Bicycle Network: Women's Cycling
Clearing out the cobwebs
Former pro racer Jenny Macpherson's love of riding was rekindled after taking a women's only MTB skills course
Do you remember being a kid and riding your bike around the block oblivious to vehicles, traffic lights, roads and gutters? Do you remember that exhilarating feeling of riding through a puddle at full tilt and kicking out your feet in the hope of not getting wet? If this is a faded memory for you, then read on to learn how you can reunite yourself with your inner child and rejuvenate your passion for life by riding a mountain bike. I’ve ridden a road bike pretty much every day for the last eight years (professionally for three).
Since I retired from international racing, I knew I still wanted to ride my bike, but had gone a bit stale from riding on the road. I needed something a bit different, something with a challenge but without the pressure. When a friend suggested going for a mountain bike ride, I was excited by the possibility that this was the answer I was looking for.
I had only ever been on a proper mountain bike with suspension once, so I thought it best I get some tuition first. A friend suggested taking a women's only course, as she had been on one earlier at Lysterfield Park and loved it.
So I headed off to Forrest, inland of Lorne and met with instructors, Norm, Jess and Adam. We started the day off with a quick equipment safety check and were provided with a run-down of the day’s activities and most importantly plenty of yummy fuel (mixed lollies, Torq energy bars and drinks) to keep up our energy during the day. The 15 nervous yet eager riders were then split up with their own leader into advanced, intermediate and beginner groups.
Our first lesson began with the three basics of mountain biking positioning: standing up on the pedals, moving your bodyweight over the back of the seat and lifting the weight off the front of the bike. It might sound easy enough, and it was – doing it in a straight line. Although once we got out onto the single tracks, trying to do this at a 90 degree angled corner, or up, over and down a large tree trunk across the path, was a totally different story!
The morning session basically went over these three movements on various terrains. Jess was great in explaining how to approach these obstacles, including where to move your body and when to move it. We would ride up to a difficult section, watch Jess ride through it with ease, and then take turns attempting it ourselves. Being only a group of five of similar ability meant that we could learn off each other and not have to wait too long between attempts and got plenty of feedback from Jess.
Getting the hang of it
Two hours felt like twenty minutes, and we were soon finishing our section of track and heading back into town for lunch. We regrouped with the rest of the riders and devoured beautiful homemade soup, BLTs, salads and cakes for dessert whilst we talked about how much ‘air’ we had gotten over jumps, the near misses and the exhilaration of nailing a difficult manoevre.
The afternoon session consisted of more riding and less stopping and assessing of technique. I found this part the most exciting as I by now had more confidence in riding through the tracks and successfully rode through some pretty technical sections. I was so energised by this that I began finding myself squealing out loud in excitement.
We arrived back at the car park after three hours of awesome riding – no cars, no wind, no traffic lights, fresh air and a newfound confidence in our bike skills. Within these few hours on the MTB I had rediscovered my love of cycling. This day-long course provided me with the support and techniques to ride my mountain bike confidently and most importantly the opportunity to have fun!
Author bio: Jenny Macpherson was a road cyclist with the Australian Institute of Sport for three years. She now works full-time with Bicycle Network Victoria.
Note: Jenny participated in a MTBskills women's only course as a paying student in her own time.