So I guess I gave up on this…

I might have given up on the blog, but life continued.

I pedalled further, until I got sick and bailed out near the Central Coast of NSW.

I moved to Canberra. I raced the Scott 24hr and since then I have been playing on my bike  without much intention at all. Mentally and physically I have been pretty broken. I haven’t had the motivation to be on a bike for more than 2 hours, and any racing I’ve done has been marred with heart arrhythmias and crazy spiking blood sugars.

The Tour Divide started this week, and that happened to coincide with me meeting a couple of rad chicks who were really into that kind of thing, and feeling pretty inspired to dream big again.

I guess it’s time to watch this space. Things might get happening again one day soon. A trip to Whistler for 3 week of downhilling might help…

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Townsville to Brisbane

Lots has happened since I left Townsville. Writing a blog has been one of my last priorities…

My early departure from Townsville was never to be. A flat tyre on the rear and a broken pump meant a few hours of running around trying to fix the pump or find a suitable replacement. I eventually found a not very suitable replacement and made it the 100km South to Ayr. The road was surprisingly stark with only one roadhouse as the half way mark, which meant I very nearly ran out of water. Ayr was not somewhere I cared to stay, but was glad to get a good nights sleep in a cheap cabin. With only $10 extra for a cabin over a campsite I just couldn’t say no.

Rolling out the next morning I very quickly realised my legs were feeling great and I could cover a reasonable distance. I had my sights on Proserpine, which was 180km or so away. Bowen marked the half way point and was a 5km detour from the highway. I hesitated before rolling along that 5km stretch but the lure of pie had me (again) and off I was. When I sat down on the edge of the water looking over chrystal clear sea and glimpses of Whitsunday Islands, I knew it was going to be impossible to leave. I had rolled in at 12pm with 110km already under my belt so would have made it to Proserpine without any hassle at all, but I feared I wouldn’t come across another place like that.

I ended up staying in Bowen for a second day and enjoying some relaxation. Sleeping on beaches, walking around enjoying the variety of birds that played in the trees. It would have been easy to stay for longer but my cycle touring legs were getting itchy. It was in Bowen that I started to really worry about what lay South and almost boarded a bus to Rockhampton in efforts to avoid the highway. I didn’t go through with it when I realised that meant sitting on a bus for 7 hours.

Another early departure was foiled by flat, and I rolled out of Bowen around an hour later than planned. Despite some busy highways and lots of trucks, I had a really enjoyable ride to St Helens Beach caravan park which is around 50km from Mackay. I rode for 8 hours, mostly into headwind, to cover 140km for the day and if the sun had kept on shining I would have just kept on riding. I was feeling super comfortable on the bike all day. The owners of the caravan park were really cool and gave me their usual cycle tourist discount. Unfortunately a combination of too many red bulls and being situated next to a train line and the highway meant I had a really terrible sleep that night.

My ride into Mackay was much slower than expected. Traffic became bad again, and I was very tired. After just one hour of riding I stopped in a park and fell asleep for an hour as soon as my body hit the grass. In Mackay I visited a bike shop to get some supplies and had another sleep after eating lunch. My plans of getting another 100 or so km in for the day were looking dismal and this was further compounded with more headwind and horrid roads on the way to Sarina. By this time I has well and truly had enough. I stayed in a motel in Sarina and spent the evening plotting how I could possibly avoid the highway from here to Rockhampton and beyond.

Apart from the coastal option to Rockhampton, which is a 300km stretch of nothingness, there is an inland stretch of nothingness which is also cluttered with trucks. Beyond that it’s much of the same until you get South of Brisbane where for me, the real riding was going to start. I pondered long and hard and read many a touring blog, trying to gauge what I was best to do. Every day I have ridden the Bruce I have spent too much time wishing it was over and not enough basquing in glorious scenery. I have listened to my iPod nearly everyday, trying to zone out from the trucks and rough roads. These aren’t the things I’m looking for.

