Mike Hall tribute ride, Melbourne 2017

Mike Hall inspired a movement around the world as an exceptional ultra-distance bike racer, organiser and human being.

He died on 31 March 2017 south of Canberra, while nearing the end of the Indian Pacific Wheel Race across Australia. In the days that followed, thousands paid their respects.

Melbourne’s various cycling tribes rode in quiet tribute on 2 April 2017, along the route Mike had taken just days earlier. Wave after wave, bikepacker, roadie, tourer, cx, commuter. This video captures part of that ride.

I never met Mike but like many others I followed his adventures, in awe of his feats on the bike and his dedication and thoughtful creativity off the bike. The turn-out in Melbourne (and there were more at the finish) shows how many felt his loss. Condolences to all, especially his family and friends.

I checked with the ACT Coroner’s Court today about the inquest. Following the earlier directions hearings, it’s now scheduled for 24-26 September 2018 in Canberra.

It’s been a while …

Denali National Park

It’s been a while between posts. Instagram followers might have seen a few posts from  Alaska in July/August 2016 as I moseyed around solo. I had plans to write about that trip on return.

Unfortunately the trip home from Fairbanks was more meandering than planned, via an accident at LAX and a broken patella. I’d been keen to observe America up close ahead of their election but that was left field. Even with insurance and exposure to the US health care debate, it’s confronting to have a bean counter in Florida make health decisions.

So the anticipated flight home as a fit tourer became an ambulance trip and nearly four weeks in hospitals, followed by lengthy knee rehab, surgery and more rehab.

That whole story is yet to be written – I still don’t know how it ends – but I’m finally back at the blog keyboard. That’s been spurred by a comment from Patricia Hall (the mum of late bikepacker Mike Hall) on the anniversary of his 2017 death near Canberra, saying she found support in the cycling community’s love for Mike. I filmed part of Melbourne’s tribute ride for Mike last year; the video will be up soon.

Thanks for your patience.

Cyclists are awesome

IMG_0940There’s other events to get you through a Melbourne winter but Melburn Roobaix sets the high mark. Every year it banishes a thin winter sun, uniting all the cycling tribes into a day of bikes, discovery and laughs ’til your cheeks hurt.

It’s probably hard to explain to non-locals. Even copying the mix probably wouldn’t produce Melburn Roobaix’s lovely vibe – a credit to fyxamatosis founder Andy White and his crew.

Sure, it’s a meandering treasure hunt across the burbs, linking cobbled laneways that tip a lufted cap to the famous pave sectors of namesake race Paris Roubaix. Australia’s first Paris Roubaix winner Stuart O’Grady was guest of honour one year, and 2016 winner Mat Hayman wasn’t forgotten.

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Tour light with a handlebar sling

IMG_9462-001The touring packing list is a procrastinator’s dream – a balancing act of durability, weight, destination, duration, climate, comfort and personal risk profile. There’s bonus hours to be spent swapping out gear and clothes from your base packing list, depending on whether the next trip is a summer bikepacking overnighter or a transcontinental.

I’m a light tourer at heart but with a safety margin for remote country to avoid the embarrassment of sitting on the roadside batting eyelids of helplessness.

For the Nullarbor, I added some discipline to the packing list process by turning the packing list into a spreadsheet of weights, with the help of postal scales. It’s one of my best decisions. Accurate weights for each category made a rapid cull easy, then highlighted areas needing work and guided purchases of new gear. Who knew cheap camp crocs were lighter than thongs?

While the list was useful to account for necessities like water, the alarming weight category was luggage – stuff you can’t eat, drink, wear or keep your bike running. Sure, it carries gear and hopefully keeps it dry, but it can add kilos of dead weight. Worse, the common solutions like racks and handlebar bags breach my ideal of dual-purpose gear. Like a base layer that works as day wear and sleepwear and riding top with rare washing.

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Fast women hit the streets

Loren Rowney and Kimberley Wells chasing Giorgia Bronzini's rainbows at 2015 bay crits

Loren Rowney and Kimberley Wells chasing rainbows at 2015 bay crits

The elite women kicked off 2015 with some hot racing in Victoria’s bay crits and national road titles ahead of the Santos Women’s Tour in Adelaide and the UCI season.

