Written by Melanie Carroll
From when I was a little girl until my early 20s, my bike was a source of fun and adventure, a way to keep fit, and the means by which I got to where I needed to go. Until learning to drive, building a career and growing a family gradually took over, years and years eventually passed since I had ridden at all.
5 years ago my husband was getting back into cycling and I decided I’d get myself a bike. I didn’t want a racing bike like his, with that strange riding position, skinny tyres and hard, pointy saddle – I was after comfort rather than speed.
I wanted to relive the enjoyment of being able to hop on my bike and go where I needed or wanted to go that I remembered from my youth.
However, because I was so used to driving everywhere, I’d underestimated how hilly where I live actually is.
“Popping to the shops” on my bike, usually involved the humiliation of being asked if I was OK by random passers by, as I sat in a crumpled heap by the side of the road, my face the colour of a beetroot. I suppose I could have been grateful for their concern, but I was too embarrassed.
So, once again my bike sat in a corner of the garage, gathering dust.
Over the course of the next 5 years, my husband got more and more into cycling. Riding his bike was not only a way of keeping fit, it was an excellent way to de-stress from work and he was building a network of like-minded friends. Now, not only did he have people to share adventures with, both here and overseas, he had a great bunch of mates who’d look after each other on the road should anything happen.
I was happy for him, but I wanted something different – I don’t want to get up at ridiculous o’clock to go and ride my bike. Riding as far as he does, and up all the hills he climbs doesn’t sound like my idea of fun. Cycling is his main hobby – and although it doesn’t have to be, it can be an expensive one - there are other things I want to do, other things I want to spend my money on.
At the end of last year I re-discovered my love of cycling. This time round, working out the answer to the question ‘what kind of rider do I want to be?’ has really helped. Thinking about where I was likely to want to ride, how often, over what sort of terrain and for how long, has been really helpful in knowing what kind of bike, equipment and clothing I’d need from the bewildering range of options in the shops and online.
I’m 51 and my kids have left home, and I’ve got more time to cycle now than I have had in the past, but I still need my riding to fit in with the rest of my life. These things help me enjoy my cycling:
* A bike rack – means I can easily transport my bike to the places I want to ride.
* An indoor trainer – I’ll confess to being a bit of a fair weather cyclist – the trainer means I can escape the heat and the rain and still get a ride in. It is easy to go to the garage and hop on the trainer around other things I need to be doing. A program like Zwift helps the time pass and introduces a competitive edge.
* A good local bike shop – where you can get good advice about what to spend your hard earned cash on, and help to maintain your bike.
* Other cyclists – sadly in my area there are very few female cyclists, but I’ve found the cycling community to be welcoming and encouraging. And, as I’ve started to explore I’ve found far more support for women in terms of groups to ride with and courses to help us build skills than I’d realised – this is very encouraging and I hope it continues to grow.