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.


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!


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
Day 2
Day 3 (part 1)
Day 3 (part 2)
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7

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.

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.


Bikes and Berlin: goes together like currywurst and chips and samurai sauce

(This is Part 2 of what might in time become a four-part series. Part 1 is here.)

When I left you at the end of Part 1, Annette and I had enjoyed — with excellent help from Christian Cummins — our stay in Vienna. We swanned around on Vienna’s gaudily-decorated City Bikes, advertising mineral water or banks or something.

Our next stop on the Euro tour was Prague. We did see a few bike riders in Prague, but not in the centre city. I would have said ‘not in the old town’, but of course as Prague aficionados will immediately realise, the centre of Prague is not one “old town”, but four. But even so, none of those four towns is bike-friendly. Tram and by foot is the way to see Prague, so that’s what we did.

We arrived in Berlin late on a Saturday afternoon, navigating our way with some difficulty from the ICE (Inter-City Express) to the S-bahn to the U-bahn to get to Eberswalde Strasse station. Our flat was a short walk from there.

So our first day in Berlin was a Sunday. And I was pretty keen to get riding. Our hosts had pointed out some places we might visit … the flea markets at Mauerpark (literally ‘Wall Park, because it is a memorial to the Berlin Wall), and Arkonaplatz. And also, Zionskirche, which I’m sure you are aware was Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s first parish appointment in Berlin.

So while Annette headed off on foot to Mauerpark in the late morning, I went to find a bicycle, at Lila Bikes. Only to find that they did not open until 2pm on a Sunday.

So I put the bike-riding on hold. We walked around Prenzlauer Berg, and also went via public transport modes for our first touristy day in Berlin as well. All while I schemed up a plan for getting on the bikes.

So it was our third day in Berlin that we really got rolling. I think we paid about 8 Euros each for very sturdy bikes from Lila Bikes, a store populated by one slightly gruff owner and several friendly dogs.

From Prenzlauer Berg, the main city centre is slightly downhill, along Kastianallee, the same route as the tram we had taken the previous day, on our visits to Museum Island. That is to say, straight through Hakescher Markt onto Museum Island, and through there to Under Den Linden.

So of course we rode around the various places we wanted to visit, and locked up the bikes while museuming or art-gallerying or morning-coffeeing. And then came back and rode some more.

In the first, long-since-past episode of this adventure, I talked a little about what I am calling ‘German-style bikepaths’. Berlin had the best network of these, although Berlin actually cranks it up a notch above both Munich and Vienna, by providing a lot more specialised high-standard separated paths. We used these on our cruise through the massive and wonderful Tiergarten, and also later on our way back from Kurfurstendamme, along beside the Spree.

We got as far away from Prenzlauer Berg as Kurfurstendamme, a famous shopping boulevard on the western side of the Tiergarten, and it was late afternoon before we started to head back, about 8-10km.

By this stage we were both pretty comfortable on our bikes, and happy using the well-connected bikeway network. So I just planned a route back that seemed the most direct, confident that there would be good bike infrastructure all the way, anywhere in Berlin.

To be fair, this is analogous to just looking at a map of Brisbane and saying, ‘I am at Chermside and I want to go to Spring Hill, Gympie Road looks like it will be the quickest way’.

So we lucked onto some lovely bikeway along the Spree, but then later on I navigated us onto Invalidenstrasse, through Moabit on the way back to Prenzlauer Berg. And there just happened to be lots of roadworks on Invalidenstrasse.

Where there were no roadworks, the bike facility was absolutely fine. But in the chaos of the roadworks, there were occasions where the bikepath was only a narrow footpath, which admitted only one person or bike in either direction.

We made it home eventually, but not before I had put us out into the traffic coming along Veteranenstrasse, on the hill leading up to Zionskirche (and therefore not far from ‘home’). Annette wasn’t happy with that, and fair enough. But eventually, with some stumbling around, we finally made it onto Schonauser Allee, up the last little section to our flat.

All in all we had probably covered about 25-30km on the bikes that day, on paths and roads. All in our normal cool weather clothes. Berlin is pretty flat, and the traffic goes pretty slow, and on almost every occasion there is bicycle infrastructure to ensure your separation from the motorised traffic.

Compared with riding around Brisbane, Berlin is far better set up for transport cycling, everyday cycling. Combined with a superb system of U-bahn and S-bahn trains, it would be very doable to live without a car in Berlin. And I’m sure many people do.

In Berlin, much more than Vienna, I noted that just about every demographic gets around on bike. Older people, younger people, mums and kids, just whoever wants to use their own power to get around. Bicycle riding there is convenient and safe, so why would you not do it?


PS … Currywurst and chips looks like this. Comes standard with tomato ketchup, but samurai sauce, which is sort of like equal parts chilli sauce and mayonnaise, really takes it to a whole new place. Superb, magnificent even, when the temperature drops below 5 degrees C. Otherwise, pretty ordinary. Weird, huh.


