Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Fortune favours those willing to brave a bit of rain.

If there was ever a demonstration for why not to wuss out of something because of the weather, this was it. Gong Ride 2007.

It was raining. But then the clouds cleared, the sun shone - and the forecast as of the day before ("rain clearing") turned out to be spot on. It must be a tough gig to be a long range weather forecaster when the weather is so unsettled.

We arrived in Sydney late Saturday night slap bang in the middle of a thunderstorm. The last 20km stretch of the Pacific Hwy into the city is a narrow-laned shocker at the best of times - but in lashing rain it is a challenge to say the least. (And I'm glad that was one challenge Marc was dealing with and not me. I couldn't decide whether to shut my eyes, or keep them open to warn him about other crazies on the road who were incapable of picking out the lane markings in the wet.) Hey kids, look, we're on the Harbour Bridge in thunder and lightning and lashing rain. There's an experience for you.

It was still raining on and off in the morning, so spirits were a bit dampened as we parked the car, unloaded the bikes, donned rain gear, and splattered our way to the start. I was also feeling a bit anxious as I realised that I'd forgotten to pack our issued registration patches. While the organisers didn't have new brains on hand for dopes like me, they just brought up our details on their laptop and issued us new numbers to pin on our shirts. One minor crisis averted at any rate. I wondered what they could do with the weather. The guy on the PA system was telling us it was like this all the way down to Wollongong - we hoped he'd be proved wrong.

And so he was...

We went from this:

to this:

with this in between:

(And we knew of someone - a girl Alison met on the 2006 Big Ride - whose Dad pulled them out in the morning because of the rain! Got the text from them while we were standing in sunshine, 30km into the ride at morning tea!)

So the girls said they enjoyed it. - and yes - I enjoyed it. We all love the downhills the most - they can be handled at greater speed on a tandem because the long wheel base makes them a bit more stable. With the weight of two riders tandems coast faster downhills as well, so there were a few yee-ha moments. Marc is naturally less cautious than me (go figure) and with a new drum brake installed on the triplet he had fewer concerns than me. They hooned off in front of us most of the time - but Cait and I still managed a 70 kph max speed! And we do love overtaking people when we get up pace along the flats!

My knee held up really well - the only mechanical problems we had were one puncture on the triplet (discovered just after we left morning tea), and the chain coming off our bike once. (We had just picked it up from the bike shop on Saturday, a new derailleur installed because of the problems we had with it the previous Sunday after several chain issues.)

We also met up with quite a few people that we knew, either on the ride or at the Finish. We rode with our tandem training buddies from Coffs for a bit, and met others we knew at various rest stops and at the Finish.

While our riding time was only about 4 hours 15 minutes, we'd been pretty leisurely during the rest stops, so we couldn't hang around too long at the end. - there were even more people we could have caught up with. We had to get back on the bikes, after collecting a couple of backpacks we'd sent down in the luggage lift, and trundle up a couple of unwelcome hills a few blocks to the motel we'd booked. Then Marc and I rode my tandem to the railway station so he could catch one of the last Ride specials that were running back to the Start, collect the car, and drive back down to Wollongong. (We weren't game to try to fit the triplet onto the train, though I confess it was tempting.)

Naturally as soon as my personal Bike Mechanic was out of the picture, I had troubles. I rode 50 metres and the chain came off, and I had immense fun (not) trying to get it back on the front chain ring. A bleeding knuckle, and greasy black hands later, I managed to get it working again, albeit with a rattle, so I could ride solo the few kms back to the motel. (God, imagine walking that distance, in bike shoes, pushing a bloody tandem! - after having ridden 90km!) I was then ultra-paranoid about getting a puncture - and of course I've never seen so much glass on the road as I did in those few blocks!

If stokers (the ones on the back) get sick of hearing "The one on the back's not pedalling!" (and trust me, that gets called out numerous times each time we ride, much to the kids' disgust), it's nothing on the shouts I received about losing someone off the back during that short ride. I just nodded in agreement - "Yep. Very observant of you. I know!" I suppose I could have turned around and acted surprised, but I'm not cut out for the theatre.

To cap off a good day, we got lucky with the motel. It had a great view over the boat harbour, two connecting rooms, so two TVs for the kids to use! - and room to swing a cat or two.) Marc got back by 7pm, and we had a short stroll down to a cafe/restaurant overlooking the water before wandering back up to the motel and falling gratefully into bed. Believe it or not we didn't have too many problems getting the kids to bed that night!

All in all? A grand day out.


Wow! That looks like FUN!
Adam is getting into bike riding again hardcore. I shall have to write about it, it's getting quite.....well, there's no word for it.

But, he did just read this, and like me, hopes we can do a similar thing one day with the kids!!
No time like the present K. We got 'hardcore' about these rides pretty late, really. We see people riding with kids in those little covered trailers. (Often Dad pulling the trailer on the single, and Mum on the single - though on the Big Ride this year there was a couple on a tandem pulling two littlies in the trailer and the woman was 6 months pregnant!!)

Melbourne is the Cycling Capital of Australia. Great cycling paths, etc. Go for it!

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