I really don’t know what got me back onto a bicycle after probably 25 years of not being on one. Perhaps it was that I had a keen cycling boyfriend at the time or that I had had one too many running injuries and was looking around for another form of exercise. Or perhaps it was just time to conquer my fear of cycling.
I want to preface all of this by telling you that I was NOT one of those kids that spent half their life on a bicycle as a youngster. My parents were quite convinced we lived on a busy street, so I wasn’t allowed a bike (can I add that whenever I visit my parents I always think their street is really really quiet? But that’s a story for another day).
Anyway, I never even owned a bicycle until January 2010 when I decided I was going to start cycling as my new year’s resolution. So I bought a bike in the first week of January.
My first bike was a Trek, flat bar, hybrid. Not one of those zippy, light road bikes but a fairly chunky, sturdy kind of bike, which was pretty upright and made me feel (relatively) safe riding it.
When I first started riding it at 34 years of age the situation was not good. I could ultimately only ride on a flat piece of concrete with no corners or hills. I couldn’t ride up or down a hill. I couldn’t ride out of the saddle. I absolutely couldn’t take either of my hands off the handlebars to indicate left or right. I wasn’t really sure how to change gears. In fact I wasn’t really sure about much.
I started off by driving (!) to Centennial Park and getting my bike out of the car to ride there. I wouldn’t even ride around the main road (Grand Drive) of Centennial and instead chose to spend my time usually after work in summertime, riding around the little kids cycling track at Centennial, because I felt safe there.
And then something strange began to happen. Slowly but surely I began to enjoy my hour in the summer evenings in the park on my bike. I began to feel a little less anxious on my bike. I began to learn how to change gears, ride up a hill, ride out of the saddle, turn corners and not freak out when other cyclists came near me.
I began to feel like a kid again – riding a bike, wind in my hair, sun on my face. Bliss.
When I started riding I used to have sore shoulders and a sore upper back – I figured out this was because I was holding on to the handle bars so tightly that I was tensing everything else! And soon I discovered, you can actually not hold on so tightly and the bike will happily glide along without much effort.
(This was a major discovery to me!).
Next thing I ventured out of the park and onto the road. Quiet suburban roads at first or places where I could ride off the road like around the bay run in the inner west.
At the time I was living in Rozelle and working in Pyrmont and I soon worked out that I could ride to work almost all on bike paths. So I began commuting to work on my bike, which was such a quick trip over the Anzac Bridge and a lovely way to travel to work. Plus it was a gazillion times quicker and nicer than hanging around waiting for the smelly old bus.
I also became part of the subset of workers in my building who rode to work. And felt like I was part of the cool kids club, hanging out in the bike room in the car park and walking around with my bike helmet tucked under my arm. Although most of the people in the bike room seemed to be seasoned cyclists I felt part of some new gang by being able to exchange the pleasantries with my fellow cyclists in the mornings or evenings like “beautiful cycling weather” or “great day for a ride” – as we would smile knowingly at each other. I felt like we were all in on a secret that the rest of the office workers hadn’t figured out yet – that others didn’t know how great it was to ride to work and feel like you had enjoyed your commute and got a little exercise. Rather than enduring a bus or a train.
As I started to spend more time on a bike I also began to notice that most of my fellow cyclists were men. Why weren’t women riding? Then I began to ask this question and got a thousand different answers. But one of the number one responses was safety and confidence to ride on the road.
Safety and confidence were two of my main barriers as well, so I know from first hand experience with a bit of practice and a few tips, those fears can be over come.
I also noticed when I was looking to buy my first bike that getting good female specific information was hard to come by. And if it hadn’t been for a few people in my world who knew a bit about bikes, like my brother, I suspect I would have been quite intimidated by the bike store.
So…. All of this led me to start thinking, wouldn’t it be great to have a website by female cyclists for female cyclists or for women who are thinking about getting into cycling or getting back into cycling?
A website where we could share useful information, share ideas or just share stories. Somewhere where someone who was thinking of cycling but was a bit scared or wasn’t sure where to start, could read other stories and think “if she can do it, I can too!”
So that is the whole purpose of BikeGal.com. It’s brought to you by a group of female cyclists whose only objective is to get more women cycling in Sydney.
We don’t care if you ride around the block, or ride on the kids’ track at Centennial Park or ride all the way to Melbourne – we just want to see you on a bicycle.
We are very grateful to City of Sydney Council for supporting this project through their matching grants program and we hope that something on this website will be of use to you.
Drop us a line, tell us what you think of our website or share your cycling stories with us. We’d love to hear them.