The Enduro World Series kicks off today in Rotorua NZ – Horray

This is going to be a great year for Enduro racing and it is awesome to see the first two rounds in the antipodes – and with heaps of support, media and events going on there is something for everyone.

Here is where the series will be taking us this year –

EWS 2017

Source: EWS

I’m stoked the first round is in Rotorua. It was raining pretty hard for a while, so now the tracks are pretty muddy and slippery – a real physical challenge!

Great to see the full 7 rounds being held at Redwoods – much better than last times liaise over the other side – much better management and track link-up.

Nice to see the new (old) illegal track (now legal) as well as Dodds, and some of Whakarewarewa Forest’s best double black diamond runs being showcased for the event (see map and track overview at the end of this post).

Rotorua is the place to ride

Just 2 months ago I was in Rotorua riding exactly the same trails – it was our second year riding in Rotorua and I have posted previously about how impressed I am with the government, local business and community support that Rotorua has for mountain biking. The local community has some great authentic family-based initiatives, like the Dad’s n Lads project to get more Rotorua locals on bikes as well – so the push for more biking is not just for out-of towners.The infrastructure, encouragement and forward-thinking that Rotorua has for bike-based tourism is brilliant – they are most certainly leading the way.  And rightly so. Securing some big ticket international MTB  festivals such as Crankworx, this EWS round and the  Rotorua Bike Festival sends a very clear message that NZ is a principal mountain biking destination.

Round 1 is anyone’s game

It will be interesting to see what happens for this round – and for the season. Personally, I’m hoping Sam Hill is in superman form and give Riche Rude, Damien Oton and Jerome Clementz a serious run for their money. I’m also hoping that NZ local boys Wyn & Eddie Masters and Matt Walker strut their stuff and show ’em how to ride NZ style on home turf – it would be awesome to see Kiwis on the podium. In the Elite Women’s, Cecil Ravanel, Isabeau Courdurier and Anita Gehrig are set to battle it out with the rest of the field. What a top line-up. If practice was anything to go by many agree it is going to be a very exciting round!

So strap yourself in for a great EWS series full of some awesome racing this season – let’s get it on!!

Source: Pinkbike. Follow Fabien Cousinié down the 7 stages.

EWS 2017 Starts today

Source: EWS

Source: EWS

Well, after two weeks in Melbourne, it’s back to Brisbane and back on the bike. This weekend was Round 1 of the 2017 Shimano Enduro Series. It was at Garapine and although tired and not ride fit, I wanted to make the effort to support the event, my team and get back on the big bike.

Round 1: Garapine – 2017 Shimano Enduro Series

Despite a heavy commitment to uni for teaching and researching, I’ve committed to riding this series. I like the regularity of rounds and I look forward to them, even though I find the riding tough and I am not competitive as a racer, I derive great personal satisfaction as a rider and from challenging myself. Suffice to say, I can now more fully appreciate why there are not may academics my age riding Enduro!

See some more pictures from the day @bicycles_create_change or at the Instagram icon at the end of the post.

Changing from Masters to Elite – why?

It was a great day and I love riding the Garapine trails. This season is a little different from last year as I am registered in Elite and not Masters. As I am riding as an ambassador, I pose threat to the lead female riders and prefer to ride where there is more company – hence the change over from Masters. It is such a pity there are not enough older women Enduro riding to fill out all the divisions like Masters Female – where are you all, my fellow elder sisters?  I am more than happy to participate and make up extra numbers. In my view, there can be no genuine winners unless riders like me make up the rest of field – so I am providing a very valuable race day community service by filling out this division.

 

How was the day?

Registration was at 8, briefing at 9 and racing commencing at 10 am.  I presume the logic of the late race start is because Garapine is just under 2 hours from Brisbane and starting later will allow for as many riders to attend as to travel up and attend as possible. But equally, it also meant that we had 3.5 hours to complete 6 tracks within the time limit –  2 x Black Snake, 2 x King Brown, 1 x Blue and 1 x Dumb it Down.

Ordinarily, this was not a major issue, but on this particular day,  it meant riding in the heat of a very hot day. This was definitely a contributing factor for me as I’m still adjusting to Brisbane’s humidity and scorching summer heat, let alone riding bikes up and down in a full-face helmet and pads. But that is part of the beauty of race days – and the challenge – everyone else had to deal with the same conditions.

 

What was my approach?

