My Blog

6 million pedal strokes of happiness - my life and my bike.

04 May 2012

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My Journey on the bike 

Since I can remember I have always owned, ridden and loved my bikes.

My dad taught me as dads do, holding onto the back of my seat, telling me to pedal and then magically letting go with me having no idea.

I cant remember if it was over a period of attempts or just the one, but from then on I rode my bike everywhere.

It was a tool of freedom.

Get from A to B fast, take a path & see where it goes & most of all, independence.

I used to ride my bike to school, to the shop, around the river, up the rail trail, to my friends, across town and I loved seeing where new roads took me, or how far I could go.

Now that I remember I never carried spares, or worried about what I was going to drink, if I was contactable and letting someone know exactly where I was going.

I just went, on my bike, for a ride, because I could!

In fact, I was never far away from help, I knew how to call reverse charges at the phone box & grabbing a drink was as easy as finding a tap.

I recall a time when I was out riding the Bellarine loop from my house and it was pouring down with rain (no BOM radar to check on the internet prior to ride), I was riding along and a lovely couple with a van stopped and gave me a lift back home. It was only another 15km and I almost resisted, but thought they were too nice to say no to. I was 13.

 

 

My time on my bike started out when I was 4. We were living in Bellerine St in Geelong and life was simple. I remember at this young age my greatest desire was for my dad to get home from work and take my to the pool at Tresize's in Geelong. The only indoor pool back then. Like any young girl I thought my dad was pretty awesome and when he taught me how to ride a bike, I trusted him with everything. He may remember otherwise, but in my memory bank it was smooth sailing and happy times on the bike.

It was not a new bike, it was a refurbished one. Steel of course, back pedal brakes, 16” wheels. It was a dark orange/red colour 

We moved from the city to the suburbs to move into a brand spanking new AV Jennings House & Land Package. I went to school at Geelong East Primary, not 100mts down the road like before but about 800mts. As a 6 year old this seemed a loooonggg way so I rode my bike.

 

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I do not recall there being restrictions on how old you had to be to ride your bike to school like there is now, riding was quicker than walking & so I rode.

I rode to the shop for milk, to school and often just to explore where it was too far to walk.

I remember a time at primary school where we did a bike ed camp. We rode to Queenscliff and back from our school. That would have to be a 60km round trip. It was awesome and from that day forward I ventured further, knowing it was possible to do so.

Once again, as a kid there is no concern for what your bike looks like, the helmet was a Rosebank Stackhat and there was no choice. There was no cage on my bike to hold a drink bottle, no clip in pedals, no chamois in my knicks, actually who knows what I wore on my buttocks!

In my memory its all about the journey, not the details.

As I got older I was able to upgrade my bikes, thankfully even though we did not have $$$ lying around for things such as holidays, I somehow kept ownership of a bike.

By the time I was 11 or 12, I was indeed venturing further, riding around the river which was a 25-30km round trip from home. I would pack a back pack with a picnic and just ride, I never bothered to ask anyone to join me as I knew they wouldn't be interested.

 

Whats more, as that shy introverted girl that I was, I kinda enjoyed my own company and only had myself to ask, “shall we ride a bit further? Shall we turn left or right?”...etc...

Then I started high school in the city of Geelong, at Matthew Flinders Girls Secondary College. It was only 6km into town on the bus, but the bus would pick me up 50mts from home but then drop me off in town, I then had to walk 1.5km to school. The return trip home was horrendous too, catching a bus at 4pm when school finished at 3:20pm. You would be lucky to get a seat as well.

So at least 50% of the time, when my bag did not weigh down my rear pack rack so I monoed all the way to school, I would ride. Even when I had my art portfolio, I would slide that behind my back pack and have wings! It only took 15-20mins to ride to school and I was home an hour before the bus after school.

Once again, riding not only gave me independence, it gave me the freedom to come and go when it was suitable for me.

I was just starting year 9, in 1987, when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, apparently a very good cancer to have if you should be so lucky to have cancer in your lifetime.

I remember being told that I will probably lose some hair with the chemotherapy, oh that was devastating – I was 14.

Pivotal moments occur in a lifetime, things that stop us in our tracks and force us to take stock of our lives. We can either stay put and whinge and whine being a victim or use these moments to change for the better, taking a new direction.

Luckily for me, a new leisure centre had just opened up in our suburb, with indoor pool, gym and 80's style G-banger flouro leotard aerobics classes.

With the chemo I was feeling really flat and unfit, so asked if we could get a membership.

Now I had new purpose and a new place to ride to. It was only about 3km to the gym, but it was through the depths of Whittington, where strange things happened every single night of the week. I rode through there very very fast, and home too.

