Who do you think you are?

In my life I have met some remarkable people. I would make new friends and bring them home and my mother would critique them to me. I use to think she was being over protective, telling me what to do and rude in some cases. But as I grew older and matured, it occurred to me she was teaching me a simplified version of psychology…and the art of choosing a good friendship over a hurtful meaningless one. I became rather good at finding beautiful people and maintaining strong friendships. Now that I have my own daughter, I talk to her about her friends. We have lengthy discussions about ‘why’ and ‘how come’ and ‘I don’t understand’. For a young woman she is very in tune with people, more so than I ever was or am even now. I keep a watchful eye over her, allowing her to work things out for herself. After all, the best life lessons are ones that are learnt by mistake! I have learnt that there are people in our world that don’t always sync with you. A myriad of personalities that attract or make you retract. It’s difficult to grasp the concept that everyone you meet is not who you think they are from the outside. If you are a good and kind person then people will naturally gravitate to you. I think of it like this…if you are standing out in the dark cold night and are invited into the warmth and comfort of a safe space you would take up the offer. What awaits you may not just be the warmth of a fire or the comfort of a nice hot drink. There are people in our world who don’t hold the same core values as you choose. Even the most educated person can be treated wrongly. They give you just enough to spark your interest, enough to make you feel good about yourself, but then they take it away…so you want more. But you don’t know why. When you get hurt its a horrible ugly feeling that cuts to you deep. It’s difficult to describe to someone who has not. And having the need to find out ‘why’ is so strong you feel you cannot push through without this question answered. I think about people who have lived in abusive relationships. Who have been attacked, sexually abused, taken advantage of. How do they cope? How do they move on? Find themselves again? Getting even is not the answer. Praying for Karma is like expecting rain to shoot up out of the earth. The answer cannot be found. The mystery of these people cannot be discovered. Perhaps we just accept that they are just not right in their heads? Finding space and building walls of protection around one self is one way. Holding up the wall is the tricky part. Surrounding yourself with trusting, loving, honest and caring people helps. Hold onto them tight. And don’t allow your guard to drop so easily. Keep yourself safe. Don’t feel alone. Eyes tell you everything about a person. They are the window to the soul.

Does our mind influence our body?

Rathdowny 1

Photo credit: Lauren Hooper

The alarm clock belts out a heavy metal song at 4:30am Sunday morning. It’s dark. It’s cold. Damn! Why did I agree to do this? I had a restless sleep, I often do before a long ride. Will I complete it? Will I hold people up? Can I climb up the hills? Will I bonk? Do I need more than one tube? Have I properly hydrated?

The Rathdowney Randonee…

The drive to Rathdowney with my brother and friend is quick. We check out the temperature outside of the car. At one point it was 1 degree. Have I dressed in enough layers? Kit, arm warmers, gillet, jacket…should I have a woollen thermal on? Leg warmers? We pull into the carpark. Time for a nervous wee. Brrrrrrrrrr! It’s so bloody cold! ZIP! Off with the clothes. Someone really should think about designing a set of knicks with a neat strip of velcro in the pants! We listen to a brief from our ride co-ordinator. Fasties push off before the Wombles. We roll out nice and easy pace. Banter. The countryside crisp, dry and the air chilly. Cows checked us out. Someone calls out HILLS! Off we pedal…and so the fun begins! My third hill in I reach the top and stop. Burst into tears. I have no idea where it came from! Pure frustration? Not being about to do a standing climb? Being last in the bunch? I’m reassured it’s okay. Off we push. Not too long down the road I look up. I see a wall. Here we go! The 19% Lions Road climb we were here for. Luckily I was prepared. I swoop down and around a bend, I changed down to the lowest gear. Are you kidding me? They didn’t lie! This is crazy. I look up. I see others ahead of me scattered about. Some walking. At that moment I decide, I won’t be walking. My plan was, if I stop, I have to roll back down, turn around and continue on up. There was no way I was going to walk. I stop twice. Sucking in the air, the pain in my quads was uncomfortable! I see my brother roll down to me. He encourages me. Urges me on. Lucky for me, because I nearly quit. I hear someone call out my name. It spurs me on. I hit the pedals hard because I knew I had a cattle grid to cross over at the top. I scream out “F@#K YOU!” to the hills. It felt so invigorating! Someone laughed at me. Someone said “Let it out Caro!”. After a quick drink and a bar we rolled on. The descent was so beautiful!

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Rathdowny 5

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Reaching the top of Lions Road. Photo credit: Lauren Hooper

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Jon reaching the top of Lions Road. Photo credit: Lauren Hooper

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The smell of the forest, the winding smooth-surfaced road, wind in my face. I spot a bubbling creek and pass under an old bridge. I find myself alone in my thoughts for quite some time before our support rider catches me. We catch up with my friend. At this time we hit a large section of road that was full of loose gravel, pot holes, patched up road as far as the eye could see. We crossed numerous timber bridges held together with hundreds of large bolts. I decided to unclip my right shoe, as I needed to be sure I wasn’t going down! The only thing that went down was my water bottle, it jumped right out of the cage!

We hit a T junction, then turned right onto the highway that would take us through Dairy Flat and the climb to the top of the Lindesay Highway. It was about at the Dairy Flat sign that I teared up. My shoulder having been knocked around by the bad road surface had caused a cramp in my bicep. I gritted my teeth. I figured, at some point this will pass. I rubbed it. Shook it out. Head down, butt up, I threw down the pedals and blocked it out. The SAG stopped and offered a ride. I decided to get a bar and a drink, and turned down their offer, the same with my riding partner. We had gotten this far, we needed to keep on going. Finish this off. Off we pedalled. I dropped back. I started to wander all over the place. I wasn’t too happy at this point. I pulled up, crying. I told Tim to go on without me. He would have nothing of it. He wasn’t leaving me in the middle of nowhere. He convinced me to pedal on slowly, until the SAG returned. I looked down at my Garmin. 70 something kms. I listened to him. He talked to me. I blubbered something like…I’m not letting this thing beat me! It won’t win! He told me that I could give up and be unhappy, or go out and try my best and keep my body moving. It felt like a year…we hit the hill. I dreaded it. I was already in my lowest gear. I started hating it. I stop. Tim said, did you just see that bird swoop down in front of you? And..look over there at that forest! Listen to the sound of the birds. Isn’t this a place of beauty? I clipped back in. I pedalled. I saw ahead, a bend in the road. Just around that corner. I reach the corner. No…nothing but more road and hill! Tim threw me a joke. Made me laugh! We see the SAG. They stop, only 3kms to the top! I gain momentum. Only 3kms. I visualised how far. I visualised the food awaiting. Home baked goodies. Water. Grass to lie on. Finally! We hit the intersection! I pull in, to be greeted by our ride co-ordinator, Yvette, offering food and water. I imagined it was just like lost hikers in the middle of the Australian Red Desert discovering a Pub!

