Women Involved Series: Tina McCarthy (Wheel Women)

After a career as a graphic designer spanning 25 years, Tina McCarthy has had a total career change. Now trained as a Level 1 AustCycle coach, Tina set up Wheel Women at the end of 2012 and now works full time running rides and teaching women to be safer and more confident cyclists.

Having experience running her own design business, many of those skills have carried through into building Wheel Women into one of the most talked about women's cycling groups in Australia in just 2 years.

Motivated by a loss of fitness and too many years of inactivity, Tina returned to cycling in her late 40's after a health wake-up call while riding with her son.

Though once a very fit part time running coach and veteran of many 10km fun runs, returning to cycling and then taking up the challenge of being a cycling coach seemed almost a natural progression.
But it took a lot of rides and a lot of learning before Tina realized she needed to ditch the design and get on the bike as a full time coach.

Tina lives in inner city Melbourne, Australia with her husband, teenage son and 2 lovable rescue dogs!

Check out Wheel Women on their WebsiteTwitter, and Facebook!

Tell us about Wheel Women and what you do!
Wheel Women is a social and recreational women’s ride group with a non-competitive focus. We ride because we can…no lycra necessary!
The aim is that we encourage all women to ride bikes, we don’t care what kind of bike or what your ability is, we just want to encourage the fact you give it a shot and get out there. 

We are there to guide riders and teach the skills required to build confidence so you ride more often. We don’t race, we don’t even compare Strava (I have banned Strava posts on our Facebook page), and we always ride as fast as the slowest rider.

The environment we encourage is really supportive, so it doesn’t matter if your haven’t touched a bike for 20 years…we’ll help you along the way. 
There is no such thing as a dumb question in our books, so we encourage women to ask all they want to know. We run programs to build skills, have private lessons available for those who feel a bit uncomfortable in the group and we run regular rides every week…there is really something for everyone.

What inspired you to use social media to share your experiences?
I think social media is really easy to use, and it’s so accessible too. It seems that one of the largest groups to use social media is exactly our target age group so it works well to disseminate info. It also is a great way to make everyone feel involved – we post photos all the time of the day’s activities and we can get messages to everyone so quickly.

I think also social media allows us to be imperfect – we can make some mistakes, we don’t need glossy fabricated photos of perfection…we can just be us!
I think the social media aspect of Wheel Women has really helped us grow too – it is very viral and word spreads quickly.

What has been the most interesting thing since you've started blogging?
I think the blogs are quite differnet to the Facebook or Twitter scenario. I can just write what I feel and being able to do that is often a more powerful tool – I get to speak from the heart.
Probably the most interesting thing has been having the blog shared on Total Women’s Cycling website in the UK…I was so happy that happened and it also created a real buzz about what we do at Wheel Women.

Any time we get interest from overseas I get excited…I think we have a long way to go in Australia with women’s cycling and what we are doing with engagement. When we get interest in Wheel Women internationally it kind of validates what we do and lets me know we are on the right track. That feels good.

Why is it so important for you to encourage and inspire other women to take up cycling?
I’m not sure what it is that makes it important for me…maybe it’s because I can see what could happen if they got on a bike. Endorphins make excitement infectious…you just want to share the fun with everyone!

I was at a lecture recently by eminent Australian molecular biologist Professor Suzanne Cory. Just to quote her:
A walk along any shopping mall will open your eyes to the dangerous obesity epidemic, fueled by sugar hits and lack of exercise’.
She commented that ‘we are in danger of complacency, of taking health for granted’. I know I did…I sat on may arse, put on weight and had a wakeup call when I went on that first training ride with my son’s school. I was a ticking time bomb for mature inset diabetes and heart disease. There is no question I was obese.

Riding a bike has changed that for me – I’m fitter, stringer, healthier and I’ve lost a lot of weight. I know the answer to so many of our health issues is at hand with the simple gesture of getting on a bike and riding. But we need to encourage women to do it and make it attractive, not intimidating and above all, FUN!

I had been thinking so long along the same lines as Professor Cory – every time I walk into the mall and see people sitting around eating crap food, or making the choice of inactivity of activity I weep for the future of their health and their children’s.
Nothing makes me feel more satisfied than seeing one of our riders get caught by the ‘bug’ and really embrace cycling. It can be life changing and I love seeing that happen!

