If You Can’t Beat Them…

Over the last year I have written a lot about riding with my wife.  I thought I’d get Robyn to share her perspective with you.


My mother tells people that I ride my bike because otherwise I wouldn’t get to see my husband. He’s alright my other half, but I’m not going to invest huge amounts of time and energy just to stare at his backside or hope that he might actually talk about anything other than average speed, cadence and how mentally prepared I am!

At Uni I always rode a bike and later on when I lived in Dublin for 5 years it was my main means of transport. Moving to Sydney, working, getting married, having children and just the noise of normal life just seemed to take priority over anything else.

I have watched at close quarters Ben’s midlife crises; first the running, then I lived through the subsequent damaged knee and finally laughed our loud when he first appeared in Lycra. The reality was that I ended up living with somebody who was happy to parade around in public with the anatomy of a Ken doll.

Mostly I was just pleased that he seemed happier and had something to occupy his time. We still managed to do all the things we wanted to do as a family so I let him get on with it. Then one day he suggested that I should get a road bike.

Why not I thought and I picked up my shiny new bike in November 2013. At first it was a novelty being on something that was sleek and fast. I enjoyed learning to ride it, how to use the gears and waddling around in in my cleats at the café like all the other Lycra clad wanabees.

We’d get up early on a Sunday, ride for a couple of hours, I’d get to see the city from a different perspective and always felt I had earned my breakfast.


Then one day at the start of 2014, at one of our favourite café stops, Ben asked me what my goal was.

“To get home, do the washing and have a quiet afternoon”, I replied.

“No what’s your cycling goal?”, he asked.

“I don’t have one, do I need one?”

“Well why are you riding at all?”

This stumped me a little, I rode my bike because it was fun. It was also very easy for me, all I had to do was agree to getting up at 6am on a Sunday with my delighted husband who was genuinely pleased that I’d go for a cycle with him. He did everything else I just pedaled.

Now at 8am on a Sunday morning over my latte and mushrooms on toast I’m getting interrogated about my cycling vision. Somewhat reluctantly and just to shut him up I settled on the concept of getting fit, Ben’s eyes lit up: he had a plan.

Little did I know that over the next 2 years my metamorphosis from occasional social rider was going to entail serious amounts of time in Lycra, see me take my bike on our family holiday’s and acquire an extensive wardrobe of bike related clothing that is even better than my husbands. It has culminated in me riding the Peaks Challenge at Falls Creek a few months ago, a 235km ride in a single day over some big mountains. A result that I am proud of and well worth the time and effort.

Once I uttered those fatal words, “I’d like to get fit”, things changed. Here are the key revelations that I made along the way.

Make The Time For Yourself

Remember to do your own thing!

Remember to do your own thing!

My initial fitness regime involved “Turbo Time”. Sounds impressive but basically it means sitting in the spare room on a turbo trainer for hours pedaling. Ben had discovered some approach which required me to ride at a certain heart rate (MAF training or something, I’ve never cared what was behind it just loved the fact that it got me fit and I lost a lot of weight in the process). It might sound dull but compared to cooking, running the girls around or other boring chores I soon learnt this was my time.

The wonders of modern technology meant that I could spend the hour long sessions watching my IPad and completely disconnected to whatever was going on in the house or around me. Downtown Abbey, Gavin and Stacey and all of The Game of Thrones were consumed in my quest to build a base.  A couple of these sessions a week and a ride or two at the weekend and I was ready to take on some bike challenges.

Play The Bike Card

2014 01 21_4171

How many bikes does it take to…

Linked to making time for yourself is the wonder of “The Bike Card”. If your husband is a certified bike nut who takes great delight in not only his exploits on his bike but yours as well then you find yourself in a very powerful position. The normal delineation of duties around the house can easily get reassigned if there is an urgent bike related matter. For example if the girls need a lift and I haven’t been on my bike yet, then clearly my bike session needs to take priority and Ben has to step up. You just need to work out what you do and don’t want to do around the house and play the bike card.

