Friday, 18 December 2015

Knee Trembler?


Aside: Readers of a certain age (les gens d'un certain âge) will recognise the phrase "knee trembler", while the younger set might be a bit at sea.
This was Di's suggestion for the title so blame her if you're a little taken aback.)

Riding out into Tasmania's wild southwest

We have had a little scheme stored away in the backs of our minds since we got back from our ride across the continent.  It occurred to me that we might just be able to ride our bikes out to Strathgordon and back. When I heard that the Lake Pedder Lodge in Strathgordon, which had been closed for some time, had re-opened as the Pedder Wilderness Chalet the idea started to grow wings. It occurred to me that the Chalet must have a freight service that brings supplies out to them. Di thought this sounded like a great scheme, so I called them and discovered that at least the logistics were feasible. Whether we would be fit enough was another question. This undertaking would involve back to back days longer and harder than any single day we did when we rode from Perth to Melbourne, and the longest single day's ride we've done since we rode around Port Phillip Bay about 15 years ago.

Our cycling has taken somewhat of a back seat over the past few months. You might say we've been leading a more balanced life style - something more approaching "normal" for a couple of our advanced years. Consequently our level of fitness for longer rides has dropped off a bit. However, a window of wonderful weather suddenly appeared this week. In fact it looked so good that our friend Phil, who lives across the road and is a lover of wandering about the wilderness, set off into the southwest for a bushwalking traverse of the Frankland Range.

Given that such a great sequence of weather was about to start, we decided to go ahead and give the trip a shot. One never knows when a few days of rock solid weather is going to occur in southwest Tasmania, and we've got a number of commitments later in the summer. And, although we haven't been riding quite as much recently, we have been doing some specific training to try to improve our ability to ride up hills, and faster for longer. As you will see, this trip would certainly test the effectiveness of that training. Here's a map that shows the relative positions of our home town of Hobart and Strathgordon to the west ...

Strathgordon and Hobart

It just occurred to me that it might be useful to include an overview map of Tasmania for those of you not familiar with the geography of our wonderful island ...

Overview of Tasmania

Everything organised, we set off early Wednesday morning. Here's a selfie I took outside our front gate ...

Ready or not ...

Hobart to Maydena

Conditions were just about perfect as we set off. It was about 15 degrees with virtually no wind - a rarity for Hobart - and an overcast sky meant that we weren't getting too much sun too early. We deliberately paced ourselves knowing that we had a long haul ahead of us. Normally if we're doing a ride up the Derwent Valley we rest and coffee up in New Norfolk, a distance of just under 40 kilometres from home, but we decided to forego that stop this time with the intention of stopping in Westerway at the Possum Shed

One of the things that really appealed about this ride is the changing scenery. Cycling out of the city, along the Derwent Estuary as far as New Norfolk, through farming country up the river proper as far as Bushy Park and on into the Southwest Wilderness would be a great journey. We were on into the stretch between New Norfolk And Bushy Park when I spotted a donkey giving itself a good little scratch, so I paused for a photo. By the time I got the camera out he'd stopped chewing his butt but I took its picture anyway ...

What are you looking at?
The next landmark along our route was the road junction at Bush Park ...

Bushy Park junction
(Note: Lake Pedder and Strathgordon are interchangeable - basically they are the same place.) By this time we'd come about 56 kilometres and were cruising along nicely, but looking forward to a bit of a break at Westerway and anticipating a nice coffee when we arrived at the road junction that marks the entrance to town ...

Arriving at Westerway

We were slightly nonplussed to ride up to the café and see that it was closed. Thinking that perhaps it might be about to open I doubled back to check the operating hours. It should have been open 15 minutes early but there was no sign of life so on we went. National Park, where we hadn't intended to stop was only a further 7 kilometres up the road, which wasn't too bad. It had cleared right up to a beautiful sunny day by now and we were getting to the end of our water.

After coffee and a light snack it was back on the bikes and on towards Maydena, the last outpost of civilisation before - hopefully - arriving at Strathgordon ...

Maydena beckons

We had each only filled one bottle at National Park, as we knew we'd want to stop briefly at Maydena to catch our breath before the more challenging riding began. We were still feeling pretty comfortable, which was a very good thing. The sign leaving National Park is slightly out, with the distance to Maydena slightly more than indicated and the distance to Strathgordon slightly less. It was just on 90 kilometres from home to Maydena, with a further 72 kilometres to Strathgordon. 

Maydena to Strathgordon

Here's the route between Maydena and Strathgordon, with a cross section below ...

Maydena to Strathgordon
As you can see, there is not a lot of flat ground. If you're looking at the blog on a desktop computer you would be able to see the data for the cross section. If not, here's a bit of info on the climbing for this section of the ride:
  • distance: 72 kilometres
  • elevation gain: 1695 metres
  • average slope: somewhere around 4%
  • maximum slope: 15.8% (I think that's wrong: it's more like 12%
In this 72 kilometres of cycling we climbed about two and a half times what we did in the 90 kilometres to Maydena, and it actually took about 15 minutes longer.

