Sumer is icumen in*

In the forest, with some friends. At night!

In the forest, with some friends. At night!

And for the bike-riding population of SEQ, it poses a few problems …

When should I ride my bike? If I start at 4.30 am, when it is surely light enough, I have to go to bed at 8.30pm to get sufficient sleep. If I go to bed before 10pm so I can start at 6 am, I’m a stinking sweaty mess by 7.30.

The afternoons aren’t much better … if the storm doesn’t come then its still 30 degrees at 5pm.

Well, of course the answer is that you should ride your bike at night.

That was the reasoning behind last Friday night’s CX social ride from Stones Corner up to Toohey Forest and back. And we had nearly the perfect combination of post-storm drizzle and nicely damped-down forest trails. It was great fun, and nobody did any lasting damage to themselves or their bikes. The rain was a blessing in disguise, because the Facebook event had 31 people who said they were going. In the end we had less than half that number. Which was plenty to keep track of in the forest at night!

Night riding is such a fun thing to do in summer. And you can make it into a micro-adventure by including a camp-out at the end. Or you can finish as we did on Friday night at a bar or a cafe.

Or, you can just ride through the night somewhere away from the traffic and the city. I couldn’t fit the Midnight Century into my schedule this year, so I’m going to have to come up with my own version. Stay tuned for crazy ideas.

swan-road

Road-riders, my advice is to pick up one of these at your local bike shop. It’s the best accessory for a rainy summer, other than having two pairs of shoes, so you can have one pair drying out in between rainy rides.

*“Summer is a-coming in”, the oldest known song in the English language, apparently.

ICE ICE baby

I don’t spend a whole lot of time or brain-space on what-ifs. My outlook is largely optimistic.

But I have crashed enough on my bike to realise that there are some worthwhile precautions that will help In Case of Emergency.

Wearable ID is definitely a good idea. Sport ID make versions that you can wear on your helmet or your shoe or your wrist. Buy the Helmet ID version at the Bicycle Queensland members online shop.

The phone companies say that we should have an ICE (In Case of Emergency) contact on our phones. And I do. But I also have a four-digit passcode on my phone. So it’s a bit difficult to access that ICE contact in the case of an emergency. It’s like rain on your wedding day, or a free ride when you’ve already paid.

So just recently I put my ICE information on the lock screen wallpaper on my phone (iPhone 5C). It looks like this:

ice3blue

Note that the middle third is really the only part you can use for your info. In operation, the top third is covered by the time and date, and the bottom third by the “slide to unlock” graphic.

How did I do it? It’s not difficult, but it is slightly fiddly.

  1. Search online for iPhone 5 wallpapers.
  2. Pick a plain looking one.
  3. Download the file and open it up in the photo editing program of your choice (briztreadley recommends Paint.NET on PC, and Pixelmater on Mac.)
  4. Add your required info.
  5. Use a nice sans serif typeface, in the humanist tradition. This is important. Gills Sans is popular, but there’s Frutiger or Univers and they are even better.
  6. Save the edited file to your Dropbox.
  7. Download the file from your Dropbox to your iPhone Photos.
  8. Open in Photos, and one of the options available in the ‘Send’ menu, bottom left of the screen, is “Use as Wallpaper”.
  9. Boom. All done. Now just don’t crash, cos this is something we never really want to use.

Planners just have to outsmart the market. And voters.

Pic from Flickr by Simon West (https://www.flickr.com/photos/krypto/)

Pic from Flickr by Andrew West.

After 10 years (approx) in bicycle advocacy, I am convinced of just a few things …

1. People who say “it can’t happen here because [insert short-sighted reason]” are often well-meaning, but wrong. Brisbane can become a great place to ride a bike, if we (by which I mean citizens influencing the State Government and City Council) make decisions over the next few years which prioritise walking and cycling over other modes of transport.

2. That reliance on “the market” and private developers and infrastructure built by PPPs (public-private partnerships) leads to a business-as-usual outcome, which repeats the car-biased transport and land-use planning mistakes of the past 50 years.

3. That “density done right” is a massive factor towards building a better city to ride and walk around. Land use planning and transport planning are so intertwined that we must never again do one without the other.

My friend Greg Vann makes the point (which I absolutely agree with) that everyone is seeking amenity, and that the concept of what urban amenity is, is changing. And that’s a good thing.

Greg says that good planning leads to a better city to live in, and I think nobody disputes that. But it requires long-term thinking by political leaders, and making decisions which lead to changes in our urban landscape. And change can be tricky.

The best thing a city can do is elect a planner as Mayor. Which happened in Adelaide (Stephen Yarwood), and they were starting to get some great changes that will lead to Adelaide being a better place to walk and ride, and therefore a better place to live. Awesome!

