This calendar year I have cycled 6,379km  (most of them around Sydney), spent 254 hours on my bike and climbed 75,000 vertical meters.

I have been spending on average 42 hours per month pedaling, or the equivalent of one full working day per week.

All of this and I still don’t know If I feel ready for the 1,000km that lay ahead of me through The Alps.

As my departure date is getting closer there is not a lot more I can do. The Tour de Force  kicked off this weekend and I will join it in 14 days.

The first pictures from Corsica look warm and sunny, my ride today was in the cold and the wet. I hope this is not an omen of things to come.

So a few more rides (weather permitting) and I will be heading off to the UK on Thursday. I have a week of catching up with friends and family, a few rides planed and then it is on to France.

In the past I have been accused of talking a “good game” but rarely getting out onto the pitch. Well there is no backing away now.

Could I have done more training, probably, could I have held off on the red wine a little more to assist in my ascent of the bloody big mountains, absolutely.

Could I have spent more money buying equipment and cycling paraphernalia, no way. When you add it all up I think it may actually have been cheaper to have gone with the more traditional mid-life crises of buying the sports car!

I just keep reminding myself that the ride is for a good cause, nobody made me do it and to enjoy every km, hour and vertical meter that I ride.

Go on, make a donation at  to a very worthwhile cause The  William Wates Memorial Trust



The Best Laid Plans…

The view down to Wisemans Ferry

The view down to Wisemans Ferry

The plan was simple, get up, spend Friday riding 200km then enjoy the weekend.

The weather was warm and the ride out of Sydney to Wisemans Ferry, along the Hawkesbury River and up to the Central Coast was great.

As I spend more time on my bike and cover greater distances my confidence for my trip to France is building.  My goal is to go over and enjoy the challenge of climbing up big mountains, every minute I spend on the bike is working towards this.

I was feeling very pleased with myself, until 123km into the ride  I noticed a problem. A spoke had worked loose and had buckled my rear wheel. A closer inspection and this was not something I was going to be able to fix to ride home. Fortunately I could limp to a nearby cafe to work out what my next move needed to be. As it turned out my only option was a $70 taxi ride to Gosford Station and an hour’s train trip home.

Now confidence on the bike is one thing, confidence in your Lycra off the bike is a different skill set. Let’s face it  those of us who wear Lycra are largely tolerated by others in society. When you are on the bike it makes sense, if you are off the bike as long as you are on a beaten track you are not that much of a novelty.

Standing on Gosford train station, smelling a little ripe in your Lycra, you are to be avoided at all cost. I don’t think the passengers waiting for the 12.48pm to Sydney Central  really cared about my Three Peaks Jersey and  how I had earned the right to wear this.

I have written about my dalliance with White Lycra before, and after today I think unless you are a member of the professional peloton you should give it a miss. Feeling confident when I set off I opted for the white Lycra shorts. You have to have a certain degree of confidence in yourself to wear white Lycra in the first place. On the bike I was comfortable in them, it never entered into my realm of consciousness that I would have to enter back into normal society and catch a train with other folk.

Apart from announcing to the world that you have arrived, another drawback of white Lycra is it shows the dirt, not a fashion statement, just a practical observation. So it was only after a few smirks from a few passengers that I realized that I had at some stage unconsciously adjusted myself and had a great oily black handprint on my shorts where my  “Crown Jewels” were located. Robyn has already accused  me of looking like a naked Crystal Ken in my shorts so it’s not as though I have much to draw people’s attention to in the first place.

Now , not only was I a sad man in Lycra on a train station, I was a sad man who obviously liked to touch himself in public, on a train station. At least I had a bike with me as some form of defence.

On the train I skulked in the front carriage with my bike. The only saving grace was that the plethora of school kids who use the North Shore line were still at school, I fear I may have made the 6 o’clock news otherwise.

Finally  on making North Sydney I completed my walk of shame through the last remnants of the Friday lunchtime office crowd to the safety of home.

I guess these things happen and it’s a good reminder not to start getting to sure of myself. The reality is that I couldn’t do anything about the bike, it’s just one of those things, I can do something about the shorts, the white Lycra is now can relegated to turbo sessions only.

Broken Bike

Broken Bike

You can support my foolishness in France by making a donation at  to a very worthwhile cause The  William Wates Memorial Trust

Where’s Me Jumper?

