Tue, 02 Mar 2010

Once, an accident; twice, a coincidence // at 17:30

Trundling home on the mountain bike towing the trailer, today I decided to go the slightly longer way via Huntingdale station and the full length of the bottle-strewn bike path to Oakleigh. Making my way carefully through the Huntingdale station car-park in case of idiots I had to suddenly slam on the brakes and stop to avoid an idiot reversing at speed out of a parking space without looking.

Surprise, surprise, surprise; same idiot as last week, same car as last week — old blue Ford Falcon rego. ODS-520 — same place as last week and pretty much the same behaviour as last week. Bogan boy come tearing backwards out of the space without looking — or maybe he looked but didn't care. Same sunnies, same fag hanging out the corner of his mouth.

I stop with the front wheel almost up against the driver's door.

“Thanks for watching where you're going,” in response he glares at me and sneers. “Yep, fine, have a nice day.” at this he muttered something and gave me the finger, planted his foot and tore off showering us with gravel and rubbish.

At least this time he didn't drive the wrong way out the one-way entrance.

I wonder if I'll meet him again next week?

So trivial, and so commonplace — aggressive idiot tries to flatten someone on a bike — if it hadn't been the exact same guy two weeks in a row I wouldn't have bothered mentioning it.

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Wed, 24 Feb 2010

More Melbourne Motorists // at 18:00

Riding home today I think it must be the day of the d*ckhead and that I missed the announcement.

Heading towards Clayton road in the Dandenong road service lane, trundling along on the mountain bike towing Cam in the trailer, a courier car comes out of Clayton primary school and goes screaming past me and the trailer driving the wrong way up the service lane heading for the McDonalds or to a shortcut across Dandenong road to head east.

Passing the Oakleigh motel there's a large tattooed arm hanging out the window of a parked crappy commodore and a hand holding a cigarette... or so I thought. Automatically gave it a wide berth just in case the owner steps out or flicks the butt out the window or just drives off without looking. Didn't have to worry, driver was blissfully kicking back, stoned, eyes closed, deep in the throes of his spliff.

Quarter of an hour later I'm trying to turn into Huntingdale station carpark to get onto the bike track, can't get in, a bogan-boy in his commoford is coming out the wrong-way out the one-way entrance and barges me, trailer and toddler out of the way before spinning the wheels as only a bogan-boy commoford can and racing the 50m to stop at the corner into Huntingdale road.

Yep, you're sharing the roads with this lot too.

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Tue, 23 Feb 2010

O-week… They're back! // at 13:00

For three months of the year, from the end of November to the end of February, the roads around the university are moderately safe. For three months there's the same number of nuff-nuffs and idiots as pretty much every other part of Melbourne. Then at the end of February the students return — people in their late teens and early twenties are not renown for paying much attention to the road laws — and a whole lot of them are from overseas as well, so they have little to no idea of what the road laws are in the first place!

Today was this year's baptism of fire.

Coming out of the childcare car-park after dropping off Cam I nearly get cleaned up by helmet-less Asian student who almost rode into the side of me as he careered up the footpath — I guess he just didn't see the trailer and thought he'd go behind me. I pulled out onto the road shaking my head and watch as two doors further up he nearly cleaned up a mum and kids walking from car to footpath. A couple of doors further up he blindly goes across in front of a car turning into a driveway, then for the piece de resistance he pulled out onto the road and rode up the right-hand side and went anti-clockwise around the roundabout head-on at some poor sucker on a bike coming the other way.

I made a comment on a bike mailing list to the effect that O-week was here and the idiots had returned on the roads, and that many of the overseas students appeared to have no idea of Australian road laws; no helmets, riding on the footpath, riding on the wrong side of the road, you name it, and that they were a danger to themselves and to others. I got politely told off. Apparently I'm not allowed to say that, no single group of bad road users can be singled out. No amount of anecdotal events should be referred to.

So I went out for a ride at lunch time, a couple of laps around the ring road because the weather was wonderful and to clear the head. Coming down the hill towards the roundabout near the residential halls bizarrely there was a girl stopped half-way around the roundabout, in the middle of the two lanes, bent over her bike and fiddling with the back wheel. Cars were going around her on both sides, some quite quick because nobody gives a shit about the 40km/hr speed limit. As I went to pass her (on the left) she suddenly stood up and darted across to the kerb, straight at me, looking the other way. I managed to slide to a stop along the kerb without coming off and hitting her, as did the car beside me. First thing she said "So sorry, in my country we drive on other side of the road". All I could say was "Please, you have to learn to look!", I helped remove the large chunk of gumtree from her wheel and off she went.

A very cautious ride home in the afternoon, nothing happened, nothing happens most of the time, but then some of the time I get multiple incidents in a day.

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Fri, 01 Jan 2010

First ride of the decade // at 16:00

After failing to go for my ceremonial last ride of the year yesterday — something I've managed to do when I can on December 31 each year — I took myself out on the bike today.

First bike ride of the year; an easy 38km ride from Lorne out along the Great Ocean Road to Wye river, on for a couple more headlands, stop and look at the ocean for a while, then turn around and make my way home. An inauspicious start as I was knocked over by a woman in a station waggon in bumper-to-bumper 5km/hr traffic in Lorne — she turned left into a parking spot as I was alongside her without looking or indicating — she stopped pretty quick from my yelling and hammering on the door. Once I extricated myself and the bike from between her and the car next to it the rest of the ride was almost event-free.

The Great Ocean Road was its usual mix of spectacular views and mind-bogglingly stupid motorists; highlights being a mix of foreign tourists in unfamiliar tiny hire-cars who don't believe they can squeeze past a bicycle, Aussie holiday-makers in 4WDs who don't care and go roaring past an inch from my elbow, retirees towing caravans and forgetting that the van is wider than the car trying to remove my elbow — they are a minority, but its the oddities that get remembered. Thankfully, at least 99% of the drivers either ignore — or are ignorant of — the law about crossing the centre lines, and pull onto the opposite side of the road to pass, so that magnificent piece of new road rules that makes Victoria's roads more dangerous for cyclists doesn't come into play1.

Nothing too strenuous, nothing too complicated, but more riding than I've done for some time, what with only commuting to work two days a week and having the rest of my time fully occupied with toddler-wrangling. Not that I'm making any new-year resolutions or anything, but I'm certainly planning on spending a little more time on my bike — or bikes — during 2010 than I did during 2009!

Here, according to my nearly-always-present Garmin Edge 705, is a summary of 2009's not so impressive cycling:

Count 383 Activities
Distance 2,342.48 km
Time 127:46:21 h:m:s
Elevation Gain 20,820 m
Avg Speed 18.3 km/h
Avg HR 145 bpm
Avg Run Cadence
Avg Bike Cadence
Calories2 87,086 C

Footnote:

1. As of 2009-Nov-09 it is now illegal for a motorist to cross a single or double line to pass another vehicle. There is still an overriding requirement to "overtake safely", but given the “overtake the damn cyclist at all cost” attitudes of most of Victoria's road users I suspect motorists are now more inclined to overtake dangerously, paying more attention to not crossing a painted white-line than they do to not running cyclists off the road!

2. Meaningless, since I think they're calculated in some way based on the weight of the bike, but I manage to move my GPS between my road bike, mountain bike and the tandem, and either of the latter two could be towing 16kg of trailer and 12kg of toddler!

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Sun, 06 Dec 2009

Shifter woes, part #3 // at 18:00

Continued from part #2.

Back from the dead — it lives!

Last of the 8-speed thumbshifers

After a long, leisurely, walk over to Carnegie this morning with the pram and Jo's bike we picked up a newly revitalised Norky bike. Dropped her Norco Magnum off for a service and to sort out the gears and picked up the grandfather's axe that is my Java1.

A bit of a comedown in the world, the only replacement 8-speed Shimano shifters left are Altus; LX, XT and XTR are all 9- or 10-speed nowadays. The thirteen year-old XT shifters had performed wonderfully, well past their expected life, so anything now is a blessing! According to the mechanic “The XT and XTR shifters that year — 1996 — were a real problem, very fragile, amazing they lasted this long at all” I seem to always hear this, or something similar, about my gears, or my wheels, or my forks, or something. I'm never sure whether its true or whether its just the mechanic genes at work — always wanting to sound knowledgable about — and slightly disparaging about — the equipment that I have got.

Yada yada, Norky bike needs new chain, new cassette, new sprockets... a set of new sprockets costs as much as a new crankset so they'd probably advise that instead... only the frame remains.

Surprisingly cheap for the work, and what a pleasure to have gears again! Single-speeds may be all the rage, but only on bikes designed for it please.

Coffee and cake and then some lunch at Rita's to celebrate the reanimation, then back home for another thirteen years' life in the second set of shifters... I hope.


1. I'm fairly confidant that the only original parts now are the frame, XTR brakes, headstem, handlebars and bar-ends. All else has been repaired, replaced or swapped over the years.

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Sun, 29 Nov 2009

Shifter woes part #2 // at 13:00

Continued from part #1.

After a little searching online I decided to have another look at the internals of my rear shifter — albeit a 1996 Shimano XT unit, so I've had a decent thirteen year's use out of it! Undid the three chassis screws, disconnected it from the cable, and brought it inside where I can safely drop tiny pieces on the kitchen table and not lose them in the shed or the garden.

First major annoyance, the tiny little phillips head dust-cover screw that yesterday I removed then replaced, neither time with any problems, has mysteriously jammed and is almost stripped. Needed to be almost butchered out since the cross-slot has nearly gone.

Surprisingly clean considering the thirteen years of use so far — a wipe with a clean cloth and a toothpick to remove some of the dirt, then the discovery that the main ratchet is broken. I doubt if these are sold as servicable parts by Shimano, and if they are, how many other small parts are worn out or nearly so? Cleaned up and regreased lightly it all seemed to be miraculously operational again — I doubt it'll last another thirteen years, but I may get a few more out of it!

Second, or third, major annoyance came during the reassembly — the 7mm nut that holds the thumb levers on managed to twist around inside my socket-spanner and refuse to go on the bolt, jamming up so badly that I couldn't extract it without hooking a piece of wire into it. Then I found that it had stripped the thread of the bolt, so both the bolt and the nut seem unusable, a new nut may exist somewhere in my toolboxes, but a special custom-made Shimano bolt — no way. Looks as though new shifters are on the shopping list.

1996 Shimano Deore XT shifter - no user-serviceable parts inside

Nine-speed Shimano Deore XT brake/shifter levers seem to be $299 a pair — now can I use the nine-speed levers with the eight-speed cassette? Some people seem to say yes, some to say no...

Either way, a working repair seems better left to my LBS — providing I can find an LBS I'm happy with. I bit the bullet and rode up to Carnegie and dropped it off at Fitzroy Cycles, apparently the nine-speed shifters cannot be used with the eight-speed cassette so they'll have to order in an eight-speed shifter, but it should all be fixed and running and frighteningly clean and adjusted by Thursday.

... part #3.

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Sat, 28 Nov 2009

Shifter woes, part #1 // at 12:00

Over the last few months my rear derailleur — 1996 eight-speed Shimano XT — has been harder and harder to change; I can change up to a bigger ring, but down is a problem, and I need to change two or three cogs and then back up. Jo has also pointed out that her changer is sticking and she was just about stuck in one gear almost all the way to and from work — not much of a problem around either of our commutes, which is why we haven't done anything about it.

This morning I took a look at Jo's rear shifter; the cables look corroded and stick, so I suspect there's no point in trying to adjust anything until they're replaced.

Starting to have a quick look at Norky bike, I found that the shifter had jammed completely and I couldn't move the thumb-lever at all! A little fiddling and it released, shifted up and down a few times, then jammed again. Undoing the tiny dust-cover screw and then the three chassis screws meant I could remove the shifter body — not sure if the cable was still in the guide where it's meant to go. A little bit of fiddling up and down and I convinced myself there's nothing I could do, better off to check it in for a service — but where, we're not entirely happy with the last few services from the last place we've been, I get the feeling that things were done "on the cheap" or with odds and ends parts because they classify me as a cheapskate and a friend. Local bike shop has butchered things twice when I tried to get a quick repair, then stuffed me about when I tried to get a wheel trued so I'm not inclined to go there for service, although they're fine for bits and pieces. Next nearest is Fitzroy Cycles, up in Carnegie on Dandenong road.

I put it all back together and started contemplating my options; repair or replace, adjustments or new shifters, proper service, its all just money...

...part #2

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Wed, 14 Oct 2009

Did not Ride to Work day // at 22:00

BV's annual Ride to Work day met work from home day today; together with cold and flu day and drizzly grey rainy day.

With the best intentions in the world I'd signed up saying I'd ride in, thinking I could pop Cam in the trailer, trundle over to Clayton for a breakfast and a chat then head home. Reality dawned dreary and coughing and wet and so we stayed home with a large mug of tea watching the rain run down the windows.

I wonder how many others decided the weather gods were against them and opted for the car or the train? BV don't seem to mind, I've already had my email thanking me for participating and reminding me I can get more people to register and say they rode if they have forgotten to register.

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Thu, 19 Feb 2009

More idiots parking blocking the path // at 09:00

Around and around we go; Connex and Monash City Council, Monash City Council and Connex....

Every couple of weeks someone decides to ignore the no parking signs, to ignore the huge white markings on the ground, to ignore the fact that they're blocking the footpath and bike path, and decides to park illegally at the end of the Oakleigh station car-park. Anyone on foot who is skinny enough can squeeze past, anyone on a bike, with a pram or shopping trolley or who is fatter than average either cannot get past at all, or has to scrape along the side of the idiot's car. The council — Monash City Council — seem to ignore this and rarely police the car-park and even more rarely book the cars. Understandably, a number of people on foot or on bikes get annoyed, but unfortunately a lot of them take it out by ripping the mirrors and wipers off the offending car, an act that is hardly likely to give the driver charitable thoughts towards the next cyclist they meet.

One too many cars parked here, this morning I rang up Monash City Council and spoke to their “local laws” officer and asked to have the offending cars ticketed. As usual, whenever I speak with the council a Kafkaesque miasma descends. The staff member I spoke with insisted that the car-park is a railway car-park and is the operated and policed by Connex, and that the council is not allowed to enter it and issue any tickets. OK I thought, I'll just ring Connex… ha ha, not so easy. After the usual voice mail menus and irritations I got to a human and they insisted most strenuously that Connex is only responsible for the car-park and surrounds — an area that I have never seen them clean or maintain, but that's another problem — and that only the local councils are legally allowed to issue parking tickets and that I will have to speak with the council. Pointing out to Connex that this was the opposite of what the council said I was politely told “Not our responsibility.” So thank you everyone, thank you for buck passing.

At least I know that at some stage in the past the council has got off their lazy arse and booked at least one car that parked there, I've got a photo of it from back in September 2007!

Oh well, here's hoping that either the council starts to book them or a few cars get torched, maybe then people might stop parking there!

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Thu, 22 Jan 2009

Assume all road users are idiots // at 18:30

+1 : Successfully avoided all unthinking drivers on the way home

-1: Assumed cyclist in front of me was going straight ahead on "preferred cycle route"

-2: Assumed cyclist in front of me would indicate if about to turn right,

-3: Assumed cyclist in front of me would do head check before turning right just in case there was any traffic behind him.

-4: Assumed cyclist in front of me heard me call out “g'day” as I started to come up behind him.

BANG, cyclist in front of me brakes suddenly and does hard right “flick left, turn right, looks cool on the off-road videos,” kind of turn from the left-hand car wheel track on the road while I'm in the right-hand car wheel track.

THUMP. I'm lying on the road, bloody knees and elbows, cricked neck, sprained wrists, and a large solid mountain biker is saying “Sorry mate, I was listening for cars.”

Ouch. Damn. Damn. Damn.

Insufficient care was taken.

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Wed, 21 Jan 2009

Empty seats // at 12:00

Thought for the day: If you ride a tandem bicycle with only one person on it you will be subject to endless strange looks and wise-cracking comments from passers-by about the empty seat. Meanwhile, you'll be surrounded by cars all with four or more seats, mostly empty and containing just one driver….

Prompted by: http://www.melbournecyclist.com/profiles/blogs/double-tandem-standards

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Mon, 05 Jan 2009

Firsts…. // at 09:00

First post of the year…
First work day of the year…
First bicycle commute of the year…
First puncture of the year.
Bugger.

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Fri, 04 Jul 2008

In the dark, in the cold, on the bike… // at 22:00

Ah, Friday night in the 'burbs, dinner with the parents in law and a 9:30 ride home from Mt Waverley to Oakleigh. A simple task it seems!

It was cold, damn cold. Less than 10°C as I left the comfy warm house, then 58km/hr down Forster road is an eye-wateringly shocking wake up.

Onto the bike track from Mt Waverley to Oakleigh, No moon, no lane markings, overhanging bushes and no lights on the path. Of course there are no lights — its a bike path silly, and everyone knows that these are only used on nice sunny Sundays for recreation! The 5W Nightstick light helps, but on an unfamiliar track it all gets very exciting. Go slow and watch for stealth dogs 'n joggers.

...and then there's the people you meet.

WTF is this guy doing standing in the middle of the bike track in a duffle coat? As I cruised carefully past, his invisible mate spraying graffiti up on the freeway underpass screamed abuse down and nearly scared the crap out of me.

Across Dandenong road at the lights at Atkinson street and start the last stretch up the hill, more adrenalin as the white P-plate decorated Commodore screeches around the corner behind me, passenger sticks his head out the window screaming "KILL THE C### ON THE BIKE!", driver swerves at me but is going too fast, misjudges, almost goes up the kerb 2m in front of me, spins the tyres plastering me with gravel and burning rubber and tears off over the hill. The adrenalin keeps me warm for the last kilometre or so home.

Topped the night off with the Nightstick battery going flat two blocks from home, very little warning, just a brief dip in the light then a quick fade to yellow to orange and off. I really must get myself a backup LED light....

Aint riding a bike in Melbourne fun.

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Tue, 17 Jun 2008

I am not alone // at 09:00

Amazing! The combination of a very short commute and the cold winter weather means that on any given day I generally see no other cyclists, or around one or two a week. Maybe the rising petrol prices, a glitch in the statistics or a fluke of my timing, but in the last 24 hours I've met ten other bicycle commuters while riding to and from work! Maybe I should keep a log of how many other riders are about through the colder and then warmer months... Three on the cycle paths in Oakleigh last night, an older Chinese couple and then a woman who nearly fell off in front of me at the sharp-right into the station car-park — its a pain of a corner, she got her wheel caught in the channel off the concrete path, but its never made easier by the dumped shopping trolleys that get pushed to the end of the car-park and occasional beer bottle, syringe or illegally parked car.

Then this morning riding up North road there were another two guys, one fast in lycra on a road bike, one slow in jeans on a mountain bike, both riding up the bus lane and likely to be abused or attacked by the bus drivers. Had a chat to the roadie as we rode along and he was astonished to find that its illegal to ride in the bus-lane, that VicRoads has redecorated the road so that any cyclists have to ride in the next lane out, being overtaken on the left and right by faster vehicles — he claimed it was ridiculous and stupid, then carried on riding right where he was.

This evening there were another four or so, three of them riding home up North road in the bus-lane.

I wonder what would happen if the police started policing along here, booking every cyclist and motorist who illegally uses the bus-lane? Perhaps then a few more people would give a damn about the lanes and the laws if they found that they were actually enforced! The general Aussie attitude on the road seems to be "pass as many laws as you want, I'll ignore 'em and you won't enforce 'em."

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Mon, 17 Mar 2008

Jaywalker vs bicycle // at 12:30

There I was, riding up Beddoe avenue to Monash uni. on my way to work, slowing for the roundabout, looking left, right and straight ahead for motorists, checking for ijuts riding on the footpath who shoot across in front of you, watching for some of our less knowledgeable overseas students who drive, ride or walk unpredictably or on the wrong side of the road, indicating right an' all — employing all the usual safeguards at this tiny little roundabout... then out of the blue whump

The attack of the jaywalking uni-student, he launched himself out from behind the power-pole, eyes on the ground, not looking left, not looking right. Straight into the front wheel, stopped me dead as I flipped up and over and down ontop of the bike. He apologised profusely, claimed he only looked for cars, left me a scrawled name and phone number and continued on his way.

