Cycling in Sydney Australia
It was Easter and, again, we were going to Nelson Bay for an extended family holiday. With a longing to get myself to places under my own steam I decided to ride again, although this time having recced the route to Cessnock already, I would ride the far more scenic and generally far less trafficked (and less boguned) route via Wollombi and Cessnock. This route would would, however, mean an extra 20km which would make it my longest ride to date at 255km.
Cessnock? Nelson Bay? 255km? On that bike, you say? Oh, no. That picture was just the first reasonable result from searching on "dutch bike" on images.google.com. This is my Dutch bike:
~8.5kg of titanium, euro-cool campy and carbon goodness, now with added carbon compact crankset. Just what's called for when you really need to transport yourself and the perfect accompaniment to a post-ride macchiato. Although the lack of fishing reel componentry may have made it less suitable for a destination like Nelson Bay (sorry :)).
Having been woken at 03:50 (note the très Euro-cool use of 24hr time) by some returning revelers I decided that I may as well start the process of leaving and managed to leave by 04:48. Ayups blinding everything in their path and, not one, not two, but three radbot 1000s on the rear to make sure I was visible and reflected. Not much to say that was not said in my previous blog about riding up to Cessnock, but apart from the tiredness, riding in the very early morning so without much traffic is very pleasant indeed.
I had already checked to see if there were any audax rides running (or should it be riding) that weekend and there was a 300/400with the same route I was taking from Hornsby to Wollombi. I suspected I would bump into some of them at some point, but I must have subconsciously timed it to perfection. A group of four cyclists with the tell tail signs of at least two rear lights, fluoro jackets/stuff and a large bag turned into the Old Pacific Highway about 50M in front of me at the right place for a Jersey St start. It was Howard, Bec, Warren (with whom I had discussed the route I was taking) and a guy called Ron who was doing his first audax ride and first 300 (good man!). Other than stopping briefly at Cowan to fill up a bidon, I rode with them as far as Pie where Howard had to go about some secret man's business and I decided to continue on.
Not much to say about the rest of the ride to the start of the Kulnura plod (a.k.a Peats Ridge Rd) other than eating a banana while climbing Mt White and I think I may have seen Paul riding in the opposite direction from me just south of Calga (~07:30ish)?
I stopped at the Corrugated Cafe at Peats Ridge at 08:15 to message my wife as I know this is the last place until Cessnock that I know I have reception and it was roughly one third of the way. I drunk a 375ml chocolate milk and topped up the bidons with a purple flavor powerade and a bottle of water then left.
Passing Kulnura I saw Howard's and Warren's bikes, and made the quick decision that company through woop woop is preferable to no company so stopped. They must have passed me at the corrugated cafe when I was partaking in some very secret man's business of my own. After five minutes or so we were just about to leave when Bec and Ron arrived. Quick chat and Howard, Warren and I left, discussing such interesting topics such as should permanents (a type of audax ride) be discouraged and does much cheating really go on and as audax is licensed under the auspices of Cycling Australia - whose membership letter reads much like a Singaporean customs declaration - are we allowed to take imodium to avoid secret business etc.
40km of random conversation, beautiful weather and a outstanding scenery and I waved goodbye as I turned right at Wollombi. Howard and Warren were continuing on to Broke and beyond.
At this point I must make an apology to the fine people of Millfield. Their main road is not really any worse than any other bit of road along Wollombi Rd. I think I was just accidentally forced to use some of the bad surface by fellow road users the last time. The road from Wollombi to Cessnock is pretty crappy though, however, as there was little in the way of traffic, I could weave my way through the potholes and fixes (apparently) there of. I really must have been expecting a lot worse a couple of weeks before when I rode to Cessnock.
One of the problems of being a vegetarian long distance cyclist is finding somewhere to eat. Bakeries often do not have a vegetarian non-cake option. Whilst hardly apposed to cake, cake alone is not good. So, at 11:42 I chose Subway in Cessnock. Kind-of healthy looking, but probably no better for you than cake, 6" vegetarian pattie thing and a 600ml chocolate milk, with a blue (mixing it up a bit here) flavored powerade and a couple of bottles of water to top up the bidons. At 12:05 with about 85km left, I was back on the road.
One thing I had noticed about the route was that from Cessnock to Nelson Bay is flat, very flat. Now, for a Northern Sydney based rider who has, depending on the source, between 700-1000M of climbing on my 48km commute it was rather strange to have no real change of pace, for a long long long time. Kind-of reminded me a bit of this:
And, my legs felt weird after a couple of hours of relentless pedaling - no chance of a downhill rest.
I was nervous of three parts of the Cessnock to Nelson Bay section of the route:
1) The roundabout at the end of the freeway
2) Hexham Bridge
3) Turning from the Pacific Highway onto Tomago Rd.
What I found out...
1 - At least at ~13:00 on a public holiday weekend Saturday this is easy. Speed limit is 60 making it not dissimilar to any other large roundabout.
2 - Speed limit is 60 again and the shoulder is at least 1.5M wide.
3 - There is a traffic light and apparently recently constructed ramps up onto the foot path to allow bicycles/peds to do a hook turn type of thing. Nice.
IOW, I suspect that there are far more dangerous, but apparently safer, locations to ride in NSW.
One important thing to note if you plan on traveling this route is that before Hexham Bridge when John Renshaw Drive/Pacific Hwy meets the New England Hwy and you want to turn right there is a no bicycles sign. The way to ride this is to take the shoulder of the exit from JRD/Pac Hwy as if to head in a northwesterly direction on the NE Hwy. As you get to the NE Hwy you will see a bike path that crosses the NE Hwy, use this and join the NE Hwy in a southeasterly direction on the other side which will bring you onto the bridge. This is not signposted. Thanks to Warren (one of the Audax riders above) for informing me of this. He said it got him very confused the first time he rode it, and after ~200km I dare say I would be befuddled as well.
The rest of the ride was pretty much uneventful, and dare I say it, not overly exciting. I think I am too much of a hill dweller to appreciate flat terrain - recreationally anyway, on a commute it would be awesome - my legs were not really appreciative of it either, which I found very strange. The shoulders were better than I remember from when I rode up the year before (via the Central Coast and Newcastle), but you have to keep your eyes open for those bits which have been repaired and then promptly piled up like a sand dune by a heavy vehicle. There are a couple of these which would not be very entertaining to hit.
I finally arrived at our holiday unit in Nelson Bay at 15:16, 10 hours and 28 minutes since I left home and 2 minutes faster than even the faster estimate I had given my wife. Huzzah!
$21 for a bacon and egg roll, and a coffee though! WTF, this is small town NSW, not the South of France!
Rolling Time: 09:32:52
Rolling Avg: 26.73 km/h
Elapsed Time: ~10:28
Elapsed Avg: ~24.4 km/h
Climb: 2527M = 9.9M/km (almost hilly on the "Rowe Scale")
Fun factor: Aww yeah