What makes you sign up to cycle 230km in one day, going over 3 challenging peaks and climbing just shy of 4,000 meters?

Is it to test yourself against the course, to see how you measure up against the rest of the field or, as superficial as it may sound to get a cycling jumper? A jumper that proclaims to the rest of the cycling community that you have completed “Australia’s most challenging one-day ride” (The organisers words, not mine, but it sounds impressive)

Obviously my motivation is more than a jumper, though I would point out that you have to finish the course within an allotted time of 13 hours to get a jumper.

Late last year I was riding up a modest climb when this bloke rode up beside me and we got talking. He asked if I was training for something and I told him of my impending trip to France to ride in the Alps. He then enquired if I had ever done anything like that before, I wasn’t sure if he was impressed with my climbing ability or if he genuinely thought I needed a dose of reality as he went on to explain the 3 Peaks Challenge. As soon as I got home I had booked myself a spot and was on my way.

The plan was to use this as a confidence builder before my trip to France. Despite all the cycling I have been doing, the one gap in my preparation has been to ever climb what can be described as a proper mountain. So with a certain degree of trepidation I headed off last weekend to Falls Creek in Victoria, to take part in the Scody 3 Peaks Challenge.

Strange lot cyclists! The 1,500 participants came in all shapes and sizes. In a predominantly male bunch, there were your stereotypical cycling whippets that looked like they belonged at such an event, a smattering of females and the rest of us. The majority in expensive outfits and on bikes which really scream midlife crises.

I felt comfortable enough with the distance, the unknown part of the exercise for me was climbing up 20km+ mountain roads. Strangely enough it’s the same as climbing a 6km hill, just longer. I’ve learnt that you just have to find your pace and stick to it. Resisting the temptation to up your speed as somebody who you think shouldn’t be passing you sails past, or finding that you have good legs so ignoring the urge to push on to the summit and holding back for the next big climb are more about mental discipline than pure physical exertion.

I completed the challenge in an overall time of 10 hours and 51minutes. I paced myself and rode within my limits, it was a hot 34c+ in the valleys, so I invested extra time at the re-fuelling stops and was encouraged by the fact that I did the course in 9 hours 45mins of actual cycling.

We did go over an “easier” route than the traditional course due to the fire damage on Mount Hotham. This means we did not tackle the notorious Back of Falls climb and its 9km at a 9% gradient. After 200km, the final 30km climb up the front to Falls Creek was challenging enough for me.

On Monday morning I was feeling quite pleased with myself and carefully packed my “you have to earn this” jersey and set out to drive back to Sydney. Halfway home I received a text from the organisers congratulating me on my achievement. The email then continued “it takes a lot of guts to face the peaks, despite your time you should be proud of your achievement in taking on the SCODY 3 Peaks Challenge 2013″

Despite your time! Are they messing with my head? Is this some strange psychological challenge to make me do it again next year, a challenge to come back and ride the proper course in a faster time? Does my 2013 finishers’ jersey carry less kudos than previous years? Did the winner, 7 hours 20 minutes (ex-professional whippet) get the same email?

Good job I cycle for the pure enjoyment, otherwise I could be offended.

As it is, I am already analysing how I could go a little faster, for pure enjoyment of course and ignorant to the fact that if you go under 10 hours you qualify for an extra special jumper to tell the world how serious a cyclist you are.

Glad to be off the bike! Richard my faithful Soigneur for the weekend had a cold beer ready. Top Man!

Glad to be off the bike! Richard my faithful Soigneur for the weekend had a cold beer ready. Top Man!


You can support my foolishness in France by making a donation at  to a very worthwhile cause The  William Wates Memorial Trust




In 1772 the French explorer Saint Alouarn arrived on the west coast of Australia, if he had stuck around and made a decent job of claiming it for France, Sydney and Mont Ventoux in Provence may have had something in common. As it is, the 16,540km that separate Sydney and Mont Ventoux means that they are worlds apart.

My mid-life crises will have me scaling new heights this year. I have signed up to ride 6 stages of the Tour de France with a great charitable organisation called Tour de Force. We ride the same route as the Tour, a week earlier. The stages I am doing are the Alpine stages, the first being Stage 15  the ride up Mont Ventoux, then a series of stages through the Alps ending up in Paris on Bastille day.

Consistent with other activities that my advancing years have led me to, the decision to take part was the easy bit. From 16,000 km away the challenge of riding long distances up big mountains is not that scary.

