For a longest time hiking was my passion! Of course it still is but I like gritty hikes, mountain hikes, wild hikes and I like my hikes to be long! One of the greatest things I’ve ever done was to hike the 800kms of the Camino de Santiago. In both Sydney and Melbourne hiking and getting my heart rate up was an easy, fun adventure to find. I grew up amongst hills and National Parks are never far away. Living in The Netherlands not so much! Sure the woods are across the road and I adore them. But it’s flat here. Dead flat. And flat is not such hard work gritty work and I kinda miss that. Each day that I run on my #runstreak I’m getting stronger and it’s harder to get the heart rate going in these flatlands when hiking or walking. I can’t run long fast runs each day, my body would collapse. I am also getting to know the trails from my from front door. I know them back to front, I need to explore further. I had an itch. I needed something. Some sort of wildness. A new hobby. Enter womens road cycling.
Now you’ve probably heard of, know of one or have seen the rise of the MAMIL (middle-aged man in lycra). I’m married to one. Although he has been cycling longer than I’ve known him so technically he grew into his MAMIL’ness. I am the stereotype MAWIL! Yep, I have gone the full monty, become lycra obsessed in my middle age! And I love it. The adventures I’m having from the front door are taming my itch for wildness in a way that hiking simply can’t here. I need a whole day for a hike here to feel remotely adventurous and to feel like I’ve done some hard work. I can get that in an hour on my bike. Or I can get it doing a tip run! No joke. The other day we had to do a declutter of the garage (to built bike storage) and we moved bricks and old building supplies to the tip. Tips have changed these days. There is a recycling skip and purpose for everything! I was most impressed. And I loved the labourer’s work of carrying the junk. It crossed my mind that I’d renovate simply to carry stuff to a skip to feel strong.
My friend was laughing at me the other day and said ‘I feel like you have a new boyfriend, I’ve never seen the hubby feature so much on your Instagram page’! To which I replied ‘I do, but it’s not him it’s the bike’! Ha seriously my bike is like a new lover. We just want to hang out. I count down the time until we get to be together, there’s a yearning and I feel a bit sad as I get nearer to my street knowing the ride is just about over. Husband isn’t jealous, has been awesome really. A new cyclist needs an experienced one to ask all the questions. If you have any shoot them through, I’ll ask him for you. He helped me get started much faster than I could’ve without him. He’s a patient teacher and as I’ve learnt it’s not just about being able to ride a bike.
A few things I’ve learnt:
- Cyclists don’t wear undies under their bib shorts. No exceptions, no undies, they cause chafe. And no one wants chafe. No one.
- Go to the toilet first! Bib shorts (that is shorts as above with straps attached that go over your shoulder, a bit like an all in one) sit under your top (jersey) so it is a palaver if you have to stop to go. Jersey fully off first to get shorts off! This looks like toileting in a bra with with your shorts at your knees.
- Embrace gear. I always try to make do as long as I can but there is no way you can ride a road bike in shorts without good padding. And no way secondhand are an option … the no undie thing remember. It’s summer so I bought a helmet, bib shorts, jerseys, thermal under top, vest windproof jacket, long socks, fingerless gloves and shoes to start with. I’ll have to build up as the seasons change. Just check where you buy from, are their supply chains transparent, sustainable?
- There is quite a degree of thinking and coordination required to turn a corner. ‘Is it this leg that’s raised or the other one?’ Hint … it’s the one to the corner you’re turning. That way the raised leg is further from the ground you’re leaning into. Sounds confusing right? It is. Confusing to write, confusing to do. Working out opposites is challenging when you’re learning and trying not to fall. You get there though. Just don’t take corners fast. Don’t let it worry you if you’re starting, you’ll be fine. I’m coping.
- Cleats. These are the clips you lock your shoes into. Honestly I’d given no thought to these! I rode a week without to get the feel and then I decided to give them ago. The best advice I can give is to practice on a stationary trainer and do go with a patient teacher the first and second time. It’s a practice thing. And clip out early. If you see a stop or a crossing – get a foot out early. In the moment it’s hard to think fast when you’re not experienced. There are cleats you can buy that are easier to clip our of, I have them and they have already saved me from falling.
- #HOWWELIV #LIVCOMMITED #LIVFORWARD get a picture here! LIV. Liv is a company dedicated to the promotion of and support of womens cycling. That makes me proud. I would have ridden a LIV bike if I could have, but bikes here are sold out everywhere! Everywhere. It took three attempts for me to get a bike in Europe. I follow @livcycling on Instagram and I love it. It’s like when you start gardening right you’re going to follow gardeners. Follow riders! There is a whole world of women’s cycling out there and it’s wild.
- I have a new found love of scenery shots with bikes in them. I get it. I get the feeling of riding to where you are. And I love that there are women of all ages visible on their bikes. I want to contribute to that.
- Also hormones, riding is a producer of the good ones. Dealing with the peri-meno is far easier with a strong army of the good hormones in the mix.
- And personally I’m better with a range of hobbies. For instance there was a time when I wrote where it would take over my head and all my time. Eventually it becomes too much and I end up in a rabbit hole. Now, I can write and step away into one of my other hobbies or challenges and there is some space. Space keeps writing sustainable for me. Adding cycling to my hobbies is one of my best leaps. Going for a cycle, spinning my legs, getting the blood flowing and my mind clearing with every spin is a great creator of space. I might get addicted.
- Oh and I love the sound of the shoes as they tap tap on the floors. They’re adventurer shoes. Tap, Tap and then click, click into my bike and I’m off.
I’ve ride with with hubby and I ride on my own (lots). Sometimes if we want to do things we have to be prepared to go solo. You could spend your life waiting for someone else. We’ve popped the bikes on the car and taken them to Belgium for a weekend of hill riding. Although cycling on actual roads where there aren’t paths or designated bike lanes does add a degree of ‘what the hell am I doing, I’ve got four kids back at camp’. In Holland it feels secure with so many designated bike paths and drivers who are ‘bike’ aware. Would I have taken this up in Aussie? I’m not sure. But then I would have been able to hike hard so I wouldn’t have needed it. I would have had a different itch to scratch no doubt. You know me! For now, cycling has been a great itch soother, a shitload of fun, the balm my wildness needed and a nice way to come out of quarantine … moving or should I say pedalling forward.