STEVE'S REVIEW OF SHORT RIDES
Amy's Gran Fondo, Lorne, Victoria, September 2023 ***
Mary and I had registered to do the 130km Gran Fondo in Lorne in 2020 but COVID and its after effects meant that it was initially cancelled and when it returned last year we were unable to participate. We were therefore delighted when my enquiry to the organisers about this years event was positively received and we advised that our registrations had carried over at no extra cost.
So a few weekends ago we headed to Lorne south of Geelong in Victoria on a Friday expecting to have to attend a sit down briefing on the Saturday before riding on the Sunday morning. We had done the Mini Fondo (40 kms) several years ago and with 6,000 participants for all the rides they did briefings across the Saturday. Turns out this time the registration/briefing took about 5 minutes on the Saturday morning and we could have come a day later and registered before the ride started on the Sunday.
Anyway, we enjoyed Lorne plus catching up with our Geelong based cycling friends from our Croatian tour of a few years back. Sunday morning we joined the 18-22 kph non-competitive riding group for an 8am start. We were joined at the back of the bunch by a guy on a penny farthing and the start was the last time we saw him till much later - he was phenomenal. So the hooter went, we rode through the blow up archway and proceeded north out of Lorne. After about a km we started the first big climb of the day and at about the five km mark we crossed the electronic starting line. The electronic finishing line was also located several kms before the actual finish which helped explain how a 130-km ride became a 122 km ride.
The first climb was 10 km in length and with our e road bikes we kept a steady pace to the top before commencing a series of delightful descents till we arrived at the first aid station. A quick pit stop and we were back on the road following instructions about arriving at various points before the roads reopened to vehicles. About 9km from the second aid station in Forest, an event organiser on the side of the road advised us that we had 20 minutes to be at the aid station or we would not be able to continue (30 minutes ahead of the advertised time). So we upped the pace and arrived at the 1km to go sign as the 20 minutes ticked over.
We were given two choices - catch the provided bus to the third aid station 22 kms away at the top of the second climb or be taken by the other bus back to Lorne. We opted for the former and once about 20 of us had our bikes on the trailer we were bused to the aid station missing a very steep and long climb plus about a km of road work that had turned the road to wet, mud. As we neared the aid station we passed the penny farthing which was motoring along. He passed us as were unloaded at the station and we never saw him again notwithstanding that we had over 20kms of descending at 56kmh till we reached the Great Ocean Road. It was a brilliant experience!
The last 43 kms were along the GOR and back into Lorne. We had traversed the same section as part of our Great Ocean Road Tour with All Trails in 2021 and it was so much more fun doing it with closed roads.
Notwithstanding we were on closed roads, the event organisers were allowing support vehicles to travel the roads without giving us warning they were coming up behind us. In addition when we got to the GOR the event organisers had allowed a convoy of four wheel drives to ride towards us and had apparently given permission for cyclists to also ride back towards us after they had completed their Gran Fondo - possibly to return home to resorts where they were staying. With several road closures and lots of blind corners, it was very luck that the vehicles and bikes coming the other way didn't have accidents with riders or support vehicles who were utilising the whole of the road to travel to Lorne!
Still, Mary and I completed 104km of the 122km course and thoroughly enjoyed the day. Would we do it again? Possibly if we lived closer and if we knew that advertised times for road openings wouldn't be changed during the ride to make it harder.
Adelaide Coast to Vines Trail Ride March 2021 ****
We drove to Willunga with friends for breakfast and then unhitched our bikes and rode to join the Coast to Vines rail trail. We started from the old Willunga rail station and 48kms later we had ridden through McLarenvale, Reynella, Hallets Cove and the start of the trail at Marino before arriving at Glenelg for lunch. Another 15 kms later we were back at our friends place in Hallets Cove. It was a lovely ride with the Trail section being almost 100% off road, while the section from Marino to Glenelg is a mix of coastal shared paths and adjacent relatively quiet roads for those like us that get frustrated by how crowded and slow the coastal paths are. The signage is excellent and riders have no problems finding their way. We rode on a Sunday and while the Trail was popular, it was not crowded, but this might be different on a warm summer day.
Cowra HOBOS Ride
November 2020. ***
My veterans riding group, the HOBOS, spent four days in Cowra, NSW, in November. Cowra is about three hours drive from Canberra and one of our group had arranged accommodation, rides, social activities and meals. The threat of heavy rain shortened our riding to three days during which took part in group rides to destinations around Cowra including an 80km return journey to the historical town of Canowindra. The weather was warm to hot on each our riding days and the rides were enjoyable. Cowra is a town of about 9,000 inhabitants and it tends to close early of an evening and as a result our dining options were limited, but we did enjoy our meals at the Imperial Hotel and the Services Club. A highlight of the trip was a private visit to the Japanese Gardens which is an amazing place to walk around.
Westpac Challenge Tour - Tour Down Under, Adelaide, Australia
January 2020 *****
One of the highlights for active cyclists attending the Tour Down Under is to participate in the the Westpac Challenge Tour which includes the provision of jerseys in the price. Weather permitting (it was cancelled in 2018 due the heat) the Challenge follows the same route as the professionals ride on the Friday of the week long tour, albeit the Challenge is scheduled to be completed about the same time the professionals are starting some 150km's away. The Challenge is designed to suit all riding skills and all ages with four approximate distances - 150, 105, 78 and 25km's. Ebikes are allowed, as are mountain bikes and just about any bike you want to enter. The main challenge for those not rising the full course is getting to the start line and then getting home when you finish. Mary and I did the 78km course from Mt Torrens to Murray Bridge and we relied on our friends (whom we stay with during the tour) who drove us to Mt Torrens which required a really early start to be there for the 8am departure. Likewise they were waiting for us in Murray Bridge when we arrived at lunch time. There are lots of stops along the way where the organisers provide snacks, drinks and toilet facilities, and its an incredible experience to have a large peloton of semi-professionals zoom past you when you are only half way to the finish and you know that they are riding the full course and only started an hour before you did. We have now completed three Challenges and are looking forward to completing the full challenge route on our Creo ebikes in 2021.