We’ve seen strong solo wins to Gracie Elvin and Peta Mullens at bay crits, a fourth time trial crown to Shara Gillow and the national crit title recaptured by Kimberley Wells. And that was before mountain biker Mullens outsprinted worlds silver medallist Rachel Neylan for the road race stripes. Talk about depth.

It’s a fitting start to the year after a breakthrough 2014, the highlight of which was La Course. We’d been told a women’s race at the Tour de France couldn’t be done but event owner ASO proved that the biggest obstacle was making the decision. While the abridged broadcast of the race on the Champs-Élysées trailed expectations, riders and fans loved it and both Marianne Vos and the new team at UCI chalked up a win.

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Do we vote for stupid?

Cars rule Albury

Cars rule: kerbs bar crossing roads by bike, pram and walking frame, even in the retail area. #Albury

Do we really get the governments we deserve? If true, we’re not looking too bright, based on the latest ideas from politicians about bikes and roads.

Leading from a font of ignorance of late, they’ve promised to get bikes off roads, suggested dangerous riding and confirmed a look at registration, while finding billions of dollars (during a ‘budget emergency’) for roads that will simply fill with cars. We’ve known for a long time that building roads to fix congestion doesn’t address the cause. Even Ford acknowledges this.

So the answer to more cars is simply not to have more roads. When America began moving west, we didn’t add more wagon trains, we built railroads. – Bill Ford, 2011 

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Dear bike lane designer …

#Albury bike lanesOne of the funniest websites around is Warrington Cycle Campaign’s Cycle Facility of the Month, an hilarious look at bike infrastructure that should never have left the drawing board.

Inspired by the laughs, I captured some of Melbourne’s efforts in 2008-2009 and while they’re not a match for Warrington’s, I’ve dropped in a few below.

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Cruising Melbourne street art


Melbourne has been called the world’s most liveable city for the past four years, based on an annual ranking of services, stability, culture and infrastructure in 140 cities.

Topping the list matters to ‘brand Melbourne’ and local politicians facing State polls next month, but no-one else really cares.

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Summer of the sock

Spotlessly clean (but blindingly bright) kit headed for Lake Mountain last November

This guy was spotlessly clean (but blindingly white), headed for Lake Mountain last summer

September’s busy. Winter hibernation and grand tour sleep deprivation ends with the Vuelta, the northern cx season bursts into life and everyone’s training.

The more committed masters are peaking for Amy’s Gran Fondo in the hope of qualifying for the UCI Amateur Road World Championships. Even with 5000 starters it sells out fast and qualifying times are plummeting.

Huge numbers also spend September training for Around the Bay in a Day (ATB). Slated just after Ride2Work day in October, ATB put 14,000 bums on bikes last year and similar numbers are expected in 2014.

All this training and warm spring weather means legs are shedding warmers like snake skin. And after months lurking in the dank and gritty gloom of booties, socks are finally peeking out like daffodils to brighten the cycling day. Will it be a great summer for socks?

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Amy’s Wall joins the calendar

Liam Hill takes the men's final.

Liam Hill takes the men’s final.

Victoria scored a new event on the weekend with the inaugural Amy’s Wall hill climb in Lorne.

It was a great event – dusk against a glassy Louttit Bay, closed road, lights, timing and a short Strava segment as 5000 cyclists settled down for Amy’s Gran Fondo and National Road Series race Amy’s Otway Classic next day. Entry fees were donated to the Amy Gillett Foundation.

Two-up heats sorted out the finalists as the crowd grew and the light faded. Peta Mullens won the women’s heats with 18.262s but lowered that to 18.103s in the final, ahead of Chloe McConville and Katrya Crema.

Lynton Zawadzki had the fastest men’s heat time (14.781s) but Liam Hill backed up best in the final to stop the clock at 14.460s, ahead of Kelland O’Brien with Zawadzki third.

There’s sure to be lots of action on the climb from now on.