Caffeine Culture. Sydney, Lidcombe Auburn Cycling Club
Sydney Olympic Park has steadily grown over the last few years to become one of the most popular places to ride a bike. It’s centrally located and easily accessed from all over western and south-western Sydney, there is barely any traffic, but best of all, the roads are constructed from some of the smoothest, fastest hot-mix on the planet – the kind of seamless, billiard table tarmac that the rest of Sydney dreams of. According to Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA) CEO Alan Marsh, the most recent counts showed more cyclists now use Sydney Olympic Park than Centennial Park. A large majority of these come from the Lidcombe Auburn Club who have been operating since 1920 and have more than 350 members.
Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the club meets outside the grand, caterpillar-esque Olympic Park station at 6:00am to cut laps around the park precinct. It’s a huge bunch, well in excess of 100 riders were there when we attended, and this is not uncommon with the bunch often reaching 140. With so many riders present, the onus is upon the individuals to self-seed and join one of up to seven groups – first time riders with the bunch should definitely err on the side of caution as the speeds the A and B groups hit around the park are seriously quick, averaging well over 45km/h, and sitting on above 60km/h down some of the longer gradually descending straights. The overall circuit length is just over 5km and the various packs will generally punch out five quick laps before heading their separate ways.
“We have great support from SOPA,” says club president, Rod Turner, when asked of the club’s relationship to the managing authority. “SOPA run all the roads through the park, so we really are reliant on their assistance.” The Sydney Olympic Park Authority is very encouraging of not just cycling generally (the mass-participation Spring Cycle event finishes here), but the racing too, and there have even been preliminary discussion about developing another dedicated race circuit within the precinct too. Even more fortunate perhaps, the park also houses a number of great coffee shops – it’s pretty much a self-contained cycling haven – and after the ride around 50 regulars pull up a pew at the Quad Café where George remembers all of their orders (seriously) and serves up some fantastic coffee.
Outside of the park, the bunch runs a number of different rides. Friday is a good beginner’s bunch ride, a casual 45-minutes through Concord around the golf course, with a traditional Friday coffee to top it off. Those who’d rather ride the Olympic Park are offered a repeat of Wednesday’s bunch outing as well. On a Saturday a faster group ride leaves from just outside club sponsor Ashfield Cycles and heads to Carlingford or Bobbin Head in the north alternatively. The ride can be between 65-80km depending on the destination (Bobbin Head, 80km), and the pace averages over 30km/h with a bunch of around 20 most weekends. If you’re heading north, it’s a hilly ride while the Carlingford loop is much flatter. Those who are after a more relaxed weekend outing can join a bunch of up to 40 riders for a 6:15am start in Drummoyne. This 65km loop heads to Carlingford before returning to Concord for coffee, and the bunch is mellow with a strict ‘no-drop’ etiquette. “It’s a good one for intermediate riders,” says Rod, “it will stop for punctures, the pace is more relaxed and there’s a good coffee at the end.” Sunday’s rides, like many bunches in Sydney, is quite informal; there’s a Homebush-based loop that sits on relaxed 28km/h and is open to outsiders, while a faster, more by-invitation bunch will head off for a longer hit out of 115km to Waterfall or north to Akuna Bay and beyond.
Departs from: Tuesday to Friday – Olympic Park station, Murray Rose Ave, Sydney Olympic Park, 6:00am.
Friday – Corner of Wellbank St and Majors Bay Rd, Concord, 6:00am.
Saturday – Three rides: Ashfield Cycles, 353 Liverpool Rd, Ashfield, 6:00am. Corner of Lyons Rd and Victoria Ave, Drummoyne, 6:15am. Corner of Great North Rd and Lyons Rd, Five Dock, 7:15am.
Sunday – Two rides: Northern end of Hill Rd, Homebush Bay, 7:00am. Corner Burwood Rd and Parramatta Rd, Burwood, 6:00am.
Distance: Tuesday – Friday – Olympic Park, 25-30km.
Friday – Concord ride, 25km.
Saturday – Ashfield Cycles ride, up to 85km. Carlingford loop, 65km. Five Dock ride, 30km.
Sunday – Homebush ride, 30km approx. Burwood ride, up to 115km.
Difficulty: Various. With so many options and opportunities to ride with bunches of different abilities, there is scope for rides of all levels of difficulty.
Notes: The Lidcombe Auburn bunches are remarkably diverse in terms of ability levels and there really are options for all riders. Turn up for one of their slickly run Olympic Park rides (ideally a Wednesday, or Tuesday/Thursday) and you’ll soon get a feel as to where your abilities fit in with the bunches on offer.
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You can visit the LACC website here: http://lacc.org.au/