Janet Stark is not a normal mum, according to her kids, and that’s okay with them.
Most mums are not out loading up the truck in the mornings, and heading off to take lucky mountain bikers around the beautiful trails of Auckland.
Janet qualified as a mountain bike guide and cycle skills instructor through Skills Active, and is the owner of https://cyclecoach.co.nz. She also recently became a Skills Active assessor, which means working with keen bike-riders who are completing national qualifications, just as she herself did a couple of years ago.
Asked what’s great about her job, Janet says it’s the looks of delight on people’s faces as they navigate the world on two wheels.
“I just love seeing people gaining confidence on their bikes. But it’s the smiles in particular – I love seeing someone grinning away as they are riding a bike.”
Pedal power has been Janet’s preferred form of transport ever since she was a toddler, and her parents gave her a trike which used to get around everywhere – including off to the park by herself, before anyone had noticed. Later on, when she was busy with kids and life, Janet formed a group called Spokeswomen with some friends, aimed at carving out a bit more time in their schedules to go cycling.
“We met regularly on Fridays. During that time, I found I was quite good at guiding, and getting people on bikes,” Janet says. “So I thought, ‘I wonder if I can get a qualification?’ And that is how I stumbled across Skills Active.”
That was five years ago. As growing numbers of friends and acquaintances asked Janet to take them out for rides, and the word spread, a successful business was born.
On a typical day, after checking the weather report, Janet is off to work. That might mean helping people develop their cycling skills in one-on-one or group coaching sessions, or leading cyclists on expeditions around the trails or in the city. In the afternoon she can often be found cleaning her gear and her bike, and possibly fitting in another coaching session.
Although Janet is thrilled to have earned her cycling qualifications, it wasn’t always easy, due to a shortage of assessors that specialise in the discipline.
“It was a very frustrating process for me, particularly the mountain bike guiding certificate. There are not many mountain bike assessors, and there were even fewer then,” she says.
“My assessor was great but he was running a successful business and he was busy with that. Trying to get time to be assessed was difficult. All I could think was: ‘Why don’t I do this? I’m still growing my business, and I can add this into what I do.’”
Once she completed her qualification, Janet’s assessor advised her to clock up some more experience, and then complete her assessor training. In July this year, Janet completed her registration period and is now assessing her first two trainees.
Assessing adds a whole new level of fulfilment into her work, she says.
“One of my trainees is starting her own business, a very similar one to mine, down in Rotorua. It’s very rewarding, because she is using that knowledge I’m passing on in her own business. It’s not someone doing it just for the hang of it; she’s got a goal in mind.”
Janet wants to see it become easier for bike-lovers to earn their qualifications.
“I’m stubborn, so there was no way I wasn’t going to finish, but it was really frustrating at times. So I want to be part of making it better.”
She says she would never have been able to complete her two qualifications, train as an assessor, and build up her business, without the support of her fellow Spokeswomen, who helped her get the practice she needed, and gave her a sounding board for her ideas.
“And then, for me, it’s been my family – they have been fantastic. They have always given me the time and space I needed, and said to me, ‘You’ve got this mum. You don’t have to be a normal mum – it‘s okay if you go cycling!’”
For more information on cycling qualifications in New Zealand please contact Janet on [email protected]
Written by Esther McLaren Communications Advisor for Skills Active NZ for the Assessors Month Newsletter