Taking into account the heat, my physical tiredness and that this was the first time I had been back on my big bike ‘Trucka-sore-arse’, in nearly two months I decided that my approach for this round was to:

  1. Enjoy myself
  2. Ride at my own pace
  3. Use this as an opportunity to assess my hydration/food/exertion formula for effectiveness
  4. Focus on honing my psychological approach to riding this race and not pushing my physical skills to the max (ie. keep positive, monitor negative self-talk, maintain humour and sociability in the face of heat/tiredness, check to see what limiting thoughts come up and address them).

Track selection

It was a self- seeding, self-selecting round, meaning that as soon as a rider had started on their first track they then could choose in what order and when they wanted to complete the course.  I didn’t go crazy on the timed downhill stages, in fact, I was very reserved, just testing the waters. I rode two Black Snakes first. It is such a great track and I super enjoyed it, so my confidence was up. By the end of the third track I could feel my lack of fitness and the heat starting to take it toll – but I was mindful to keep any debilitating thoughts in check. I keep drinking water and eating and made an effort to keep moving. By my last trail I was thoroughly pooped. I left Dumb it Down til last, but the track was so blown out and chopped up that it was difficult to navigate and make any real headway, so I picked my way through, just happy to finish in time.

Also, I was conscious that I didn’t want to hold up the elite field who were ‘racing’ – it was an EWS qualifying round after all. I was happy to pull over on track and let others pass where, even though it slowed me down and in some cases, I stopped and got right off track for a few guys who were really careering on course. It was the right thing to do and getting my momentum back up was secondary to being safe, having fun and not over cooking myself. After all, it was a long, hot day and I still had to drive 2 hours home after the race.

How did other riders go?

The Defcon crew were amazingly supportive as usual. We had some good laughs, caught up on post-new year developments and generally had a blast. I had a few good chats with some other riders as we liaised back up the hills and I was happy that I looked after myself and was not suffering like other riders were. Taking the approach of focusing on my mental state paid dividends. I was able to genuinely remain positive and friendly throughout the day. I was in a much better frame of mind than quite a few other riders I saw suffering and complaining – and a few were really quite sick from heatstroke/dehydration. It stopped to help where I could offering water and food.

I have always been fascinated by how different people face the inherent difficulties of a physical challenge. I often wonder, given the immense and immediate benefits, why some athletes don’t train their minds and much as they do their bodies. It certainly helped me get through the day better.

Overall

I was very happy with my effort on the day. It was a great set up and I got to ride some of my favourite tracks. It had a great turn out with 300 riders. Some of the elite riders were really going for it on the day – as you can see from the results. I was able to catch up with a few mates I haven’t seen in ages – and it was great to see some other familiar faces as well. As an Australia EWS qualifier, I was half expecting to see Jared Graves and Richie Rude, but alas my plans to catch up with them were not to be. I can’t believe it has been nearly 2 years since I last chatted with them during the 2015 EWS season – boy how time flies!

Overall, I found the day to be quite physically draining, but that made it all the more satisfying. I’ll be buggered if I’m going to waste the opportunity to ride my bike with mates and have fun.

I’m looking forward to the next round!!

A massive thanks to Lachlan Ryan (and Co.) from Element for providing some great photos and this video on the day. It was awesome to see such a great variety of rider, divisions, ages, genders and skill levels being represented – kudos!

Yep- that’s yours truly yahooing in the video at 1’18”!

Defcon Team

Source: Element. The Defcon Team – me (4th from left) with my awesome teammates

I’m very excited as 2017 marks the 200th anniversary of the bicycle.

Happy Year of the Bike!

Bring on 2017!

According to Chinese Astrology, we are leaving the Year of the Monkey (2016) and entering the Year of the (Fire) Rooster (starting Feb 2017 for Chinese New Year). If you are not sure what ‘Year of the ..’ you were born – check here.

The New Year transition ALWAYS means big changes – but this transition ESPECIALLY is going to uncover some sudden upheavals, dramatic ends and new beginnings. Don’t be surprised if you see relationship break ups, new lovers coming together, people leaving their jobs or being promoted, other will be moving house, going away (interstate or overseas). Passionate pleas will be made, sudden conflicts aroused, cathartic outbursts unleashed, secrets revealed and many desires fulfilled (*sigh*). No doubt a few unexpected changes to content with during this particular New Year transition – perhaps you have already noticed or experienced it’s effects??

But once this has passed, 2017 is shaping up to be AMAZING!!!

