(Blog 2 – February 22)
My bike rides in the USA were such life defining events that still today not a single day goes by without something coming to mind about a person met, a hill climbed or a sight seen. I wanted to have one more epic ride.
Australia offers such an adventure. I’ve never been to Australia but have genuinely loved the country and people from afar. It seemed time to get acquainted.
I booked flights to go in January and even managed to work in some fabulous warm weather bike training in South Africa in November. Even better was that I contacted Louise Sutton at Leeds Beckett University about some proper nutrition for the 40 days away. Louis is a sports nutritionist/practitioner, as well as lecturer, and was interested to help. She set an MSc student, Cameron Blake, on working up a regime. All good? Not quite.
However back to South Africa. On our holiday Anna also cycled, she was having a ball (maybe seeing what my addiction was about). One day after an unbelievably windy stretch, which meant she was working hard, she clambered back onto the bus and looked out of the window. She saw wildlife but the number was doubled. She had double vision. We shortly found out it was Sixth Nerve Palsy and the prognosis was that it would eventually heal but it could be in a few weeks or a few months time. Anna was left to wear glasses with one lens frosted and instructed not drive. In every other respect she was absolutely fine. Obviously I couldn’t leave Anna without a chauffeur and so my plans and flights were cancelled. She described my decision and subsequent demeanour was like living with someone who was grieving!
As if by magic on one day in February the nerve started working and the double vision went! The hospital confirmed that all was well on February 13th and I’m now booked to fly to Melbourne on February 25th. The University has continued to offer help and I’ve had some brilliant guidance given and explained to me by Cameron. A tremendous boost. I will elaborate on this regime in future blogs as it can help all endurance cyclists.
For those who’ve followed my rides then I have a tested and tried system and a plan. Much of this was in place but I have been left with a mad rush of organisation. Such activities were booking flights again, getting a bike box, sorting out a visa, buying food, finding all my stuff and packing, weighing it and worrying about taking certain items or leaving them behind. When all the obvious things were resolved there was the small matter of understanding the route/camping in detail and not least taking care of things in York as I won’t be back until early April. It’s been hectic to say the least.
The bike was thoroughly overhauled. New wheels and tyres, new chain and rear cassette, new headset, new brake blocks and cables. I have taken this pristine bike and ‘squeezed it’ into a box. I’m hoping it doesn’t get dropped and bent by baggage handling. The tent and kit in general is as per most of my jaunts. The bike weighs over 13kg and all the luggage, mainly hung over the back wheel, weighs another 13kg. For what it’s worth I’m around 76kg. Let’s hope that the bike was serviced well!
One shortfall is my fitness. I’ve cycled c500 miles since Christmas and also had the odd spin in the gym. This isn’t bad but our wet and windy weather has been savage and I would have done more but for this. There is no way you can prepare for such a long ride other than be in a reasonable condition, I am. I expect I’ll get fitter as I ride along. Initially the weight of the bike and the luggage will take their toll on my quads. After that you get used to the ache!
The route I have calculated has an average distance of 80 miles a day and 460 metres climbing. By any standard that is demanding. The early days involve more climbing and I should be fresher. The temperatures, to start with, are ideal – mid 20’s. As I get further north then the temperatures rise during the day to be around 30°C – this is still very nice.Inevitably there will be many slow days of single digit miles per hour travel. Also I will have to be up and packed after sunrise to achieve getting to a campsite by dusk. I never like to ride in the dark: motorists have enough of a challenge seeing cyclists in daylight.
Other obstacles are bush fires or detours. The latter can be an immense burden on a cyclist. What is an inconvenience and small diversion in a car can be hell on a bike with extra miles or ascents. If there is no other cycling option to achieve the target or get past a hazard I will consider public transport.
As regards social media (or self promotion!) then I shall not only publish a blog on my own website but I shall post occasional updates on Facebook and Instagram. I’ve just recorded an interview with Jonathan Cowap on BBC Radio York. He currently has no immediate date for broadcast but I will alert listeners in the York area when he puts it up. He’s also requested I ‘check in’ once in a while with updates if I come across something interesting. It’s a long way to go to find nothing interesting!
Melbourne is a place I’d like to look around but there are other jobs to do such as buy the items I cannot buy in the UK eg. a SIM card, certain foodstuffs and a camping gas canister. I shall write again after touch down with how it is going and my next steps.