The road bike is now unridable until I get new handlebars, and since the forecast is for 39°C it'll be a hot walk home.

Miscellaneous small bruises, and aching shoulders and wrists from the hand-stand in the middle of the road, but thankfully no major damage.

Yet another in the endless daily stream of people not watching where they're going, and finally the odds caught up with me and I failed to avoid him.

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Tue, 04 Mar 2008

Bike counting // at 09:30

Ugh, why did I volunteer for this? I admit it, I was hoping that BV's offer would put me on North road so I could see first hand just how few people really use the useless "bicycle lane". “Volunteer to take part in a bicycle commuter survey, tell us where you live and work and we'll place you somewhere nearby”. I volunteered, I specified Oakleigh and Clayton — 5km apart — they put me down on the Nepean highway 10km away in Moorabbin in the opposite direction!

So, a free orange tee-shirt in size extra-bed-sheet large and a $50 donation to the bicycle user group of my choice. That's what I get for standing on the corner of Nepean highway and South road for two hours being deafened by truckages. Below follows a very unscientific summary of two hours of my life from 7:00 to 9:00a.m. this morning:

One cyclist said hello, but she's a friend and she recognised me.

One commodore, 6:55am, P-plates, three lads, front passenger screamed C*#NT! while rear passenger spat out the window — I retired to higher ground in case they returned.

There is no coffee, bakery or toilets nearby.

Bicycle Victoria supplies nice neat sheets showing four roads and Left/right/straight for each of those four roads — 12 combinations to tick for each rider.

Melbourne supplies cyclists who ride up the footpath, the wrong way up feeder lanes, or diagonally across arbitrary combinations of pedestrian crossing and road — this makes ticking the tick boxes more interesting and open to interpretation.

In every given 15 minute period I saw more motorists illegally on the phone than I saw in cyclists.

128 cyclists in 2 hours, 1 recumbent, no penny farthings, 1 cyclist ran a red light, 7 had no helmets, 31 either arrived or left the intersection riding on the footpath.

...and surprise surprise, the most popular direction was the 41 people going straight north heading for the city.

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Tue, 26 Feb 2008

Just stop it will you! // at 12:30

On it goes...

  Drivers find cyclists a road hazard
  from Herald Sun; State News

MORE than 60 per cent of Victorian motorists find cyclists are a road hazard, according to research carried out by insurer AAMI.

...

Anything to sell more newspapers, split the population into "us vs them", pick a minority and stir, this is the way of the little paper.

It contains such gems as "47 per cent of Victorian car drivers have had a close call with a cyclist", but somehow seems to neglect to ask what percentage of motorists have had a close call with another motorist.

Amazingly, in amongst all the diatribe and hate-mail posted in the feedback and followups, a few voices of reason have been allowed to be printed, and not (yet) removed by the editors.

Still the aggro continues.

Seems some bright spark decided a little vigilante action was called for on the weekend and spread tacks on Beach road, in amongst the reports from the police calling it callous, stupid and dangerous, and yet more diatribe offering to simply kill people on bikes, someone came up with this gem:

We may have finally found a use for all those new terrorism laws the Howard government was so keen on.

Provided we use the basic definition of a terrorist act as violence against civilians used in the persuit(sic) of a political aim (in this case getting bikes of Beach rd), then this should fit the bill.

So it goes on....

Meanwhile, outside it is magnficent late summer weather just perfect for cycling, the sun is out, its not too hot or too cold and there's not much wind, but inside, malignant spirits attack their keyboards and vent their spleens.

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Sun, 06 Jan 2008

2008 Amy's ride // at 18:00

Slightly different to last year's ride — instead of a stinking hot, dry, dusty northerly blowing, this year we copped a rather bracing cool southerly. Made the last 20km North from Breamlea to Geelong a "breeze", but certainly was a demoralising slog for most of the second half of the ride along the southern side of the Bellarine peninsula.

For a ride that seeks to promote cycle safety and good relations between motorists and cyclists, and indeed between all people on the roads, two incidents stick in my mind from the day. Neither from the ride itself:

The first was during the drive in to Geelong in the morning; close to eight a.m., increasing traffic, nearly every car seemed to contain one or two bikes and riders. As the traffic slowed from an 80 to 70km/hr section and slowed further for some traffic lights I saw an idiot approach from the rear. Swerving through the three lanes of traffic he was obviously very important and on a very urgent mission. As he passed I saw that not only was the idiot on the phone, steering with one hand and zig-zagging through traffic, but that the bike was on the rear seat and he was on his way to the start of the ride.... Approaching the lights he must have received last minute phone instructions as he served from the right-most lane, across three lanes of traffic, over the start of the traffic island and made it, tyres screeching, around the left turn and towards Corio bay.

The second was on the ride back around the bay from the finish to where I'd parked the car. A massive blast on the horn as an old Ford passed, four yobs hanging out the window, waving arms and fists like mad and screaming abuse.

Unfortunately I can't see the Amy Gillett foundation changing anything much around here in a hurry.

[2008-01-07] Update: Cadel Evans, runner-up in last year's Tour de France, who guest commentated at Amy's ride:

“THERE is nowhere on Earth that Cadel Evans feel less safe on his bike than here at home.”

http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/evans-laments-dangerous-attitude-on-the-roads/2008/01/06/1199554486502.html

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Mon, 17 Dec 2007

Cyclists vs Bicycle Victoria + VicRoads // at 17:00

They're here to help....

I'm convinced that not only is Vic. Roads determined to get cyclists off the state's roads, but that Bicycle Victoria is in league with them. Us poor cyclists are outgunned, but not outclassed.

Bicycle Victoria appears to like to have concrete things that they can point at to, so that they can prove that they are living up to their motto More people cycling more often... so long as it is on nice safe little off-road bike paths or specially painted bike lanes. Making cycling a normal part of normal life and accessible on all normal roads is way too hard, much easier to build special bicycle facilities — unfortunately reinforcing the attitude of both cyclists and drivers that you can't ride a bike unless its on a special-purpose bicycle facilities, and the much worse attitude that where such facilities don't exist, you can't ride a bike. Without X many new kilometres of bike lanes and paths to point at each year, where would all the funding come from? Of course none of the previous years' bike lanes and paths ever seem to receive even a fraction of the funding for maintenance, but that all seems to get overlooked. A lot of the new lanes and paths only seem to get built where they won't inconvenience anyone either, or provide any real improvement in safety.

Meanwhile Vic. Roads appears to have an intention of getting cyclists off the roads completely, all in the interests of improved safety and improved traffic flow of course....

These two groups periodically manage to reach a crescendo of anti-cyclist facilities, such as the newly redeveloped North road, "upgraded" from three lanes to four in each direction, and with the kerbside lane made bus-only for a couple of hours each day. Of course special “cycle facilities” are provided; this is in the form of an off-road bike path that has no drainage, no lighting, no lane markings, that ends at each of seven road-crossings and restarts on the other sides (cyclists must give way to cross traffic and cross the roads as pedestrians) and that utilises a footpath past a primary school and across a dozen driveways for the last half kilometre! With friends like BV and Vic Roads, what kind of enemies do cyclists in Melbourne need?

Being subjected to the latest hazard of bollards and roadworks this morning prompted me to investigate the exact meanings of the term “Bus Lane”, and prompted the following enquiry to Vic Roads.

As a frequent cyclist along North Road to Monash University I am concerned that recent "upgrades" to North road appear to pose a significant hazard to cyclists. My experience as a motorist along here shows that drivers rarely respect the existing speed limit (70km/hr) and the expansion from three to four lanes in each direction is likely to increase this speed.

The opportunity was present for the new kerbside lane to be made wider, enhancing the safety for cyclists and enabling motorists to more safely pass, but this opportunity appears to have been ignored, the kerbside lane is now, if anything, narrower than previously, further endangering cyclists from motorists who overtake unsafely.

Additionally, it appears that for some hours of the day, the kerbside lane is marked as "Bus Lane" which I believe means that cyclists will be forced to ride in the next most lane, being simultaneously passed on the right by most motorists and on the left by buses and by that percentage of motorists who choose to ignore the "Bus Lane" signs.

Can the "Bus Lane" signs please be updated to the "Bus/Cycle lane" signs as described in VicRoads pamphlet "Cycle Notes No. 19".

thank you, Adrian Tritschler

I await with interest the response....

[<tstamp date="2007-12-27">2007-12-27</title>] An interesting response received; apart from the spurious mention that I should use the off-road cycle facilities, there is the statement that cyclists can legally ride in the bus lane at all times of the day. I later discovered that this advice was, in fact, illegal!

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Wed, 17 Oct 2007

Ride to work day, out here, who'd have known… // at 19:00

Ride-to-Work day was amusing in some small way. In the morning could I tell it was RTW day? Not really, North road was bumper-to-bumper stationary cars, in twenty minutes I saw one other cyclist, the traffic choked to a halt as the road gets widened to accommodate more cars, with a special bicycle ghetto being built in the median strip that you a) can't get to, then b) have to give way at every single cross road at then c) use the footpath past the primary school. Cyclists dismount please!

In the evening could I tell it was RTW day? Riding up a one-way lane I come to a halt as the p-plate bearing commodore screeches around the corner and comes straight at me. Me: “Mate it's a one way street,” him: “Get fucked, I live here,” me: “I guess if you live here you know its a one way street.” I then had to dive off to the side as he drove straight at me screaming abuse about faggots bicycles poofters f'en cyclist c*ts.

All this followed ten minutes later by a different knob-end throwing the door open and heaving his wobbly belly out of the car and nearly collecting me with the wine bottle he was waving as a counter-balance.

RTW day. Oh yeah. Maybe in the CBD, but out here in 'burbs the petrol-heads go on for ever

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Wed, 25 Jul 2007

Cycling illusions // at 23:59

Sadly, illusions I've had about cycling just keep on being broken. Today was one of those days that really starts to get you down.

After all the mess and fuss about drugs in sport and drugs in cycling especially, capped off by last year's Operation Puerto affair with naming of 200 European athletes — 30 or more of the cyclists, assorted suspensions and fines, I had thought that this year's Tour de France would be free of it all. Surely with all the publicity and all the testing there wouldn't still be riders being caught during the event? Whatever did happen to all those other athletes named? The soccer players, basketballers, track and field people?

Sadly, this morning I hear the Alexander Vinokourov has tested positive and been suspended, and that the whole Astana team was asked to leave the tour — and that they did. Why? You just have to ask why, not why the suspension, but why they did it.

It just puts such a bad taste in the mouth, all that good feeling you've put towards the riders through the weeks ... are they all on it, are only some, have only the unlucky ones been caught, are they really unlucky and subject to a false positive from the test? I just don't know, but the trial by media and pontificating by all and sundry left in the event just adds to the indignity.

The other illusion? Oh, that'd be the stupid belief I have that maybe one day people will stop being absolute obnoxious lethal idiots the second they step into their cars; that maybe just once I can ride to work without having to take evasive action because of some idiot in a big metal box. That once wasn't today, the asian-looking woman taking the kids to school who drove into me on Haughton road didn't even glance round after the bang — she passed and pulled in, belting my hand with the mirror and knee with the door.

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Sat, 07 Jul 2007

Melburn-Roobaix #2 // at 23:59

Yes or no? Will we ride into the city for the second Melburn-Roobaix or not? Last year it was heaps of fun; a day out riding around the city with all the more interesting cyclists you can find, single-speeds and fixies of all shapes and styles, together with all the other more ordinary bikes... but last year the weather was great, and this year is different.... Its been four days now of icy cold rains, alternating showers, clouds and sun.

Woke to a very cold, but cloudless clear day, an omen, we shall go. Bacon and eggs and shopping and coffee and home and get changed and go! — the couple of hours before we needed to leave vanished in a bit of a blur. Out the door at at 11:00 on the tandem, bound for Federation Square and a noon start....

A supposed noon start... a lot of standing around waiting, the clouds thickened and a gentle mist started falling as people began to feel the cold. Thoughts of coffee, thoughts of schnapps, thoughts of a warm pub and an afternoon in front of the fire....

Finally time to queue up for registration and instructions over the megaphone; “See this guy with ballons on his head, find him, shortly we'll tell you where he his and you'll go find him. Then you'll get your route cards, then at each checkpoint find the balloons and stamp your card!” Ugly rode off and there was more waiting while people started trying to second-guess the first checkpoint, “to church” Jo guessed Rod Laver arena, where the Mormons were meeting, but no, it was light tower #3 at the MCG, the mighty church of football.

Take care everyone, play nice, watch the pedestrians... and we were off, en-masse around to the river and on all sides of bemused pedestrians, through Birrarung Marr, past Circus Oz and up over the footbridge to the MCG. Two hundred people on bikes picking their way around the stadium as several thousand on foot arrive for the St Kilda Collingwood match! Shouts come over the PA telling the cyclists to slow down, pretty much all travelling at a walking pace anyway and I couldn't see any close calls — just the footy people wanting to appear in charge of this new oddity.

Here's your map, thirteen checkpoints and a finish at Brunswick Velodrome like last year. Nothing over near Richmond this time, but checkpoints #1, #2, #2 and #3 are down to the south of the river — yep, there's two number twos, but thats ok because number four is missing.

A few minutes to work out a plan of attack, then down to the river and over Morrell street bridge, the first point challenging as Jo and I had no idea where “Airline Bank lane” was — chancing on following some others, sadly picking the wrong others! A bit of crossing back and forth and we found the bottom end of the lane of dreaded pavé — the first of the thirteen cobbled lanes. Started up the climb and all was going well until the timing chain flew off the tandem — that's never happened before, and its definitely not meant to happen today! Quickly slipped it back on and got it mostly right, one tooth out I think, then slithered our way up the hill on the wet cobbles to the first checkpoint.

Easy route from here to #2, down around Albert Park via Domain and Kerford roads then left into Little Page street and block after block of endless pavé — we'd come in at one end and the checkpoint was right at the far end — a bit of sneakiness with the grid reference of the checkpoint not matching the house number, forcing a few blocks of extra pavé! One of the number twos complete, now for number three! A little light had come on and Jo suggested that we use the sealed road parallel to Ashworth street, then cut across when we got to the far end — 'tis a wondrous thing having a clever navigator on the tandem!

Checkpoints three and two and now time for the other two; thoughts of Stuart O'Grady's win in the Paris-Roubaix as we rode up O'Grady street (sealed), parallel with Little O'Grady (pavé). A bit like a movie chase scene — at each cross road we could see riders who gone for the more classic route riding the length of Little O'Grady.

One third done and there was nothing left south of the CBD, the next few points are all in the city — almost unknown territory for me — but easy to get to, simply follow the trams.... Unfortunately it was as we were passing through South Melbourne that the fickle finger of fate struck — the dreaded puncture fairy. One punctured tube and one spare tube is happiness, two punctured tubes and one spare tube and icy rain and two thirds of the event still to gois not so good. The nearest bike shop I could think of was over on City road, but when we got there we found it had closed up and vanished. This was a definite sign from above to head for somewhere warm for a bowl of soup....

Up City road on foot, wheeling the big blue beast, then back across the river, then it was up to DeGraves street for hot soup, red wine and strong coffee. End of the Melburn-Roobaix for us for 2007! Maybe next year we'll come better prepared, either way, many thanks for the day's event to the guys from http://fyxomatosis.com/ to any of the 195 starters and who finished.

There's also a few photos on Flickr and the route from the GPS on motionbased — see, we didn't really get lost!

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Mon, 14 May 2007

Famousness! // at 10:12

Seems that May is bike month in America, not only that, but in Motionbased's blog I get a mention as one of the two runners up for logging the most number of "commute" bike rides for the year. Hardly record breaking distances with my 5km ride, but there would have been another month's worth of entries if the Edge 305 hadn't been off being repaired for all of January!

Interesting that the second, wamble, and third, ajft (me), are both Australian, while number one, mallfellow is in the US.

Fun and games over the weekend attempting to get the Motionbased software working on the home laptop. Minor problem is that the laptop is running1 Windows Vista, major problem is that http://www.motionbased.com is almost unusably slow.

Downloaded two updates, but had to leave prior to installing them:

MBAgentInstall_release_2.3.0.1.exe
Existing version 2.3.0.0
Garmin-USBDrivers_221.exe
Existing version is 2.2.0

I managed to read data from the Edge 305 and upload it, but couldn't login to the website, either the password is wrong or its just timing out.


1. Of all the verbs in the English language, "running" doesn't quite seem appropriate when applied to the speed of Vista; I think I'd prefer anything from the following list: walking, crawling, meandering, dawdling....

Thread: last next

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Sun, 21 Jan 2007

Last hill training before the Alpine Classic // at 23:59

  Today: 82.1km
  Avg: 20.5km/hr
  Riding: 4hr 00’

The last weekend before Australia day, and our last chance to go for a ride and try to get a few more hills into the legs before the Audax Alpine Classic next Saturday! Woeful preparation, at least we're only in for the 130km option.

Under grey threatening clouds and through grey threatening suburbs full of grey threatening 4WDs we made our way out to Ferntree Gully then up Dorset road to The Basin, I'm only used to riding home that way so I missed one turn and we had a lot more of a major road than we really wanted. Thankfully we could finally turn off and up into the forest, only three car-loads of idiots screamed abuse, the rest seemed to just stare wide-eyed, a look we've become accustomed to on the tandem.

A pleasant hour of climbing up through the wet forest, then out in Sunday afternoon "drive in the country" traffic along the main tourist road at Sassafras, incredibly different to the old Mountain highway. Another two kilometres up to Olinda then a large slab of cake and coffees, perfectly timed as we sat inside and watched the rain pelt down, then back out onto dry roads for the ride back down the hill and home!

A mysterious rhythmic thumping appeared as soon as we started coasting down the near-perfect road surface, it appears that the back tyre is starting to wear out on the sidewall and bulge ominously. We hadn't noticed on the rougher roads, or while climbing earlier in the day. A very timely discovery, far better to find out now than half-way down Tawonga gap next weekend! The Continental Tourer 2000 tyres that we're on the bike when we bought it have finally turned up their toes after three years of fairly intermittent use.

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Sat, 06 Jan 2007

Amy's Ride // at 23:59

  Today: 124.2km
  Avg: 22.7km/hr
  Riding: 5hr 27’

An early start, out of bed at 05:45 for breakfast and to drive down to Geelong, every second car on the freeway seemed to be carrying bikes. With no idea how crowded it would be at the ride, we parked in the first car-park we came to and rode the three or four kilometres to the Botanic gardens — an unnecessary precaution as it turned out, but a good way to check the tandem and warm up a little.

...

Out on the road it was very hot and very windy. Since we were doing a loop of the Belarine peninsula, at various times the wind hot north-westerly managed to hit us in every possible direction. At times we were cruising along at 45km/hr on a flat road, at other times slogging it out at 15!

Lunch was grabbed from the Seabreeze general store, just outside Point Lonsdale. I think the couple who were running the place must have thought the gods were smiling on them — several thousand cyclists streaming through buying up an eating everything they could!

The weather turned against us as we finally came back into Geelong, the wind swinging more to the west and rain starting. Caught up with a few friends and grabbed a huge tasty burger, then a beer, then took shelter under the awning of a marquee as the storm front hit. Horizontal rain and howling winds quickly dispersed the riders as they arrived, few stayed to watch the riders warming up for the criterium later in the evening. As soon as we'd finished the beers we extracted the tandem from its parking spot against the fence and rode back to the park where we'd left the car — almost being knocked flat by the next wind storm as it came through!

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Wed, 27 Dec 2006

The land that architecture forgot // at 23:59

Home seems very quiet after four days of niece-and-nephew filled activity! Time to catchup on a few of the outstanding chores, put away some of the Christmas loot and buy some much-needed provisions, then time to get off the couch and get out on the bike — far too little bike riding has been done this year.

