Learning to ride can be a tough experience for anyone, but it can be especially daunting if you are coming to it later in life or after many years out of the saddle.
Over the past decade and more Pedal Power ACT has been privileged to work with hundreds of brave people who have taken up the challenge to get back in to the saddle – or to get on a bike for the first time – through our New Horizons courses…
These participants come to us for many reasons and from a variety of backgrounds, but they are all equally inspiring in their determination to take on a new and challenging skill. We caught up with three women in their sixties and seventies who learned to ride through New Horizons program to see how their new cycling careers have gone, and they had amazing stories to tell…
Sandra, Rosemary and Lia all took part in a New Horizons course together and as Sandra explained, they continued to ride together after the course ended… "a small group of women from the course continued to meet informally once a week to ride together. Some of us decided to register for the Medio Fondo bike ride; a Victorian cycling event commemorating Amy Gillett and raising funds for the promotion of safety for cyclists. The Medio Fondo was about forty kilometres and went from Lorne to Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Road… We were fortunate in that we had perfect weather, lovely spring day with no wind.
“I felt a certain stress, terror and potential embarrassment on the evening prior to the ride as I realised that I was attempting to do something that was totally beyond my capabilities. But this was tempered by the camaraderie of the riders and the atmosphere was infectious. It was a wonderful experience.”
Fellow rider Rosemary, who also took part in the Medio Fondo, had not ridden a bike for eight years before taking the plunge and signing up to New Horizons. She recalls: “Was I a bit concerned about it before the event? 5000+ people, a huge cliff, major hills, a hybrid bike and an unfit novice cyclist. I mean really – what could go wrong!!
“However, I was astonished to find that 1) I did not come last and 2) I did not cycle or fall over a cliff!
“Since then, I have ridden the Bairnsdale to Orbost Rail Trail (which involved a few hills, a winery, two pubs and a brewery and a very well-planned one hundred kilometre ride spread over three days), plus I took some time to ride down Mount Wellington in Hobart when I was down there for work last week – wonderful!”
Lia, retired, learned to ride as a child but found she needed training for a completely different environment when she returned to cycling. Taking up the saddle again for exercise, she has also tackled impressive distances on her bike since then, most recently cycling the first thirty-five kilometres of the Hume and Hovel track in August.
“I trained by incorporating a weekly ride into my exercise regime. On the ride itself some sections were gravel and/or rutted. Although not very steep, for a novice like me, the downhill sections were challenging and I was nervous going downhill on the gravel road,” she confided; “however at the end I was exhausted, but satisfied.”
So what plans do these intrepid new riders have for the future?
Sandra is keen to continue life in the saddle: “I enjoy the regular weekly cycling with friends. I also want to go on cycling trips. I think it is a wonderful way to enjoy the environment and see places, and I enjoy the company.
“I especially recall my surprise at finding I could ride over the hills on the Lorne to Apollo Bay with relative ease. I believe that was due to the advice and training that I received through the New Horizons course. Whenever I ride there is usually some instance when I recall the tips or instruction from that course- some of which I hadn’t appreciated at the time. The more experience I get the more I value the instruction and assistance that I received. Much of this is due to Beth Johnston and the other volunteers.”
Rosemary agrees: "The next steps for me are to do as many interesting rides as I can as soon as I can, get and become proficient on a road bike, and get fitter.
“In the near future, the usual Boxing Day boredom won't be hitting our family as the assembled relatives - ageing from seven to seventy-one - will be riding the Axedale to Bendigo Rail Trail and back. There should be about fifteen of us as they have all been infected by my post-New Horizons euphoria!
“Plus I have a couple of trips to other Victorian rail trails in the pipeline and the fifty-seven kilometre ride in the Bobbin Head Classic in March. Then there's the thought of doing the Amy's Gran Fondo next September - now that would really be an achievement…
“New Horizons was wonderful - my old decrepit bike would still be in the shed covered in cobwebs if it were not for the New Horizons course. I now have a new hybrid bike, some vastly improved skills and heaps of maps of places I want to ride. And why not?”
New Horizons is a nine week program that includes riding skills; body care and nutrition for cycling; bike maintenance – on-road fixes to get you home; clothing, lights and accessories; and regular rides to gain experience.
The riding skills sessions and the rides are all conducted by qualified cycling instructors and accompanied by experienced cyclists. The next sessions are due to take place in February 2015 – please email us on email@example.com for updates or to register your interest.