The fasties had left, leaving behind a few Wombles who polished off the remaining treats. I swallowed down 2 cocoa protein balls. I refer to these as my ‘power balls’ as they suddenly kicked in and gave me a second wind! Pedals up! This was the part of the ride I was waiting for. Thirty five kms of road will take us back into Rathdowney. A few years back I had ridden down this range on my MTB so I knew it was a pure slice of heaven! I was at the back of the pack, with Tim following closely behind. Again, making me feel reassured and at ease. I wish I studied harder in English, because I cannot find the words that recreate this moment. Long sweeping, winding roads, circling the side of the mountain. I sat in the middle of my lane with the SAG not too far behind. They signalled with a ‘beep’ when a car needed to pass. I owned the road! I tapped the brakes. I leant into the corners. The wind filled my helmet, hit me in my face like a cold awakening call. The sheer exhilaration! I laughed out aloud, even found myself dribbling! I remembered every corner. Crazy, considering I’d only ridden it once, and driven it once! I felt so alive! Drunk! High!

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“Big Tim”

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My Brother ~ Jon

When I reached the base of the descent I knew I had to chase down my friend. I had seen her not too far ahead, she powered down the mountain a lot faster than me! Tim pushed me. I saw a white jersey in the distance. I picked up the pace. I had to catch him! Close the gap Caro!! Finally! I got to his wheel! I shouted..I’m on! We formed a nice line of three. Looking down at my Garmin I saw we were hitting around 40kph. A beautiful tail wind pushing us along nicely. The road was forgiving! I could see my friend ahead, I shouted ‘jump on!’ and so we became four. The last 15kms being an unbelievable experience! It felt like a TTT, being that I was the last in the pack and taking advantage of my team’s wheels! About 5kms to go I drop back, my shoulder was fatiguing. Tim rolled past, nearly there! He rode not too far ahead, this forced me to hurry along. We rounded the corner, passed the Rathdowney sign and my brother, Jon, approached me shouting words of encouragement. I rolled into the carpark. I looked at my Garmin. 120kms. I was done. Completely and utterly DONE. Not a drop of energy to spare. I could barely unclip. I caught my breath. I looked up and saw the pub. I found myself clipping back in. I was on auto pilot on a mission to find a Lemon Lime & Bitters and a packet of Salt & Vinegar Chips! Mission accomplished.

 

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Rathdowney Randonee Route ~ South of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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Rathdowney Randonee Route ~ Strava data

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Mt Lindesay to Rathdowney to Route. My favourite bit!

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Photo credit: Lauren Hooper

 

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” ~ Dr Seuss.

Highs and Lows of an injury

Ride or Die Caro Leg

 

Nobody told me it was going to get easy.

It’s coming up to 9 months since I crashed my bike. Holding myself together, mentally, has been my biggest challenge. Like today, I opened my mail to read the letterhead “Employment Separation Certificate” from the Department of Human Services. Its another poke with a needle. Dealing with Personal Injury Insurance Company’s who make you jump through invisible hoops like a performing monkey.

People have asked me how is my progress? My shoulder has a lot of joint stiffness still, and the nerve is still a work in progress. The newly generated nerve controls my Deltoid which supports my upper limb. Currently it is inactive. Upside is I have sensation and a new ‘hot spot’ in the old area which was numb…it is rather fascinating! Simple tasks like tying my hair up, raising my arm to hang washing, opening windows, lifting objects to a bench, carrying loads, weight lifting at the gym and sitting at the keyboard for long lengths are still impossible tasks. It causes frustration and sadness. I stare at my arm in the reflection of the gyms mirror and I see another person. I morn the loss of my previous self.

I have learnt that you need to surround yourself with supportive and positive people. Seek professional help to encourage progress. But, mostly, be with friends who help me. This week I had a break through. A friend of mine contacted me and asked me to start a series of very basic exercises, one’s for which he knew I could manage. He talked to me about using my mind to activate my muscles. He re-enforced the power of the mind. This morning I opened a window. I jumped with joy! Inch by inch!

Through-out this time I have listened to other peoples struggles. Read motivational blogs. Socialised with groups who paint the picture of my dreams. Swam in a hot pool with broken people. I have seen people with far worse struggles. Amputees, brain damaged and burnt bodies. These people have kept it real to me. When I fall in a heap I think of these people. It up-lifts me. If not, I swing my leg over my bike and go for a pedal. Listen to my music and look at our beautiful City. Sit under a tree and watch people. I see things that most don’t make the time to see. Too busy caught up in their working lives to not see how amazing being alive is!

There are days I see people kick goals. It excites me, yet upsets me. I take a few days for this to pass. And it does. Having my friends check in on me during these times helps me to push through. I am so blessed to have such people in my life. For without my friends I wouldn’t be standing. Take some time to think about your friends with struggles. Sometimes you can’t always solve the problem. To listen to them is the key. Sometimes all they need is someone to talk too. Someone to lean on when times get tough. Someone who won’t judge or criticise. Someone to ask you for a ride.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Leo Buscaglai

Todays enlightenment ~ situational friends

Today whilst at lunch with my girlfriend, I learnt what a situational friend was. Basically, its a friend in a friendship bonded by a shared situation. Simply speaking, it’s the kind of friendship which gets cut after you leave your shared situation in which you met. Suddenly a whole lot of stuff has come to light for me! I would sit and wonder, why is it this person needed me? Some friends come about through shared experiences, bonding-by-drama, etc. One minute I would be sharing the most intimate things about myself…the next..BOOM they are gone. When that time is over, I’d go on about my business. But be left with this lingering question: Why? I use to think to myself, is there something wrong with me? What did this person want? Did they get what they needed? Did I get anything out of it? What happens when that one thing goes away, should you try to salvage the friendship on the premis of the friendship or just let it go?

