Journey to the Snowy’s

12 months ago my knees and ankles had been struggling with the rigours of running, and a close mate of mine had suggested I try road cycling. After a minor operation, I had taken a month off running and needed to get to the other side of the city to meet a mate at 6am. I didn’t feel up to running the 13km, so spur of the moment, I decided it was time to get a bike.

Where it all began

I got to Northside Cyclery at 8:50pm 10 mins before closing on a Thursday night. I wandered up to the counted and said I was interested in the road bikes. After the guy rolled his eyes clearly more interested in getting home than selling a bike he reluctantly came over to help. He asked what I was looking for…

“Not to sure a road bike, not too fussed on high end performance but want something decent”.

At this point I could see he thought I was wasting his time until I added

”Oh, and it needs to be able to be ridden home tonight”

Needless to say I walked out with bike, helmet, lights, lock & new water bottle. No lycra as I was still seeing becoming a MAMIL as clearly out of bounds.  He couldn’t upsell me on shoes so after a scratch around the back to find some pedals I started with regular plastic pedals and it turns out what is called a “gravel bikealthough I didn’t know this for some months

The next challenge 

Fast forward a few months and having started commuting the 6km to work which I thought was a long way and occasionally rounding it up to 10km with a lap of Mrs Mac’s Chair (where due to a strava glitch I hold the KOM at 13seconds) I started riding with the Rat Pack and signed up for the MS Gong Ride 82km as a challenge.

I love being up in the morning and seeing the sunrise, so I started doing 30-40km training rides in preparation for the 82km ride in early November. I managed two 100km efforts prior to the big day, so I felt confident the pins could get me to the finish line. They did, and I loved every second of it. It was also my first day out in lycra having succumbed to getting the RPCC ‘Cheesey’ kit. Now I wear it religiously and have become a full blown MAMIL – with hairy arms and legs at threat of my partner leaving when shaving was discussed. She’ll come around. Won’t she?

Pushing my limits

So what next you ask? Well, a friend of mine challenged me to ride 7 peaks in 7 days for charity. That’s 14,000 meters of climbing. I decided to push myself and go for it, raising money for Starlight and Freedom Wheels and getting fit and focused in the process. I trained hard over November and the first half of December riding 150-200km a week mostly extending my commute to get it in.

Then five weeks of holidays and Xmas overdoing the food and wine left me coming into late January starting to panic about the ride coming up in the first week if April. It was great motivation and from that point I managed to get 200-300km most weeks which was a huge time commitment especiallywhen my fourth child came five weeks early in mid-February. Thankfully Courteney, my partner, has been amazingly supportive.

So here I was at the MCG, the iconic home of footy, on a cold Melburnian morning, freezing my tackle off at at 7am with nothing to comfort me except some thermal lycra and the thought of that night’s feed. I had a whole lot of hurt ahead of me, but wouldn’t have had it any other way. This is what life is about, no?

Not all heroes wear cleats

Cycling as a sport is defined by ‘eras’. The 90’s was defined by aluminium technology. The 2000’s and beyond has been marked by carbon everything – bicycles are getting lighter, faster and stronger.

So how would you describe the current era? It’s very simple really. There’s one phrase that embodies cycling in 2019 and it’s visible on any bike path in Sydney.
Modern cycling is the era of the ‘mamil’.
No longer do toothpicks on carbon bikes represent the sport. The defining image of cycling in Australia (and indeed around the world) is that of a middle aged man in lycra (mamil).

And quite frankly, it’s a beautiful thing! It’s a strange (albeit serendipitous) moment for many young men transitioning into their 30’s and 40’s. We’ve been bombarded with chiseled abs, bulging biceps and tanned bodies for the best part of our adolescent lives.

So you can already imagine my reaction when I get left for dead on a leisurely Sunday ride by a bunch of old codgers who are old enough to be my dad. Since when did awkward lumps and cycling bib tan lines become the definition of performance?

It’s been a growing change – think of the anxiety you might have felt when you used to enter your local gym. The pumping house music, the tight t-shirts and the orange tan in a can. Compare that to when you go on a local clubby ride, or a graded Crit race – you look around and see men and women who look exactly like you. You see ordinary people doing incredible things, who push their bodies on a Sunday and pay for it on the Monday. Luckily however, they’re usually all good to go again by 9am by the next Sunday.
When you think of the past heroes of the sport – the Merckx’s, the Lemond’s, the Armstrong’s: you’re left with idols who look like they could use a roast chook and chips. They look like a steady headwind could knock them flat on their back!
These days, the real heroes are the ones who let you cling onto their rear wheel while they break a strong northerly gust. The sceptics may query the aerodynamic efficiency of love handles and a beer gut, but who’s got the lungs to complain when the only thing standing between you and exhaustion is a 110-kilo angel pulling 330 watts?

