Chicks in the Sticks 2017

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!


Chicks in the Sticks 2017.

This event is Australia’s largest “Women’s Only” 3hr Mountain Bike Endurance race. It is hosted by the Rats Cycling Club and was held at Karingal Scout Camp (Mt Cotton, QLD). Last year I rode in this event and had an awesome time, this year I went as support. This event is one of my favourite in the riding calendar, and I always make an effort to go.

Why? Because it is ALWAYS a good day!

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.

Chicks in the Sticks 2017 - Bicycles Create Change

Chicks in the Sticks 2017 - Bicycles Create Change

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:

Chicks in the Sticks 2017 - Bicycles Create Change

Chicks in the Sticks 2017 - Bicycles Create Change

Chicks in the Sticks 2017 - Bicycles Create Change

Chicks in the Sticks 2017 - Bicycles Create Change

Chicks in the Sticks 2017 - Bicycles Create Change

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..

Chicks in the Sticks 2017

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!

See you there!

Granny, Wait for Me!

Granny, Wait for Me! is a beautifully illustrated children’s book.

I first saw this book while at an independent publishing/meet the author book event at  Little Gnome – my awesome local bookshop. This book is written by Sarah Owen and illustrated by Anil Tortop.

It immediately caught my eye because of the bicycle on the cover – and the delightful energy that the illustration exuded.

Granny, Wait for Me - Bicycles Create Change.com

I flipped through the book and instantly fell in love with it.

What makes Granny, Wait for Me! so good?

There are many children’s books about riding bikes. But this one is a little different.

The story follows a young boy and his grandma who take their bicycles on an outing. In this book, the usual stereotypes are reversed, and it is ‘Granny’ who is speeding around,  whizzing to-and-fro, racing and doing death defying tricks and the young boy who is struggling to keep up.

Granny, Wait for Me - Bicycles Create Change.com

Granny, Wait for Me - Bicycles Create Change.com

The pair have a day of grand adventures. It is lovely to see Granny in the position of being the strong, confident, fit, happy and able protagonist in this story. I see incredible value in children’s books presenting different ways of looking at life and in showing diversity in people, lifestyles and choices – and this book certainly sheds some new light on perceptions of what a Granny ‘should’ be, and do.

Books like these also help progress discussions about family, relationships, assumptions, social expectations and not judging a book by its cover (oh dad!).

The added bonus of the bike means discussions about positive impacts of riding,  how cycling is wonderful for all people, regardless of age or ability – and that you can never really tell a people’s ability or history with bikes just by looking at them. With such a predominance in current society of cycling being associated with young, fit, male road-riders, this book provides a wonderful alternative perspective.

I have lamented elsewhere on this blog, that I find the lack of inclusion,  appreciation or unconscious negative associations of older people and riding,  to be serious social issue – as evidence in previous posts such as  Cycling without Age and my meeting with the formidable Hubert and his tricycle.

But it is good to know that there are awesome parents (and others) out there who are actively engaging our next generation by reading these kind of stories.

This book comes with a warning!

In a review of this storybook for Reading Time, Heather Gallagher wrote: This beautifully illustrated picture book is told in rollicking verse. The story is a simple one, a boy and his granny go for a bike ride and picnic at the park. The Granny is no tea-sipping, knitting gran – she’s one who likes to swing on the monkey bars and speed off on her bicycle. In a reversal of roles, the boy is shown as the reticent one, while Granny craves adventure. This book could be used in a classroom setting to discuss different kinds of grandparents and what they like to do. It would be a good one to read on Grandparent’s Day. Just one word of caution, while the illustrations do depict a warm relationship between Granny and the boy, in practice she speeds off on her bicycle, leaving him in her wake – hence, the title. (Emphasis my own).

I really like that this book comes with a warning – that this seemingly harmless ‘whimsical and fun-filled story’ could be ‘misconstrued’ and need to be explained.

