From the time my dad built my first BMX for my 5th birthday, I’ve been fairly hooked on cycling, moving on to mountain biking in my teen years. But it was moving to Los Angeles in 2004 in my early 20s that really brought me back to cycling. Growing up in the outer suburbs of Melbourne was great for riding recreationally, but not for commuting. Eschewing a car in the one of the most car-centric of cities, I opted to commute by bicycle (leading to an interview in the LA Times). I built a bike at the Los Angeles Bicycle Kitchen, a non-profit bike workshop in downtown L.A. Soon after I moved in to a share-house full of cyclists (from couriers to track and ultra-distance racers), and got involved in ‘Bike Summer’ (a month-long series of cycling-related events), as well as Critical Mass and the Midnight Ridazz. I found a community of like-minded cyclists all trying to find ways to make L.A. friendlier for two-wheeled transportation. This all led to my first road bike and eventually to a brief foray in longer-distance cycling, including completing the 200-mile ‘Death Valley double’.
Meeting Alberto Masi, Velodromo Vigorelli, Milano;
In 2010 I made the (questionable) move to the north of the UK. Shifting from an Australian and Southern Californian climate to northern English weather meant I had to find motivation to get outside in frequently sub-zero temps (and darkness at 3pm!). A return to mountain biking was coupled with cyclocross – my first CX race was in minus-10C and knee-deep snow. Pretty soon cyclocross became an all-encompassing obsession. Alongside racing full seasons of winter cyclocross and XC mountain bike races in the summer, I also raced the annual Three Peaks Cyclocross, billed as the hardest CX race in the world, and running since the 1950s. Unlike a standard one-hour CX race, the Three Peaks takes between 3-6 hours, and involves carrying the bike for lengthy spells up and over the peaks of the Yorkshire Dales. I completed the race six years in a row, from 2011-2016, in which time it became a full-blown obsession.
Three Peaks Cyclocross Challenge, 2013
Western Cyclocross League, Mendips, UK
North East Cyclocross Championships, Newcastle UK
Battle on the Beach, Wales;
Ronde van Vlaandren sportive, 2014
In 2017 I finally returned to Australia (and my home city of Melbourne), almost 13 years to the day from when I left for Los Angeles, and in July this year I relocated to Sydney to undertake a position at Macquarie University. Since returning to Australia I’ve continued riding (and racing) cyclocross and XC mountain bikes, alongside regular road riding. I also enjoy taking the CX bike out on longer mixed-terrain ‘gravel grinds’, as well as bikepacking and touring. I continue to live car-free, commuting out to Macquarie Uni, and riding around Sydney. It’s been a great way to learn the city, and I’m determined to prove that Sydney doesn’t necessarily suck for daily cycling! The days I enjoy most are often taking the train out of the city, riding a mix of road and gravel/dirt in new places, with multiple coffee and bakery stops. I have a current goal of visiting all 50 national parks in the greater Sydney region– in 4 months I’ve ticked off about a quarter.
Both through my passion for all forms of cycling, alongside my studying of cities (I’m a human geographer and former urban planner), I am always eager to promote the social, physical, environmental and economic benefits of cycling. I don’t see the bicycle as a means only for racing or training – in many ways I see it as a political choice with immense benefits to society. It’s also by far the best way to get to know a city and make friends. Overall, I spend more time on my commuter with front rack and basket than I do on a carbon bike in lycra. That maybe doesn’t translate to being a top-level racer, but I like to think it makes me a lot happier human being with a deeper understanding of the places I live in.
I came across Park Bikes, and Parklife, after moving to Sydney and looking for a cycling club to join, and a way to learn the best routes for road cycling. I was pleased to find a welcoming and diverse group of cyclists, that catered for various needs and abilities. Most importantly, it wasn’t all men, an issue that I often find with cycling clubs.
I hope that by joining Parklife, I can bring some of my international experience in cycling to the club. In particular I’d like to help cyclocross grow as a discipline in Sydney, and to help introduce others to it, both from the club and beyond. I also come from a background of community-based and DIY organising/volunteering, something that I see as essential in creating a welcoming and strong cycling club environment. In the UK, I was a member of Bristol CX, a local cyclocross team that would run several rounds of the regional cyclocross season. I enjoy the grassroots element of racing, and volunteering in all its facets, and look forward to getting involved with Parklife in a similar way. That and improving my tan lines after seven years of being cold and miserable in the UK, while also not needing to wash the bike after every ride…
I’ve been lucky enough to ride in some pretty stunning parts of the world, but I’m most happy riding in the Dandenong Ranges on the eastern-outskirts of Melbourne. If anyone wants a guided tour or some route planning, get in touch!