The Weekly Rider - Belinda Heyward

The Weekly Rider is back for 2017!

For week one we've got a brilliant rider.... Belinda Heyward... Picking up cycling in retirement has seen her ride across South America, Norway and New Zealand just to name a few. Tough rides, unsupported in unforgiving conditions. Rides that people half her age would think twice about taking on... 

And her first 'proper' road bike (after several years of touring on 'shopper bikes') was Baum cycles about building a titanium road bike, a Cubano.

I love this one.

I was lucky to live in Europe for many years growing up. So it feels familiar and I have abstract maps in my head of the cities in which I lived. When our last child started school and I turned 40, I took up tertiary study and discovered a love of learning. After three degrees, some years of teaching, running workshops and setting up an independent practice as a psychologist, I gave it away in 2009 in order to hike solo in various countries around the world. This has morphed into cycling in groups and solo in different countries of the world, and many Around the Bays and Great Vics in ‘Straya! I feel extraordinarily privileged to be able to do what I love.
 Cycle Touring East side of Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America

Cycle Touring East side of Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America

Belinda Heyward - Hawthorn, Victoria

Dream Bike

Five years ago, just after I turned 70 (too old for this?!) and feeling slightly ridiculous, I approached Baum cycles about building a titanium road bike, a Cubano. My first EVER road bike! Darren was super generous and spent heaps of time with me, and from this engagement emerged my dream bike. It rides like the wind, fast, responsive, with flex in the frame - a joy! It lives inside, in my study, and sometimes, I turn the pedals just to hear the hum of the hub. Beautiful sound! Brushed titanium, no paint for ... Baum ... "James Baum"!

What is your favourite local ride

My favourite ride has a bit of everything… some tar, some gravel, some path, some road, some country, some urban: I like the mix, the challenge of different surfaces, and getting lost.

What is your current cycling goal

Cycle touring in exotic, interesting, hilly and sometimes, barren places… Anything which takes me out of my comfort zone, challenges and excites me, while at the same time making me feel slightly unnerved and scared.

When I am on the bike I....

Am in the moment, like nothing else…. It brings me present in my life, alerts my peripheral vision for danger (cars, bikes, potholes, etc), and invites an immediate appreciation of my surroundings. Movement, momentum and adventure are important to me, first as a roller skater, then a skier and a hiker, and now a cyclist! I'm fascinated by how we manage the "near impossible" and harness the strength of mind needed to keep going when sanity says STOP!

 Bikepacking, Fjordland, Norway

Bikepacking, Fjordland, Norway

How did your love of bikes come about?

In 2006 I was going to Norway for a conference when I saw an ad for Cycling the Archipelago in Finland. It had to be done! Solo! As I remember it, wonderful island hopping on a "shopper" with no brakes to speak of! I thought I'd better get my first bike and settled for a "Gary" Fisher hybrid! 

In 2008, I cycled around Corsica. The hire bike was again a "shopper", not a climber! Grinding slowly to the top of a Col, many Lycra clad French men passed me with a joyful 'bon jour!'. When I appeared at the top, they were, in various states of undress, celebrating their ascent with food and wine. They cheered my arrival with loud enthusiasm. Quelle comraderie! I laughed and raised my arms in the air in the style of Rocky Balboa! Great moment! 

Diary Notes: Day Eight Corsica

"My oh my… Fired by my new wild, springy legs I took the high road today, climbing 915m., then more up and down. Some crazy adventure! It started to drizzle, then when in mountains, heavy rain. W it torrenting down road was worried loose rocks would catapult onto my head from rocky hillside. Was safe but a real threat, could c plenty on road. So on and up, slowly, slowly getting wetter n wetter. Fell into a bar (only cover poss) n all the men looked @ this v wet woman! As obv not much goes on in high villages, entertained them by doing a slow strip of wet gear! Dried out a bit, put on more for descent wh was freezing as I was soaked .. prob 6 deg. Then ano up w road straddled by big mending machine, looked like it had dropped onto its 4 legs from outer space. Had to lift bike over. Workman fixed my brakes wh were not working well and I flew down to the hotel wh I dripped all over, then fell into a hot bath. Am warm now. Thank the b jesus."

After this I knew that I would get a better bike. That I loved this way of moving over the land. Since, I have had two touring bikes built "Arabella" and "Isabella", and take them on group or solo tours, short and long, in Australia and overseas: including many rides in New Zealand and Japan, U.K., France, South America, Tibet, Nepal, Finland and Norway. After several fully loaded cycling trips, and armed with many ultralight items from my backpacking days, in 2015, a new enthusiasm overtook me - bikepacking. I love dreaming up new adventures, sometimes sub-24 hours : S240. I can spend happy hours working out the least I could possibly take and not freeze, which bags to attach and how, what to take including a tent, cook set, food, sleep system, minimum clothes, bike and body first aid etc. This is how it goes - dream, plan, pack bike, depart...

Share a cycling memory

In 2011, a friend asked me to ride with him, unsupported in South America for two months, May-July. He had been there 15 years earlier. It was my first fully loaded cycle tour, it was the year I turned 70. Arabella came, bombproof with 48 spoke wheels, Schwalbe Marathon XR 2.1 tyres.

 Bolivia. South America

Bolivia. South America

The "plan" was to cycle from Peru around the East side (border closed on West) of Lake Titicaca into Bolivia, up to the Altiplano at 3740m, then via El Salar de Uyuni (the worlds largest salt flat), over the Andes to Chile and the Atacama desert. What a way to celebrate! I said "yes", blindly oblivious to the possible dangers, not least, wild dogs! Unfortunately there had been a lot of snow, El Salar was under water and we couldn't cross the Andes. We cycled into Argentina instead: Salta is such a beautiful city. For the worried folk back home, I took a Spot tracker with me. They said they couldn't even find some locations on Google Maps, but at least they got a Spot!

 Peru, South America

Peru, South America

Diary Notes: Day One:

"B and I arrived at first base in this busy, dark tan, red brick, half-finished border town, Juliaca, on Sat June 11th. The van stopped outside the hotel, the street dusty, noisy- ALIVE! Trucks, cars, taxi mopeds, bike mopeds, push carts milling and jostled for a place in the onward moving roll of vehicles. Got our stuff into the hotel with one person guarding the van, one the bike rack, one the luggage. As I walked into the hotel to watch over the luggage I see a hotelman carrying our bike upstairs!! No questions, the bikes live in rooms in this hotel!! We went out to the bustling street for something to eat. The poverty hits you at once and so does the vivacity. We are excited, on the brink...Now exit visa and off we go. Probably won't be straightforward ... Left Juliaca @ 9, 12th June, fully loaded for the 45k, @ 3800m, trip down 'weekday maniac highway' to Puno, but this was Sunday and things were relatively quiet on the road."

I love to ride because....

...starting cycling at 65 I have a sense of time collapsing. No time to waste! This gives a razor edge to each ride, and gratitude that I'm still fit, strong and able. Cycling is a great connector - it connects me with people : strangers, family and friends I care about. It feels like opening doorways in walls without doors. I love the enhanced sense of simply being alive that cycling brings, the universality of it, the way that you are approachable, the easy conversations that start, the leveller it is - it's all there to see. I love the "being in the land", the appreciation of the early morning fog, light rain, crisp air in winter, sounds of birds, evening light, the 'sound' of silence, the hum of the tyres on a downhill... just you moving through the land with your own effort ...

I have my family and friends to thank for understanding and supporting this "wanderlust", and the challenges and adventures I take on.

OPINION