I do quite a bit of bleating on this blog about normalising cycling, slowing down and forgetting about trying to be a racer. And whilst I firmly believe that, I have also said that there decidedly is a time and place to throw on a pair of knicks and a cycling jersey, wake up at a ridiculously early hour and go for a sprightly road ride. To me, one of the things that makes cycling great is the variety of experiences that can be had via the many cycling disciplines available and there has probably never been more on offer than right now in terms of infrastructure, first class advocacy for cyclists, bicycle variety, quality and value for money which allows even an average schlub like me to taste all the flavours of cycling with multiple bikes without completely breaking the bank. Road biking is just one of those flavours and it’s the one I’m craving today as I head through the Brisbane CBD, explore some awesome cycling routes and do Brisbane’s quintessential road bike climb, Mt Cootha.
It’s hard to say exactly what it is that keeps drawing me back to road biking. Maybe it’s some innate human requirement for speed (whether the speed is perceived or real). Or perhaps it’s the buzz of a whole lot of roadies congregating together and taking off with only the sound of tyres whooshing along the tarmac and the undeniably upbeat chatter of the riders.
Never having actually raced, it’s safe to say that it’s not the competitiveness of the sport that has kept me coming back. I’m not really the competitive type – hell, I don’t even take any stats of my rides beyond an average speed with a very basic computer. Nor am I on Strava. I just ride because I ride. I push my own limits as and when I feel the need to but really only use a finger in the wind to gauge my success because at the end of the day “progress” doesn’t really matter and enjoyment does.
So then maybe I’m a gear junkie in denial. I try really hard not to get sucked into buying unnecessary stuff just to go riding yet I still find myself sitting on a fairly nice carbon road bike with a somewhat indulgent wheelset. Then again, what I have still isn’t a pip on some of the rigs I see rolling around out there.
Yes, there’s some wankery that goes along with road cycling – the often overpriced hardware, all the unnecessary electronics and the irritating wearing of replica pro team kit (though that’s really toned down of late). But the thing is that all the ostentation and indulgent spending are the very things that have made cycling as chic as it is right now. And whilst I’m generally repulsed by lassaire faire marketing, this is one case I’ll happily accept because in the long term, an increase in cycling participation of any discipline is good for all concerned and road biking is no exception. It increases the health of participants and it’s a “gateway drug” of sorts that builds an appreciation and empathy for cycling more generally which often leads to a love of some of it’s other forms too – especially the really useful forms that have the most influential social effects like commuting and general utility cycling for regular daily tasks. Of course, some may start off at the other end of the continuum as commuters or mountain bikers, etc and expand out to road biking. I think that’s great too – it adds an extra facet to those people’s cycling repertoires and keeps the interest alive.
So, as I wound my way through the Roma Street Parklands, over Mount Cootha and through the University of Queensland campus (Barack Obama visited there, you know), I thought to myself, “there’s some pretty impressive cycling haunts around this town”. And there absolutely is (they don’t hold events like this here for nothing). Bicycle infrastructure is steadily improving and even though we’re definitely not “there” yet, we have various natural features like Mt Cootha and the Brisbane River to help the cause and the city itself with it’s restaurant and cafe districts along with the weather provides for a very favourable environment for road cycling and cycling more generally.
So after good dose of road kilometres including a satisfying climb up Mt Cootha, it was time to caffeinate as I rolled up to the Goodwill Bridge cafe where the roadie buzz was palpable, the coffee was first class and the view was awesome. Maybe this kind of setup is more common in other cities than I realise but either way, a cafe dangling from a pedestrian/cycling bridge in the middle of a CBD is an interesting thing and a place that’s bound to attract roadies en masse.
With coffee done, I started rolling back through the CBD and eventually made my way over to the new infrastructure on Kingsford-Smith Drive. It’s not quite finished yet but you can get through to Racecourse Rd at Ascot which is where I went and eventually popped out at Toombul where I began the final leg of my morning jaunt along the Schultz Canal (Kedron Brook) bikeway and through the Boondall Wetlands.
Until next time, happy road biking (though remember not to take yourself too seriously out there).