Going solo on two wheels

Judy Mason - riding has been a life buoy in difficult times and joy in good times.Sometimes when life gets a bit hilly you have to get off and walk. If the bike is Judy Mason’s metaphor for life it’s also been a life buoy in difficult times.

Overcoming an addiction to prescribed tranquillisers, a bike ride every day was sometimes the only thing she could manage. The staff at TRANX (Tranquilliser Recovery and New Existence) were delighted with her regime and confident it helped her come off the drugs.

Those years were not easy. She remembers sitting out in the bush on her own, brushing sand with a twig and telling God how angry she was with him. “I swear an arm went round my shoulder and a voice said ‘I know. I understand. It’s OK.’”

The bike has been a solace. “You’re stripped of everything else but moving on and dealing with just the basics. It is spiritual. That’s why it’s so good for you, I guess. There’s no one between you and God.”

In the last two years she’s “run away from home” and started again in Bendigo. A nurse by training, she’s working towards a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing, joined a brass band, dabbled in U3A French and continues to ride.

Judy has a quick eye. A conversation with her is sprinkled with amusing anecdotes about animals especially – wild and domestic – and of course cycling trips.

She has two bikes. One is a Giant mountain bike (with Judy TT forks, mind you!) that was a gift from her family.

The second is a road bike she fondly calls “grandma’s axe”. The original frame was a Peugot Mixte. Over the years and with her son’s help the bike has had new running gear, wheels, handlebars, seat, forks, frame … Is there anything original left? No, she chuckles, but it’s still the same bike. “The road bike gets my adrenaline pumping just throwing a leg over it. It just wants to go fast.”

Her first taste of touring wasn’t so fast, though. When her son was 14, the school called for parents to accompany students on the Great Victorian Bike Ride from Yarrawonga to Melbourne. It was hard work, but she’d caught the touring bug.

To train for her first solo trip, she loaded her panniers with 25 kg of bricks. People she knew were aghast that she would go off on her own. “Well,” she’d say, “that’s the whole point of it. If you need to do it by yourself, you just do.”

But she understands why riding solo is a frightening prospect for some. In 1995 she and some colleagues were preparing for Murray to Moyne. One of the team, Sonia, was killed on a late afternoon solo training ride. The motorist who ran into her thought he had hit a sheep.

Four weeks after they had celebrated her wedding, friends were at her funeral. Some members of the team pulled out. Judy didn’t. Now, she dedicates every ride to Sonia.

Ever since Sonia’s death, she’s been very conscious about the dangers of riding on her own. “What happens to people when they get behind they wheel of a car?” she wonders. “Why is a car more important than a bike?”

“Like Bicycle Victoria says, we need more people cycling more often. Then we’d have more courteous motorists.” She’s quick to acknowledge courtesy. If she can catch up with a the courteous motorist at the next set of lights, she’ll always say thank you.

What keeps her riding? Chocolate! And being able to park right outside wherever she’s going. And feeling good. “When I get on my bike I feel strong. Blessed.”

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