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Cycling



The Bells Line of Road

To prepare for the Three Peaks Challenge, which Geoff, Matt, and I had entered ourselves in, we decided to do a long ride two weeks before. Geoff and Matt had decided to head towards the Central Coast. As I was not as fit as they were, I decided to ride on my own so as not to hinder them or exhaust myself.

I went shopping with Geoff on Saturday, after our date at the Police Station. I ended up buying three cans of creamed rice (rice pudding in Geoff’s language), three bags of jelly beans, and three oat bars with yoghurt.

I packed these into that pack that attaches to the rack that, in turn, attaches to the rear of my bike. I also added six NoDoze tablets (double shot in a tablet), extra Endura in a chinese take-away container for plum sauce, suntan lotion, a rubbish bag, and a plastic spoon. All this weighed 3.2 kgs.

Breakfast consisted of a large portion of scrambled eggs on toast, pineapple juice, a water bottle full of water/endura, tea, and two slices of toast and jam.

I set off at twenty past seven to see where 100kms along The Bells Line of Road would take me. First thing I noticed was that I needed two hands to lift the bike from its stand.

Coming up from Murphy’s Bridge, I realised that the load extending from the rear of the bike enhanced the resonance of the bike sway, so I quickly learnt to modify the extent to which I threw the bike.

Coming up Bell Bird Hill, I pulled into the lookout, where Geoff had previously spied a toilet block, and finished off my first bottle of water/endura. I then refilled it, adding endura to it. I ate the first can of creamed rice at the old grass skiing place and the top of Mount Kurrajong.

Then descending, I managed to reach, what was, at that time, my fastest ever speed on the bike, 76.2 km/hr, thanks, largely to the new brake blocks, which Geoff had recommended, which I had fitted yesterday. Magic stuff. You no longer brake when you are going to be going too fast, only when you are going too fast.

By the time I passed through the rambling (cf Danny’s email) township of Bilpin, I had one and three-quarter bottles, so had not topped up.

The sixty km mark found me in Berambing, just beyond Bilpin, so I consumed there one of the oat bars, while calling Steve, hoping to catch some of you at the café. When Steve answered, I had a mouthful of the oat slice, that was busily draining every last drop of moisture from my mouth, so, initially had a bit of trouble responding. I also collected a message that I had missed a call from Geoff at this time, so rang him back, leaving a message for him to ring me, which he did. At this point I found that Geoff and Matt were already at Woy Woy, after a leisurely ride (some new definition of “leisurely” that I’m unfamiliar with).

At Berambing, I opened one of the bags of jelly beans, to consume along the ride. I found that they took a lot of chewing, and need to be chased with water. Also, it is quite hard to breathe, as heavily as I needed to, while chewing. I eventually managed to consume about a third of the pack (at the cost of much of my water); the other two packs survived unopened.

There was then 25 kms to Bell. Those 25kms include Mount Tomah, Mount Charles, Mount Bell, several climbs without names, and Mount Wilson, before the final climb to Bell. There is no civilisation between Bilpin and Bell (Berambing is merely a sign post), that is, no source of water. I ran out of water probably about 10kms into this stretch, and by the time I’d reached Bell, at the 85 km mark, I was quite distressed.

During this stage, I viewed each approaching speed limit sign as a hopeful indication that we might be entering the township of Bell, only to find that, upon getting a little closer, it was a 100 km/hr speed limit. I had not seen any signs that indicated how far it was to Bell.

I kept myself going by promising myself a large cold coke when I reached Bell.

At the last of these 100 km/hr signs, I spied a B&B. It was unattended, so I helped myself to the tap in the front lawn, filling one water bottle, consuming it, then refilling it and the other, without adding endura to either.

The tap was probably tank water, so, according to Geoff, my body is probably, now, a writhing sea of cryptosporidium and giardia, but it tasted good.

I then polished off the second can of creamed rice, along with a few more swigs of water, which I then replenished. I got back on the bike, and road up the climb to find that I was now at Bell, a ghost town, so the only amenity was the deserted B&B that I had already helped myself to.

At Bell, being still rather distressed from the lack of water, I decided against the 18 km, or so, descent to Lithgow, which would have taken me a few kms past the 100 km mark.

Traffic wise, most drivers on this leg of the journey were very good. The only truck that passed left me a full lane. Teams of motor bikes and of proud Toranas were also well behaved. The traffic was reasonably light. On the down side, I had one driver drive unnecessarily close, and another, who, for no reason, gave me a prolonged blast of the horn.

