I rather like having someone else pick a route for me, preferably one that takes me to unexplored regions of the city or country, and maybe even requires a daily distance at the fringe on my comfort zone. I’m happy to have a merry marshall at every corner helping my navigation by waving a big rubber hand at me, calling out, ‘Well done, keep it up, only 76km still to go!’
I don’t mind the police putting down witches hats and keeping the cars out of a cycle lane so for once I can scoot along a major highway without looking anxiously over my shoulder at the semi-trailers. I like the drink stations, the local sausage sizzles and the coffee carts.
I enjoy the security of knowing there’s an ambulance, a bike mechanic and a sweep bus close behind me. And most of all I like the company.
The ones I’ve noted here are recreational rides, as opposed to races, catering for cyclists with a range of levels of fitness. They’re a great way to see the country and meet a few nice people. And they’re open to everyone. There are fees of course, but they’re run by non-profit organisations, so they’re much cheaper than commercial tours and excellent value. If you’re visiting Australia and you like riding, you’ll love them, I promise.
Here’s a selection of what’s on offer during the next few months:
October 17, 2010 SYDNEY SPRING CYCLE 50km and 30km options. A popular, gentle family ride, at a leisurely pace, shared with several thousand others. Highlight is the ride across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
October 17, 2010 AROUND THE BAY IN A DAY 50km, 100km, 210km, 250km options. Melbourne’s biggest cycling event. The full 250km loop is a tough challenge, only for the hard men and women, with serious bikes. But there are shorter routes for those who feel they have nothing they need to prove.
November 7, 2010 THE GONG RIDE 58km, 90km options. Sydney’s high profile ride from the city to Wollongong. Staggered starts mean that those aiming to set a fast time get off well before the rest of us trundlers. The roll down through the Royal National Park and around the newish Coalcliff Bridge are the highlights. With rider numbers limited to 10,000, the cost now includes a compulsory minimum $250 donation to MS Australia, though of course you are invited to find sponsors and raise more if you can. I’ve been a regular on the Gong Ride for a few years now.
November 27-December 5, 2010 THE GREAT VICTORIAN BIKE RIDE 185km 3 day, 590km 9 day options. I’ve done it before (for my 2007 report, click here) and I’m doing it again. It’s a superbly organised event for up to 5000 riders, this year going roughly south east from Yarrawonga to Marysville, scene of last year’s tragic bushfires. The Great Victorian Rides are camping trips, though if you want more comfort and book it early, you can arrange your own accommodation along the way. All meals and luggage transport are included.
March 19-27, 2011 THE GREAT WA BIKE RIDE 230km 3 day, 560km 9 day options. I very much like the look of this one – a loop around Western Australia’s spectacular south west, taking in the beaches, the Margaret River wineries and the tall forests of Pemberton. They expect about 2000 riders. I’ll try to be one of them.