Le Tour de Anduramba … a new benchmark is set

On the BVRT What makes a bike ride memorable? Is it the route, the conditions, the difficulty, the weather, the people you ride with, the obstacles or challenges you face along the way, the experience matching the anticipation??

It is probably all of these. I know at this point I should say “it’s the people”, because I’m just back at the computer after three days of superb mountain bike touring with four absolutely delightful friends.

But I think as well, the company you are with yourself is vital to getting the maximum out of these opportunities.

Some basics. It was a three-day tour, largely on gravel roads. We started & finished in the Brisbane Valley town of Toogoolawah.

Our overnight stays were in Blackbutt and Crows Nest. Hence the weekend’s hashtag was #tbcn. Emma and JD at Linville

The team was: Emma (founder and CEO of the internet-famous Bike Bestie, and possibly mentioned on this site before), Brad (a.k.a. Mr Cyclocross), John (“J.D.”, author, tourer, once co-worker with Emma at Epic Cycles) and Susie B (South Bank Bunch’s bubbliest, always up for a new adventure). And me.

Emma and Brad and I have toured together before. JD has toured all over, but this was my first multi-day ride with him. And Susie, although a very experienced roadie and former triathlete, is new to mtb touring.

And the set-ups illustrate this spread of both experience and depth of involvement in mtb bike-packing.

Emma has the most pro bike-packing set-up. Of anyone anywhere on this planet. She rides a Gellie Custom steel-framed bike that is start to finish purpose-built for this type of riding. It has 650B wheels with nice big tyres, a rigid steel fork upfront, high-efficiency hub dynamo lights, 14-speed Rohloff internal geared rear hub, Gates belt drive, and she has fitted it out with a full Bike Bag Dude kit, including front bags, frame bags, chaff bags x 2, and rear seat bag.

And the gear she carries is likewise always fully researched and there are solid reasons for every choice, so there are names like Hennessy Hammocks, and Trangia, and Sea To Summit, and Patagonia and Ground Effect. Emma likes quality kit.

My set-up (the ‘Black Hornet’) I’ve described before, but the best adjective for it is idiosyncratic. The addition since last time is that I bought an equivalent to the Bike Bag Dude chaff bag, mounted on the handlebars. Mine was an eBay purchase, as I was looking for something larger (& cheaper) than standard, so that it would provide a place for my Jetboil stove, which until now had been taking up a good chunk of room in my seat-bag.

So I got a “small nylon waterproof military MOLLE pouch”. Does the job and it cost $12.80, which is less than $60. It worked so well mounted on the right hand side of the Black Hornet’s handlebars, that I will get another, smaller one to mount on the left. There’s less room there, however, because of my Cannondale Lefty fork.

Brad has a combo of DIY and bought bike-packing kit on a vintage red GT Zaskar (complete with weird dual-control Shimano XTR brakes/shifters from about 10-12 years ago). He made his own frame bag, and mounting points for his front dry-bag, and bought a Revelate Designs holster thing for his seat-post mounted rear dry-bag, and chaff bags. It all worked super well, but he didn’t find room for a stove. Plenty of room for snacks. Brad brought lotsa snacks.

JD was all dirt-road touring ready with his sweet Soma Groove and a rear rack and panniers set-up, and a spacious handlebar bag. He is pretty much ready for any road, anywhere. Perhaps not for single-track, but this trip wouldn’t have any single-track anyway.

And Susie had bags strapped all over her Giant hard-tail mtb, mostly to a seat-post mounted rack. And a new tent. New sleeping mat. Etc.

Our new friend Chris took a pic of us at the Crows Nest National Park camping ground on Monday morning. It gives you a glimpse of the variations in set-up. Team at Crows Nest NP

So after a bit of car-pooling and fussing around putting bags on the bikes, we were all ready to go on a Saturday morning, mid-winter in SEQ.

Team TBCN

Here’s the happy crew, ready to roll.

Our first day was advertised (by me) as an easy warm-up to the more challenging ride on the second day. We rolled out of Toogoolawah past the showgrounds, which hosts the sky-diving fraternity most weekends. There were parachutistas floating gently to the ground as we trundled past.

