How old am I today dad?

I was a rebellious teenager for about a month, I didn’t work and party hard through my twenties and my thirties were not about fine dining and expensive wines. It has only been in my forties that I have really started to feel comfortable with how I should be behaving. Being “middle aged” has felt easier, and as I enter my 50’s the cardigan clad, slipper wearing embrace of getting older is not something I fear, in fact I am loving it.

Rather than worry about what time I have left, I am looking forward to the opportunity to say exactly what is on my mind and do what I like.

When my daughter Milly was little she loved a birthday, she was always delighted to know what it felt like to wake up and be “another number”. Well turning 50 seems to be much like any other number so far. Given its a significant milestone, I have consciously used it as an occasion to reflect on what has happened to get me to this ripe old age. This is part of what I enjoy about getting older. Because you have been around for a while you have a whole host of memories and experiences that you can look back on. It’s also a great way to indulge yourself by reliving these and telling the stories to those around you. This in itself is the joy that old age will continue to give. Even if those around you may have heard it a thousand times its always worth another repeat. So as I embrace being another number, indulge me as I tell you one of our family favourites.

sleep anywhere

We have always traveled with our kids, the fact that Robyn’s forks are a 6 hour drive away and mine are a 22 hour plane trip means that they have grown up strapped into a seat of some sort or other. The trip that has gone down into our family folklore was back in 2005, when we headed back to England for a “proper” Christmas.

The girls were 5 and 3 at the time and were excited about the trip and going on the plane. The trip over is always a roller-coaster of emotions, excitement at the start, a blurry world of wonderment as you traipse around whatever foreign airport you need to stop off at and then a tense finish as extreme tiredness takes hold as you descend into Heathrow. I can’t recall the girls being too outrageous on the trip, no real screaming or carrying on, probably just the normal niggling and frustration that we all feel at being couped up for such a long time. The worst time is when you have landed and you are waiting to get off, as we waited there was an announcement for a family to contact cabin crew.

“Whats that for?” one of the girls asked

“They have probably won the Fantastic Flyer competition”, I replied.

‘What’s that?”

“Well, Qantas award a medal to the best behaved children on each flight and that family’s children have won it”

Without any further discussion people started moving and we were soon heading to the door.

I told the girls not to expect snow!

It wasn’t until we were safely back at my parents house that the Qantas Fantastic Flyer medal was mentioned again. Clearly this had made a big impression as the girls who were telling Grandma all about it and how they were going to be so well behaved on the flight home that they were going to win it. My mum thought this was a great initiative and asked me how long Qantas had been running it. Out of earshot of the girls, I confessed that it didn’t actually exist and that I had just made it up. Of course she tutted away at my insensitivity and that I shouldn’t be so nasty to her adorable grandchildren. Then it got Robyn and I thinking, Qantas may not have a scheme but it didn’t mean we couldn’t help them out, a plan was hatched.

Traveling with our girls when they were little are some of my fondest memoires. They see things that you have become desensitised to, each country has slight variations of the green crossing man on the traffic lights, each park has different play equipment and also it seems that there is no standard age for what constitutes a child.

At some attractions a child can be as old as 8, at others you only get in for free if you are 4 or under. On this trip Milly, being 5, sometimes qualified for free entry but at others we would have had to pay. Of course we were not going to pay. Now we all know how important your age is when you are 5. So we had explained to Milly that this was a game, where we had to pretend that sometimes you were 4 to see if the person could guess correctly. Once she bought into this she stopped being indignant that we kept getting her age wrong and was willing to play along. All was going well until we rocked up to Windsor Castle. We had decided to go early and were the first customers of the day. We stood alone in the empty reception as the attendant finalised their till.

“How old am I today dad? Am I 5 or do you want me to pretend to be 4?”, Milly asked in a loud voice that echoed around the ancient walls.

The attendant glanced up at me with a knowing look.

I smiled weekly and responded, “You are 4, like always”

“So 2 adults and 2 children under 5 is it?”, the attendant asked

“Stone Hedge” as the girls called it. Can’t recall how old you had to be to get in here for free

When you look back at old pictures of these trips the memories come flooding back. It’s feels like yesterday, then you drop back into the reality of today you can see how much time has passed. A month on holiday with the girls at that age never dragged as we were always busy and often before we knew it we were soon on the plane heading home.

As we counted down the days to the return flight we had been reminding the girls about the Fantastic Flyer competition. They had started to plan their approach and had high expectations of winning the coveted award.

The girls were exceptionally well behaved, every time any of the cabin crew came past they sat upright, smiled and were the perfect passengers. A couple of hours out from landing in Sydney, Robyn executed the final part of our plan. She approached one of the air stewardesses and explained the situation and asked is she could award the medals to our girls. The stewardess was very happy to go along with our plan especially when we produced 2 very shiny medals that we had for her to award.

The original Qantas Fantastic Flyer Medal. Still a prized possession today.

Back in the UK we had ordered 2 big gold medals with Qantas red and white coloured ribbon with Fantastic Flyer engraved on them. There was an announcement on the tannoy for the Reeve family to make themselves known to cabin crew and then the medals for the Qanats Fantastic Flyer on QF2 from London to Sydney were awarded with much pomp and ceremony.The girls proudly strode off the plane and walked up to customs with a swagger and their chests held high proudly wearing their medals. The customs officer asked what they were for and the girls explained how they had won them.

The Qantas Fantastic Flyer medals held pride of place in their rooms for many years. As the girls got older and we made more flights back we would talk about the time they won, we discussed if the scheme was still running and Robyn and I never let on. Over the years bedrooms were reorganised and the medals were put away with other childhood treasures and forgotten about.

I can’t recall exactly what was the catalyst for us to be discussing the medals again as we sat down one weekend for dinner. Maye we were reminiscing about our trips or looking at some old pictures but something had my now teenage girls disappearing to retrieve the medals from the rest of their childhood memories.

With great delight we confessed that we had made the whole thing up. The girls were not sure if they should be impressed or disappointed, after their initial outrage at our deception they had to admit it had been a masterful rouse and the fact that we had not confessed until they were much older probably saved us many tears.

Celebrating Australian New Years Eve 2019 in Lymington in the UK

The final chapter on this whole story happened on our last trip back to the UK this summer. Milly is now 18 and Alice is 16. Of course as we approached our departure date comments were passed about the Qantas Fabulous Flyer program and how they were probably too old to participate. Their ages now offered a slightly different challenge for me. As a Qantas Club member I can take one guest into the lounge with me and also any children under 18. I had researched this beforehand so knew the rules but had neglected to talk to the family about this. The nice lady on reception asked for our boarding passes. I thought I would be proactive.

“I know I am allowed one additional passenger, do my daughters qualify as well or will they have to stay outside?” I asked for full effect.

“How old are they?”

“Well Milly is 17 and Alice is 16”, I replied.

“NO, Milly is 18 DAD!”, Alice shouted out impulsively, “You always get our ages wrong”.

I looked into the eyes of the receptionist.

“This is awkward, isn’t it? What shall we do now?”

As the girls wished the ground would open up and they could disappear, the receptionist began to laugh, I said that I was very comfortable is she didn’t want to let either of them in, but she wished us a pleasant flight and we all decanted into he lounge.

So although being a certain number may not impact how we feel it does have an impact on what is available to us. I am not sure what I get for being 50, I think I am now entitled to a number of free health screenings, but apart from that it seems more of a symbolic milestone.

So as I embrace my mid life with optimism and a sense of contentment I have decided to use the Governments interest in my health as a catalyst to re-write our Wills. Its what keeps us old people busy these days and to my absolute joy I have had the marvelous realisation that now Milly is 18, she can have legal custody of her sister.

Oh the joys of being another number.

Looking forward to getting even older

Swan Dive

We had a different project to focus on once I got back from France.

What a fabulous day we had participating in the Red Bull Flugtag. Robyn was our pilot and flew with style.

Stage 20 – Saint-Pée-Sur-Nivelle > Espelette

A quick spin around the time trial course in the rain and then we traveled to Paris ready to ride in tomorrow.

The time has flown by and it’s hard to believe that it has also been a year since I last rode around Paris. I am feeling a little more together and coherent this time,  so I may actually remember something of the day.


Stage 19 – Lourdes > Laruns

Another big day in the mountains. Rain and mist made for an interesting final climb.

Nothing could dampen our spirits knowing that after we completed today there is a short time trial tomorrow and a ride around Paris on Sunday to celebrate.


Stage 18 – Trie-Sur-Baïse > Pau

Afiter 9 days of hard riding, 170 km of relatively flat countryside becomes a bit of a recovery ride.

I spoke to Gary one of the physio’s today. If the mechanics fix the bikes, it’s the physio’s that fix the bodies and keep us all on the road.

Rest Day – A Terrible Cycling Dilemma

Noun. dilemma. circumstance in which a choice must be made between two alternatives.

I have spent the rest day in Carcassonne. A sleep in, a massage and a bit of bike faff was followed by a nice long lunch and a walk around the old city.

When you have a bunch of cyclists together the conversation is always going to be about past and future bike exploits. Many people on tour are repeat offenders. Some you have met in earlier Vlogs are riding the whole thing for the second or third time, others have ridden a few stages and come back for more.

Tim who I had lunch with today described his Le Loop addiction as his “Terrible Cycling Dilemma”, which I think describes the situation most of us find ourselves in.

It always says something about an organisation when you get so much repeat business. And the challenge is once you have experienced everything Le Loop has to offer then its hard to find anything similar that is going’s to match it.

So I am faced with an interesting decision, the places for next years Grand Le Loop open at the end of July. They will sell out immediately so if I want to ride again next year, and do the whole thing, I need to make a call in the next week or so. I would love to do it, the challenge is the impact it has on other areas of my life, the time needed for training, the challenges it can create taking the time off from work and of course the impact on my family. Fortunately Robyn is always supportive and from our calls this week they seem to be managing quite well without me.

I need to ride my bike for my own well-being and for those around me, if it’s not the tour what else? Would anything else come close to the physical and mental challenge riding through France gives me?

So what to do? I will decide over the next week as I aim to complete this weeks tour. A welcome dilemma to ponder as we set off on more long days and climbs in the Pyrenees.

This week I rode 1056.58 km over the course of 49h:06m.


Stage 15 – Millau > Carcassonne

Six days of riding completed. Today was another spectacular day through some wonderful scenery in the heat. A climb towards the end to keep us on our toes and a World Cup win for France made for an interesting ride in to the hotel.

I caught up with a couple of the hard men on tour, not those at the front, but the guys towards the back who put in the longest days.

It’s a rest day tomorrow so a chance to rest the legs before the final 6 stages.


Stage 14 – Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux > Mende

In the tour guide today’s stage is described as “hilly”. May be a bit of an understatement, scenery was stunning and another testing stage is in the bag.

Lots of tired riders who are kept on the road by the superb medical team on tour. Today I had a chat with Dr.Fiona. Another tour superstar.


Stage 13 – Bourg D’oisans >Valence

There were times in the last 3 days when I wondered what I was doing. All of that gets forgotten about when you have days like today. A flat stage through beautiful scenery and a great meal al fresco to complete the day.

Today I had a chat with arguably the most important man on tour Sam who puts up the arrows to show us the way. We would actually be lost without him!


Stage 10 – Annecy > Le Grand Bornand

Stage 10 and my first day of this years tour .

Straight into the mountains and hard work. It doesn’t matter how many KM you have ridden or how many mountains you have climbed, you still have to get up and over what is put in front of you.

For today’s production I had a chat with a couple of returned  “lifers” Deano and Michael.

Charity Work

There appears to be an increasing competition for charitable donations. Maybe social media and today’s connected world gives me more visibility of the good things people are doing, but this wouldn’t explain why the streets of Sydney seem to be filled with people collecting for their causes.

I’m a little apprehensive about fund raising at times, do people just think they are funding my holidays? This is not the case!

It’s an interesting position I often find myself in. I have no doubt that every cause is worthwhile but I have become a little weary of the pseudo friendly approaches I often receive as I walk about the city. They start by enquiring if I am having a good day and then move swiftly onto asking me if I have time to answer one question. We all know this is a well proven tactic to get people to engage and my standard response is to smile and walk on.

Equally when I am raising money for a charity I have been cautions about rattling a tin. I’m sensitive to how others may feel, particularly when you have form and this is not the first time you have gone to the friends and family “well” to raise some funds.

One of the outcomes of my ride in France last year was a desire to give back and be more charitable.

The organisation I ride with in France, Le Loop, have a great set up. Cyclists pay their own tour costs to Le Loop and agree to raise a minimum sponsorship for the William Wates Memorial Trust , which is paid directly to Trust. In the Trusts own words:

We aim to help the most disadvantaged young people keep away from a life of crime and violence and fulfil their potential. This is achieved by giving grants to charities that engage young people through the mediums of sport, arts and education.

A restaurant in France getting a serious reality check.

All of this is clearly explained up front and you know that the money you raise goes to some great causes. Last year during our ride we got to meet first hand some of the recipients of the grants. They came out to ride with us on some of the stages (Alumni riders cover all the costs of this project) and we got to hear about how the money we had raised was being used. After hearing from some of the recipients I remember feeling incredibly privileged and completely disconnected from the realities that many people face.

I was sitting in a restaurant, somewhere in France, surrounded by other cyclists fortunate to be doing something that I loved and decided that I would find some way to start giving back.

When I arrived home back in Sydney I wasn’t sure what I should do. I could always make donations to some local causes but would this really be enough? I did consider volunteering, but the only experiences I have had of doing this had never gone well. Normally it was something to do with the school and what should just have been a couple of hours helping out always became a great source of frustration. If you ask me to help out at the BBQ, rather than just go with it I start to get frustrated at the inefficiency of how the whole thing is run.

“Coffee Ian” part of the Le Loop Team, the most efficient support team in the business.

Should Mary who is taking the money, and who clearly knows everybody in the whole school, really be spending that much time chatting when there is such a big line up and people are walking away? Is it OK for me to challenge “BBQ king Gary’s” strategy of cooking everything up front, and point out that after 2 hours we will be selling something that looks that burnt and shrivelled in a piece of stale bread for $2? I know it’s for charity, people might not expect much, but surely we need to have some standards.

Fortunately we were all saved from more volunteering when one of my clients asked if I would run a Leadership program, similar to the programs I run for them, for a group of their charitable institutions that they support. They have a large charitable foundation so they are able to support a range of different entities from established charities, to new charities and also some social enterprises .

