The Long Way Down – Riding to Canberra

With the Hannibal tour fast approaching I felt that I needed to get a couple of good long rides in as final preparation. It was with this idea in mind that I proposed to my regular riding partner, Al, that we cycle from Sydney to Canberra.

I already had tickets for the Australian Open squash champs and so it seemed like a logical idea at the time. Plan was to give ourselves 2 days to get there and arrive in time for me to catch the semi finals on the Saturday. The fact that getting there involved 2 century rides (in miles) and we are in the middle of winter was somehow overlooked or at least underplayed.

All started well as Al and I met at Central station at 5.45am to catch a train out to Sutherland in order to avoid the Sydney traffic. We were on the bikes by 6.30am and the ride began in style as we rode through the Royal National Park.

Al riding with the peloton outside the Bundanoon cafe and a brief visit to the Nan Tien temple just south of Woolongong

For the first part of the day I lost all feelings in my fingers – notwithstanding I’d spend a fortune on warm weather gear in the lead up to the ride – but fortunately the weather improved. Indeed, such was the improvement we actually got a bit of a tan on the first day.

The biggest challenge on the first day was undoubtedly Macquarie Pass which was a 750m ascent on a series of switchbacks. When Al stood on the pedals and shot off at the start I thought I was in for a lonely ride but he soon came back to my steady pace and we climbed together. On this day I think I found it a little easier than Al and not even the copious amounts of Gu gel helped him. Never has the pie shop at the top of the climb met such a ravenous man as Al was when we arrived!

The other tough element of the climb was that the weather changed with some bitingly cold rain coming down and the wind picked up. At this point the legs were getting a bit weary but our B & B beckoned and we had a couple of big steaks that evening to prepare for the next day.

Al refueling at the Robertson pie shop and the awesome views across Morton National Park.

Unfortunately though nothing could fully prepare us for the next day as we woke up to a 50km southerly wind – basically a head wind all the way to Canberra. Things weren’t helped either by the fact that 30km’s in my knees started to hurt too and hence whilst I’d towed Al up the Pass he had to return the favour on day 2.

We tried to stay on our original route but our GPS’s started having a couple of issues and we were both going a bit stir crazy with the wind so after 90km we decided to ride the highway to Canberra. At this point the pleasure had gone and it had become grind but with no transport links to speak of, riding was the only option. After a 7am start we finally got to Canberra for nightfall!

The stunning Fitzroy Falls and the reason for the ride in the first place – The Australian Open- which Ramy Ashour won on the Sunday.

Clearly I missed the semi finals of the squash by a good 4 hours but it was still great to arrive. We ended up doing 370km in total and boy did our legs know about it. That evening we went out with some friends for feed and the communal order only really worked for 2 people – us!- and a couple of well earned ales.

I’m delighted to have got the riding under my belt and it really reinforced the importance of getting some solid riding in before the start of a tour. Hopefully those knee pains were just a way of my body adjusting and won’t pop up again somewhere in the Alps.