What gets you out on your bike? Some prefer the solitude of the open road, but for many it is the companionship, good natured competition and support of the group they regularly ride with that gets them out of bed early.
Being part of a team competing or participating in a sportive or Gran Fondo can focus that motivation.
With SBS announcing the start of the sign-up for teams to the L’Etape Australia by Tour de France, we spoke to some experienced riders who have been a part of teams in the past.
Anna Thomson, who cycles with the Trek Fondo Womens Team has raced competitively, but finds the joy of riding in more social events is what attracts her to Fondos.
“I’ve participated in a couple of VRS (Victorian Road Series) stage races including Tour of East Gippsland and Tour of South West, plus the odd club criterium.
"However, the types of events I love the most are Amy’s Gran Fondo, Giro Della Donna and The Ascent - they’re challenging but less serious than pinning on a race number.”
The traditional Fondo course is a mix of easy to more challenging terrain and provides a wide variety of riders a chance to participate.
Thomson prefers the process of doing it with a team rather than conquering specific obstacles.
“For me, cycling is mostly about having a go and having fun. Whilst the challenges are motivating, the people I ride with gets me up on a cold and dark winter morning.
"I’ve met some amazing people through cycling - riding bikes seems to attract positive, happy people.”
Sam Walcher, of Melbourne Cycling League’s Fast Mens Team brings a more solitary approach to training, with hours on the ergo at home helping fit round a busy schedule. The focused approach of working towards and achieving a goal is what appeals to Walcher in cycling.
“I really like the saying, ‘focus on the process and the results will take care of themselves’. First I set myself a goal, then I need to get organised. If I'm not organised, I find it difficult to focus and be disciplined in my training. I enjoy the racing the most, but I also enjoy the process getting there, and seeing the hard work pay off.”
But he also appreciates the chance cycling offers to connect with others on two wheels and support each other along the way.
“It's a big commitment when you have to juggle work and everything else in life. Having good mates to train with, to share the highs and lows, it keeps you motivated and focused. Not to mention race day logistics.
"Recently, I've been helping my oldest mate from school get into riding and prepare for 3 Peaks in Tasmania in October. With kids and everything, we don't see each other much, so this is a great excuse to catch up more and share something we are both passionate about. Riding is my zen. My meditation. It's my outlet for quiet time, for suffering, and everything in between.”
Everyone has different motivations when clipping in, so while the escapism of cycling may not be your thing, the beauty of the sport is you can do it for many different reasons.
Perhaps the most important element for determining what experience you get out of riding your bike, whether it be in preparation for a big goal, a weekend ride or something in the middle is what role cycling plays in your life.
Finding a group of people with the same outlook and the ability to share the journey can enhance the experience, for the obvious reasons and the intangible ones as well. With the rise of the Gran Fondo scene in Australia over recent years, now is the best time to get a group of friends together and create your own memories on the road.