The road surface soon enough turned from bitumen to gravel, and the ride proper was under way. There was plenty of light-hearted chat as we got used to the way our bikes handled with all the gear on-board, and how each of our touring companions rode. It was a solid couple of hours before we made it to Moore, via Colinton and a little bit of the D’Aguilar Highway.

There are three cafes at Moore. We chose the one with the outdoor eating area, and proceed to fuel up and chat for a good 90 minutes! Butterfly at Moore Leaving Moore

Eventually we had to get back on the bikes, and start riding again. It was bitumen to Linville, and the scenic surrounds of the start of the best bit of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, the Linville to Blackbutt section. The pictures tell some of the story, but it is the best, most gradual way to gain 300 metres in elevation. The trail just slowly rises, and you rise with it.

cruising on the rail trail

lonelytrailBVRT

A couple of us were feeling the effort though. It seems possible in retrospect that none of us had done very much specific training for this event. Emma in particular had been super-busy with her work (which, ironically, is all about getting other people on bikes!) and had barely ridden for quite a few months.

So it was pretty late in the day that we made it the Blackbutt showgrounds, which are just off the trail as it reaches the township. We reccied the site, as you do on your bike, by riding slowly around, picking out our potential camping sites.

Emma and JD picked out a perfect spot for their hammocks, and Susie set up her new tent. New tent Team Hammock

As the rain clouds rolled in, Brad and I chose to set up in the covered entertainment area.

Blackbutt showgrounds has great hot showers available to the camping set, who are of course mostly grey nomads.

We availed ourselves of the showers as well, and then waited out the passing rain showers before walking to the Radnor Hotel for dinner.

Brad had been served lamb shanks at a previous visit to the Radnor. JD had been building up the idea all day. It was a letdown to get there and find that the menu had changed as a result of new owners.

Undeterred, in typical JD fashion he asked the bar staff person what they would get. ‘The porterhouse steak’ was the response. So JD and Emma ordered up what turned out to be substantial chunks of deceased cow.

The rest of us made our choices as well, but it was the porterhouse steaks which got the oohs and aaahs and the oh-my-goodness what-have-I-dones when they arrived at our the table.

Nobody ordered dessert.

A steady walk ‘home’ to the showgrounds, and everyone had retired to bed by 8.30pm.

I slept quite well, but some of the others didn’t have such a great night. Susie in particular claimed to have barely slept. Claims made around other people’s snoring are always best left ‘on tour’, especially because I’m often named as the culprit. But on this occasion at least I didn’t keep anyone else awake (because I was nowhere near Susie’s tent).

Blackbutt sunrise

So it was a slow start on a cool morning in Blackbutt.

Brad was buying breakfast in town, so after he was packed up he went to find the popular wood-fired bakery to make him some breakfast AND lunch. I had to buy some more batteries, after looking at battery meter levels on my camera and GPS, so I also went up town before Susie and JD and Emma had got their stuff together.

By the time everyone was finally packed and ready to head off, Brad was on his second coffee, and I had munched through a breakfast muffin and slurped a coffee, and Emma was teasing me about my lack of patience.

Straight out of town, we head south on Blackbutt-Crows Nest Road, which makes sense because we’re going to Crows Nest. But I knew that wasn’t the road we would be following for most of the day.

So we got to the first possible intersection to find the way to Nukinenda and Anduramba, and I got my Garmin eTrex out of my jersey pocket.

The thing is, although I had planned the route super carefully, it was along roads I have never been on (to be fair to myself, these are roads that very few people have been along).

By contrast to the first day, which both Brad and Emma had ridden the whole route before. But from hereon out on the second and third days of our ride, nobody knew the route first-hand.

So we were relying on the route I had planned and downloaded to the eTrex.

Which is fine if I was totally in command of what I was doing with the eTrex.

Which I wasn’t.

I’ve only had this unit for a little while … it used to be Emma’s. I used it for the first time on the ride to Spicers Gap, where it disgraced itself by running out of battery. So I knew that I needed to have spare batteries with me this time. Sorted.

But reading and interpreting the pointer triangle and purple and blue lines on the maps on a Garmin, on the side of the road, in various light levels, while four people wait for me? Tricky.

