December 29th, 2010 · Emily - Sydney · 1 Comment
As I watch the final days of December dissolve from my sunny backyard, and 2011 beckons on the horizon, like an alarm just moments from eruption, I am compelled to reflect on what has been. In preparation for walking – or perhaps stumbling, as the case may be – through the pearly gates of New Years eve, I have collected a few things for the journey; things I don’t want to forget among the bubbles and New Year’s resolutions to doing things differently. In fact I’ve made a list: The 20 defining moments of 2011. Conscious of not being so indulgent and boring as a newly returned traveller with a 5 Gb memory card full of ‘you had to be there’ photos, I have culled my list down to only those moments related to bikes, which happen to account for exactly half of my list of 20; an equation that speaks volumes about the role of bikes and bike riding in my world.
Please note, the following items are not arranged in any kind of temporal and meaning-based order, they simply appear on the page as they do in my mind; randomly, and beautifully.
- Meeting Felicity, a fellow female mountain biker, in a serendipitous moment on the manly ferry
- Making it down my first ever downhill run at Thredbo, not only in one piece, but also donning a smile wider than a set of deep Vs – best feeling ever!
- Selling my first fixie
- Buying my first Yetti
- Crashing thigh first – then elbow, then shoulder – into the bark strewn embankment of the Ourimbah mountain bike trail, not once, not twice, but four times over.
- Crossing the line first at the final round of the Rocky Trail Entertainment GP4 hour series
- Pedaling over to Manly Dam (a local mtb trail) late one afternoon for a very productive impromptu skills session with my mate Felicity
- Throwing my bike into the dirt halfway through an unwilling 4am lap at the Scott 24 hour race in a tantrum to rival the most obnoxious two year old
- The fleeting moment during a race at round 3 of the state series 4x when I was coming equal third . It was a rare moment when, for once, I wasn’t admiring the other competitors from a distance
- Chasing the Wednesday night fixie crew back from La Perouse one particularly chilly evening, my legs spinning faster than I thought humanly possible, with the city in my sights and my partner by side
So there you have it, a year of riding distilled into 10 single moments… Have a go yourself, immortalise those precious riding memories from 2010 before they morph into a yet another year of bikes and rides.
December 8th, 2010 · Emily - Sydney · 4 Comments
Girls who ride bikes, no matter their weapon of choice – be it fixie, mountain bike, roadie, or some other two wheeled machine – are likely to encounter moments where they are compelled to ‘man up’. This can be a little confusing and challenging for a girl, who a) is not a man, and b) has certain physical and social barriers – both real and perceived – stacked up against them. I found myself in such a pickle on the weekend, contemplating a drop off at a local mountain bike trail here in Sydney, and thought I’d share my experience…
I peer over the edge of A-Line at Ourimbah, contemplating my first serious attempt at the drop off. I roll my bike through the motions, carving directions in the dirt of where it needs to go. My legs are shaking; my heart makes itself known to my chest, thumping like a tantrum. Commitment abandons me, and then returns, in waves of hesitation. It is at this point I long for bravado, for confidence, for ‘balls’. It’s not that I don’t know what to do – approach slowly, lean back and stay off the brakes – but rather that something else (fear perhaps?) is holding me back. There is no rationality to my fear; the drop isn’t that big, and requires little more than commitment and careful line choice. One might be persuaded, as many are, that this is one of the shortcomings of being a girl; but that doesn’t make sense in light of all the times when being a girl has aided me in acts of courage. Perhaps my fear is the legacy of that silly stack I had yesterday? Possibly. But surely there’s more to it than that.
Evolution would have it that my knocking knees and sweaty grips aren’t the product of my gender, or the legacy of previous stacks, but rather the result of something biological: Fear. Fear is, for the most part, a functional emotion. The unfortunate thing for us mountain bikers is that it functions to preserve life; not to help you do drops or clear jumps. To achieve the latter, one must bypass the evolutionary urge to procure safety, and instead proceed to scare the shit of themselves.
