Two morning rides to beat the heat

Is 10.20am too early to have a beer?

That was my first thought when I finished yesterday's 16km ride.

I'd set out early to avoid the heat (the predicted high was 40°C) only to find it was actually very warm at 9.20am.

By the time I got back home and checked the temperature gauge in my parent's "weather station" the temperatue was already 29°C.

With similar temperatures being predicted for today, I headed out on another early ride. I left the house at 10.10am and was back an hour later. The temperature at that time was 29°C again.

Riding in that kind of heat isn't too bad if there's a slight breeze and you've got plenty of water with you.

What I liked about both rides was the stillness and the dryness in the air. This morning was particularly quiet, save for the chatter of birds.

The highlight, apart from seeing numerous rabbits and even a fox, was spying a pair of goldfinches which cut and dived in front of me, the gold of their wings flashing. They came to rest on a fence post a little further along to watch me cycle on by.

I couldn't help but think it was a sign to see English birds on my ride: this time next week I'll be back in London, braving the winter cold.

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Two contrasting cycles

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Cycle 1: Yesterday

Weather conditions: Temperamental. Started off dry, then got very wet very quickly, then windy, then sunny, then another very heavy shower, followed by more sunshine.

Highlights: Seeing a whole field of cows trying to cram under some low-lying paperbark trees for shelter from the rain!

Lowlights: Seeing a calf lying in a ditch in an empty paddock. I thought he was dead, until I saw his eyes blink. I made a note to check him on the way back. By the time I'd returned his mum was with him. She didn't seem too worried about him, and he was looking a bit more alert, with his eyes open and ears pricked up, so I can only hope he wasn't sick, just a bit tired.

Distance: Roughly 16km.

Cycle 2: Today

Weather conditions: still summer's afternoon, perfect conditions for cycling.

Highlights: Seeing a black swamp wallaby on the track ahead of me near the local swamp. We both stopped and looked at each other. I got within about 10 metres of him, before he bounded off into the swamp land below. His fur was so black I could not spy him amongst the blackness of the muddy ground. But then I heard some movement and I watched him bound off into the distance, taking giant leaps through the reeds and swamp gums. Magic.

Lowlights: None that I can think of.

Distance: Roughly 16km.

Special note: Did today's cycle in record time, shaving at least 10 minutes off the standard time achieved during much of December. Feeling much stronger and fitter than I did 5 weeks ago!

A Sunday morning cycle

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I squeezed in a quick bike ride this morning before heading off to an 80th birthday lunch.

When I hit the road at 10am the smell of a new, fresh summer’s day in the offing was awesome.

I’m not sure how to describe it, but it was a kind of heady mixture of evaporating dew and freshly cut hay mingled with dry dust. It took me awhile to twig that it was actually the smell of my childhood, in particular those early morning walks to the bus stop for my daily ride into school. I took deep inhales — of nostalgia.

Further into my ride the quintessential Aussie tang of eucalyptus got added into the mix.

It was a refreshing change not to be riding in the heat of a summer’s afternoon. Consequently, I was able to cycle full pelt for much of my journey.

There were quite a few people out and about, mainly family groups, so I did a lot of “meeting and greeting”. I even managed to say a quick hello to this rather adorable cow in a field of adorable cows — Fresians and Jerseys all mixed in together.

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About 40 minutes later I was back in the door, the sweat pouring off me. Not sure of the total distance, as I cut my usual route short in order not to miss my lunch date. I’m guessing it was roughly 10km.

[For reference, I also did my usual 16km route on Thursday January 20 but neglected to record it here.]

Why I need a cork hat for cycling

Cork-hat Fly

Next time I go cycling I might have to wear a cork hat over my helmet.

Today, for the first time in almost one month of cycling in Australia, I got bothered by flies.

They tried to get up my nose, climb into the corners of my eyes and fly down my throat. Yewww.

I spent half of today's cycle trying to shoo them away. This meant I spent the first 8km cycling one-handed.

Fortunately, on the reverse journey, there was a head wind which kept the pesky blighters away. But tomorrow, when I get back on the bike, I'll be making sure I cover myself in insect repellent. Unless, of course, anyone knows where I can buy a cork bicycle helmet!

Funnily enough I never seem to have this problem when cycling in London…

An 80km ride on the Great Southern Rail Trail

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Today I set myself a real cycling challenge: could I ride 40km to Foster? And could I cycle back?

With hindsight, an 80km round-trip was probably a bit ambitious, but despite the hard slog — particularly the uphill sections between Foster and Fish Creek, and then Buffalo to Stony Creek — I did it in six hours. That included extended stops for lunch (I brought along a cheese and vegemite sandwich, a handful of dried apricots and some ginger biscuits) and a coffee (and a pee) in Foster. I also made quick stops for photographs along the way.

It was worth it to see the scenery, particularly the view over the foothills of the Hoddle Range between Fish Creek and Foster.

As I cycled along this section of the trail I counted six giant birds of prey (kites, I think) hovering overhead, cruising on the thermals, probably watching for rabbits on the hills below. Or maybe they were looking for snakes? (Turns out I was fortunate to miss a four-foot long deadly tiger snake which crossed the path in front of the trio of cyclists who were just a few hundred metres ahead of me.)

The best part was cycling along a stretch of the trail lined with green, leafy tree ferns, some of which were 15-foot high.

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I suspect I am going to be very stiff and sore tomorrow, but at least I can say I've cycled the entire length of the Great Southern Rail Trail now. Who knows, maybe there's a proper feature article in there somewhere!