I thought again about getting bus, but where to? The bus situation was less than ideal anyway, as they couldn’t guarantee they would get my trailer on until the next service, which would have it arriving in the middle of the night. Up until now, I hadn’t even considered the options planes presented with me. The deal was done when I logged onto Jestar and saw a $79 flight with $40 for excess baggage would get me from Mackay to Brisbane in just over an hour and to the doorstep of awesome rides.

So I cruised back to Mackay from Sarina this morning, a ride which took less than 2 hours compared to almost 3 hours yesterday. That’s how bad the headwind was. Tailwind felt awesome. I cruised around the city and by the time I got to the airport for my flight I had clocked up 60km, so the day wasn’t entirely a waste. Everything went disturbingly smoothly from there. Bike box purchased, bike and Bob packed up without a hitch.

Before I knew it I had landed in Brisbane and was unpacking bike and Bob, piecing it all together and then got a lift with a friendly maxi taxi driver instead of negotiating my way through a big city in the dark.

So, here I am. The next chapter to the adventure. I have a ton of advice from Hugh at CBD who I called today. He told me exactly where to ride and I have some cool country roads and even some dirt stretches to exploreStaying for the day tomorrow and getting shown around some sniggle by some locals. Life is pretty good right now!

And no photos… My cable was left in Townsville so I’ll have to work on getting a replacement tomorrow.

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Cairns to Townsville

It’s been a few days since my last post, for many reasons… Mainly because I’ve been busy riding a bike.

My grand depart from Cairns was a very wet one. It was also marred with mechanical issues. As the rain started to fall outside, I struggled to attach my Bob trailer to my bike and discovered that the rear skewer was slightly bent. I had already meant to visit a bike shop on my rest day to fix an issue with shifting in my granny ring, but only discovered at 2pm that bike shops in Cairns close at 1pm on Sundays.

I finally got the Bob to sit on the bike properly, albeit with a less that tight rear wheel – and off I rolled into the rainy day.

The rain didn’t stop, all day. The wind didn’t stop, all day. At some points I was riding into the wind at 10km/hr, and it was then that it became very obvious I was not going to be able to push this 40kg load all that far.

Somewhere behind all the rain clouds was Queensland’s highest mountain, but I couldn’t see it…

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Bob felt heavier and heavier in the rain, and we eventually gave in after 100kms at Innisfail

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Finding a place to stay was another challenge in itself. None of the camp grounds would let me pitch a tent due to the amount of rain that had fallen, and their cabins were either full or over $100. I rode to two motels in town, both of which had no one at reception and no one answering the phone. I finally managed to look up the name of one across the other side of town and get a room for the night.

The following morning Bob and I rolled out nice and early after a stop at McDonalds for a coffee (I know, but it was kind of passable). If I could do 150km’s, that would mean a Tuesday arrival in Townsville. I had high hopes.

These hopes were of course soon to be destroyed by more headwinds. Rain fell for the first part of the morning, but after that it was just wind, wind… More wind. A pattern had started to fall. The road to Tully was enjoyable but slow.

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I ran into another cycle tourist on the way, who was going in the opposite direction. She told of how her journey from Rockhampton to here had been with the wind at her back and she was able to cover more distance than she expected. This well and truly confirmed that I am indeed travelling in the wrong direction.

I felt frustrated and annoyed about the situation. Unfortunately, I have a time limit. I do have to be conscious of the fact that I have a date that I need to be in Canberra by, albeit self imposed. The plan was to have ample time so I can explore the more interesting parts of NSW. These parts of Queensland are on the whole not very interesting to ride and the road surface of the Bruce Highway is at times rather painful.

A relaxing stay that evening at the seaside town of Cardwell gave me an opportunity to evaluation my perspective.

