On yer bike

Published on 03 February 2020

Smiling woman wearing flowing jumpsuit riding a utility bike with a wicker basket on the front through a bushy track.

Whether you've got a balance bike or a cyclocross, Palmy is fast becoming one of the cycling capitals of New Zealand.

While Sharland got into cycling by accident, what keeps her on her bike is her health and the planet.

"There's more and more compelling evidence we need to get out of our cars. Climate change feels like something we can't control, but we can control our pollution. I also love that it helps me stay fit and is good for my physical and mental health. Riding is like a meditation for me – I have a buffer between work and home and while riding I feel like everything is right with the world."

If you toss up the cost of a car, insurance, WoF, breakdowns, new parts, oil, service and depreciation and put that in savings or an investment, you'd be surprised how much it can add up. I'm 53 and I'm not planning on working to 65 – I'm planning on riding my bike more. - Miriam Sharland

As well as saving money, Sharland also made a new friend.

"I've become friends with someone I used to see cycling every day. We'd be going opposite ways and one day this person came up to me at a class at Massey and said 'hello' like she knew me – and I said 'oh my god you're the person on the bike with the pink jacket'. That would never happen if we were in cars."

Palmerston North City Council wants to see more people getting on their bikes. The Urban Cycling Masterplan will expand the number of cycle lanes, reduce speeds around schools and shops, and support businesses and schools to get more people choosing to get on a bike. The plan reveals that 60 per cent of people in Palmy want to bike but have some concerns. Sharland gets it.

"People often think cycling is dangerous, but the reality is you're more likely to get injured as a pedestrian than a cyclist."

Her advice? "Pop on a hi-vis, use lights, be assertive, catch drivers' eyes, indicate and choose quieter routes. That's the best start until you build up confidence."

The bike vs car battle is something Sharland wants people to accept doesn't exist. "Cyclists also drive, and people who drive often ride bikes."

Young man riding mountainbike down a gnarly trail with lots of rocks.

Arapuke Forest Park has put Palmy on the map for mountain biking.

Stomp, bonk, shred and bail

Don't worry if you don't know those words – if the Mountain Bike Club has its way, you will soon.

Committee member Russell Brebner says Arapuke is one of the best parks around.

"Our advantage is concentration. As a rider, you can go on lots of trails all in one day and there's a shuttle that takes you back up over and over again. We have 24 trails  – the longest is 3km and the shortest about 400m. We have 30km in total and our target is 50km over the next few years."

Before you write it off, remember that you don't have to be a middle-aged man to gain entry.

"We're seeing a lot more diverse demographic on the tracks, both young and old. A classic mountain biker is a middle-aged man, but we often have people riding who are in their 70s and toddlers on balance bikes. We're also excited to see more women heading to the park."

The Mountain Bike Club has also teamed up with the Council to develop easy mountain bike tracks along the Manawatū River. There are tracks at:

  • Albert Street towards Fitzherbert Bridge
  • Ruamahanga Crescent towards Riverside Drive
  • Ahimate Reserve
  • And, if you're experienced, there are major jumps near the Recycling Centre at Awapuni.

For me as a dad to young children, this is so cool. It's a way for people of any age to build and develop passion, interest and skills. Once they graduate from there they can go to Arapuke. If in doubt, try them out. Then if you want an easy trail, head to Arapuke and enter from Scott's Road, where you'll find the easiest tracks. - Russell Brebner