This year I ended up riding alone. Danya had been sick for most of the previous week and also ended up with a scheduling conflict – a good friend’s wedding on the Saturday that was on the mid-north coast. He donated extra money to my fund-raising campaign instead of riding.
Since Danya wasn’t coming along I though I’d try and take a few more photos etc. myself. To that end, I decided I’d wear my ReconJet glasses on the ride. The HUD has a battery life of about 2 hours and with a spare battery and a USB battery pack to recharge, I figured that I had enough capacity to record data for the trip and to take photos and videos along the way. You can see the result here – as you can see it wasn’t a complete success 🙂
The weather had been forecast as fine but with a good chance of a morning or afternoon storm. After a mainly wet Saturday, I woke to a fine day with no hint of rain and rode to the start, which was on the eastern side of Sydney Park this year (on Euston Road). It’s a good change – the riders can start directly on the road rather than wending through parkland along a small trail, and we leave the western part of the park for dog walkers etc. There was no crush at the start this year, which was nice, although there wasn’t a sense of anticipation and the crowd buzz that I’m used to. Instead, I basically rode on to Euston Road, followed a small barrier and then was on the ride with out having to stop and wait – almost anticlimactic. There was a slight mingle of riders having to re-label themselves as the organisers were insistent that rider numbers not be on bikes but attached to jerseys – there’s always been a great number of riders in previous years with the number on the bike but that wasn’t allowed to the extent they could stop it this year.
I hadn’t used the ReconJet for photos and videos before, but quickly learned that I could only take decent footage if I took my hands off the bars and sat up straight while pedalling (or got off the bike altogether, I guess). There’s an album on Flickr here with the results. The HUD only allows 20 (IIRC) second videos which isn’t much but can help document a trip if used judiciously (not that I did so 🙂 ).
From what I’ve managed to use the Jet for so far, I’d have to say that it’s an interesting toy, rather than a wonderfully useful tool for cycling. There’s a decent blind spot on the right, since that’s where the HUD is mounted on the glasses (and it’s on the right since that’s the dominant eye in most people). In places like the US and Canada, that fortuitously corresponds with the side of the road people drive on, but it’s problematic in Australia. Anyway, while I still wouldn’t recommend use of the glasses in a fast-paced motor traffic area, I ended up having no issues keeping track of other cyclists around me on this ride.
The battery life and lack of charging options is a bigger issue for me. A battery is supposed to last about 2 hours, and the early-order people were given a spare battery, so supposedly I could almost cover the entire duration of the Gong Ride using the two batteries. I also have a small Belkin USB charging battery pack that could be used to recharge the HUD and that was how I hoped to cover what I hoped was a small time difference.
While I was able to slightly charge the first battery over lunch before switching to the second battery, the second battery didn’t last as long as I thought it should (an hour and a quarter, I estimate), so I had to reuse the minimally recharged first battery early. I ended up finishing the event with a USB charging cable dangling between the glasses and the USB charging point on the headset, and there was some issue with the data capture from Scarborough southwards.
Luckily I didn’t depend on the Jet to record my ride data as I also have the Garmin Edge. What Recon Instruments doesn’t offer, and should, is some sort of recharge cradle which you can plug a battery into – as it is, you have to plug the USB charging cable into the control unit on one side of the glasses frame and the battery that needs charging into the other. That means you can’t ride and capture data using one battery while charging another at the same time.
The weather stayed fine all the way to the finish and the temperature was no more than mid-twenties, although it reached high twenties not long afterwards. The storm did eventuate but in the very late afternoon after I’d arrived home. There was a tailwind along the coast south from Scarborough which was nice, as too often there’s a headwind along that stretch of the ride.
I didn’t see or hear of too many accidents; there was supposedly a minor crash or two heading down the hill from Waterfall. I witnessed a man being given CPR by other riders at the top of the climb off the sea bridge at Coalcliff. It’s a nasty little hill, and the guy was portly – all indications are that it was a heart attack. A kilometre on, I stopped at the St. Vincent tent at the next rest stop to see if they were aware of the incident (they were), and an ambulance roared past us northwards a few minutes later.
I arrived at Wollongong – WA Lang Park – at about 12:30. That’s the 4th finishing spot they’ve had. It used to be Flagstaff Park near the lighthouse, then moved to Stuart Park in North Wollongong for a few years, Thomas Dalton park in Fairy Meadow last year and now this new place. Stuart Park was the best, in my opinion as there was a a bit of shade around – WA Lang Park has none. There was also a dearth of decent food at the end. There were two stands with queues, and they might have had something worth eating, but I couldn’t see anything else decent. I ended up with a “bacon and egg pizza”, which was some sort of ham on a tomato and cheese pizza base in a small wood-fired portable oven. The best you could say of it was that it was edible and quick, which is what I needed as all I wanted was to get on the train and home as quickly as possible.
I should have ridden to Wollongong station but thought that North Wollongong (where everyone went the last few years) was just as good. Unfortunately it meant that I ended up standing the entire way back to Sydney. I chatted with a couple of others in a similar situation, and fielded a lot of questions about the Vivente – was it comfortable, where had I ridden etc. and I got to tell stories about my ride north in April. There were actually several people on the ride itself who passed me or who I passed that were asking similar questions. I guess a lot of MAMILS have secret desires to disappear on a touring bike into the middle of nowhere 🙂
Eventually I arrived at St Peters station at just after 2pm and rode home via the local markets which were still open. I picked up a coffee as well as a cold cider (and a four-pack for later) which really hit the spot. I walked the block home from the market, and basically had a shower and collapsed for a few hours. As usual, the train ride compounded the headache that starts from sitting in the sun at the finish eating the rubbish sold there, and I collapsed into bed early.
As to my stats, you can see the ride data here. My actual ride time was about 15-20 minutes faster than usual – partly due to a tailwind, partly that Danya and I usually stop for a bit longer or dawdle for a bit more. Slightly lower temperatures also mean I’m less enervated than I was last year for example.
It was a good ride and I’d like to thank my sponsors. Socs, in particular, has been as exceedingly generous as always. So far I’ve raised $445 and the team has met its $600 goal. People can still contribute here – I will ride with a receipt book to visit people wishing to deal in cash but obviously the donation site is more convenient for everyone.