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Wednesday, 12 July 2017

The excitement builds

It would seem, having recently wandered out of town for a bit to catch up with friends, that there's something to be said for living in a rural environment. A slower pace of life, a greater sense of community and some wonderful scenery to boot, assuming you choose wisely and according to your preferences / requirements of course.

I mean sure there's bound to be some negatives, but I'm coming to understand why some people are tempted, well here in Australia at least, to explore the idea of undergoing a seachange / treechange experience. A situation which was exacerbated for me when I was out & about riding in the outer burbs of Melbourne yesterday.

The sun was shining, though the temperature gauge was struggling to reach double figures and yet the level of animosity / anxiety on the roads, bike paths and in the cafe was frightening. I got home and immediately got on the Internet to look at flight options and to let a few colleagues know I was heading over.

Seriously I don't care how bad the inclines are in the Alps or Pyrenees, dealing with them has got to be substantially easier than:

  • Australian motorists;
  • Dog walkers who can't / don't control their animals;
  • Mobile phone obsessed twits;
  • Ninja cyclists & joggers

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Another step closer....

With the Troll having been given a bit of a service along with a couple of modifications, I realised that it was time to start looking at my list of potential "European Adventure" travel requirements, working out what & how I wanted to sort / carry them on my bike, etc.

In the process of going down this line of thinking, I contemplated the idea of using the Melbourne Edition of the Swift Campout, organised by my good friends at Commuter Cycles as a bit of a trial run. During the packing process however I realised that I should apply a water proofer to my tent, given the problems I had experienced in South America and noting that the weather forecast for Melbourne was a bit sketchy! Unfortunately however because I spent time applying then waiting for the "Storm - Fast Dry Proofer" to dry, I missed the boat as it were to meet up with the Commuter Cycle crew.

The Yarra River

I did manage however to get a bit of a ride in on the beloved Troll, along some of the bike paths of Melbourne, including a stretch of road typically used by the road cycling crew, including myself, as a bit of a training ground - The Kew Boulevard. 


Studley Park Boathouse Cafe

As I was in somewhat "relaxed" mode and waiting for the water proofer stuff to dry on my tent, I decided to stop for a coffee at the Studley Park Boathouse Cafe, something that I haven't done in I can't think how long! Years I suspect, despite having ridden past it's driveway countless times in the last 4 - 5 years. 

Essentially it would seem that there's a need / requirement to have at least one cup of coffee when out on a bike, regardless of what type of bike one is riding. 😊 😊 😊

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Troll undergoes a bit of surgery!

As you may recall, a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was contemplating the idea of buying a new bike, in the form of a Surly Long Haul Trucker a concept that had been brewing ever since I returned from South America, having seen how well they coped with all manner of conditions on the open road and having been bitten by the bike touring bug.....

The more I started planning & visualizing myself cycling around Europe, the stronger the urge became, to the point I'd started thinking how I'd set it up, etc. Heck, I even had a couple of chats with my mate from Commuter Cycles about potentially putting an order in to get something built up....

It was only when another friend reminded me that I was "touring" and should be taking it easy rather than worrying about Strava segment times or time spent in the saddle getting from Point A to Point B, that I realised that a few minor modifications to the Troll would not only make the trip a little easier / more reliable but would also save me money & storage space in the bike room....

As a consequence, I've revised my "list of essential equipment", I mean it is Europe after all, with towns or villages every 50-100KM or so, not like I am riding the Birdsville Track or The Canning Stock Route. 

Hence the need to buy / fit some additional panniers on the front forks, etc, went out the window as it would after all just encourage me to buy / carry more stuff and I probably wouldn't use it all anyhow, so why bother..... 

Instead, I have invested in a Dynamo Hub and properly mounted lights as opposed to USB rechargeable ones, which now means I can charge a number of my electronic gizzmos, whilst on the go as well as running a set of lights, front & rear, whether I am riding with panniers, handlebar bag or not... 

It also means, I can now ride all night, should I choose to do so, without worrying about batteries going flat.

During the course of my conversations with the good folk at Commuter Cycles I also came to the conclusion that, should I wish to fit panniers to the front of my bike, I'd be better off doing so, with fixed forks rather than the set of suspension forks currently adorning the Troll. Why, cause the weight within the panniers, dampens the effectiveness of the suspension anyhow, as well as limiting the number of suppliers of racks on which to hang the panniers, etc. 

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Really...

