Spokes(Wo)Man

Scared of traffic ? No bike infrastructure ? Too Far ? Helmet hair ?

 

Fuck it, ride anyway

If Spring comes, can Magpies be far behind (again) ?

"Nope" is the perennial answer.  Usually followed by some swearing, and occasionally tears.

The best part about annual Magpie season is definitely when you outsmart and/or outride one of the feathery little fuckers. The next best thing is the growing list of borderline crazy/inventive decoys and deterrents out there, including this latest entrant;

 

This guy cracked me up, and if you watch the interview, he amuses himself a bit as well. Love it.

Now please excuse me while I nip down to the garage for a bit of tinkering with my helmet.

With lashings of Pollution for Timmy, yum !

We all know that cars are the major source of pollution in today's cities - and if we don't know this, then we are indulging in a wee bit of cognitive dissonance, aren't we ? Hmm ?

London suffers from pollution, and by "suffers" I mean kills it's inhabitants on a regular and consistent basis. 

air-pollution-0.jpg

 

Successive mayors have levied congestion taxes for older and/or diesel cars entering the London CBD, tried to restrict heavy vehicles, introduced bike lanes and bike share to reduce the number of car journeys under 5km. Some local councils have banned vehicles idling outside schools and impose huge fines on polluter parents who insist on picking up little Tabitha from pre-school while subjecting everyone in a 10 metre radius to a fug of exhaust and brake particulate pollution.

There have been seven high pollution alerts to residents in the past 13 months. 

Adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, should reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors, and particularly if they experience symptoms. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often. Older people should also reduce physical exertion. Anyone experiencing discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing activity, particularly outdoors.
— The Government’s Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP)

That's first world country living, right there. Sounds delightful.

 

Next step, the PR War.

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The current Mayor of London has done little if nothing to continue the great work of introducing cycle ways to the capital, to encourage short trips by bike instead of revving up the ole car, and he's appointed the most useless ineffectual ever "Walking and Cycling Commissioner" in Will (No I Won't) Norman; but he is pretty decent at putting scary pictures up around town.

I don't know why they're being displayed in the Underground, when the drivers are in their cars upon the surface ... but perhaps i just don't understand advertising.

Yes, that must be it.

 

 

 

 

The problem is not the problem, it’s your attitude to the problem which is the problem

Gah, I really wish reporters would stop and *think* for a minute and then use their words. Almost daily now you see articles saying that users of Sydney and Melbourne’s new dockless bike-share systems are throwing bikes in the river, sticking them up trees or on top of high walls. I’ve walked past a few outside our offices and seen them up high on the construction barriers where someone like me with the upper-body strength of a T-Rex stands no chance of getting it down safely.

This is nothing more than shitty-clickbait, lowest-common-denominator reporting.

So hey Fleet Street, here’s a tip for ya from Spokes_wo_man, Girl Reporter; it’s not the users of the bikes. Users like the convenience and the fun of bike-share and want to keep using it, so they’re not the dicks sabotaging the system.

oBikes declare themselves an impediment and hand themselves into Melbourne Council for impounding

oBikes declare themselves an impediment and hand themselves into Melbourne Council for impounding

 

And the knee-jerk reaction from local councils - yammering on about regulating bike-share, and having designated parking areas, banning bikes from certain areas altogether, and even more draconianally (yeah, that's a word) some of them are actually confiscating and crushing bikes – wow, if only they pursued illegally parked cars with the same vim and vigour…

A Sydney woman indicates an oBike which has been illegally parked across her driveway for the past 10 days. The owner was eventually located on holiday in Bali.

A Sydney woman indicates an oBike which has been illegally parked across her driveway for the past 10 days. The owner was eventually located on holiday in Bali.

This is the same old, same old tiresome fucking vandalism, perpetrated by bored, disaffected youff, or just bike-haters in general, including elderly angry white men (see below). And it needs to be treated the same way as any other act of vandalism of a public amenity, not written off as the humorous actions of "pranksters". This video below was published on an actual news site, and described as "hilarious"  - and for this example of stellar reporting readers are expected to pay money. 

