Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Heaven and Hell.

Another ride on a similar route to the Central Plateau Gravel Grinder. Two very interesting days. I'll let the photos tell the story. Tassie riders keep an eye out for a 160km/200km ride over these roads in mid-February.


Ash Dash 2013

A group powers away from the Silver Hill control.
One of the great pleasures of being involved in Audax cycling is being able to play the role of ride organiser once in a while. I love riding, but running a ride is a uniquely enjoyable and rewarding experience in a way I would not have suspected until I took over the running of some events from a previous organiser. One of these is the Ash Dash. Also known as the Annual Seven Hills Dash, this 210km ride traverses the biggest hills around Hobart in a single outing. It's a formidable day in the saddle and attracts only the toughest of local riders and the occasional daring interstate entrant. The Ash Dash ranks up with the Alpine Classic in Victoria and Fitz's Challenge in the ACT as one of Australia's hardest one day rides. I added a 120km option this year, although both rides are challenges with 4071m of vertical in the 210km event and 3032m in the shorter distance.

Happy riders at the Kaoota control. Only one more hill to go.
The ride takes a bit of organising, but online entry has made life so much easier. We had a respectable 23 starters this year and most entered beforehand so I was able to be very precise about how much food and drink I needed to buy for the supported controls. Saturday was spend shopping and then taking the food to the Woodbridge control for the volunteer there. Sunday night was spend on paperwork, including sorting out a running sheet so I knew where riders were likely to be on the course during the day and the opening and closing times of controls. I run the start, finish and one control myself and set up and pack up another control, so there's a bit of running around to do.

Plentiful uphills means downhills in spades too.
Sunday is a somewhat long one for the organiser with more than 13 hours separating the start time and the cutoff and a fair bit of driving, but it was made most enjoyable by the unfailingly cheerful riders who were clearly having a good time despite the challenges of the day. The weather was kind, not too hot for most of the day and the wind wasn't too much of a problem on most of the course giving some riders a welcome push up the final hill towards the finish. Even the rain held off.

What was most remarkable was the speed of this year's event. The first rider was around he course in nine hours, including stops. The last rider was barely over 11 hours. Last year the last rider finished at 8.20pm, whereas this year I was on my way home by 6.30pm, which seemed a little early. The volunteer who was to run the second-two hour shift on the final control turned up just as the last rider was passing through .

The Silver Hill control. Food and drink to satisfy the hungriest of riders.
The great benefit of having run this ride for a couple of years in a row now is that I'm constantly getting ideas about how it might be run better which I'm keen to put into practice next year. Thanks to everyone who helped out with the running of the ride and thanks to all the riders for their feedback on this year's event. I hope to see you all again on the second Sunday in December next year.

6907km so far this year.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Trucker.

I've put an old fashioned Carradice bag on the Surly Long Haul Trucker. It's the longest serving bike in the shed and I don't ride it nearly as often as I should but it looks really sweet and goes like a rocket on expeditions to the bakery about 15km down the road. Nicole has a matching LHT but with flat bars which she rides like a demon. Both of them have very low granny gears which come in very handy for the 200m climb back up the dirt road to home where the photo above is taken. Good views means steep climbs. And climbing makes us stronger.

6708km so far this year.

Monday, December 02, 2013

The question need not even be asked.

In South Australia, a judge has been charged with drink driving after hitting a cyclist. Her blood alcohol reading was allegedly 0.121, which is more than twice the legal limit.

Her future is in doubt? There should be no doubt. If convicted, this judge should step down.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Cycling Vietnam

Rural traffic.
In hindsight, the typhoon season might not be the best time to visit Vietnam, but the two and a bit weeks we just spent touring the country were among the most enjoyable holidays I've had on a bike. We joined an Intrepid Travel group travelling on the Cycle Vietnam tour from Hanoi to Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City if you prefer). There are advantages and disadvantages to this kind of travel, but we decided that having someone else look after the organisation was well worth the cost. 

