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Sundre Bike n’ Ski Club rolls out new weekly women’s group ride

Cyclists enjoy exploring Sundre’s nature trails while boosting their physical and mental well-being
MVT-Sundre bike n ski club women's ride
Sundre Bike n' Ski Club members Carla Thulien, in the blue jacket, and Melissa Shippy head out on May 18 for a new, weekly women's Wednesday evening ride at Snake Hill that started earlier this month. The first few rides have largely been groups of two, but they hope to build up interest and momentum as the weather improves with summer's impending arrival. Simon Ducatel/MVP Staff

SUNDRE — Although the Sundre Bike n’ Ski Club has for a number of years had weekly men’s bike rides, an effort is now underway to build up interest and momentum for a weekly women’s ride as well.

Spearheading the informal initiative, Melissa Shippy told the Albertan on May 18 during an interview before embarking on a ride with fellow club member and friend Carla Thulien, that she had previously attempted a Sunday ride amid the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting public health restrictions.

“It was kind of like the one thing we could do,” Shippy said, adding there had been a decent turnout but that plans for a weekly recurring ride ended up at the time being put on pause.  

Since then, there’s been a level of interest expressed in trying to start up a weekly ride for women to go at their own pace without feeling pressured to keep up with the men’s group.

“Some of my friends said they’d like to have a ladies’ ride just so that it’s not so intimidating,” said Shippy.  

Getting started earlier in May, the weekly group rides have so far mostly been attended by a couple of members. But the rides remain relatively new on the radar, and Shippy hopes to over the coming months build up interest and momentum for the weekly outings that are expected to continue through the summer and into the fall.

Depending on a given group’s size and ability, the rides will usually last about an hour, but could potentially go on for a little longer depending on the cyclists’ interest and energy levels, she said.

Asked how she would describe the rides on a scale between a leisurely outing and a physically exerting excursion, Shippy said they’ll try to find a balance between the two but would tend to lean a little toward exerting as the idea is in large part to be active and get some exercise to maximize the health benefit.

“It is about pushing yourself,” said Shippy, adding there are numerous inclines to surmount on certain trails. “You do need to ride your bike up the hill, or you push your bike up the hill – and that’s fine to push your bike. That’s how you learn.”

Thulien added they could also tailor their pace to match more novice cyclists who are interested in giving it a try.

“Even if they’re not super fast, that doesn’t matter,” said Shippy, so long as “they’re willing to give it a shot.”

However, the group won’t be found riding any streets or paved paths.

“We are not really interested in riding on the (asphalt) pathways and the roads,” said Shippy.  

Also, the rides are about more than being physically active and can offer everyone who joins the opportunity to further develop their cycling skills, including smoothly shifting gears and knowing when to use them, she said.  

Additionally, the vast network of natural trails offers plenty of ground to cover, she said.  

“It’s just about exploring,” she said, adding that while they’ll repeat some of the same trails to better learn the terrain and along the way build up confidence, the group also occasionally aims to change up their routine for a change of scenery.

“That’s what’s interesting about it – you’re taking your bike on the lesser-known trails.”

Responding to what they most enjoy about cycling, Shippy said, “It helps me focus – when you’re biking, you can’t think about anything else.”

In other words, being out on the trails cycling helps to clear her mind of clutter, she said.   

“And it gives you a real boost of adrenaline,” she added.

The endorphin-fuelled experience also induces a natural high that might leave a person feeling exhausted but also exhilarated.

“It’s just a nice feeling being done,” said Shippy.

Thulien seemed to agree, but added, “For me, I do it for my mental health.”

“This is where I come to play,” said Thulien, who lives and works in Didsbury but enjoys recreating in Sundre and the surrounding area.  

The group gathers at the Sundre & District Auqaplex parking lot on Wednesday evenings prior to 7 p.m., when the cyclists head out onto the trails. The men's rides take place every Tuesday starting at the same time and location.



Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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