Here's an oBike throwing it's own free helmets into the rubbish at Bondi Beach.

Here's an oBike throwing it's own free helmets into the rubbish at Bondi Beach.

Wow, this guy is just an arsehole.

So this is just spiteful, mindless vandalism, like when you see a lost shopping trolley miles from the supermarket being fished out of a waterway on National Clean-up Australia Day. So did I miss something, are we banning shopping trolleys ?

Abandoned oBike thrown in the river

Abandoned oBike thrown in the river

It’s no different to the graffiti on our trains, the passengers who wedge a undrunk coffee cup or a half-full can of Red Bull between the train seats as they depart, imaging perhaps that some unseen elf will come along and clean it up for them – and let me tell you, if you want to feel instantly nauseous be the person who walks into that train car at 7am to the fug of Red Bull and the gross industrially sticky puddle on the carriage floor. And just quietly who the fuck is drinking Red Bull at 7am? Your life choices disgust me.

Remnants of a takeaway meal eaten on a train and scattered around by an oBike.

Remnants of a takeaway meal eaten on a train and scattered around by an oBike.

These are people who don’t know how to behave in a society. It’s their disregard for social norms and conventions – after all, manners are just the social lubricant which allow us to live in close proximity to x million other people without wanting to punch half of them in the throat on a daily basis.

An oBike with his filthy feet on the seats

An oBike with his filthy feet on the seats

These people are why we can’t have nice things.

Bike share will be here to stay. Get over it. If the sight of a bike on a footpath bothers you that much, see a psychiatrist.

Ride to Work (or don't) Day - 2017

Here's a little tale about Ride to Work Day 2017 - and why I didn’t.

Today is annual R2W day and therefore the 2nd anniversary of my commuting to work by bike, as well as this blog. We’re now in the Terrible Twos. Time for a tantrum…

Oh. My. God. Could you not ?

Oh. My. God. Could you not ?

R2W Day is great for getting people started riding, the camaraderie, the massively increased feeling of safety in numbers, and freebies along the way are terrific, as is the enthusiasm of the volunteers and sponsors. Free bananas anyone? Free bandana, shirt, water bottle, wrist band, puncture repair kit? Take it all! Take two! You're Sprocketman ? Here take six !

This duck is bananas; BA-NA-NAS

This duck is bananas; BA-NA-NAS

OMG, #MeToo

OMG, #MeToo

Sprocketman shepherded his buddy G2 into riding to work for the first time this morning, and my only fear for them was that they’d have too much fun and ride past work and just keep going for the day. G2 also may now have unrealistic expectations about the fanfare that attends one’s arrival at work by bike; it’s not every day you get a tickertape parade, as you pass under an honour guard formed by Bike Network and Bike NSW volunteers each holding aloft a giant banana.

But this year, as a cynical bike advocate of some 2 years standing, I’m not riding. At first it was just because I have ridden each day for a while and I like having Wednesday as a mid-week rest-day, otherwise I am pretty knackered come Friday night. And this past week I’ve had horrible headaches - I was fine with my whiplash symptoms until I went for a scheduled check-up, they tinkered with something I really wished thay hadn't, and voila ! I’ve had a bloody annoying headache ever since - so I was going to ride today riiiiiight up until I just decided all these things were a bit much - and in giving myself permission to not ride on this one day, I thought about what I’d be missing out on - and the answer (for me) was actually “yeah, not much”.

Because I'm a bit over the People’s Front of Judea/Judean People’s Front duopoly of the two main cycling advocacy groups in the unfair state of NSW.

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Perhaps if they were little less occupied in competing with each other to become the pre-eminent cycling event organiser, and a bit more focussed on actual advocacy for the everyday bike rider we'd see some progress.

I’d like to see less emphasis on bike riding as a "special event”. The Spring Cycle clusterfuck and R2W entrench the attitude amongst local government that cycling is a mass event to be planned for a Specific Day, and then after that everyone should put their bikes away and drive to the station.