I understand how some children might find it challenging that Granny is so active that she could roar off on a bike (being abandoned).  Of course this would need to be explained to a little kid who need  reassurances of not ‘being left behind’ – but this is not made clear in Heather’s review. Although I am sure this is what she was implying, my mischievous brain also likes to think it is the notion of Granny ripping on a bike that is also challenging!

I like that this book is presenting Granny in a light other than being a stereotypical, gentle, frail and caring …… non-bike rider. The image of her enjoying a fast, fun and furious ride is a great equaliser for talking about any other rider gearing up for an MTB race, criterion and any other cycling event where the whole point is to ride hard, be adventurous and get ahead! What… older people don’t ride bikes? Like hell….Go, Granny Go!!

What a great conversation to have with children!

That in itself makes me love this book even more!

You don’t need to ride fast and furious to have my vote – you just need to be on a bike and going at whatever is your speed. Whatever age you are, whatever speed you go – just that you are riding a bike is what makes it awesome in my book!

More happy elders riding bikes, please!

So next time you see an elder out on their bike – be sure to give ’em hearty wave and a word of support.  Heavens knows we need more like them reminding us all that biking is a wonderful activity for everyone in our communities.

Granny, Wait for Me! – cover illustration / time-lapse from Anil Tortop on Vimeo.  Images in post courtesy of Anil’s Behance

Melburn Roobaix 2017

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

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.

Melburn Roobaix 2017

 

Melburn Roobaix 2017

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.

Melburn Roobaix 2017

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.

Melburn Roobaix 2017

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.

Melburn Roobaix 2017

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.

Melburn Roobaix 2017

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”.

 

Melburn Roobaix 2017

Melburn Roobaix 2017

For a great collection of event pictures see FYXo’s Melburn Roobaix Flickr Album.

Or see up to 342 great images from event photographers Michael Christofas / Peter Tsipas 2017 Melburn Roobaix Flickr.

@bicycles_create_change

#Lowercasev

#bikefeminism

#bikeart

#MelburnRoobaix

#Fyxo

Thanks for the invite @ZaneAlford. See you all at #MelburnRoobaix2018 !!

 

 

*All images coutesy of photographers as per watermarks. All pictures included with Fyxo permission..

Bayview Blast 2017

On the weekend, I participated in Brisbane’s Bayview Blast MTB Event.

This event is held by the RATS Cycling Club in conjunction with other partners.

I signed up for the social ride ‘Havablast 25 kms Women’s Chicks in the Sticks’ event to help populate and support the category.

Here is Zoe helping me ‘pack’ on the morning of my Bayview Blast ride – she never misses an opportunity to go for a ride!!

Bayview Blast 2017

 

This event is held over two days and the order of event looks like this:

Bayview Blast 2017
Source: Bayview Blast 2017

Bayview Blast 2017

Sat Race briefing

The Bayview Blast MTB 2017 Event

It was a stunning, sunny Brisbane day.

I had two mates and Zoe (who all came as supporters for the day) with me and we had time to set up a lovely picnic camp in the bush near the race start and get organised before race briefing. The junior events were still being held. I was on my singlespeed and had decorated it with flowers.

How was the ride?

For this event, I was resolute to keep my ‘ride not race’ perspective. For periods of time, I made sure I did this by forcing myself to ride behind a fellow rider, and not pushing to overtake for 10 minutes, but just to be content to sit on the speed set by the rider in front and go at their pace. It was an interesting exercise to deliberately ‘slow down’ – and one I admit was not all that easy to do, but I was glad I did it and I think it was a very valuable exercise to undertake nonetheless.

It was great to be back on a bike after a couple of months off. I was certainly not race fit, but really enjoyed the physicality of riding, riding a course I wasn’t familiar with and testing my mental training on the challenging hill climbs and long slogs. I didn’t see any other singlespeeds on the day and it was an interesting experience having to charge up sections to keep onto of my one and only gear, while those I was passing looked on at me often very incredulously as if I was making a deliberate personal point on the uphills!

Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, my approach for the ride was to do what I needed to do to get up sections, knowing that I would be gasping for air (like everyone else at the top – so my approach was to keep pedaling while going up and over (not just to the top) and to use the down sections where I was technically more confident as my ‘recovery’ period. Given my lack of fitness, this approach served me well on the day as I finished in a respectable time, did not blow my muscles out and felt surprisingly perky despite the hard work.

Bayview Blast 2017

Me giving the XCers a little bit of scare – GOLD!!

Post-ride?

An added bonus was that, on crossing the finishing line, I was accosted by the race MC who was calling the day and was quickly interviewed and awarded the ‘best decorated’ bike for the day. This little accolade landed me a free hour-ling massage voucher – Hazah!!

After that little interlude, I returned back to our picnic location to regroup and recharge the batteries. Later on, I was invited back to explain more about my PhD and this blog over the race megaphone for an impromptu interview, which went very well and saw me chatting with a few friendly female riders soon after. A very productive and satisfying day overall!!

Bayview Blast 2017

Our picnic spot trackside – Zoe & Sara holding the fort.

I’m glad I went and supported the Saturday event and helped fill up the Women’s category. The more ‘serious’ riders were registered for Sunday and I managed to talk one of the 100km Marathon competitors to write a blog post about that day – so stay tuned!

I think the organisers did a great job putting on the event, it must have involved some serious organisation and planning and I super appreciate the effort that was put in and the commitment of the volunteers. It is certainly no mean feat to stage such an event, which is why I wanted to support the local MTB club by participating.

Below is a Course Preview (video 2’55’).

Tirana Gay (P)ride March

Happy International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia!!!

 

Officially today is the actual day of celebration (17th May), however there have been a wide range of events happening worldwide for the whole week.

Of particular interest to lovers of life on two-wheels is the Tirana Gay (P)ride March in Albania.

 

Tirana Gay (P)ride MarchSource: Watermark Online

Tirana Gay (P)ride March

The Tirana Gay (P)ride March was first initiated in 2006 has been gaining significant participation and coverage over the last couple of years and is fast becoming one of the most colourful, cultural community-driven events in the Albanian calendar.

This story is great for a number of reasons. Aside from being an awesome international event addition for this weeks general celebrations, it is also great as Albania doesn’t usually make headlines (at least not enough for positive reasons). Also, most people do not usually associate progressive, fun, international bicycle-inspired community demonstrations for gay rights to come out of small Southeastern former Eastern Bloc European nation. But there you go!

So kudos to the Albanians for being such a wonderful and supportive international example.

(Queensland take note!!)

A dual protest for 2017

This year was an extra special event. To mark the international festival, participants in Tirana’s Gay (P)ride Parade rode bikes for one cause, whilst elsewhere in the city two hours earlier (yet overlapping), another protest was being held in response to the country’s political opposition.  The city was inundated with bikers strewn in multi-colored costumes with balloons, flags and pennants flapping the wind as they rode past a protest tent erected in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s office to raise awareness and support to pressure the current Albanian government to extend their 2009  anti-discriminatory laws to legalise same-sex marriage and also to recognise trans-gender citizens.

People taking to the streets to protest is not new, but the inclusion of highly decorated bicycles adds an extra element of personality, intimacy, community and creativity which is hard to beat and difficult to ignore.

Best of luck Tirana …our bicycles are with you!!

We hope you have a fun and successful ride to celebrate your 2017 IDAHOT!

Tirana Gay (P)ride MarchSource: Fox News

Below is a 7 minute video of the 2017 Tirana IDAHOT (P)ride March.

More details:

Official International website.

IDAHOT Facebook Page 

Twitter: @may17IDAHOT

Official hashtag #IDAHOT2017

The Lightning Furies

I love it when readers suggest and recommend people and projects for this blog.  RG sent me an email suggesting I check out The Lightning Furies – which I did. I checked them out online and then contacted them. Anna replied and we ended up meeting for a coffee. Here is what transpired. Enjoy! Nina.


