Cycling in Sydney Australia
It’s only about 25kms from the central business district, but the three gorges ride is a world away from the urban hustle and bustle of Sydney.
The night before is always a ritual.
I lay out bike clothes, helmet, shoes, water bottles x 2, muesli bar, shot bloks, cash, credit card, garage keys, sun block and put them on the table neatly, in order of assembly, in the kitchen ready for a quick getaway. I put cereal in a bowl, thinking this may give me an extra 30 seconds of sleep. And more sleep means more energy for the ride. (I tend to live my life by mathematical formulas that are totally out of kilter with reality.)
I sleep in the lounge because it means I don’t have to creep past the kids’ bedroom and risk waking them up at 5am. Disturbing the kids before they naturally wake is probably the worst thing you can do as a dad when you’re leaving for a morning jolly. I’ve done it once before. When I returned, my wife was jumping at the back door like she had a lit firework strapped to the belt of her dressing gown.
We meet at Centennial Park at 5.30am and set off in our convoy of two cars. The freeway is empty and as we cross the harbour bridge the sun is rising over the opera house. It’s a sight to behold and a lovely reminder that I moved to one of the most beautiful cities on earth. After about 30 minutes we hit Gordon and soon after we come off the highway into Bobbin Head Road. About 2ks down, we stop in North Turramurra and assemble the bikes.
Our conversation normally starts with a quick summary of our current mental and physical state.
“I only had four beers last night. I was in bed by 11”, said Pants, proud as punch that he managed to keep a lid on it. I don’t know why he’s called Pants. All I know is that he has a weak bladder. Maybe he has to carry a spare pair of pants around just in case.
“I went to a wedding and was back by one. I was driving, so didn’t have any drink. My missus was trashed though, playing air guitar in the middle of the dance floor. That’s what mum’s do, right? Because they don’t go out for ages, they’re like a caged lion that’s not been fed. Let them out and there’s carnage. She was in a right state this morning…” said Ass. The reason why he’s called Ass is because, well, he has a big Ass. So do I, probably bigger, but he got named it first, thankfully.
“I had a few after work then carried on with wine at home,” I mumbled, embarrassed at my spineless constitution. My nickname is Roger because my last name is Moore. Coincidentally my dad’s name is Roger. When I protested that I didn’t want my nickname to be the same as my dad’s name (that’s just plain weird), it only added fuel to the fire.
The first of three
After about 20 minutes of pissing around putting the bikes together, we are ready to go. A short ride and we’re in Ku-ring-gai National Park. And before we have time to properly spin the legs we’re hurtling down our first of three gorges – a snaking road into Bobbin Head. As we descend the air becomes cold and biting. I suddenly realise I had forgot my gloves. Damn. I move my hands into the racing position because I feel safer with them nearer the brakes. My front wheel wobbles at 60km/hr and I shit myself. A lot. My heart is pounding when I reach the bottom, but that’s soon forgotten because the view is a picture postcard. The bay is full of boats bobbing up and down in the water, which is glistening from the newly dawned sun. I slow down to soak the view up.
A couple of minutes waiting to regroup and Pants is nowhere to be seen. All of a sudden he appears and announces he stopped for a piss. Three hundred extra metres and he could have used a public toilet.
We tackle our first climb out of Bobbin Head. It’s three kilometres but feels a lot longer. We talk for the first few hundred metres but that’s slowly replaced by silence and deep breathing as we focus on the road up ahead. The climb out is spectacular – open forest dominates the hillside, dispersed with dazzling glimpses of the valley below. You need to keep your wits about you as speeding groups of cyclists hurtle in the opposite direction. There still isn’t a car to be seen.
We’re all relieved as we conquer the climb. A short distance out of Bobbin Head along Ku-ring-gai Chase Road, we turn right onto the old pacific highway for about 10kms before turning left towards Berowra Waters. This descent is a lot hairier than Bobbin Head. The road is narrower, bumpier and the turns are sharper. Still, we all think we’re in the Tour De France and we go as fast as our stomachs will allow. At the bottom there’s a 180-degree hairpin and we’re into the bay of Berowra. And it’s even more beautiful than Bobbin Head.
