Dirt de Femme 2016

Canberra’s Dirt de Femme 2016 was held on May 1st at Stromlo and was a great event on all accounts. Now in its 5th year encouraging women and girls of all ages to get out and ride MTB, the ride is not only a race, but a great event to get female riders together and have a great day riding.

This year saw the highest record of entrants and the reasons for this post, is that this month saw a cover change come over the Mountain Biking Australia’s website, with David Blucher’s photo of Micheala Watt, riding in all her resplendent glory on her fat bike during the Dirt de Femme this year.

It is great to see healthy lashings of happiness, colour and fun being injected into ride days – and at races – keeps the smiles on the dials and everyone humble. If you are out to race on the day, by all means, go for it. But, it is also equally just as important for those at all levels to have an equally challenging and engaging time. So I tip my hat to Micheala, who provided much fun and energy on the day and serves as a healthy reminder not to take ourselves too seriously – ever!

Week 1 – Semester 2, 2016

And so it begins (again…)

Well, it has been a busy first week of semester 2, 2016 and there is still another day to go until it officially ends! By 6 pm this evening I had met all my new classes for this semester- and there is a massive contrast between the courses I’ve taught before and the new one  I’m starting on for the first time this semester, but that’s half the fun and thrill of teaching!

To add a little extra to the general Uni anxiousness, the energy on campus is high as people run around making last minute changes to what (I’m not exactly sure), students furiously confounded by the illogical building placements whilst trying to find their classes and market day today at the Campus Heart was adding extra noise and confusion to the already raucous humdrum, with groups singing chants and oversized Jenga and chess games being disputed, and almost successfully drowning out the blaring DJs as the food trucks were doing a roaring trade – phew.

And amongst it all, I have been trying to keep sane and succeeding quite well. I learnt my lesson well last semester, and I’ve not taken on such a heavy teaching load, but enough to keep busy and pay the rent (just). I been making progress on parts of my Early Candidature Milestone (ECM) report (due Feb 2017) and have a supervisors meeting in 2 weeks (mid-August), which will mark my first six months part time since commencing my PhD.

It is a busy time, but I am a lot more settled than this time last semester. I have work completed on my Literature Review and have been getting better at finding a sustainable balance between work, researching and riding.

I’ve been missing riding most of all lately due to the cold weather putting a dampener on my motivation to get our early on the bike and a seemingly non-stop run of family and friends visiting one after the other. It has been great do see them all, but I have genuinely craved some quiet time and have been looking forward to the routine of the semester to have that regular structure to fall back on to. And please, bring on the warmer weather!

The cold, the socialising and the crazy build-up to Uni’s first week is enough to turn anyone to the drink – which, it turns out, is also reminding me to get back out and actually ride one, as opposed to just researching about it. In the last two weeks with all the visitors and family coming through, it has been delightful to see that bicycle culture has been warmly embraced as evidenced by the beer and wine that graced our tables recently.

It has been lovely to share a love of bikes, good food, good company and festivities – but from now on; it is most certainly back to work!

Good luck to all for the new semester! I’ll drink to that and riding!


Calling all singlespeeders!

Today I registered for the Single Speed World Championships 2016 (SSWC 2016) to be held in Woodend, Victoria later this year on October 21-23rd 2016. Yahhooooo!

Yes, you heard correctly, the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP for 2016 is in Oz – not just the National SS which I posted about October last year.

From a preliminary count of entrants, there are currently 177 registered, with about 25 women and good peeps from all over the world are decending- so if your keen to ride (and you’ve got a costume in mind), get online and register ASAP as the entries are only available until September 1st – only another 8 days left…. so, calling all single speeders …….. local, regional and international…..

Entry will set you back $140, but if you want all the perks of the full event calendar, but none of the riding, there is also a Party Animal option.

I’m getting very excited and can’t wait. I’m even forgoing a full day HDR Workshop, of which I am on the organising committee of, to attend because this kind of opportunity does not come around very often!


