Ride with Me


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.






Putting things into perspective


On Sunday 19 July 2015, at 10:20am, I waited with about 33 female riders, on the side of the road in the small township of Mulgowie Queensland Australia, for the Chief Commissaire to announce the start of the race. A race in honour of a young woman, Mardi Bartlett, who lost her life, doing the thing she loved with a passion…cycling. This was my second road race, a 3-lap 54km course. I felt nervous. Cycling Queensland placed me in C Grade, though I am a D Grade rider. A good friend and mentor, convinced me to go in wide eyed and with the view to learn and have fun. “It’s not the quickest rider that is impressive, but the smartest.”

The ride out was at a safe pace. A tail wind, with moderate rough surface. The fun began at the hairpin turn…straight into a head wind. I got dropped on the second last hill of the first lap. I know why it happened. I had already decided it would the evening before. Lesson 1: Don’t let your negative thoughts win. I was soon in the company of 3 other riders. I rode solo for what seemed like forever. I kept my eye on the group, the band slowly stretched. Soon they were just a speck of dust. I watched them fade into the distance, support cars following. I fought to catch, but I couldn’t get back on. I could see another rider drop. I continued to pedal as hard as I could, in hope of catching her. Eventually I got her! We concocted a plan and so began 2 laps as a team of 2. I have always told myself, that no matter what, I will always finish a race. It’s my number 1 rule. When we got to the finish line for lap 1 my friend and Commissaire shouted “Stay together and keep on riding!”. So that’s exactly what we did. We would do it for Mardi.

When you are out on the open road a lot happens. You need to be aware of your surroundings and be fully alert. Working together is tricky. You have to find a balance and work as a team. I was full of fight and wanted to smash it. I was also feeling hesitant as I didn’t want to put any stress on my partner or come across with a pushy attitude. She was a fighter! Her attitude was outstanding! We talked to each other, to the cows, made jokes about the cabbages and sang! YES! We sang as we rode up the steepest of the hills “Ain’t no mountain high enough!…Ain’t no valley low enough!…” You learn a lot about yourself when you are thrown into the wind. Rather…a wall! I’m pretty sure it was 30 knots! Lesson 2: The art of patience and power of determination. There is no point into going into something half arsed! If you are going to do the thing. DO IT! So rather than wallow in my self pity, I visualised a young woman in my head. Racing and winning and smiling. Being amongst her peers and celebrating her achievements with her parents and family. Too often I worry about the little things, and not the big things. I am lucky to be alive! To be able to ride my bike with friends and share the joy and excitement and thrill of the race as I cross the line!

Rest in Peace Mardi. You are loved.