What made it even more of the tricky was the fact that I really had not properly understood how to follow along a pre-planned route. I had the Garmin eTrex in my pocket, because I had run out of room to mount it on the handlebars.

In theory it operates just fine in a jersey pocket. In practice, the unit can get just a little confused by being turned upside down as you get it out of your pocket, and it can take a few seconds to work out whether it is Arthur or Martha.

So I would hold the eTrex the right way up, and look at it. And it would confuse me because the map wouldn’t represent anything like what I was seeing before me. It would say that we were heading East, or North, when we were heading south, or south-west. And the road which was going to the left would be off to the right.

Eventually (it took me most of the day) I worked out a method of getting the eTrex out of the pocket nice and early, holding it as still as possible, and trying to wait maybe 15 seconds before looking at it. I think for future tours, I will have to find the device a spot on the handlebars. Then the only problem is reading the screen with my ageing presbyopic eyes.

So after a few minutes I chose the road which I thought would take us down a massive hill to Emu Creek. Which it did. The road sign just said ‘The Valley’.

What goes down

We would be finishing our ride on this day at a slightly higher elevation than we started. So 300 vertical metres of descent in 6 km was fun. But it meant that we were now at the low point of the day as we crossed Emu Creek, with boulders and trees. It was pretty! But it meant that what happened next was pretty … hard.

Emu Creek gorge

What Brad and Emma saw.

What Brad and Emma saw.

The climb out of Emu Creek gorge was about 1.8km, and gained back about 200 metres of elevation. I don’t know what the average gradient was, but it was a bloody steep dirt road.

We paused at the top (we paused about three times on the hill as well) and got our breath back. “I’m sure that was the hardest bit of today’s ride,” I said, blithely unaware of absolutely all of the roads ahead of us.

But what followed was some of the best riding that I have done anywhere, ever. Big skies, rolling hills, grazing beasts, a smooth gravel road, and four cool friends to share it with. We rolled along, drinking in the scenes as though we were mountain-biking through the Baz Luhrmann film Australia. A few of our photos attempt to capture it.

This is Australia sign

towards_nukinenda

As the ride and the day wore on, legs began to fade, and bodies started to weary. We were starting to pay the price for the effort of climbing out of Emu Creek gorge. “How far till our lunch stop?” was a persistent query.

We stood by our bikes at the intersection of Nukinenda Rd and McGreavey Rd. For more than a few minutes I was unsure which was the correct turn. Eventually we picked the right road, and soon after we pulled into the front yard of the Anduramba Community Hall, with just 37 hard-won yet spectacular kilometres under our wheels.

In the shade at the side of the hall, Susie lay down beside her bike. It seemed possible that she was preparing to spend the night at Anduramba. Only a strategic offer from Emma of some Vegemite to go on her crackers sparked Susie up again.

We ate our lunches, Brad took a selfie in the mirror in the toilets, and off we went.

Team TBCN at Anduramba Hall, after a reviving lunch.

Team TBCN at Anduramba Hall, after a reviving lunch.

The road we left on was ominously named: Anduramba Range Road.

And then further ominousity — a sign ROAD CLOSED in 3.5km. Well, we didn’t have many alternatives.

We had not expected any road closures. We hadn’t researched any alternate routes. I wasn’t skilled enough with the Garmin eTrex to map out a different route on the fly.

So, as foreshadowed, Anduramba Range Road was indeed quite closed. We battled past a barbed wire fence, and got to where the damage was from the 2013 floods.

2014-07-27 14.46.40 2014-07-27 14.52.37

The road had been partially repaired, and was no challenge to navigate on a bike. What was a challenge was the gradient, but fortunately it was semi-paved, with a hard-packed road base. At almost the top of the hill was the other side of the road closure.Another chance to get snagged on the barbed wire, until I noted a gate into the adjacent paddock. Brad could see another gate out of the paddock on the other side of the road closure.

So we added trespass to our list of sins for the day. And went on our way rejoicing.

2014-07-27 15.00.12

There were only a couple of small rolling hills left, and we were quickly onto a road which descended from The Bluff into Crows Nest. Not a moment too soon, as I think all of us were feeling fatigued by the climb up from Anduramba.