 

The Lightning Furies

The Lightning Furies is one of a number of projects created under the SNAPCAT umbrella by Perth duo – artists Renae Coles and Anna Dunnill. As Snapcat themselves describe, their work is “ambitious, cheeky and political and involves painting, sculpture, video and participatory performance.”

Snapcat has produced a number of interesting, topical and provocative works – and none more so than The Lightning Furies. This project came out of their researching into women and sport and then was further developed in response to other input (like community consultations) into the feminist bike gang The Lightning Furies.

In their own words, The Lightning Furies are “a bike gang of tough women and non-binary people, dedicated to a feminist mission of utopic bad-assery. Wearing denim vests, bikes adorned with pennants, the Furies ride en masse through urban streets, wind through laneways and hold up traffic. Aesthetically, the Lightning Furies fall somewhere in between an outlaw bikie gang, Girl Guides, and the Vuvelini (Mad Max: Fury Road). We have a Manifesto and an Oath. We have gang colours and patches. We are fierce and inventive and ready to smash the patriarchy with boots and glitter.”

Meeting The Lightning Furies

Following a reader recommendation, I contacted the The Lightning Furies and this weekend met up with one of the co-creators, Anna.

Over a coffee, it was very inspiring to hear the background, development, reasoning and evolution of how The Lightning Furies came to be – and what they do.

I was intrigued by this project for a variety of reasons. It has significant impacts as an arts project and for personal and community development, as well as creating a space for much needed further discussions about important concepts such as gender, access to public spaces, the Australian cycling culture/s, normative behaviours, social governance and civic participation.

Their website gives a broad overview of the monthly rides and few cool snapshots of what happens on the rides, but correspondingly, these rides as a rich platform to cast a light onto the underlying ideologies, practices and outcomes that this project is addressing.

During our conversation we spoke about many ideas. We covered bikie groups, girl gangs, females feeling safe to ride bikes on the road, public perception of women riders, feminism, being part of inclusive group, how to get more women riding bikes, The Lightning Furies being invited to perform at events, the role of patches and branding, sport and female participation, and how women do (or do not) ‘take up or use’ public space. It was a great conversation!

Sharing stories and riding bicycles for personal confidence

Particularly interesting for me to hear, were the other critical ’empowerment’ aspects that were built into the project – such as the ‘crafternoon’ sessions that happen before the rides. In these session, participants make their own customised patches, bike pennants and other decorations to adorn their outfits and bikes which encourage individualism, expression of self and celebrating vibrancy through colour and art.

Not only is it valuable to be physically creative and to have a space to express yourself, but also a safe place to share stories.

It was inspiring to hear how important the ‘making’ sessions are for participants to come together and have time to not just work on this projects – but also to connect as a group of women. Anna told a few stories that while making decorations, participants would open up and discuss their riding experience, their fears, new insights and later on, how much stronger and more confident they now felt after being on a Lightning Furies ride – and how they had been able to hold on the excitement and strength they had felt during the ride, and translate it into other areas of their lives to great effect. So great to hear.

I thoroughly enjoyed my meeting with Anna and came away feeling inspired and excited about the innovative and creative ways that people come up with to get more people on bikes and The Lightning Furies is just one example of this.

 

The Lightning Furies
Source: The Lightning Furies Website

The Lightning Furies

Source: The Lightning Furies Website

 

Future Furies Action

I will be staying in touch with Anna and have invited the The Lightning Furies to guest blog post – I am very keen to see what the future holds for this group.

Whether The Lightning Furies is your style or not, they are a wonderful example of a local grassroots collaboration driven by genuine passion, creativity and a strong commitment to positive social change.

