It’s not a competition

11 Oct 22 | By pp-admin | Cycling tips, Guest blog

News Wheel caught up with Irene, a Pedal Power member whose cycling journey has taken her from a typical 60s step-through girl’s bike without gears or brakes (just the back-pedal coaster stopping) through to an eBike.

Irene rode a bike growing up in Robertson, getting a blue girl’s bike for Christmas one year – that’s the one with no gears or brakes – at about ten years of age. Typical of the times, she used to ride around the streets of Robertson, out to her grandparents and down to the creek – the usual kids’ haunts and hijinks. She was also fortunate to go to Denmark on a Rotary student exchange in 1981.

“During my year in Denmark I rode everywhere, to school and all over the place” recalls Irene “I used to go on great rides, including riding from one end of Bornholm to the other, visiting churches and other historic places along the way”.

After moving to Canberra to attend university, Irene’s bike had a more practical purpose of actually getting around university and Canberra. She ended up getting a bike with gears but didn’t really like it – the fact that it was a men’s frame and too big didn’t help – so eventually got rid of that one. After uni, as happens to so many, life got in the way and Irene didn’t ride for many years.

“Eventually, as family responsibilities reduced and friends were riding, I was able to take up cycling again, casually and socially” Irene says. Eventually, Irene did Pedal Power’s New Horizons program with a friend and still sings its praises for the confidence and skills it gave her, evidenced by her going from a 10-15km to 60km rider and often riding 2-3 times a week. It’s been over a decade now that Irene’s been a regular rider and it’s become an important part of her week. At the moment, with work and other commitments, riding has dropped back to around once per week. “One of the things I particularly enjoy about riding is that it gives me a zone to not think about anything other than what I’m doing – the bike path, the people I’m with, the people I meet, the trees, the clouds, the birds (hopefully not magpies!)” says Irene. “You have to focus on what you’re doing, but you get to enjoy what’s going on around you. And the daily cares and worries get put aside”.

Irene comfortably admits she’s a ‘fair weather cyclist’

However, Irene also comfortably admits she’s a ‘fair weather cyclist’ and doesn’t believe in suffering in the rain or wind… or magpie season! ”I love Autumn riding” she says “beautiful time of year generally, with our wonderful deciduous trees doing their thing, and usually more settled weather and less wind… and of course, no magpie’s swooping”. Seems there’s a bit of a theme there with magpies? And yes, Irene admits to becoming more paranoid about them, with an increased fear of having an accident, particularly on her eBike on which she might be going faster.

Irene now has three bikes: a Giant mountain bike, a Trek road bike, and her most recent addition, an eBike. The plan is that the eBike will become an alternative mode of getting to work… but that’s still a work in progress.
The only downsides of the eBike are that it is heavy and needed a new bike rack for her car; and she is much more conscious of finding a safe place to leave it, for example, when she uses it to go to the shops. On the plus side, she finds it more comfortable to ride is ordinary clothes and shoes – whereas on her other bikes she finds she needs to wear knicks and bike shoes to stay comfortable on rides of any distance. She puts this down to the different riding position on the eBike and different seat preventing any chafing occurring. She’s found it really advantageous to have the same bag rack so that she just has the one Topeak bag for a ride on any of her bikes.

Around Canberra, any ride without magpies and rain is her favourite! Irene likes rides where there’s not a lot of pedestrians – she avoids central basin of Lake Burley Griffin – and has always enjoyed the ride out to Weston Creek, going around the western side of Lake Burley Griffin. Another favourite is a loop out to Gungahlin-Yerrabi Ponds-Harrison-Franklin Wetlands. She also enjoys the ride along Horse Park Drive and Majura Parkway and wishes more of our bike paths could be of that standard. But there’s also lots of rides around Canberra still to be explored.

”I am not into hills and I’m not into inflicting pain on myself” confesses Irene “but I also want to be able to have my ride and then have the energy to get on and do other things, so it doesn’t ‘write me off’ for the rest of the day”.

With a winding back of her working hours, Irene is keen to do more rail and country trails – having enjoyed the Tumbarumba rail trail. There are others in Victoria she’s keen to try and Lindy Armstrong’s recent social night presentation on the Central West Rail Trail has motivated her to look at doing parts of that ride. And on her wish list are eBike rides through parts of Europe and going back to Denmark and riding there… because it’s all flat (and they have great riding infrastructure)!

Her biggest frustration with riding in Canberra is when bike paths don’t go anywhere or don’t join up. As an example, she appreciates the new bike path on Karinga Drive, linking up with Gungahlin paths… but then it gets to Owen Dixon Drive and just stops and its not connected to anything. Our hard working advocacy teams totally understand this problem of joining up paths and continue to push the ACT Government on completing linkages as a major priority across the whole of Canberra.

“Get out there, even if it’s a short ride – you don’t have to do 60kms to get the benefit out of the ride”

When asked about any tips she has for others looking to ride more, she was quick to suggest considering an eBike, because it still gives you the exercise (and those social and enjoyment aspects) but you’re not wearing yourself out. And another tip is to make sure what you’re wearing is comfortable – whatever works for you for the type of riding you do. She also strongly believes in giving yourself permission to go out and do a ride and taking the time to do it. Everyone with time pressures in their life will understand that point. “Even if it’s a short ride – you don’t have to do 60kms to get the benefit out of the ride” she points out. “ Don’t put yourself off by thinking if you don’t have time to do that 60km ride, it’s not worth doing a ride. It’s not a competition. It’s about you getting out there and enjoying it and getting the health benefits and pleasure, without it needing to become a marathon”.