Whilst at a dinner party on Saturday night, a couple of people asked about where I'd been on my bike, having heard that I was a bit of a fan of using a bicycle as a means of exploring foreign lands... Unfortunately however there were also a couple of others who used it as an opportunity to vent their spleens about how cyclists ran red lights, blocked their roads, and so on, which then initiated the whole almost inevitable argument that cyclists:

  • Should carry / require a license if they want to ride on the road;
  • Should display a registration plate of one form or another;
  • Should pay a tax for the use of said road infrastructure

Having heard all this nonsense before, knowing that their views were entrenched. I decided rather than biting and trying respond to their argument to instead simply get up from the table, help the host with the dishes in the kitchen before departing for the evening. 



Oh, as a bit of a hint as to why I get so hot under about these sorts of stupid suggestions and as a bit of a post-script, here are some comments / thoughts from the endurance cyclist Mike Hall, about cycling in Australia, before he was killed by a motorist on the outskirts of Canberra, earlier this year. 

Sunday, 4 June 2017

European Adventure Update No.2

Well the planning & commitment to cycling through Europe just got a little more "real" the other day, when I realised that:

  • Whilst it may not change nor cure anything, I have unfinished business to complete in Europe;
  • Expecting a more "traditional" life to unfold, in terms of careers, partners, etc, isn't necessarily going to happen;
  • All manner of things can change in the blink of an eye, particularly in respect to health and/or lifestyle;
  • Having been refused entry through the Pearly Gates twice now, I may not be as lucky next time;
  • It's only money and you can't take it with you!

As a result, whilst there's still a few things I'll need to organise before I can go and purchase airline tickets, I have at least dealt with one of the more important issues - I've renewed my passports, though I'll probably "travel" on my British one..... 

Why travel on my British rather than Australian passport I hear you ask? Well, essentially cause I have a little more faith in the British Foreign Office, then I do Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade and secondly because I also suspect it opens a few more doors in terms of relocating to Europe than my Aussie passport does.... 

Thanks Dad for having been a ten pound Pom!

How much I'll have the piss taken out of me for doing so, given their propensity for going to the polls and the subsequent outcomes which ensue, or how well it will serve me given the current debacle / hype around the Brexit 'divorce' proceedings however who knows.... I'll just have to remember to tell those I meet on the road, particularly in France, that I am a dinky-di Aussie, cause I'd hate to be confused for a POM in terms of my sporting allegiances or what have you! 😊 😊 😊 

That just then leaves me in the next couple of weeks to:

  • Re-organise my financial affairs.
  • Have a chat with my local real estate agent.
  • Potentially buy a new bike - A Surly Long Haul Trucker

Now I should explain, that last item on the agenda. Whilst the Surly Troll would work, it's likely to mean more time in the saddle per day to cover the same distance and carrying the same load, than if I rode something with a larger wheel size.

Essentially, I've found (and it's a slightly a biased trial) that when I ride the same route, with what feels like the same effort, that I can only ride the Troll at 75% of the speed of the Felt, something I'm putting down primarily to the difference in wheel size, though weight is probably also a contributing factor. The bike's that is, not mine, you cheeky buggers!

Finally in closing I have to admit that I am beginning to wonder how far North I want to go, given that I may have left my prospective departure date a little late. IE: Is it likely to be getting cold by the time I get to Berlin. 

Decisions, decisions.... 

Friday, 26 May 2017

Momentous May and the reason I ride......

Whilst my ride today was neither all that fast, far or strenuous, it was damned important. Why? 

Well I've struggled to acknowledge, let alone articulate it, but essentially six months ago, possibly prior to that even, I was severely bitten by "The Black Dog" and unlike rabies which can be cured with a course of injections, depression is not so easy to fix.



The Anniversary Trail which is also known as the Outer Circle Trail. 


It's part of a bike path I used to ride as a teenager.

The only reprieve that I get from the Black Dog is when I am on my bike, whether it's pedaling along paths I've previously traveled or exploring what is around the corner or at the peak of the climb. It would seem, unlike most dogs, my mate, can't keep be bothered getting or staying out of the house for sufficiently long enough to chase me....


Scotchman's Creek Trail

I suspect that's part of the appeal for cycling through Europe. Something that I have been umming & ahhing about since late last year, ever since I very first contemplated, went public about it.

On the one hand, it represents an opportunity to catch up with a few friends, fulfill some goals and possibly regenerate a sense of self-confidence, self-worth and to locate the "Life Reset" button and with it a purpose to keep on living.

On the other hand, it is somewhat of a financial and possibly life changing gamble, given that I am somewhat emotionally attached "stuck" to the area in which I grew up, an area I love so much. An area with which I have such an affinity, some really wonderful memories, along with a number of good friends along with some great bike paths. All of which makes it hard to move on.....




