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.

Different spokes

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.

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Pedalling the long steady climb up the Gateway Bridge.

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At the top of the Gateway Bridge!

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Leafy foothills of Mt. Cootha.

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An important sign to make sure we detoured around Mt. Cootha 🙂 

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Rest stop with water and snacks provided.

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We rode along some brilliant cycleways that are well-networked. 

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A triumphant finish! [Image credit: Race Atlas]

This post links to a story called ‘Wheel Life On A Brompton’ which I wrote recently for ‘Ride With A View’ – a website dedicated to sharing the simple pleasures of cycling.

Take two small wheels, a steel frame and some amazing engineering and you have a versatile folding bicycle called the Brompton Bicycle. Riding a Brompton bicycle is a new experience for me. I’m normally seen riding a touring bike around the streets of my neighbourhood on Australia’s Gold Coast. But the new year of 2017 brought me new wheels. Small ones. That’s right a Brompton.

I wanted to learn more about this unique bicycle so I decided to talk with a Brompton aficionado who lives in Melbourne, one of the world’s most liveable cities. Continue reading here…


Postscript: If you have trouble with the link, then click or ‘copy and paste’ the following url into your browser: http://ridewithaview.cc/2017/03/08/wheel-life-on-a-brompton/

Moonbeams on my shoulder. The crunch of gravel. Insects flicker in my headlight; a cone of light surrounded by black. Long grasses border the trail. They stand and sway like wayward sentinels, still drunk on the day’s heat. I know how they feel.

The night air is a kind reprieve. The sky sprinkled with a million stars. A gentle breeze drifts over dry paddocks. Occasionally, the dust is punctuated by the sweet scent of gum trees, warmed and resting.

I’m exhausted but in some strange way buoyed as well.

The evening sky began with a near full moon hole-punched into a mauve canvas. Trees became silhouettes. The afterglow of sunset left us tinted in yellow, orange and lilac. And relief. The close of the day meant the close of the heat.

We’d left Esk on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail at 3.30pm. The temperature was 33 degrees Celsius and would stay in the thirties until just before sunset at 6.11pm. Our destination was the Somerset Regional Art Gallery at Toogooloowah, about 20km away.

The gallery is known as The Condensery owing to its former life as a condensed milk factory packing shed.  Inspired by this history, The Bubble Bridge, was built to carry rail trailers across Cressbrook Creek and into Toogoolawah. The former bridge was destroyed in the severe floods engulfing this area in 2013.

Arriving at The Condensery, we enjoyed a sunset spread of cakes and canapés. Seventy riders turned up for the event organised by the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail Association. Fed, watered and dosed with local hospitality, we returned by moonlight to Esk.

I shared the ride with Jane, Noel and Jen Cooper. No-one keen to race, we four rode slowly. Perhaps we were the last to arrive at Toogoolowah, and among the last to finish back at Esk. But we made it!

This was my second visit to the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail. Last time, I had to deal with cold temperatures and found myself facing some unexpected hazards… and childhood fears. This time it was the heat of the day and the occasional swallowing of swarming insects that buzzed in the warm night air.

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Arriving at Toogoolawah by The Bubble Bridge.

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Arriving at the Somerset Regional Gallery for sunset cakes and canapés.

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Sunset and it’s time to return to Esk.

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Jane, Jen, Noel and I: ready for the moonlight ride back to Esk.

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A near full moon hole-punched into a mauve canvas.

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The view from my handlebars!

 

Break in transmission

Break in Transmission

A change of season

A change of pattern

A cold is caught

Achoo!

What was I taught?

Rest, she had said

Take time to recover

Bless you.

No riding, no writing

No swimming, no play

Just runny nose and goo

Oh, poo!

A break in transmission

Time to sit still

Settle in the changes

Renew.

©Gail Rehbein 2017

 

Plans to ride over the creek and pick up a pizza came unstuck. Over the new bridge I rode. The late afternoon light throwing long shadows as the Brompton sped across the smooth concrete. Friday’s carefree feeling was in the air. Two young boys threw fishing lines into the creek’s full tide. A retired couple walked slowly out for an early dinner. We were on our way to collect a pizza. ‘It’ll be ready in 15’ said the guy from La Boca Pizza at the Currumbin RSL Club. And so it was.

The back rack on the Brompton, with its sturdy stretchy straps, looked perfect for carrying a pizza box home. I unclipped the straps, rested the pizza box on the rack and then stretched the straps over the box. I wiggled the box, checking it was secure. On the bike I sat. But when I began to pedal, my plans came unstuck. Heel strike!

As I pedalled, each heel would strike the pizza box. It wasn’t possible to ride home carrying the box on the Brompton. Luckily, Jane had peddled out with me on her tourer and placed the pizza across her touring handlebars for the ride home. Problem solved.

