[Hmm, maybe I should leave parodies to the expert – but if you’re in the mood you could read that title to the tune of a certain Proclaimers song …. hmm.. *cough*… yeah….]
Anyway! Yes, well, I – we – rode 100 miles last Sunday. In one day. 160.934km or some such. Yeah, crazy, I know.
Why do we do it? Why do we do anything? Because it’s there? Because it’s a challenge? To prove that the first two times we did it weren’t a fluke? I’m still not sure really. (It’s retrospective enjoyment thing I think.)
It’s not the longest ride we’ve ever done in a day either. Last year in September we went down to Melbourne and rode in the Around The Bay in a Day ride – on the 210km loop. And a couple of weeks before that we rode round and round a velodrome for 20 something hours straight – to raise money for ROMAC (a Rotary charity to bring kids to Australia for operations) Never again, that one.)
This is the third year that our local BUG (Bicycle User Group) has done this ride, and we’ve done all three, along with one other rider. [ This is a blog piece I wrote about last year’s ride.]
So, really, doing another 100 mile-in-a-day ride isn’t anything too untoward for us. We know we can do it, so there is not the ‘unknown’ factor to add to the ‘appeal’. This year I toyed with the idea of doing it on my single – to prove that I could – but in the end we kept with the tandem. We feel more like we are doing something together when we ride that, and it’s just more fun. Possibly it is easier. (Certainly it is faster). But I do know that Himself as captain makes me push harder than I would on my own. Swings and roundabouts, really.
This year the numbers were much smaller – only 7 riders, and four support crew.
Two tandems this year – which was fun. (We are slowly but surely spreading the word about tandems – the other couple bought theirs earlier this year just to join us on a tandem tour down the east coast of Tasmania.)
This year was the first for a recumbent! So the ‘out of the ordinary’ outnumbered the ‘ordinary’ with the other two being just two half bikes… I mean “singles”.
We start at a seaside village an hour or so’s drive north of here, so we drive up the day before. The first year the guy that organised it had pretty much all of us camping. Pitching a tent for us and the kids for one night, and packing it all up before setting off to ride a long way at 6.30 am, didn’t rate that highly for us – so last year, with kids in tow still – we got a holiday unit (which was better than camping at least.)
This year we got to share a house with the other tandem couple, and two others, AND for the first time, left the kids at home, overnight, with Ms 16 in charge.
The house was great, the bed was comfortable, I took spaghetti bol to share for dinner, and it was all wonderfully civilised. The beachside camping spot, still the accommodation of choice for a few stalwarts, was all very nice, but, with the ‘breeze’ coming right off the water, very *fresh*. August is still winter, even on the north coast!!
With a 6.30 meeting time, we still got to savour the sunrise over the water.
We break the ride up into ‘manageable’ sections – and the support crew drive ahead and meet us (wth provisions.) This year the first section of 27km, initially through coastal scrub (and then rural villages) provided the ‘story’ of the ride. We were tailing C. on his recumbent when all of a sudden a kangaroo leapt out from the right, on a collision course for C. The roo realised at the last second and attempted a 180 bailout turn – and slipped and fell! But was still sliding! As it scrabbled around on the road, trying to get purchase to get up, C, and then us, just managed to weave around it. (Boy did that get the adrenalin pumping!) Had it not propped when it did, or had it slid further, I hate to think what the outcome might have been. For C. – in only his fourth year of living in this country – it was certainly as Aussie a cycling experience as he might ever have! Signs along that part of the road warn of the wild emus (and we did see some roaming the paddocks), but I suppose to be wary of kangaroos on country roads should always be a given.
The next leg of the ride took us onto an island in a river. With sugar cane on one side, and the river on the other, but flat as a tack, the 10km around to the car ferry is always enjoyable, and perfect riding for tandems. It was kind of eerie this year, with fog still heavily shrouding the river and riverbanks – we pretty soon took the lead and ‘towed’ everyone round to the ferry. From the middle of the river on the ferry, you couldn’t see either bank – so while we’ve ridden this bit of road on several occasions, we’d never seen it this way before!
Another quick stop, and then a flat (but bumpy) 30km to our lunch spot by the river in the big town, and the knowledge that we were pretty much half way. At this point I was starting to think that 80km is really more of a sensible total for one day’s ride. (So heaven knew why I was riding twice that!) Unfortunately the hardest was still to come – with the rest of the ride involving more… shall we say .. “undulating” countryside.