Riding my push bike around Sydney is thoroughly enjoyable, it is warm, seldom rains and there are lots of interesting places to visit and scenery to ride around. As an extra bonus, having ridden my bike consistently for the last year and a half, I can now negotiate the hillier climbs in Sydney’s North and still function for the rest of the day without having to lie in a darkened room.

Whilst Sydney offers many distractions it does lack a significant 1,900m mountain on which I can train. In fact I have only ever been up close and personal with any real mountains once in my life. This was on a skiing trip when I was considerably younger and I spent more time in a bar looking out at them than actually skiing on them.

On a trip to Adelaide over the summer holiday I had the opportunity to test my legs around the Adelaide Hills. I started to get a bit more of an insight into what I have signed up for, longer climbs, steeper gradients and still not a real mountain in sight.

The first stage I ride in July is 242km across France, it ends with the 20.8km ascent of Mont Ventoux. This has me a little nervous, so as with my previous training regimes, a bit of a mad mist has descended. I am now planning my free time around long rides, lots of sleep and quality time with the family.

Robyn and the girls are surprisingly supportive of my endeavours. After each ride they also take a keen interest in my performance, “Did you have good legs?”, “How far did you climb?” and “What was your average speed?” are all fired at me with straight faces. I am not sure if they are taking the mickey, so I have taken to giving them a full ride report with the threat of a test afterwards.

Despite the lack of any mountains in Sydney, the real advantage I do have is that I can get out on my bike all year around. The majority of the riders who will take part (you can do a few stages or sign up to ride the whole thing) have to train their way through a northern winter. I think hours in a cold, damp, garage on a turbo trainer takes real commitment.

My friend Tom, who is to blame for all of this (he has been a long time bike advocate and a previous participant) was in Australia with his family in January. We did some decent rides around Sydney and Adelaide. Being able to go out on your bike without multiple layers was a real novelty for him and he had a real appreciation for what I have been taking for granted. It is easier to cycle with the sun on your back and in dry conditions rather than in the cold and wet.

Unfortunately for him, it was bought crashing home when he walked off the beach in Adelaide and 24 hours later was negotiating the snow in England. His kids decided that sand was better than snow. I definitely agree.

You can support my foolishness by making a donation to a very worthwhile cause at

The Tour de Force has been created by and for the William Wates Memorial Trust and is their main fundraising event.  All monies raised by participants and their supporters goes to the WWMT whose mission is to help the most disadvantaged young people keep away from a life of crime and violence and fulfill their potential. This is achieved by giving grants to charities that engage young people through the mediums of sport, arts and education.

White Lycra

Whilst the cycling world has been airing its dirty laundry in public I have been battling my own demons.

Is white Lycra appropriate for a middle aged man? When I first got my bike I took the family on a reconnaissance trip into Kuringai National Park to check out cycling routes. During the drive around we sat behind a rather large man on a road bike wearing white Lycra shorts. It left absolutely nothing to the imagination with bulges and overhangs and a padded arse that looked suspiciously like a rather large nappy!

I swore that black Lycra was the only way to go. Over a year later I have just bought some white Lycra bib shorts. They are not completely white, they are black on the bottom and white on the front,  but I am still not sure if this is really getting a little out of control. I got them to go with my G.S. Carpano, black and white Italian stripped retro jersey (It is a replica of a 1960’s jersey modelled on the Juventus football strip), which probably makes me sound even sadder.

I wonder if I have crossed over from being a slightly deranged middle aged man, to a truly sad git who quite frankly should know better.

Regardless of what I may look like, my new goal on the road is to ride my bike fast enough so I don’t have to sit behind any other cyclists wearing white Lycra.

I wonder what they would have made of a " decaf skim latte" and white Lycra?

I wonder what they would have made of a " decaf skim latte" and white Lycra?

“It doesn’t get easier, you just get faster”

Since I have spent the winter building my base fitness I am now 10% faster at riding my bike.

I am not making this up. I do a very scientific test cycling on my turbo trainer, covering a fixed distance and keeping my heart rate at a constant 133BPM.

Keeping these 2 measures constant the only variable is how fast my little legs can turn the pedals and subsequently how fast I can go.