If you have never heard of the Singlespeed Champs, or have never been to one  – check  it out the videos below…

The clip below is still my favourite SSWC clip – it is from NZ’s race last year – it typifies what the event is all about…

I found the below 7 minute video recently and it gives some good insights into the earlier origins of SSWC. It is hilarious to see what is the same (beards, drinking, tamping with bikes and fun activities, and what has changed (mostly the elaborate nature of the costumes!)

The Bicycle – A short film

This is a sweet 7 minute short film by Chris McCoy & Adam Neustadter about the ups and downs of being a bicycle. It was created 2 years ago and has been selected for numbers international film festivals. The main character is The Bicycle  who is personified by the voice of Matthew Waterson and even so often I find myself going back to watch this film because for me, it encapsulates the full range of lived experiences, thrills and spills. I find comfort in the idea that although we may own a bike of whatever the duration tis that we own it, who knows what stories, histories and situations our bicycles are involved in before or after they come into our lives.

I also love the idea that our loved and used bicycles move on to other owners and have new lives and incarnations that we never know about. I think the secret lives of bicycles could be fascinating idea to explore given the rich, unique and interesting stories it would bring up.

I like it also as, for me, this film speaks to the consumeristic nature of our society of buy, use, discard- which has always been challenging for me to engage with – especially in the case of bicycles – a social phenomena of which I have previous created an art bike and  blogged about in the CONS_U_ME BLUES post.

This film will delight and touch any bicycle rider – enjoy the sentiments  – and give your bike a little extra love!

Bihar – Mukhyamantri Cycle Yogina

While reading though some research for my Lit Review, I came across this article: Ghatak, M., Kumar, C., & Mitra, S. (2013). Cash versus kind: Understanding the preferences of the bicycle-programme beneficiaries in Bihar. London, UK: International Growth Centre.

I have previously posted about this program, as it looks like a great initiative, so I was interested to read more about it, but was shocked by a few of the program details and findings that (of course) were not included in this programs’  previous promotions.

Review of the report.

This article is looking at cash transfer schemes and specifically using one case study, the Bihar Mukhyamantri Cycle Yogina (Chief Minister’s Bicycle Programme) a Cash for Kind (Bicycle) program to discuss some of the preferences of the bicycle beneficiancies of this program. It is not analyzing the program as such, although some interesting program results are given which I will expand on, but this paper is looking at to the recipients prefer to get the cash or the bicycle – and why.

Cash for Kind program are where the government disperses cash to recipients, who then use the cash to access a certain ‘kind’ of goods (or service) – usually something that is predetermined and linked as a condition for receiving the cash – in this case the money was to purchase a bicycle for all 9th grade students enrolled in school.

This report is 22 pages, so I am not going to give you all the results and details, but here is a few of the more interesting aspects of the report.

Program Background

The Bihar bike program is a well-known Indian program which provided ALL the 14 year-old girls (9th grade) in the whole state with bicycles. Bihar is one of India’s Eastern States that boarders Nepal and is considered to be one of the most impoverished states in India. The Mukhyamantri Cycle Yogina originally started in 2006 and provided Rs 2,400 for purchasing bicycles but was only for the girls. In 2009-2010 the program was expanded to include all the boys in the state of the same age and for the academic year of 2011-2012 the cash was increased to Rs 2500 per student. In 2012 – 2013, a conditional change was made that only students who maintained a 75% attendance at school were eligible.

So this report is a follow up of this program and was undertaken Sept – Oct 2012 over 36 villages and involved surveying 840 households (as a representative sample of the whole district) of which 958 bike recipients lived (some households had more than one child in the program).

Some of the key results

  • Do the benefits reach the intended beneficiaries – overall, yes.
  • Overall 90% of the beneficiaries reported being happy with this program (no grievances)
  • Issues of corruption – corruption can occur by various actors at various stages, but for this program it was difficult to do and corruption was considered to be very low.