We rolled into Crows Nest about 3.30pm, and once again we saw a couple of different ways of managing the bike-packing experience. Brad ‘no stove’ Norman sought out the pizza shop while the rest of us went to the IGA to grab supplies that we could cook or snack on (or drink!).

So we come out of IGA with our pathetic snacks, and find that Brad has negotiated that the pizza shop will deliver out to the National Park, 5km out of town. So much pizza and garlic bread was ordered!

Along with their helpfulness on matters pizza-related, the staff there also had information about the weather (it was going to be cold, but stick around cos in a week it’s going to be freezing), and the likelihood of dingoes looking for food at our campsite (possibly just a ruse to ensure that city folks didn’t leave food scraps lying around the place).

We finally made it to the campsite around 4.30, and were set up before dark. Brad and Emma were building a fire as the pizza delivery guy showed up.

Now don’t think that just because pizza and garlic bread had been ordered that all other cooking had ceased. Not at all. Susie’s got half a chook and noodles. Emma and I are both making pasta, and JD’s prevaricating about his Moroccan cous cous.

But with the arrival of the pizza, we managed to eat ourselves into a stupor. There was enough left over to offer a substantial amount to our neighbours in campsite 7. With much discussion of dingoes, we all drifted off to bed, away from the glorious warm fire.

fire in the morning

And as the fire slowly subsided through the night, so did the temperature continue to drop. The apparent temperature in Toowoomba that evening got down to 1.8 degrees C at 5.30 am.

I can’t find any online observations for Crows Nest, but I suspect it would be quite similar. I had gone to bed originally with my down jacket (from Aldi!) on as well as baselayers top and bottom.

But I quickly removed the down jacket, and went to sleep. The second time I got up for the loo, the down jacket stayed as I zipped myself back into the sleeping bag. I was warm enough in the bag, except I couldn’t find a way to close the hood enough to keep my nose warm. So my nose was freezing.

But in the morning, I discovered that a cold nose was the least possible thing to complain about. Both the hammock dwellers had been uncomfortably cold in the night. John froze all night, said he had never been colder. Susie, with a 3/4 length sleeping mat, also said her feet were very cold.

So Brad re-stoked the fire, and we warmed our delicate extremities once more over tea and porridge and coffee.

The last day’s ride seemed on paper to be by far the easiest. Much more descent than ascent. The thing about that is that even when there’s lots of descending, which takes very little effort, whatever climbing there is still requires the same amount of effort that it always does.

on the way to Perseverance

So there were quite a few sharp hills, mixed in among the good times of the downhills, as we surfed the ridgeline down from Crows Nest towards the back end of Lake Perseverance.

The road turned north after a while, and after a beautiful picnic spot at Ivory Creek, we climbed up a bit and met up with The Bluff Road.

The closer to Toogoolawah the fewer downhills we got. And the more bitumen. And even some traffic. After three days of absolutely no traffic, it was necessary finally to keep left and stay tighter together.

With about five km to go, JD launched a surprise attack off the front. In some story-telling session earlier in the trip, I had mentioned the long-running tradition that Bruce and I have, that if you nominate the name of the town first, you are allowed to sprint for the town sign.

Well it seemed JD was making a pre-emptive burst. So I sat about 50-100 metres behind him, towing Susie along. Eventually Emma came past us both, and put in a strong effort to bridge across to JD.

By that time all of us had realised that in between us and Toogoolawah, there was one last stinking hill.

I was the only one with the energy or stupidity to sprint up the last hill, although it would be a charitable interpretation to use that term if you had seen the speed at which the ‘sprint’ occurred.

We regrouped for one last time just over the crest, and rolled triumphantly into Toogoolawah. It was an awesome three days. There was not a cross word spoken amongst any of us the whole time.

Friendships were formed and deepened, the roads were kind, and the sun was shining. Bikepacking is one activity that gives great reward for the effort put in. As I said on Emma’s Instagram post a few hours after we had all made it to our respective homes: A++. 5 stars. Would bikepack with again.

More stuff:



Filling the soundless void

I’m not recording a Squeaky Wheel this week … Phil Smith’s got a day off or weekend off or something.

