Who Ate All The Pies?

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A couple of weeks ago, Andrew Watts put up a Facebook post, just for a giggle, about riding from the Homegrain Bakery in Aldinga, to the Homegrown Bakery in McLaren Vale. Now, most casual observers know from the easiest of observations, that cyclists like their coffee, an easy to deduce fact by the number of bikes at any decent coffee shop, but there’s also quite a number of us who just so happen to love bakeries. We don’t ride with the Fatboys, we just are fat boys!

Don't we all?

Don’t we all?

I think Wattsy was quite surprised by the responses to this post. A number of us jumped onto it straight away, forever keen to taste test a new bakery outside of our normal riding routes. So with very minimal encouragement from the early respondents, Wattsy’s giggle of a ride became an actual event, complete with ride rules that laid end on end would have stretched possibly about as far as we rode! The final idea was that we would each donate $5.00 as an entry fee, which would be accumulated and passed on to the Mental Illness Fellowship of SA, (MIFSA)., and follow the signs that Wattsy had placed to lead us on our way.

They came from near and far to join in this ride, with Mick coming in from Ingle Farm, having left home shortly after his son arrived home from a quiet night out, to Wattsy, having pretty much just rolled out of bed and landed at the starting point. Ten of us rode out from the start, including Annabelle, who at two years old is pushing her dad Geoff up the hills from the comfort of her Weehoo.

The ride was great fun, and all who joined in, rode it as it was planned to be, a fun ride with friends on some lovely quiet roads. The main rule was that a bakery item had to be eaten at the Aldinga bakery, another item at the McLaren Vale bakery, and then a third item at the Aldinga bakery on our return. I believe Wattsy may have been the only one to follow his rules to the letter, and hats off to him for eating three pies before lunch, whilst the rest of us settled for donuts, croissants, cream cakes, sausage rolls, donut holes and of course, the mandatory consumption of coffee.

Wattsy had even gone to the extent of having a trophy made up for the day, which was easily won by Annabelle, dedicated to our great mate Robert Rau, aka Chewie (Chewy), who is not only one of the nicest guys you’ll meet who rides crazy distances every year, but is also quite the master of the fang. It was sad that Robert had to work today, or I’m sure he would have been out there with us, and helping make the days takings for these bakeries so much better!

The perfect cycling trophy.

The perfect cycling trophy.

We covered a massive 35km, consumed possibly our own body weight in baked goods, rode up some hills, rolled down some more, and had an absolute blast. We all enjoyed it so much, that we have already started to encourage Wattsy to do it again next year!

Many thanks for a fantastic ride Wattsy, and many thanks to Emma and B for being the support vehicle for our fun little adventure. Great riding with you Wattsy, Chris, Andrew, Zippy, Emma, Annabelle, Mick, Brett and Mark.

A perfect day for a ride down South.

A perfect day for a ride down South.

Nice signs Wattsy!

Nice signs Wattsy!

Great work Annabelle, whilst Geoff was just free-wheeling up the front.

Great work Annabelle, whilst Geoff was just free-wheeling up the front.

Another rule was no wheel sucking, hence the gap between these guys!

Another rule was no wheel sucking, hence the gap between these guys!

A quick breather to recover our heart rates after the cracking pace we were going at.

A quick breather to recover our heart rates after the cracking pace we were going at.

The roads were just packed this morning.

The roads were just packed this morning.

I wonder how long that third "official" route marker will last for? Will it still be there next year?

I wonder how long that third “official” route marker will last for? Will it still be there next year?

Smudgelet’s New Chariot

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For those of you who know us, you know that we ride bikes because we love cycling, in all its shapes and forms, and ride with a number of the different tribes in and around Adelaide.

When we found out that Sarah was pregnant, apart from a string of expletives as we discovered this fact the day before we were departing to ride to Lorne, it was pretty obvious to us, that the baby will of course need a bike. Yes, it could be a tad early I know, but I started a bike fund for Smudgelet, as I knew it would be easier than waiting until it arrives, and then try to find the cash necessary!

smudgelet

So after looking at striders, trikes, tag alongs, dragon poles and all other types of bikes for kids, we decided that what we would really need first is a cargo bike. No, we’re not expecting Smudgelet to ride it, instead we would put Smudgelet into the box on the front. Immediately some might say that that is just so dangerous, especially with a baby! What you need to understand though is that the boxes on cargo bikes are made of timber, secured onto a steel frame, and that there are mountings in them for either a car seat or a baby capsule. The other positive about these, is that the baby is in front of you, not bouncing along in a trailer behind you where you can’t see them.

When you start to investigate the options available, it’s amazing how many types and brands of cargo bike there are available, sadly though, none that we could find available in Adelaide. We did quite a bit of research online, as this is an investment in our future, and also needs to be something that would keep the heir to the family bicycle collection safe. We did the customary thing too, of investigating what bikes we could import ourselves, and balanced out the risk of doing that, versus supporting “local” bike shops.