Jells Park

At the end of the day however, with the colder months now hitting Melbourne and the sun beginning to shine across Europe, something that one cannot help but notice from watching the Giro d'Italia, I suspect it's now or never......

I realise that in many many respects, this represents a leap into the great unknown with some fairly significant downsides, given that it will probably require me to move / downsize, irrespective of what I find "out there". 

But I have to do it, because remaining in self imposed solitary confinement as I have done, these last few months is not healthy. 



Koonung Creek Trail

Finally, on a slightly different but aligned note, to those of you who’s emails, phone calls or otherwise I haven’t returned, I apologize. 

I sometimes find, and I suspect I'm not alone in this regard, for modern day living to be very challenging or scary at times. 

Whether it's my obsession with keeping up with world news, my overthinking issues or my simply worrying too much about the future, in terms of leaving a legacy and / or knowing how things can unfold in old age*, or a combination of all of the above, I don't know... 

What I do know however is that acknowledging that life hasn't perhaps unfolded in the way I would have liked or could ever have possibly envisaged, not that I'd necessarily change what I've done / experienced, talking about it, is just too damned confronting. 

Whilst it probably sounds like an excuse, it is part of the reason I can't / won't answer the phone (it sits uncharged, unused for weeks at a time) and have difficulty responding to "How's things" type emails, etc, at times..... 

Now all of that said. Being as innocent & naive as I am in some respects, yet far wiser than I should be (for my age at least) in regards to others, I'm hoping this gamble pays off, cause I don't know that I like where the "remain in Melbourne" path may lead.....

It's time to move on and start life anew. As I should have done when I first got back from South America. 

In closing, all I can say is - please don't give up, I do appreciate your emails, etc.

Who knows, one day, hopefully you'll receive a postcard in the mail, (I'm old school like that) to say, I've re-discovered my MOJO and am now living who knows where in the world, and would love to have you visit.

* Seriously - when you have spent as much time as I have in hospitals, nursing homes, etc, looking after a loved one, you can understand why some people refer to nursing homes as "God's Waiting Room" and fight their families about entering one. You can also begin to understand why as age & the frailties of life set in, some decide to take the peaceful pill. 

QUALITY BEATS QUANTITY ANY DAY! 


Well at least in my book and that's when you do have a loving caring family around you, and I don't! 

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Adventures in April

I am pleased to be able to say that I've put a further 700 odd kilometres through the pedals during the month, thus extending my run of 150KM per week rides another month. Some of it ridden at a leisurely pace, enabling me to admire the scenery and enjoy the weather, whilst at other times it has been with higher intensity with the aim of giving me a bit of a cardio workout and / or an opportunity to burn off a bit of excess energy. Now in saying this, I should also add that I try to give both bikes an equal workout.... 

I have to confess however, that I regrettably haven't ridden more. I sometimes find it difficult to find the motivation to get out there and ride, despite knowing the physical & mental benefits that will ensue.... 

Let's just put it this way, riding on one's own, unless it's with a specific aim or to say get from Point A to Point B gets a bit boring, lonely and tiresome at times. Then there is the 'safety' aspect which comes with riding in a peleton / with colleagues. 

This is a situation of course, that's not helped by the fact that I am a night owl, despite years trying to break the habit which consequently means it's somewhat difficult to join club or shop rides as part of a group, given they typically hit the road at six o'clock in the morning or thereabouts which doesn't take into consideration of course, the fact it's necessary to depart one's home at least thirty minutes earlier in order to get to the agreed starting point. Me, waking at five in the morning! There's a snowballs chance.....

Sure I managed to do so intermittently with Team Flexorcranks when doing the MRR circuit and when I was riding with the Lead Out Crew, but life was somewhat different back then....

So where does that leave me:

  • Setting & challenging myself to complete certain set goals. IE: Distance / Week;
  • Endeavouring to improve on my own Strava records on certain rides;
  • Exploring new areas, bike paths, etc;
  • Maintaining my fitness with one eye on my goal of touring through Europe

One much loved / repeated trip, I do, at a leisurely pace, is on the bike path alongside the Yarra River.


Whilst I was admiring the Melbourne Skyline & Yarra River


The Troll was admiring a potential bridge to hide under!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Soapbox Rant - Cyclists Lives Matter

The recent death of world renowned endurance / global touring cyclist, Mike Hall, has highlighted just how dangerous riding in Australia is considered to be by cyclists from abroad, if blog & forum sites are anything to go by!

Whilst most local cyclists have acknowledged the risks involved and accept them as an inherent risk in doing something they love, they're often unaware of the behaviour that motorists abroad, and particularly in Europe, have towards other road users....

