so i was on a plane this morning (tuesday), after getting up at 4:00am, and as we were coming into land, i saw my old house in paraburdoo. it got me thinking about bike riding and how i got to were i am today (which is a long journey to not get very far). i was prompted due to the fact that i remember organising groups to go riding when i lived up in the pilbara. the groups weren’t big and half the time it meant mountain biking, but it was more about the riding than what we were riding.
so, shall i go back further. how did i start riding??? growing up in western victoria in hamilton, a city of around 10,000 people, the majority of the guys i went to school with all did the usual footy or cricket. when i hit year seven, i was not yet 30kg so i would have been smashed playing any contact sports and wasn’t wide enough to cover one stump in cricket. i did karate for about four or so years, but have never thrown a punch in anger and probably wouldn’t remember how to now.
a mate that i had know for many years started talking about cycling as his dad used to do quite a lot in his time. we both had very basic “ten speed” bikes but we started to do rides around the district, probably going a whopping 30km in one hit. my aunty used to have a holiday house in the grampians, which is a fairly big national park in western victoria. it was only 90km away from us so we started going there during summer and would spend a week riding in the “mountains”. these are nowhere near as big as the mountains in europe, but are bigger than what we get in perth.
so, this was really about the time i had my growth spurt and shot up so instead of the skinny, weedy kid, i was now the skinny, weedy taller then most of my classmates kid. we started doing more rides but had no idea what we were doing. standard kit was tracky pants and t-shirts and no helmets as the laws hadn’t come in yet. it was around the time that greg lemond was racing and we both painted our bikes in a three colour blend going from yellow thru orange to red. cool.
i remember some of our first hills rides in the grampians. i have no idea how steep the climbs were as i have not ridden them for so long, but they were so long and we had to take lots of breaks on the way up. in reality the total climb was about 11kms and it was not a consistent grade the whole way up as it had many flat spots. it took us about 2½ hours to get to the top and about 20 mins to get back down. 2½ hours to do 11km!!! i’m sure i could do that with the kiddy trailer and the mountain bike nowadays.
so, i finished high school and moved away to uni but kept my riding up. had been riding my re-painted repco traveller 10 speed up until then when my parents bought me a repco superlite 12 speed. i think it cost close to $500 which was quite a lot of money for our family. i started to increase my mileage and often went exploring the district on the weekends and when my uni schedule allowed it. bike knicks were not really in vogue like they are today and i was wearing those adidas three stripe cut off shorts. well not even real adidas. we couldn’t afford them so mum was a dab hand at the sewing machine and striped me up some fake adidas.
so doing more and more and i started getting to the point where i thought that maybe i could do some racing. i had always been of the opinion that i was not good enough, but had now upgraded to proper cycle kit and shoes with toe clips. if as a new cyclist you had been afraid of clipless pedals, you should try these things. think normal pedals and toe clips, but add a shoe that had a ridged sole and a notched cleat that bites down onto the pedal edge. none of this twist your foot to get out. you had to be aware as you approached an intersection, and reach down to loosen a strap and get your foot out before you stopped. then you had to make sure that you leant over on the side you released or you were in bigger trouble.
so, racing in ballarat. i turned up to my first ever bike race (i had done some team triathlons previously) and was put in “c” grade as i had no experience at riding in a group. the race was a whole 20km and i had done over 100km in training the previous week. i felt i was ready. the group was about 20 riders and i loved the sound we made as we coasted down a hill. yes, i was such a group riding virgin that i had never heard that sound before. we started doing that whole rolling through thing and it was a new experience for me and quite scary as there were other riders around. the basic circuit had no real hills and took us back to the start line for the group sprint. i had no idea what i was doing and got boxed in on the left as the group started to move. i just stopped pedalling and waited for the group to roll past then came around on the right and past everyone to take the win. wow, i was still in my small chain ring. how easy is this riding thing i thought as i rolled around to cool down and have a spew (pushed a bit too hard). next week, they put me in “b” grade. i got smashed every week until towards the end of the season, when i convinced them to put me back into “c” grade.
