Bubbly and loud with a great sense of humour, Aneta George and her characteristic red shirts are hard to miss on the local trails. As Rockwheelers’ Mountain Bike Club’s social ride coordinator for two years, she helped draw together riders of all abilities to allow them to share the thrill and clarity she feels when her wheels hit the dirt. Aneta’s now changed roles in the club and is overseeing Townsville’s first 24-hour mountain bike race (goodbye HotRock 8 and hello HotRock24) that will draw far-flung riders to our region in late May. We found out why she loves the sport, what her next goals are, her tips for others starting out, and why girls are totally rocking the trails.
“Downhill is awesome especially coming down the Long Way at Douglas MTB Reserve right as the sun sets – At that point nothing else matters; it’s just me and my bike”
When did you start riding and how did you discover it? I got into mountain biking because I had a craving for dirt bikes, but they hurt more than a pushy so I sold my Honda and bought my first bike. What gave me the real push to get into it happened three years ago: My current boyfriend Greg asked me to ride at the Ross Dam Hot Rock event in the ‘Gnomads’ team. To practise, my first mountain bike ride was at Mount Stuart, but I don’t recommend the trail for beginners!
What gives you a buzz about it? I love the challenge and the sense of achievement when you reach the top. Downhill is awesome especially coming down the Long Way at Douglas MTB Reserve right as the sun sets – At that point nothing else matters; it’s just me and my bike. It helps me clear my mind and forget about the everyday stress. Each month I set myself riding goals which push me to try more technical trails, including the ‘Meat Grinder’ [a technical part of Rock & Roll 3 trail at Douglas] which still scares me every time.
“Any journey that brings a smile to my face is where I want to head, because – to me – that’s all what this is about”
What’s your proudest achievement on wheels to-date? Coming third in the Paluma Push a couple of years ago and, more recently, clearing the Meat Grinder and Sticks and Stones without a scratch on my bike.
What experience has been the most challenging? Getting back on the bike after being the first responder to a friend who’d had a major accident. But, at the end of the day, life is too short to worry ‘what if’ – I just need to ride to my abilities and put trust in my bike. As for coming across bike accidents, well I’ve recently completed my Advanced First Aid certificate [organised by Rockwheelers] and now I’m more confident about assisting with big or small stacks.
Where do you want to take your riding ultimately? I’m aiming to work more on my endurance riding, but really, any journey that brings a smile to my face is where I want to head, because – to me – that’s all what this is about.
“Have trust in your bike: It can do it all and the only thing that’s stopping you from that jump is you (and that’s advice I need to listen to myself!)”
What’s your next big goal? Improve my Paluma Push time and – one day – be able to clear the double black diamond trail [Taipan] at Douglas. I also aspire to ride some of the famous trails in Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland and Nepal. My major goal is to see and climb the base of Mt Everest before I turn 40.
Do you have any particularly memorable moments in the saddle? My first ride on my new bike at the Under the Rader trail: I was treated to a double rainbow and an awesome experience amongst the natural environment. I even managed to capture the moment!
What’s been your worst stack? Mt Buller. Early in the day we were laughing at a sculpture of the ‘Spirit of the Mountain’ in the village centre. I think we may have upset the real spirit of the mountain because 10 minutes after starting our afternoon ride there were strong winds, rain, thunder and hail. Soon I found myself over the bars and the big sharp rock I landed on gave me a deep cut on the hip. Next were a ‘few’ tears and a slow walk to the bottom of the hill. Later that afternoon, following a brief check-up at the local hospital, we picked some lovely wild flowers and presented them to the ‘Spirit of the Mountain’ sculpture in an attempt to appease her. I missed out on a day of downhill the following day, instead resting on heavy painkillers, but I was back on the bike the next day – luckily with only impressive bruising.
Do you think more women are getting into mountain biking in Townsville? For sure: There are a lot more women riding compared to three years ago. Rockwheelers is helping a lot by running beginners rides, social rides and races to offer something for everyone.
