Monday, 14 January 2008

The daily ride

I was out the door a bit late this morning - around 7am - mainly because I was so groggy, I could barely walk in a straight line. I went outside and looked at the weather and tossed up whether to wear a spray jacket or not. I didn't bother. It becomes completely unnecessary within a few kilometres, unless the temperature is heading towards single digits.

I start by ambling around the back streets of Five Wog. The pavement quality is awful - you could run the Paris to Dakhar race around these streets and apart from the lack of sand, no one would notice the difference in ride quality. I saw a bit of tarmac tonight that reminded me of a dam that has dried out in the drought - you know how the mud shrinks and cracks? That's how it looked.

After a few minutes of bashing my bum on the blasted backstreets, I have a decision to make - where am I going to cross Great North Road? It's not a great road, and I'm not entirely sure it goes north, but it's a pain to get across because of the terrible intersections that litter it through Five Wog. If I've really slept in and the traffic is moving, I'll take a traffic light option. If I am on the road by 7, I'll chance my arm at a crossing without lights.

Once across, I ramp up the cadence and get my legs spinning with very little effort. It's flat, and I'm not aiming to go fast - I just want to get the blood circulating. Unfortunately, as in many places in Sydney, the flat runs out all too soon, and I am starting on my first, gentle hill of the day. After that, it's all downhill to The Bay. The downhill bit can be nasty chilly in winter, even with leg warmers and a jacket and thermal vest. The core temp simply hasn't risen enough to combat the chill. But that was not a problem today. It had been raining overnight, so my biggest worry was a slippery patch of road.

Once onto The Bay cyclepath, I pick up the pace to around 30km/h and keep it there - again, with the aim of getting the blood flowing and the brain working. There are always a few idiot pedestrians walking in the bike lane, and one has to be awake enough to swerve around them. One day, I am going to be half asleep and I'll swerve late and clip some bugger on the achilles with my pedal. That is going to hurt.

I spend a bit of time looking over my left shoulder, taking in the view across the water towards the Harbour Bridge, and then the CBD. Some morning are crystal clear; others are shrouded in fog. Every morning presents something worth getting up to see.

When I get to the bottom of Lilyfield Rd, I turn left and avoid going up the lung busting brute in front of me. I head around towards a rowing club and the loonie bin, and take an easier route up the hill. It's longer, but I reckon I haven't been on the road long enough when I hit that hill to be properly warmed up. I also prefer the crossing at the top of the hill where my loonie bin detour pops me out.

Then it's back onto Lilyfield Rd, and a brisk ride along the bike lane. Traffic on Lilyfield Rd is generally sparse - bikes sometimes seem to outnumber cars and buses - but one has to be awake to the idiot that looks at the empty road and plants his foot. There are a few ups and downs, but it's easy to hit 50kmh on the downhill stretches and to use that speed to catapult the bike up the next hill. There's a lovely, fast turn at the bottom of one hill, where one can lean right over as the turn is taken, but the apex is currently smeared with gravel, and hitting the gravel whilst leaning is a recipe for disaster. I am avoiding the bike lane at present and staying way out in the middle of the road. Cars don't seem to mind as I am taking the corner at the speed limit - it's not like I am slowing them down.

There's a nasty speed bump on Lilyfield Rd that has to be taken with care. I can get across it at 50kmh, but the side of the speed hump where the bike lane is looks like an IED has been planted in it. It's best to get out into the car lane and flog it across the middle of the speed hump. It's interesting doing this stretch in a pack of 4 or 5 other riders. The traffic lights at the top of the hill cause a bunch to form, and then it is a silent race down the hill to see who can get over the next crest in the lead. There are no prizes for being first, but everyone wants to demonstrate that the are the strongest and fittest. Thanks to my mass, I rocket down the hill faster than anyone else, and if I get going fast enough, it's enough to slingshot me almost to the top of the next hill in a high gear. Momentum is the key. I often have so much of it that I have to brake to avoid running into the rear of another cyclist as I zoom up the next hill - and I'm rolling whilst the guy in front is frantically pedalling (and I haven't been drafting - I'm talking about the other bloke having a 50m lead and me just zooming up behind, but behing unable to pass due to the traffic).

Then it's the ANZAC Bridge, and I'll have to leave it there for now.

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