I decided to go east in search of Lysterfield park, site of the Commonwealth Games mountain biking circuit, and ride around some of the trails out there. Not at all familiar with the area, our street directory in the kitchen shows the whole park as one big empty space since it predates most of the development out there.

North road then Wellington road, far too much traffic and noise, not a single one paying any attention to the lowered speed limits for the construction works... construction works that had narrowed the lanes in places and led to some interesting moments when two obnoxious semi-trailer drivers passed within inches, too lazy to pull out into the adjoining, traffic-free lane.

Somehow I managed to skirt almost the whole park, following the main road south and then winding my way around through endless suburban streets, eventually finding myself at North Hallam road and heading back north towards the parkland again! Finally found an entrance to Churchill park and rode in, then tried my best to memorise the very complicated network of fire-trails, walking, and riding paths! I think its the first off-road riding I've done for years, straight off along Bellbird track and gradually up hill.... Then gradually uphill became steeply uphill and it really hit home how long it is since I've been off road! Tyres slipping and sliding in the gravel as I tried to keep traction, trying to keep my eyes on where I wanted to go, and an unfit heart hammering away telling me how unfit I've become! I have no idea what my maximum heart rate really is, going by the simplistic old 220 minus your age then it shouldn't have been allowed to get up over 180 — the Edge GPS/HRM happily telling me that it hit 183 at some point!

Finally back down hill, a slow cruise in the gravel with the road tyres, taking my time to admire the views and listen to all the bird-life — and to get my breath back. The track finally ended at a 2m fence and an enormous locked gate, so back half-way up the hill to try a different way, and finally out into the back streets of Rowville. I then tried for a while to get back to the park by following the roads, but the whole suburb seems a maze of dead-ends and circuits, with very few through roads, so I didn't seem to be getting anywhere. The endless blocks of enormous hideous McMansions in all their brick ugliness were an ugly shock too — such massive houses packed almost fence to fence, no eaves, brick cubes, and the gaping maw of double or triple garages filling the front.

Time to leave this place and return to known ground... a bit of guesswork and a few turns hopefully in the right direction, then follow what seemed to be a main road through the suburb and I found myself back almost where I'd started, at the corner of Stud road and Wellington road. I took a meandering way home, where Wellington road crosses Dandenong creek I detoured off onto the cycle path, then followed it up to Jells park and attempted to get home along the Scotchmans Creek trail, but abandoning it somewhere in Mount Waverley — infuriating that after ten years of riding around these bike paths I can still lose them as they cross roads and zig-zag on and off road through the suburbs! The Dandenong creek path had dried out from its Christmas flooding — as with many paths, it was built as an after thought at creek level under road crossings — all I had to contend with were a myriad of helmet-less families wobbling their way along the paths on the left, on the right, or straight down the middle towards me.

I really only rode through one very small section of the park, discovering afterwards that I was nowhere near the main trails and Lysterfield lake which were even further east! Maybe next time I'll take a copy of the map with me!

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Fri, 01 Dec 2006

First summer evening // at 23:59

First day of summer, last day of the week, thirteen weekdays to the end of the work year. Mayhem, madness.

Its starting to be a bit of a Friday thing; leave work at around five-thirty and ride in to Richmond to meet Jo for a beer somewhere, pretend that we still live in Richmond. An odd feeling to be riding back in to the city at the end of the day when most of the commuters are heading back out to the suburbs — a chance to see again the guys I never knew the names of, but who I saw almost every day on my way to and from work!

Indecision in my route choice tonight; Malvern road rather than the bike track, everything external vanishes and the world narrows down to a single sharp-focused tunnel of bumper-to-bumper traffic snarl, jaywalkers and swerving cars, spin the bike through the gaps and don't glance away for a second. Almost a video game brought to life, by the time I've negotiated Malvern road and Chapel street the work week has faded considerably, nothing but the now remains.

Beers at the Great Britain, good company, good conversation, then walk up and over the Church street hill for dinner at Silvio's. Good pizza — again, as always — wine, pizza, coffee. A brilliant end to the week.

The ride home so peaceful and quiet, moonlight from a half-moon along an unlit bike track. No street lights, no lane markings, no traffic, no noise, no people. So different to the ride in. I wish I'd made the detour home to pick up the tandem so Jo and I could be riding along quietly under the moon. In the distance the mayhem of Friday night traffic on the tollway, so close, but so far away....

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Sun, 05 Nov 2006

Bike riding around Lorne // at 23:59

It always seems to take me about half an hour to climb the hill to Benwerrin, sometimes a little more. I'd forgotton that the Edge GPS doesn't like the forests and so it kept losing signal and cutting out — 24 minutes to the top is much faster than I've ever done and way above my current fitness! I hadn't even glanced at the ordinary clock either, not wanting to know just how early it really was.

From Benwherrin its a left turn onto the dirt road, then follow it along through the forest about ten kilometres rising and falling and watching out for wallabies that come crashing out of the bush. Another right turn and south for a few kilometres, then rejoin the bitumen at Erskine falls for a screaming ten kilometre descent down through the forest back into Lorne. A great ride, and at this time of the day hardly any traffic at all — only three idiots on the road, all 4WDs, all came flying around blind bends head-on at me on the wrong side of the road....

Lorne seemed nearly deserted when I got back to the main street, it was bizarre to see it so empty of cars, a dozen motorbikes outside the Arab, riders with coffees sitting around at the tables. I kept going around to Kafe Kaos for a table and a coffee of my own, enjoyed it so much that I had another, sitting in the morning sun and feeling gently tired in the legs. While I was sitting there between coffees Jo rode past, the early morning cycling bug must have bitten her as well, she was out for a gentle ride to Wye river to shake off her cold and give her mountain bike possibly its first ride since the winter.

Coffees over, I decided to loop out to the pier before facing the hill back up to the house, once at the pier I just kept on going along the Great Ocean Road... at first I was just going to go around to the river, then I decided to keep going until I met Jo on her way back. The wind had picked up and it was surprisingly strong and straight in my face on all the little climbs. A few motorbikes went howling past, hired campervans lumbering along as well. At one of the many lookouts I finally took a photo of the roadsign that has been making me laugh for the last few months; “Drive on Left in Australia” — a few too many overseas tourists stop to admire the view then get confused when they get back in their cars! I caught up with Jo just as she'd decided that the wind made up for the distance as she turned around a few km short of Wye river.

The ride back to town was much quicker than the ride out! That wind blows straight in off the Southern Ocean, its hardly surprising there are so many shipwrecks along here!

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Wed, 04 Oct 2006

Ride to work day // at 20:14

Woohoo, ride to work day! Um, I guess that'll be just like any other day, except with Bicycle Victoria pumping wildly in the background.

As they asked, and as I replied, in their questionaire: How will you celebrate Ride To Work Day?

The same way I celebrate every day, happy to be alive after the idiots in the tin boxes yabbering on their phones haven't killed me.

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Fri, 29 Sep 2006

Norky Bike // at 05:18

One of my many bicycles.

What is it?

A Norco Java that doesn't spend much of it's life off road. Instead it gets used most days for commuting, touring, or just having fun. As befits the successor to Spotty Bike it is covered in spots, originally applied by a group of my friends one night on tour when they decided that it just didn't look right without them.

Purchased from Ashburton Cycles in Ashburton, Melbourne in October 1996 following the demise of Spotty bike, and delivered in November. It was end-of-model time, so I got a reasonable deal, with a mix of LX and XT parts, and XTR brakes because they were the only ones available.

A bit like grandfather's axe, various parts have been replaced over the years: Rockshox SID SL forks replaced the Manitou Mach Vs and in turn were replaced by a pair of Springer Talons, A split rim meant the purchase of an ugly tempory wheel, then Mavic Cross-max replacements.

Where has it been?

Inside Australia: Victoria, NSW, ACT, Tasmania and South Australia.

Overseas: New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, England, Jersey, France, Switzerland and Italy.

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Tue, 25 Jul 2006

Norky bike updates // at 19:30

I'd finally got around to taking the mountain bike in to the shop last week to see about the leaking oil seals, thinking of course that only the seals needed replacing. Got the phone call, the annodizing has been all worn off the fork legs and Rockshox don't make or don't stock spares for 2000-2001 SIDs anymore, or if they do they're several hundred dollars just for the legs.

I was offered a second-hand but unused pair of "seven or eight hundred dollar Springer" forks for $500 fitted, should probably have done a little more checking around first because I said yes. First time I looked once I really new the model name — but after I'd paid — had the forks for around $430! Another learning experience, even friends in bike shops are in business first. On the other hand, the amount of servicing and adjustment that was done for "no charge" probably more than makes up the difference!

Along the way the headset was replaced as well, this was definitely needed, the old bearing races were very pitted and worn — loose balls now, I'm sure it'll feel so much better when I ride.

Not as good as new, maybe better, definitely different — Norky bike just keeps on changing and mutating over the years.

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Sat, 22 Jul 2006

The Hell of the Northcote…. // at 18:00

*******************************************************
Sat 22 July - Melbourne-Roubaiz "Hell of the Northcote"
*******************************************************
12PM - Starting from Fed. Square.  Fun for all! - course will be run over
melbourne's brutal pave,railway crossings, dirt tracks and finishing with
a lap at the brunswick velodrome.  All finishers go into a draw for major
prizes.  This is NOT a race!
FREE but bring $10 to purchase items along the way and a panier or backpack.
organiser: Simon of Darebin BUG

BREAK

It should take us about an hour to get to the start, so 11 o'clock and out the door — first time on the tandem for quite a few months! Oakleigh, Hughesdale, Murrumbeena, Malvern and onto the Gardiners creek trail. Major detours around Hawthorn where the path is being repaved, restored or maybe just re-layed. Follow the trail to Richmond and the city and join the crowd clustering around in Federation square, awaiting the signal, all the while under the watchful eye of two of Fed Square's burly security men. Maps are distributed, bicycles are examined.

“Alright everybody, this is Ugly. Remember Ugly. You will need to find Ugly.” Easy to hear when the megaphone points at you, very hard to hear when it points elsewhere. We get the rough idea, a few minutes more and finally we're told to head off — first stop is to get to Rod Laver arena where Ugly will hand us our cards and our instructions. That's not so hard, we just came from there, so along with however many others we all headed off along the river in the direction of Richmond.

Arriving at Rod Laver arena, I held the bike while Jo vanished into the throng, returning with our card. Then off to squat on the road and peruse the map, where are these twelve points, what is the optimal route between them?

We figured out a rough plan of attack — the first two not just closest but also in familiar territory — then headed off in the direction of Fitzroy. Short cut past the MCG along one of the newer footbridges and off through East Melbourne, Victoria parade the first challenge as major roadworks made crossing a hassle. Something resembling a hook-u-turn got us around and back down the direction we wanted, then off up Rokeby street searching for the building site with the Austral sign — Q.6. What is the block number of the building site with the Austral sign.

Rokeby street seemed to finish, a narrow bluestone lane matching up on the opposite side of Gipps street — Aha, our first section of the dreaded Melbourne pavé — brace the shoulders and power the tandem off down the lane, gradually narrowing to impassable where a builder's truck blocked all progress. Squeezing past, Jo helpfully pointed out that this was the Austral bricks sign we should be looking for! One question down, eleven more to go...

Number two — or five on the card — was easy. Cut across to Richmond and count the pink gates in an alleyway. Saturday Victoria street and the tandem don't seem to agree, it just doesn't have the acceleration for right-turns through the traffic! More pavé in the lane and one pink gate, two more cyclists enter the alley as we're leaving. Down through Richmond using all of Jo's sneaky local knowlege culled from years of walking to work, then Church street and Toorak road for checkpoint four at the far end of Rokeby — amazing, no pavé! A handy park, empty the bladder and fill the bidon.

Another right turn, across packed Toorak road, half a dozen others speed past in the direction we just came, I think they're taking this much more seriously than we are, or maybe just much more quickly! Off along Toorak road, damn, should have stopped at the bakery and grabbed a bite to eat. Randall place is checkpoint three and the first place where we met other riders at a checkpoint. There's a lot of discussion of the question, “the last three digits on the lamp-post”. The bloody lamp post seems to be covered in numbers, 703 on one tag, a five digit number on one sticker, K285 hammered in down low seems last to me!

Back to Toorak road, right turn a piece of cake across a bizarrely empty road, Albert road to south melbourne then stop at the lights for the first occurrence of map-reading failure. “Go right here”, so we're in the right lane — “um no, straight ahead I think”. The lights went green and there's no option, right we went, then up the kerb and cut into Dundas place. “Oh yes, this is where I meant, the map was upside down”. Okay, it seemed to work!

Pavé and slimy mud, a wonderful combination. We came through unscathed and found checkpoint two, then an easy run back up Ferars street to Soutbank to find Railway place. Left or right at the end here? Mental coin toss and the wrong choice, back the other way onto the worse looking cobbles (that should have clued me in) and count the gas bottles three. Checkpoint one complete. Tandem u-turn in the alley, through the chicanes across the light rail and back past Jeff's shed and north over the river.

North wharf road through docklands seemed to be hiding from us, we had a vague idea of where it should be but couldn't seem to find it. At last I spotted two riders on fixies off to my left so we picked a path and found our way over there, sure enough, North wharf road! It seemed to go on for ever, ending almost under the Bolte bridge. Q12, How many “Allez” are painted on the rusty steel pipes? See for yourself, there are five.

Now back to the city for checkpoint eleven and our first major navigational stuff up. Docklands to the city seems to contain a few walls of concrete and roads that will exist — in the future. We followed a sign that helpfully said “City,” but a left instead of a right had me in a concrete canyon and heading for Footscray road. Oh well, back into the CBD from the North-West and down to Lonsdale street.

We found Niagara lane easily enough — more pavé of course — but couldn't find the clue. The first run through the alley was riding with a 4WD on our tail, the second pass on foot heading back. Finally Jo spotted the answer, hidden behind two cars parked in a sub-alley off the main alley! Can't remember the last time I entered the CBD, let alone rode up an alley here....

Carlton next, first to spot #7, just off Canning street, then off to in Taplin place. Major overshoot by a couple of blocks, it seems that a street we were looking for had different names either side of a main road. Madame navigator was looking for one name while we rode purposefully past the other one! How come those three girls behind us aren't there anymore? Oh, that'd be because they turned off where we should have! U-turn in Canning street and back down to Macpherson street. Mud and slime on top of the pavé this time, an extra degree of difficulty. I think this is where I nearly lost it and bashed my shoulder against the fence to keep the Trek upright.

North and east from Carlton to Northcote, Nicholson and Holden streets rather than St Georges road — no obvious reason, they just seemed right at the time. Checkpoint #9 was in a tiny street with no signpost, pavé of course. Then simply go around the block and up the alley to #10. There was a lot of up in the alley, it had been named Col d'Ugly on the notes and at the top were a couple alternating between photographing the arrivals and screaming "Don't you dare get off!", "Allez, allez!" and other words of encouragement and derision. Brute force and stupidity triumphed as we powered the tandem over the jack-hammer bluestones, a near-crash with the alley wall resulting in Jo unclipping both feet in preparation for an emergency dismount, then flailing around madly as she realised we were still underway! We made it to the top, our polaroid photo taken to be used as a ticket in the raffle.

A pause to regain our breath, then over to the Northcote plaza for our contribution to the barbecue — $10 worth of orange juice, 3 two litre bottles — a challenge to carry! We ended up with one stuffed down my shirt and the other two in bags, one on each side of the rear handlebars, then rode across to Brunswick taking care not to set up too much of a swaying motion.

Finally into the velodrome to thunderous applause — yeah right, maybe in my head. In true Roubaix/Roobaix fashion it isn't over without the lap of the velodrome — this could be interesting, a lap of a steep concrete velodrome on the tandem and avoiding the massed bodies scoffing sausages and beer! Hardest part was getting started, I'd rolled forwards past the crowd but that left us in a steeper spot and I couldn't get my leg over.... A bit of a push, much ribald encouragement and we were off, must have been the slowest lap of the day, but it'll do for a first attempt!

Food, drink, talk, look at bikes. This all could have gone on far longer, and for many it probably did, but for us we realised that although the inaugural Melburn-Roobaix was now over, we were still twenty-five kilometres from home and only one hour to sundown! Easy for some, not at the end of this day for us, the last suburb or so was pretty dark, luckily the yellow jacket and reflectors stood out like the proverbial, and no grumpy policemen were encountered.

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Wed, 19 Jul 2006

Cycle Commute: Richmond to Clayton // at 01:25

Richmond to Monash University, and home again. Here are some of the hi-lights and low-lights of my daily ride to and from work.

Despite a personal dislike for “cycle paths” and most other cycle-specific infrastructure, most of my commute does use one of Melbourne's bike paths... except that they aren't really bike paths.

Every off-road bicycle path in Melbourne is really a shared-use pedestrian footway, where pedestrians have right of way over cyclists, and there is no legal enforcement of the keep left requirement, or any of the other rules and regulations, which appear to be little more than local council suggestions.

So why do I use the Gardiners creek path? Mostly because it is the quickest and most direct route. It would be even quicker if the designers of the path hadn't been besotted with bridges, and made the path cross back and forth over the creek at every opportunity. On the plus side, there's a wealth of wildlife to be seen — mostly birds — and its generally much quieter than the road.

The majority of commuters are those that live in the suburbs and work in the city, so each day I pass a fairly constant group of riders heading in the opposite direction. Sometimes we nod to each other, but I've no idea who any of them are. Every couple of weeks a friend of mine hurtles past in a blur heading home — we've never quite collided head on, but there's been a few close calls!

Leaving home, an illegal short-cut across 50m of footpath between Park street and Yarra Boulevard, then right along Yarra Boulevard, ignoring the narrow, winding, bumpy and unmaintained Yarra bike path. Minor hazards to avoid here are the speeding motorists, and the rapidly opening doors from those who use the road as their daily car-park.

[*] After following Yarra Boulevard to where the Gardiners creek path joins the Yarra path, there's a tight left-hand turn and climb up onto the cycle-path bridge, then along one of Melbourne's cycle path engineering marvels — the suspended cycle path. Rather than build the track alongside the creek, millions of dollars were spent on constructing a suspended track that hangs down underneath the Monash freeway. Why do this rather than along the public land next to the creek? There is a private school bordering the public land, I've been told that they pressured the government into disallowing the cycle track next to their property...

Under Glennferrie road, a commonly flooded underpass, then up and around the badly-cambered spiral ramp, over the creek and a right turn to follow the cycle track across the sports oval. This section of the track is used by a large number of students from Melbourne University's Hawthorn campus, and from their behaviour, the majority of them are incapable of reading the English-language signs stating “Keep Left”

[*]

Leaving the students, I continue on around past the velodrome, then follow the track along the creek, under Toorak road, the most common site of flooding, then follow the path all the way to East Malvern train station, first through the wasteland near the Coles Myer head office, then the parks and reserves of Glen Iris. Two major and one minor roads to go under, Burke road, High street, and Great Valley parade, the latter two both having steep windy ramps to get down to creek level and under the roadway. [*]

The last kilometre or so of this is around the public golf course, thankfully separated by a 3m high chain-mesh fence, designed to protect the general public from random golf-balls. Unfortunately, the users of the golf course have chosen to cut large holes in the fence to expedite crossing from one green to another, and the occasional stray ball hurtles through, along with golfers who step out in front of cyclists.

Across the foot-bridge over the Monash freeway, glancing down to read the amusing “Slow Down” painted on the way up the steepest part of the bridge, then follow the track around to the left. I try to remember to hold my breath while crossing the first park, since there's been a sewage leak there for as long as I can remember. Then continue along behind the houses to the crossing over Waverley road.

[*] The pedestrian crossing at Waverley road is a good place to catch my breath, since there's usually a delay of almost a minute between pushing the button and the lights starting to change... then there's the 15 seconds while I watch for motorists driving through the orange and then red lights, before finally I can continue on my way!