Corruption opportunities:

  •  Ghost beneficiaries
  •  Enrolled in multiple schools – double benefits
  •  Was the accurate amount of $$ received?
  •  Receiving other benefits/services (not a bike)
  • Program administrators skimming a commission by using their own voucher or coupon system
  • Even though there were areas where corruption could occur, not much did with 93.3% reporting having received the correct amount – meaning 56 households received less than they were entitled to.
  • Results show that 98% of those who received the cash/voucher used it as required to purchase a new bicycle – over the course of a whole state – that is a pretty amazing result.
  • 45% said they would prefer cash instead of a bicycle

Rest of the report – some scary details

The rest of the report discusses the determinates of why certain households choose a preference between cash and kind (bicycle) – for example the quality of the bike was mentioned as one of the determinants for choosing cash or bike.

In the discussion, the report indicates a few interesting and very disturbing features of this program.

  • For example, one of the supply side conditions, and the way the program was set up, was that the beneficiaries were provided with cash (provided by the state, but distributed by the teachers at school), then they went out and purchased a bicycle with that cash and brought back the receipt as evidence of a bike purchase. Interestingly, this was not how the full program was implemented. Some districts deviated from this system and 30% of the beneficiaries were required to submit a receipt BEFORE they received the cash for the bike.

This meant 3 things: 1. People had to either purchase the bike with their own money, or 2. Get a fake receipt and 3. This would put extra financial strain on the poorest of the poor, of which this program was trying to help, but forcing into a compromised situation.

  • There were huge delays of payment to the recipients of up to 6-months.
  • Most troubling is, that the program provided an inadequate amount of money to purchase a bike in the first place – 98% of beneficiaries had to add money a significant amount of money to the program cash to buy a bike – on average Rs 979.
  • The market price for the three CHEAPEST bike brands in the area Atals, Avon and Hero (of which about 80% of the beneficiaries selected) range in price of Rs 3100 – 3300, but the government supplied only Rs 2500 – meaning that pretty much all of the recipients had to make up the difference themselves. For the richer households this comes out of savings, for the poorer families – this puts them further into debt, with 25% of all the recipients having to BORROW money to buy a bike – thus indebting them into poverty even further.

And this report states that 90% of the recipients were happy with the program!!??

Don’t get me wrong, the program is ambitious on many levels and you cannot get everything right – and the premise of supplying a new bike to increase school access is something I am very supportive of. However, ethically I have a major problem with programs whose conditionality has a direct and immediate negative consequence for the recipients when program organisers tout the program a success.

Such an error is easily rectifiable with A) doing the right homework to find out how much money is actually needed to buy a bike before implementation and B) increasing the government’s allocation to all beneficiaries if the program is already in effect.

Loan sharks anyone?

The report acknowledges that there is a ‘trade-off between universality and corruption’ meaning that beneficiary needs need to be balanced with the level of leakage and corruption. But given the opening stats  on the low corruption level for this program (98% of recipients got the right amount of cash = no corruption), it is hardly justifiable to decrease the reimbursement amount so much that being involved in the program diminishes the possible benefits to such a point where the needs of the beneficiaries are negatively compounded now three fold from having borrowed money to be in the program. Loan sharks anyone?

As a community development practitioner, I find these kind of programs disturbing, as many of them look good in the NGO reports and social media, but by digging a little deeper there are some interesting lessons to be learnt for future review, modifications and application.

I appreciate that this program is on a massive scale and is one of the first of its kind in the world, but critical features such as supplying the correct amount are basic provisions that should have been addressed before implementation.

I would be very interested to hear the rational given for this cash transfer amount for this program.

Source: blogs.lse.ac.uk
Source: blogs.lse.ac.uk

How to plan your PhD

Today I attended a session provided by the Griffith Graduate School entitled ‘How to Plan Your PhD’ workshop with Hugh Kearns from iThinkWell. The workshop was directed towards PhDers who are in the early-mid stanes of their HDR candidates and covered a range of topics. After having a bit of a flat week and not achieving as much as I had hoped, this 2. 5 hour session was the perfect remedy, as it reaffirmed what I have already been applying and finding useful, as well as suggesting a few clear and productive strategies to identify next step goals, stay focused and chart progress.