After much rehearsing, wavering and contemplating, I managed to ‘suck it up’ and successfully drop off A-Line. But I’ll be damned if I learnt anything about overcoming fear in the process. I went back to the drop off later that day to prove to myself that my earlier efforts were not just a fluke. But I couldn’t for the life of me conjure up whatever processes or strategies got me over it the first time. I guess I just wasn’t ‘feeling it’. Despite this failed second attempt, I didn’t ride away feeling defeated; just confused, and curious. What happened – or didn’t happen – that second time? I can’t say I have the answer, but I can say I will be heading back to A-Line to find out. While I may not always be able to call upon bravado and “balls” in the face of a challenge, I can always rely on my curiosity and commitment to keep on trying.
November 25th, 2010 · Emily - Sydney · 1 Comment
As the barometer nudges 30 (C) here in Sydney, and my racing calendar empties out, I realise it’s time to get back on the fixie for some balmy night riding. It’s time to scream down Anzac Parade in shorts and a singlet, with the heat of the day rising up through your tyres and sweat trickling down your brows. It’s time for late night frozen yoghurt, and a post ride dive in the ocean.
Sydney has its flaws; it’s true. But amongst the dodgy ‘bike lanes’ and river rapids of angry, incompetent drivers, is a summer climate and general atmosphere of merriment like no other. I’ll cop a bit of sweat and abuse on the road for a sunset journey down to Bondi, along the sparkling coastline of the eastern suburbs. If, like me, ‘life’ and other distractions have somehow pulled you away from your fixie of late, then take this opportunity to get re-acquainted. Huck yourself over your frame, dig into those straps, and hurl yourself down your favourite route. Catch a glimpse of the evening sunset and inhale a bouquet of jasmine flowers while you’re at it. And if you see me screaming past, grin wider than your Deep V rims, say g’day. If however, you happen to be thousands of miles from the harbour city, staring down the barrel of a white Christmas, don’t despair; donning a pair of woollen gloves and fluffy hoody, and breaking through the frost with the heat of your breath, is just as good a reason to get out on your bike. Happy riding
July 7th, 2010 · Emily - Sydney · No Comments
Birthdays are a time for celebration; a time to get together with mates for cake and beer; a time to lament the passing of youth; or, as was the case for me this year, a time to throw myself into a four hour spiral of mountain biking fun (and pain). My partner graciously agreed to the birthday plan, and entered with me in the four hour solo category of round one of the Rocky Trail Entertainment MTB Grand Prix Series.
I was well prepared; I had my layers of bike clothes carefully arranged in my CamelBak and a buffet of race snacks and drinks set out on the bench. Yet all this preparation went completely out the window, when, in true ‘Jay and Em’ style, we rocked up to the race incredibly late. Registration had closed twenty minutes ago, and the racers were assembled at the start line ready to go. Thankfully the organisers forgave our tardiness and gave us our plates; although nothing could really rectify the fact that I was still putting on my arm warmers when the rest of the four hour solo crew headed out into the bush. Rattled, I threw whatever nutrients I could find – which constituted a single pack of caffeinated energy jellies – and sprinted to the start line. The commentator saw me bumbling through the start line, and was kind enough to give me a push as I threw myself onto the trail.
Despite the hectic start, the first lap was pretty slow going, like being stuck in Sydney traffic on a Sunday; every time a section of track opened up before me, I’d turn a corner into a sea of riders. There were the cruisers, happy to take their time; there were drag style racers, dead set on flattening anyone in their path; and there were the riders who sat somewhere in the middle, patiently waiting behind the cruisers, much to the frustration of the drag style racers. It was the only point in the race were camaraderie was eclipsed by poor sportsmanship. I had one guy so hell bent on getting passed me, that he lunged at the first centimeter-wide gap he saw and ended up tumbling (and cursing) into the trees. I couldn’t help but giggle
The next three laps were a glorious, mystical blur. The track was so flowy I hardly noticed the up hill sections; and so hard packed I could curve through the bends at crazy-fun speeds. It was seriously like a roller coaster; a thrilling series of up and downs.