The group assembled in Hanoi on what was nominally Day 1 of the trip. There was no cycling this day, just some formalities of filling out some forms and sorting out bike hire ($US150), the snack kitty ($US40) and the tipping kitty (from memory about $60) for the trip. Day 2 saw us fitted to some fairly ratty mountain bikes and a 90 minute spin around Ho Tay Lake.  

Most of the kids we encountered were friendly.
Day 3 was the first real day of cycling. We began with a long descent of a mountain pass, during which my front rim disintegrated while I was braking, causing a front wheel blowout. This potentially quite dangerous failure didn't enamour me of our bikes greatly. Soon after I grabbed a handful of left brake when I tried to stop in a hurry (left brake is rear in Australia, has been all my life) and fired myself over the handlebars. A skinned knee seemed to be the worst of my injuries. I frequently wished I bought my own bike with me, although the conditions of he road meant mountain bikes were probably the best choice. While it is possible to bring your own steed, it is all but discouraged in the tour information. In hindsight it would have been easier than I thought before we departed.

Mechanical issues aside, the riding was wonderful. The scenery we passed through was superb, great karst landscapes with beetling crags and lovely flat travelling through rice paddies. We stayed the night under mosquito nets in a longhouse especially set up for tourists, an enjoyable experience.

The pattern that emerged over the next few days became an easy routine. We'd get up around 7am and have a light breakfast before a shuttle on the bus to the starting point for the day. Because we had a bus and a truck supporting us we didn't need to carry anything heavier than a camera. Chi, the capable, informative and endlessly patient tour leader would set the pace, and a mechanic would follow up the rear. The bus or the truck would be parked at intersections to show us the turns.

We'd ride for 45 minutes to an hour and have a drink and a snack before tackling another section of roughly the same length. We'd have lunch in a local restaurant, often pho, then do another section before a bus transfer to our accommodation for the night. It's not cycle touring from point to point for the purist, but it did allow us to cover a fair bit of ground. Mostly we rode 70km to 90km a day and finished in time for a few beers before dinner. 

The pace was easy and although we strung out along the road, we regrouped at each rest point so nobody was every too far behind and the last rider had the mechanic for company. We were also fortunate to have a most convivial group of 11 cyclist ranging from the hugely experienced and fit to a woman who bravely decided on the trip despite not having ridden a bike since childhood. She completed the tour in fine style. That said, there was a bit less cycling than I expected. There were three days along the way we either didn't ride much or at all, plus the nominal first and last days. Overall we covered about 515km.

Another flooded crossing.
The tour took us from Hanoi to Mai Chau and on to visit a primate sanctuary in the Cuc Phuong National Park before heading south to Nihn Binh, where we jumped on the overnight train to Hue, which was one of the highlights of the trip. From there we stayed in Da Nang, Hoi Ann (which was unfortunately flooded) Quy Nohn, Nha Trang and Da Lat before a long bus transfer to Saigon. Each of these towns was well chosen and we had a great time in each.

Along the road we'd often encounter groups of children travelling to or from school or who just wanted to say hi. Most were delightful, although there was the occasional one who would deliver a slap or try to grab you as you went past. A couple of riders reported having a stone thrown at them or being hit with a stick. I suppose it's to be expected.

And another. We rode around this one. 

Also to be expected was the traffic. Traffic in Vietnam might charitably described as chaotic. Even something as basic as which side of the road to travel on doesn't seem to have been agreed upon definitively. All the same, people are less challenged by the presence of cyclists than western motorists and even in heavy traffic I generally felt safe. Most Vietnamese get around on motor scooters. Those few who drive cars bear watching because they're infested with the sense of entitlement that seems to afflict some of our drivers too. 