The path continues through the narrow park between the freeway sound-abatement fence and the back of the houses towards Warrigal road, here I'm within half a suburb of the Chadstone shopping centre, so the likelihood of meeting abandoned shopping trolleys is high. It also seems to be some sort of epicentre for migratory plastic bags — every bush is festooned with them.

Up and over Warrigal road, then along back streets to the crossing with Atkinson street in Oakleigh — why bother going up and down kerbs onto the bike track when there's perfectly good quiet streets to use? Back onto the track for the block or so to the Oakleigh Recreation Centre, then back onto the roads to wend my way around the car yards and tyre vendors' premises to get to Ferntree Gully road. Anything and everything goes here, there are cars facing both ways parked on both sides of the street and I might meet anything from a fork-lift to a semi-trailer, but it still seems easier than attempting to use the track that crosses all their driveways!

Now for my daily hill-climb training. Ferntree Gully road heads straight up to a crossing with Huntingdale road, a pause at the lights, then coast down and a second climb up to Clayton road. There's usually no problems with traffic, other than the noise, the only excitement comes at the right-hand turn into Clayton road. Depending on the phase of the lights, traffic, and personal whim, I'll either cross the three lanes to the right-turn lane, or perform a hook turn from the left.

Clayton road can be a intimidating. A widely ignored 60km/hr speed limit, two narrow lanes in each direction, and a lot of passing traffic doesn't particularly recommend it, the alternative is to continue along to the lightly-trafficed Gardiners road, which has a 50km/hr speed limit, one wide lane, and use the cycle lane along the left. Unfortunately, or typically, the cycle lane ends half a block from the intersection with Bayview avenue, and traffic turning into the University squeezes cyclists off the road well before the corner. Riding down Clayton road to turn left into Bayview gives a clear run straight to the University gate.

Last noteworthy obstacle of the day is the large roundabout inside the gate. A right-hand turn around this can be accomplished with varying degrees of ease depending on the number, and skill-level, of the students and staff attempting to overtake me, and on the one or two each year who manage to drive the wrong way up the one way roads.

Returning home is almost the reverse of the morning ride, with a few exceptions. Leaving the University I head up the cycle lane in Gardiner road to turn left into Ferntree Gully road. I usually cut the left turn out by detouring through the Bunnings car-park, since there's a squeeze point at the traffic lights, where naturally the cycle lane disappears. The cycle lane is also a clearway, so there shouldn't be anyone parked in it, but it also goes past a pub, so there usually are cars parked in it.

[*] Along Ferntree Gully road almost to the junction with Dandenong road, this is the fastest section of the day's riding, I think I've hit around 65km/hr down one section. A right turn into a side road, then an illegal shortcut along the paths through Brickmaker's park — at least I think its illegal, there are so many bits of path and track around there that I'm not sure what is bike path and what is footpath. The two hi-lights of the park are the old brick-making equipment, and the stream through the centre — it's been turned into a kids' activity centre with water-wheels and movable gates, definitely worth investigating!

From the western end of the park, its back along the Gardiners creek track as far as the crossing of Waverley road, then I usually turn left and use the road as far as High street. It seems to take the same amount of time whether I use the bike track and have to ride slowly and zig-zag over the creek, or use Waverley, and then Malvern, roads at a faster pace, but stopping for the traffic lights. Where these roads are wide there's a bicycle lane, naturally this disappears at every intersection or where the road becomes congested — I really don't know why they bother!

The turn from Malvern road into High street is always exciting, with motorists following each other lemming-like through orange and red lights, then invariably being stopped at the traffic light combination of pedestrian crossing, railway crossing, and freeway crossing. Once I've made it through this, a quick left turn into Hope's Rise and I rejoin the Gardiners creek bike track for the remainder of the way home.

Cruising around Yarra Boulevard in the evenings is generally pleasant, its a common trainng ride for some, a recreational ride for others. At the Swan street bridge I often find rock-climbers practicing on the blue-stone boulders that make up the wall — inching their way the length of the underpass, 30cm off the ground.

The last detour that I sometimes make on the way home is to continue for the length of Yarra Boulevard, turning left into Bridge road to stop for an hour at the first corner. Why? The Bridge Hotel is at the end of my street, its a fine place for a beer on a sunny evening!

Hazards

[*] Of course no ride is perfect, mine includes a number of hazards. The most prevalent are pedestrians, with or without dogs, walking, jogging or running, on the left, on the right, or along the centre... The jogger pictured is one of about 40% who keep left, as is legally required, I'm usually too busy swearing, cursing, and swerving to get a photo of the rest of them.

I'm always wary of the requirement to “audibly warn pedestrians of my approach” — too many times I've found that people behave in a completely random manner, and are just as likely to leap from the left of the path across to the right-hand side as they are to keep left. There's also a percentage who just don't care and ignore cyclists anyway, and a smaller percentage who go out of their way to force riders off the path!

Dog owners seem especially self-righteous, it is far more common to see dogs roaming around while the owner casually waves an unused lead, than to see the dogs on the lead — regardless of whether the council signs say its an Off-lead area or not. And the “Clean Up After Your Dog” signs seem to always apply to other people's dogs — yet another unsavoury hazard on the paths.

[*] Less frequent than the pedestrians are the vehicles, council workers who think nothing of driving trucks at 30km/hr along narrow cycle tracks, or parking to completely block the path, motorists who use the bike tracks to park broken-down vehicles, the odd abandoned car, and the occasional motor-cyclist using the bike track as a short-cut between roads.

[*] On the roads there's always the motorists with the mobile phone, or the ones that must overtake and then turn sharply left. Other cyclists are hazardous at times, the main problems I find are at night in the winter on the unlit paths, some have lights so badly adjusted that they dazzle, some have no lights at all, and some have a red-flashing light on the front of their bike! This last lot are scary, with no other light around I think that they are heading in the same direction I am, only slower. Trying to “overtake” results in a near miss and much swearing!

Environmental hazards come last, the design decision to stick a bike track along what is basically a storm-water drain means that parts of the track become impassable after the slightest rain. Lack of drainage and lack of maintenance add to the excitement of using the track — there's always an overhanging branch or encroaching bush to duck around, or cracks, potholes and large pools of standing water to avoid.

Wildlife

One advantage of a ride along the creek and through parkland is seeing the multitude of wildlife, even in the city and suburbs. I'm sure if I stopped for a while I'd see even more. Without including the pet dogs and cats, I think I can remember seeing:

Fish: European Carp, Eel

Reptile: Eastern Long-necked tortoise (Chelodina longicollis), skinks, Red-bellied Black snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus)

Bird: Crested Pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotes), Common Bronzewing (Phaps chalcoptera), Spotted Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia chinensis), Red-rump Grass Parrot, King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis), Eastern Rosella, Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus), Sulfer-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita), Galah (Cacatua rosiecapilla), Yello-Tailed Black Cockatoo, Gang-Gang Cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum), Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus) — probably an aviary escapee, Pied Mudlark (Grallina cyanoleuca), Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen), Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides), Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae), Superb Blue Wren, Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa), Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata), Australian Shelduck (Tadorna tadornoides), White-faced heron (Egretta novaehollandiae), Nankeen Night heron (Nycticorax caledonicus), Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca), Great Egret (Ardea alba), Little Cormorant, Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra), Dusky Moorhen (Gallinula tenebrosa), Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles), Willy Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys), Noisy Miner, Bell Miner, Silver Gull (Larus novaehollandiae), Australasian Grebe, Little Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos), Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena), Pied Currawang (Stepera graculina)

Mammal: Water rat, mice, Brush-tail possum, Ring-tailed possum

Pest: Sparrow, Blackbird, Indian Mynah, Mallard, Pigeon, Geese, Goldfinch

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Trek T50 // at 01:25

  One of my many bicycles.
A tandem at last — No collection of bicycles is complete without at

least one tandem.

After several years of thought, and several months of searching, Jo and I finally bought ourselves a tandem. Second-hand, a trifle scratched and worn, but mechanically magnificent.

  • 40 hole Shimano XT hubs
  • Velocity Dyad rims
  • Shimano Ultegra shifters
  • Shimano Deore DX 9-speed rear derailleur
  • Shimano 105 triple front derailleur

1750mm long, with the wheels removed, a trifle cumbersome to carry up and down the stairs or to put in the car! So far, so good, and it is lots of fun.

I'm sure it doesn't get used as much as it should, mostly due to the pain of taking it anywhere; major expeditions so far have been a nine-day Bicycle NSW tour and the minimal 80km version of the Audax Alpine classic.

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Bikes on Airlines // at 01:25

Experiences with Bicycles and Airlines

As they say in the classics, Your mileage may vary. Here is a summary of my experiences with taking bicycles on airlines, both within and outside Australia.

In general I've found that officially, all the airlines will insist that a bike is boxed. Bikes also count as oversize and fragile items, so if they choose, they can decide not to carry it, and if they damage it, in theory its your fault not theirs.

In practice the staff seem to make the rules up on the spot, and anything you are told will apply only to the person who tells it to you. Rules change arbitrarily with the airlines "code-sharing" routes, you can be quoted one set of rules by one airline, then turn up to find that you're flying on a different one... I generally box my bike, arrive in plenty of time, and smile a lot... it generally works.

Air New Zealand

January 2002; Probably the friendliest airline I've ever flown with respect to carrying a bike. A phone enquiry when I booked the ticket told me that bikes must be boxed, so I did. No charges.

Ansett

In Theory...

The following was quoted over the phone to me from a document that they would not name and could not provide me with a copy of!:

  • Handlebars and pedals must be turned inwards, or removed.
  • Front wheel must be removed and strapped to the bike.
  • Tyres do not have to be let down.
  • Bikes count as two pieces of excess luggage, and if you are charged will cost $AU20 per flight. However, you may not be charged if you have only one other piece of luggage (at the airlines discretion).

...In Practice

Various times that I've flown with my bike on Ansett:

  • Launceston-Melbourne: no charge, bike in box, not required to sign disclaimer.
  • Melbourne-Hobart: no charge, bike in box, required to sign the disclaimer saying it was insufficiently protected.
  • Canberra: Since I had only one other bag, no $AU20 charge, required to remove pedals and front wheel, wrap the chain, turn the handlebars.
  • Melbourne: Bicycle was not loaded at airport due to mistake by baggage crew, Ansett brought it up and delivered it via taxi to my work within 2hrs.
  • Melbourne: Both my girlfriend and myself were required to let the tyres down.
  • Sydney: Both my girlfriend and myself were required to sign a declaration that the bikes were "insufficiently protected" and thus the airline took no responsibility for damage.

Qantas

Insisted that the bike be in a box. If you don't have a bike box, Qantas will sell you one for $AU20, or $AU10 (they never seem to know which). A warning though, different airports stock varying numbers of boxes, it's probably advisable to call ahead to find if one is available.

Travelling internationally I found I had to walk from the international to the domestic terminal to pick up the box, and due to their confusion was not charged for it.

March 2002; for the first time ever I was charged $AU11 to take my bike from Melbourne to Sydney. This was quoted as a Mandatory Charge, however it was not repeated when we flew back a week later.

Lufthansa

November 1998:

When I came to fly from Heathrow to Sydney I was told that on the leg from Frankfurt to Singapore there would be a $AU70 charge! This was despite there being no mention of charges when I had booked the ticket and asked specifically, nor was there any charge eight weeks earlier when I flew the same leg in the opposite direction. After a bit of discussion this was waived as "I had not previously been informed".

At Frankfurt airport I got to watch through the window as a member of the ground crew picked up my bike box, threw it onto the luggage trolley, then kick it back when it fell off towards him! Arriving home I found that the front brakes required complete dissasembly to realign and reattach them.

Phillipine Airlines

Sometime circa 1994

I never took my bike with Phillipine Airlines. When I initially purchased a ticket for travel from Australia to the UK I asked and was told that it was ok and the bike would count as one of two allowable pieces of luggage. A day or so before I travelled I called the airline directly and was told that it might be a normal piece of luggage, or they might decide to charge it entirely as excess luggage, at a $AU60 per kilogram charge — approximately $AU600$AU900 each direction!

After my general experiences with that airline I would probably never choose to travel with them again, they no longer service the Australian market and may be out of business entirely.

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l'Alpe d'Huez // at 00:00

Last night stage 15 of le Tour de France finished up on l'Alpe d'Huez, fantastic racing and amazing scenery as always. I did think that with the camera cutting back and forth you just couldn't get much of an idea of how steep that mountain really is.

From the www.cyclingnews.com special page on l'Alpe d'Huez: Unofficially, the top twelve times are as follows:

  1. Marco Pantani (1995) 36’ 50
  2. Marco Pantani (1997) 36’ 55
  3. Marco Pantani (1994) 37’ 15
  4. Lance Armstrong (2004) 37’ 36
  5. Jan Ullrich (1997) 37’ 40
  6. Lance Armstrong (2001) 38’ 05
  7. Miguel Indurain (1995) 38’ 10
  8. Alex Zülle (1995) 38’ 10
  9. Bjarne Riis (1995) 38’ 15
  10. Richard Virenque (1997) 38’ 20
  11. Iban Mayo (2003) 39’ 06
  12. Giuseppe Guerini (1999) 41’ 52

... and from Friday the 13th, July 2001, the very non-competitive time:

  1. Adrian Tritschler (2001) 74'

Ok, ok, so there's probably a lot of other times between numbers 12 and 13! Oh, and I hadn't ridden 150km at a race pace before hand, nor was I two weeks into a three week race, and I stopped at the main square in l'Alpe!

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Tue, 18 Jul 2006

Cycling Facilities // at 11:03

Why shiny white paint is a cop out.

[*] I'm of the firm opinion that the provision of segregated bicycle lanes and seperate facilities is not achieving much for me as a cyclist.

Bicycle Victoria, and many other formal and informal groups seem to believe that since cycling on a public road is percieved as a dangerous activity, since cyclists are a vulnerable group, that a whole range of segregated facilities should be built for them — whether these be on-road bicycle lanes, or nice safe off-road paths.

To me, this sounds tantamount to admitting that the cause of the threat is untreatable; that Australia's motorists are so ignorant, untrained and il-behaved, that it is not possible for a motorist to share a public road with a cyclist without them gravely endangering the cyclist. That the only possible course of action is to remove pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists from the roads, and to surround the motorists with air-bags and bullbars, so that when they run into each other, they won't suffer too badly.

Additionally, I find that the provision of cycle lanes:

  • only occurs where the road is wide enough, or where they won't inconvenience motorised traffic; so narrow roads where the problem of motorist encroachment is worst, are by definition omitted.
  • Provoke a fair proportion of motorists to believe that cyclists must use the cycle lane, which is then a short mental leap to...
  • Enforce the belief that cyclists must not ride where there are no explicit provisions for them

After several weeks riding in France, Spain and Portugal I found that despite these places having fewer specific cycle lanes or facilities, they have a much higher proportion of cyclists on the roads. The attitude of the motorists is different, and sharing with other tranports is accepted.

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Thu, 08 Jun 2006

My bicycles // at 03:36

Retreating back further and further into the mists of time, the bikes I have owned are:

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Apollo III // at 03:36

One of my many bicycles.

A 27" road bike purchased second hand out of the newspaper and used for many years for touring and getting around town. Eventually it was stolen in Maffra, Victoria, during the 1990 Great Victorian Bike Ride. I was not impressed with Bicycle Victoria's response to this news, their words were that since I had no bike I had to leave the ride and go home, and the general feeling was that they didn't want to know about thefts or other unsavoury activities on their big fund raiser bike rides.

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Oxford 3 Speed // at 03:36

One of my many bicycles.

1976-1982. Over my high school years this gradually decomposed into what now would be called a mountain bike. Flat handlebars, 1.5" tyres, 3-speed Sturmey-Archer hub gears, it started life a shiny blue colour, but at some stage was resprayed a virulent orange by myself and a friend.

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Spotty Bike // at 03:36

One of my many bicycles.

What Was It?

More than a mountain bike, Spotty was a legend.

Fundamentally a Technicomps Bigfoot, it's birth was a long and laborious process starting with the purchase of a fluorescent orange Bigfoot frame at a bike show and a verbal promise to transfer all the components from a 17" model to the 20" frame. During the following two months, the person it was purchased from left the shop and the two new lads wanted nothing to do with it, consequently a lot of the components mysteriously changed down in spec.

It was a 20" Technicomps Bigfoot (Aluminium) mountain bike, setup more for touring than competition or offroad use. Technicomps were an Australian company based on the Gold Coast in Queensland, and produced both frames and entire bikes. A company called Genesis now operates from this premises, also producing aluminium bike frames, a dealer in Sydney has the rights to the Technicomp name.

Where did it Go?

To many places... maybe too many places! To work, out for the afternoon, day rides, week long tours alone, week long tours with hundreds or thousands of others. See rides for additional details.

First ever ride

Home from the bike shop, then an attempt on a single track up Mt Majura (Canberra), the front deraileur hadn't been adjusted, and I hadn't checked it, one of the stop screws was tightened all the way to the limit, so the first time I changed onto the granny ring the chain came off and wedged between the cogs and chainstay. I had to take the cogs off to get it out!

Last ever ride

24-Aug-1996, Melbourne, up the old coach road from "The Basin" to Olinda near Mt. Dandenong, then, in the words of the Butthole Surfers, "Roaring like an avalanche, coming down the mountain". Down Mt Dandenong to Ferntree Gully (Melbourne). On the way home I thought that it was handling exceptionally badly. When I got home I discovered that the downtube has cracked around 50% of its circumference, just behind the weld to the headstem! And so commenced an

interesting tale

of warranties, consumer rights and long distance phone calls...

As you can see it's a very sociable bicycle and loves to meet new people, it can often be seen hanging around outside pubs while on tour, waiting to meet new and interesting bicycles.

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Apollo II // at 03:36

One of my many bicycles.

1979-1983. A 27" ten-speed road bike. My first "decent" bike, used to and from school and university, for a brief introduction to road racing while in high school, and for several tours of the surrounding countryside. Stolen from UNSW while I was a student there, along with about twenty other bikes by some thieves who cut the lock off the "secure" bike store and loaded every bike into a truck.

On reporting to the local police station and telling them that my bike was stolen the response was “So what do you want us to do about it?” After insisting that something was written down, the police wrote out the details on the back of a brown-paper bag, I have no idea whether this was later filed, or tossed into the garbage the instant I walked out the door.

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Cyclops Dragster // at 03:36

The first of my many bicycles!

1974-1976. My first bicycle! A present for my tenth birthday, it was stolen when I was 12 from my primary school, eventually the police recovered the bare frame in the garage of some local high-school students.

Memory is hazy, but it was yellow, had a sparkly-yellow banana seat, and a three-speed hub and dragster shift on the top tube.

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Peugeot Aspin // at 03:36

One of my many bicycles.

14spd 700c road bike, Reynolds 501 frame, Shimano 105 equipment. 1990-present. A road bike that got very little use for many years, since 6 months after buying it I bought a mountain bike and spent all my time on that.

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Cycle Commute: Oakleigh to Clayton // at 03:36

Possibly the world's shortest bicycle commute.

Oakleigh to Monash University, and home again. Here are some of the hi-lights and low-lights of my daily ride to and from work. The trip only takes about twelve minutes, no where near as interesting as my previous trip to Monash from Richmond!

A quick count and I've calculated that I ride along five roads getting there and an extra two coming home.

Down the side of the house, battle with the padlock on the gate, a glance back at the neighbour's orange tree silhouetted against the sky, then squeeze between the car and the fence to get to the street. Depending on skill and luck, there may be a big gap or they may be a small one! Out onto the street — usually stepping around the people who park half-blocking our drive-way — and hop on the bike.

Mill road is usually quiet, then right-turn into Haughton road at the end. Visibility not so bad, but watch out for the motorists travelling at 80km/hr in the 50 zone, they appear awful quick. Haughton road used to be a major shortcut through the suburb so Monash city council tried to traffic-calm it into unusability. I'm not sure if its had any effect on the number of motorists cutting through, but it seems to have increased their irritation.