I see this as a significant achievement and having extrapolated the data, if I continue to improve at the same rate (I can’t see why not, barring injury of course) I will be able to go fast enough to sit comfortably in the peloton to ride the Vuelta A España in August 2013 and potentially win the Tour de France in 2014.

Numbers never lie.


I have been spending the winter evenings riding my bike on a turbo trainer watching Downton Abbey. I bought the DVD’s on Amazon and copied them onto my iPad. Each episode is about an hour’s ride and because I am hooked up to my bike computer I can monitor my heart rate and the distance I cover as part of my training. I guess this is what living in the future is all about.

It would seem that in the Downton era people had much simpler life’s. You either worked hard to maintain your place in the social pecking order or worked hard to better yourself.

The ambitious folk I meet in life today are similar, it’s all about climbing the corporate ladder, securing your financial future, getting your kids into the right school and making sure you drive the right car.

There is no doubt ambition plays an important role in driving and motivating people to perform and achieve.

This got me thinking about my current ambitions, or lack of them. The only real ambition I have ever had in my life was to live in Australia and meet a nice girl. Maybe having achieved this, I have been devoid of ambition.

Recently I have spent many an hour spinning the pedals thinking about what my current ambitions could be. By about the middle of Series 2 the best I could come up with is that I want to own a Cervelo R3 racing bike. If I really push it then I want the top of the range bits and pieces to go on it as well.

I am not sure if I should be thoroughly impressed that I am so content with my life that this is the best I can do. Maybe if I could get as excited about my business or my financial future as I am about a carbon fiber racing bike, then who knows what I might be able to achieve.

Then whilst watching the Christmas Special I started to think, what happens when I get the bike? Will that be as good as it gets?

Fortunately the Tour de France has come along to fuel my ambitions further. Ambition alone cannot mask the sad truth that I have taken up cycling too late to make the Pro Peloton. But there is nothing to stop me riding on the same roads, so my new ambition is to buy a new Cervelo R3 and ride the Alpine stages of the 2013 Tour De France.

Now that is something to genuinely get excited about. I see it as a significant milestone in my mid-life crises. An activity that allows me to justify spending excessive amounts of cash on a totally self indulgent, some may say, pointless task.

I have told the family they are more than welcome, providing they can ride up Alpe d’Huez on their own. I also believe I have found justification for the SRAM Red groupset on my new bike.

On the turbo trainer dreaming of Alpine passes, carbon fiber bikes and Lady Mary

Slowing Down

The family after completing the 8km run at The Mothers Day Classic in Sydney

Participating in a fun run with my girls is enjoyable if I remember that we are not there to break any records and completing the distance is an achievement in itself.

My normal exercise philosophy has been to go as hard as you can and only slow down if you are so knackered you can’t go any faster or you have done so much damage that you can’t move without significant pain.

Apparently there is a better way.

It has taken me a whole year to be able to get back running after the damage I did to myself last April and my resulting knee operation. On reflection I made every mistake possible. When I look back I should have run the marathon in February, at this stage I was still in one piece, was relatively fresh and just completing the distance was my main goal.

The real trouble started when I began to believe my own hype. Feeling supremely confident after a couple of big runs I started to think about running under 4 hours. My training got more intense, I started to ignore the signs that I was over training and ultimately the wheels fell off. The fact I got around at all was due to the help of a few pain killers and lots of cheerful Londoners.

A year later I am gradually running again and I am adopting a new approach.

If you want to go faster, the trick is to actually slow down.

Seems a little strange, but according to my new training bible the secret to staying healthy is to train at a pace that allows you to be able to move and function after you have finished your session, not to push it so far that you have to go to bed for the rest of the day. All of this is measured by using a heart rate monitor and this approach allows you to build a “base”. If you train like this you condition yourself so you can go faster whilst maintaining the same heart rate.

The challenge with this approach means that when you start out you can find yourself running or cycling at an extremely slow pace to maintain the required heart rate. The bible promises me that this is only for a few months but I was tested this weekend when I was out on my bike and a peloton of over 60’s raced past me and wished me a cheery “good day”. Either they weren’t sticking to the rules of building a base or maybe they have known this secret and have been practicing it for years.

A must read for all middle aged converts to any form of endurance exercise.


It doesn’t matter how old you are, receiving a parcel addressed to you is one of the most marvellous experiences you can have.  As a kid I remember ordering stuff from a catalogue, sending a postal order and then waiting for my purchase to arrive. These days you just get on-line and a few clicks later you start to feel that very same feeling of anticipation.