Nobody does it bester

I interrupt the inexorable schedule of posts about riding in Europe (believe it or not there are two drafts of the Berlin post in my WordPress back-end system here, but neither are anywhere near finished) with some wonderful news.

Bike Bestie had a launch party last night. (Website design by Michael McMahon, photos by Nick O’Donnell and others, words by Emma with some contributions from me).

Some of the bikes Emma has worked on, which were the 'stars' of the launch party.

Some of the bikes Emma has worked on, were the ‘stars’ of the launch party. Here they are hanging out in the green room before the event (i.e. the garage at Emma’s place).

Which must mean that it is now in orbit.

Here is the video (shot and edited by the super-talented Thomas Day), which gives the vibe of what Bike Bestie is all about.

Couple of things that I like a lot about this video. The first is the subtle and gradual way that Thomas introduces Emma … just as a voiceover to start with, and with the workshop space and tools as the early ‘stars’, but then gradually we see her working on the bike.

And the second one is how the bike goes from basically just a frame to very nearly a completed bike which is ready to ride, in just a couple of minutes! Wow, that woman must know how to build a bike!


Emma has worked so hard to get to this point, and deserves immense congratulations. But mostly, it was just so much fun to be at the launch, with lots of Emma’s friends and family, to celebrate both her efforts in setting up Bike Bestie, and the support and collaborations involved in getting this far. A really great night, and thanks to all those who shared it!

So, do you have a bike in need of a tweak or a service? Or is there a custom bike build that is percolating in the back of your mind, but you’re not sure how to make it happen? Or are you a woman who wants to get out on your bike more often, but find your lack of skills (riding or mechanical) are holding you back?

I think you know who to contact!


The Briztreadley Guide to riding a bicycle for utility and exploration in some European capitals

(Part 1 of what I can only assume will be a four-part series. Part 2 is also now published.)

Although it’s true that I gave fair warning of an absence from this blog, it has been a little while since Annette and I got home from the World Congress on Conductive Education.

Since then, we at BQ have run our biggest event of the year, and there was also the little matter of National Ride To Work Day, which is squarely in my area of interest at work.

So I got home and got straight back into it.

But oh-so-many of my conversations since returning home have been people asking about our experiences in Europe. And I do want to wax lyrical in this space, because — really — the places we went to are excellent examples of what I would like to see happen in Brisbane, and indeed in other places around Australia.

And I am going to invite Annette to contribute to this piece as well, because she has a different perspective on bike riding, and because she rode a bicycle in Vienna, Berlin and Amsterdam.

I sometime read criticisms of Brisbane’s CityCycles for being a garish yellow. The bikes in Vienna are a mix. There are yellow ones, purple ones, and orange ones. No less garish, that’s for sure.

We visited Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam and Munich. I’m totally going to skip the touristy stuff. If you are my Facebook friend (and why wouldn’t you be? I think you probably are) then you saw way too many Instagram moments from me, and you probably also saw many albums of photos from Annette.

But for my lovely Briztreadley readers, the question is not “What did you see in Europe?”, but “What was it like to ride in _________ (insert Euro city of choice)”?

The first thing to say is that this was exclusively a utility/city approach to cycling. We did not “cycle tour”. All the riding was simply to get from place to place in the city, or to explore the inner city. We stayed as close to the CBD as we could afford in most places (thanks AirBnB). In Munich we had slightly different criteria, leading to some interesting different experiences.

But for Brisbane folks, it would be as if I am restricting my experience of cycling to just include a ring around Paddington, Spring Hill, Bowen Hills, New Farm, Kangaroo Point, the Gabba, Highgate Hill, St Lucia and Toowong.

And the second thing I want to say is that we made most of our decisions about cycling within the context of wanting to get from place to place easily and efficiently. So if we were going somewhere that had another means of public transport (usually S-bahn or U-bahn, but sometimes tram) that would make it easier to get there, then we would take that public transport.

However, on lots of occasions, it turns out that bicycle is the best and easiest way to get from place to place.

Let’s start in Vienna, because it was where my expectations were pretty low, and were quickly exceeded. Let’s also start in Vienna, because that’s where our trip started.

In Vienna, we used the City Bike scheme. It is a close cousin of the one we have in Brisbane, with bikes that are just a slightly earlier version of the CityCycles that I have often used. It is easier to get going with the Vienna version because it uses a credit card system instead of a dedicated card, which is a real advantage for visitors to the city.

Our flat was about 150m from Westbahnhof. So the U-bahn system was totally convenient for getting to almost any venue in the city.

And yet, even closer to our front door was a City Bike station.

We spent the first day or two just cruising around on foot, and via U-bahn. I don’t usually have a grand plan in these situations, so when we worked out which cities we were going to visit, I really didn’t expect to be using bicycles very much until we got to Berlin and Amsterdam, both of which I expected would be very bike-able.

But after a day or two in Vienna, we met up with a friend of a friend, an English ex-pat called Christian. Who was into bikes, and was a great source of local knowledge.

After our chat with Christian, at my instigation we began using the City Bike scheme a whole lot more. And we went to Prater, a massive park in Vienna that was a hunting ground for the Hapsburgs until 1920, and found the Hauptallee, the boulevard through the middle of the park.

