Friday, 13 March 2009

How to be in bed by 7.30pm

I am determined to get back into the habit of riding at least 100km per week for the next few months. When I started at a new site about 18 months ago, I bought a swag of new work clothes. I rode to work most days, clocking up 25-40km 4 to 5 times a week. By the time that gig finished, I had gone in 3 belt notches.

The latest gig involved driving to work, and I have since gone out almost 3 notches in 6 months. If I don't ride at least 60km per week, I start putting on weight. If I ride 100km a week, I stay about the same. If I ride 160km a week, I start shedding weight quickly. At 200km per week, I start losing weight like an anorexic.

I've done two reasonable rides this week that have taken me to 115km already. I just need to do one more medium ride on Sunday and I will easily crack the ton in the old language - 100 miles, or 160km. The trick will be keeping that up, or doing better.

Compared to serious cyclists, that's a bit pathetic and sad. I'm riding west, which means very few hills of any consequence and a lot of stopping and starting. Some sections of track are so horrible, speeds are kept right down too. So I'm not riding fast, I'm not puffing up hills and I'm stopping a lot at traffic lights and so on for a breather. And frankly, that is all I am capable of at the moment. When I was riding daily, I was doing short rides at a fast pace, and each ride involved a few relatively nasty hills. It was pretty tough, and I ended up being fit and fast and ready for anything.

Those days are gone, and it will take a while to build up again. I'm going to stick to long, long flat rides for a while, and only start tackling hills when I notice the waistline coming in a bit. There is nothing worse than trying to drag a porky arse up a nasty hill, and at the moment, I am towing the equivalent of a beer keg behind me.

Interesting sight of the day - a flock of cranes. And I don't mean the bird variety.

This map shows my progress to date in the outer west. On Wednesday, I reached the purple circle on the far right. Today, I made it to the middle circle, before running out of road. My aim is to make it to the fat circle on the far left, and to then turn left and ride down the M7. I suspect that if I do that, J will be driving out to pick me up.

Here is where I ran out of road - a new Stockland housing estate. These Google satellite photos are well and truly out of date - those brown patches below my yellow X are now covered in houses, and the road is blocked off at that point. The whole area is a sea of new houses, with more being built as I write.

This photo shows what one of those patches of brown dirt looks like today - a sea of sameness. The architects have dusted off the plans for a housing development that they did at Homebush back in 1998 and built the same row upon row of dog kennels out here. Even the colour scheme is the same.

Like I said, the road just finished. I could have done the daring explorer thing and gone around this gate, but I knew that I would be lucky to make it home if I went much further.

I took a few photos of the display home at the top of this street. Only this photo came out with any clarity. Note the modernist painting on the wall. All the rooms were furnished straight out of a Dare Gallery catalogue. Not Freedom. Not Harvey Norman. Definitely Dare, or even more up market. The display home oozed the ambiance of a successful accountant with a lower end X-type Jaguar in the garage.

This is the sort of artwork they'd have hanging on their walls (this by the way is what you get when you give a 3 year old monkey a camera).

Unfortunately for the spruikers of this development, I saw a nasty head-on collision between reality and their version of make believe. They were selling the image of a Jaguar, a wine cellar, an art collection and perhaps and annual trip to France to spend time relaxing in the villages of Bordeaux - but the reality was a sea of bogan'd-up WRX's, 10 year old Commodores with faded bonnets and mags and school kids with blond Mohawk streaks in their hair.

I passed two bogan slags waiting for a bus that said it all. They looked about 16. They had the black spray-on jeans, the bleached scraggly hair, and they were both sucking on fags like there was no tomorrow. They gave me the Eye of Death as I went past - clearly, they don't see too many Lycra clad old farts out their way, especially Men Who Have Jobs. The only time they'll be climbing into a Jag is to give a client a blow job. Real Estate agent; say hello to Narelle.

My only problem on the way home was finding water. I followed what looked like an open sewer for miles - you could have filmed the motorbike/truck chase scene from Terminator 2 in it - and it had water in it, but I was after something that was drinkable. Something like this, which I eventually found outside a store. This was the only tap that I found that still had a handle on it.

It's amazing to think that you could die of thirst in western Sydney. When I left, it was drizzling lightly, which was great for keeping the temperature down. But the drizzle finished just before I turned around, which meant I was riding home in bright sunshine and high humidity. I simply flat ran out of water, so my shopping list for tomorrow includes another bidon, which is what we posh cyclists call a water bottle - which can cost up to $50 (which is madness).

Yes, western Sydney has shops that sell drinks, but they are few and far between on the route that I was taking. There aren't many shops lurking in the shadows beneath the motorway, or perched in the industrial estates that my route took me through. Not even a greasy spoon selling chiko rolls to panel beaters. I was on the road less travelled.

Sometimes, when I go riding, I have this mental image of riding through the wheatfields of France, like this.

But the reality is more like this:

On the way home, I briefly hooked up with a cyclist from Parramatta, who was heading to Homebush for a coffee. He made a comment about cycling into town recently over the Anzac Bridge (for the first time), and how amazed he was at all the cyclists that he saw en route.

Which was a marked difference to what I saw going west. The paths were essentially free of bikes - it is barren ground as far as cycling is concerned. Why ride when you can drive a panel van? Once I got past Parramatta, the cycle "paths" became a joke. Drawing a line on a map and saying, "There be cycle path" is not the same as actually building some proper cycling infrastructure. Having an open public toilet every now and then would also help - on both rides this week, I have been reduced to pissing in a canal.

I'm not talking about spending millions on dedicated paths - I'm talking about putting down a few route marking painted symbols on the road, and tacking a few signs onto power poles. I'm also talking about designing routes that are cycle friendly, and not just the shortest point between A and B (which is how you'd drive a car).

Frankly, you'd have to be nuts to cycle out west on a regular basis - the place is just not set up for it. I guess we won't be moving out that way in a hurry.

And as for the title of this post, after riding a bit over 60km today, I got home, made dinner, ate and crashed out immediately at 7.30pm. I woke up 3 hours later, bathed in sweat and in desperate need of several litres of water. I've been blogging here for an hour, typing and guzzling as I go.

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