The Lightning Furies is just one example of how two women have come together to address an issue that important to them  – it presents the rest of us with a delicious challenge – what issue is important enough for us to get up off our butt and get some action and how would we go about doing it?

International Women’s Day 2017

Happy International Women’s Day  – A quiet ride to celebrate.

I have just returned back from celebrating International Women’s Day 2017 (IWD). It is late now, just past midnight in fact, so technically it is the day after IWD. I’m late as I had spent the afternoon and evening going for a wonderful IWD ride. So before my IWD night officially ends, I thought I would put up a quick considerations to mark the occasion.

International Women’s Day Background

For those who don’t know, International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

International Women’s Day has a long history in the West dating back to 1909. In 1975, the United Nations General Assembly made the holiday globally recognized by inviting member states to declare March 8 a day for women’s rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment. Since then, the UN creates an annual theme for International Women’s Day. Today also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity and the theme for this year is Be Bold For Change.

This day is important for many reasons, but  with the World Economic Forum prediction that the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186, the struggles of many women in disadvantaged situations is more acute than ever.

Therefore, International Women’s Day (IWD) is an opportunity to raise positively contribute to

  • celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women because visibility and awareness help drive positive change for women
  • declare bold actions you’ll take as an individual or organization to help progress the gender agenda because purposeful action can accelerate gender parity across the world.

International Women's Day

Two Awesome Historical Stories of Heroic Cycling Women

I got a real kick out of reading Peter Zheutlin’s article about his amazing great great-aunt Annie Cohen Kopchovsky’s ride way back in 1895 and the legacy that this event has had since in helping women to break boundaries – inspirational!

Another historical piece by fellow bike Blogger Nicola from Women Who Cycle offered some insightful comments when considering the impact and connections between bicycles and specifically American women (based on a Wisconsin stimulus).

 

International Women's Day
Source: Bike Penticton

IWD 2017 – Who, what and how?

IWD is not all about women – it is equally important that our brothers and the gorgeous men in our lives are also recognised! In fact some of the most staunch feminists I know are men.

There are many places to find out what is on this IWD. Some people offer ideas such as hosting your own events, for others who might want time alone or to be with friends, there are numerous suggestions on ways you can celebrate and share the day.

International Women's Day

How are riders around the world celebrating International Women’s Day 2017?

For the cycling community, regardless of what gender you are  – IWD guarantees a plethora of events, celebrations, awards and all kinds of reasons to get together for a ride – for example:

  • There were celebrations and rides all over the world, although coverage of these reports varied in detail and depth for example Malaysia, India and  the UK.  There was also a massive march in New York City, which some friends of mine attended and said they saw a large cycling cohort represented – hooray!
  • More locally, the Bushrangers MTB Club celebrated more women registering in the club than ever before.
International Women's Day 2017
Source: Total Women’s Cycling

 

Quiet time to reflect and give thanks

Personally, I celebrated International Women’s Day 2017 in low-key style. This year I wanted to mark the day with simplicity, gratitude and in a way that acknowledged the ordinary and everyday.

Instead of going to a big event, I opted instead to take a solo ride along the coastline and have time to reflect. For me, this was a more honest and personal way to ruminate and commemorate on the processes of womens’ struggles.

As I rode, I thought about my life and the lives of others.

I thought about the current situation of fellow sisters throughout the world, the amazing progress the world has made and areas that still need improving. I thought about how I impact the world, and how I felt I was making a difference and where I though we needed more change.

I took time to stop and gave thanks.

I watched the bay and listened to the lapping of the waves. It was a stunning afternoon. The ocean breeze was cool and reassuring, the sunset spectacular and full of promise for the next day and I was very grateful to be alive and riding my bike.

What did you do to commemorate this day?

What ever it was – Happy International Women’s Day!

