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

IMG_8697

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.

Spring in the east

Stony Creek trestle bridge, East Gippsland Rail Rail

Stony Creek trestle bridge on East Gippsland Rail Trail

Victoria’s country rail trails attract a constant stream of visitors enjoying fresh air, gentle grades and wildlife while supporting local economies.

So it’s a surprise that NSW is only just embarking on a campaign to deliver the funding and legislation needed to develop some of its disused rail corridors in similar fashion. There must be some gems in waiting.

One of the more remote Victorian trails is also our third longest at 94 km – the East Gippsland Rail Trail from Bairnsdale to Orbost. I rode half of it in 2007 with friends, taking the Discovery Trail/Mississippi Creek turnoff to Lakes Entrance overnight. So I’ve always wanted to return and ride the eastern section.

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Champs lead NCXS after Melbourne rounds

NCXS DDCX round 2 2014

Reigning national cyclocross champs Lisa Jacobs and Allan Iacuone lead the 2014 series after Melbourne’s opening rounds on 21-22 June.

Round one featured the Victorian championships at Cranwell Park, but the weekend wrapped up with the usual noise and laughs at Darebin Parklands on Sunday, hosted by Dirty Deeds CX.

Sunday’s course had little mud but plenty of slippery grass, climbing and big fields with over 320 riders.

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