How to choose a bike

bikes26, 27.5, or 29?

Tubes or tubeless?

Carbon?

Single or double chain ring?

Women’s specific or unisex?

Fox or Rockshox?

Hard tail or dualie?

A multitude of questions and to start with it can be incredibly overwhelming. When you want to invest in a bike, and not just a bike to rock around town on, but one you want to give back to you when you ride, you should try things out and learn what you can.

I’ve tried the full range of wheel sizes – personally I find the 26er a whip and a total weapon with tight corners and the most amazing fun to flick around corners. My first attempt at a 29er was poorly matched, the frame size was too big and as such the bike felt too out of control for me. Since then, I tried again in Hawaii and I felt like a demon! That beautiful Specialized Epic Comp 29er was fast, was fearless, hopped over logs with ease! It didn’t feel as quick around the corners and took a little more handling, but it was a fun bike! My current bike is a 27.5 and I feel the size works well for me. For what I want to do, some climbing, some technical, some tight corners, I feel the easier handling of the 27.5 size will work best for me. The 29er is quick, and I wouldn’t mind one in the future, but for now, the 27.5 is calling me.

I’m a sucker for tubeless, but I can appreciate the extra speed you’d get from the tube set up – just as I can appreciate the wider tyre for more grip and stability especially in the wet!

I currently have a beautiful hard tail and I feel that for my endurance events, sitting on a bike that has no rear suspension for 6+ hours will leave me feeling a little worse for wear. Dualies are smoother and much more forgiving of the little mistakes, good thing for when I’m starting to feel a little fatigued towards the end of my rides.

It’s easy to end up wanting the next biggest thing, the shiniest bike, the beast that will be the envy of those around me – but what good is that if I can’t ride the thing properly? What use is a high end bike if I don’t have the skills to appreciate those components and those shocks? I want a bike within my means, that will help me to develop my skills and that I will continue to use for a long time because I love to be on it.

As part of the Roxcycl ambassador program, we, the ambassadors, are given $1000 to help us to achieve our goals. For me, I wanted to put that to a new bike, one that would accommodate my butt for 12 hours and not have me writhing in agony! The good people at Roxcycl also have connections with bike stores in Sydney and are doing their best to get me sorted with a bike that does what I need, gives me room to grow, won’t cost an arm and a leg, and leave me with a great relationship with one of the brands! As such, I’m doing my best to educate myself, to get out there and demo a few different kinds of bikes to see what it is that I like and don’t like. It still feels like a difficult decision, but thankfully I have a lot of great advice from people in the know to help me out.

How do you choose your next bike, or any sporting equipment, that is a bit of an investment? What factors are important to consider?

 

Race 2: WSMTB 4 hour at Wylde

Back at the site of the first cancelled race, a familiar Clear skies that led to rainchain of events began. We arrived, early, with threatening clouds in the distance and a rainy night before, but the sun out and shinning. Just like last time, the sun was overtaken by clouds and the rain started falling. Everyone thought that they would cancel the event again, but, after a half hour postponement, we would begin.

No one was excited. No one was smiling at the slippery tracks that lay ahead and mud that would cake onto the wheels and frames of our bikes. No one, except me.

For the short race recap, check out my youtube video here

I don’t know what it is, but I love riding in mud and sand. I like to practice in sand, knowing that my bike will be unpredictable and that I need to respond with the changes, without over correcting, but just going with the bike. I think too many people were trying to control their bikes too forcibly, and they ended up in a lot of trouble. That’s IMAG5912[1]not to say I didn’t lose control, but I never came off the bike, just spun out, but managed to save it and stay upright.