Turkey’s Fancy Women On Bikes

Theis story of Fancy Women On Bikes was sent through to me by a very dear friend MK, with whom I share a passion for positive action. MK sent this post after seeing it in the A Mighty Girl Facebook page and knew it that the floral, bicycle and social justice combination is right up my alley.  It is such a comprehensive post that I contacted A Mighty Girl and gained their permission to repost it here as a Guest Post in its entirety. Thanks to MK and A Mighty Girl for sharing such an important and colourful story with us all – NG.


 

Guest post by A Might Girl (3rd November 2016 ay 10.22). A Might Girl is a forum that provides a fantastic array of resources, stories and material to support families and communities to raise more intelligent, confident, and courageous girls.

 

Thousands of women — wearing flowers in their hair and riding elaborately decorated bicycles — took to the streets of cities across Turkey to proclaim women’s right to cycle free from harassment or bullying. The women, who call themselves “Fancy Women On Bikes” or Süslü Kadinlar Bisiklet Turu, were riding to raise awareness of the intimidation and harassment that many women are subjected to while cycling. Sema Gur, the founder of the movement, says learning to ride a bike at the age of 38 changed her life: “I can go to places that I wouldn’t walk or drive to,” she asserts. “I can stop, slow down, smell the things around me, talk to people, and be more mindful and healthy too… It’s a freedom like no other.” After Gur connected with other female cyclists who had grown frustrated by the status quo, the “Fancy Women on Bikes” movement was born to unite women in reclaiming their right to public spaces with the simple yet powerful message: “We should go wherever we want, dress however we like, be visible, yet not be disturbed.”

According to Banu Gokariksel, a feminist scholar of geography at the University of North Carolina, the changing political climate in Turkey has made the need for social movements like “Fancy Women on Bikes” even more important. “The rising social conservatism in Turkey in the recent years deteriorated women’s public status and freedom. With harassment and road bullying, women are denied their rights to the city,” explains Gokariksel. Gur, like many other female cyclists, frequently experiences catcalls, threats, and road rage, even in her liberal hometown of Izmir — and in more conservative areas, some women were being intimidated into stopping cycling altogether.

“Women’s visibility in urban spaces is key to reclaim that right to the city,” says Gokariksel. “Cycling is a particularly powerful way to do that – because it exposes a woman’s body in the traffic. It leaves them vulnerable in a way, but changes the way they interact with the city. Regardless of their backgrounds, transportation is a big issue for all women around the world. Women being able to peacefully ride bikes isn’t a trivial thing. This movement can trigger bigger changes, if it can overcome the differences such as class, religion, ideology and ethnicity.”

With “Fancy Women on Bikes” rides recently taking place in 26 provinces throughout the country, the group knows it’s making an impact both in encouraging individual women to feel more comfortable about riding on their own and in sending the message that women will not allow themselves to be intimidated off the roads. Gur knows that not all of the women who participated this time will become regular riders, but she believes that their movement will lead to lasting change. “You cannot bring patriarchy down overnight by simply cycling, of course,” she says. “But it’s a start and it’s what we can do. [When we were on the bikes] thousands of people saw us. Now perhaps they will be less surprised when they see a woman riding a bicycle and treat us better.”

To read more about Fancy Women On Bikes movement on The New York Times, visit http://nyti.ms/2e09ElZ – or check out their Facebook page at Süslü Kadınlar Bisiklet Turu

For a fascinating book about how bicycles became a tool of women’s liberation in the early women’s right movement in America, we highly recommend “Wheels of Change: How Women Rode The Bicycle To Freedom (With A Few Flat Tires Along The Way)” for ages 10 to 14 at http://www.amightygirl.com/wheels-of-change

For an excellent film about a young Saudi girl who dreams of greater freedom — in the form of having a bicycle of her own in a country where women are banned from freely riding bikes in public — we highly recommend “Wadjda”, for ages 9 and up at http://www.amightygirl.com/wadjda — or stream it online at http://amzn.to/2ef9h2p

Wadjda’s story has also been released as a book for ages 10 to 13, “The Green Bicycle,” at http://www.amightygirl.com/the-green-bicycle