Most importantly  – I think it is awesome that the wee little future riders lucky enough to be born this year can claim to be a ‘bicycle’! All those born in  2017 will be ‘Year of the Bike’ – how cool is that!!

I wonder if this means we will see a significant increase in births by cycling parents trying to have their kids born this year so they can claim their child to be ‘Year of the Bike’. It would be an interesting sociological/public health study to investigate!

I also hope this means that a few of us get a massive kick start to the New Year. Also, all year there should be HEAPS of events, exhibitions, art, gatherings, conferences and shows paying homage to the humble bicycle. So keep your eyes open for upcoming events – or even better host your own!

If you see or know of a Year of the Bike event that you think Bicycles Create Change should feature, please let me know via the comments.

2017 – Happy New Year of the Bike!!

 

Back in the day

It is hard to believe that it all started 200 years ago in 1817, when in his German Mannheim laboratory,  Baron Karl von Drais produced the first recognised velocipede – the original of what we today call the bicycle. When it was first launched, it was called the Laufmaschine  (“running machine”) and was the brunt of much ridicule.

Over the years the basic (frame and wheel) design saw many evolutions of change and development until by the 1860’s the product was such that it was officially dubbed a ‘bicycle’ from then on. As you well know, improvements in bicycle designs continue today.

The bicycle has a long and rich history, of which I am not going to recount here as it easy to find details of the bicycle’s history, uses, popularity and transformations over the years.

 

Pat Brennan

Source: Pat Brennan

How well do you know bike history?

If you love bikes and are keen to test your knowledge of bicycle history – try this HISTORY OF THE BICYCLE EXCERCISE – which also has a downloadable worksheet (and answers). See how well you do and get some extra awesome histo-cultural background to wow your mates on group rides and at dinner parties when the topic of Year of the Bike comes up.

To see a quick rehash of the major stages and changes that bicycles have undertaken over the years – this 1-minute animation is spot on.

This last year has been filled with surprises, challenges and some very interesting developments – so I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store!

As with last year, my last day of 2016 was warm and sunny – and so was the perfect day for one last ride for the year. I spent my last day  of 2016 mountain bike riding with my husband and mates through the spectacular Whakarnewarewa Forest trails at Redwoods, Rotorua. We spent the day zooming around our favourite trails for 3.5 hours and headed up to one of the Trig stations to take in the view at the summit. Looking out at the panorama, I felt like the 360 view from the top was a perfect metaphor for taking stock of the year that has passed and taking a moment to pause, reflect and enjoy. It was a great way to finish the year.

Thank you to all of you who have supported, read and/or contributed to Bicycles Create Change over the past year. Whether you are new to this blog, or an regular BCC aficionado, I really appreciate you taking the time to see what’s happening on Bicycles Create Change. I wish you well for the next year – and hope that you are able to achieve all that your (cycling) heart desires.

I’m looking forward to sharing more adventures in 2017 where Bicycles Create Change!!

Best wishes for a Happy New Gear and happy and safe riding!!!

Bicycles Create Change - Bikes not bombs (Pinterest)

Source: Bikes not bombs (Pinterest)

Hi Bike Nuts!

Just a quick post to wish you and your family a very happy day today. No matter how you spend today – with family, at a BBQ, with friends, on a ride or any other way – I hope your holiday is happy, fun and safe.

No matter which holiday you believe in, or how you celebrate today (or if at all), I hope you have an wonderful day – and hopefully you’ll get some time to go for a ride in the next couple of days.

So Feliz Navidad, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays and enjoy your final rides leading up to the end of 2017!

Happy Holidays 2016

On the day before I left Brisbane to fly to Rotorua for our annual MTB pilgrimage, I found myself in the city, around South Bank to meet a friend for lunch.

While walking around South Bank,  I was happily surprised to see a bike powered Christmas tree. I’m a big fan of applying cycle-power to charge appliances and goods – for example when Robert Förstemann, the German Track Cycling Star powered a toaster to cook a single slice of bread – GOLD!

So I stopped to check it out and ended up chatting to the guy who was responsible for installing it.

Bicycle-powered Christmas tree

Bicycle-powered Christmas tree

Source: ABC News

Bike powered Christmas Tree

The tree looked very impressive standing 4.2 meters tall and apparently is the first of its kind in Australia.  There are four bikes at the base of the tree and the tree is covered in over 3,500 LED lights, so that when you pedal on a bike your riding charges up lights in certain areas on the tree.