I’d like much less emphasis from my bike advocates on racing and endurance events, with the fees we all pay in, I'm pretty sure they could have paved our own cycleway halfway to the city by now if we'd spent it wisely.  I’d like to see their resources spent on, here’s a thought, a full page ad in the main newspapers cleaning up common misconceptions about cycling, especially as it relates to road rules and rights and obligations.

Let's face it, the red-necked driving enthusiasts/bike haters of this world aren’t going to come to a bike blog to read a refreshingly different perspective; so we need to get the message across in a format they’re likely to see, and alongside the drivel which passes for journalism via the Daily Telegraph in Sydney for example seems like prime hunting ground. Next to the Monster Truck Rally ads and the greyhound racing results.

A full page ad, explaining that;

  • Roads are paid for by income tax and council rates, not any mythical “road tax” which cyclists have been unfairly dodging.
  • Car registration fees are based on the weight of the vehicle registered and is meant to contribute to, but in no way covers the actual cost of damage caused to the roads by the vehicle in question
  • That motorists are actually heavily subsidised by non-motorists
  • The 1metre & 1.5metre passing distances are minimums, not targets. If you’ve got the extra space, take it, because you trying to hit 1meter on the nose is a little concerning to me when you under-estimate the size and speed of your metal box
  • That cyclists are permitted to travel two-abreast, and you, driving your single-occupant metal box big enough for 6-8 people have no moral high ground here
  • That we’re all forced to look the other way on significant Human Rights atrocities just to continue buying your petrol from evil and repressive regimes
  • That Lycra for cyclists isn’t a fashion choice but is for comfort and is designed for purpose while riding (in the same way you change into pyjamas for lounging/sleeping and a pair of unfashionably tight LYCRA sluggos to go to the beach every five years).

 

And if Bicycle NSW and Bicycle Network are the Judean People’s Front/People’s Front of Judea, what does that make me ?

splitter.jpg

Clearly I’m the Popular People’s Front of Judea. Splitter !!!

Spring Cycle - whups

At about 9.30am I looked up from the book I was reading in bed, and said to Sprocketman "Oh dear. We've missed the Spring Cycle that was on this morning."

Good-Fellas-Hilarious.jpg

Look, it's a great day out for some people and certain reasons, but I have my beef with Bicycles NSW/Network and I'm not going to these "Special Event" clusterfucks just to blow smoke up their backsides.

TAD NSW and Mitch however, are a couple of the good things about Spring Cycle. It's a fun event for them, and a great way to attract new supporters (Sprocketman and I donate to TAD NSW each month), and we're delighted when we see things like this;

So cynicism aside, well done Mitch ! Well done the lovely volunteers at TAD and Freedom Wheels and all the similar groups making sure these kids retain their mobility.

You're good people.

Is this thing still on ? [taps mic]

Boy, have I overslept. What month is it ?

Sheesh.

Well, it's not that there wasn't anything to write about, trust me,  there was plenty of writing going on, just no editing, sourcing of pictures, faffing around with layout eventuating in actual publishing.

Why ?

No good reason. No one reason anyway, just an unfortunate confluence of little events. Oh and laziness. I blame Netflix for a fair bit of it.

But here we are, and I have some catching up to do !

There's quite a lot of things to post which are sort of time-critical, so I will be backdating the posts to the appropriate dates so that there is some sense of time proceeding in a lineal fashion, for those of you who like that sort of thing.

But nothing will be backdated past 23 June 2017, the last post I actually published in realtime. It was about bacon, and I can still remember how good it smelled.

 

Bacon Will Rise Again

I feel like raising my arms in the air, victorious - I MADE IT !! I have made it past the longest night and I am still riding to work !

We passed the winter solstice this week, and even though it's only by increments of an extra second per day (at the moment) the thought that each successive day is longer and longer cheers both me, and Sprocketman immensley - and actually, every other cyclist I have mentioned this to. I guess none of us really loooove commuting in the dark.  Riding in the dark is fun, but i feel like commuting in the dark sometimes just one more little hassle to overcome. But again, it's all about the attitude and tackling things incrementally.