There was only one slight downer of the trip, and that was the weather. It rained a lot, although it was warm rain so it wasn't as bad as two weeks of wet weather touring in Tasmania would be. The start of our trip was impacted by rains associated with the devastating typhoon which hit the Phillipines several days before. Under the circumstances there I wouldn't dare complain about the minor inconvenience we suffered. And having signed up for an outdoor holiday, you tend to have to take what comes your way.

Typical scenery.
The highlights for me included the quaint National Park Hotel with it's mosquito-netted beds, the bustle of Hanoi's old quarter, the beachside restaurants in Nha Trang and the cool and beautiful Da Lat. There were many more highlights of course, but those stand out. The people we travelled with were also a highlight, we had a good group. The accomodation was generally of a good standard and Vietnam is an extremely cheap place to travel. Dinner for two of us frequently cost less than $A30 including drinks and the food was excellent.

If you're thinking of cycletouring in Vietnam, I highly recommend it. With the benefit of this experience under our belt I would think about travelling independently next time, particularly as I'd much prefer riding my own bike. A well-planned trip would need to take into account the sheer size of the country, certainly we could not have covered the ground we did without the many transfers. Even expanding the trip out to three weeks, it would be wise to confine oneself to the north or the south rather than trying to pack too much in. 

6708km so far this year.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cargo bike

Spotted this parked in Hobart's Salamanca Place this morning. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but it looks like a pretty versatile cargo hauler. I could use on of these.

Just back from three weeks touring in Vietnam. Post and photos to come shortly.

6570km so far this year.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Something for the techno geeks

I've been fiddling around with cameras again. Some time ago I noticed people matching their GPS track to their videos so I spent a bit of time yesterday trying to do the same. It turned out that a couple of apps I'd been keen on trying were off the air, although I eventually found the simple but powerful Suffervision which enabled me to easily synchronise a Strava ride with a video posted on Youtube and visualise data such as speed, heart rate and cadence as a rather neat heads-up style display. I managed to eke more than an hour out of a GoPro battery this morning and record an entire 30km ride. The result can be seen here, although be warned it's long and while I find it fascinating, I freely acknowledge it may not be that riveting after the first few minutes for others. Particularly cool is the ability to zoom in on the map display and follow the little dot as it zooms along. Pardon the video quality on the longer sample, this shorter version is at a higher resolution, plus a bit of traffic to make things more interesting.

It got me thinking to how far technology has come for cyclists in the last few years. I think it's a safe prediction that video cameras will become commonplace for cyclists within the next five years. I suspect that many of us will have front and rear cameras overlaying just this sort of data, not for the purposes of showing off, but to enhance our safety. I'd expect they will be relatively cheap, record in high definition and long battery life and large storage capacity. I wonder how much ubiquitous video recording on bicycles might influence driver behaviour. I suspect it might lead to an improvement if evidence of the misdeeds visited upon cyclists was both readily available and compelling.

5,806km so far this year.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ranelagh Ramble 100km audax

In September and October in southern Tasmania, the seasons are changing and the weather is - to put it mildly - unsettled. This time of year is characterised by windy days less predictable than the fickle weather we normally enjoy. The forecast for Saturday's ride wasn't very good from a long way out but there remained a possibility that a good ride could be had.

The course for this ride was adapted from the Mountain River Meander 100km last year and takes in some of the most scenic roads of the Huon Valley. Although around ten or so riders expressed an interest and seven entered, the forecast played a part and there was only a hard core of five who turned up to the start line on Saturday morning. I fitted had a GoPro camera to my bike but somehow managed to somehow misplace my Garmin so spent the ride wondering idly how fast I was going and how far I had come.

We set off from the Summer Kitchen Bakery in Ranelagh in cool but not unpleasant conditions. Our small peloton split into two groups pretty early on with the quicker chaps heading off up the road and a trio of us slower riders plodding along behind. We had sun and a strong headwind on the highway section to Huonville, where I ended up on my own for a bit after the others stopped at the toilets. I pedalled onward and we nearly reformed on the Cygnet Coast Road but the others stopped again to don raincoats during one of the showers we encountered and I pedalled on oblivious for a few minutes to their departure. I amused myself concentrating on holding my modest pace on the gravel sections and filming the more picturesque bits using a remote control to activate the GoPro until the battery inevitably died about two hours in. The weather alternated between light showers, cool breezes and sunshine making it a little hard to find a rhythm.  

