The Traveling Cyclist
– Bjorn Engelhardt
Chinese New Year passed again whilst I was away and while the bike stayed home to celebrate there were plenty of opportunities for remote riding in both the absolutely freezing to the extreme heat.
Since the last post i managed to complete a 160km Melbourne beach ride with the last 60km into a blistering northerly that had me searching for train stations to take the intelligent but maybe soft option back. Several weeks later I took the challenge to get out on a bike in Boston in the midst of one of their blizzards and gave up after a few minutes in -17c. In between there was rental bikes in Austin , scenic laps of Centennial park Sydney and actually a few rides in Singapore.
Having never been to Austin before I was looking forward to a few days PTO before our customer conference and had booked a fancy Trek Edmondo from Lance’s Mellow Johnny’s bike shop. Despite all the controversy it is still an amazing experience to see all the “Maillot Jaune” hanging on the wall and downstairs a collection of nearly every bike he has ridden in his controversy filled career. MJ’s is geared for the visiting cyclist and they have me a series of routes from 40km through to 100km including joining some of their club rides. Even better they are open at 7am each day including Juan Pelota (google it to understand the full meaning) Coffee car which makes the best macchiatos I have had. Someone please tell Singapore the we need a bike shop open early and a great coffee shop with “real” coffee.
First ride in Austin I had mapped out 70km course with around 700m of climbing. Little did I know that the climbing came in short, steep bursts averaging 16% !!! Lessons learnt… read the fine print. An incredibly cycling friendly city with many bike paths / lanes within the city and drivers who actually waited for cyclists with some patience. Throughout the next few days I managed a bunch of interesting rides around Lake Travis which wasn’t a lake as such rather an empty hole in the earth courtesy of the drought.
The week prior I had to be in Sydney and Melbourne and as we know riding summer in Australia is just great. Sydney has a bunch of great rides including La Perouse, Bondi etc however if you are short of time and not keen to explore the suburbs then nothing beats a series of laps around Centennial Park. Its about 4.8km in distance with a dedicated bike path and a bunch of very fancy tri-looking athletes on equally fancy equipment.
I ventured out one night at dusk and tried again the following morning with different crowds it felt like a completely different place.
Same trip also includes a visit to Melbourne and for those of you familiar with that region would know that the place to be seen is Beach Road. Huge peletons numbering in excess of 100, great roads, clearways between 6am and 10am for cyclists… what could be better. I headed down to Blackrock early one morning and joined a peleton and i think i only turned the crank over once in 5km so decided to hang back and actually get some exercise. You can easily push out 40km early morning and be back 7.30am ready for work and more importantly having enjoyed a coffee or two… plus some good tales all in a mornings journey.
Tips and Tricks for the Traveller
Bike Couriers – well maybe there’s no such thing as dedicated bike courier however on my last trip to Australia i was faced with limited time between work meetings (yes there is work somewhere in here) and flight schedules and we all know that lugging a bike box around doesn’t make for quick or easy trips. A little “googling” found a courier broking services called Transdirect (www.transdirect.com.au) who would ship my bike box from Sydney to Melbourne for AUD$76 and insured for $10,000. Before you think its some guy and truck they use all the mainstream courier company’s and simply leverage excess capacity.
Checking the company directly the price was AUD$450… go figure the huge difference. Bike was picked up at the hotel, delivered to hotel in Melbourne and waiting in my room when i checked in… amazing. When in Japan there are great services like Ta-Q-Bin which will take your sporting equipment anywhere in Japan for almost nothing. Bike boxes are generally not allowed on Shinkansen or domestic trains so for approx Y6,500 your bike (or snowboard) etc will be shipped to you final destination… just ask the hotel concierge.
Where to ride – This is probably the longest topic and everyone you speak to has a favourite ride that they say you must try. Im sure every recommendation is great however if you have to fit this in with either work or family travel requirements then you need to do some planning. My first step is always to check when sunrise is so that i can determine whether i need to stay within city streets with lighting or can take some more urban routes. For example summer in Tokyo or Gold Coast usually means 4.30ish sunrise so you can get out early before traffic, family and work calls. On my last trip to Austin I headed for Mellow Johnnys (yes i know many of you want to debate Lance’s antics but save that for a ride) and asked about group rides and also their recommendations on where to go.
Most bike shops will have maps or simple directions that you can follow or plug into your Garmin. Next edition I will go into detail on using Strava or Garmin Connect to find the popular routes and creating a series of rides for every occasion.
What to bring when your bike is at home – On this two week trip I decided that bringing the bike with was just not practical but had still planned a few rentals which means you don’t have the luxury of packing every conceivable piece of clothing or spares in the bike box. While most bike rentals come with some spares etc don’t assume they are sufficient in case of need. I have a permanently packed saddle bag that includes 2 x tubes, levers, tyre patch, mini-tool and 2 x Co2 with inflator… that way i know what’s in the bag and how it works. In another bag I carry garmin, basic mount, pedals and wrench and lastly a measuring tape to ensure i get the basics of seat height and seat – bars correct. I recently found a great Rapha travel pack (see picture) that includes pockets for shoes, jerseys, cold weather gear and fits nicely inside most suitcases. Remember bring long-gloves, thermal gear and glasses… the world isn’t always and pleasant as Singapore.
Whats on the flight schedules?
If you promise not to tell the wife you might see Strava posts from Tokyo, Sydney and hopefully one or two from Singapore over the next few weeks. I love riding in Tokyo however i think March may be a little colder than I would prefer and requires a little more packing of the thermals and hoping that the snow doesn’t make a late season appearance.
In the meantime pack your gear , don’t make excuses and hope to see you out on the road.