7 main themes from the Thinkwell workshop

Without providing too many details as I appreciate the content presented is part of Thinkwell’s core business, in a nutshell this workshop covered 7 main themes:

  1. looking at the big picture
  2. breaking down big tasks into detailed plans of action
  3. addressing aspects of Supervisor meetings
  4. some helpful ideas to track and monitor writing progress
  5. working on parallel specific projects that might be undertaken concurrent the dissertation
  6. a few tips regarding setbacks (l really liked the Tim Tam analogy)
  7. finances

Clear and useful

The presentation was well-paced, thoughtful and very accessible. The few key main ideas were developed well with enough detail to be quickly understood and interesting, but not too overwhelming that it required extra work and thinking. I liked how each idea was explained, and for the goal setting/time management tasks, there were handouts to fill, followed by time to confer and share ideas with others before moving on. The session was engaging and productive, and the content was immediately useful and applicable for each student. I’m now super clear on what I am doing first thing tomorrow morning!

I have my 6-month meeting with my supervisors in 2 weeks, so the planning aspect of some of the handouts gave me some good ideas about what to bring to the table to ask the right questions at the next meeting. I also got some more ideas about the next steps to complete leading up to the meeting as well.

Free online planning resources

I had looked at some of Thinkwell’s online resources last year and had actually downloaded the PhD tool kit then – now having attended the workshop and being immersed in my studies, the functionality of the Thinkwell planners and forms now have context and are more practical. I remember thinking that it was great that they provided so many free time management resources and templates for free (check them out here), which is one of the reasons I was interested in attending this session as I liked the range of time planners, guide, lists and prioritising tasks and really appreciated that they were offered for free for others to use.

I was glad I made the effort to go. It was good to connect with some of the other researchers I had not seen in a while and to meet some new faces. I came away with some good ideas and most importantly, I’m reinvigorated to start tomorrow a fresh – and dive back into my research routine – that in itself was worth the effort!

Source: ithinkwell.com.au
Source: ithinkwell.com.au

NAIDOC Week 2016

3 – 10 July 2016 is NAIDOC Week in Australia.

NAIDOC stands for the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee – and this week is a national celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements. This week aims to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society. As such, there are lots of local, regional and national events, gigs, meetings, exhibitions, public get-togethers and awards from all over Australia.

To celebrate this week, I’m following up on a NSW collaboration between Austcycyle and Cycling Australia Aboriginal Bicycle Safety ProgramThis program was funded by NSW Roads and Maritime Services and saw over 1,000 remote and rural 3-16 year old Aboriginal kids in 47 different locations have access to learn bike handling skills and how to safely ride bikes. This is an ongoing touring program aimed at reaching some of the more remote areas in NSW.

The participants undertake practical and interactive activities about safety gear like helmets and most interestingly, have a qualified bike mechanic that helps kids learn about bike maintenance and bike servicing. This is especially important as many of the bikes participants bring to use are hand-me downs (often third of fourth owners) and are either not working effectively, are in need of repair or have some safety defect – (mostly no brakes). Being on remote communities means that kids have limited access to repairs and bike parts. Kids who owned bikes bought them in to be repaired and assessed and then used them the practice skills and drills for better and safer riding.

There are a number of similar programs, and it seems that NSW is the national leader in actively promoting safe bicycle for aboriginal kids. Some of the other projects, such as Let’s Ride Delivery Centre in NSW run the same program, but from their centralised facility. If school truely is about learning skills for life, teaching bike riding and providing access to maintain and repair older bicycles is a productive and immediate way to empower regional aboriginal kids.

This program is great as it has a central hub that can continue to delivery the program, but the outreach projects that tours to remote communities who would otherwise not have access to such programs, is a great balance between resource management and service delivery.  With little entertainment and attention provided in isolated communities, bike riding is a popular way for kids to get around, socialise and keep active. A large part of these programs is focused on safety and education about helmet wearing, as aboriginal kids are the most reluctant cycling group to use cycling safety equipment – and coupled with dangerous or defective bicycles and an often reduced access to full medical facilities, aboriginal kids have a disproportionately higher rate of accidents and injuries compared to their other cultural counterparts.

It is great to see such programs moving further out to reach more people and getting more people out and about riding bikes.