I must admit I was a little apprehensive at first. I know what I do in the corporate space resonates with the people I work with, but would it translate across into these environments? I needn’t have worried; if there are people involved, regardless of who they work for or how many of them there are, there are similar leadership challenges.

My normal habitat. I had grown too familiar with the corporate world I live in, challenging but so rewarding to get out of my comfort zone and work with people that are really making a difference.

The difference from working with my normal corporate client base is that for most of the people working in this sector there is no option for them to walk away if things get too tough. Particularly for the founders and the individuals building and developing their charities or pioneering some very cool social enterprise models, this is their life’s work.

They are working to provide support and choice for the people they are helping and they are passionate and 100% committed to what they do. They are incredibly conscientious about how they spend any money they receive to the point where they make personal sacrifices way beyond what many of us would be prepared to do.

So alongside developing leadership capabilities I have also been able to get involved in how to structure and grow some of these organisations. I have been more than happy to donate my time to run strategy days, facilitate team events, be a mentor and help bring a more commercial edge to how they run their organisations, without losing their heart and soul.

When you get to meet and work with the people who are passionate about their cause and you can see the good they are doing you are only too willing to help out in any way that you can. This type of involvement isn’t just a transaction, a donation of time or money, it is part of a relationship and connectedness that really is mutually beneficial.

Which brings me back to Le Loop and The William Wates Memorial Trust. It’s only when you make that personal connection and understand how you are making a difference that it becomes your cause. This was the realisation I had in the restaurant last year.

So armed with my new experiences this year I am heading back to France to enjoy riding my bike and looking forward to catching up with the Le Loop team in the knowledge that all the money raised will be making a huge difference to the charities they are able to support.

This idea of a connection also plays out in another way.

I know what it feels like when people do support your cause. Getting donations from people you haven’t seen for 20 years because they may have read a blog or seen a request and are inspired enough to support you, is very moving and motivating.

Over the last few years I have willingly tried to support people I know in whatever charitable endeavours they have undertaken –  bike riding, marathon running, walking up mountains, if I have known about them then I have consciously tried to make a donation. If you are motivated to do get off the sofa and it has a flow on effect to a good cause then it’s good enough for me.

So here is my offer, if you have something in your diary that needs some charitable support then send your request my way. My only caveat is I am not going to become an ATM for your kid’s school fundraising; you volunteer your time and manage the frustration. If you have signed up for a challenge that motivates you and will in turn help a good cause then give me the opportunity to support you.


I have a few limited addition Tea Towels from last years fund raising. If you do want to make a donation to a cause I believe in then I am happy to send one your way.

You can sponsor me here:






To Blog or to Vlog?

My trip to France is now only a month away and I have been thinking about how to record it. Keeping a blog last year took a lot of discipline but it was well worth it. It is great to be able to go back and revisit each of the stages and the memories.

This year I am thinking about keeping a video diary, or a vlog as I believe the youngsters call it.

I had a trial run on a recent trip down to Bright in Victoria. The following videos capture some of my rides and a few thoughts on some topics connected to riding in France with Le Loop.

#1 – What to pack? (Especially for the mountains)

#2 – Riding up and down mountains

#3 – The social side of the Tour – Guest appearance from my wife Robyn, she normally generates a lot more interest on social media than me, this may be the one to watch.

#4 – Bike stuff

Time and Space

“The trouble with cycling is that it takes up so much time”.

”I know”, I replied, “isn’t that great”.

My bike is my circuit breaker it allows me to get away from whatever is going on in my life.

Sitting on my backside, pedalling away for hours is how I like to relax.  It gives me time to think and after a few big days in the saddle I am tired, I have a sense of achievement and I am very appreciative of what I have.

The only thing that can change this is when I am training for an event. Rather than enjoying being out and about on my bike I can start to resent doing another ride on the same roads just to get my fitness to the required levels.

The youngest, embracing the Lycra to prepare for a charity ride she signed up for. Is she at the start of a slippery slope?

Last year my training for France was really motivated by the nerves I felt about riding the whole tour. Until you actually go and do it you just don’t know how you will respond. Having got round last year, and really enjoyed myself in the process, this years training has been as challenging but without the nerves. I have been clocking up the km’s over the last month and I have enjoyed every moment.

Having my folks visit from the UK for a month also provided some balance. They have been regular visitors to see us in Sydney and have also seen a fair bit of this “big brown land”, but one place they had never been was down to the Victorian Alps. So the whole family went on a road trip to Bright to take in the mountain air.

Robyn climbing Mt Hotham , this was on our 21st Wedding Anniversary.  What a way to celebrate all that time together.

Lets face it everybody knew it was so I could ride my bike up the mountains,  but they were quite happy to indulge me. The feedback I always get is that when I ride my bike it makes it more manageable for everybody. The family get some time and space away from me and when I get back I am often tired, content and therefore more compliant to whatever they need me to do. Everyone’s a winner!

We had a great week together in Bright and then spent the second week of the school holidays back in Sydney. I’d get up early and ride, then we’d explore the city and all sit down for dinner in the evening. Perfect.

Now with 8 weeks until I ride in France I am in a good space. Having said goodbye to Mum and Dad and with the girls back at school, the routine of work and family life has started again.

This time last year the whole family was counting down the weeks before we made the trip over to the UK and France. This year I’ll be on my own, without all the excitement. Just my kit, my bike and the time and space to ride for 12 glorious days, on some of the best roads in the world. I can’t see any trouble with that at all.

A wander around Manly with the family, no bikes or bike talk allowed!
























A client of mine made the wonderful observation that most people seemed to get paid to come to work and talk nonsense all day.

He included himself in this observation and I will readily admit that I often pause during whatever program I am delivering and check in and see if people are in fact making any sense of what I am banging on about.

I like the word nonsense.

It makes me smile when I start to lose it or get caught up in my own little world of whatever is important. This weekend was a classic example.

We were down the coast with our friends for our annual weekend away. We have been coming to the same place for the last 12 years. There are 4 of us who went to school together in the UK and our families.

I took my bike so on Saturday morning at 5am I was stumbling around our cabin trying to get ready to ride. Despite giving myself a stern talking to the previous night about not overdoing it and getting too carried away, several bottles of red and 3 plates of Chinese takeaway was probably not the best preparation.

I could have easily just gone back to bed, but I had made a commitment to the man who is helping me understand how to use my power meter, that I would ride flat out up a climb as some sort of test (we could call this man, a coach, but it would be complete nonsense for a middle aged man to get himself one of those, when he has no intention of ever racing, and the event he is preparing for only really requires him ride his bike lots).

view from the top of the climb

So regardless of how I was feeling I had to ride. That was until I found that my Garmin only had 18% battery life left. For those of you who may be uneducated in these things, this little computer basically collects all the data from your power meter, your heart rate monitor and GPS data as well. It tracks your ride so that you can then upload it to whatever system you want and people can marvel at what you have done or analyse it so they can tell you how to ride faster.

My primary goal is to get fit to ride in France, so I could easily have just ridden my bike, but I had made a commitment and didn’t want to look like I wasn’t taking things seriously. If it is not on the computer it might just as well not have happened. I could have waited for an hour, charged it, and then ridden but such an idea was complete nonsense to me at the time.

So I hatched a cunning plan, I had to ride flat out anyway, so I’d just welly it from the off and see if I could make it up the climb before my computer died. It’s was a 30km ride to the start of the climb so I headed into the pitch black as if I was being chased.

The excess Chinese and wine applied an immediate hand break and I had to back it off straight away. At least by the time I’d got to the climb I’d hoped that I may be feeling a little better.

this years theme was Jesters

Sure enough an hour or so later as I started climbing Cambewarra Mountain I wasn’t feeling too rough. My normal routine is to pace myself up these climbs, it has previously made no sense to go like the clappers just for the sake of it. But there was a job to do, I rode as fast as I could and hoped that my Garmin held on as I made my way in the early dawn light up the 5km climb.

I had no idea how I was going on the climb as the screen for my Garmin had switched itself off as part of it’s power save mode. Again it would seem like more nonsense that you can’t actually tell how hard you are working without a computer telling you, but sometimes you can feel rough but your heart rate will tell you that you can do more.

I got to the top and headed straight down the other side, it’s a steep decent so had to concentrate and by the time I’d got to the bottom I was feeling OK again. Maybe I didn’t go hard enough? I wasn’t about to repeat it and rode gently up another climb to head for home.

On the way back my Garmin finally died, fortunately I had the data I needed and rode back to spend the day with my family and friends.

This weekend is all about nonsense. Talking nonsense, dressing up in outfits that make no sense and a chance to catch up, relax and enjoy ourselves. I wasn’t going to let the fact that I failed to beat my PB on the climb by 3 seconds or that Strava is missing 15km from my ride log ruin the weekend. Getting upset over such minor things would be complete nonsense.

11 years after the original photo was taken

The original group photo taken in 2007



Power To The People

I am back in training for my return trip to France in July. Having completed the whole tour last year I have some idea of what I have let myself in for. The reality is that to ride consecutive days, over the distances that the tour takes, is a challenge that needs to be taken seriously.

So as well as long rides at the weekends I am hitting the turbo trainer during the week.

One of the benefits of an early start

A lot has changed with regards to these indoor torture machines. When I first started using one 5 years ago it was a question of set it up and away you go. The technological advances in the last few years means that you can now race virtual courses connected to other people and if you have the right trainer and bike bits it will automatically simulate the course, making it harder to pedal as you climb, easier on the descents, etc.

I have yet to venture into this world. I use my turbo time to listen to music and watch stuff on my ipad. The only training plans I use are printed on a lamented sheet of A4 paper.

Old school!

If I want to ride faster I just put on some different music, AC / DC normally has me powering along. It can also be fun to just surf your music catalogue find stuff that you never knew you had or discovering an old “banger” (I am informed by my teenagers this is what the youth call a top tune!) on spotify. As long as you remember to pedal it can be a fun and worthwhile hour.

I do have to watch myself on YouTube though. Watching a classic music video can easily turn into an hour of nostalgia as you jump through distant memories. I am not quite sure how I ended up watching the opening credits to “Citizen Smith”, one of my all time favourite comedies when I was growing up as a kid, but it was a real treat.

Of course then you just have to go and watch a few clips and soon you are looking for the complete series on Amazon or iTunes to download. Whilst all this is going on the pedals are turning but the intensity has definitely gone out of the workout.

The catchline of Wolfie the main character in Citizen Smith is “Power To The People”, for many cyclists it is a power meter that allows them to race and simulate climbing various iconic mountains from their own homes.

This irony was not lost on me as I was watching this classic comedy. For I have actually invested in a power meter and it was sat in its box waiting patiently for me to let it out.

Last year my training for France involved basically lots of hours on my bike, I have ridden enough to know when I can go harder and when I should back it off. But all of this has been done on feel. If anything I probably don’t ever really push myself to see what I am really capable of, the goal has always been to complete whatever is in front of me in one piece.

Regardless of how you train there is always a reward afterwards

So this year I did think of trying a different approach and being a bit more structured with my training, hence the power meter purchase.

I have had a couple of reservations, firstly I have no idea about how to use one and secondly I do wonder if I will become a slave to the numbers.

Even if you are not a competitive cyclist, the  numbers can be quite addictive, how far you have ridden, how fast, etc is all part of the fun of tracking your progress. My fear is that by adding another layer of data it could end all enjoyment. I have no doubt I’ll be able to climb faster but is this a good thing if I am not actually looking around and enjoying it.

The reality is that I need to bite the bullet, faced with a rather busy work calendar for the next few months, I need to find a way to be more efficient with my training. So I have the power meter on my bike and I am in the process of talking to somebody who understands these sort of things to help design a training program that will unleash the power of watts into my cycling world.

Maybe I can combine my old turbo training regime with my new one,  for one of my other guilty pleasures on the turbo has actually been watching singalong versions of some of the Classic Disney tunes. I wonder how many watts I can push to ”Let it Go” from Frozen?

For a good cause

I am raising money to support the William Wates Memorial Trust. Their mission is to helps the most disadvantaged young people keep away from a life of crime and violence and fulfil their potential. This is achieved by giving grants to charities that engage young people through the mediums of sport, arts and education.

On last years ride I was fortunate enough to meet some of the people who benefit from the grants that the trust provides. It was incredibly humbling and inspiring to know that the money donated makes a real difference.

You can sponsor me here:








Posted in TDF

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (no bikes)

I found myself stood in front of the breakfast buffet and didn’t know what to do. Last time I was in this position in a European hotel it was simple, eat, eat and eat. This time I am in Italy, not France, and there are no lyra clad Gannets competing for the spoils.

I am in Figline, 35km from Florence, visiting some relatives with my parents. My bike is 16,000km away in Sydney. This is the longest I have been seperate from one of my bikes since I started riding 6 years ago. I can cope with not being with my family, I can still see and talk to them, but not having a bike to ride is making me a little twitchy.

Snow whilst visiting my sister meant we had to abandon the car and catch the train to Gatwick to catch our flights

When I was back in England this summer I made a commitment to my folks that we would come to Italy to visit my uncle Franco and my cousin Giulia and her family. I decided not to bring my bike as I am only traveling for a couple of weeks and it makes the whole logistics a little easier.

Living so far away from my folks I am very conscious of making the time and effort to see my mum and dad as much as I can whilst they are in good health. They are in such good health that they could just about accomodate this trip in their otherwise busy schedule. There is also a certain degree of familiarity that comes with seeing them so regularly. It’s not like I am popping over for Sunday lunch and then heading home, when I turn up it’s for at least a week of “quality time” together. Without access to a bike I can struggle to spend a week with myself, so goodness knows how they are surviving being with me.

To even the ledger they have taken great delight in pointing out that given my age it could almost be considered a SAGA holiday. (A UK company that offers holidays for the over 50’s).

My folks with cousin Giulia in Florence

This has motivated me to visit the hotel gym and I have also taken great comfort in knowing I have made the right plans for 2018.

After completing the tour this year I struggled to find something that would motivate me as much as the thought of getting on a plane to ride my bike in France. So in 2018 I have signed up to ride stages 11 to 21 of “Le Loop”, as it is now called. This will take me to the fun parts, riiding through the Alps and the Pyrenees.

Having done the whole tour this year I didn’t feel the need to test myself to such a degree again, but I did want to make the most of a trip over, being a half-lifer is the perfect solution. This time I will be on my own, no Robyn to keep me company, so it will be a slightly different proposition.

My training will start the moment I am reunited with my bike next week. The impending Christmas break and then our summer holidays means I have plenty of time to make it up to my bike after our trial separation.

