I Want To Ride My Bicycle

It was one of those rare mornings where the sound of the alarm hits you like a defibrillator.
A morning where the first rays of light sneaking through the curtains are as welcome a lover’s waking and wandering hands.
You’re gripped by an enthusiasm you haven’t felt in weeks.
At least, not since Tasmania’s notorious winter began to bed down with a severity you expected to be able to weather.

You were misguided. Goddamn, you were so misguided.
You’ve been sleeping in until 10 far too often, and only riding your bike when the mercury climbs above 10 degrees celsius – cursing yourself throughout for how soft you’ve become.
But this morning was different – this morning your body yearned for the innumerable pedal strokes; for the freezing Hobartian air to constrict your airways and for the climb up the Kunanyi road which would seize your thighs for days to come.
You bounded out of bed, dreaming of a morning in the saddle which would deliver a 1200 metre adjustment in altitude and a glimpse into the mind of the masochist.

The feeling is familiar to any keen cyclist – I just wanted to ride my bike somewhere I had not yet ridden it.
Not groundbreaking in terms of things worth writing about, or places ridden.
And, to be honest, the route is probably one of southern Australia’s most traversed cycling routes.
Starting before the sun in Sandy Bay, I planned to ride up Huon Road to where it meets Pinnacle Road and then follow that up to the Springs parking lot.
From there, I would decide whether to carry on toward the Kunanyi summit, or try and find a trail in Hobart’s downhill oeuvre I hadn’t yet exhausted.
At the intersection of Huon and Pinnacle, at around 8am, the sign indicating road closures told me there was no vehicle access beyond the Springs due to ice and your average punter’s inability to operate a vehicle – especially when the road is icy.
This was made clear to everyone involved when a motorcyclist attempted a u-turn at the closure, at less than five km per hour, and ditched his bike under the front bumper of a car parked adjacent.
Fortunately only his ego was damaged, and it served as a cogent demonstration to all those looking on as to why they should be allowed to drive no further.
I was standing there, with a bucket of excellent Lost Freight flat white, laughing at both the motorcyclist who couldn’t turn on ice, and my own plans to continue onwards and upwards.
When surrounded by idiots, it turns out it surprisingly comforting to go with the flow and act like an idiot.

So I checked with the traffic controllers, who confirmed the road wasn’t closed to bicycles, and made like Icarus and continued upward and east – directly into the sun.
Gods, I was rewarded! A road which is normally congested with a cavalcade of incompetent drivers and professional tourists was deserted, save for a few hikers and one National Parks vehicle.
I continued the pedal up in the sunshine and the silence, which was broken only by the crunch of ice and snow under my (surprisingly grippy) tyres.
I’m riding a 2017 Specialized Enduro (whatever they call the bottom of the range alloy model), with a 2.6 inch Specialized Butcher on the front and a 2.5 inch Maxxis on the back; neither of which have seen snow since a very light dusting on Mt Mackenzie in Revelstoke, Canada, around October last year.
Although I wouldn’t even test the (frozen) waters of trying to send them downhill on the Mt Wellington road, uphill they were remarkably capable of holding me in line as I granny gear’d it toward the summit.
Despite the recent inspiration of the Tour de France, I’ll never claim to be fast up a hill.
Especially not on a bike.
I’ll be bitching and grunting and muttering “I think I can, I know I can” just like Mum taught me when I was a fat eight-year-old trying to run three kilometres around the neighbourhood because I’d been promised a Nintendo 64 if I could do so without stopping.
But I’ll get there, and usually, I’d be smiling because I knew I could start going downhill again soon. Not today though; today I came to what I expected to be the start of the descent and was greeted with a four kilometre hike-a-bike mission through ankle to knee-deep snow.
Not that I wasn’t smiling – it was over a year since I had played in the snow at that point and even a poxy Tasmanian iteration of coverage was enough to get me grinning like an idiot.
But I was alone, and I was leading the bootpack, and there was no one racing to get first tracks on this wintry ski run.
There was no rush.

Back-to-back winters in recent years have instilled in me a desire to always be the first to destroy a beautifully pristine snowpack – shralp and destroy, regardless of what I rode in on. So although I had the opportunity to do this on a bluebird day on one of the southernmost peaks in Australia, there was no rush.

I approached my own personal summit with all the pace and grace of a curious wombat – which, truthfully, I was looking out for.
But to no avail, as hose furry bastards had only appeared to me as meaty boulders crushed on the roads of Australia’s south-east during my road trip from the Sunshine Coast to Tasmania earlier in the year.

But a mountain bike in the snow is not a stealthy vehicle, and any wildlife had had the sense to move on by the time I passed by – if it had been there at all.
By mountain biking standards, the fire trail which traverses the north-eastern face of Kunanyi is not exciting. Maybe a little more so when covered in snow, but it is wide and only occasionally steep.
Like many of Kunanyi’s official mountain biking trails, it is simply a four-wheel-drive track which has been repurposed to keep the hikers and bikers separate. Anyone that has been on either side of high speed collision or near-collision while biking or hiking knows there is no winner in that fight.
But for reasons purely adventurous in nature, the trail was everything I needed from a Saturday morning in July.
I set out with only a vague idea of where I was going, how I would get there and what I would find along the way.
And I think this is the point I’d normally turn a story into an allegory about my life; but I think I’ve just about exhausted my desire to turn my poor choices into morality lessons.
There may be a greater existential reasoning for the things I do, but for the moment I’m done trying to make that stone bleed.

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