A lot of people quit this race after the first lap. That was the not the way to go, in my opinion. That first lap was the hardest, it was the muddiest, the most dangerous for those heading out at full speed and those uncomfortable or new with handling their bikes and may not have had much experience on different trail conditions. The second lap, which I headed straight into, was much more compact, a bit drier and I shaved 10 minutes off my lap time! That little bit of sunshine when the rain stopped had done wonders. I was still covered in mud and had mud caked into my tyres so badly that I spun up all the hills like I was on a roadie, but the trail was much nicer to ride, far less slippery. To illustrate that, Rex went out on the 3rd lap (for his first) and came back without any dirt on him! It’s like he didn’t even go riding! We both got another lap in each before the 4 hours was up, so 60km of single track ridden between us.

base camp

In the end, it was a really great race. We both enjoyed riding it, I lost control a couple of times when I was pushing the envelope a bit and was getting a little cocky (mostly on my last lap!), but it was thoroughly enjoyable. I think I managed my hydration well for this race, and considering I have a 7 hour endurance race here in a month or so, I’m stoked I have that set! Now, I need to work on food. When you were once obese, it’s difficult to convince yourself you need to eat high energy foods during sporting events, well, it is for me. I look at these things and feel as if they are unnecessary and will somehow magically make me gain back all the weight I had once lost. But, as athletes, putting ourselves through so much, pushing ourselves so hard, we need to fuel our bodies appropriately. We need to replenish the energy we are burning through, or our bodies will fade, and we’ll hate the experience. I’ve been trying to work on this, but this race, though I didn’t feel super fatigued, I know I wasn’t refueling as well as I could be. With the appropriate choices (i.e. not just super sugar filled “energy” bars or gels, more wholesome foods), I will be able to keep my energy levels up, without putting the wrong kinds of things intIMAG5909[1]o my body, and paying for it later.

Thanks again to Rex for riding and supporting me on this race, to my local bike store, TBSM, for the marquee and the lovely Glenda and Hunter coming out to show their support, and to my sponsors, Roxcycl Australia, without whom I may never have decided to challenge myself so hard in 2015.

Check out the calendars to see what races I’m up to next, why not come and join me on one? Happy trails!

Pill box hike

#theprogram

Something I have seen a lot of throughout my cycling training is constant talk of following the program, what’s on the program, and I can’t do that because it’s not on the program. I have paid for a couple of programs before and for the #mygoalrox ambassadorship, I have utilised the knowledge of some fantastic athletes I know, and these previous programs, to develop one of my own. But I feel there is a problem…

We are pretty hard on ourselves. I see it among so many women and I know I am guilty of it, almost excessively. The pressure to “follow the program”, that you must trust the program and you will succeed ONLY if you follow the program, is unnecessary and in some respects, I believe quite negative.

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This ride wasn’t on the program, but I would have been kicking myself to miss out on beautiful Hawaiian scenery if I didn’t ride!

Looking back at my first couple of months of following my own program has taught me a couple of things. First, I need to pace myself and really need to get comfortable with rest periods. Our bodies need rest, and taking a couple of days OFF from physical activity isn’t going to result in me magically gaining back tens of kilograms – a true fear that haunts me to this day. I need to take a day off, I sometimes need to take a week off, so that I can recover and be stronger for the next few weeks of training.IMAG5678_BURST004

The second, and the most important to me, is that the program isn’t a solid and definite thing. We can’t follow our programs 100% (due to injury, illness, life commitments), and if we aim to follow our programs 100%, then recovering from “failures” becomes harder. Just as those who attempt to follow strict diets are more likely to throw the towel in and blow out massively (if I ate the cookie at morning tea, I may as well eat this entire cake and start the diet again tomorrow! Sound familiar?). When you don’t make the program and follow it exactly, you’re more likely to get down on yourself and less likely to do another kind of activity that could be beneficial. It’s made worse when you do follow the program, sacrifice so much, and don’t see the “promised” results that your program creator indicated at the beginning, which in retrospect you realise that the program wasn’t actually designed just for you, nor did it suit you and develop and change as you did, hence you didn’t necessarily see the same results anyway.

Now, don’t get me wrong, programs are great and I think essential to success for our goals. But, I think we need to see them as a guide. We attempt to follow the workouts we need, but if you don’t make them, it isn’t the end of the world. It’s no reason to abandon the rest of the day or week and beat ourselves up about the apparent failure. We are human, we will stumble, but we are following a process and the best way to go forward is to back ourselves. So when we don’t get that ride in that we were meant to do, or we didn’t do that run, no more should we beat ourselves up. We should take a step back, we should look at our progress so far, we should enjoy the journey and not be so focused on just the end. We should forgive the mistakes and use it as a way to learn how not to make that mistake again, or what we should do next time that may make it easier to succeed at following the program as best we can. Of course, if you’re not making any of the workouts listed on your program, it’s time to revisit the program, revisit your goals, and decide what it is you are really wanting from the whole process – but a stumble is not a failure.

