This post was going to be on the Melbourne Bike Rave 2018 I had the delight of participating in last weekend while I was down for the SLF. However, I am putting this quick post in as it is time sensitive. Bicycle Network is surveying Australian riders and cyclists to gauge what people feel about the current Australian cycling conditions. The survey ends in a couple of days, so I thought I would put up this quick post with the link to the survey, so if you have not already included your voice, here is your last chance to do so! We’ll get back to the Bike Rave in the next post! See you then. NG
Bicycle Network often undertakes surveys – not just of its members, but for all cyclists and riders.
Given that Bicycle Network is Australia’s largest bicycle advocacy group, and has over 50,000 members, the organisation likes to keep abreast of current cycling issues and help to push for more positive riding change for all cyclists – hence the survey!
Are Australian riding conditions better?
Do you think the cycling conditions have changed? What about over the last year? Five years?
Bike riding conditions in Australia are always changing, and it is interesting to see if bike riders notice any differences.
What changes have you noticed?
Do you think things getting better for bike riders?
What needs to be done?
Add your ideas and experience to the survey below and let’s see what kind of changes you have seen on the bike.
Woodford is Australia’s largest annual outdoor cultural and folk festival.
This year, there were over 2,500 amazing musical gigs, performances, shows, talks, demos, roving performances, gardens and activities.
It is a truely amazing experience to wander around Woodfordia.
Bikes at Woodford Folk Festival
Here is a copy of the full program – EPIC!!
There is also the Speakers Program, which has over 70 talks on a massive array of topics – including many current social, political and environmental issues.
It is difficult to tell you everything you can see and do at Woodford, so I’m just going to hit the bike high points and let you explore the full shebang for yourself another time if you are interested (highly recommended!).
On arrival – bike parking
It was great to see that at the entrance, the ‘Bike Parking’ was already filling up and that cyclists had a direct and preferential access to the front entrance – rockstar parking for bike riders!
I was delighted to see Wozwaste was not wasting anything – and their market stall looked great! I am super impressed at how their product range has increased since I last saw them.
I popped in for a good chat and catch up. they are doing great work with recycling materials. While we were chatting, I asked a few technical questions about issues I was having working with bike inner tubes. They had had the same difficulties I was experiencing and so had decided to switch over to using motorbike inner tubes now as a result.
I really appreciate Wozwaste’s philosophy and commitment. It is inspiring to know people are out there whereby up/recycling is the basis of their business. It was great to see their range first hand and see what they have achieved so far.
The Rain Cloud
The heat and sun was super hot, so the organisers arranged to have the rain cloud bike roving to help cool off punters.
This is four person, pedal-powered bike which ‘rained’ a fine mist over those who stood near the clouds.
It was a great way to cool off, the drizzle was a very welcome reprieve. When the bike stopped, people were encouraged to sit on the float to rest and cool off – the kids loved it!
There were seven operators, all in various costumes who took it in turns to ride and/ore entertain as needed.
A very effective and impressive roving performance!
The Woodford Postal Service
This roving performance also served a legitimate service.
Within Woodfordia, there is the Post House, from which there is a team of Posties on bikes whose job it is to rider around, interacting with festival goers by ‘delivering letters’.
The idea is that you can stop a Postie (or they might ask you) to ‘send’ a message or letter to someone throughout the day/festival. It can be any message you like and you give a description to the postie and their job is to deliver it – which makes for some hilarious interactions as some of the descriptions are quite vague, so there are many posties going up to people asking them if they are so and so in an attempt to deliver a message.
In an age of instant text messaging, this kind of audience participation activity was inventive, creative and so much fun to be part of.
Everyone was getting into it and the posties did a great job!
Out the front of ‘The Post House’
Festival-goers on wheels
Woodfordia has a great path network and the access is well thought out, so it was great to see a higher number of many festival visitors on wheels getting around.
There were a few wheel chairs, but far more hand-driven chairs and recumbents and a few scooters.
