With only a few weeks to go until we board our flight to Alaska I’ve been reflecting on the past three years in Canberra. Telling friends that we were moving to our nation’s capital city elicited responses a bit like the announcement of a serious illness. The initial gasps of horror, quickly followed with the ‘oh, it’s not all bad …’. And yes, we found Canberra to be a surprisingly awesome place to ride a bike. Especially if you’re not opposed to the odd climb. Or two. Oddly enough, our arrival in Canberra coincided with the start of what has become a pretty full-on obsession with hillclimbing and endurance cycling. It started with the ‘Around the K’ 320km road loop around Mt. Kosciuszko – a humbling experience completed during our relocation from Albury to Canberra.
I was broken by the K ride, yet thirsty for more. Three months off the bike while away on fieldwork only made it worse, I’d barely got back when, thinking that I needed a goal to focus on, I entered the Audax Sydney-Melbourne 1200. I was scared shitless, and therefore trained harder and more consistently than I ever have before (or since). It worked, and after a rocky start the 1200 was a brilliant experience. A flirtation with road racing followed, but didn’t get the juices flowing in quite the same way as the long haul stuff. About this time I read about Hells500 and the Everesting thing. Immediately I wanted to attempt a climb, but my excitement was swamped in doubts – which hill? when? what if? I planned and trained and dithered for weeks, until a weather window opened and I nailed a 10,000m+ ascent of Mt. Majura in late August 2014. The sense of achievement and excitement that followed was pretty intense – I had barely uploaded the file to Strava before thoughts of ‘next time’ started to pry into my thoughts. Everests 2, 3 and 4 followed in pretty quick succession, necessitating a (bonus!) new bike purchase and involving some long, dark hours in the hurt box. The Wee Jasper ‘Road to Hell’ dirt Everesting in particular pushed me to new levels.
Once the chill of winter subsides Canberran roadies take to the roads in droves. The hill climbs around town zing with the hum of tyres as riders hone their legs ready for the round of summer events. Our highlights included Fitz’s hillclimb, the Hartley Challenge, the Mont 24hour MTB, and the club road racing season. Heading further afield we also tackled a few Audax rides, including the Alpine Classic, the Stargazers 1000, and two Super Randonneur rides (600k + 10,000m).
We also spent many weekends wandering the surrounding region, loving the easy access to the Snowy Mountains and the coast, and the network of dirt roads that allows you to explore while avoiding the main roads. The Brindabella Ranges were a source of joy and pain in equal measure, with an ascent to Mt. Ginini in the snow a winter highlight.
More recently, an epic birthday called for an equally epic ‘celebration’. A ridiculously epic course was planned but (probably wisely) abbreviated as furnace-like temperatures and howling northerly winds hit with a vengeance. Regardless, the Hot 1000 was truely epic, travelling from Porepunkah to Mt. Baw Baw and scaling Victoria’s 7 Peaks in four days. The 41°C conditions on the first two days meant we abandoned our Mt. Hotham ascent, substituting with a climb of Mt. Donna Buang on the final day when temperatures dropped to more tolerable levels. Finishing up on Mt Baw Baw was painfully sensational, the most diabolical of climbs on toasted legs … it felt so good to reach the village and crawl into our accommodation for a night of feasting and Zzzzz….. Huge thanks to Tim for joining me on this insanity, and to Ed and Al for support above and beyond.
With an adventure cycling epic fast approaching (RideTheAmericas) we also needed to remind the legs of the rigours of fully loaded touring. The MTB + BOB rig requires a totally different mindset, and standard ‘roadie’ timeframes are about to become a thing of the past. Lightweight and nimble it is not. But as a mobile home for the next 18 months or so – perfect! We’ve taken to the backroads on a couple of test weekends to check our gear and rediscover the things that we forgot to repair or replace after our last trip.
So …. farewell Canberra, I wasn’t expecting to feel quite this sad to leave – and to be looking for reasons to return.