ReImagining Education for Democracy Summit

It has been a very busy week with my new course 10-week starting, a 4-day family trip and a 3-day conference to attend – among other things. Thanks for your patience, I know this post has come out a little later than usual (I will need to backdate). Now that peak crazy period has passed, here is an update of all that has been happening. Enjoy! NG.


Earlier this week I attended and presented at the ReImagining Education for Democracy Summit.

It was the first time I have been to this conference and I was very impressed.

To get details of each session – here is the Conference Program.

Essentially this conference uses Critical Pedagogy perspectives to unpack and explore aspects of contemporary education research, policy and practice that are complex and challenging.

The Summit has a strong political undercurrent with sessions wrestling with issues such as globalisation, the role of the state and markets, technocratic models of education and how equity, access, fairness and social justice are being addressed in schools and within wider educational dynamics and systems.

Super interesting!!

So what was the ReImagining Education for Democracy Summit?

This event was an awesome 3-day conference that covered an wide range of education policy, process and practice. There were 5 keynote speakers, a free public lecture, and event called Pedagogy in the Pub, and over 80 presentations in the form of symposiums, focus panels, individual research papers and workshops.

I was impressed with the range and scope of the presentations. You can always tell a good conference when you are conflicted about what session to go to for fear of missing out on the session you miss.

My Presentation

My presentation was part of a symposium of 3 other presenters. As a group we had developed the symposium abstract and each of us contributed a differing perspective to our main contention.

We decided to go for the practical, for the personal and for the challenging.

Unfornatunetly on the day one of our speakers (Ian) could not make it, so we were missing the male perspective, but it also meant that we had more time.

Our presentation was awesome.

We had a great topic and some really interesting and unique expreinces and difficulties to share.

Naomi started us off by presenting her experience of being a mother whilst doing her PhD to tease out some key political and neoliberalist tensions. Sherilyn followed up with a little more methodological view to processing some key transformative ‘moments’ she had during her work disrupting educational and social structures within in her own local community.

Then I ended by outlining some of the practical ‘shadows, cracks and hauntings’ that I have experienced in my work and telling 6 stories that hit at the heart of practicing gender justice.

This format worked really well and the session was a pleasure to be part of. The build-up and layering of ideas from one presentation to the next was strategic and served well to show the individual, dynamic and complex nature of the work we do as well.

I told a few stories that I have not told before and had put a lot of thought into what I wanted to say and what content (or stories) to include.

ReImagining Education for Democracy Summit - Bicycles Create Change

Did I mention that Prof. Michael Apple, his wife Rima and Prof. Pat Thomson from the academic blog Patter (among others) attended my presentation? Talk about a big gun audience!

Following the symposium, I had a number of audience members come up and say how much they enjoyed it – which was very affirming!

I was touched when one woman said that she was very moved by the stories and that my presentations really made her think. She said it was so important to share stories of when things go wrong and to acknowledge that there are dark sides to research, researchers and researching – and I agree!

As a final boost, I was stoked when a friend sent me through this Twitter post that was uploaded from an audience member I’d never met before.

ReImagining Education for Democracy Summit - Bicycles Create Change

One final thought about the Summit…. Prof. Michael Apple

Prof. Michael Apple

ReImaging Education for Democracy Summit - Bicycles Create Change

Listening to, and meeting Prof Apple was a real highlight for me.

It was so refreshing to hear his keynote speech on the second day, least of all because it was jammed pack full of provocative ideas. His topic was Can education change society and I was struck by his eloquence and skill as a public speaker – it was truly pleasure to listen to his educated arguments. He is a consummate orator and gifted storyteller – it was a delight to listen to.

To often keynotes are generic, pussy-footing-dont-want-to-upset-too-many-people-or-prensent-anything-too-controversial. But, Prof Apple went there, giving his ideas on some pretty tricky issues – which was great as it meant you knew exactly what he thought and could agree or disagree with it. So suddenly – hey, presto you have a conversation! Awesome! Thats what a conference is all about after all!

Before the conference, I wasn’t fully aware of who he was and I didn’t fully appreciate the immense impact and influence he has within the field of Education and Critical Pedagogy.

Turns out he is one of the fifty most important educational scholars of the 20th Century and one of the ‘first fathers’ that established this field of inquiry and was a contemporary of Paulo Feire and Basil Bernstein – a big deal in my circles.

And, after following up on some of the things he mentioned and finding out more about his about his amazing political commitment to progressing educational and social/cultural activism, I am now a big fan.

Prof. Michael Apple has written widely on educational and social activism with the most recent being his article Critical educational reforms and dirty toilets: being honest about blockages and contradictions for AARE – a very interesting read indeed (especially given some of the ensuing comments).

I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference! See you there!


To give you an idea of the topics covered, below is the 2017 schedule:

ReImaging Education for Democracy Summit - Bicycles Create ChangeReImaging Education for Democracy Summit - Bicycles Create Change

ReImaging Education for Democracy Summit - Bicycles Create Change

More info please!

