Spokes(Wo)Man

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

 

Fuck it, ride anyway

Back to Square … 3 maybe?

Regular readers of this blog would know that I have not been a regular rider of my bicycle-cycle this winter.

This has made me quite sad. As well as SAD. I love my bike, and I love the feeling I get from riding it.

And as if having almost 12 weeks continuous cold, sinus and flu wasn’t debilitating enough – this year I spent so much time laid up in bed that I seized up my sciatic nerve. Motherf*cker, it has been SO painful. It’s like having part of your body locked off from movement, and when you try … screamingly painful. I’ve barely been able to physically get myself out of bed, or an armchair without floundering around like a beached … well, flounder I guess.

My osteopath gets married this coming Friday (congrats Ricey!)  and I can’t help but think that I have single-handedly paid for much of her wedding. Eh, you’re welcome.

Anyway, Ricey diligently worked on my latest area of incapacitation, gave me homework in the form of several stretches, which let’s face it, I will mostly forget to do, and told me to slowly increase my daily walking to “loosen things up”.

I chose to interpret this last as “go for a nice long bike ride”.  Sounds legit eh?

This is the same thinking that when my nutritionist wearily asks me to eat more fruit, sees me sitting here with a bag of posh, nectarine-flavoured jelly babies.

Having finally regained enough breath to give a my bike a go, I decided to ignore the debilitating back pain, because when has that ever really stopped anyone? 

But I wasn’t stupid about it (or not much more so than the original level of stupidity in thinking this was a good idea) – I decided that Sprocketman and I should go gently explore the M7 cycleway – a purpose-built, separated bike path which runs along the M7 freeway for about 40km. I didn't fancy having to be on public roads, with drivers and the heightened sense of alertness/impending death that one usually requires when cycling in Sydney. So a bike path seemed like a lovely compromise. To make the slower speed official, I left my basket on my bike; to make it clear I was riding at “gentlewomen’s pace”. This has had unintended consequences on my bike camera, as you will soon see.

Panoramic shot of my bike basket - but note the high walls keeping murderous cars at bay

Panoramic shot of my bike basket - but note the high walls keeping murderous cars at bay

It’s interesting that someone in NSW was able to plan ahead and install a fantastic dedicated bike/walking track along a newish freeway – unfortunately it runs from Sydney’s Hill District to Southern Woop-Woop and is therefore of bugger all use to most commuter or utility riders; but hey, someone at least tried. The biggest danger on the bike path is venomous snakes sunning themselves on the bitumen, and I’d happily take one of those bastards over riding alongside a speeding semi-trailer with an amphetamine-popping driver texting while driving.

Sydney bushland surrounds, aaaand my bike basket again

Sydney bushland surrounds, aaaand my bike basket again

And what a fantastic path it is.  We zigzagged back and forth to find the start, and then spotted several people in bikes who we followed, and then boom! The loveliest, wide enough to ride two abreast path, separated from the traffic, with it’s own dedicated bridges. It was, quite frankly, surreal. It was, Netherlandish.

Separated cycle track, with it's own bridges; wonderful community infrastructue.

Separated cycle track, with it's own bridges; wonderful community infrastructue.

As I said to Sprocketman, as we rode along at a gentle pace side-by-side and chatted, this was gold standard for NSW. If we had cycling infrastructure like this going from any of the outer-suburbs of Sydney to the CBD, you’d get literally thousands of new riders commuting daily by bike. Thousands of people out of cars and freeing up more public transport. I’d even ride in the rain; it’d be that safe.

Oooh, you can see a bit of the path surface when I corner ...

Oooh, you can see a bit of the path surface when I corner ...

There’s a big boom in road infrastructure going on in NSW at present, namely the highly controversial WestConnex and the less publically abused NorthConnex, one of the construction outposts for which was snuck into our neighbourhood. They are abominations in their own right.

They’ve been horrific in their destruction of bushland, habitat for endangered native animals; the compulsorily acquired homes of people at sub-market values and the blatantly dishonest financial manoeuvrings of the NSW government; it’s the stuff of nightmares quite frankly. Some of it brings me to tears, albeit furiously angry tears where I’d cheerfully assassinate Mike Baird and Duncan Gay. Lucky for Australian politicians that we have sensible gun restrictions in this country. And that I am inherently very lazy. And apparently you can just call this sort of thing "locker room talk" and not be held accountable for your words.

But because this is a biking blog; Imma stick with the theme and ask “why couldn’t they have added a few extra metres and incorporated a safely separated bike path to their ugly new car lanes at the same time?”

There’s a famous quote, beloved of bike advocates globally;

Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants. You’re not really getting at the fundamental problem that’s going on.

Adding separate bike infrastructure to new roads is a bit like the obese NSW, burping after finishing dinner, suddenly refusing second helpings and saying, “ I think… I think I might take the dog for a walk.

I mean it’s quite possible the dog has long since died of neglect but it’s a nod to what needs to be done.

So there we were, riding alongside each other, having a very pleasant chat, making room for occasional walkers, and runners, and a lovely big family all out walking their dog together; it was the nicest piece of infra I have used in a long while. Because the path starts and terminates in the middle of nowhere, we were riding through areas of preserved bushland, with birdlife and native flora everywhere. 

Bloody good job. Along the 40km of track there are something like 60 entry points, other local bike paths from residential areas converging on the main path; some of the side tracks leading off to parklands, river reserves, bushland regeneration areas. I loved everything about that ride of discovery.

Car-free bridges

Car-free bridges

Except. Oh. My back. And my arse. Having not ridden for more than a couple of kilometres to and from the food markets for several months, after a laughable 10km of steady riding my lower back decided to start screaming at me. I thought about what Ricey had said and thought "hmm". 

This track was 40km, and I had intended Sprocketman and I to cycle it both ways, and try and add an extra 20km to reach my first century. We'd packed my basket with bananas, drinks, muesli bars, sunscreen. We were planning on having a day of it. 

Hahahahhahahah. 

I stood on the pedals to stretch my back, I rode at weird angles to relieve my backside which had definitely lost it's imperviousness to saddle soreness. I remembered then, that it often took a day or so for one beauteoux to re-acquire saddle affinity. Great. only 90km to go.

Reluctantly a few more kilometres on I pulled over to stretch and have a drink, and to confess to poor bloody Sprocketman that I was in some pain and bit worried I was compounding my original injury. I'd really pushed for us to do this ride today, so I was a bit chagrined.

But he again proved his worth as a riding and a life partner by saying rather thoughtfully,  "I think I've left my wallet and mobile phone back on the dashboard of the car...."

"Bloody typical." I said happily. "Well, I won't be able to enjoy the rest of this ride worrying your wallet and phone might be stolen, we better go STRAIGHT BACK RIGHT NOW." 

I tsk'd at him and gave him a big "thank you" hug, and set off to ride back. 

Sprocketman finally takes the lead

Sprocketman finally takes the lead

I spent the evening with a TeNS machine shocking me at random intervals whilst cuddling a lava-like heat-bag. Bliss.

But we will go back and try it again. When my back is better and I have re-acquired arse-impervioscity. And in the meantime, my goal is to be back commuting regularly by Wednesday 12 October, or Ride2Work Day 2016.

The 1 year anniversary of my plunge into both biking and blogging...