Most notably, there was a very popular trolley stall which hired out wagons for families to wheel their tired kids around. This a great idea for storage, sleeping kids, having some shade, reserving some space and being able to find your people at a distance – GOLD!
Throughout the day, I kept seeing Jeremy and his gorgeous pedal-powered refreshments stall rinding around. I had to go up and chat to him. He is a genuinely beautiful man and was so happy to be out and about. His happiness was infectious. Great shoes and what a smile!
Unknown Pink Bikers
These guys had a compound that was open at certain times and they were entertaining people with tricks, magic and activities.
Later on, I saw them riding around interacting with punters and generally adding to the overall cheer and colour.
Great to see more bikes getting around, but some of the older guys in glitter glam hot pink Barbarella-style costuming might have scared a few of the kids.
I’m sure you will be able to get a hold of some footage of the official opening ceremony for the festival. There were massive puppets, fire work, a latern parade, an aboriginal welcoming ceremony and dancing, various singers to name a few.
Of most interest for this post was the use of bicycles during the later parade to help move the larger lantern around as needed – it was only when you looked closely could you see that bikes were instrumental in the latern below in particular.
Overall – a wonderful time!
Whether you are going for bikes or the music or the culture – Woodford has it all.
It was great to see so much wonderful music, vibrancy, creativity, colour, energy, care and community.
The results of the Bicycle Network Helmet Law Survey are in! Big ups to all those who responded to the survey online and via my blog post on September 19th. A summary of the key findings are at the end of this post. Very interesting!
A survey of almost 20,000 people has found that nearly two-thirds don’t believe you should have to wear a helmet every time you ride a bike in Australia.
It also found that if current mandatory helmet laws change to allow Australians to ride a bike without wearing a helmet, more than 30% of people would ride a bike more often.
The survey was conducted in August and September this year as part of Bicycle Network’s mandatory helmet law policy review.
Currently under the law, it is compulsory to wear a helmet whenever riding a bike in Australia, excluding the Northern Territory.
Bicycle Network CEO, Craig Richards, said the responses received from its members and the public will help the organisation evaluate its position on helmets, forming one part of a wider review which also includes a literature review and evaluation of expert opinion.
“It’s great to get such a large amount of public opinion about bike helmets. It’s something people are clearly passionate about and it’s helpful to see how Australia’s helmet laws may impact people’s decision to ride,” said Mr Richards.
“The opinion of our members and people who ride bikes is important and will help inform our policy on Australia’s mandatory helmet law. Along with academic research and information from experts, we will be able to make a fully informed decision.”
When it comes to relaxing laws, it’s not one-size-fits-all
While most people said they don’t support mandatory helmet laws, there was a divide in whether laws should be fully relaxed, or adapted in specific situations.
41% think helmets should still be mandatory in some circumstances, such as riding in ‘high risk’ situations, like racing, riding on roads or under 18 years of age.
“Understandably, there are people that feel safer wearing a helmet. But there are situations where some people have told us they would feel safe without a helmet, like riding on a trail next to the beach,” added Mr Richards.
“If we were to change our policy on Australia’s mandatory helmet laws, it may not be as simple as saying you’ll never have to wear one again.”
Bicycle Network is Australia’s largest bike riding organisation representing 50,000 members.
It’s mandatory helmet law policy review began in August this year and is expected to be completed by April 2018.
Summary of Bicycle Network’s mandatory helmet law survey
The survey was completed by 19,327 respondents
Respondents were mostly Bicycle Network members and people who ride bikes with varying regularity. 2.6% of respondents were from overseas, and 1.9% of respondents said they never ride a bike.
58.3% of respondents said there should be a change to helmet laws, while the remaining 41.7% said helmets should be mandatory all the time
40.7% believe helmets should only be mandatory when the risk is high, for example, when racing, on road or for young people
30.4% would ride more if helmets weren’t mandatory
If laws changed, almost all people who currently wear a helmet when they ride would continue to do so and the number of people who never wear a helmet when riding would only increase by 3.7%
Helmet use for cyclists is an ongoing and contentious issue.
Lately, there have been some very heated, passionate and convincing arguments being thrown around.