But here’s a couple of bits of audio that I’ve listened to during the week that I thought were interesting …

    • Janette Sadik-Khan is the rock-star of active transport planners whose actions have transformed urban environments and made them more human places. New York, no less, was the place that Ms Sadik-khan helped to make into somewhere where riding a bike and walking to get around became much more possible. Here’s the interview she did on ABC Radio National while in Australia for Velo City.

 

  • Alaistair Humphreys does such cool stuff, and makes it so simple that even I can follow along. Here he is on a BBC Scotland radio piece, where he took a reporter and three other people on their first micro-adventure … a walk up to the top of a hill for an overnight bivvy. Great stuff. Not promising anything, but I may record a little bit this weekend when I’m out in the Scenic Rim with Brucewez.

 

Big picture, little picture.

An application of chaos theory and consequences to the difficulties of bicycle advocacy work

or ‘First World Problems: Keep it Down at the Back’

Imagine this mob coming past your front door before it gets light. Seven days a week.

Imagine this mob coming past your front door before it gets light. Seven days a week.

An actual conversation from a cafe not far from BQ HQ, just the other day.

Friendly Barista: So they’re changing the laws to do with bicycles. I know what law they should make. They should make it a law that bike riders can’t be talking at the top of their voices before dawn. My girlfriend lives at [location on the River Loop] and she gets woken up everyday at 5 am.

Briztreadley: Hmmm, yes. It’s a problem.

Friendly Barista: You bet it is! Can you do something about it?

Briztreadley: [inaudible] … is that my coffee? Thanks!

So this is my heartfelt plea.

If my barista’s girlfriend isn’t happy, then he won’t be happy.

If my barista isn’t happy, then the quality of coffee he makes for me at the start of my working day is going to decline.

If that happens, then ALL WORK ON BICYCLE ADVOCACY IN QUEENSLAND GRINDS TO A HALT. NOT A THREAT, JUST THE TRUTH.

So, could we keep it down out there?

Pretty please?

Sunday night round-up

Oh yeah, just briefly ...

Some things I’ve liked or been part of lately …

* not actually the name of the event

Take me home, Sylvan Rd, to the place I belooooong

Open / C grade ready to race. That's why the RAIN started.

Open / C grade ready to race. That’s why the RAIN started. Emma and I (far right and next) were finding it quite funny. Photo (c) ESi Sports Photography, used with permission.

So we had the Bike Week Cyclocross and it was pretty damn good.

I did a piece for the online mag Australian Cyclocross.

The more background blur you get, the faster I look. (Spoiler: I'm not that fast really)

The more background blur you get, the faster I look. (Spoiler: I’m not that fast really). Photo (c) ESi Sports Photography, used with permission.

Getting faster and faster ... smiling or gritting my teeth?? Pic by Sholto Douglas.

Getting faster and faster … smiling or gritting my teeth? Pic by Sholto Douglas.

Here’s the article:

So if we count one of the kids twice, Queensland Cyclocross hit a new milestone at the second annual Bike Week cyclocross event at Wests Rugby Union Club in Toowong, with 60 competitors racing on the day.

And that day, which was decidedly steamy as the set-up crew laboured at noon, turned wonderfully CX-like with aå nice shower of rain just after the Junior race, as Open / C grade were getting ready to go.

Combined A and B grade then took over the course, and with nearly 40 people lapping a course that must have been slightly less than a kilometre, the lap counters were earning their (iminaginary) pay.

All of this occurred in the atmospheric surrounds of Toowong Memorial Park, and with the assistance of the Wests Rugby club’s fields co-ordinator Dean Marsh, who stayed behind after rugby matches were finally over for the day, to supply the cyclocross crowd with beer and other refreshments.

The course included a very tricky off-camber corner on a steep hill, and a short but fast downhill section, some plain flat bits around the footy field, and a small flight of stairs beside the dressing sheds.

Patrick Flood (under 11) and Haddon Kilmartin (under 15) are both CX veterans, and they won their categories with some ease in the Junior race.