What do you love about the Wheel Women community? What has been one of your most inspiring moments?
I just love meeting all the new riders, seeing them through their riding journey and seeing what they can achieve. It’s amazing what women can do when you give them a comfort zone to challenge themselves.
I think probably one of the most inspiring things was seeing 50 women front up for this year’s Around The Bay In A Day ride…it was great seeing so many in the team kit and taking on their own personal challenge.

But really, I think the best moments are when I see a new rider join in and just get the bug, buy a new bike and see them out there with the group each week. But I also love it when I’m out riding on my own and I see one of our riders out with their family – they have role modeled enough so the whole family wants to ride! That’s pretty awesome…that is the change maker!

Why do you feel some women are apprehensive about getting involved with cycling? What do you feel could change that would make women less leery to trying it out?
I think it’s the bloke thing…it seems intimidating. But lots of women can be intimidating riders too. The full lycra kit, the fancy bikes…when you first get into cycling that can seem pretty scary! It’s like looking at warriors.
In my opinion, so many bike companies focus on the upper end of cycling, the elite level. The advertising brochures state that they have a bike for everyone, but the pics are still of the elite, or the perfect rider.

We aren’t perfect at Wheel Women – we have bumps and lumps where we don’t want them, we are short, tall, overweight, skinny, old and young. We are just real women having fun on bikes…I think that is what attracts so many to Wheel Women – there is no bullshit. What you see in the pics is real – they are our riders!
If bike companies and stores could recognize this, then maybe we might see a few more women less afraid.

What would you like to see happen with Wheel Women in the next 5 years?
World domination!! Actually, what we really want to see is Wheel Women in every state of Australia – we have a very clear philosophy and we stick to it like glue. I make sure all our coaches adhere to it like crazy and never waver from it.

If we could get Wheel Women up and running in every state then I think we could have a real chance at getting a whole lot more women riding, mainly because we seem to resonate with many women because of our grass roots focus and our very real image.
We’ve had interest from Sydney and Adelaide and we’d love to take it there. But I also see no reason why we wouldn’t go international at some point – it has the potential to. We just have a serious shortage of coaches who are prepared to fit to our way of working. They need to recognize that on every ride and session we do, it’s the attendees ride, not the coaches! 
We also are very strict about taking away discussion about anything competitive.

What would you like to see happen with women in the cycling world in the next 5 years?
I’d like to see a really global movement, not based on the elite end. I think there is some seriously GREAT stuff happening in the US at present for everyday women cyclists and I am currently trying VERY hard to find a way to get there to investigate more and bring back to Australia more info.  I BADLY want to go to the Women Bike Forum run by the League of American Bicyclists, and I want to go and talk to various groups in the USA.

If we could work together on an international level we could really get some great stuff happening as far as sharing, learning, exchanges, and of course promotion of the cause at the non-elite level. There seem to be so many fragmented groups all over the world trying to create the same changes, but none of us are working together.
I think a body of women at the international level who can drive this would be great – I’d be in that for sure. Any takers – who wants to do this with me???
What would you say to someone who is completely new to cycling but wants to take it up?

I’d be really happy to go with you if you like, and we can go for an exploration ride. It won’t be fast and we’ll have fun…I’ll buy you a coffee if you give this a shot!”
I’d also be stressing the fact that because I ride a lot, I’m not elite and I ride with anyone, I don’t care how fast or how slow. I just want to see you smile on the bike!
It’s worked so far….and that seems to be the way lots of riders get started with us.

Tell us something random about yourself that people may not know! 
Ooooh, that’s scary….letting the secrets out. Okay, here are a few things:
I make fresh orange juice EVERY morning
I love reading books by Haruki Murakami
Aside from a degree in Design, I also have a degree in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (meaning I have studied Australian Aboriginal culture).
I am a Japan-ofile…I love anything and everything Japanese!


  1. Thank you for keeping it real for women of a mature age! I have just bought my first bike (no never owned one as a kid). I'm a little scared but up for a challenge


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