Archives for posts with tag: Bike Riding

Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Maximum darkness – minimal daylight. In the Southern Hemisphere we host the Winter Solstice on 21 June while our Northern brethren bask in the long sun. But what should one do on this longest of nights?

Rug up? No.

Suit up? Hmmm…

Grab the bike lights? Now we are talking.

Helmets? You bet!

What to do? Night ride.

My boy, ‘The Pok’, and my little girl, ‘Kiki’, knew exactly what to do. They grabbed their helmets, and donned their jackets. I grabbed the bike pump and inflated the tyres. After a bit of faffing about we were ready to roll.

It was cold, but not too much. Nothing that a set of sleeves wouldn’t fix. Into the dark we headed, ‘The Pok’ on his Specialized and ‘Kiki’ in tow in the Chariot bike carrier.

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We took to our regular harbourside route. And lo and behold the first race was declared by ‘The Pok’. As usual he called the race after he had punched it on the cadence. But his “Super” Mario Cipollini antics were not going to undo me this time. Papa bear had to lay the smack down, and beat my 5 year old son. I’m not competitive (much), he just needed to learn a bit of humility from his Dad.

‘Kiki’ was giggling in the carrier, lapping up the speed.

We continued around the wharves dodging bollards and weaving between light poles. This was the first ride that ‘The Pok’ didn’t stop pedalling going uphill. He put his head down and kept on pedalling. I rode beside him cheering him on, and his sense of joy at the top of the small hill was awesome to watch.

I turned behind to look at my little girl and she was sound asleep, oblivious to the two wheel fun.

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‘The Pok’ took the lead and told me to follow. Hugging the waterfront, we were hitting the deadline to return home and get the kids to bed.

Circling back we had one final race, and the little man won… well, let’s just say he deserved at least one win.

‘The Pok’ pulled the pin and I grabbed his Specialized in my left hand while pushing my bike and ‘Kiki’ in the carrier back home with my right hand on my stem.

‘Kiki’ woke up just as we got into the garage and everybody was happy. 5 night kilometres in the bag and a brilliant night ride with my two kids. Looking forward to some more two wheel fun throughout the Winter months.

For the record – ‘The Pok’ hit 23kph in the sprint. Impressive for a little 5 year old.

In Australia we celebrate the Queen’s birthday around the second weekend of June. It is the official start of the ski season in Australia, and we get a three day long weekend. Never mind the fact that Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday is on a different day. So I took the opportunity to take the family on a mini road-trip to Country NSW, South West of Canberra. My Uncle and Aunt in their retirement have just moved to a town called Cootamundra, so this is a perfect excuse to go for a trip and pay them a visit. Even better, we had a second excuse for a trip to visit my cousin (their son) who is doing his medical studies intern year at a town called Young, some 50km North of Cootamundra. If I was going to go on a road trip, I had to bring the bike.

The first stop on our trip was the major regional centre of Goulburn. We chose this town to break up the trip for the kids, and grabbed a bite to eat at the local Worker’s Club bistro. But I was also lining up a morning ride around the town the next morning. Little did I realise that this would be ill-fated. At 6am it was -2 degrees Celsius (28 degrees Fahrenheit) and foggy. This is the coldest weather that I had ever set out to ride in and the one thing that I don’t have in my kit bag is gloves for this temperature. I was wearing full-fingered gloves, but they were only temperature rated to 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). I was struggling after 2km in, where an intense pain began attacking every single one of my fingers and thumbs. By 4km the pain was so intense that it felt like screws being driven into the bones in my fingertips. This is the first time I had to cut short my ride due to weather. I couldn’t even pull off my gloves and helmet when I got back to the motel after 9km. If only…

On to Cootamundra

The morning was not all lost, so after the kids took to the local park in Goulburn we headed off to Cootamundra. It is a couple of hours drive Southwest from Goulburn (which itself is a couple of hours drive Southwest of Sydney). The weather had warmed up to a beautiful bright sunny Winter’s day with a gentle breeze, topping out at 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit). After a hearty welcome from my Uncle and a tour of their new abodes in Cootamundra, I kitted up for round two for the day. No maps or planned routes, just the new Speed Steed and a couple of bidons. Off I set and it was glorious. First I headed Northwest, into a very light headwind. I hit a dead end at the foot of a small hill where the road had gone from paved to compacted dirt gravel road. Unfortunately my attempt at riding “Strade Bianche” style would have to wait for another date as this road continued onto private property.

