Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Let's go ride a bike


My first bike complete with passenger

Ok, I know I've taken a little liberty there with the words, but it got you humming, right?

I still remember my very first bike.  It was a yellow tricycle with a seat on the back that I could ride around on with my sister. 

My second bike was a throw together that my uncles made me from dump rescue bikes, painted with green housepaint and probably what you'd call a hybrid - part roadie, part BMX and part mountain bike.


My first brand new bike

My third bike was a red Malvern Star dragster.  Living in a more rural area, distanced from my friends, this bike was my first taste of freedom.  Mum and Dad would send me off on errands to the shop, the Avon Lady, the Post Office - and off I would treadle on my bike.  I have great childhood memories of struggling up the hill to get to the shop, but zooming down at full speed on the way home.  Helmets weren't compulsory in those days, and I still don't know how we didn't sustain more head injuries.  One memory I have is of my sister hitting a particular patch of gravel on a corner at the top of our street (which was the bottom of the aforementioned big hill) and coming off her bike at speed.  She lost a fair bit of bark that day, but she got back on and rode the rest of the way home.

I loved riding to my friends' homes at the other side of our suburb, singing away at the top of my voice, the wind in my hair, legs pumping to get up and down the hills.  Those were good days and I savoured every second on the bike.

My relationship with bikes continued to high school.  Although I outgrew my dragster, and didn't replace it, my high school boyfriend had a roadie.  Many afternoons saw us walking home to his place, then me getting "dinkied" home on the top bar of "Silver" (yes we named the bike).

Sadly, once school was finished, it took me almost 5 years to buy a new bike and even then it probably collected more dust than kilometres!  It was a cheap K-Mart Huffy - fluoro orange in colour with flat bar handles. 

Flash forward 15 years.  Approaching forty, I was looking for a way to get fit and lose weight.  I dragged the bike out, found a friend who was looking to improve their fitness, and we began to ride.  It took a bit of oiling, greasing and replacement parts (of the bike that is, not us), but pretty soon we were doing some regular rides.  Even at the peak of winter we were rugging up and hitting the road most weekday mornings to get our fix.  Weekends were even better as we had more time and daylight to explore our surroundings.


We even got our pics in the paper!

We grin now when we think of those days.  We thought 5 km was an epic ride and some of the smaller hills were like taking on Everest.  But we plugged away at it and pretty soon we found ourselves upping the ante and increasing our distances.  Our first "long ride" event was the 2010 Quest Women's Bike Ride, a Bike Week event organised by Bicycle Queensland.  I can't tell you how pleased we were with ourselves when we completed the 40km ride - it was about twice the distance of our previous longest ride!

Not long after this one, we competed in our first triathlon at Caloundra.  While my friend continued to compete, I decided that I loved the riding, but hated the swimming and the running, so I stuck with just the bike.

I also decided it was about time for my next upgrade - a charcoal grey Apollo Alfa; a flat bar road bike that belonged to my friend's husband, but was quickly discarded when he upgraded to a better road bike.

Brissie to the Bay

Now this bike got some kilometres.  Hubby and I did a bit of riding in organised rides, including the Brissie to the Bay (50km - relatively flat and a good way to ease into bigger rides), Great Brisbane Bike Ride (80km - Mt Cootha is a cruel and heartless climb, especially in the pouring rain) and the Redlands Classic (75km that finds just about every hill in the Redlands area).  My friend and I entered the Gold Coast 100km Classic - our longest ride yet, and if I was a bloke, I'd call it a ball-buster - but being a woman on a bike I'll call it a fanny burner!  There were some absolutely challenging climbs on this one as we rode up into the Gold Coast Hinterland and back down into Southport.  I can tell you, you could not wipe the smile off my face after that one - it was one of the hardest rides I have ever undertaken - that is, until I rode from Texas to Stanthorpe!

Time for my next upgrade, and I finally got myself a "real" road bike. I love my Merida Ride Lite 94, it's perfect for the commute to work, foreshore cruises and all of the events I enter to challenge the mind and body.


At the start in Goondiwindi

All of this was great preparation for the one ride that we had planned and trained for for almost a year.  Cycle Qld is a week long event that spans around 600km of riding through the Queensland countryside.  Last year's event took us from Goondiwindi to Brisbane, via Yelarbon, Texas, Stanthorpe, Killarney, Woodburn, Boonah and Rosewood. 

I've written about this one previously, so won't go into any further detail other than to say it was hard, it was fun, it was one of the best things I've done in my life.  I met people from all walks of life, ranging from 5 - 75 years of age, all with the same aim, to enjoy the ride.

Brrr - the bike got cold in Yelarbon - check out the icy rims

I'm now back in training for this year's trek - Gayndah to Noosa via Hervey Bay.  This time I'm doing it on a tandem bike - complete with my 11 year old stoker, Hayden.  I just need to find an exercise that can help with saddle soreness - after 8 days in the saddle, the thought of climbing onto the bike for that last day's ride was akin to being tortured.  There is no comfortable riding position after that length of time!




I can't explain what it is about riding that draws me to it.  I am by no means competitive.  I don't have to be the first to finish.  I just like to finish.  I don't think of myself as a "cyclist"  I prefer to call myself a rider.  When I think of cyclists, I think of Cadel Evans type riders - pros.  Fast riders, always looking for the next challenge. You know the kind.  Saturday mornings at 5am you'll find a pack of them flying along at breakneck speed in a large pack, shouting at each other to be heard above the whir of the tyres.  They are the guys in lycra who have a hard ride then find the nearest cafe for a rewarding coffee at the end.

Me, I'm more the kind who loves to raise her face to the sun and sing out loud as I'm riding.  In fact I did that a couple of times on Cycle Qld.  There were some very bemused cows between Inglewood and Boonah, watching this woman on two wheels belting out some tunes.  Commuting to and from the City each day was both exercise and cathartic as it allowed me to collect my thoughts, work out my frustrations and get the blood pumping all in the name of travel alternatives.  That and the fact that it meant I could save over $2000 per year in parking or public transport fees!  

It just keeps calling to me.  It could be that it's the perfect exercise as we age - minimum stress and strain on the body, but still hard enough to challenge you, tone you and keep you coming back for more.  You can work at your own pace, which means you can bust your ass or you can just take your time and get there when you get there.  You can see things you don't see in a car, cos you have the time to see them.  But most of all, I think it's the freedom you have on a bike.  It's the hard uphills, the breathtaking downhills and all of the flats in between.  It's about the ride.  It's about the journey.  I love it. 

There are many things I don't know, but the one thing I do know for sure - as long as I have a bike, I'm happy.