Ride2Work Day becomes a pedalling odyssey

Journey’s end: Newcastle Herald reporter Scott Bevan arrives at the office at Honeysuckle, almost three and a half hours after he set off on his aged bicycle in southern Lake Macquarie. Picture: Max Mason-HubersWhen confronted with ridiculous challenges, there are usually two voices in my head. There’s the voice of reason, saying, “No, don’t do it”. Then there’s the other voice, which, in this case, soundsvery much like my Senior Deputy Editor’s, exclaiming, “Yes, do it!”.
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I couldn’t hear the “no” for the enthusiastic shouting of my boss on Tuesday.

And that’s how I agreed to participate in the national Ride2Work Day. “Why” is another question altogether.

This was a ridiculous challenge for a couple of reasons. The first wasmy ride to work was to be more like an odyssey. I would be cycling from the southern part of Lake Macquarie toNewcastle, a journey of about 33 kilometres.

The second reason was that I’m no MAMIL (Middle-Aged Male in Lycra). I’m more of a reptile. At 52, I’m a MAM. My bike is also well-worn.It’s a red Shogun, which I bought more than 20 years ago. It’s a marvellously durable bicycle, defying the years and rust. The Shoguneven has an original front tyre. That’s not an issue if you’re just riding to the shops, as I usually do; for a long trek, there was a reasonable chance this would turn into Push2Work Day for me.

Anyway, I ignored the “ridiculous” bits, as only a MAM can, and embraced the challenge. Wearing my best gym shorts (the ones with elastic still in them) anda pack on my back, andcarrying a bottle full of water and a belly full of anticipation, I set off at 9.07am on Wednesday.

No sooner had I put my feet on the pedals than a north-easterly skitteredacross the lake and smacked me in the face. That infernalheadwind was to be my constant companion.

Tracing the lake’s south-western shoreline was therapeutic. The riding must have been making me lookpositively youthful. A tradie in a ute near Rathmines waited for me to pass, saying,“It’s harder for you, son.”Son!

When I hit Wangi Road and endured the long climb towards Toronto, I felt positively decrepit. Actually, from my thighs down, I felt nothing at allbut aching. I also felt a little exposed, withthe whoosh of trucks travelling at 80 km/h just metres away. Still, there’s always someoneslower than you. I passed a young bloke,Nathan, who was walking to Warners Bay.

The run down throughToronto was sweet relief. The fallingof rain as I crossed the Fennell Bay bridge was not. Thankfully, there were only a few drops. From Booragul to Warners Bay, I didn’t have to contend with motor vehicles; I was on the bike and pedestrian path, allowing me to glance at the lake. On the path, I passed the first cyclists I’d seen since setting off. I wondered how many were participating in Ride2Work Day.

HALFWAY: Scott Bevan and his trusty bicycle on the foreshore near Speers Point during his epic pedalling commute to work in Newcastle.

To get an idea of that, as I pedalled towardsHillsborough, I stopped in at Cheeky Bikes. Owner OliverPringle said more and more people cycledto work most days.

“Traffic congestion is getting worse, and cycling is getting easier, with electric bikes,” he said. I was tempted to buy one of those, there and then, on the company card.In the workshopwere Matt Miller and John Ebeling. They praisedme for riding to work. I felt smugly self-satisfied. That is, until“Ebo”mentioned he cycled to work most days –from Maitland.

SUPPORT: Matt Miller (left) and John Ebeling at Cheeky Bikes, Warners Bay, repairing bicycles and giving moral support to our pedalling reporter. Picture: Scott Bevan

Following the Cheeky Bikes boys’ advice, I rode along the edge of the Newcastle inner city bypass,acting like a tortoise beside the motorised hares tearing past, as I climbedthe hill to the Cardiff turn-off. From there,it was gloriously downhill to Kotara and across to the Fernleigh Track –well, the last few hundred metres of it –and a cafe popular with cyclists.

Fernleigh Cafe barista Djalar Donovan said it had been an average morning, with about 20 riders stopping by. Then Louise Shearston arrived. She had just ridden from work, a nearby indoor climbing centre, to buy a drink. But she was participating in Ride2Work Day –“I never usually ride on a Wednesday”.

Scott Bevan takes a break at the Fernleigh Cafe in Adamstown.

One common callamong the ridersI had met was a need for a larger cycle network to connect communities and encouragetwo-wheel commuting. What’s more, having shared roads with motor vehicles, I reckon there’s room for more bike awareness. It’s not enough to have “Watch out for Bicycles” signs and logos on the road; that has to be translated into respect, irrespective of the number of wheels below us.

Scott Bevan on the last leg during his long ride to work. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

I traced the Honeysuckle foreshore and arrived at the office at 12.31pm. I had ridden to work. I felt great. It would be impractical for me to do this every day, as I would have only a couple of hoursat my desk before riding off again. Hang on. Now that I think about it, perhaps every day should be Ride2Work Day. Say “yes!”to that, Senior Deputy Editor.