A series of little roundabouts at every side street, together with a narrowed road and huge rough blue-stone kerbs mean that if you're riding along here, motorists can't fit past without crossing half across to the other side of the road. That's fine if they do it legally, but half the time they're in too much of a hurry and try to squeeze through when there's oncoming traffic. They simply don't fit, and there's no room to swerve out of the way of the idiots.

Yet more proof that most people have no idea how to behave on the roads is the right turn into Moroney street, forever referred to as Moron-ey street as motorists either stop dead in the road to let me turn across in front of them, or tear across the traffic island and nearly knock me off. The first lot risk being run into from behind by other motorists who foolishly expect them to be obeying the law, the second lot just can't be bothered to turn the steering wheel a little bit to the left and a little bit to the right to follow the lane markings. Every two weeks or so I come along here and the “Keep Left” sign has been flattened, with tyre tracks over the traffic island.

Left into North road, mind the traffic, two lanes heading east as fast as they can get away with. Around the corner and up to the bridge, watch out for anyone turning down the sliplane without indicating, then up and over the railway lines and a great view of the industrial end of Huntingdale and Oakleigh. Look left and you can see straight up the rail lines all the way to the CBD, ahead the sunlight reflects off a hundred factory roofs. Down and off the bridge and once again watch out for motorists who come flying up the sliplane, oblivious to both signs, “Give Way” and “Watch for Cycles”1.

Then its just a straight run along North road, watch for the odd motorist who decides to turn left without indicating, or opens the door to let a passenger off at the lights! There's a proposal to run a cycle path along here down the middle of North road, all the way from Huntingdale station to Monash University. Various cycle groups seem obsessed about it, and in pressuring the City of Monash to build it, nobody seems to have given any thought to how cyclists would get into the middle of the road to get to the path, or in how it would be treated at each of the five or so road crossings!

Hazards

Roundabouts. Roundabouts, roundabouts, roundabouts and more flippen' roundabouts. Monash city council seems to be obsessed with putting baby roundabouts along the streets as a “traffic calming” measure. Only problem is, half half the drivers in the area seem to treat the roundabouts as speed-humps, half of them stop and treat them like t-intersections, and half of them try and either overtake me while going round, or pull out in front of me because they're bigger.

Wildlife

A world of difference to the commute along the creek and through the parks; a squashed fox in the middle of North road.


1. In late December 2007 VicRoads made some major changes to North road, removing the give-way sign and painting a cycle-lane diagonally across the slip-lane; thus requiring cyclists to cross across the front of motorists who drive up the slip-lane at 70km/hr without having to give-way!

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Tue, 28 Feb 2006

RTA Big Ride: Day 4, Rest day in Tumut // at 00:00

  Today: ??km
  Total: ??km

Where?

Tumut, Blowering dam.

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Mon, 27 Feb 2006

RTA Big Ride: Day 3, Tumbarumba to Tumut // at 00:00

  Today: ??km
  Total: ??km

Where?

Tumbarumba. Tumut.

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Sun, 26 Feb 2006

RTA Big Ride: Day 2, Jingellic to Tumbarumba // at 00:00

  Today: ??km
  Total: ??km

Where?

Jingellic, Tumbarumba.

Photos

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Sat, 25 Feb 2006

RTA Big Ride: Day 1, Holbrook to Jingellic // at 00:00

  Today: ??km
  Total: ??km

Where?

Binalong, Holbrook, Jingellic.

Photos

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Wed, 23 Nov 2005

Three in a row! // at 23:59

I wouldn't have believed it! Three days in a row all I have to do is the fairly simple task of getting up a little bit earlier than usual, then riding in to South Melbourne to a training course.... OK, so I was a little bit late leaving this morning, but now that I know the way, and know where the building is, that shouldn't have been a problem, and a new tyre should mean that all the glass in the bike lanes is not a problem either — and they weren't. I arrived at EXCOM in plenty of time, then went off to get changed — damn, damn, damn! Left my pants at home, so although I had a clean shirt, I only had my bike nicks to cover the bottom half for the day! Nobody said anything, but I stood out like a sore thumb all day! Maybe tomorrow I can finally get it right!

Then this evening there was more bike-oriented weirdness. Last night in a fit of enthusiasm I attacked the gorgon-like knot of inner-tubes in the basket in the kitchen and sorted them out into 26" mountain bike and 700C road bike versions, and pumped them all up, throwing out the obvious complete duds. Today the good ones were rolled up neatly, tied up in little bundles, and placed into labelled boxes, so hopefully we can use them, rather than going out and buying more and more new tubes!

Fetching the front wheel from Norky bike inside to fix the flat noticed last Sunday, I quickly discovered that it wasn't a piece of glass causing a slow leak after my last long ride — somehow the sidewall of the tyre has split and the tube has exploded, much like what happened to the front tyre of my road bike yesterday! I wouldn't have thought it would be too hot in the shed, and I'm surprised that it blew sitting there rather than when I was riding! Regardless, after more than two years of service, the second of the very nice Hutchinson 1.2" slicks went into the bin, along with the little metal adapter that let the Presta valves fit through Schraeder-sized valve holes in the rim. The adapter had corroded solidly onto the valve stem, not even the vice-grips coupled with several of the more powerful of the nine million names of God could shift it.

Time to fit the spare tyre then, the pair of GEAX Street Runners have been sitting in the shed since the Easter Deadly Treadly ride. I can't remember the convoluted chain of events that lead to them being in the shed — something to do with a German backpacker convinced to come on the ride at the last minute, a mountain bike borrowed from Netty, a new pair of tyres that I bought on spec. a week earlier, some new tubes bought on the day and a whole lot of other begged, borrowed or acquired equipment... First success of the whole operation I guess, the tyre fits the rim, one of the tubes from the neatly-labelled 26" box fit the tyre, and the whole works holds air!

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Tue, 22 Nov 2005

Strike two! // at 23:59

After yesterday's fiasco, getting to South Melbourne today should be easy... I know where to turn into Inkerman street & I know where the building is!

Somewhere down towards St Kilda the bike didn't feel quite right, then I realised that the front tyre was going soft — all that bloody glass I swore at yesterday. I made it through St Kilda to Milddle Park, then stopped at Penny Farthing cycles to buy a new inner tube — I suspect that the spare I'm carrying has a slow leak.

Helpfully, the guy in the shop offers to pump it up for me, saving me from having to do it with the mini-pump I'm carrying. “There you go,” he says, handing it back. “Nice and hard.” Too right it was hard, I wondered what pressure he put in, but they were busy with the five other customers who all came in for inner tubes or puncture repairs, so I put the wheel back on the bike and continued on my way.

Half a kilometre up the road I glimpsed a flicker on the tyre, looked down thinking that I'd picked up something stuck to the tyre and was reaching down to flick it away when a sound like a rifle shot when off — the tube blowing out through a huge tear in the sidewall of the tyre!

Damn, damn, damn! Just how high did he pump that tyre up?

Walked the bike around the corner to the next bike shop, fuming gently to myself, and ask for a new tube and (now) a new tyre. As I'm standing there muttering about shops that over-inflate tyres, the owner from Penny Farthing walked in! I hadn't realised that he runs both shops. He takes a quick glance at the tyre and tells me it's buggered, all my fault, I should have bought a new tyre months ago....

Finally on my way again, $44 poorer, filthy dirty from two tyre changes and the road grime on the wheel and once again ten minutes late — just like yesterday.

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Mon, 21 Nov 2005

A simple plan! // at 23:59

Just get out of bed a little early, get on the bike, ride into South Melbourne and get to a training course. Not too hard, is it?

I intended to leave at 7:30, since I was fairly sure that the advertised 8:30 start was really "08:30 for 9:00". Didn't manage to leave the house until 07:40, off through Murrumbeena and along Dandenong road. Somewhere along Normanby road in Caulfield there's a tram turning left and I can't quite see the roadsign through the windows — it must be Inkerman street so I turn too. Play tag with the tram all the way down to St Kilda where I realised that I was on the wrong road! Not too wrong, just one road south of where I wanted to be. Around the Esplanade, then back up Johnson street and left into Canterbury road.

Lots of glass in the bike lane, a bike lane less than the width of road bike's handlebars in places, and lined with parked cars the entire way! Definitely a dangerous place to be, but I'm pretty much the only traffic moving past the bumper-to-bumper cars all the way to South Melbourne.

Not quite sure of where to turn, guessed correctly, then turned left instead of straight ahead into Montague street — no problem, simply do a u-turn through six lanes of rush hour traffic. Off up a block or so, cross at the pedestrian lights to where EXCOM is...

Damn! Seems that EXCOM have moved out of that building and there's no sign of where too! Stupidly, I didn't check my confirmation notes about the booking since I knew where they were located!

A quick look around, then duck in to ask at the printing shop next door. They've never heard of EXCOM! But by coincidence one of them is doing a print job for the company, grabs the folder and reads me the address — luckily its just around the corner so I make it round there only ten minutes or so late!

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Sun, 20 Nov 2005

The Hills, the hills! // at 23:59

Two options for this morning; I can stay in bed, get up at a reasonable hour and then have a leisurely bacon and eggs, or I can get up far too early, fumble my way into my bike gear and go out to join some friends for a ride up to Kinglake and back. Sure enough, I've picked the riding option — about time I got my lazy self out and rode up a few hills...

First surprise, sometime between getting home last Sunday and this morning Norky bike's front tyre has gone flat — I guess I picked up some glass. Quick change of plan and the road bike — desperately in need of a clean and some lubrication — goes into the back of the car and I head off to meet the others in Alfington.

Eight o'clock rolls around, as can be expected the three of us turned up in the opposite order to our distance from the start. I arrived first, Evan ten minutes later then Kelvin, who only had to ride a block or two from home, was quarter of an hour late. Then off for a tour of the suburbs on a twisty route that they seem to use on a Thursday evening, before we were out of the suburbs and heading towards the hills.

It is definitely a long time since I last went on this sort of ride! Heading up the lst long climb towards Kinglake I was left well behind, dropping down through my gears and winding up through the forest trying to simply get there in one piece!

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Sun, 13 Nov 2005

Road rage // at 23:59

Sunny day, no wind, definitely time to get out on the bike. Jo and I did our usual ride down North road to the bay, then down Beach road to Mordialloc. Interesting mix of barricades around Mentone since there was a triathlon running and the road had been closed, but only closed to motorised traffic! Apparently other cyclists are allowed to mix with the competing triathletes, which sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

Fun and games started on the way back up the bay. Somewhere around Brighton we were riding with about four others, single file on a four lane road. Screaming, shouting, abuse and roaring of engine, the usual suspects go flying past. Four young guys, P-plates on the car, exhaust pipe the size of a coffee-tin. The most impressive part was the front passenger half out of the window, screaming at us to get off the f#$%ing road, while swinging his fist and trying to punch us as he passed! Not sure of the plate, SJB-305, a red car, probably a Nissan Bluebird, but with all the badges and chrome removed. Didn't get enough of a description to bother with going to the police, as they'll only give me the usual run-around of requiring a full identikit of the driver plus a bus-load of witnesses — merely describing the car is never enough.

When will someone do something about these dickheads?

Onwards back around to Port Melbourne where Jo dropped her new bike off for its service and went off to catch public transport while I rode home. For some reason I decided to clock up a few extra kilometres and ended up riding back down to Mentone, then came home up Warrigal road — never an interesting ride, with neanderthal motorists and narrow lanes, but it certainly helped clock up the distance! First ride of over 100km in a very long time.

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Mon, 04 Jul 2005

$ATBIAD$ // at 23:59

I thought that it was about time I entered Bike Vic's ATBIAD ride. Hang on — $110 for a soggy salad roll and a ferry ticket? No thanks. Jo and I may well ride down to Sorrento and back, but I don't think Bicycle Victoria will be getting over $100 for the privilege! With over 5,000 entries, what do they do with the more than half a million dollars from the entries? I know it doesn't go to the volunteers who man the route, and none of it goes to the charity du jour — I've sent them an email asking why the big increase from previous years.

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Sun, 17 Oct 2004

Around the Bay in a Day... // at 23:59

It's a very long way, and a very long day. Being woken by the alarm at 04:45, having to get out of a nice warm bed and eat breakfast in the dark — surely these aren't things that people chose to do on the weekend, on their days off?

No way was I going to ride all the way in to Docklands for the 5:30 start, I checked on the map and it was the same distance from Docklands to the end of North road in Brighton as it is from our house to the end of North road, so I felt justified in leaving home and heading straight along North road. Its a strange time of day to be out riding, on the sun's just starting to come up, on the plus side there's hardly any traffic, on the down side, what traffic there is tends to be tired taxi drivers or drunk night-club goers heading home.

Once on Beach road I joined the maelstrom of south-heading cyclists, organised bunches travelling at all sorts of paces, disorganized bunches and individuals meandering around in their own ways. Despite looking I couldn't see any Monash jerseys, so kept on heading south with a group of people from Geelong and an Italian gent from somewhere up in the mountains near where we'd been travelling last year.

Ten past eight in the morning and I arrived in Sorrento, a stupid time of day to be so far from bed! Stranger still to be queueing for lunch at a time when few will have had their breakfast — then it was time to join the mob for the nine o'clock ferry. One good thing about heading to Sorrento first instead of Queenscliff is that its a slightly shorter leg, so the chances of getting an earlier ferry are greater — people arriving at five to nine find themselves booked on the ten o'clock ferry, quarter past nine can end up having to wait for eleven o'clock or worse!

Queenscliff to Geelong seemed to meander all over the Bellarine peninsula, right-angle turns all over the place and as a result we had alternating headwinds, sidewinds and tailwinds! From Geelong onwards it all straightened out though, sadly it was then a blustery headwind the whole way to Altona. The road is dead boring, the freeway traffic noisy, the chatting subsided, fewer jokes were being made, the day just subsided into a 65km slog to get back to Melbourne.

Up and over the Westgate bridge, the view of the river and the city a highlight. About a dozen riders almost crashed into one individual who decided to stop and adjust his shoelaces — dead in the middle of the lane! Then what should have been a wonderful down-hill run back to Docklands, except for the wind slowing us all down!

Two p.m. on the dot we sailed in under the banners, stepping off the bikes to a number of creaks and groans, a mix of smiles and exaustion on the faces around us.

Four o'clock and I was back home, ready for a long hot shower and a cold beer! Eight hours riding, 237km, I think that's the longest day I've ever spent on the bike — certainly its the longest distance!

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Wed, 08 Jan 2003

All stand… // at 23:59

I should have stayed in bed...

Got up, stumbled into the kitchen as usual, stood around while the coffee created itself, then poured coffee into two cups. Went to fridge, took out orange juice and milk, unscrewed cap of orange juice, poured orange juice into coffee. Damn. Poured corrupted coffee down the sink and split the remaining coffee into two much smaller cups.

Now to ride to work... 4km down the track and there's a loud PING — the sound of a bolt snapping — as one of the bolts holding my seat on snaps and the seat falls off. That's the second time this has happened in six months. Maybe I over-tightened it when I put the last one in, maybe I'm just a big fat bastard who's too rough on the bike.

I stood up for the 8km ride to Chadstone, not realising how often I must brace my leg against the seat while standing — the bike is very twitchy with no seat! Asked a security guard how to get to the bike shop, and showed him the seat. He laughed and took pity on me, leading me down through one of the delivery bays under the shopping mall, in through an unmarked door, to pop out rabbit-style in the middle of the mall. The guys in Graecross cycles then had a little laugh, before finding me a seat bolt. $2.95 and a bit of fiddling and I was back on my way, heading to Oakleigh to try to order a cake...

9:15 and I arrived at the cake shop, ordered a coffee and asked to see someone about placing an order. “I'll get one of the girls to see you shortly”... 9:30 and I'm told “It'll be better if you talk to Tass, she'll be here soon”... 9:40 and an apologetic “She's just called up, she'll be here in 20 to 30 minutes”... 10:15 and one of the other girls came out, asking if we'd already arranged anything, then decided that I really did have to wait for Tass. 10:50 and I gave up waiting and headed off to work. I tried telephoning this afternoon and was told that Tass only comes in on Friday and Saturdays, I made an appointment for noon Friday. I guess we'll order the cake one day...

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Sun, 20 Oct 2002

ATBIAD // at 23:59

Four fifteen a.m. is a completely ridiculous time to be getting out of bed. I hadn't really slept since about 1am, neighbours seemed to be coming home steadily between two and three, a cat was yowling outside the window the whole time, and then the birds started chirping around 3:45... I think I'll stick to more sociable bike-riding hours in the future.

Once outside and on my way I yawned my way down to St Kilda, catching up with another rider in Church Street who then kept me company down Chappel street — with vastly reduced traffic from it's Friday/Saturday night jams. A few cars passed carrying bikes on racks or the roof, then as we got nearer to Fitzroy street the density increased, bikes and riders were everywhere, mixing it with the departing clientel of the bars and clubs.

With near-perfect timing I reached the start at 5am, in time to see the first bunches ride off. There didn't seem to be much point in milling around in the darkness, especially since I hadn't arranged to meet anyone, so at 5:05 I was heading off down Beach road, yawning continuously.

The ride down was in large bunches, I seemed to spend most of my time surrounded by a team from Alcoa and a very large group wearing shirts advertising Dean Woods. As usual there was every mix of bike and rider and rider skills possible. Three tandems, a couple of full suspension mountain bikes, even a guy with a toddler in a baby seat. The majority of people were on road bikes, and most of these seemed fairly up-market versions. Arrived at Sorrento at ten past eight, plenty of time to gather lunch — ridiculous time for lunch — and get onto the eight thiry ferry.

Queenscliffe to Geelong has never been a ride that I've enjoyed. Usually I've ridden too hard for the first half, then stiffened up in the ferry crossing, and then can't seem to find a reasonable group to ride with. Today it was all these plus strong head-winds and a dash of rain.

Luckily, after Geelong we turned so that the wind was at least partially behind us, I found myself in a group of about ten heading up the road towards Lara at around 38km/hr! By around this stage I was starting to get a little tired of the “you must be doing it hard on a mountain bike” comments.

After falling off the back of their group I was mostly by myself on the roads towards Altona, unfortunately being shadowed by a wildly erratic guy on a Peugeot. His jerky pedalling and strange half-overtaking maneuvers from the left were quite disconcerting. Topping this off was the quick release wheels fastened incorrectly, the release levers tightened up like big wing nuts. Unfortunately I couldn't drop him and he wouldn't take the lead, just sat somewhere behind me, drifting in and out of view on one side or the other.

It was a good feeling to be crossing the Westgate bridge, coasting down for the last couple of kilometres back to St Kilda. Not an easy ride though, by this time the wind had picked up across the bay and was buffetting us about. Finally got back to Catani gardens at 13:55 after about seven hours forty minutes on the bike!

233.3 km, 8hr 32m, 27.3km/hr average speed (once I'd ridden home). Not a bad effort for the day!

The rest of the afternoon was spent dozing on the couch, listening to the noises of protestation from feet and ankles, legs, knees, bum, back and shoulders. Then early to bed!

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Wed, 02 Oct 2002

Ride to work day // at 23:59

[*] [*] A little detour on the ride to work this morning — I headed into the city for Bicycle Victoria's annual “Ride to Work” day and free breakfast. Everything there was all sweetness and light, in some contrast to the ride to get there!

One car parked in the clearway/bike lane on Bridge Road. Seven cars and a tow-truck stopped in the bike lanes at traffic lights. Two out of four “forward bike boxes” at the lights had cars parked in them. One taxi double-parked and disgorging passengers out both sides, and a motorist who attempted the “overtake and then turn left” manoeuvre. Heading to Monash afterwards I'd have to add the solid mass of vehicles blocking “Swanston Walk,” the couriers' vans parked in the St Kilda road bike lane, and the woman who reversed out of her driveway without looking, and then drove past too close for comfort while yabbering into her mobile phone.

