Rediscovering the Benefits of Bicycles

Words & Photos by Allison Piercy
Illustration by @leeleebefrank

4 minutes

Like many adults, finding a balance is difficult and, for me, life became a little more about work and less about fun.

When I was a kid, I had a hand me down Cyclops BMX bike and I wanted to be a BMX racer like my cousin. I attached a number to the bars and rode up and down the street as fast as I could go, even through the laughter from the kids on the street. I moved onto a mountain bike as a teenager ripping up the grass in any park we passed through after school.

Riding bikes was always something I enjoyed but it was only recently I rediscovered my passion for cycling.

Getting Lost in Your 20s

For most of my early to mid 20s, the dust accumulated and the bikes became neglected, along with my fitness and mental health.

After a few years of struggling with my mental health and feeling like my life was lacking purpose I moved from Perth back to my home state of Queensland to be closer to family and focus on improving my life and figuring out what was important to me.

I started to do more outdoor activities again and got back into cycling. I bought a mountain bike, the one thing I knew gave me freedom and joy as kid. 

Surly bike on a beach in Tasmania
Surly bikepacking rig on the coast of Tasmania
Surly Bikepacking bike in Tasmania on a gravel road

Discovering the Joy of Overnight Bike Trips

A few years later, I took on some longer overnight rides in preparation for one of the biggest physical challenges I had ever faced on and off the bike.

I completed a charity ride through the Queensland outback from my home town Cairns all the way to Karumba, riding over 600km of dirt roads between cattle stations. When I returned I was hooked!

I compelted a few overnight and multi day rides with my dual suspension mountain bike but always found it was quite uncomfortable and I couldn’t carry everything I wanted and needed comfortably. I started to research daily what bike would suit me now that it was clear the type of riding I wanted to do: long distance open dirt road hauling. 

I had a few bikes in mind but the top contender was a Surly. Their motto of “make it your own” resonated with me and they’re clearly built for hauling. I had decided within a year I wanted to be touring the Americas on my bike, alone in the wilderness, meeting locals in small towns and challenging myself mentally and physically on great open dirt roads.

Finally the day had come to move to Canada to start this journey I had been dreaming of. I sold all of my possessions including my bike, my car, art supplies, white goods, you name it. I was heading to Canada. 

Riding Bikes and Gaining Freedom

Unfortunately covid had other plans for me, much like the rest of us.

I was faced with a difficult decision and decided to head back to Australia after only 6 weeks overseas. I couldn’t let that get me down though, I was inspired to continue my journey even if it wasn’t the same destination. I bought a touring bike during quarantine back in Australia so I was ready to hit the dirt roads as soon as I could leave the house.

I bought a Surly Bridge Club and collected it the day I got out of quarantine. After a few weeks the restrictions started to ease in Queensland and I could go camping. I loaded up my bike the first weekend camping was allowed and have continued to take my bike on as many overnight and multi day rides as I can jam in between the 9 to 5 office week.

The freedom my bike has given me is unbelievable. Riding is something you can do alone or with friends and really make it your own experience. It’s improved my mental health, having something else to focus on outside of work, something to challenge me and keep me fit.

Surly bike in the forests of Tasmania, Rediscovering the benefits of bicycles

People always ask me (mostly women), whether I’m scared.

To tell you the truth, it can be scary out there at times, with the sounds in the night but mostly it’s people that are the scariest part. I try find somewhere hidden away inaccessible by cars. The thrill for me is exploring new places and being under the stars at night. It clears my mind and gives me time to reflect.

The benefits outweigh most of my fears and if I am scared of something, I do it anyway!