 

Not afraid of failing

Becoming an ambassador for Roxcycl has been an incredibly empowering experience for me.

I feel so much confidence to try new races, to commit to the training, and my only guess as to why that is, is the people I have supporting me.

Surprisingly, that isn’t just the wonderful people at Roxcycl. My friends, my family, my fellow ambassadors, people I meet at the gym, professional cyclists I’ve approached, all have met my questions and doubts with incredible enthusiasm and support.

I have so many people believing in me that for a change, I really believe in me. I know we all hear that we must believe in ourselves, and I have said it to others many times. I feel it’s true, we should, but I also feel that often it can be hard. I wish it hadn’t taken an ambassador program to get me to realise that, that I am capable, but I am also so thankful that I really believe it. I’m hoping that I can utilise this support and reach out to others, to share my experience and encourage them to get out there and challenge themselves, because I believe in them too.

If at first you don't succeed...

If at first you don’t succeed…

Try, try again.

Try, try again.

It’s now 8 months until my #mygoalrox event. That’s a long time to plan, to trial out different strategies, to hopefully be performing at my absolute best for the Scott 6+6.

I lost my weight, 60kgs, by myself. I didn’t have a trainer, I didn’t follow a special diet, or ask for help from anyone. I was naive and a little bit silly about my approach, thinking that I couldn’t ask for help. Well, not this time!

I have a great support network at my local gym already, and have enlisted the help of a personal trainer to help me shape a weight lifting program that will not detract from the cycling and be prepared to alter it dependent on my feedback.

I have also met wonderful people in the cycling community over the last couple of years, and have been picking their brains and asking for advice on how to structure my program and what kinds of tips and tricks they have come across in their careers. I feel so lucky, I have planned almost 4 months of my training program, completed the first month of it with a few changes and lessons already, and feel that I am in a great position with fantastic support to keep learning and shaping and progressing.

I have more in mind than simply competing in the Scott 6+6. My general goals for 2015 are;

  1. to increase my general fitness – I think everyone wants that in some form.
  2. to encourage and inspire women who see themselves as “just average” to get out there and try something – we are all more than just average and can achieve anything that we back ourselves to achieve.
  3. to turn 30! Not really a goal, but an exciting event nonetheless.
  4. to not be afraid of failing – too many times I have quit something before I started because I was afraid of failing and of somehow being judged for it.
  5. to revel in the journey – I want the biggest part of my goal to be the people I meet on the way, the skills I learn, the training process, the fitness I gain.

So no more fear, time to believe in myself, time to back myself, time to approach with tenacity the biggest fitness challenge I have undertaken, and to focus on every step of the journey. You with me?

Race 1: WSMTB 4 hour at Yellomundee

After the first race of the series was disappointingly cancelled 5 minutes before it started due to rain, I was even more nervous for the second round. I wasn’t sure what distance each lap would be, nor was I sure of how difficult the terrain would be. I took comfort in the fact that it wouldn’t be completely impossible for me, as I have some level of skill and they wouldn’t chose a terribly difficult terrain for an endurance event. Don’t get me wrong, a little smattering of technical parts, with A lines for the more skilled, but some nice flowing sections too. Thankfully that was the case! Rex volunteered to start first, which I was incredibly thankful for. I feel a little tentative about starting with the pack when so many are heading out – but I intend to work on that and improve my comfort for starting with the pack.

The mass start.

The mass start.

For the short race recap, check out my youtube video here.

For some great action shots, including yours truly, check here

I sat about, waiting, anxiously, for Rex, guessing how long a lap might take him. The course brought riders back towards base camp before heading out for another 5-10mins of singletrack, so you get a great warning when your buddy rides past. A high five and I was away, smashing my way through the course, feeling the pressure from people appearing behind me, and having no idea what was coming around the next corner! Completely new obstacles were a fantastic surprise, and stem chewing fire trail climbs, allowing the fast to get past, and all of us to sky rocket our heart rates. I attempted to be consistent, to be conservative in my ride, as I wanted to have enough energy to continue the rest of the laps.

