Exploring the Tasman Peninsula on two wheels

Last weekend I had the opportunity to take my bike down onto the Tasman Peninsula for a ride along the coast and into the hills. It was one of those rare and perfect early winter evenings. Still mild enough to have the legs out, not a drop of wind and hardly a car to contend with.

It’s not often enough I get out on the road these days and this ride certainly reminded me of what I am missing out on!

During the summer  the roads down on the Peninsula are jammed full of tourist rental cars and badly driven camper vans, but outside of peak season you can almost have the place to yourself. It really is a little slice of island paradise. If it weren’t for the fading light I could have ridden for hours, but in the end I rolled back to the house with a shade over 51km on the Garmin, three Cat 4 Climbs, 28kph average, two Strava KOMS and one absolutely stunning sunset to finish off the ride. Some days life is just ohhh so sweet and it makes you thankful to be alive. #keepthosepedalsturning

Cycling Vietnam: Same same, but different!

Same same, but different. It’s a saying the Vietnamese use to describe the way they do things, how they live, what they’re selling, almost anything. It boils down to how their way of life is essentially the same as Westerners, but actually very, very different!

Same same, but different: The Vietnamese way VS the Western way.

Such is my experience of cycling in Vietnam. I had booked the wife and I into a new hotel on the beach in Hoi An that boasted free bikes for guest use. So in essence a main course of romantic getaway with a cheeky side of cycling. On arrival and seeing the fleet I knew this was going to be a challenge. I may have been riding a bike, but it was going to be very different to what I was used to!

A quick photo opportunity and break from the heat by the river.

No carbon, drop bars or fancy electric derailleurs here, just a solid 30kg of steel single speed utility bike. Same same, but different! But hey, all miles are good miles, right?

If you’ve ever been to Vietnam you’ll know that it’s hot. I mean already 30 degrees Celsius by 8am hot. Most mornings I’d be out the hotel door before 6am for a pre-breakfast ride in order to beat the heat. Our hotel “bike boy” who’s job it was to note down your room number and pump up the tyres was usually still fast asleep next to the bikes, so I’d quietly wheel one down the ramp and slip away onto the crazy Vietnamese streets for a blast. I’d get an hour’s ride along the beach road or looping through the Ancient City, racing school kids on eBikes and dodging scooter traffic before returning drenched in sweat and re-racking the bike to the surprised expression of all the staff. What a way to build an appetite for a hearty Vietnamese breakfast!

Along with these morning solo jaunts I also did quite a few hours of extra wheel time with the wife sat on the rear rack. I covered many more miles exploring the ancient town and local roads, wife perched happily behind me. Most people at the hotel took the free shuttle bus  but I preferred to pedal everywhere. 

Mid-ride coffee stop. Drip filtered onto condensed milk!

The hotel staff were amazed that we only ever took one bike between us. I am more confident negotiating the sometimes crazy and seemingly rule-devoid Vietnamese traffic. Hauling an extra 50kg up any slight incline may have been hard work (read: good training) but using  the one bike as opposed to April on her own bike is actually faster and also made a few women we passed on the way a little envious.

Even when pedalling into town with April on the back, if I saw another bicycle up the road I’d instinctively give chase. I guess I just can’t shake my roadie attitude! Once I was cheekily drafting a scooter loaded with an entire family. The mother got a little annoyed and waved me off, so I promptly dug deep and overtook them. I can’t help it!

At the local cycling cafe for more ride fuel (same same, but different!)

On one of my early morning rides I decided to throw in a cheeky Vietnamese 10 mile time trial. After a short warm-up I stomped on the pedals. Forearms resting on the bars, hands gripping basket for extra aero points I panted away in the 35+ degree morning heat. I chased down kids riding to school on their eBikes and the occasional scooter. A couple of locals on a moped pulled up alongside me and cheered, yelling “faster, faster!” in their best broken English. I obliged by putting the hammer down, legs spinning madly on the single speed. “35k!” He shouted, then “40k!” Bring it!

Judging what I thought was half way I pulled a u-turn and accelerated that Titanic hunk of iron back up to speed. Back past the hotel and a little extra for good measure. Checking the stats afterwards I’d managed the 10-mile section at a 17.5mph average speed. Fairly respectable on the rusty shopper!

By day three I was getting sick of the poorly maintained fleet. From what I could garner from various staff, the bikes were sourced second hand from China. Add to that the hotel bike maintenance boys’ skills were limited to barely pumping up a tyre and it was safe to say that many of the bikes had seen much better days – some were actually unsafe with bolts missing, brakes not working, child seats hanging off!

Made this one my own personal bike, the “best” of the bunch.

Rusted chains, bent metal, under-inflated tyres, missing bolts, you name it. So with some borrowed tools I fettled away for a couple of hours until I was happy. The job was made much more enjoyable as I was surrounded by beautiful young Vietnamese women (hotel staff) totally enamoured by my pro-level handyman skills! Those pretty young girls kept telling April how lucky she was! And yes, I am still milking that one!

Who is this crazy hotel guest holding a wrench rather than a cocktail?

