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October 29, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

Bike Woodstock


Published October 2011 in Farrago’s Batmania blog

There’s nothing better than eating whatever you want with a much smaller amount of the usual elephant-sized guilt most women experience. For this rare opportunity, I must thank Ride Around the Bay. By making me ride 62km in one day, you’ve given me my own free pass on jelly babies (sustenance during the ride), pasta (carb loading), pasta the day after the ride (post-carb loading hunger) and chocolate (I rode 62km, shut the hell up).

What’s most striking about a Ride Around the Bay event is the amount of stretch material. Lycra, lycra everywhere, bum pads and cleats so clacky it’s like a chorus of broken applause from a tired audience every time the lights go green.

The 50km Bay-ers were a delightfully well-behaved bunch. Sure, there was lycra aplenty, but very little of the jostling and barbed-wire duels with cars that you may have seen in the Tour de France. We of the 50km are a leisurely bunch, content to recline on our well-padded seats (or rears) and enjoy the view, the intense wind bustling along the bay, and the obscenely fun street luge event along the descent of the West Gate Bridge. When I say “we”, I actually mean everyone else. I just wanted to see if I could get from one point to the next on my often precious road bike without blowing a tube, accidentally ripping a hole in the sidewall of my tyre (badly placed brake) or breaking my chain.

Cycling, as many bike commuters know, has its ups and downs. Most of it can be blamed on inadequate padding and sweat rash. However, Melbourne weather has a lot to answer for. While the city seemed almost high on its own sunniness at 8am, twinkling its way along the Yarra river, by midday in Altona it was howling like a petulant child at the supermarket checkout. Storm clouds threatened to hail and sobbed bitter, biting tears of rain. It was almost as though we’d done something wrong by volunteering to be out enjoying Melbourne’s beachfront suburbs, just like all the rich people who remained inside their hermetically sealed, temperature-controlled beach-view mansions and watch us pant and puff our way towards the next major marker.

Still, in the midst of cleats, lycra and that temperamental bitch Mother Nature, Ride Around the Bay-ers were surprisingly convivial. At the end of the race, you could watch the sea of bikes congregate around one area of Alexandra Avenue, laid to rest among the grass, trees and fresh air like we were all at a Bike Woodstock. You could lock your bike up, but worry a little less about someone pinching your front wheel or kicking the rims in. And bless sponsored handouts. Free Powerade and tinned tuna for the masses! (I stole seven.)

Cycling may have unsexy lycra, helmets and flat tyres, but it has the allure of taking you to interesting places. Or into interesting storms, or interesting situations. I’d never say the West Gate Bridge is a fun place to be, but when you’re shooting down the ramp with wind whizzing through your hair, most things become significantly less boring. Especially when you remind yourself that some hard-earned, guilt-free chocolate is headed your way.

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