Commuting with Hugh

I woke just before midnight to crackling thunder, flashes of lightning and teeming rain. The air freshened and filled with that earthy scent of organic matter – leaves, timber, grass, soil – enlivened by heavy rain and electrical charge. I drifted back to sleep but not before hoping the rain would ease by our 6am start. I was meeting another bike commuter to shadow his ride to work.

Hugh’s been reading ‘A Bike for All Seasons’ since early this year. After reading my post about Commuting to Work, Hugh invited me to join him on his regular work commute. I was thrilled with the opportunity. It turns out he lives in the next suburb and so after a couple of emails to agree a day, time and place, my next shadow commute was organised.

When I rode out at 5.30am, the rain had cleared, a few clouds lingered and the path was littered with debris. The most direct way to Hugh’s suburb from my place is via a forest path around Currumbin Hill. Last summer after a storm, a fallen gum tree blocked the trail and I had to carry my bicycle over its thick grey trunk. After the night’s storm, I wondered if I might meet something similar. And I did! It was only a small wattle tree but I had to half-wheel, half-carry my bike around it through long thick grass. Relieved there were no snakes hiding in the grass, I walked back to take a photo.

*  *  *

Hugh was waiting quietly by a gum tree on the corner, face to the early morning sunlight, ready for his regular commute. His Avanti hybrid bike with flat handlebars stood nearby looking in good condition considering it’s weathered 40,000 kms. Hugh, now 65, has been a bicycle commuter for seven years. He used to be a runner, a marathon runner, a soft sand specialist in fact. But as knees have a way of wearing, Hugh retired from running and began cycling. His daily commute between Tugun and South Tweed is 13.6 kms each way. So, during a week he rides about 130kms getting to and from work.

Through his daily commute by bicycle Hugh gets his quotient of regular exercise… and some. Not only does he achieve what is considered higher than the average person’s daily exercise, he also seems pleasantly relaxed. When I asked him about what challenges he faces as a regular bike commuter, he really had to think about it and replied:

“There are the usual problems with cars, punctures, winter cold and rain, but these days I see them more as the world passing, rather than problems.”

Hugh travels lightly both in mind and bike. On a rear rack, his bike carries a compact “trunk” packed with lunch, phone, wallet and clothes for the day as well as a spare tube and spanner for fixing a punctured tyre.

Most of Hugh’s commute can be ridden on pathways shared by pedestrians and cyclists. The exception is a busy stretch of road between Tugun and Bilinga where the completion of a 1.7km beachfront path would provide a popular and safer option.

As we ride along, we enjoy a pleasant chat, some splendid ocean views and mostly flat terrain. Occasionally Hugh exchanges a cheery good morning to regular runners and walkers who he’s met over the years. When we arrive at Hugh’s practice where he works as a GP, he wheels his bike through the reception area (not a popular choice on rainy days he says), down the hallway and parks it in a small room that doubles as a shower and change room. Morning commute complete.

I enjoy riding home along an alternative route recommended by Hugh. I pedal along in sparkling sunlight under skies cleared of dust and salt by the previous night’s storm and reflect on the ease that comes with regular bicycle commuting. Something that lingers in my mind from commuting with Hugh is the simplicity with which he designs each day: a bit of work, a bit of play (his commuting exercise fits in here) and a bit of rest.

Now that’s my sort of day!

Tree blocking the pathway after the storm.

Small tree blocking the pathway after the storm.

View on Hughs commute 3

A splendid ocean view along Kirra Point that’s easily enjoyed while riding on a separated pathway.

Peak hour morning commute.

Peak hour morning commute.

Tweed Coast Cycleway IMG_0229

The NSW Coastline Cycleway begins as we cross the border into Tweed Heads.

Tweed river fishing boats.

Tweed River boats.

Crossing Terranora Creek

Crossing Terranora Creek.

South Tweed Bushland

Streetside bushland glistens as we ride by…

A quirky sign... intended for cars but strangely positioned above the bikeway.

Wrong way go back: A quirky sign seen on the alternative route suggested by Hugh for my ride home… The sign is intended for cars but strangely positioned above the bikeway.

Cycleway under M1 highway crossing Terranora Creek on my ride home.

Aqua meets Aqua: Cycleway under M1 highway crossing Terranora Creek further upstream on my ride home.

Cycleway takes me on a circuit returning me to the bridge that Hugh and I rode over to cross Terranora Creek.

