Bike 1
Plenty of smiles at the start, but even then the clouds were building.

While there has been a distinct lack of any spectacular ballooning at the Canberra Festival this year, there hasn’t been a shortage of other activities for pilots and crew. Some pilots have even been spotted walking to the lookout at Mount Ainslie. And if that’s not physical enough there was once again a record number of participants for the social ride. This year around lake Burley Griffin.

The positive uptake for this event may have been in some respects due to the nature in which it was sold. We were told we’d depart from Questacon on an easy 10-15km cycle around the entirely flat east basin, taking in the not world heritage listed Narrabundah wetlands before having lunch at the Walt & Burley Bar in Kingston. But to quote Danny, ‘we got sold a pup’ when Dave, our super fit cycling leader, changed the plan at the last minute because of “adverse head winds.”

Our new route took us to the same watering hole but by the longer and more arduous west basin ride of 22km or so. It doesn’t sound like a lot more on paper, but when you haven’t ridden a bike for over ten years and your backside isn’t accustomed to modern bike seats, which are very hard and narrow, every extra kilometer is like purgatory. The lack of skin tight lycra clothing (a sure sign of elite athleticism no matter how lardy you are) should have been a give-away that we were embarking on a trek that would test us all to the very core. Or at least make us reassess our current fitness levels.

There is no better place to carry out such deep personal introspection than in a bar over a couple of well-earned beers. But first we had to get there. It wasn’t long before the hi-jinks and laughter gave way to silence and heavy breathing as our peloton became a long drawn out convoy of weary cyclists. A long incline behind the Governor General’s house was particularly difficult, but it did give Dave the opportunity to prove just how fit he is as he physically pushed people along from behind.

A line of black, rain filled clouds in the already overcast sky were heading inexorably our way. It was the only encouragement I needed to keep on going. In a race against nature it was a case of push on or get drenched. As we battled along the Kingston foreshore into a damp and driving head wind (should have gone via the wetlands after all) we could see the squall bearing down on us as it hurtled across the grey, choppy water.

We arrived at our destination breathless and saddle sore, but mostly dry, just as the rain began battering down around us. Still some way from our start point we were marooned. In a pub. On a rainy day.

I guarantee we had no option but to wait it out until the weather cleared. Thus followed a long period of introspective thought.

Bike 2
Bike locks can be tricky when wet, especially after a few drinks.