The website Rage and Hope gives a great overview of the key thinkers of Critical Pedagogy.

For more details on the main thrust, debates and foci of the Critical Pedagogy movement, Aliakbari and Faraji (2011) Basic Principles of Critical Pedagogy is a clear and easy read to get the basic principles and concepts of what Critical Pedagogy is all about and how it is related to education, politics and society.

Urban Cycling World Champs

2017 UCI Urban Cycling World Champs - Bicycles Create Change.com

Urban Cycling World Champs

The Urban Cycling World Championship is a relatively new format that blends a selection of biking and cycling events into one ‘festival of urban biking’ showcase.  The  UCWC is in held in major cities around the world so more people can get to see, and experience, the new and unique skills and thrills of urban biking.

The 2017 Urban Cycling World Championship was held this week in Chengdu, China.

This year the event included Mountain Bike Eliminator (XCE), Trials and BMX Free Style Park – each of which is sure to inspire even the most unimpressed general public be more interested in bikes!!

What are ‘Trials’?

Trials is the event where you see bikers hopping and jumping across, between and over boulders, planks and other obstacles.  Bikes are 20″ and 26″ and riders need mad balancing, agility, strength, timing and track standing skills to be competitive. Essentially it is a time-based routine where riders are allowed a maximum of five dabs allowed in any section.

Why is Trials so interesting this year?

Trial events have been a UCI World Champs event since 2001. However 2017 is the first year that Trials is being run as part of the Urban Cycling World Champs, whereas previously Trials has been run in conjunction with other mountain-biking disciplines as part of the UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships.

Most importantly because J-Mean (Janine Jungfels), who is a local Brisbane rider and Australia’s Women’s Elite Trials entrant – is hoping to kick ass!

Go Janine, Go!

Janine was the 2015 UCI BIU World Champion and she is a great ambassador for the sport. If you don’t know much about J-Mean, check out her Facebook page.

No matter what the final results are for this event, I think Janine is already a champ, given her dedication to training and promoting the sport.

She is a great role model to encourage more women and girls to see and experience a wider range of biking styles outside of the ‘mainstream’ road riding and MTBing.

I was super pumped after I saw this interview (see below) with her earlier this month at the Trials Park at Underwood Park, Brisbane.

I wanted to post on Janine and Trials to acknowledge and promote the hard work and dedication of many unknown riders in less popular cycling disciplines.

There are a handful of cycling styles that when someone saying ‘cycling’ immediately spring to mind (like the Tour de France). As I have argued elsewhere, the hyperfocus on such events is parochial and highlights the inaccurate, limited and inadequate representation within society of what cycling is – and this kind of view that negates an appreciate and support for the diversity and range of other types of riders, styles, skills and bikes that make up our amazing cycling communities.

So regardless of who actually wins the event – Viva La Femme Trails!

I hope events like the Urban Champs will help more people who would otherwise not have seen events like trails have a greater appreciation of the unique skills needed – and hopefully get more people interested in bikes!

Best of luck to all the 2017 Urban Champ riders – it will be a great event!

2017 UCI Urban Cycling World Champs - Bicycles Create Change.com

Here is the event list for this year’s Urban Cycling World Champs.

2017 UCI Urban Cycling World Champs - Bicycles Create Change.com

Mala Bruja Alleycat

For this blog post, we are heading to the U.S. -not for Halloween, but the night before – Witch’s Eve! I’ve been keeping my eyes open for one event in particular. I’ve been waiting in earnest to see what happened this year for Mala Bruja NYC Alleycat Race. This is an all-female charity Alleycat Bike Race.  But alas, it seems like it didn’t go ahead this year.  I’m still posting about this awesome race as I think it is important more people recognise, appreciate and celebrate the wonderful diversity of urban riding culture – and nothing does that more than Alleycats. I’m sad it didn’t go ahead this year, but these events can be challenging to organise, so maybe next year. Either way, kudos to those who did make an effort to make it happen for the last couple of years. We salute you! We definitely need more events like this one- and most critically in Aust!! Enjoy! NG.


This weekend most Americans are celebrating Holloween.

The night before Halloween is Witch’s Eve.

For the last two years, an ultra-cool crew headed up by Caro and Kenya have put on an all-female charity Alleycat bike race in NYC on Witch’s Eve.

I have been following this event. I think it is a great initiative and I wish there were more like it! Reminds me of the good olde days when I helped out at Melbourne Alleycat races – what a blast!

Earlier this year, BCC reported on the Melburn Roobaix, which is  an annual urban bike race through Melbourne’s cobbled laneways.  Melbourne Roobaix is always a smash hit with local riders – and they had an impressively high number of female riders this year.

So , I got super excited for this year’s ride after seeing KymNonStop’s video of the NYC ride from last year (see below).