2017 is the longest and deepest into winter that I have kept riding, and it's so much easier if you just keep going, rather than stop and try to re-start. Keeping on with the spirit of Viking Biking means you get up and ride in most days, and maybe one day you'll think, hmm, might wear my arm warmers tomorrow, another week and you're pulling out the leg warmers, then in another fortnight you reach for warmer base layers, then long sleeved jerseys until finally come midwinter you've graduated to full length wind-proof knicks and a windproof jacket.  And I am as warm as toast cycling along - I can sense the wind buffeting me as I speed along, but it doesn't penetrate my clothes , so I feel no chill, even though it was 8 degrees when I left the house this morning.

It's good to know that come the apocolypse, bacon will still be with us, making life awesome. I'm riding through the winter morning, wearing my pollution mask which protects me from exhaust emissions, brake lining pollution and all the other stuff that cars are killing us with, and as a bonus acts as a terrific face-warmer; when I catch a strong whiff of cooking bacon as I cycle past the local take-away - amazeballs, i detect none of the pollution stink but bacon makes it past my gold-standard air-filters. 

This makes me ridiculously happy.

The ride continues with that evocative scent for a while, no unpleasant incidents with motorists, just a lovely ride in.  I reach the Harbour Bridge and start pushing my bike up the 86 steps, and boom, my knee flares with pain; riding doesn't aggravate it in the slightest but stairs wake up the dormant tendon pain.

I will not miss these stairs when our promised cycling ramp goes in, hopefully before my retirement from city-life.

It's a great time of year to be riding, i hope you're still doing it too.

From our international news bureau ...

Not so much of a "Bureau" as perhaps a spare sock drawer.

Occasionally the time constraints of running the global media conglomerate that is Spokes(wo)man International Limited means that I cannot be in all places at all times.

And at times like all those times, I delegate to my team of international roving reporters; a motley band of desperado hacks, known for their sky-high expense accounts and low-down dirty morals.

Recently the charming, but definately one-cow town of New Plymouth in Taranaki New Zealand (and as someone who spent some of their teenage years there, I can say that with some authority)  hosted a Cycle Chic night, and I sent my mum along to report on the evening.

Fabulous for New Plymouth, I say. This city has hills and winding country roads which are a cyclist's paradise, were it not for the speeding locals in their utes and clapped out Holdens. But I love that there's apparently enough local bike lovers (or their mothers) to fill a theatre. Bravo !

"400 words on my desk by Monday" I snapped at my mum, as I bit the end off my cigar and spat it onto the newsroom floor. And here we are ...

Brett Cotter loves to cycle, everywhere, especially around Lake Taupo and he loves to inspire others who share his love. In response to the vandalism of the Giant Bike, Taupo’s answer to the Big Banana, he began fundraising film nights around New Zealand after curating international short films. 

I like Big Bikes and I cannot lie ...

I like Big Bikes and I cannot lie ...

And since 2017 is the 200th anniversary since German inventor Karl Drais built the first bike (June 12th or 18th depending on which GOOGLE page you prefer) Brett decided to add a collection of films for Cycle Chic.

The curation of the film evening took 3 years as Brett sourced entries from all around the globe and, aided by a panel of film and bikey types, selected short films which were entertaining and told a story of cycling as inspiration and empowerment.

Who is Cycle Chic?  “She’s an explorer who pushes boundaries, she’s courageous and she’s an advocate for change- all through the power of a bike.”

And now to the night itself. Groups of mainly women but a few blokes as well, braved the cold of a New Plymouth night to fill a lovely boutique theatre. Armed with wine and nibbles we could either sit in a café style seating area downstairs or climb to the gallery (which I did) where the two-seater couches allowed some of us to make new friends. I loved the stage setting for there was a 1950s Raleigh bike, very like the one I had sold bottles to buy so that I could ride to high school. Carrier, skirt guard, chain guard, all there. But this model had brakes on the handlebars where mine had a backbrake. The bike on stage would have been flash in my day.

