The gong ride. I had not really been intending on doing this. But the others from DHBC convinced me I should go on it. I was going to go with the slowies group. But I had not been very organised and ended up in the second hour of starting group where as everyone else was starting in the first hour. Then at the last minute jimmy and nada pulled out. I was never really going to be able to keep up with the others, so I headed in on my own. The purpose of the Gong Ride is to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis research. I raised $50.
The start of the ride was at Sydney Park in Alexandria. This is very very close to my normal ride to work. So I rode the 3.75 km to the start. On the way I saw a bunch who were wearing Cycle Queensland Jerseys. My Jersey had not arrived yet as I ordered it after the start of the ride. I arrived a little before 7AM. People had been starting since 6AM. My scheduled start time was 7:15 AM.
Behind the start, there were many tents. There were tents for the organisers, people who would take your luggage to Wollongong for $5, the St Johns Ambulance tent and a Berocca tent. The people at the Berroca tent were giving away free drinks. It turned you you had to shake them well as they had a tablet that was undissolved. I did not realise this until half way through the drink. There was also a tent for fixing bikes. I was surprised at how many people were there at the start of the ride. Did they not get their bike serviced before hand?
There was quite a queue of people waiting to start. They were limiting the start bunches to about 200 riders every 5 minutes to even out the flow of people. The man on the PA said that the queue was reducing rapidly compared to what it had been like earlier. There were two start lines, one for teams and one for individuals. I was not sure which one to go to. But it turned out that my number – A4172 meant that I should start from start line A, which was for teams. When it was nearly 7AM, I headed down into the queue. I think I only had to wait for two batches before I was able to get through and onto the start of the ride.
At first the ride was very slow. We headed out onto the princes highway via some back streets in Alexandria. We mostly had a lane to ourselves, sometimes two lanes. At firs the riding was fast and I was having no troubles keeping up.Again I was surprised at how many riders were stopped for punctures. I stopped at the first rest point, just to see what was there. There was a man who had just got a new set of pedals. He had only gone maybe 5 km into a 90 km ride.
Crossing over the Georges River over the Captain Cook Bridge, we started to climb. I was still going as fast as those around me, though the really fast riders had long gone. Now the riders were becoming more spaced out. My hill climbing ability is not the best and there were some serious ups and downs. As we were riding along Highway 1, we stopped at a set of lights. As I started riding there was a clatter and I stopped. My air horn had come off. I clipped it back in. I do not know what caused that to happen. But it is of a design that if there is force on it, it will just come off rather than break.
I continued on up the hill. This was the second most serious climb of the day. It was gentler in gradient than the one to come. By the time I neared the top I needed to stop for a break. A man on a yellow Gt5 pulled up beside me said hello and that we would meet again. He rode off while I stopped to walk around to give my legs a break. He had a fuse recumbents sign on the back, so maybe he was the man from Fuse Recumbents. I did not see him again. As we turned into Arcadia Road North, a bunch of hoons in a car leaned out the window and called out, good on ya mate!
Morning tea was at the Loftus Oval in Loftus. It was a bit of a crowded affair. But I grabbed my muffin and coffee. I probably needed to eat more. I sat while eating and listened to some quality music by the North Sydney Boys Big Band. In my mind, I tought that this was the top of the first long climb. But I was very wrong. It was only about a third of the way up. But it turned out that the hardest bit of the climb was over. I had used up my reserves. Up until here I had ridden quite quickly. From here on in it was going to be a slower ride.
I found the next section quite easy, though I was tiring. There was a gentle climb up to Waterfall. For the whole distance we had the shoulder and one lane fo the 4 lane highway. There was not much car traffic. As we neared Waterfall there were men in a truck starting to collect the witches hats.
Not long after I left the loftus oval, I was passed by one and then a little while later a second covertspeed recumbent. being ridden by Arthur and Jules I have never seen these before. A little later I caught up with the riders having a break so I stopped to chat. It turns out that they are a Sydney creation and I think one of the men was the designer. They were certainly a good bike. There is a company in the USA that makes the rear wheels. I think I need a rear wheel like that on the GT3. I loose grip with my current skinny tyres.
I then made a short toilet and water stop at the waterfall drink stop. Some evil person had put the portable toilets at the bottom of the hill so you had to ride all the way back up afterwards.
After the Waterfall Stop was the first of the big down hills. This one was longer, but not as steep as the next. It was good to ride down. I got up into the 50kmh range but was limited in how fast I went by the curves in the road and the riders in front. I did not take any pictures along the way as I needed to concentrate fully on the riding.
