Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Marvellous Maribyrnong

Jules and my latest expedition has been up the Maribyrnong River Trail

As Jules comes from Croydon and I live in Geelong, we decided to meet in the middle again at Southern Cross Station. This time, (on my neighbour's advice), I took the 7:27 am train to Melbourne. The advantage of this train is that it starts at Geelong station, so if you get there early, you can load the bike at your leisure. Much easier when the bike is takes up most of the bike rack in those VLocity trains. The downside is that it leaves from platform 3, so you need a VLine employee to get you across the train lines. It also arrives on platform 12, so you need to take the lift up to get out of the station. (You get some nasty looks from people as it takes up most of the lift.)

Jules and I set off and had coffee in Docklands at the same place as when we did the Capital City Trail. This seems to be about the only place open in Docklands at this time (9:30 am) - talk about tumbleweeds - the place is deserted.

Then we set off to find the mighty Maribrynong aided only by a color print-out from Google maps. (This turned out to pretty useless and we need to find a better system for the future if we are to have any hope of finding our way around unaided by the kindness of strangers.)

We cycled past Costco and along Footscray Road past the docks until we reached the Maribyrnong. (That is a hard word to spell!)

The Gazelles by the Maribynong in Footscray

Our first stop was in front of a Blacksmith's in Footscray. They were getting ready for the inaugural the International Blacksmith’s Festival run by the Waterside Metal Art Workers. The fellow we were chatting to told us they had three blacksmiths out from Belgium and were running classes all this week. (I notice the festival was promoting Craft Belgium Beers, so I wonder if they imported this too?)

Inside the blacksmtihs - sorry for the blurred pic, I must have moved.

There was a great metal seat nearby which we assume was an example of their work.

Just outside the blacksmiths we saw this child-friendly bike. Looks like one child sits on the pack-rack seat and one sits in the child seat.

And just past the bike - a milk crate Federation Arch?

Sculpture on the river

A bit further up the trail, there was a detour sign, but we thought we'd see how far we could go. I've always been interested to see the Heavenly Queen Temple close up.

As it turned out the trail was closed just past the temple (supposedly until April 30 2013). We had to double-back and cut through Footscray before rejoining the trail at Footscray Park near Flemington Racetrack. I've made this sound easy, but really it took us ages to figure out where to go. A couple more signs would be helpful - take note Footscray Council.

The ride along the river here was very pleasant There were nice wide paths and very interesting views. I am not familiar with this part of Melbourne at all and it was a really fascinating. Lots of new developments as well as a good mix of old and new houses. (Many had boat ramps.)

New developments on one side of the river

Looking towards the other side of the river 

The Angler's Tavern was a bit further up the trail and I went in to check it our as a possible lunch venue. I was not impressed. It is a big barn of a place in need of a paint. The toilets are in poor condition and not recommended 3/10. However my view of the Angler's Tavern may be jaundiced by the young girl at the bar offering me the Senior's menu! (I still have five years to go...)

So onward we went to Ascot Vale and into the Afton Street Conservation Park Wetland. This runs by the river and also includes a very steep hill with sweeping views of Melbourne. The track here was gravel and because it was very steep, it was quite nerve-racking to ride (both up and down). However, with a bit of pushing, we made the top and were rewarded with a great vista of the Department of Defence bunkers and Melbourne in the distance.

DOD land in foreground - that land must be worth big money.
I'm surprised it hasn't been sold off.

Looking back the other way.

Continuing on, we came to what we figured must be a difficult climb.

It was, in fact, a climb up a very steep hill with lots of switchbacks. No problem for the Gazelles but I wouldn't want to do it on my Trek.

A bit hard to see the switchbacks but there were lots.

The view from the top was pretty good.

Top of Alpe D'Huez (de Ascot Vale)

This was basically the end of our ride out. We realised if we continued on we wouldn't manage to fit in lunch (very important) and still catch the off-peak train.

We rode back on the other side of the river and mentally noted The Boathouse as a possible lunch place in the future. We chatted with some patrons there who were admiring the Gazelles - obviously people of taste - and they said it was very good. (Actually in looking for the link to 'The Boathouse', I've realised it is Gary Mehigan's (of Masterchef fame) restaurant. I want to go!!!)

The bike path on this side of the river comes and goes. If you look at our Strava ride you will see we went inboard a bit before rejoining the trail. But this side of the river had one advantage from the trail on the other side. It had a temporary pontoon allowing you to get past the construction works - no detour necessary.