I doubled back on my route, heading back into town. But the ride didn’t stop on my return, and I headed out again but this time West towards the town of Griffith. The road was nice and wide, with little to no traffic and no dead ends this time. Then about 4km out of town was an intersection where I saw a rider coming towards me from the right. The locals always know where to ride, so I turned right and headed out North nodding my thanks for guidance to the rider as he passed me. Ahead of my on the horizon I could see another rider probably about 2km in front of me. That is how straight the road was, I could see more than 2km ahead on the tarmac. More importantly, I had a target to catch. My Cervelo S3 responded and the I picked up the speed past 36 clicks. 10km later I caught my prey, who started struggling when the road picked up to over 5% gradient. As I overtook him, I gave him a shout and even though he didn’t have the legs that day it was clear he was enjoying his ride too. I climbed another hill a further 5km ahead and then judged that daylight was waning – time to turn around. But not before posing the bike against the beautiful countryside.

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The return into town was great, and mostly downhill. I took the longer route back into town which landed me South of where I started. A few more detours with some short sharp hill climbs and it was time to wrap up the ride before sunset with the inevitable descent of winter night chill. That was not before I swung by the local bottleshop in the town centre to grab my Uncle and Aunt a nice bottle of Pinot Noir, which is the Australian version of the Burgundy drop.

I will definitely come out and ride here again, given that my relatives have set up base here. The roads are not perfect, but are decent enough to have a good spin with lots of different routes around and neighbouring towns within an 80km round trip. The day may have started with a painful abort, but finished with a beautiful winter day ride leaving me with a smile on my face.

So life and work (and not necessarily in that order) have put a damper on my blog over the last 6-12 months. The bike has also become a secondary priority. My road steed, my 2009 Trek Madone 4.7, has been getting fat grazing in its stable (or was that its engine). The bike really did open my eyes to a different world of fitness, exploration, and adventure. And with it I had made a whole heap of new friends with a common interest – cycling. But it, like its owner, has become old and creaky. I have taken good care of the Trek and prolonged it use with regular replacement of the consumables. I gradually introduced upgrades to the point where the only original thing left on it was the frame and forks. Now, even with all the TLC, it creaks with every pedal stroke. The mechanics at my local bike shop through the last couple of services have arrived at only one conclusion – the carbon frame is getting long in the tooth.

I have been eyeing up dream bikes and replacements for a few years now, but my fussiness and budget have limited my selection. The criteria: aero but comfortable, aesthetically striking but not garish, fast and stiff, bang for the buck, and clearly better deserving than its future engine.

My dream bike? A Cervelo S3. You know, the one Thor Hushovd won the World Championship with in Geelong. The one that Jack Bauer used in the ultimately futile attempt to hold off the peloton at the TDF. The one a young Dutchman named Dylan van Baarle used to stick it to Kwiatowski and Wiggins at the 2014 Tour of Britain to take top spot. Now with the 2015 models being disposed of to make way for the 2016 models (with the main difference being… a paint job), I am able to pick up an older year model for a bargain. I saw my new steed online a couple of weeks back, got fitted up on it on Saturday, and with the adjustments to the contact points will pick it up later this week. I am giddy like a kid at Christmas – can’t wait!