For a fun picture book celebrating the joy and freedom that cycling brings, check out “Sally Jean the Bicycle Queen” for ages 4 to 8 at http://www.amightygirl.com/sally-jean-the-bicycle-queen

And, for our favorite t-shirt celebrating fierce Mighty Girls like the “Fancy Women”, check out the “Though She Be But Little She Is Fierce” t-shirt — available in a variety of styles and colors for all ages at http://www.amightygirl.com/fierce-t-shirt

Source: A Mighty Girl
Source: A Mighty Girl

Homewood Witches Ride

Halloween

I do not celebrate Halloween for a number of reasons (least of all we are in Australia!) and that’s why there was no ‘Halloween’ post for 30-31st October.  However, I appreciate that it can be a big deal for other people and that it is most certainly an American tradition. So, I found an American Halloween event, called the Homewood Witches Ride, that was squarely bike and community inspired, and that had the kind of positive community slant on the standard Halloween celebrations to warrant a second look. So, although there was no post on Halloween, here is an authentic, fun, bicycle-inspired Halloween celebration event (as a postscript).

 

Homewood Witches Ride

There are similar versions of this event in various forms elsewhere (most notably on motorbikes), but this particular ride was established by Janie Ford Meyer in memory of her mum, Paula, who in 2013 died of lung cancer. Essentially, instead of brooms, the ‘witches’ decorate their bikes and dress up each year as a way of celebrating Halloween, to support a national charity and imbued the community with some colour, fun and mobile festivities.

Now in its fourth year, hundreds of Homewood local women (and women from the surrounding towns and wider afield) got together in the town of Homewood (Alabama) for this year’s annual Homewood Witches Ride held on 30th October.

 

The Main Ride

The main event runs from about 4-6pm with the official ride starting at 4.30 pm and lasting about an hour to do a full loop of town. It is well timed not to be a late night for families and small kids as many who come to support the event are also dressed up, and so much excitement can make for a long afternoon!

The two-mile ride encompasses the main parts of the town, and families and locals line the streets to cheer the witches on. There are two designated ‘candy zones’ where the witches throw out lollies to the crowd. This aspect has been strategically designed so that it is easier to clean up afterwards and is it also makes it safer for the riders, but more importantly, it means onlookers can choose which positions best suit what they want to get out of the event – so that families with young kids can go to designated candy areas, whilst others can spread themselves out elsewhere – great idea!

After the ride is complete, all are invited to join the witches and locals at a central hub where there are food vans and other social festivities, such as a silent auction. Prizes are awarded for the ‘best witch costume’ and ‘the best broom bike’.

At the cost of US$25 for entry, all proceeds go to raise money for the American Cancer Society. The ride is now very popular, with hundreds of witches taking a slow ride around town entertaining, joking, laughing, and a generally having a cracking good time.

 

Community colour and vibrancy

I can see how this event would be a lot of fun. There seems to be a rise in community-supported, artbike, dress-up, ride events that are widely popular (most recently, The ArtBike Grand Prix and the SSWC 2016 (although this one is not for a charity).

It is inspiring and reaffirming to be part of an active community that supports such greater events. Such occasions are so important in re/defining, co-creating and maintaining a positive community identity, demonstrating inclusiveness and helping to build a dynamic local cultural tradition. It is wonderful to see such enthusiasm, acceptance and exuberance being shared on two-wheels by so many. Keep up the good work all!

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Source: Unless identified as per Instagram all other pictures from The Homewood Star.

 

Here is a video from last year’s event:

 

Chicks in the Sticks 2016

Ten days ago I participated for my first time in the 3 hour MTB Chicks in the Sticks Event. This is an all-female registration event, although partners, family and friends were in attendance en mass on the day. It was held on Sunday 28th August, and it had the largest turn out to date of just over 240 female riders on the day. Although official it is a race, and a few keen elite women race it, the overall premise is to ride and have fun and provide an opportunity for women of all skills and levels to get involved.