What's particularly worrying however when incidents such as this occur, is the deafening silence, coming from organisations such as:

  • Amy Gillett Foundation - "Making Bike Riding in Australia Safe"
  • Bicycle Network - "More People Cycling More Often" 
  • Cycling Australia - "To be the World's Leading Cycling Nation"

The implication seemingly being a tacit acceptance that the government / statutory authorities have got the rules right, that the issue of changing motoring behaviour is too big / hard to change or that the death of an average of 37* cyclists nationally and the injury or hospitalisation of how many others, annually, is an acceptable number. 

With a cyclist being killed nearly every week and sure some death's resulting in a protest ride being organised, by friends of the deceased, event organisers or occasionally by one the above groups, themselves, garnering all of five seconds of media coverage, it's time for change. Whilst I don't know what the solution is, surely:

These cycling organisations realise

That unless there is change, riding a bike is still going to be considered a dangerous activity by many in the community, which in turn inhibits the sport's ability to grow to it's full potential and that ultimately they're not living up to their own mission statements.

The State & Federal Governments realise

There's an economic impact as well as a human / societal one. 

  • Lost productivity within the work place; 
  • Further cost pressures on the medical system both in dealing with the victims of road accidents, and from an obesity crisis that continues to swell, as a potential exercise route, is "closed" to some who have weight control issues;
  • The adventure tourism sector being unable to grow to it's full potential because of the real / perceived risks involved in taking to Australian roads, by an international clientele 

Now whilst I'd like to think that there was likely at some point in the near future for there to be a change in attitudes, such that cyclists & motorists had more respect for one another (I acknowledge it is a two-way street), that motorists realised that the odds and therefore the onus is more heavily weighted on them to ensure that we all get home to our families / friends safe & well, and that government's realised that it was up to them to push this message through, I can't see it changing anytime soon. 

As a result it's just another thing that adds to the impetus for my looking at the idea of moving abroad. Cycling has become such an integral part of my life, I need to feel that I can do so safely without the constant fear of not knowing whether I'll make it to my destination or not.....



Sunday, 2 April 2017

Vale - Mike Hall

Whilst I never had the pleasure of meeting the endurance & ultra distance cyclist, Mike Hall having been glued to my computer monitor for the last couple of weeks, watching a couple of friends compete in the inaugural Indian Pacific Wheel Race I quickly became aware of what an inspirational and friendly guy he was. 

The IPWR is a self-supported bike race from Perth,West Australia to Sydney, New South Wales, being a distance of 5,500KM from end to end, over a defined route.  

It would seem that Mike was someone who thrived on such challenges, having:

  • Broke the World circumnavigation record during the 2012 World Cycle Race;
  • Set the record in the inaugural Trans AM Bike Race in 2014
  • Broke the record for the Tour Divide in 2016;

Unfortunately, however he passed away on Friday morning, having been involved in an accident on the outskirts of Canberra

Mike's untimely passing has had a significant impact on me and I would suggest the vast majority of cyclists here and abroad.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Surly Troll 26" Mountain Bike

Whilst I may potentially be doing my trip through Europe on another bike, given that I do like the look and have heard good stories about the Surly Long Haul Trucker, I have to weigh the costs involved in purchasing one, as opposed to utilising my Surly Troll.... 

I mean I purchased the Troll, being a Hard Tail Mountain Bike with 26" wheels, primarily for The Andes Trail, and as a consequence, it's wheel dimensions may not be entirely appropriate / necessary for a trip through Europe, though it does do the job.... It's just a little slower / harder work, than when dealing with a bike with 'standard" road size wheels. 

That said, I thought I would take the opportunity to show you what the Troll currently looks like, though it would possibly have a few modifications, such as adding mudguards, swapping the front forks to fixed so that I can add panniers, etc.....


A great bike that's given me an appreciation of what riding a Mountain Bike is all about.


The handlebars as seen from when in the saddle.


The Go Pro Hero 3+ Camera on the front which I have used to record certain "rides", etc.




The Cycliq Fly6 Rear Light Camera under the saddle

Being able to shift cameras between bikes is fairly easy, with the rear Fly6 Camera simply requiring me to undo / reattach the velcro strap on the seat post, whilst the Go Pro camera on the front isn't all that much harder. 

I do have to change things around as far as the Go Pro camera set up is concerned if I want to utilise my Ortlieb Handlebar Bag, something which was very handy on the Andes Trail but hasn't seen a great deal of use here in OZ.

Finally in closing, I just thought I'd give you a bit of an update as to the number of kilometres ridden during March (900 kilometres) and the total achieved (1950 kilometres) in the year to date, which gives me an average of 150 per week, since the beginning of the year, something which pleases me no end.