Cycling in Brisbane Australia
Thought I would write a little Melvyn like report on the GVBR 2014 which I just completed last weekend.
The route this year started in Albury NSW and finished in Lilydale Vic. It went through the NE of Victoria, where there is the high country , snowfields, beautiful valleys, wineries and generally beautiful bucolic scenery abounds.
Unfortunately this years ride was marred by the death of a 65yo rider who clipped a wheel and fell under a passing truck about 20km north of Mansfield. It certainly cast a pall over the ride, but with 4000 riders taking part, it was a bit anonymous for those who did not know him or see the accident. Certainly it was cause for reflection for all riders that night.
I flew from Brisbane to Albury via Sydney. The Sydney to Albury leg was in an ATR 700, excuse my aviation indulgence, a first time for me and certainly a comfortable, pleasant aircraft.
On arrival at Albury it was very hot, I was riding with a retired workfriend from my Tasmania days. We got a taxi to the camp site, registered, set up our bikes and headed off to the town centre to find a pub!
Sunday 30th Nov Albury to Yackandandah 63km AVS 18.5 Ascent 612m
A relatively flat ride through rolling country towards Lake Hume, we rode across the bike track on the dam wall, which afforded great views of the lake and the surrounding countryside. Towards the end of the day's ride we did have to ascend about 300m before a 5km delightful downhill into Yackandandah.
Yackandandah is a small town with a couple of pubs, galleries and coffee shops. Some good folky type music in one pub had us there for a couple of hours.
Monday 1 Dec Yackandandah to Bright 87km AVS 17.1 Ascent 1260m
Today was one of the official climbing days where we would climb Tawonga Gap and descend into the township of Bright. Before reaching the climb we rode along the Kiewa Valley alongside the Kiewa River most of the way-this was beautiful riding with the mountain peaks ahead of us and lovely, lush flats alongside a fast flowing river. The day was warming up and as luck would have it we would be climbing the Gap at midday.
And so Tawonga Gap, an 8km steady grind of about 7-9% in places. In the heat it was really hard work, lots of people walked-but on the recumbent, walking is not really an option, so I rode it all, with many breaks at about 6-8kph. Recumbents may not be great climbers, but I was still passing plenty of uprights, albeit slowly.
The Garmin recorded temps of 40C while going uphill and it was really, really hot. A downside of the trike is that you are like a prawn on a BBQ, and you can get burnt really quickly. Finally we reached the top to the rumbling of thunder that had quickly formed in the afternoon heat and humidity. I commenced my descent into Bright and shortly after starting, the heavens opened with heavy rain, hail and lightning-despite being soaked it was still quite hot, so quite pleasant in a soggy sort of way-it continued to pour all the way into the campsite, but even in these conditions, the descent was still fast and fun! Recumbents may not climb that well, but nothing gets near them going downhill
As it turned out we were the last group to descend, the Police closed the road due to the weather and it’s danger to riders and the rest of the crowd and their bikes had to be bussed down the hill into Bright.
On the social side, we went to the Bright Brewery for a few ales and listened to two local guys on guitar-they were brilliant, all the songs from my younger days!-they certainly had the demographic pegged.
Tues Dec 2 Bright-Moyhu 95km AVS 20.6kph Ascent 252m
The day started with a slight downhill for 30km out of Bright plus a tailwind-it doesn’t get any better than that! But it did, as we passed Gapstead Winery, we turned in for a few morning wines-and very nice they were as well!
A hot day again, a little bit of climbing then a hot hard slog into a headwind into Moyhu, a township with about a population of about 800 people. And what a wonderful welcome they gave us, these small towns are great, everyone gets involved, every house had an old bike decorated out the front of their house and they were all involved in providing food, drinks or entertainment for the masses!
Wed Dec 3 Moyhu-Mansfield 89km AVS 17.8kph Ascent 976m
Another dedicated climbing day with the ascent of Powers Lookout. Initially a very pleasant cruise to Whitfield along the Kiewa valley. Once at Whitfield the climb begins straight away, mainly 5-7% grade and thankfully overcast and a bit cooler than the previous climbing day. Thanks to the changed conditions I was able to climb most of the way without stopping, once again passing numerous upright bikes.
On reaching the summit however, we found that the Police had closed the road due to the fatal accident mentioned earlier. We had lunch here and after quite a delay the organisers came up with a diversion route around the crash site. The rest of the day became a solemn procession into Mansfield.
Thur Dec 4 Rest Day Mansfield
Spent the morning washing clothes and other domestic chores, before going to the Tin Shed Cider factory for a cider tasting and a BBQ lunch. We were keen on going to the lunch at the Deletite Winery, but this was already booked out by the time we arrived the previous afternoon.