I offered the bride a lift, she said no :-(

I offered the bride a lift, she said no 😦

We managed to do almost both. We went to see Sam at Treadly, knowing that he and Em had a cargo bike from one of the Dutch cycle specialists, and also had a baby that they were transporting in the cargo bike. Turns out Sam is the Adelaide supplier for psbikes, which was what we had short-listed our choice to, so we were onto a win there! Sadly though, these are rather large bikes, and a significant investment for any bike shop, so he didn’t have one for us to try. Given that there are so many varieties available even in the Christiania range supplied by psbikes, we weren’t prepared to make a decision based on internet research only, we wanted to ride them, and make a decision based upon our experience with them.

We got in touch with Peter Santos, owner of psbikes, and arranged to catch up with him the next time he was coming to Adelaide to make some bicycle deliveries. We thought that with the surname of Santos, coming during the TDU would have been awesome, but circumstances didn’t allow for that sadly. Instead, he was coming to Adelaide in the last weekend in January, which really worked out better for us, as we had no spare time during the Tour anyway!

There are already a number of Christiania bikes in Adelaide, and Peter arranged for one of the owners to bring his in for the demo too, so that we could chat with someone who actually owns and rides one, and get their opinion. So on the day of the demo, we had two two wheeler cargo bikes, two three wheeled, and a trailer to play with, test out, and generally kick the tyres on. Awesome stuff really.

They are fantastic bikes to ride. For pure speed, we found the two wheeled models with the 8 speed hubs could really get some speed up. Starting off with them though, it could be a little wobbly, and certainly with about 40kg of Mojo in the box, and not overly happy about it, I could feel the movement through the bike. It’s never going to be a bike with a tight turning circle, but it did respond well, with a rear coaster brake, and front disc brakes with a park brake. The centre stands on them are great, and provide a great balance for the bike, so much so that even with three kids climbing all over them and mucking around, it didn’t wobble at all when parked. The park brake built in is also excellent, the bike could be left on a slope with the disc brake locked on, and was going nowhere. It looked awesome in all its black glory, but given that Mojo took up pretty much the whole box, it was not going to work for us.

The all black two wheeler

The all black two wheeler

The next one we tried was the tricycle version. Now this was starting to be more what we were after. The box on the one that Peter brought over fitted three kids in it with no worries. There were footsteps built into the frame to help the kids climb over and into the box. There were fold out bench seats, seat belts, and various other anchor points for securing baby capsules and seats, and any other load that you may choose to carry. These come with a seven or eight speed, and standard again with the coaster rear brake and disc brakes with parking brake on the front.

The standard box trike!

The standard box trike!

The ride on the tricycle version seemed a little unnatural at first, as you can’t lean into a corner as you would on a road bike, instead you stay upright, and feed the bar through your hands to turn. The feeling soon passed, and it felt quite comfortable to ride it, and turning was quite good too. Given that it was a tricycle, it also meant that you immediately had better balance when starting off, as the weight was all over the front axle for the box. The kids all jumped into this one together, and were taken for a ride around Rhymill Park in what seemed to be very comfortable conditions. All we got from the kids as feedback was comments such as; “go faster!”, “take us for another ride”; “we want a turn” etc etc.

The Trike and the Trailer

The Trike and the Trailer

Even so, we kind of felt that with three kids in the front, there might not be a lot of room for other things, such as Mojo, groceries, and whatever else kids want to take with them for an outing. (Note, these are a mates three kids, we didn’t keep them, we gave them back after the bike demo was over!) So the next bike to test out was the one that was brought in by a local owner.

Now we’re talking. Again, it was a tricycle version, and he had brought along with him his two children on a bench seat, a kids car seat, picnic blanket and all sorts of stuff that the kids may want to have with them for the ride. This was the bomb. The box was massive. They use this as their second car, and it can fit the two kids, a weeks worth of groceries, and a couple of cases of frothies for Dad with no worries. It has electric power assist, 8 speed cluster of course with the power assist, disc brakes all around, and was a beautiful looking beastie.

The ride was awesome. The power assist is used to help on the climbs, not that within the general city limits we have too many cols to climb, but if you’re carrying anywhere up to 100kg in the box, you may need that little extra assistance. The disc brakes are excellent, and provide fantastic braking abilities. Again though, much like driving a car, if you load it up and take off at speed, it will require a little more braking space.

The Business Bike

The Business Bike

This was the bike for us. We spoke with Peter about how we could spec it up, and defined for him what we wanted to use it for, and Peter had some awesome suggestions for us. Given that Mojo is getting on in years, and does not have the climbing ability of a toddler for getting into a box like this, we’re getting Peter to turn the front of the box into a hinged ramp, so that when we want to take Mojo for a ride, we can lower the ramp and she can walk on. These bikes come with all the mounts for summer and winter protection for the boxes, so that no matter what you are carrying, it can be easily protected from the elements.