I think we all change from year to year, job to job, residence to residence, age to age. During each phase in our lives we befriend people who share situations or environments. We befriend them only because of the commonality of shared experiences, and once those situations or environments change…the friendships usually fade out, too. It’s not like we sought out their friendship…rather, we gravitated toward them out of routine, necessity, boredom, whatever. It is confusing when situational friends are also close friends. A crisis, an urgency of some kind can push people together. When the crisis is over, people stay friends, thinking that because something so hard or horrible or painful or intense pushed them together, the friendship must be true, real, strong, and close. Close friends are real friends, and with each passing day you feel their importance…depending on the circumstances of your mood or the situation you are in.

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” Helen Keller.

“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing…not healing…not curing…that is a friend who cares.” Henri Nouwen

It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day.

Out riding

It’s been a crazy hectic 6 months.

It’s been a crazy hectic 6 months.

On 12 September 2013 I was in a pace line training session on the Brisbane River Loop for my first Team Time Trial when I collided with another wheel and hit the deck with the gutter pulling me to a stop.

I ended up with a dislocated shoulder, tear to the rotator cuff and lateral muscle with a greater tuberosity fracture to the humorous. Mental pain! I was treated and sent home, with a follow up surgery to repair the damage leaving me in a sling for 6 weeks. After a month of recovery I was able to be treated at the RBH Physiotherapy Dept with one on one physio and Hydrotherapy. I engaged an Acupuncturist for 2 x weekly treatments. Initially I walked to these treatments, but as time progressed I rode a bike. When I was in a good position and had the go ahead from my surgeon and physio, I spent each day at my gym on a recumbent stationery bike and used the equipment for my physio. I attended RPM classes, wearing my sling so as to protect it. The classes made me feel part of a team. And it hurt! But I was determined not to let this misfortune get the better of me. I progressed from the recumbent to the upright to the wind trainer to a commuter to a mountain and then, finally, a modified road bike. Each time I transitioned from one bike to the other I felt a massive sense of achievement. I pealed back the layers of internal pain to reveal a new layer. A stronger layer, and version of me. I discovered things about myself I never knew. I felt grief, pain, helplessness, loss. I found out that my family and friends are the people in my life that are my backbone. My support system. Blair from Lifecycle watched over me and he provided this much needed support. I won some, I lost some. But the ones who hung around are the keepers. I was fortunate to meet a woman whom I friended on Facebook…but had only met a few times. This woman has been through the toughest transition in life. I knew she could keep me real. She messaged me daily, working through my bad moments with me. She was my saviour during these times. She and my One Armed Bandit, who was also convalescing from a bicycle injury…and an amazing woman I met at my gym. Without these women I would have gone nuts. It’s times like these you appreciate your girlfriends.

I’ve never damaged my body before, so this was new to me. I remember coming home from the hospital after surgery and crying in pain because I couldn’t lie down on my bed. It was horrible. I took some hardcore drugs and slept for about 2 weeks. My body really needed to rebuild and recover. My GP looked after me and kept the pain level under control. The worse part about pain medication is the side effects. Depression being the worse. I had some pretty dark and lonely days. I looked at Facebook and Strava and wept! Crazy hey? But I could see all my friends out there on their bikes enjoying life and I wanted a bit of that. I began to hate my bike. I blamed it for my accident. Only now do I realise that was stoopid! When you clip your foot into your pedal it’s a choice you make. And with choices come responsibility. Life began to have clarification.

When I started to feel more myself I began catching the train everywhere as I wasn’t permitted to drive. It took 4 trains to get the the Nundah Crit Track return, but it was worth it. There I watched my friends on their bikes enjoying the thrill of the race. I met up with my fellow One Armed Bandit and we shared these cool times together. At this time, a special friendship grew with a woman I met last year, at this very crit track. I blogged about her. She heads up a team call Koiled Tineli. She invited me to join her team. I died a thousand deaths. OMG. It was my dream to be part of her team. She was aware of the extent of my injury but encouraged me to participate in her team, no matter the outcome, no expectations. A member of her team rocked up to my place with his toolkit and took components (which my brother bought me) and modified Beauty for me. Let’s refer to him as ‘The Technician’! Suddenly I became part of a picture that was once a dream, but now a reality. My attitude changed. I asked my best mate, Speedie, if I could hook onto his afternoon training rides with him as I was too nervous to ride alone. Here began a beautiful friendship between Speedracer and Beauty. Other friends found out I was back on Beauty and invited me to ride with them as well. I was blown away! The Wombles arranged a Tour de Redcliffe ride in Beauty’s honour! Pink feathers are still found about the suburbs of the Northern Lands.

Blair and the Lifecycle team have been a massive support to me and have never left my side. I now have a new amazing family.

So many lessons.

I have been un-employed during this time. I have a business with my husband and a Part-time Casual Job with a north side company. Financially, tough times! Luckily my teenaged children are old enough to fend for themselves. My daughter has been instrumental in the art of dressing her mother! Again, it’s moments like these that you appreciate what you have and what you need to keep the cogs turning.

During my treatment I met a woman who had major concerns for me as I could only hold my arm passively. She recommended I seek a second opinion as she was not happy with the lack of progress. I took her advice and so began the next phase…an EMG revealed I had a damaged nerve. Tomorrow I will be admitted to the RBH for further surgery. The name is a pretty fancy one: “Left Radial to Auxillary Nerve Transfer”. Cool stuff hey. An incision is made down my tricep and these two nerves are attached together to re-establish the connection to my deltoid muscle. Chances of success are unknown. But if you don’t give it a try what’s the alternative?

Caro&BJ

People ask me…so you actually want to get back on your bike? I met a dude that also had a crash, and he won’t race anymore. He asked me…so why do you ever want to race again? As a child my mother taught me, if you fell off your bike, ‘get up, dust yourself off and get back on again’. For the past 7 years I have surrounded myself with fit, healthy and positive thinking people. There was no decision to be made. Fall down 7. Get up 8. It’s what a mate keeps telling me.