It was until the fifth lap that the up hill sections started to differentiate themselves from their down hill counterparts. By the sixth lap, what had seemed like a seamless roller coaster, became more like a trek through the mountains. The tight feeling in my thighs was probably exacerbated by the fact that despite my pre-race good intentions I had not stopped to eat or drink any of the energy-filled items from my homemade buffet. I had a chomped down a few of the energy jellies, but they were doing little more than making me shake and leaving a sugar sweet taste in my mouth.
During the sixth lap I convinced myself that this would be it; that I would pass through the finish line after the four hour cut off period to a pat on the back and some gatorade. So when I saw Jay cruise through the transition area back into the bush, my heart sunk. For the first half of my seventh lap, I was convinced I would either fall off or faint before making it back to the finish. I am well versed in the art of crashing – even when I am satiated and well rested – so I expected a spectacular spill of some kind. But I didn’t crash, or faint, but rather bumbled along to the finish line, stopping once or twice to give a brief pep talk to my sore and tired legs. Once past the finish line, I bee-lined straight to the car to sample my homemade food and replace the army of electrolytes I had shed along the way.
Now I am more of the ‘have fun and give it a go’ type racer, than the ‘I want to blitz the competition and get on the podium’ type racer. So when I heard over the loud speaker that I had come second, I was a bit taken a back. Surely someone had made a mistake. But sure enough, come ceremony time, they called me up to get my second place certificate and bottle of European vodka. Stoked.
As I nursed my show bag of prizes – and sore legs – on the way home in the car, I pondered the role of bike riding in my world. At 28 years of age, I feel privileged to share my time, my living room and my birthday with my bikes.
That's me on the left - all smiles
June 29th, 2010 · Emily - Sydney · No Comments
Ever get that buzz after a ride where you head spins and your muscles twitch as you replay the details over in your mind? Me too… Channeling this energy into something constructive – other than beer infused conversations at the pub – has become a bit of a pastime for me. The obvious place for all these thoughts and recollections is my notepad, and a lot of the time that’s where they remain. Other times they migrate to the recycling bin, and every so often they end up here in a post, or in my zine, Open Mic. Open Mic 3, like me, is completely devoted to bikes of all kinds, be they the XC, fixie, downhill, vintage, 4X or indeed any other variety. The whole point of the zine, other than acting as a dart board for my reeling mind, is to keep a record of all the rides, races, and general bike shenanigans I have been privileged enough to be apart of. Open Mic 3 is now available on the Candy Cranks shop for $5 plus postage. Check it out.
Here’s one of the pieces from the zine, which is a poetic tribute of sorts to my beautiful 1970′s lady’s speedwell.
My Ladies Bike and I
Let me introduce my lady;
She upholds style while others are fading.
Ideal for cruising or promenading,
Sheʼs a mixture of chrome and retro-red shading.
I wouldnʼt part with her no matter what you paid me.
She is undeniably ʻclassicʼ, sleek lines with three gears.
Sheʼs more like Audrey Hepburn than Britney Spears.
A joy to peddle, a pleasure to steer,
You wouldnʼt believe sheʼs in her 30th year.
Nothing beats that feeling, the wind through my hair,
As she dances down the footpath like Fred Estair,
Her saddle, a thrown for my derriere.
If she was a car sheʼd be a Chevvy Bel air.
My ladyʼs bike and I make a hell of a pair.
My beautiful bike is ten times a car,
She ushers me through the spiralling paths
And delivers me safe to the front of the bar,
As I pity the drivers that search for a park,
Pollution and headlights illuminating the dark,
Drivers that curse, and engines that bark,
Cars swallowed by trafﬁc, like ﬁsh enveloped by sharks.
And when I emerge, a little bit drunk,
She peers up from the footpath with nothing but love.
I straddle her frame armed with inﬁnite trust,
And we bomb down King St. like crims on the run.
This is not transportation, but an act of pure love.
Now weʼre dodging cars, prams and drunks,
Each obstacle swerved is a victory won.
Cars try to pass, but we edge out in front,
Uptight drivers yelling ʻwatch where ya goinʼ, ya cuntʼ.
