30 June 2023

The ACT Vikings are the road warriors of cycling (and recycling)

| James Day
Join the conversation
Cyclists riding on a track in a group with the Canberra landscape in the background.

Riders fight for their space on the track at Stromlo Forest Park. Photo: Jon Lowe.

Every Thursday evening, a band of lycra-clad athletes race against time as they hit the tarmac at Stromlo Forest Park.

The road warriors are engaging in a particular kind of cycling called criterium racing. It pits teams against each other and the clock as they speed through a circuit that doesn’t just go in circles.

The sport is fun, fast and brings riders of all ages to the club. It also gives back to the community thanks to Jon Lowe, the ACT Vikings Cycling Club’s event organiser for the past 12 years, and the ACT Container Deposit Scheme.

“We just put out a box each week, and the empties from the race go into it. We have a few people who supply containers on the side, and some of my work colleagues also bring me their empties each week,” said Jon.

READ ALSO Hard Truths about Canberra’s domestic and family violence crisis

Since the scheme launched in 2018, the club has contributed around 8000 containers every year. The funds go to Hartley Lifecare.

“It didn’t feel right to keep the money myself, and there would be paperwork to funnel it back through the club’s books, so I decided it should go to charity.”

Hartley Lifecare provides people with disabilities and the support network around them with accommodation. Their work is close to Jon’s heart, along with the many cyclists around him who participate in their annual challenge. They hope to raise $250,000 by November.

The challenge motivates many riders to train weekly within one of the club’s five grades of difficulty, giving each of them a chance to develop their abilities.

“We have a lot of juniors that race with us, which is wonderful for the sport and society,” said Jon.

“In my mind, more kids on bikes means more adults on bikes in the future. With more people riding, we’ll have a significantly lower death toll and better climate conditions.”

Cyclists cheered on by attendants at the fence.

The Vikings run weekly rides on Sundays, and this year began collaborating with Canberra Cycling Club on a road series at Alivio Tourist Park. Photo: Jon Lowe.

Unfortunately, the club has seen fewer riders returning over the last few years, which has affected their fundraising efforts. Jon said this is due to a variety of factors outside of just fires and the pandemic.

“When we had Cadel Evans win the World Championship, cycling was doing really well all across Australia. Now that wave has died, so there isn’t the same influx of new riders at all levels.”

Recently the ACT Government has received criticism from Pedal Power for not providing more funding to active travel infrastructure and developing a timeline for their Active Travel Plan.

“The ACT Government has a goal of increasing bicycle commute rates to 7 per cent of all trips by 2026. However, in 2021 cyclists only made up 2.7 per cent of all commuters,” said Pedal Power Executive Director Simon Copland.

READ ALSO Commonwealth gold medallist Chloe Hosking is creating opportunities for young cyclists

According to Jon, there’s also a false belief among the public that the sport is a solo endeavour and male-dominated.

“You only have one person who stands up on the podium at the end, but they couldn’t win without the support of their team members.

“We’ve also produced some of the best female riders in the world, like Sue Powell (Paralympic world champion) and Caroline Buchanan (BMX multiple world champion).”

Jon said the Vikings are here to provide the opportunity for anyone to get involved in the sport so they can claim all the benefits it provides. When inspiring the younger riders, Jon said one of his favourite quotes is from a sports journalist, Bill Strickland, well-known in the world of cycling: “The human body on a bicycle is the most efficient machine in the world.”

Interested in joining the Vikings Cycling Club ACT? Find out more here.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.