At the bottom we turned right for the ride into the lunch stop. We were starting to climb again, but there was a series of ups and downs. Now that we were in the forest proper there was less light and I ended up with some blurry photos. I quickly realised that this was going to happen and tried to use it to my advantage rather than stop and adjust the settings on the camera.
We stopped for lunch at one of the road side stops in the National Park. Here there were tents, some stalls and the toilets. I picked up my pre-ordered lunch, a roll, juice, apple and muesli bar, sat under a tree and ate it. Afterwards I was still a bit hungry, so I grabbed a sausage sandwich from the Lions Club of St George. Gateorade had free gatorade to fill up the water bottles, so I grabbed some of that too. As I was leaving, I met on the the DHBC riders who had a few months earlier moved to Canberra.
After lunch was the long climb back up to Bald Hill. Altitude wise is was only the second tallest climb, but it was much steeper. I rode all the way to the top. Many people were walking. This part of the forest is excellent and it was quite cool, which was a good thing.
It was good to come out of the top of the climb, though there was a short down followed by another steep, but short climb, up to Stanwell Tops.
At Stanwell Tops I went into the car park, but decided not to stop. There were some people in costumes in the car park and two stilt walkers on the road down to the intersection at the top of the steepest part of the ride. In the park they had closed the road off to cars. But now we met the traffic again, just before the decent. So the police were controlling the bikes and cars to make sure they were going down separately. I headed down. All the way down I sat on the brakes and did not let my speed get above 60 kmh as there are many corners. There were riders walking up the hill. They had already reached the finish line and were returning home.
At the bottom there is a series of short sharp up and downs. There was also quite a bit of traffic. Then we were onto the well know sea cliff bridge. It has a bicycle lane. So after a few sweeping curves off the coast, it was up to the rest stop. Miguel, Anthony and others in the DHBC called out to me. They had ridden down to the finish, eaten, and were already returning by riding back along the same path.
Afternoon tea was a simple affair. I had a piece of fruit. Continuing on we entered the northern suburbs of Wollongong. Here we went along the bike track I had been told was very good. It was very scenic and easy riding on mostly flat land. Though it does seem a bit incomplete. As we headed down into Wollongong, a man called out of the window of an expensive car, you weirdos are not welcome here!
The end of the ride was getting closer. Signs for 10 km then 5 km then 2 km to the finish. Then the last sign, to do a sharp left into the part where the ride ends. The organisers need to put up kites so it will feel like you are in the Tour-de-France.
Turning a sharp left hand corner, we entered the park at the northern end of Wollongong. Here there was a stretch of well worn grass, leading to the finishing line. There were many tents. I bumped into Jono again, who I had seen at the lunch stop. As always, something to complain about, this time a flat tyre possibly caused by overheating brakes. We headed off to the Five Islands Brewery, but the others were just leaving. So we had a beer, some food, which I desperately needed and then parted ways.
I headed off for the short ride to Wollongong Station. I was originally going to stay the night. This is why I had two panniers. But I was much more tired than I had expected, so decided to catch the train back. I was concerned that the GT3 may not fit on the trains. The first part of the return leg was to ride through the middle of Wollongong. There were a few people about.
I then purchased a ticket. I missed then normal train by minutes. I purchased a ticket to Wolli Creek Station, as I knew that this had disabled access. I though this would be good for the trike. But it turned out that the Gong ride specials did not stop at Wolli Creek. They stopped at Hurstville, St Peters and Central. So after talking to the man at the ticket office I decided to catch the train to Hurstville and change.
In a way it all went to plan, but the skin of the teeth of the plan. The lifts doors were wide enough by a cm or so. The lifts were long enough by tens of centimetres. It was a very very close call.
I caught two trains. The fist was a Tangara from Wollognong to Hurstville. The trike fitted easily into this train. But the older train a K-set the trike only fitted in on one side. Luckily I got in and off on this side. A few people got on and off. Even though I blocked the upper stair and partly blocked the lower stair, they were very patient, never said a word and carefully walked around the trike. I think that using the parallelogram twist greenspeed recommend for getting though narrow doors if I needed to go through onto the other side. Even my red flag was too talk foe the K-Set, though luckily the flag pole bends.
At Hurstville, I luckily did not need to change platforms. I do not know if Hurstville is a disabled people friendly station. While I was waiting a delay was announced becuase of “police action” at a station I had already passed through the delayed my connecting train by a few minutes.
After leaving Wooli Creek I rode the short distance home.
- Distance: 98.16 km
- Average Speed: 15.23 kmh
- Riding Time: 6:26:45
- Max Speed: 59 kmh