So the voters, who don’t like change, have voted Mr Yarwood out. How depressing.

The solution? Well as far as I can see, it is to have as many people as possible who are interested in building walkable and rideable cities keep on being engaged in public debate and discussion. And maybe planners encouraging other planners to stand for office.

It can totally happen here. Let’s make it happen here.

You are the submerged 90% of my iceberg

Image from the (US) National Ocean Service found on Flickr.

Image from the (US) National Ocean Service found on Flickr.

Pretty soon (24 November), the special travel issue of Australian Mountain Bike magazine will be available in the newsagents.  And you can rest assured that I will promote the hell out of it.

But when you get to read my piece about my ride along the Munda Biddi trail in WA, you won’t get to see one section that I wanted to include.

And that was the Acknowledgements section. It went like this:

Acknowledgements

I received massive amounts of help when preparing for this trip from a lot of good people, and I want to thank each of them. Everyone mentioned is a good friend who provided not just great ideas and practical support, but encouragement along the way.

  • Bruce Lanham for adapting the Carradice Bagman support to my bike.
  • Dean Winchester, for my custom-made frame bag, incorporating recycled materials.
  • Emma Best (of Bike Bestie) for maintaining all of my bikes, and especially building and looking after this one, Black Betty.
  • Aiden Lefmann of RLC Sport for Lefty expertise.
  • John Pittendreigh (of Epic Cycles) for loan of the Biknd Jetpack bike bag.
  • Dave Hoswell for loan of his Spot Messenger personal GPS tracker.
  • Mike Blewitt and Imogen Smith of Australian Mountain Bike magazine, for such great support!
  • Annette Demack, for three decades of love and support and being the voice of reason when needed.

So when you finally get to read the article, please mentally insert this section somewhere appropriate. Don’t cover up any photos, and don’t put it in a smaller point size than the rest of the text. Because it was important stuff.

Birdsong is brilliant

Enjoying Belli Creek Road, early on Day 2. Before Mount Buggery sucked the fun out (for a while).

Enjoying Belli Creek Road, early on Day 2. Before Mount Buggery sucked the fun out (for a while).

Sometimes I think that our planning for bike-packing micro-adventures is so random that the route comes down to a hashtag that sounds cool to Brad.

#KIPT was last weekend’s ride. Kenilworth-Imbil-Peach Trees-Kenilworth was the loop.

And the memories will be about the birdsong in the morning at Peach Trees camp site, the shocking, brutal heat when we walked up Mount Buggery, the hilarious conversation about estimating numbers over dinner at the Railway Hotel, the cool of the rainforest canopy over Sunday Creek Road, the never-endingness of the 70s and 80s music floating across Imbil on a Saturday night, a cuppa and plenty of trail chat with the amazing Dave Wright at the new Jimna Visitors Centre, the spectacular descent into Charlie Moreland, and dream-catchers and tomato relish at the Imbil markets.

Thanks again to the bike-packing crew: Emma, Brad, and JD. It’s great to have good friends to ride with, and I have more than a few, so I’m a fortunate man.

  • Note to self, no 1: avoid places with names like Mount Buggery.

We look hot cos it was hot.

We look hot. Cos it was hot.

  • Note to self, no 2: Any time from October through to March, bike-packing trips have to include a place to swim … preferably more than one per day!

Yabba Creek at Imbil. Great pic by Emma.

Yabba Creek at Imbil. Great pic by Emma.

Even the bikes needed a rest sometimes.

Even the bikes needed a rest sometimes.

  • Note to self, no 3: I reckon this #microadventure thing has worked out pretty well in 2014.

We just like going for a ride, somewhere away from the city. It's not complicated.

We just like going for a ride, somewhere away from the city. It’s not complicated.

Peach Trees camp site ... home of every bird you have ever heard sing in the Australian bush. At 5 am.

Peach Trees camp site … home of every bird you have ever heard sing in the Australian bush. The chorus starts a little before 5 am. The two hammocks belong to Emma and JD. The green ‘hutchie’ is me.

Sunday Creek Road. On a Monday.

Sunday Creek Road. On a Monday.

Get some Garmin up ya!

You went ‘full hobo’! Never go ‘full hobo’ …

Smiley McWhiskers ... would you talk to this man?

Smiley McWhiskers … would you talk to this man?

Bike touring is an immersion into a different worldview. One in which you have everything you need with you at all times.

This is a world in which you are essentially homeless. My friend Flyboy Dave was the one who noticed the similarity between the bikepacker and the hobo, and I think it’s really apt.

Actual hobos don’t have mountain bikes valued in the thousands of dollars. Nor do they spend hundreds of dollars on the lightest, most efficient camping kit they can find, after months of research and debate. Also they might not wear merino mtb riding gear and SPD shoes.

