Clad in their Lycra road-cycling kits, GemLife Woodend biking buddies Barry O’Connor, John Eckel and Stewart Meeks hit the road three times a week for a 40-kilometre ride in the Macedon Ranges’ famously scenic landscape.
Come hail, rain or shine, the trio are ready to roll, combining their love of fitness, fun and the great outdoors in a sport that both challenges them and lets them enjoy the spectacular natural beauty that surrounds GemLife Woodend.
Barry, a road cyclist with 26 years of experience under his belt, got back into cycling after he retired.
“I used to be a member of the Macedon Ranges Cycling Club and raced just for the fun of it. Cycling is more enjoyable when done with others. I picked it up again about a year ago, it wasn’t long before John joined in and also got into it,” said Barry.
“I love the challenge of cycling. Being outdoors in the fresh air and amongst the scenery is really stimulating, plus you see a lot more native animals like echidnas, kangaroos and snakes.”
For John, a chance conversation with Barry at a GemLife social event had him in the saddle soon after. As a former member of the Royal Australian Air Force, John was already committed to staying in shape and was keen to give something new a go.
“I’m a runner and cycling is a great way to keep fit that has less stress on the knees. It’s improved my fitness, it’s a great social sport and it’s good for general wellbeing. It’s just good fun,” said John.
“Sharing a common interest with like-minded friends has been great. It’s important to keep expanding your horizons.”
The newbie to the group, Stewart, is the one to watch according to Barry and John.
“He’s super fit, and although he’s older than us, he’s the top rider,” said Barry.
The friends like to add a bit of competition to their rides, upping the ante by sending one rider out front – usually Stewart – for a game of chase.
“I’ve never raced before, I’ve just cycled socially but I used to commute to work by bike for more than 20 years,” said Stewart.
“I like to keep fit. We’re all of a similar standard to each other. It’s a friendly, fun thing to do and the countryside is beautiful.”