What are your favourite places to ride locally? I love all our trails. Douglas is awesome to test my technical skills. There are so many rock gardens I still haven’t cleared. Right now Smedley’s Hill [the new track at Pallarenda that opened in October last year] is my favourite because it challenges my fitness and the views are spectacular!
Have you travelled with mountain biking? Yes: Lake Garda in Italy, Mt Buller, Canberra, and around Queensland, including fantastic trials at Atherton and Cairns. But there are so many places waiting for us! I am off to Poland for a white Christmas (hopefully) and I will definitely try riding on a ‘fat bike’ instead of skiing.
“I can actually be very quiet, but only when I am doing pottery”
Any misconceptions you’d like to bust? Girls don’t ride though. You don’t even have to look far to see how tough we are: Check out female race times from the Gravity Enduro a couple of weeks ago. We rock!
How can riders stay safe in the saddle? Look where you want to go – that’s the best rule. Your bike follows your eyes. Have trust in your bike: It can do it all and the only thing that’s stopping you from that jump is you (and that’s advice I need to listen to myself!). If there’s a big rock garden coming up, get off the bike and walk the best line you would like to take on your bike. And – if you commit to it – own it and go for it!
Who do you look up to in the sport and why? I admire Jessica Douglas [triple World 24-hour Solo Mountain Bike Champion] – her passion for mountain biking is so inspiring. I also look up to my local riding friends: Leah Denman motivates me to ride for longer and Tracy Waters makes rock gardens look less daunting!
Any training advice you wished you’d listened to? Yes, ride to your own capability. That would have saved me from few crashes.
What other activities do you do besides riding? I like climbing and lately I’ve really gotten into pottery, which lets me relax even more after a nice ride on the bike. Also, when it’s too wet for riding, I like spending time at Douglas working on our adopted trail Whiptail, either fixing it or building new rock features.
What’s your favourite thing to do on a weekend in Townsville? I love being outside. As the social ride coordinator for Rockwheelers MTB Club, over the past couple of years I’ve had the opportunity to run rides in places that are normally close to public. I’ve retired from that role now and, this year, Greg and I are organising Rockwheelers’ HotRock24 – the first 24-hour race in North Queensland on May 23 and 24. Yes, 24 hours on a bike – don’t get too scared! We are also running a ‘5+5 race’ where you can ride for five hours during the day on Saturday and Sunday in a team of two and at night you can cheer the solo 24-hour riders, or just rest under the stars.
Tell us something that people don’t know about you. I can actually be very quiet, but only when I am doing pottery.
Last words? When my spirits are low I get on my bike and ride till the real smile is back.
Aneta’s 7 tips for beginner mountain bikers
- Don’t be scared of the trails: There is something for everyone!
- Get the right bike and trust your bike
- Dress for the trails: I wish I wore more protective gear like knee guards. Lucky my boyfriend finds my mountain biking scars attractive!
- Practise how to change a tyre at home before you go out
- Make sure you get a hydration pack with essentials like a pump and spare tube
- Always ride with your mobile and let your family or a friend know what trail you are riding
- Ride within your abilities, don’t be too critical of yourself, and give it time…
As part of the Women in Cycling Series, Rockwheelers Mountain Bike Club is running skills sessions for ladies. Experienced riders will help you to get your bike set-up right and answer any of those questions that you didn’t know who to ask (or felt silly not knowing – no judgement here!). Once everyone is all set, the group will be split up according to skill level and will put the adjustments to use on the Douglas trails in a social ride with further skills tips along the way. The dates are Sunday, April 12, 19 and 26. More information about Ladies Mountain Bike Skills and Bike Set-Up 101 here.
There’s also a beginners’ social ride at Douglas MTB Reserve on Saturday, April 11 for guys and gals. For more information, see Rockwheelers’ website or Townsville Rockwheelers Beginner Rides on Facebook.