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Sydney Harbour is without a doubt beautiful. Us Sydneysiders are quite lucky to have at the heart of our city this maritime masterpiece. Multiple levels of government have been making quite a bit of effort over the last few years to make the harbour foreshore accessible to people. I think that there is also a master plan to connect a continuous stretch of foreshore from Woolloomooloo (East of the Opera House – and yes I spelt that suburb correctly) all the way through to Balmain. So when the plans to redevelop the Western maritime shoreline of the Sydney CBD began, the opportunity to redefine the shoreline and reconnect a previously inaccessible strip of land arose. This part of my city is named Barangaroo.

Barangaroo was the name of the wife of one of Australia’s most famous indigenous Australians – Bennelong. She was a powerful woman from the Aboriginal clan of Cammeraygal, being a key figure in the local community.

After decades of construction and harbour reclamation, the original shape of the shoreline had been lost to the square shape of concrete docks. The plan to introduce a public park on the Barangoo shoreline was opened up to a design competition, and the winning design was a beautiful landscape proposal that returns the shape of the original shoreline. The driving force for the introduction of this park was Australia’s greatest Prime Minister from the few decades – Paul Keating. And we can now enjoy the fruits of the labour of the architects, landscapers, and builders who gave us this new park – and cycleway too 🙂

C’mon, you knew that I would throw my two wheel endeavours into this.

So we took off on our bikes as a family, me riding alongside the Pok on his bike and my wife riding her bike with our Chariot trailer in tow shuttling Kiki. The distance from our place to the Barangaroo headland is just shy of 6km, a big distance for my little guy. But the reward was this:

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The shoreline has been recreated with large hewn sandstone blocks. The stone that submerges with the tide has already taken to the green aquatic colours. There are two tracks the follow the shoreline. One which is composed of compacted earth for walkers, and a second asphalted path for two wheel steeds and runners. The views out over the harbour are great, and uninterrupted out to the inner West and the ANZAC Bridge.

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The sandstone blocks are quite large, but not off-limits to walk on. Though the blocks do make you feel kinda small, but at the same time Balmain seems strangely within arms reach.

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At the Northern most point of the headline was the opportune time for a refuelling pit-stop.

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This gave me a chance to explore the park a bit more while the kids snacked. I rode up the hill to get a better view of the landscape of the park. The trees that have been planted have not matured yet, so hopefully in a few more years the shade will be more prominent.

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My little Kiki was asleep the whole way to the park until we stopped. She was pleasantly surprised when we she woke up.

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The view from the headland to the Sydney Harbour Bridge is pretty spectacular too, and the elevation provides a unique perspective. The short climb is fun to ride up.

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The old maritime control tower which directed shipping is still in place and presides over the entire park.

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Some of the sculpture pieces are pretty cool. This mini “stonehenge” from sandstone blocks was the site of a little game of hide and seek between The Pok, Kiki, and myself.

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And I can never get enough of taking photos of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but it is the colours in the stone that are a highlight to me.

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We took the opportunity to have a few race sprints between The Pok and myself. My little man is turning into a bit of a speed demon on the wheels, hitting over 20kph in a burst of speed. Not bad for a five year old. But all that energy output lead to more refueling for the boy – a hot chocolate did the trick.

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All up a great family ride and what turned out to be the longest ride that my little man has done – 13km! He loved it as did my wife and little girl. And we are lucky to have a new addition to our harbour front.

This is how I will be spending my insomnia time during the month of July. Vive Le Tour de France 2015!

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I never thought I would be posting this before my little girl Kiki had begun to walk, but here is my Friday Fone Foto. Kiki on her bike (quad bike), and she is loving it! Definitely Daddy’s girl.

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I definitely can’t take the credit for this shot, but it definitely brought a smile to my face when my wife sent me the photo.

With Summer gone and the long slow approach to Winter now set in, I love getting out on the bike. It is dark early in the morning, and the air is fresh and crisp. Call me a sadist, but I love it even more when it is wet. So when my riding buddy AC looked at the weather report for Sunday, wet and windy, my response was simple – “Let’s Roll!”

So as the spray was flying up from my wheels I got to thinking “why do I love riding in the wet so much?” Here are my 5 top reasons to roll in the wet.