But for most normal folks out and about, whether in a big city like Brisbane or Perth, or in small towns like Toogoolawah, Dwellingup, Blackbutt and Donnybrook … well to them you look like a hobo, you probably smell a bit like a hobo after a few days on the trail, and if you’ve started talking to yourself after three or four days on your own, well it’s an easy assumption to make from there.

One of the ways I can tell that the Munda Biddi Trail in WA is not yet a roaring success is by the looks I got in the small towns on the trail. I stopped and spent money on food and drink and supplies in Jarrahdale, Dwellingup, Lake Brockman, Collie, Boyanup and Donnybrook.

And everywhere I went, I parked my heavily-laden bike within view. Some folks chatted to me (where did you ride from today? Wow! where are you going? OK, wow again!), but lots of people just had a good stare at the bike, with a mixture of trepidation, distaste and mostly total lack of understanding. Who IS this person and what the hell are they doing?

I’ve refined my bikepacking setup over successive trips. I think for this occasion, being on the road for eight days, I went as far as I could towards ‘full hobo’ (bearing in mind the cautionary words of Kirk Lazarus in Tropic Thunder).

As a measure of how much I looked like a hobo, I counted all the things directly attached to my handlebar, and I think I came up with ten! Let’s see if I can remember:

1. Sleeping kit in big drybag (sleeping bag, thermal liner, hiker fly and pegs)

2. Which is held to the bars by a Revelate Designs Sling.

3. Jetboil stove and accessories (in a clip-on bag originally designed as a dump pouch for ammunition, according to its description on eBay)

4. Front headlight.

5. Clip for hydration hose (coming up from the frame bag, where the water bladder was stored)

6. Camera bag (with Panasonic DMC-LF1 inside)

7. Water bottle & snack pouch (in the same style as the stove pouch, just a little smaller, also bought from a military supplies store on eBay)

8. First Aid kit.

9. Garmin eTrex20 GPS.

Well, maybe it was nine, or maybe I was including the Spot Messenger GPS Tracker, which was in a top-tube bag attached to the stem, not the handlebar. The overall effect, though, is of someone who is carrying everything he owns.

IMG_0019-0.JPG

When you go full hobo, you meet some lovely people who think you’re doing something slightly mad.

“I could never do that!” they say after a few minutes of conversation, with a hint of regret or envy in their voice.

“I could never do what you’re doing …”

But I think it’s a trick that we bikepacker hobos are playing on the rest of society. Cos going ‘full hobo’ for a week or so isn’t all that hard, and it is a hell of a lot of fun, and a really great way to see parts of our scenic and beautiful world.

I’m hoping to get out in my hobo kit again real soon, just in SEQ. Before the end of the year for sure. And I will make every effort to add one more thing that tips me over the edge to ‘full hobo’.

If you see me out there, I’m really not that scary.

NB. Homelessness is a real problem still in our society, and I’m not downplaying that problem, or making fun of people who find themselves facing hard times.

Evidence-based reporting

My first day on the trail.

My first day on the trail.

It’s not till you can plug your Garmin into the computer that has Basecamp on it that you really know what you’ve done. So here’s another post about my Munda Biddi trail adventure, as told through the medium of my recorded tracks.

Perhaps. I’m not that great with my Garmin (an eTrex 20). To support that premise, here are three examples of my uneasy relationship with this particular piece of technology.

Exhibit 1 … I had to edit the first track shown here, from the train station at Kelmscott up till lunch break on that day, because it included the distances from my flight from Brisbane to Perth. Unless you reset the trip computer, the Garmin thinks your trip started when you last turned the bloody thing on.

Exhibit 2. The number of times in this series of tracks when I turn the Garmin on at the start of my pack-up process, and start riding half an hour or more later!

Exhibit 3. There are no tracks from Day 2 or Day 3. On Day 2, the Garmin would not fire up properly, and then flunked out again straight after my long lunch stop at Jarrahdale. It decided to start working again at the end of Day 3.

Here’s the first half of Day 1. From the train station at Kelmscott, up Canning Mill Road, and 20km later onto the Munda Biddi trail. A lovely warm day!

The rest of Day 1. If you look closely you can see where I miss the turn for the campsite at Wungong, ride for about 6 or 7 km, get a little confused, look at map, ride back, still looking, looking, and eventually find the camp!

Day 4. After my first night on my own in a hut in the bush, this was the longest day’s ride, 77km from Bidjar Ngoulin to Yarri.

Day 5. An easier day, from Yarri into Collie. But the hills still hurt!

