Although she hadn’t owned a bike for more than 30 years, Sue Spencer, now 58, wasn’t going to let that minor detail hold her back.
Just months out from the much-loved High Country Women’s Cycling Festival in Bright, Victoria, Sue splashed out on some new wheels and started training with a local group of ‘older’ riders in home town Avoca, on the NSW Central Coast.
Despite the cold, damp conditions for last year’s event, Sue made light work of the fabled Mt Buffalo climb from Bright and is coming back to lower her time for the popular 80km out-back-route during the 2020 festival from March 20-22.
Event co-organiser Michelle Armstrong said Sue is just one of many mid-lifers who are taking up cycling – many for the first time – for the social and fitness spin-offs.
“The 50-plus age group have more time to devote to their recreation and fitness, and are increasingly concerned about keeping fit and active-cycling ticks so many boxes,” said Michelle.
“Women love the social aspect of cycling. Who doesn’t love a sport where you can ride and chat, enjoy a workout and then enjoy social time in your favourite cafe? Post-ride rewards are what it’s all about!”
Michelle herself, also now 58, joined the movement in her mid-40s and has since participated in endurance events such as Bicycle Network’s Peaks Challenge (230km); Alpine Classic (200km) and cycled the French Alps and French/Spanish Pyrenees (Bourdeaux to Barcelona) with Wide Open Road Cycling Tours, run by her HCWCF co-organiser Clare Holdsworth.
“In the past two festivals, we have witnessed strong interest from the 50-60 age group, who ride together in women’s groups, but have never taken on the challenge of a mountain,” says Michelle.
“Women in this age group who maintain a good level of fitness, have strong endurance levels. They can keep going for long periods, as long as they ride at their level and find their own rhythm.
“This event is not about racing. Our motto is ‘Your peak, your pace’.
To make this year’s event even more accessible, organisers have introduced the ‘Ride to Rollasons’, which is a halfway turnaround, for those riders not confident to take on the fully ascent and descent of Mt Buffalo.
“This would be a prefect introduction for cyclists new to mountains, and need support of ride leaders who can offer tips and skill advice on conserving energy, and descending safely,” added Michelle.
Experienced ride leaders will escort the riders to a halfway turnaround point, providing tips and building confidence to ensure a safe, enjoyable and rewarding ride.
Backed by Major Partner, Regional Roads Victoria, the festival’s focus on safety is key for participants seeking a supportive cycling environment. As well as reduced speed limits and traffic management protocols, organisers will rollout a campaign with RoadSafe North East, to communicate important ‘Pass Cyclists Safely’ messaging, in the lead up to the festival.
“Many female riders consider hills and mountains beyond their capability. We will share our knowledge, build confidence, push boundaries and help women discover new ride destinations with new friends,” said Michelle.
The super fun weekend promises more than just cycling and includes a Lycra Lunch Party with ‘Fashions on the Field’; bike mechanics, riding skills clinics; Rail Trail produce rides; Yoga; Bike Fashion Pop Ups, a Celebration Dinner, and more.
For more information on how you can get involved at this year’s festival from March 20-22, visit the event website here.