So it is very timely that Bicycle Network (BN) is undertaking an open invitation to participate in a Helmet Survey to gauge current community feelings about compulsory helmet laws. Have you put your two cents in yet? Better hurry!
Bicycle Network is Australia’s largest bicycle advocacy group. It is the resultant amalgamation of Bicycle Victoria, Bicycle NSW and Bicycle Tasmania (QLD, SA and others opted not to join). This group has over 50,000 members and is proactive in responding to current issues and driving more positive change. Hence the survey!
Instead of building massive expensive road transportation infrastructure to try and get more people cycling (Herculean effort!), smaller actions could be taken to ingratiate bicycles (not cycling) more into the everyday community experience. This kind of low-key familiarity and regular exposure to bikes would be ‘just part of the everyday experience’ for people. That is where I see bicycles become more socially accepted, especially by non-cycling people. This is where positive social change and greater community acceptance of bikes could be made.
This is easily done. Decorate one bike as Romance, another with Cooking, another as Sci-Fi, Crime, Thriller….well…..you get the picture! Alternatively, you can use another theme, event or ‘International Day of the X’ ….or the library can come up with their own idea.
In any case, once decorated, each bike has a rack (bookshelf) hanging from it that offers books in the genre/theme.
There are add-on bonuses you can apply as well, like host a preceding community event to theme decorate the bikes.
As a case in point – I was delighted to see a variation of this suggestion already being enacted during the last fortnight as it was …
Australian Children’s Book Week 2017.
The last week in August was Australian Children’s Book Week 2017.
One of the winning books this year is called The Patchwork Bike by Van T. Rudd.
That means more bikes were in libraries! Woopee!
I was delighted to see a full bike related promotion featuring this event and The Patchwork Bike at my local library. This is what you saw as soon as you entered the main front door:
I love the bike and books – it is such a great combo.
Some super progressive libraries have gone one step further.
At some rare University libraries, you can find reading bikes (below) where you can study and cycle. To date I have not seen these in any Australian libraries – if you have, please let me know!
These bike instalments have scientifically proven to significant positive impacts in learning/academic results, health outcomes and future livelihoods. A brilliant foray into this is the first chapter of John Matey’s book SPARK. It is an incredible read about how bicycles and exercise is having a significant impact on turning around the lives for hundreds of US students – especially those from low-socioeconomic schools. Awesome stuff!
Grab a copy of Spark from your local library – and ask them when they are installing a bike reading station while you are there!!
There are so many ways that bicycles can contribute and add value to readers, students and the general public.
Whether it is Children’s Book Week or not, it has been great to see bikes having a greater presence in libraries. It would be great to see bikes become a regular fixture within libraries, not just for special events.
I hope that there will be more creative and progressive integration of bicycles in more local, university and state libraries.
Until then – I have enjoyed seeing more bicycles being happily displayed in libraries to celebrate Children’s Book Week 2017.
Congrats to The Patchwork Bike for being one of this year’s winners!
All the riders gathered in town where there were some speeches and time to socialise. It was great to see so many different types of bikes, and there were lots of kids, dogs in baskets, colours and smiles abound.
Then we had a lovely slow roll around town.
What happened while riding ‘The Big Push’?
There were constantly bells ringing happily, often punctuated by laughter and the constant ripple of riders chatting. I made sure to have a chat to the people I found myself riding alongside.
As we rode, I saw riders introducing themselves, passing compliments and sharing a few jokes. I saw pedestrians stop to wave and cheer encouragement. I saw riders trying to coax people out of cars with a laugh as we waited for red lights to change.
When we stopped, you could see the bike column snaking away ahead and behind – it looked amazing!
There were many active souls there that had upcoming bike related events- it was a wonderful opportunity to hear what was going on and link to the Brisbane bike scene.
I rode most of the way home next to an awesome couple on a tandem. It just so happened I was wearing my ‘I love tandem’ t-shirt! They were great company and had rigged up a massive speaker on their back wheel and were cranking out some funky riding tunes to keep us all bopping happily along! GOLD!