Base camp

Base camp

One obstacle stumped me. A steep, rocky, uphill climb. I love rock gardens, I find them so challenging and confronting. I needed more confidence for this section, as well as more strength and fitness to maintain appropriate momentum for the climb. I balked at it the first time, and then each subsequent lap I decided that running up it was going to be quicker than trying to ride up it. A good lesson for the next race – practice the loop first, preferably with enough time to work out the best way to attack obstacles, or to get around them if running is going to be more efficient for me.

I had about half an hour rest between laps, we had a marquee for shade, and a camp bed to rest upon, and that was a winner. I felt that I recovered well, I ate, not excessively, but had a mix of gels, vegies (carrot, celery, some apples), and a delicious creamy chicken dish that despite how delicious it was, cream was not a good choice.

I was happy with my laps. I was getting quicker by a minute each lap. I was also getting dehydrated, with sharp headaches developing towards the end of each lap, and needing to drink a whole lot more water than I had prepared for. Thankfully, the rural fire brigade had set up a bbq and had plenty of cold water to buy, a wonderful respite.

So many lessons learnt, and as I have said before – got to be in it to win it! We were in it, we got 2nd place in the mixed pairs, as there was only one other mixed pair to compete against. A faux placing, but still placing ahead of the couch!

Thanks to Rex for riding and supporting me on this race, to my local bike store, TBSM, for the marquee and some very comfy knicks, and to my sponsors, Roxcycl Australia, without whom I may never have decided to challenge myself so hard in 2015.

The final WSMTB 4 hour, round 3, is on at Wydle mountain bike trail, a gorgeous mountain bike park, on the 22nd of Feb – come along, I’ll be riding in pairs again, but my aim is to increase my laps by riding doubles.

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Applying for the ambassador program

Follow this link to see my youtube (poor quality) video application for the Roxcycl ambassador program.

When I first heard about the Roxcycl Ambassador program, I really didn’t think I was good enough to apply. I shared the link on my Facebook page as I knew there were so many inspirational women I knew who I thought would be great ambassadors, but why did I think I wasn’t good enough? What changed my mind and made me apply?

I look around me and see so many women talking themselves down. When I initially thought I wasn’t good enough to apply, I asked myself why, what makes me think that? I realised that I have heard friends of mine often tell me that I am too hard on myself. I never thought they were right, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I, along with many other men and women (especially), are horrifically hard on ourselves. We talk ourselves down, we back away from challenges we think we aren’t good enough to achieve, we are what is holding ourselves back.

I went to see Col. Chris Hadfield, astronaut, engineer, fighter pilot, human being extraordinaire, when he toured Australia, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have long admired Chris for his positive attitude and strong motivation to encourage fellow humans, children especially, to reach for the stars. His discussions moved me to tears and I remember he mentioned being afraid. He asked, what are you afraid of, and why? What skill can you learn from that fear in order for you to conquer it?

I realised then, I am afraid of failure. I was afraid to apply so publicly (with a youtube video) and not get chosen. I was afraid to set myself a goal, the Scott 6+6 hr race, and not reach it. I realised that I have always been afraid. I have predominantly chosen the “safe” things, the things within my comfort zone. Now, when people learn more about my life, and the huge variety of places I’ve lived, of work I have done, of solo travel, I have often heard “wow, you’re brave, that is such a scary thing for me”. But every time, those things felt like they were within my comfort zone. I can move to a new location and feel comfortable. I can travel overseas and feel ok (you’ll notice it was always to predominantly English speaking countries!), I can do a PhD because I know I can use my brain (most days!) enough to succeed (see, still talking myself down!). But aiming for something physical, especially when I had been so obese for most of my adult life, when I had almost always come last at the running and cycling events I had tried, when I didn’t feel I could, like other girls can. That was outside my comfort zone. That was new. That was hard. And I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think I was good enough to apply, being the last at things. I didn’t think I was fit enough to apply, having such an inactive history. I didn’t think I was someone who could inspire others.

