There’s a group of people that meet each Friday morning to ride about 25km. “So?” you say. “Canberra is littered with ride groups every morning of the week.” But this group IS special because, just six months ago, they didn’t know each other and none of them had ridden a bike in years. Now there’s even talk of them entering cycling events as a team.
So what happened? What made six non-riders saddle up and take to the road? How did they become weekly bunch riders? What brought them together?
The answer is (drum roll please)... New Horizons.
This nine-week course, designed exclusively for those who are new to cycling or haven’t ridden for a long time, is one of Pedal Power’s most successful programs. Over the years it has helped more than 500 Canberrans become confident, skilled and enthusiastic bike riders.
Take 63 year old Rosemary for example. She hadn’t ridden for a long time when she decided, earlier this year, to do the New Horizons course.
“It’d been years since I’d been on a bike and when I did I realised I was grossly inefficient. ‘Why don’t I do this properly?’ I thought. I recalled a friend telling me about New Horizons so I enrolled. It was fantastic. The course far exceeded my expectations in so many ways,” said Rosemary who plans to ride in Amy’s Grand Fondo in September.
She credits the course coordinator, Beth Johnston, and her team of volunteers with her success.
“I was definitely one of the slowest but they bullied and cajoled me – in the nicest possible way – to keep going, to persevere and to achieve something outside the range of my normal experience.”
"I would never had thought it possible to ride 50 kilometres in one day, let alone follow that with a 35 kilometre ride the next day, as we did on the last weekend of the course," said Rosemary.
Joining her on the course was Deborah (59) who switched from full-time to part-time work in 2013.
“For ten years I’d hardly done any exercise at all. I made the decision to be more active in my semi-retirement and was looking for something that met three key criteria. Firstly, I wanted to get fitter and healthier. I was also looking for an outdoor activity and I wanted to meet people my own age,” said Deborah.
It was then that she heard an ABC radio interview with New Horizons graduate Jan Mckenzie.
“Jan talked about her lack of confidence on the bike and her desire to be healthier and learn something new. She was just like me! I got online and booked in the next day, went out and bought a new bike and turned up at the first session.
“I was exhausted at the beginning and, looking back, I can’t believe how much my aerobic fitness has improved. If you’d told me then I would eventually spend my Friday mornings riding 25 kilometres for fun, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Deborah.
The program combines early evening practical workshops with weekend rides. The last weekend of the course involves a return ride to Gundaroo, followed up the next day with another from Tuggeranong to Tharwa and back.
Rosemary and Deborah each have tales to tell of those two rides but both women completed the weekend challenge.
“I seriously doubted my ability to do it and I spent a good amount of time walking up hills but I completed both rides and it felt so good,” said Deborah.
She has no immediate plans to tackle any longer rides but is really enjoying her weekly sessions with friends she made in the New Horizons program.
“I love cycling with them but and I’ll often also go out for a lap of the west basin on my own. I just love riding around Canberra’s amazing network of cycling paths, something I knew little about before New Horizons.
“Ultimately I’d like to be one of Beth’s volunteers, helping others to discover cycling in the way I have. That would be something,” said Deborah.
Registrations are now open for the next New Horizons course which starts on Thursday 18 September. There are two groups – one for women only and one for seniors (men and women over 55). You can get more information at this link or call 6248 7774.