We had an OK lunch in North Melbourne and then back on the train. I had to leave my bike in the conductor's carriage, but I made sure to lie it down for the trip. No damage this time - hooray!

Ride Details:
  • Ride about 36 km, flat
  • Very windy
  • Used one bar of the Gold battery at 24 km.
  • Riding with no regard to battery conservation.

You can view the ride on Strava here.

Number of Replaced
Car Trips
Total Distance

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Short ride, long lunch

The title says it all! This is really my sort of ride. J

On Sunday, a group of us met up in East Geelong and rode to Leura Park Estate winery for lunch. Now the distance from our house to the winery is only about 18 km. So I could have ridden my Trek, but I choose to ride the pedelec as it makes the day so much easier. My fellow cyclists were on 'normal' bikes, so as a whole our group had lots of exercise!

There was a strong crosswind on the ride along the Bellarine Rail Trail and I was a bit worried about having lunch outdoors at Leura Park. However, the tasting rooms blocked the wind and made sitting outside very pleasant.

Cyclists who lunch
The food was perfect for a light lunch. Some of us ordered the gourmet pizzas which were very tasty, although a bit heavy on the cheese. Others ordered the steak sandwich which looked delicious. 

Toilets were clean, 7/10, but there are only three of them: ladies, mens and disabled. No mirror in the disabled toilet.

After a very convivial lunch, we headed back onto the rail trail. The crosswind was still strong, but at least it wasn't raining.

On the way back, one of our group had a puncture. This required a lot of supervision by the rest to us to get changed.

Are you doing this correctly?

It was lucky it was a normal tyre that had a puncture because the Gazelle tyre is much harder to change. (See Rolling with the punctures to find out just how difficult it is.) Also I realised that I had left my puncture kit at home - so that would have made it even harder!

All in all a great day and other lunch rides could be on the cards.

Ride Details:
  • Ride about 36 km, flat
  • Very bad crosswind.
  • Used two bars of the Gold battery at 34 km.
  • Riding with no regard to battery conservation.
It is interesting to compare the above with the other Leura Park ride. That ride was longer (46 km) and was also windy. However, that time I was riding to conserve battery, so I only ticked over the second bar at 46 km. It's amazing what a bit of legs can do!

Number of Replaced
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Total Distance

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Getting off track (with an iPhone app)

On our trip from the CBD to Carrum, Mr Aggy suggested that we could have lunch at the Brown Cow in Small Street, Hampton. Now Small Street runs into Beach Road, so theoretically we could have kept an eye out for the street from the bike path (which runs along Beach Road).

However, I have an iPhone, and I thought that there must be a proximity app. that would sound an alarm when we needed to leave the trail.

I tried a couple of freebie apps, but I didn't like them, so I decided to risk $3(!) and downloaded Last Stop

This proved to be just what I wanted. I can type in my desired location and then I can set my proximity alarm to sound at any distance from 50 m to 9999 m. 

So on our ride, I set an alarm for Small St Hampton and then made sure that the proximity range included the bike path. The proximity range is shown as a circle on the map, so it was easy to see where it intersected the bike path. 

This worked like a charm! As we rode along the bike path in Hampton the alarm sounded and we knew to look for the Small Street turn-off.

Setting an alarm does seem to chew up battery power, so I suggest that you use a Mophie Juice Pack if you are going on a long ride.

I think that Last Stop will be really good for directionally-challenged people like me, as I can set alarms at all the crucial points on a bike trail to make sure I don't make a wrong turn. 

Good theory anyway!

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Monday, 11 March 2013

Melbourne CBD to Carrum

The other day Jules and I went on a tour of the beachside suburbs of Melbourne. Mr Aggy had agreed to pick us up so we could plan a one-way trip and ride without too many concerns about battery power. (He only had to go 50 km out of his way...)

We met in the CBD at the train station. It was a miserable day in Melbourne, pouring with rain. Not at all what we have been used to! We even had someone come up to us and tell us it was too wet to ride that day and hadn't we checked the forecast? 

But undeterred by this negative outlook, we set off. Our first task was to find the Sandridge Rail Trail. I had quite specific instructions from Mr Aggy and a map, but of course I got lost. I had to call Mr Aggy for help three times for further instructions.