It’s part of the reason why cycling has been termed the ‘golf’ of the 2010’s. While in the past savvy business professionals would have spent their Sunday mornings courting clients on a golf course (and forking out a couple of grand to get pissed on a golf course), it’s now more fashionable to be seen on a road bike during a recreational weekend outing.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a comforting thing that no matter how my torso may look as I get grey and old, I know that I’m still an athlete as long as I’m on the bike.

Making the most of ‘me’ time

I’m one of those guys who lays out his cycling kit the night before a ride. I’m not the only one who does this, right? 

Why? First and foremost, I’m excited! I’ve only been riding “properly” for about 5 years and I love getting out on the road whenever I get the chance. Second, I have a 2 year old son, Maxwell, who I try to not disturb because the more sleep he gets, the better that is for me. And thirdly, I am going to be up EARLY, but more on that later.

I fell in love with cycling in San Francisco, where my wife and I lived, “pre-Max”. While we were there, I would spend most weekday mornings and at least one day on the weekend exploring the uncrowded, redwood-lined peaks and valleys of Marin County with a bunch of more-stoked-than-serious friends. 

We would tackle hour long climbs up twisting and turning two lane highways, hurtle down speedy descents with cliffs on the side as high as the safety barriers weren’t, and take our road bikes on to loose gravel and root-rutted roads without a second thought. To calm our nerves, we may have even had a few beers along the way…

When Max was born in early 2017, a lot of things changed but even without noticing, I became more conservative in my riding. After all, my actions now had consequences, potentially life threatening ones. I NEVER rode helmet-less, I upgraded my front and back lights, I paid more attention to the condition of my tires and I began to ride very early in the morning when traffic was at a minimum.

I value these early morning rides for multiple reasons but mostly because they provide me with a rare window of independence and solitude before arriving home to a dependent and often loud toddler. I may return home to Max quietly eating an apple and watching Thomas the Tank-Engine or he might be collapsed in a heap on the kitchen floor wailing because he wasn’t allowed to use the kitchen knife to butter his crumpet – either way, I will have had a bit of “me-time” before tackling the day. It’s not unusual to find my wife in her work-out clothes ready to tag out for her time alone as soon as I get home. 

Max has shown an early interest in biking (like he even had a choice!) and we’ve been blessed with two council clean-up finds – an old pink “radio flyer” tricycle and now a cheapie BMX with training wheels. I don’t know if it’s realistic but I want to see him off training wheels by age 3. Even if it doesn’t pan out, I know he and I will have a lot of fun together trying.

From bikes to babies, how times have changed…

2018 was my year on the bike.

300km’s a week, slaying those strava segments and drinking all the boutique coffee and cakes one could bear.  I was grammin’ my bike, travel pics and everything in between.  Early to bed, early the shred, this was my mantra.

…and now.

2019 my year of the baby. From rolling out of the house at 5am with the click click of 240 hubs, to rolling out of bed at 4am to the dulcet tones a crying baby.

From Rapha to rocking chairs, saddles to swaddles, bikes to bibs and parkups to popups!

My once LBS has now been replaced with my new LBB (local Baby Bunting) and my caffeine is no longer consumed for want, but need. These days, the ‘gram languishes and the body is tired, but not because of the gorges or races but because of the tiny terror that has increased our family by 50%.

The mancave has turned into a nursery and the bikes are now relegated to the balcony. Bouncers, bassinets, cots, play mats, safety plugs and who knows what else, have now taken over our home.

The Mondial is now Mindful Mothers.

How times have changed.

I used to grin ear to ear dropping mates, sprinting hills and having those social experiences.

Now, I grin ear to ear for a different reason…my son.

I survive on minimal sleep thinking how am I going to get through the day whilst managing a job that already drains my body and soul, however every time I hear his laugh, see his smile or watch him sleep (on the rare occasions), I realise that it is all worth it.

The pain, whilst no longer from lactic build up, pales in comparison to the reward.

You’re never really ready for a child but somehow you manage. It brings you closer to your parents and in turn you have a much greater respect for how they raised you and you begin to  wonder how you could ever do the same.

The hills, the beaches and the goat track races will always be there but these times with my son, I never want to miss.

From bikes to babies, how times have changed…to something I love.