The Open / C grade was notable for the strong performance of the women in the field. Mountain bike blokes Chris Lusty and Doug Mitchell took the top two spots, but were followed by first-timer Jaine Mongston, who had too much speed for Qld CX stalwart Emma Best, who may have been slightly worn out by a busy schedule of volunteering at two events on the first weekend of Bike Week. Tracy Williams in 7th place rounded out the ladies’ podium.

The A and B grade races were boosted by a much stronger than usual contingent of the denizens of the fixed gear forum (fixed.org.au), who all seem to have bought the brightest coloured Specializeds or the latest disc-equipped Giants.

But it was business as usual at the front end of A grade for most of the race, as Matt Williams, who is possibly the most consistent winner in Qld CX history, was comfortably in control. He was pursued by bike messenger / fixie wild child Declan Kilkenny, and English gent Jason Smith, but it was only on the last lap that Williams crashed on a slippery grassy corner and let his two pursuers past.

Kilkenny took the surprise win, and the coveted ‘Take Me Home Sylvan Road’ t-shirt, donated by Wests Rugby Club.

Declan chases Shem in A grade.

Declan chases Shem in A grade, early doors.  Pic by Sholto Douglas.

In B grade, Darren Flood overcame his embarrassment that he still has yet to acquire a CX bike, and raced on his 29er mountain bike wearing Brisbane South Mountain Bike Club kit. He was in a road/CX sandwich with Chris Muller and Jonathon Hobson for the whole race. Muller eventually came out on top.

Floody on the 29er and Jon Hobson in pursuit.

Floody on the 29er and Jon Hobson in pursuit. Another Sholto pic.

Next up is Bowl-o-cross, a fun day out run by the team from Pushies Galore. It will be held at Holland Park Bowls Club on Sunday 11 May.

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Last year’s Bowl-o-cross was very memorable. It was the day that Robbie McEwen turned up to race with us.

As member of the organising crew said: “Imagine you are having a game of cricket in the park with some mates, and Steve Waugh rocks up and says, can I have a bat?”

Who knows who will turn up to Bowl-o-cross this year? Sven Nys maybe?

Along Wyaralong’s shore we did roam and play

Lucky for me, Emma waits at the top of the hills.

Lucky for me, Emma waits at the top of the hills.

Just back from a fine overnight mtb micro-adventure: Boonah to Mount Joyce base camp, and back again (a slightly different way).

I’m doing these overnighters both cos I like doing them, but also to gain experience for The Big Expedition later in the year.

So this one was in all respects an excellent success. The ride, which I thought was a possibility of being slightly too easy, turned out to be quite challenging when riding mountain bikes, each loaded up with about 15 kg of gear, food and water.

My good friend BikeBestie, fresh from inter-state shenanigans, agreed to join me for an afternoon on Easter Sunday, and a morning on Easter Monday.

So within that time frame we planned the following route.

We cruised out from Boonah around 2 pm on Easter Sunday, and followed some back roads to the start of the Shoreline Trail, alongside Wyaralong Dam, towards Mount Joyce Basecamp, which is a former homestead, now campsite.

The Shoreline Trail, although it’s not even ‘blue square’ level in terms of mtb singletrack, nevertheless provided sufficient challenge for both of us riding our loaded mtb tourers.

Especially when the trail surface became sandy over the last 10 km to camp.

We made it to our destination with about an hour of daylight left, enough for a scoot down to the dam for some photos, and back up to set up our sleeping quarters.

A man and his bike.

A man and his bike.

A woman and her hammock.

A woman and her hammock.

And then to experiments in camp cooking … mac ‘n cheese on Em’s tiny Trangia, and cous cous with added salmon on my aptly named Jetboil. Both were deemed delicious. I’m expecting to eat plenty of mac ‘n cheese when buying supplies from small town IGAs on the Munda Biddi Trail.

