Image courtesy of Specialized
Last year Cycling Australia undertook some research where they spoke to about 2,500 female cyclists who were either members of Cycling Australia, and therefore a cycling club, or keen leisure road cyclists. In this research the women who responded identified the majority of their riding is completed alone, but there was a clear desire for riding with other women of similar ability levels.
I remember reading that at the time and feeling a little sad, and hoping that the sort of activities I get involved in like the Cycling NSW Women’s Commission will help over time. I’m really pleased to say that there seems to be an increase in the number of activities for these keen female road cyclists like me. Here’s a short list of events that I’m aware of, and it would be great if you’re reading this if you share other events that you know about. My list are all Australian women’s events but feel free to share international ones as well.
I was really interested to read over the weekend about a new women’s international cycling initiative called Strongher. I must admit that when I first saw the name I thought it was some sort of weird European spelling for the word ‘Stronger’, but on my second attempt I realised it was the combination of ‘Strong’ and ‘Her’ which is quite clever.
The founders of the movement, aiming to “give women a stage to show themselves”, are a large bunch of female professional cyclists. It was launched in London over the weekend by professional cyclists Marianne Vos, Hannah Barnes, Lauren Kitchen, Manon Carpenter, Marijn de Vries, Lucinda Brand, Juliet Elliott and Rebecca Charlton.
They describe it as a unique international movement with the impressive title of “Strongher, The Stage for Women Who Ride” with the goals of the continued development of women’s cycling, giving women a stage to show themselves and getting more women on bikes.
A couple of weeks ago a good friend of mine sent me a distressed message via text to tell me she’d been attacked by a couple of magpies on her morning ride and come off the bike, injuring herself and damaging her stead. And since her story I’ve heard quite a few tales of woe about bird attacks so I thought I should tackle this topic again.
Native birds such as Australian Magpies are highly protective of their eggs, nest and young and will often swoop at unsuspecting passers-by if they feel threatened. Other native Australian birds that are also common culprits include butcherbirds, kookaburras and plovers, but even invasive species like Indian Mynas can attack at this time of year. Magpies seem to cop the majority of the blame but from my experience butcherbirds are more vicious.
Only a small proportion of birds swoop on people and these often have a preference for a few individuals that the birds recognise or certain types of ‘targets’ like cyclists. A magpie will only defend its nest within a ‘defence zone’. For cyclists, this is usually an area within 150 metres.
As regular readers of this blog probably know I work in a bike shop and one of the most regular questions I’m asked by both men and women is: Should I buy a flat bar road bike and a drop bar road bike. So I thought it would be useful to talk about the pros and cons of both types of road bike.
Firstly I have to confess that I ride a drop bar road bike and love it, so I won’t be changing to a flat bar any time soon, but I can see some merit in them, and for some riders they are definitely the best option.
A flat bar road bike is similar to a standard road bike, but with flat bars as opposed to the drop bars seen on most road bicycles. Some people call them hybrids but strictly speaking a hybrid normally has front suspension which flat bar road bikes do not.
I was contacted recently by a company called Pure Adventures that offers self-guided cycling tours around the world and when I looked into the detail I realised they are exactly the type of cycling tour I’d like to do myself.
Self-guided touring offers almost all the conveniences of a guided trip with more flexibility and personalised style and the cost is closer to doing it yourself. In short, Pure Adventures organises the itinerary for you, books the hotels, arranges luggage transfers, hands over the maps and instructions and off you go. Sounds like an ideal to way to tour on a bike to me.
Durations can be modified to meet your needs, hotels are available for many budgets and there is no minimum participation, eliminating the threat of cancellation by the operator.
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 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.
If you take up riding in your 30s or 40s as many of us do, one area you need to focus on if you want to advance, is to learn some bike skills. As children most of us rode a bike, but the majority of us were not formally taught, so we didn’t have the chance to learn any bike skills and this particularly applies to women.
In my experience in meeting many female cyclists, women tend to approach cycling quite differently to men. Although many of us rode bikes as kids we usually did a few laps around the neighbourhood and didn’t jump off gutters, perform wheel stands or other daredevil acts like our male counterparts.
The good news is that it’s easy to improve your bike skills. Here’s a few tips on how to improve your skills in areas like cornering, pedalling, safe braking, descending, climbing, riding in a bunch and more.