We had a great afternoon, first just cruising along the Hauptallee and enjoying the freedom from traffic, and the outdoors, and the green space around us. Every outdoor activity that Vienna wants to engage in can be found along the length of Hauptallee. Frisbee golf? Check! Miniature outdoor railway? Yep. Tennis, amusement park, beer house, cafe, gardens for the feeding of ducks? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

But both Annette and I wanted to see the Danube, and the Prater is pretty close to the Danube.

The funny thing is that Vienna turns its back on the Danube. There is the Donaukanal (Danube Canal) that is a man-made off-shoot of the river, and it runs through the middle of Vienna’s old town. But the main river, well there’s not much in Vienna that faces the river. And the freight railway line runs beside it.

So although we found the Danube, it wasn’t all that nice. And it made for some challenging navigation.

Eventually, on our City Bikes we made it back to Krieau, one of the three U-bahn stations on the length of the Prater. There we ditched our City Bikes and gratefully caught the U-bahn home (all of 10km!).

But by then we had the taste for the City Bikes. The next day, we were headed down to Schonbrunn Palace, which was a bit awkward to get to via U-bahn, so we took the tram, and walked through a park to get there. But we worked out for our trip ‘home’, that by far the easiest way would be simply to jump on a City Bike. So we did.

So in all this riding, we encountered a variety of conditions. Our main thoroughfare from Westbahnhof to the old city was MariaHilferStrasse, a lovely tree-lined boulevard with a mix on on-foot-path bike-path, and shared on-road low-speed traffic. It was about 2km from our flat to the Museum Quarter, which is not quite the centre of town.

MariaHilferStrasse, walking inbound from Westbahnhof to the City.

But further out from Westbahnhof, as we came back from Schonbrunn, the only bike facility on MariaHilferStrasse was a marked bike lane, and sometimes that even disappeared where the tram lines cramped the road space down to one traffic lane in each direction.

So in some ways Vienna was like Brisbane … the network is incomplete, which leads to sometimes finding yourself in a situation where a bicycle rider might have to mix it uncomfortably with dense traffic.

But … it’s also nothing like Brisbane, because those situations were few and far between for us, where in Brisbane you would encounter the need to mix in with the motorised traffic on almost every trip of significant length. And the traffic was almost always moving slowly, and accommodating to bicycle riders when it needed to be.

Vienna was also our first look at what I will call German-style bike infrastructure (yes, even though Austria is a separate country … my large Austrian readership might be up in arms, but I’ll just have to deal with that later).

The dominant type of bike path in Vienna, Berlin and Munich is a bike-only space on the same level as the footpath. In Vienna and Berlin, there is usually a flat kerb that designates the edge of the bike-only space. In Munich, it’s only the surface that differentiates. The bike space is usually bitumen, and the pedestrian space is usually concrete pavers.

These facilities are like an Australian footpath on steroids. They are just wide enough for a good bike path (usually 3m, but maybe only 2.5m sometimes), but that path is predominantly used in the direction of travel of the traffic. The pedestrian space is of course bi-directional.

When crossing side streets and driveways, the combined bike and pedestrian facility usually has the right of way. Chevrons painted on the road denote that both traffic turning into the side street from the main street, and traffic coming out of the side street, must give way to the bike-riders and pedestrians continuing on the shared path.

The limits of flow in such a bike and pedestrian system come at major intersections, when it becomes clear that the bike/ped facility takes a lower order of priority to the main road. But until those major intersections, the level of priority for bicycles can be pretty impressive.

There’s not usually this much priority for bikes … this was Ciclovienna, a happening on the Ringstrasse on the first Sunday we were there.

Next: cruising in funky Berlin.


Leaving, back soon

OK, so I haven’t posted since before Cycle Queensland, which was lots of fun, and quite a success in its own little way.

But now Annette and I are out of here. To go to the World Congress on Conductive Education (of which I am not an expert, but I am married to one). And see some of Europe on the way. Follow me on Instagram for the occasional pic of possibly bicycle-related infrastructure or scenery.

And, another thing to look forward to is the release of the above-teased film, on gravity enduro, which is everybody*’s favourite type of mtb racing!


* I am everybody.

Easy as A B C

Ever since I tried Stephen Amos’s Gazelle pedalec-style electric bike, at National Ride to Work day in October last year, I have been keen to get on board with the e-bike revolution.

My candidate is Annette’s bike. It’s a solid 26-inch-wheel bike that we bought about 10 years ago. Hasn’t done many miles.

Hi darl! Nette riding at Byron Bay last year.

Hi darl! Nette riding at Byron Bay last year.

So a new high-quality e-bike is well into the $2K and beyond. Haven’t got that for an experiment, just at the moment.

But how could you go past this? I already have a touring rack that would fit Nette’s bike, as a place to put the battery. Add a good-sized wire basket on the front for load-carrying and we are away.

Easy as A B C / 1 2 3 / you and me.