BikeLife: Meredith and Andrew Gallagher
Meredith and Andrew Gallagher got into bike riding while living in England, where narrow roads, short distances and difficulty parking made bike riding more attractive than driving.
But it stopped when they returned to Australia.
“We moved around a lot and didn’t get back into riding,” explains Andrew.
Black Saturday was the catalyst that spurred him to start again.
He and Meredith were both CFA volunteers with the Mosquito Creek brigade.
“I got a bit angry after Black Saturday,” recalls Andrew.
“We’d worked so much and yet people had lost their lives – I felt like we could have done more – and it kind of ate away at me for a while.
Eventually I said to my doctor, ‘How do I know when I need to talk to someone?’ and he said, ‘If you’re asking that, then you probably do.’
The psychologist told me I needed some regular physical exercise so I bought myself a new bike and I’ve been obsessed ever since!
“I’d ride by myself a couple of mornings a week. Once I got to three mornings a week, it was bye bye psychologist. It’s mindfulness while you exercise,” he says.
A work colleague suggested he join a bunch ride, but it was another year or two before he felt fit and capable enough.
Eventually he was riding 20km each way to and from work plus bunch rides three times a week.
“I know bunches can be intimidating but one of the great things is learning the skills and learning from other people what to look for. Bunch riding has made us safer – getting bike culture to people that aren’t bike people.”
Meanwhile, old knee injuries were making riding difficult for Meredith. Flat riding was okay but after riding hills on a couple of family outings she’d suffer at night. Osteoarthritis in her hand compounded the problem, making it difficult to change gears.
So the bike tended to stay in the shed.
“I didn’t have the stamina to get out and about, but I love to get out and about – I love the flora and fauna in the bush,” she said.
Then Brad from the Bicycle Centre suggested they test ride an e-bike. “I was a bit hesitant, but we had an absolute hoot. Brad suggested I take it for a couple of hours. I rode along the rail trail and the path up the hill to Cousins Street and blitzed it – it was awesome!”
Since February, Meredith has been riding her e-bike, which can be automatic or manual and has buttons rather than levers to change gears so she doesn’t need strength in her thumbs.
It’s really opened up her ability to get out and about. She’s enjoyed riding to work – and pedalling out the stress of the day as she rides home.
“I’m still a fair-weather rider,” she admits, but this is partly about needing to sort out the right clothing – a rain jacket that she can wear over her work clothes, for example.
The pair can also ride together, whereas on a regular bike Meredith couldn’t have done the distance.
“Now we can ride out through the Wellsford Forest to Axedale, grab a coffee and ride home along the O’Keefe,” explains Meredith. “It sounds crazy but it feels like a date!” she laughs.
Andrew is convinced about the potential for e-bikes to change how we travel.
“Once people in Strathfieldsaye and Junortoun learn about e-bikes, if the O’Keefe Rail Trail was sealed, they could zip into work without getting dirty.
“We need to think about the future – about paths that are safe, clean and attractive.”
This article first appeared in the Bendigo Weekly.