Cycling in Sydney Australia
And so it came to pass, a week away to Paris.
Walking around an average of 10km a day in the City of Light to attempt to reduce the effects of awesome raw-milk cheeses available there... mmhmm 24 month old Comté (raw-milk cheese are illegal to produce in Australia, naturally... )
Travelling with 12, 9 and 6 year old and with shopping bags, the Metro (a station every 4 blocks? ) proved a great option.
Still I managed to slip into the itinerary a bicycle tour , http://www.bikeabouttours.com/_2012/biketour_parisday.htm and after organising tag-alongs for the 6 year old and 9 year old we were on our way. The 12 year old rode a foldable and it was an awesome way to see the city highlights, history and experience the cycling infrastructure.
Without a doubt it was the highlight of the trip. Just have to remember that they are a right hand drive country and that generally cars are not out to kill you, but watch for the door zones all the same.
(I asked the guide if the term 'PAYANT' on the road next to to cars meant 'watch out for Door zone....)
The tour guide, Alex, was a little bit of a cycling advocate too, mentioning in passing to the group that we could now confidently borrow a bicycle or a Velib and ride around themselves.
I lined up a Velib day pass to coincide with Sunday / the Paris Respire (Paris Breathes) program where certain roads were closed off to motorised vehicles (part of the program seemed suspended north of the Seine) , I registered for the 1 day online (for Euro 1.70 about AUD2.10) and armed with just a 8 digit code and my 4 digit pin I went out to test their system with 3 short rides where I checked in and swapped bikes. http://app.strava.com/rides/23539535
I didn't track the subsequent ad hoc rides during the rest of the day, but it was great fun and such a wonderful way to transverse the city from point to point. If it wasn't for the younger children in tow, for sure the Velib would have replaced many more of the Metro rides. The bikes are heavy but equipped with automatic front and rear lights, internal 3 gears, full mudguards,basket and lock. It seemed like such a steal that if you don't return the bike your credit card would be pinged Euro150.... not that I'm advocating that of course.
Spotting bikes besides the Velibs were good fun too, a good majority of the bikes were the practical usable Dutch styled sort of bikes, but it was a bit of a challenge to find any MAMIL classed Time / Look bikes although I did sport one Sunday rider with Zipp wheels on.
Speaking of challenges we played with the kids to 'spot the velib' with a point given for a velib , 5 points per helmeted rider and 20 points for spotting Space Invaders.... my wife was pretty peeved by the time the scores edged over 100 so we had to stop that game by midday... (not that it was ever fully stopped )
For more reading on Velib and how it transformed Paris (yes Paris wasn't always cycling friendly either)
Map of Velib stations - http://en.velib.paris.fr/Stations-in-Paris (click on a velib station to see how many bikes and empty bases are available )
Raw Milk cheese : http://slowfoodaustralia.com.au/our-work/australia/raw-milk-cheese/
En-route to Paris, I dropped by Singapore and met up some mates for a MAMIL-esque ride in the Garden City.
I rocked up with just my lycra, chamois cream, shoes and cycling cap ready to spin on his spare Oltre but my mate also wanted me to use a helmet to complete the MAMIL look, and seeing I was being offered to borrow the awesome Giro Aeon (not legally available here, naturally, thanks AS/NZ! ) I acquiesced despite the humidity.
The ride was a shocking revelation. My Australia-aware, constant scanning, dialled in to look for variations on the road surface , pot holes, dangerous drainage slots, debris , sand, glass chips... you know the everyday Sydney riding, experience was yielding nothing, nada, zilch, zip or locally, kosong.
It was as strangest feeling riding on the absolutely pristine roads, but after about 15 minutes I felt I could get used to it. The roads were generally flat, there was a popular stretch known as Mandai that goes past the Zoo and that was a nice ride with loads of other weekend cyclists- granted not as many as a regular West Head jaunt but pretty impressive numbers nevertheless. We then detoured to a short sharp pinch called Lorong Sesuai, thank goodness it was short! and off to Rifle Range Road and than off for a meal at Holland village. http://app.strava.com/rides/23191544 The bikes were placed casually and a bit of a distance away while we were having breakfast and I had trouble stopping myself from keeping a look out for it while the other cyclists didn't seem to be concerned that their bikes where not locked up and virtually out of sight... not that I recommend doing that!
Anyway, from there is was a meander into the city for a coffee and back to return the equipment - a short flat commute.
On another evening I rode to dinner (untracked) , on a very old bike I owned some 15 years ago, it was a bit of an upslope the way there and I'm blaming unfamiliarity with the route, and too low saddle height, under inflated tires , hold on, I'll reserve some of my extensive excuse list... for failing to beat the car there.
Anyway, cooled down with refreshing beverages and fortified with crustaceans, there was no such problem on the way back where I had the bike place in it's position and leaning casual-like for the passengers to eventually return.
Singapore is ideal in terms of elevation, the roads are pristine and my personal experience with the drivers seemed pretty decent, nothing that would upset a Sydney cyclist!... although I've heard on unhappy ramblings otherwise. Naturally 100% humidity means that is something to consider. There are parks connectors but the mates I was cycling with were not into that.