Even when I was there in the daylight there was a line of people waiting to try it. Even in broad daylight you could see the lights happily twinkling away. The owner said this was the second year the tree had been included in Brisbane’s festivities and that it had been very popular.

I thought it was a great addition to the city – not only for Christmas, but also as a promotion for cycling and for a more thoughtful approach to energy consumption over the holiday period.

Bicycle-powered Christmas lights

In the area I live, each year, there is an increasing number of houses being decorating in a ridiculous about of Christmas lights. I know many people think it looks beautiful – and it can, but I find it difficult to reconcile the massive and wasteful energy consumption involved. But, there is a way to have beautiful Christmas lights AND be environmentally responsible as well.  To this end –  I’m waiting for the day when people who decorate their houses in copious amounts of lights or those who want to enter a neighbourhood Christmas Lights competitions – can only so so if they produce their own green/sustainable power to do so – by solar panels, pedal-power or some other sustainable source. If you can do that – go for it! Int his way, I think the bicycle-powered Christmas Tree could be a step in the right direction.

Until then, the lone pedal powered Christmas tree in the city will hopefully serve as not only entertainment, but as a reminder to the community to enjoy a more sustainable, bicycle-friendly and fit and healthy Christmas.

For more info about the bicycle-powered Christmas tree read this ABC news report about the tree here (also includes the video link below).

This post is a break from the usual bicycle theme posts – and a foray into an associated blogging event. At the start of the week, I was invited to present one of my Blogging for Business Success workshops to a group of small-business entrepreneurs. My business (Warral Ma Consulting) has two main streams – AKA HACKA (Successful & Productive academic Language & Communication Skills) and BIZ BOOST (Proactive & Profitable Business Development & Communication Strategies).

The workshop I ran was a BIZ BOOST module from my Profitable Business Blogging Course. I love this course and was really excited to be back in workshop mode after a super busy academic semester at Griffith. I have not taken on extra Warral Ma work lately,  considering I am now working on my PhD and this blog. The last workshop I presented were 3 ACKA HACKA Shut up and Write Workshops in May, so it was great to be out of the academic classroom and back in the city of commerce!

Timely and topical

The workshop group is completing a New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) business development course. NEIS is a 4-week business course and their businesses will be launched in January. I found this a particularly timely invite considering the national squeeze on job availability, housing affordability and business opportunities  – and that such current issues are being debated in popular media and on TV and felt most acutely by Australian youths and others such as the participants doing this NEIS course.

The Business Blogging for Success Workshop

My presentation covered blogging and provided some ideas, motivation and strategies for getting started in the blogosphere. This workshop did not go into the full mechanics of monetarising a blog as many of them did not have a blog yet, so I stripped the content back to generating quality content so that they had a place to start writing posts –  you cannot make money from a blog that is brand new and has little content.

Workshop Overview

The workshop went really well and we had a lot of fun.

The group was very receptive, asked lots of questions and had a good sense of humor. We ended up covering a lot of material and the group walked with some key writing and structure considerations for good blogging – like for example, TEEEL body paragraph structure and including 3 x hyperlinks.

It was super interesting for me to hear what businesses were being developed. there were many initiatives in this group, including, Australiana sustainable home wears, professional editing/marketing, videography & filming services, organic foods, Interior Design, Personal management/coaching, Remedial massage, paintings of dogs, a musician, lighting design, domestic cleaning, virtual personal assistant, bookkeeper/tax agent, laser tattoo removal & clothing line – and more! Such a creative and motivated group!

What we did in the workshop

Given the broad scope and varied level of non/blog experience, I tailored this session more towards the generation and mechanics of producing blog posts. So my workshop covered the following areas:

  1. Quick check – see which famous blogger they may know and ask 6 orientation questions
  2. Prepping ideas – brainstorm 4 ideas: #1 concern, best skill, what is needed and participant’s own area of interest
  3. Quality Content: This was where I concentrated quite a bit of detail and strategies on putting the effort into creating quality content. I broke it up into 3 main parts, each with a tool and a link to stimulate some
Business Blogging for success

Source: Warral Ma Consulting – Business Blogging for Success Workshop

  1. Blog evaluation Activity: The group had prepared two blogs to that they bought to the workshop with them – one in their business area and another blog that they thought was interesting. To stimulate some analysis and ideas for future consideration, the next activity was to apply what we had discussed about quality content to evaluate one a blog. This is always good to do as a ‘market research’ task and to see what competing business or successful business in your space are doing.
  2. 20 blog post topics – we then looked at possible business blog topics. When starting out, some people find it hard to come up topics or ideas to write about. To address this, I provided a top 20 list of some ideas. Ultimately, there are thousands of topics lists you can get from a google search, but this was just to get the juices flowing.
  3. Brainstorming – I pitched the idea of developing 4 different types and topics of blog posts to stimulate range and variety.
Business Blogging for success