For those who have yet to visit Mt Joyce Basecamp:

  • yes, there’s a toilet
  • yes, there’s a rainwater tank. Both Emma and I drank the water from the tank and had no ill effects
  • it’s very spacious … there are rooms with sleeping platforms, there’s acres of verandah, plenty of room to camp on the grass outside as well, and two large picnic tables under cover on a verandah (the official brochure linked above says it’s a ‘simple shelter shed’, when in fact the buildings are two substantial weatherboard houses joined by a covered breezeway)
  • there are mosquitoes! but they seemed to lose interest in us after a couple of hours

So after a reasonably uneventful night’s sleep and more fueling up in the morning, we set off back towards Boonah.

gellie_dam_flowers

Boonah is one terminus, not surprisingly, of the Boonah-Ipswich Trail, parts of which exist, and parts of which do not.

One part which does exist, according to local Boonah news reports and potentially obsolete maps on the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning’s website, is the Lilybrook to Boonah section.

Once we left the Shoreline Trail and slogged over the hill on Knehr Road, we were able, with only occasional confusion, to follow the signs that pointed us towards Boonah on the BIT.

That’s not to say that the ride was easy. It was hard and steep in some sections, easy and flowing in others, but always with the magnificent views of the scenic Boonah countryside to compensate. Eventually, in the fullness of time, I crested the last big climb to the top of Schneider Road, where Emma was waiting patiently for me.

And we rolled into Boonah less than 30 minutes later, having completed an entertaining and memorable S24O. Thanks for your company, Emma!

em_peace_out2

Next one is … not sure where, but it will be sometime the other side of Bike Week!

Want to go for a spin?

Hey you!

I’m planning a bike-packing trip to the Munda Biddi trail in WA, and I want to make sure that I invite along anyone who thinks they might possibly attempt this sort of trip one day. Because maybe today is that day.

The Bidjar Ngoulin shelter on the Munda Biddi trail. There are 12 of these shelters on the trail, I'm planning on using five of them.

The Bidjar Ngoulin shelter on the Munda Biddi trail. There are 12 of these shelters on the trail, I’m planning on using five of them.

Where: the first half of the Munda Biddi Trail, starting near Perth, Western Australia.
When: 20-27 September 2014 (first week of the Qld school holidays)
Distance: 432 km is what Plan A looks like, an average of 62km per day. Longest day planned is 72.8km.

What’s the terrain like? Most days have around 800 metres of vertical ascent across 60-70 km of riding. So it’s not flat, but it’s also not in the least ‘alpine’. Plenty of pea gravel, so I’ve heard.

Are there towns on the way? Yes. Chance to re-supply food almost every day.
Are there cool shelters to camp in on the trail? Yes, the Munda Biddi trail has purpose-built shelters for bike-packing mtb riders, with bike parking, water tanks and toilets.

Have you mapped out the route, day by day? You know it.

Day 1 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317343
Day 2 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317397
Day 3 (part 1) http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317446
Day 3 (part 2) http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317557
Day 4 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317701
Day 5 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317748
Day 6 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4318375
Day 7 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4318546

Where are you finishing? I’m planning to finish at Jarrahwood after seven days riding, and next morning (Day 8) take a bus to Busselton (about 30 mins by bus) to meet up with my very patient wife for the second week of school holidays, down at Margaret River.

Busselton is a large town (about 25,00 people), with frequent bus services back to Perth. And a regional airport too.

I have the complete set of MB trail maps (on loan from the touring guru Sholto), but my route only covers the first 4 (out of 8).

Interested? Let me know. I would love to have your company!

It’s not cheating if it replaces a car?

The eZee Sprint, with Briztreadley-branded accessory, parked outside my bike shed.

The eZee Sprint, with Briztreadley-branded accessory, parked outside my bike shed.

The very first question that almost every bike rider asks when they first encounter the electric bike is: “Why?”

There are so many great things that we love about riding a bicycle that seem like they would be diminished or would disappear completely in the case of electric bikes.

A bicycle is very simple. You get on your bike, you ride, your legs power you, up hill and down dale, and you arrive at your destination through your own effort, your own sweat.

An e-bike, or a pedalec, or a power-assisted bike just seems like it’s probably a form of cheating. The simplicity thing gets a bit lost too, when you have to remember to re-charge your bicycle in between uses.

Well, after sharing a pedal-assisted bike for a month with the other members of the BQ staff, I’ve come to the conclusion that e-bikes are excellent, and I would love to own one. I’m not quite ready to plonk down my own $2500, but given the slightest encouragement by other members of my family, I certainly would.

