Ending Autumn in Canberra

It started well. I’d booked a hotel that offered bicycles for cruising around Canberra. I thought, Great! I’d received an email confirming a bicycle was reserved for me and that maps for riding from the hotel to the venue for the HARDCOPY workshops would be waiting for me. This is impressive!

Then I met my bike.

Friday morning, having checked the weather (sunny and seven degrees), fuelled with a hearty breakfast and wrapped in layers of wool from tip to toe, I present myself to the reception desk to collect my bicycle. I sign a disclaimer, am given a bike helmet (compulsory in Canberra) and a coiled bicycle lock with key; and ask which bikes are available.

The reception worker looks over my shoulder. My eyes follow. She says “there are only two adult bikes to choose from.”

On arriving the night before, I’d passed four bikes standing garishly in the foyer, two suitable for adults and and two for children. It looked rather cool to see bicycles so prominently displayed with encouragements to ask at reception to ride them. At the time I’d thought they must have others that would be suitable for my needs. After all they knew I needed to ride 7.1 kilometres to my venue, and back. However, it seems they didn’t. These bikes were it.

So I went to meet my ride – one dark blue Cruiser with red rimmed wheels, a wide beige faux leather seat and elongated chrome handle bars topped with beige handles. I grabbed the handles, flicked the side stand up and wheeled this monster to the footpath outside.

Some people love Cruiser Bikes. These distinctive bikes hint at a laid back, Californian cool, coastal lifestyle, surfing… you get the picture. I can see the attraction but admit the thought of riding one of these bikes has never appealed to me. They always look so unwieldly with their long squat frame and oversized handlebars. Watching others ride them, I’ve always thought the bike looks awkward to handle.

Nonetheless, I was determined to make friends with it.

Nonetheless, I was determined to make friends with it. I thought, I’m fit, seven kilometres is a distance I often ride, it’s mostly flat and there are cycle paths to follow. It shouldn’t be a problem. But it was. The Cruiser bike had only three gears so any slight incline was very hard work. I worked so hard moving this bike along, sweat started to seep through every layer that I was wearing.

Canberra is cold. It’s Australia’s coldest city and during the week before I arrived, Canberrans were rugging up for mornings and evenings of minus 2 degrees Celsius with maximums staying in single figures. Even though it was seven degrees on Friday, I wasn’t taking any risks. The cycle way to the venue took me around Lake Burley Griffin (a central feature of the Canberra landscape) and as any bicycle rider knows, wind over water makes a very cool breeze and seven degrees might feel much cooler. I was wrapped to stay warm but with the Cruiser demanding so much effort I began to overheat.

Then I got lost. Oh yes, how can you get lost in Canberra, it’s such an organised city. Maybe it was just that I was starting to worry about being late or maybe it was the discomfort of overheating, or maybe the signs just weren’t there but I sort of got lost in the gardens of Commonwealth Park amongst all the happy little seedlings waiting to flower in three months time for the city’s wonderful spring festival Floriade. I knew I had to take a right turn out of the park at some stage but where and when wasn’t clear.

The bike commuters who’d been whizzing past me earlier on the wonderful wide concrete cycleways along the lakeside had disappeared. Being late for the first day of workshops was not going to be a good start. So I asked an elderly couple strolling along the lakeside who with thick accents mentioned a pedestrian bridge further ahead. When I came across a groundsman tending some gardens, I hurriedly asked him for directions. He pointed ahead, shaped his arm into a curve and told me to then make sure I take a right hand turn and I’ll be on the bridge over Parkes Way and in the city centre.

Not long after, I found it! and then pedalled into a lovely “bicycles-only” lane along Allara Street, arriving with time to spare and walking into the workshop with thighs that felt like jelly from having to pedal so hard.

And the HARDCOPY workshops that took me to Canberra? They were brilliant! Being immersed for three days in my manuscript with 25 other writers immersed in developing theirs, with expert advice and collegial support sowed many seeds of inspiration and community.

