10 March 2015
Cyborg has a big Ride
Amy’s Big Canberra Bike ride is an annual ride put on by the Amy Gillett Foundation, with the help of Pedal Power. It serves both as a fundraising event, and to raise awareness of cyclists on roads. The ride caters for riders of all levels - with the more difficult 120km for seasoned riders, 68km for those who’d like a challenge, down to more leisurely 35 and 20km rides, and finally a quick 5km ride to bring the family along. The ride starts near the city centre, and closes some of the roads, giving riders a chance for a nice, safe ride through the middle of town.
One of the most surprising things about Amy’s Big Canberra Bike Ride was the fact that I managed to get up in the morning and drag myself to the start. Even more surprising was the fact that my legs weren’t hurting nearly as much as I had expected them to - though Max, in his infinite wisdom - did take me for a leisurely stroll in the pre-dawn hours to ensure I loosened them up a bit. I even turned up with enough time to grab a coffee at the hub.
When it was time to roll out, I moved towards my usual place at the back of the pack. It took me quite some time to find the hairy legs section, but there were a few of us, so I didn’t feel entirely out of place. And everyone seemed quite friendly too - after all, it was a ride, not a race. Before too long the MC was talking again, and introduced us to the Rider of Honour, Anna Mears - fresh from breaking records in Europe. And then, we were off.
Now, I should mention here that I studiously avoid riding on the roads. Sure, I have a road bike, which I use primarily for commuting to work, but Canberra is a very bike-friendly city, and I can ride close to 30km to and from work solely on bike path (well, apart from crossing a few roads). And I have rarely ridden amongst roadies - sure, I’ve done the Gong Ride a couple of times, but that would be about the total of my experience of group riding, and in those rides the “group” consisted of Father Brendan and I. So, I was kind of looking forward to this new experience.
And what an experience it was, to head out en masse and take up the entire west-bound lanes of Parkes Way. And to be dragged along in a pack. I found myself effortlessly cruising around 30km/hr! We turned off onto Lady Denman Drive, which was also closed for us, and rode around the lake for a while. It was a beautiful, cool, crisp morning with a hint of cloud, but no wind, which not only meant comfortable riding, but nice views all around.
Given all this riding, the pack had thinned out already, which was quite fortunate as William Hovel drive was not closed for the event, and we began to ride double-file in the bike lane; this was my first experience of riding in one of those small bike lanes on the side of the road, with cars whooshing by. Fortunately, everyone was very relaxed and friendly, and I was having a very enjoyable experience.
Then we turned onto Coppins Crossing Road, from which some spectacular vistas of the Brindabellas came into view, and the undulations began. In no time at all, the pack had thinned much more, and I was on Uriarra Road - where the real riders go for fun! This was again quite nice, and scenic, with more undulations which began to trend downwards. That wasn’t a good sign! This trend led all the way down to Uriarra Crossing, from whence we had probably the hardest climb of the day - it wasn’t the longest, but it was quite a pinch.
We were rewarded with a feed station at the top of the climb. But, with some grey clouds looming in the distance, and my pack carrying plenty of drink, I didn’t bother to stop and continued cruising down Uriarra Road, tagging onto another group of riders and checking out their flash new Trek bikes. They looked to have built-in sensors in the chain stays, which was quite interesting. These riders did some interesting hand signals, which I had seen riders do once previously in the ride - they’d reach out down and to their right and move their hands to and fro. I have since found out that this means it’s okay to overtake - I probably should have looked up signals before taking part in the ride!
Brindabella Road followed, for some more undulating track - which had a really nice, curvy descent that yielded some nice views of the new Cotter Dam - that thing is massive! And while the ride was enjoyable, the clouds had cleared a bit, and the day was starting to heat up. We dropped into Casuarina Sands, then began the climb out along Cotter road.
The climb - though not steep, just never seemed to end. Overhead the skies had cleared, and the sun began to beat down on me, and I was heating up. It was around then the devil appeared to me, dressed in red, shimmering on my left on the heat-waved road.
“Why strain in the hot sun, Cyborg? Come hither and lay down your burden,” she tantalised, “Stand with me here under the blazing sun and watch the sweaty MAMILs ride by...”
And while this was a sorely tempting offer, I settled for a photo instead, and set back upon my way to finish the last 10km or so of the ride.
After passing Mt Stromlo, the ride turned into what could be considered a classic Canberra commute; down Cotter Road, and onto Adelaide Avenue. There I enjoyed the wide bike lane, and actually felt quite safe on the road - though, I’m not entirely sure I would feel as safe on a morning or afternoon commute on that road. I felt a bit exposed heading around State Circle, where the bike lane disappeared, but the cars were very courteous and gave me lots of room.
Then it was onto the all-too familiar ground of Kings Avenue - which wasn’t closed for the event, but another rider and I took a lane anyway - with a few more riders behind us. I knew this stretch, this was the home stretch from so many events gone before - albeit running events. Conditioned to this, I reflexively increased my pace across the bridge, and down onto the path. Then I rode faster up the road to Rond Terrace, looping around and back to the finish arch to find an almost deserted hub - a far cry from the crowds of the morning. It turned out riders from the shorter routes hadn’t returned yet. So I took advantage of the relatively quiet hub to get a fresh steak sandwich, and beat the pack out to be home in time for second lunch.
All told, it was an excellent event, for a good cause, and a fantastic introduction to Canberra road riding. The course was scenic, interesting, with just enough challenge and may indeed become a moderately regular feature of the future weekends. But no lycra. Definitely no lycra.