It was 2 years ago that I last did the Gong ride – and having just done it again I can understand why I only do it infrequently. Duffman was once again the instigator, and it is a good challenge for him as he only throws his leg over the top tube a couple of times a year now. And it’s for a good cause. I also consider it, to some extent, to be a protest ride – a litmus for the level of bicycle interest in the community, a show of strength that the pollies and town planners might occasionally take note of, especially if any get coaxed into actually taking part. And it must be considered a huge success this year with a record 14000 making the journey (according to today’s SMH). The weather was kind this year too, with a lovely taily blowing us along the last 30 km into the Gong. That’s the good.
The bad is that I spent much of it in cycling hell – just too many people, too many beginners on narrow restricted lanes, too much marshaled stopping and starting, and run by an organization who are not really up to hosting the size of event it has become, or don’t have the swagger with the police to properly shut some of the roads, or steal more than just a narrow lane for much of the course. Other major cities seem to be able to do such rides with 2 or 3 times the number. About 6 hours after starting off we completed the 85 km and rolled into the finishing park.
We eventually ended up at the North Wollongong hotel where a couple of very welcome ales were downed before steeling ourselves for the train-trip home. Whilst to their credit the SRA got the frequency of trains about right (we didn’t have to wait too long), they still demonstrated a breathtaking inability to exercise common sense. For some inexplicable reason our train pulled into St Peters but overshot the platform by 2 carriages. The train remained there with doors closed, tantalizing the occupants, many with crossed legs and swollen bladders, for about 10 minutes. The guard explained over the PA that permission was required for the train to reverse the ~100 metres in order to be properly positioned. This was subsequently denied, so the decision was finally made to open the doors of the remaining 6 carriages, and the occupants of the first 2 carriages who wished to alight were instructed to make their way through the carriages to the 3rd carriage where they could get off. A diabolical request, given how packed to the rafters each carriage was with bikes and bodies. Hence the state of beaurocratic madness the railways seem to have been reduced to. Those of you who opted for an earlier start and a car at the destination have obviously got this thing sussed! Still, I can laugh about it all now, and given how dodgy my memory has become I’m sure I’ll end up repeating the whole performance 2 years from now – or maybe even next year!
Another hold up, this time on the approach to Waterfall
Finally more peaceful riding as we cruise through the park
Anthony relaxing at Bald Hill. He used to Hang-glide off this spot in a former life
The edge of the world
On the fantastic new bridge
More bike Chaos.....