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I have met many people with injuries who have their own stories to tell. I hope that my story can allow you to see a piece of yourself in it and take out of it what you need. Find the better part of yourself and nurture it, allow it to regrow and shine through. NEVER GIVE UP.

Caro xx

It’s not just about the ride

Circles!

Circles!

Lifecycle Crit Placings

Lifecycle Crit Placings

Woooooooo! A shopping bag!

Woooooooo! A shopping bag!

It’s been a while since my last blog so I thought I’d drop a line to say HEY. Lots has happened! I have spent a lot of time on my bike, riding with the Lifecycle Wombles with every week exploring new roads and making new friends. Recently, I had an amazing ride up to Mt Glorious. It was a tough ride for me. It was 80kms, climbing 2,197 metres. Uphill is something I’m not too hot at! It was well worth the experience and time spent in the saddle with friends is what I enjoyed most.

Recently, I bought myself a Lifecycle Kit, threw it on and got Beauty out onto the Crit! WOW. That was fun! *insert sarcasm icon*

I’ve never been in a race before, let alone a bicycle race. A quick search on the web and a few tips from friends and the next thing I find myself cycling in circles for my life! Ever done something that you have absolutely no idea why you got yourself into it in the first place? I have never competed in anything before. Sport for me was something unheard of. I came from a family of gumby’s! So, here I am. I find myself with my eyes fixed on the wheel in front. Close proximity. Close the gap! Don’t get dropped! These are the catch cry’s that fill my head. Sh*t! What happens if she slows and I end up her ar*se? What happens if I crash? Lap 5. Mmmm. This feeling in my legs…does this stop? Take turns out in front? Okay…does this mean I can control the pace? I’ll go with that theory. I felt mentally nudged by the girl behind me. Maybe shoot that theory. I find myself beginning to panic. I’m sure my heart is about to explode. Where is the ambulance? I think I’m going to cry. I feel the sweat dripping down my face and the sting of sunscreen as it hits my eye’s. When will this ever end? No time to grab my water bottle. Ugh. So thirsty. With each lap the pace increases. Few words are spoken. At one stage I nearly ride off into the grass. Note to self: practice cornering. It’s gaining intensity with each lap. I try to maintain a spot in the middle. I slip behind and I’m suddenly in the back. I feel myself slowing and dropping. This I do not like. I pass the spectators and hear my name being called out. Suddenly something in my head pops. I pick myself up and get back into the group. 3, 2, 1…the flash cards appear. So, at the ring of a bell and a few hundred metres to the line there is an explosion of activity amongst the cyclists. Sprint time BOOM! We all cross the white line. We are done. I slowly pedal back to the start of the track. Heavy breathing. Swearing. “WOOOOOOO” I scream! Our group stop and await the results. My name was called out for Fourth place! I was floored! At that very moment I understood the feeling of victory. It comes deep down inside you and blows you right out of this planet! For the first time ever, I won a placing! We were presented with a bag of goodies by our Club sponsor. Best trophy ever!

You know…a friend told me…the only person you are competing against is yourself. 

The greatest thing about bike riding is exploring new terrain with friends. Going for a pedal finishing with a coffee, boiled eggs with soldiers and post ride chat. Priceless.

Check out: http://womblesbrisbane.com/

Being Lisa ~ “Sunshine”

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I met Lisa early one dark morning outside My Sweetopia in West End, Brisbane Australia. We were getting ready for a LIV/Giant Ladies River Loop. We pedalled our way around the famous loop, battling our way through peak hour traffic on Annerley Road, ending up on Grey Street…with our names written in our coffee froth. It was a great bunch of women. Smiles all round! I was chatting to her about various bike related things. I asked her about cycling and found out she was a commuter amongst other things. I nearly dropped dead when she sent through her story. She is testimony that you are never too old to participate in any sport or race. What an amazing active woman! 

 

Here is her story…

From a young kid I’ve always loved sport. Not keen to watch it, always wanted to be part of it. And although I’d give most things a crack I did better if there were wheels or water involved. At 14 I was a keen skater. I was in the speed team with the Miami skate rink. That took every weekend up that I remember at that age. (Oh…until I met BOYS!) At age 16, a friend’s father introduced me to waterskiing (that then included BOYS!) and until the age of about 19 I was spending most of my weekends at Lake Somerset where my cousin and other friends had some ski shacks we called home. (Don’t know how I finished my nursing training, as I was always sick on weekends and had so much time to make up to graduate). Even bought my own boat “DENVER” 350 Chev Camiro for these who “nose” these things. I got to ski with the Sea World Crew, as they were frequent recreational skiers at Somerset in those days.

In my mid twenties I took to motorcycles with a variety of bikes (with motors) from a V800 to an RMX250. Of course they needed to be modified as I’m a little vertically challenged for the trail bikes high suspension. I met my husband around this time and we decided to sell everything we had, bikes, cars, house blah blah and bugger of overseas for 12 months to the UK (as you do). When we returned, and due to Mikes love of the water, we got ourselves a dive ticket each and bought ourselves a beautiful Sparkman and Stephens’s 30ft yacht to play on. Remember the days before children and the disposable income you had?

Anyway, I guess it was about this time 14 years ago, when we returned from our year in the UK and bought ourselves a renovator, close enough to the city that you could ride a bike. I bought myself a mountain bike and with the encouragement of my friend at work Fiona, I started riding to work rather than catching the bus or battling the traffic on Coro drive. It was bloody hard work at first too. I loved the fact that I was getting to work for $0 feeling good getting fit and I could eat all the sweet crap I wanted without feeling guilty.

I changed jobs and started working in the city, yay a bit closer! And was pleased to find many bike-minded like-minded colleagues who also rode to work. Our office looked like a youth hostel with bikes and smelly knicks and towels hanging all over the fire extinguishers. I was convinced by Scotty (one of my mates at work) to buy myself a roadie…I guess it’s where my love for riding began. I bought a Giant TCR and kept it for 10 years, my loyal friend. Many a weekend was spent riding with this little group of friends and their friends and partners, to Wynnum, Cleveland etc. Sometimes Scott and I would head out and do a ride to Wynnum before work or meet at Mount Gravatt and do a lap or two of the mountain. If the weather was fine that is!! I managed to score the nickname of “Sunshine” from one of my colleagues as I only ever rode when the sun was out LOL.

