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Becoming a Melbourne Cyclist

Published on Thu, 5 March 2009

Getting Started

With the move to Essendon and new job in January I decided I’d try my hand (or feet) at riding to work. There’s a coupe of obvious benefits. Firstly its good exercise and secondly each time I ride to and from work I save about $6 in train fares. After settling into my new job for a week and loaning my brother’s now mostly unused mountain bike1 I set off one Sunday night on a trial run. I did some research online and via the Melways with my Dad to determine the route. The trial to and from work straight after each other went well so I did it for real the next day.

Laden with a backpack containing a laptop, lunch and a change of clothes amongst other things I set out into the peak hour traffic. The traffic turned out to be quite off-putting and I wasted a bit of time trying to negotiate it. Once I’d finally crossed Mt. Alexander Rd I was able to head for the Moonee Ponds Creek Trail with relative ease. Running late I pushed myself a bit and a short distance down the trail started thinking this whole riding thing was not a great idea at all and that I’d be lucky to arrive at work at all that morning. With the rushing and heavy bag it all seemed a lot harder than the trial the night before. It probably didn’t help that this was only my second bike ride of distance greater than about 200m in around 10 years.

Tracking My Rides

I did make it to work though, albeit somewhat hot and sweaty. The trip took about 40mins. Since that first day I’ve done the ride another 10 or so times, refined the route and have begun working on shortening the travel time. First I got it down to 30 mins and my best so far is 28 mins something. I track each ride using a brilliant little (free) iPhone app called Trailguru (app store link). It records my ride logging the route with GPS, the duration and distance. When I arrive at my destination I stop it recording and can then upload the ride to the companion site. Each trail gets a page where there is plot of the route on Google Maps, graphs of altitude, pace and speed as well as other stats.

Trailguru also lets you search for trails and will show others near your own. You can also take and upload photos with the iPhone app. I haven’t used that feature yet as my phone is in my bag during the ride but I’d like to get an iPhone bike mount so I can use it as a speedometer as well. You can see all my trails on my Trailguru user page.

Road Rage

Being a cyclist isn’t all fun and games though. There are of course cars to deal with. My ride shares a limited amount of time on roads and much of that has bike lanes, which is a plus. The stretches that are without a bike lane are always a little worrying though. I do my best to be a courteous road user but I’m well aware as a driver how annoying it is being stuck behind a bike, whether or not they have the right to be there. As well as keeping out of way of cars I’m also trying to be vigilant when riding beside parked cars. I can just see a door flying open right in front of me one day and causing me all sorts of grief.

I have mostly avoided any incidents with cars so far but I did have a small bout of road rage the other morning… and it was me with the rage. It totally surprised me actually. I was waiting in the far left lane to cross Mt. Alexander Rd. As far as I know this is where I’m supposed to wait but it also happens to be a left turn lane with an arrow. As I was waiting a car came up behind and tooted me. My instant, totally instinctive reaction was to fly off the handle much to the surprise of some pedestrians. I did this as I moved onto the footpath to get out of the way. Not sure where the anger came from as it even shocked me.

I’m trying to do three rides a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That gives me a break in between while I’m getting used to it and should also still be beneficial fitness wise. However I’ve only managed that once so far due to after work engagements and bad weather. Time will tell how it goes but I’m enjoying it so far.


1 Several year old GT avalanche 2.0 for those that are into such things.

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