Oh well, at least BV will have their camera footage, parliament will see that there are a few bikes around — at least for today — and I managed to get my drivers license number engraved in my bike frame. Its supposed to aid recovery in the event of theft; I think I'd much rather prevent the theft in the first place since the proportion of stolen bikes that is recovered is very low.

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Wed, 25 Sep 2002

100 minutes per day // at 23:59

There are 1440 minutes in the day, roughly 100 of them I spend on my bike riding to and from work, 500 of them I spend at work. That one hundred minutes riding are far more enjoyable than the rest.

Speaking of cycling, I just tried to have a look around the CTC's website [http://www.ctc.org.uk/] — it seems to be gradually crumbling to pieces. I think if I were them I'd be tempted to just bin the whole thing and start from scratch. This all came about following a comment in news:uk.rec.cycling about the horrors of cycle paths, and my experiences last year in trying to find the, and the difficulty in getting a response out of the CTC to enquiries.

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Mon, 16 Sep 2002

Sorry Mate I Didn't See You // at 17:42

A gentle rant. Variations on a theme. Words from the motorist to the cyclist.

Sorry Mate I Didn't See You, I was on the phone, but Sorry Mate I Didn't See You, and I only looked down for a second, and Sorry Mate I Didn't See You, and the road is dangerous mate, but Sorry Mate I Didn't See You, and the light had only just gone red, but Sorry Mate I Didn't See You, and the kids were arguing in the back, but Sorry Mate I Didn't See You, and I was only going a bit over the limit but Sorry Mate I Didn't See You and you should wear brighter coloured clothes, and Sorry Mate I Didn't See You, you should ride on the bike path and Sorry Mate I Didn't See You AND ITS YOUR FAULT.

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Sat, 31 Aug 2002

GOR // at 23:59

Escaped in the afternoon for a ride along the Great Ocean Road. Despite all my best efforts I couldn't quite manage to get my average speed up to 30km/hr. Very light traffic, surprisingly few idiots on the GOR, a clear sky and magnificent views. Average speed was 29km/hr when I got to Apollo Bay, and despite the tailwind on the way home, fell to 28 by the time I returned to Lorne.

Traffic on the way back reaffirmed my faith in motorists; first a light truck towing an unregistered caravan, the van was swerving around in gently s-bends, if I tried hard I could probably have stepped off the bike and into the van through the open door. Close behind was a ute towing a trailer load of crap, looking a lot like all the scaffolding to hold the caravan up. About 30 seconds after it passed I watched a 2 foot section of timber fly off the back and into the oncoming lane. Neither the caravan or trailer had any lights, so the next motorist behind them very nearly ran into the back going down the hill under brakes.

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Sat, 24 Aug 2002

Bad coffee :-( // at 23:59

Life's too short to be served bad coffee. Two bad coffees in a row and now we can't bring ourselves to call in at Via Ponte. A sad thing when both Ian and Michael are such nice guys, but with all the other cafés in the street, we keep walking past theirs and on to somewhere else.

A longish ride in the afternoon. Just like last Saturday I headed out in short sleeves, half thought of coming back for a warmer shirt but didn't. Dodged the cars in bike lanes, dodged the cars in bike boxes at the lights, dodged the same car again when he tried to drive through me at a red light. As I got closer to the bay, the wind increased, nothing catastrophic, just strong enough and cool enough to make life uncomfortable. Down to Frankston and back, more than enough to keep the legs warm and the mind occupied—dodging the 4WDs and assorted yobs around Bonbeach.

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Thu, 15 Aug 2002

untitled // at 23:59

Interesting ride home this evening. After a random comment yesterday about Gardiners' Creek path being far too windy and slow I decided to try the road today. The distance was slightly less, the average speed while riding was higher, but I spent so much time sitting at red lights that I think it ended up taking me longer. That was using a combination of Dandenong Road and Orrong Road, I'm sure there are other ways.

It also let me observe some more of the motorist inhabitants of this city. I guess I'm fairly lucky in that I can commute on a bike path, and that the path does seem to actually go where I want it to. There's currently a discussion raging in news:aus.bicycles regarding 4WDs, specifically stereo-typically Toorak-tractor urban 4WDs, owned as status symbols and only ever driven to and from work, or to take the kiddies to school.

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Thu, 30 May 2002

untitled // at 23:59

[*] I couldn't resist! Standing on the corner waiting to cross Church street, right next to the "forward bicycle box" that Bicycle Victoria is oh so proud of having introduced to Melbourne's roads. Up comes a car, but does he stop? No, the driver goes straight over the bike box and sits half across the line at the front of the intersection. Not just any car mind you, this was one of Victoria's Police. Just a little more evidence that maybe what Australia's cyclists need isn't more shiny paint markings on the road, its a change in the attitude of the motorists.

The officer in the passenger seat wasn't really happy, but he couldn't quite figure out what I was doing taking a photo of their car. He made some whitty comment about my courier bag making it look like I was wearing a seat belt, I added that it didn't have an airbag fitted, then left before I could be booked for photographing policemen without their permission.

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Sun, 17 Mar 2002

Temper temper… // at 23:59

I just had to laugh. Cycling up Beach Road on a Sunday afternoon, literally hundreds of cyclists about, traffic is at a crawl due to the enormous number of events that are on. Red Falcon (Vic. NZY-740) drives past in the right hand lane and the passenger sticks her head out the window, screaming her lungs out “Get off the F@#$ing road, get on the F@#$ing footpath.” If she yells that much at each cyclist between Mordialloc and St Kilda, she'll be hoarse for a week!

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Thu, 01 Nov 2001

Aren't bike paths wonderful // at 23:59

Every day the “shared path” that I ride along brings new and interesting challenges. Somedays its the dogs, other days the ankle deep mud, today, an aggressive pedestrian.

Walking towards me on the wrong side of the path, eyes on his feet, shirt and suit jacket unbuttoned, tie half-undone, two large armfulls of parcels, he nearly walked into me as I stopped on the bridge. He glared at me and demanded that I ride around him. I politely pointed out the law required that he walk on the left. He threw his belongings on the ground and screamed that he'd had a bad day and I could F####ing well ride around him. I sat there. He threatened to move me if I wouldn't go around him, so I carefully rode around him leaving as large a gap as I could. As I was leaving there was another torrent of abuse about my attitude etc. Hopefully he was in a better mood before he next got into a car or met his wife or children at home.

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Thu, 18 Oct 2001

Norky Bike Service: 2001-Aug-16 // at 05:10

Part or Service price
Race prep clean and lube. $AU84.95
Ritchey Fuzzy Logic headset $AU95.95
Shimano gear cable $AU5.75
Shimano gear cable $AU5.75
Brake cable $AU5.00
DT Spoke $AU1.00
Shimano HG chain $AU67.15
Total $AU265.55
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Sat, 30 Jun 2001

Bordeaux // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1870.7km
  Today: 0.0km
  Trip total: ??km

Hangover time, last night there were far too many Newkie Brown's with Debra and Nick (Irish barmaid and Welsh traveller) at Dick Turpin's — an English theme pub. Debra kept trying to embarrass guys by flirting with all the guys in the pub and making jokes about her exceptionally large bust. I'd met Nick and another Welsh guy a few days ago in Nantes, but didn't recognize them at first.

[*] Did very little all morning except wander around through back streets and parks between the station and the hostel, snoozed in the sun and wrote another postcard. Finally feeling a little better I found some great looking back streets around a college, took a few photos and found the local Saturday market. Mostly clothes and food stalls, all packed with customers and all run by africans or Moroccan's

After taking a few photos and a brief look around inside a church I made my way back to the hostel and gathered up my stuff to move on to meet the Wide Open Road group. To my amazement someone had pinched one of my hooters while the bike has been locked up in the bicycle store room (the horns on the end of the handlebars). Rode the couple of blocks to the Hotel Kyriad and spent the rest of the day snoozing on the bed.

Later, we all met up at one of the cafés near the train station for introductions, beers, and for dinner. My choice was a magnificent bowl of onion soup, which was presented to me accompanied by a bowl of raw garlic cloves. I assumed that the chef knew what he was doing and so I tentatively chomped into one of the smaller cloves along with the soup. An impressively strong taste! The others were laughing and joking and wondering who I was sharing a room with when Dave piped up from the other end of the table. He'd ordered the same dish, so the two of us toasted each other with the largest garlic cloves we could find, then ate them with tears streaming down our faces.

Where?

Bordeaux

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Fri, 29 Jun 2001

Daytrip from Bordeaux to Arcachon // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1870.7km
  Today: 0.0km
  Trip total: ??km

The English guys managed to flood our room three times this morning by overflowing the shower! Somehow the sign telling people not to turn the shower up too high just wasn't getting through. They were going to the beach for the day and invited me to go with them. When I got to the station it all started to look too hard, the trains too infrequent, so I changed my mind and sat down to have a coffee. More indicision and the fine sunny weather and I changed my mind back again, trotting inside to catch the train to Arcachon for the afternoon!

It was well worth it, I sat on the beach in the sun, watching the world go by. A strange mix, as some people were out in beach clothes, others seemed determined to wear their Sunday best.

There were signs pointing to the ocean beach and the world's biggest sand dunes. Or maybe they were Europe's biggest sand dunes. In any case it was too hot and too far and I was too lazy, so I had a gelato instead and wandered around the shops.

After catching the train back to Bordeaux I headed out for the evening, choosing the Irish bar and English-speaking company over a French bar and much less conversation!

Where?

Bordeaux, Arcachon

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Thu, 28 Jun 2001

Bordeaux … and winery tour // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1870.7km
  Today: 0.0km
  Trip total: ??km

[*] I'm not sure if I'm getting better or not! There's less phlegm, but more cough, maybe all that beer and wine and the smokey bar last night was the correct way to treat bronchitis!

I got in earlier today and paid my 160FF to take my chances on the winery tour. It turned out to be more of a chateau drive-by bus trip, with two winery visits thrown in. A little dissappointing to anyone used to a visit to Australian wineries, especially the smaller, more personable ones.

I could laugh at the comments that came from the French, automatic out-of-hand dismissal of Australian wine. Or the comments; “naturally they go for quantity at the low end of the market,” or “they change blends on a whim, here everything is controlled.” Then there's the Americans on the bus, none of them have ever been to a wine tasting before!

Once back at the hostel I had a more leisurely evening than last night; sitting around eating bread and cheese and sausage, and drinking wine with Lolita and Tiffany, Brazilian and Canadian respectively, and Julie, from the Blue Mountains in Australia.

Where?

Bordeaux

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Wed, 27 Jun 2001

Bordeaux // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1870.7km
  Today: 0.0km
  Trip total: ??km

Bronchitis hit me hard this morning, coughing and wheezing and spitting for an hour or more when I woke up. I was feeling sorry for myself and equally sorry for the others sharing the room.

Spent much of the day being a tourist and walking around, by lunch time I wasn't sure whether my aching legs were from cycling, walking, or just from being sick. I'd hoped to get onto the winery tour today but it was booked out. Maybe tomorrow….

[*] After taking a couple of photos of the very famous statue I found out that I'm nearly at the end of a roll of film, and again I've left my spare film behind at the hostel. I also forget to copy down the statue's name or the comprehensive plaque around it. It had kings and queens and symbols of the republic and seahorses and water monsters and all kinds of things...

I found a shop with internet access, then had what the customer relations people would describe as an “unpleasant end-user experience.” Creaking old 486s, grotty keyboards, slow net connects and foreign keyboard layouts. Assorted linked systems back at Monash being out of action all affected each other, and the lack of server-side mail processing meant that when I could get through, there were several hundred mails waiting in my inbox to be manually sorted.

I spent the afternoon walking around the public gardens and the Natural History museum. It's a magnificent old building that feels like something out of the 19th century. Fusty old paint peels off the walls and the rooms are full of row after row of stuffed animals in glass cases.

I adjourned to an Irish pub to sit and write a few postcards, then after a large steak dinner, headed back to the hostel where I spent the evening with a bunch of Canadian guys and three young Finnish girls, drinking far too much wine and talking late into the night.

Where?

Bordeaux

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Tue, 26 Jun 2001

Saintes to Bordeaux // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1870.7km
  Today: 151.09km
  Trip total: ??km

Good news or bad news first? The good news is that sometime during the night it finally cooled down and now is slightly overcast and around 20°C. Perfect weather for cycling. The bad news is that my cold is now much worse, probably bronchitis judging by the coughing and spitting!

Fantastic weather to ride in, cool and a light mist, so little that nothing stayed damp, just enough to keep me cool. It warmed up gradually later in the day, but stayed overcast the whole time.

Bordeaux was quite a hassle to get into, as most large cities are. Roadworks on the motorways meant that there were diversions all over the place. The side road I was on ended up being the motorway for quite a way. Further in I found a cyclepath labelled “Bordeaux Centre” and followed it for ages, then just as I was feeling hopeful that I was actually going to reach the centre of the city, it expired in a building site in a dodgy part of the docks on the wrong side of the river.

Bordeaux struck me as being overwhelmingly big. A big city, big traffic. It's probably the largest place I've had to ride into. Surprisingly enough, once I'd made it across the river I found the hostel easily enough.

The Garonne river is quite something to anyone from Australia. We just don't have rivers on that scale! The current looks frighteningly strong, full of enormous eddies.

The hostel is very new and clean, it even has a bicycle room, but there isn't anything to lock the bikes to inside the room, so you have to trust all the other people with access.

Route

Saintes, D6 to Thenac, Tesson, Gémozac, Toutvent, Mortagne-s-Gironde, D145 to St Thomas de Conac, St Bonnet-s-Girone, St Ciers-s-Gironde, D9 to Blaye, D669 to St-Andre-de-Cubzac, St Vincent de Paul, Bordeaux.

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Mon, 25 Jun 2001

La Rochelle to Saintes // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1719.6km
  Today: 95.41km
  Trip total: ??km

I'd left La Rochelle with a vague idea of riding to Bordeaux today, optimistically managing to mis-read the map. At lunchtime as I neared Rochefort I saw that it was another 160km! Decided to make for Saintes instead, and only just made it there, during the afternoon the temperature just kept on climbing, around 35°C I guess.

I found a bike track this morning that ran from La Rochelle to Rochefort, but as with bike tracks everywhere it didn't seem to have enough signs and I managed to lose it a couple of times. One particularly frustrating occasion had me zig-zagging back and forth and venturing onto the motorway before I rediscovered the track.

The last stretch from Rochefort to Saintes was exhausting, I was just plodding along guzzling down hot water and counting down the kilometres. Finally got in around 3pm, had a shower as soon as the hostel opened, and then went to bed and slept for an hour.

[*] After a sleep I felt much refreshed, the temperature had dropped too, so wandering around the town was quite reasonable. I had a look at some Roman ruins, drank a few refreshing beers, sat in the park and then had a meal in the square.

Route

La Rochelle, Châtelaillon-Plage, Vieux Châtelaillon, le Marouillet, Yves, Fouras, Rochefort, N137 to Saintes.

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Sun, 24 Jun 2001

La Rochelle // at 23:59

  Odometer: ??km
  Today: 0.0km
  Trip total: 1455.0km

It was nice to wake up and not have to pack up and move. Michael and I walked around for an essential visit to the laundromat, then spent the morning sitting on the beach watching the girls go by.

The beach and the bay looked fantastic, but as the tide went out we saw that the sand ended at the waters edge, and it was all mud and rocks from there out! Probably explained why so many people were sitting on the beach, and so few were in the water.

In the afternoon I managed to chase up an internet connection and check my email, 690 messages to sort through, and only two that I was interested in, the two from Jo. The French keyboard isn't a QWERTY layout, and that really slowed me down. The whole “internet booth” was an Apple iMac in a fancy cabinet, and it crashed as soon as I tried to access St George's electronic banking applet. Not a satisfactory experience!

[*] In the evening we walked around the harbour again and drooled over the Round-the-world yachts that had tied up as part of the BT Global Challenge event. Fleetingly joked about trying to crash the welcome ceremony and help ourselves to the seafood buffet and champagne that we could see, but settled for going to dinner and a few beers in a nearby café.

[*] 39FF for a pint of Guiness came as an unpleasant surprise, although the beer and the bar and the company were good. Later we explored a few more side streets as things got a little quieter with the end of the weekend, and found a statue of a horse that someone had put a beer bottle in its mouth. I tried to take a picture, but had trouble zooming in on something that far away. Again, it cooled down rapidly once the sun went away, and we had a fairly early night.

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Sat, 23 Jun 2001

Nantes to La Rochelle // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1622.7km
  Today: 167.7km
  Trip total: ??km

My cold is growing, I've been sneezing all day, and my nose is running constantly.

Stinking hot again inland, later in the afternoon it cooled as I got the sea breeze, but there were then 30km of head-winds across “Les Marais” which I think translates as “the swamp”. A flat, smelly, and very uninspiring ride!

It took me almost an hour and a half to get out of Nantes, I kept having to avoid motorways and zig-zag about, never seeming to make any headway. Managed to get lost in a couple of smaller towns as well.

In Luçon I was stopped reading a map when a French girl and her daughter came up and chatted (in English). She had ridden across Canada about 9 years ago, and would like to travel more, but with her young daughter now she just makes do with talking to riders that she meets.

Crossing Les Marais there are some strangely disturbing bits of road-kill on the desolate roads and lane-ways. They look like beavers, or enormous rats. I've no idea what they are, but I don't think I'd want to fall into the drainage ditches off the road. If anyone knows what they are, please tell me!

In La Rochelle I met a guy from Mt Evelyn, just out of Melbourne! Neither of us had booked into the hostel and we were surprised at how full it is, apparently we're lucky to get a bed at all! We spent the evening exploring the town, but it cooled down pretty quickly once the sun had set.

Where?

Nantes, Luçon, La Rochelle.

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Fri, 22 Jun 2001

Rennes to Nantes // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1455.0km
  Today: 143.9km
  Trip total: ??km

I've had a sore throat all day, I think I'm getting a cold.

I felt like crap and hardly wrote anything in my journal.

Rennes was nearly impossible to get out of on the bike, I ended up heading south on the main highway for a few kilometres before being able to escape onto the side roads.

Where?

Rennes, N137-E3 to Chartres-de-Bretagne, Noyal-Chatillon-sur-Seiche, St Erolon, Bourgbarré, Chanteloup, le Sel-e-Bretagne, la Bosse-de-Bretagne, Teillay, la Thébaudais, Rouge, Châteaubriant, Issé, la Robertière, Nort-s-Erdre, D 26 to Sucé-sur-Erdre, Nantes.

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Thu, 21 Jun 2001

St. Malo to Rennes // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1311.1km
  Today: 141.9km
  Trip total: ??km

[*] A long day, but in some ways it didn't really feel like it.

After getting out of bed and queueing for breakfast with hundreds of French school girls all on a school holiday trip, I headed out at 10:00 along the minor coast road in the direction of Mont St. Michel. I hadn't realised how far it was, so it was 64km and 1pm by the time that I got there, very hungry and hot. The early fog burnt off quite quickly to a hot day. Mont St. Michel loomed into sight when it was at least 50km away, and just didn't seem to get any closer, when I finally got there it was a bit of a dissapointment, with hundreds of people, cars and tour busses all around. With nowhere to lock my bike, and hunger rapidly rearranging my priorities I headed back over the causeway to a supermarket and then lunched in the park.

Over lunch I decided to head for Rennes since there was still plenty of time and I was feeling fine. Three hours later, stinking hot and probably stinking, I rode into Rennes with no real idea of where I was heading. Just as I found the centre of town I spotted a hostel sign, headed off and got lost and confused, then found the signs again, and by 18:00 I was showered and comfortable, amazed at how far I'd travelled in one day.

Where?

St Malo, D201 to Rotheneuf, le Verger, les Portes, D155 to le Vivier, D797 to Pontoroson, D976 to le Mont-St-Michel, Pontoroson, D175 to Antrain and Rennes.

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Wed, 20 Jun 2001

Jersey to St. Malo // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1169.2km
  Today: 48.110km
  Trip total: ??km

Young Sammy's first birthday if I remember correctly...