I loved commuting to work and back. It gave me time out to think, sing (out loud sometimes) and generally revitalise for the day or wind down from the day’s end. Mike also started commuting by bike to work so now we are a 1 car family and have been for some years.

2 years ago we took 12 months off work (yes again) and took ourselves on a caravanning trip around Australia (google Barling adventures for a look) due to space constrictions we took NO BIKES…OMG can you imagine! So here you have a family of bike lovers and not one bike not even a folder!! We broke at Kalgoorlie and bought Pippa a bike which we strapped to the back of the van for the rest of the journey. She was happy and it was worth it. Not many, then, 7 year olds can say they rode on the Nullabor!

Since our return we are back to the daily grind of work and straight back into commuting to and from the city. After spending a year OFF the bike I was keen to do a little more than just commute. On my return I found to my delight that my bike minded colleagues and some of their partners were doing Triathlons. I admired their guts and determination. Not only that – they all looked bloody fit and fantastic and I wanted a piece of that pie.

I set myself a goal that I’d train hard at swim, bike and run (god help me I am not a runner) and I would do the Pink Triathlon on the Gold coast. As it worked out my friends were doing the Raby Bay Gatorade Tri the weekend before the pink and I was coerced into doing that one. I did it, I loved it, I will never look back. I came 5th in my age group and was hooked!

The next weekend I did the Pink as did my 8 year old daughter and we have both participated in 8 Triathlons each this season. Pippa has now got 5 other kids from her school involved too. It’s such a great sport to feel good, keep fit and race your own PB.

I went to Mooloolaba and did the bike leg for a team. We had a blast, and I did the bike leg in just under 80min. I was really pleased with my time and have set my goal for an Olympic distance next season ALL BY MYSELF.

At 48 I feel fantastic. You are never too old to start. In my last Gatorade this season I did the sprint distance instead of the enticer…I remember looking around as we floated in the water waiting for the start, thinking ‘Check out all these old girls – they look so fit’ then laughing to myself as I said “Shit! I am one on these old girls!” I came 7th in my gender age bracket. I know I am bragging a bit here, but as besides still being surprised at my own achievement I think anyone who WANTS to do this CAN do this if you just put in a bit of grunt and determination. It’s not rocket science…Determination + hard work = results = self belief.

I’m the healthiest I’ve been for some time and its an activity that sees me doing three different sports, with different bunches of friends. My swim fit ladies with Kerry at Langlands Pool. Kerry taught me technique, so as not to swim to the bottom of the pool like I was…LOL. On top of my daily commute to work I have started some bunch rides and value the support of the fellow riders including Planet Cycles and LIV/Giant. Unfortunately I’m still running/shuffling alone but to be honest I’m okay with that. Some, or most weeks, I don’t get the amount of training in I’d like but it’s a family, work, life, sport, balance hahaha. It takes a lot of organising to fit everything in and around the activities of partners, kids, family and work so I figure I do ok!

This winter I plan to keep training hard…and stay in front of those who slack off…

These days I have a Colnago roadie…a Charge fixie with bright green V rims (yes I do ride in fixed wheel) and a Brompton folder…I need 2 more, which are a mountain (with disc brakes for all the wet weather commuting, it would be nice to have brakes in the wet!) and a Triathlon bike would be a sweet treat. We have 8 bikes between 3 of us. Do we like to ride? You betcha we do!

I no longer carry the name “Sunshine” although I do like it, maybe I should re invent it for myself.  In fact I think now “they” say I’m a little nuts as rain, hail or shine you will see me on the bike track headed to work…when it rains I just put on a smile, a bright light, a raincoat and take it easy.

We now have a bike cage at work to house the 15+ cycles that use to cramp our desk spaces. Thanks Greg!

Happy Biking! 🙂

If you are new to bunch riding and think you might be more comfortable starting out in a women’s only group check out the LIV/Giant Weblink (there is one organised in every state):

http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-au/localevents/event/liv.giant.road.ride.qld/1110/

Being Paul ~ Reward yourself ~ Ain’t no Mountain High Enough!

2013 Me and my Tarmac

2012 Atop Stelvio with Michael and Chris

2012 Atop Stelvio with Michael and Chris

I met Paul on Facebook (who’da’thought?!) through the Lifecycle Rider closed group forum. He has ridden 17,613.4kms since up-loading his rides on STRAVA. That’s a whole lot of pedal time! Paul is one of the many Heart and Souls of Lifecycle. In between his day job and caring for his family, he supports Lifecycle with regards to the Lifecycle Racing Club. I have been working with him creating new material for Lifecycle and have been in communication via email only.  I finally got to meet him, in person a week ago, outside Lifecycle early one chilly Saturday morning for a group ride to Gap Creek. He is a wonderful and enthusiastic man willing to support anybody whom asks. In one of our conversations, I discovered that he had lost an outstanding amount of weight from cycling and that he is a touring cyclist…my favourite subjects! If you like the concept of bike touring like Paul does, perhaps you might like to check out Bicycle Queensland’s (Australia) current 9 Day ride in September? It is a good basis for any future longer rides you might like to try, and very useful preparation for bike touring. I hope you enjoy reading about Paul and his cycling journey.

Here is his story…

To passers by, I looked like any other cyclist sipping his macchiato after a vigorous morning ride through the streets of Echirolles outside Grenoble in France. I was waiting for my two companions who had spent the night at le Bourg-d’Oisons at the foot of l’Alpe d’Huez. I should have been with them – looking forward to climbing the mighty alp.

Just a few years before I was a fairly chunky 117 kilograms. Even for my big-boned 183 centimetres I was, undoubtedly, obese. A friend had some success with a medically supervised very low carbohydrate diet (VLCD) and encouraged me to do the same.

Kudos to Dr Colin Armstrong with whom I negotiated a compromise – I would diet but I would not exercise. Each week I’d check in with the good doctor. He’d check my vitals and log my weight – and we’d chat. I think most of his patients were older women so he would look forward to my visits – or maybe he was just a super friendly guy. In any case I looked forward to my weekly visits.

