A 50km ride with detours.
This week, instead of writing about my usual workday rides, which were all a whole lot of belly-aching, I’ll write about the ride I did today. That way, all my belly-aching can go in one place.
(Also this week, as you can see, I’ve moved Eyelashroaming over to Substack! I hope that’s OK with my four readers. It’s much easier to use than my old nemesis Wordpress, and is free. My page here is still looking pretty rustic, but I’ll try to get it looking better soon.)
For this ride I was wearing the padded pants gifted from Freya, and once again I nearly panicked when I put them on. The padding, as I’ve mentioned before, is intense. But once I was on the bike, I felt like a king on his throne.
In my backpack were a couple of water bottles with lemon slices floating in them, a bottle of chocolate protein oatmilk, and – as an experiment – a can of cold Supreme oatmilk coffee. Last week, on my golf ball ride, the mushroom Cup-a-Soup was a wild success, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since, but I’d run out of packets and was also thinking I’d need some caffeine on this ride. FYI, some other liquids I’ve tried on a big ride – apart from the usual electrolytes – are:
Nippy’s banana milk (delicious, but banana is a hard-to-find Nippy’s variety, overtaken by the ubiquitous coffee and chocolate flavours, and besides, I can’t really do cow milk anymore.)
Little Island banana milk (incredibly good, but tends to slosh heavily in the stomach. Also, this is yet another hard-to-find banana variety.)
pineapple juice and soymilk shaken up together (refreshing and energising!)
kombucha (Too fizzy; no good for the desperate gulping that a big ride involves.)
I pumped up my tyres, degreased then regreased my chain, then set off at 8am, feeling smug to be hurtling through the morning. From Aro St I inched up Durham and Mortimer and Ohiro to Brooklyn, then began the long glide down Happy Valley Rd in the shade. Happy Valley Rd is an OK road. It could be a great road, and maybe it once was, but it isn’t now. There are a lot of surprise potholes and uneven patches and bulging trucks on their way to the tip, and it’s scary to be passed at speed when you too are going at speed. And on the uphill, you usually have an annoying headwind, and the speeding trucks again, and other cyclists going faster than you.
Tried to go fast around Owhiro Bay, through Island Bay and on towards Lyall. I had just one close pass, by a big orange SUV, at which I shook my head sadly, like a dad witnessing bad reffing. The head shake is a low-impact response to bad driving, and I doubt many drivers even register it as they surge impatiently towards the next person who will get in their way. But the head shake feels nice to do, and obviously it’s lower-risk than the fingers.
There were a lot of other cyclists out, most of them serious-looking, and some in pelotons, rippling along in their bright colours, shouting ‘What?’ at each other. Still, Sunday morning is really owned by one specimen, and one specimen only, and that’s dogs. Dogs speeding past with their heads out of car windows, dogs being run and walked, dogs stopping to greet other dogs . . . Cyclists only borrow Sunday mornings. It’s the dogs who run the operation.
Stopped for chocolate milk in Lyall Bay then pushed on ahead to Moa Point. Sped up to get past the straight road that runs alongside the airport, as it’s narrow and feels exposed and risky somehow. I emerged from the dark Moa Point Rd tunnel and was glad to be heading back towards the water.
Leg check: Feeling strong.
Brain check: I was thinking about some public speaking I have to do tomorrow. I tried to focus on the ride at hand, but kept being distracted by everything that could possibly go wrong at this event. The most vivid scenario I was imagining was that I somehow grasp onto the lectern so hard that it falls forward, taking me with it, so I kind of sled down from the stage onto the floor. Anyway – we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
In Breaker Bay, climbing the hill towards Seatoun, a man on the footpath turned and started clapping. ‘Ah, here she comes! Tour de France! Hooray!’
I said, ‘Thank you!’
In the cycling subreddits I sometimes read, occasionally you’ll get people posting that a pedestrian yelled encouragement at them while they were riding along, and they don’t know how to feel about it. But I’ll tell you how you should feel: Good. Especially when someone just yells: ‘Tour de France!’ That’s a very wholesome thing to yell.
At the start of Marine Pde, about an hour into the ride, I stopped and poured the can of coffee into my maw. It was terrible, like cold dregs tipped out of various cups and mixed together in a can, but I know lots of people really like cold coffee, so this was definitely a me problem, and I forced it down.
Continued on through the gentle undulations of Karaka Bay, Scorching Bay, Mahanga Bay and Kau Bay, then rolled onward to Shelly Bay.
Because I’m a moron and hadn’t looked at the news recently or even googled, I hadn’t known that the exclusion zone on Shelly Bay Rd, after the fire in June, means everyone is excluded from passing through, including cyclists and pedestrians. I reached the zone, and a sleepy-looking security guard was sitting in a car beside the No Entry fence and I immediately realised my mistake so I took this photo to make it look like I knew exactly what I was doing.
Turned around – feeling grateful now for the disgusting coffee, which had given me a surge of energy – and attacked the ride afresh. I went all the way back to Marine Pde, then turned onto Awa Rd and made my way up the steep hill into Miramar. This was actually an enjoyable hill to climb, with views of the sea floating up at every turn. Went through Miramar, considered stopping for a coffee and scone but felt too self-conscious about my increasing smelliness, then found my way onto Cobham Drive.
After Cobham Drive it was a matter of getting from Evans Bay to Oriental Bay. I wasn’t looking forward to this portion. The northbound cycle lane feels like it was designed by a hedgehog. Like, ‘Oh, here would be a good place to cross the road.’ And if you don’t get killed there, you can have a few more goes up ahead. By my count, you have to cross the road, through fast traffic, three times. And then, once you’re on Oriental Pde, alongside all the trikes and pushchairs and babies riding e-scooters, there’s no obvious place to get back onto the road. You have to push your bike across the pedestrian crossing like an animal.
By now grinding my teeth, I thought I’d try out the new cycle lane along Cambridge Terrace. Opposite the fire station, I went over some sudden judder bars on the cycle path and my water bottle leapt out of its cage and rolled onto the road. Embarrassing, but OK. Retrieved the bottle and carried on, immediately riding over another set of the exact same judder bars so that my bottle leapt from its cage once again. Embarrassing, but OK.
Further up, the cycle path was smooth, and had its own lights, which felt like a special sort of pampering. The path carried me all the way up to the Basin, then it suddenly dropped me from its arms as if I had turned from a prince back into a toad. The Basin was closed, so I had to crawl along the footpath and then cross over a busy three-laned road to get to the War Memorial and on the road towards Aro.
By this point I was well over two hours in, and looking forward to a shower.
As I was about to begin the Raroa climb, I saw two other cyclists making their way up the hill. They were on pushbikes, and they had full panniers. They had the slow, patient look of cyclists who regularly lug their groceries up hills and who know that they must settle in. It feels rare to see pannier-carrying pushbike up in the hills these days. It was like seeing a pair of saddlebacks.
Made it up the always obscenely steep Mt Pleasant, which almost finishes me off every time, but yet again somehow I made it to the top.
This was mostly a good ride and I am glad I did it.
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