The cycleway takes me on a circuit returning to the Terranora Creek bridge that Hugh and I rode earlier.

Riding the pathway along the Tweed River under sparkling sunlight under clear skies

Sparkling sunlight under clear skies along the Tweed River. Some work, some play, some rest.

19 Comments on “Commuting with Hugh

  1. Turned out to be a lovely day for a ride!
    I don’t actively cycle for long on my commute to work (I usually catch a train in the middle and ride both ends) but it really makes a noticeable and positive difference to my day.
    Thanks for letting us come along on your ride, so to speak, Gail. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • It certainly did turn out to be a beautiful day for riding 🙂

      Your commute Dayna is a great example because you’re combining your bike with public transport. It’s a really good way to move around. On the Gold Coast, we can’t take full sized bikes on our buses and bikes are not allowed on trains during peak hours. That’s the beauty of a foldaway bike like your Brompton – it can go anywhere! And from reading the latest post from your Melbourne Brompton Club, those little wheels don’t necessarily mean less speed:

      I imagine you’d feel like you’ve had some helpful exercise and fun by the time you arrive at work.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Indeed, Gail! Although riding hard going to work is fine IF you have a shower and change room at the office. I do not, so I leave (most of) my quicker riding to the ride home.
        We have the same rules about bikes and public transport in Melbourne. The magic numbers are 82x69x39cm (L,H,W). Bromptons fit easily into that space, but not all folding bikes are made equal!
        But however you ride, and whatever you’re riding, it’s a great way to start the day. I love it 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad you enjoy the commuting stories Bri. It’s really interesting to learn about how other people commute by bike… what helps them weather the different challenges and why they keep doing it. I find it inspiring and hope others do too 🙂

      There’s some beautiful scenery along the way plus we had a particularly sparkly morning to enjoy it in.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve just returned home from my morning workout at the local university. I’m in a study for women aged 65 to 84 on the effects of weight resistance training. I must say that your morning outdoor exercise seems the better, airier, more aesthetic choice. Hopefully, when I’m done with the study, your blog will be my motivation to continue living healthier by some weekly bicycle rides along our paths here in Rhode Island.Your descriptive words and accompanying photos are marvelous and bring the experience right here to me in my living room.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s an interesting study to participate in. I believe there’s strong evidence giving value to resistance training as we age. You’re right about being outdoors. It has its value too. Perhaps participating in both gives us everything we need…?

      If you do some bike rides Claremary, I’d love to read about them!

      Liked by 1 person

    • It is quite cute. You should hear its chime – very pretty! 🙂

      Sometimes it’s a bit too high pitched for everyone to hear. I’ve occasionally thought of re-installing the horn that came with my Vivente.


      • I never got a horn with my VWR 😦 . Though I never use a bell. I just say “G’day … I’ll be passing on a bike … have a great walk”. When I hear a bell behind me when I walk it does two things: (1) startles me and makes me jump and (2) makes me feel like the cyclist is telling me to get out of their way, even if I am on the far left of the path. So I stopped using mine (actually, mine is mounted where I can’t reach it – which is totally legal so long as it is mounted in the first place … haha)

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s hard to predict how walkers are going to react – I’ve had some thank me for ringing my bell because they like that I’m letting them know that I’m approaching. Yet others are startled or seem grumpy because they have to share the path.
        Sometimes I say similar things to you as I’m approaching. Sometimes I whistle or sing 🙂 When the horn was installed – it would often get a laugh because it sounds a bit like a clown’s horn 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Once again I thoroughly enjoyed your description of a commute. At a time when governments are spending money on programs and promotion to encourage us to live a more active lifestyle to reduce health problems such as diabetes, one obvious solution is to make cycling a safe and enjoyable option for all people. Once safe cycling infrastructure is in place, there will be huge long-term benefits. Money will be saved as people will be healthier mentally and physically and likely be more productive in their jobs too. With more people cycling there will be less need to build more vehicle roads too. Thanks for continuing to promote the wonderful benefits of cycling, Gail. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve captured that so well Jane. The incidental effects of more people cycling are significant and broadly beneficial. I’m hopeful that we’ll see the right wheels turning before too long so that we can realise them. It’s all about getting started – individuals and governments – and making one decision after another to make these changes a reality.
      Thanks for your insights Jane.

      Liked by 1 person

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