Have you sat on your bike and thought to yourself, there is something about this that I like. A LOT. For me, riding is my Freedom Machine. It’s cheap, easy to maintain, can take you anywhere, social, healthy, environmentally friendly, challenging. I started riding my brothers old bike to try to get fit and lose weight. I was 92kg at the time and pretty unhappy with myself. It was heavy and clunky and I was too scared to ride it on the road. I stuck to bike paths and quiet streets. My first ride was with my girlfriend. We rode to Woolcock Park, which is at the back of Ashgrove. Luckily there were no ‘hills’ and a lot of water bubblers! The return trip was around 10km. I arrived home covered in sweat and my heart pounding. But, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face! I rode that bike everywhere, I even fell off it! There is nothing more embarrassing than crashing into a banana bar! Eventually I got up hills and extended the length of my rides. I couldn’t get enough. My brother bought me a Specialized Myca duel suspension mountain bike, the deal being that I would lose 25kg and stay healthy. I stuck to my end of the bargain, riding as much as I could, and through parts of Queensland with my dad on CQ rides. I did a few Westpac Chopper Charity mountain bike rides on the ‘ol Myca…it is what has made me mentally stronger. Here, I found the joy of bike riding. Eventually I was lured into the dark side. Along came Beauty, my Avanti Questa road bike. It had to be pink. I didn’t care what the bike did, or how light the carbon fibre was. I still ride this bike today, having had quite a few modifications to fit around my body. A crash in 2013 made a pretty big dent in my body but the bike got away with a scratch on the gear hoods. I ride it and race it. It’s my companion and I trust her.
I look around at all the bikes out there. My eyes pop out at a few, I’d do anything to get a newer and improved bike! But for now, it’s Beauty and I. I think that it’s the machine on top that you need to improve, not the bike. Although, the wheels and gearing can assist if you are interested in racing and hill climbing! Yesterday on my group ride I heard a lady say “I’m not a very good rider.” It echoed in my head for most of my day. I was at the back of the group (this is my safe zone) and I watched her and when I could, ride behind her. She was a fabulous rider! If she were to ask me, “Caroline, how do you think I can improve?”, I’d give her a few tips that were passed on to me. In the case of group riding there are many thoughts to this. But in her example, if you want to finish your ride strong, then it’s like racing. Its all about positioning and efforts. I am not a coach, I have been coached, by a very good one. She taught me that I had to find my strengths and to use these as my weapon. In my friends instance, she spent a lot of time out the front, pushing in long and fast efforts with the leaders. Three quarters into the ride she was still in that position, the group wasn’t doing much in the way of rolling turns. She started to fatigue. She came to the hills and blew up. She was dropped. So in her mind, she is telling herself “I’m not a good rider.” She is in need of learning the strategies of how not to be dropped and finish with the group. I have provided a link on this subject (below). I have also provided a link to a great read on Bunch Riding.
Another important part of bunch riding, is finding a group that fits you. If you are a woman, and it is mostly a male dominated bunch, then this isn’t a group for you. You need a group that nurtures you in at an average that is around 25 or so. We are built and communicate differently. Sure, some women will read this statement and disagree with me, but position yourself back the very first days when you started off and think again about this statement. If you are a strong and progressing rider then riding with men is the key. Also, riding with people who are better and more experienced than you will make significant improvements to your confidence and abilities. If you can work it into your budget, get a Coach or mentor. These people know their stuff. Technique is everything…but also is the connectivity between teacher and student. I you need a Coach I can recommend a very good one to you. I am working on a list of rides suitable to new to bunch riders. Contact me for further information.
By saying “I’m not a good rider, I am too slow, I won’t keep up, go without me” will make you this person. We all have to start off somewhere. Find people who will take you out and help you gain your confidence. Build. Build up slowly and find a group that you can ride with. It may take several groups before you find your fit. You will be dropped! But know the route and finish your ride. Keep going back to that group. You will be dropped a hundred times! Your level of fitness will improve. With fitness you will not be dropped. This applies to both group riding and racing.
Remember the reason why you started riding. Keep that feeling. I hope this guides you.
My mantra: YOU GOTTA WANT IT.