I was reminded that riding along can be quite enjoyable at times. Though there's not the enjoyable chatter of being in a small group I was able to concentrate on getting around the course in good style. I poodled along at my own pace, catching up to the quicker riders as they finished their lunch at the burger shop in Cygnet and was immediately getting dropped on the big hill out of town at around the 60km mark. I sat on a steady tailwind-assisted pace back to Huonville where I stopped for a quick bite to eat before polishing off the last blustery 25km, finishing in just under five hours. All in all a very pleasant ride.

5745km so far this year.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Central Plateau Gravel Grinder - a quick lap of Tassie's frozen heart.

Setting out into the weather on Sunday morning.
We were creeping up the hill near Hermitage when the ice storm hit. There was a sprinkling at first, then 'hey, some hail' and then suddenly we were being pelted by small chunks of windblown ice mixed among a hefty downfall of freezing rain. I pulled up my rainjacket collar and raised my hand to shield my face from the stinging onslaught and looked back at Ben who was doing the same. There was nowhere to shelter and nothing to do but to press onward. Within moments were were wet and cold and resigned to a having a Very Bad Time. But as quickly as it came, the squall was gone and we were on our way again. So passed the only unpleasant five minutes of the best weekend's cycling I've done in years.

Leaving Waddamana for the big climb of the day.
In the middle of Tasmania lie the central highlands, a barren, mostly treeless swathe of high country dotted with pretty little lakes beloved of fishers and hunters. The Australian Antarctic Division trains its expeditioners in these parts, the coldest part of Australia's coldest state. The seed was planted when someone showed me their plan for a 150km loop near here a couple of years back. Then the idea morphed into a single day dash 'Over The Top', from Bothwell to Deloraine, a distance of about 130km. Finally it became a 200km two-day circuit from the town of Ouse with an overnight stop in Miena. The ride is about 95 per cent unsealed roads. (Our eventual route can be found here.)

The dates were pre-ordained by leave and rostered days off, although the forecast was not promising. Cold temperatures, rain, snow and wind do not make the best riding weather. All the same, Benny, Kiwi and I set off from Ouse at 9am on Saturday ready to take what came our way. All three of us rode steel bikes, lightly loaded. Two of us sported mudguards hastily fitted in the days before.

Ben admires the view not far south of Miena.
Our route took us through pretty farming country from Ouse north-east to Bothwell. Route-finding was made much easier by uploading a pre-plotted course to my Garmin 810 which squawked well in advance of every turn we needed to take. Our first day saw a big gain in height and we were riding uphill from the start, the tough ascents compensated for by the long descents through hidden valleys containing impossibly lovely sheep farms and willow-lined streams. Though it was cool, the rain held off. We had a snack at Bothwell before pushing north for a while on the Highland Lakes Road, one of the few sections of sealed road we would encounter on the trip.

Less than an hour later we turned onto the gravel again, passing through Hermitage and its pack of chained and very vocal hunting dogs and the momentary bad weather then climbed steadily alongside powerlines leading to the hydro electric village of Waddamana. There was a thrilling and scenic descent before we rolled past the well-preserved old village to our lunchstop at the power museum staffed by a delightful volunteer who was knitting following the Australian Football League grand final on the radio. We ate our lunch on the steps and took a quick tour of the museum, the only people to sign the visitor's book in three days.