After dinner, I shared the heel strike story on Instagram with a photo of the Brompton and pizza box. Suggestions flowed in from Brompton riders. So too did an offer from the RSL to be their pizza delivery driver (biker) once I’ve sorted out the heel strike issue.

One suggestion included rotating the pizza box 45 degrees for more clearance. So I parked that idea for next time. This is worth trying.

Three weeks later, Friday night pizza is on our menu again. Will rotating the pizza box work? It has to. This time I’m on the Brompton and riding solo. At a pinch, I could juggle the box home on the handlebars or in the front luggage bag but both feel like a recipe for my homemade tossed salad being accompanied by tossed pizza.

The pizza is ready in 15 as promised. I unclip the stretchy straps, place the pizza box on the rack, twist the box to 45 degrees and then secure the straps over the box. Gingerly, I sit on the saddle and test the pedal stroke. Hurray! No heel strike!

Now I just have to follow up the Currumbin RSL about their job offer 😀

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My first attempt at carrying the pizza results in heel strike.

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Rotating the box to 45 degrees works! No heel strike!

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Friday night pizza with a twist.

The Value of Rest

Riding here. Travelling there. It would be easy to think that all this bicycle riding is all go, go, go. Non-stop. An endless trail of activity. Perhaps you’re exhausted just reading about it. Well, huddle in. I want to tell you something that I haven’t written in this blog before.

I like resting.

In fact, I’m a big fan of resting. And it seems that’s a good thing. Actually, even better than I’d thought.

Pedalling through my bicycle experiment in 2015, choosing the bicycle over the car where I could, I expended more energy getting from ‘a’ to ‘b’. I adjusted and adapted and ended that year fitter than I started. Then in 2016, training for the GreatVic elevated my weekly kilometres. At the outset, I was a little worried about how I’d go with this extra mileage and extra energy output.

Then I discovered that rest had a place at the training program table. Yes, thank you.

Every fourth week in the training program was designated as a recovery week. This was a week for fewer days riding and fewer kilometres. A week to allow the body and the mind to recover. I liked this idea but I made an interesting observation.

You see, some part of me wanted to keep riding and not have that recovery time. I like riding. It makes me feel good. I’d even say riding gives me an enjoyable high. So when each recovery week came around, I felt disappointed that I wasn’t going to have as much bicycle time that week. I also worried that I might lose fitness during the break.

But I didn’t. In fact, taking recovery time made me stronger. Continuing without a stop was likely to be counterproductive. I would have become tired, perhaps bored and less excited about riding. Taking the recovery time allowed my body and mind to rest. It sharpened my motivation. And, rather than losing fitness, this was the time when my body built fitness.

This fact was a touch counterintuitive for me. You see, although I have always enjoyed rest and been reasonably adept at giving myself rest time, I’d seen it as ‘time out’. A time of non-doing. A time for stopping. But I hadn’t given rest its full value. I hadn’t seen how rest can make me even better. During rest time is where my well-being begins.

Seeya later. I’m going for a snooze…. 😉

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Wollumbin BUG

I’d lost my way. On a Sunday of all days. Mondays I can understand. On Mondays, the world returns to work and a collective lull hovers across the morning. But this was a Sunday and I was out riding and I didn’t know which way to go.

We set out soon after sunrise to ride a new circuit; some roads would be familiar and some would be new. It would be our longest ride since returning home from the GreatVic. There would be hills to climb too.

Out to sea, sunlight sprayed from behind a curtain of clouds. Overhead, the grey sky hung low, pressing steamy air into a thick soup. We pedalled south, heading for the northern tip of our neighbouring state, New South Wales. Here the land turns green. The Tweed Valley, home to Wollumbin and the Tweed caldera, is rich with orange soil and bordered with hills. To ride there, we must climb.

Through the twin towns of Coolangatta and Tweed Heads we ride over the state border. Time marches forward an hour with daylight saving automatically spending my early hour. Crossing over Terranora Creek, we pedal along Dry Dock Road where lands run low and waters run high. Then, turning into Fraser Drive, we begin four kilometres of steady climbing up to Terranora Road. We head west, still climbing. This is a familiar route.

Then we take a right turn and descend into unfamiliar roads.

A steep descent on a road wrapped in trees brings shade and speed. It’s fun. As the pitch of the hill flattens, I’m looking for signs of the small community of Bilambil. I was expecting to see the community hall, the tennis courts, the store and garage at the bottom of the hill. Nothing’s there. To the left, the road heads inland. To the right is a no-through road. Ahead is a steep hill that I wasn’t expecting until after Bilambil. So I stop. I’ve lost my way.

