I caught up with Sarah Knights, co-founder of women’s track cycling community "Melburn Hurt", to chat about her involvement with the scene and the amazing work she's doing to get more women on bikes and interested in track cycling.
Words - Stu Moysey Images - Rachel Hickey / Melburn Hurt
A lot of people say “track cycling is dead”, but dig a little deeper, you soon realise that competitive local track cycling never went anywhere. It’s been quietly laying the foundations for the next generation of track riders.
I rolled up to their spiritual home, the newly refurbished Brunswick Velodrome and clubrooms. Sarah was coaching track novice Kaitlin who was umming and ahhing on whether or not to hop on a bike and give it a go for the first time. She’d never ridden fixed brakeless before but Sarah was there talking basics and helping convince Kaitlin to give it a go. Before I knew it, Sarah had talked me into getting on a “come and try” track bike, and Dave from Brunswick CC gave me the quick run through.
Soon Sarah had both myself and Kaitlin whipping around in circles on the fresh facade of the velodrome. Sarah coached us both expertly and patiently through the turns as I hung onto the back of their wheels.
It's easy to see how Sarah has built such a strong community with her patience and expertise.
Sarah, can you tell the readers a bit about Melburn Hurt?
Melburn Hurt is a women's cycling community. Basically, we started it because we wanted to get more women into track cycling in Melbourne, as there was just only a few people doing it. Like anything, the more people you have doing something the more fun it is. It's all about community and just encouraging other women.
How did you build up the community?
We try not to just make it about being an elite rider; we encourage anybody to come and give it a go, we also run events that are not actually about track cycling, but about getting women on bikes and getting out there to have fun. So in that sense that's how we've built the community.
What would you say is one of the main obstacles for women getting out there and giving track a go?
It's really intimidating. I remember the first time I went to the track, you walk down there and it was just a heap of guys and you feel a bit silly because you've got this bike that you don't really know how to make anything work on, and then they tell you that you need to change the gears and you're like, “I don't know how to do any of this.” So in that sense it's intimidating.
It's intimidating because you don't have any brakes, the banking on the velodrome is really scary. The first time I got on a track bike was actually at DISC and I was terrified on the banking. Because if you go too slow you can feel like you're going to slip off. Since then, and since coming to tracks like Brunswick, you realise that you actually have a lot more control on the banking. And tracks like this (Brunswick) aren't so steep.
Talk to us about some of the evenings you run.
On Monday evenings from 7 we run our Yog-Hurt session. It’s yoga run by Melburn Hurt. This is another example of how we run the community. We were wanting to do a yoga session, and we were looking at getting some in to come and do it. We just put the call out to the wider community and it turns out that one of our members is training to be a yoga instructor and wanted somewhere to practice.
She has been using it as a way to practice and to train. It's a really nice relaxed atmosphere with not too many expectations on the instructor, and because we all know each other, it's just really nice to come on a Monday and see everybody.
Tell me about the Melburn Hurt kit.
We wanted a kit for people in our community to really get behind and feel like they were part of something. We engaged a local artist, Phung Trang, and she designed a repeat pattern for us based on a list of colours we gave her that we like. She came up with this pattern which is really fun, and I think it reflects how we try to be with just being bright and out there.
We've got the skinsuit, jersey and knicks and caps. People love the caps. Especially when you're out riding and you're riding up a hill and they'll see the "HURT" [on the brim] and they'll be saying "Yes.” I think people really identify with the Hurt part. For us, hurting is part of bike riding and that's why the name Hurt really meshed with us.
When we were coming up with the name, we wanted something that people could embrace and get behind. We didn't want it to be something fluffy. Women's cycling is as exciting as it is aggressive. It's just as exciting as men's racing so we wanted something that really showed that. [Laughing] We didn't want to be the Melbourne Pink Clouds or something like that.
Hurting on the bike is when you're really pushing yourself; it's a sense of improvement as well. Because when you hurt, you know you're trying your best and when you're trying you'll get that improvement It's an empowerment thing.
Tell us about the "URT" franchise with Melburn Hurt, Melburn Durt etc. Where do they all fit in?
Melburn Durt was just a group of us who starting doing cyclocross. Kate Fowler came up with the name. Everyone in the group identified with Melburn Hurt, but said "What about Melburn Durt?'" It's just a little bit of a play on words.
It's Hurt and Durt all year round! At the moment, Kate's running the summer CX stuff, which is open for anybody. You don't have to be a member of a club; we just post it on Instagram with our route and you can turn up and come riding with us. It's interesting, we get such a broad range of people turning up, they've just seen us through social media and it's really cool because then they are getting really excited about racing and improving their skills. A lot of the time is about getting that little bit of skill behind you and then that gives you enough empowerment to race.
Through our chat, empowerment has been a key theme; can you expand on that a bit more?
I think it's about providing some basic skills and a safe space for women to be able to say "hey actually I can do that, it's not beyond me". That's what we're doing with the track and the CX clinics. It’s about just taking the time to show people just really little skills. But it's those tiny little skills that will give someone the encouragement, and make them feel that they can actually do it. A great example from the CX Thursdays, one of the people that turned up, she didn't know any of the jumping off the bike or back on skills. By the end of the session she doing it. Then she tried to do a wheelie and nailed it. It was just because she had that confidence after just learning those tiny skills. It's really rewarding seeing that.
If women want to get involved with Melburn Hurt what can they do?
It's a completely open community. Just come along; the only expectation is that you are going to be nice and embracing of everyone there. You don't have to be winning races to be part of us. Just come down if you want to ride a bike.
We are at DISC on Tuesday running track sessions, on Monday's we run our yoga sessions at Brunswick Cycling Club or you can just get in touch via instagram, facebook or our website. We are trying to make ourselves super accessible.
Do people need to be a member of Brunswick CC to hang?
While a number of Melburn Hurt are Brunswick members, were not exclusive. We're open to any members from any clubs. We've done things with Coburg and have some things in the pipeline with Preston. Everyone is welcome. If you want to ride a bike, come and ride with us.