In 2012 Rowney and Rebecca Werner were both on the cusp of becoming professional cyclists. Werner had had a successful run in Australia and early season in US, and Rowney got herself a guest spot – and eventually a contract – with Specialized-Lululemon. But while Rowney’s career started to take shape, things went south for Werner. Due to medical issues and consequent poor performances, Werner did not get a contract and decided her chance had come and gone. She hung up her bike and has been trying to find a life after cycling ever since.
Now, on the last leg of this self-discovery journey, Werner is back on the bike, retracing a bike tour her parents did over thirty years ago. She set out from Adelaide last week, on the same bike that carried my mum all those years ago, to cover the 2,500 kilometres to Brisbane. Here’s her second update from the road.
- Life after trying to become pro: the same path but two different journeys
- Discovering myself in the bike tracks of my parents
- Week one: what the hell have I gotten myself into?
- Week two: halfway there!
- Week three: people are kind and generous
The last few days of riding were tough.
I made it over the final mountain pass without any trouble. It’s all about expectations. I expected it to be hard, and it was. Winding up some beautiful rainforest roads in the Great Dividing Range on the way to Grafton, I’d be in my easiest gear going as hard as I could, just keeping it upright. It wasn’t possible to maintain, so with legs fading and drowning in my own sweat I’d stop. Anywhere. Just hop off and have a break on the side of the road. Soak up the surrounds and be content that I was simply making progress. This is just what I expected.
Rolling down the other side of the climb with only flat roads until the coast, and pretty much the rest of the way, I made the mistake of counting my chickens before they’d hatched. In my mind I was done. The hard parts completed, I had three days to cruise to the Gold Coast where I’d spend Christmas, before one final push to Brisbane.
Leaving Grafton on the Pacific Highway in busy holiday traffic, my idea of a peaceful ride faded fast.
I spent the next two hot days wrestling my bike on the flat into an epic headwind. Trying to avoid the highway I followed some Google map directions which showed a small coastal road. When I arrived at the beach however, I realised they were directing me to ride on the sand, as cars were allowed on the beach. Backtracking 20 kilometres to the windy highway, any zen I previously possessed had completely disappeared. Lesson 357 of this trip: don’t get ahead of yourself!
After a great week on the Gold Coast celebrating Christmas, eating too much and playing tourist, I loaded up for the final jaunt to Brisbane. Apart from a tyre showing the wear of rough roads and long Ks under a heavy load, the bike had miraculously survived and performed admirably.
It has always annoyed me that cycling can be such an elitist sport, even at a recreational level. Obviously to race and go fast you want the best possible equipment, but this trip has proven to me more than ever that it’s not about the bike. There’s a great amount of freedom and joy to be had from rolling on two wheels, no matter what they look like or how much they cost.
Riding along I thought about all the other lessons I’d learned and what I’d take away from this journey. I saw places I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, and was reminded of how lucky I am to live in such a big and diverse country (of which I still have only scraped the surface). I got to engage with a whole lot of interesting, friendly and generous people, complete strangers and friends alike.
One thing that kept occurring to me throughout the trip is that my parents were crazy! They took this on with little riding experience and with little idea of what lay ahead. Now having simply followed the path they laid, I’m even more impressed by what they did.
I’m glad they were a bit crazy, because they made adventures like this seem totally normal and achievable.
We set our own limits.
Along the way countless people have asked me why I was doing this. When they’d commonly ask if it was for a charity I’d feel guilty that it was ultimately just for myself. Honestly though, often I just wanted to answer ‘because why not?’. There’s so much out there to explore – in the world and within ourselves, do we really need a reason?
After 2,789 kilometres over 25 days of riding, I arrived in Brisbane. Strangely, apart from being stoked to see my friends Jazzy and Hannah and the relief at having them escort me the last few Ks to the city, I felt no real overwhelming emotion at having arrived at my final destination.
Really it felt just like any other evening, making it to a place to sleep for the night.
I’d become so accustomed to the routine of riding each day that when I thought about my plans for the next few days, which included visiting friends on the Sunshine Coast, my first reaction was to check the riding route.
Apart from a rear tyre that was being held together by threads, why not?
I guess it was always more about the journey than the destination anyway.