One of my many amazing neighbours dropped a unicycle off to us yesterday. I’ve never tried to ride a unicycle before, but it’s one of those things I’ve always wanted to learn. So – no time like the present!
I’d like to think I’ll be able to ride this thing within a month or two if I practise daily. I’m over 40 now, so I assume skill acquisition isn’t at its peak. We’ll see!
I’ve ridden quite a bit in the last year. Last October I rode more than 600 km as part of the Great Cycle Challenge (which I will probably do again this year). I rode over 4,500 km in 2018. I climbed more than 41,000 metres. 263 hours in the saddle.
This isn’t a lot for some people, and that’s exactly what I want to write about: Challenging People.
I don’t mean people who are difficult to deal with. I mean people who challenge you to do more/better/faster/longer. I’m surrounded by people who climb hills faster, descend faster, ride further, ride longer. To the extent where when I’ve been for a 90 km ride, or been for a ride where I’ve climbed 1,000 metres, and I tell people about it (which I do like doing because it’s a good source of praise), I don’t really feel like I’ve done anything special. The achievement, something which many would consider to be big (or even impossible), has been completely normalised/trivialised.
I don’t think this is a bad thing – it’s helping me push myself to ride further and faster.
This all came to me when I was listening to a podcast by Adam Spencer (I was riding up the Patrick Joncker Veloway at the time). He was interviewing an ultra-marathoner, Michael Hull, who fell into being an ultra-marathoner partly by accident/serendipity, because he was surrounded by endurance athletes in his teens, and it was the norm. The details might be a bit fuzzy beacuse it’s a long time since I listened to the podcast, but I think it went something like that. There’s a link to the podcast at the bottom of the page.
I didn’t surround myself with challenging people intentionally. It just happened, and I’m really glad it did. I’ve challenged myself significantly in the last 12 months, both mentally and physically, and I don’t think I would have had I not had these challenging people in my life.
Now – this has covered the adjective definition of challenging, but there’s also the verb definition. I hope that I’m also challenging people when I talk about what I’ve done. I’m hoping that while I’m telling people about my achievements (and getting a bunch of praise for it), it’s also pushing someone to try something new. Try to ride further than normal. Up a steeper hill than normal.
I think if everyone had challenging people in their life, and spent time challenging people, we’d all achieve more. And achieving feels good.
I know it’s still a long way away. I know. 4.5-ish years. The kids will be 13 and 15. Me nearly 45. But I’m finding it tough to keep my mind away from planning this trip. What bike(s)? What time of year? What sort of food will we eat? Will we camp every night on the way through or hotels and caravan parks?
It would seem that the rest of the family are also quite enthusiastic about the trip. They went to the library today, and brought back a book by Joshua Cunningham called Escape By Bike. In a very-not-me fashion (I’m a frustratingly (for myself) slow reader), I just finished reading it.
The photographs in the book are stunning and inspiring. And my enthusiasm for this ride is at an all time high, and the tips and hints in the book are adding to my confidence that this is something we’ll be able to do.
Maybe I should do a solo-trip somewhere in Australia first. Maybe up to the Riverland and back…
My eldest, whom I will refer to as Mr10 for another two and a half months, and I are planning a big ride in in a few years. Probably Euro-late-spring of 2023 at this stage.
I think I first heard of the EuroVelo paths on BoingBoing. Or maybe just in passing on Twitter. Regardless, it’s been consuming quite a bit of my brain-time since then.
Firstly, I find the idea that there are significant stretches of infrastructure spanning several countries dedicated to cycling. Living in Australia, we’re made to feel like we should be grateful for a few square metres of green paint in amongst lanes for long-haul trucks and tradies in white vans.
Secondly, that I could potentially cycle along these paths and lanes, though several countries, together with one (or both?) of my kids, carrying a few bits and pieces that we need for shelter, food, and repairs I find incredibly inspiring. I know that sitting on a bike isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but to me the adventure of it is just so enticing.
Initially I was looking at the EuroVelo 6, the route that goes between Nantes on France’s Atlantic Coast, and Constanța, on the shores of the Black Sea in Romania. Looking at it in more detail, it’s not fully completed as yet. Maybe it will be by 2023 – I suspect it will be. It’s around 4,400 km, but has suprisingly few hills to climb (but a total of about 28,000 m of climbing). Ride at 20 km/h, on average for four hours a day? It’ll take 55 days to complete. Probably a bit excessive (but on the other hand, there’s nothing stopping us from just riding a part of it. But how do you decide where to stop?!)
But there’s also the EuroVelo 15, and here’s where things start to get really appealing. Starting in southern Switzerland, it starts with a pretty brutal 600 m climb in the first 10 km (that’s 6%), but after that it’s mostly down-hill, all the way to Hoek van Holland. Around 1,450 km long, this seems signficiantly more manageable. It’s also a fully developed trail, and based on the guide-book, it looks too good to be true. 20 km/h on this trail seems a little low, so it’s probably a fair estimate. 3 weeks of a casual 4 hours in the saddle a day, and it’ll take just over 18 days. Make it 3 weeks with rest-days, break-downs, and sight-seeing.
From Rotterdam/Hoek van Holland, it’s a comfortable train ride to Malmö and Helsingborg to visit friends and family. I suspect it’d be a good 4-5 week holiday.
I love information. Or maybe it’s that I, more specifically, love data. For a information/data-phile like me, having a device in your pocket (and on your wrist) that can collect, collate, and visualise the information for you is pretty amazing. With that information I can track improvement, decline, progress, and stagnation.
I like it.
I have been using Strava for a long time to collect information about my running and cycling. You get a cool summary for the month, comparing you against the previous month. You can track your heart-rate, average and top speeds, amongst many other things. Recently I’ve linked Strava to a service called Relive, which gives you cool little videos of your logged activities.
Add, now, to this a video camera, and I can get a really good visual representation of the whole ride, too. And if something interesting happens along the way, I have that information.
Below is my first video, which is the descent from around Cleland along Long Ride and Winter Track to Waterfall Gully Road. I got rid of all the sound because the thrum of my knobbly tires is exhausting. You can add your own soundtrack by playing your favourite song while watching the video. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