Look what the girls did to Stuart O’Grady whilst I was away!

The family know the routine, summer holidays have been booked to accomodate my need to ride. My parents visit to Australia in April will also coincide with a trip to the Victorian Alps for me to ride up some proper mountains. Yes more quality time with my folks! If they live to a ripe old age, as they are planning, I may be the only person who emigrated and ended up seeing more of their family than the relatives that stayed in the same country.

Normality will be restored and my universe will be back in balance. I can’t stop time but I can make the most of the time available to me, I’ll either be riding my bike, spending quality time with my family or working. Probably in that order.



What Next?

We have been home for a while now and on todays ride we were discussing our trip to France.

We did a quick video to say thank you to everybody who sposored us, to share our highlights and to look to the future.

That’s a wrap

There is no bag to pack, no breakfast buffet to consume and no day bags to arrange for the stage ahead. It’s 5am on Sunday morning and I am standing in our kitchen trying to make sense of where I am and what I am about to do.

Winter in Sydney is not that harsh but I am soft and I feel the cold

It’s been a week since we rode around Paris and less than 24 hours since we stepped off our flight back from Heathrow. It’s a cold, dark Sydney morning outside. My phone tells me it’s 6c but apparently it feels like 3c. This is as cold as it will get during our winter and I am dressed in in my full “winter gear”. What I would have given for this on stage 8 when we spent the day being cold and wet.

I have no compelling reason to get on my bike this morning, nothing to train for, no events in my calendar and riding 3,637km over 21 stages could have earned me a few weeks off. But I was awake and old habits are hard to break. I am back in a familiar routine and it’s hard to believe what has happened and what we have achieved over the last few weeks.

Robyn has stayed in bed, she was all set to ride the Rapha Women’s 100 this morning but a test ride last night was the proof she needed that she was still carrying an injury. The fact she was able to ride into Paris at all was due to the remarkable efforts put in by the medical team of Dr.Fiona and Dr.Tony. What she thought was a saddle sore was in fact an abscess (she loves the fact I am sharing this) and both Dr’s were amazed she could sit let alone ride her bike. But she wanted to ride so they did everything possible to allow her to. Proof of the exceptional services and attitude that all the TDF team on tour displayed.

So over the course of my ride I use the time to think about what has just happened and what we have experienced in France. A quick check in with Robyn when I get back and I can share the learning’s and insights form our tour experience.

Remember To Look Up

Robyn at the end of her fist day, a big stage in the mountains

There were times on tour when getting through the stage is the priority, this can be driven by the distance you need to cover, how you may be feeling or the weather. This is OK but if you spent the whole tour just staring at the wheel in front of you, then you have missed what France is all about. Every stage took you through a part of France that had something to offer. I now have a greater understanding of the variety of the landscape across France. It would also seem that rural France is shut, we passed lots of houses and villages with very little sign of life.This was great as it created a real sense of peace as we travelled through some of the remote roads that the tour takes.

Our personal highlight was Stage 12 and riding up to Peyragudes on Robyn’s first day. We shared a magical moment as the sun was setting on the mountains and after a huge day we both felt emotional and also very appreciative of being able to make the time to do something we love.

Meet The Locals

Maybe because we live so far away from Europe and don’t get to spend much time on foreign soil but we just loved being in France and going native. We don’t speak any French, all be it the odd word and phrase, but it didn’t stop us having a conversation in a bar with the locals as we watched the final 10 minutes of the Lions v NZ rugby decider, ordering 10 large beers to the bemused looks of the barman or trying to buy lip balm from a pharmacist who didn’t understand a word of what I was saying.

Wet but still smiling after meeting the locals

The highlight was our encounter with a gruff French bar owner on the stage 15 as we made our way to Le Puy-En-Velay to meet our family for the rest day. It was cold and wet and I needed the loo. So we stopped at a very small bar. It was Sunday lunchtime and clearly things were set up for the locals and a long lunch. We were soaking wet and as we greeted the proprietor he whipped out two old tea towels for us to stand on. He was chuntering away but we didn’t understand a word, we did get the impression that he would be quite pleased if we left. However needs must, but being too polite just to drip all over his bar and use the loo we ordered 2 espresso’s first.

He asked if we were English, “No, Je suis Australian”, Robyn proudly announced. Though his demeanor didn’t change he did become animated. I think he asked us if we ate kangaroo and when we replied no he said that we should as he likes to eat horse! I could have got this wrong as I needed the toilet quite badly by then.

I managed to get him to point out the toilets and took off my cycling shoes so not to clatter through the bar. As I exited stage left this bought another round on gesticulation and animation as he pointed out to Robyn the wet mess I was making all over his floor. On my return a mop had appeared and we made a hasty exit back into the rain. We laughed all the way to the next food stop, a bit of a touch and go moment in many ways.

Does the tour make the people or do the people make the tour?

Lots of smiles and laughter throughout the 3 weeks

I have been asked if I would do it all again. My instinctive answer is absolutely yes. My only reservation is if you could ever recreate the same sense of camaraderie. They say that each year the tour has its own flavour and I’m sure all previous participants may feel the same thing about their tour and their experience. My challenge would be that the last 3 weeks has been so much fun off the bike I am struggling to see how it could get any better. It would seem the “Le Loop” appeals to a certain type of rider. Yes they can ride a bike but don’t take themselves or what they are doing too seriously. This sense of humour and a genuine interest to help each other out to achieve the goals that we are set each day is major part of the tour experience. Whether it’s a social beer before we even reach the hotel at the end of the stage, a late night trip to McDonalds to let Jeff (the eldest lifer at 63) experience its culinary delights for the first time ever, or just the merriment that accompanied the dinners and many drinks, we laughed a lot.

Spin, Spin, Spin

All the training was about to pay off, before our first day on tour

I have also been asked if I found the cycling hard. The answer is yes, at times it was bloody hard. But these times were actually far and few between. We are not professionals, so completing each stage and doing this over a number of consecutive days is an achievement in itself. Sure there were some riders capable of racing around and everybody at some stage would have given it an extra nudge when on the front of the peloton or up a hill, but this was about endurance not speed. You learn to ride at a tempo that allows you to ride all day, as this is what you are required to do. To be able to do this you needed to have put the training and the KM’s in your legs beforehand.

The body is a remarkable thing and it can achieve things beyond what our mind tells us we are capable of. You can force it for a day or 2 but after that things can go awry. If you haven’t put the hours in spinning away and getting your body used to it then the niggles and pains begin to creep in. Everybody at some stage would have dealt with some issue but the more you prepare the more you know what to expect and the more your body is capable of dealing with it. As a wise person once told me, “The event is the reward for all the training you put in”. Mine just happened to be a 21 day reward!

Making A Difference

The charity aspect of the tour had more of an impact on me than I thought it would. I had looked into William Wates Memorial Trust and the projects it supports beforehand so I had some idea about what we were raising money for. It wasn’t until we got to hear from some of the charities and the people that benefited from the support that I really understood how the money raised does make a difference. On tour we got to meet people from a couple of the charities and when you hear about the challenges and hardships that people encounter it made me feel rather disconnected from the reality that many people face in their daily lives.

What we were able to do was for pure pleasure and, let’s face it was incredibly self-indulgent. These stories and insight were a reality check and a wake up call. I am glad we could raise the money we did, I am left wondering what else I can do. I can continue to donate money to good causes but I think there is more that I can be doing. I am not sure what it is but I have come back from the tour with an intent to find local projects and charities that I can someway help and support. Maybe it’s offering my time or maybe I can leverage some of the skills I have in my business, either way the tour opened my eyes to a world beyond my comfortable existence.

What next?

I honestly don’t know, I’ll still ride my bike as the other morning showed. But without the pressure of any immediate event there is a life to resurrect, school runs to make and clients to see.

Maybe I just need to take a few weeks to reflect on what we did, enjoy the photos and memories that go with them and let the next adventure find me.

Can I still donate?

Of course you can and when you make your donation send us an email with your address to and we will pop an exclusive Rather Be Riding My Bike tea towel in the post to you. We have covered the costs for the tea towels and will pay for the postage so all your money goes to help out those that need it.

To donate click here:





Stage 21 – Just can’t get enough

The rhythm of tour life provides you with a very warm security blanket. I haven’t had to think for myself for three weeks. Just follow the instructions, make sure you know when mealtimes are and be ready to ride at the right time. On the “outside” this would drive me mad, being in the tour bubble this structure has been the enabler for a fabulous holiday. Riding your bike every day is made easier when you don’t have to think about what happens when you are off it.

We made it

I was asked to describe my tour experience in a single word. I fumbled around before I had a moment of clarity – FUN. On the bike and off the bike it has been constant fun. Whilst we are all on tour to ride our bikes and to complete whatever stages we have signed on for, the thing that will stay with me is the sheer enjoyment and laughter that we have had along the way. Without having to try there is an intimacy and bond that is created when you spend this much time with people sharing a common goal.

The complete obsurdity and hilarity of having a tour doctor examine your backside whilst you stand on the side of the road with your Lycra shorts down near your ankles is only fully realised afterwards when the story is retold in the bar. At the time it was just another problem that needed to be fixed so the pedals could be kept turning. Goodness knows what the passing motorists thought of the roadside diagnosis that was taking place.

So on our final day and a last spin into Paris the laughter and enjoyment continued. As we rode through the outskirts of Paris into Versailles there was a genuine end of term feel in the peloton. Then as we made our way through a surprisingly quiet Paris we seemed to magically arrive at the Eiffel Tower. Friends and family greeted many riders and Robyn and I took a moment to appreciate what we had been able to achieve and to send a photograph to our girls back in the UK.

Heroic pose from Robyn

Once we had regrouped we set off to do a lap of the Champs-Élysées. More laughter as we made our way across the cobbles, weaving and racing through the traffic to get to the Arc de Triomphe. The smiles gave way to a few tears as we bounced along the rode and the enormity of what we had done hit home. Circumnavigating the Arc, through the waves of cars coming from all directions, refocused our attention and we set off down the Champs-Élysées agin to complete our lap. Racing between traffic lights, heading down through the tunnel that many of us are familiar with from watching the tour on TV and back around the Louvre, we fought for position amongst ourselves and the traffic. Back upto the Arc, a right turn and a few KM later and we were at our hotel. We parked the bikes ready for transportation back to the UK, hugs all around and into the bar to continue the merriment.

Signing the route to the bar

We spent our final evening on a boat on the Seine taking in the sights of Paris with our fellow riders and their friends and family, all sharing in one more magical evening. What was meant to be a final beer back at the hotel turned into a singalong and some dancing for the final few revellers who clearly had not had enough when at 3am Depeche Mode blasted out of the sound system.

The lifers on tour

Stage 19 and 20 – Are we there yet?

Stage 19 was on Bastille Day so we put on the stripes to celebrate


Stage 19 was the longest stage of the tour, we rode 236km, and I say we because Robyn’s bike was fixed overnight and she was rearing to go.

We rode from Emburn to Salon-de-Provence, from the Alps down to near Marseille, through Provence. It was hot and windy and given it was the last proper ride of the tour it was suitably challenging. A headwind had us slowly pedalling our way through some beautiful scenery that was frankly wasted on us given the focus we had to get to the end of the stage.

There have been times on tour when the scenery and surroundings have been lost to the challenge and the distance that each stage has offered up. This is what has made the last 3 weeks such an engaging thing to do. Seeing as much of France as we have, doing it with a group of people who have bonded together and also testing ourselves against the elements and some challenging terrain needs a bit of focus and determination at times.

It seemed that my cycle computer had stoped working as the KM’s just didn’t accumulate as they had done so on other stages. But we just kept on going, knowing there would be some relief from a brief decent or change in the wind at some stage.

The final approach to the end of the stage was a wild ride, a strong head wind gusting into a cross wind, had us riding sideways across the road and holding on to the handlebars for dear life. Then we turned a corner and had a tailwind that blew us home like we were sitting in the pro peloton.

This was our last big stage of the tour. Today, stage 20, was a brief spin around Marseille because it is a time trial for the pros. From rural France to being in the middle of a town and cruising along the Med took a bit of adjusting. In all we covered only 22km along the seafront and with a brief but steep climb up to the Notre-Dame de la Grade. Stage 20 and the final stage will be the only stages I will get to see when we are back in Sydney. It will be strange watching it in the middle of the night and actually knowing that I have ridden the exact same roads.

So now we are heading to Paris, we are traveling on the TGV at 300 KMH, retracing some of the 3,480km that we have covered whilst on tour. Tomorrow we have our final ride into Paris, another casual affair to celebrate what we have achieved and to take some final pictures of our 3 week holiday in France.

Stage 18 – Bittersweet

Today I climbed the last big mountain of the the tour, the Col d’Isoard, topping out at 2,360 meters. I did it without Robyn, so as enjoyable as it was to get up there, it was actually very unfulfilling. After yesterday’s dramas Robyn’s bike couldn’t be fully fixed, she still had enough gears to ride the day and as a bonus woke up feeling good and ready to go.

To go down them you must first climb them

We set off and descended for the first hour or so covering over 30km. When you add this to the 35km we did the day before to get to our hotel we had descended over 65km. To do that you need to have climbed up that far, which bought home the enormity of what we have been doing. When you spend all day pedalling the distance covered and the meters climbed start to lose a bit of meaning. All you are concerned about is the gradient of any hill you are on, this dictates how hard you have to work,  and how far to the next feedstop.

Robyn had her groove back and we made good time to the first feedstop of the day and then around a beautiful lake and into feedstop 2. We had covered 80km without trying and felt good. Then as we hit about the 100km mark Robyn’s gears failed completely. We rang Sarah who is the backbone of the tour and organises everything and within 10 minutes a van had turned up to try and fix it. Robyn’s bike could not be fixed on the road so she had to jump in the van and go to the next foodstop to see what could be done.

Ian making great coffee at the feedstops

I rode down and was able to ride with Eric, he is a Dutch guy who has been riding the tour route like we have on his own with support from his dad in a car. We have seen him every day, as he normally passes us at top speed,  today we rode along and chatted about the experience. He is a great guy and we were chatting away so much I flew past the feedstop and he had to point it out. Apprantley he is going to see us all in Paris so we will get a photo of him.