That said, while the uphills are more of a grind for tandems, we enjoy the momentum gained from the downhill runs. We had three stops in this next 80km section – and by this stage you don’t really know what you feel like eating – you just want to finish the damn thing, but you know you need to keeping stoking up the ‘engine’ at least until you reach the top of Red Hill. From there you can see the ocean again; the end is in sight, and once you’re there, you know you’ve made it. A hoot of a downhill run, then just a few more kilometres till you pull up at the finishing point near the harbour.
Then it’s high fives, handshakes and hugs all round, as we share pride in our achievement, and appreciation to the support crew .
I’ve struggled to feel elated about it this week though. I should feel more positive about the whole thing, but there has been this niggly irritation with it all, and I feel resentful that much of the joy of riding it was taken away by the goals and objectives of the guy that started it all.
We have participated in quite a few long rides now – the sort that are organised by Cycling organisations (and which often raise money for some cause or another.) They have ranged from 50km through to 210km (as well as the multi-day Big Rides), and basically all of them expect you to ride at your own pace. They provide a sag wagon for any casualties, but other than that, don’t expect faster riders to ‘help’ slower riders – or to ‘stay together’. (Well, if you do enter such a ride with slower friends, then it’s up to you what arrangements you come to.)
This one – well – it’s different. Supposedly. It’s been organised as a social BUG ride – albeit a long one – and the organiser is hung up on everyone riding “together” and the idea of the faster riders helping the slower riders. He likes the faster riders to let the slower riders set out ahead after each checkpoint so that we don’t get too strung out. He likes the faster bikes to help the slower bikes by riding with, or just in front of them so they can ride in the draft, and thus get a tow. He doesn’t like us to get more than about five minutes apart!
Which is all very fine and noble. BUT. It doesn’t always work. From our point of view, a tandem can provide a great tow, but you have to be a strong enough rider to stay on the back for any length of time. A tandem builds up a huge momentum going downhill, and so you have to be extra good to hang on the back. And tandem riders do not appreciate having to brake going downhills because you need as much momentum as you can get to ride up the next hill. And part of the joy of riding the tandem is the speed you can go, so you don’t really feel like having to slow down. Or having to stop every few kilometres.
And, you know, I think anyone attempting to ride 160km in a day should be stoic enough not to need babysitting all the way. Certainly not for sections of 30km and under, as is the case here. But this, apparently is not quite how the organiser sees it – and this year, as support crew, he was in fully fledged ‘teacher’ mode – exhorting us, like primary school kids on a school excursion – to “stay together” – even sofaras insisting on the first 27km leg that we stop and regroup at the 20km mark. He even gave out a sheet where he’d done calculations on average speed/distance disparities, and how easy it was to stop and wait.
He also went so far, at one point, as to holding my seat (before I went to get on it) as if to prevent us from taking off till he’d deemed the others had got a long enough headstart. (Had I not noticed I would have ended up with his hand up my bum, so I was not amused!)
And the slowest rider, at one checkpoint, had a bit of a whine about wishing that he was riding this year, because he would have ridden with her…
But she was only about 5 minutes behind us getting into the checkpoints. I tussled in my head with the whole issue all day (because I was being made to feel guilty all day) and decided that if it was me, it would be no big deal. I would accept that I was slower, and I’d be quite happy with the idea that we were regrouping at the six checkpoints along the way. In fact, I would quite simply hate being patronised every few kilometres en route. (Frankly I’d rather the applause each time I bravely pedalled into each stop!)
More and more I realise that I am a ridiculously hyper-sensitive soul, but with an outer layer of indignation – so I don’t handle these sort of situations very well. Others will be either oblivious to all the nuances and innuendos, and the way other people speak to them (the ‘water off a duck’s back’ gift) – while I flounder around in a sea of guilt, indecision, and frustration. (And here I am nearly a week later still stewing about it!)
Right now I don’t feel like doing this ride again – unless it is on a single where I would volubly announce to all and sundry that I DO NOT want to be babysat the whole way, thankyouverymuch.
Otherwise, I’m feeling that having ticked that box three times now, maybe next year should be the year for finding another cycling challenge to add to our collection. One without any guilt. And one where I can be an adult, not a child.