Thursday, August 9, 2012

Leven River Afternoon.

Gorgeous and lazy, the sparkling Leven River neatly divides the Tasmanian town of Ulverstone into West and The Rest. A recently completed bridge integrated into the local cycling network is one way to span that divide. The town itself is mercifully flat for the most part and you can follow some nice bicycle infrastructure across and along the river before meeting the beach. Our rides around Ulverstone begin with the unloading of bicycles in a car park next to the Leven, a sad necessity until the completion of Tasmania's cycle vision. As it stands, towns along the North West coast have been busy building their own self-contained sections of bike path and the plan is to connect all these segments until there is a great and glorious (and safe) cycle route through the region. Until then there is only a sporadically marked bicycle lane on the shoulder of the state highway between towns - a Russian Roulette of transport trucks and average speeds over 100km. In the meantime, at least we have the beautiful Leven to distract us with plenty of ice-cream for sale, the scent of sea air and bursts of sunshine.

The newest bridge, Ginger probably meditating on the acquisition
of yet more chequered shorts, Schwinns.
My Professional Bike Model career was tragically cut short by genetics and a refusal
to go topless so now I pose on bike paths in the hopes of inconveniencing Roadies.

I briefly posed publicly with the Jenny, much to the consternation of two locals. The middle-aged couple stood open mouthed and watched us dismount (the bikes, not each other - It would have made more sense, otherwise) even prior to the appearance of my camera. I didn't tell them there were teenagers enjoying skateboards around the corner. They might have lost their minds.

Dotted along the river, boats wait patiently for somebody to acknowledge them. Never forget.
The Leven is quite tidal, sometimes leaving waterfront buildings to languish on the sands.
And Gingers to stare into the middle-distance.
We always see a lot of bikes in Ulverstone as their infrastructure is superior
and their hills less disruptive of the town footprint.
The older bridge.
Ulverstone has a Summer holiday vibe and a superfluity of playgrounds.
If that's even possible. But it seems like there's a swing every 100 metres.
The new bridge as seen from West Ulverstone.

Ulverstone also has many parks and the ones bordering the Leven each have a military theme. There is a Naval park, an ANZAC park and then the above pictured small, playground-less park tucked away around a corner on the west side of the river. A charming sign proclaims it to have been named after a military camp of strategic importance. The camp was called 'Eagle' because the soldiers had nailed a dead eagle to a tall tree to mark the way. Perhaps it's best that there's no swings at Eagle Corner.

But there is a giant globe in the naval park where you can finger a map of Tasmania.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Purple Nurple.

If one wanted to be positive about the 'Fixie craze', one might start graciously by saying, "At least it's got people on bikes," but we'd all know what you're really thinking is, "That's right, Muther-cluckers! Increased variation in bicycle part production means I can at last colour-coordinate my headset and seat post with my rims!" 

Because you know deep in your heart that you are wicked-awesome and that your bicycle seat post should reflect that. Nobody is fresher than you. Except perhaps your bar-tape.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Fool on the Hill.

Moving from Western Australia to Tasmania, I knew hills would become an abundant feature in my life. I considered how this would affect my ability to bicycle and thought I had things covered from the transport perspective with some very low gearing on the Jenny 7 Schwinn. I had seen the town environment before (on foot) and it was bikeable. I thought there would probably be alternative routes to any extreme inclines on my travels. I thought I had seen hills. And then I saw my new driveway.

I am not pregnant, the front of my dress is FALLING FORWARD.

I had been right about most external factors but a variable I had never considered was the dwelling itself and how easy or hard it might be to get a bicycle out of my house before I even began riding. It made me think about all the places I have lived and their varying levels of accessibility. One thing you sometimes notice riding a bike in the suburbs is just how unfriendly the world must be to people who require wheeled assistance. A number of times I have been cycling along the edge of somewhere I want to enter, endlessly looking for a break in the curb that did not force me into a busy driveway and wondering how people on gophers or in wheelchairs navigate such a car-centric environment. In this way, a two wheeled trip can occasionally highlight the more glaring deficiencies in our urban planning. Obviously, I am able-bodied and so can't speak to the experience of people who don't have a choice. There are undoubtedly a lot of other urban flaws I don't notice because they're not woven into the fabric of my everyday life as they would be for somebody with a disability. After all, when I get sick of looking for the ramp I can always lift my bicycle over the curb. In this regard, I know am lucky. At least infrastructure is something we can hope to change. Geography cannot always be helped.

"Does this slope make my butt look b- Wait. Stupid question."
P.S. Photo not even taken from the bottom…of the driveway.
It's much bigger in real life. So is the driveway.

The state of Tasmania is infamous for hills and my North West town is certainly no exception. My current home is at the base of a brutal hill so the pictured driveway is but a taste of the true depravity of the ascent. Fortunately, town is downhill. Physically getting a bicycle out of my house and to the top of the driveway is not too hard. It's getting back in that actually restricts my cycling activity. Bikes cannot be brought through the front door as there are more than 20 steep and curving steps followed by narrow internal stairs. Bicycles must be pushed up the last bit of hill before my house and THEN up the evil driveway. Not even Ginger's road bike made it over the initial obstacle the first few times he tried. Cycling any kind of bicycle up the driveway is physically impossible. Even driving some cars up it is impossible. Walking is a reckless act of adventure when the surface is slippery. So I cannot take the heavier Pashley out alone because I can't get it back up the driveway without spousal assistance. In this way, my cycling life has been impacted by housing choice like never before. Previous residences have had only a few steps up to the entrance, our last house we even stored the bicycles in the bedroom next to the front door for ease of access. Currently, I have to navigate several doorways and avoid scraping multiple walls just to get my bicycle to the appropriate portal. Living in such a restrictive landscape has certainly encouraged me to consider bicycle movement, housing configuration and geography in the future. It's also made me realise that if I really want to recreationally experience Tasmania from the seat of a bicycle (with bicycle touring being the eventual goal), I have to accept more gears and slightly less weight into my bicycle lifestyle.

I have to dip my toe into Roadie waters yet resist infection. Challenge accepted:

More on this mess later.