Robyn still taking it to the mountains on a spare bike

At the feedstop a spare bike had been arranged for Robyn. Not ideal but at least she could keep riding. The challenge is that on a spare bike the fit can be a little out and that can play havoc with your muscles. When you think how far Robyn has ridden, and up how many climbs, her body was pretty fatigued already. Now sitting in a different position she began to cramp and her knee became very sore. She soildered on up the first big climb of the day but the going was slow as she had to stop and stretch. I felt terrible for her, there is not a lot either of us could do but she just kept grinding away.

Half way up the climb a support van had stopped to help some other cyclists with a puncture. Robyn stopped at the van to get some water and we assessed the situation. I could see how desparetly she wanted to continue but the risk was that she could do some damage that may stop her riding tomorrow and then into Paris at the weekend. Also at the pace we were able to go,  time may have beaten us and we may not have made it up the final climb.

Top of the final climb

She then made the toughest call of our adventure, she put the bike and herself in the van and told me to ride on and enjoy myself. It was the most selfless act she could have done, after 3 weeks of riding and getting so close to the finnish I was desperate to complete the stage. So with mixed feeling I headed off up the rest of the climb to catch up with some other riders. That is how I found myself on top of a stunning mountain feeling a mixture of satisfaction and disappointment.

When I returned to the hotel Robyn had been back a while and had taken care of everything, I walked straight back into a massage and then to dinner. I know she is terribly disappointed to have not completed what she set out to do and what she is more than capable of doing. Hopefully her bike will be fixed for tomorrow’s 220km stage and then the final 2 rides into Paris. The TDF team work tirelessly to keep everybody on the road so let’s see what miracles they can perform overnight. We will find a solution to get her riding somewhow.

Happy people at the start of the day

Stage 17 – Toughest day ever

Robyn declared that today was her toughest day on her bike ever! Big call given some of the one day rides she has done but she puts it down to sheer mental fatigue as much as anything. I did ask if this had anything to do with me but she assured me it was just the intensity of the riding.

The body was willing but the mind can play some funny tricks. She still rode well up some challenging climbs but I could see she was suffering more than usual. In total we rode 203 KM and climbed around 4,600 meters. The enthusiasm that she has shown for the rides so far just wasn’t there today. But she kept her poker face on and just ground out the KM’s.

Ian a tour mechanic working wonders to get Robyn back on the road

We also had an interesting mechanical to deal with at Feedstop 3. This was at about 143 km into the day with one big climb ahead of us. Robyn was a bit concerned about her brakes and gears so asked Ian, one of the mechanics, to have a look at it. When he removed the wheel the rear derailleur fell off, the derailleur hanger had broken. Poor Ian was devastated as he thought he may have done it but it had just cracked. Fortunately Robyn was carrying a spare so very calmly just produced a new one for him to fit. He was amazed at how calm she was and also that she had a spare with her. There was still some problems with changing gears once the bike had been assembled as we could only seem to get into 8 out of the 11 available working. Some more expert attention and the mechanics were at least able to get 8 of the easier gears working so Robyn could ride up the last climb.

We lost an hour getting the bike fixed so we were now chasing the day. We set off for the final HC climb of the day The Col du Galibier, a mere 17.7km at an average gradient of 6.9%. This is a bit deceptive as it starts of flat and gets progressively harder. We were on the climb about 6.30pm and spent a couple of hours making our way up it. One of the benefits of being a little latter was at least we had very little traffic. We reached the summit and the final food stop to be greeted by magnificent views and a hot cup of coffee.

We rugged up and descended the final 30km of the day back down to our hotel. We set off at 7.20am and arrived at the hotel around 8.45pm. By this time Robyn was feeling more upbeat and so she should after battling through what everybody agreed was a big day.

To cap it all off she was also awarded The Arrow, an award from the TDF organisers for people who demonstrate the right spirit on tour, for being so calm during her mechanical crises and also for being as tough as nails.

A quick dinner, a shower and we are ready for Stgae 18, our final mountain stage tomorrow. All’s well, that ends well.

Stage 16 – On the road again

Having the family in town for the rest day certainly burst the tour bubble. Riding long distances day after day with a group becomes a very insular affair. With the benefit of modern technology the outside world is not completely shut out but your focus becomes the ride ahead or your next task, normally eating, sleeping or preparing to ride.

Family time

Stepping away from the tour and into holiday and family mode and all of a sudden we had to think for ourselves. Even choosing what to have for lunch was a challenge. We were in a very nice restaurant and were faced with a French menu and a choice. I have been in a routine of eating what is put in front of me or taking one of everything from the buffet, so I almost abdicated responsibility. I approached it like riding a climb, I took my time, surveyed what was in front of me and slowely peddaled through 4 courses and matching wines. Bliss.

My girls

The family were there to wave us off in the morning and as we rode away it was strange that part of our trip we had looked forward to for so long was now being left behind. Two weeks down one more to go.

The ride today was a short one, just 165km. Tom an old school friend of mine and the person who introduced me to the whole TDF, has joined the tour for the next 4 stages. He proudly proclaimed at dinner last night that he had never ridden in the rain whilst on tour, and he has done some stages for the last 6 years.


So sure enough after 10 minutes of leaving, the rain started falling and continued for the first hour. By the time we reached the first feed stop the sun had come out and we had started to dry out. What followed was a glourious day of riding as we made our way down some long decents into he Rhone Valley. A quick lunch stop and then we had a final 50km on the flat to the end of the stage. We took turns on the front protecting Robyn from the wind, so she didn’t have to put in any extra effort. This means she is in peak condition for the Alps tomorrow and another big day in the mountains.

Group photo before today’s roll out

How to dry your socks on the road…


Stage 15 and rest day update

The joy of a rest day means we can catch up on everything. Despite the opportunity to have a lie in, we were awake early so we have managed to cobble a vlog together, then it’s a massage, laundry and a long lunch with the family who have flown in to support us.






Stage 14 – Dude where’s my bike

Lions rugby and a coffee

Every morning there is a wonderfull ritual that takes place on tour. Wherever we start from, the bikes are set out for us. You have to wander around and find your bike and get ready to ride it. When the tour is at full capacity you have 100+ bleary eyed riders trying to locate their pride and joy. Fatigue can play a part and it can be easy to walk right passed it. When you do find it you need to prepare yourself for the day ahead. Today I didn’t have my shoes on as I left the hotel so when I located my bike I sat down to put them on only to find I didn’t have any socks. I raced back to get some out of one of my day bags and was relieved to find a spare pair. When I returned to my bike and shoes,  somebody had put my original socks back inside my shoes. I asked Robyn if she was messing around and she just ignored me. As I say fatigue can play strange tricks on you.

Apart from the start today’s, the  riding was a casual affair.  There  was cloud cover and not too hot and the first part of today’s 180km was flat. We even stopped for a coffee and were delighted to catch the last 10 minutes of the British Lions Rugby on the cafe TV. Watching it with the locals who were very interested in who we were and what we were doing was great.

Beer o’clock on a Saturday afternoon

We spent the rest of the day riding some quiet roads and enjoying the fact we had no big mountains to climb. About 5 km from the finnish we were even shouted a beer by another group on tour who had stopped as it was Saturday afternoon and beer o’clock. The proper way to do it.

Tomorrow is another challenging day but the reward is a rest day. We also have our family coming out to see us and we will spend the rest day together which will motivate us to get through whatever the stage dictates.

French town

Stage 13 – The shortest stage in tour history

Today we rode what will be the shortest stage in tour history. A mere 104 km but we still climed 2,200 meters over 3 category 1 climbs. To put today into perspective a ride like this was a big weekend ride before we started training for the tour.

After 13 days I’m still smiling

Being on tour is all about perspective. If you don’t step back and appreciate where you are and what is going on you can get caught up in the detail of the daily tour life. Bike problems, kit malfunctions, whatever it is that you personally find irksome can detract from what you are here to do. I am here to enjoy myself, spend some quality time with Robyn and test myself physically and mentally.

Today was hot, we also had 2 coach transfers one at the begining and the other at the end of the stage. Factor in that after yesterday’s long stage we didn’t eat until 10pm and only got to bed after 11.30pm, and it would have been easy to just put your head down and get through today.

We made it up another mountain pass

But when you stop, step back and appreciate that you are spending a Friday pedalling your bike around the beautiful Pyrenees it changes things completely. Even the challenging climbs become in a strange way enjoyable as you struggle to get up them. The memories will last forever any pain or frustration you endure is just temporary.

Rider briefing of what the day ahead will be like in a cafe before we set off

Not a bad view from the desk

Stage 12 – Up, up and away

Robyn’s first tour experience was a 218 km ride, climbing 4,464 meters. If you have ever been skiing think about the car or bus trip up to the resort, today we climbed a couple of them and a few other hills as well.

It was a huge day and we did exceptionally well. There will always be times during any day when it gets really tough. On one earlier climb it was hot and the switchbacks were 12-13% in gradient. I could see Robyn was working hard, but she just kept going. Once we reached the summit she ate and drank as if her life depended on it, it could well have done, and then took everything else in her stride.

We finnished our day riding up to the ski resort of Peyresourde and after eleven and a half hours of riding we were greeted by the most fantastic sunset and marvelous mountain views. We arrived at just after 9pm after setting off at 7.20am, a long day indeed.

There were people on tour who were not able to complete today and others who came in well after dark, that’s how tough it was.

As we climbed up the final road to the chalet we are staying in we both said how thankful we are for being able to spend our time doing something that we love. Yes it is bloody hard but once you step off the bike and have a shower and get something to eat with your fellow travellers all the pain disappears.

As an added bonus we are going to sleep in bunk beds tonight, we can’t be bothered to make the double sofa bed up.


Stage 11 – All change

My tour changed today. Robyn has arrived to ride the final 10 stages.

Hot today so we stopped for an ice cream

I spent all of today’s 200km ride looking forward to seeing her. After spending so much time training together to spend the last few weeks apart has been odd.

When I arrived at the hotel she hadn’t arrived so I had a massage, did my washing and even checked her bike out so she is already to ride tomorrow.

The first thing you do when you are on tour is attend a rider briefing where the logistics and how everything runs is explained. This reminded me of our first briefing all those days ago in Düsseldorf, and the apprehension and nervousness I felt. I asked Robyn how she was feeling and she said it was a mixture of excitement and nerves, which is the same for everybody.

Tomorrow is a big day in the Pyrenees Mountains. My strategy of riding within yourself, minimise times at feedstop and remembering to enjoy yourself is still in play. We will just ride to Robyn’s pace ad make sure we induct her into tour life safely.

Cold lemon drinks also got us through today


Stage 10 – A day in the life

Before the start of the day, I was going for sartorial elegance, apparently I looked more like a sailor, and not a straight one!

I still maintain this is a holiday, it is also part endurance challenge and a lesson in time management. We spend all our days riding, it’s what goes on when we are not sat in the saddle that keeps us on tour. Here is a day in the life of the tour.

6.20am – Alarm, this is late today as we don’t have to start the day with a bus transfer before we set off. Stand up, sit down as legs collapse. Repeat then chuck on some Lycra for the day and go to breakfast.

6.30am – Breakfast is a buffet and plenty of it, stuff face as full as I can with anything you fancy. Talk about coming day to other bleary eyed riders.

6.45am – Return to the room tidy oneself up for the day. Pack bag and drop it down to the van for transfer to the next hotel.

7.30am – Prepare to ride, bikes are normally at the front of the hotel so a bit of bike faf and make sure that day bags, bags that go to the feed stops with any extra kit you made need on the road during the day, are in the right vans. There are 2 vans, feedstop 1 & 3 and feedstop 2 and 4.

8.00am – Peloton rides out together to the first feedstop. It’s about 40 km and we ride at a comfortable pace allowing people to chat and meet different folk

Sign in sheet

Feedstop 1 – 40km ish. When you arrive at feedstop one you wait for all the riders to get there. There is no point in racing as you will stand around. The routine at all the stops is to sign in so organisation knows where you are, clean hands and eat something.

Feedstop 2 – 80 km ish. The sun is shining and we are making good time today, another chance to grab some food and have a breather

Feedstop  3 – 120km ish. This is the lunchstop so there is rice or pasta to eat. Beautiful scenery today so have to stop for a photo or 2.

Feedstop 4 – last feedstop of the day, my favourite as it is a sugar fest, chocolate, fizzy drink and crisps to get you home.

Arrive at the hotel, we have covered 191km in 6 hours 26 minute. Tonight this is the best hotel by far. Shower, hand wash kit and turn the room into a laundry, get everything ready for an early start tomorrow then go to the bar for a quick drink before dinner

Best hotel of the tour so far, dinner in a nice barn

8pm – Dinner is a social affair with everybody on tour eating together. Lots of banter and plenty of food then a briefing on what to expect tomorrow. There are also a couple of awards to hand out, the Chapeau for the rider who has done something good during the day and the duck for somebody who has committed a crime against the peloton.

9.30 – Back to the room for a final prep for the next day then it’s bed.

Repeat for another 13 stages!

Very excited Robyn arrives tomorrow.

Paul Jukes has been looking after me until Robyn arrives


Stage 9 – Sunday Spin

There was a lot of chatter about Stage 9 right from the start of the tour. On paper it looks like the toughest stage of the tour this year. Lots of climbing and roads hitting 22% gradient.

We had a transfer from the hotel and as we made our way to the start the weather had not cleared up from yesterday. The prospect of another cold wet day and all the climbing we had ahead of us did have me wondering if it was going to be possible. It was not the bike riding but the cold and the impact this has on energy levels that was making me nervous. We set out into the drizzle and started climbing straight away. On top of the first hill I was already shivering. As we began to descend the clouds cleared and I got my first view of the vistas that may have been there the day before but were shrouded in mist.

My spirits began to lift and when we arrived at the first feedstop to regroup it was actually in a cafe. Hot coffee and some lovely pastries, a quick chat to Robyn who is now if the UK getting ready to come out on Wednesday, and the rest of the day started to feel manageable.

The stage had 3 HC categorised climbs. We set off up the first, the Col de la Biche and the sun came out. This spurred me on and my legs felt good. It took me an hour to climb up to the top and the next feed station. My strategy was to minimise the time at stops and to keep going.

After taking off all my warm weather gear at the bottom of the climb, now I had to put it back on for the decent. I descended with a few others and soon enough we were on the second HC climb of the day, the Grand Colombier. Of the 3 hard climbs, this was the hardest. There was a 900m stretch half way up that was around 20%. All you can do is stand on the pedals and keep spinining. I did think about stopping but something kept me going, probably the thought of not being able to get back on. As I got to the top of the mountain things became more manageable and after another hour or so of climbing I reached the summit. I had ridden into the clouds again, there were no views to enjoy,  so it was time to rug up and hit another decent.

