Conversations on wheels
FORGETTING to take your front wheel when you drive half an hour from home to go for a ride might take the shine off the day’s excursion, but for Kylie Samson of West End Girls Ride group in Wangaratta, it’s just ‘something that happens’.
“Someone usually forgets something,” she laughed.
“Helmets, water bottles and clip-in shoes have all been known to be left behind and the rest of us give the person a good amount of ribbing, but if someone forgets their water bottle we do share with them.”
Being raised on a small farm in Benalla, Kylie has always loved being outdoors and when she moved to Wangaratta with her husband Wes in 1999, she began riding with friends.
“I love being out on my bike, especially if I get to share the ride with others,” she said.
Kylie took some time away from cycling when she had their daughter, Ellie (now 11), but when Ellie was two years old, Kylie decided to resurrect the ride.
“I wanted to encourage women who were just starting out (riding) to join a friendly social group, and that became part of the group’s motto: to encourage more women to ride.
“We get out once or twice a week on Wednesdays and Fridays - but not in the winter - when it gets to minus one we don’t go because we’re wusses!”
“We generally have two routes we follow - on Wednesdays we ride up to the top of Taminick Gap, which is quite challenging, but on Fridays we take it easier, heading to the end of Lindner Road and down Warby Range Road where we’re usually in time to see the sunrise and take a few photos from Omaru Road.
“We like to follow the same routes so that if someone is running late on any given day they know where to catch us.
“We usually try and squeeze in time for a coffee at the end, but we work on a ‘no drop ride’ system which means we ride as fast as the slowest rider so we don’t leave anyone behind.
“We focus on skill and safety rather than speed.” The weekly rides are around 30km and sometimes the group organises weekend rides which can be up to 100km.
“We have ridden to Bright and tackled a few of the mountains - Mt Buffalo, Falls Creek and the back of Stanley.”
“I love cycle touring and spent time riding around Europe a number of years ago.
“I would love to take my daughter over there to do the same one day; we just have to wait a couple more years until she’s old enough.”
Following the local roadways into the hills around the area in the early mornings, Kylie said they’d seen a number of the native animals.
“There are heaps of kangaroos at the top of Omaru Road and one jumped in front of me on Warby Range Road once, it almost got hit by a car as it hopped away.
“There are plenty of cows as well and we see the occasional echidna.
“We don’t often see snakes, but magpies certainly feature during the spring hatching season, and everyone has their own way of warding them off - zip ties are forbidden on my rides, but there’s a lot of flailing arms to keep them from swooping at your back (it doesn’t work though).
“My personal choice is to point at the magpie and tell them not to leave their perch, and that seems to keep them from swooping me.”
Although the name may suggest, Kylie said the group isn’t just for women, men are also welcome and there are a couple who join the group on a semi-regular basis.
“We average between six and eight riders in the mornings, mostly women, but a couple of men as well, and the ages range from early 20s to late 50s, so it’s quite a diverse bunch.”
“The best thing about the group is seeing the growth of the riders, both physically and mentally.
“To see someone who was really nervous about riding now be able to ride mountains fairly easily is a fantastic achievement.
“Of course not everyone aspires to that, it’s just as valuable to make riding part of your life and be able to ride our terrific bike paths with your family.
“Exercise doesn’t have to be hard work, for me it’s just about going for a ride with my friends - it’s a conversation on wheels.”
For more information contact Kylie via email at ad[email protected]tendcycles.com.au.
◆ LYCRA LOVERS: West End Girls Ride group comprises of both male and female riders on their twice-weekly ride.
◆ EARLY RISERS: The group are up early enough to catch the sunrise along Omaru Road.