RTA Big Ride 2007 Diary

Introduction

This set of web pages contains the notes written on the RTA Big Ride in March 2007. The ride went from Taree to Taree in a sort of figure eight via Tuncurry, Bulahdelah, Gloucester, Wingham, Comboyne, Wauchope, Port Macquarie and Coopernook. The total distance was listed at 450 kilometres, and covered both paved road and dirt stretches through state forest. As usual there were some steep climbs, hot days and rain. Unlike last year, there were no health scares and both the bike and I performed very well. The bike has actually been rebuilt since last year, with frame modifications and custom components, so that I have a bike that is tailored to suit me, rather than me fitting to a shop-bought model.

The introduction is a bit longer than usual this year, so those who don't want to know about fitness and training can skip to the bottom of the page for links to the daily journal entries.

I tried something different this year - something that has been the subject of conversation on previous years' rides: carrying everything on the bike. It's been something that people have been asking since I've always ridden with the full set of panniers, and it's a question to which I've always replied maybe later. This year I did it, and got some questions as to why I was doing it! To these I replied that it was the challenge of doing so, and the idea that I could see what it was like when I had the luggage truck to fall back on. Once I knew what it was like, and if I could do it, then I would then be confident about riding somewhere without the support of the Big Ride - doing a solo tour.

This year I also learned a valuable lesson about technology. Don't rely on fancy ways of doing things. My plan was to carry a solar-powered charger - a Solio, supposed to charge in about 8-10 hours - for the phone and one of the GPS units, and I was planning on recharging the latter every night so that I could use it for the full 9 days and load the data onto MotionBased. Unfortunately the charger didn't and therefore the GPS Receiver couldn't and I had to use a backup device, meaning that only the first two days data is recorded in the nice format. The rest is simply tracks overlayed onto Google Earth - here. Of course, that's the same as last year's diary. This ride I am using Flickr to store the images. You can find them here. The Google links will include waypoints for a lot of the places I took photos, with a link to the relevant images on Flickr.

At Port Macquarie
At Port Macquarie

This year, I've again been collecting money to help support the MS Society. So far I've collected about $250, and I'd like to thank those who contributed: friends, family, work colleagues, etc.

Training

While some of what I write might sound like a rant against the event and its organisers, I don't seriously want to suggest that people don't undertake the challenge. Being out on the open road with a bunch of fellow cyclists, in some beautiful landscape, is a thrill for which I have found no substitute; it's an event that I feel is rewarding in the senses of personal achievement and in getting to see more of the hidden beauty of the country than you might otherwise get to see. Do it if you feel you have the capability.

I've been asked, since I returned, about my training regime and how fit you need to be to participate, so I thought I'd write an answer here. Before the first ride, back in 2003, I wasn't sure what to expect, so I took the documentation that I had seen seriously, and trained a bit - or at least I tried to. My tactic was to head over to Centennial Park and ride several laps on a weekend and I think that got me 30 to 40 kilometers of exercise each time (although I didn't manage to do it very often). I also think that it's about this time that I was shown the ride out to Watson's Bay, which is almost a 40km round trip for me. Given that I had also done the 'Gong ride, I knew that I was capable of being on the road for a longer period.

After getting back from last year's ride, with the health scare, I was exercising quite regularly for a while, sometimes clocking up 200 kilometers in a week. Half of that consists of commuting to and from work, the only part that I have kept up for the whole year. The trip goes through Lilyfield, and is merely enough to keep up a base level of fitness; it doesn't push me beyond any limits.

The other half of the exercise, which I have only done intermittently consists of either a medium ride that is more for stretching my legs, or a longer ride which is more challenging. The first of these is a wander around the inner west of Sydney. It's more picturesque than challenging, but there are sections where I can step up the pace, and I might do that if I'm on the road bike.

When I was looking for a longer ride, I figured that I'd avoid the cliched route through the Royal National Park. I also remembered fondly the rides I used to do to West Head with an ex-collegue, but I didn't want to have a destination from which I'd have to return. Looking at a map, I figured that a loop around the northern beaches would be cool, so now I have a 90 kilometer route that goes through Church Point to finish where I start. It includes the ride up McCarrs's Creek road which, situated halfway, provides a psychological aiming point for me. Getting to the top without feeling overly tired is the way I know I'm having a good ride. That's not to say that you relax after that since you still have 40 kilometers to ride, of which most is on Mona Vale Road and the Pacific Highway.

In the last few months before the ride I'd done little beyond the daily commute. Once a month or so, I did the inner west wander, but that was about it. The following graph shows the distance travelled per week from last September to this February, as recorded on MotionBased. As you can see, the baseline of a weekly ride is about 100 kilometers. For various reasons, I might not ride the usual route to or from work on occasions and the distance travelled can quickly drop down towards 50 kilometers.

The summary, for which you've been patiently waiting, is that you know yourself capable of a longer ride, if you can do the 'Gong, and feel fine, you should be ok. Ride regularly; ride in various weathers; don't avoid climbing the small hills along the scenic route you'd like to use in preference to riding the traffic-choked city streets on the way to work. The Ride is a camping/cycling holiday. There might be days with rain and days with a strong wind and days that are hot. Unless the weather turns malevolent, you'll be riding. Get used to the idea.







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