The ride down the valley to the start of the third and final climb of the day was stunning. I spent my Sunday afternoon riding through vineyards on quiet roads with the sun on my back. I was riding with a few folk who I hadn’t spent much time with and we chatted away as we made our way to the foot of the final challenge.

The Mount du Chat is another solid climb, 10km at an average of 10%. After 145km of cycling and 3,500m of climbing I found myself alone on the mountain. It was now 6pm on Sunday evening as I plodded on. There were KM markers on the side of the road to let me know that I was progressing. Another solid hour of climbing and I hit the last km marker. The cloud was getting thicker and I managed to get one last view of the valley before arriving at the top on the mist. The place was deserted, so after spending all week surrounded by people, I had been able to ride the last climb of the day lost in my own thoughts. A perfect way to cap off the first part of the tour.

All alone on top of a col

A final 25km decent to the hotel and the day was complete. I had made good time and as the others made their way in the clock ticked on. The last riders arrived at the hotel, in the dark,  around 11pm. Each of them got a resounding cheer as we celebrated with a few drinks in the bar.

We have a rest day to enjoy today, then another couple of stages before Robyn arrives and the Tour will take on a different perspective.


Stages 7 & 8 – Let’s Stick Together

Most of us on tour have not ridden this far in a week. We have been on tour for 8 days and covered 1,450km.

Stage 7 was another tough day. We rode most of the day into a headwind with the occasional downpour punctuating the drizzle. It was tough but the tour spirit shone through with people working together in groups to complete the day.

One of the main reasons I enjoy riding my bike is for the solitude, the time to be in my own and to get away from everything. In the last week I have really come to appreciate the value of being part of something. The encouragement and support that you are given and can offer is absolutely what makes something like this so special.

On the flatter stages working as a group really helps. As the roads head up into the mountains, and then down, the group dynamic changes. People tend to climb at different paces so the trick is to find the folk that are similar to you. This means you are riding in smaller numbers but still have others to share the load when required.

The weather made stage 8 even more challenging than the 190km and the 3,300m of climbing should have been. It was wet and cold all day,  not so much of a challenge when climbing but when descending. The first priority is to stay upright, then descending is about bike handling skills and “bottle”. I am a conservative descender at best and in the wet I back right off. The challenge can be it takes you longer to get down and also you can get cold. Wet, cold and tired is not necessarily a good combination when you are doing 60km down a hill and for me this is the toughest part of any day in the mountains. Having the wheels of confident descenders to follow makes things a whole lot easier, another benefit of being part of a group.

Today I wore every bit of cycling kit I bought with me, 2 jackets, 2 sets of arm warmers, overshoes and knee warmers and I was still cold at times. The group I was riding with stuck together up and down the hills, and when we finally arrived at our hotel tired and relieved there was a real sense of achievement.

I have a few aches and pains but nothing that will stop me tackiling one of this years most challenging stages.Stgae 9 has 3 big mountain climbs and 180km to cover,  the threat of rain agin means I will be looking for folk to work with and to stick by.

Cold, wet and satisfied. The end of a long hard day riding with the 2 Paul’s and Jeff.

Stage 6 – A bit draughty

One of the cycling skills that you need to learn to be efficient is drafting. This is when you sit behind another rider in a line, taking turns to take the wind before swapping off to let somebody else share the load.

Stormy weather

This saves a significant amount of energy as you are not always riding into the wind. I have been honing these skills on the long flatter stages that we have been riding. Today was no different with a 224km ride across more of France.

To do this effectively you need to have a bunch of people willing to work together and also a certain amount of discipline. To take maximum advantage you need to keep a stready pace and be close to the wheel in front of you. Ultimately you have to trust the rider whose wheel you are a few cm’s from and the smoother and more stable they are the easier it is for you to follow them. In return you need to do exactly the same for the rider behind you.

Looking like the pros in the Champagne region

This allows the collective bunch to move faster with less amount of effort than riding alone. If you factor in windy conditions, as we have been experiencing, then it can really save a lot of time and energy given we were riding for nearly 9 hours.

It’s also  social thing and a great way to get to know people. As we passed through the Champagne region today we all commented how nice it would be to stop and sample the local wears. But we had a job to do and a stage to complete, so we decided to share a glass or two when we arrive in Paris.


Stage 5 – Exam Time

At our first feedstop today the chatter and general demeanour was likened to being outside the exam hall. Lots of nervous people, waiting with anticipation for our first real climb of the tour. Had we done enough training, how would we feel and would we be able to pass the test?

There was no cheating the final climb of the day up the La Planche Des Belles Filles. After cycling 152km it is a 5.8km climb with an average of 8.7% gradient with the final couple of hundred meters at around 20%.

Still smiling at the end of the day

It was tough but I felt surprisingly good. I am cycling OK and rode well within myself as I am still not sure how things will play out into the coming weeks.

I take confidence I that I can comfortably sit in with most of the riders on tour. At the end of the day it’s about getting around and making sure that the people on tour with you do the same.

The biggest cheers were for the final riders who were finishing on top of the hill. As they rode the final hundred meters home up the final ramp they were supported all the way. We were all delighted to see everyone achieve what they set out to do.

That’s what the Tour De Force is all about.

The final 20% ramp!


Stage 4 – Water

Tonight we are staying just outside Vittel. Famous for the water that is supplied around the world.


I know this because people have told me. Normally I like to plan, to understand what is ahead of me and to control as much as I can. On tour I have decided to just play what is in front of me. I know I am in France, not sure exactly where at any given time, and all I focus on is the days riding ahead of me. This gives me a certain sense of freedom and permission to ignore what the remaining weeks have in store.

We have covered 630km in the last 3 days. Plenty of time riding and lots of time to think as we battle the elements. Yesterday was hot, today we encountered our first real rain. A cloudburst that has the socks and shoes wet in an instantt. Any cyclist will tell you that once the socks give way and become soaking wet  it is not actually that bad. As long as you are relatively warm then everything just keeps going.

Wheat field in France

The rain hit us as we were on a long straight road with wheat fields either side. I had a flashback to the last time I was in a similar situation when we were touring around Europe in a VW van some 25 years ago.

That time we had been stopped by the local police, in the middle of nowhere, who wanted to check us out. As one of them took the van apart, the other stood outside smoking a cigarette. When the rain really started to come down and we tried to shelter against the side of the van, they finally gave up when the policemans cigarette was so wet it broke in half.

We thought this was the funniest thing we had seen and laughed about it for the rest of the holiday. Riding along in the pouring rain, and thinking about this I found myself laughing outloud again.

I’m not sure if it was the fatigue, the long forgotten memory or just the plain silliness of what we are doing but it really made my day.

Stage 3 – Food Glorious Food

They say an “army marches on its stomach”, well a peloton rides on calories and as many as you can stuff in and as frequently as possible.

Lunch stop, somewhere in Luxembourg

After breakfast there are four food stops positioned throughout the day, with a variety of foods to keep you fuelled and on the road. On Tour we also eat together as a group at 8pm every night in the hotel restaurant.

Dinner, somewhere in France

Today was a bit different as the hotel couldn’t feed us so we got to experience and all you can eat Chinese buffet, in France. What a meal it was, one of the best Chinese meals I have had in a long time, bravo!

The food was plentiful and after 219km ride and nearly 2,800 meters of climbing it was well deserved. I have been reliably informed that we went through three countries today, starting off in Belgium, crossing into Luxembourg and then finishing in France.

Some beautiful scenery along the way, good weather, some challenging climbs and great company should make the day memorable. But with many similar days to come I think my Chinese meal in France is what I will remember the most.

Stages 1 and 2 – Germany and Belgium

Today was the first real day of the tour.

Yesterday we had a ceremonial ride in the traffic around Düsseldorf to kick us off.

A slow trip around Düsseldorf

It took us an hour to get around the time trial course which will take the professional minutes. Obviously the roads were not closed for us and with a peloton of 50+ people it would have made an interesting and potentially annoying spectacle for pedestrians and traffic alike as we crept around.

The general mood of the bunch was relief to get out and some frustration at not have a proper ride. That was all fixed today as we rode 200 km to Liege in Belgium.

Today was windy but dry. The first 40km or so to the first feed stop is a social affair as we ride in smaller groups and everybody waits until we all arrive before we head of for the rest of the day. It’s a great concept as you get to chat and meet your fellow riders mixing the varies abilities.

One of the four feed stops during the day

After the feedstop it’s game on. We are all here to ride our bikes and the goal is to complete what we have set out to do. The challenge is to do this and to also enjoy yourself along the way. The other challenge is that when you put a bunch of bike riders together, naturally the pace can go up. Taking turns on the front and rolling through allows you to cover more ground quicker than if you are on your own. It’s fun, makes sense and can also mean that you are so focused on the wheel in front you can easily miss what is around you.

A Lycra glad backside, a carbon fibre bike and a bit of tarmac can look the same wherever you are in the world. Though I must say the roads are superb as they are ready for the professionals.

So as we chewed up the kilometers today, there were times when I did wonder if I should just sit up, drop off the back of the bunch and enjoy the surroundings. Tough call to make on day one when you really want to get it done and back to the hotel to prepare for day two.

Fortunately we were forced to slow down when we had to dismount to make our way through a village fair. The entire village was out and the narrow streets were packed, we walked our bikes through the festivities to many bemused looks.

As I passed a stall selling sausages cooked over charcoal the natural instinct was to stop, put my feet up and have a beer to go with the deliciously smelling sausage that would have been well earned after 180km. There was a brief moment of debate amongst a few of us about being here to enjoy ourselves and one beer wouldn’t do any harm, but sense prevailed and we got back on our bikes and rode the final 20km into Liege.

The wind made today tough and given that it’s the first time most of us have actually met and ridden together there is already great camoradary. We all know it’s not a race, the trick is going to be finding the balance between riding hard to get the job done and taking time to experience the countryside and villages that we will travel through. As the days build on each other and we clock up the KM my sense is that we will be so knackered we won’t have much of a choice but to take our time.

Lycra behinds in Liege

Posted in TDF

Ready, steady, go…

I have ridden 63,915KM since I first got on a pushbike 6 years ago. If I was a car you might start to think about trading me in for something with fewer KM’s.

It doesn’t matter where I have ridden or what I have ridden up, the next 3 weeks will undoubtably be the most challenging KM’s I have ever covered.

Having had a few days back in England to get ready for my big ride I have had some time to reflect about what lies ahead of me. So here are a few observations that I have made about the coming weeks.

Walking on Sunshine

Riding in the sunshine makes everything easier. For the last week back in England, there has been a “heatwave”. I know this because the recent spell of warm weather has been mentioned along with the, “hottest summer of 1976“, which I actually remember as a kid. Compared to what I am now used to, it is just a nice summers day. Being on your bike connects you to the world around you, in the sunshine this is amplified.The smells, sounds and vistas of the countryside make you appreciate the beauty of the world we live in. If you want to experience a country, then go for a ride on a sunny day.


In all honesty it makes no sense to ride in anything other than sunshine. There is no logical reason to go out in the rain on your skinny little tyres and your thin Lycra to ride your bike if there is an alternative source of transport available. A friend remarked, after I bailed on a ride in the rain in Sydney, that “It does rain in France.” For all of us riding the TdF the weather is one variable we can’t control.

It doesn’t matter how much you have spent on wet weather gear, if you spend hours outside in the rain your going to get wet. Once you accept it and embrace it, the ride can take on a different challenge. Battling nature can be stimulating and most rewarding. It can also be a pain in the very wet arse. So fingers crossed for the next 3 weeks, maybe not for a heatwave but for some long sunny days.

Just Can’t Get Enough

Show me a bike rider who has ridden enough, bought enough, or thought about their bike enough and I would suggest they are a part-time wannabe. For the seriously inflicted there is always something else on the horizon.

This year I have ridden close to 8,000km to get ready for France and I still feel a little unprepared. This is partly due the nerves about what lies ahead and the challenge of riding every day for the next three weeks.

The duration and scale of being a lifer is actually what appealed to me in the first place, the challenge of doing something that was so physically demanding that no amount of training is going to give you the same experience. Sure you can do a long ride and then back up for a few days but you can’t replicate the whole 21 days. In all honesty I did think about giving it a go but work and other day to day priorities got in the way.

So the advice from previous lifers is to, focus on today, make sure you look up and enjoy it, let tomorrow take care of itself. Some very welcome and calming advice.

I’m on my way

A recurring theme in all of my jottings is how good I feel when I ride my bike, both physically and mentally. Imagine how good it will feel after 3 weeks!

I am very aware that what I am about to do is very indulgent. There is nothing at risk, no real hardship to be faced, just a chance to completely immerse myself into something I love to do.

Sitting on your backside pedalling for all those KM gives you lots of time to think, to see beyond the blinkers of everyday life and to get a different perspective. It makes you appreciate what you have, who you have and how fortunate I am to even have the chance to take on this adventure. Having Robyn join me half way around makes it even better.

Its nice to think that in France over the next few weeks my odometer will continue to click over as I rack up a few more KM’s. Once I arrive in Paris I’ll see if anything needs to be traded in.

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Posted in TDF

Bucket List

It seems that I am getting older!

I have a birthday on the horizon, I left school 30 years ago, I have lived in Australia for 20 years and Robyn and I have just celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary. Having 2 teenage daughters who will also turn 15 and 17 in the next few month’s only helps to remind me that the years are flying by.

We are still smiling after 19 years

This doesn’t cause me too much concern, I don’t feel old, and in fact, physically I am probably in better shape than at any stage in my life. All these birthdays and anniversaries have prompted a little bit of reflection about what the future holds and what I should be doing with my life.

I am very contented with my lot in life, so when I sat down to create a bucket list of things I must see and do before I expire I came up with a complete blank.

There are lots of things I would like to see and experience but nothing that really stands out as a must do!

When I think back, I have never had any clarity about what I wanted to do for a career or with my life, you would not describe me as ambitious or driven. The only thing I really wanted was to live in Australia. Having spent 20 very happy years here, maybe that is my source of contentment.

I am also a little concerned about having a list of things that must be ticked off, because what happens once you’ve done them? Are you allowed another list and another go, or is it game over? Do you have to sit on the couch in your slippers watching TV and waiting for somebody to feed you and put you to bed?

Back when they used to listen to us (well occasionally)

This question of what happens afterwards, has also playing on my mind with regards to our trip to France. Riding a push bike around France could have been a perfect bucket list item for me. But it hasn’t been a long held ambition.  As I got into cycling I have just looked for different and more challenging things to do. Riding all 21 stages of the tour just seemed like a logical progression in this journey.