We’re hoping to get it in time for Womad, as by then Sarah will be just over seven months pregnant, and possibly not all that keen to sit on the standard saddles we have on most of our fleet. Instead, we’ll load the box up with everything we will need for the day, including Sarah of course, and I’ll pedal the cargo bike there. There’s enough room in the box to even open up a fold up chair for her to sit on, so that she doesn’t have to try and get up off the floor.

We have almost an unlimited choice of colours for the bike and the box, as Peter builds these bikes up, and can arrange to have the bike powder coated any colour available, and can produce the timber box in any colour we like, and even add whatever graphics we may want to have on it. At this stage, we are still leaning towards a conventional black bike frame, with an orange box, but we still have time to change our minds on this!

We really can’t wait to get the bike now, and to start having some fun with it.

The other delivery Peter was making was a Christiania trailer. This was amazing. Instead of fixing to the rear axle of your bike, it actually has a mount for the seat post. This makes it quite easy to hitch and unhitch from your bike. The other thing that makes it rather cool, is that when you unhitch it from your bike, you can then put a handle onto the towing connection, so that it becomes a large trolley! The owner of this one has decided they don’t need a car, but they do a lot of shopping at the markets. With this trailer, they can drag it around the markets, filling it with produce as they go, and then attach it to the bike for the ride home. Very awesome indeed.

The Christiania Trailer

The Christiania Trailer

To see the full range of bikes from Peter, check out http://www.psbikes.com.au, and also chat to Sam from http://www.treadlybikeshop.com.au, the Adelaide distributor. (If you drop in at Treadly, check out the bespoked bike in the display window, so sexy.)

Treadly!

Treadly!

Keep the rubber side down,

Smudge!

Amy’s Gran Fondo 2013

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Well, this is what our ride to Lorne was all about, riding in the Gran Fondo. Not that any of us entered it with any thought of actually attempting to qualify for the Masters in Slovenia in 2014, especially me with me, I keep getting distracted by the scenery! The Fondo is a timed UCI event, and if you make it into the top 25% for your age group, you qualify to race in a World event the following year.

The team eagerly awaiting the start!

The team eagerly awaiting the start!

Last year, Sarah, Matt, Tim and myself rode it, and we knew straight away that we would have to come back and do it again, so this year Reidy, Chris and Chewie joined in with us! The reason for wanting to do it again was pretty simple, the course is amazing. The entire course is a clsoed road event, including almost 40km of the Great Ocean Road between Lorne and the Skenes Creek Rd, then having rolling re-openings of the roads to traffic after a couple of hours. This hopefully keeps the locals happy, so that we can keep coming back for the ride! Most of them seem to be ok with having some of their roads temporarily closed, but there will always be a few unhappy ones. I am sure the shop owners love it with a sudden influx of visitors in the off season!

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The ride is extremely well organised. When you register for the Fondo, you have to estimate your average speed, and you are allocated a rider number based on your estimated average speed. You are then split into groups of around 200 based on your rider number. Somehow, I was put up in the 700 series riders, whilst the rest of the team were back further, so we averaged our numbers, and started in the 2100 group, funnily enough, the same group that Carl and Miss V had estimated their average speed to be!

Here's the type of dedication we want to see next year! Nails match the kit which match the bike. Winner.

Here’s the type of dedication we want to see next year! Nails match the kit which match the bike. Winner.

When the event starts, riders are released in groups of 200, with 90 second intervals in between. This means that there is no mad dash for the start line, and everyone actually gets to roll out in a much more orderly and safer manner. Think Challenge Tour, Ride Like Crazy, or our own Amy’s Ride here in Adelaide, where you are jostling to get to the start. There is none of that in the Fondo. The first 1.5km are neutral also, so it gives the bunches a little bit of time to sort themselves out before they hit the start line and the timing of your ride begins.

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As we rolled through to the start line, we got a great welcome from Simon Gillett and the mc’s up on the starting podium, recognising again our ride to Lorne. It was amazing just how many people came up to us as we waited at the start, and spoke to us about our ride. Even as we were riding along on the Fondo, riders were pulling up alongside us and chatting to us about our ride, or if not stopping to chat, at the very least calling out “Smudge Monkees!” This was fantastic recognition for the work that the team had done in getting to Lorne.

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There is no denying that this piece of coastline is quite stunning, and having the entire road to ourselves is a bonus. The only downside for us was that we had ridden such stunning scenery up in the Otways the day before, that somehow it didn’t seem to hold it’s usual appeal. The first stage to Skenes Creek is quite gentle really, there are a few undulations, but nothing overly serious. The real climbing starts on the Skenes Creek Rd.

RECAGFGF2011Elevation500kb (1)

This is almost 10km of climbing to the King of the Mountain, but it’s a beautiful climb, with lots of fantastic scenery. I’m the wrong one to ask about percentages and all that sort of stuff, as I don’t pay that much attention to those details, but for those that do, the average is around 5.1%, with a height gain of almost 500 meters. I hope that satisfies the data junkies, but to me, it’s just a hill we have to climb to get to the fun stuff! (That would be the descents, not the feed stations!)

