IT happens every four years, thousands of the world’s greatest athletes move into my television set.
It also happens every four years that they inspire me to attempt an improvement in my always-average physical shape.
This year, the planets aligned for me to take on cycling in a more serious way.
What could go wrong? I have a new bike bought a matter of months ago* that I’ve been riding about five kilometres to work most days, and I have great memories of tackling Canberra’s cycleways on a series of dodgy, second-hand bikes as a teenager.
So mere moments after the parade of nations at the Olympic Opening Ceremony had begun, I was out of the house and in the saddle. With a sports drink in the bottle-holder, I had a mental path plotted from Gungahlin to Weston Creek that meant minimal on-road riding – and lots of it.
Now, here’s a free plug: Canberra’s cycle paths are awesome. You don’t have to be lycra-clad to use them, in most places you can journey at your own speed without fear of obstructing other path users, you won’t be continually checking over your right shoulder for cars or trucks and, in some places, you’ll find magnificent views that you can easily stop to appreciate. So if, like me, you haven’t used them in decades, give them another go.
Of course, like many good things, there’s a catch. The return journey.
The first half of my ride passed uneventfully, indeed easily. I’d been able to coast quite a bit of the way and my bike’s oh-so-clever trip computer told me I’d ridden 30 kilometres. The first time I’d ridden that far in one hit on a bike in decades. I had a coffee at Cooleman Court and a good look through some of the other shops there before heading home.
As the ride to Weston had taken me over Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and along the southern shores of Lake Burley Griffin, for variety I decided to head home over Scrivener Dam, past the zoo and along Lady Denman Drive to Civic. Sure, it was a little bit longer that way, but what the heck, it was a nice day and I had plenty of battery power left on my electric bike. Or so I thought.
Here’s the rub (the more attentive reader may have seen this coming), using an electric-assist bike to ride a predominantly downhill path means you won’t use much of the battery; but when the return journey is largely uphill, you almost get to see the available power on the battery meter fall precipitously.
So, having passed the 50-kilometre mark, I started thinking about which street I could take to shorten my journey. All to no avail. With five kilometres to go, the battery gauge hit zero and I had to take on that last, almost entirely uphill, leg under my own power. Not a lot of fun when on legs that have already done three hours of pedalling, but throw in a couple of extra kilograms of battery and it’s hell on earth.
Oh well, at least I have four years to plan my next fitness fascination. Although there’s a Winter Olympics in 2018. I wonder where I can get a luge from…
*My previous column’s confession of not being able to contain myself at charity auctions and spending nearly $3000 was for a shiny, new electric-assist bike, pictured.
Chris Coleman is 2CC’s drive presenter.