 

Chicks in the Sticks 2016 Event set up

There was a variety of choices to be made regarding level of participation – solo rider or team of two – which I was (double Yorkers), then experience level – ranging from Chicken Run (elite), Free Range (Intermediate) and Have a Crack (starting out and having a go). It was also great to see a very well populated Juniors Little Chicks in the Stix, and event more so the Queens of the Roost category (over 50’s) with 21 riders. The final results are here.

It was held on the Scouts private property, Mt Cotton – which for me was a bonus as it meant that aside from a social ride two weeks before, most riders were not overly familiar with the tracks. With a 6.6km loop, it was not an particularly difficult track – but certainly the long step-downs and hill climb in loop were challenging enough for some. The location was well resourced, managed and organised on the day with easy access to facilities, shade, water, rubbish bins, parking, toilets in the village and once on bikes, the track was clearly marked and well marshalled. There was a few select male support crew dressed up riding to keep morale high for those who may have been struggling.

It was a beautiful sunny day, and many families had come out to make a day of it. Many participants had taken on board the ‘have a go and have fun’ message, so costumes, colour and accessorising featured prominently. I noticed that most participants hung around until well after Prezzies, and the village atmosphere for the whole day was upbeat, relaxed, non-competitive, friendly and very encouraging. After official awards had been given, there was (what seemed like) a never ending dispersal of gifts, goodies and freebies given to select race plate numbers and then ultimately the rest were thrown into the audience. It was an impressive stash of merchandise – kudos to the organisers!

 

How did it go?

I rode with a friend as a team – entitled Bicycles Create Change.com of course! We rode, not raced. We had a great time and were happy to cut our time short (to reign in any possible competitiveness and also so we could cheer each when the other was on course). I had a bell and a squeaky honker that I made good use of at the start line and on track, I sang (rather loudly) Queen’s I want to ride my bicycle as we were cruising along a flat section to great applause from my surrounding riders and after settling down after the second lap, managed to get the name of a few pinners I was either in front or behind for a while during sections. In fact, post-ride, both riders sought me out and passed on their details to invite me to join them for future riding adventures (which they did!), and I have also since see a few on track at various locations and had a good catch up.

I had a great time on the day. I was the only person on the day riding a Singlespeed. Aside from the terrain being perfect for it and that I love riding my Niner, I also used this event as a test run for a possible decoration idea before going down south for the World Singlespeed Champs in 4-weeks time in Victoria. I used my the olde faithful Leki flower power motif –because I have the materials, it is easy to apply (cable ties) and disassemble, I can easily change or modify the design, it transports well and has maximum visual impact.

 

A good time

Aside from being the only Singlespeeder there, I was also the only person in casual wear (i.e. not full theme costume or MTB kit, or a combination of thereof). I had floral capri pants (over my nicks) and a bicycle print singlet, no socks – lean and clean. I refused to wear any branded gear. I was also very social – telling jokes, engaging with my fellow riders and generally adding good energy to the positive vibes.

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An interesting post-script

During the event, I was quite conscious of a few sociological dynamics operating on the day, and since then, my academic brain has been working over time problematizing certain elements – which I have half a mind to develop into more detail for a Journal article perhaps?? Certain ethnographic quandaries were very evident to me such as:
• Racer (competitive) or rider (social)
• Level of fitness and skill – experienced riders alongside newbies
• All female event and female onlyness sports
• Insider (MTBer) and subculture (Singlespeeder)
• Local (QLD) vs. outsider (me originally from VIC)
• Stereotyping of gender in adventure sports (flowers as a representation of ‘femaleness’ – or not)
• Impact and interplay between skill/fitness level and the riders’ ability to ‘have fun’ or enjoy the event
• Track etiquette (see point one and two esp. regarding overtaking).

Some interesting ideas to ponder. I’ll let you know if anything eventuates.