Own Your Goals

As I got fitter and enjoyed the time on my bike we began to look for some events to participate in. Rather than a gentle first event mine was a 165km lumpy ride, The Fitz’s Classic Challenge, in Canberra. I had ridden enough to know I would get around, it was more a question of how I would feel and in what shape. We had a great day and I was delighted to finish in a respectable time and to feel a sense of achievement at my first big event. With this ride under my belt the thought of riding the Peaks Challenge was discussed. Ben had done it twice before and had really enjoyed it, it would be a big challenge but if I trained he felt I could complete it.FC14M__2116_1P

As part of our training we did The Fitz’s Classic again a year later. This time I was considerably faster but crossed the finish line feeling completely underwhelmed. Unlike the year before, where just getting around was an achievement, this time I had high expectations for how fast I could go. As I talked this through with Ben we realised that unintentionally he had been pushing me as he was trying to get me ready for the Peaks Challenge. Rather than owning my ride I was trying to please him and not communicating how I was actually feeling; which was knackered and disappointed, despite going faster.

I realised that I had to own my training and rides from then on. My goal became to get myself in the best physical condition I could so that I could enjoy the Peaks Challenge. Ben would plan our rides and then I would be responsible for altering them based on how I was feeling. On the road I was to communicate exactly what I wanted him to do. If I felt good we would go faster. If I needed to, he would slow down. I didn’t need to be motivated or screamed at I just needed to know that he would do what I felt I needed to get round and enjoy myself in the process.

Prepare To Be Surprised…

One of the side benefits of getting into cycling with my husband has been how attentive he has become. Not so much to me, after 19 years of marriage some things you don’t need, but to my bike and my wardrobe. I have never once had to clean my bike , fix my bike or do anything other than just ride it. He takes care of it all.

The normal household budgeting policy has also gone out of the window if new bike kit or new bike parts are required. The more I have pedaled the fitter I have become and the leaner I am. I need a new wardrobe. Not a murmur from the Household Treasurer.

And then for my birthday last year something very expensive turned up, something round, shiny and delivered in some serious packaging. In fact 2 of them, brand new carbon fiber wheels, custom made and personalised to match my bike with my name on them. If you asked me 19 years ago if that would have been the perfect birthday present it might have been grounds for divorce. The reality is he absolutely nailed it, my very own little black numbers!


Enjoy, Enjoy, Enjoy…

Nobody makes me ride my bike. I do it because I want to and because I enjoy it. I enjoy being fitter, I enjoy the time I get to spend doing something for myself and I enjoy being able to achieve the goals I set. The Peaks Challenge was just the result of doing what I love, riding my bike. I am fortunate that it is also the thing that my husband loves and we can indulge together. It’s something that I will continue to do and will continue to get excited about where and what we can ride. There is talk of doing the other Peaks rides and also a trip to Europe next year. Yes, it will be something to do with the Tour De France and I wouldn’t want it any other way.



The Butterfly Effect


I was riding so slowly up a mountain road that a butterfly landed on my handlebars. It stopped, looked around and then flew off.

It was a welcome distraction and started a train of thought that had me beaming from ear to ear as I continued to climb.

The family has been down in the Victorian High Country over the holidays. Maybe holiday is not the right word as Robyn and I spent most of our time riding up some mountains prior to our joint attempt at the 3 Peaks in March.


Up a Mountain

My butterfly encounter happened as we travelled from Bright up to Falls Creek. Robyn had taken the day off her bike and was driving over with the girls so I took the opportunity to ride up to Falls, over Mount Hotham and up the Back of Falls.

We have been training so much together it was strange to be out on my own. As I have written before, I like riding with my wife. She is good company, doesn’t moan and just gets on with it. Robyn is also very resourceful and for this I am very thankful.

For the most part cycling is a simple pursuit. If your bike works and if you are prepared to work, then you just have to point and peddle. For 99.9% of the time out on the road this is the case. It’s only when things go a little wrong that you are forced to live with the impact of seemingly previous inconsequential decisions.