What a relaxed, fun and a social way to advocate for better urban cycling!
During our ride stopped off for a quick photo out the front of Parliment House, Brisbane.
The pubs were filled with Mayweather vs McGregor fight fans, so it was an added bonus passing open windows and hearing the cheering emanating from inside. Once the fight concluded, the pubs we passed were still packed, so we have a very jovial and supportive audience as we rode past.
I had to ring all my bells extra hard to match their happy cheering!
One of the highlights of the day for me was sticking around after the ride.
As others filtered away, it was an opportunity for me to chat with the custom low-rider crew (see photos below).
The range and style of their fleet is impressive and their owners happy to chat bikes. Each bike is personalised to suit the owner and it was great to see the multicultural, multi-age mix of low riders.
I accepted an invitation to ride one and was immediately smitten!
These low rider bikes are so comfortable and very cool to ride.
We chatted for a while, and they told me about an upcoming bike event they are hosting next month, which I am very keen to attend.
We exchanged contact details and am looking forward to spending some more time with these Kool Katz! Meeting them was an even better bonus on the day.
The event made the TV news on various channels, which was great for spreading the word. An unfortunate, but timely reminder given that five cyclists were involved in a road accident just two days prior.
The day was a success and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Congrats to all who made an effort to go and big kudos to the organisers!
Yesterday was a very busy biking day! Early morning saw me visiting the Chicks in the Sticks 2017 (all-female MTB event) at Mt Cotton, followed by The Big Push for Road Safety social ride in Brisbane city in the afternoon. This post is a brief run down of the Chicks in the Sticks event – Big Push post will be next!
It was a beautiful morning and there was a great turn out. When I arrived at the race village, it was full of colour and bustling with the movement of families, kids and riders milling about, people catching up, preparations being made and checking bikes over.
The race village has a few extra additions this year, like a designated kids pop-up nature play area that was filled with games and activities for the families and kids that had come along for the day.
It was a great opportunity to catch up with mates, take some photos and wish the riders well.
It was great to see so many riders. I was particularly excited to see the range of ages. When I used to ride Enduro, one aspect that was most lacking for me what the low female participation rates in general, but particularly for women over 35. So I was thrilled to be in an environment where, for one MTB event at least, that this category was well above the norm! Hooray!
There were also lots of random giveaways and some great podium prizes. I appreciate that this event encourages participants to dress up if they want to – which adds an extra flair, colour and enjoyment to the ride.
Here were a couple of my favourites:
The first event of the day was the Little Chicks in the Sticks ages 5-11 and 12-16 who had their own race before the main field took off at 9 am. As I was not riding this year, it was an opportunity to take some photos and videos, which was a new experience as I am usually in the ride, not watching from the sidelines! See my race start video at the end of this post.
Although I didn’t stay til the end, I had an awesome morning soaking up the colourful, happy vibe. I cheered on the riders, chatted to families who had ‘come to support mum’, checked out some of the new stock at the team tents and had a thoroughly lovely time.
A good day was had by all!
I was really inspired by the riders who participated ‘up the back’ of the pack – those who were being brave and gave MTB a go – some of them for the very first time. It was great to hear how many people had come after being ‘invited by a mate’ to come and try – people who would normally not have tried riding off-road being encouraged my a female rider-friend to give it a go. They were my favourite stories to hear. It takes a lot of guts!
This event is a wonderful example that it is possible to run a competitive MTB that caters for serious racers, as well as for those who are just starting out, want more off-road experience or who are there just to have fun.
If you are keen to give it a go for next year, or know of someone you think might be interested, there are many different categories to participate in..
I tip my hat to the organisers who worked incredibly hard to make this day such a success.
A big congrats to all the riders who participated – you all did so well!
All the families and supporters who came as well made the day even better!
It was a brilliant event and I can’t wait to do it all again next year!
Here’s an opportunity for a bike-rider who wants a research challenge.