Kiwi powers through the forest.
The climb out of Waddamana was around 400m over 4.5km and was tough. Ben and Kiwi patiently waited for me to plod up the hills all day and this climb was no exception. The steepest bits had a couple of us on foot. But soon enough it was over and we were thinking of the beers and the meal awaiting us at the pub in Miena. The cold westerly wind picked up as we regained the highway for the final push. Here I began to tire a little, though the final hill was soon passed and the road flattened s it passed the shack community at the southern end of Great Lake. We had covered 110km for the day on seldom-ridden dirt roads, climbing more than 2200m. Strava called it 'epic', I'm inclined to agree.

A hot, fast and filling meal was consumed and some beers downed in short order and we settled in for the night in the bunks of a fisherman's cabin. It was sufficiently cold outside to deter anyone from taking advantage of the shower block and the heater ran all night.

Morning dawned crisp and overcast and after a couple of toasted ham and cheese sandwiches and a breakfast pie from the local shop we were on our way again. Though rain looked possible there was little wind and there were fewer hills on the gravel Malborough 'Highway' so the going was much quicker than the day before. The scenery was starker too, more alpine compared to the forests we'd traversed on Saturday. I kept stopping to take photos which kept me well off the back of our small peloton. We rested at the shop at Bronte Park for a drink and to top up our supplies of chocolate for the last leg of our journey which we were hoping to complete before we needed lunch, as there were no other facilities on the way.
Heading across Stockyard Flats past Dee Lagoon.

The best of the ride came right at the end. We raced along past Dee Lagoon an into some stunning farming country before turning off towards the locality of Strickland. Here the road turned downwards and for a good 20km we were able to sit back and coast, dodging the rock on the descent through the pine plantation. Kiwi suffered a trio of punctures here on the rougher road. Reaching the highway we turned east and picked up a tailwind to propel us down the last six kilometers of highway to the car, thrilled at the stunning finish to the ride.

Gravel rides are becoming more popular worldwide - I suspect in part thanks to a desire by cyclists to seek out quieter and safer roads. We saw perhaps half a dozen cars on the dirt sections on Saturday (the grand final would have kept many inside) and maybe a dozen on Sunday. Even if we caught a lucky weekend with the weather and the traffic, I know I'll be heading back to the central highlands for daytrips and longer rides. It's stunning country and well worth a visit for the intrepid cyclist.
Nearing the highway to Miena near Shannon.

Dodging potholes near Bronte Park.

Dee Lagoon

Onto the highway for the final run into Ouse.
5,311km so far this year.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tuesday Tour

One of the advantages of living in Tasmania is that even the main roads get relatively little traffic if you pick your times right. Generally if you miss the school rush in the morning and afternoon, things can be pretty quiet in the middle of the day, making for pleasant riding. A good weather day on Tuesday allowed me to do a relaxed midweek tour along lovely loop from Geeveston to Dover and back. I decided to take my Surly Crosscheck because its wide tyres and saddle make for a more leisurely ride and underlined the relaxed nature of the trip.

I'm on holidays for two weeks, but the weather has kept me from venturing too far from home. Grand plans of multiday bushwalks and long rides have given way to time spent at home planning adventures rather than venturing out on them - although I have managed to fit a few rides in. The return section of this trip I've done before on the Dovernighter, and there's no good excuse why I have been this way since. So I parked the car in Geeveston and hit the road.

There's always a difference between how these rides look on maps when you're planning them and how they pan out in real life. On the trip south I had a lovely headwind which helped push me up some of the inclines. There's a gentle hill out of Geeveston then the toughest climb at the ride starts about 10km in at Glendevie, with a 200m rise in a bit under five kilometres, getting steeper towards the top. I haven't done much climbing lately although I'm in reasonable shape from all the cycling I have been doing. Oddly, I quite enjoyed the ascent, dropping back into the little chainring on the triple and spinning up.

From the top of the Glendevie hill there's a  magnificent top ring downhill run all the way to the halfway point at Dover. Although this was a cruise ride rather than a serious effort I didn't bother to stop in town but instead coasted along the waterfront to enjoy the views out over Port Esperance and the sound of the little waves breaking on the beach.

