By Buffy Gorrilla
Have you seen a swarm of lovely lady cyclists, dressed in an array of pink, teal and purple, zooming along the trails and roads in your neighbourhood? If you have, chances are they are riders with Wheel Women.
Wheel Women is a Melbourne-based cycling group, founded by the effervescent and always sporting-a-little bit-of-pink-on-and-off the bicycle, Tina McCarthy. Wheel Women encourages women of all ages to get on a bicycle. Even their motto, ‘cycling for women, no lycra required’ speaks to the inclusive nature of the organisation.
Ingrid Hardie, a Wheel Woman of about three months from West Footscray, enjoys the easy-breezy nature of the group.
“It is very anti-competition, we don’t post any Starva times. It is always about keeping a bit of a group thing going,” Mrs Hardie said.
Wheel Women organises multiple rides a week all led by certified coaches.The outings range in distance and difficulty. Wheel Women has devised a series of colour-coded levels based on ability to ensure you are setting yourself up for success, by choosing rides you know you can complete.
The emails Wheel Women send announcing the rides prove they really know their target audience, with fun themes such as, ‘Ride Friday… does this mean cakes?’ , ‘Anyone mention chocolate’, ‘Meander to Mad Duck’ or ‘All paths lead to Willi’ you are excited for the ride before it begins.
To help build cycling confidence, Ms McCarthy and her merry band of coaches offer classes from beginner to more advanced.
Frances Benson another Wheel Woman from the western suburbs found the Wheel Women course invaluable.
“They gave me a lot of confidence, I was not a confident rider, I didn’t know how to go around corners properly. I was nervous about looking over my shoulder and pedalling in a straight line. They gave you the skills to do these things.”
Mrs Hardie got her cycling start commuting to her job at Victoria University.
“It was such a lovely ride along the river. There are some trips that are better on a bike and this was one of them.”
But realised she wanted more and found Wheel Women.
“Not only do they build up your confidence and build-up your skills, and take you on rides that you have never heard of before with cafes at the end of them, they also help you in the purchase of a bike.”
“I was able to test several models through Wheel Women and then I was able to support a local store, Ted’s Cycles in Footscray when I bought my sportier bicycle.”
The community atmosphere is one of the major draws to the group. This includes the coffee and cake stop that is a welcome part of each ride.
“We are out, having a coffee and a cake and a bit of a chat. It is a great social interaction,” said Mrs Hardie.
Mrs Hardie raves about the cycle trails in the western suburbs.
“It is just a lovely, lovely ride from here to Williamstown. If we are feeling active there is a 60 kilometre ride from Footscray to Williamstown and then to Altona and then back along the Federation Trail, with the new bit added in, it is really accessible.”
“It has all the elements with the bird sanctuary and then you are along the waterfront and the doggy beach, it is just a really beautiful ride. There is just so much biking that can be done from here.”
Ms Benson says cycling with the group has been “win, win, win”.
“I have increased my endurance, my legs are more toned and I have less cellulite!”
The Wheel Women partner with other inspirational cyclists. In June they ran two skills sessions with professional cyclist Bridie O’Donnell. Allowing even seasoned cyclists the opportunity to acquire new skills.
In addition to skills sessions, Wheel Women organise ‘tech nights’ to equip riders with the skills to repair flats and complete minor adjustments to their cycles themselves.
According to Ms Benson, “each and every time I get out on the bike it is rewarding.”
To get involved with Wheel Women, www.wheelwomenaustralia.com or look for them on social media! Tina has the greatest hashtag #bestjobever