Looking behind to where we’ve come from, I see a bicycle speeding down the hill, and another and another. As the first cyclist passes, I call out: “which way to Bilambil?” “Up the hill”, he replies with a touch of glee as he pedals to squeeze every bit of energy out of the descent. Another cyclist passes and another and I notice their bikes are different from what we usually see.

This area is a popular destination for weekend cycling but in our trips south we’ve only seen speedy road bikes racing their way around the hills. These bikes, though, were touring bikes like ours. It was like meeting your own kin.

So up the hill we rode, mingling with the tourers, yarning about bikes and travel, and finding out about this interesting group of bicycle riders. By a stroke of serendipity, we’d met the Wollumbin Bicycle User Group (BUG) on its Sunday ride from Murwillumbah.

Bicycle User Groups (BUGs) are social riding groups that meet regularly for an enjoyable ride. They might be formed around a suburb, city, workplace or university campus; and can be found in many different countries. BUGs vary in terms of how often rides take place, the distances travelled and the type of riders attracted. For example, some groups focus on road bikes, while others are formed for mountain bikes. Most of the Wollumbin BUG riders we met rode touring bikes, but I get the sense they’re a very inclusive group with a genuine interest in encouraging people to get on a bike.

After summiting the hill, we descended into Bilambil where the group stopped for a cuppa in the local park. After some enjoyable chat, Jane and I continued on to the Gold Coast, leaving with a lift in our pedals and an invitation to ride with the Wollumbin BUG sometime soon. I’m looking forward to it.


The following link takes you to a list of BUGS in Australia:

https://www.bicyclenetwork.com.au/find/club/?state=&keyword=&all= 

topography

That little hill in the middle was the one I hadn’t expected.

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Over the border into some beautiful areas for riding.

Imagine taking 4000 bicycle riders across 527 kilometres over nine days, housing them, feeding them and helping everyone stay safe. In December, I wrote about my remarkable nine-day adventure in My GreatVic. But there’s another story to be told. It’s about the amazing support structure that makes the GreatVic great.

You see, it’s not just a ride. The GreatVic is a rolling bike festival. Every night there’s a new camp for bicycle riders to roll into. Each afternoon, we rode beneath the blue inflatable ‘FINISH’ arch and along the festival site’s ‘main street’. Here, food vendors sold milkshakes, ice creams, coffee, and potato swirls. A bicycle shop solved mechanical problems and an outdoor supplies store filled the gap for camping essentials. And there were always one or two not-for-profit groups local to the area, selling toasties or sizzling sausages to raise funds.

Jane and I always finished our ride with chocolate milkshakes to refuel before collecting our luggage and finding our tent. Two bags each, weighing less than 20kgs combined. That was the luggage limit per person. Each morning, we’d pack our bags, hand them to the friendly guy on our allocated luggage truck and then our bags would be waiting for us at the next festival site. Our tent for the night would also be waiting and, already set up.

The GreatVic caters for a variety of camping options. You can use your own tent and set it up yourself. Or you can pay some extra dollars to have a tent supplied, assembled and dismantled for you. That’s what we chose and it was a good choice for the ease it brought.

As well as this canvas community of tents, each festival site had a large marque – known as Café de Canvas – for dining, drinking and dancing. Every night there was entertainment – a band in the marque, a movie on a huge outdoor screen and drinks at the Spokes Bar. A quiet night, early to bed, was also a realistic option.

…an astonishing logistical feat.

Providing meals, entertainment, toilets and showers at a different site every day as well as organising 4000 riders before, during and after each day of riding, is an astonishing logistical feat.

The mobile kitchens served 12000 meals each day with lunch being served on the road. Seven shower trucks provided for 100 showers at a time. (And our showers were always warm.) Eight toilet trucks accommodated for the festival site and a band of port-a-loos were located along each day’s route. Water refill stations were situated at each festival site as well as at each morning tea, lunch and afternoon rest areas. A fleet of fifty semitrailers carried the festival from site to site and 200 vehicles supported the ride.

The support vehicles included motor bikes carrying event marshals and first aid care. Their presence throughout the route was reassuring as we rolled through landscapes unfamiliar and roads unknown. There were also mini-buses known as ‘sag wagons’ towing a trailer purpose-built for carrying bikes. The sag wagons picked up riders who couldn’t finish the day’s riding because of sickness, tiredness, injury or mechanical problems that couldn’t be resolved.

Then there were the WARBYs (We Are Right Behind You) who ride the route as volunteers giving mechanical and moral support to riders. We didn’t need to use the sag wagon nor the WARBYs but knowing they were there as a back-up was heartening.

I still had to push my pedals and see my wheels moving across the miles but, knowing this amazing support structure was with me, made My GreatVic much easier and enjoyable.20161202-cafe-de-canvas-img_8202

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A panoramic view of our Day 7 festival site near Bells Beach.

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Some tent options include inflatable mattresses.