We had already climbed Mount Hotham together earlier in the week. We had set off early from Bright as it is a 100km round trip with a long climb of 30km. It’s challenging, very picturesque and for Australians one of the must do climbs.


Robyn powering up Hotham

Riding up it was not a problem. Robyn has peddled enough over the last year to have the fitness and the mental strength to climb anything put in front of her. She amazes me because she just keeps going, if it gets steep she goes a little slower, if it flattens out she speeds up. It took us just over 2 hours to get to the top but seemingly it was job done. A steady decent back down and a well earned lunch.

After getting knocked off the previous week, I was a little apprehensive about the decent. Once you have come off you can’t help but ride a little more cautiously, especially when you are still wearing and feeling the bruises.

As we set off, I was leading the way and Robyn was following behind. We had only gone a few km’s when I heard a loud pop and I discovered a front wheel puncture. Not a slow one! A complete flat when I was doing 45 km down a steep mountain pass. I gingerly applied the brakes to try and stop myself and began to snake across the road as the front wheel squelched without any grip.  I did not want to fall off again and with only my back brake either producing a child like skid or having a limited impact on my speed, I actually started to think about which side would hurt less if I fell on it.

I like to think it was my bike handling skills, but truth be told it was my instinct for self preservation that keep me upright as I managed to stop. I got off the bike and laughed like a maniac with sheer relief.

Robyn stopped beside me, “Did you see the size of the rock you hit?”

I hadn’t seen any rock, but if that was the cause then I was even more lucky to have stayed upright. On closer inspection my front tyre had been slashed. There was now a 4cm hole where the inner tube had come through and effectively popped like a balloon. This was not going to be as simple as just replacing the inner tube, I’d have to patch the tyre.

I have ridden around for the last 5 years with enough spare equipment for an event like this, new inner tubes, bike tools and a good old fashioned puncture repair kit with great big rubber patches .I had also not fixed a puncture in 5 years. It’s a bit of a flaw but I’d rather spend the money on a new tube than invest the time fixing a puncture. Well that had been the case until a few days before. We were at the in laws for Christmas, I had some time on my hands so I actually fixed a puncture. The thing I hadn’t done is remembered to put the puncture repair kit back on my bike with all my other spares.

This was going to be tricky. We tried to fix the tyre with some lightweight patches that Robyn had. We got the tyre inflated and I gingerly set off, but the hole was just too big and after about 500 meters I was again careering down the mountain with a front flat.

View from the Lookout where we sere stranded

View from the Lookout where we were stranded

We had made it to a lookout so we could safely get off the road. Robyn and I discussed our options. There was no real chance of ringing anybody to get us, we could either flag another cyclist down and see if they could help or try and hitch a lift down the mountain.

Whilst we were talking a great big camper van pulled into the Lookout. Robyn’s face lit up at the young couple who were now parking their van to take in the beautiful vista.

Robyn was now striding over to the van. Her approach was pure class…

“Hello, isn’t it a lovely day?”

“Er, yes it is”, said the man, who sounded like he had a French accent.

“Are you going to Bright?”

“Yes”, the foreign man is now looking very confused and sounding a little bit unsure after being greeted so enthusiastically to the Lookout by a middle aged lady in Lycra

“Great,we are staying there as well.  Your van is also lovely, do you think a bike would fit inside it?”

The gentleman looks at his van and back at Robyn and has to agree it was big enough.

“Marvellous, can we hitch a lift to Bright?”

Game, Set and Match, what could he say? We had a ride.

Now I like to think what Robyn did next was out of pure generosity of spirit not because she didn’t want to ride her bike the 50km back down the mountain to Bright. She gave me her front wheel, saying I would be quicker on the decent and it was the sensible thing to do.

“Are you going to be alright”, I asked her.

“Well the statistical chances of shredding a tyre and getting abducted by foreign tourists are remote, so yes I’ll be fine. Please watch yourself on the decent and I’ll see you in Bright”.

