The Joy of Cycling, part two

(To read part one first, click here)

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Riding along beautiful Beach Road along Melbourne’s bayside suburbs.

In 2014, Mitch and I were living with his parents in Brighton, the heart of the Beach Road cycling route. This seemed like a good opportunity for us to both get back on the bike. Mitch had started road cycling with his dad back in 2009, but had since abandoned riding in favour of captaining his cricket team. Mitch missed the exhilaration of riding, and although I was a little hesitant, having not ridden a bike since the age of 10, I decided to give it a go. I started off on his mum’s old hybrid, which suited me perfectly as it was really easy to ride. I got on and rode off, like no time had passed. I know knew where the saying “it’s like riding a bike” came from.

To ease me back into riding, we started out on the paths. Once I regained my confidence, the paths turned out to be infuriating. Despite having a separate bike path, pedestrians would often walk along it, mistaking it for a footpath, or they’d amble across it without looking first. I’m a very vocal person, much to Mitch’s chagrin, so I would spend much of these initial rides making my displeasure known to all and telling people off for their stupidity.

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Coffee stop in Port Melbourne

Mitch finally suggested that perhaps riding on the road would be a better option. Initially, I was terrified, but my confidence grew quickly and I came to love it. Mitch’s dad attached SPD pedals to the hybrid so I could learn to ride clipped in, for a faster and smoother ride. I hated these at first as I kept almost falling off trying to clip in and out when we had to stop, but I (very slowly) got the hang of it. We’d fly down Beach Road to Mordialloc or Port Melbourne and back, stopping for a coffee and a Clif bar along the way. This was always my favourite way to spend time with Mitch.

After a few months, I was encouraged by the Dabb family to get a road bike. I had outgrown the hybrid, which felt slow and clunky on the longer, faster rides we were now doing. I was a bit hesitant, as I was told it was quite difficult to learn to ride a road bike, due to the differences between road bikes and the hybrid I was used to. My naturally anxious mind went into overdrive. What if I can’t ride it and embarrass myself? What if I fall off into oncoming traffic? What if Mitch rides off on me and I can’t ride on my own? (Mitch would never actually do that).

Mitch managed to allay my fears, and I caved and bought my first road bike: a Merida Juliet, a solid entry-level road bike with an alloy frame and carbon forks. Mitch was gifted his dad’s old Look 586 Origin, having given away his old Avanti Giro earlier in the year. We were all set.

Our first ride, which turned out to be our last, was a disaster. I was not aware that I was supposed to get off the seat when stopping, as I had always been able to touch the ground from the seat on my other bikes. This made stopping a challenge, along with the fact that the brakes were hard to reach with my tiny hands, and that it takes a bit longer to stop on a road bike than I was used to. Mitch didn’t realise that I didn’t know how to stop properly, and was wondering why I looked so uncomfortable every time we stopped. Brighton to Port Melbourne via St Kilda probably wasn’t the best choice of route for my first foray into road cycling, either. Roads full of speeding cars, fast bikes, and oblivious pedestrians. Yes, it was a catastrophe. I was a bit dramatic about it all, and Mitch and I weren’t great at communicating at that earlier point in our relationship. I cracked it, he cracked it, and we rode home seething in silence.

The bikes subsequently sat in the garage and I refused to ride again. We moved out of Brighton shortly after, and despite our best intentions of having another go if I ever found my big girl panties, life got in the way. I ended up selling my bike, and vowed to never go near another road bike.

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The Jamis Allegros

Fast forward to 2016, and we ended up moving to the quiet little waterside suburb of Newport, where I’d grown up. Enticed by the sprawling kilometres of nearby bike paths, we decided to try again, having had some time to move past the trauma of that ill-fated attempt at road cycling two years prior. We stopped in at a little bike shop in Cheltenham on a whim one day, and walked out with two new bikes: a Jamis Allegro Sport (flat-bar road bike) for Mitch, and Jamis Allegro Femme (hybrid) for me. Now, we’ll skip past the entire year after we purchased the bikes in which they sat unused in our shed (we’re the worst). When we eventually took them for a spin in late 2017, we fell straight back in love with cycling. My old frustrations with the paths quickly came back, this time by the hoards of tourists that descend on Williamstown every weekend. We ended up back on the road, and it turns out the that riding in the Western suburbs is a much gentler introduction to road riding than Beach Road (who would have guessed). Mitch taught me how to get out of the saddle when coming to a stop, which took me all of about 5 minutes to get the hang of, after all that. From that point, we started speeding along to Altona and back, and my confidence on the roads soared.

Head over heels in love with cycling, I sheepishly enquired about perhaps reacquainting myself with a road bike. Our bikes were heavy and not suited for longer rides, and we would come back exhausted after only 25km. Mitch was enthused, and we started our search for a new bike. We initially looked at the Avanti range, as Mitch had nothing but fond memories of his old Giro. The Avantis suited us price-wise, but even the full carbon models didn’t feel much lighter than the bike I already had, so I passed. Our local bike shop, Cycles Galleria in Williamstown, had an alluring display of Treks that I admired every time we went past, but I wasn’t convinced I could afford one. I ended up looking online and discovered the Trek Domane AL3 with women specific design, which was touted as the perfect entry-level road bike. It was love at first sight. Cycles Galleria ordered it in for me, and amazingly it arrived 6 days ahead of schedule. I’m not sure who was more pleased about this, me or long-suffering Mitch, who had to hear me whine constantly from the moment I ordered it about how I wanted my new road bike, when was I getting my new road bike, why has my new road bike not arrived yet, etc.

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Despite his bedroom being taken over, Lenny was also pretty excited about my new bike!

We collected the Look from Brighton, which fortunately Mitch’s dad had held on to. The bikes now sit proudly in what was formerly our dog’s bedroom (sorry, Lenny); this was the only viable storage option in our humble abode. Unable to contain our excitement until our day off on Sunday, we took them out after work on Saturday afternoon. I hopped on, clipped in, and rode off like it was the most natural thing in the world. This was equal parts exhilarating, mystifying, and frustrating. I was so excited to actually be able to ride the damn bike (finally!), but why had I wasted three years of my life being too scared and stubborn to try again?! 23-year-old me had been too proud, impatient, and immature to want to learn, but I’ve grown up a bit since then. We rode down to Altona and back; I had the time of my life.

Riding a road bike: this is living.

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