SATURDAY JUN 17 / 2017 / by Andrew Talati

How do I start a women's ride?

Cycles Galleria women's shop ride, Williamstown Group

With Cycles Galleria in Williamstown being opened for just a couple of months, Sarah Dam came along to do the mixed ride and at the end of the ride the previous manager asked how do I start a women’s ride, what do I need to do?

Do you want to lead the ride?

Cycles  Galleria shop ride, Williamstown Pre StartThe womens ride departs 5 minutes after the mixed ride

So the following week Sarah was asked to lead the women’s ride, so it was "sure, I'II do it" so in the first week they got 6 women and it's been slowly growing from there.

Cycles galleria women's shop ride Williamstown beginning ride

Now the group size varies between 12 -20 with a core group of regular riders and the addition of 1 - 2 new people every week as well. The ride is still growing and it's a really good bunch of people

The ride structure

Cycles Galleria women's shop ride Williamstown Industrial landscapes

From the start everyone rides out together doing social turns (the person on the right moves diagonally cross to the left) so taking it nice and easy on the way out sitting on a comfortable 25-28km/h followed by a loop around Altona Meadows which forms a horse shoe.

Cycles-galleria women's shop-ride, Re-grouping at Salta Cycles

Everyone is free to ride at their own pace so for those who wish to stretch their legs they have the option to go a little faster and everyone regroups after the roundabout at Salta Cycles.

On the way back, if there is a big group or if people want to go faster they will split into two, the faster group will do smooth rolling turns while the second group will do the same pace as they did on the way out.

Getting caught by the second group

Cycles galleria women's shop ride, Supporting all ridersSarah leading the bunch and supporting a rider from the faster group

For those who get dropped by the faster group, they will get swept up by the following group so nobody gets left behind, it’s a no drop ride so everyone stays together.

Up to 4 ride leaders

Cycles Galleria Women's shop ride, Altona-Beach, Norfolk Pines

On the ride, depending on the numbers, they will have up to four ride leaders on the ride, so when the group splits there will always be a ride leader with each group and if any one needs a hand fixing punctures they are given a hand. So there is always someone to watch over the bunch and make sure everyone gets back safely.

Cycles Galleria women's shop ride Williamstown, Suburbia

Last sprint in Williamstown

There is one last sprint in Williamstown and they regroup as they approach the beach then they roll back for coffee together at the end.

Sitting on the back

Cycles Galleria women's shop ride, Altona Beach Norfolk Pines

As a ride leader, Sarah sits on the back to make sure nobody gets left behind so everyone makes its around safely together.

New riders

Cycles Galleria women's hop ride Williamstown Pre ride chat

Sometimes with new riders they haven't ridden in a  bunch before, some people are really nervous in holding the wheel in front so they talk about riding shoulder to shoulder, also letting regular riders know that if a new rider isn't comfortable sitting close to the wheel in front to drop back with them a little and try to encourage them to get up closely.

Holding the wheel in front

The mental energy to achieve this can be a bit overwhelming at first and they may feel that they will never get used to it so it’s a matter of reassuring them that everyone feels like that at first and after a few weeks it becomes a lot more natural and you can have a chat while not concentrating on not crashing into the person in front of you.

As their ride is quite smooth (flat and long straight sections) they try to encourage people riding shoulder to shoulder and not crossing wheels so it feels like a safe ride. In no time at all people are able to hold a wheel in front and maintain a higher pace compared to riding by themselves

The women who ride are a fantastic group


Cycles Galleria women's shop ride, Williamstown Beach foreshore

All the women are very welcoming and inclusive so it really makes a difference as well. It’s the safety of the ride, the smoothness but also the group of women who come regularly.

A very close-knit community

Cycles Galleria women's shop ride Finish at the Piccolo CafeFinishing at the Piccolo Cafe in Williamstown - Jenny is patting her furry friend

Williamstown is a bit of a small country town close to the city. Jenny Ericsson and Fiona (one of the ride leaders) will make cakes for people’s birthdays so quite often they will enjoy cupcakes and sing happy birthday afterwards. People come along and it only takes one or two weeks before they feel they're part of the group; it's a really close group but are not cliquey, as everyone looks after new riders.

Runs in all kinds of weather

Cycles Galleria women's shop ride Altona turn off

Except for really horrible weather they will run the ride. It’s always amazing to see other people turning up and, in the time Sarah has been running the ride, the numbers have never dipped below six people. So even during the depths of winter people still turn up, even when it’s a bit drizzly they are still here.

It's amazing to think that you are not the only person getting up a 6:00am on a Saturday morning to ride in the drizzle.

Not about the exercise

Cycles galleria women's shop ride, Williamstown Beach

With a few riders heading off to the gym after the ride it's not about the exercise but hanging out and seeing their friends.

Feeling awfull, really missing out

Cycles galleria womans ride_A close knit communityEmma sitting to the far right joining the group at the Piccolo Cafe & Jenny Ericsson chatting

Emma Andrews came down to meet the girls for coffee for the social aspect of it as she cannot ride as she has hurt her ankle. While being happy for the girls she feels very jealous as the weather is awesome, the sun is out, a perfect day for a ride and great conditions, plus a great bunch of people, it’s very supportive.

Missing out on camaraderie, skills training & being there with each other

With so many great aspects of the ride, it's hard when you miss out especially knowing that Emma has missed four and another three weeks before she can get back on the bike. Riding across from her place all the way back in Northcote (over 20kms away), it’s the people, the chat, inclusiveness, the route being by the seaside that is so awesome.

Haven't missed a ride

For Jenny Ericsson who is affectionally known as the grandma of the bunch, unless she is away on holidays, she hasn't missed any of the Saturday morning rides in over 20 months - the ride has been going for 22 months.

In the group, age doesn't matter as everyone has this bond. We all love cycling and just have amazing friendships from the ride and Sarah has transitioned Jenny into Crit (Criterium) racing as well for the past 5 months and she has just completed her first road race.

The very first ride was very scary as Jenny had only been out with her husband before and didn't know about bunches. Sarah teachers you beautifully on how to do it and after returning home after coffee Jenny had the biggest smile on her face "oh my god, this is so good", it was the most amazing thing so she has never stopped. Jenny's advice is, "just do it once and you will get bitten by the bug, it’s addictive, it's amazing!"

From their first bunch ride to racing

One of the ride leaders, Jules was new to bunch riding when she started 12 months ago and is now racing. She started off wanting to see what the rides were all about after working in the shop and has quickly progressed from a newbie to ride leader with the skills she has learned while riding with the bunch.

I really enjoy this ride

For Sarah, it's a ride that she looks forward to and can push as hard or easy as you like so ride leaders will discuss which group they will take part in on the day (maybe a few wines the night before and hang with the slower group - laughing) or stretching your legs you can negotiate taking the faster group.

Sarah really likes the people who ride and enjoys coming every week.

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