Mackay journalist and mother of two Melissa Maddison-Stanton’s love of all things biking is infectious. Way before she introduced us to the Dirt Divas (women’s mountain bike group), we were always inspired by her commitment to very early morning cycles and her long-distance journeys for charity. Not even her early morning rises for her job as the head of news at ABC Radio Tropical North curbs her enthusiasm or love of getting outdoors on two wheels. Now the mother of two is testing her skills on the mountain bike track and trying her hand at racing. We asked Mel about her adventure journey and to give some tips for anyone wanting to try their hand on a bike.
Q - How long have you been riding bikes and what made you start?
I started road cycling several years ago after seeing a TV news story about Mackay’s Biggest Bike Ride (now known as River 2 Reef). I used to ride a bit as a teenager but it didn’t feature much in my 20s. The mass ride event was enough to remind me why I love the sport - and the social side of it. A couple of years ago, after some convincing from some friends, I decided to give mountain biking a go. I nominated for the Mackay Mountain Marathon in Eungella - and despite being terrified the morning of the ride, I loved it and have well and truly got the mountain bike (MTB) bug.
Q - What do you really love about it?
With MTBing, I love the challenge. It’s very physically and mentally demanding and you really need to forget about everything else that’s going on and just concentrate on the track. It’s a really nice way to force myself to unplug from work/life for a bit and do something just for me. And it gives me a brilliant sense of accomplishment. It was something that was so far out of my comfort zone and as adults, I don’t think we push ourselves into new things as much as we should.
"It of course helps hugely that there’s loads of supportive women out there, who want to help others give the sport a try and guide them to be better if it’s something they’re keen to do".
Q - How often would you get on the bike?
I try and get out to the MTB park once a week. I have recently decided that I will give racing a go, so when there’s a race coming up I’ll try and do a couple of extra rides just to practise parts of the track. Several years ago when I was road riding, it would be a couple of times a week, but with work and a young family I can’t do it that often any more.
Q - What kind of equipment would a beginner need?
There’s not a lot that you need to get started. Just a helmet, shoes and a bike. The thing I love about Divas and the MAD Club is that they have a lot of support from the crew at Corry Cycles - and they can organise a loan bike for you to have a go - so really minimal outlay. While there’s some super flash bikes out there, you really don’t need anything special for MTB. A bike with some suspension that fits you well is it. And you can often find them being sold on social media pages. Mountain Bike Australia also has 8-week trial memberships for free, so you don’t even need to worry about signing up for a big membership fee to begin with - but chances are you’ll love it as much as I do, and become a recreational or race member.
Q - Is the sport family friendly?
Definitely! There’s always families with kids up at the humpy, chatting and playing. The kids love just playing in the dirt and running around, and there’s plenty that decide to have a go at the park too. My 5-year-old daughter is typically risk-averse, but she’s recently decided to have a go and is now asking when she can race! It’s so nice to see her challenge herself, and that I can inspire her to try new things, even if it is a bit scary.
Q - How do you manage to ride around two small children?
It is a challenge some days. If my partner is around, she’ll come up to the park and run around with them while I go and do my training. It’s something we can all do as a family and I think that’s really important. I sometimes feel guilty about going and doing something away from my family, but this is something we can all do together. But there’s other times where friends or family watch the kids if I can’t get up the park during school/daycare hours.
Q - What advice do you have for those who would love to start riding but don’t know where to start?
Just give it a go! Make contact with a group on Facebook (in Mackay search Dirt Divas, or MAD MTB Club) and let them know you want to give it a go. It certainly can seem like an intense sport - and it is - but it’s also very welcoming! The people who are very involved love nothing more than introducing new people to the sport and seeing them get enjoyment out of it. If you feel better going as a group - round up a few mates as moral support and all go together!
Where can people get involved or start?
In Mackay - just jump onto Facebook and search out Dirt Divas of MAD MTB Club.