On my way
I’ve just returned from an excellent weekend of cycling in the NSW central west town of Bathurst. Bathurst holds a special place in my memories because I attended University there some years ago just after I left school so it’s always a pleasure to go back for a nostalgic visit.
Every year Bathurst Cycling Club and Cycling NSW host a great weekend attended by lots of locals and plenty of Sydney cyclists who want to challenge themselves and breathe in some good country air.
There are three events included in the weekend – the NSW Hill Climb Championship, Bathurst Criterium Races and the Blayney to Bathurst race/ride (B2B), a Sportif rather than a race for most of us, which for the uninitiated is a ‘timed event’.
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.
My photograph of Anna at Dunc Grey Velodrome
I was lucky enough to catch up with the amazing Anna Meares via email for an interview. I find Anna very inspiring and have been lucky enough to see her race a couple of times at the velodrome in Sydney.
Q: My Sydney Cycling Club, Lidcombe Auburn Cycle Club (LACC) has a girls’ development squad called the Pixies. They ride and race both track and road and range in age from about six to 13. What words of wisdom could you offer them?
A: I have heard of the Pixies (very cute little group and cute name). My advice would be to have fun, enjoy the sport, enjoy the company of old friends and new friends because these will be memories that last you a lifetime.
Q: At what age did you switch from ‘having fun’ racing and riding your bike to ‘serious’ training? How old were you when you found your first coach?
A: I was 13 when I found my first coach in Ken Tucker in Rockhampton. I probably went from having fun to serious when I was 16 years old.
Eight year old, Ava Giramondo is a member of the youth development squad of my cycling club Lidcombe-Auburn Cycle Club (LACC) and she recently presented to her Year 2 class at PLC Sydney, her reasons for selecting cycling as the best sport. When I read it, it seemed to me that Ava’s reasons were not dissimilar to many female cyclists. I particuarly like the bit about how she and her friends don’t have to hang out with the boys! Enjoy….
Here’s Ava’s presentation:
Good morning/afternoon 2c.
In my opinion cycling is the best sport. The type of cycling I’m going to talk to you about is bike racing. It can be enjoyed by both young and old. There are two types of racing you can participate in; road racing and track racing at a velodrome.
Here are three reasons why in my view cycling is the best sport.
Professional rider Amanda Spratt
Obviously the most important thing to get into road cycling is a bike but there’s also a few other items that will enhance the experience for any budding roadie, both women and men.
A road bike
You can spend any where from about $800 to $20,000 on a road bike, even cheaper if you opt for a second hand or low quality one. However, like all manufactured items in our modern world, you do tend to get what you pay for, so stretch your budget just a little and you’ll enjoy the riding experience much more. I suggest you consider spending at least $1,500 (that’s Australian dollars) on your first road bike. For that you’ll get an alloy frame and entry level gearing like Shimano Sora and Tiagra or perhaps a mix of Shimano 105 and other options.
My first bike was a Jamis brand bike and cost me around $1,500. It served me well for about two and a half years before I decided to upgrade to a carbon bike. I’ve still got that bike and occasionally ride it out on the road, or more often on my indoor trainer.
I would recommend that you consider a women’s specific road bike. I’ve written a couple of posts on this subject previously that might help.
One of the skills it took me quite a long time to master when I started road cycling was following closely behind the wheel in front of me. I was not confident about my own ability and bike skills and so I sat back and watched from afar. It was only with the encouragement of others that I practiced and slowly built my confidence. I think generally men are quicker to master these types of skills, but women have just as much ability once we know how and have the confidence.
Drafting is an important skills that is well worth learning if you want to maximise your enjoyment of riding out on the road. It’s actually quite exhilarating to be whisked along in a group and to feel like you are part of a ‘team’.
The LACC Women’s team and junior Pixies.
I’m particularly happy this week to tell you about a new women’s race team and development squad being launched by my own cycling club – Lidcombe-Auburn Cycle Club (LACC). The new squad is under the leadership of cycling coach and LACC member Donna Meehan and I’m lucky enough to be the Team Manager.
Donna who has taken on the role of Directeur Sportif (or team director) describes it as a milestone event for the cycling club.
To officially launch the team, an event was held at The Quad Café at Sydney Olympic Park last Friday night.
Donna said of the new team and development squad, “LACC has been around for more than 90 years and this is the first time there’s been a women’s race team formed.
One of the great benefits of writing a blog about women’s cycling is that I get to meet (at least by phone and email) some great female cyclists who are completely dedicated to the sport and reaching their potential.
I was recently contacted by Australian female pro cyclist Joanne Hogan who has given up her nursing career to ride her bike as a professional. Jo didn’t actually contact me direct, it was her marketing manager (pro bono) Eliza who made contact on her behalf and she suggested I might like to talk to Jo about her new website http://www.thehealthycyclist.com.au/
The new website is a collaboration between Eliza and Jo and reflects their common interest in health and wellbeing and Jo’s love of cycling. The content on the website is quite extensive and from my own experience I know it would have taken many hours of work.
I know that insurance is not exactly everyone’s favourite topic and it certainly isn’t mine and it’s also a ‘grudge’ purchase but if you’re going to spend a lot of money buying a beautiful bike, and spend lots of time riding it, then you need to think about insurance for both the bike and yourself. Thank you to Kate Bates for suggesting I write about this important subject.
I’m certainly not an expert on insurance so what you’re about to read is my opinion and not a recommendation, but I’m happy to share what I’ve learnt to benefit both female (my key audience) and male cyclists because the information applies equally.