If the roads are filled with traffic or the weather gods determined to put you off your cycling, there is an alternative. Take a different path. This is the story of a short but enjoyable ride on a new (review) bike.
– A blog and video by Rob Arnold
At around 4.00am most days, a common thought comes to mind. Where will I go today? Travel isn’t as regular as it once was but that doesn’t mean there needs to be repetition on my rides. I’m lucky enough to have a test bike for a little while and I’m not afraid to use it.
The Canyon Grail review – which continues to be a work in progress – has given me options. And although Sydney’s weather this February was often rank, I was still riding. And I’m also discovering new places and experiencing cycling in a different way.
Last week the answer to my early-morning question to myself was: ‘Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park’, that’s where I’d go. I also thought, ‘I’ll drive there, spare myself the angst that comes with riding in traffic, and take a couple of bikes with me. When I’m there, I’ll let my mood decide what I ride…’
With my road bike (Focus Izalco Max, 2019) and the review bike (Canyon Grail CF SL) loaded on the roof of the Skoda, away I went – out of the dark and into the sunlight that burst through the clouds as I drove over the Harbour Bridge.
There are options for how you get there from near the city but none of them are terribly fun (or safe) to ride when the traffic is bad. From the seat of my car in the pre-dawn on this particular day, I could see why cyclists in Sydney are concerned about riding conditions. It can be unkind out there on the roads, but still, there were plenty of others who had ventured out early to get some pre-work exercise.
If cycling can prosper here, it can prosper anywhere. On some roads I saw bunches lit up like Christmas trees as riders swapped turns or socialised with the darkness transforming into the visions of yellow, orange, red and purple that mid-season sunrises so magically create.
Without the aggro that is so prevalent in places where the car rules, there’d surely be more people riding bikes and enjoying what’s on offer. But this is Sydney; perfect one day, upsetting the next – largely because the antics of some motorists often go unchecked. But still, plenty of us choose the bike ride as a way to start the day.
If all goes well, we return home after a few hours feeling satisfied and invigorated.
If you’re like me, you may have been doing this for many years but that doesn’t mean you’ve seen it all and done it all. It’s a routine but that doesn’t mean it’s boring.
With a little bit of creative thinking and an adventurous spirit, a few hours of cycling can become much more than just another bike ride. And with a gravel bike as an option, it’s possible to discover places that you may otherwise have ignored (or, perhaps, not have even known about).
That’s how it was on this particular day when all I knew when I woke was that I wanted to go for a ride. It was a Thursday. And my gut instinct told me that I should consider a safe place rather than risk getting stuck in traffic and the associated woes.
* * * * *
Once in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, the route options open up. I’ve written about it and filmed it plenty of times before, but that’s been with the road bike as my vehicle. On this particular Thursday, however, I stopped in the Elvina Track parking bay and began a short but enjoyable ride.
On the gravel, along the fire trail, over some rolling ‘speed bumps’, down a very steep hill, past the glorious beach, towards a waterfall which doubled as an obvious turnaround point… and then back up the hill to another track and another burst of surprises.
I’ve always ridden a bike, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring or that I’ve seen all of my town.
– By Rob Arnold
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PS. Short ride. No traffic lights. Lots of sights. Two small snakes. One wallaby. Plenty of birdsong. An enjoyable chat with a couple of blokes down by Elvina Bay who wanted by know more about my bike, where I go, and why I ride.
PPS. Yep, it was a great start to the day!