Sarah dancing on the pdeals to the KoM.

Sarah dancing on the pdeals to the KoM.

From the KoM there are still a few small climbs before you reach the highest point, but again, these aren’t too serious, and once you are done with them, it’s all pretty much downhill until you reach almost the 100km mark! From there though, the climbing starts again, as you need to get back over the top to the coast again. Thankfully though, this is only maybe 200 meters of climbing over those last 10 kms, with a few little pinches thrown in.

Almost there!

Almost there!

The timed event finishes at the top of this last climb, and that finish sign is a welcome sight! I’d elected this year to ride with Sarah the entire way, helping out some of the others in the team along the way. To her credit, after already riding some 750km in the six days it took us to get there, Sarah rode the entire course unassisted. Every climb she rode under her own steam, and never once thought of stopping, which was awesome given she was carrying some injuries from her crash a couple of days before.

Such an awesome riding partner! I'm such a lucky man.

Such an awesome riding partner! I’m such a lucky man.

Sarah and I crossed the line together, and again we were announced by the mc at the finish line, and were also cheered over the line by Chewie, Chris, Carl, Miss V, and others gathered still at the finish line. After many hugs and squeals from all at having finished another Fondo, we all went to wait on the finish line to cheer Reidy across the line. It wasn’t long before the big guy came into view, having pushed through the event with a bung knee, (pre-existing condition), and a swollen ankle sustained during the event when his cleat slipped from the pedal. Hopefully Bike Snob never gets to see that cleat, as the reason it came out was it was worn out!

Reidy claiming a stage win at the Tour.

Reidy claiming a stage win at the Tour.

Seems the judge disagreed with him.

Seems the judge disagreed with him.

The last 10kms are a blast. They’re all downhill! Having ridden this section last year, we knew we had to take it fairly easy, as there are some very sharp turns with reverse camber corners that could easily upset your day! Sarah, Chewie, Chris, Carl, Miss V and myself all did the descent together, and rolled into town to catch up with Timmy and Matt who had finished a little earlier than us! Thankfully Gary was there to meet us too, like the awesome soigneur he was for the whole week, and had changes of shoes and jackets for us to change in to, which was so much better than having to tackle the 22+% climb back up to our accommodation!

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Sarah, Chris, Reidy and myself still needed to stretch our legs a little, so we all went for a wander through the Fondo Village. This was a great little setup, with some fantastic bargains to be found. Again, wandering through the village we were being chatted to by so many other cyclists and their families, it was amazing. We stopped by at the presentations, and timed it just nicely to see Annabel Cox get presented with her cheque for winning her age group! As we were whooping and yelling for her, Carla Scragg saw us and came by for a chat. Carla had done amazingly well too, and had smashed out the course in under four and a half hours.

So, another awesome Amy’s Gran Fondo was over, and even as we were riding this one, we were making plans for the next one! Yes, we will be back in 2014. No, we won’t ride there next year. Instead, we will set up a base in some of the rental places for a week, and do some rides in and around the Otways and along the Great Ocean Road instead.

Why the sad face Timmy, we'll do it again next year mate.

Why the sad face Timmy, we’ll do it again next year mate.

It really is a fantastic ride, extremely well organised, and over a sufficiently challenging course! It really should be on your list to ride if you have not done it yet, the scenery alone makes it worth the trip over!

We stopped in to Naracoorte on the way home, where it seems the local footy team won the grand final again.

We stopped in to Naracoorte on the way home, where it seems the local footy team won the grand final again.

Adelaide to Lorne, by Bicycle

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Last year, Sarah, Matt and I drove over to Lorne for the Gran Fondo, and caught up with Tim over there so that we could all ride the event together. We loved the event. It was so well organised and supported, and went through some very stunning areas including the Great Ocean Road and part of the Otways, that we knew we wanted to do it again this year.

What an awesome support vehicle!

What an awesome support vehicle!

Our first thought was that we would all drive to Lorne, set up a base there, and spend a week out on our bikes exploring the area. Somehow though, we got a little distracted from that original plan, and settled on riding from Adelaide to Lorne instead! This was going to take some organisation, and a great team to ride with, as anyone who has ridden multiple day tours over a considerable distance, know that you need to work together to make it easier for everyone.

Single file was often the safest way for us to ride.

Single file was often the safest way for us to ride.

We spread the word amongst our friends, and instantly we had the numbers we needed to make it work. We couldn’t believe that other people could be so nuts as to want to ride 850km to do a 120km bike ride/race! Riding with us would be Mark Reidy, Tim Dibden, Chris Cuthbert and Robert Rau.

Now we needed a support vehicle! As luck would have it, Reidy’s company had supplied him with an excellent Toyota twin cab ute, with an awning and a towbar. This was the biz! Fitted to the vehicle already was a cb radio, and Engels fridge, and some great slide out drawer solutions. Reidy also came complete with a coffee machine that could be carried in the back of the ute. How awesome is that?

