The ONE piece of advice all women who take up cycling need to hear

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Chinese proverb.

Picture this.  It’s Saturday morning 6am and you’re meeting up with all your ride buddies for your regular weekend long ride and post ride coffee.  Yep life’s great.  Your bunchie sets off and you’ve got the crisp morning air rushing past your face as you descend your first hill and the ride buddy next to you is happily chatting away but you can’t hear a damn thing over the wind and all you can say is ‘oh yeah?’ as you hope they don’t probe you for a more detailed response.  And then psssssssssssss.. The sound of a flat tyre and you standing around for 10mins while the bunchie sets up a crime scene and the group gets to work changing the flat.  And this is where I’m like David Attenborough watching to see how this ecosystem functions.  Particularly when it’s a female who has the flat.  Most times I’m left disappointed.

I have a very strong message for women when it comes to taking up cycling. 


On the surface it appears nice and chivalrous when you get a flat and all the guys rush over to help take over and change the tyre for you.  But the reality is that it’s rude, they are costing you money, they are putting the brakes on your development as a cyclist and on your behalf it’s just plain lazy.

By accepting this help what you are doing is forcing yourself to become a “dependant athlete”
(Long 2013)  Your focus is on the result, getting the tyre fixed, but you should be focusing on the process and embracing this moment as an opportunity to overcome a challenge.  In this instance the steps it takes to fix a flat tyre.  In case you didn’t know here they are:

  • Stop and pull over in a safe area
  • Remove wheel from your bike
  • Remove tyre and tube from rim of wheel
  • Inspect rim and tyre for possible causes
  • Put one side of tyre back on rim
  • Insert new tube
  • Put other side of tyre on rim
  • Inflate the tyre
  • Put wheel back on bike
  • Continue to monitor tyre while riding

That’s the theory but you need to practice, practice, practice.

In a practical sense learning to fix a flat saves you thousands of dollars.  Think of it from an Ironman triathlon perspective.  You’ve spent months and months training, copious dollars on coaching, pool entries, equipment, massages, race entry, travel costs, accommodation etc.  Not to mention the physical cost of all the training and time away from family and extra pressure put on work.  Come race day you’re half way through the ride and you get a flat and there’s no one around to help and the Shimano mechanic is 40 minutes away.  Yep if you don’t know how to change that tyre your day is pretty much over.  All that money and effort has gone to waste all because you wouldn’t take the small amount of time out to learn the process.

Now this is just the quantitative cost.  The invisible cost is much greater.  Being ignorant over these sorts of things is “performance suicide.”  You are teaching yourself to become reliant on others for your success.  You hear it time and time again, “control the controllables.”  Well if you can’t change a tyre you can’t even control the controllables so what are you left with?  Luck and the power of the universe.  Your race is over before you’ve started. 

Train yourself or find a coach who wants you to become and independent athlete.  Take control of the decision-making process.  Triathlon is one sport where being confident in your own decision making makes a big difference.  It is a sport where you are out and about, away from any sort of central location and as such you don’t have ‘in game’ access to your coach like a basketball player would.  If you’re 40km away from transition on your bike and something happens you need to be equipped with the technical knowledge and decision making powers to overcome the situation and get yourself to the finish line.

In triathlon there are plenty of other opportunities to practice being and independent athlete.  Here are some other practical areas of triathlon that are must dos to become an independent triathlete:

  • Learn to read the weather
  • Learn basic bike mechanics ie: know how your bike works
  • Know the course
  • Become a time management expert
  • Don’t be afraid to fail
  • Who cares what others think

So, don’t delay and start working on these things now.  There’s no right phase of training to schedule these things.  Basically, if you aren’t confident in these areas then you need to start straight away.


LONG, M. Dr. (2013) Making a Decision, Athletics Weekly, 18th April, p. 58-59


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