The films began after an introduction from Brett who described the films, from Africa, Afghanistan, Germany, Australia, England, Japan, America and Sweden. World cinema indeed. And the biggest hum/giggle was given to the announcement that World Naked Bike Ride Day would be marked by a film from Sweden. [Edit, I have been keeping the World Naked Bike Rides from my mother, but apparently the cat is now out of the bag, and flashing it's bits everywhere, so expect much more nudity on these pages forthwith.]

And so to the films.

“She Builds” is the story of a New Yorker woman bike mechanic who builds bike frames in a very clean and organised workshop, assisted by two kittens.

Another bike frame builder, Georgena Terry, has her own cycle design and manufacturing company. This remarkable woman is a polio survivor with a very compromised gait. She never accepted this as a disability so built bikes to help herself and others. Georgena found that ordinary bikes just didn’t cut it, she made her bike with a smaller front wheel which suited her body structure and then began a business to custom build bikes for women. As she says, it’s a lot like buying clothes, women don’t go to the men’s department. Her bikes appreciate the differences in limb lengths, muscle mass placement, and what woman hasn’t appreciated a bike saddle which is woman-fit!

Amanda Ngabirano is a woman urban planner in the capital of Uganda has a big dream to have a cycling lane built in the city of Kampala, easier said than done.

The traffic seemed to be composed of maniacal drivers in minivans, cyclist and motor cyclists, and pedestrians who appeared and disappeared as if by special effects. The stories of children being able to go to school because of their bikes, commuters cutting out the horrendous journeys which had previously stopped them from taking up jobs or from being with their families were inspiring. Let’s hear it for bikes! Again

An English couple were faced with the dilemma of spending their savings on a house deposit in London or buying two bikes and trailers and having a megamoon honeymoon by cycling on the world’s longest off pavement cycle trail from the Mexican border to Canada on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail 4455 kilometres of mud, desert and mountains. Their good humour was amazing, many of the audience felt that they would have happily stayed in the first luxury lodge and hidden out until their expected time was up. Ernest Hemingway said,  “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” And they did, New Mexico to Banff.

Who doesn't love a matching pinny ?

Who doesn't love a matching pinny ?

A London bike kitchen which is an open DIY workshop, supplies all the tools, lots of advice and the important space in a city of apartments is run by Jenni Gwiazdowski with help from enthusiasts and a London Cycling Campaigns grant. The emphasis on access to, not ownership of, tools is a huge plus

Mountain biking on Japan’s Hidden Alps where the winter ski scenes become, in summer, trails for the very daring mountain biker only. Words fail me so the link is here. I had my brakes on in the theatre all the time! 

Female bike riders from Melbourne and their fixation with fixed gear bikes reminded me of those events at country show days, slowest bike rides where you were disqualified if you fell off or deviated from the set lane. Believe me, it was much harder than it looks. But the film was also about the friendships, skill and lovely helmetless rides.

Empowerment by bike, freeing communities and, especially women, was the theme of the night. The story of women cyclists in Afghanistan is truly inspirational as the path to equality, a long and tortuous ride, has to contend with a society where the sight of women straddling cycle seats can cause rage and retribution. Afghani women have come a long way since 2009 and they deserve our admiration always.

Now to the film the audience seemed to be waiting for. A Swedish film of Naked Bike Ride Day. Naked and Swedish excited the three schoolgirls crammed into the double sofa in front of me. Watch the 2 minute video and see why the audience all shouted “aaww” at the end.

So, to quote Brett and his team, ”all bikes, all terrains, all good”. This was a super night’s entertainment and made me think more deeply about cycling and respect those who do. Maybe I will fill the gap in my own transport stable. At my age, pre baby-boomer, maybe it is time to get the tricycle I never had !   

 

 

 

 

Happy 200th Birthday to the Laufmaschine !