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I had already made markers for where I needed to be at the end of each week. This week it is Rockhampton. If I’m not going to make it there (which is near impossible given it’s over 700km’s away now) then I’ll get a bus there. I’m already riding 6-7 hours a day and I don’t think it’s realistic to ask more of myself. Bob touring is hard work! But oh so worth it. This will give me more time to explore, ride trails where I can and maybe pick up part of the BNT when I get closer to home.

With my fresh perspective and a more relaxed attitude towards my adventure, I rolled out of Cardwell the next more all ready to tackle one of the few climbs between here and Brisbane.

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I am no hill climber, but after a few days of riding on flats into epic headwinds all I wanted to do was go up one of those pointy things and get to descend at high speed down the other side! I had heard there was road works on it, but I did not expect to turn up and be told I couldn’t climb the damn thing because they’re down to one lane. It’s not even long – 1.5km! After all the murmurings in town about “the range” and warnings of “oooh you’ll be crossing the range tomorrow” I thought it was going to be a tad more epic.

I begged and pleaded with the road workers and they finally agreed to let me climb it if I was careful and if one of the guys followed me for part of it. This was a much better option than getting a lift in a ute, it meant I got a nice view of Hinchinbrook Island and  the joy of descending at 65km/h down the other side. Weeeee!

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The road to Ingham was rough, but no rougher than any of the roads I have travelled since leaving Cairns. I’m yearning for smooth tar, effortless pedalling and tailwind – or just no wind at all.

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A quick stop at a fruit stall on the side of the road was well worth it when the guy insisted I didn’t give him any money for bananas – what a score! He was a very sweet man and it was nice to have a chat with him.

With another 110km’s to go from Ingham to Townsville, it was pretty much a given that I wouldn’t be rolling into Towny until Wednesday so I accepted this and settled at Crystal Creek caravan park which made another 100k day. I met a couple there who had driven up from Brisbane and they said the road works all up the Bruce were making travelling very slow. This further cemented my decision to get a bus at some point, perhaps from Mackay. That would pretty much make up for the extra km’s I did up to Cape Tribulation and around.

With another bed settled for the night, I concentrate on my aim of getting in to Townsville to get Bob and the El Mariachi sorted out. They were both become difficult to put together and to ride. Climbng the Cardwell Range had to be done in big gears as the chain skipped all over the place when in the 22T front ring.

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I put the call out of Facebook to find a good bike shop in Townsville, and On ‘n’ Off Bikes was recommended by a few. I rode in after a very hot morning of pedalling Bob for four hours, which left me dehydrated and pretty toast. Unfortunately, the workshop was busy and they couldn’t even look at my bike until tomorrow.

I made a few distressed phone calls and soon enough Adam at CBD had me riding off to Top Brand Cycles just up the road. I walked in, told them my name and the bike and trailer was taken off my hands while I was left to chat to the staff and have a wander about the shop. After about half an hour of them working on my bike, entertaining me and generally being awesome she was all ready to go. I was totally stoked and totally surprised when they told me there was no charge just because Justin (the mechanic) liked my bike… What total legends! I would love to do something to repay them as they have no idea how much they turned a distressed/tired/emotional cyclist into the happiest girl in the world.

Once that was done and I had run a few more errands, it was nearing the tail end of the afternoon so I decided to stay in Townsville for the night. I’m now shacked up at a Caravan Park and ready to get a good sleep before heading out tomorrow. Not sure where yet and how far… We shall see what the wind will bring!

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Cairns Rest Day

10 hour sleep, massive breakfast, huge dinner, epic amounts of chocolate, serious spa time… Think I’ve got the rest day covered.

Looking forward to rolling out of here in the morning. Might even make it a later start than the first three days, wondering if it’s the early rising that’s breaking me.

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Julatten Caravan Park to Cairns

It it somewhat difficult to write about parts of today, but I will do the best I can.

I rolled out of the caravan park in the darkness of the morning before any of the other campers stirred. My usual breakfast didn’t seem to cut it and my grumbly tummy had me chowing down muesli bars early into the ride. I could tell from the start that today was going to be tough.


