Saturday, 17 January 2009

Sleep of the dead

Having trouble sleeping? Can't nod off at night? Try killing yourself on a bike. Not as in riding your bike under an oncoming truck, but as in tackling hills that are beyond your current fitness level.

Last time I went looking for the Epping Rd cycleway, I tried approaching it from the west. I didn't find it, although some map study when I got home quickly showed where I went wrong (and how close I was to reaching it). Today, I thought I'd try and find the eastern end, which is around Cremorne. That meant riding into town, over the Harbour Bridge and then up into Cremorne.

Well, bugger me if I didn't find it again!

You might be scratching your head at this point, wondering how I could fail to find a great big highway twice in a row. The answer is simple - although I had a very good idea where it was, I made a point of only using the bike signage that the RTA and councils have stuck up to guide cyclists to cycle paths.

Last year, the NRMA stupidly made a song and dance about only a small number of cyclists using the cycleway per day. That was later shown to be bunk (and I notice that the idiot chairman of the NRMA at the time is no longer the chairman after the most recent election - perhaps the NRMA board got sick of him telling porkies), but I can now say with confidence that the reason fewer cyclists are using it than you might expect is that the RTA have done their best to hide it, obscure it and confuse cyclists. I have never encountered such a shit collection of signage in my life.

If you're a motorist, the RTA erects enormous green signs the size of aircraft carriers beside and over our roads, telling you how far to the next exit and which lane to be in. And they don't just put one up - they put several up in a row so you get a warning of the turn off a kilometre or more beforehand, then another at the turnoff itself. In some cases, there may be more than one warning sign.

If you're a cyclist, the RTA sticks up the equivalent of Paris Hilton's underwear. It's either small or non-existant, and it's very easy to remove (as in signs being able to be blown off poles by the merest breath of wind). Bike signage has to be looked for carefully. It often involves stopping at an intersection, dismounting and scouting the land for clues, like a Bushman hunting a gazelle.

I criss-crossed Cremorne and Crows Nest and utterly failed to find the way to Epping Road (by that I mean the back street cycle path). I could have cheated and simply jumped onto the Pacific Highway and ridden north until I hit Epping Road, but that was not how I wanted to play the game. The RTA tells us there is a marked cycle route from North Sydney to the Epping Road cycleway, and I wanted to find it and use it without having to consult a map.

All I can say is this - epic fail. I spent an hour slogging up and down the hills of the north shore, seeking that elusive bike route, before giving up and turning around and heading for home.

I have some news for the RTA - a bike route is not a "route" if you can't fucking find it.


The only upside from all of this is that I was out on the road for 3 hours, and I really gave myself a good workout as I grunted up and down those hills. Wogville is just too flat for building hill fitness. I made a pact at dinner the other night with Filthy Phil, I mean Firegazer (more on that later) and the Chook to do Loop the Lake this March. "Firegazer" and me did it a few years ago with a very fit Belgiun dude, who has sadly since passed away (nothing to do with being hit by a car whilst out for a ride). If I am to survive 80km of slogging up and down the hills around Lake Macquarie, I will need to spend the next 7 weeks training for it.

So will you, Phil - I mean, Firegazer.

Chook needs no training. He rode from Sydney to Goulburn today - the long way. That's 294km of winding, steep backroads. The mob he was doing it with were scheduled to depart at 4am this morning - that's zero dark hundred to me - and I presume he made it in one piece. I am not going to call, since by now he is probably sleeping very soundly. When I got home from my 45km slog today, I knocked off a small bottle of Coke and then slept like the dead for 4 hours. Insomnia is not an issue for cyclists.

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