Archives for posts with tag: Lake Illawarra

This weekend knocks on the head my first organised ride for the year – the Ride Around the Lake 2013. This is my favourite ride of the year because of several things:

  1. It is a great community organised ride to help a local charity – the My Place youth housing supported by the Lighthouse church that helps get disadvantaged youths in the area on their own two feet.
  2. The location is great! Riding around Lake Illawarra for the majority of the route and at the perfect time of the year as well.
  3. It has some cool segments on the route; The Koonawarra descent (downhill bombing), The Macquarie Rivulet run (closest thing to single track I have experienced on a road bike), The Mount Warrigal bike track (hilly and windy with a great view of the lake).
  4. It is not an easy ride. While it is only 40km, it is technical with plenty of turns and there are some steep uphills. There are also some “cyclocross” style negotiations requiring you to hop on and off the bike do a bit of gravel riding.
  5. It is the best signposted ride I have done, with awesome volunteers along all parts of the route, and
  6. It is a chance for my wife and I to ride with my Aunt who lives down in Wollongong.

It is not a race, but the serious riders get the chance once clear of the recreational riders to have a real go. This was the fourth time that I had participated in this ride and I decided that I was going to try and hammer it! My Aunt had a nasty off a few weeks back colliding with another rider who moved off his line, so unfortunately it was the first time in 4 years that she had to opt out. So with the blessing of my wife (thank you, thank you, thank you) we agreed to ride each at our own pace.

Ride Around the Lake Ride Route 2013

I set off on the 7:15am start, but was near the back of the group as we got there just after 7:00am (try getting ready for a ride when you are trying to take care of a two year old). I was caught up behind quite a few of the recreational riders who were having a good time, but not the kind of riders you want to be next to in a group – if you know what I mean. So when I finally got clear of these guys and gals after the first 3km riding away from the bay, I was able to get in the groove and settle in to a 33kph (20mph) pace. By that point, all the other serious riders had long got the jump on me but I didn’t know how many. What was strange was that there was no-one in front of me bar one guy on a road steed a few hundred metres up the road. I chased him down and overtook him. He jumped on my rear wheel and kept up with me for the next 5km or so, but when we turned back towards the bay crossing over the freeway he dropped off.

I saw the next rider ahead and chased him down too. He was an older guy who was turning over the big chainring with quite a bit of power. I didn’t catch him until we got to the steep suburb climbing at Kanahooka. After I passed him there was no-one in front my sights. This was not a surprise as this is where we were constantly turning left – right and going up and down over the undulating hills. Some of these pinches were up around 7-8% gradient, and it is weird because you cannot get into a groove. The big climb comes at about 17km in, but having ridden this ride 3 times before I knew what the reward was – downhill bombing at close to 70kph (43mph). You could possibly bomb it down quicker on the descent if it were not for the nasty gutter about 20cm deep at the end of the run. It was at that peak of that climb that I saw the next two guys in front of me. I chased the first guy down and passed him and then caught up with the next as we hit the Macquarie Rivulet. I didn’t realise until I uploaded the ride to Strava that I ended up riding the 9th fastest time ever along this segment at 36.5kph (22.5mph) – and the quickest on the day. It was when I got to the end of this bike track that I saw my next and what would end up being my last target, one of the local girls from the Illawarra triathlon club. She was riding on an awesome new Trek Speed Concept 9.8 WSD, which is an $8,000 bike here in Australia. Here is where my pig-headed bloke attitude came in as I thought to myself “I can’t let this chic on the cool bike kick my butt!” So I put my head down and started churning over the pedals at 95-100rpm. As I passed her on one of the straight roads through Oak Flats at around the 20km mark, little was I to know that this was the last rider that I would pass for the rest of the ride. I got on it and tried to keep the pace up and she was right on my tail. It wasn’t until we had to cross the bridge (unclip, ride, unclip again, gravel, climb, skinny 23mm rear wheel shanking all over the place on gravel – FUN!) over the creek at Koona Bay that I was able to get away from her and just ride.

The rest stop was 23km in and I just blew through this, after all I had enough water and electrolyte to sort me out for the ride. Then it was the bizarre sensation of riding by myself for the final 15km or so. Now I know a little what it feels like in a breakway when I am watching the races on TV. You are riding by yourself, trying to keep the hammer on tap and constantly checking your trip computer for speed and cadence. My average speed was nudging up to 28kph for the whole ride and I was keeping over 85rpm. As I neared the finish of the ride a couple of the volunteer “cheerleaders” who were dressed as Supergirls didn’t realise that I was coming in to finish and rushed to usher me to the line. I think I was the first to cross the line,  as I didn’t see any other riders at the Illawarra Yacht Club finish line.