Tumbarumba Rail Trail, NSW, Australia, September 2020 ****
Kyoto Cycling Tour Project, Japan, September 2019 ****
2020 was a bad year for riding due to COVID-19. In the early days of COVID the NSW town of Tumbarumba completed the transformation of the old and disused Tumbarumba to Rosewood railway line into a sealed bike path just over 20kms each way. It was opened virtually on line given the State had closed all travel, but come September travel across NSW was once again allowed. I therefore organised a day trip to Tumbarumba from canberra with my HOBOS riding group and including non-riding partners we had about 17 make the trip. An early start for the 3 hour drive saw us drinking coffee in town before heading to the start of the trail for an 11am departure. The trail is superb. albeit with lots of loose road gravel laid on top that need time to sink in. There were metal humps to slow riders down as they approached and left roads and driveway, beautifully, smooth, timber bridges over creeks and major gullies and a wonderful view. We had lunch in the Garden Centre at Rosewood before returning to Tumbarumba. All agreed it was a delightful ride and well worth the trip. On the way home several of us stopped for dinner in Jugiong at the Sir George and this completed a wonderful day.
We arrived in Kyoto on a bus tour and had a day to to ourselves. We had used Beanhunter to track down an espresso coffee shop near the main railway station the evening before and had spotted Kyoto Cycling near the coffee shop. So, on our day to ourselves we checked out the cycle ride options and decided to sign up for an afternoon guided tour of the back streets of Kyoto. We duly arrived after lunch and were introduced to our guide who spoke excellent english. He got us set up on our bikes and while most riders don't worry about them, we were provided with helmets and told that most Australians ask for them. He proceeded over the next few hours to take us to the Geisha residential district, to examples of various building forms, to the old Kyoto palace, past some interesting examples of infrastructure and and then back along the river path and on to our starting point. A very interesting and enjoyable way to see Kyoto off the beaten path.
Paris Bike Tour: the Secrets by Blue Fox Travel, France, June 2019 *
Having previously joined a number of half day cycle tours of major European cities we joined this tour with much anticipation. Just a few hours later we departed feeling that we had joined the wrong tour. We had received the tickets from our tour provider when we booked our Loire tour. After the highs of that tour and the quality of the bikes we had ridden for the week prior to joining this tour we were disappointed with the quality of the bikes and the unprofessional nature of the guide. The former were very uncomfortable and we were glad to get off them on our return to the staring point. Mary and I were the only non- Americans on the tour, including the guide, and as a result we soon found ourselves marginalised and effectively pushed to the read of the riding group. As a result it was lucky that we have been to Paris before as otherwise often we would not have known what we were looking at. Our tip for others would be to really test ride the bike before committing to the tour and once you have make sure you position yourself near the guide so that you know what is going on and what you are looking at.
Berlin Highlights Bike Tour by Fat Tire Tours, Germany, May 2019 ****
With friends from Italy who had joined us in Berlin for several days before we headed off for our Croatian bike tour, we decided to try out a Fat Tires Tour of Berlin. Over the last 10 years Mary and I have joined Fat Tires Tours in Berlin, Paris and London and we have loved them all. We selected a tour we had not ridden before and the four of us were delighted with the proximity of the company's starting point to the rail station for ease of access. We were quickly fitted to our bikes and as usual found the dragster design very comfortable and we had not changed our minds when we returned three hours later. The majority of riders spoke english, but not one of our Italian friends and she commented afterwards that not understanding the guide when he was talking to the group did not hamper her feeling of safety or getting an understanding of what she was looking at - the guide spoke Italian and briefed her after the rest of us. It was a leisurely and interesting ride and certainly a great way to see central Berlin.
Ancient Appian Way eBike tour, Rome, Italy Oct 2018 ***
This was our Italian friends first ride with us and we opted to all experience eBikes for the first time. After a fairly wet morning the sky cleared and the sun shone, so we decided to proceed with what had been looking like a doubtful ride. The starting point is near the Colosseum and they have a large collection of bike sizes to try. We were quickly fitted out, placed our travel gear in the handlebar basket and joined the small group to be shown how to ride an eBike. It didn't take long and soon we were heading down the Appian Way towards the Catacombs. It took us about 40 minutes to arrive and we were soon parked and heading to join a language tour of the catacombs. An hour later we emerged to discover that we had missed a major rain storm and the Appian Way was no longer navigable. So the tour was shortened and we headed back to the start by a different route and got to try out just how handy an eBike can be. All up a memorable experience and certainly a challenging, but rewarding, introduction to eBiking.
The Peoples Ride @ the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, Geelong, Victoria, Australia Jan 2018
In 2018 we decided against rising in the Tour Down Under Challenge and doing the Cadel Evans Peoples Ride instead. A fortuitous decision as the former was cancelled due to extreme hot weather and the latter, while threatening to also be cancelled due to heat actually turned out to be a lovely day for riding. We opted for the 65 kms course, and it along with the longer and shorter rides all started from Geelong with different routes. We headed for Torquay in the fog which got worse the closer we got to Torquay, but the second half of the ride was in bright sunshine and in the mid celsius 20's. By avoiding the 100 plus ride we also avoided the nasty climb back into Geelong and overall we had a lovely ride and glad we tried it. The jerseys provided looked good and we found the entertainment arrangements in central Geelong were first class, as was the Japanese restaurant we tried after the ride.