Source: Cycling.org.au
Source: Cycling.org.au



Source: Cycling.org.au
Source: Cycling.org.au



Source: Austcycle
Source: Austcycle

9 month update

This week is the start of July 2016, heralding this blog being active for just on 9 months. Amazing!

It has been an absolute pleasure and a fantastic learning curve producing this blog. It has taught me so much about routine, researching, networking, editing, staying connected and the value of developing new skills. It has been a brilliant experience sharing and celebrating what I am are genuinely passionate about – bikes, community and positive change – and working on this blog has brought me so much joy and motivation.

9 month stats

Following the six month survey and the subsequent general feedback from that survey, I went to my host server Fat Cow and squirrelled through my account to find the first stats  (see below) I’ve seen for this blog since its inception. I was delighted (and happily surprised!) to see how many people have been visiting and enjoying this blog – and with 183, 955 hits as of July 2nd, 2016 that result is super fantastic!

I was unaware until I saw these stats exactly how many people were visiting this blog. It is very motivating. I feel super grateful that there are so many bicycle-loving, community-minded super-awesome spunks out there who active and interested in promoting a ‘cycle’ of positive change.

It has been a very interesting undertaking producing this blog and I have thoroughly enjoyed researching and networking content to share. Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

I am excited about what the future holds and I am happy that you are along for the ride!


Bicycles Create Change blog: Stats after 9 months
Bicycles Create Change blog: Stats after 9 months


Thank you

Just a quick thank you to those who have supported, encouraged and contributed to this blog so far – to the guest bloggers so far, friends and family, Mauricio for his IT help, the regular visitors of Bicycles Create Change, and to all those people who have given help and support in a variety of ways (you know who you are – thank you!) and to my beautiful husband for his unwavering support.

Thank you so much for your interest and support over the last nine months.

Bike tourism in Peru

By Mauricio Gonzalez – Guest Blogger


3 Opportunities to get on a bike to be part of the ‘real’ tourism in Peru

Bicycles mean more than a means of transport, they are also a serious sport, a hobby and now this post will talk about a how bicycles represent a unique way to know the word to conduct tourism.

Bicycles represent an inexpensive business investment and an affordable alternative for those who are looking to see the world.  That said, the use of bicycles in tourism is a worthy business opportunity.

Some people may opt for going to luxurious hotels surrounded by expensive details in a comfortable room, eating five-star food, resting and forgetting about all their problems. However, there is a different market for those who are looking for adventures, and want to be surrounded by nature and visit wonderful places off the beaten track that seem to be taken from someone with a lot of imagination’s dream.

These adventures are more affordable and exciting that we may think. For instance, if you go to Peru to see the Andes and Machu Picchu, there are tours where you can live a real life adventure and see singularly spectacular landscapes that otherwise would be impossible to view from a car. And let’s face it, riding a bicycle through these indomitable roads is just fun enough in itself and will help anyone forget any problem they might have.

Sacred rides

One such venture, called Sacred Rides, is where you can find rides according to any budget and skill level. This business is focused on people who are looking for extreme adventures, places that will get the adrenaline flowing and interacting with the beautiful and wild natural surrounds.

Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides

Cycle Peru

For those who are looking for a comfortable ride, complete with a tour guide, through ancient cities and for those who want to participate in community activities, there are options that cater for these tourists on bikes as well.  In this case, Cycle Peru would be an interesting option. Just because the trip is calmer, doesn’t mean you will miss out on any of the fun – and this outfit will provide a very authentic opportunity to get to know the true Peru.

Gravity Peru

If you are in Peru and are a real adrenaline junkie, then Gravity Peru is the business for you – they will not muck you around! If you want a serious time on a bike and maybe some more dangerous adventures, they will have have exactly what you need. See the video below.

In conclusion, maybe the best part of traveling to South America are the stunning landscapes and the experiences that you will never forget. So what better way to fully appreciate such an experience than by grabbing a bicycle – leave the car at home and get off the tour bus – you will be surprised by all the things you may be missing out on by not being a tourist on a bicycle. Have a good trip!


Mauricio Gonzalez is our Guest Blogger, unveiling some of South America’s bicycle culture for the fortnight from 20th June to 2nd July.