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Toilet truck at the Grampians festival site.

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Our friendly luggage truck guy waiting for our bags.

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Tyre pumps were at available at each campsite before setting out for the day.

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Lunch stops had water refill stations and First Aid tents.

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Morning tea stop with bike racks available.

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Event Marshall helping to keep riders safe.

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The SAG wagon picked up riders who couldn’t finish the day’s riding.

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On the tail of a volunteer WARBY.

 

 

 

Bicycle ahoy!

Last week, riding home from the beach, I saw a strange sight on Currumbin Creek. It floated on two hulls. They were the type of hulls that a catamaran uses, only smaller. Yellow, buoyant and atop sat a man on a bicycle.

He pedalled and the craft moved. He turned the handlebars and the hulls slowly changed direction. I pedalled to a vantage point on Thrower Bridge, jumped off my bike and hastily unclipped my pannier in search of my camera. Moments later he’d floated under the bridge. I crossed the creek and looked out from the underpass for a water-level view of this new contraption. Fascinated, I then rode home only to realise that my beach towel was missing.

Clipped to the outside of my pannier, I guessed the towel had dropped somewhere after opening my pannier on the bridge. I rode back, retracing my trail from home, and found my towel kindly placed by someone over the bridge railing.

With the towel secured, I was ready to ride home for breakfast but something took me in another direction – my curiosity about the bicycle boat. Curiosity keeps me learning and creating new experiences. Breakfast could wait.

By now, the bicycle boat was moored on the creek’s southern bank. The bicycle boatman stood nearby. It was time to talk.

Sean the bicycle boatman has imported the Hydrobike as a new venture. He has another six on their way from the USA and they’ll be available for hire on Currumbin Creek.

I enjoyed having a yarn about these floating bicycles. Memories of Lakeland Playland seeped in from the recesses of my mind from Bargara in the 1970s. Down the road from my childhood home, Moneys Creek flowed from the sugar cane fields into the Coral Sea. The creek was a haven for sandflies so a causeway was built creating a lagoon. In the early 1970s, this lagoon became home for a fun park called Lakeland Playland which hired miniature jet boats and paddle boats propelled by pedalling!

While those pedal boats were strictly for kids, this modern interpretation looks suitable for a variety of ages. Sean kindly invited me to try the modern day bicycle boat. After adjusting the seat height and a few instructions about steering, I was pedalling on water! Bicycle Ahoy!

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Bicycle boat on Currumbin Creek. Propellor in upright position locks into the pedal.

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Hatch at the front of the bicycle boat.

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Test riding – that yellow and black colour combination is very familiar…

(If you’re interested in hiring the Hydobike on Currumbin Creek, head to the south bank at Thrower Bridge near the big fig tree.)

A new calendar year and there are new wheels in my garage.

Welcome to 2017. I hope your new year brings you good health, safe travels and enjoyable adventures. Mine has brought me new wheels.

Well they’re not actually new. They’re second-hand, pre-owned, loved by someone else, and now I’ve been given the opportunity to enjoy them.

So what’s small, folds and is made in London? A High Street hankerchief? A Twinings teabag? A Burberry scarf perhaps? Well yes, but not in my garage.

It’s a Brompton!

Brompton folding bicycles first made an appearance in this blog in 2016 when guest writer, Jen Cooper wrote about her and Noel’s decision to make the move from big bikes to little bikes. In the lead up to that article, Jen and I shared a ride on their Bromptons. This ride piqued my interest.

For my first fifteen minutes on Jen’s Brompton, the steering felt unusual and a little unstable but then, I stopped noticing any “twitchiness” and just loved riding along!

Like my Vivente Tourer, the Brompton bicycle frame is made from steel. I like the feeling of a steel frame bike. It was only while test riding my Vivente that I realised the soft flex that a steel frame brings compared to aluminium. It sold me. As did the terrific range of gears my Vivente gives me.

That’s where a Brompton differs. The one I’m riding has six gears which means hills are not its ‘thang’. But, the city is where the Brompton thrives. Folding bikes are versatile, agile and portable. This is their domain.

My city of the Gold Coast is a relatively small city with a population of just over half a million. It’s a young city made from small seaside towns and clusters of beach shacks that, over four decades, spread out to reach each other, growing into an urban strip that hugs the coastline for 57kms. It doesn’t have the age or size of older, bigger cities but it does have a lot of traffic. It has burgeoning bottlenecks that make me, and I hope a growing number of people, glad to be on a bike. And where Gold Coast trains, buses and trams don’t permit bikes, they will take a folding bicycle.

This means exploring my city by bicycle has opened into a whole new urban adventure.

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Downtown Palm Beach

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Meeting the Gold Coast locals

If you have an interest in knowing more about Brompton Bicycles, here are some links:

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