Getting their butts into gear

The Cycling Sisters take to the open road.

The Cycling Sisters take to the open road.

Every week a group of women meet in Lismore for a couple of hours out on the open road.  Just them, their bikes, and their fearless leader, writes a lycra-clad Cycling Sister, Sue-Ellen Shortiss…

“Car!” comes the call from the back of the pack.

“Car!” The call is repeated along the chain, signalling that the two and sometimes three cyclists abreast need to form a single line to allow a motorist past. Chatter is momentarily suspended until the road is clear. With a different accent the cry of “Car” might sound like “Caw” and the image of Lycra clad crows communicating with each other comes to mind.

The Cycling Sisters ride again. Every Wednesday morning, a group of women meet at Just Ride Cycles on Wyrallah Road, Lismore, for an approximately two-and-a-half hour ride to various locations where the traffic is minimal and the scenery beautiful. The rides have names. There is the Koala Run, out along Riverbank Road where we are sure to see many a roadside, tree dwelling bundle of cuteness, sometimes with babies. We have the Pooh Run which takes us, huffing and puffing and trying not to breathe too deeply, past the sewerage works, just outside South Lismore (note the ‘h’ on the end of poo? It adds a bit of class).

Sue-Ellen Shortiss and her bike, Blue Thunder

Sue-Ellen Shortiss and her bike, Blue Thunder

One of our Sisters eloped this year and on the next ride, her husband and accomplice met us at the end of that road (far from the pooh) with champagne, juice, flowers and home cooked goodies presented on actual tables with tablecloths. The ride home seemed oh so very far that day.

The bikes vary in value and design. The number of riders varies from three to 12 and consists of all ages, backgrounds and fitness. I am one of the slowest and least fit of them yet I have never felt anything but welcomed and valued. We are not competing; we are like-minded women who enjoy cycling and friendship and, at the end of the ride, the Distractions Café based ‘team meeting’ at the Wyrallah Road Shopping Centre.

Rachel from the cycle shop is our Fearless Leader, aka McDuff as in: “Lead on, McDuff!” She is our coach and motivational organiser of all things cycling. She has verbally assisted the less fit of us up many a lung exploding hill (my interpretation) and changed our mantra from “I CAN’T” to “I CAN”. Jason, Rachel’s husband who runs the cycle shop, is our mechanic, advisor, and long suffering lone male in a sea of women, and is an honourable ‘Sister’.

There is a subgroup of Sisters who partake in harder rides, triathlons, fundraising cycle challenges and more. I admire these women enormously. Most of them are mothers of young children, have jobs, volunteer at school and find time to train!

Honorary 'Cycling Sister' Jason, and 'there's no such word as can't' Rachel from Just Ride Cycles in Lismore

Honorary ‘Cycling Sister’ Jason Sipple, and  ‘there’s no such word as can’t’ Rachel Sipple  from  the Just Ride Cycles shop  in Lismore

The Cycling Sisters comprise an eclectic group of mixed ages and abilities. Everyone has their own problems and challenges in life and a Sister can sometimes turn up, lacking sparkle in her eye. It’s guaranteed she will be buoyed by the camaraderie, peddling and countryside, her worries expelled heartily through her sweat glands.

Rachel has us wearing Lycra. Most of us said “I can’t” in the beginning but we were ultimately converted by the comfort and practicality. She has us riding around 30km distance, and on roads. Some of us said “I can’t” but I don’t think that statement computes with our Fearless Leader. My first ride was on my lovely retro ladies bike with no gears. What a hard slog that was. Rachel convinced me to try a geared bike and apart from the instrument of torture called a seat, that bike had me converted and I immediately put a geared bike (with a nice plump seat) on lay-buy.

Our group has grown in number over the two years, and I like to think of us as a sweaty oasis full of friendship and support in the middle of the week.

Personally, I am doing what I would have considered impossible only a short time ago and I’m proud of my improved fitness. There have been very few incidents – if you don’t count a select few of us that have managed to fall off our bikes while stationary (don’t ask). Magpie season and the rare unhappy motorist are part of the challenge but such a tiny part of the overall joy that is the Cycling Sisters.

Imagine if there were Cycling Sisters in all regional towns.

Sue-Ellen Shortiss describes herself as a ‘dabbler’ in writing, cycling, photography and chooks.  You can read more about her here: paddockspoultrybraininjuredmum



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