Richie Bates is already a well-known name around Cycling Australia – with a Domestic Coach of the Year award in 2019 and a passion for the Cairns’ Cycling Club, having been president, coach and general all-rounder over the last 20 years.
However, it is his commitment and passion for bike riding as the great connector that encompasses a shared value with Ride Nation.
As the new participation brand for Cycling Australia, Ride Nation’s charter is to engage people in cycling regardless of age, circumstance, skill level or location. Richie not only embodies this philosophy, but he also raises the bar.
Richie’s journey in cycling began 40 years ago as an avid cricketer. While he loved ball sports, his coordination skills didn’t love him back. One day when playing with his East Burwood cricket team, he and his teammates walked over to have a look at the new Blackburn velodrome that was being built at the time. Having never seen a velodrome before he was intrigued and excited about it.
As a 14-year-old on his first track bike on that very velodrome, he would find a sport that he truly fell in love with and would become very significant in his life.
While his father didn’t cycle at the time, he bought Richie a bike and encouraged him to have a go at cycling at the local Blackburn club (perhaps acknowledging Richie’s self-confessed lack of ball-sport coordination). The club at that time was the place to be – with over 100 participants turning up to a club race, it was a mixture of excitement and high-level competition.
Richie’s first coach at the club, George Gale, was a great mentor and Richie still uses some of the coaching techniques he learnt then as a 14-year-old.
Many years later, after leaving Melbourne and settling in Cairns in 1990, Richie joined the local cycling club as a way to meet people and integrate into the community.
However, when he took on the role of Councillor in Cairns he started to become more involved in the local community issues both in mental health and indigenous youth.
He attended a Mental Health workshop as a Councillor and learned that due to the health issues, some people were unable to drive, resulting in a lack of independence and increased isolation.
That was the starting point for Richie to develop a bike education program to teach people with mental health difficulties to ride bikes in a safe environment, allowing them to be able to use the bike for transport purposes.
In addition to this, indigenous youth disengagement was a significant community issue, so Richie led a program to offer mentoring and activities acknowledging sport is a great outlet.
The philosophy that has guided Richie’s focus is that bike riding is a solution to a number of the problems faced by society: transport, environmental, economic and it really is a great community connector.
So when a young Richie in his cricket whites, looked over the fence that day at the new Blackburn velodrome, little did he know the lifelong impact cycling would have and is still having, on his life and how this would shape his whole community.
More about Cairns Cycling Club here
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