All support vehicles need these as a minimum!

All support vehicles need these as a minimum!

So now we had six riders planning on riding over, a support vehicle, but no-one to drive it! We have done rides previously where we had taken turns in doing the driving, but all of us wanted to ride this one. So enter Gary, Sarah’s stepdad. Gary being an ex cyclist who loved doing long rides was keen straight away to help us out as driver! This was awesome, because being an experienced cyclist, he knew already that it was going to be a long slow ride!

Now the issue was with six riders, a twin cab ute that already has a heap of gear in it, we needed space for spares and baggage! I Googled bicycle trailers, and immediately I came up with Cooks Trailers, and a positive reference for their service and price. So I dropped by and had a look. What I was after was a fully enclosed trailer that would open at the front and the rear, so that we could access spares and baggage easily. Amazingly, they had just the trailer we needed, and at an awesome rate.

Now we had to work out our route, and where we could find suitable accommodation along the way. I’ve ridden from Melbourne to Adelaide before along the coast route, so I knew roughly where we could break our ride up to make it manageable, and so the route was decided;

Adelaide to Meningie 152km
Meningie to Kingston SE 145km
Kingston SE to Mt Gambier 170km
Mt Gambier to Pt Fairy 154km
Pt Fairy to Lavers Hill 144km
Lavers Hill to Lorne 91km

So there we have it, 856km to get to do a 120km bike ride. Seems reasonable doesn’t it?

We packed spare wheels and all sorts of spare parts, just in case we had a mechanical issue on the road, but we didn’t think it was going to happen about 5km into our ride! We were climbing the path heading to the bollards when Chris blew a spoke! We didn’t have any spare spokes, so we swapped wheels instead, and we were soon on our way again. Fortunately we had a number of wheels with us, but still wanted to get this one fixed in case it was needed again later. We dropped on to Cycle On in Strathalbyn, and they fixed it for us free!

Our first and only mechanical, so close to home!

Our first and only mechanical, so close to home!

The ride to Meningie was a great opening day, which included winds of up to 37km/h whilst we were still riding! Within half an hour of us setting up at Meningie though, the winds lifted to 50+km/h, and the rain came bucketing in! By morning though, it had all pretty much cleared up for our ride to Kingston SE.

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We still had the winds to battle, but thankfully it wasn’t raining! To battle the winds, it ended up that Robert, Tim and I would ride in patterns that meant each of us would be riding 6km at the front of the peleton, but surrounding Chris and Sarah, so that they could be protected from the wind.

Mmmm, lobster.....

Mmmm, lobster…..

The Mt Gambier stage was fantastic. We finished the day by climbing up the massive hills taking you out of the City and up to the Blue Lake area, mainly as that’s where the GPS’s were taking us for the Big 4 caravan park. Turns out that the caravan park I had booked us into for the night was about 4km away from where we were, which was some 4km too far away, so we checked into that one instead!

Photobombed by Reidy!

Photobombed by Reidy!

Leaving Mt Gambier we had to do a stop off. Apres Velo wanted to send us some jackets to keep us warm, so we stopped by a courier yard to collect a box full of awesome Apres Velo jackets, that were very warm, and very welcome indeed! Sadly on our way to Pt fairy though, after riding some 125kms, Sarah clipped my rear wheel with her front and went down pretty hard. We were lucky that she only lost some skin, and didn’t suffer any major injuries. She had to travel the last 30km of this day in the van, which was a huge loss for the team.

Awesome jackets Apres Velo!

Awesome jackets Apres Velo!

Rolling out of Pt Fairy and heading to Lavers, Sarah thought it would be best to start the day off in the car. When we reached Pt Campbell though, with some 50kms to go, the temptation to ride, or the constant flow of bad jokes, was too great, so she jumped out of the ute and onto the bike. Lavers is a big hill, but it was a fantastic ride! We’d booked in to the Lavers Motel. Hmm, interesting rooms to say the least, but they had beds and a shower I guess.

Best pub board ever.

Best pub board ever.

We had dinner that night at the Lavers Roadhouse as Sarah had found some great reviews on the food there. We weren’t let down either! The food was fantastic, but the entertainment provided by the owner/bartender and a couple of the locals was awesome. The owner was just full of laughs! Chewie asked what was his biggest steak after being disappointed by his meal the night before, and he was told it was their porterhouse. Chewie asked if they had t-bone, and was quickly informed that no, they had porterhouse! Chewie then asked if the schnitzel was bigger than the steak, and was told no mate, the porterhouse is bigger!

They were right! The porterhouse was massive, easily the biggest any of us have ever seen, and funnily enough, big enough that it even filled Chewie up! The owner kept us laughing all night, including right up to when we left when we said we enjoyed it so much we would be back again, and were told that’s ok, just don’t bring anyone else with you!

