How mountain biking mum Becky Cashman got her groove back


After wrapping herself in cotton wool for too long, the business owner has finally got her groove back

Becky Cashman has always been an adventurous soul. She spent her childhood in the United States playing outside, only coming home for meals, and when she left school at 18, she became an adventure guide and spent the next two decades leading trips around the world.

It was on one of these expeditions that Becky met her husband John Sanderson, 57, and the trajectory of her life changed.

“I had a job working in Nepal as an outdoor guide. And I met this lovely Kiwi man who was also working for the same business, and we quite liked each other,” Becky says. “That was 25 years ago. We got married, and I moved here to New Zealand and settled down and had children.”

The 56-year-old says welcoming her children, Helena, 17, and Issac, 14, had a huge impact on her adrenaline-filled lifestyle.

“My life changed significantly when I had Helena. My love of adventure and adrenaline just quieted down,” recalls the Kerikeri resident. “I didn’t need that kind of energy in my life because I was taking care of her, and turning into a mum that was softer and quieter.

Now Becky and her family (from left) Helena, husband John and Issac, all go on adventures together.

“Then my second came along and I stopped doing really physical, heart-pumping things. Fifteen years down the track, I realised that I felt vulnerable, like maybe my body couldn’t handle that kind of activity any more. And I was really afraid that if I fell, I would get an injury.”

Becky’s fears were brought to a head when three years ago, the rest of her family fell in love with mountain biking. At first, Becky relished the alone time when John and the kids were off riding, but that soon changed.

“I really enjoyed the peace of them all leaving, but then somewhere along the way, it shifted to, ‘Hang on, I think they’re going out and having fun and I’m missing out!'” Becky laughs.

So, in June last year, driven by her desire to compete in the Spirited Women Adventure Race with Helena, Becky decided it was time to tackle her fear.

She was inspired by a TEDx Talk by Josh Kaufman entitled The First 20 Hours – How to Learn Anything…Fast, and applied that ethos to her training, committing to 20 rides.

The Goodbye founder, whose business makes organic insect repellent and sunscreen, admits if she hadn’t promised herself she would do 20 rides, she probably wouldn’t have hopped back on the bike after her first attempt.

“I felt very nervous, like I wasn’t even sure I remembered how to ride a bike, much less ride on a track,” Becky shares. “My husband was so enthusiastic, almost over-enthusiastic. He got me to go right to the top of the first pitch of the mountain and halfway up, I was walking my bike.

Becky says there is more to mountain-bike riding than fitness. “I have myself back,” she says.

“First I was yelling at him, and then I was just crying because I thought, ‘I can’t do this. If this is the beginning, then I’m not able to be this person.’ My kids were quite horrified that Dad had taken me up the mountain.”

Once Becky made it clear she needed to take the journey at her own pace, John has been one of her biggest supporters.

Now, almost a year on, Becky confidently calls herself a mountain-bike rider and says she has gained so much more from the experience than she ever could have imagined.

“The confidence and the energy I have from the project are so ongoing, and it’s like I have myself back. There was a me and then I had kids, and that old me disappeared for a long time and biking reminded me that I can be that person again. I really am so grateful for that.”

It has also brought Becky even closer to her kids.

“It turns out my children are great teachers,” she enthuses. “They’ve appreciated sharing their skills and insights with me, and they’re patient and they’re really encouraging. It’s allowed me to see a different side of my children.”

As a small business owner, Becky says being able to get out and ride has also been a huge help for her mental health.

“Covid has been stressful on every level, and being able to clear my head and just focus on this ride, this moment, this forest… There’s no space to think about what’s next for the business – to worry. It’s a ‘present moment’ experience and that is a soother to the nervous system.”

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