Streets Of Your Town

With a population of 280 calling Unagrie a town is a little bit ambitious. This is where Robyn grew up, on a farm in rural NSW. Her mum and dad still live on the same property and we make sure we get back every school holidays to catch up with her folks and to have a change of scenery from Sydney.

I love our trips to the farm, it’s also great from a bike riding perspective as it’s relatively flat and you can cover long distances without seeing much traffic.

It’s not quite the iconic Australian outback, so when you come out of the farm you are on a tar road. If you turn right, go a mere 4 km into town, you can then head in a number of different directions on tar roads.Turn left out of the farm, go 500 meters and the road turns to gravel.

I had only been this way a few times in the 20 years I have been visiting the farm. Robyn had been this way many times before as this is the route the school bus takes. In the morning she was the last child to be picked up by the bus so she only had the short trip into town. In the afternoon she had to came back the long way on the dirt road so she had a 16 km bus ride.

I am not sure if Robyn really felt the need to ride these roads that she traveled so many times before as a child but for me it offered a new challenge. The roads are a mixture of dirt and gravel. Not suitable for our road bikes so we had to find a solution. Turns out that the original road bikes that we bought when we first got into cycling had good clearance so could take 35mm tyres so we were set, a few modifications and we had “gravel grinders”.

And so 30 years after Robyn stopped catching the school bus she found herself at 5 am on a January morning riding the dirt roads she knew so well. It’s summer and it is hot, a 30c day is considered normal so we were out early to miss the heat. The route I’d planned was a 110 km loop ridden mainly on the dirt. There were a couple of sections of tarmac but mostly it was a mixture of gravel and red dirt. The roads are fun to ride, there are a few rough parts, some sand that has to be navigated and you constantly have to work hard to keep any real momentum. It’s a good workout and a different type of cycling.

We spent the first hour riding through the dark towards the rising sun. Using our light to pick our way through the various obstacles in front of us we covered Robyn’s old school route before turning off down a farm track as the sun finally appeared on the horizon. As it began to heat up, we pressed on through newly harvested fields and past mob’s of sheep who seemed surprised to see 2 Lycra clad folk at this time in the morning. A few right turns and 5 hours later and we were back home on the farm.

I asked Robyn if anything had changed from when she was growing up.

“Certainly not the bus route” she replied,

“Not a lot of development going on in the middle of the bush and the shrub looks exactly the same as I remember from all those years of school bus travel. It just feels normal, comfortable and like home.”

Just goes to show it doesn’t  matter where you have been and what you have done, certain places on the planet just help you to put everything into perspective.

A chance to get up close and personal with Robyn riding her bike, a video of our ride:


img_5451We are teaching our eldest to drive. I say we but the reality is that Robyn has taken on the task. It has been agreed by all parties that my involvement would not be a good thing.

You can start to learn to drive here in Australia when you are 16. You complete a theory test and then have to accumulate 120 hours of driving experience before you can take your test. This is recorded in a log book and has to have a number of hours driven at night as well. As painful as this can sound it is a really good thing. It builds up a reference structure of what is actually required to drive on the roads and should make it better for all drivers.

I do find it hard to believe that we have a daughter old enough to drive. Time is flying past and this is further bought home when we bump into old primary school friends and families. It’s always fun meeting with people we haven’t seen for a while, apart from the kids, the topic of conversation normally gets around to what are we up to and subsequently we explain our planned adventures in France next year. People think we are slightly mad and are very supportive. Apart from wanting to understand all the details the best question I have been asked was, “Have you even thought about not being able to do it?”

Interestingly enough until this question was I asked, I hadn’t. This prompted me to think about why this hadn’t even occurred to me, my conclusion is that having ridden a bit over the last 5 years I have my own reference structure of what is required:

1) Mind

A large part of cycling long distances and then doing it day after day is about your mindset.

img_5927Providing you have done sufficient training a large part of it is a mental game. My thinking is that other people have completed the task before so it must be possible, I am doing this of my own free will, in fact I am lucky to be able to do this so it’s up to me to enjoy every moment. Just deal with what’s in front of me and keep pedaling.

2) Body

“How do you train for an event like this?”

This is another question we get asked. My approach is simple, you ride lots! We get up and go out for a long ride and then do the same the next day and so on. Eat, sleep, bike, repeat as the saying goes. Sure we can manage our overall fitness, do some interval training,  hill repeats, etc but the thing I have learned is to make sure that when we ride you are comfortable on your bike.

I read somewhere that the biggest issue most marathon runners face is to actually get to the start line without any injuries. For us it’s all about sustainability, providing we can get up and get on a bike and if we are not in any pain (apart from obviously feeling tired) then we can pedal. Even the discomfort of riding up any large hills is temporary once you get to the top; you just have to keep on pedaling.

3) Soul

img_6393Doing what you love for a sustained period of time, without worrying about anything else in your life, has to be good for the soul. I love riding my bike so being able to combine this with traveling half way around the world and having Robyn do it with me is a perfect combination. Throw in to the mix that my extended family are planning to bring our daughters over to France to visit us somewhere along the way and I start to feel very grateful for what I have.

Who knows what will happen before and on the roads of France, our challenge is to make sure that we prepare the best we can and then deal with whatever comes our way.

Not a bad approach if you are learning to drive as well. As the eldest clocks up her driving hours we will clock up KM’s on the bike and look forward to what is ahead of us.

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I must love riding my bike, given I was up at 5am on Christmas Day to try out a present!



Posted in TDF