Earlier this week I met with Assoc. Prof. Matt Bourke after he contacted me to discuss a few projects he is working on and exchange some ideas. Matt is the Principal Research Fellow for the Cities Research Institute (CRI – Griffith Uni). I was delighted to find out he is a bike rider and to see cycling
I am always happy to met a fellow bike rider making positive change. It was great to see cycling paraphernalia dotted around his office. We need more prominent two-wheeling academics!
Matt and I have a number of research and interest overlap in non-motorised travel, physical activity and health and urban travel. However, my interests are squarely on bicycles, community engagement and contested spaces, whereas he is more transport planning, policy, design and implementation.
Which meant there was lots to talk about!
One interesting thing we discussed is that Matt is currently looking for a candidate to undertake a PhD in transport and equity with his team.
Anyone up for the challenge?
What is the focus area of this PhD?
The CRI forecasts requiring double the amount of post-graduate degree candidates within its first six months – this is part of that expansion.
Currently, CRI is focused on investigating ‘place based social policy in Australian cities’ and has over 100 students working on:
Urban planning and water: Towards a new institutional paradigm
Environmental management tools
Working with marginalised groups via cultural development practices
Improving state governance of Australian urban regions
What exactly is this PhD in Transport Opportunity?
This role also is very prestigious within the transport sector as it is working with CRI and Griffith University, which are highly regarded as:
Griffith University is in the top 100 in the world for Transportation Science & Technology in the latest Shanghai Rankings Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2017.
The Griffith Transport Research (GTR) team was awarded the Griffith Sciences ‘Excellence in a research team’ award for 2015.
GTR has at least ten PhD scholars working in transport research at any one time across the group.
The GRT has won six prestigious Australian Research Council grants since 2009, and they have collaborations with leading international researchers from Europe, North America and increasingly in Asia.
GTR work with and cross various disciplines including travel behaviour, transport & land use, transport economics, transport engineering, transport planning, transport law, logistics, and transport & environment.
Their work covers all modes including walking, cycling, public transport, ferries, roads, freight, shipping and aviation.
The new CRI is designed to become the pre-eminent Australian centre for trans-disciplinary research on the integration of infrastructure, place-making and community and economic development in cities.
I would love to see more bike riders taking an active role in research, planning and policy – and this is one great way to do it. A PhD is a serious undertaking, but for those who are up for the challenge, the results would be not only personal gains but would have significant positive and enduring impacts for the future of city development and for all community members. What a brilliant way to progress the cycling and active transportation agenda!
If interested, contact:
Assoc. Prof Burke
Skype or WeChat (with the username/ID ‘drmattburke’)
Phone: +61 7 3735 7106
Annette Dexter’s enthusiasm, support and fitness is unquenchable! Her last race post was on the 2017 Bayview Blast MTB 100km marathon . Here, she gives an overview of the popluar Queensland MTB event – the 3Plus3. Thanks to Annette for her time and energy. We wish her luck on her next amazing adventure! NG.
On the weekend of 8-9 July 2017, South East Queensland (SEQ) mountain bikers again made a good showing at the 3Plus3 event at Spicers Hidden Vale. The midwinter 3Plus3 has become a firm part of the local riding calendar, along with Hidden Vale’s 24 h and 4 h events in April, the Dingo Duo in October and the Epic in September.
Originally held as a December event, the 3Plus3 migrated to July on a permanent basis after being cancelled due to rain two years in succession. It now serves as a mountain bikers’ Christmas in July. Like other mountain biking events at Hidden Vale, the event offers an opportunity to camp on the 12,000 acre property, rather than staying in limited cottage accommodation at the resort.
Racing takes the form of 3 h lap events events on Saturday and Sunday, with separate courses of approximately 9 km each day in 2017. Riders can choose to participate on one or both days, either as solo riders or in a team of two.
Age categories in the main event range from under-19 to over-50s, and a separate single-speed category is available. There are also kids’ events run across the weekend, with A, B and C grades riding laps of a 2.2 km course across both days and social riders completing the course on Saturday or Sunday only.