Turning north again on more familiar roads there's more climbing as the road wends up and down and over the headlands, dropping own into sleepy shack communities hamlets set in picturesque coves by white sandy beaches and past the land base for the area's salmon farming operation. The legs start to get tested here, although the scenery well and truly makes up for it. (Of course my iPhone battery let me down here so there's no photos of the really good bits.) Pushing on, it became clear my two hour ride was going to be closer to three. The only drawback to this as the very slight increase in traffic - along the coast road, perhaps two cars passed me, back on the highway perhaps two dozen doing the end of day school run. Most were extremely courteous, giving me a wide berth when they passed - a refreshing change from city riding.

What I'd guessed as perhaps a 40km loop turned out to be closer to 55km and with nigh-on 1,000 metres of climbing. I'd long emptied my single water bottle by the time I'd completed the long downhill run into Geeveston where a welcome cold soft drink awaited. A short trip, but a most enjoyable one and a reminder I need to head down this way more often.

5089km so far this year.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Spring is in the Air

Winter is receding into memory and the fresh breezes and warmer days of spring are once more upon us. With spring comes a flurry of planning, made of much easier by the plethora of mapping websites such as the most excellent With the plans we've made for the coming Audax season and talk of overnight rides from Launceston to Hobart and loops of the high Central Plateau, there should be some good riding ahead.
This weekend is the Mallee Routes ride, and thought I'd like to be up there churning out a 400, I've also just booked a three-week cycling holiday in Vietnam and money, like time, is a finite quantity. After missing the Spring into Seymour because of work commitments, it's been a thin year for rides in Victoria. I'll have to make up for it next year. Plans are afoot.

Winter is a good time to bed down gear choices too. I'm settling in new wheels on the Thorn and swapped the old rims over to the Crosscheck. New cables and a new drivetrain have given the bike a new lease of life, and will probably hold off the impulse to buy one of the new disk-brake equipped Surly Stragglers for a few years yet.

But talking about bikes and thinking about bikes and writing about bikes is all forgotten when a good ride can be had. Last Sunday's trip was to Tim's, not a long run to be sure but enjoyable nonetheless and a good chance to get some lovely photos of Tasmania at its best.

4960km so far this year.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Short term review Garmin Edge 810

Thanks to a better-than-expected tax return and the fact I'm doing a lot more miles than usual, I was recently able to justify dropping a few dollars on a Garmin Edge 810 cycling-specific GPS unit. I'd had one on my wish list for a while but at around $650 they're a fair investment. I had a look at a few of the online stores but decided that buying from a local bike shop was a better-value proposition since I would get local maps and local power adapters and could take it back in if there were any warranty issues. For only a few dollars more than the basic unit I picked up the kit with the speed and cadence sensor and the heart rate monitor.

The unit is relatively easy to set up on the bike. There's an out-front mount provided which positions the unit ahead of the handlebars, and a couple of pretty handy stem mounts too. The unit's menu system is pretty easy to understand once you've fiddled around with it for a while.

There's a lot to like about the Garmin.  The display screens are very customisable and easy to read. The backlight makes use during night riding much friendlier than a regular computer and the screen is easy to use even with gloves on.  The heart rate and cadence monitors work really well. The inbuilt navigation system is pretty neat too and I can see it coming in handy on brevet rides and tours. Battery life appears to be good and uploading data is straightforward. Charging using the supplied USB cable and moving the unit between bikes is a breeze. And the unit's accuracy is impressive.

There are a few niggles though, and some are more than a little annoying. My unit has several times turned itself off during a ride, an intermittent bug which seems to be brought on by changing screens on the move, but only now and again. The fault has happened a couple of times for no apparent reason too. It's happened perhaps half a dozen times in 400km, so it's hard to know exactly what's causing it. Secondly, the screen, rather than being glass, like most smartphones, is plastic and very susceptible to scratches.  I have learned this from unhappy experience. A thin-film screen guard is highly recommended.

