Tuesday, 12 April 2011

To ride or not to ride - that is the question

Ok, so I love to ride my bike.  It's a great form of exercise (for me) and I've always found that if I enjoy doing something, I'll continue to do it.  For those things I don't really enjoy (read "running"), I will do it, but I don't commit to continue doing it.

So lately I've made the foray into tranforming that form of exercise into a valid form of transport.  I'm a (not too regular yet) cycle commuter.

I love the freedom of jumping on my bike in the morning and heading into the City for work. 

Funnily enough, my regular car commute goes like this: 
  • 6.45am leave in the car and drive to the Gabba (sitting in stop start traffic the entire time).
  • 7.25am park at the Gabba.
  • 7.35ish catch a bus into the City. 
  • Arrive at work anytime between 7.45 and 8.00. 
Pros - I can listen to the radio or music.  I have some degree of control of when I get home, but do have to rely on the bus which can sometimes add 30 minutes on either of my daily trips, due to overcrowding, traffic, accidents and the like.

Cons - sitting in stop/start traffic, overcrowded buses (Sorry Bus Full is the most frustrating sign you'll see on the front of a bus), over friendly passengers who love to share their stories, body odour and music with me

So here's my cycle commute:
  • 6.45am leave home and cycle to the City
  • 7.30am arrive at BSQ Bike Room
  • 7.35am have a nice refreshing shower, get ready for work
  • 7.50am arrive on floor 10 ready for a new day
Pros - getting some exercise (about 1 1/2 hours each day), time in my own head (you'd be amazed how much work I think through on the way to work, and how much I debrief on the way home), a sense that I'm doing my bit for reducing traffic congestion (one big red car at a time) and the environment (MapMyRide tracks my carbon emission savings for each commute) and setting an example to my kids in Active Travel.

Cons - let's face it, riding in traffic is frightening.  You can't zone completely out when travelling in bumper to bumper traffic.  Cars constantly change lanes trying to get purchase on the faster lane, people take last minute turns to circumvent the long waits on the main roads and there's not much mirror checking prior to these changes, which makes being a bike rider an absolute adrenalin rush!  Add into that a distinct lack of music - it's just too dangerous to ride with an iPod in your ears.

So why do I choose to get on my bike and take on the challenge.  Simply put, I feel fantastic when I get to work.  Ironically, I am more energised after expending energy riding, I have a more positive attitude and I haven't built up a gutful of bile sitting in the traffic.

Riding isn't an option every day. I do like the convenience of having the car close for those days I have early evening commitments (the drive home only takes about 30 minutes), but my target is regularly riding one day a week to start.  By the time we get to the big adventure in September, I'm hoping to be riding at least twice a week to work.

Only time will tell if I achieve this goal.  All it will take is a couple of flat tyres, a near miss or (heaven forbid) an accident for this to all come crashing down.  A friend of mine had a mishap with a car last year, and I admire his fortitude in getting back on the bike and continuing his daily commute.  I don't know if I have what it takes to get back into the saddle after an accident.  Let's hope I don't find out!

So for now - I'm back in the saddle for a regular ride on Thursday, and riding to work on Friday for lunch with the girls at Carindale.  A much shorter option than the City commute and with a better result at the end.

Keep on Pedaling

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Ipswich 100 - what a ride

A couple of times a year, my riding buddy and I sign up for one of the many 100km events to challenge ourselves on our bikes.

The first challenge for the two of us this year is the Ipswich 100.  Starting at the Uni of Qld Ipswich campus, we wound our way out to Rosewood, through the outer Ipswich suburbs, around Mt Walker and back into Ipswich.

Sounds relatively easy, right?  Boy were we wrong!  Ipswich is a city surrounded by hills and mountains.  What were we thinking.

Now after the Cootha Challenge, I was determined to not complain about hills again after the arduous climb over Mt Cootha.  So today's blog will not see me complaining about the ups and downs.  Every single hill on today's ride was manageable, from the short steep climbs, to the long winding uphills.  What made them unbearable at times was the cruel and constant headwind that seemed to whip around every time we changed direction.

You know it's a tough wind when you pedal down the long hills and still find yourself decelerating due to the force working against you.  Oh, and when you can smell the roo that is decomposing 2km down the road for about 5 minutes - you know it's a strong wind!!!!

Anyway, back to the riding.  Managed to finish the 100km in just over four hours (although less if you take out the time we spent at the rest stops eating watermelon, bananas and fruit buns - yes you read that right - fruit buns!!!!)

The legs did get sore and at the 50km mark, if we hadn't stopped for a rest break, I'm not sure if I'd have made it the next 50k.  Funnily, it was after the second rest stop that I realised why I had "struggled" through a particularly long stretch of rolling hills.  (At one point I even pulled over to check my tyres for air and the brakes to make sure they weren't rubbing).  So as we left the rest point, I thought I'd push it up a cog and work a bit hard through some of the flat sections.  Went to change gears and realised I'd been in the harder gear through the entire section.  Here I was wondering why I was having problems on hills that normally posed no problems, only to find out that I had 10 extra gears I could have used to get me up and over. 

While I find myself cursing my stupidity for entering these events at around the 80km mark, that feeling as you cross the finish line to the cheers of many volunteers and the sound of automatic shutters clicking on the motion-detection cameras outways every cramp, niggle and spasm.  Today I even got to finish with my bestie beside me, so the photos will be great to check out when they're published on the website (hope I smiled and didn't grimace in pain!!!)

Feeling pretty good now.  Will make sure I have a good stretch before bed tonight, and may give Zumba a miss tomorrow night, but all in all, today was a good day.

So what's next?  Cycle Qld event in September is riding from Goondiwindi to Brisbane over a 9 day period.  572km, some mountains, the Great Dividing Range, camping at the end of each day - now that's a challenge I look forward to.