Tag Archives: great victorian bike ride

GARMIN EDGE 800 – what kind of cyclist needs GPS navigation?

It's arrived, and I'm excited!

A package arrived on the doorstep. My pulse rate probably quickened, but I had no way of checking this. The heart monitor was in that package, along with a new Garmin Edge 800 GPS satellite-guided navigation bicycle computer. I’d been invited to take it on a test drive.

I should explain that I’m not a techy-geeky-dudey-type guy. I know how to insert a DVD into my machine, but getting it to play…that’s what you have kids for. So maybe I’m not the ideal person to be reviewing a wham-bang, state-of-the-art Garmin Edge 800 GPS bike computer. On the other hand, if I can work it, so can everybody else.

Little Garmy 500 and Big Garmy 800

I’ve been riding bikes since before the launch of Sputnik. I know the way along my favourite cycling routes in Sydney and Amsterdam, and the Dutch ones have signposts giving the distance to the next town. I even know a clever trick for calculating average speed; I divide the distance travelled by the number of hours I’ve been riding. I learned to do this back when calculators filled large rooms in bank offices.

Nonetheless, I was excited by my new Garmy’s arrival, because GPS thingies are fun. Continue reading

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TOP TEN IN 2010 – my travel highlights of the year

The end of the year is nigh, so it’s time for looking back to see what little lurks in the deep recesses of my failing memory.

Three continents, fourteen countries, some excellent meals and some terrible coffee are in there somewhere. Most of the many queues, airports and train stations have fortunately been forgotten, though an October night sleeping on the carpet at Singapore’s Changi Airport was memorable for the wrong reasons.

Here, in no particular order, are ten experiences I intend to remember for a long time… Continue reading

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GREAT VIC BIKE RIDE – a week in another world

“Where have you been the past ten days?” dedicated fans of RT’s LOTR are asking. The answer is, I’ve been doing the Great Victorian Bike Ride, joining 4500 other lycra loonies, including my son, in a 590km spin across the lovely state of Victoria, from Yarrawonga to Dookie, Euroa, Nagambie (you have to love Australian place names) and eventually to Marysville.

It was often a challenge, even for the young, fit and thin. So imagine my pain.

The organisers bill it as ‘a week in another world’ and it’s true that, though there was mobile phone coverage everywhere we went, internet access was too limited to post anything from the road. I didn’t have the energy for it anyway. We rode, we pitched the tents, we socialised, we ate, we drank, we went to bed. The following morning we pulled on clammy cycling gear, queued for the warm toilet seats, crawled back onto the bikes and did it all again. Continue reading

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GREAT VIC BIKE RIDE 2010 – gearing up for a new adventure

After three years of doubt and hesitation, I’m ready to face this fabulous event again. My son expressed interest in doing the Great Vic Bike Ride and when the Young Bull throws down a challenge like that, the Old Bull has to prove he has something left in the tank. Also we can enjoy the bonding experience of standing in shower queues together. There’ll be 4998 other riders, so it takes a while to get everybody clean. Continue reading

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AUSTRALIA’S BEST BIG RIDES – Spring on the bike

There are many reasons to hate mass organised bike rides – the crowds, the bottlenecks, the collisions, the toilet queues. But there are plenty of reasons to love them too. Continue reading

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GREAT VICTORIAN BIKE RIDE 2007


Fancy a nine-day camping trip with 4500 sweaty cyclists? It sounds like the holiday from hell. Yet against incredible odds the Great Victorian Bike Ride (GVBR) is fun, even for someone like me who prefers the peace and quiet of independent travelling.

Organiser Bicycle Victoria claims it’s the world’s biggest supported cycling tour. Each year thousands of riders and several hundred volunteers test their legs against hills, heat and headwinds. For over a week they share the road, the camping areas, the toilets, the showers, the food queues, the entertainment, a beer or two and lots of laughs.

The 2007 route crossed Gippsland from Phillip Island to Buchan, 544km plus a few diversions. Most days we rode 80 or 90km, mainly on the flat but with pleasantly challenging hills in the Strzelecki Ranges. It was manageable even for a rookie, though I was glad I’d done some bottom-hardening preparation in the weeks before the ride.