The turn off to Mt Molly came pretty quick and for a moment we pondered heading in the opposite direction. Up to Cooktown, onto Cape York and explore the wilderness. It was very tempting but I think I’ll save that one for when Tyno can come along.


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The terrain was nothing short of awesome on the 40km stretch from Mt Molloy to Mareeba. I had been concerned about the amount of nothingness I would encounter today, but this was actually what I was really enjoying. Sparse areas without much vegetation, followed by scatterings of trees.. A lake. The colours were vibrant and were difficult to catch on camera.


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As I rode along and looked down at the clock, it completely blew my mind to think that this time last week I would have been walking to the train station on my way to work. And now I’m crossing this amazing lake that could almost be a mirage, on the other end of Australia.


Riding became difficult at some point along the road, and the same nausea from previous days crept back in. I looked forward to getting to Mareeba to eat some solid food, as I was down to only muesli bars and they weren’t doing the trick anymore. When I finally did roll into town I was in such a state of exhaustion and confusion that it took me almost an hour of rolling around to decide what to eat. I finally parked myself at Subway and started scoffing down some calories, hoping I would come right for the remaining 60km of road to Cairns.

 

The Kennedy Highway runs between Mareeba and Cairns. At the half way point is Kuranda, and this town is pretty much the entire reason for me going this way. That, and I’ve heard the descent is pretty damn awesome.

What I didn’t hear (or what I misunderstood when people may have tried to tell me), is that the Kennedy Highway has extremely limited shoulder for bicycles. In parts, including the descent from Kuranda, it has none. Now this is all well and good for your average road – but this is a highway. A highway with large trucks travelling over 100km per hour on what is already very narrow road. This was simply a terrifying experience for me.

Anyone that knows me as a rider, knows that I’m not really afraid of much. I ride in Sydney traffic, I ride on highway shoulders often. I ride places others might not consider and I’m not afraid of cars. Today, I was very afraid. It was probably one of the only times I have really felt like I could very well die on a road, and it was too much.

About 10km out of Mareeba I realised how bad the road was when I was brushed by a car, but at that point there wasn’t much I could do. I sat and pondered, shed a few tears of frustration and made some phone calls. In the end I decided to press on. Luckily, some work had been done and there was new shoulder to ride up ahead – but it was rough. The gravel like covering (what do you call that stuff? I hate it!) made for a very slow ride and some intense headwinds added to that. After a very unpleasant ride I finally made it to Kuranda, and rolled in for a short rest before pressing on.

As I came into the village I was in love with my surroundings and decided if I could find somewhere suitable I would stay instead of continue on. That would have been the right thing to do, but it’s not what I did. Thinking about it now, perhaps I was too tired and exhausted to really read my instincts. After spending a bit of time in the centre of town and chatting to some locals, I got a bad feeling and wanted to leave. I can’t really explain it, but I decided I needed to get to Cairns.

After receiving some very poor directional advice from some guys in town, I made it out of Kuranda after almost an hour of riding around. It was now well past 4pm and I was aware that time was wearing thing. So I hit the highway and was pretty excited about getting to lose all that elevation with Bob. Pretty excited… Until the complete and utter lack of shoulder became apparent, I had some very close encounters with some cars and an extremely close encounter with a truck – and promptly lost my shit.

Enter knight in shining armour – my hero of the day. While I did and still feel like a total failure for not making the last 20km of todays ride, I am forever grateful to Alex for rescuing me from the side of the road and giving me a lift into Cairns (where he just so happened to be on holiday at the time). As we drove down in the car I realised that the descent would indeed be freakin amazing to ride, but not at that time and not with Bob. It just wasn’t meant to be.

Still not a bad day with 100km’s clocked in pretty tough conditions. After the emotional and physical stress of today I’m calling in a rest day tomorrow… Then the prologue is over and the real Cairns to Canberra begins!

