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Meet Alison (Ali) Banks, WestCycle’s Membership Manager.

How/Why did you get into/involved in bike riding?

I used to be a primary teacher and back in my early teaching days in the early 90’s down in Albany, I tore the medial meniscus in my right knee playing mixed basketball.  I was in a splint for about 6 weeks and it mended at the time but over the years, it wore down with use and about 3 years ago, became so painful that I felt I was hobbling more than walking.  I had a knee arthroscopy to clean it out and needed to participate in non-weight bearing exercise to ensure the best outcome.  The surgeon suggested swimming or bike-riding.  I have really thick hair and couldn’t cope with the idea I had to wash and dry it every day(☹) if I swam so bike-riding became the only choice.  I hadn’t ridden a bike much for over 10 years (just the odd Rotto bike hire trip etc) and started slowly, just riding 10 minutes out from home and 10 minutes back.  Slowly but surely, I increased my distance, stamina and built my skills and in February 2020, took off to ride the Alps2Ocean Cycle Trail on New Zealand’s South Island.  By the time I flew home (just a few days prior to lock-down on the 3th of March), I was hooked and looking for my next cool ride!

What is your favourite bike riding experience/highlight? 

I’d have to say it’s a tie between the Alps2Ocean Cycle Trail and our very own Munda Biddi Trail. I completed a North to South End2End bikepacking trip on the Munda Biddi last October and although very different (self-supporting as opposed to a supported ride on the A2O), it was an amazing experience and one I’d like to repeat.  We are so lucky to have this incredible 1000+km trail on our doorstep leaving Mundaring and finishing up in Albany…It was a very special time, our South West and Great Southern regions are absolutely stunning and this is a trip that I highly recommend.

One tip you have for new/novice riders? 

Just start!  For sure, make sure you have your safety covered off with a well-fitted helmet, a good bell and a good light, but don’t be worried about whether or not you have the “best bike” or how slow you may be etc… the best bike is the one you have and if you start at your level, you have something to build on.  Do read up on the basic rules in regards to hand signals and bell use / calling etc so you can ride as safely as possible but do make a start.  I have seriously built my skills up over the past couple of years and have now completed the MACACancer200 Ride for Research event twice.  There is always more to learn if you’re interested in trying different styles of riding or different bikes and I’ve gone from my initial old bike to an updated hybrid (which got me through the Munda Biddi with no breakdowns or issues by the way), a dual suspension mountain bike for off-road trails and recently, have begun riding a road bike and riding with cleats.  Even if you stick with your original bike and style of riding though, I never get back from a bike ride and wish I hadn’t gone… always finish with a smile on my face!

If you could ride anywhere in the world, where would you ride? 

I recently attended the Big Bike Film Night at the Luna Cinemas in Leederville and was really captivated by the newly opened Lake Dunstan Trail in Central Otago… check out the video of it here;  so would love to head back to New Zealand!  I’d love to ride the A2O again actually, it’s just SO BEAUTIFUL!  Further afield, a bikepacking tour of Alaska is calling me.. perhaps not quite as far as Lael Wilcox rode on this trip but oh, wouldn’t it be a great adventure?  After 27 years working in the travel and tourism industry prior to joining WestCycle in September, seeing my own backyard and the world outside will always be high on my agenda!