An Introduction To Women's Cycling In The Highlands
An Introduction To Women's Cycling In The Highlands
The Highlands is quite the cycling mecca attracting thousands of keen riders to the region every year. But how good is it for us locals to have all these wonderful fire trails, single tracks, forests and country roads to ride on in our own backyard?
In a bid to impress my significant other (who has been mountain biking for a decade), I recently decided to join the charge of the lycra brigade and jump on board this cycling lark. While brownie points and my abnormally competitive streak were the main reasons for taking it up, I also fancied changing up my exercise routine and seeing more of The Highlands ‘off-road’.
The romantic notion of riding through the forests, breathing in the fresh country air with the wind in my hair may have actually been replaced by the reality of coughing up a lung here and there, close encounters with slithery locals and a sore undercarriage. But I am now quite the fan of rolling the pedals over…….and as far as I’m concerned, there ain’t no better place than the stunning Southern Highlands to learn.
As I've moved from a total cycling noob (squealing at snakes and kicking tree stumps) to not so much of a noob (I can take my own bike off the roof of the car now - all by myself!!! - that one took a while), I've learnt a fair bit about cycling, myself and padded pants.
Types of riding
I’ve been focusing on mountain biking, but there are so many types of cycling. Each genre of riding requires different bikes, equipment, skills (or in my case, a lack thereof), knowledge and suitable locations. So, what’s what?
Road // This one is fairly self-explanatory. Think Tour de France or closer to home, the Bowral Classic. Riding for long distances on smooth roads (treated bitumen). If you’re starting out with road riding, it’s good to join up with a social group.
Mountain biking single track // Single tracks are trails a bit wider than a bike width cut into forests, bush, gullies and mountains. There is a downhill version of this too where basically you go like the clappers as fast as you can….umm, downhill.
Mountain biking fire trails // While a little less adrenalin-inducing, mountain biking along fire trails – so wider versions of the single track – is still challenging. Great for cardio and perfect for finding your feet (so to speak) on uneven tracks perhaps before hitting the single tracks.
Track // Have you been to the velodrome at Eridge Park at Bowral on a balmy Thursday evening? This is where you see the track enthusiasts getting all strategic and super-fast.
Recreational // Ride your bike down to your local café for brekkie or perhaps you love finding bike pathways that are perfect for family rides. Probs don’t need padded pants for this sort of cruisy approach to cycling.
*hint* This picture below is single track at Welby!
So where do you go?
The Fixed Wheel in Bowral has plenty of maps to get you started. Pop in and have a chat to the team there and they can direct you to what will work best for your skill level and the type of cycling you’re keen to do.
If you want to head bush and hit the fire trails and single tracks, Wingello State Forest and Welby are a good place to start. Welby is also the home track of the Southern Highlands Cycle Club.
The Cherry Tree Walk at Bowral and the Bong Bong Track behind Briar’s in between Moss Vale and Burradoo is great for recreational cycling or to get your confidence up.
Who do you go with?
If you’re keen to start road cycling, doing it with a group is a great idea. The Fixed Wheel are running monthly social rides for women – this is a super place to start. They also run weekly rides on Tuesdays and Saturdays starting from their store.
You can also hook up with the Southern Highlands Cycling Club. They run a number of racing and social events across all disciplines (including for kids) all year round.
It’s good to have plenty of experienced people around you as you go from noob to lightning streak.
Image: Meaghan Stanton
It’s all about the gear
It doesn’t matter if you’re cruising around town on your bike with your baguette in your basket, or hurtling down a steep single track, safety is super important. That’s why you need to get the right bike and the right gear. The team at The Fixed Wheel know their stuff, so pop in and see them.
You will need…
Gloves // They help you maintain a good grip on the handlebars and also cushion your hands from the vibrations passed from the bike and the handlebar (absolute necessity for mountain bikers).
A good helmet // This is a no brainer. Without a good helmet you run the risk of serious head injuries. Ask the experts which helmet is best for you and try it on in the store. You do not want to muck around with this one.
Cleats and pedals // If you’re starting out, a good pair of trainers and some good quality sports socks is all you need. As you become more comfortable on the bike, you may want to swap over to cleats and clipless pedals. This is when you ‘click in’ to the pedals which gives you a greater connection to the bike (and not just emotionally….). These take a little getting used to. Be prepared to hit the deck a few times – it’s okay, you just sort of gently fall to the side. You get quite graceful at it after a while – and slightly bruised hips as your brain becomes used to the fact you are actually physically attached to your bike.
A suitable bike // As we mentioned before there are loads of different types of cycling, so you need to get the bike that suits the type of riding you will be doing. Proper bike fit focuses on getting you in the right position. This means you will be comfortable for longer in the saddle and can also minimise or prevent any injuries from riding a bike that doesn’t ‘fit’ you.
Padded pants // I learned the hard way (after my first bumpy single track ride) that padded pants are a necessity, people! The shape the padding takes in women’s shorts is different when compared to the shape of padding in men’s shorts, for obvious ermm… biological reasons. So make sure you get women’s pants. Now I like the idea of funky AND comfy so the big winner for me was the cargo shorts….with removable padded inserts.
The Fixed Wheel is a full-service bicycle shop in Bowral. In fact, they have just moved to a new location at 44-48 Bowral Street. The guys and girls in-store are all cyclists themselves with quite a collection of championships, race wins and real experience under their belts. In fact, one of their bike mechanics is the mechanic for the Australian Commonwealth Games Road and Mountain Biking Teams. They definitely know their stuff!
If you're keen to start cycling or you want to try a different type of cycling or perhaps you're already to go next level, start at The Fixed Wheel.