after a couple of seasons i finally gave up as i really didn’t like the early morning ballarat rides in the rain, sleet and hail. i kept riding but didn’t take it as seriously as i should have. decisions like that are so easy to make when you are 21.
finished my degree and eventually got a real job in the pilbara. moved up to paraburdoo in 1996 and brought my bikes with me. now para is that small that it doesn’t have a taxi service as you can walk from one side to the other quite easily. it also has only three sealed roads leading out of town. one went 80kms to tom price, one went 7kms to the mine (with an offshoot) and the other went 200 odd kms to the main coast road. there were also lots of tracks thru the bush but they were of varying quality and very hard and sharp when you came off.
so, i had upgraded by then and was now riding a second hand peugot ventoux frame that i had bought of the mate who got me into cycling. i was still on down-tube shifters but now on 14 speed gears, and running shimano exage. rides involved up to the airport and back along the tom price road (20km round trip) or along the mine road and off shoot to the channar mine gate (15km round trip but with a hill) or some distance out the main road out of town. the real problem is that there are no places to stop and get water and the temp in summer was usually over 40 deg every day and dropped down to 30 deg during the night. most rides usually involved a lot of sweating.
started doing a lot more mountain biking around now as the boring roads made for boring rides. i had upgraded from a apollo no suspension cheap and crappy bike to a giant atx 890 with full suspension. i thought it was so cool, but it wasn’t really that good. i guess this is where the organisational skills started to come to the fore as up in the pilbara, if you don’t do it, no-one else will. i started convincing workmates to come out riding with me and soon we were getting trashed on all the trails around the town and some exploration drill tracks near the mine. i can remember one ride that we did where we didn’t head out till 3pm and within ½ hour my brake levers were so hot, i couldn’t touch them for prolonged periods.
i discovered a few guys that liked road riding, so we started heading out on regular rides after work and on the weekend. again, they weren’t long, but we managed to get more and more people involved. i had upgraded again and was now riding the cannondale caad 3 that i had when i first turn
ed up in perth. however, i had also managed to upgrade all the running gear by doing a bit at a time. strangely enough, it would have cost a lot less if i had bought a whole new bike, but it was easier to pass by the financial manager that way. i had also managed to convince a number of other guys to get new road bikes and they found they could go longer and faster. some of those guys are still riding now, while others have lost the love for the bike.
after 5½ years of sucking in the red dirt of the pilbara, we jumped right across the country to the lovely hunter valley. i was back to riding by myself again as there was no organised group that i could find in singleton. the funny thing about singleton was that even though it was a much bigger town than paraburdoo, there was less happening as people didn’t have too. just down the road was maitland with 80,000 and newcastle with over 400,000 people. so if you needed anything, or wanted to do anything, you just went down there. so it was back to exploring the countryside again.
being a decent farming area there were lots of roads to discover and lots of little towns to ride between. it definitely didn’t feel as isolated as para… or as hot. it was a surprise to me one day as I rode down the hill, that was the only sealed entrance into my suburb, that I came across a group of cyclists waiting at the side of the road. I stopped and turned back to them. asked if I could join them and started doing some group rides. they weren’t long, but it was good to be able to ride along and have a chat to someone for a change. they also showed me some new roads and a few climbs in the area. half of the group belonged to the triathlon club, but I wasn’t interested as I was a cyclist.
every year, there was a corporate triathlon in newcastle and a lot of the mining companies had teams and individuals entered. i entered with another guy who was keen to swim and run but not ride. it was the typical sprint distance race over there and was only a 500m/20km/5km event. there were lots of guys that trained up for ages just to do a 20km ride in this event, but i could see that it was a big achievement for some. i still had no interest in doing a triathlon all myself. running and swimming sucked.
so over the following winter the cycling seemed to fall away a bit but some of the guys and girls i worked with were training up for the city2surf in sydney. for lack of any other exercise, i started running with them and was soon doing 5km runs. it hurt like all crap and i used to have to run with a knee brace after a few years of playing basketball in both ballarat and paraburdoo. soon my body got used to it and even though i didn’t run the city2surf, i kept the running up. it kind of occurred to me that if i just learnt to swim 500m then i could actually do a triathlon.