I had good success – 4 kilos in the first week and a further 12kg over a few months. My weight settled at around 100kg and I could not budge below that mark. Even at 100kg I was categorized as overweight – at least I was no longer obese! To fall within the normal range for my height I needed to lose another 15kg. Clearly diet alone wasn’t going to get me there.

Maybe I should give exercise a go. As a kid I used to ride a bike every day to school. And on weekends – with my surfboard under one arm – I’d ride 10km from home in Labrador to Main Beach on the Gold Coast. My bike was built by my granddad from parts he salvaged from the tip. It was a piece of junk. I thought all bikes were junk. Once I got my drivers license I was happy never to ride again. Once mandatory helmet laws were introduced it sealed it and I stopped riding altogether.

Dr Colin was a cyclist, but not a die hard. We developed an easy rapport. Soon talk turned to bicycles. I bought a hybrid – flat bar and fat road tyres. I couldn’t believe how much the technology had progressed from my old junkyard bike.

Since I now had a bike, I needed a goal to keep me motivated. I respond well to rewards. My plan was that in six months I’d be ready to join Bicycle Queensland’s 9 day ride from Port Douglas to Mission Beach. I had lived in FNQ and had a good friend, Michael, who still lived in Cairns and who had a bike. I convinced him to come along as well. So I needed to start training if I was to ride over 600km in 9 days.

At first, a 10km ride would result in me needing to have a good lie down but after a few weeks I was managing 25km rides. After a couple of months I was hooked. I knew I needed to get a proper road bike. A mate, Big Tim, took me in to meet Blair at Lifecycle. Blair is a gentleman of the highest order. I now had two bikes and started riding with Lifecycle but getting dropped off the back with a bunch of others who quickly became very firm friends. I still rarely miss a Saturday Lifecycle ride.

Regular riding with the Lifecycle crew meant that I was ready to take on the Cycle Queensland Challenge. It was such a great event. Unfortunately, along the way, Michael picked up a tummy bug and was unable to complete the ride. He too was loving it up to that point but hadn’t been doing a lot of riding. In his university days, Michael used to do a bit of unsupported touring and he and his former touring buddy Christopher convinced me to give that a go. So Michael and Christopher plotted a course around Kosciuszko National Park.

Each year since then we’ve gone on a touring adventure: New Zealand, Tasmania, Border Ranges, back to Tasmania and here we are in France.

The outline for our European adventure was to start in Milan, Italy and finish in Nice, France. Along the way we had three milestones: Christopher wanted to ride over the Passo dello Stelvio – the second highest mountain pass in Europe on the Italy-Switzerland border; Michael wanted to visit friends in Bregenz in Austria; and I wanted to climb l’Alpe d’Huez.

With a week to go of our four week adventure we had cycled over 1,300km through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world; we’d witnessed Ryder Hesjedal snatch victory of the Giro d’Italia in Milan; endured massive mountain passes; ridden through snow and rain, visited Italy, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria, Germany and now France. We had ridden over the Stelvio, visited Michael’s friends in Austria and today is the day we were going to climb l’Alpe d’Huez – only we wouldn’t. Because I couldn’t.

Across the road from my cafe was a hospital. That’s where I had spent last night after the ambulance rushed me there with a suspected broken collarbone. Yesterday, in a quiet rural village less than an hour from the foot of l’Alpe, my front wheel got caught in a pothole and I fell awkwardly – damn!

We spent the last week of our adventure on the French Riviera – with my shoulders strapped to support the broken bone. When, a week later, we returned from Europe I weighed in at 87kg a full 30kg less than when my weight loss journey began.

And the journey continues. I’ve got a few more kilograms to lose and I have to get back to France. I have unfinished business with l’Alpe d’Huez.

Bicycle Queenslands next Cycling Tour:  http://cycleqld.bq.org.au

Lifecycle Brisbane Australia:  http://lifecycle.net.au

Being Bronwyn Kelly ~ A Cycling Biography

Ipswich100_2013

2013 Ipswich 100

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I met Bronwyn at my brothers house one day. We were participating in his ‘Bike Cleaning #101 for Remedial’s’ course. If you know Jon (JD), you will know he is obsessed with making everything clean. He keeps his bikes immaculately clean! Most friends make jokes with him about it. Some of us want to be like Jon…and some of us just want to know how to wash down and lube your chain…like Jon! So…I got to know Bronwyn that afternoon, as we (and another lady) were standing around, watching Jon hose down her bike and explain the types of clothes you should use, and in what order, what detergent is best, how to scrub the grease off your chain, wash it down correctly (don’t forget to wash each individual spoke ladies!), wipe down every last drop of water and lube the chain within an inch of its life! During this session I discovered that in 2011 I had ridden 570kms with Bronwyn on the Cycle Queensland Goondiwindi to Brisbane bike ride! There were 1,500 cyclists on that tour…I met a lot of them…but not Bronwyn. I wished I had! Bronwyn was riding her Giant Transend 1 and I was riding my Specialized Myca mountain bike. Seriously! Both bikes are heavy bikes to ride and, like Bronwyn explains, it is a real push to make it on time to all the rest stops…and home before the SAG sweeps you up! Watching all those road bikes swoosh past me made me also think…maybe I need a road bike? Bronwyn and I have ridden together on many bike rides. Our farthest stint was the STRAVA 100 mile Challenge where we clocked up 170kms in one day. I have been privileged to be included in her Deadly Domestique River Loop group ride (recently resulting in a real live domestic!) and enjoy chatting with her post ride over coffee and ‘soldiers’ at GoMa. One day my brother and friends, decided to ride to Mt Nebo. There were two groups: mountain and road. Bronwyn and I took the mountain option. I was absolutely amazed and inspired, as I watched Bronwyn climb every single steep bit of that mountain on Ted’s Heritage Cannondale CAD 3 MTB…whilst I walked bits of it! She is a determined young woman and takes on any challenge 100%…including Coot-tha…but I shall let her tell you her story…

I hope you are also inspired by her as I was…

I have been commuting to work for over a decade. Not everyday but I like the idea of saving money on bus fares and never liked the idea of paying to go to the gym. Especially when I can save money, time and get exercise.