Simon Gillett had picked up from Twitter that we were riding over, so he rang me for a chat about our ride so far, and when we would be arriving. He also gave us some awesome advice, being instead of turning right out of Lavers, go straight ahead, and it will take you through some spectacular rainforests. He was right! It was a narrow road/track, sealed all the way, and we were surrounded by rainforest! It was mindblowing. The tree ferns were huge, the trees were massive, the sounds were spectacular, and everyone was grinning from ear to ear!

Sarah flying through the rainforest.

Sarah flying through the rainforest.

The track took us to Skenes Creek, and as soon as we got to the bottom, we bumped into the Bike Station/Watermark team! Funny that the first group of cyclists we met were mates from Adelaide! We found out that Simon had been talking about us at all of the rider briefings, which was really nice. On our ride in to Lorne, most of the cyclists we saw knew who we were, and was calling out to us, or riding up for a chat. When we got in to Lorne, it got even crazier! With more people calling out and chatting to us. It really hit home just how big a ride we had just completed, and how much of an impact it has on other cyclists!

Sadly Matt couldn’t join us on our ride to Lorne, but he did drive over on Saturday, so that he could join us on Sunday for the Fondo. This was awesome, as it meant the four of us who rode it together last year, were all back to do it again.

Heading in to our designated briefing, we caught up with the amazing Carl and V, so had a quick chat and some laughs with them before heading in, organising to catch up later. In the briefing Simon spotted us straight away. Would not have been too difficult I guess, we were in the front row in our orange tshirts! He called us up on stage for a quick chat, and a huge applause from the crowd in the briefing. That was really humbling for us.

Skenes Creek reunion!

Skenes Creek reunion!

We had a great dinner with Carl and V at the Hotel, before heading back up to the house Sarah had booked for us, and got our bikes ready for the Fondo before we crashed out. I think each night we were all in bed before 10:00pm, as we were all pretty smashed from the conditions we were riding in!

We really dodged a bullet the whole trip. No matter what the weather forecasts, we had pretty good weather, windy, but not wet. There were forecasts of 20 – 40mm of rain one day, and all we had was blue skies! We were really very lucky, but as one local at Lavers described it, “Fortune favours the righteous.”

Bring and Fix – Part 3

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This was the third in out series of Bring and Fix events held at Youth Central, and easily our best yet! For those of you not aware, Bring and Fix is where members of the community bring their bikes in to us, and we fix them for them. For free.

The event is a partnership between OPAL, Youth Central and Smudge Monkees, and has worked extremely well. OPAL provide us the funding for the parts we require, and also lend us their smoothie bikes. Youth Central coordinate the event, including promoting it, taking bookings, and providing volunteers to man the registration desk and the smoothie bike. Smudge Monkees are there to provide the support, under the guidance of Mike “Bicycle Repairman” Brisco.

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We have learned from our previous events, so this time, we limited the numbers to the first twenty bikes registered, to ensure that we could meet the demand, as well as have the necessary spare parts to hand. We don’t do major repairs, we will only change tyres, tubes, cables, brakes, pedals and saddles if required. To achieve this, part of the registration process is to identify on a form what exactly is wrong with their bike, and what is required to fix it. The form advises them that if the bike requires any additional works, they need to take it to their local bike shop.

We also perform a basic safety check on the bikes. We have a ten point safety check for the bikes, that ensures we check things like the handle bars and saddle are secured firmly, that the pedals spin nicely, the chain moves freely, and the bike is about the right size for the rider.

The team working on the bikes this time was Mike, Sarah, Sonya, Matt and myself, and we got all twenty bikes back on the road. My favourite for the night was the Chinese family who wanted to get number one son’s bike repaired so that Grandfather could ride it! Grandfather could not speak a word of English, but he did not need to, the smile on his face said it all when he got to jump on the bike and take it for a ride. On the downside though, he did have a minor crash in the carpark as he wasn’t used to the crossbar, and did not quite dismount in time.

Sarah got to spend quite a bit of time with a family fixing a bike for a little girl to ride. These small bikes whilst looking cute, are very tricky little bikes to fix. In part it’s because they are so small, although I think she was just having fun with the family! I’m not sure how it was possible, but Matt got to work on one that was even smaller, despite the fact that the guy who brought it in was well over six feet tall! Sonya’s big win for the night was fixing the bottom bracket of a kids bike that we thought at first they would need to take to a bike shop to get repaired.

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Like any of these events, they rely on external funding, and the same core group of volunteers it would seem. We spoke about this on the night, and currently can’t see any other way around it. If you would like to throw some sponsorship money our way, or even supply some new tyres, tubes etc for our next one, feel free to get in touch! At this stage, we think we will stage our fourth one in either late November or early December to coincide with the summer school holidays.

Much love to all of you who help to make these events possible, without your support, there would be some 75 bikes still sitting unloved in peoples garages, and a lot of kids left unhappy!

What an awesome team of volunteers.

What an awesome team of volunteers.

Smudge Monkees Releases Their Own Kit!