Source: Warral Ma Consulting – Business Blogging for Success Workshop

 

7. Generating ideas – This section looked at 3 killer techniques to getting posts out there and then shared around.

8. Wrap up – we then did a wrap up, next steps and questions.

I was really conscious to provide some concrete strategies and frameworks to apply to writing so that participants had something tangible to work on and develop later. The activities meant that people had some ideas down on paper to follow up and get started on at a later date. Given that the participants are all doing different businesses, I thought it important to give the give quality information that was relevant, useful and action orientated – information that was not too technical, but empowering and applicable.

Overall I had a great session working with this group. It was the second last day of their course and it was great to see them energised and excited about future possibilities.

I will be very interested to hear how – and where – they end up in the future!

 

warral Ma - Business Blogging for success

It also reminded me now excited I am about the overhaul that Bicycles Create Change is having this summer!

Pretty much everything about this blog will be updated – formatting, style, brand, editing – the works! It feels like I am launching my own blog (again) as well!

In doing so,  I’d be very keen to hear you thoughts and ideas about the before (now) and after (by Feb 20157) changes – I’ll keep you posted!

Yesterday I went to Gap Greek (Brisbane) for Defcon’s Nov Social MTB Ride.

I got there with husband before the 8 am kickoff and ended up having a great chat to a handful of other riders who had made it there on time. The main cohort joined us a little later and we took off for our ride. There was about 30 in our mob, all different ages, bikes and abilities, and although it didn’t change my ride, I was yet again the only female rider.

The riding itself was good. I like riding Gap Creek. I was looking forward to seeing some of the crew. There was a general group plan of what we were all going to ride, with key points for the group to rendezvous. The fast boys went ahead to cut laps or project sections, with the rest of us zooming around at our own pace. Some riders got a little waysided at a few intersections, but there was always someone else coming down that pointed them in the right direction. It was a really diverse group of riders, fitness levels and quite a show of bikes, which was great to see – after all  Defcon specialises in Intense, Banshee, Evil and Ibis, so there were quite a few sweet models milling around. After riding a full loop and exchanging some happy banter in between, it was back to HQ for a breakfast BBQ and hang out time.

 

Roast chicken

For me it was good to be back on the big bike. After having a season off the Intense and riding singlespeed, it was quite different getting back on  plush full suspension, a dropper-seat and a bike that is so responsive and capable. I, on the other hand, was not as capable as my bike. I was feeling the sting of a full week of fitness challenges that I had thrown myself head-long into, which were slowing me down. I kept hydrated, but didn’t eat enough for the intensity of the ride.

By the end – the 35C heat and crazy Queensland humidity ended up knocking me around a bit. I was fine for the ride and for the BBQ, but when we decided to go, we ticked back up Dingo and the steep fire road to where we had parked at the ABC tower. By then it was full midday heat. By the time I got to the car, I was well and truly cooked.

 

Defcon’s Nov Social MTB Ride – what’s what

I had a good time riding, and I made a point of chatting with a few familiar faces and introducing myself to a few new ones – after all, it was a social ride! It is always interesting to me how riders interact on social rides; who they talk to; why they came; what they get out of it; how much they give away; levels of interaction.

I felt relaxed and confident, so I was in my element. I was happy to quib in places, happy to cruise in others. I know the Defcon team riders because we had raced some of the SEQ Enduro together over Summer. I also knew a few other faces from events and other rides, but there were a few new faces I didn’t know, and I found myself wondering if, for a change,  they would introduce themselves to me.

This is always an interesting aspect for me, because usually without fail when out riding in a group like this with guys I don’t know – they will very rarely come up and introduce themselves to me. If I am standing with others, then I might get introduced as a member of the group (i.e., everyone is swapping names). But I am rarely the sole recipient of someone coming up to introduce themselves specifically to initiate conversation just with me. I do it to others, but it is rarely, if ever the other way.