The ride is wilder than African tiger,
My inhibition is lost but I donʼt bother to ﬁnd her.
My ladyʼs bike leaves the cars and the city behind her.
We slow down to a roll, homeʼs in our sights,
We surrender ourselves to the depths of night.
She caresses my doorstep, Iʼm still gripping on tight,
As I thank my beauty for one hell of a ride.
Love swells and mingles with admiration and pride;
We are a match made in heaven, my ladyʼs bike and I.
Tags:art · bicycles · fun · poetry · quirky · ride · urban
June 20th, 2010 · Emily - Sydney · No Comments
Ever since I emerged from high school, the days seem to be getter shorter. The boundless expanse that once was the weekend, now feels more like a brief moment. As a 10 year-old my typical Satuday didn’t involve any plans or to-do lists, and yet I always managed to accomplish so much; building a cubby house out of old blankets and mattresses, hiking the local hill to get gelato, and collecting random insects for closer inspection and possible pets. I knew nothing of alarm clocks or deadlines; the only indicators of time I knew were hunger and daylight.
As an adult, there are few things that can cut through the malaise of over burdened schedules and responsibilities; bike riding with mates is one of them.
Other than meeting at the Manly ferry at 0930 and heading in the general direction of the Manly Dam trail, my mate and I had absolutely zero plans today. We weren’t out to do a certain number of laps, clock a certain time or reach a certain speed; we did have our sights set on making it up this techy boulder section, but that was more of a personal goal than it was an item on a to-do list. We left our adult sensibilities at home and giggled as we splashed through mud, grunted as we launched our bikes up rocks, and cheered as we conquered new sections. We stopped and sessioned spots on the trail until we mastered them, or got tired trying. I’m sure the throng of riders that passed us marching back forth to one particular constellation of boulders must have thought we were a tad odd, as I am sure did the lycra-clad speed demon who crossed our paths right at the moment we simultaneously declared, out loud, how much we loved our bikes. A war could have been raging back in civilization for all we knew; we were oblivious to everything except the trail ahead. It was only when we started getting hungry and tired did we think about heading home. The ride back just another opportunity for adventure; we bombed down hills all tucked up like a folded umbrella, chatted incessantly about nothing, and planned future rides to far off trails.
After I parked my muddy-as bike, and used the full force of the shower to pressure clean the dirt from underneath my fingernails, I sat in my backyard with a bowl of fruit and thought about how incredibly lucky I was to have my very own time machine; a bike that could instantly transport me to a time 17 years ago when having fun was the first and only item on my to-do list.
June 11th, 2010 · Emily - Sydney · 4 Comments
Some days, as a bike rider, it’s hard not to think the world’s against you; cars leave you gaps no thicker than a whisker, pedestrians shout you off trails, paths and banks, and building owners refuse you any space to lock up your ride. This is not always the case, but today it most certainly was. I had a bus sidle up next to me as if he were a teenage boy making a move in the back seat of a car; I had a car blatantly turn right in front of me despite the bright fluro green circle glaring in my direction, and the red one glaring in his; and I had a ‘oh-so-lovely’ note from a ‘business manager’ telling me “do not park your bike here” (‘here’ being precisely where I was told to park my bike in the first place). What was perhaps the most perturbing part of my day was the confused look I received from the ‘building manager’ when I told him “no, I will not leave my bike unlocked, outside, unattended”. Funny how I don’t think leaving my $3000+ bike unlocked in clear view of random passersby is a reasonable proposition.
Yes, I realise I sound a little bitter; a little jaded; a little snobbish perhaps? I also realise that I, myself, have provided ample inspiration for many a “I hate bike riders” rant among Sydney motorists and building owners, but as a bike rider I am more vulnerable than these people; it is the rider, not the motorist, who will suffer irreversible facial disfiguration if a car door suddenly bursts open in a bike lane; it is my source of transportation, well-being and bank account that will be under serious threat if my bike is stolen outside a building; it is my livelihood that will be compromised should I failed to negotiate the millimeter wide gap between an over-eager bus and a poorly parked car.