So what do I do when it’s over? Will my current training roads hold any interest for me? Will riding my bike be the same without something monumental to train for? Is the summer in France going to be the pinnacle of my bike riding shenanigans?

I was processing all of this when I found something that caught my interest.

One of the things that really helped me when I trained and ran a marathon (never a bucket list item, just a bit of drunken bravado that got seriously out of hand) was meeting a bloke who was an ultra-marathon runner. If he could run 100km then surely I could run 42km.

But what could be more challenging that the TDF. Well here in Australia we have just had the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. This is a 5,500km (3,400mi) unsupported cycling race from Perth to Sydney, via Adelaide and Melbourne. If you think I am a little bit mad, it would appear that these folks are completely bonkers.

Now riding a bike also comes with its’s risks. And this year’s IPWR was actually called off due to the tragic death of one of the well-known riders, Mike Hall, who was knocked off his bike.

When you hear about incidents like this it does make you question what the hell you are doing on the road dressed only in your Lycra, but the reality is that we put ourselves at risk doing a whole range of daily activities, so you try to be as careful as you can and get on with it.

Safely sitting on the couch, waiting to expire, is definitely not on any list of mine, so maybe this ultra-endurance bike thing is going to help solve my bucket list conundrum.

I’ll have lots of time in France to really see what I can achieve on a push bike. Maybe my 21 days in the saddle will not be the end but just the start of the preparation for the first item ever to appear on my bucket list – Complete the IPWR and ride across Australia!

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A video of us riding bikes up Mountains as part of our training. I could cross that of my bucket list, if I had one, and if it was on it.


Top Of The Pops

The day started off with such peaceful serenity

It’s not all Lycra, training plans and travel schedules in the Reeve household.

Yesterday we had a family trip out. Last year I had purchased tickets to go and see a popular pop duo called, Twenty One Pilots. Never heard of them? Well I hadn’t until Robyn took the girls to see them in Sydney last year. Robyn had to chaperone given their ages and they all thoroughly enjoyed a small gig at Sydney Uni. When 21 Pilots announced they would be touring again we bought tickets for their larger arena show.

No lighters allowed these days, just use your phone

A year can be a long time in teenagers music tastes and over the last year the band has achieved some fame. Fortunately I was informed that they haven’t “sold out” and are still cool. I must say that I am thankful that my girls by-passed the Swift, Perry, and Ga Ga phase and seem to have more alternative tastes. If the merch T shirt isn’t black they aren’t interested.

The youngest teenager had made plans to go out to the venue early to queue up. The doors opened at 6pm so she left with her friend at 10am. I did question the sanity but let her get on with it.

The eldest teenager had her own band practicing at our house before they all headed out to watch a free afternoon gig. When Robyn and I arrived home from our morning ride they were in our lounge with their kit set up. Lots of chat, a few chords, the odd song and an hour later they were all out of the door to watch the professionals at work.

A video of Robyn in her Lycra rocking out to “State Transit”:

The eldest said she would meet us afterwards and we could travel out to the venue together. Very kind of her, I think she thought we may not have been able to get there on our own.

Given that Robyn and I had been up at 5am and had actually just cycled 150km we appreciated the peace and quiet and had a little “Disco Nap” to prepare us for the night ahead.

We set off to the venue in good spirits, a quick pit stop in the pub whilst we waited for the eldest was just what we needed to set the tone for the night ahead. If truth be told my evening could have ended there, a few more drinks, the rugby on the TV and home in bed before 10pm. But no, a family commitment needed to be honoured (and the youngest was at the venue so somebody would have had to go out and get her anyway).

According to Wikipedia, 21 Pilots belong to the Alternative hip hop / electropop / Indie pop / rock genre. When we arrived at the venue it was clear that they attract a lot of teenagers to their fan base, a few twenty-something’s and some old folk (probably there because of the teenagers). There also seemed to be more teenage girls than boys all doing their best to look as alternative as the weekend off school will allow.

The youngest fought for her right to party in the pit!

We made it into the venue, texted the youngest who told us she was in “The pit” right near the front and would see us afterwards. By this time the eldest had scoped the joint, gave us one final look up and down and informed us she was off to find the youngest and would catch us later. We had been abandoned.

So Robyn and I were left standing among the teenage throng on the arena floor. We headed for the edge of the arena to take it all in and to question what the hell had we gotten ourselves into. When the only people at a gig that want to share their experiences with you are the security guards then you know you may be a little out of place. One lovely security lady took great delight in making sure we were going to be OK. She even offered us her seat for a little sit down if we got tired! She also pointed out that all the other chaperones were sitting in the seats not standing in the arena, clearly we never got this memo.

And so we stood with the teenagers, not our own, nodding our heads, and waving our arms when instructed to do so. The boys can play, sing and had  produced a multimedia experience and light show that was spectacular. Their music may not have been my type of stuff but it was enjoyable. They even played a few numbers in a stage in the middle of the arena right next to us, and my personal highlight of the evening a cover version of “Jump Around”, that had us both throwing caution to the wind.

What would the teenagers have said if they had seen us?

As the night wore on my legs grew a little weary.

When a giant hamster ball appeared and the lead singer jumped in and set off  around the crowd I knew I had had enough. Rather than scream with excitement like the rest of the tribe, my mind wondered to the type of insurance you would need and what the O,H&S risk assessment would look like to be able to get away with it.

Me and my home boy hanging out. Oh dear lord does it get any worse?

Fortunately the night drew to a punctual close, clearly this band knows how to play to its audience. No need to rock out all night when mum and dad are waiting outside to take the audience home.

As the lights came up we found our teenagers and made the late night trip on public transport across town, to home. As we made our way through the party goers in varying states of disrepair, it reminded me of our previous life and was an insight for the girls of what could lie ahead.

It was with some relief that I fell into my bed with my ears ringing and a lingering question around insurance for dangerous stunts in public arenas.



History Repeating

Cycling, as with any hobby, can be seen as a series of firsts.

Your first pair of Lycra shorts, the first time you ride with cleats, and your first ride that takes you further than you’d ever imagined.

Each of these experiences build on each other and depending on how you feel, you will continue to explore your new found world, or assign your investment to the garage (or attempt to recoup some of your investment on eBay).

If you stick with it, then the firsts continue to build: the first time you realise you need more than one bike, the first time you crash and your first mass participation cycling event.

When you have ridden for a number of years, all of these experiences create a data base of information on which you can draw. The focus ceases to be creating new experiences but shifts to recreating the perfect experience. Bike set up, refueling strategies, and ride plans can become your obsession.

Here we go again

And this was how Robyn and I found ourselves at 6:30am lining up for our second Peaks Challenge Falls Creek. Last year was the first time Robyn had attempted anything of this magnitude. It’s a one day sportive, covering 235km and 4,500metres of climbing over 3 major climbs.

Robyn’s overriding experience of last year, as challenging as it may have been, was of enjoyment. We got around well inside the 13 hour time limit and had enough energy to enjoy post ride drinks in the bar afterwards. This year we wanted to recreate the experience and use it to help get ready for France. We followed the same routine, stayed in the same accommodation and were roughly in the same condition as last year.  The one thing not in our control was the weather. The forecast said “unsettled” with a chance of showers, hot in valleys and possible thunderstorms. The forecast also predicted 40km per hour winds.

We were not riding to any specific time plan, we felt that we would draw on last years’ experience and ride within ourselves until the last major climb of the day.

We descended from Falls Creek with the last wave of riders and with a dry road we covered the 30km without any drama. A spin up the first climb of the day, Tawonga Gap, meant that we resisted chasing the other cyclists powering past us. Our strategy seemed to be working as we were able to sit behind the 12 hour pace makers for a tow up to the second major climb, Mt Hotham.

We started the climb in good spirits and rode to Robyn’s metronomic pace. About 45 minutes into the climb Robyn began to grimace. The pace began to slow considerably and moral slipped lower as each cyclist past us by.

I’ve never seem Robyn in so much discomfort on her pushbike. Fortunately she was experiencing another first – a hunger flat!

75km into our 235km day we found ourselves stopped by a SAG Wagon that was ready to cart her away if a miracle can of coke could not fix her. Robyn drank and ate more sugar in those 5 minutes than a group of 4 year olds let loose at a birthday party.

I asked Robyn if she really wanted to continue. “Not really” she replied, “but the thought of having to live with having given up is worse”. And so she got back on her bike, clipped back in and got on with the rest of the ride.

90 minutes later, having climbed Hotham, the old Robyn rode into the lunch stop. The sugar hit had done its job and the smile was back.

Normal service had been resumed by the lunch stop

The descent after lunch into Omeo had the 40km wind working in our favour. Pushed by an invisible hand the enjoyment we experienced from riding last year was back. This was bought to an abrupt halt as we turned out of Omeo into what was now a head wind. It was hot, windy and we had a 40km ride to the start of the final climb.

There was nothing for it but to put the head down and push on. We arrived at the foot of the final climb feeling the strain of the 200km we had already covered. The first 9km of the climb are tough, the average is about 9% with some steep sections. We were climbing it 30 minutes behind the time we had ridden last year. This meant there were fewer people on the climb and most of them were off their bikes walking.

We pushed on and experienced another first. One of the other riders was walking up in thongs (flip flops). As Robyn rode past enquiring if he was OK he casually explained that last year he had worn out a nice pair of socks so this year he came prepared. Now that is planning!

In the race briefing the night before we had been given some advice from an endurance mountain bike champion, she told us that pain was just an emotion and unless you need an ambulance then you can just keep going. Clearly people had taken her seriously and as we climbed further it appeared that some folk had literally ridden themselves into the ground. The couple of ambulances making their way up and down their climb had their work cut out. Fortunately it appeared that most people once they were checked out did not need to be immediately carted off the mountain so they were given a space blanket and sat looking vacantly into the distance waiting for a bus to come and get them.

Despite Robyn’s earlier hunger flat and how she was feeling, she ignored my motivational offer to flag her down an ambulance and just kept going. She didn’t get off her bike once.

We got to the summit and rode the last few KM’s back to Falls Creek in the wind, rain and beneath darkening skies. We crossed the finish line tired, exhausted and relieved.

History had not been repeated, despite our planning and preparation we were 38mins slower than last year and yet we feel a greater sense of achievement. This was the first time that I have been genuinely concerned for Robyn’s well-being on the bike. She was extremely close to calling it a day when she went hunger flat, but she dealt with it and completed what she says was her toughest day on a bike.

It is a great wake up call for France, we need to keep putting in the km to get ourselves to France in the best condition possible. It doesn’t matter how tired we may feel or how challenging it can be, if we don’t need an ambulance then we will just keep riding.

In case you missed our training update covering our Peaks experience here it is:

You can make your donation below and send us an email with your address to and we will pop an exclusive Rather Be Riding My Bike tea towel in the post to you. We have covered the costs for the tea towels and will pay for the postage so all your money goes to help out those that need it.

To donate click here:




“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

― Albert Einstein.

I have a list of things that we need to do before we get to France. Last week I booked our flights from Sydney to the UK so we can start our adventure.

When Robyn and I booked our flights to come out to Australia almost 20 years ago we had to go into the travel agent and they issued us with paper tickets. At the time this was a memorable event, we sat behind a desk in the trusted hands of the travel agent as they guided us through the options and then they turned to their beige blinking monitor and started pushing buttons into a proprietary reservation system. Once this was complete they wrote out the tickets.

It was exciting and ended up being a life changing event.

Last week I sat behind my own desk, logged in to my Qantas Frequent Flyer account, accessed the families’ profiles and in literally 3 minutes I had completed the transaction.  I didn’t think much about it, I ticked it off the list and moved on to the next item.

It was only over the weekend that I began to realise that booking the flights was in fact another step closer to the reality of what we have signed up for this summer.

We spent the weekend away with some of my old school friends and their families who all now live in Sydney. Every year we head out of Sydney down the coast to Huskisson. We stay in cabins near the beach and it’s a weekend that we all look forward to.

It can be too easy to get into the routine of everyday life and when you add a significant training schedule on top of this, the weeks can just pass you by.

Weekends away like this are a circuit breaker. A chance to step back, to catch up, to reminisce about the past and to talk about the future.

We have been making this annual pilgrimage for the last 12 years and for 8 of those we have had a theme. This started when the kids were little as a bit of fun and we have just kept it going. This year’s theme was Sherlock Holmes. So 16 of us spent the weekend wearing a Deerstalker hat celebrating a 13 year olds birthday and an 18 year wedding anniversary.

We did take the bikes and Robyn and I were up and out at 5am on the Saturday morning weaving our way down the road. Feeling a little under the weather from the night before, we headed out to climb up into the local hills as a final hit out before we begin to taper for our big weekend down in Victoria in a few weeks.

No S#@t Sherlock

Even the fact that we can think about tapering is still mildly amusing to me. It sounds like we know what we are doing.

Given what we have ahead of us in France we could easily just keep clocking up the km’s. We want to do our trip to Falls Creek justice and be as fresh as we can to tackle the 235km and all the climbing. The objective is to have a good day out and then use it to kick back into our training for France.

We rode in the dark for an hour to the foot of the climb, it’s a challenging climb of about 5km and a 9% gradient. Fortunately instinct kicked in as we headed upwards the legs took over from the dusty head, allowing us to grind our way up into the low clouds. As we hit the cloud line and the mist turned to drizzle I finally woke up to what we were doing.

Climbing up was not going to be too much of a challenge, despite the hangovers we have enough km in our legs already this year to rise to the occasion.

What about getting back down?

It is a fast, technical descent and doing this in the wet, in the clouds and with a cloudy head was not going to be a smart move. I stopped abruptly. My Garmin said the gradient was 12% so it wasn’t hard. Robyn rode up beside me, “what’s wrong?” she asked.

I explained my thought process and she agreed, we gingerly turned around and crept down the hill, hanging onto the brakes for dear life.

Sometimes being in balance is not about pushing on, it’s about knowing when to slow down to gain your balance before you can go faster. We hit the coastal flats and flew back as the legs woke up and the clouds lifted from the road ahead and our heads.

We arrived back just as the others were getting up for breakfast.

“How far have you been?”

“Just 70km today”

“Oh just 70km”

And that’s how far we have come, an aborted 70km spin doesn’t feel much like a workout these days, but it’s still an achievement.