 

3 Social dynamics

For a social ride, it was fascinating to watch other curious dynamics present – my ethnographic researcher brain rarely switches off! So as well as having fun riding the big bike and enjoying having gears, these are three observations that kept me entertained on the day:

1. Who can (and does) hold a conversation for longer than 5 minutes that does not relate to bikes (and with whom and about what). People who know me, know this is a staple interest for me. I appreciate it is a social ride and thus centres exclusively on bikes as the commonality – hence the interest to see if conversations outside of this topic occurs! For me, it means the interlocutors are potentially testing each other to engage in new topics outside of the obvious and easy – suggesting an extension beyond the immediate (and safe) connection of bikes. The most common topics I see this happening with are; work, movies or music, maybe family – but rarely other topics.

It is equally interesting to see the conversation moves – who starts conversations, who talks to who, for how long and about what. Who mingles, who is more reserved. Are people brave enough to introduce themselves to totally new people outside of the host managing interaction and introductions. How long are conversations with new people sustained for? Is humour used to break the ice – and if so does it work – it is a tricky tactic to use – in case it goes wrong. All manner of interesting social cues, moves and dynamics were happening – enough to keep the most scrupulous of sociologists happy!
2. Reaction to banter and shenanigans
I’m a big fan of the trail banter – when done well. There is a difference between slagging someone off and witty repertoire. It is always interesting to see how people react to another’s banter. Who has the confidence (and authority) to pass entertaining and perceptive witticisms and on what topics?

Humour is critical for group cohesion, refreshment and distraction – it helps identify character, provides clear indications as to taboos or boundaries, and often sets a groups’ tone. When it is done well and is genuinely funny and clever, it can entertain and raise the mood of the group. On this day, we had a few wags having a good crack – with husband leading the charge – and it was very interesting to see people’s reactions, interactions, follow ups (if any) and who deferred participation in the face of cheeky overt sagacity. What are people comfortable with sharing, how is it received and what impact/if any does it have on the collective?
3. Elder elephant influence
A phenomenon was observed, whereby park keepers had to remove the elder male elephants from the rest of the herd in a wildlife park in Africa. The remaining juvenile male elephants began getting violent and destructive – hurting themselves and causing extreme damage and killing other animals. The keepers reintroduced the older males and the bad behaviour stopped. The moral is that younger males socialise better when they are in the presence of older males and thus can learn acceptable social behaviour. (Amazing full story here).

On the Defcon team there is one junior, a young hot-shot rider called S. I like S because he loves riding, is always out on team and social rides, and can hold a conversation. I think there is great value in mentoring juniors, but this needs to be done in a strategic and purposeful way.  It is not just having out with ‘the guys to go riding’  there needs to be more to it than that. Much as Steve Bidoff recommends in his remarkable book Raising Boys and as exemplified recently in the powerful 3 part TV series Man Up (episode 2 is amazing for young men S’s age)– the importance of young boys having positive older role models who are not their fathers is critical to positive masculine development and socialisation through sports. Every time I see S, I smile. I think he is a very lucky kid and he is definitely making the most of being in the company of the other older riders – for motivation, for veneration and for socialisation. To this end, I can see the immense value that MTBing and these kinds of social ride provide in socially scaffolding and appraising bike-civic behaviour – and social interaction in general.

 

img_3029

Thanks heaps to Stu from Defcon for putting on the ride and BBQ.  He is so welcoming and inclusive. Great to see all the other stirling lads as well who came out to ride, have fun and share a laugh on such a super hot day.

So next time you attend a social ride, check in see if you can spot any of these dynamics. What other social dynamics are most obvious to you when you ride in a group?

But, don’t get too serious … after all, you’re there to have fun with your mates. So relax and get happy riding!

Yesterday I did something that I have never done before.I rode to work with the Griffith BUGs (Bicycle Users Group).

There is a back story to this. Last month, I meet up with for breakfast with some cyclists (who I’d never met before) who work at my campus, to celebrate the Ride to Work Day 2016. I work at Griffith University (NA) and it was the first time that I had deliberately connected to other cyclists at my workplace. No one in the office I work at rides bikes, so it was a good opportunity to meet up with some new people in different departments from mine, who ride to work.

I arrived late for breakfast, but still with enough time to have a chat and exchange contact details with one of the organisers of this group dubbed Griffith University BUG (Bicycle Users Group). On the Ride to Work Day, they mentioned that once a month they meet-up at 7 am in Brisbane city and ride together out to Nathan Campus and then have breakfast. I was invited to join them.