Finally, I'm not overly impressed by the unit's computer and internet integration. While the Garmin can talk to a smartphone, the connection is bluetooth and is pretty unreliable. When the connection works it's relatively easy to upload to the Garmin ride tracking website but there is not integration for other websites, such as Strava. True, there are workarounds but you expect better from a premium unit. There are some other features via the link to a smartphone, such as live tracking and live weather, but they are of little practical use. There is also no ability to customise the unit through the PC, something that would be much easier than using the on-screen menus.

I've had a few Garmin units over the years, from a handheld GPS to a wrist mounted Foretrex. As a general rule, I've found them to be reasonably reliable but stolid and a bit unexciting. If you've got an Apple iPhone for example, it's not hard to think that the Garmin unit suffers a bit by comparison in terms of innovation and imagination. On the whole, I'm very happy with my Edge 810. If cycling GPS technology continues to improve at the rate is has in recent years, I see great things ahead. A GPS with an inbuilt camera for example, is something that makes a fair bot of sense and I hope is not too far away.

4731km so far this year.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Milestone reached.

It has been a much better year on the bike for me this year, so good in fact I have just surpassed the 4008km I rode last year. And along the way I've also managed my 300th post on this blog. To celebrate I'm having a rest day!

To all who have shared this online journey with me, as well as the many journeys in the real world, I hope 2013 is treating you well too.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Getting Lost and Crashing a Lot

Picton River Bridge.
It's pretty hard to get lost and die in the bush. Most people, no matter how badly prepared they are, seem to muddle through ok and find their way home. You have to go to extraordinary lengths - like not taking maps or having a clear idea of where you are going to make sure of having a real adventure. In that pioneering spirit Ben and I tackled the Picton River loop on the weekend.

There was a minor series of fuck-ups to begin with. We started a bit late due to a miscommunication. At the Tahune Airwalk we breezed past the ticket-selling lady saying "We're just going up the Picton" so we didn't have to pay admission. She didn't bother pointing out we were heading the wrong way. Even before leaving the premises I managed to eat shit when my front wheel lost traction on the wet boardwalk and I went down hard. At least I got my hands out.

We set off at a good clip on a nice piece of track heading in the right general direction. Pretty soon it narrowed and it became apparent we were on the Airwalk's purpose-built mountain bike track. No big problem, except we were on road bikes and Ben was sporting 28mm slicks. Soon it was his turn to eat shit in the mud. Sadly I was too busy trying to hang on, but I'm assured his high speed crash could only have been more spectacular if there had been flames and a small explosion on impact.

Ben, not crashing. 

Once Ben had come to terms with the pain in his crash-injured leg, we decided we were heading in the wrong direction. Navigation was complicated by the fact that for some reason my bike computer was reading roughly twice what it should have, making it hard to know how far we'd gone. Doubling back we eventually found a faint track which took us out to the road we'd been looking for - about 800m from the start.

We set off on the fast, smooth surface, bounding up a few gentle undulations as Ben looked for the turnoff. We went past, "I Think This is It Road", past "No, This Looks More Like It Spur", before arriving at the "No, I Think It's This One turnoff - which happily it turned out to be.

Stunning tall forests.
As befits all grand adventures, the destination was well and truly worth the effort.With a little rain and fog about the old Picton River Bridge is a very atmospheric spot. The bridge is condemned and is probably not real safe even to walk across, but very scenic nonetheless. We stopped a while to soak it all in and put some more elaborate touches on the long-planned but highly unlikely to ever happen "Shitterbike Rafting Trip" - which is slated to begin at this spot - before heading back on the opposite bank of the river.

The road back featured even fewer of the gentle undulations of the other side. Since we now had a rough idea where we were going, progress was a lot faster and we were back at the Airwalk in fairly short order, where a couple of chicken burgers quickly eased the pain of our exertions. With all the detours we road about 25km and saw not a single car.