I bummed around all day in the sun, riding out to le Corbienne lighthouse in the south-west. Once there I found a broken spoke, on the cluster side of course. Probably as a result of over-changing and dropping the derailleur into the spokes.

Rode back to St Helier and tried all three bike shops, all were too busy to change it. I ended up doing it out on the street with the help of a guy who ran a tourist bike-hire business, he'd called in to visit at the same time I was there. After a bit of re-tensioning to the entire wheel it all finally stopped creaking and so we went and had a beer while I waited for the ferry...

Chatted to a Danish motor-cyclist on the crossing to St. Malo, then had my bike disinfected against foot and mouth yet again as we disembarked. The guy manning the disinfectant sprayer was pretty good about it, acknowledged that the odds on me managing to bring foot and mouth disease on the bike tyres were almost zero, and was careful not to blast the oil and grease off the gears and chain.

A little disorientation and riding around in circles before I managed to find the St Malo Youth Hostel, I ended up almost heading out of town before I found a sign pointing back in towards where I wanted to go. My minimalist map was no help, so I covered the same roads about four times in different directions.

Where?

St Helier, St. Malo

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Tue, 19 Jun 2001

St Heliers // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1119.5km
  Today: 42.03km
  Trip total: ??km

I woke up this morning and couldn't work out whether the clocks were right or not; I had no idea whether Jersey was in the same time zone as the UK or not!

I left the panniers in the B&B for the day and headed out on the bike. Riding into town after breakfast I was wobbling all over the place, its amazing how different the bike feels without the panniers on it, and how quickly you become accustomed to them. Chose to ride through the tunnel, twice, which I think was illegal, rather than go the long way around the point.

Yet another ferry ticket mystery. A one-way ticket to St. Malo is £28! I really can't understand these pricing structures.

The Zoo—Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

[www.durrell.org] I'm not sure what I was expecting here, I've been a fan of the late Gerald Durrell since I was about 12 and first read one of his books. For years I've wanted to visit, and now that I'm finally here its all a little disappointing. The animal enclosures were excellent, the animals healthy, but it wasn't easy to find your way around, the signs were all in a dozen different styles, frequently just photocopied sheets of paper. Without a guidebook it would be nearly impossible to find your way around.

[*] Thinking that I was about to run out of film, and having left all my spare in the B&B, I bought a pack of three forty exposure films, then discovered that I was up to frame 24 of 40, not 24 of 25! As a result, I've now got enough film for 200 more shots! It'll probably last me an eternity, since I tend to take very few photos.

The frogs cage was one of my favourites, with a number of beautiful individuals on display. I spent most of the day following the free guided tour, our guide was incredibly enthusiastic and almost overcome with laughter when the free-range marmosets started climbing all over her to get to the food. Apparently this was the first day that both species — of marmoset, not marmosets and zoo keepers — had been together in this area.

[*] Eventually I felt I'd seen enough and left the zoo to meander around in the sun along the lane-ways of the north coast, then sat on a small rocky beach, gazing at France, feeling content and finally on holiday. Feeling much happier now that I was out in the warm weather and out of the UK — hang on, Jersey is part of the UK, make that out of England — it just hadn't been feeling like a holiday for a while there.

There were many other cyclists out on the roads during the afternoon, all sorts of bikes and all sorts of people.

Came home and lay down for a nap for a while, then walked in St Helier to resolve my mounting money crisis. I've spent a scary amount today! Walked around the centre of town looking at menus but it was the bistro at the end of the local street that caught my eye, so when I got back I went in there and had a luxury meal, scallops in garlic sauce followed by a Seafood Tagliatelle. All excellently prepared, and in large quantities, as I waddled out the door, the plate-full that I left looked as though I had hardly touched it.

Which reminded me of some of the other menus I had seen across the south of England:

“Chorizo sausages in Sweet'n'sour sauce with pasta” — seems an interesting mix of nationalities.... or

“Menu Español” — containing lasagne, spaghetti bolognaise, and fish & chips!

Where?

St Heliers.

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Mon, 18 Jun 2001

Swanage to Jersey // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1077.1km
  Today: 29.20km
  Trip total: ??km

Six weeks until I see Jo, and I've got a broken tooth. Feeling just a little depressed today, the grey English weather isn't helping. On re-checking the calendar I found that it's seven weeks, not six.

A lazy day, I rode the 12k or so through Studland and the coastal park to the ferry then paid my 80p to cross to Poole. The ferry prices are strange, I've paid anything from 80p to £3.50, and it would have cost £4.50 to cross Exmouth! The prices seem to depend on whether the ferry is oriented at tourism, or is a functional replacement for a bridge. Found that the 1:45pm ferry today doesn't go to Jersey, so I bought a ticket on the 4:15pm, paid my £51, then lazed around in Poole on the Quay, watching the boats in the harbour and the passers-by. Directly across from where I was sitting is the boat-builder for one of the multi-millionaire off-shore cruiser boat firms, there are some fantastic looking boats being built.

[*] The ferry ride was a bit of an anti-climax, no reading material because I'd left it all in my bags, and nobody to talk to. One thing that caught my eye was a plaque with a map of Tasmania on the wall. The ferry is built in Tasmania, and seems to be more successful at crossing the English channel then they are at crossing Bass Strait.

A problem I found with leaving at 4pm was that I didn't arrive in Jersey until 8pm, after the tourist office had closed. With no idea of where to stay and it rapidly getting darker, I rode around and around looking for an affordable B&B and eventually found that £25 a night was all that was available — but only if I booked in for two nights!

A bite to eat and a walk along the foreshore, then I sat with a pint and listened to some Karaoke in a bar. Strangely, nearly everyone who tried could sing — one big guy called Andy had the most amazing deep voice. I left near closing time and nearly forgot which street was home, but found it after only one false start.

Where?

Swanage, Studland, Poole, St Helier.

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Sun, 17 Jun 2001

Portland to Swanage // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1039.7km
  Today: 89.45km
  Trip total: ??km

Worst part of the day — stopping to grab some fish and chips in Swanage from The Fish Plaice and breaking a tooth on a piece of grit in the second chip I ate. Staff in the shop couldn't care less, grabbed another chip out of the fryer, poked it with their fingers and declared “nuffin wrong with em”.

I'm staying in a B&B because the YHA is shut! There are no people, no signs, no messages on the answering machine, nothing. Just an empty building and a recording of “we can't answer the phone, please leave a message and we'll call you back,” which is of zero use if I don't have a number to be called back on! To make it more inconvenient, the YHA is most of the way up a hill, and the nearest phone-booth is down at the harbour, so I rode up and down a very steep road about three times. Eventually I gave up and checked into a B&B.

[*] This morning I rode up around the Isle of Portland, there was a local cycle race around the roads on the top and they all laughed when I rode into the start with the panniers and asked if they were accepting late entries, and what was the handicap for 20kg of gear. Lots of motor-bikes around as well, all out for their Sunday ride. Stopped to look at the lighthouse, and was reminded of a conversation a few days ago with someone who said he was photographing every lighthouse he came to because his mother collected lighthouses... mostly just photos and models, I don't think she had a real one yet.

[*] I didn't end up leaving Weymouth until 1pm, there was a parade of WWII vets and vehicles celebrating the Queen's birthday, people everywhere and traffic brought to a standstill. It felt like being on the set of Dad's Army! One of the last groups to drive past was a collection of motor-bikes and bicycles, with one of the bikes stalling on the start line and refusing to restart. When it eventually could be kicked into life, the crowd gave the rider and round of applause.

After sitting and watching the parade I made my way to the ferry terminal and found out that although the day return ticket to Jersey is £29, they want £51 for a one-way ticket! I could try for a day-return, but was told that if they suspect that I'm “miss-using it,” when I get to Jersey, I'll be charged double the day return, minus what I've spent already!

Left Weymouth along the A353, then followed the A352 to the delightfully named town “Wool,” just another of the towns I seem to find that have a single noun for a name. Turned off at Wool down the B3071, then down a lane through Coombe Keynes, Shaggs and on to East Lulworth.

[*] The ride out through the Dorset countryside from there was through an army firing range! It took me some time to convince myself that I'd taken the right turn, and I retraced my steps back to East Lulworth a couple of times before I was sure. Very strange to see burnt out tanks sitting in the fields besides the roads.

Corfe Castle looked very impressive, towering ruins poking up out of the trees. I ran into a large group of motor-cyclists out for a Sunday run there, some of them were the same group I'd met in Portland this morning. From there it was back onto the A351 for a busy rode down into Swanage.

Once in Swanage, it was up and down the hill trying to get into the Youth Hostel before eventually settling on a B&B, some of these places must seriously believe that Faulty Towers is a training video.

Where?

Portland, Weymouth, Wool, Coombe Keynes, Shagg, East Lulworth Swanage.

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Sat, 16 Jun 2001

Torquay to Portland // at 23:59

  Odometer: 950.2km
  Today: 145.31km
  Trip total: ??km

The hostel last night was far less crowded, our eight-bed room only held me and the two Swedish girls, and neither of them snored. Woke up to yet more drizzle though, a theme that continued through the day.

I dodged the rain; I got caught in the rain. I made it to Starcross just on 10:15, and since the ferry runs on the hour, I either had a forty five minute wait or I could ride up to Exeter and back along the other side of the river. Since the only way to get from the main road to the passenger ferry was on a footbridge up and over the railway lines, and I did not feel like lugging the bike up and down them, I took the long option and rode to Exeter instead.

From Exeter I stuck to the A3052, not a very scenic ride, but since I'd already added more distance than I wanted, I didn't feel like going around the coast in the rain.

Coming down a 16% hill towards Seaton my rear tyre decided to make life more exciting as the tyre split and the tube blew out. Luckily I wasn't going too fast, so there was only a small scrape of the rim against the road before I managed to stop and walk the rest of the way down the hill. I walked about a mile into Seaton and asked a passerby about bike shops, he directed me back out of Seaton towards Ladyton, about 2½ miles, a long walk along the lanes, he also warned me that the shop closed from noon until 2:30 on a Saturday so the owner could have his lunch. It was with some misgivings that I made the walk, thinking that my chances of finding a bike shop here were minimal, and trying to work out the best way of locking the bike up and catching a bus to Lyme Regis, which I thought would be the closest large town, and most likely to have a bike shop.

Amazingly enough, the shop did exist, and it seemed enormous for the tiny village. It also seemed to be as old as most of the village, containing stock from decades ago. After returning from his leisurely lunch, the staff opened up and found me their last 26" slick tyre, a Tioga Cityslicker that they sold to me for £10.

Shortly after leaving Ladyton I was drenched by a thunderstorm, but was too hot to put on my spray jacket, so I just rode along, steaming gently.

I finally got to Weymouth around 6:15pm, and with much misgivings turned towards Portland and over the causeway. Trusting to luck to find the YHA, the first corner I came to had a large sign pointing straight to it! Brand new, still smelling of paint, the hostel is an ex-Ministry of Defence Police house on the naval base. Its newness explains the omission from the phone listing.

Life took a turn for the better with a comfortable room for the night and a warm shower, I'm sharing a room with a German guy from Oxford who is riding from Oxford to Exeter this weekend via Salisbury and Portland. Rounded off the evening with an excellent meal at the Cove House Inn, and sat and drank and talked with Tony and Tricia, a couple from Mansfield in Nottingham.

Where?

Torquay, Starcross, Exeter, Seaton, Ladyton, Weymouth, Portland

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Thu, 14 Jun 2001

Plymouth to Torquay // at 23:59

  Odometer: 804.0km
  Today: 67.02km
  Trip total: ??km

A grey day, a grey mood, a cold south-easterly head wind and about 10km extra due to my inability to read road signs. Somewhere along the way I detoured off the A370 and ended up at Underwood, then had to retrace my steps as I was determined to not ride on the A38.

Felt rotten all morning, that the riding was just a chore to be finished. The A379 to Brixton, detour to Underwood and back, then A379 to A3121 to Ugborogough, turning off onto laneways to Totnes, then the A385 to Paignton, and around the bay to Torquay.

One bizarre event was stopping at a petrol station on the A379 for a mars bar and a drink. I could swear that I went through the same conversation with the same lady as I did three years ago when I last rode through here.

I managed to get to the hostel in Torquay at around 1pm, just ahead of the rain, then sat around drinking coffee and chatting with the other residents and restoring my good humour.

Later on, around 4pm, went out to a nearby pub that had a PC with free internet access for as long as you had a beer nearby. I managed to somehow dispose of the more than 7000 emails that had banked up in my in-box! Some well-meaning person back at Monash has put in a vacation message for me and thus stuffed up half my mailing list subscriptions and automatic mailings. I did manage to send a second message to Jo, as well as catch up with Andy at Wide Open Road, and turn off all the cron messages from Monash, so it wasn't a waste of time.

Spent most of the rest of the afternoon unwinding from too many days riding with too few breaks. Had a few pints, then a dinner and back to the hostel, before going back out to the pub with everyone from the hostel. It was good to be out with people for a change. The local surf band were nothing special, too loud for the venue, but full of enthusiasm. A fine cover of the Buzzcocks' “Ever Fallen in Love” seemed to suit the singers voice perfectly.

Off to a club afterwards, but I was starting to fade at this point, a glass of water and all I wanted was to go to sleep, so I left — then managed to get lost on the way home and covered twice as much of Torquay as was necessary.

Where?

Plymouth, Brixton, Underwood, Ugborogough, Totnes, Paignton Torquay.

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Wed, 13 Jun 2001

Falmouth to Plymouth // at 23:59

  Odometer: 736.9km
  Today: 112.24km
  Trip total: ??km

A few minor misreadings of the map and my estimated 80km trip turned into 112km!

[*] Three ferry crossing during the day; three very different styles of ferry. There was a very touristy pedestrian one from Falmouth to St. Mawes, at Fowey a creaking little car ferry drawn along on chains, then another pedestrian ferry right at the end of the day into Plymouth.

Lunch at St. Austell, a place I thought was a bit of a dump. Dingy concrete shopping malls straight out of the 80's, unemployed and single mums just hanging around hopelessly everywhere. The bakery staff warned me to a keep a close eye on my bike and all my stuff if I wanted to keep it.

I did manage to find another of the cross-country bike routes though, “NCN3” I think it is, but without any maps of these and of where they go, I don't find them particularly useful! Before coming away on this tour I had tried emailing the CTC, Britain's cycling group, as they seem to have a large amount of information on touring. Unfortunately they seem to only make this available to their members, I couldn't download any of the useful material from their web-site, and they never responded to the email enquiries. A shame really, as I've been assured that they are very helpful normally!

Met an older couple who are doing the end-to-end ride. I saw them yesterday near Penzance, and we're all staying at the Plymouth Backpackers. The backpackers was still as I remembered it from 1998, more importantly, it was still where I remembered it from 1998, since the street signs didn't seem to help in finding it.

Where?

Falmouth, St. Mawes, Fowey, St. Austell, Plymouth.

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Tue, 12 Jun 2001

Sennen to Falmouth // at 23:59

  Odometer: 624.5km
  Today: 77.51km
  Trip total: ??km

[*] No breakfast at the backpackers so I cruised out at 8:30 and rode down to Lands End. It's the sort of place that everyone knows is tacky, but everyone visits all the same. At nine in the morning before it all opens up everything looks even sadder and more depressing than normal. It was dead still, no wind, no people, just flat sea and gulls calling.

I sat at the famous sign post and wrote a postcard to Jo, taking my own photo before the stalls opened up and I was forced to pay the £5 charge for a photo! I love the sound of the gulls here, it just seems to suit the place.

Breakfast wasn't until Penzance at about 22km, I was more than a little hungry by then! I nearly laughed out loud at the menu when I saw the English Vegetarian breakfast — fried eggs, fried bread, beans, everything else fried in butter and bacon fat. The only difference from the regular breakfast is the absence of bacon and sausage. I had the traditional breakfast, which was ok, but foolishly asked for a caffe latte, which was shocking. I should stick with straight espresso or filter coffee here — these strange foreigners just don't seem to know how to drive their milk frothers.

The tendons in my right knee were very sore this morning, but raising my seat a fraction seems to be helping and it got gradually better during the day. I think a few things have come loose in the days on the bike.

Falmouth is a nice place after the tourist towns, just a plain ordinary sea port town. I'm staying at a B&B though, since the hostel in the guidebook has apparently been closed for a couple of years! The ever-so-helpful local Tourist Information Centre staff tried to direct my to the nearest backpackers — “just a little bit up the road” — in Newquay, where I stayed two nights ago!!!

Later in the afternoon I sat on the beach eating apple pie and cream while waiting to get to the B&B, then had a wonderful hot shower once I was inside. The only drawback is that Norky bike has to live outside chained to an old ladder.

These £15-20 B&Bs are pretty worthwhile when I consider that most hostels are around £10, with breakfast typically another £3-£5. A very different clientele that they're aiming at though, a few times I've had the B&B operators look down their noses at a single person on a bicycle.

Spent the evening sitting in a pub having a pint and then another pint... Sitting and watching the bay and the old video clips from the early eighties on the juke box. The Jam came on and brought a smile to my face. Then an old Carly Simon clip of “You're So Vain” from years ago. The Jam ended and a song started that I knew I should remember but I just couldn't place it. Finally it twigged, “Teenage Kicks,” the Undertones, another strange musical coincidence that seems to haunt my visits to the UK.

Where?

Sennen, Lands End, Penzance, Falmouth.

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Mon, 11 Jun 2001

Newquay to Sennen // at 23:59

  Odometer: 547.0km
  Today: 94.66km
  Trip total: ??km

Jo's email yesterday and my thoughts of her were heavy on my mind all day, a melancholy day, and it's only one week into the nine so far.

[*] Right now its 7pm, the sun is miles up above the horizon out over the Atlantic. I'm sitting on the headland up above Sennen Bay. It is incredibly peaceful here, the only sound is the waves on the shore, the sea is quite flat. (Seems that everywhere I go, the sea is flat!)

All the other travellers I meet all seem so young. I'm missing Jo already. This nine week trip seemed good in theory, I hope it works out well in practice!

Back to more prosaic matters, St. Ives was an interesting place to visit, but I think I'd prefer to do it on foot if I came here again! Steep narrow roads, all marked one way only, and tourist busses everywhere, grinding their way up and down from the harbour. I managed to take a wrong turn while trying to get out of town and ended up back at the harbour, on my second attempt I followed a local bus, even with the panniers I managed to follow it far enough to get me back to the country roads.

[*] Somewhere along the way I've managed to hurt my right knee, possibly from struggling up some of the hills, but I think my cleat has slipped a little as well. The constant hammering on the handlebars has also left me with a blood blister on my left hand.

I had been intending to stay at the Lands End YHA at St. Just, but when I got there I found that they were closed. No real reason, just a note pinned on the door saying “shut for two days”, just another case of British tourism at work I guess.

Dinner was excellent. I sat in the Sennen pub and had a home-made fish cake with chips and salad and the best garlic and herb bread that I've eaten for months. The fish cake was enormous!

Where?

Newquay, St. Ives, St. Just, Sennen.

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Sun, 10 Jun 2001

Boscastle to Newquay // at 23:59

  Odometer: 451.9km
  Today: 64.97km
  Trip total: ??km

Woke at 5:30 as usual, but managed to sleep for another two hours with my mask on and ear-plugs in. When I finally did get up it was to see a gray dismal sky and listen to the howling of the wind.

At breakfast an old man celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary observed, “In my day, you was a sissy if you 'ad gears.” Despite the accusing tone, he was quite interested in where I was going and where I'd been, and did temper his initial comment by pointing out that he “'adn't carried arf as much kit” as I was.

Finally saw another bike tourer as I rode through Tintagel, a girl heading north with bigger panniers and twice as much to carry as I. I called out hello but she either didn't notice or didn't respond. Tintagel looked a bit too touristy for my tastes, too many plastic king arthurs and merlins, so I didn't stop to look around.

One of several strangely named towns for the trip was “Rock”. These single-noun towns seemed unusual, I guess I was expecting them to be prefixed by “The Rock” or “Fred's Rock” or “Big Rock”. “Rock” and “Beer” just seemed too short.

