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Bikes. Parts. Chaos.

Name: Monica Nitz

Location: Home is in Queenscliff, Victoria, Australia where I have a husband, a community, and a casual supermarket job

Who do you think you are anyway?

I don’t think I am any one thing. I’m 58 years old and have had so many different roles and experiences that I find this one pretty hard to pin down. The day I’m writing this, I did a shift at the local supermarket, the day before I was harvesting garlic on an organic farm, the week before that I was a riding volunteer on a major cycling event (Great Vic Bike Ride). To get to the cycling event, I had a quick solo adventure riding 350km with 300km of gravel and 6000Vm. So, who do I think I am? I am an adventurer! (I am also a mother, a wife, a worker, a knitter, a gardener, and so many other things. I like to think of each thing that I do as its own small adventure!)

Monica smiling wearing bike helmet near start line of bike race

I have a family; my children are adults and my partner cheers me on from the side lines. I quit my day job in 2019 to live a slightly different life – one with more adventures such as hiking and riding my bike. I thought that I might go and live in Tasmania in 2020, but then there was COVID. Instead, I still live in Victoria but have had extended adventures in Australia (and a brief one in New Zealand). My biggest adventure was flying from Tasmania to Western Australia during COVID (when pretty much everywhere else was in lockdown) to walk the Bibbulmun Track (1000km/7 weeks/Perth to Albany), ride the Munda Biddi (1000km/2 weeks/Albany to Perth) and then ride home around the South West of Western Australia, across the Nullabor, across the Eyre Peninsula, North to South on the Mawson Trail (900km/Blinman to Adelaide) and then home to Queenscliff. In total, I rode 6000km in 10 weeks. It was crazy good!

How’d you get into bikes?

I know I rode as a child. I don’t remember learning to ride but I do know that I didn’t own my own bike until I was in my early 20s. I bought it from my brother (he had a bike shop and was a competitive road rider then MTB racer) and it was a very upright ladies’ bike. I later traded it in for a road bike and owned (and raced) an Apollo MTB (again, bought from my brother – in hindsight I think he has always had a role in inspiring me to ride). I commuted to work around that time – riding 15-25km each way depending on the route. I imagined that bikes would be my forever transport but being pregnant and, on a bicycle, just was not a good thing for me (think nausea then reflux). My husband also rode (and commuted) and as our children grew, they learned to ride and got themselves to and from school by bike for quite a while. I did have a period (decade?) of not riding (lots of shoulder and neck issues) until a young friend who was a bit of a bike nut offered to build me a bike that had better geometry. I loved it and started touring a little bit. One thing led to another – an upgrade to a Trek to ride the Great Vic Bike Ride with my youngest daughter (she was riding a 36” unicycle) and then a brief trip to ride with my son in New Zealand. That trip inspired us to sign up to ride the 2020 Brevet of the Tour Aotearoa (TA). The search for a suitable bike began and that is when I bought my first Surly – a very beautiful and much loved, "diving board blue" Bridge Club.

Light blue Surly Bridge Club bike leaning against campfire ring loaded for touring

“The Bridge Club wasn’t on my shopping list but while I was at Commuter Cycles trying another bike, they recommended giving it a test ride. It was love at first ride.”

Tell us about your Surly Bike(s).

So, my first Surly was bought primarily for the TA. I needed something solid, reliable, and comfortable. The Bridge Club wasn’t on my shopping list but while I was at Commuter Cycles trying another bike, they recommended giving it a test ride. It was love at first ride. I kitted it out with homemade gear – feedbags, framebag, handlebar roller, and a modified daypack that used an old basket mechanism to secure it to the pack rack.

Light blue Surly Bridge Club bike leaning against tree fully loaded for bikepacking

I just loved the colour of that bike. What made it truly special was that if I was riding on gravel and I turned onto bitumen, it felt kind of like I was gliding. But then if I was riding on bitumen and I turned onto gravel, it was this sort of “hey, that’s the best” kind of feeling.

Sadly, that bike got run over by a truck (driven by my daughter – total accident and mostly my own fault). No one was hurt but she was devastated. It was in 2021 when bicycle parts were in huge demand and short supply. Long story short is that the bike was covered by insurance. Commuter Cycles are epic and what I have now is this awesome upgraded version of my original bike. My absolute only regret is that the colour of the bike is black. That’s it… Black! How come every other colour of the rainbow in the Surly range has a supercool name but black is called: Black!

Monica holding fully loaded Surly Bridge Club in black with grassy field in background

This bike goes with me anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes it just has feedbags, top tube bag, and framebag (these pretty much live on the bike). If I’m travelling, it has fork cages and a front roller and either a saddlebag or (for trips with other intentions like harvest work or volunteering) a rear rack and panniers.

Monica with three other cyclists on gravel road with loaded bikes, mountains in background

Cyclist sitting on ground preparing food and sandwiches for several people

Favourite bike-related memory.

Riding the TA in New Zealand with my son, youngest daughter, and nephew was so entertaining – especially our lunches. We each carried a stainless-steel milkshake cup and, whenever we could, we would stop at least once each day to buy 2 litres of ice cream and 1 litre of milk to make into milkshakes. As far as protein, calories and refreshment goes – 250ml of milk with 500ml of flavoured ice cream makes an awesome cycling treat.

View from atop a ridge looking down on river in lush valley

Monica with light blue fully loaded Surly Bridge Club a Crown Range Summit sign with mountains in background

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

New Zealand. You can ride on beaches, near volcanoes, in fjords, over mountains, through valleys, across plains. It is amazing.

Our humanoids get to pick a charity of their choice and will donate. What are you choosing?

Sometimes I forget that the ability to read and write is not universal. I love books. I love learning. I worked in a school library, and I have a library at home. I cannot imagine not having access to books. In Australia, we have Indigenous children living in remote communities who do not have access to books at all, or books that reflect their lives and culture, or that are written in their languages. I want to help bridge that gap.

Where can people follow along with you?

I have an Instagram account: @nitzmonica (I'm also on Warmshowers).