Back in 2002 I rode into work on a Sunday to start with. No one showed me how, held my hand or encouraged me it was something I decided I wanted to do and quietly went about it. I found out where I could lock my bike up, how to access the area and I was away. The first time I rode in on a weekday. I got to the office garage door and pressed intercom for security to open it and nearly lost my breakfast. After that I learnt to not push it quite so hard. It didn’t take long to find out the safe paths through the city that weren’t too populated with pedestrians.

I became dependent on cycling and was missing it in mid 2002 when after it had been raining solidly for two weeks and I hadn’t been riding, I was about to head to the bus again when I looked out the window and saw blue skies. I went and changed into my riding clothes and set off into one of the loveliest mornings. I was so happy the air was clean and clear from all the rain, I had a good song in my head and I could see the hills as I crested the SE Freeway cycle path beside the southern end of the Captain Cook Bridge.  But from there I didn’t take enough consideration of the speed I was going down the pinch into the corners, nor the wet leaves that had become a sodden mess over the weeks of rain and I ended up coming off and breaking my front teeth.

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Bronwyn breaks her front teeth in an unfortunate cycling incident

I was pretty upset more than in pain but your teeth are pretty important you realise when you don’t have them. I was checked out at the hospital and was fine other than the teeth and my brother found an amazing dentist who worked on my teeth for the next 6 months. My dental bills were covered by WorkCover as I had been on my way to work, which I appreciated when it totalled $7,000. In that time I didn’t ride but I did win $500 from a radio contest and when they asked what I was going to do with the money I said I would be getting a new bike. I mainly blamed the old Kmart bike for my stack and my lack of concentration. The old bike is still being ridden by my nephews at my parent’s farm. I bought a new burgundy Apollo hybrid. It was made of steel but I didn’t know better and I loved it. It was so much sturdier than the old Kmart bike so I wasn’t concerned that I couldn’t pick it up to carry it more than over a couple of stairs.

Once my teeth were fixed and I was again able to eat apples and sandwiches, I set back off on my bike commute but now I was a bit afraid of going down hills so I carried a mouthguard and would wear it going down hills. After a while it was so hard to breath with it that I stopped using it and it has now sat in its case for the past 9 years. Eventually I got over my fear of coming off again while going down hills.

When I moved to Scotland I got another Hybrid and would go on little rides around Edinburgh and then Glasgow. I had dreams of cycling the 60 miles from Glasgow to Edinburgh, but that was beyond my endurance at that time. I was quite proud of my ride from Partick to Bells Bridge which was a 60km round trip. I had never ridden so far before I just kept going until I felt I had ridden half way of where I thought I could ride home from. I got a bit lost on the way home and ended up following then chatting to a South African doctor who cycled to and from work in Dumbarton and turned out lived around the corner from me.

When I returned to Australia, I still rode my Apollo but when I had a job working out past Ipswich there was less cycling to be had. Other than cycling to and from UQ to study for my masters degree. I found it took the same amount of time including waiting to cycle or catch the bus, so I rode. When I changed jobs and started working at TMR I found the only way to get to work was to cycle or walk as I was so close to home. And that is when I started thinking about Cycle Queensland. My flatmate Meeki had done it a couple of years before (the Darling Downs Loop), so my thought was, I ride more than her…I can do that. I was also inspired by the blog TMR people wrote and went in the internal messages for the Yeppoon to Bundaberg ride. So I got a new much lighter ladies bike. It took me a while to find as I had something in mind and all the shops wanted me to buy a flat bar road bike. My thought was that yes I want to ride from Goondiwindi to Brisbane but for the rest of the time I want to be able to ride to and from work in a dress. So I was happy when I found someone happy to sell me the bike I wanted I bought it immediately. That is a Giant Transend 1, which I call Gigante which is Spanish for giant and because I ride it to and from UQ where I am studying Spanish.

One of my favourite things to do while riding out to UQ from the CBD along the Biccentenial Path in my frock and with my pannier is to ride as fast as I can without appearing to. I always find some bloke on a road bike who will try and pass me I just like to make it so he has to work a bit harder to do so. I can usually get to the Go Between Bridge before they have been able to get enough speed to pass me.

My first big ride was in April 2011 the Ipswich 100 – 100km route. It took my 6hrs and I realised several things. You shouldn’t wear underpants under knicks (shy shorts in this case) and big comfy looking saddles are not so much after 50km and even worse after 75km. I fixed these issues later.

After starting work at TMR making maps of Queensland I realised I was only familiar with the South east corner and had no experience of the rest of the state that I was mapping everyday. So I decided that the best way to rectify this was the do a road trip of North West Queensland with a friend and Cycle Queensland (CQ) that was cycling from Goondiwindi to Brisbane. After coming back from my road trip in July I had 8 weeks to train up for CQ. I found a training plan on the BQ website and set about getting some decent time in the saddle. I found it very good as it got you used to spending a longer time riding starting with 20km distances and working up to longer ones with riding on consecutive days. It also included suggested days with hilly rides, so I took my bike up Mt Coot-tha. Starting with the front and then tackling the back.

In September 2011 I rode Gigante from Goondiwindi to Brisbane and then home. I really enjoyed it as a “slow cyclist” I would have chats to people all day along the way, ask them about themselves and their riding and discuss their bikes. Good fun. At the end of the day the TMR people were always surprised how many people I knew simply from who I had chatted to along the way. The hardest day was the 100km from Texas to Stanthorpe and the most rewarding was from Woodenbong to Rathdowney leg to lunch. I set out that morning a bit later than I wanted and everyone else had headed off already. So I was riding hard to catch up. We were suppose to be at Rathdowney State School at 9:45am for a presentation about cycling and I was carrying the bicycle helmet we were to give away. So first I had to get over the Border Range. That actually wasn’t too bad with a bike with a triple chain ring. The best bit was coming down the other side with kilometres of long sweeping roads which is where the weight of my bike came into its own. I was overtaking everyone, with a big grin on my face. I finally caught up to Robyn and Gavin at the morning tea stop in Pallin Creek then we travelled in my first pace line along the flats to Rathdowney. I was surprised to find that I was able to maintain 30km/hr on a ladies step through bike with someone else blocking the wind for me and we made it dead on time for our appointment.

