Cycling's dynamic duo

June 2018

On a warm Wednesday evening I drove my car to meet up with Kate Tinkler and Pam Dawes at the mustering point for their Women on Wheels (WOW) cycling group. Over a glass of water, we talked sports, fit-living, work, mentors, kids, grandkids and - oh, yes – cycling!

Kate and Pam are marking the end of an era this summer. It was ten years ago that these “cycling sisters” came together to talk about their vision for a supportive, encouraging cycling group for women of all ages and abilities. Keeping safety and socializing in mind, they created an inclusive community of women on wheels from ages 18 to 70+. For the past 10 summers, every second Wednesday evening, the two have volunteered to lead cycling tours, along with the help of countless volunteers, for hundreds of women. “I think in all that time there has only been one time that Pam and I both have missed the ride,” says Kate.

Both women grew up being active. They credit their parents for instilling a love of the outdoors and of being active with sports and other activities. Kate grew up on a farm in the Laurentians area of Quebec and remembers how much her school supported activity. “We were surrounded by three downhill ski areas,” said Kate, “and every Friday afternoon we’d be dismissed so we could go skiing. Skiing was part of the school curriculum. There was equipment for all the kids and instruction. Everyone was included.” For Pam, her parents led by example. Growing up in North Bay she spent every summer at the cottage. “I was active as a kid but not in competitive sports,” says Pam. “I got into competitive kayaking when I got older and realized that a little bit of talent can go a long way.” Pam credits her time in competitive sport as building her confidence.

Both women stressed that competition was not part of their goals for the women’s cycling program. “We really wanted to gear WOW to beginner and intermediate riders,” said Pam. “Kate cycles with the intermediate group and I hang with the beginners. The beginners just like to go a little slower than the others. I always hear amazing stories when I’m out riding with this group. Seeing people’s confidence in riding increase is so rewarding and watching friendships develop makes every ride memorable.”

Pam always works activity into her day. As a computer specialist she works from home but often starts her day at the gym. “I belong to a gym and love to lift some weights before the sun comes up,” she says. She’d rather be outdoors whenever she can enjoying cross-country skiing in winter and gardening, cycling or kayaking in summer. As a grandmother she says it is so much fun to spend time with her grandkids and loves helping them discover the joys of being outdoors. “Being with the grand kids as they discover the wonders of growing your own veggies is so rewarding!”

Kate recently retired as a Special Education Assistant with the Lakehead Board of Education but has found herself sharing her knowledge at a local sporting goods store two days a week. Here, Kate can share her love of being active. “Being active centers me in a very important way. Many of my closest friends here in Thunder Bay were made because of a shared love of sport. You share a special comradery. Being active is important for the body, mind and soul,” says Kate. Kate is also a grandparent who loves to spend time outdoors playing and discovering with her grandkids. She goes on to say that “garden worm pulling is a favourite activity with my Norah!”

When Kate’s kids were growing up, they took outdoor adventures every weekend during the summer to go camping and fishing. Now, when Kate’s grown-up kids are reunited under one roof, they want to relive those weekends and go back to a favourite spot like Flatrock Lake. “When we moved to Thunder Bay we were always amazed how quickly we could be on a lake somewhere.”

Pam has a philosophy that she shares with others. She says, “Be fit enough so that when someone calls to say, ‘Let’s do something’, you can jump on it!” Both Pam and Kate encourage people to make connections with others to do something active. To them, that’s one of the biggest successes of the cycling program. Through the regular rides, women have met others to do things with. Some started with a 10 km ride and soon were planning rides in Europe with friends they had met in the group. The group has given people a way to connect, but it’s up to the individuals to make those connections continue outside of the organized ride schedule.

The riders think so much of Pam and Kate. At the Ontario Cycling Association conference a few years ago, members shared positive testimonials about the program. Cheryl Armstrong has been a member of the group for years and can’t say enough about Pam and Kate’s leadership style. “Pam and Kate are so inspiring!” says Cheryl. “It doesn’t matter if you are new to riding or an experienced cyclist, they coach and encourage you to become a stronger and safer cyclist! Their passion for cycling, fitness and having fun with friends has made the WOW club so successful!”

Even though Kate and Pam have been active all their lives, they believe that folks can adopt a more active lifestyle at any age. They also believe in trying something new or aiming to get better at something you love. Kate recently took lessons to improve her swimming, for example. For Kate and Pam, it’s been humbling to see women rediscover the joy of cycling. “Many women have come out with their old bikes that they haven’t ridden in years and by the end of the summer, they’ve got a new bike – and they’re riding it!”

After watching Kate and Pam interact with their group I can recognize why WOW has been so successful. They set it up as a true partnership and shared the leadership decisions. When the weather looked threatening, they’d call the other to ride or cancel. Decisions were never only on the shoulders of one person. Both are gentle, encouraging, strong women who empower their riders to do their best and be their best. They have nurtured their cyclists by laying a foundation of confidence, community and camaraderie. After this summer, they will be handing over the reins of WOW. Hopefully, another volunteer or volunteer team will take over. Soon, Kate and Pam will have more free time to see children and grandchildren, but you can bet they’ll still be riding and encouraging all they meet to come along for the ride. Kate and Pam have built a volunteer effort that has meant so much to so many. They are, indeed, great “spokes”-people for an active, connected and rewarding lifestyle!

Kate and Pam's Lessons From the Road

  • Communicate. Email and make a date.
  • Chose a meeting point where you can socialize after the ride.
  • Be safe. Ride with a friend. Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
  • Shop local. Check out places like the Cheese Farm, Belluz Farms, Seasons in the Country etc.
  • Explore. Get to know the country roads.
  • Be patient. Cycling season is also construction season so always have a Plan B route.
  • Keep learning. Take advantage of skills clinics to improve your cycling and bike knowledge.
  • Start small. Short rides are better than no rides at all!
  • Be organized. Pack a snack and water.
  • Find a BFF. Share the rides and a lifelong friendship like Pam and Kate.
  • Stay fit enough. When someone calls to do something active, go!
  • Rediscover. If you loved a sport in your past, try it again!
  • Discover. Try a new sport.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded people. Share active adventures together.
  • Be a role model to younger people. Spend time walking, playing, discovering together.
  • Family matters. Treasure those times together. Make memories with activities shared.
  • Women are resilient and tough.
  • If you’ve faced adversity, you may be able to find comfort with a group.
  • There’s no age limit to achieve what you want to do. Set a mark and go for it.
  • Recognize people’s contributions.
  • Delegate.
  • Work in a team.
  • Be active with women of all ages and abilities. Form your own cycling Make people feel welcomed.
  • Have fun!

Nancy Angus is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Bayview. Contact her at

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