it increasingly difficult – the bigger he got the harder it was. But about 3 years ago, my son who is now a teenager was training for the Great Victorian Bike Ride, and I stupidly thought I could join them on a training ride. I wondered why everyone was passing me and I was left for dead! Short answer is, my husband suggested a new bike instead of my department store special at 22kg! I bought an eBay bike and couldn’t believe the difference – it was AWESOME. I’ve now become a little more serious about my rides and ascribe to the N+1 theory of bike ownership – you can never have too many bikes! Though my husband does like to dispute this!