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Cape Tribulation to Julatten Caravan Park

I struggled to get to sleep last night with the voices of English backpackers echoing throughout the accommodation grounds. When I woke I found my clothes were still soaked, so pulled out fresh kit instead of bearing a soggy few hours. More princess behaviour, I’ll toughen up soon – I promise.

It was dark for the first hour as I rode through the Daintree Rainforest. It was kind of spooky, but I enjoyed the silence and how it slowly morphed into birds waking and wildlife prancing around the side of the road before the area became more heavily trafficked. The ferry started running at 6am so soon after this I saw some utes come through, but apart from that I had the place to myself and appreciated the beauty of it much more than I had the day before.

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I had my eyes peeled for crocodiles and snakes but was disappointed to only see a few dead, squashed and forgotten slithery friends on the side of the road. I’ll eat my words when I finally see a snake up close and freeze out of fear, but until then I’ll still claim that I’m pining to see one.

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I was definitely feeling yesterdays ride in my legs and the pain prompted me to reflect on some of my stupidity. I seems every tour I do I end up not riding much at all for the months preceding, yet still expecting to be able to rock up and smash out 150km days with a 40kg rig and be smiling all the way. Not much smiling was happening out of the Daintree this morning and I was relieved to reach the top of the major climb and have a chance to appreciate the view without yesterdays rain.

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Bob and I patiently waited for the Ferry again and enjoyed stares from locals lining up to take their cars across.

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It wasn’t so pleasing to find a headwind had developed by the time we reached the road house at the turn off for Mossman. It was a slow push along the winding road, made completely bearable by blue skies, sunshine and magnificent views. Some of the areas that were grey and rainy the day before were now lucious and Bob and I stopped often to take photos and appreciate the surroundings. We could have stayed sitting at Rocky Point all day.

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After picking up supplies in Mossman we scouted out for a place to rest and eat. A nice big tree out the front of a farm at the turn off to Mount Molloy seemed appropriate. As I sat and ate and scoured over maps, I realised that my goals of making it to Mount Molloy that day were probably a tad ambitious. My legs were tired and I was feeling nauseous, presumably due to dehydration that I felt yesterday. I decided that I could probably make it as far as Julatten, so gave the caravan park a call just to make sure they still existed. With confirmation, we set off to climb.

I’m not a fan of climbing in general, but this was very enjoyable. Twists and turns, just enough gradient to keep you on your toes but completely possibly with a Bob. And it went for 8km! Pure luxury when you’re used to the 3-4km climbs around Sydney. When we were near the top we flew our flag proudly as we looked out onto the land and waters below.

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Expecting to be riding for at least another 15km after reaching the top, I was shocked to find that the Julatten caravan park was not really in what the map deemed as Julatten – but quite a way before. I was in good spirits after the climb and decided I could press on. On I went, for a whole 3km… Until I decided that was ridiculous and I should call it a day before I cracked completely. It turned out to be a great decision as I had a good spot to pitch my tent, an early dinner and was ready for bed well before nana o’clock.

This is my touring dinner of choice right now. I think I might have to move onto two packs soon enough.

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A relatively short day with 85km done, but over 1000m of climbing and with broken legs!

 

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Cairns to Cape Tribulation

One of the best feelings in the world is being reminded why you’re touring by a simple scene when you’ve lost sight of it somehow. It’s easy to forget why you’re here when you roll out of a city. The concrete, the consumerism, the tourists – you end up feeling like one of them and your sense of freedom and release is lost.

Today, as I rolled over an incline and was presented with the light of the morning sun glistening across coastal waters and waves lapping upon a rocky beach, I remembered exactly what made me quit my job and pack up my life.

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Riding up the coast line was beautiful. Given I had an early start there was hardly any traffic, and the road rolled along making pedalling seem effortless. The view wasn’t so bad at all…

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After a detour into Port Douglas for a 9am lunch, I rolled through Mossman and said goodbye to the beautiful coastline for a while in favour of some in land roads. The land was littered with Cane fields and the flat terrain made way for some frustrating headwinds.