The "running machine", which fifty years later started to morph into the bike as we know it today The Laufmaschine – or draisine – was invented by Baron Karl von Drais of Mannheim, Germany, in June 1817.

Drais was a civil servant who created his machine as a horse substitute. In 1815, dust from the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia covered the Northern Hemisphere causing the so-called "year without a summer" of 1816, which led to famines in Europe and beyond in 1817. A shortage of oats in Germany forced the slaughter of many horses. All of these themes are on the €20 coin, which will be released in July 2017.

Bloody cyclists ...

Bloody cyclists ...

The German finance ministry ran a national competition to choose the design of the coin, and this was judged by, among others, the eminent cycle-historian Professor Dr. Hans-Erhard Lessing of Koblenz.

Can you imagine the Australian Department of Finance giving two-thirds of a shit about the birthday of the bicycle, let alone producing a special-edition coin ?  Here in Australian we're only interested in coining it in in terms of how many unreasonable bike-fines we can levy against riders.

Somewhat disturbingly it looks like Donald Drumphf won the competition to design the other side - that angry eagle has ... sinister undertones ...

I'd L'Etape that - Part II

Seeing the registration open for the 2017 L'etape made me realise I'd never posted the follow-up post to our 2016 L'etape adventure post.

So when last we visited this story, our plucky hero had decided against medical and equipment wisdom to race in l’etape du tour down-under.

Ok, so we had done no training, and we had no shoes. It was 7pm on a Friday night prior to the race start at 7am the following day. Jindabyne is a skiing town, so amongst the 47 thousand places to buy ski-boots there were two with bikes shoes. And 98% of those were mountain bike shoes.

We rode at high speed on our commuter bikes (me thanking the stars above that I had brought my trusty electric steed) all over the place, back and forth until we found a pair of shoes that would a) fit the rider and b) fit the bike but only if we also changed the pedals.

Dangyammit, this was not going to be an economical weekend away … I began constructing a packing checklist for Sprocketman for next time;

1. Bike

2. Bike shoes

3. Pedals

4. Bike shoes that fit the bike pedals that fit the bike

5. Bananas

Half an hour later we were the respectively relieved/exasperated owners of yet another pair of cycle shoes.

“What else do you need?” I asked, I hoped patiently.

Having travelled with Sprocketman to a race before, I was used to seeing eskies of home-made, nutritionally sound food for the night before, home-made high-performance gels, organic fruit, special post-race protein drinks.

“Get me a chocolate milk and a bag of jelly snakes” was the order. “And don’t eat any on the way back.”

I made that “uh huh” noise that one does. Which pretty much guaranteed I would eat all the green ones as soon as I got out of the shop. Possibly the orange ones as well.

In the supermarket I had to laugh and then flatten myself against the shelves for safety as swarms of ill-prepared middle-aged white guys ran panicked through the aisles. There was not a banana left in sight, and I heard several of them joking desperately about the availability of banana paddle-pops.

Woolworths Jindabyne made a small fortune that night I am quite certain.

Back to the hotel I rode, utterly laden down with items Sprocketman had bought, plus a few things to get me through the next day, as he cycled back to Woolworths yet again to buy a razor to shave his legs for the race. Later that night it looked as though we had ritually slaughtered a small dark hamster in the hotel’s bath; eh, whatever it takes right?

We ate wisely, had an early night, and I don’t think slept a wink either of us.

While the l’etape organisers were doing this for the first time in Australia, it’s fair to say this was not their first rodeo, and so we were dismayed to learn there weren’t enough shuttle buses to get all the riders to the starting point; anybody at this point who hadn’t put their name down for a berth on the bike bus was going to have to get there under their own steam.

Guess which group we fell into?

So at 5am on race day, Sprocketman awoke, got ready and drove himself and his bike to the starting point, with road closures, diversions and a queue of similarly left-to-their-own-devices riders, the 17 km to Bullocks Flat took 30 minutes. Just what your nerves need before a big ride.

