SATURDAY FEB 8 / 2020 / by Andrew Talati


Birrarung Cycling Club - bunch at Teardrop - Kew BoulieTeardrop - Kew Boulie

Birrarung Cycling Club's previous incarnation was a training group called Vigor Cycling run by coach Liam Delany. The training group was transformed to a cycling club by the original committee members Liam and Rachel Delany, Gaynor Blankley, Steve Ward, Tim Menting and Stuart Livingston. 

The name chosen for the club was Birrarung, the original Wurundjeri name of the Yarra River, as the group regularly ride along and around the Yarra River.

Birrarung Cycling Club - Pre-ride brief at Teardrop Kew-BoulieRachel Delany giving a re-ride brief with Gaynor Ward to the right at the Teardrop Kew Boulie

The committee officially started the process in June 2019 to get accreditation and register the club with Cycling Victoria with the club being officially launched in July.

The numbers rose quickly once Rachel and Gaynor started the women's ride on Thursday mornings which consistently has 10 riders each week. They offer an introductory first ride then it's a case where they officially become a member through Cycling Australia.

A high participation rate of female riders

Birrarung Cycling Club  - Group riding on a climb - Kew BoulieKew Boulie

2/3 riders at Birrarung are women and the high ratio of female riders is quite rare in a cycling club. A recent kit order with their supplier Tinelli had more kits for women than men, a rare occasion for most clubs and one of the things that keep Rachel and Gaynor motivated.

Getting a lot back is motivating 

Birrarung Cycling Club  - exiting from Kew Boulie onto Johnson StExiting from Kew Boulie onto Johnson St - Ganor on the left

For Rachel getting a lot back from the riders is what motivates her. Last year Gaynor and Rachel would ride along the Boulie (Kew Boulevard) together, but this year they now have new bunch of great people to ride with them . For them, that's all that matters, "we get a lot out of it too, it takes a lot of time but I'm happy to put in the work to grow the club."

Qualified ride leaders

Birrarung Cycling Club  - Heading off from the Teardrop - Kew BoulieBirrarung Cycling Club - Gaynor leading the bunch from the Teardrop - Kew Boulie

Currently Birrarung Cycling Club has 6 qualified Ride Leaders with Rachel and Gaynor leading the Thursday rides and rotating with 4 Ride Leaders for their Wednesday and Saturday rides. There are also 6 members of their committee so they've built a great network of supporters and helpers keeping the club going.

A good work out and a great bunch of people

Birrarung Cycling Club  - Bunch riding Kew Boulie

Birrarung Cycling Club  - Admiral cafe Abbotsford,  friendshipsAdmiral cafe Abbotsford

There are many reasons riders have joined Birrarung Cycling Club. Some come for the friendship and coffee, the fun activity of cycling, and for others it helps them get out of bed in the morning.

Getting the word out

Most people found Birrarung Cycling Club from Facebook and Instagram, specifically women's groups on Facebook, Girl Ride Melbourne and She race. Rachel also offered her skills for maintenance sessions at her local Good Karma Network in Clifton Hill where she would help people who wants to learn how to ride on the road. This got their cycling group's name out there in the community.

Have a road bike then come along

Birrarung Cycling Club  - Group - last climb before Walmer St BoulieLast climb before Walmer St - Kew Boulevard

To join the Birrarung crew you just need to have a drop bar road bike.  Join one of their weekly rides, starting off at the back of the bunch if you haven't been in a group before.


Birrarung Cycling Club  - Carpark bag dropoffThe bag drop off for thsoe riding onto work

Birrarung has a range of rides they offer. The Wednesday ride is a little harder with one warmup lap of the Boulie followed by one very fast lap. This ride isn't really catered for slower riders or beginners.

Birrarung Cycling Club  - Bellbird Rd Carpark - Kew BoulevardBellbird Rd Carpark - Kew Boulevard

Birrarung Cycling Club - Bellbird Rd Effort, Kew BoulieFinishing the Bellbird Rd Effort, Kew Boulie

Thursday's ride in contrast is about keeping the group together along the Boulevard, then doing efforts (sustained higher intensity for a short period) where people can do 1, 2 or 3 efforts.

Birrarung Cycling Club - Molesworth St effortsMolesworth St efforts

Birrarung Cycling Club  - Redmond St, off Kew BoulieComing down Redmond St, off Kew Boulie for teh Molesworth St efforts

There is plenty of chatting during the rides but as Karen Hendrickx says, "not so much on the efforts which can be as hard as you want them to be". The Ride Leaders motivate the group to really push it, but if a rider is having a slightly weaker day that's no problem and they can do 1-2 loops instead of 3-4 which still takes them out of their comfort zone.

Birrarung Cycling Club  - Paceline on Kew BoulieHeading to the next effort at the Tear drop

Nobody is left behind as Rachel and Gaynor try to keep everyone together by waiting for riders, ensuring they have a work out, giving directions and encouragement, as well as keeping things fun for riders.