Showing that the residents have a decent sense of humour, I sat around in the local “Soft Rock café” for morning tea, then spent half an hour in the shop next door chatting to the guy who runs it. He normally lives in Grenoble in the Alps, and was full of advice on places to visit and roads to ride. Unfortunately most of these were rattled off at such a pace that I couldn't remember more than one in ten. He was also surprised that I'd chosen to go touring with SID forks on the bike, I think brave was the politest way he could find to express himself.

After wheeling my bike across the sand and hoisting it into the boat, I caught the foot ferry across to Padstow, then it was pleasant riding the rest of the way to Newquay. Like most of the coast, the road swoops up and down from sea level to moors, and on one my chain decided to come off just as I started to climb.

Newquay is crass and touristy, full of surf culture and pinball parlours. Out-of-place looking Australian surf memorabilia and shops. The strange thing is that for such a tourist-oriented town, the Tourist Information Centre is shut on a Sunday! According to the sign on their door, they're only open half of Saturday too. True British tourism at work.

After negotiating a maze of one-way streets I found the backpackers and left my bike in “the Boardroom” — a room full of surfboards and wetsuits.

The ATMs decided that I wasn't going to get any money, so I thought that £11 was going to have to last me til morning, but after lunch the VISA machine decided to work and let me have some. Checking my bank balances on the Internet I found that I've already maxed out my Mastercard! I tried to check my email, but one of the automatic processes back at work has gone badly awry and there are 2900 email log messages in my in-box. Attempting to sort through these over a dodgy connection with a PC that keeps substituting ding-bats for the fonts is well nigh impossible. I found one email from Jo from last Thursday, managed to rattle off a quick reply, disconnected and was charged £5.20 for the whole unsavoury ordeal!

For entertainment in the evening I headed out to an Aussie theme pub for a beer, laughed at the tackiness of it all, street signs from Melbourne and Sydney, the front half of a Holden Commodore hanging over the bar, stuffed crocodiles everywhere. A tiny portion of expensive fish and chips and a couple of beers, most of the entertainment was in the 20ish crowd, dressed in American/Australian surf gear, but talking in west-country accents.

Where?

Boscastle, Tintagel, Rock, Padstow Newquay.

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Sat, 09 Jun 2001

Lynbridge to Boscastle // at 23:59

  Odometer: 386.8km
  Today: 125km
  Trip total: ??km

I discovered today that my panniers are falling apart! The right one has lost one of the bolts that holds a hook on, and the left one has come half-undone. The threads on the left hand side are stripped and the aluminium bar is bent where the hole weakens it. Will they last seven more weeks?

I got lost in Barnstaple in the Saturday morning market crowds, then it took ages to get out of town onto the Tarka Trail, and as soon as I found the trail I punctured the rear! Wheel off, tyre off, tube out, patched, back together, back on the bike, all before finding out that it was a snake-bite and I had the other hole still to fix. Consequently, not in the best of moods as I rode out of town.

About 65km into the day the tyre went soft so I was pumping it up every 10km, preferring to change it when I got to town rather than out on the road. On top of that, I didn't eat enough and bonked out at Holsworthy. The Holsworthy bakery performed life-saving service with a cup of tea, an apple donut and a slice of tea cake, and I was in much better spirits from then on.

[*] [*] The last 30km seemed interminable, dragging on and on up and down the hills. I finally got in to Boscastle at 5:30 and it more than made up for it. The town is magic, a little world heritage village nestled in the bay, the sort of place that made me think of parking the bike and just moving in for a year, to live here through the winter as well as the summer tourist time. The YHA is right on the harbour in a converted old warehouse, there are photos of waves coming over the wharf and hitting 4’ up the walls, washing two foot deep around the door!

Changing inner tubes I found that the spare has a slightly shorter valve stem and is barely long enough to fit through the crappy rim. Pumping it up was a trial of patience, as it has to be completely flat to let the pump grip the valve, but if it slides off before its fully inflated, I have to let it all back down again!

Where?

Lynton, Barnstaple, Holsworthy Boscastle.

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Fri, 08 Jun 2001

Glastonbury to Lynbridge // at 23:59

  Odometer: 261.7km
  Today: 115.4km
  Trip total: ??km

A long ride, with some amazing hills. I discovered that gradients of 1:4 are scary downhill, and nearly impossible to ride uphill.

Leaving Glastonbury I got a little bit lost, heading north-west instead of west I'd turned off the A39 somewhere near Northove, desperate to get off the A road, and added a few more miles onto the route. Part of the problem was getting breakfast. Nothing seemed to open in Glastonbury before noon, I managed to find a bakery and a couple of buns, but all the shops and cafés seem to be for the tourist crowd and don't open until noon. Eventually I found myself back on the B31351, so continued along it to a turn off that headed back south, crossed the A39 near Ashcott, then headed west along the back-lanes.

Bridgwater was a bit of a nightmare to navigate, it was market day and the place was packed. I finally managed to get out and onto the A39, not that it was pleasant. A nasty shock being on an A road; not much wider than the lanes, but a lot more traffic. Once I turned off back into the lanes I quickly needed the granny gear, but the chain still kept jamming. Judicious applications of lube and swear words seemed to make it better, which is good, since the climb up through the Qantock Hills would have been impossible otherwise. Very steep descents into Stogumber, then I got lost somewhere at an unsigned corner and had to backtrack. At Washford I rejoined the A39 and A-road traffic to Minehead, then sat in the sun in the town square and ate a sticky bun, glad to be out of the wind.

From Minehead the only option is along the A39, until I reached Porlock, where cyclists are allowed to use the private toll road. It's a 6km climb up through the woods, spinning along in granny gear at about 10km/hr with magnificent views out to sea. The toll-keeper at the top just waived me through, I think the 50p bicycle toll is reserved for people who drive their bikes out here on the roof of their Range-rovers and ride up from the village.

Then it was back onto the A39, rolling ups and downs across the wind-swept moors. I found a mobile phone sitting at the side of the road, it made me laugh that in the supposed desolation of the moors people could lose their mobile phones.

The hills down to Lynmouth are amazing, 1:4 gradient, holding the brakes hard on most of the way down. Then when I got down to the town I found it was exactly the same going back out! With the short wheelbase and weight of the panniers I found it completely unridable, the bike was wheel-standing and threatening to flip right over, so I ended up walking most of the way up to Lynbridge.

[*] [*] After lying on a bench in the garden and waiting until they opened, I checked into the hostel and had a much-needed hot shower.

Changed into clean clothes and walked down to Lynton on very rubbery legs, most of the village was shut, but I did get to ride on the vertical railway down to Lynmouth. Its a marvellous piece of Victorian engineering, water from the river fills a tank under the railway cart at the top, then the weight forces this car down while a chain pulls the other car up to the top. The drivers regulate the amount of water in the tanks to cater for the weight of passengers, and its been running like this for the last hundred years.

A filling pub meal of baked potato and salad, thankfully with none of the evil salad cream that the pubs seem so fond of, a quick pint and I was home and in bed, exhausted, by 9:30pm.

Where?

Glastonbury, Northove, Ashcott, Bridgwater, Stogumber, Washford, Minehead, Porlock Lynmouth, Lynton.

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Thu, 07 Jun 2001

Bristol to Glastonbury // at 23:59

  Odometer: 146.2km
  Today: 62.41km
  Trip total: ??km

[*] Sitting in a pub in Glastonbury, the second of two pubs this evening, having a beer and watching the sun go down. The distance today was a little less, I didn't feel so pushed for time.

Got in around 3pm in plenty of time for a shower and a wander around town. I caught the bus out to the Tor and walked up to the top — then nearly got blown off by the icy wind. Glastonbury Tor seems to be the only thing that sticks up from this part of the country, and collects the wind straight off the north Atlantic.

Glastonbury is packed with new-agers, feral people of every description, hippies, beggars etc. All the standard “alternative” crafts you can find, all looking the same the world over. It could be Daylesford, it could be Byron Bay....

[*] Riding along today I passed through some tiny lanes; one car wide and very dark, with the hedges meeting overhead. I learnt not to ride too close to the soft, verdant, green walls after brushing one too many protruding nettles and blackberries! Saw a dead badger on the road, and lots of foot and mouth warning signs, “Stay off this farm to prevent the spread...” A killer climb up out of one village and I discovered that my granny gear won't work properly. Worn ring or bad tension, I later discovered that the shop in Devizes hadn't re-adjusted my derailleur to cope with the different wheel.

Highlight of the riding would have had to be the lane down through the Cheddar Gorge. From the top it's a narrow country lane-way, a spectacular descent, 16.5% slope complete with a sign warning cyclists to dismount and walk. The temperature dropped between the limestone walls and I shivered as I chased a flock of wild goats down the pass.

Once the sun set, the alternative people came out in force. Some to the pubs, the poorer to just sit in the square, drink and smoke. What would have had to have been the world's worst busker set himself up directly below the hostel window with a drum kit and a ghetto blaster playing Hendrix. Ten or fifteen minutes of appalling noise and my room mate offering to drop a plant pot on his head, eventually the manager went outside and convinced him to turn it down.

Where?

Bristol, Cheddar Gorge, Glastonbury.

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Wed, 06 Jun 2001

Devizes to Bristol // at 23:59

  Odometer: 79.9km
  Today: 79.72km
  Trip total: 79.9km

I must write this down while I remember it, sitting here in a pub in Bristol. Somewhere along the canal in the past two days I came to a little bridge, a narrow boat had stopped and a lady was carrying a bag of rubbish across to the bin. A stereotypical west-country old codger was sitting on a bench nearby, just watching the canal and the world go by. He looked at the lady and said “'eee, you be watchin' for trolls.” The lady didn't seem to understand, he looked at me, “eer, you know about trolls...” “Sure,” I said, “they live under bridges — little ugly fellers.” Old guy nods and replies “eee, 's right, I had some under me sofa once,” then goes back to watching the canal. The lady gave a quick “Harrumph!” and walked quickly back to her boat, and I rode off down the canal. Just a wonderful character at peace with the world, its a whole different world along the canals and towpaths away from the traffic and roads.

Back to today. There was an hour of fiddling about in Devizes after riding back up past Caen locks, phone cards and stamps and stuff, then back down the hill past the locks and finally on my way along the canal towards Bath.

Quiet and empty along the canal until Bath, then it was bizarre. Until then I'd only seen pensioners and mums with babies, all of a sudden I was in the middle of Bath and surrounded by hundreds of people of all ages. Tourists, shoppers, everyone.

Swapped the canal for a rail trail and rode the rest of the way into Bristol, a major problem being the “anti-car” barricades on the path. The only way to fit the bike through them was to stop, get off, and flip it up onto the rear wheel to walk it through, scraping the panniers on the poles or walls.

[*] A strange feeling to be back in a big town. Bristol is not as touristy as Bath, but bigger. I walked around a fair bit in the afternoon and evening, getting a general feel for the place and making my way up to the famous suspension bridge over the gorge. Unfortunately all the postcard photos seem to be taken from aircraft or balloons, from ground level it was very hard to get a picture that wasn't all sky, or included street lights and wires. Traffic was as bad as most large English towns and I was glad to be getting about on foot, not stuck in a car crawling along.

Where?

Devizes, Bath, Bristol.

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Tue, 05 Jun 2001

Streatly to Devizes // at 23:59

  Trip total: ??km

The sun comes up at 4:30am! Jet lag kicks in and I'm wide awake. Lie around until 7am dozing and listening to the birds — and trying to stretch my neck and shoulders. Ouch!

Pore over the maps and changing my mind — my original plans were to go further north, I think I'll explore Cornwall!

It was an expensive day, and an over-ambitious one. The hill out of Streatly was a killer, I had to stop three times going up, and nearly couldn't start again. Then an easy ride over the tops to Newbury, absorbed in my own thoughts. Somewhere in Newbury I went down a kerb on a bike path — not a good thing to do with panniers on, unfortunately I was too busy trying to read road signs to spot that the path went down the kerb.

[*] Following the advice of the tourist information centre I rode along the canal tow-path along the Kennet canal. Idyllic scenery, and not a human sound to be heard. The tow-path varied from gravel track to single track to great expanses of rough-mown grass. The latter was arduous, and very slow going.

[*] Somewhere between Pawsley and Devizes I got a puncture, stopped and realised that the slight buckle in the rear wheel was much worse and that a spoke had ripped through the rim, probably on that kerb in Streatly.

Fixed the flat and crawled into Devizes, the Tourist Info. office set me up at a £25 B&B. Very nice place, bottom end for a B&B, but up at the high end of what I was intending to pay! Pub rooms seem to start at £50 and are all up-market. I'm a mile or two out of town at the bottom of the famous 29 Caen locks.

£37.50 got me the only eight-speed wheel available in the bike shop, a very robust looking deep-dish rim, designed to appeal to the off-road cool crowd. £9.95 for a replacement computer, and so for a touch under £50 I have a working bike again.

Walked from the B&B to town for dinner at the Black Horse, a pub on the canal, then back down Caen hill to get home. Too much walking!

Where?

Goring, Streatly, Newbury, Pawsley, Devizes.

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Mon, 04 Jun 2001

Heathrow to Goring // at 23:59

  Trip total: ??km

Day the first, long and arduous. Out of Heathrow and found that the airline had ripped off the speedo cables — finally, after years of the cables looking “nearly ready to rip off”. Then I managed to twist the valve while trying to pump up the rear tyre and flattened it — always the rear. After removing wheel and tyre I repaired it and finally got on my way. Straight out into 8am A-road London traffic. I also discovered to my dismay that the notes I had on how to exit Heathrow by bike all referred to people arriving in the other terminal!

[*] I escaped London easily enough. A few hints from an old man standing at a roundabout had me headed the right way towards, but not onto, the A30.

Stanwell, Ashford, Staynes, Wraysbury, Datchet. A pause for a beer in Datchet, the all important first beer of the trip. [*] Datchet to Windsor — then around Windsor a dozen times. Gray and overcast I was lost immediately, then popped out at the castle; sat and watched the tourists for a bit, then out onto the B3024 to Reading. Leafy and green, very green, and not much traffic. Not much elbow room on the road either. I got to Reading to find that the YHA I thought was in Reading is 8 miles up the river at Goring, so by 3pm when I got here I was tired, a little stressed, and still wearing some of the clothes from Sunday as there hadn't seemed to be the time or place to change them at the airport.

The hostel is a big old house, sitting quietly on its lawn. Most of Goring seems to be doing that as well—just sitting quietly.

4pm, first beer, in Goring while I wait for the hostel to open.

I've got aircraft hair and aircraft neck — will probably feel terrible tomorrow.

The girl with the bike on the flight yesterday had returned to Aus. for a few weeks to see family before returning to the UK to continue her “big trip.” She was taking her bike because she missed it, and the rental ones she'd tried are terrible.

Where?

Heathrow, Stanwell, Ashford, Staynes, Wraysbury, Datchet, Windsor, Reading, Goring.

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Mon, 23 Apr 2001

Random cycling snippets // at 23:59

A bunch of random cycling stuff; after wondering over the weekend what had happened to the Wide Open Road tour of France in July, and making up my mind to mail them today, I received an update from them about their ride — now I have to make up my mind which has the higher priority — going on the tour, or living here in a place that I really enjoy...

Second event, a slightly wine-sozzled phone call from a bunch of people I met on the NSW bike ride, all having a social get-together, and deciding to call me from the restaurant even though they didn't invite me to the dinner.

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Sun, 15 Apr 2001

Deadly Treadly // at 23:59

??

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Sat, 14 Apr 2001

Deadly Treadly // at 23:59

??

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Fri, 13 Apr 2001

Deadly Treadly // at 23:59

??

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Sun, 10 May 1998

Halfway around the Bay today // at 00:00

  Today: 111km

With much prodding and cursing, Andrew managed to wake us all up around 8am — nobody seemed to be in a morning mood. Breakfast was a leisurely affair, quickly devolving into a hectic ride and a flat-out sprint for the last kilometre in order to get onboard the 9am ferry! Kath and Ricardo had driven down in the car and convinced them to hold the ferry for us — but only just — the guy on the gate waved us in like a formula one flag marshall, and the ramp was being lifted as we crossed it!

A very pleasant warm crossing of the heads, then disembark and up the hill to Sorrento for coffee to complete the waking-up process.

The rest of the ride back was enjoyable despite a gentle headwind most of the way. I got told off for pulling away up the hills at Mt Martha, but that's nothing new. We all stopped for another bite to eat in Frankston and I spotted a poster advertising the Tea Party playing in Melbourne tonight. Then it was up Beach road for the last 50km to home.

Andrew faded badly, eventually stopping in St Kilda to catch a train the rest of the way, leaving the remaining four of us to ride back to Fitzroy to sit around at Paul's and talk and drink more coffee. I was in danger of falling asleep in my chair by the time Kath and Ricardo turned up with the luggage, but managed to drag myself up and rode down to Richmond station to catch the train home — absolute chaos since the footy had just finished at the MCG.

After a shower and a nap, a quick visit to the supermarket was needed. I came home with a pile of groceries — it was the first serious shopping I'd done since before Easter!

Back home again, it was off to bed — warm, happy, worn-out and very comfortable.

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Sat, 09 May 1998

Halfway around the Bay today // at 00:00

  Today: 134km

Got up bright and early to ride around to Paulus', then to sit around with coffees for half the day waiting for Evanovitch to turn up — he did have a reasonable excuse, having been working until 3am this morning.

Eventually the six of us were organised and headed off, Riccardo was having trouble keeping up, the poor lad hadn't been on a bike for years and decided to come along for fun! We stopped at Hoppers Crossing to wait for Kathy in the car, he got in and the remaining five kept riding.

Dropped in on some friends of Evan's who are rebuilding an old wooden yacht at a boatyard down near Geelong, then pushed on to Point Lonsdale, arriving there sore, tired, and in need of warm clothing, since the temperature had dropped.

Kathy and Riccardo arrived, then Mat and Jo from their boat-building, so we piled into the cars and headed into Queenscliffe for dinner at the pub. Pub number one was way too expensive, $4 for a pot of beer, so it was off to pub number two. A filling dinner, a rambling conversation, the purchase of a bottle of port, and back to the house to sip and to sleep.

Where?

Hoppers Crossing, Point Lonsdale, Queenscliff

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Wed, 26 Nov 1997

Attacked by motorist // at 18:00

At 5:45pm on my way home west-bound along Dandenong road a newish white Ford Falcon station wagon (Victorian rego. ONV-825) drove past me in the left lane. As the car went past, the young male passenger in the front swung his fist out the window at me and screamed something unintelligible. I am used to cars going past with little clearance, but the yell and swung fist almost made me swerve into the kerb at the edge of the road. There was little other traffic on the road at the time and it is unusual for vehicles to drive in the left lane at this point, shortly afterwards they moved into the centre lane and stopped at the traffic lights at Huntingdale road.

At the lights I drew alongside the car and asked the passenger what the hell his problem was. (There were three young guys in the car, and an older male driver, the two young guys in the back were all having a good laugh at the passenger's discomfort). The passenger mumbled that he hadn't swung his arm or yelled, then that he had but that it hadn't been at me. I asked who it was at since there was no one else around and he looked away and just kept shrugging. At this point the lights went green and the driver (who hadn't said anything) drove off.

I rode to the Oakleigh Police Station where officer Deckert told me that “Unfortunately there's a lot of dickheads out on the roads.” I responded that I knew that and that was why I would like to report them, after a few more comments along the lines of, “its your word against theirs” and “some people just drive like that” he then took down the registration number, the words “White Falcon” and my name on a small scrap of paper and said he'd give the driver a ring.

I have severe doubts that that scrap of paper stayed out of the bin once I'd left the building, and I see no reason why no action was taken. If I walk up to someone in a public place and scream at them and swing my fist at their head I'd end up on an assault charge, for some strange reason this behaviour is perfectly acceptable if I'm in a car and they're on a bicycle.

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