With the Aussie $ so strong it actually makes sense to do most of our clothes shopping overseas. Recently my girls filled their on-line shopping basket full of clothes from a US store for a fraction of what they cost here. For the last week Milly and Alice have been racing home asking “has it arrived yet”. It’s not hard to imagine the excitement in the house when they got home today to find a great big parcel full of clothes.

I can gladly admit that this is the same excitement that I have been experiencing when my parcels of bike goodies turn up. The trouble is it can be quite addictive. My latest passion is cycling jerseys. I know you can only wear one at a time but having suitable attire seems to be part of this whole bike thing.

Amongst the weekend warriors you can see the whole range of pro team jerseys,  it’s like wearing your favourite football teams jersey to a game. This is not for me, instead I am becoming a little fixated on retro look jerseys. They are all made to modern standards just replica designs of old jerseys.

Is it acceptable for a grown man to declare that his week has been made when his new “Cote D’Or/DAF Trucks/Gazelle Retro Jersey” has arrived and what’s more it is a perfect fit?

I have recognised the early signs of possible addiction so I have a self-imposed purchasing embargo in place until April. By then the weather will be changing, so for purely practical reasons I’ll need some long sleeve jerseys, gilets, gloves, overshoes…

It doesn't seem to lie as flat around the stomach when I wear it. Available from

It doesn't seem to lie as flat around the stomach when I wear it. Very comfortable and available from

The Peloton


Adelaide has a lot to offer at any time of year.

In January during the week of the Tour Down Under the whole city is overrun by Lycra wearing folks of all ages and of varying shapes and sizes who are all passionate about their cycling. The circus comes to town and everybody is invited to dress up and get involved.

My family were not going to pass up the opportunity for a holiday even if it did mean they had to indulge my latest passion for cycling.

I thought there may have been a little more resistance to standing by the side of a road in temperatures over 30 degrees waiting for the Peloton to flash by. Fortunately The Tour has a lot to offer beside just the race.

Free Stuff – If you get along to the start or the finish then the kind marketing folk of the various sponsors want to give you as much free stuff as you can carry. Hats, water bottles, torches, beer coolers, bags, more hats, cow bells, if it can have a logo stamped on it you can get it. Milly and Alice loved this, doesn’t matter what it is, if it is free it’s got to be good.

The Route– Each stage starts around Adelaide and finishes within a radius of around 100 km. If you have bought your bike and a few mates you ride out to watch the race and then cycle back to Adelaide for an evening of entertainment.

If you are there with the family you can find a piece of road that is right next to a beach or near a winery to keep them entertained (my girls love a visit to a cellar door, I take it as a sign of potential sophistication and refinement, not a bad omen of things to come) . If this doesn’t work then you can always get more free stuff.


The riders went past this spot 3 times, we could swim between cheers


The Peloton – The tour riders are really accessible. You see them out on training rides, you can get close to them at the start and at the finish and they all seem really happy to have a chat.

According to Robyn they also all smell very nice. A strange thing to notice but when they all come whizzing past there is a definite smell of metrosexual grooming product. You might expect this at the start of the day but even after 150km+ of racing the intoxicating smell of lotions and potions was ever present. Not surprisingly L’Oreal is a sponsor and I was given vast quantities of free stuff from their nice promotional ladies, who obviously thought my personal hygiene could do with some assistance. I have more tubes and packets of lotions for all sorts of things that I never knew men were allowed to do to themselves. I’m still not sure where I should be applying my “Men Expert – Erase Wrinkles Anti-Expression Lines Moisturising Cream”, maybe it will solve my freckle problem.

The initial motivation for our trip to Adelaide was for me to ride the challenge leg before the pros. Along with thousands of others I completed the 135km ride and loved every minute of it. I normally ride on my own so having lots of other folk to follow and work alongside was great. I completed the ride in less than 5 hours and the family were at the finish line to cheer me home. I certainly didn’t smell like the peloton, had no free stuff to hand out but my girls were delighted to see me , to offer me a drink from their water bottles, to ring their bells to mark my achievement and to raise a free hat to the Tour Down Under.


Climbing Menglers Hill after 110km, it looks flat but was quite a steep hill. I'm not out of the saddle to "dance" on the peddles, it was the only way I could keep moving and also give my freckle a rest.