1. It brings out your inner Belgian

Admit it – when you are watching the Belgian Spring Classics, and it is wet and muddy, don’t tell me that you are not a tiny bit jealous of how much fun those guys are having? And the crazy Belgian cycling fans enjoy watching the races with a beer in one hand and fried potatoes in the other. Extra kudos if your wet ride route will include some pavé. Extra extra kudos if you can ride like Boonen.

wip0407_102. It hones your riding skills

Wet road, the detritus of trees all about, puddles, potholes, and your rear wheel sliding out… all makes for a better rider. It is a pretty intense riding experience too because you are riding in a heightened sense of alert.

gty-4519078943. Keeps your core body temperature down

So long as you have a good gilet or waterproof shell, your body will remain cool. Except for that squelching sensation between your socks and boots – LOL. Compared to riding in the stinking hot Australian Summer and draining my bidons every 2 hours, I know what I prefer.

WRJ02-Loc-AW14-01BTW – look how happy she is to be riding 🙂

4. The routes are empty

All the fair weather cyclists are nowhere to be seen. Mostly they are hiding under their [pick all that are applicable] doonahs, duvets, quilts, blankets. The fair weather car drivers are noticeably absent too.

nature_trees_forest_wet_roadsHeaven huh?

5. There is no excuse not to clean your bike afterwards

Every wet ride must be followed by some TLC for your steed. This is quality bonding time that you should cherish.

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When all is said and done, at the end of a wet ride you feel a massive sense of achievement and joy, no matter how slowly you rolled to stay upright. You feel Iike you are ALIVE! Just ask Heinrich Haussler…

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So next time rain is forecast for your ride, rug up, hi-viz up, and ride 🙂

For the record, my wet Sunday ride was 50km of damp goodness.

We were fortunate to have spent the weekend just past up in the New South Wales Hunter Valley – wine country! Of course with a drive of just over two hours it provided me the opportunity to pack my road bike steed on the roof and plan for a ride. I had never ridden up in the wine country before, but have driven through the valley on many occasions. What I recall is the poor quality of the roads up there in certain sections, and many of the smaller vineyards being access via unsealed roads. So to be honest, I was a bit nervous riding up there – particularly with the speed differential between me as a cyclist and the cars travelling at 80kph (50mph). And being wine country, I had noticed that many car drivers are a bit tipsy wobbly behind the wheel. I planned two morning rides on the Saturday and the Sunday, but this trip is the only one where I prioritise the vine before the bike and I only managed to squeeze in a Saturday morning ride (I know that this breaks Rule #11 – I will pay penance at Velofix later this week).

I set off at 6:30 on Saturday morning, and what a glorious start to the day it was. The sun rising over the hills gradually illuminating the vineyards from long shadows. The air was fresh, wine country is farming country. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza, which provided me good access to high quality tarmac to roll on from the get go. The first part of my ride was up North through Lovedale.

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The vineyards on some of the properties are quite close to the roads, and you get a real sense of what you are riding through. It kind of makes you thirsty…

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The other non-wine farms are just as picturesque. This view of the rising sun through the eucalyptus trees created stunning shadows for many metres along the northern stretch of my route.

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I was disappointed that there were no grapes on the vines, but it was the wrong time of the harvest season. Still, the weather has been pretty good, the vines looked healthy, so hopefully it will be a bumper year.

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It was not flat on this ride, and as soon as you get off the main roads it becomes quite bumpy and gravelly. There was also a fair amount of roadwork going on that is not due to be completed until next year some time. For the stretches that were complete, the road was smooth as glass – the sort of road that cyclists dream about on a perfect ride. But it was far too bumpy for my liking through Pokolbin on 23mm tyres. It was so bumpy that as I headed back through the Eastern section of Pokolbin, the rattling shook my light completely out of its socket at 45kph. I had to slam on the brakes and backtrack to see if I could find where it had bounced off to. Fortunately it was still working and easily found, albeit with a few battle scars inflicted by some harsh gravel. While there I decided to ride up to Hope Estate winery, where I got married. It was surreal being in the saddle riding up the long driveway, knowing that my wife and two children were sleeping back at the hotel. Since we were married back in 2008 the property has changed significantly, not to mention the paving of the driveway.

