Riding’s got it all

19 Jan 23 | By pp-admin | News Wheel

Going out, hanging with friends, getting some exercise, commuting – riding’s got it all.

Over the Christmas break, News Wheel caught up with Pedal Power board member, keen commuter, recreational and touring cyclist, Amanda Day.

Amanda came late to cycling and learnt to ride through a Pedal Power program, an ACT Government-funded predecessor to Cycle Well, the adult learn-to-ride program.

She didn’t exactly do it the easy way, learning on ill-fitting bike someone had given her. “In hindsight, that bike was way too small me” She recalls “but as a complete ‘newbie’ to cycling, I had no way of knowing that at the time.  I just got on that little green bike and I rode and rode, and rode it everywhere”.    

What really improved her cycling after learning the basics, was using her bike to get to work.  At the time, Amanda was living in Kaleen and working in Tuggeranong.  That was way too far to ride in her early cycling days.  However, she was keen to commute by bike.  Very cleverly, she started off by driving and parking in Curtin, then riding to Tuggeranong. She did a dummy run on the weekend so she knew where to go, how long it would take, etc. Over time, Amanda was able to lengthen the ride by parking further and further away from Tuggeranong and eventually was able to ride the whole way. 

By this time, the little green bike had done its job.  Amanda bought what she still calls her “real bike” – a drop bar road bike.  This made her commuting ride much quicker and more convenient – as it was kitted out with a rack and panniers and a slide-on bag.  “With the new bike” Amanda says, “It was a lot easier; I could go a lot further; I could do my shopping; I could use it everywhere”.  And ride it everywhere she did… right up until it got stolen!

This is a timely to register your bike on Bikelinc if you haven’t already. This website records your details and those of your bike, enables you to mark it as stolen if needed and helps police reunite recovered bikes with their owners.  Also if you are buying a second-hand bike, check it on Bikelinc before purchasing.

Around the same time, the transmission in her car literally exploded – quite a dramatic end to its life.

But Amanda could see the opportunity in these twin calamities:  it gave her the chance to consider becoming car-free.  “I examined my transport needs and realised she was really only driving once a week to go to the Farmers’ Market, or occasionally to take my dog to the vet” Ananda says. 

Not wanting to own a car just for these occasional purposes, Amanda looked for alternatives to full-time car ownership.  “I discovered there are many useful alternatives” she explains. “There’s a pet ambulance service to transport your dog in an emergency; car hire services by the hour or by the kilometre, like PopCar and Uber Carshare (Car Next Door); and public transport.” 

Now living without a car, Amanda kept scrupulous records for the next few years and found she spent $1200-1500 per year on transport other than her bike. Obviously, this is a huge saving on the cost of owning her own car.  “And I certainly wasn’t sitting at home!” She says “I was going places and doing things. And that’s when it really hit home for me that it was a lot less expensive to get the odd Uber or hire a car than be a car owner.” Even though she no longer had her own car, Amanda was pragmatic about when the bike just wasn’t going to work.  “When commuting to work” Amanda reflects, “If I didn’t feel like riding home – if it was raining, or I had to get home quickly to do something else, or if I just wasn’t feeling well – then I would just get the bus or got an Uber.”

For many, as Amanda points out, “It is a really big psychological step to give up your car. It requires a change in thinking. And of course, without dependants, it is easier, and with an able body, and time – getting around on a bike does take more time”. 

But, at least for commuting, Amanda sees that the additional time it takes is actually a positive part of her day: not only is it her exercise so she doesn’t need to try and find extra time to go to the gym, but it is also enjoyable and for her, provides the mental benefit of being more connected with the environment. 

“Even when the weather is not fantastic, it’s just ‘me’ time and it keeps me connected and in the present,” she says “I’m sure I’m not alone here, but in a car, my mind would be somewhere else, or I’m worrying about what I’ve got to do when I get there, or if I have forgotten to do something”. 

Amanda has also found riding home beneficial in a separate challenging volunteer role.  After a shift, by riding home, whatever has been buzzing around in her head from those few hours will be gone.  “I leave it on the road somewhere” she quips.

On the perennial topic of riding gear – which women particularly often feel puts them off anything other than recreational rides – Amanda takes a pragmatic approach: she wears what suits each ride.  For work, when living close to and working in Civic, Amanda often wears cycling knicks and an ordinary bright work top, simply changing on arrival into work pants she kept in a locker.  For something like going to the theatre, she’ll wear ordinary trousers and take a non-iron top in her bike bag and change when she gets there. 

Her bike has double pedals – flat on one side and cleat fittings on the other – so depending on distance and purpose, Amanda can wear cleated cycle or ordinary shoes.  Her cleated shoes are just plain black mountain bike style and so can be worn with ordinary clothes. She’s got a good lightweight water/windproof jacket that squashes down and is easy to take in her bike bag. But if it’s really raining, she just takes the bus/tram or an Uber.  Her other essential is lights:  with a light on her helmet and two each on the front and back of her bike.  When it’s your main form of transport, Amanda doesn’t want to be let down by a flat battery or failed light, and two lights on the front allow for both a flashing and steady light – with the steady light helping oncoming drivers’ depth perception- flashing lights ensure you are visible; a steady light helps a driver judge how far away you are.

Amanda wants to dispel the myth that you need to be an athlete to ride, or that you have to be able to ride at a certain speed, or always ride great distances or have a carbon bike.  For example, one Summer evening recently, she and her friends did a 20km ride up the Federal Highway and out into Mulligans Flat. The followed the gravel path out to Forde then had a social stop at a café before heading home.  It had it all: getting out in the fresh air and environment, hanging out with friends, doing some fun exercise and socialising with a drink at a relaxed spot.

She’d love to see more members giving a Pedal Power social ride a go, with all these benefits in mind.