But, I am. I am good enough because I am last at things. I am good enough because I overcame such an inactive history. I am inspirational because I have changed my life, because coming last has still never stopped me from starting a race, and because I want to challenge and set myself a goal, I want to push myself as far out of my comfort zone as I can to show myself, and you, that I can. That we can. So I applied. I had become comfortable with the idea of not being chosen, and I had told everyone publicly that I was going to enter the event, regardless of the result of the ambassador program. I decided then and there that I was going to change my own attitude and push myself to my limit and enjoy every step of the way, becoming a better, stronger, and healthier (mentally and physically) me by the end. Because I am good enough.

Euroka

I want us to stop using negative terms when we refer to our abilities or our bodies. I want us to start believing that we are more capable than we ever imagined. I want us to start to chase the dreams we’ve been too afraid to chase. I want us to start defining our self worth through meaningful measures, not those placed upon us by others. I want us to push boundaries, and change lives, and start something new. We can.

Becoming a Roxcycl ambassador

Keeping it secret that I’d been chosen as an ambassador for Roxcycl for about a month was truly difficult! When I got the call, I was so incredibly excited. I felt I was about to burst and wanted to tell everyone! I felt, and still feel, incredibly lucky to be one of the faces for this program and can not wait for the new year and all the rides and gatherings ahead.

Getting together at York Lane for the announcement, I got to meet the organisers of the fantastic program, some amazing mentors that are competitive cyclists, nutritionists, brand managers, and of course the other two ambassadors. It has been an incredibly inspiring experience so far and already I feel like I am an imposter amongst these inspirational women and men. Listening to Rochelle from Wiggle Honda, Rebecca from The Athlete’s Kitchen, and Chloe Hosking of Hitec Products, answer questions regarding their inspirations, what keeps them going and their advice for achieving goals, I feel I have learnt so much.

I’ve learnt that focusing on food is more important than focusing on weight, a pressure that many women feel regardless of sport, a social expectation to be a certain size isn’t what your body needs when you want to be an athlete competing at your best – a starving body doesn’t run so fast.

I’ve learnt that it is possible at any age to get into competitive cycling and win with a little dedication and good time management.

Eliza out on the trails in her Velocio Apparel gear.

I’ve learnt that its possible to have family and a successful cycling career.

I’ve learnt that women come from many different backgrounds and different experiences regarding formal training. Some start young and are spotted with talent for particular sports. Others begin because of family influences. Others still start out in something different but find that cycling is their jam.

I’ve learnt that to succeed, you need to put yourself high on the list, that your goals are important. You need to give yourself the time to put yourself first, to focus on your goals and things become much more achievable.

I’ve learnt that its easy to get pulled away on a tangent, but having a solid goal that has been said aloud, that you are now accountable towards, helps to bring that focus back to your goal. It helps keep you from getting caught up in joining friends on every possible type of race and ride you are sure would be awesome to join. You have a goal, and reminders of that goal will help to bring focus to that training and the end result.

Lastly, I’ve learnt that there is a multitude of incredible women out there, all with amazing back stories and who are inspirational role models to women and men everywhere. Brief chats with the fellow ambassadors, as well as those who came along to support us and Roxcycl, barely scratched the surface of their stories. Over the coming year I look forward to learning more about the amazing people I am now in contact with, as well as sharing my story with you.

About me

This year is a big year for me.

I have my first position as a Post Doctoral researcher.

I am an ambassador for Roxcycl Australia.

I am about to turn 30.

In this blog, I intend to chronicle my experiences of setting new and challenging goals for myself that are within my work as a scientist, and within my position as an ambassador for womens cycling. I feel that we can learn a lot from the people around us, and the intention with a blog of my experiences is to set a platform from which I can learn more about your experiences and will even feature some of the most inspirational women I know. We are all inspiring and have our own unique experiences that we can share with one another to build each other up and become the best people we can be. Please, feel free to follow my posts, but more importantly, please share with me your experiences. Let’s inspire each other to reach new heights and push ourselves out of our comfort zones because we can, we just need to back ourselves for a change.

In 2015 I’m going to back myself. Are you?