In 2016, the event for the first time offered a separate social ride, with riders using an alternate course to the racers in an untimed event. For the Saturday social event, riders proceeded through transition to a short fire road descent, then up 007 trail, following Dodgem, Western Creek and Woodworm to the popular Plane Sailing trail, exiting halfway along for a descent to Ladder and a climb back to the main fire road, then turning away from race base to return along Gully.
Sunday racers followed the same course, while the Saturday race (and Sunday social ride) took in a short climb up Buckshot, the last portion of Plane Sailing and a descent through Snake to Juiced, followed by a loop through Airplane, Rock Bottom and Escalator. Escalator has had some much-needed spade work, so it is good to see older trails are not being neglected while Hidden Vale pursues expansion of the trail network further from the homestead.
The 3Plus3 remains a popular event, particularly for families. Participation has been growing from year to year, particularly with the addition of the social ride. A Saturday night Xmas feast is available for limited numbers and many riders appreciate an opportunity to stay on after the first day’s riding and catch up with MTB friends before completing the event on the Sunday.
The 2017 overall win for women went to Imogen Smith, who was returning from serious hip and shoulder injuries sustained in a criterium race earlier this year. Imogen rode 14 laps across Saturday and Sunday in a total time of 6:36.
The men’s overall winner was Trek Racing’s Ethan Kelly, with 16 laps in 6:24.
This in-depth, insightful interview and event guest post comes coutesy of the every effervescent and thoughtful @BettyLillowaltzen. Betty is an Artist, Educator, Keynote Speaker and all round amazing soul. This is a wonderfully comprehensive and enlightening discussion of one of Melbourne’s most loved (sub)cycle-cultural ‘bumpy’ urban rides – the Melburn Roobaix. Thanks to Betty Lillowaltzen for her time and effort in painstakingly interviewing all the key stakeholders, event organisers, riders and participants that went into producing this post – the extra details make this piece an extra rich and wonderful read! Mwah BL!
A quick survey of the Melburn Roobaix crowd and there is something immediately obvious: women!
Why does this adventure around Melbourne’s laneways enjoy the most gender diversity of all bike events in Australia?
“I’m in!”: my response to Zane Alford’s invite to join him and Wookie in the 2017 Melburn Roobaix. I hadn’t needed to hesitate as I knew that my complete lack of bike fitness was in no way a barrier to fun in the famously costumed ride, nor was my 1980s chevvy heavy stainless steel Malvern Star. Roobaix skills are seemingly more centered around an ability to decorate oneself and bike, eat and drink and look really silly; I’d be a natural.
That Melburn Roobaix was not going to be (in Andy’s words) “a sausagefest” as so many other bike events are, but instead a celebration and a great day out void of competitive elitist vibes I was certain of, but what I wasn’t so sure of was why? Inspired by the rise of women’s sport and, better yet, the rise of women within sport, I wanted to know how the Roobaix has evolved to be the most gender inclusive cycling event in the country (according to a recent survey by Cycling Australia).
Two questions burned: were the organisers conscious about involving women? and if so, how did they go about getting women involved?
Melburn Roobaix is a creation of Fyxo, the family company run by Melodie and Andy White. I knew Andy from back in the ol’ days when I worked for messenger bag company, Crumpler. I met him 15 years ago after an Ally Cat at The Public Bar: two years after the lock on the womens’ toilet door broke and at least nine years before it would get fixed; in the days of $1 pots of Geelong Bitter on a Monday, Punk bands and bestickered fixies piled along O’Connell Street. Andy was fancy dressed but still sporting his ‘Ask me about the weather’ badge, and talking with some couriers and female riders – even back in 2003 he was recruiting women to ride. He suggested that I ride in the next Ally Cat and I felt momentarily convinced that this would be a good idea but didn’t think I was up to splitting traffic on a fixie to keep up with Melbourne’s maddest riders.
Encouraging people to get on a bike has always been a talent of Andy’s, as is having a yarn, so I felt comfortable picking up the phone, not having seen each other in 8 years, to ask him some pretty pointed questions about women in cycling, race, LGBTIQ+ inclusion, men’s clubs and elitism in sport. He answered all my questions with grace, humour, references to anti-establishment, mutual outrage and added some radical plans.