But what is the solution? Rants are all very good for venting frustration and regaining dignity, but what precisely do I propose to amend this situation: Sanctioned bike lanes that don’t also double as car parking, rubbish dumping and dog walking thoroughfares? A cyclist awareness campaign for motorists? A plastic bubble separating me and my bike from the perils of the world? Although appealing, these suggestions will only go part of the way to fixing the problem – eventually bike lanes will run out and spit you back into the world of traffic, awareness campaigns are unlikely to erode the solid foundations of anti-cyclist sentiment and plain naivety currently haloing the Sydney public, and as for the bubble, well that was really a credible suggestion, I just like dishing out ideas in groups of three. So back to square one. The only real progress I can see us making in the decline of non self-inflicted cycling injuries, and terrifying near-misses, is to better equip bike riders to deal with whatever comes up. Become an expert at navigating gaps in traffic, kicking down swinging car doors, locking up bikes to whatever stable object you can find. Am I proposing you ride like a maniac? Not exactly, riding like a maniac can be fun in the peace of the bush or the quiet of deserted city streets, but I wouldn’t recommended as an every approach to cycling. What I would recommend is riding defensively and assertively, taking advantage of riding in a bunch, and learning to avert disaster where possible.
Ok, so this wasn’t meant to read like an advice column, and it certainly wasn’t meant to come across as holier than thou; though I fear it does both. Really, I just had the shits and felt like sharing what I believe to be a common state of frustration among fellow riders…
June 3rd, 2010 · Emily - Sydney · 3 Comments
All types rocked up to the Melburn Roobaix,
Bikes spread out like courses at a casino buffet,
With both practical and comical outfits on display,
The two cows on a tandem taking the cake.
The Melbourne skies conveyed a pale shade of grey,
The hopes of riders enough to keep the rain at bay.
The start line was adorned with lyrca, gears, and suspension.
This was by no means a fixie convention,
Which I believe was precisely the organiser’s intention;
To welcome all riders, no matter what their dimensions.
Us Sydney crew met up and banded together,
Lamenting our hometown and cursing the weather,
And those bloody cobble stones that went on forever!
The locals didn’t seem to mind however,
“So we have four seasons in one day? Whatever…”
They said armed with layers – oh how very clever!
Hunger pains set in about half way through,
And the lure of Brunswick St was too good to refuse.
There were Souvlakis to eat, and shops to peruse,
And so Jay and I made the call to part from our crew.
After lunch was devoured, and debt accrued,
We rejoined the ride; energy renewed.
We still managed to (almost) complete the map,
With some help from the locals, who kept us on track;
Cuz for us Sydney folk, who didn’t know the traps,
Some sectors were as hard to find as a needle in a haystack.
Oh, and did I mention I gave the velodrome a crack?
Despite my reluctance, and fear that I’d crash.
In true Melbourne style the ride finished at a pub
Punters downing beers and lapping up grub,
And bonding as if they belonged to a club.
There were stories to swap, and shoulders to rub.
But man it was smelly – 400 riders in need of a scrub;
Me personally dreaming of a date with a hot tub.
But there was no rest for the wicked; we had a plane to get.
Our weekend of riding was not over yet!
As exhaustion and thigh burn took effect,
Our plan to ride to the airport became a source of regret.
But after a brief pep talk to my legs
I got over the hump and set out again.
As our plane took off, and Melbourne drifted away,
And a sinking sun framed the end of the day,
My energy really began to fray,
Memories swelled and mingled with sweat and pain.
But nonetheless on a high that dwarfed our plane,
As I recounted the beauty of the Melburn Roobaix.
