Melbourne's Cycling Scene
Riding into Melbourne's cycling scene
When I first started riding I didn't really know anyone. I'd started in triathlons which was a good place to be for a mix of skills but as soon as I realised the bike was so awesome I knew I needed to focus on that. I joined St Kilda Cycling club which made sense because I'm in the area of the starting point of their rides and the convenience of having a different ride every day of the week. This is unique for a club in Melbourne and very handy if you don't know other people.
It was intimidating turning up to a bunch ride in the dark or low light to ride with people I didn't know. As I'm an introvert I found it very challenging. I feel like this is more common with women than with men. Men don't mind fronting up to new things alone when it comes to sport anyway. For me it was similar to going to a party where you don't know anyone and have to smile and find common ground with people to relate. Cycling isn't quite like this because you're already on the bike and that is what you have in common however for me it took a lot to turn up to these rides. I have suffered really badly from anxiety and depression and while cycling makes a huge difference (more on this later), being anxious isn't great for getting out of bed to ride in the dark with people you don't know when you aren't confident, have highly developed skills or just not sure of yourself.
In the beginning I wanted to meet people and make friends but found it hard to find my place within the groups that I was meeting. It seemed like the friendship groups were already so strong and developed but what happened over time was being consistent meant getting to know people and turning up regularly meant that it eventually got easier to have routine. Two lessons I learned out of this is that in cycling you need both persistence and patience.
My first year of cycling passed pretty quickly and while I know now that the distance I rode is nothing compared to those who are far more consistent than me, for me, that first year of 4050km's was huge. It signified a huge shift in my life from being depressed and feeling like I was just working and being "aunty mich" to creating an entirely new world around me. I did spend an awful lot of time within my comfort zone of SKCC.
Year 2 and I was still doing most of my riding with SKCC but also meeting new people through various bunch rides, events and branching out through new friends. 6500km was epic for me that year. This was in part due to a few events like riding Amy's Gran Fondo and Ride Different with the Kings Men. Both these events showed me that I'd have to put in some serious work to really start enjoying hills and being a stronger rider. I also started to turn up at the Hawthorn crits on a Wednesday night with my camera. This was my way of trying to get involved, meet new people, feel like I was doing SOMETHING other than nothing and hope to boost my social life. I write more about this here (coming soon)
Year 3 and something shifted. I went to TDU in January 2017 and suffered. Physically and mentally. I wasn't prepared for the heat, the hills and my lack of fitness showed. It was an insanely fun week but by the end of the week I was exhausted. I resolved that I had to do the work to get stronger. Mentally and physically. I spent a huge chunk of 2017 doing as much riding as possible. I said yes to rides that were too hard, I said yes to photography opportunities that also let me ride my bike (JDRF One Ride - link coming soon), I coerced friends to ride up hills with me all Winter in exchange for hot chocolates, coffee and mulled wine. I got fitter, I was happier and somehow my mid Winter depression stayed mostly at bay. I still booked in to see my psychologist but it was a shorter time with her than previous years.
2018 is my 4th year of riding. So far we're half way and I've ridden much less than last year. I'm happier though. This year I lost my mojo after Adelaide this year where I think I just needed time off the bike. I was investing hours and hours taking photos at Crits and my energy was focussed elsewhere. I went on a ski trip and felt the rewards of my legs being stronger than 3 years ago when I was also in Aspen (blog coming soon). I think I needed a goal. Then I got given one by way of a cycling trip to Spain. Maybe that's what I needed to get back on the bike. To think about my sleep, what I'm eating and how much i'm training and the kind of training I'm doing. Big goals are scary but having one is better than twiddling my thumbs.
I now have an entire community of people around me who when I ask for help, reach out to and get stuck they all have my back. I got lent a Kickr (saving me having to buy one), I've got people writing me programs, poking me to get out of bed, watching my Strava and generally being in my corner. The Melbourne cycling community has become to mean more to me than I ever could have imagined.
Never in a million years thought that biking a bike could be so life changing.
Beach Rd Riding
If you ride in Melbourne you've ridden Beach rd at least once. Or a million times. Somewhere in between is accurate. Some people love it. Some people don't. You can ride for 10km or 150km. The beauty of Beach rd is the scenery, the fact that it's flat and that you can turn around at any point.
These things appeal to new cyclists because it is a well known road, you're likely to get a helping hand if you get a flat and cars are very used to cyclists being here. I spent the first year of my cycling life predominantly on this road and you learn every pot hole, every crack and every corner like the back of your hand. This makes it easy.
The first time I rode 100km was down Beach rd. I went to Mt Eliza and completely bonked on the way home, was dehydrated for days and took a week to recover fully. I look back and laugh at this now because it really was a great day! I've ridden 100km's so many times since then and I know how to fuel, hydrate and recover. Beach rd I still love and enjoy riding because even though i've ridden it so often, there are so many factors that make every single ride different that I really enjoy it.
No ride is the same on this road!