I took refuge at a road house 39km out from Cape Tribulation. It was here I discovered the first flat tyre of my tour, which was quite upsetting given the faith I have it my super robust Dureme tyres. I was somewhat releived to find that it was in fact a dodgy rim tape job that did the damage and was thankful I packed electrical tape at the last minute.

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Bob was pleasantly surprised to find that we had to get a ferry across the Daintree river before we could roll through the rainforest, despite being quite a strong swimmer and enjoying showing off his talent from time to time. I was thankful to have the opportunity to rest my weary legs before tackling the more vertically challenging section of todays ride.

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The clouds before us grew thicker and darker as I nervously looked at the clock. I’m terrible at clock watching while I’m touring. I’m always nervous that I’m not going to make it before dark, despite always having adequate lights and often riding in darkness for an hour or so in the morning. Perhaps there’s just something a little scary about finding a safe spot to camp when there’s little light – or perhaps I’m just being a princess.

When the rain did come down, it provided a welcome relief from an otherwise hot and humid forest… That was until my shoes became swimming pools and visibility was extremely low. From then on pedalling Bob up the climbs became a task that I wished would come to an end, and my desire for a hot meal and a warm bed grew stronger.

Soon enough I arrived at Cape Tribulation and treated Bob to a single dorm so we could stay dry for the night. We skipped the beer today and couldn’t even get much down for dinner, which might be a sign the heat is getting to me more than I thought. Hoping a solid sleep and a serious amount of water might help in that department.

154km clocked for the day. Many quality hours with Bob.

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Cairns to Canberra

On Friday I farewelled work colleagues after 6.5 years of service in the IT Department at Rabobank. I resigned, and future employment is still pending.

On Sunday I farewelled friends and family after almost 13 years of living in the central and inner west areas of Sydney.

Today, I landed in Cairns. Tomorrow, I start my journey to Canberra.

 

You can track me here:

http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0BuAGqGytMP4WztCv2jbQ9IXTBUgFTnUR

 

 

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One big wheel. One hundred miles.

When you tell someone you’re going to ride 100 miles, it generally raises some eyebrows. It’s not really the kind of thing I’ll tell people I’m doing anymore. When you tell someone you’re going to ride 100 miles on a Penny Farthing, they immediately mark you as certifiably insane and stare back at you in disbelief. I got some kind of enjoyment out of those stares in the lead up to my trip to Tasmania in Feburary this year.

It all started in February 2010, when I headed down to Tassie with the Dulwich Hill Bicycle club for a week of touring and to check out these famed Penny Farthing races in Evandale. The crazy ones would ride 100 miles on a Penny a day after touching down in Launceston, and then we would all go off on our fully loaded touring bikes the next day – returning just in time for the Nation Penny Farthing championships the following weekend. I wasn’t going to be one of those crazies, in fact I was terrified of these big wheel bikes all together. I was pretty tame in those days. Too scared to ride off road, too scared to ride more than 100km on the road, and too unfit and slow to fathom doing any of it anyway.

Somewhere during the year after that trip my thoughts shifted. I started wondering just how painful it could really be. I heard tales from Lindsay and others (who were Penny Century veterans) about not being able to walk up or down stairs for days afterwards, and having great difficulty sitting down let alone getting on another bicycle seat. Somehow, it all sounded rather attractive.

Di and Michael Sullivan, the terrific organisers of this marvelous event and wonderful hosts for my stay in Evandale, organised to lend me one of the Velocipede Society bikes when I expressed interested in the 2011 event. Standing at only 5’4″, I was somewhat concerned as to whether my feet would even reach the pedals. Rightly so, as I discovered that even on the small 48″ wheel (which also dictates the bikes gear size) my toes were uncomfortably pointed at the bottom of each pedal stroke. I am no ballerina, and I realised this would present a problem after a few km’s let alone 160 of them!