Birrarung Cycling Club - cornering at the Teardrop, Kew Boulie Cornering at the Tear Drop - Kew Boulie

Goal events

Birrarung Cycling Club  - Road Nationals held at  Buninyong BallaratRoad Nationals held at  Buninyong Ballarat

By having specific events that Birrarung target, it helps to build longer term goals and becomes a reason to come to training (the weekly rides).

Birrarung Cycling Club - Road National WinsLEFT Ganor Ward (Age group 60-64)  MIDDLE Juliet (Age group 60-64) RIGHT Rachel Delany (Age group 40-44)

Since the initial interview they have successfully competed in the Nationals held in Bunnynong and have had four riders who entered the Tour of Bright.

Juggling family life - Rachel and her husband both ride

Fortunately Rachel's husband looks after the children and acts as the fill-in if Rachel is sick. After Rachel's pregnancies, she got back into cycling as she loves being out on her bike combining the challenge of getting better, pushing yourself to the limit, riding socially and having fun.

Good motivation riding together

Birrarung Cycling Club - Admiral cafe, Mitch Cain and Bec StoneAdmiral cafe, Mitch Cain and Bec Stone

Mitch Cain is getting into cycling and finds it hard to join a group that are hanging along and you tend to fall off the back very quickly. Joining Birrarung has been great for him as he can stay in the middle, work up some skills and build up some speed. So it's been good for him to see the speed build up as he progresses and keeps up with the group.

Birrarung Cycling Club  - Teardrop laps at Kew BoulieMitch doing laps at teh Teardrop

Mitch was introduced to the group by his fiancée Bec Stone who came across them while searching for bike training groups. She likes doing triathlons but never rides her bike and decided to join the Birrarung 6:30am group as she likes sleeping in (compared to other groups starting much earlier). The group was very welcoming and friendly so jumped on board.

Now Mitch and Bec are riding every week whereas previously, they would randomly ride together on their road bikes, or jump on a bike in a race without any specific training. Now they ride together weekly with a riding schedule and the social aspect of the group, like having coffee afterwards has also helped them stick to it every week.


An inclusive group building on the skills of their members 

Birrarung has a diverse group of members who lend themselves to the club to the benefit of the riders. Some are mountain bikers who run skills sessions, Bec Stone is a nutritionist and runs nutritional sessions as people jump on a bike and ride huge distances without having the knowledge of what to drink and eat beforehand and afterwards.

Journey of riding, a strong social ride

Birrarung Cycling Club  - Admiral cafe, Stacey and Karen HendrickxAdmiral Cafe - Stacey (left) and Karen Hendrickx (right)

Stacey is from Rachel's mothers group and has enjoyed her journey of riding with the group. The starting point being near her home in Collingwood provides enough time for her to ride back and get her 2 boys ready for school.

Originally Stacey started riding with the Hawthorn Tri Group when her three year old daughter was one, however with triathlons consuming a lot of her life Birrarung offered a 'Get back' to life activity. So from just 4 original riders, Rachel has now brought her 20+ friends on regular rides.

Another rider, Karen Hendrickx moved across from the UK and wanted to have a more outdoor lifestyle. So she started running and then riding a road bike and now does triathlons. After being initially introduced by friends, 4 months later Karen has built up her power and now rides hills on Thursdays. 

She particularly likes the loops and extras where the people who are better can do 3-4 loops while she does 2 without feeling she is holding the group up. As a result Karen is out and about more often and is now thinking about doing more competitions as well.

In between the efforts, plenty of chatting

Birrarung Cycling Club  - re grouping near the Studley Park bridge - Kew BoulevardRe grouping near the Studley Park bridge 

Enjoying being on the bike

Birrarung Cycling Club - meeting point for the Carpark dropoffIsabelle on the far left at the meeting point for the Carpark dropoff

For Isabelle she is a relative newbie only starting a few weeks ago at Birrarung and was attracted to their ride because it was for women and it beginner/returned cyclists friendly.

With a full time job taking over after graduating from university, Isabelle had given up riding for a good three years. So riding with the group was her first time back on the bike. 

After a break from being on the bike she really missed. When she first got on the bike, she was nervous as the thought of being dropped and that she was going to die got into her head. However Isabelle surprised herself, plus everyone was really helpful in how to ride very closely together and a lot of people were also new to the group and in the same spot.

From the Tour of Bright to efforts on the Boulie

Birrarung Cycling Club  - Admiral cafe, Rachel Delany and Lisa CouttsAdmiral cafe, Rachel Delany and Lisa Coutts

Lisa Coutts recently rode in the Womens B grade at the Tour of Bright and surprised herself by finishing in 3rd place. She started back when Rachel and Lisa were racing together and Rachel invited Lisa along on the ride. It was good mix of cruisee straight riding with the ability to add a bit of effort on the hills if you wanted to do so, as well as the ability to meet other women to ride with.

And the coffee shop

Birrarung Cycling Club  - Admiral Cafe plenty of laughsBirrarung Cycling Club - Group at Admiral Cheng Ho AbbotsfordEnjoying a few laughs and banter - Admiral Cheng Ho Abbotsford

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