A long day, truly magnificent weather and a fantastic day out for Cam’s longest ride ever – almost 70km by the time we added in 9km getting to the start and home afterwards.
Despite my , it all went to plan, although as usual my body clock refused to trust the alarm clock, so I woke up pretty much every half hour from 1 am to 4 am, and barely got back to sleep in between. Will the mobile phone’s alarm work when the phone is on silent overnight? Did I set the desk clock’s alarm correctly to cope with the Daylight Savings’ change? Yes and yes, but you try telling my subconscious that!
Up at … Summer Time … dress and go and wake a very sleepy boy, then down to the kitchen for porridge prepared the night before. One eye on the clock as we eat, trying to keep a sleepy but excited boy quiet so as to not wake the weekend’s house guest! All working to plan, out the door and onto the tandem in the dark, surprise the LXRA workmen sitting in their ute “guarding” the foot crossing – or whatever useless task they were performing tonight. Off down the street to the sounds of early birds waking, tandem stoker excited at the novelty of this part of the adventure, riding in the dark made him feel we were on a holiday somewhere.
Arrive at Caulfield and up onto platform one with half a dozen other cyclists and less than a minute to wait for the train. Into a train that already contained plenty of bikes on their way up from assorted stations on the Frankston line. Disembark at South Yarra into a mini sea of bikes and riders, then follow those in front along Toorak road, across Queens parade and a dog-leg into Albert park and around the roads and paths to get to the start.
Prior to the start we chatted with one other tandem couple and saw another tandem leaning against a tree, and everyone gradually moved closer and closer to the start line. First the 100km people left, then some time after we got underway – a loop around three quarters of Albert Park lake before heading off to Port Melbourne. Lots of people all around us, some we saw only once, others we were destined to be leapfrogging or riding with all day.
The weather is a huge part of a cycling event – doubly so for a family-oriented one like the 20km or 50km option of ATBIAD – and it couldn’t have been better. A little cool to start, around 8°C when we left home, but still, near perfect conditions for riding. The view of the bay as we got to the end of Kerferd road was amazing – the water almost mirror smooth, not a breath of wind and a few small boats just drifting around.
Then around the bay towards Station pier and turn inland, through Port Melbourne and industrial container stacks and onto the freeway for one of the day’s special treats – a chance to ride over the Westgate Bridge. It looks forbidding, but mostly due to being so exposed, unlike riding up a hill in the forest you’re going in a straight line and can see every part of the climb ahead. Took the time to admire the view and bridge construction – after a project last term at school Cam decided that it was a hybrid bridge of concrete beam and cable-stay construction – probably pretty accurate, then past the middle and commence the decent towards Williamstown. Unfortunately there’s a minor problem with the front wheel and it started to wobble disconcertingly, so the decent was made slowly and carefully – that wheel will have to go to the bike shop to be attended to, I can’t see a buckle or spot any loose spokes.
Around through Williamstown and out to the waterfront, another magnificent view back towards the CBD across still water and giraffe-like cranes, and on around “The Strand” past the touristy part of Williamstown to our first break at Commonwealth Reserve.
Finding a spot to park the tandem against the trees I lost sight of Cam for a minute, looking up to find that he’d vanished … then worried that he wouldn’t be able to find me in the crowd. No problem really, he’d made a bee-line for the marquee and had already made his way through the queue, grabbed two handfuls of slices – one chocolate, one berry – and was on his way back, juggling these, a bidon, and a couple of snack bars that he’d picked up!
I think we spent about ten minutes sitting around, relaxing, eating, then queueing up to get in to the toilets before getting back on the bike and continuing south around the bay. I think I’d misread the map notes when skimming through them – I thought there was more of a stop at the furthest point of the ride but it turned out to be a loop around the block once we’d ridden around the point, then back the way we’d come and a second chance at a break in Commonwealth Reserve.
On this stretch we saw the only two incidents of the whole ride; one was a rider with a bandaged up knee and an arm in a sling, I suspect he’d crashed in the group of his friends who were all standing around. The second was as an off-leash dog came tearing down the footpath and raced onto the road barking and chasing a rider in front of me. She narrowly avoided coming off and stopped abruptly, nearly falling over. I yelled “Off Leash Dog!” to warn the dozen riders behind me and was promptly screamed at by the dog’s owner, running down the footpath to try and catch his animal “UP YA ARSE!” As usual, dog leash laws only ever apply to other peoples’ dogs… we rode past as he was still trying to catch a barking jumping collie running around on the road.
Second time through Commonwealth Reserve we only stopped for two minutes or so – all the food was gone, so anyone relying on getting food on their way back through was out of luck! Then back up along the foreshore, under the Westgate, around the block in Yarraville and up and onto the Westgate for a second trip over the bridge.
Another slow trip back down on the city side, the wobble in the front wheel felt worse this time down. Then it was back through Port Melbourne on the final stretch to get back to the park.
Re-entering Albert Park the riders of the 50km ride joined with the returning 20km riders – all families with small kids, an amazing mass of bikes of every size and riders of absolutely every skill level. Some of the smaller kids on their own bikes must have done a phenomenal job to ride all the way to Elwood and back.
Finally back in under the finish line just a few minutes before 11 am, slowly into the crowd and collect our participation medals, then hop off and wheel the bike up the hill to the “event village” to wind down, eat, drink, relax and wait for Jo to finish her 135km ride up from Geelong.
I was a bit surprised that the “meal” provided to all participants of the 20km or 50km options was a single barbecued sausage in bread, no salad, no seconds, nothing more. There was plenty of other food and drinks available to purchase, so no chance of anyone going hungry or thirsty. We ate, and drank, and made use of the face-painting stall, then lazed around some more before making our back down to the sparsely occupied finish line to wait for Jo.
The finish line seemed to be just a bit too far from all the after-event festivities so for many of the riders coming in, the only people there seemed to be the official photographers and half a dozen vollies. Over the next hour we waited for Jo, her last cryptic SMS telling us where she was, but not how fast she was travelling, how she was feeling, or when we might expect her to arrive… but arrive she did, whipping in under the finish line too quickly for me to get my phone out, on to camera and a take a shot!
Then half an hour of congratulations, unwinding, a coffee, a rest before back on the bikes to make our way home. Not following such a definite trail of riders this time we made our way back to South Yarra, luckily only had 6minutes to wait for a train to Caulfield, and it was an express through all the intermediate stations, then out of Caulfield and carefully home those last four kilometres – carefully due to the softening rear tyre that wouldn’t take kindly to speed-humps, and slowing reflexes that wouldn’t take kindly to Melbourne’s marvellous motorists’ mishaps. Finally home, showers, more drinks and snacks, unpack and relax.
The tandem is in need of a bit of TLC, but probably no more than it needed before we went out for the day. I thought that the last months’ intermittent rear tyre softening was due to dirt in the valve but I suspect there’s a small leak somewhere – strangely, it seems to go for days or weeks without the pressure changing, then goes soft when ridden. The pilot’s bottom bracket, the eccentric one, has started to creak alarmingly and although I briefly looked at it before the ride, I’ve no idea how to go about adjusting or servicing it. There must also be a buckle in the front wheel, most of the time I don’t notice it but on some decents it picks up an alarming wobble – coming down the Westgate bridge had me hard on the brakes and probably going slower than we went up! Time for it to visit the LBS … if I can find a decently local bike store that will work on it.
Despite that, all up a great day out for the three of us, and, in the words of a thoroughly thrilled ten-year-old, “Next year we’ll do the 100km!”