After I was given the all clear from 8 months of chemo, I started to look for amazing things I could do. One of them included planning a ride to Sydney to meet up with a person I had met at Camp Quality. I had maps and a route all planned but my mum said no. She was sure that I would die. I was sure I would make it. I was going to camp, ride and get there in a few days or a week, stay in Sydney with my friends, then catch a train home. It was going to cost pittance.

When that idea was canned I found something my mum could not say no to. It was the Great Victorian Bike ride. 9 days of riding, in December, supported, you ride, camp and they feed and provide a safe supported route. The only problem was as a minor of 15 years old, I needed to be accompanied by an adult.

Hmmm...how do I solve this one. Mum says yes, but I officially need an adult to be there.

We had some options worked out, including putting a family friend George, who would be on it as well. But I came up with the best idea, I approached some teachers at school about it. Low and behold they were keen. So 2 teachers and about 6 girls started training and saving to go on the trip.

What bike would I ride? I only had a 3 speed girly 'step thru' bike. Thankfully Tony, my wonderful stepfather, was riding heaps to work on an old steel 12 speed Repco. Problem was it was a work horse and needed some love. I de-rustified it, made it shiny and new. New brake pads, tyres etc...

I now had a proper mens 'race bike' with lots of gears!

The school group did lots of training rides as did I on my own. I loved having a purpose to ride now, and I loved using it as an excuse to get out of stuff...”no, cant do, gotta train!”

I think the longest training ride I did prior to the GVBR was 80km, come the event, the longest day we did was 120km and with rain.

As I type this a series of flashbacks occur:

  • Not heeding warning to slow down in the wet before an intersection, brakes not working and having to run a stop sign knowing that there was a chance of death or injury, coming out of it alive and learning very quickly about braking!

  • Riding too heavy a gear, getting sore knees and learning about spinning more.

  • Being given a pair of knicks with real leather chamois and finding out how good these are in comparison to just shorts and underwear.

  • Being very naughty and not waiting for my group, riding faster and getting to the destination before everyone else, setting up camp and not letting them know. Oops big time trouble!

  • Finishing the event, thinking that I want to live my life like this, every day on the bike, exploring, meeting new people etc...

  • Being very depressed when it all ended, feeling lost and alone. This took at least 1 week to get over.

And so the story goes, I evolved as a cyclist. I now associated myself with cyclists. I talked bike talk. I got 2 part time jobs to start saving for next year. I bought all the gear and went on the next GVBR so much better prepared and wiser.

The years ticked by, I rode my bike more and more, but never raced. I was not a competitive type, in fact I believed I was quite un athletic, that all people who participated in sport were of a State level and that I would be laughed at.

When I met Norm, I was 17, just about to turn 18. He was exactly what I was missing, someone who was competitive and helped me realise that I was ok.

We got married in December 1991 straight after I finished year 12, I was turning 19 in February 1992.

Norm was in the navy and we moved straight up to Sydney, living in Rose Bay.

Within that year I got 2 road bikes, which we rode everywhere but still no racing.

It wasn't until late November 1992 that we moved to the Gold Coast that I got introduced to racing. It was summer and crits was on at Burleigh Heads industrial area and another hotdog style circuit up the northern end of the GC. We were getting up at 5am and training, racing Saturday and Sunday. Norm would often win and we would spend that on breakfast at a cafe with the crew.

We then dabbled a bit on the mountain bike with Norm's brother Rick, at Nerang State Forest. Whilst I was very very scared I loved it.

In fact I loved just riding my mountain bike anywhere, there were so many pockets of land around that I would just go exploring on motor bike & 4wd tracks hoping to find sneaky single track. 

I was learning that racing was fun and that not everyone was an elite athlete.

In 1993, Norm and I decided that we would see if we could have a child, with my chemo we weren't sure if I was going to be fertile so thought best sort that out now or never. 6 months later I was pregnant. Whilst riding my bike got harder as the bump got bigger I still tried to ride and even did one or two races early on. Mind you I was slow anyway and would get off my bike over most logs, so Saskia was well safe!

When Saskia was born in 1994, we pretty much turned into the leisure family. Baby seat on the back of the bike, riding for fun.

Our return to Geelong mid 1995 saw the demise of any return to any form of racing for me and Norm. We were in our early 20's striving to make ends meet and be a family.

The cycling scene was very hidden in Geelong, mountain bike and road was not as visible as it was on the Gold Coast, so we did not pursue it.

Still we rode, we rode as much as our lives would allow, along the river, along the rail trail etc...

Then Saskia got old enough to ride and we would walk or run along side.

It was not until Saskia was around 12 that we returned to the scene back in January 2006.

...and here we are now, May 2012, 6 years later and I am still on the path of being a cyclist.

You never stop learning, you never stop meeting great people who can teach you what they know and the journey will continue for as long as I can pedal a bike. Next year I turn 40, I could have another 40 years of pedalling left!

Oh my goodness, this journey that is still unridden is going to take me around 14,600 days!

Now thats a life worth cycling for!