down to the indoor pool we went and i had a crack at this swimming thing. the thing about learning to swim as a kid compared to learning to swim as a 30 year old, is that you just seem to be crap from the start and don’t get any better. i really struggled with swimming and could only do two laps of a 25m pool before needed to take a break. i was so inefficient that it was just killing me. anyway, this is more about the cycling, so i got better, did some triathlons and was soon training up for a half ironman. there were four of us that all worked together at the mine and all lived within about 500m of each other. perfect training partners.
i started organising our training by reading lots of stuff in magazines and online and trying to implement whatever i could. i had a lot more kilometres in my riding legs and would use that to my advantage in races. i was last out of the water but would pass my mates then run until they all past me again. occasionally i could hold them off to the end.
the organisation wasn’t just limited to these training buddies and cycling. soon we had about 15 people turn up to our house after work to go for runs in the evening. i would map out courses and make allowances for the slower runners to take short-cuts and put in enough hills for the stronger runners. then when summer finished and daylight savings ended (hey, it works on the other side of the country) i started mapping out new routes that had adequate street lighting to make sure the girls were not running through scary dark patches.
by then i was also organising that group of guys that i had bumped into early one cold morning on my way out by myself. our rides were getting longer and talking in more climbs, but i always made allowances for people to be able to take shortcuts if they needed to or time for them to regroup.
after a half ironman and a number of sprint and other distance races, we made the move to perth. i thought my riding was going pretty well but i was in for a rude shock. in typical move fashion, we were living out of a suitcase for a number of weeks. we had access to our early release items from the removalists, and in my case this included my bike and all my riding gear.
i did a search on the web and found the excellent wa triathlon website. it had stacks of info and a forum that seemed to be constantly updated. i posted a note to say that i was new to town and needed to know where to ride south of the river. within about two hours there was about four or five replies saying to head to the south perth bike shop and see gary and vicki. someone even posted their phone number so i could call him if i needed extra info. a very friendly and trusting town i thought. anyway, i turned up to the bike shop and met simon, who let me know what the go was with group rides and bike paths etc around perth. i showed up on saturday not knowing what to expect. it was bad.
not a bad ride. not a bad group. not bad organisation. it was bad cause i thought that i was a better rider than i was. i got dropped. dropped bad in a new town with no idea where i was or where we were going. i now know that we were coming past rebold hill and turned onto west coast hwy and then took the usual way home past the swanbourne shops. i got dropped on one of the hills and then got caught at the lights. by the time i got to west coast hwy i couldn’t even see the group. i rode my little arse off and saw another rider just in front of me. suddenly they turned and i almost missed them. i spotted him out the corner of my eye and quickly turned up past the swanbourne shops. i eventually caught up with him and it turned out to be wayne who had also been dropped. at least i was now with someone who knew where they were going.
it may be because of incidents like that, that i insist on regroup points along the way. it probably fits into the same category of stopping when you see someone with a flat tyre as you may be in the same situation one day.
anyway, i kept the riding going and also found a couple of the guys that i had ridden with in the pilbara were also now in perth. my first hills experience was not a good one. rob h and michael w took me out for my hills induction and we went a now familiar course. being a small group we went via the midland bike track and out to the bottom of the zig zag. from kalamunda we went to mundaring then back down through darlington. i didn’t fair too well. it was 110km by the time i got home but even before that i was struggling. the last 1½ hours were a bit of a blur for me as i was on auto pilot just trying to hold a wheel. the guys had to continuously slow down whenever there was a small rise in the bike path as i kept falling off the back. i eventually got home safely but probably scarred for life.
for me the triathlons kept going, though i was struggling a lot with training as i was missing my training buddies.
