Meet Ben Carroll. Ben is my next door neighbour and friend, he is also a seriously busy individual working tirelessly as a Victorian State MP.
I was super excited last year when Ben turned up on my door step with a 'new' second hand road bike and declared he was officially getting into cycling.
More people riding is always good, and politicians riding is even better. What's most impressive, is that despite working around the clock Ben has found the time to challenge himself and get ready for this weekend's 210km Around the Bay. I think that's huge effort and should inspire others to get out and set big goals.
FIRST BIKE DAY
The First step for Ben came with a new bike bought from a mate. First challenge complete. I would imagine that some people would find the experience of choosing a fist road bike some what of a minefield, brands, geometry, group sets, wheels, kit, spares... it's a foreign language to most.
Despite this, I love it when people call me or stop me and say 'I'm thinking of getting a bike.' I find it hard to curb my enthusiasm. It's an exciting time getting a road bike, they are amazing machines, part art, part balanced machine, part toy, part passion. Even my non-cycling mates find it hard not to 'ooohh' and 'ahhh' when they actually get up close and personal with my road bikes.
BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER
Ben's journey from bike paths, to road, to getting out in a group, to organising rides with friends, and now onto a pretty massive ride for just about any cyclist has been impressive.
It has made me reflect again on what cycling really does for us all. It's one of the great levelers. People from all walks of life, with different backgrounds, education, experience all enjoying a common passion. It's also a brilliant way to meet people that you would likely never have crossed paths with. Despite living next door to Ben I've had the pleasure of getting to know him a lot better through getting out on the bike together.
A TEST OF CHARACTER
There's nothing particularly easy about getting into cycling. It's not just from an equipment perspective, but from a physical and mental stength. It's a true test of character.
From this perspective it has been brilliant watching Ben persevere and improve. A shop ride with Rapido Cycles last Christmas from Niddrie to Mordi and back in brutally hot conditions with a fire hot northerly wind would have resulted in many new riders putting the bike on ebay... Ben just showed me a photo of himself in pretty bad shape and laughed. It's this ability to endure though hard conditions and to look back at those rides with humour, and as the best rides of our lives that I think defines the attitude of cyclists.
WHY CHALLENGE YOURSELF?
It's brilliant to see new and experienced riders getting out there, setting big goals and going for it. Pushing yourself to do new rides, meet new people on the group rides translates into making us better people, that perseverance required on the bike bring's other life tasks into perspective. It also gives you time to think and reflect and even relax in some ways.
Challenge yourself. Don't be afraid of failing. Even if you don't make it you'll learn and do better next time. I'm not interested in standing still. Challenging myself to the point of failure is what has made me a better cyclist, person (hopefully), and resulted in my life being dramatically different today to how it was a couple of years back.
I'm pretty sure Ben never thought he could ride 210km in one stretch, but setting the goal and going for it is what matters. I'm getting behind him to wish him luck. Eat. Drink. Conserve. I can't wait to hear about the experience.
Good luck to Ben Carroll and his fellow riders Wade Noonan and Colin Brooks and everyone else having a go this weekend.
Tell us what you're next challenge is in the comments below.