A few adjustments to stop cranks rubbing on chain guards, 50psi in the tyres, scrape the dry rust off the chain and lube up with motor oil, whatever I could manage with limited resources. I worked my way through around eight of their bikes, after my magic touch they were like a different fleet! Team Sky would have been proud. Sure they were still tanks, but at least they were safe, silent and slightly more efficient tanks. Marginal gains shopper bike style!

By the end of the trip I’d racked up a decent amount of cycling time, seen the sights, spent quality time with the wife, taught the “bike boys” some proper maintenance skills and made great friends with the lovely hotel staff. It may not be everyone’s idea of the perfect relaxing or romantic holiday – or perfect cycling holiday – but I loved my time in Hoi An and will treasure the time I spent there.

Same same, but different!

Tragedy at Indi Pac Wheel Race

Incredibly sad news coming from the Indian Pacific Wheel Race across Australia as we learn that competitor and world class ultra cyclist Mike Hall has been hit and killed in a car accident while taking part in the 5,500km race from coast to coast.

For the past two weeks we have been watching the dots on screen as riders made their way from one side of Australia to the other, totally unsupported and racing under their own steam. We’ve watched their progress, their photos on Twitter and updates through media as they endure incredibly tough conditions along the way. We admired their determination and athletic ability to even attempt such a challenge.

Then disaster strikes. One that should never happen. The Indi Pac has been cancelled with immediate effect as word is being delivered to the other competitors. RIP Mike Hall. A dark day in ultra cycling indeed and our thoughts go out to his friends, family and every other Indi Pac competitor. Stay safe out there folks…

Tandem Travels!

In almost a polar opposite to my recent power training post, I also absolutely love riding tandem bikes. It’s simply what cycling is all about once you strip away the fast ride politics, the endless number crunching, the Strava files and training plans. Being on a tandem is about getting out there and having fun just enjoying the journey together.

10003662_737741379590434_191494495161767985_oTotally pro…

My wife isn’t a sporting cyclist so riding a tandem allows us to cover much, much more ground than if we were on a bike each. Probably five times as much at least. All with a smile on her face and as you know – happy wife happy life!

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The photo above was taken during a laid back ride through the vineyards and lakes of Hungary a couple of years back. Such a beautiful country. There’s nothing quite like exploring pastures new by bicycle. Plus she can take scenic photos, read maps or guidebooks, pass up glasses of wine, etc. All from the back seat! #winning 

Sometimes though the tandems on offer at the local cycle hire shop are not exactly high tech machines! This particular one below we hired in Slovenia. I had visions of it busting in half with any out-of-the saddle climbs! It did the job though and got us to Croatia and back – even though it was close to 40 degrees C that day. As you can see from the photo I am resting in the shade after some hard graft on one rickety looking contraption…

A hot day for a tandem ride on one strange looking machine.

Sometimes us tandem cyclists even travel in packs! One of my favourite tandem rides was the inaugural Woking CC Tandem Club Ride, where six of us tandem enthusiasts took to the quieter roads of Surrey and Berkshire in search of the finest tea and scones on the county. It was a fantastic day out on two wheels. Needless to say if I had a little more storage space (and Tassie wasn’t so lumpy) I’d buy a tandem tomorrow!

1781515_737741079590464_6114498468907289941_oWoking CC Tandem Club Ride – Outside the cafe stop in Windsor Great Park.

Pro Cycling Season in Australia

koalaGet ready for an overload of pro cyclists awkwardly cuddling koalas and fondling baby kangaroos, because before the much loved European Classics Season gets underway, there’s a couple of sun soaked Aussie races for the pros to test their legs on. These season opening races provide the perfect outlet to blow away those off-season cobwebs and burn off any extra helpings of Christmas pudding they may have indulged in (here’s looking at you, Cav). It’s also an opportunity to sharpen the tan lines before they return north to duke it out through the freezing fields of Flanders!

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First off is the TdU, followed closely by Cadel Evans’ Great Ocean Road Race (now with full World Tour status) and lastly the Herald Sun Tour, won last year by Chris Froome who is returning to defend the title. We should be in for some fantastic early season racing! Make sure you note these dates in your diary:

Santos Tour Down Under

Jan 15th – People’s Choice Classic, 50.6km
Jan 17th – Hostworks Stage 1, 145km
Jan 18th – Staging Connections Stage 2, 148.5km
Jan 19th – Hansgrohe Stage 3, 144km
Jan 20th – BUPA Stage 4, 149.5km
Jan 21st – Bike Exchange Stage 5, 151.5km
Jan 22nd – MAC Stage 6, 90km

Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

Jan 31st – Women’s Elite Race
Feb 1st – Men’s Elite Race

Heral Sun Tour

Feb 3rd – Prologue Individual Time Trial, 2.1km
Feb 4th – Stage 1 Healesville, 126km
Feb 5th – Stage 2 Yarra Glen to Moe, 144km
Feb 6th – Stage 3 Traralgon to Inverloch, 146km
Feb 7th – Stage 4 Arthurs Seat to Mornington, 122km