Tenacious is a good word to describe Jan McKenzie. When the 70-year-old decided to do the New Horizons program, she hadn’t ridden a bike for 62 years. In fact, she didn’t even own one.
Listening to the radio one day, she heard a female caller talking about New Horizons and how she’d gone from being a novice to riding 50 kilometres a day.
“I was so impressed. I decided then and there to register but I needed a bike.”
Barely 150cm (5 feet) tall, Jan couldn’t even get on the bike offered by a friend. She went home and googled “best bike for older lady” and, after doing her research, bought a bike from Pushys in Fyshwick.
For the first few weeks of the course, Jan says she had no sense of riding at all and fell off a few times but the support she got from the instructor Beth Johnston, the other guides and her fellow riders enabled her to keep going.
“I was the worst rider in the group and really felt like I was holding everyone up. The gears were a complete mystery to me and I was nervous every Saturday knowing I would have to ride my bike.”
However, as her confidence grew, she developed new skills and made new friends. She also learned about nutrition, turning up on course days with food to share, made with recipes she’d collected at the last session.
“I learned so much and it was so much fun. I get a real buzz from achieving and I started to really enjoy cycling.”
Jan now rides regularly on her own around Canberra and, soon after completing the New Horizons program, she joined Pedal Power’s social ride for beginners.
“I’m still the slowest but everyone is so supportive and kind. I don’t ride on the roads but the bike paths in Canberra are so wonderful that I don’t have to. My goal is to ride with the social group and keep up with everyone else.”
Jan recently spent two weeks in Melbourne visiting family and, while she was there, she borrowed a bike and rode along the Yarra River.
“I am so pleased with myself. Before New Horizons I would never have had the confidence to ride on my own. It’s one of the best things I have ever done. It’s changed my life.”
New Horizons is a nine-week course, perfect for adult novice or beginner cyclists. There are two courses starting soon: Wednesday 12th February (seniors) and Thursday 13th February (women only). More information.