Here is a photo I took while waiting for Di at the high point of the road ...

All downhill from here? Not likely!
There is a walking track up to the Needles from this point ...

The Needles

... and the riding further along the road was pretty scenic ...

On into the heart of Southwest Tasmania
... but we weren't getting off the bike much to take pictures as we didn't want to lose any precious momentum before the next hill!

With about 20 kilometres to go we reached the shore of Lake Pedder and figured that it would be relatively flat riding the rest of the way. Of course, the term"relatively flat" has got its own meaning in the context of Tasmanian cycling, and this proved no exception. At about the 10 kilometre to go mark we found ourselves struggling up this last sharp little hill ...

A nice little surprise
Maybe it was karma for hanging in there but, just after descending that hill, a clutch of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos - our favourite birds - flew overhead, greeting us with their own peculiarly endearing call. 

Weary, but with our spirits lifted, we pedalled the remaining eight kilometres to our destination ...

We made it!
Di said her legs were a little wobbly getting off the bike for the final time, hence the title of this post.

Here's a snapshot of the computer showing our distance covered ...

Outward distance

... and another showing total elevation gained ...

Outward elevation gain

Some food and hydration was our first priority. We each had a large Boag's Draught while we waited for some fries to arrive ...

Di, resting her eyes?

The view out the wall-to-wall picture window was pretty good ...

Isn't it nice just looking!
While we were having our refreshments a small flock of Green Rosellas arrived outside the window, delighting us with their flashing blue wings, but didn't settle in one place long enough to give me a chance at a photo. For those of you not familiar with these gorgeous birds, which are Australia's largest rosella, here is a nice little video from YouTube shot in central north-central Tasmania at the Trowanna Wildlife Park.

The return journey

We couldn't head home the following day quite as early as we'd set out from Hobart due to having to wait for the kitchen to start up. Nonetheless we did get away fairly promptly. A gentle warm up for 10 kilometres and then getting most of the hills out of the way - and all the really hard ones -  by about the 60 kilometre mark was a major bonus on the way back.

Before we got to Maydena though we passed a couple of cycle tourists on their way into the wilds. Well, one at least. Just starting up the first real hill after Maydena was a young woman with a fully laden touring bike. A little closer to the township was another heavily laden bike laying on its side. I reckon the young woman's cycling companion was in the bushes offloading a bit of unwanted weight: a good idea, considering what lay ahead. Anyway, if you think our ride is notable, we think it's nothing compared to what these folks riding with all their gear are doing.

Given that we were really focussed on maintaining momentum and getting home, we didn't stop to take a lot of photos on the return journey. Once we had coasted into Maydena and had a good rest we were pretty confident that we would make it home. Although there was still 90 kilometres of riding ahead, we knew that we'd done the great bulk of the climbing - and all the nasty stuff. On top of the previous day we were starting to feel a little weary so after the short climb out of Maydena the gentle downhill to Westerway for more 15 kilometres was brilliant. Very pleasant riding it is too, following the Tyenna River on its descent to join the Derwent.

Of course there had to be a fly in the ointment. We expected that there would be some sea breeze as we neared Hobart but found we were bashing into an increasingly stiff - and hot - headwind with about 50 kilometres to go. By the time we collapsed into the café at New Norfolk flags were whipping in the breeze. We both opted for a pastry and an extra large iced coffee and watched as the wind blew stuff around. 

The wind was showing no sign of dropping so we girded our loins, got back in the saddle and headed off for the last 40 kilometres home. We put our heads down and got into survival mode. ( By the time we got home we discovered that we'd been contending with winds of between 20 - 25 kilometres per hour, gusting to 35.) It was a slog and we stopped with about 20 kilometres to go to have a gel and a bit of a breather.

The great thing about the finish to this ride was that we knew we only had one real hill left once New Norfolk was behind us; it just happened to be right at the end. In the last couple of kilometres we climb from sea level up to about 110 metres. It was great to  finally get off the bikes and into a shower. Here's the distance and elevation gain for the day's ride ...

Homeward distance

Homeward elevation gain
The discrepancy between outward and homeward distances is that we didn't detour into National Park on the way back. Despite the return journey being slightly downhill our average speed was almost exactly the same as the outward, no doubt due to two factors: the first being fatigue from the day before and secondly the headwind in the last part. 

It's now the day after and we both feel that we've pulled up fairly well from our two longest consecutive days of cycling ever, especially considering that we were probably a little underdone in terms of fitness. After over 320 kilometres and 4500 metres of climbing we feel like we deserve a bit of a rest. We've been out for a stroll to stretch the legs but that will probably do for the day. It looks like being fine again tomorrow so it would be good to get out for a gentle spin somewhere.

Phil hasn't returned yet from his traverse of the Frankland Range. No doubt he will be having a magic time. Remarkably the weather is still immaculate  out that way and is expected to continue that way tomorrow. It will be good to hear about his trip when he gets back.