I do not know what happened after we hugged farewell, and I wished him a good race and to have fun. I was hoping for automated updates via text, generated by the chip in Sprocketman’s bike frame. These had been a balm for frayed nerves during the 13 hours of the Falls Creek 3 Peaks Ride last year – even though they were only generated as Sprocketman passed key race points approximately 3 hours apart, it gave me a huge surge of relief to know he hadn’t (yet) ridden off a cliff, been in a crash, hit a wombat etc etc, all the usual things that prey on one’s imagination when you don’t quite know exactly where your partner is at any given point in time.

You think I have a flair for the dramatic, have you ever seen a fully grown wombat? They are fast (faster than Usain Bolt in fact) muscular little bastards and will destroy anything in their path. Know as the "keg on legs" they are pure strength and bad temper in one furry chunky body and can lift cars by burrowing underneath them and then just standing up.

So we leave Sprocketman to his own devices for several paragraphs  - what did I, a utility/commuter cyclist at best, a non-racer, do during my day alone in a wonderful summer playground of outdoorsy-ness and athleticism?

Well, first thing, I made a lovely cup of tea, opened the curtains to the spectacular sunrise over the lake and snuggled back into bed with my book.

And I stayed there for about 2 hours. Excellent.

And then about the same time as 3,500 people balanced themselves on two-wheels and wobbled off down a bloody big hill, I dressed and had a full breakfast at the hotel dining room while reading the Saturday news. I walked to the lake’s edge, threw my toast crusts to a passing bird, and headed back to dress for a ride.

This was exciting; I had the whole of the road-closed race route to play on. I wheeled Alan out of our hotel suite, after taking a few pictures of him on the balcony, threw my leg over the top tube rather ungracefully, as I am still getting used to a diamond frame. Note to self, watch a few women’s pro races and see how they get on their bikes without dislodging a hip.

And we were off !

Face much forwarder and lower than on my dutch bike – much closer to a racing pose than I was used to or had really wanted – but here we were, wide open roads, no cars – let ‘er rip.

And I did. I raced through Jindabyne village, onto the bike path, back to the start of the road closures and continued that loop several times. Despite the fact that I was not wearing a race number, and was several hours ahead of the expected time for even the fastest rider, I got waves and cheers and offers of free drinks from the spectators gathered along the roadside.

“No, I’m not racing, just having a fun ride.” I said for the nth thousandth time. “Good on you love, you’re miles ahead of the blokes!”

After that I gave up and either gracefully accepted the plaudits or deflected the conversation to admiring the local scenery/local enthusiasm/yellow bikes.

I looped back along the path to avoid my fans, and still practicing gear selection and changing, kept riding until I judged it time for real cyclists to be approaching the finish line; I sat myself and my bike under a tree and clapped and cheered for everyone passing; red of face or relaxed, some people barely making it, some deciding to burn their last energy reserves in a sprint finish – it was great and several hours passed without my really noticing. The supporters across the road from me had been in place for many more hours and far more beers and their support was loud and long.

But as the tail end of riders drifted past, and then the official race cars and police cars rolled through I realised there were no more riders. Where was Sprocketman?

How had I missed him? Because he doesn’t race with a phone, there was no point calling him, but I did anyway, just in case …

Bugger. I hopped on Alan and rode the rest of the race course to the finish, through the crowds and nada. Not there. Rode back to our hotel. Not there. Rode back to the finish, checked the physio and massage tents, checked the crowd at the awards presentation. At a bit of a loss as to where he would be, I checked with the organisers, and then rode over to the medical tent. No, no middle-aged white MAMIL heart-attack victims, and he wasn’t on the list of crash victims – three riders taken out on the first descent by a wild deer, geez you’d be cross wouldn’t you?

Could he have gone over a cliff while riding alone? This seemed the obvious answer and I paused to think about the logistics of abseiling down to rescue him, when my phone pinged with a text message from an unknown number.

“Borrowd phone, on bus, being taken back to car.”

Ooh, that wasn’t great. The bus meant a crash or a medical issue …