In 1999 a bunch of Melbourne Bayside residents and riders got talking and realised they were after a cycling experience that wasn’t just about racing; something that offered a more relaxed pace for those who were just out to enjoy a quality spin.
Conversations escalated and the St Kilda Cycling Club was formed, incorporated and successfully applied for a licence with Cycling Australia. From the 15 – 20 or so members in those formative years, SKCC has grown into a 1,000+ strong force, and their eponymous kit is constantly seen not only along their Beach Rd stomping ground, but on rides around Victoria, interstate and some even go as far as following the Grand Tours each year.
An explosion in cycling
What is it about SKCC that has seen it become in just 15 years one of the most recognised clubs in Victoria? Some members suggest it’s reflective of the explosion in cycling generally. Others put it down to social media turning Aussie cyclists into household names. Across the board however, and it seems largely to do with the fact that this club is so inclusive; they’ve stuck to their roots and remained something more than just racing.
Would you like a ride with your coffee?
Actually chatting to several members, we wonder if St Kilda Coffee Culture might be a more appropriate title for this big, big bunch. These riders love their cuppas! In their own words, socialising, coffee and food is what binds these members. Any chance for a quality spin followed by an even higher quality coffee and bite to eat, and they’re there. This is a bunch that enjoys the good things in life and with Melbourne as their backyard; they’ve got plenty of options.
But let’s pull ourselves out of the café and back into the saddle, if only for a moment.
The women of SKCC
When SKCC first began, their female members used to have to compete in men’s races. These days, members Lisa Byrne and Judy Barnesby sit on the Cycling Victoria Board (along with SKCC's Matt Fletcher and Glen Pearsall) and one, Melinda Jacobsen, entered the history books as the first female President of an Australian cycling club (she presided in 2007-2008). These individuals have had a big influence in making SKCC the number one club in the country with the greatest volume (237/ 26 per cent nationally) of female members.
Melinda’s arrival at the club speaks volumes of its inclusive culture. With a running background, she moved from Brisbane to Melbourne but struggled to find a run group with which she gelled. The club's (infamous) training weekend in Inverloch caught her attention, but club membership was an entry requirement. Easy fixed – she joined SKCC purely to get along to the weekend.
Melinda ended up getting much more than she bargained for, instantly connecting with the SKCC culture and bonding with many of its members, who remain lifelong friends. SKCC became the single biggest reason for her settling so well into Melbourne. Within 12 months
Melinda was on the Committee and within three years she had created club history as its first female President. This coincided nicely with her role as the first General Manager of Amy Gillett Foundation and SKCC winning Victoria's Cycling Club of the Year (2007).
She attributes much of the SKCC magic to its down-to-Earth members; nobody takes themselves too seriously and everyone’s out to just enjoy life, on and off the bike.
Feel like a spin with SKCC?
Programmes like Cycling Australia’s Breeze reflects what this club is doing to raise the profile of riding amongst women. Every Tuesday morning SKCC female cyclists head to Breeze Along the Boulevard – a ride in Kew designed to introduce newbies to the sport, share with them advice around cycling etiquette and culture, help them feel comfortable on the roads and just encourage them to feel the passion.
But this is far from a women’s only club – riders of all ages, backgrounds and skills are welcome. Arrive at Café Race on a Friday at 5:45am and you can jump in with the Velo Venredi bunch, an end-of-week spin down Beach Rd and back.
There’s also Monthly Meander – SKCC’s version of a mystery ride whereby members turn up without a clue about where they might end up.
Off the bike and this club still finds plenty of good reasons to catch up and continue the conversation, eating and drinking.
Fancy a night out?
An annual Club Presentation dinner is held to acknowledge the stand-out achievements of its members. This is largely of course a recognition of their riding throughout the year, but those with outstanding stories off the bike are also celebrated. Case in point – Carol Cooke, a club member with Multiple Sclerosis whose incredible volunteer work has seen her become a 2014 Victorian of the Year and finalist for Australian of the Year.
Then there’s the annual ball, where members swap Lycra for something a lot more glam and get together to have a great time and raise funds for the St Kilda Mission (the club also supports Amy Gillett Foundation).
And although they might want us to think all they do is graze from one café to another, they do actually squeeze in a solid chunk of racing as well, particularly in Northern Combine (where they race clubs such as Coburg, Melton and Bendigo), the Southern Masters, the Southern Vets and – more recently – a Juniors race every Sunday.
Although its roots are in road riding, the club has also developed a MTB, Cyclocross and Track programme that are growing steadily as well.
Matty Lloyd (former Australian Road Champion), Jo Hogan (who's been competing in Spain the past several seasons) and Miranda Griffiths (who has been based in the US riding for Vanderkitten) must love their coffee, too, as they’re three familiar faces in the club.
If you’re a rider who fancies a quality coffee and a quality chat, this club has your name all over it!