Sunday, September 18, 2016

Chasing ghosts for self-amusement

The quiet roads of the Huon Valley.

I'm not a terribly competitive cyclist, which is probably a good thing given my general lack of application to anything resembling a training regime and the odd sorts of bikes I get around on. But  even the least competitive among us has the odd stretch of road where were like to have the occasional lash. In the age of Strava, the impetus to ride - and sometimes to ride fast - is one which seems to hit the best of us from time to time.

Given I'm not the fastest of riders, my personal collection of KOMs on Strava consists mainly of places so far off the beaten path that nobody else has thought to ride them. A good example of this is the Airwalk to Southwood segment which is an absolute cracker of a ride but doesn't get a mass of two-wheeled traffic.

Closer to home there's the loop from Judbury, near where I live, in to Huonville, the closest town. There's a road either side of the river, so it can be done as an out-and-back or as a loop. My favourite way is to head into town on the tarmac on the south side of the river and coming back on the unsealed North Huon Road. The circuit is about 27km.

A couple of years back my mate Ben and I used to ride this circuit most nights, starting from near his place in town and doing the anti-clockwise in the preferred manner. Since we these were mostly after-work jaunts and we tend to chat a lot we seldom got much of a speed up, generally getting around in about one hour and five minutes. Now and again we'd inadvertently have a lash and would come close to breaking the hour, most memorably one night when Ben stopped to look at fish from the Huonville bridge when I was more intent on the PB. Noticing he wasn't behind me, I doubled back to find him leaning over the bridge staring into the water below.

Although I ride this way most weekends, I usually break my trip for a coffee at the lovely Summer Kitchen Bakery on the way home. Yesterday I had a tailwind on the way in and was feeling pretty good when I stopped for coffee, noticing later that my moving time for the whole circuit was one hour and one minute. I wondered whether I might be in good enough shape to be able to knock off the elusive goal at last.

This morning I wandered up to the shed. My trusty Bianchi - the only road bike I have - has been loaned to my wife, who needed it for a group ride she has been on and to my surprise the fit wasn't too bad on her. So this morning I raised the seat and put the longer stem back on and prepared to see what I had in my legs, which were a little weary after yesterday's dash.

I've been losing a bit of weight lately so the plan in my mind was to set a bit of a mark to challenge later on so see it dropping a few kilograms (and maybe a new bike I'm planning as a reward) makes a difference. It was about 11 degrees when I set out, just a hint of wind and a little rain. I'm not much of a time-trialler, so the tempo was intended to be more of a brisk ride than an all-out effort. I decided to try to put in my best effort on the uphills and flats and use the downhills to recover, trying to exceed a 27km/h average. None of the hills are too steep or long, given there's only 160m of climbing over the entire ride, but rather a series of gentle ups and downs which are perfect for effort and recovery.

By about half-way, I realised I might just be able to knock the old mark off as long as I didn't blow up. I knew the key was getting to the bakery at about 16km close to the half hour point and I was in the ballpark. There's a couple of slightly longer hills on the way back which were set to challenge my momentum but I knew the last 6km is pretty easy to do in about 12 minutes when the road is in good condition so it was a matter of getting to there by the 48 minute mark and not much later. And I was close.

I didn't really want to ride to bursting point, so I focussed on sitting above 30km/h and avoiding hitting any big potholes along the smooth and surprisingly dry 5km dirt section into Judbury. As the dirt gives way to tarmac although tiring, I was doing even better than I thought and hit the 1km to go with three minutes remaining and a downhill run to the finish. It was an easy roll and it was done. The old mark was gone - beaten by a solid minute.

Given how long this silly milestone has lurked in the back of my head, I'm chuffed at beating it - although I was also a little surprised at how easy it was in the end. Time now to set a new goal and see how that goes. Maybe 55 minutes is possible.

2497km so far this year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

North Bruny circuit

Every ride is the same, every ride is different. After a couple of months without much cycling I really needed the familiarity and the novelty of this delightful circuit. The scenery is already magical and the roads don't see many cars, particularly if you pick your times well. Weather and the mood and the riding companion are the variables. Go alone, go with some mates, this ride never disappoints.

I had planned to do the circuit alone. A combination of events had left me with a morning to fill. Ben said he'd come along, and then Hugh, and Stuart decided to put a few more miles in his legs before a riding trip to Japan. That's a good group, four, though a good day out can always be had with a few more or less. 

Mornings are always chilly at the ferry terminal so there's some decisions to be made about what to wear. I skip the raincoat, for once that's the right call. Stripped of the winter lights and generator, the bike feels light. The first few kilometres are uphill so it's no easy start but the distance starts flying by. It's a ride of ups and downs and from the hilltops there are great views. We spread out and regroup, never in too much of a hurry to stop and enjoy the glimpses of hidden bays and beaches and more distant coastlines. I give my camera to Ben and he snaps some photos of me churning up the big climb. 

We stop for coffee at Dennes Point. The weather is mild. There's no wind, it's not cold, but it's still early enough in spring that there aren't any tourists about. We have the cafe to almost to ourselves. There's an old border collie ties up outside, waiting patiently for this owner, who is in no hurry either.

The road ahead is more up and down but there's something funny about riding on Bruny: the hills are never too long or too steep. Again some stops for views and photos. An echinda hunkers down into the roadside verge as we pass. A couple of cars come by, slowly, with a wave. 

The timing of the ferries home makes the 44km circuit a bit more interesting. On previous rides there's always been a couple of detours and a distinct lack of urgency. But today with a 9am departure, the 12.30 ferry looks like the shot, if we come up short the next is at 2pm, which is a bit too long a wait. Even though it looks light we throw in one last diversion for the sheer scenic value.

For some reason I'm feeling better than I deserve to today. I'm feeling better in the hills than I thought, not fast but at least smooth. Even the last climb, which I always find tough, seems easier than I remember. We have ten minutes to spare before the boat back to the mainland. 

It's six bucks for a bike, out and back to Bruny Island. I reckon it's the best six bucks I spent last week. 

2424km so far this year.