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This is the first time I have ever ventured down this path of creating my own cycling kit, and if it wasn’t for the encouragement, support and drive of Sarah and Sonya, I doubt I still would have! The thought of dropping that much coin into one project to make it happen was daunting. The cost wasn’t just the purchase of the kit, but also engaging an artist for some of my graphics, and a significant investment in time between a group of us to make it happen.

We waited nervously and expectantly for the parcel to arrive, so that we could see what the kit would look like in the flesh. I know we had the design graphics from Champion Systems, but these were still only pictures on a screen, and could not be relied upon to be a true reflection of what they would look like in reality. I had a a heads up from Champion Systemes that the parcel would be arriving, and it was a long day waiting. When I went to Fedex to collect it, I was tempted to tear it open then and there to see what it looked like, but knew that would not be fair on Sarah and Sonya, so instead I had a long wait until the three of us could get together that evening.

Even though it said open immediately, I waited. And waited. And waited.

Even though it said open immediately, I waited. And waited. And waited.

What we found when we opened the box was better than Christmas for us. I have never seen Sonya as excited or nervous, nor heard so many girlie squeals of delight from her! The kit looked amazing. The fabrics for the items we had chosen all felt great, and looked as good, or even better than we had hoped for. From there ensued a general rush from the kitchen to various rooms so we could all try garments on, and finally get to strut our stuff in our very own kit. Such an awesome feeling.

Sonya on the catwalk. Well, in the kitchen at Monkee central anyway.

Sonya on the catwalk. Well, in the kitchen at Monkee central anyway.

We had a weekends riding planned in the Clare Valley for a few of us as training for our upcoming ride to Lorne for the Amys Gran Fondo, and knew this would be the perfect opportunity to test the gear. Sarah and I had deliberately chosen knicks with the Performance and Endurance chamois, so that we could work out for ourselves what we prefer, and what we would recommend for others. With 170km planned for Saturday, and a recovery ride of 110 for Sunday, what a perfect chance to test new gear!

Awesome coffee and cake at Cogwebs!

Awesome coffee and cake at Cogwebs!

We were stoked. I wore the endurance Saturday, and the performance Sunday, and Sarah wore the reverse. After many hours in the saddle, I had no soreness, tenderness nor numbness in any of those areas where troubles can arise! The jerseys were extremely comfortable too, in both the race and club fits, and the vests were also awesome. I had made the brave move of attempting to be pro on the Saturday, and unzip the vest on the move, which of course only lead to some technical difficulties with the zipper. Unzipping stationery, not a problem, guess I am still just a Hubbard!

Nice kit!

Nice kit!

We then wore the kits on Tuesday night, and it was fantastic to wear at night. Our previous kit was very dark, and even when riding in shaded areas, we were quite difficult to see, even by others in riding with us in the same kit. In our new kit, with the orange that has been used, awesome visibility!

No hiding in these colours!

No hiding in these colours!

So, with it making the grade in Clare, we now feel comfortable recommending it to other friends also wanting to ride in our kit. We had had a number of pre-release requests, but there was no way we were going to set anyone else up in it before the testing was done!

Many thanks and much love from us at Monkee Central to Sonya, Senior Design Consultant, and to Champion Systems for helping us throughout the process.

The Suicide Struggle Continues – Tales of the Dadman –

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A little bit of pet therapy, made possible due to JD being able to fit into Sarah's handbag, and smuggled in to the ward!

A little bit of pet therapy, made possible due to JD being able to fit into Sarah’s handbag, and smuggled in to the ward!

When last I wrote on suicide, I was quite worried for Shorty with her genetic link, and what the future holds for her.

The person I did not think of as becoming the new Mayor of Struggletown was the Dadman. I have seen him battle with osteo-arthritis, causing him to retire from work at age 55, and have three replacement operations on the one hip. I have seen him battle two lots of bowel cancer and survive. One was with the love and support of his wife, the other was on his own. Through all of these life changing events, he pulled himself through, with each of course having an impact on him.

When Mum suicided in 2007, it was the biggest hit he has ever taken, bigger than the cancer, and it hit him hard. So hard in fact that with his second cancer, the doctor misdiagnosed, and told him that it was all in his head, he was depressed, imagining it, and that there was nothing wrong. So yes, I knew he could get low, and I knew that he missed her, as he should, they had been together for close to fifty years, but I guess I did not really the understand just how deep, and eventually, how quickly, he would sink.

He had spoken of having suicidal thoughts previously, but always assured us that he would never attempt it, as he had seen what it does to those left behind too many times now, and was also scared that he would not get it right, and end up in a worse position. He also said he would not be brave enough to even try, but I knew this part at the very least to be wrong, as his continued battles with illness proved how brave he actually is.

The sadness and sorrow of missing his wife, partner, and best friend had been weighing on him constantly since Mum’s death. The home in the suburb that Mum had always wanted to live in was getting too much for him, the house and yard too large, and it was all getting out of control. We’d spoken quite a bit over the last few years about the house, and the possibility of moving in to something smaller, but it had to be a decision that he came to himself, I did not want to have to make the decision for him.