And with a spring in our step we walked on the beach, opened a nice bottle of white for lunch, and rounded it off with a siesta before resuming the festivities for the evening.

Sometimes you have to stop and remember that it’s the experiences we have today, that make the memories for tomorrow.

Staying in balance is also about staying conscious to what is going on around you and being able to recognise the progress that you are making. It’s not just about ticking things off of a list.

A sense of achievement comes at the end of the journey but it’s the experiences along the way that make it memorable.

Can somebody please recount these wise words when I am in France and concentrating on ticking off the stages? I think I may need to be reminded along the way.

You can make your donation below and send us an email with your address to and we will pop an exclusive Rather Be Riding My Bike tea towel in the post to you. We have covered the costs for the tea towels and will pay for the postage so all your money goes to help out those that need it.

To donate click here:



Playing To Our Strengths

It doesn’t matter how much money we spend on fancy bikes and fashionable kit, we have to acknowledge that we are just a couple of middle aged folk indulging ourselves.

We can try and look the part all we like, the fact is that when it comes to our biking endeavours it’s only the sheer volume of training we are doing and pure determination that will get us around France. Pace, power and youthful exuberance is something that only passes us on the road. On the many occasions after we have tried to hang on to the back of a bunch, and been emphatically dropped, we console ourselves by observing that we could probably be their mum and dad.

You donate we send you a limited edition work of art, in the form of a tea towel!

The generation gap has also been highlighted in our fund raising approach. We thought we needed a bigger social media base and had to connect with a wider audience. We have pestered our teenagers to broaden our appeal by liking and sharing to their friends and networks, “but really dad why would they be interested?” When I stopped to think about it I had to agree.

So to assist us with our fund raising efforts we wanted to offer something that sits with who we are and speaks to our demographic. After much deliberation it was the youngest teenager that hit the jackpot on our trip back from Adelaide.

“You know how much you love tea towels, they’ve got some good ones in that shop, you should also make TDF ones to offer in exchange for a donation”.

We do love a tea towel, we collect them. There I’ve said it, the secret is out.

It started when we went out to a gig a few years ago (even writing that makes me a little uncomfortable, we were trying to stay young!).

Robyn is the creative genius behind these highly sought after statements of modernism

The band didn’t appear until 10.30pm, it was way past our bed time and a tad too loud, so we retreated to the back of the venue. Whilst we watched from afar Robyn noticed they were selling tea towels on the “Merch Stand” (this is how the teenagers tell me I have to refer to the merchandise offering) – I am also reliably informed by our teenagers that buying merch is still cool when you go to a gig, maybe not tea towels though.

And so it began, seemingly a number of bands offer tea towels as part of their merch collection and as our teenagers spread their wings and head out to different events more tea towels appear on their return. And of course they are a staple at every place you visit, so tea towels from different locations now grace our kitchen.

A few years ago I would have thought this was a bit of a joke, “I went away and look I got you this tea towel”, but the truth is they bring genuine delight.

Lets face it, we all know this is going to happen. So we have screen printed an imprint from my own bike to get you started.

Standing in the kitchen using the tea towel you get to think about the story behind it. I know that sentence could be seen as wrong on many levels – Don’t you have a dishwasher? Why are you doing the drying not the kids? Don’t you have a life?

All I can say in my defence is that every tea towel, and every story that they come with, makes me smile.

So to help with our fundraising we are playing to our strengths. You donate to support our ride and we will send you a unique hand printed “Rather Be Riding My Bike” tea towel.

Every time you pick it up you will not only be genuinely delighted by Robyn’s creative screen printing, including greasy bike chain imprint, you can also think how you have supported two old codgers get around France for a good cause.

Maybe it will be the start of your own collection?

You can make your donation below and send us an email with your address to and we will pop one in the post to you. We have covered the costs for the tea towels and will pay for the postage so all your money goes to help out those that need it.

To donate click here:



Grounds For Divorce

I am not sure if it is a facet of old age, but I do like a bit of routine,  I am a creature of habit. I take great comfort in familiarity.

“If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” is my motto.

Weetabix – We do have them with milk!

This routine extends to the preparation for a bike ride. Everything is organised the night before, the alarm goes, I get up, get dressed, have Weetabix for breakfast, then ride my bike. Occasionally I may have a bowl of Sultana Bran, but the routine is always the same.

So today’s decision to have bircher muesli for breakfast was a very left field decision. It’s what Chris Froome apparently has, there was a recipe on social media extolling its virtues. So conscious of needing to mix things up, given that I can’t really travel with over 100 Weetabix to France,  last night I made a batch.

Magical Chris Froome Muesli

It’s not cheap, after I paid for all the ingredients I probably should have paid a little bit extra to have Chris Froome come and feed it to me, but you need to invest in your health.

Robyn is a serious Weetabix consumer, if she doesn’t get her fix in the morning the rest of the day can be very hit and miss. But she also said she was up for the challenge, “if it works for Froomey then it will work for me”, was her approach.

So this morning at 4.50am, we were stood in the kitchen, dressed in our lycra making short work of the muesli. It tasted fine to me, a little exotic, but I was focused on the magical wholesome ingredients that were going to make me ride like a champion. I finished my first bowl and went for a second, yet strangely Robyn refused.

All was right with the world. It’s been warm here in Sydney and it was 25c as we set off into the inky dark of the morning. After a big day on the bike yesterday the legs felt tired but powered by the Magical Muesli I felt better than I could have expected.

We headed up out of North Sydney and onto Military Road, one of the main drags out of Sydney to the Northern Beaches. It was nice and quiet at this time in the morning so we could ride side by side.

I looked over at Robyn, “All good?”, I enquired.

“Not really”, was the blunt reply

“Why what’s wrong? Legs struggling after yesterday?”

“Legs are fine, that muesli had raisins in it, didn’t it?”, she asked somewhat accusingly.

“Yes, it’s part of the magical mix that makes you feel like a champion and allows you to ride for days”, came my reply. Well in my head it sounded something like that.

“Well they are going to be repeating for days, I don’t like raisins.”

So at 5.15 am on Sunday morning, the Mrs and I entered into a very heated discussion on the merits of raisins, how much effort goes into making muesli and how if the other party is not happy then they should bloody well look after themselves. On reflection maybe discussion is the wrong word, one-way rant would be a better description.

Once I shut up I could see that Robyn was smiling.

“What’s funny”, I demanded to know.

“If all we have to argue about is a few raisins then we are probably in a good space”, she replied.

She had a point, a very good point.  I apologised.

It is a good sign, as we increase the training and spend more hours on the bike we are in a good place. I’ll just remember not to put raisins in the Magical Chris Froome Muesli and she has agreed not to even suggest that we change anything else in our cycling routine.

That would be grounds for divorce.

With or without raisins it is rather good.




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.

Make a donation to a good cause here:


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



Posted in TDF

Twinkle Twinkle

006If you want to be a Little Star this Christmas then why not make a donation to support a great cause and to give us added motivation as we cycle around the Tour De France route next year.

005For behaving like a star we want to reward you with a “3 Star Rating” and we will send you, 3 actual Christmas Stars in return for your donation.

These stars have been hand made by ourselves and they are waiting to be dispatched to you, anywhere in the world.

We are paying for postage and packaging so all your money is going to a great cause.

Make a donation then send us your address to and we will put them in the post.

Donate early to make sure they arrive in time for Christmas.

Donate by clicking below:


Check out our Fundraising page if you want to know more about the actual stars!

Posted in TDF

Cool or not?


“Cool?”, I asked my teenagers.

 “Not cool!”, they replied in unison.

 “But we will look like we are from a proper team, we could get matching kit.”


What is old…

 “So not cool”, came the reply.

We had not set out to get matching push bikes. In fact until this week we didn’t, we had the same brand but from different years and different colours so there was enough difference for it to be relatively unnoticeable.

Then I found a crack in my frame and the nice people at Cervelo agreed to replace it under warranty.


…is new again

I offered to upgrade to a more expensive, different frame but they wouldn’t play ball and provided a replacement frame the same as Robyn’s.

So now we have matching bikes. A very, very, first world problem but something that I am having to manage. I do understand that this is more of an issue for me and nobody cares, but…

Maybe this is the excuse I need to buy a new bike for France next year.



Posted in TDF

One and a half

The route for next years Tour De France has been out for a few weeks now. Interesting for those that follow this sort of thing, compelling if you are planning to ride the entire route next year. It didn’t really matter what the route was, having signed up to ride the whole thing I was going to have to get around whatever they put in my way. For Robyn it was decision time.

The wonderful folk at the Tour De Force go to great lengths to ensure that you can ride the exact route as the professionals. As well as offering “The Lifer” a chance to do all 21 stages, they also offer different packages to suit all tastes. Robyn had to decide what “Tour Taster” she was going to commit to.

We knew that it would be good to ride into Paris together, the question was how many stages would Robyn do before this? Traditionally the last week of the tour involves some mountains so whatever was on offer was going to be a challenge.

Robyn’s decision making process is different to mine. I like to plan (some may say I need to control) and generally I like to go into things having analysed it to death.

Robyn’s takes a more straight forward approach, so when I asked her what she thought she would like to do we had this brief exchange,

“Well If I’m going to travel all the way over to Europe I may as well make the most of it.”

“Yes”, I agreed.

“If I ride my bike lots beforehand, I’m confident that I’ll get around whatever is put in front of me.”

“Well yes, but you need to think about…”

“Don’t start that analysing stuff, do you think I can do half of it?”

” Yes, you can, if…”

“Don’t care about the ‘ifs’, sign me up.”

And with that she has signed up to ride “Tour Taster 8 – (Semi Lifer Second Half)”.

10 Stages and a total of 1,553Km across 10 days. This is what it looks like:

  • tour-taste-8-graphicStage 12: Thurs 6th Pau to Peyragudes. 214km.
  • Stage 13: Fri 7th Saint Girons to Foix. 100km.
  • Stage 14: Sat 8th Blagnac to Rodez. 181km.
  • Stage 15: Sun 9th Laissac to Puy en Velay. 189km.
  • REST DAY: Mon 10th
  • Stage 16:Tues 11th Puy en Velay to Romans sur Isere. 165km.
  • Stage 17: Weds 12th La Mure to Serre Chevalier. 183km.
  • Stage 18: Thurs 13th Briancon to Izoard. 178km.
  • Stage 19: Fri 14th Embrun to Salon de Provence. 220km.
  • Stage 20: Sat 15th Marseille loop. 23km. & TGV to Montgeron.
  • Stage 21: Sun 16th Montgeron to Paris. 100km ish.

Inspired by Robyn’s approach and how easy it makes everything, I have decided to just play what is in front of me. I am resisting the very strong urge to plan my way through each stage, instead I am going to focus on the one day where we may actually have to think for ourselves – the rest day

The TDF organisers are so good, they have even provided the following insights to what the rest day has in store, “Le Puy en Velay known for its lace, lentils and a local spirit made with lemon verbena. It’s a really lovely little town with plenty of laundrettes and cafes”.

Seems a trip to a French laundrette is on the cards for the morning and then all we need to do is find somewhere nice for lunch.

With this sorted and knowing the good folk at the TDF take care of everything else, all we have to ride our bikes “lots” before next July, and raise some money for a great cause. This is where you can help out by clicking below:donate



Summer is just around the corner in Sydney, time to ride our bikes lots!










Posted in TDF

Non, je ne regrette rien


Lake Taupo in New Zealand is about as far away from Bracknell in the UK as you can get. It has been an interesting journey for the 5 of us who have been catching up. Richard, Bobo and I all went to the same playgroup together, then on to primary school. We also went to the same secondary school in Bracknell, where we met with Emma and Justin. On average we have all known each other for over 40 years.

Justin now lives in Auckland, the rest of us ended up living in Sydney. There was no coordinated plan it just turned out this way. The 4 of us catch up in Sydney fairly regularly, normally with the families, and earlier this year we decided to go on a road trip to visit Justin without the entourage.

image3A couple of days in Auckland and then down to Lake Taupo. We have made it to Sunday afternoon and we are still talking. Apparently no thanks to me.

Robyn, my wife, had talked to me before we left. She explained that even if it was not my intention, I can be a little difficult to live with at times. I needed to remind myself that these were my dearest friends and that to make sure it was a holiday to remember, for the right reasons, I must take or hire a bike. For their sake not necessarily mine. Riding my bike gives me a sense of calm, I feel balanced and a lot more relaxed. Without it I can go a little stir crazy. So I have managed a quick spin around Auckland yesterday and did a lap of the lake today.


Hire Bike = Friendship Insurance

It’s a shame I didn’t ride my bike on Friday as well, it would have spared poor Bobo a rather intense discussion that we had over dinner. Certainly not my finest work and fortunately for me Bobo was still talking to me on Saturday.

Getting away from the chatter of everyday life and a change of scenery gives you a chance to reflect. We have had lots of time to reminisce about years gone by and to replay some of the fond memories of growing up.

“Would you change anything or do anything different?”, was an interesting topic of conversation over dinner last night.  There was nothing of significance that anybody would change. Sure we may have approached certain situations over the years in slightly different ways, in my case Friday night’s dinner and there was a New Years Eve party in 1991 where a slightly different approach may have delivered better results. But even these bad decisions make you who you are today.

Even when I set out this morning on my bike, feeling slightly shabby from sampling too much local Pinot last night, I had no regrets. After riding the first 2 hours into a headwind through rolling countryside I was feeling very regretful.

Then I just reminded myself there will undoubtedly be moments like this in France next year, (not alcohol induced I hope) so I just kept grinding away and was rewarded by some stunning views and a tailwind home.


From left to right – Ben, Bobo, Justin, Emma and Richard

As much as the Tour next year is occupying my thinking and planning, Emma and Bobo have already been thinking about how we will celebrate our 50th birthdays in a few years time. Apparently we are all off to “Hawaii 50”, kids get to stay at home but any other old school friends are more than welcome.

We also have plenty of time to decide where to go in Hawaii, I know there are some big volcanoes you can ride up, probably worth thinking about adding that to the itinerary for one or two of the travellers.

Posted in TDF

Let There Be Light

When we signed up to ride the Tour we decided to tick a few other things off the bucket list. Robyn has always been very creative and as we talked about different fund raising ideas she came up with a beauty. As her birthday was approaching she had a rather unusual request for a present and then she set about a few novel ways to encourage folk to make a donation.

