I’d like to share an inspiring women’s cycling story
I’m a member of a number of social media women’s cycling groups and I really love regularly reading inspiring women’s cycling stories like the one I read last week. After reading this post from Kerrie I contacted her and said I’d like to write a longer post about her story. Here’s her social post…….
This is encouragement for anyone who thinks they are too old, too unfit, too fat…In 2013 I was a sad and lonely woman and at 54 had NEVER ridden a bike, my mate Gail kept nagging me to come riding, eventually I gave in and it changed my life! Now I’m 60 and I’ve ridden (mostly with said mate) 26,795 kilometres; climbed 304,586 metres; burned 1,023,128 calories, peddled all over the world including, Japan, Italy, Croatia, Albania, India, Vietnam, UK, Scotland, Australia and NZ, laughed a lot, cried a bit, fell off!! got back on!! AND met and married the loveliest man. Yep! changed my life, saved me. GET ON YOUR BIKE and RIDE GIRLS.
I contacted Kerrie and she answered my questions via email. I’ve edited her answers down a little but included most of the details. Kerrie is obviously very passionate about cycling, just like Women Who Cycle. I hope you find this inspiring women’s cycling story just as interested and uplifting as I did.
Q: What compelled you to take up riding at aged 54? Q: Did you find it difficult to learn?
A: At 51 I found myself widowed when my husband of 31 years died suddenly. I was lost for a while and not looking after myself very well at all, drinking too much, not sleeping, getting fatter, slower, older than my years.
One day I took a good look at myself and decided I had a choice.. keep on the way I was, a mess living a half-life, or actually start living again. So I started exercising, walking at first but as my knees are shot so that wasn’t great, then the gym, but again the knees (too many years as a hockey player), I found the only cardio that didn’t hurt was the stationary bike.
Meanwhile, my wonderful friend Gail is in the background with an insistent “come riding, come riding” I kept telling her I didn’t know how and I didn’t do early mornings OR lycra!
She kept on though, eventually the thought dawned that I was admitting defeat over something that most 8 year olds can do, so I went down to my LBS bought a basic hybrid and got the guy who served me to give me a quick lesson in the carpark. I TOLD NO ONE, I used to drive the bike down to my local park and ride around on the grass, kept falling off and getting back on until I could sort of keep vertical. Finally I told Gail and started going on rides with her, the first time I cracked 10k we stopped at the pub for a beer! She was wonderful really, never mattered to her how slow I was, she was always with me. Eventually I got better and I went with her with a group she rode with who have now all become great friends and we’ve had so many adventures together.
The hybrid is long gone, now I have a lovely little Giant Avail road bike and a Specialized Diverge gravel bike for touring, I keep the Diverge in the UK.
I still don’t like early mornings, but I couldn’t do without my lycra.
Q: Tell me about your travels. What have been your favourite destinations? Q: Where are you heading next?
I’ve come to love cycle touring, you really experience the place you’re visiting with all your senses, you get to see things slowly and interact with the people you meet, literally time to smell the roses and take lots of photos : )
My first trip was a cycle/sail in Croatia and that is what gave me a goal to get properly going, it was in August 2013 so I was still pretty green but it was so much fun.
Next was October 2013 and Gail decided to celebrate her 60th with a cycle tour in Japan, this remains a favourite, I loved Japan, the cycling was beautiful and we stayed in traditional inns, complete with communal baths, tatami mats and futons to sleep on and authentic Japanese food.
In May/June 2014 quite a few of our “Tour de Brissie” gang, me and Gail included, joined a Bike Dreams ride from one side of Italy to the other, camping as we went, 1200k, It was TOUGH, very hilly and quite long days, I’m glad I did it but wouldn’t again. Alistair (my then future husband) came too, as he did to Japan (more on the man himself to follow)
In 2016 Alistair and I organised a two-week cycle tour of the west coast of Scotland, this is a favourite. 13 of our Aussie mates joined us, we had support van and Al’s brother, John drove it with our luggage as we hopped from the mainland to the islands of Arran, Mull, Sky and the Outer Hebrides. It was fabulous! Scotland is so beautiful, not much flat though, we called it Islands and Highlands and even had jerseys made for us all.
In November 2016 a few of us rode the Alps to Ocean in NZ South Island, that was fun. In May 2017 we went to Albania with an English group, a very interesting trip. Then November 2018 Alistair, Gail and I did a two-week tour of Rajasthan, Northern India. I’ve long wanted to see India but certainly never thought I’d see it on a bike! It was a wonderful trip, very challenging but so rewarding.
In October last year Al and I decided to try some unsupported touring, we packed our panniers, caught the train from our home Carlisle to London and set off on The Avenue Vert a 450 km cycle route beginning under the London Eye and finishing at Notre Dame Paris. I loved it and are planning more of this type of trip.
We’re just back from a two-week cycle in Vietnam and our next trip is already in the planning to Europe following the Danube in May.
Q: I believe you met your now-husband through cycling, please share the story of how you met?
Ah my Alistair, not a short story, sorry.
I first met Alistair in April 2012 in Carlisle, UK, at the wedding of my oldest friend, Viv. We were both guests at the wedding and Alistair lived in the same village as my friend.
He had been widowed the previous year and we were both lost souls and in no way looking for a relationship. However, I guess we connected if only in our shared understanding of loss. I came home to Australia and we emailed each other occasionally just to see how the other was going.
At this stage neither of us were “cyclists” Al like most folks knew how to ride a bike but had never mentioned any interest in it and I hadn’t even thought of it.
But by August of the following year, 2013, I was headed to Croatia on my first cycle trip and decided to go to the UK first to visit Viv. I mentioned in an email to Alistair that I was worried about keeping fit enough and asked if he knew of a cycling group I could link up with. He suggested that we ride together instead, so we did and that’s how it started.
We rode, we talked and a relationship developed. Both of us saw it as a bit of fun and a chance at some happy after so much sadness I think, never looking at all to any future. It was clear though that we shared the same ideas about living life while we could.
Things would probably have never progressed past a holiday fling but while I was in Croatia, Gail contacted me to invite me on the Japan trip and mentioned there was a spare place, so I emailed Alistair and asked him if he wanted to come. To my great surprise he said yes.
That began a succession of meetings and rides in various places. After Italy, Alistair visited me here in Brisbane and we pretty well started spending all our trips and as much of the in-between together as we could, backwards and forwards across the world. Thank goodness for FaceTime, we missed each other when we were apart and eventually managed to organise things so that we were basically living together, just sometimes in his home in the UK and sometimes in mine in Brisbane.
In April 2018 we were married here in Brisbane, I guess cycling changed both our lives, without those first little spins around the Eden Valley we would never have got to know and love each other. We are so very lucky to have found each other and have been blessed by so much wonderful support from both sides of the world from our respective grown children and friends.
Q: What advice do you have for other women who are nervous about riding on the road?
Like everything it just takes practice. Find a cycling friend who is patient and go with them and gradually you will become more confident.
I cycle with this personal motto in my head..
“When in doubt… dismount” never be embarrassed to just get off your bike and walk it if the intersection is too busy or the hill too steep. It simply doesn’t matter, you still got there under your own steam!