Great Brisbane Bike Ride
The Great Brisbane Bike Ride is an annual event hosted by Bicycle Queensland, a non-profit bicycle advocacy organisation. Last Sunday was my first time riding in the event.
I’ve never been a big event type of person. And truth is, I’m probably still not. However, events like these provide a wonderful opportunity to ride car-free roads, receive right-of-way at intersections being managed by police officers and know that support is nearby if you need it. There’s also something very pleasant about the unspoken shared enjoyment that ripples quietly through the group as we gather and begin to ride.
Pre-dawn, Jane and I drove from the Gold Coast to Brisbane’s West End, with bicycles loaded the night before and a thermos of filter coffee, freshly brewed. The sky was still dark when we parked our car, unpacked the bikes and rode down Montague Road to the starting area.
In the quiet before sunrise, the mood is softer, yet to be touched by the light of day. Sleepy eyes blink. Thoughts sink, not ready to find form. Feeling is served neat with fresh morning air. Birds call. Bicycle wheels click and cleated shoes clack on the bitumen as they walk to the starting line.
The first riders, the speedy ones who will average at least 30kms per hour during the ride, roll under the starting banner at 6.15am. Then the 25-30km/hour riders leave, followed by the below-25km/hour cyclists and then us. We registered for the category designed for women who prefer camaraderie over speed. We must average at least 17km/hour but we can enjoy the view knowing we won’t hold up faster riders. Not that this event is a race. Quite the contrary.
The Great Brisbane Bike Ride is part of Queensland’s Bike Week celebrations and caters for many different bicycle riders. Not only were preferred riding speeds recognised but also distances. Cyclists could choose to ride 10, 40, 75 or 110kms. There was also a family ride for kids. And I saw many different bicycles during my ride; there were racing bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids, electric bikes, recumbents, tandems and even a trike pedalling feverishly in the foothills of Mt. Cootha!
A fresh experience of a familiar city
We chose the 75km ride which included the option to ride up Mt. Cootha, Brisbane’s highest peak with panoramic views. We chose to take the short-cut and I’m glad we did. Brisbane has some hilly suburbs and across our 70-kilometre ride, we climbed 665 metres of elevation. Some of that elevation was clocked climbing Brisbane’s landmark Gateway Bridge. It was very exciting pedalling up the long steady climb and stopping at the top to look out. Of course, the descent was quite a buzz too!
Our ride took us along the Inner City Bypass which was closed to cars for the event, through Paddington, Bardon and to the leafy foothills of Mt. Cootha, past the Brisbane Planetarium, out to Jindalee, and across to Oxley, Sherwood and Tennyson, where we rode past the Queensland Tennis Centre. Then we pedalled around the snaking river through Yeronga, Fairfield, Dutton Park and Highgate Hill to return to Riverside Drive at West End and ride triumphantly under the finish banner.
Four hours and forty-six seconds of riding time plus a handful of stops along the way to eat, see and give the legs a rest. The Great Brisbane Bike Ride took me to places – cycleways, streets and parks – that were new to me. The ride gave me a fresh experience of a familiar city, an enjoyable Sunday morning and a hearty appetite for cycling more.