It was a perfect day for riding, and the ride organisers had a band at the finish as well as a stall for coffee, bacon and egg rolls, and play areas for the kids. All the guys I passed came in over the next 10-15 minutes after me. I was able to keep 27.8kph for the entire 42km which given that I rode in no-one’s draft for the entire ride, I had to stop at two traffic lights, the many switch backs, and the clip out and ins – not bad really. I ended up doing the 5th fastest time ever for the ride circuit, but I was a bit miffed that there were two others who recorded faster times on the day (with a further two ahead of me from 2011). They must have got cleaner runs at the start than I did as there was two other start times after I took off. But all up pretty chuffed and I am finally getting my legs in. My wife came in at just over 2 hours for the 42km and had a pretty good ride herself. She got the chance to ride with a couple of others who kept her pace and enjoyed it – even if her regular ride buddy (my Aunt) was laid up on the recovery bench.

I didn’t stop and take any pics, but my wife shot off two on her phone from the rest stop. Magic spot for a ride.



The more serious rides are coming later in the year in September, October, and November. I am working on building my base now and might even plan an overnighter with a couple of mates. That is to come, but first the Hawaii trip!

I took the bike with us down to the campsite at Shellharbour on our recent trip, and was keen to get out and explore the trails around the area. Last time I spent any length of time in this area was when I was a child, and we always found ourselves skipping over this region and travelling further south to either Kiama, Gerringong, Shoalhaven Heads or Jervis Bay. With the trip to Shellharbour being well under two hours drive from Sydney, I don’t think this will be the last time we head down there.

Riding between Christmas and New Year means that there are not too many cars about in the mornings, and you can start a little bit later. My fear is that I was going to be spending a lot of time on the road, with no view of water. I was wrong! There is an awesome bike path that runs from Shellharbour to the Windang Bridge. What a great way to kick off your morning ride by riding next to the ocean and inlets that pepper the NSW South Coast. Below is the route that I marked out, and the link to the location on Google Maps.

Shellharbour - Windang Bike PathThis route also takes in Barack Point, which was an awesome spot to take my son for a swim (which we did on New Years Day). The water was only as deep as my waist at high tide, and the wide sandy shores were plenty of fun to splash around in. I stopped to take some pics along the way to the Windang Bridge. (All the images link through to the larger images on my Flickr site).

Riding - Barrack Point

Riding - Barrack Point

Riding - Windang

Riding - WindangGetting over the Windang Bridge brought me to a route that I have done a few times before – around Lake Illawarra. I had done it three times previously in the Ride Around the Lake, which is an organised 40km spin around the Lake Illawarra to raise funds for my|place Youth Housing in the Illawarra region. It is a great community ride that I have done with my Aunt who lives down that way (and who goes hard even above the age of 50). This time there were road closures or Police helping me out – in fact it was only me and the bike. So I rode the track from memory with all the turns and road crossings, and had to lift the bike a few times over barriers (cyclocross style) but it was the perfect morning for it.

Lake Illawarra is really beautiful with plenty of sea life, protected wetlands, and bird life. The bike path takes you around most of it, but is broken up by Koong-Burry Bay wetlands. The diversion is a short stretch on the freeway. One thing I was shocked at was how much glass from used bottles of alcohol littered the shoulder of the freeway, it was like dodging land mines. I took a few more photos before putting my head down to clock up the kilometers.

Riding - Tuggerah Bay

Riding - Koong-Burry Bay

Riding - Koong-Burry Bay

Riding - Koong-Burry Bay

There is one gem of a segment on this route, down hill bombing on Cormack Avenue in Dapto. Even on my MTB steed and not pushing it I clocked 59km/hr – too much fun! Just be careful of the little gutter lip at the bottom of the road.

This was my last ride for 2012. Like all sad cyclists who fester over their numbers (be it speed, kilometers / miles, weight – etc.) I clocked up 2,347km of measured riding for 2012. I only bought my Garmin Edge 800 in May last year, and I reckon there is probably another 1,000km of unmeasured km to add to that. So that would have taken me from Melbourne to Mackay in Queensland. Not bad – but time to do more.

Happy New Year everyone – I am looking forward to plenty of adventures in 2013.



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