Day 1: Turn Back Time

November 17, 2015
Brisbane to Ballina
Distance: 220km
Total distance: 220km

Brisbane being only 100km away from the NSW state border, it means that on the first day itself I’ll be losing an hour as I cross over to NSW with daylight savings observed. Not a big deal, I just had to start riding an hour earlier than originally planned. So I pedalled off at 4:40am. Made the 5km odd journey to Brisbane CBD because that’s the only definitive way to claim that I’ve actually started the journey from Brisbane ;) As usual, for a major ride like this, I didn’t get much sleep the night before – think I slept for only 2 hours or so. It was the constant mind chattering, but I think the excitement wins over the anxiety this time. I had some level of confidence that I would complete this ride, and a little bit of confidence is all I need really. Brief snapshots at Redacliffe Place followed by Goodwill Bridge and I’m off for the 1000km adventure!

Goodwill Bridge at about 5:10am

I feel good, no, I feel GREAT! I could barely contain the excitement, but I must not be distracted. I rode the SE Bikeway until the path ended at 17km mark, where I got onto the motor-heavy Logan Rd. I was clearly not focused enough when I took my first wrong turn only a few kilometres later. Am very grateful for the off-course navigation alert on my Garmin. While stopped at a shopping centre carpark to assess my route, I quickly put on some sunscreen. It was a humid morning and this was when I realised I should have applied the sunscreen earlier as the spewing sweat on my skin now displaces the sunscreen. Onto the mildly undulating Pacific Hwy that runs parallel to the bicycle-prohibited Pacific Motorway. Many tradies in utes and 4WDs spotted in both directions. Some appeared to be quite impatient. I tried applying lane control here but failed miserably when the drivers forced their way thru to close pass me despite tight roads, blind corners, oncoming vehicles, etc. Made a mental note to never ride on this road again at rush hour.

Mt Stapylton Weather Radar in the distant

Pacific Motorway looks relatively quiet compared to the Old Pacific Highway

After riding for about 30km, I noticed my derailleur post is tilted slightly towards the drive side. Ugh, not a good sign – it means that the boom was not fitted securely into the frame tube so the boom rotated when pressure was applied. I can even feel the asymmetry on my legs as both my feet were pointing slightly to the right. It has happened before a while back and to have this problem occurring so early on for this ride was really disappointing. Decided to fix it later at 40km when I stopped for a snack. Not the best decision. By that time, my right knee was starting to hurt due to the prolonged leg twist. I don’t know what else I can do to fix the boom rotation problem other than tightening the clamp. For the record, I never got to permanently fix this problem for the entire ride. I later learnt that not applying too much force pedalling and retightening the clamp every 50km or so seems to keep the problem from developing into a catastrophe. That was problem number 1. Problem number 2 was my seat bag occasionally touches the rear tire, which resulted in a hole on the bottom fabric of my seat bag! The reason this happened was because of the increased load in my seat bag, it sags so much that it rubs the rear wheel whenever I hit a bump. I reluctantly threw out some water to lighten the load. Next, I shoved my lightweight jacket in between the seat bag and my seat as a stopper to prevent the bag from sliding down further. I’m guessing with this summer-like heat I wouldn’t need the jacket anyway. Regarding the water, I just need to remind myself to stop more frequently to top up my bottle and hydration bladder. Problems solved!

One of the many theme parks in Gold Coast

As it was still peak hours, the traffic condition never got better until Nerang. Climbs become progressively steeper as I approach Nerang National Park. My knee pain didn’t go away but didn’t get any worse either. Oh well, only had to endure the pain for the next 950km! My next rest stop, Carrara at 82km, marks the end of the undulating terrain. The glorious beach city of Gold Coast is known for its great surfs and theme parks. But as a recumbent rider, there was only one attraction – the flat and smooth bitumen. Secondary to that was the ocean view from Miami onwards. Not long later at 112km, I crossed the state border into Tweed Heads and found myself sitting in a new time zone where the new time is now 12 noon. Might as well start adapting to the new time by calling it a lunch break! Searching for food was easy. Just as I decided to have a lunch break, a Woolworths supermarket comes up, so naturally that’s where I got my food. Took note of the high number of senior citizens out and about. A few curious eyes on my bike, rather unsurprisingly. One was very impressed seeing a recumbent for the first time and even commented that I should lock my bike securely. In reality though, no sensible bike thief would be interested to steal a recumbent.

Took a break under a tree shade at Burleigh Heads

Currumbin Creek

At Coolangatta, goodbye Queensland!

And hello New South Wales!