KymNonStop also has a solid Mala Bruja Alleycat Recap blog post that is worth the look to see what happens at such events.

What is an Alleycat bike race?

Alleycat bike races are something to behold. They are informal race bike held in cities where riders need to navigate local streets and traffic to make check points and get back the fastest. It is also a massive social get together, have some fun and ride bikes with your mates.

Alleycats are well known for having a strong participation and fun focus. Some ride to compete, others just to be part of the fun.

Race formats for Alleycats can vary – but usually, there is not official race course that riders must take, but there are check points that need to be met. Riders get a map of the check points just before heading off and are free to make their own way there and back.

The fastest rider to meet all check points and get over the finish line is the winner.

Mala Bruja Alleycat- Bicycles Create ChangeImage: KymNonStop

Alleycats races are unsanctioned and can be run during the day or night. Riders race through city streets and have to navigate normal traffic and vehicles while the race is going on. This is why Alleycat races are often perceived by many to be quite dangerous.

Meeting check points must be authenticated in some way. This varies depending on the race, but is often something like a stamp, badge, signature, or some other object that must be gathered at each check point as evidence.

Mala Bruja Alleycat- Bicycles Create Change
Source: Bike your City

Often there are activities and/or obstacles at each checkpoint. These can fun, entertaining, challenging and range from easy to hard. Activities could be beer-drinking, eating dry Weed-Bix, doing exercise (like 20 star jumps) or some bike skill –  like track stands, monos or jumps. They are designed to add a little more variety and fun to the race – as you can see in Dave Gustafa’s video below, which was posted on the Alleycat Facebook page.

The map of race checkpoints is usually provided right before the race starts, so riders who know the city well have a hometown advantage – hence the attraction for bike couriers. Participants can pretty much ride anywhere they need to to make the checkpoints – on or off-road, through buildings,  parks, uni campuses, between houses – where ever and however is needed.

Alleycat races can be ‘sticky’ (official vs. unregulated), dangerous and controversial. They are not for everyone, and it can be hard getting one organised.

Mala Bruja Alleycat- Bicycles Create Change
Source: Meg Watcher

What is the Mala Bruja Alleycat Bike Race?

It is an all-female dress-up charity bike race around New York City. The event has been running the last two years and has had a great turn out. It is well supported by entrants as well as spectators and support crews and family, friends and fans.

It costs $10 to enter the race, with the money going to charity.

All bikes are accepted (not just fixes) and costumes are highly encouraged.

Two years ago was the inaugural Mala Bruja ‘Hellcat’ race. With short notice and planning, the event still managed to pull over 70 female riders on the night. If you want to find out more details of this event, of which there were over 70+ women- lots of ace photos too!

See more pics from the 2015 Male Bruja Alleycat thanks to Bike Your City Photo Essay of the event.

Last year the event was held again and was also a spectacular success. It was called the Mala Bruja Alleycat Revenge.

Australia does not have a massive bike courier culture like NYC or San Franciso. However we do have a dedicated and cool crew in all major capital cities.  Personally, I’d love to see some more events like this happening in Australia.

Mala Bruja Alleycat- Bicycles Create Change
Source: Bike your City

Races like this show the awesome diversity and variety in bikes, riders and lifestyles – and is a great way to bring people together.

Even if you are not up for riding in an Alleycat, helping out at one of the races (or checkpoints), or going to spectate is a brilliant way to support the event.

As the world heads more for mainstream and conservative conformity – events like the Mala Bruja Alleycat are so important.

Although these events are often secretive when unregulated (so you need to know the organisers, riders or bike messages who are part of it to know of the race) yet they still contribute much mystique, diversity and spice to our current urban cycling milieu.

Love them or hate them, Alleycat events like the Mala Bruja ticks many boxes: they are social, healthy, recognise bike skills , promote inclusion, have strong participation females urban rides, raise money for charity, bring community together and nurture our valuable, unique and much-needed sub-cultures.

 

General Public – Think outside the bike!!

Personally, I think there is incredible value in recognising and celebrating the uniqueness and variety in the biking community. It disturbs me that the vast majority of the general public view ‘cycling’ as being the lycra-clad road riders and that essentially this is the pervasive stereotype of what a rider or cyclist is.

Such views negate the massive diversity in styles and types of riding – both urban and track like: MTB, fixi, singlespeed, trials, Enduro, fat bikes, Tall bikes, Unicycles, tricycles, e-bikes, Cyclocross, Crits, bike packing, BMX, DH, Cruisers, Communters, cargos….and the list goes on and on. Each of these styles has their own rich and vibrant communities.

I think all these bike ‘sub-cultures’ need to be valued and recognised as being part of the awesome variety and character that form our current biking community.  I can only hope people look beyond the the lycra to see how amazing, distinctive and fertile our biking and cycling communities are. Viva la Alleycats!

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.

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!