Magnificent lightning show over the ranges east of us for most of the night, but we stayed dry.
Friday Dec 5 Mansfield-Alexandra 78.11km AVS 17kph Ascent 341m
A largely uneventful day spent riding on the Great Victorian Rail Trail. This was not the original plan, but as a handful of riders up front rode dangerously and interacted badly with some truck drivers, the Police once again stepped in and dictated that we would ride the whole day on the rail trail.
The police were quite twitchy after the fatal accident and I believe a better call would have been to sag the offenders to Alexandra rather than make the 3985 other riders ride the trail . The Rail trail was not popular with those on road bikes as people were getting punctures all the time. It was not great on the trike either as the 2 front wheels rode either side of the smooth path in the looser gravel, it was like riding through treacle all day and what should have been a relatively easy day ended with me feeling quite knackered.
The residents of Alexandra once again put on a wonderful welcome, their main street was closed off and turned over to food stalls, tables and chairs and a stage for the bands . They had organized an open licence for the street party, so one could buy a bottle of wine in a pub and go and park at a table in the street and watch the action. It was a great night!
Sat Dec 6th Alexandra-Healesville 85km AVS 17.7kph Ascent 937m
Awoke in the morning to thunderstorms and rain-bugger! Like the Tour de France, the show must go on-we spent the first three hours riding in the rain to Marysville, which was pretty much wiped out in the 2011 bushfires. Marysville is a lovely place, but still ringed by forest on 3 sides-so it's possible it could all happen again.
Next was the descent of the Black Spur or so I thought. My recollection was that as we were quite high up still it would be pretty much straight into the descent-WRONG-after about 600m climbing we did start to go down. The road was closed and it was game on! The trike descends at great speed, you can’t use your body to get some aerodynamic braking, so it’s the drum brakes only-they got so hot that I had to squirt water on them which immediately boiled. The Mango would not go well here as it would be even faster downhill and you would have to stop to cool the brakes all the time!
Anyway, great descent into Healesville, which these days is really just like a suburb of Melbourne. Tellingly, they did absolutely nothing in terms of providing a welcome to the riders. Their much touted brewery the White Rabbit was appalling-it shut at 5pm, but would sell me 2 bottles of beer but not allow me to open them there. We went out onto their deck to use the edge of a table to open them, only to be told you can’t open them or drink them here or they will be confiscated!! It’s the terms of our licence she said. I didn’t have the presence of mind to say she had already contravened their licence by selling me the beer after their closing time….anyway I shall eschew White Rabbit beer in the future!
It started raining at 10pm and continued all night, looking good for the last day!
Sun Dec 7th Healesville –Lilydale 35km AVS 17kph Ascent 403m
A short ride to finish the tour, little did I expect numerous 10 and 12% hills, rain and strong cold winds. A tour of Victoria involves all weather variations possible and we certainly got most of them in the last week! Some of the ride was on reasonably busy roads with some drivers as clueless as Brisbane drivers, so it was good to get onto the quieter roads leading to the finish line.
The final 200m was just like a Tour de France finish with people lining the street clapping and cheering us all past the finish line-great stuff!
And so it was done. Pack up the bike in the box, change into dry clothes, get on the bus back to the city and back to normal life. The end is always an anticlimax, no real time to say goodbye to new friends or indulge in some back slapping.
Thoughts on the Recumbent Trike
I think I found out what Melvyn probably already knew, the trike is the supreme touring machine. You won’t break speed records, but by the same token, after day 3 when everyone is talking about how sore their arse is, you will have a broad grin as your arse will feel fine!
And not only your arse, your neck, shoulders, hands will also be fine. Your legs will be fatigued of course but that is it. I have never felt so comfortable on a bike for days on end. When you have a break or need to stop you have a chair to rest in and you have a portable clothes line for the washing.
My gearing was low enough for all the hills I encountered and they are not really as bad up hills as people think they are. On a tour, the speed really is irrelevant, you will get to the top eventually and make up some of the lost time downhill.
Did I mention they are fast downhill? They fly and the faster they go the more stable they are. The limiting factor here is overheating the brakes, you can’t sit up as on a DF bike to get some aerodynamic braking, so the brakes are the only means of slowing.
No DF bike, even ridden by the boy racers could stay with me on the downhills, I would never pedal, just coast and I would still pull away from them.
I would have no hesitation choosing a trike to tour on in the future. Given this experience I can see the Mango would be even better as a tour vehicle, but would be more suited for terrain that was not so steep as this tour.
So that’s it, hope I haven’t bored you all too much.