So from my brief visit to the nation’s capital, I can confirm that Cruisers are best avoided for commuting, Canberra is cold for cycling at this time of year and there are some lovely seedlings waiting to bloom.

My ride - the blue Cruiser...

My ride – the blue Cruiser…

Crossing Lake Burley Griffin via Kings Avenue Bridge.

Crossing Lake Burley Griffin via Kings Avenue Bridge.

Riding by Lake Burley Griffin.

Riding by Lake Burley Griffin.

Commuter kitted for the cold.

Commuter kitted for the cold.

Crossing the pedestrian/cycle bridge that I had to find.

Crossing the pedestrian/cycle bridge that I had to find.

19 Comments on “Ending Autumn in Canberra

  1. There are plenty of options for bike riding in Canberra … but it is not unusual to get lost. One day at work we got a phone call. A colleague had decided he would ride in. How hard could it be?, he thought. He was holed up in a cul-de-sac, with no idea where he was and had called in to to ask for directions. It was all a bit awkward as we had no idea where he was either. He eventually arrived safe and sound, in a very grumpy mood.

    I’m glad Canberra could at least deliver a decent workshop.

    And tomorrow it will be -5 degrees C.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great story Cherrie… now I don’t feel so bad about getting lost 🙂
      The cycleways I rode are quite impressive: wide enough for a fast commute and very pleasant for a leisurely ride away from the traffic.
      Minus 5 tomorrow? Brrr… I think we were very lucky to have some warmish weather and a fantastic workshop for sure!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve always wondered what cruisers would be like to ride. Thanks for the warning! Brrr…I can feel the chill of the weather and the heat of the exertion as I read your post. Great read! I’m so glad you enjoyed the workshop. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jane 🙂
      A young woman, local to Canberra, told me she loves riding her cruiser around her suburb for short trips but for commuting to work, she uses a different bike. My experience of riding the Cruiser made me realise how important it is to have the right bike for the right purpose, particularly for people new to bike-riding, where an uncomfortable fit could easily be a deterrent to getting on a bike again.
      It feels very good to be on my bike again. In fact I’m going for a ride right now 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my goodness Gail, I could feel each moment of that journey from hotel reception to workshop on that first morning. And now I feel relieved that I’ve ‘arrived’ at the workshop 🙂 So pleased for you that it went so well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 🙂 thanks Jen. I’m glad it wasn’t minus 5 like it is there today! I’ll look forward to sharing more about the workshops when we next meet.


  4. We stayed at the Hyatt when we visited a couple of Easters ago, and the bicycles they had (although ‘usual’ kind of mountain bikes) were damn uncomfortable, possibly slightly less so than a cruiser, but not by much. And the lock didn’t work – so much for security!
    I think Bromptons are the answer! But it is possible that I’m a little biased at this point. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I d r e a m e d of having a mountain bike with all those gears 🙂
      It seems more accommodation places are opening to the value of providing bicycles for guests (even an AirBNB host that I looked into had a bicycle available), however, it has to be a bicycle that will be useful – well maintained, enough gears, able to adjust the seat easily.

      You might be right about the Bromptons, Dayna (biased? never! 🙂 ) I did wonder how it would be travelling with a foldaway bike.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh Gail, for once I’m speechless. I doubt I could muster up the courage (or sufficient woollen clothes) to undertake such an adventure. Well done to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • 🙂 I had the advantage of being fresh from riding in Scandinavia Kylie. Wearing many layers of clothes and adapting to cold breezes was still a recent memory and not too daunting. Though I’m glad it wasn’t minus five degrees like it was in Canberra the day after I left.


    • That’s a good idea! The fold up bikes are quite cool and they’d be good to travel with.

      They’re also growing more popular for people living in small apartments with limited storage space for conventional bikes. I have a friend living in Singapore who uses the foldaway bike in combination with public transport. Another blogger Dayna is a keen Brompton foldaway bike rider. She’s even formed a Brompton bicycle group in Melbourne!



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