Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

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Bike Trial

The sun wasn’t out when we woke up. I awoke with a start noticing that it was thirty minutes past my intended get-a-jump-on-the-day time. Finding Leanne at the table still in pajamas I assumed that our plans had changed. Originally we were going to be hitting the trail early (for me), biking down 40km, stopping for lunch and then turning around for another 40km back to the car. If I am to bike around Tasmania, I need a bike. And if I’m to buy a bike, I should make sure that I am really up to the challenge that is biking a reasonable distance. And so Leanne, a biker, was going to take me out to one of her favorite trails, test me, push me and see if I can handle it.

With cloud cover, a forecast with 50% chance of rain, and a high temperature of 19C (66F), she was no longer sold on the idea. And since I seemed to be more up for it as a test and less because it was supposed to be a gorgeous ride, she didn’t want to push it. We were wussing out. Given that I had been largely incapable of making a decision all weekend (I couldn’t even answer if I wanted milk in my tea), it was that much more of a shock when I said that the plan for the day was still going to be biking.

Either surprised by my initiative or due to a weak spot for bicycling, she agreed. And so dressed for the day, bikes loaded in the car, fed with starches and hydrated we headed off in the direction of my answer.

The trail started off pleasantly enough. A 3km section of slight decline – a great warm-up to kick it into the highest (or is it lowest?) gear and get some easy distance ticked off. I knew already that the last bit of trail back was going to be pretty rough. The scenery unfolded before me and I quickly appreciated why this was one of Leanne’s favorite trails. Forest at first – gum trees stretched up from both sides, over the formerly open sky above the former train tracks over which we now rode pavement. Marshland opened up next – trees providing shade over lush grass, sets made for movies of historical wars and frontier living, soundtrack provided by birds and frogs. A train car reborn as a café sat off to our right as we sailed past, on to trussed bridges and car-stopping gates.

The pastures opened up next. Freshly sheared sheep with curled horns on our right. Cows, giant deer, emus and ostriches on our left. A vineyard. All set in the foreground of a few tree-covered mountains, peaks obscured in the clouds. The clouds themselves were textured, lit up despite the lack of visible sun. And after watching the trail and scenery come at me for minutes at a time, my eye’s motion receptors tired, the waterfall effect kicked in and the clouds appeared to be moving steadily away from me, a giant vacuum in the sky pulling up the earth.

The last few kilometers started to get rough. Small gravel in my shoes and my body not yet used to bike seats, I was ready for a break. When it came and we decided that this was the turnaround point I found out that we had only gone 24 of the 40km. I didn’t disagree, but I was still a little sad that I hadn’t made it all the way. Still, 48km in 3.5 hours of biking would be a respectable amount.

So after water and meat pies we headed back. The clouds cleared slightly, the sun heated up enough to get my fleece off, and the trail back, though gorgeous, was a repeat of what we’d seen on the way down. I was no longer paying as much attention to the scenery. I was focusing on my biking technique (which is largely just trying to avoid pain). Paying attention to my hips and sit bones. Where are my feet on the pedals? And how do I keep the gears set at a level I can manage without them randomly changing? These thoughts stayed on my mind as I did the 2 hours back. It was a grind, though a pleasant one.

And in the end I made it. Nearly 50km in a few hours and I could still walk away at the end. The course around Tasmania has sections of 90km in a day, with gear. If I’m to survive it, I will need to get in better shape. But the important lesson from the day is that I can. It won’t always be easy or fun, but this is something I can do. Now I just have to ask myself the much more important question – the one I usually leave to last. Now that I know that I can, is it something that I really want?

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This entry was posted on December 15, 2011 by in Australia, Victoria (Melbourne).

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