 

Tuesday morning ride to work from Brisbane city

So yesterday I joined them. It was the first time that I had ridden from the city centre to Nathan. I ride from my house the Uni campus, which is about 28 kms each way, but it does not go anywhere near the city (in fact almost in the opposite direction). So it was good to go with a group heading out of town to see what route they took and to widen my orientation about the surrounding bike routes.

I usually avoid the city, but for this ride, I made an exception. We met at the Goodwill Bridge, and after waiting alongside another group for more than myself and another rider to arrive, we finally realised that the group of other eight riders who were waiting across the road were actually the other riders we were waiting for! So we introduced ourselves, teamed up and got started on our journey in high spirits.

It was an interesting dynamic for me. I have had the winter off road riding and heard about some bad accidents. I was wrestling with inner safety demons and was happy that the group took the bike path route and not the road. It was great to see so many cyclists riding into the city and whizzing past, but also also a little treacherous trying to navigate the steady stream of riders turning in all directions and coming on and off the bridge and funnelling into the city. There was a lot going on and I  really had concentrate. I had forgotten that it can be a tricky on high-volume trails, crossing busy streets en masse, traversing bridges wiht lots of others, and weaving in and out of tight, steep corners. It had been a long time since I had ridden inner city peak hour – so, I was much more relaxed when we started heading out a little further and the intensity – and density – of bike users settled down a little.

likeey_m

                                                                                                                                              Source: @likeey_m

Riding with the Griffith BUGs

I was surprised at how quick the trip took and it was useful to learn where certain turn offs and link ups were. I was happy cruising with the main group, chatting and meeting a few new folk. It was good to hear the riding gossip about a new bike trail development, the completion of which is anyone’s guess. It was nice to ride at a leisurely pace and although there were different levels of ability, the group was cohesive and attentive and waited at opportune times for this behind, but not to the point of holding up the group up as a result.

There is a long, consistent hill right at the end, right near the final turn off to the Uni. I like pushing up it. At the risk of looking like a competitive wanker, I kept a steady, but respectable tempo on the way up with another rider– just enough to feel the reminder twang of a physical challenge set by a mate the day before. I rode with a few to the cafe on campus and I arrived happy, relaxed and very content.

 

Breakfast at work

At breakfast, the conversation was lighthearted and engaging. I was invited for another social ride in the city on Saturday night. I sat there at breakfast enjoying the camaraderie and marvelled as I usually do, at how an artefact such as the humble bicycle can be so effective at bringing such seemingly disparate people together. It was a real pleasure to ride to work with the Griffith BUGs, and I appreciated their friendly and inclusive nature.

I felt very welcomed and safe – and I had a lovely time riding with them and getting back on the roadie. I though that this is exactly what the Ride to Work event is for, not just riding one day to work, but building positive relationships and lifestyle habits where active transportation to the workplace is encouraged, promoted and shared. I thought it was a very successful follow-up to the original event day and I was delighted to have been invited. I was also glad that I made an effort to go or a ride with the Griffith BUGs. It was a great start to the day and to blow out the roadie cobwebs.

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Guest blog post by Bear Racy.  

Bear is a cycling enthusiast, intrepid traveller, social commentator, artist and lover of life. In this post, Bear provides an alternative histo-cultural commentary on Tweed themed bike rides.


The Need For Tweed?

Even when done tongue-in-cheek, the popularity of hipsters wearing tweed and riding bikes together smacks of some kind of post-colonial irony. Why do we feel the need, the need for tweed?

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On the 5th of November, the Wellington Bay area (NZ) was the latest participant in the growing trend of ‘tweed’ themed bicycle rides. Pitched by Bicycle Junction (NZ) as an event that celebrates the “inherent style and grace of one of the most enduring of humankind’s inventions in the fashion it was intended to be celebrated”, the ‘Need for Tweed’ bicycle ride saw a return to the itchy clothing made from herringbone woven wool known as Tweed.

 

All about Tweed.

Tweed was popularized by the Edwardian middle class because of its association with the outdoor activities of the leisurely elite. Apart from its grandiose connotations, tweed is a vintage outdoor textile that is moisture resistant and durable – great for cycling, hunting and riding in the cold British weather.

Once considered expensive and highly sought after, tweed signified that you had the time and the money to afford the most cutting edge of textiles, so you could spend your days hunting and riding in the upmost comfort. From this ideal of leisure came the idealization of leisure as a look, which became fashion. Fashion then drove those less well-off to emulate the image, if not the lifestyle, of their tweed slathered betters.

