‘I decided to use my bicycle as much as I could in my everyday life, and I was surprised by what was possible.’

One of the first questions I’m often asked is “are you still riding your bike?” That’s usually from people who I haven’t seen for a while and my answer is always an enthusiastic yes! With people who I see more regularly, I’m often met with “did you ride your bike here?” Or the more assuming “I guess you rode your bike”. Or after glancing around and finding no evidence of a bicycle nearby, “not on your bike today?”. My life has become synonymous with riding a bike. It’s a fact that I love but it hasn’t always been that way.

There were years when my bicycle sat unused in the garage. There were years when I didn’t even own a bike. But then there was the year when an unexpected change left my life in need of reshaping.

I needed to do something positive for my life and wanted to be healthy, save some money and have some fun. So, I began a two-wheel revolution. I decided to use my bicycle as much as I could in my everyday life, and I was surprised by what was possible.

As a young girl growing up in Queensland, I learnt to ride in the gravel driveway of our sugar cane farm. Trainer wheels, five years old and soon to start school – learning to ride a bike was essential for transport. Decades later, my bicycle again became central to how I moved around my neighbourhood. Both times, building confidence was key. And the only way I could find out what this bicycle lifestyle could bring me was by having a go.

Living without a car wasn’t my goal. Driving the car less was. Discovering what I could realistically do by bicycle involved trial, error, persistence, creativity and slowing down. At times I felt frustrated but mostly a surplus of fun. I watched where life took me – to the shops, the local markets, coffee with friends, out to dinner, swimming at the beach, to weddings, parties and holidays – and asked myself, can I ride my bicycle? Can I carry what I need to carry? Can I ride the distance? What type of road, lane or pathway will I be on? Does the weather make riding possible? And, if I chose not to travel by bike, was I being a wimp or being wise?

Full panniers after the local markets.
As I rode through each season, I discovered my limits.

The torrential rains of summer make mudguards and a good waterproof jacket a must. Magpie season means I put my head down and ride fast! Tropical thunderstorms and a wedding in a 25 knot south-easterly have stopped me in my tracks. Getting a tray of mangoes home from the local market gave me cause to get creative.

Eventually, I learnt where my bicycle life can take me and where it won’t. I ride my bike to the beach, to meetings, markets, cafes, shopping centres and parties. I use it for returning books to the library, commuting to work, seeing art exhibitions and live music. When I take my car for servicing, I take my bike with me and ride home. Deciding to use my bike in everyday life brought the positive changes that I wanted – I’m healthier, happier and saving money from using the car less.

Another thing I learnt is that any bicycle lifestyle is unique to where and how you live. Where you live – hills, highways, pathways – will influence how easy it is to ride out from home. What makes up your life – family, work, interests – will shape where and when you can ride. What connects us though is a shared knowing that a bicycle lifestyle is a good thing.

A two-wheel revolution is something worth starting. Whether you start big or small, start somewhere.

Gail Rehbein is a bicycle-riding writer who loves to share stories, information and inspiration about life seen from two wheels on Australia’s Gold Coast and beyond. You can find her work at her website A Bike for All Seasons. She is also an ambassador for Bicycle Queensland.

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