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As I was heading back, the wind was beginning to pick up quite strongly. Later that afternoon as we were driving from cellar door to door I noticed the wind was properly buffeting everything. By the time I headed back the morning had well and truly arrived, with the South Eastern part of the valley in full morning glow. Quite a sight.

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I will definitely ride up here again, but now better prepared. Here are my tips for riding up in the Hunter Valley:

  1. Recon your route in the car properly (via a few cellar door tastings if you can). The conditions of many stretches of road were not what I remembered them to be. And for whatever reason, many of the roads are not very well maintained.
  2. Go early – the valley is practically asleep before 8am and the roads are only being traveled by sober drivers who are trying to go about their business. For this ride I only passed one other cyclists and perhaps was passed by 30 cars in total.
  3. Swap out your rubber to some wider and harder wearing tyres (28mm if you can). It was like riding pave or cyclocross in some sections. Which leads me to my next point…
  4. Consider riding a cyclocross or flat bar hybrid / mountain bike. While the road bike was good for riding on the good roads, there are many unsealed roads that are more akin to riding the Strade Bianche.
  5. If drinking copious amounts of wine the day/night before then hydrate up. I was parched before I had even started riding.
  6. Be prepared for the elements. It is windy and exposed through the valley, and the sun is quite strong.
  7. Enjoy the view! There is no point racing through this area, it is picturesque and beautiful. I made sure to take it in while in the saddle and I definitely noticed many different things riding than I have ever done behind the wheel of a car.
  8. Be self sufficient for the ride, nothing is open in the early morning. It would appear that the valley does not kick in until 10am, so sourcing any refills would have been a no go.
  9. Watch the speed difference between you and the cars. While most of the roads I rode on were marked at 80kph, I would not have been surprised many were travelling faster.
  10. Make sure you ride up there! I was contemplating leaving the bike behind, but it was a beautiful ride up there in the wine country.

 

Last weekend’s big ride really cooked me. I mean really cooked! My quads haven’t felt that sore in a long time. I know the reasons why; not enough tempo rides (slower 60-80km spins), dehydration, and wearing cold weather gear on what turned out to be a warm day. Oh, and some pretty steep inclines too.

So when I rocked up to Wednesday morning’s training session it was no surprise that I hit the wall. What I meant to write was “blow up”. I hadn’t recovered properly before trying to knock out a sprint interval session. The blow up was… humbling (or was that humiliating?). As a result, my head was not in the right place. Throw into the mix my baby girl thinking that she lives in the Fijian or Tahitian time zone rather than on Australian Eastern Standard Time – I must be missing a few REM cycles too.

So that left me with a choice for this morning’s training session.

Show up or pike out?

I was trying hard to build my excuse list, heaven knows I had reasons. When the alarm clock went off at 5am, the question that entered my head was, “why are you doing this to yourself?” It is the same question that pops up when I hit struggle street on a tough ride. It is a question from the wrong space in my head. The negative space. [side note – cravings for dark chocolate cookies, Carribean rum and Coke (multiple), and two quarter pounders live in this space too]. So what is the answer to that question? I have a prepared response for this challenge which is another question, “When I am old and frail, do I want to look back on all the opportunities that I missed to live to the fullest?” That second question was formed when I was 20 years younger, lying on a hospital bed recovering from a knee reconstruction. That whole experience was a collection of harsh lessons, with one hard reality – to not take for granted my mobility and feel blessed that I have it, while I have it.

I made my choice. I showed up. It was a struggle, but I showed up. I set my power targets at 80% to what I normally train at, but I showed up. And as I warmed up my lithium batteries kicked in. I was still tired but I managed to churn through the session and in the end I spun at over 90% of my normal power targets. After the training session I suited up and arrived at work chuffed. I have won this morning, maybe not the Tour de France or the World Championships, but I won.