In the 40’s silk jerseys started to replace tweed in cycling and was invented just in time for the blossoming post-war marketing industry to realise that in the world of television advertising, cyclists could make a prominent moving billboard.  The silk jersey was brightly coloured to attract attention to the marketing and to identify the rider within the group. This became particularly useful in televised bicycle races where the spectator was able to easily pinpoint a rider by their jersey. Move forward to the invention of lycra and the colours and marketing have remained. Like tweed, you again have a cutting edge textile used in cycling to promote the comfort of the rider.

Loving Lycra.

At its advent, Lycra symbolised that you were a competitive rider at the pinnacle of your sport -it’s form hugging capabilities leaving no room to hide the sagging beer gut of an amateur, or disguise the gender of the wearer in a sport that at the time was dominated by males.

Wearing lycra meant you were a serious rider. Festooned with the logos of the top cycling brands, lycra began to move out of competitive sport and into fashion.  Like tweed, it became popularised because of it’s association as a textile worn by the elite. And like the tweed wearing Edwardians, this elite was characterised by a group of white males that had the time and the money to indulge seriously in a sport clad in the best textile technology of the time.

As lycra became more commonly available, it started to lose popularity. Perhaps in part because in our modern society, wearing lycra is as naked as you are allowed to be in public, and when worn by a group of middle-aged men, slogging it up a hill, is can be a scary sight to behold.  It could also be due to the common misconception that groups of lycra clad riders will be unaware of, or deliberately flout road rules, thus hindering the traffic rights of the predominant car.

The main reason I believe that lycra is becoming less popular in the community bike ride is because of its association with elitism in cycling. That is to say; it’s not unpopular because it is being worn by elite riders, but that it is being worn by riders that want to be considered elite.

Ride on.

In cycling, there is a distasteful underbelly fuelled by a competitive seriousness that promotes an attitude of exclusivity, where only the fastest riders with the best equipment are encouraged.

Unfortunately, participants are usually upper to middle-class men, and despite the best intentions of the sport, this stereotype seems set to continue with events like the Tour de France, Giro Italy and Tour Down Under, where there is limited focus on the access, inclusion and promotion of women and cyclists from multicultural (non-Western/European) backgrounds.

The costumed ride is the antithesis to this trend, proving you don’t need fancy gear and a jersey full of logos to get on a bike and have fun.

By having a dress-up theme for a ride, organisers can create a sense of fun and silliness, while also providing an atmosphere of cohesion.  Having the option to wear a themed costume creates a more open inclusive dynamic in a group, suggesting that any and all are welcome.

The need for tweed?

So why choose tweed? I can understand that it’s meant to celebrate and idealise the invention of the bicycle and that on the surface it looks pretty darn classy when worn en-mass, but the deeper connotations of tweed and the inherent sexism and exclusivity that come with it, could arguably be also perpetuating some of the worse traits that have dominated cycling culture for the last century.

If you look at the advertising for many of the tweed-themed rides, the repeated depiction is a white guy on a bicycle, while many of the flyers and media for other themed rides are (one would hope) inadvertently exclusive.

 

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Most of the promotional material and media for tweed rides is independently generated and created in a diverse range of locations globally, demonstrating the insidious nature of exclusivity that is still so predominant in cycling culture. It gives evidence to the inherent sexism that is part of the hipster renaissance around cycling; that promotes a certain stereotype of the ideal rider. It is this stereotype alone that defeats the purpose of the community ride.

Why are groups of community riders trying to separate themselves from a culture of elitist white males on bikes, by celebrating a historical group of elite white males on bikes?

Comfort is key.

Most important when dressing for cycling, is ease of movement and protection from the elements. While wearing a great costume would warrant a certain amount of ill ease, the idea of wearing woollen cycling clothing that when wet, would turn into a personal sauna, (also known as an itchy moist skin sack) is my idea of hell on wheels. So why go back to tweed? Who would actually feel the need for tweed?

I suppose there is a certain amount of irony involved in hosting a bike ride as an inclusive event that celebrates an era of cycling epitomised by a time in human history when a bunch of English dudes owned everything and lived off the backs of the less fortunate.  It could even be that this irony makes the ‘moustache competitions and gender specific costume awards’ a subversive form of protest, but that message is lost on me.

As we experience a culture increasingly being ruled by hipster trends and shifting memes, the irony of the ironic is so muddled, that all anyone can do is ride – and wait for good weather and the next naked bike ride.