29 February 2024

Women encouraged to get back on their bikes for a leisurely ride with new friends

| Eileen Mulligan
Start the conversation
Three women on footpath with a bike.

Juliana Peloche, Jules Verheyen and Nyan Thit Tieu encourage female cyclists of all abilities and ages to roll up to the community ride at the Illawarra Criterium Track. Photo: Eileen Mulligan.

People say riding a bike is, well, like, riding a bike. For some that is true, but for others it can be intimidating if they have lost confidence after a fall or feel intimidated by super-fit, lycra-clad road warriors taking on the traffic.

But a women’s community ride, to be held on Saturday 9 March in Unanderra, aims to provide inspiration for all riders, no matter where they are in their cycle of life.

The event will include a leisurely 45-minute ride around the Illawarra Criterium Track followed by inspiring talks and Q&A sessions with riders from different cycling disciplines such as: mountain biking, road cycling, gravel riding, para cycling, tricycles for seniors, triathlons and commuting to work or the shops.

The morning will wrap up with coffee, cakes and chats with new and old cycling friends.

Illawarra Cycle Club co-director Jules Verheyen came up with the idea of bringing together women from the Illawarra’s different cycling groups – and non-cyclists – in an event welcoming all abilities, all bikes and all ages.

READ ALSO Wollongong Walking Football Club shoots for more female players

The event will be held the day after International Women’s Day.

“There are so many different cycling groups out there and they’re not all connected and we don’t actually spend time together talking about what we all do as a community for women’s cycling,” Jules said.

“I thought it would be a good idea to link it up for International Women’s Day and just draw every single group that I knew and all the people within those groups together, just to have fun, have a coffee, connect up.

“It’s not about racing. It’s just about having a ride if you want to ride. If you don’t want to ride you can sit and have a coffee and have a cake.

Four women on bikes.

Cyclists Natalie Wells, Zoe Parker, Michelle Yeatman and Alison McKinnon saddle up for a spin round the Illawarra Criterium Track at Unanderra. Photo: Jules Verheyen.

“Fostering inclusion is important. Just having conversations with other people in other groups is really really helpful,” she said.

Trek Bicycle Wollongong will bring some e-bikes for participants to check out and there will be information about non-threatening, start-from-the-beginning bicycle maintenance courses.

Event co-organiser Juliana Peloche belongs to the Illawarra Bicycle Users Group (iBUG) which focuses on cycling as a mode of transport.

“iBug is doing work around buddy riders,” Juliana said. “It’s very new. It’s our 2024 project.”

For example, if a new rider wants to cycle to work but is not confident, iBUG could link her with an experienced rider.

READ ALSO Preparations underway for Wollongong to host first of three elite world triathlon racing events

“We have lots of people from iBUG who design routes, where there are links between one neighbourhood and another,” Juliana said.

“So, tell me where you want to go and then we design the safest route and we are going to take you there.”

Nyan Thit Tieu is the founder of Sisters Cancer Support Group Inc for women from multicultural backgrounds and started a tricycling group to help women exercise in the fresh air as part of their recovery.

“I started thinking about starting up a tricycling group because I used to ride a bike with my husband from Wollongong to Thirroul,” Thit said.

“But after my cancer treatment I lost confidence and I fell off a couple of times from my bike and said no, no, I’m not going to ride bikes. I will ride the tricycle.”

Thit formed the Social Women’s Intercultural Friendship (SWIFT) Tricycling group in June last year and has about 20 registered members. She received funding for four tricycles from the Illawarra Yacht Club, a storage container from the Office of Sports NSW and some bicycles from B’s Bike Works.

Group of women with tricycles.

Members of the SWIFT Tricycling group meet on Saturday mornings for an enjoyable ride along the shores of Lake Illawarra. Photo: SCSG Inc.

“My aim was to get these multicultural women cancer survivors and their carers doing something different. Basically, all they would do is walking for exercise. The older women, especially, don’t go to the gym, they don’t do any other exercise and I want them to be outside in the fresh air,” she said.

But why is the community ride for women only?

Juliana said with a straight face: “Men don’t need any encouragement.”

READ ALSO Meet the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre’s new general manager – Ali Anderson

Whenever you see cyclists, most of them are men, she said.

However, the community ride does not exclude men. Husbands, families, friends and children are all welcome.

Juliana’s son Leo Peloche, 12, will bake biscuits and cakes for sale after the ride, with the proceeds going to charity.

Healthy Cities Illawarra has donated 13 bike jerseys in all sizes up to 3XL to go into a draw on the day.

The community ride will be held on Saturday, 9 March, 8 to 10 am at the Illawarra Criterium Track, Lindsay Maynes Park, 26 Normandie Place, Unanderra. Free (bring a coin for the bake sale). To book click here.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.