The return trip started well, with a nice cool breeze in the back pushing me up to Mount Wilson. I was more careful with my consumption of water on this leg, knowing that it would be over 25kms before I could refill.

At Mount Wilson I returned a call from Margaret, finding her upset over losing her necklace in the surf at Kilcare.

Shortly into the ride, I had my second encounter with a driver wanting to get too close. I saw him approach in my mirrors, so moved to the left of the shoulder marking to find the driver moving his car’s tyres onto the shoulder marking.

Somewhere between between Mount Bell and Mount Tomah, half-way up a climb, I fielded a call from Steve, and had a pleasant chat, before trying to restart the bike on the slope.

I pulled over at the Botanical Gardens to eat the second of the oat bars, and looked for water there. No luck, though, if I had the inclination to ride up the drive to the café, I would have found some.

I then descended from Mount Tomah. Who needs coke to revive you when you can do 82.6 km/hr. I’ll have to do this with Steve one day and see what I can get up to by slingshoting past him.

Despite this level of revival, when I reached one of the myriad of cafés in Bilpin, I took up Matt’s advice and bought a coke. I had only consumed one of the water bottles by this time, so I had that refilled and added the remaining endure to both.

Along this stretch the traffic had picked up considerably, and I was passed by several platoons of vehicles. In two of these platoons, an occupant of a vehicle somewhere around position six, swore at me. One was a motor cyclist, the other the passenger in a car pulling a boat on a trailer. The road was straight and I was nearly touching the shoulder marking in each case. The only reason that I can surmise for the outbursts, was that those in question, were a little hazy on the elements of mathematics and physics, concluding, upon seeing me, that the reason that the lead car had been doing, say, sixty, for the last, say, five kilometres, was that he was trying to pass a cyclist doing, say, twenty. This does imply an incredibly low level of intelligence, but so does swearing at cyclists.

Half-way up the climb to Mount Kurrajong, a damn march fly decides to attach itself to my calf muscle. Not much you can do while climbing. However, that greedy bastard was still sucking by the time I reached the grass skiing, not wise.

At the grass-skiing place I consumed the last of the cans of creamed rice. These are very easy to eat, and I thoroughly recommend them. Geoff, however, warns against carrying them in your jersey pockets, in case you wind up on your back. Be an idea to transfer them to chinese take-away containers.

I was feeling pretty pleased at this point. All the climbs were done, I felt good, and I had only the descent and the flat ride home.

So comes the descent down Bell Bird Hill. Hot air in my face and body, and the sun soaking into my black knicks, heating my buttocks. Every other time I’d come down there (including three times in the last ten days), I felt chilled by the rush of air on my sweaty skin.

Fortunately, by the time I’d reached North Richmond, the air was a little cooler, offering some cooling as I rode, but conditions were still very uncomfortable, and the water bottles had heated up so that each swig settled uneasily on my stomach.

I should have gotten myself fresh water at Clarenden, but with home just a bit further on, I pushed ahead. This was my big mistake. The other mistake was God’s for the letting the day get so hot.

Around this time I also started experiencing cramps, but found that I could keep them at bay by increasing my cadence. My right big toe was also starting to hurt. This has happened towards the end of previous long rides as well. I’ll have the bike shop check my shoes.

The closer I got to home, the further the remaining distance seemed to get, until, I finally parked the bike at the front gate and looked at the daunting prospect of getting from there to the door.

Weighing myself I found that I had lost 4 kgs, though, this figure should, perhaps, be discounted by the weight of the bottle of water/endura that I had consumed at breakfast.

I got a couple of towels to protect the lounge, then plonked. Fortunately, Jessica had arrived just before me, so I had her fetch me two bottles of ginger beer. This I followed with a large glass of milk with Musashi, which Mike put me onto, then followed by a large glass of water. I should have had another milk with Musashi, but the stomach was full.

At this time I attempted to remove my top, with the intention of hopping in the pool, but, with the top half up found myself writhing about in an agony of cramps in all the leg muscles, yelling and screaming, finding relief in no position (if anyone remembers my performance after the Tour de Hills: that pales into insignificance). I suspect that this exhibition will leave an indelible impression on young John. Jessica was trying her best not to laugh, but failed miserably. “Gramps got cramps” I heard her teaching John.

Five minutes later, I found relative peace lying flat on my back.

I finally made it to the pool, and now feel much better.


Statistics:

Distance:170 kms
Average speed:21.0 km/hr
Top speed:82.6 km/hr
Elapsed time:10 hours.

What I’ve learnt:

There are a lot of turtles about at present.