THE BIKE RIDERS SPOKE

…………….and they said that this year’s “Gong” ride was “best ever event.”

 “The Gong Ride”  is a one of a kind fundraising event. It’s a 90km bike ride from Sydney to Wollongong on the first Sunday of November.

With 10,000 fellow riders you pedal in support of people living with MS. This year’s ride has so far raised over $3.8 million.

I decided to do the short and scenic 58km course that starts at Cooper Street Reserve Engadine rather than the full 90k ride. The shorter ride takes in all the best bits of the ride including the Royal National Park and Seacliff Bridge so I’m more than happy with that.

My bike is a Trek 72 FX 2012 that I recently purchased from Fraser’s cycles just over the bridge at Taren Point. I’m happy with the FX as essentially I’m just a weekend rider who likes to use riding for fitness.

The power in the legs to push the pedals of the Fx was gained at the gym where I do RPM classes. It’s the All Sorts Fitness centre at Alexandria, South Sydney and James Sutherland, the General Manager, and his team were so helpful and supportive in putting the team together and working out all the logistics so the ride was fun and successful.

The idea was to raise much-needed funds for MS and for the record the Allsorts team raised over $15000, with a combined IPMG team effort of over $100,000.

I was together with 10,000 other riders but yet I felt I had escaped. That’s what bike riding is, it’s a joyful escape.

It is one of the best ways to experience the world that we live in. If you enjoy being outdoors and being part of the beauty of all that is around you then get your bike out of the garage, let the wind be in your face and the smell of springtime flowers be inhaled.

Fill your head with the sounds of fallen leaves being crushed beneath your tires and head off through a canopy of trees. I love a long bike ride on a beautiful day and today is a great day for riding.

I’ve been riding for a while now and have left all my cares some 8 kilometres back in the park at Engadine.

I’m confronted by the first of two major descents of the ride. I now prepare to glide down the descent from Waterfall at the entry to the Royal National Park.

A chap, named Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, came up next to me and said that riding was his special gift. In fact he declared that it was his chiefest sole delight.

He then smiled and turned his cycle down the hill and just like a silver streak he whistled down that awful slope. I didn’t see him again but I can just imagine how much he must have enjoyed his slice of joyful escape.

We have our lunch stop, in the Royal National Park where we relax in the shade at Red Cedar Flats. I had some energy bars, water and sausage on a roll to help keep the engine room filled with power.

The Royal National Park was established way back in 1879 and is the world’s second oldest national park – after Yellowstone in the USA.

The Park’s terrain rises from the coast to a series of  rocky ridges and plateaus. The sides of the valleys are also rocky and  are covered with ten metre (30 foot) eucalyptus trees. At their feet small silver streams run down to the valley floor.

Heading slowly away from the Red Cedar Flats lunch stop, the road now moves through denser bush and ferns, as it climbs, and climbs, and climbs some more, towards the Otford lookout which has great views over the sea.

Riding deep in the valley we feel the cool air which is a relief from the heat of the sun. We ride through the shade of 50 meter tall Australian cedar, eucalyptus and Morton Bay figs surrounded by ferns, wattles and small-sized bushes of all kinds.

Some parts of the Park look just like a rainforest with birds continually singing their chorus of welcome. No matter how intently I stare straight up through the hundreds of Cabbage Palms to the canopy and on into the sky above the songsters stay out of sight in the dense scrub.

 

Those who haven’t ridden to the Gong before, arrive at the Otford Lookout and feel they have conquered the ride  but unbeknown to them ahead are a few short sharp punishing hills that are like a jab to the stomach and in the heat of the day sap out valuable energy.

We now head on to our next water stop at  Bald Hill and there can’t be a better place to stop for a breather and a rest a while before the last scenic leg into Wollongong.

I was resting on the hill next to the Lawrence Hargrave statue when he caught me looking down at Stanwell Park Beach.

I’m sure I heard him say “Yes, it was a long time ago. In fact it will be 117 years next Saturday, the 12 November 1894.” I knew what he was talking about because when I see the A 380 Air Bus or a 747 I just wonder how they fly. And I knew he was fascinated with machines that fly in the air.

And it was down there on the beach below, at Stanwell Park beach, that Hargrave successfully lifted himself 16 feet off the ground under a train of four of his box kites.

Hargrave (seated) and Swain demonstrate the manlift kites (labelled A, B, D, & E), sling seat and spring balance in the parkland behind Stanwell Park beach, November 1894.(from Wikipedia)

This experiment and others with flying-machine motors and cellular kites proved to be the first stable aerial platform. The principle was then applied to gliders, and in October 1906 Santos Dumont made the first officially recorded flight in a box-kite aeroplane.

Hargraves once said “The flying machine of the future will not be born fully fledged and capable of a flight for 1000 miles or so. Like everything else it must be evolved gradually. The first difficulty is to get a thing that will fly at all.” And he was so right, just relax and things will evolve gradually.

Well my day is gradually evolving and I must get this body back on the Trek 72 FX and conquer the 28k to the finish line. Thankfully the next few Ks are downhill.

We gather at the top of Stanwell Park before undertaking the second of the major descents of the ride down Lawrence Hargrave Drive from  Bald Hill 28 km (17 mi) north of the finish line at Wollongong.

The descent is long, winding and fast and I control pedal all the way to make sure I make it comfortably to the Sea Cliff Bridge

This balanced cantilever bridge is 455.6 metres (1,495 ft.) long and is one of only seven off-shore parallel to coast bridges in the world. It was constructed in 2005 due to regular and dangerous rock falls that closed the old road in 2003.

The ride flattens out over the next 15 to 20 Ks as we pass the glorious sea-side towns and beaches of Coalcliff, Scarborough, Wombarra, Coledale, Austinmer, Thirroul and Bulli.

Stuart Park, North Wollongong is the finish site for the ride. A bike tent city had sprung up for the occasion.

IPMG provided food, drinks and a shaded resting place in the corporate tent which I
for one appreciated.

Congratulations and thank you to everyone involved.

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