there were not too many from the south perth group that did tri’s so i was pretty much on my own. early morning runs and rides with evening swims were part of the build up to the half ironman in busso each year. i managed to convince the financial manager to let me buy a triathlon specific bike and scored a full carbo quintana roo lucero. nice bike. it’s amazing how much more power you can put out on a triathlon specific frame. i also started to go to vicki’s wednesday morning sessions which at the time where still leaving from the shop. it was all interval based work with sprints, hill repeats, the dreaded one legged drills and a lot of yelling… at you. i found it good as it focussed on particular things and probably did quite a bit at improving me as a cyclist.
so, even though i was focussing more on triathlons, i managed to negotiate a new road bike. this was under the assumption that as we were expecting our first child, it may be the last bike i get for a long, long time. i ended up with the fondriest domino plus that i am on today, but like most things, am always wanting to upgrade. that is a different story though.
by now we had started to develop the sunday ride a bit further. we had increased the ride from the usual, one climb and coffee, to up to four climbs and over 1,000m of vertical ascent before the coffee and then a 30km trip home. i think this happened due to simon not always being there for the sunday ride and everyone turning up wondering where we can ride. after a few times of semi-argument of where to go, i found that if you rocked up with a plan and just told everyone where you were riding, people didn’t question it. i would often talk to michael w during the week to work out where we should ride but this soon developed into the mapmyride routes that we are using today.
gary and vicki had sold the shop and soon it became simon’s saturday ride and my sunday ride by default. i had stopped the triathlon training but was still doing vicki’s wednesday sessions which had moved to king’s park. it, however, was not enough and i put on weight hitting the 79kg mark. this may not sound like much, but my work pants started getting tight. i was in denial and started carrying my phone on a pouch rather than in my pocket as i didn’t want to buy new pants. luckily kids are the spreader of disease and after having the flu and three bouts of gastro i was back to my original 72kg.
after returning from one of christophe’s organised bike tours of france, simon informs us that he is moving on from the south perth shop. with very little interest coming from the shop, i decide to step up and organise the saturday rides as well. when mickey took over from simon, he wanted to make some changes, but we were happy with how we ran our rides and he soon lost interest and concentrated on the beginners.
about this time i started e-mailing the maps out to those that were interested so that everyone knew where we were riding. the mapmyride website was a very handy tool and soon we had a repertoire of at least 10 saturday and sunday rides. as this grew i became worried that it may be viewed as a spam service and so i moved it to a blog format. this allowed everyone to access the information at whatever time they wanted and stopped me from having to send out e-mails every week. the blog “where are we riding today” was a good start and provided a good platform to keep everything organised.
what was also going on at this time was the other rides that did not involve the saturday group in its entirety. there was a number of rio tinto based groups that i was also organising. cyclo-sportif races with up to four teams, great perth bike ride, the freeway bike hike and the brw corporate triathlon were also on my plate during the year. i somehow became the point of contact within the company for anything cycling/triathlon orientated. it hasn’t been all bad and my design for a rio tinto jersey is now being worn in perth, melbourne, brisbane and some parts of the usa.
so everything was travelling along smoothly. we had a good turn out on both the saturday and sunday rides and had a new kit in the pipeline. about then the incident happened and it all went to shit. maybe i was in the wrong, maybe there was a conflict of interest, and maybe my actions were responsible for taking the food out of the poor bike shop owners mouth. either way i made a complete split from the south perth shop and let everyone else decide where they would ride from.
we moved up the road to ensure we were still in south perth and continued to ride as we always did. some technical difficulties meant that the blog was shutdown but i reinvented it as the current one. there is a plan to move to a hosted site rather than the blog based one which will give us more control over what we can and cannot post.
so, we started racing this year and stu and i kicked it off with the tour de perth. a bunch of other races followed with different guys from the south perth team joining in when they could. the highlight for me was coming second at the state road championships in the masters 2/3 division. so after 17 years, i finally make it onto the podium again. with our new kit just around the corner and a lot more people involved with the blog and running the group, i can only see good things in the future.
so that is how i got to where i am. but the question is still asked of me “where are we riding today”.