We finally found the trail and had a wet, but enjoyable, ride down to Station Pier via Beacon Cove. I really like this suburb - really nice, lots of trees and great houses.

Our first stop was at Station Pier for coffee. We were quite wet at this stage, but it was also quite warm, so we weren't cold.

As you can see, I'm wearing a cape. I bought this at Ausbike last year from Cyclette. The cape was marvellous for protecting the upper body, but my legs got pretty wet. Jules also commented that it needs some fluorescent tape on the back, as I was not very visible on the road.

I'm also wearing a new Rockinoggin over my helmet which is waterproof! I had put it on my helmet at the last minute before leaving home and I was so thankful I did. My hair kept dry the whole day - while Jules described her hair as the 'drowned rat' look. For those of you that want dry hair while riding this winter, the Rockinoggin style is 'Windy' and the link is here. (Jules was so impressed she is going to order one for herself.)

After coffee we had a bit of a tour around station pier and looked at the ferry to Tasmania.

Then off down the beach. What a great trail. An absolute must for a cycling 'To Do' list. And while it was raining, I think that worked in our favour as there was hardly anyone around.

Our lunch stop was at Hampton at the Brown Cow cafe. This was a good choice as it had bike racks out the front, the food was good, the staff were really friendly and helpful and the toilets were clean (8/10). I'd go back there again.

At Beaumaris we had to leave the beachside as the trail is being constructed. We didn't feel too confident about riding on the road there as the bike lane was either non-existent or too narrow, so we went on the footpath for a while.

And surprise, surprise, at this stage the sun came out and we were started to dry out.  It made the trip along the beach much more pleasant and we even had to break out the sunscreen. (Well it is Melbourne, if you don't like the weather, just wait 5 minutes.)

Great beach views
The beach path took us onto Mordialloc (nice looking pub, but no time to stop - we were on a mission). 

At Mordialloc, the bike path heads inland to Carrum. We got slightly confused here trying to find Browns Lane and the Long Beach Trail. We managed to find it for a while and had a nice ride through the wetlands, but then we got lost again. We ended up riding into Carrum along Station Road (a busy road, not recommended.)

At Carrum we chatted with a lovely man who was riding his Ezy Commuter folding electric bike. He and his wife ride them everywhere and take them on their travels. Interestingly he said that he was not allowed to take the bike's battery on a plane, even though he believes that it is the same battery that is in a mobility scooter and you can take that battery on a plane.

We then rode up and looked at the National Rowing Centre which is quite impressive. On the way there, you ride over a series of locks. These locks join the lagoons at Paterson Lakes to Carrum. Looks like a nice place to live.

Our final stop for the day was at The Cove Hotel in Patterson Lakes. This is quite unimpressive from the outside with no bike parking. However it opens up onto the water on the inside and is very pleasant.

Ride Details:
  • Ride about 54 km, flat, no wind
  • Riding with little regard to battery conservation
  • One bar used of Gold battery used at 23 km (Hampton)
  • Two bars used at 39 km
  • Three bars used at 51 km (Carrum).

You can view the ride on Strava here.

Number of Replaced
Car Trips
Total Distance

(It has been pretty hot here, so I've been taking the car a bit lately.)

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

VLine 'screws up' mudguard

Well I'm blaming my latest bike problem on VLine for damaging my bike.

The other day I was riding along and suddenly, the front mudguard parted.

It seemed that the screw that was holding the two parts of the mudguard together had fallen out. (I assume this was a product of VLine dropping the bike.)

I needed to go out, so I had a quick think - blue tac to the rescue!

When I got home again, I rang Sean at MySpokes, and he kindly sent me some photos of what the screw I needed looked like. He also gave Mr Aggy some pointers on how to replace it.

Next to a ten cent piece

Screw in situ
Mr Aggy had a look around for a similar screw, but alas, we didn't have one. So onto MySpokes again and John put one in the mail. (How helpful is this bike shop - I wish it was local!)

Mr Aggy then had the tricky task of fixing the mudguard. He had to let down the tyre to have enough room to screw it in. 

Mudguard fixed!

But oh dear, I just went to turn on the Gazelle, and the battery is OK, but the controller doesn't work. Clearly we have mucked something up with our repairs. L

Stay tuned, I'll be calling MySpokes first thing in the morning. Looks like another trip up to Mooroolbark may be on the cards. 

Update: Sean talked me through it and all is OK. Thanks Sean!

Number of Replaced
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Total Distance