In the end there is no excuse or choice, it is show up – even if it hurts.

It’s a public holiday long weekend in Sydney, so my riding buddy AC made the call – time to go for a ride 120km of epicness. Sounded good to me. The proposed route would be to head south of Sydney, through ‘The Shire’ and into the Royal National Park (RNP). With the return leg via some out of the way roads following one of the train lines. Here is the route, and the profile (yes a bit of uphill ouch in this ride):

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Now Sydney is not known for being friendly for cyclists, us riders wish it was, but it is not. If you want that, then go relocate to Melbourne or Adelaide. So for this ride we set off at 4am, not to get a clean run down to the park, but to avoid the dreaded Sydney traffic on a Saturday on the return. Yes, 4am is when sparrows are farting before they wake up, but hey. This was a tough ride, but also one of the strangest that I have done in a long time.

Firstly I made the mistake of dressing for the cool pre-dawn conditions, and not the warm morning temperature. I got cooked, and received multiple visits late in the ride from the dudes who live in cramp city. Those dudes are buggers, and I am sure they are mates with the ‘Man with the Hammer’.

Secondly after about 30 clicks into our journey, just past 5am, we came up to this rather large guy in khaki shorts riding a flat bar hybrid bike with pannier racks. Our pace was much quicker than his, but as we were coming to overtake him, he looked at us and then buried himself just so we couldn’t overtake him. It was hilarious. He even ran a couple of red lights to get ahead. We were toying with him like a lion does with a mouse, after all we had nothing to prove and had another 90 clicks to go. But as we neared the road that would take us to the RNP we dropped the hammer and dropped him.

Thirdly we had fun(?) on some stupid gradients as we climbed out of the first of several valleys we would be hitting for the day. Only to be buzzed and yelled at by a couple of kids on their learner plates who probably don’t even shave. That would have been around 6:45am – seriously boys, don’t be idiots and get a life.

The final bit of weirdness though was in the final stretches of the ride, with our end in sight. I was cooked and AC rode ahead through a roundabout turning right. I was a good 200m behind him at least, struggling with those cramp city dudes. As I came to the roundabout I signaled with my arm that I would be turning right. I had right of way and the oncoming traffic by law would have to yield, particularly as I was already in the roundabout turning. Rapidly advancing towards me was an Mercedes AMG C63, a car I wish I could afford to drive. But instead of giving way, the Merc sped up and flew into the roundabout cutting me off and forcing me to slam on the brakes and hold the back end of my bike from flying out. The driver didn’t even indicate his change of direction. This is not the first time this has happened and probably won’t be the last, but…

This NEVER happens on a bike ride

The Merc driver took off with me waving my hand at him for the danger he had put me in. Then another large sedan, a Holden (GM) Commodore, came flying past me from behind with its engine revving. This was strange indeed. The Holden flew up behind the Mercedes, almost bumping him. Then a set of red and blue lights in the Holden’s rear window started flashing. The siren came on, indicating to the Merc driver to pull over. Sure enough an unmarked police car witnessed the whole incident and the Merc driver was about to cop a fine or two. The real rub for the miscreant driver is that given it is a long weekend in Sydney it is also double demerit points off your license for any traffic infringement. Ouch! This never ever happens, never! I rode past the cop and the miscreant driver, shaking my head at him. AC was waiting for me and he asked what happened. I gave him the low down, and his jaw dropped – “No way!” The miscreant driver ended up catching up with us, and as he drove past he tapped his finger against his head. Lesson learnt perhaps, I hope so because as riders we are very vulnerable to any metal engined machine on four wheels and we always come out second best.

I am not sure whether I should buy a lottery ticket or not, but thanks to the cop for taking my safety into consideration. And thanks to AC for pulling me along on an epic and weird bike ride.

 

 

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