This video explains it all…

A lady of many talentsimg_5902

Fill Your Boots

One of the side effects of growing up is that you somehow become responsible. When I was growing up we used to have things called sweet shops, this will give you a clue to the generation I belong to. It was a treat to go for a visit and I could never understand how the adults could resist the urge to buy as many sweets as they wanted. I couldn’t fathom why the grown-ups around me with the money and the freedom to do what they liked, just didn’t fill their boots.


Teenager in Boots

A similar pattern emerges through adolescence. Whatever your indulgences there will be a point, in my case waking up with a terrible hangover, when you start to ponder if the excesses of the day before were really worth it. You ignore it, try again, then a short time later you have the terrifying realisation that you can’t really behave like this anymore and you have started to care about what the boss thinks. Now you are on the slippery slope to grown-up responsibility.

There are a few grown-ups who have somehow managed to avoid this slope of responsibility and are still behaving with the freedom and enthusiasm of a child with a $100 note in a sweet shop. For the majority or us, we have to wrestle with our conscience and our ability to see beyond the impulse for instant gratification and weigh up the long term impact. If I have that next drink, dessert or ride those extra km’s, what will be the implications?

Even if you do throw caution to the wind and go for it, you will often regret it the next day as you no longer back up like you used to. The road to recovery gets harder each time and unconsciously this modifies your behaviour, then one day you are quite happy to be the designated driver and drink fizzy water all night!

Mid-life is exactly what it says, you are in the middle of something, no longer young enough to behave with reckless abandon and you still have a significant time before you arrive at your final destination, old age.

Like many others I manage these forces in my life today and yet I still have this strong urge to just cut lose, to fill my boots, and jump into my passion without worry or justification.

So I have decided that this year I need to regress, to do exactly what I want and to create a life for the present and not worry about the future beyond 24th June 2017. For this is the day that I will start riding my bike on a 21 day charity cycling journey that will take me over the same Tour de France route that the pros will tackle, just one week ahead of them.

I love riding my bike, I have done for the last 5 years. Starting off as a complete novice I have thrown myself into riding greater distances, participating in sportive’s and traveling to various places in the world to ride.

Along the way I have become fitter, happier and more adventurous. Three years ago I rode with the Tour De Force who organise the tour for the William Wates Memorial Trust. I rode for 8 days through the French Alps and finished up in Paris. It was the closest you can get to being a pro, all you have to do is sleep, eat, bike, repeat.

blog-1-latteSince returning from that adventure Robyn, my lovely wife, has joined me in my cycling pursuits. We are well aware that we can come across as a bit of a cliché to some of our friends – married couple with teenage kids, spending quality time on bike rides, drinking lattes and wearing matching Lycra.

But bike riding is a little bit more for us, it has become part of who we are. We have spent a lot of time riding with each other over the last few years, completed some of the most challenging one day events here in Australia and have been thinking about bigger challenges.

blog-1-ben-and-robynSo we decided to jump in and sign up for next year’s Tour De Force. I will be riding all 21 stages and will be known as a “lifer”, we are still debating how many stages Robyn will do. We shall wait for the course route to be published but as a minimum Robyn will ride the last week of the tour, over whatever mountains they put in our way, and our reward will be that we get to ride into Paris together.

My Grand Depart is still over 270 days away as I write this, which should give us plenty of time to get organised. Given that we live in Australia and with everything else going on in our lives we have already started to plan. From a work perspective we will fit our training around our work commitments and combine the two. If we have to travel, the bikes come with us. Holidays have been planned around cycling adventures and training blocks. The kids will get to experience real independence and learn to look after themselves, unless they want to join us on the road.


A fundraising thank you for your donations

We are going to enjoy ourselves as we get ready for the Tour and along the way also raise some money for a great cause. We have been thinking about creative and innovative ways to fund raise and we have already put one into practice. Rest assured we will be asking for a donation from you all along the way and also hope to be able to offer something in return.

We will be recording our journey to the start line with regular blog updates and we have developed our own website to keep track of it all. Our media savvy teenagers also advise us that we have to have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts so we can develop a following. The accounts are in place, let the following begin.

You can check it all out at and we look forward to sharing our bike indulgencies along the way.


Ben and Robyn

Posted in TDF

The Italian Job

imageThere is no better way of experiencing what a country has to offer than by going for a bike ride. You get to see first hand the countryside, the architecture and, if you have enrolled in one of their most popular sportive’s, meet the locals and observe how they like to ride to their bikes. In Italy they like to ride their bikes fast, just like they drive.

I travelled to Bormio in Italy with my friend Anthony and a group of his bike riding mates from the UK to participate in the Granfondo Stelvio. They had organised everything and I was incredibly fortunate to just be able to tag along. Great roads, good company and all I had to do was ride my bike.

Travel broadens the mind and it also highlights the differences between cultures. I have ridden in France, this weekend was the full Italian experience. Having spent the day amongst the locals here is what I observed:

A MAMIL (Middle Aged Man In Lycra) would seem to be a generic look regardless of their nationality. The Italians just do it with more style and panache. From the coordinated club casual wear, down to the team kit, there didn’t appear to be a fashion faux par anywhere.

The Italians love fluro colours, yes it may seem a little contradictory to talk about style and then mention fluro in the same breath, but somehow it seems to work. The brighter the kit the better from what I could see. If it was you or me wearing it we would look like some sad 80’s throwback, on a well groomed Italian with designer stubble they get away with it.

Bells and Whistles
Italians like their bikes. I have not seen so much expensive carbon on a start line before. Normally on these mass participation races you get a segment of hardcore cycling enthusiasts who ride their steel bikes and do so with pride. I only saw one steel clunker yesterday and it turns out the rider was from London.

Only in Italy could you be greated at the top of a climb with a man with a tray of focaccia and pizza. I almost looked around for the red wine and was willing to call it a day there and then. It doesn’t matter if you are on top of a mountain there are standards to uphold and at every rest stop the food and drinks were marvellous.

The Mortirolo may only be 11km in length but it is brutally steep. Lots of switchbacks have you weaving up the mountain on a single track road. Then once you are near the top, the road becomes a concrete path; super steep and slippery. Most people have the sense to get off and walk. There are a few riders who demonstrate their strength and bike handling skills and ride up this “goat track” and there are others like me try to emulate them and fail. For a while I was looking good, shouts of bravo from the other walking cyclists echoed around me as I ground my way upwards. Then I lost traction, hit a rut and next thing I am on the deck. Fortunately I was going so slowly you couldn’t say I crashed, I just fell sideways. I am not sure what the others were saying as I lay on the ground still clipped into my cleats, but I sprung up, dusted myself down and pretended like it never happened. I even thought about trying to get back on but opted for the far safer option and started to trudge to the top with the others.

Nature may be accountable for the stunning scenery but at some stage somebody has to decide to build a road up it. The Stelvio pass is as picturesque as any. An iconic climb for any cyclists and it does not disappoint. A 20km climb, it tops out at 2,750m with snow still on the ground. Any other nation would have left it to its own devices. The Italians built one of the highest paved road in Europe up it. Tunnels, numerous switchbacks and crazy Italians climbing and descending (once you complete the race to the summit you have to rug up and descend back down) only adds to the fun.

imageIt can be difficult not to make generalisations and revert to nationalistic clichés when you describe different cultures. The reality is that these observations are grounded in the truth and that is why they stand the test of time.The Italian bike riders (men and women) like to ride with determination and intensity. I have never been overtaken on the descents by so many people. I am at best a cautious descender. I can normally hang onto a bunch but not this lot. Maybe it’s their superior bike handling skills or familiarity with the the mountains, either way they race down them as though their life depends on it. This passion was evident all day. Without understanding a world of Italian, if you listened to some of the conversations going on in the bunch you would have sworn there was about to be a punch up, then there would be a cheerful “ciao” and riders would move on. They were probably discussing the quality of the focaccia at the last stop.

All bike riders love riding their bikes, the Italians just seem to do it with a little more style


Hitting the town after we all completed the race. Cheers gents!

If You Can’t Beat Them…

Over the last year I have written a lot about riding with my wife.  I thought I’d get Robyn to share her perspective with you.


My mother tells people that I ride my bike because otherwise I wouldn’t get to see my husband. He’s alright my other half, but I’m not going to invest huge amounts of time and energy just to stare at his backside or hope that he might actually talk about anything other than average speed, cadence and how mentally prepared I am!

At Uni I always rode a bike and later on when I lived in Dublin for 5 years it was my main means of transport. Moving to Sydney, working, getting married, having children and just the noise of normal life just seemed to take priority over anything else.

I have watched at close quarters Ben’s midlife crises; first the running, then I lived through the subsequent damaged knee and finally laughed our loud when he first appeared in Lycra. The reality was that I ended up living with somebody who was happy to parade around in public with the anatomy of a Ken doll.

Mostly I was just pleased that he seemed happier and had something to occupy his time. We still managed to do all the things we wanted to do as a family so I let him get on with it. Then one day he suggested that I should get a road bike.

Why not I thought and I picked up my shiny new bike in November 2013. At first it was a novelty being on something that was sleek and fast. I enjoyed learning to ride it, how to use the gears and waddling around in in my cleats at the café like all the other Lycra clad wanabees.

We’d get up early on a Sunday, ride for a couple of hours, I’d get to see the city from a different perspective and always felt I had earned my breakfast.


Then one day at the start of 2014, at one of our favourite café stops, Ben asked me what my goal was.

“To get home, do the washing and have a quiet afternoon”, I replied.

“No what’s your cycling goal?”, he asked.

“I don’t have one, do I need one?”

“Well why are you riding at all?”

This stumped me a little, I rode my bike because it was fun. It was also very easy for me, all I had to do was agree to getting up at 6am on a Sunday with my delighted husband who was genuinely pleased that I’d go for a cycle with him. He did everything else I just pedaled.

Now at 8am on a Sunday morning over my latte and mushrooms on toast I’m getting interrogated about my cycling vision. Somewhat reluctantly and just to shut him up I settled on the concept of getting fit, Ben’s eyes lit up: he had a plan.

Little did I know that over the next 2 years my metamorphosis from occasional social rider was going to entail serious amounts of time in Lycra, see me take my bike on our family holiday’s and acquire an extensive wardrobe of bike related clothing that is even better than my husbands. It has culminated in me riding the Peaks Challenge at Falls Creek a few months ago, a 235km ride in a single day over some big mountains. A result that I am proud of and well worth the time and effort.

Once I uttered those fatal words, “I’d like to get fit”, things changed. Here are the key revelations that I made along the way.

Make The Time For Yourself

Remember to do your own thing!

Remember to do your own thing!

My initial fitness regime involved “Turbo Time”. Sounds impressive but basically it means sitting in the spare room on a turbo trainer for hours pedaling. Ben had discovered some approach which required me to ride at a certain heart rate (MAF training or something, I’ve never cared what was behind it just loved the fact that it got me fit and I lost a lot of weight in the process). It might sound dull but compared to cooking, running the girls around or other boring chores I soon learnt this was my time.

The wonders of modern technology meant that I could spend the hour long sessions watching my IPad and completely disconnected to whatever was going on in the house or around me. Downtown Abbey, Gavin and Stacey and all of The Game of Thrones were consumed in my quest to build a base.  A couple of these sessions a week and a ride or two at the weekend and I was ready to take on some bike challenges.

Play The Bike Card

2014 01 21_4171

How many bikes does it take to…

Linked to making time for yourself is the wonder of “The Bike Card”. If your husband is a certified bike nut who takes great delight in not only his exploits on his bike but yours as well then you find yourself in a very powerful position. The normal delineation of duties around the house can easily get reassigned if there is an urgent bike related matter. For example if the girls need a lift and I haven’t been on my bike yet, then clearly my bike session needs to take priority and Ben has to step up. You just need to work out what you do and don’t want to do around the house and play the bike card.

Own Your Goals

As I got fitter and enjoyed the time on my bike we began to look for some events to participate in. Rather than a gentle first event mine was a 165km lumpy ride, The Fitz’s Classic Challenge, in Canberra. I had ridden enough to know I would get around, it was more a question of how I would feel and in what shape. We had a great day and I was delighted to finish in a respectable time and to feel a sense of achievement at my first big event. With this ride under my belt the thought of riding the Peaks Challenge was discussed. Ben had done it twice before and had really enjoyed it, it would be a big challenge but if I trained he felt I could complete it.FC14M__2116_1P

As part of our training we did The Fitz’s Classic again a year later. This time I was considerably faster but crossed the finish line feeling completely underwhelmed. Unlike the year before, where just getting around was an achievement, this time I had high expectations for how fast I could go. As I talked this through with Ben we realised that unintentionally he had been pushing me as he was trying to get me ready for the Peaks Challenge. Rather than owning my ride I was trying to please him and not communicating how I was actually feeling; which was knackered and disappointed, despite going faster.

I realised that I had to own my training and rides from then on. My goal became to get myself in the best physical condition I could so that I could enjoy the Peaks Challenge. Ben would plan our rides and then I would be responsible for altering them based on how I was feeling. On the road I was to communicate exactly what I wanted him to do. If I felt good we would go faster. If I needed to, he would slow down. I didn’t need to be motivated or screamed at I just needed to know that he would do what I felt I needed to get round and enjoy myself in the process.

Prepare To Be Surprised…

One of the side benefits of getting into cycling with my husband has been how attentive he has become. Not so much to me, after 19 years of marriage some things you don’t need, but to my bike and my wardrobe. I have never once had to clean my bike , fix my bike or do anything other than just ride it. He takes care of it all.

The normal household budgeting policy has also gone out of the window if new bike kit or new bike parts are required. The more I have pedaled the fitter I have become and the leaner I am. I need a new wardrobe. Not a murmur from the Household Treasurer.

And then for my birthday last year something very expensive turned up, something round, shiny and delivered in some serious packaging. In fact 2 of them, brand new carbon fiber wheels, custom made and personalised to match my bike with my name on them. If you asked me 19 years ago if that would have been the perfect birthday present it might have been grounds for divorce. The reality is he absolutely nailed it, my very own little black numbers!


Enjoy, Enjoy, Enjoy…

Nobody makes me ride my bike. I do it because I want to and because I enjoy it. I enjoy being fitter, I enjoy the time I get to spend doing something for myself and I enjoy being able to achieve the goals I set. The Peaks Challenge was just the result of doing what I love, riding my bike. I am fortunate that it is also the thing that my husband loves and we can indulge together. It’s something that I will continue to do and will continue to get excited about where and what we can ride. There is talk of doing the other Peaks rides and also a trip to Europe next year. Yes, it will be something to do with the Tour De France and I wouldn’t want it any other way.