I was less well prepared for the communal camping. Each morning I pulled on my clammy lycra, crawled out of my dewy little tent on the local footy ground, struggled across to the rows of toilet trucks, waited my turn, pressed the foot pump once only, then lined up for cereal, fresh fruit salad, pastries and yoghurt, served by cheerful volunteers. Three ridiculously merry minstrels on sax, banjo-ukulele and drum entertained the queuing masses with an up-tempo version of King of the Road.

I’m normally a taciturn breakfaster, but on The Great Vic you chat. I met Arthur the retired auditor-general, forensic pathologist Helen and Peter the agricultural contractor. There were farmers, teachers, accountants and carpenters. Frank’s kids had sent him on the ride as a 60th birthday present ‘just to get rid of me for a few days.’

I met riders from every state of Australia and from the UK, the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Holland and South Africa. The youngest was 4, the oldest 84.
They talked about riding, about bikes and about life. At breakfast!

By 7.30 each morning my tent and backpack were loaded onto one of the six massive trucks that ferried gear to the next campsite, and I was on my bike.

I loved cycling through the rolling hills of beautiful Gippsland, but I wouldn’t have felt confident riding the route on my own. Risks of accidents, bike failure or heart failure, and the uncertainties of the road conditions would deter me.
Fortunately the GVBR organisation addressed most of these concerns. The route generally followed quiet but well-surfaced roads, marshals and police kept cars at bay at danger spots and WARBY (We Are Right Behind You) volunteers helped fix punctures. Mobile coffee vans provided life-saving cappuccinos and at the back of the field the Sag Wagon collected anyone who had had enough for the day.

The GVBR logistics were handled with incredible efficiency. Next time we have a natural disaster, forget the army, let’s get Bicycle Victoria to run the relief effort.
I rode at my own pace, sometimes slowly taking in the scenery, sometimes slipstreaming a train of serious riders for a few fast kilometres.

It was great to see over a thousand high school kids riding, groups from Geelong Grammar, Deniliquin High and McKinnon College prominent in their smart matching jerseys. But ageing baby boomers like me were also over-represented and there were as many kegs as six-packs squeezed under those logo-spattered jerseys.

Wiry old codgers with knobbly legs were back for the seventeenth time, others were enjoying their first Great Vic. There were parents bonding with their sons and daughters and groups of mates ‘just doing it for the beer’. All were bursting with a sense of achievement.

Slick road bikes zipped past, but hybrids like mine were popular too; a little slow, but sturdy enough – rather like myself. Others rode mountain bikes, tandems, recumbents and there were even a couple of hand-cranked machines.

In every town Lions Clubs and primary schools offered Powerade and sizzling sausages at knock-down prices. At the official daily lunch spot we filed past more happy volunteers handing us drinks, bananas and tandoori chicken wraps. I chatted some more – to Brian from Goolwa, Peter and Julie from Sandringham, and Dougie and Margaret who’d come out from Scotland for the ride.

On the hills I shifted into my lowest ‘granny gear’, pretending I was slowing to give ten-year-olds on their mountain bikes a little wobble room. How did those skinny kids get in front of me anyway?

Most of us took four to six hours to reach the campsite, which left the afternoon to kill. Even that was taken care of. The Spokes Bar was in full swing, and workshops were on offer in bicycle maintenance, managing diabetes, dance and juggling. I opted for daily harmonica lessons with virtuoso Justin Brady. My musical progress was disappointing but it was fun trying.

Ouch!

At night while the riders enjoyed the bands, the trivia quiz or the speed dating, mechanics repaired broken bikes, medical teams patched up gravel rash and masseurs rubbed aching legs. I ended Day 6 with an elegant dive onto the bitumen of Maffra, a town in central Gippsland. Thanks, Dr Chris, for the stitches. I should have asked you to embroider ‘I survived the GVBR’ on my forehead. Maybe I’ll just get a tat instead.

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