Recently two wannabe MWCC members – Chris Blomfield-Brown and Aaron Dunford decided that they would ride from Sydney to Melbourne on fixed gear bikes/ In a few short days they organised their trip and then sent off on their adventure. In this blog, Chris gives us an insight into their journey and if you ever want to know more be sure to ask Aaron when out on a ride, I am sure he will be happy to talk to you.
Listen to this dear – remember the story of one of my relatives that did a bike trip from Melbourne to Sydney. Well I was able to find out more when I visited the MCG museum and then received an invitation to the library where they have a lot of history on my family – especially Tom Wills founder of AFL and there is a statue of him out front.
Anyway, the librarian Trevor Ruddell showed me a book about Captain Colden Harrison’s bike trip, Colden was Tom Wills’ cousin. In 1896 Colden rode from Melbourne to Sydney in nine days to watch a cricket match. His bike at the time was a fixed wheel so no free hub and the very impressive part aside from averaging 62 miles (100k) a day on dirt roads in the heat of February – was that he was 62 years old at the time.
The first thing my wife asked after hearing the recount of Colden’s trip – ‘so do you think you could find the same form of bike he used when you do the same trip’. So that is how some adventures are born – from browsing a family tree to your wife asking if you will do the same ride on an antique bike.
So the idea was set to ride from Sydney SCG to Melbourne MCG as we thought it would be fair to do the return trip this time. We abandoned the idea of the antique bike and decided to use a fixed wheel track bike with brakes and of course no free hub. Without a free hub you have to pedal all the way, no coasting and if you stop pedaling you crash.
My good friend Aaron Dunford (FusionPeak.com.au) heard of my plans and wanted to join me especially when he realized he had to do it on a ‘fixie’. So we got together and found a date that would suit us both, well it was this coming Monday – a lot to do. Thursday I took Aaron to the velodrome as I didn’t want him learning to ride his new fixie on the roads, Sunday we borrowed some great bike frame bags from Aaron’s friend Nick.
On Monday at 5am we got dropped off at the Sydney Cricket grounds and our adventure began. It was pointed by a colleague when hearing about our unsupported journey that it was not very well planned – ‘well if it is very well planned then it’s not much of an adventure is it’. Aaron and I think along the same lines and my wife has given up and just rolls her eyes. So we are now off and it only took about 100 meters to get lost and loose the bike path. Eventually it all worked out, we discovered some new areas of the city and survived the Sydney traffic.
Colden wrote his route took him over Razorback and where he had the misfortune of hitting a stump and bent his crank. He found a local blacksmith to repair it then pressed on towards his finish. So we too decided to take the same route over Razorback on our single speed bikes and fortunately the stumps have been cleared away now.
Our uphill journey towards Goulburn was pleasant and challenging. Gearing selection is important on fixed wheel bicycle as on the flats you would like to travel at a comfortable speed, downhill you have to pedal very fast and uphill you want to still be able to pedal and not fall over. So my gear selection is from riding the flat velodrome so I started with a 48×15 making the hills memorable. Aaron had a more sensible gearing of 46×17 though on the downhill his cadence would regularly exceed 150.
Incredibly when we reached the Green Grocer in Goulburn they let us rummage through some old boxes where we found one fixed wheel sprocket – a 17! This new gear was greatly appreciated after having steadily climbed on the back roads from Sydney in a large gear. A local friend Mike Navybox showed us a beautiful but challenging back road route to Gunning where I was extremely grateful for that 17 cog grinding up those 14% gradient hills. I apologized to Mike for whatever I may have done and let him know no matter what it was we were more than even now.
After Mike’s painful back roads we had not much choice but to take the Hume Highway. As the major thoroughfare between Sydney to Melbourne with lots of intimidating trucks and traffic the new road with a large shoulder made a surprisingly enjoyable safe ride. We managed to find a few nice stops off the highway to jump in the river and chat with some locals at the pub.
Rolling into Albury we had a great reception from the Bended Elbow cycling team and Ash at Bike Culture sorted us out with some soon to be needed critical spares. Craig McMilian of the Bended Elbow cycling team graciously put us up, feed us and influenced us to drink far too much – it was really great, well until we tried functioning the following morning. They gave us some great route advice, filled us with coffee and sent us along our way.
From Albury south you can avoid almost all of the Hume Highway and have a pleasant ride through the countryside which we did. Our technique for navigating had been – ‘find which way the wind is blowing and ride into it’ failed us on the twisty roads finding ourselves in many infrequently visited areas. So in the spirit of Colden’s original epic adventure we too rode many dirt roads that day and consumed all the spares from Ash.
Our last stop found us at the Harvest Home pub in Avenel where the locals informed us of the cricket match being played the following day at the MCG. As Colden rode to Sydney to watch the cricket we thought it would be fitting us to arrive and do the same. The excitement was building and we raced on dodging the increasing traffic as we approached the MCG to conclude our 960k journey.
Outside gate one of the MCG is a statue of Tom Wills and above is the MCG library which was a great place to finish. We met with Trevor again where the library staff presented us with a copy of ‘Running with the ball’ the book that inspired us to relive Colden’s fantastic adventure. So the library not only provides a wealth of knowledge and research but the library and their staff can also inspire great adventures.
So after watching Australia’s success over South Africa we too like Colden decided the train was a sensible way to return home. In conclusion after completing a similar journey I can say with authority that Captain Colden Harrison at the age of 62 completed a truly remarkable epic cycling trip making him possibly one of Australia’s first of now many cycling legends.