Luckily I came armed with a secret weapon: the cork sanding block. Purchased in a last minute panic from Mitre 10 before leaving Sydney, the cork sanding blocks did a rather stunning job of building up the pedals when fastened with over sized cable ties. Sure, your feet could only actually sit on two sides of the block and it annoyingly always spun around to the two wrong sides that had a bulging pedal in the centre, but I figured it would get me through the day.

Di put on a breakfast so calorie dense I could have done three back to back penny centuries and still put on weight… But I wasn’t complaining. With a belly full of baked bean toasted sandwhiches, home made muffins and lashings of coffee, I was standing on the start line with Bell (my beautiful Penny for the day), a camel back full of water and a very nervous smile.

Bell and I had a pretty slow start, but we managed to maintian pace with the other 15 or so riders that had made the start. We left Evandale and tackled our first railway crossing for the day, which sent the bike jolting and made me realise just how little those solid rubber tyres absorbed any bumps. As we got further from the village, the struggle with my sanding block pedals began. Every little rise where I had to put some power down would see my foot slipping and I wouldn’t be able to get back on the platform. At one point I had to dismount and by the time I was back on the bike, the others were pedalling off in the distance.

En route to Deloraine

Feeling as though I was left behind forever, I decided to go at the pace myself and the pedals dictated and began to really enjoy the scenery and riding the tall contraption. Up so high you could see absolutely everything, which is something rather enjoyable when you’re in a beautiful place like Tasmania. I winded through the streets until I was presented with a confusing corner where I had to stop to check where I was going. It was here I happened upon Phil, a visitor from the UK who had come to Evandale to ride his Penny. We chatted for a while about his adventures touring Japan on his big wheeled bike, and how he thought travelling in a hot air balloon was also a pretty cool idea. We went through stages where I would be in front, then him, and him being around made me worry less and less about not making the time limit.

The toughest stage of the ride was set to be Reedy Marsh. This was just before the half way mark of 80km at Deloraine, and was the part of the course that presented some actual hills to climb up. Now, climbing hills on a Penny is a rather ridiculous idea, but I found that I got the hang of it. You basically have to break it down in three stages: assess the gradient, decide if you can make it or not then either dismount or go at it full gas! If you make an error in the assessment or decision steps, then you’re finding yourself toppling sideways half way up the incline from a fair way off the ground. If you’re lucky enough to realise that this is going to happen a few moments in advance, it’s a good idea to find a comfy looking bush for landing.

Having ridden along certain that Phil and I were the back markers of the race for sometime, it came as a shock to see the rest of the field coming towards me. Going back through Reedy Marsh? I have to go back through here? My panic was soon soothed when one of the riders explained they had taken a wrong turn and were essentially doing the loop in reverse, which meant that I was not very far behind at all. Phew! A stop for a sandwhich in Deloraine was a welcome break before it was time to spin home.

And spin I did! Tailwind, 48 inch gear… All I really needed was a free wheel and I would have been cruising. But alas, my legs pedalled away with the momentum of the smooth flowing road. The miles were ticking by so quickly and I was enjoying my ride more every moment. People on the road side smiled and waved and I beamed back at them, thinking how silly I must have looked.

The last bakery stop for the day was filled with Penny riders stocking up on cakes and treats, and I pulled in with them not long after they had arrived. With more time to tell the story of their shortcut, I realised that they had a few more km’s to cover on the way back to Evandale which I had done on the way out. With all the fun I was having I was slightly dissapointed that my adventure was soon to come to an end, but I couldn’t wait to get riding again and jumped back on Bell.

Headwinds are pretty damn horrible on the road. Headwinds when you have the huge surface area of the Penny are pretty damn terrifying. It was like hitting a brick wall when it came, and with every revolution I wondered if I would make the next or if I would go toppling sideways into on coming cars or the alternative of a barbed wire fence. Along this stretch was where Di started following in her car and offering words of encouragement. I will be enternally gateful for that, as after over 9 hours on the most uncomfortable saddle you could imagine I was beginning to struggle with internal motivation.