Over the 9 day holiday and 8 days of riding I had the TMR team of cyclists work on me with the constant suggestion of “You should get a road bike”. After the persistent recommendations to get a road bike I finally broke under the weight of the peer pressure after CQ2011. I succumbed and found one I liked, a Specialized Dolce Elite fitted with a massive mountain bike cassette (11-32T), which I got fitted because I could and it gave me as wide a range of gears as I have on my hybrid with a triple chain ring. I had always had a bit of a loathing of climbing hills on my old steel framed Apollo but with the lighter Gigante with a good range of gears I seemed to forget that and often on CQ would end up riding past lots of people walking up steep sections because they had run out of gears. With the massive cassette on my road bike it allowed me to never have any excuse for having to walk up a hill. Since October 2011 I have ridden 7200km on it, completing countless river loops, several 100km rides and Mt Nebo climbs, another Cycle Queensland, a 100 mile ride and many Mt Coot-tha ascents.

I got introduced to Strava last year by JD (who I started refering to as Captain Strava, as I doubt there is anyone more keen on Strava that JD out there). These days have no problems descending hills and have found I have a bit on an aptitude for it having captured a few Queen of the Mountains (QOMs) coming off Mt Coot-tha. Late last year I started doing repeats of the back of Mt Coot-tha in an attempt to improve my fitness a bit quicker so I could keep up with the people I ride with during the week. So when the Stava Tour Down Under Mt Coot-tha Challenge came up I joined as I was doing it regularly anyway.

Bronwyn Coot-tha

Bronwyn rides Mt Coot-tha early mornings

It turned out for most of the month I was the one who had completed the most ascents until halfway through when another woman started doing 4-5 in a session. On the last day I had been lent a carbon bike I was test riding and in the morning had done my best time up the back when it turned out I was only 3 ascents short of the other lady and only needed 4 to win the most ascents prize. I got egged on a bit and decided since I had done two in a row and three is only one more than that, four shouldn’t be too much of a problem. So that afternoon I decided to drive over, so conserve some energy and started my repeats, after the first one I sent a message to a few of the people that had been egging me on that I was doing it. JD replied and said he should be over in time for my last one, so  I got two in before it started getting dark and while coming down on the third realised my front lights were inadequate for riding in the dark with no street lights. Luckily I have a string of red fairy lights I had attached to my back which at least illuminated me very well from behind. I was so glad to see JD when he arrived in the pitch black with a decent set of headlights. So he led me up for the last one and down again. So for my efforts I got a Stava Jersey Bin and a Strava cap. I thought JDs efforts riding up with me deserved the cap and I kept the Jersey Bin.

As of this week I have retired the Dolce having now purchased a new carbon fibre – Specialized Ruby Comp.

Why do I like cycling?

I like the self motivated transport. I like being able to leave when I like and not be fixed to a time table. Also I need the exercise, I hate gyms and enjoy the constantly changing scenery you get riding.

Why do I cycle commute to work?

I have been commuting to work for over a decade. Not everyday but I like the idea of saving money on bus fares and never liked the idea of paying to go to the gym. Especially when I can save money, time and get exercise.

Why is cycling your passion?

This has come as a surprise to me. But I am no longer passionate but obsessed/addicted to cycling. As I have now found a good group of people to ride with there is always a group ride on so I find I am riding nearly everyday as I don’t want to miss out. It must also be the endorphins. I may have taken it a bit to far as I was riding 6 days a week and have done 9 consecutive days of long rides (I think I was trying to make up for the excesses of Christmas and New Year). I am now managing it better by riding more like 5 days a week of long rides.

In the past 6 months since becoming a weekday rider (rather than just a weekend rider), I have lost 10kg and am better able to keep up with the group despite being on a heavier alloy road bike. The main contributor to my improved fitness and weight loss would be the many repeats of Mt Coot-tha I did last year. What started as 17 minutes of pushing myself has now dropped to 13 minutes, while riding the same bike.

What is your ultimate dream, when it comes to cycling?

I have dreams but they change all the time. I have thought about doing a cycling tour over some long distances unsupported. But haven’t seriously put any steps towards doing it yet. Other than the first trip I would like to do is a two day trip from home to my parents place in Gympie via Kilcoy, then either ride back over a couple of days or take the train.

I would like to be better at technical mountain biking, or at least get some training to improve my confidence as I am usually afraid constantly I am going to hurt myself.

I am going to continue to do Cycle Queensland. I have convinced my parents to join me this year. A few years ago they walked the Camino in Spain and they are fairly fit macadamia farmers but haven’t been cycling for years.

CQ2012 route went past the end of their road just outside Gympie along Cedar Pocket Road. I asked them to come and have a look and bring along Mum’s collection of dinner bells as people would get a kick out of that. They did it despite their reservations about the neighbours seeing them making fools of themselves. They were there from when the first riders, yelling encouragement and ringing their bells until the last riders, long after the police and marshals had all moved on.

So they have been a bit wary about how far their can ride, being in their mid 60s, so I have set them the challenge of riding the 50km return trip up Cedar Pocket Road to Kin Kin. If they can manage that then there is little that could be harder on the next CQ ride. This road includes crossing the range and some decent hills with a long 9% grade and some nasty sharp ones at 12% and 18% grades. They have six months and have now managed the 40km return trip to the top of the gap in the range.

Mum is looking forward to getting my current road bike as she is currently riding the sturdy 17kg Apollo but would love the 6kg weight loss that will come with my road bike. The massive cassette with 36 teeth I’m sure will help her to get up those steep hills with ease.

strava-segment-challenge-pr strava-segment-challenge

As Bronwyn said to me: “I feel like we both started out the same – using bikes for transportation and then reluctantly donned the Lycra after a while, however I have no aspirations of building my own bike”. Nor do I! You pick them up from a bike shop don’t you? 🙂

*Note* At the time of writing this blog, Bronwyn had a collision with another cyclist and is currently working on mending her ankle (chipped bone). It was a most unfortunate morning…having taken out her new Specialized Ruby Comp for it’s first trip up Mt Coot-tha. It’s wheel is badly buckled and will need replacement. We all miss her out on our rides and look forward to her return with open arms. 

Bronwyns favourite bike blog: Lovely Bicycle: http://lovelybike.blogspot.com.au/