women’s cycling journeys
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Women’s cycling journeys: Jo’s journey through life with a bike

I love to hear about other women’s cycling journeys, so I was pleased to hear that my club mate Jo wanted to write about her cycling journey. I immediately asked her if I could publish it as a blog post. Bicycles have played an important role in her life and I really enjoyed hearing about the different phases of her life, and how riding played a part. Over to you Jo Coverdale…….

women’s cycling journeys
Leaving Cannes in 1983

COVID has given me time to reflect on some of the important times in my life – and how riding my bike has been a part of them. It also makes me thankful to all the special people who encourage me to ride.

Growing up

I learnt to ride a Raleigh two-wheeler bike which my mother brought from England when she migrated in 1949. It was the bike my mother had ridden to work during the war in Brighton where they drafted the plans for the first radar across the English coast.

Being the youngest of four, we all learnt to ride on this bike in our dirt street in Jannali. It was part of growing up, freedom and acceptance. We raced the other kids and also tested the boundaries when mum said ‘don’t leave the street’. It was friendship and competition, a carefree attitude and the occasional scuffed knee.

Through high school and university, I only rode occasionally on hire bikes. The next big influence was my new boss at work who invited me to join him and his wife on some cycling trips – Mudgee, South Coast and Wiseman’s ferry. They were experienced cyclists.

I borrowed a 5-speed Peugeot and joined the adventures of food, wine and friendship. The rides always involved gourmet food and picnics as they were great cooks.

First bike purchase

In 1981, I bought my very first bike – a custom made 10 speed touring bike from Inner City Cycles. A big step up from what I had used before.

Cycling was about discovery and wonder, good food and a new way to experience the countryside. I became physically and mentally tougher.

Head overseas

In 1983 I decided to have six months overseas skiing, travelling and cycling. After my skiing, I bought a custom made bike in Geneva. I cycled on my own through France (Provence and the Loire Valley), Germany, Netherlands, England and Wales (Snowdonia National Park) with a map and a guidebook (and no helmet!).

Cycling travel was about freedom and discovery as well as physical and mental challenges. I smelt strawberries being harvested, enjoyed local food and the help of strangers when stranded with no accommodation. I had to make all the decisions, deal with every situation including being followed by a man in a car (very worrying), weather and loneliness. I came back feeling physically and mentally stronger and more confident to deal with my life.

Marriage and children

Bike riding then became about a partnership. I met my husband who competed in triathlons and we trained together. I went in one triathlon (swimming in open water, not my thing!) and we also embarked on some trips together including cycling down the east coast of Tasmania (Launceston to Hobart). Cycling helped us develop our relationship, supporting each other, encouraging and realising that we enjoyed these times together.

After marriage and three children under 3 (1 and then twins), life was busy and cycling was not a priority until the children were able to ride bikes themselves – 16” and 18” wheels.  We bought some Trek hybrid bikes.

Cycling was then about family time, holidays at the beach, Dubbo Zoo and some community rides with the boys. We packed the bikes and the boys in the Tarago for some fantastic and memorable family holidays.

Life got busy again and cycling dropped off again until the boys started rowing. I started cycling again with the boys rowing coach (10 years older than me) when the boys did cycling with my husband. The regularity and companionship were important and every week I got stronger. I joined some other local women and started riding twice a week.

First road bike

It was time to upgrade my bike. I bought my first road bike for a long time, a Specialized Dolce and embarked on riding with clipless pedals, having used the pedals with the old straps previously. I had the inevitable fall but now find it hard to ride without them!

I started riding more frequently and with another friend decided to enter a women’s 100k ride in Victoria (over 1800m climbing!). This really improved my strength, speed and endurance. We trained together with support from partners and finished the ride. It was a great sense of achievement and I felt fitter than I had for years.

Cycling is still about the challenge, friendship, fitness and discovery. My road bike is now a Specialized Ruby that I got for my 60th birthday. I love to ride it. I also have a Specialized Crosstrail for rides on rail trails and in the country.

My partner and I still do longer rides together – South Australian wineries, Kangaroo Island, Spain, rail trails and the regular local rides with friends. We’ve just finished the Central West Cycling Trail.

The LACC women’s group is a supportive and varied group that motivates me to get up early to ride. It is regular and fun as are my local friends. These friends mean that I ride at least 3 times a week so I keep engaged, fit and strong.

I kept cycling through all the stages of my life with different people, for different reasons and on different bikes. I hope this journey will continue for many years to come!

I would love to hear about other women’s cycling journeys. Share via comments or the Women Who Cycle Facebook page.