Before I could argue she handed me her wheel and loaded her bike with my wheel into the van. She hopped in, waved goodbye, then as the door slid shut I was left on top of a mountain looking at the back of a camper van, being driven by complete strangers, that my wife had effectively hijacked.

As the camper van started the decent, I scrambled to pull all of my bits and pieces together and to set off in hot pursuit. It was a big van so I managed to keep up, only when the road kicked up at various stages did I loose them and then I descended like crazy to catch them again. This happened for the next 30km’s as I chased them down the mountain and then as we passed through Harrietville for the final 25km into Bright I lost them.

I put my head down and rode hard for the next 45 minutes. When I arrived back at our place in Bright I could see Robyn’s bike outside; she had not been abducted. As I approached the house I could hear her talking to the girls about how her new friends Ben and Sandrine from Martinique had been delighted to have her on board and she had answered all sorts of questions about Australia, from the Tax system, to the health care system and public education.

The butterfly on my handlebars had bought all this back to me and as I slogged away I was truly lost in my own reflections.

I was bought back to the present by the sound of a car behind me. Instinctively I moved over to the side to let it pass but it started to slow. A quick look behind and there was my own support vehicle. Robyn was again beaming away and Milly and Alice were  hanging out the windows shouting encouragement.

I’m not sure what events conspired for Robyn and I to meet in the pub in Dublin 20 years ago but the impact continues to amaze me.


Proof we were up a in a ski resort. Where else would you find one of these?







Please stop talking about leadership and show me what it looks like

To lead, you need followers. This means Leadership is not a spectator sport, or a navel gazing exercise. It requires you to have a sense of purpose, to take action, and to demonstrate what you are capable of to deliver on your commitments.

If you are in a leadership position then you need to be clear about:

  1. Why you are in a leadership position in the first place? (Just to earn more money is not a good answer)
  2. What leadership means to you?
  3. How you go about leading your people and others around you?

Can you answer these questions concisely and with conviction? If not then are you a “Tofu Leader”?

Tofu Leadership

A very seasoned campaigner in a large corporation used the phrase to describe the series of leaders that he had worked for. He likened them to tofu, an ingredient that has very little flavour or smell of its own but takes on the flavour of the environment around it. These leaders would quite easily absorb the latest company-wide management initiatives and leadership jargon. On the surface they would say the right things and it would look and feel as though they are committed to the cause. It was not what the said,  it was their actions or lack of them, that really exposed them. They were Tofu Leaders, bland and lacking any real substance (you can see I am personally not a great fan of tofu).

The Antidote

I have just facilitated a high potential leadership program. At the conclusion of the 4 month program I asked the participants to present to their senior leadership team on what they had learnt about leadership and what they had been able to achieve.

This type of activity can easily turn into a theoretical, jargon ridden, love fest that has no connection to what takes place in the real world as people aim to impress and say the right things.  An afternoon of tofu discussions!

This group did not fall into this trap. They spoke candidly and directly about their own learnings and what they had been able to achieve. Their insights were not radically new, what made an impact was how comfortable they were to be themselves, to talk openly and unguarded about their thoughts and feelings and to draw heavily on their own experiences to explain what they had learnt.

Here is my summary of what they recommend leaders need to do:

1. Make strategy meaningful

  • There are not many people who get inspired by a smart graphic outlining the companies Values, Mission and Strategies. To make the Values, Mission and Strategy meaningful you need to help people identify how this relates to what they do, what is in it for them and how they can contribute.
  • Leaders need to work this out for themselves first of all and then  create a dialogue with their people to allow them to engage.
  • Rather than download, upload! Ask your people why they come to work , what are they looking for and then get them to see if the business  is going to give them what they want. Ask them to make the link. If they can make the link they will want to come to work, if they can’t, then maybe they should think about doing something else.
  • Communicate the “corporate speak” in a way that your people will understand. One of the aspirations for this company is Process Excellence. One of the participants knew his team would struggle to relate to the words so he tied 4 pieces of rope to a table and set them the goal of moving the table. The only condition was they had to pull in different directions. Obviously the table remained where it was. He then invited them to work out a different approach to move the table. Naturally they all pulled in the same direction, that he explained was Process Excellence  He then tasked them to work together to move the table. So naturally they all pulled in the same direction, that he explained in process excellence.