The first time you sit on the saddle of an e-bike and take it for a spin, it is kind of disconcerting. It’s like an invisible hand is pushing you in the back. Your pedalling isn’t what is causing you to accelerate easily up to 30km. But there’s barely any sound of a motor either. And because you control the power assistance by the act of pedalling, it’s nothing like riding a motor scooter or motorbike.

The eZee Sprint that I used had five power-assist settings. I most commonly used it on ’4′, the second-most powerful. Sometimes I would drop back to ’3′, if it looked like the battery was being used up too fast. With the power-assist on level 4, my 11km commute from Salisbury to West End was nearly effortless, and almost as fast as driving my car.

The disconcerting thing about an e-bike is that when you get to a hill, you actually pedal softer, rather than harder. That way you let the electric motor do all the hard work. You keep soft-pedalling, and the bike charges up the hill. It’s weird, but also exhilarating.

The travel times for my commute are (going the fastest way, I often commute by bicycle using many alternate slower routes, for various reasons):

Mode Time
Driving (no congestion, say at 5am) 15 minutes
Driving (peak hour) 20-30 minutes
Riding a bicycle 30-35 minutes
Riding the eZee power-assisted bicycle 25 minutes

The commute example starts to give an inkling of what I liked about the pedal-assist bike. For existing bike riders, I don’t think that e-bikes are competing with your bicycle. You already understand the physical benefits of riding a bike and there’s no way you would give that up.

But if you don’t already ride? Well you probably aren’t reading this.

But if you have a partner or a friend who doesn’t ride because of hills, or because of lack of energy or fitness, or because they don’t want to end up all sweaty … the e-bike addresses all those concerns. Arrive at your destination faster than by bicycle, only slightly slower than a car for trips around 10 km.

For the existing bike rider, an e-bike extends the number of trips you can take without resorting to the car. So you rode to work and home again, but now you have to go out to pick up some groceries or visit friends or go to a community meeting in the evening? The e-bike is perfect to replace the car for those short utility trips. Most e-bikes on the Australian market have plenty of load-carrying capacity. The eZee Sprint I tried had a capacious front basket, and a rear rack which would also take panniers. The average office worker, even one who took a laptop to and from work every day, would have no problem carrying everything they need. Likewise, a shopping trip for a couple of days groceries would be easy to manage with the eZee.

My household has three drivers and three cars. It would only take the occasional co-ordination between the three of us to cut down the number of cars by one and replace it with an e-bike.

The process for charging the e-bike is simple, as long as you remember to do it. The charger plugs into the battery, nothing needs to be taken off the bike for charging. For a round trip commute of 20km, you could easily get away with charging every second night. But maybe charging every night would establish a routine which ensures the bike is always ready to go.

The eZee Sprint was loaned to Bicycle Queensland by Electric Bikes Brisbane.

http://www.electricbikesbrisbane.com/collections/electric-bikes/products/ezee-sprint

Cicadas = joy

Just the other day I was riding in the bush with a friend.

Well, when I say riding, at the time this conversation happened, we were in fact pushing our bikes up a steep-ish muddy rocky fire-trail.

And the sound all around us, engulfing us, swallowing us up whole … was the throbbing swirl of cicadas. Anybody who has spent any time in the Australian bush knows the sound. And knows how it surges and subsides.

The question my friend and I were discussing was: Do the cicadas get louder as we get closer to them? Are they louder because we are here? Or is it just a natural rise and fall in volume, as one cicada responds to another, and back again, and the whole crowd just talks louder and louder like people in a bar on New Year’s Eve?

We came to no conclusion. Right now while writing this, I could be looking up cicadas on Wikipedia, and discovering the answer. But the conversation’s content was not really the conversation’s meaning.

What we were really saying was: How cool is this to be able to be out in the bush on our mountain bikes, enjoying the challenge of this trail, and the heat and the sweat and the mud, and each other’s company. And the swim in the creek, especially.

More of that in 2014 is all I could ask for. And a road ride or two. And some cyclocross racing. And a few gravel grinders. I look forward to sharing that with all of you!

My word for 2014 is micro-adventures.