At the river’s edge we look across and see the car ferry making it’s way towards us. It’s a free ferry and runs 24 hours a day. The five-minute ferry journey serves as a welcome rest before we have to tackle our second and toughest climb out of Berowra. On the other side of the river, we stock up on water. Pants stops for toilet break number two.
The climb out of Berowra is long. It’s three kilometres straight climbing. When you think you’ve hit the top, the gradient lessens, but it’s still uphill for another couple of kilometres. Rolling hills, large farms and stud farms now surround us. This is horse country. This type of countryside is hard riding because it’s constantly up and down. It’s hard to get a rhythm. I use this as an opportunity to refuel. A muesli bar and electrolytes give me a new burst of energy. We head single file in Galston Gorge, my favourite of all three climbs.
The descent is extremely fast because the road surface is good and straight. At the bottom, I start to get excited because this part of the ride is what I have been waiting for.
It’s been a long dream of mine to ride a stage of the Tour De France. And there’s only one stage I want to do, Alp D’Huez. This stage, with all 21 hairpins is the stuff of legends. It’s about 15k long and in places very steep. I still haven’t fulfilled the dream, so Galston Gorge is as close as I get because it has hairpins all the way up. It’s nowhere near as long (a paltry three kilometres in comparison) but I can still imagine myself in the Alps when I’m climbing it. Before we start the climb, Pants needs to stop for another toilet break. This is his third.
Pants’ prostate problem
“I think you need to wear a nappy next time” I impatiently suggested.
“I could have a problem with prostate for all you lot know. You wouldn’t be taking the piss if I had prostate cancer, would you?”
“Yes we would,” exclaimed Ass.
“Do you have to go often during the night? Is it a steady stream or lots or drips? Is it painful?” I asked. Silence. And off we went up Galston Gorge.
The romance takes over
I don’t know what it is about hairpins but I love them. Maybe it’s the constant change of scenery. Perhaps it’s the steep corners followed not so steep climbing. It could be because when you pull away from the rest of the group you can see them directly below you rather than behind you – it makes you feel like king of the castle. Or it maybe that you can’t see the road ahead, so psychologically it’s easier on the mind. Either way, it’s exhilarating. This time though, I go off a little too quickly.
I build a gap of about 100 metres but the rest start to reel me in as we get towards the top. My heart is pounding and I’m mighty glad the summit is in sight. My lungs are about to explode and legs are burning, but I just make it to the top first. I have nothing left in the tank. Another 100 metres and I would have been last. Pain soon turns to relief as I realise that was the last major climb.
It’s only a few seconds before we’re all together and heading back towards our start. A fantastic cycle in stunning scenery almost over, but I’m now looking forward to the traditional coffee with bacon and egg sarnie.
It’s all about companionship & coffee
Cycling is a strange thing. You need company to ride. Yet there are long passages of time when you don’t say a word to each other. For some reason you don’t need to. Yet without other riders, it’s is very boring.
And that’s also why the coffee shop finish is so important. It’s where catch up to give our personal summary of the ride and generally chew the fat. It’s a time to officially finish our ride before heading back to our busy lives as family men.
The three Gorges ride deserves a thorough debriefing, the ride is that good. Pants talks about his stamina up the final hill. I talk about the wheel wobble. Ass is on the phone to his missus, reassuring her he is on the way back to relieve her of kid duty because she has a hangover from hell. All of us – like babies that have walked our first steps – are talking excitedly because feel like we’ve achieved something good. It’s a great way to kick off the weekend and that makes it so much easier to return to the grind of our daily lives.
Distance: 63 kilometres
Starting point: Bobbin Head Road, North Turramurra
Where: About 25 kilometres from the Central Business District
What to see: stunning forest, beautiful rivers, rolling hills.
Water refills and toilet stops:
Difficulty: fairly tough for a weekend warrior
See the detailed stats here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/134833062