It isn’t often I get to a Friday night and realise I don’t have a ride for the weekend organised. That happened this Friday night just passed. It coincided with a full weekend leave pass from the bride as she would be at markets all weekend selling her outstanding handmade cushions ( www.cooshonz.com ). A cycling dilemma. At about 5:45, after I had a shower from my afternoon commute home, I contacted Tim, a guy I have chatted to a fair bit on a cycling forum, on Twitter to see what he had planned. About an hour later it was sorted. I would drive up to his place early on Saturday and we would do his 80km blast along the M7 cycleway. The very same piece of cycleway that Bling Bling Bolbol has been churning out the kilometres on. I also rang Bling Bling so we could catch up for lunch after the ride. Packed all the gear for the morrow and off to bed early as it was a planned 5AM rise.
An intro to Tim before I talk about the ride. He rides a lot more than me, and a fair bit quicker. Not quite 50, he has retired early and is pumping out the kms like there is no tomorrow. I was going to have my work cut out for me staying with him.
My Android phone has a fantastic feature as part of the alarm clock. It turns on at a very low volume, and slowly gets louder. Excellent for a gentle wake up. So I was up and about by 5:15am and on the road by 5:30am. It is a 2.5 to 3 hour trip in total and I got to Tim’s place a few minutes early. Having never met, we made our introductions and I assembled the bike. Tim was fully decked out in his Trek kit, looking lean and fit. I was rubbing my eyes and yawning like a bear just out of hibernation.
At 8:47am we were on our way. 200m into the ride Tim says he has to stop to tighten up his saddle. The nose of his Brooks saddle is saluting Merckx, the god of cycling. A quick adjustment and off we go again. Under a sunny blue sky we hit the bike path. A 80km trip if you go from end to end and back. It is magnificent. No stress from cars, potholes, snakes, cows, road building equipment or dairy trucks.
We were getting along at a fair rate, but I was surprised by the lumpiness of the track. It never seems flat. At roughly the 13km mark, Tim had more saddle issues. We stopped for a few minutes to take a better look at it. Not knowing exactly what the problem was, Tim gave it a few more nm of torque and it seemed a bit better. While we were stopped, I noticed how varied the people on the path were. From small groups that looked like a mini peloton, to middle aged mums on flatbars. I had a brief thought about these sorts of people mixing on the path, but then just got back into it.
We had barely got going again when we happened upon a section that takes a hard left, goes under the M7 motorway, then sharp right and continues. As we approached the left, there was a couple stopped, looking back towards the sharp right. Sure enough, as we rounded the left, there are 2 bodies on the deck and bent bikes laying around. It seems that just after the right hander, there is a fair climb. Or, looking at it coming from the other direction, a lovely long straight downhill. It seems the guy coming down the hill had his Cancellara goggles on and should have had his Schleck ones on. He took out a group of 3 guys on roadies, although it seems one of them took the most of the damage. Tim took to directing traffic around the scene and I asked if everyone was ok. The guy in most trouble was pretty sure he had broken his jaw. Given the amount of jibber jabber coming out of said jaw, I have my doubts, but I am no orthopedic surgeon. There was nothing for us to do that could help, so off we went again.
It was a lovely day, there was a bit if a head wind blowing, but nothing that was killing us. We made it to the end of the path at Prestons, and stopped at McDonalds for a coffee and muffin. Thanks Tim for your generosity. We had a natter about this and that. Learned a little about each other and I appreciated just how far Tim has come. He has dropped 30 or more kilograms in the past 2 years. A hell of an effort. At this point it wasn’t killing me keeping up, but I wasn’t doing it as easy as he was.
He headed back. It was still a sunny and breezy day. This really is what riding is all about. I was having a great time. There are a couple of pinches that are hard work, and it really took me all my effort to stay close to Tim. On the way back we saw a few interesting things of note.
– a gaggle of kids, probably all under 7 years old, on bikes and scooters and not a one of them with a helmet.
– a guy off his bike with the saddle on the ground and him holding a sheared saddle bolt. It was going to be a long 10kms home for him.
– a pair of mid 20 guys flying into a corner, no helmets and not much idea on sharing a path. It was at this point I was annoyed I had forgotten the GoPro.
With about 10kms to go, we ran into Bling Bling. He was out for a ride before him and I were going out to lunch. Tim and he were introduced, and we had a chat for about 10 minutes. He was looking great, and I was looking forward to catching him for a 2PM lunch at a place he said I would love.
The last 10 kms were pretty uneventful. At one point I launched a Lewy style attack on a hill. The only problem was that it was a hill with speed humps to encourage people to slow down on the descent. Trying to sprint, uphill, with my minuscule bike handling skills was a challenge. I claimed the win, even though Tim says I didn’t blow the whistle to signify a sprint. He obviously hasn’t met Lewy.
We rolled into his place with matter of seconds between us and 3 hours on the bike. It was a thoroughly enjoyable ride with a champion bloke. Tim asked his lovely wife Tracy to get a photo of us when we got back.
We had a cold drink and a chat before I showered and was on my way. I must thank Tim and family for their hospitality. I had a great morning. It was now off to lunch with Sam.
I got to Sam’s place about 20 minutes late and hungry enough to eat a horse and chase the jockey. No sign of the big bloke. I check my phone and he has sent a message to say he is struggling and is running late. Bugger, I’m starving. He eventually rolls around the corner, looking slightly beaten. He gives me a tour of his house. Yep, more bling. After he has a shower, we are off to the special location for a feed.
It is a funny thing. Sam lives not far from where I grew up as a kid. I used to ride my bike down his street, so I am vaguely familiar with the area. I say vaguely because that was 30 odd years ago. We are headed to Auburn, a cultural melting pot in Sydney’s western suburbs. This from Wikipedia.
Auburn also has fast growing Somali, Bosnian, Iraqi, Iranian, Afghan, Pakistani, Sudanese and Chinese communities. The five most prominent religions in Auburn are Islam (40.9%), Catholicism (15.3%), No religion (10.3%), Buddhism (6.8%) and Anglican (3.6%).
My kind of place. Sam took me to a Turkish cafe. This was in the front window.
And there was loads more. Now, that photo was taken at right on 4PM, so I was pretty damn hungry. Before to long a massive plate of meats, onions, tomatoes, chillis and red cabbage arrived. I was in gastronomical heaven. It was everything Sam had promised and more. I was that busy that it wasn’t until the feeding frenzy was completed that I thought to take a photo.
Sam and I had a good chat about bikes, and then we were off to Bass Hill for desserts. Now I am a man with a sweet tooth, but I was starting to run out of puff. It had been a long day so far, and I still had to get home. We stopped into the Bakery’s King Patisserie. It is the bling capital of Bass Hill. And they had it all in the sweets department. If I hadn’t been so tired, I could have stayed for hours.
Sam ordered some bits and pieces, mainly Lebanese type sweets and some Turkish coffee. It was fantastic. What a way to end a great day. Even though, with the 3 short cups of coffee I was probably looking a bit like Marty Feldman by the time we left.
I then had a 2:30 drive home listening to the velocast and Spokesmen podcasts. I rolled in the door at 8:15PM, just shy of 15 hours after I had left.
I want to thank Tim and Sam for the great company and showing me the cycleways and eateries of Western Sydney.