May 24th, 2010 · Emily - Sydney · 1 Comment
It’s Sunday, and it’s pissing down with rain. I made an attempt to visit the Sydney zine fair today in the hopes of sampling some literary and crafty goodness, but all I sampled were drips from raincoats, and a glimpse of some zines through the gaps between furry coats and scarves. Disillusioned, and with only one zine in my otherwise empty book bag, I trundled home through puddles and city crowds. With no hope of riding, and a free afternoon, I figured it was about time I addressed my waning responsibility as a Candy Cranks author…
Red Ass ACT/NSW State 4x and dual slalom series
Despite my firm commitment to befriending danger, the two of us are still far from best mates. Heights, speed and physical contact, although nuzzling their way into my vocabulary, are not yet staple features of my existence. So completing the NSW state 4X and dual slalom series this year was, for this inherently timid and woosy girl, a definite achievement. I was challenged, scared and thrust consistently out of my comfort zone; but that was precisely the point. In fact, confronting some kind of danger – be it the rock garden at the Ebeneza track, the log drops at the Stromlo track, or the tight corners at the Homebush track – was the only consistency among races, otherwise each one was entirely different. Some tracks were smooth and fast, paving certain victory for the BMX kids; some were rough and rock strewn, paving the way for some incredible stacks; and some were just downright big and intimidating, paving the way for some massive jumps and freestyle prowess. Me? I rolled over the lot of it, tortoise style; slow and consistent. Sure, this approach didn’t lend itself to victory, but when your competing in a women’s Elite class of two, winning isn’t so important. No matter what, I was going to come in second; and I did, every race, without fail.
Amongst all the jumps, dirt, puddles and second place ribbons, I fell in love with the sport; adding yet another genre of bike riding to my ever expanding sorority of cycling pursuits. It wasn’t just the racing, the sick bikes, or relief at making it to the end in one piece that was so captivating, it was also the beauty of the scene. The riders, the supporters, and organisers were such a super-friendly, super-committed, super-inspiring bunch of people. The crew spanned all ages, from the under 13 whipper snappers right through to the 50+ category of mums keen to give it a go. There were BMX kids and downhill racers; hard-tails and full suspension bikes; pros and first timers. There was also a fair share of post-race car park antics – Jay breaking the gate to the parking lot at Homebush, saving us all $20 in parking fees, was certainly a highlight, as was rummaging through the half price bargain bins of bike jerseys at the Stromlo parking lot and eating lunch in the mud at Ebeneza. All these little details aligned to make an awesome series.
I may not have reached the state of toughness necessary to excel at 4X and dual slalom, but I did manage to push myself as a rider, and make a bunch of awesome friends along the way. Really, what more could you ask?
Big props to the crew at Rocky Trail Entertainment – check out www.rockytrailentertainment.com for race info and pics.
April 28th, 2010 · Emily - Sydney · 1 Comment
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already figured out that Candy Cranks is no amateur blog; there are no clashing colours, wacky layouts or links to nowhere. Everything is polished, perfectly aligned and damn easy to navigate. You may think this is just the work of some very ‘onto it’ graphic designer; and you would be right, to a point. But that’s not the whole story. There is also a deep, perhaps limitless passion for bikes, and an unswerving commitment to the female riding scene behind this site.
Now take this flair for creativity, passion and commitment, and translate it to the organisation of an alley cat, and you have the Candy Cranks Star Trak. This was no last-minute, let’s-pull-a-race-out-of-a-hat type affair. There was a challenging, but totally achievable route; there were a host of friendly ‘checkys’; there was a suite of prizes to make any fixie cat druel; and enough post-race merriment to keep us all giggling and cheering until our sides hurt.
The real beauty however, was the fact that every rider, check pointer and random spectator left their status and gender at the start line, creating an atmosphere where everyone was not only involved, but also had a shot at the loot. This meant that the us Sydney riding gals adorned not only the checkpoints, but also the podium. Chicks were sprinting, searching and skidding all over the shop.
Like many of you, I’m sure, I’ve been waiting in anticipation for a supportive, creative and committed female riding scene to appear out of the woodwork; hoping that maybe one day I would find a random bunch of girls hitting up a trail or track standing at the lights on the way to work. Needless to say, all this waiting and anticipating hasn’t really yield any results. The truth is, a supportive and inspiring female riding scene isn’t just something you can discover, it has to be created. Just like the Candy Cranks website, the Candy Cranks Star Trak added a layer of hope, creativity and inspiration for girls that ride.