After another of his falls, where he was in the front yard and had to call for help from a tradesman nearby to get up, we decided it was time to get serious about it. There was some accommodation being built nearby that he was going to have a look at, with a view to moving in there once it was built. Then he saw in the paper that the retirement village where one of his aunties lived for many years was having an open day, and had three vacant units available for immediate sale.

He went and had a look, decided that yes, he did like it, and could make the move, and signed up to buy the unit he liked, subject of course to the sale of his house. This was a fantastic and brave move by him, as they had lived in the house for thirty years, but it was also another massive stressor for him. How was he to get the house ready for sale, as well as downsize the contents of a large house, into a small unit. We assured him that we could do it, and between Sarah and myself, we took on the task of making it happen. The amount of work required was incredible, and there is no way it would have been possible without Sarah.

During the course of this, the Dadman was battling with the decision to move, relishing the chance one moment, regretting the decision the next. Appreciating the efforts of Sarah and myself, then berating himself for letting things get the way they had, but we pushed on, we had to, contracts had been signed, dates had been set, and we had to make it happen.

In the weeks leading up to settlement, a good friend of his had become quite unwell, and he was extremely worried about her. He had been a good friend to her for a long time, helping her as much as he could, and having long chats, either over a cup of tea, or over the phone. In the last week before we were to clear everything out and move him in to the unit, his friend got worse, and they had a disagreement over her going in to hospital. He wanted her to, because she was not well, and she refused to. He knew that he could not force her, and had to say to her in that last week, that he was going to be busy at his place, and that if she did not want to go to hospital, then there was nothing more he could do for her.

Sarah and I had booked a four day weekend so that we could pack and clean for three days solid, then move everything on the fourth day. The Dadman rang me on the Thursday to let me know that he had just read in the paper that his friend had died during the week, and that the funeral was to be held on the day he was moving. This weighed heavily on him too, as he felt he had let her down, that in some way he could have done more. We could not convince him that there was any more as a friend he could have done for her, that it was up to her family to force any issues on medical care, and that if she was refusing treatment, that was her decision.

We got to his place on the Friday, and as soon as we arrived we knew something was amiss. It was around 10:00am, the newspaper was still in the driveway, his dog was barking, the back door was unlocked, and he hadn’t come outside to meet us like he normally would. I called to Sarah to stop, to let me go in first. I know she is far more qualified than I am, but I felt I had to go in first, just in case something was wrong. It was, we found him on the bedroom floor. He was able to understand us, but not really able to communicate with us.

I called for an ambulance as Sarah tended to him, which worked out well, as I could pass the relevant information on to the telephone operator. We still weren’t sure what had happened, because of his position, we thought at first he’d fallen out of bed. When the paramedics arrived, they also treated it at first as if he had fallen, but nothing was adding up. They did all sorts of tests, and questioned him as much as they could, but still could not work it out. They even thought at one stage that as there was nothing visible physically, that it could be a behavioural thing, as when they went to sit him up, he was all floppy, and not supporting himself.

We finally got him to talk a little more to us, and tell us what he had done, and roughly when. As they went to move him to take him out to the ambulance, I found the note he had left for us, hidden under where he was lying. He said he was missing Ann, that he felt guilty over the death of his friend, and that he just wanted to go and be with Ann now. When I found this, I went searching all of the bins so that we could at least know what he had taken, and that way know what treatment he would need.

When we left the house, he was doing ok, but as we were travelling towards the Royal Adelaide, he started to deteriorate, and they had to hit the lights, and dose him up on more medication to combat what he had taken. The ambos had been in touch with the RAH whilst we were in transit, so they knew what was happening, and had everything ready for our arrival, and rushed him straight in.

The ambos and the RAH staff were all awesome, and were keeping me informed all the way with what was happening as best as they could. Dadman was able to communicate with us after a while, in a fashion, but he can remember none of it. Even though he ended up becoming quite lucid and holding some form of conversation with us, he was still out to it, and really stayed that way for about three days. During this time we went through all of the normal processes that you would expect. Relief that he had not been successful, upset that he had not been successful, almost angry that we had found him, to relieved that it was us who did find him.

When he was no longer a medical emergency, they moved him to the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit, then eventually got him a placement at the Repatriation Hospital. He was relived to go there, as the other option was Glenside, and he was against going there, as that was where Mum had spent six months, and it brought back too many bad memories for him that he had locked away.

The Repat was awesome, the facilities were all clean and modern, and the staff were great. They helped him out immensely, and in the space of only a few weeks, they had helped him get back to pretty close to how he had been.

He was lucky this time. He survived, and was able to move in to his new home, and keep on living for a while longer, and take the opportunity in his new surrounds to make new friends. We’re hoping that the move will keep him going for a bit longer, that he will find the will to live that bit longer, to know that he has an important part to play in our lives, as he is special to us.

So now we wait, and we hope that he will not try again, that he will find new meaning and a nerw purpose with new people around him.

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