I was not surprised at all that encouraging the participation of women in the Roobaix was intentional, or that this year’s event also took place during World Pride – though this was underplayed, Andy reflected on being really quite chuffed that there was a turnout of transgender people this year and that as the ride becomes more community oriented it increasingly represents our whole community (though the lack of racial diversity is still quite apparent at all bike events and a challenge for the future).
So how did they do it? Andy reflected on the first year of the Roobaix, explaining how “a guy showed up with all the gear, he had a Garmin and had worked out the fastest route which was mainly on roads and which was pretty unsafe.” He and Melodie wanted to make it less of a race and move away from the tricked out, almost exclusively male lycra crew, so they just eliminated a first place prize. “We are more excited about the costumes and the turnout and having someone show up dressed as a banana”, he explained.
It’s important that everyone is safe. A sad reality of bike events around the globe is the inherent risk of traffic and obstacles, though organisers are always looking for ways to make cycling safer for everybody: as Andy says, “every event where no one dies is a good event”. The dangers of riding are all too familiar to the White family, as in 2007 Andy suffered a broken neck. Though he was lucky to be able to be back on the bike within a week of removing the halo, they had developed a new appreciation of the risks of riding. Andy was emphatic that making an event less competitive did help to attract a broader demographic, but that he in no way considered female riders to be non-competitive. While for many people the Roobaix is the first organised ride that they participate in, there are plenty of female riders who go on to compete in timed events and women who are already riding competitively.
Bike racer, writer and blogger Verita Stewart is one such rider. Verita had been a regular bike commuter, but it wasn’t until moving to Melbourne from country Victoria a few years ago that she joined other riders and started to compete. Verita was able to identify other reasons that the participation in the Roobaix was so high and diverse: “You can ride on any bike. This weekend is the Grand Fondo and you can’t just rock up on a mountain bike or a cruiser or BMX or tandem or recumbent or folding or narrow bar fixie or adult trike or city bike or hybrid. Each event requires a really specific bike and kit and for many people that’s a barrier. Wearing lycra is also enough for some people to say ‘that’s not for me’, and I know that some of my friends have not participated in other events because of that”. Melburn Roobaix was one of the first events that Verita rode in and each year she met more people in the cycling community and brought more friends along, many of whom wouldn’t identify as bike riders. “I know that tennis isn’t for me. I can’t hit a ball to save my life. Cycling as a sport isn’t for everybody either. The Roobaix is more of a community event than a race though, it’s more about being in a big community and maybe putting on a cossie and exploring places you haven’t been before, and that’s why so many people say ‘I could do that’.“
The types of costumes that people wear are usually naive and silly and we don’t see the kinds of sexualised costumes that people wear to other fancy dress events. I asked Verita how she thinks the Melbourne Roobaix has developed its particular style? “Well, it’s a really family and community event so I think that if you showed up dressed in a French maid’s costume you’d just feel like a bit of a twat”. Not many of the other bike scenes have been as progressive, and we spoke for some time on what we thought caused some of the costs, perceptions and gender inequality that are still so prevalent at other events and which form real barriers for people entering cycling as a sport in all its various forms.
Personally, now in my mid-thirties, I’m more active than ever: not the most fit that I’ve ever been necessarily, but I find myself enjoying a greater variety of sports than I ever have before and participating with less and less trepidation. I regularly surf with other women and it’s been exciting to paddle out each weekend and see sisters lined up along a break. It’s more than just exciting, it’s inspiring and exhilarating. We often joke about approaching middle age and just starting to have the childhood we wished we’d had if we hadn’t felt so discouraged from having a go. Imbued with the excitement of events like the Roobaix, WAFL, surfing and the power of staunch advocates and idols such as Serena Williams, I am excited for a new generation of women.
We still have such a long way to go but already the surge of excitement around women in sport has had a distinct effect upon me.
Where I may once have said “I’ll get back to you”, I now say “I’m in”.