The final 10 km’s to Evandale crawled by ever so slowly. We hit busy roads and the road signs started to tell me we were near. A quick run through Perth and then all I had to worry about was the final incline of the day.

I hit that incline, and I decided with every ounce of self confidence I had that I could make it to the top. I stomped my feet on those blocks hard, but my legs weren’t having a bar of it. They gave was at possibly the most inappropriate time, and as I went tumbling towards a very sharp looking guard rail I started to wonder how far such a thing would penetrate my skin and flesh… I must have closed my eyes, as when I opened them I had astonishingly landed with one foot on that sharp rail. I began to giggle, then chuckle, then before long I was in full laughter thanks to the incident I had just somehow managed to avoid. After a few minutes I figured out how to get out of my compromising leg split where I was in contact with both rail and Penny saddle, and a quick push up the hill saw me rolling back on Bell into town.

A cold ale and rubber stained legs

Di was waiting outside the Clarendon Arms, and I dismounted Bell feeling relatively fresh. It was done! I did it! Di and Michael revealed they had their doubts at the beginning of the day with my pedal troubles, but I managed to make it home and in second place. 10 hrs 32 minutes on a penny farthing, what a day. James managed to beat me by about an hour or so, and the others started to roll in about half an hour afterwards.

I enjoyed a cold Wizard Smiths Ale, made a couple of phone calls to relay my triumph and started to wonder how on earth I was going to ride 140km the next day with a fully loaded BoB…

The Evandale Village Fair and National Penny Farthing Championships are held in Evandale, Tasmania in February each year. I highly recommend checking it out! More info at their website http://www.evandalevillagefair.com/.

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Singletrack Mind Rnd 2: Condoo Rd, Nowra

The last, and only, enduro I did (apart from the recent 24 effort) was the Appin 400 in August 2010. I rode solo with the Yeti on it’s first dirt ride – and me on probably my sixth. I struggled, a lot, because I really had no idea what to do when faced with any form of rock. Not so awesome for riding Appin.

When I signed up for Paterson, Tyno and I had already decided to race the Singletrack Mind series in a pair. He warned that I would be pretty tired the week after a 24 solo, but I bit my lip and declared that I would be just fine. Well, last week I was far from it. I’ve been in limbo from being hungry to having no appetite at all, feeling far too tired to way too awake, and after a massage on Thursday evening and an easy ride the following morning my legs were in so much pain that a few tears were shed.

Not to worry. Racing an 8 hour in a pair – easy! That’s only 4 hrs of riding. That’s less than I would normally be riding for on a casual Sunday. Wrong. Mixed pairs seems to be one of the most hotly contested categories in the Singletrack Mind series. I had no idea what I was getting myself in for. As I looked around at race plates the morning of the race I realised that our category was dominated by sponsored kit and gun riders. Sigh.

The good news was that upon realisation that we didn’t have a chance in hell, the fun could

Photo courtesy of David Bateman

 begin! I was lapping somewhere around 31 minutes mostly and Tyno around 4 or 5 minutes quicker. The track was really flowy, no climbs of note and completely ride-able for a tech newbie like me, so it was hard to not smile the whole time! Combine that with an extremely well run event that attracts a friendly and laid back crowd, and you have a recipe for an excellent day on the bike.

I’m still not sure how much I actually enjoy racing in a pair, especially with such short laps. After finishing a lap I would only just have enough time to visit the amenities, refill water, eat something, check bike and sit down for all of 5 minutes before it was time to chuck the gloves back on and wait to be tagged. You don’t get a chance to find that mental space that I enjoyed so much about the 24 either. However, it’s definitely the sort of training I need as I really don’t know how to ride fast and I need to learn. And learn I did! That course seemed to be designed for race pace you couldn’t do anything but smash it out. I was definitely cornering better by the end of it.

Looking forward to the next round!

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