I was having a look through some old photos at my parent's house and came across this cracker from the mid-nineties. It's a snap from the first time I went cycling in France, I'd managed to get a pair of Shimano 'padded' shorts and paired them up with a t-shirt (Harley Davidson if I remember rightly), and the most massive new foam helmet complete with lycra cover. I thought I was the coolest thing around.
In my early teens, with little road riding experience, I managed to drag myself around 800km of French roads in 6 days. A second-hand steel Peugeot, runners (I took the toe clips off as I was not confident enough to use them), one pair of shorts with a bad excuse for padding that looked more like a well-cooked pancake, and a couple of t-shirts. All accommodation was in tents and we cooked all our own food bought along the way at local towns. It was the trip of a lifetime and it was done with the rubbish kit.... It was where the cycling journey started for me, and you know what, it was amazing.
But times change and so do fashions, bikes and attitudes to events. Looking at this old picture has bought back a pile of great memories for me. It also bought me back to some of the events that helped boost my cycling development and made me realise that attitude the creeping in of thinking 'I don't need those events' is wrong.
As cycling became something I just had to do, I progressed to wanting to ride some bigger distances, first 100k plus.... then 150k... then 200k plus in less than a day. However, in those dark ages of cycling (or glory days depending on which way you look at it), there were limited options for massive days on the bike, and heading out on a 200km adventure by myself or with a few mates was logistically challenging for the uninitiated like ourselves.
At that time there was only one local event to choose from where those kinds of KMs were offered with solid support, Around the Bay. It's a day I won't forget in a hurry.... again with pretty rubbish kit, a beast of a bike and carrying way too much stuff, I dragged myself around the 210km from Melbourne to... well... Melbourne. It was awesome. Absolutely awesome. Well, actually that day was hard, very hard, that that's what made it so awesome, if you've been there, you'll know what I mean. From there I was free to ride bigger distances, improve technique, carry less rubbish and cover more distance more easily.
Around the Bay is a strong starting point for so many of us. I've seen some awesome pictures of people riding their first Around the Bay versus photos of what they are doing and looking like today - my friend Faz is a classic example. Faz took on Around the Bay to lose weight and get fitter, she's now a multiple Peaks finisher, has ridden her bike all over Australia and is one of the faces so may associate with Black Sheep Cycling. She's a truly good news story of why Around the Bay has a warm and cosy spot in cycling. It's what gets people on their bike for the first time, and offers the opportunity to increase participation and get more riders on the road, which in time means better infrastructure, more awareness and more great people to meet.
So if you know someone that is just starting their cycling journey, get them signed up for one of these rides. They won't be alone with many first-timers and will gain help and experience from you joining them whether it's a full lap of the Bay or one of the shorter distances. The experience will show you what is possible and help you to whatever step of cycling you choose to take on, the commute, family adventures, cyclie paths, rail trails, tracks, adventure, hills, mountains... the beauty of this this amazing sport is that you can make it anything that you want it to be... there are no rules....
So get some friends together, a blend of new and experienced riders and get out on the road.... and create some awesome memories. And just like my trip to France and first Around the Bay, you don’t need the fanciest road bike, just find a bike and some clothes that are comfortable and you’ll be set. I promise you'll be talking about 'that day we did Around the Bay' for years to come.
Side note - I'd like to thank an extremely adventurous teacher of mine, Oliver Green, he loves cycling, loves France and loves to sample many of the region's wines. As a result, he decided it was an excellent idea to take about 20 12 and 13-year-olds on an almost 800km cycling adventure in France supported some brave parents and ultimately lead me to love cycling the way I do... I did not even need the latest kit.
This is a sponsored post by Bicycle Network - The article contains only my words and thoughts.