2. Stop talking and start doing

  • What you do and how you go about it will have more of an impact than what you say.
  • It does not matter if you sit at the top of the leadership tree, in the middle, or at the bottom, you are under close scrutiny from your people (Admittedly if you are at the top you are under more scrutiny, which is why you get paid the big bucks).
  • Invest the time to understand what makes your people tick, be accessible, communicate in a way that they will respond to and find opportunities to proactively make their lives easier.
  • If Leadership does not come naturally to you, then challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and give it a try, or maybe you are in the wrong job.

 3. Collaborate across the business

  • As businesses grow in size, how we collaborate across them, to meet customers’ needs and who is responsible for what can become confusing.
  • We can easily retreat into our silos or stove pipes and focus on our own areas of responsibility.
  • The  easy path is to play the victim, blaming other parts of the business for their downfalls and inefficiencies rather than being accountable for doing something about it.
  • The more we can rise above this and facilitate working across departments and with stakeholders the more empowering it is and the more we can contribute.
  • Think about the rest of the business the way you think about your customers. What can you do to help the other departments in your business? What would make their lives easier?.

The afternoon was nicely summarised by a couple of simple observation:

  • There is no one right approach to leadership, it’s about personalities and individuality, and you have to find what is going to work for you.  
  • The leaders we want to work for don’t just talk a good game they hold themselves accountable and lead by example.

Career Opportunities

“If you were not being paid would you still turn up to work?”

For many of us the answer is a resounding No! Getting paid is what gets us out of bed.  If anybody tells you that money is not important they probably have enough, or too much. But if it’s all about the money then why aren’t we all focused on getting the job that pays us the most at the expense of everything else?

If I was to pay you 25 % more than you currently earn and ask you to stand in the corner all day and not do anything else how long do you think you would last?

Many other considerations come into play that shape why we do the jobs that we do. The more that a job satisfies our own personal needs the easier it is to feel engaged, motivated and passionate about what we do.

The individuals who understand this and invest time and effort to find jobs that offer them more than just an income are more fulfilled, they are more engaged, and generally are more interesting and to be around.

Today’s business environment offers us more choices and opportunities than ever before, even after the Global Financial Crisis. It does mean there are no longer the structured career paths available as in previous generations, this in itself presents us with a wealth of opportunity if we are prepared to do something about it.

Manage Your Own Career

If you haven’t spent much time thinking about your career, today’s businesses will always provide opportunities for good talented people. If you don’t want to leave this to chance and want to take a little more control here are a few things to get you thinking.

  1. Think about how you have ended up in your current role, what decision have you made that bought you here and is this how you want to spend your working life?
  2. Work out what you like doing and what you don’t like doing. Think about the best day you have had at work recently and then think about your worst day, this will tell you what you like and don’t like.
  3. Just because you like to do something doesn’t mean that you are naturally good at it. Identify what you think your strengths are and what skills and capabilities you have.
  4. Get an objective view of yourself – It is myth that feedback is a good thing and we all like getting it. Getting constructive feedback from people you respect is good; anything else is a waste of time. So find somebody you respect and who will give it to you straight and ask them what you do well and what you could do differently.
  5. Think about the opportunities in the future that may interest you. Do not just confine this to specific roles, look at the things you like to do and the capabilities you have and then start to think about the roles that may utalise these attributes.
  6. Identify any additional skills and capabilities that you may need for your future roles, work out how you can acquire these in your current position.
  7. Talk to people that can help you and let them know the type of opportunities you may be interested in for the future.
  8. Ensure that you continue to deliver in your current role. It is a lot easier for people to support and help you out if you are delivering and have the reputation of a good performer.