Memories of a first cycling century


Bike it Better’s Cazz Clarke shares her first experience of riding 100km.

There are very few cyclists who don’t remember their first century – some with a fond sense of nostalgia, others with sweaty palms and a chill down the spine.

For many though, this achievement can become a springboard toward bigger and better things – bigger climbs, longer distances, racing, or a progression to another sport. Others may be content having achieved this goal, and will move on to other challenging sports or adventures, or don the slippers and settle in with a hot cup of milo.

My first 100km+ ride was quite a memorable experience, and when asked to share it, I can recall the details as if it were yesterday. So allow me to take you back to 2011, at which time I was living in Warragul (regional Victoria), and had started doing a bit of riding with the local women’s riding group Velo Fille, under the leadership of Kaylene Chaproniere from Chilli Cycles.

Just a month earlier, I had upgraded my bike from a men’s alloy racer (a $250 beauty from Cashies!) to a lovely women’s specific carbon roadie (which is still my main bike). And two weeks prior, I had completed my first 50km+ road ride – the 60km loop of the Great Ocean & Otway Classic.

As my next challenge, I had been conservative – registering for the 70km loop of the Baw Baw Challenge ride. We had a Velo Fille group dinner leading up to the event, where Kaylene asked for a show of hands of who had registered for the 70km, and for the 120km. She then encouraged those of us who had chosen the 70km to instead attempt the 120km – and as she had been unable to get a babysitter for the day, she offered to be an informal support driver for us, providing much needed on-route encouragement, and even gave us her phone number in case we didn’t make the full 120km and wanted a lift home.

Having that kind of support and encouragement allowed us to step outside our comfort zone and challenge ourselves beyond what we thought was possible – and we all succeeded in riding the full 120km. I was ecstatic about my achievement and on a high for about a week after (potentially aided by the many sugary energy bars I consumed during the ride…)

08But the real surprise was the affect my achievement had on others. I had a few friends say later that my effort had inspired them to get out for that walk, jog or other activity when the weather wasn’t so great or when they were just feeling flat.

This was a pivotal moment for me. It was my first taste of what it felt like to inspire others, and why leaders like Kaylene do what they do. It inspired me to undertake the Breeze Leader training with Cycling Victoria in 2012, which then led me to start my own Cycle Coaching business and lead regular rides for women.

I hope that my passion and energy for cycling in general and my supportive, encouraging approach to leading rides helps to inspire others to get on their bike and achieve their goals – even if that is just to ride around the block. Never underestimate the affect you have on others – your words of encouragement might be just the thing they need to overcome a barrier, and may be the starting point for something big!

Do you remember what it was like to tackle your first cycling century? Share your experiences below.

With 65km and 100km options available, it’s not too late to join Cazz Clarke on The RACV Ascent women-only ride through the Yarra Ranges on Sunday 17 April. Entries are still available online until 15 April, visit The RACV Ascent website.  

Cazz Clarke is a cycling coach, ride leader and owner of small Melbourne-based business Bike It Better -providing coaching services, training programs and guided rides for beginner to intermediate level cyclists since 2013. Visit for more information.

April is “Come Ride With Me!” month at Bike it Better. Attend any Bike it Better ride and bring a friend for FREE! Plus, share photos of your riding adventures for a chance to win a Bike it Better Membership. Conditions apply, see the website for more details.


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