Somewhere in Chinderah I took a wrong turn again. Garmin alerted me of my mistake so I quickly made the U-turn and enter the road plotted in my route. Turns out the correct way is a road reserve! Grassy and gravelly, and importantly, a road sign indicating a dead end. Hmmm, can’t fully trust these online maps anymore. Thankfully, the detour added only half a kilometre. At Casuarina Beach all the way down to Pottsville, there appear to be a dedicated bike path next to the road which I happily rode it. Apparently it also goes up North all the way to Chinderah via Kingscliff, more than 20km long! How could I miss this in my route planning? Anyway, upon arriving at Pottsville (141km), it felt pretty hot even though it was only 27°C. Wet my helmet and head sleeve at a public toilet before getting back on the road. I stopped again at Brunswick Heads after only 24km as I was starving and wanted some savoury food. A crappy meat pie from a service station somewhat did the trick. Hopped onto a shared path after that and not long later the Pacific Motorway. Bicycles are allowed on motorways in NSW, which means more route options for cycle tourist like myself. Riding on footpath in NSW though is illegal, which suggests that the NSW government sees a cyclist more as a vehicle rather than a wheeled pedestrian. This short 6km section of the motorway until the exit at Woodford Ln was superb with wide and smooth shoulder.

Tweed River on the right, I got lost a couple of minutes after this shot

That awesome bike path next to Tweed Coast Rd

That spider must be high

Look at THAT!!! Cudgera Creek at Hastings Point

Puffy white clouds, blue sky, and green pastures. What more can you ask for?

Making progress

Past Ewingsdale, my bike points East where I comfortably rode in my own shadow. Approaching Byron Bay, I saw more and more people on bikes, cruiser style bikes mostly and hardly anyone wore a helmet. One even carried a surfboard while riding. The Byron Bay vibe was clearly in the air! Eventually I got onto an adjacent bike path even though the traffic was light and slow moving because why the hell not? I pretended to blend in amongst the local residents but I probably stick out like a sore thumb! The path led me to the back of some residentials and I saw these weird car icons stamped onto the path which means cars are allowed to use the path, what??? Soon I arrived at Byron Bay town centre and it’s pretty obvious now I stick out like a sore thumb! The reaction I got from people was a bit more than usual so I maintained a poker face and couldn’t be bothered stopping to refuel. But I must admit it was quite nice to watch people chilling out at the beach, just having a good time with friends, or strangers. Rode past a group of twenty something seated in a circle with this dude playing some jazzy tunes on an acoustic guitar. Vivre la vie!

Seriously, why is this still call a path when cars are allowed on it???

The 100m climb up Cape Byron Lighthouse reminded me of my tired legs. Thought I was the only one crazy enough to ride a bike up, was surprised to see 5 other riders that did the climb in the time I was at the lighthouse, all on ordinary town bikes mind you! The stunning vista reminded me why I took this climb, it was worth every drop of sweat. With only about 30km to Ballina where I have a motel room booked prior, I took my time to soak in the view and enjoy the sea breeze. Silly me, I underestimated how much time I needed to make that relatively short journey to Ballina. I have completely forgotten about the afternoon rush hour, riding becomes stressful once again, now with bumpy roads and narrow shoulders thrown in. That 30km took me more than 1.5 hours, including a brief rest stop at Pat Morton Lookout. The coast road from Lennox Head onwards was sharply undulated thru out.

Cape Byron Lighthouse

View from up here never fail to amaze me!

Windy up here too!

Pat Morton Lookout, what am I seeing?

This! :)

Eventually I arrived at Ballina at precisely 12 hours since I left Brisbane, and clocked 220km. After a quick shower, I took a short walk to the town centre to find food. Disappointingly, I discovered that my knee problem extends to the walking motion too. Had dinner, shopped for breakfast for the next day, and grabbed an ice bag on my way back to the motel. This would be the first time I iced my legs after a long ride. Time will tell if this good old treatment works. Although I do carry them, I have so far resisted from taking any painkillers. I wanted to check out more on the route that I planned for tomorrow, but fell asleep with my smart phone still on my palm. Overall it was a good first day of riding. A great sense of freedom was felt, and this very personal feeling brought me back to the great memories of the 2011 tour across Australia – as if I had travelled back in time.

The Machine performed solidly today but the engine needs a bit attention

Strava ride profile

2 responses

  1. Roger Chandler
    9 Feb 16

    Well done Melvin!
    It really pays to get All the little bugs out of your bike before you take off. That boom shift was a bad one! Do you have a regular stretching regime? When I first started to tour I neglected to stretch because the other important things like getting a meal and setting up for a night always took preference. I then began to suffer cramps after s couple of hours. I got into the habit of stretching hammies, calves and glutes every 20-40k.
    You’ll find your body will get into the rythm of things after a few days…..then it will be all over!

    • melvyn
      19 Feb 16

      Thanks Roger! Noted regarding the stretching regime. I have no issues with cramping on any rides though. My biggest problem is muscle fatigue. The ice pack really helped speed up recovery but I think a better (long term) solution is to train up.

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