Day 6. Collie to Nglang Boodja. Not a long day, but geez there were some hard bits in this one. The section in Wellington NP was some of the most technical riding on the whole trail. And a fully-loaded mountain bike is pretty tricky on a technical descent, let alone a sketchy climb.

Day 7. Nglang Boodja to Donnybrook.

Day 8. Donnybrook to Capel. If only a Garmin could record headwinds. And rain. If it could, they would be recorded on this day. It wasn’t too far, thankfully, and at the end there was a cafe to recuperate in.

Number of times I thought my Munda Biddi Trail adventure was over before it even began

I’ve just recently finished a week-long expedition on the Munda Biddi trail in Western Australia. I will be writing a piece for Australian Mountain Bike on my experiences on the trail, and how good it is (and that is, plenty good).

IMG_0019.JPG
But before I even got there, I almost didn’t.

1. During Cycle Queensland (Bicycle Queensland’s annual 9-day ‘holiday on wheels’, during which BQ staff work their little backsides off), on the rest day, which is the only “time off” in about two weeks, I like to squeeze in a bike ride, traditionally with my friends from Epic Cycles, Emma and John. We’ve ridden around the white dirt roads of Stanthorpe, the wonderful mtb trails of Atherton, and other places I’m sure which are less memorable. But we always have a good time, and we get away from the campsite for a couple of hours.

This time, mucking around on my cyclocross bike while riding a bike path from Bargara north to Burnett Heads, I spectacularly stacked it by losing my front wheel on re-entering a concrete path, and slid across the path on my left knee. The damage to my knee immediately seemed to me, as an internal panic-merchant, as something which might stop me from riding the Munda Biddi trail. It turned out two weeks later, to be no issue at all, other than bits of scab falling off my knee all week.

2. The day before I left on the airplane to Perth, I had a call from Annette. Carol had some sort of mystery accident or fall at work or maybe getting on or off the bus from work. Nobody knew what had happened, but Carol wasn’t walking. I took her off to the doctor, and then to the X-ray clinic, all the while thinking: the WA trip is over! It wasn’t. Carol was in a wheelchair for a couple of days, and we thought the worst, but she has been able to get where she needs to go, mostly walking with Annette’s or my help, if even a little slower than usual.

3. Rebuilding my bike (Black Betty), at a friendly person’s house in Kensington, suburban South Perth. I took it very slow (as I also do when packing up the bike to go in the bag for air travel), because I want to think about everything very clearly before I do it. So as I fussed with my rear derailleur, preparing to screw it back into place ever so carefully, because cross-threading the rear derailleur would be fatal, I noticed that the cable end had come out of the ferrule and was fraying with random bits of cable sticking out. Oh no. This is way beyond my toolset! And at the very edge of my skillset even if I had the right tools.

A quick trip to Garland Cycleworks at South Perth (which my host Ginny had already identified as their local bike shop), and a lovely young bloke called Zac oohed and aahed over my bike (Garland Cycleworks is a Specialized shop, so he liked that it was a Spesh, but then with a Cannondale Lefty?? Dude, what the??) and quickly, easily, competently trimmed the cable, reset it in the ferrule, and put the right tension back on the cable so the rear derailleur operated faultlessly for the next week. No charge my friend, and of course you can use our track pump to top off the pressure in your tyres. Local bike shops rock! No problem!

4. Building my bike (no 2). This one is so funny, because it’s happened to me before with mtbs that are set up with tubeless tyres. I decided to add a few PSI front and rear as I built the bike up. About 35 or so would have to be enough with my tiny little mini-pump. But as I finished pumping up the rear tyre, and unscrewed the Lezyne pump hose from the Presta valve, the removable inner core was what unscrewed, rather than the pump hose. Air gushed out. This has happened to me with this very pump before, notably once at the Gap Creek trailhead a couple of years ago with Gina’s Giant Anthem (and with Emma and Gina both right beside me, chuckling at me/the situation). I tried a second time. Same result. This time I had to get it right myself. I found some pliers in Ginny’s garage and screwed the valve core in as tight as I could, pumped the tyre up again, and oh so nervously unscrewed the pump connector. SUCCESS. Off to the bike shop for the other repairs!

5. There is no number five. Thank goodness for that. Four was heaps.

Fortunately I am actually also a total optimist as well as a minor panic merchant.

I don’t know how that really works, but with only three or four tiny moments of further panic I was able to get riding on the Munda Biddi Trail, and spent the next eight days following its ubiquitous yellow markers, going the Full Hobo Bikepacker.

I loved it. It was hard at times, pedalling uphill on a bike that weighed twice as much as it’s designed to. But most of the time it was an unforgettable experience, mixing physical exertion and flow on the trails, anxiety and delight, joy and loneliness. I would do it again in a heart beat.

More MBT posts coming soon!