Here's my account of my first ever 'Bunch Ride'... I love cycling but have become somewhat unfit due to the fact that the only exercise I get is a 10 km each way daily commute. If I pushed it 10km might build some muscle and stamina but the truth is I don't ride fast... I just cruise along and let the efficiency of bicycle design carry me to work each day. (Bikes are very energy efficient you know.)
So anyway about a week ago we got a brochure in the mail advising of all the great things there will be to do on the Australia Day (Invasion Day) holiday. One of them was this thing called a 'Bunch Run', I had no idea what a Bunch Run was but my wife read the brochure and said "Oh... but you're so into bikes I thought you'd know... It's a bike ride with a 'bunch' of other cyclists." "Ohhh" says I. My brain starts ticking over... tick-tick-tick- - - - Clunk.... (She's saying I can go!) "Are you saying I can go?" I ask hopefully. "Yes" she replies... "Hmmm OK" I say. ("COOL COOOL COOL", I think)
I've never been on a Bunch Ride before, besides a couple of rides around Darwin Harbour, organised with some friends. This will be great! I find out some more about the ride. Starting 6:00am (No problem, I'm an early riser), finish 8:15am (Great it won't eat into family time or cause resentment at home). Must wear helmet and have lights.... (Can do) Road bikes strongly recommended... (I love my road bike... It's about 20 years old and I can't bear to part with it but it's got terminally flat tires and I haven't ridden it in a few years... I'll fix it it'll be fine!) This is going to happen!
By last night I'd prepared the bike... (wish I knew how to true a wheel), sorted out my cycling clothes, this time I'll even wear shoes! Packed a spare tube, and stuck water in the fridge. I set the alarm on my mobile phone and went to bed ready to rise at 5:00am.
January 26th Australia Day
This morning I woke to the sound of birds tweeting and the dim light of dawn angling through a gap in the curtains... I burst out of bed and checked the time... 6:28am! Damn! I can't believe it! I slept in! I jumped in a luke warm shower for about 30 seconds, (the water's never cold at this time of year), sculled some apple juice, grabbed my drink bottle and dived into my shorts and special, fancy style proper cycling shirt I found at an opp shop for $1. I put on shoes and even socks, ran out the door and was peddling furiously down the hill by 6:35.
I'd seen the Darwin Cycling club several times, they always ride on McMillans Rd and disappear somewhere around the Thorac Cemetery... I'll catch them out there... By the time I'd cycled 5km I was exhausted... My heart pouding, legs burning, I was panting heavily and my balls were aching from the strain of trying to ride hard against the wind or up any inclines... (we don't have hills). I rode past the cemetery to the end of the road where I thought they might be comming back from. There was no sign. They must have taken another rout! As I headed back toward McMillans Rd I saw a rider headed for the Stuart Highway so I took off after him... Legs aching, heart pounding, breath gasping, balls tied in knots and groin chafing... There were no others to be seen so I slowed down as I rode along the SH bike path to Palmerston and ate the banana I'd brought for energy. I rolled on a little way further... Still no Bunch. I decided it must be getting late now so turned around and headed back to town. I came to a cross road which offered two routs that would both get me back to where I was going... There I met a lady who was headed toward Casuarina from Palmerston (a 20km ride), she knew about the Bunch Rides but hadn't seen them today. She suggested maybe I should just go for a ride instead.
"Yes" I said through gritted teeth as I tried to decide which way to take back into town so I could at least join the group for breakfast.
After much hesitation I decided to ride back along the Stuart Highway, I rode into a head wind the whole way... demoralized but philosophical. I laughed to myself about the error and resolved that maybe these group things aren't for me. I am a loner, what business do I have riding around with a bunch of hard core road racing, licra clad speed addicted sports fiends? I'm no athlete... I am a Wanderer, a romantic drifter, a slow cycling officianado! Where's the space for dreaming when you're crammed into a tight pack of sweating, speeding cyclists fixated on the rear wheel of the bike in front of me? What wonder is there in cycling with your head down and your arse up? What do you see from that position? ...My shoulders were by now aching! (Not used to supporting more than a coffee cup for the past 10 years or so!)
I finally made it back to the finish line at Myndil Beach at 8:00am (quite by chance, I thought it was much later) where there were 100s of people covered in Australian flags who'd just done the Australia Day Fun Run/Walk. I waited till about 8:20 but there was not another cyclist to be seen!
I rode home... (exhausted)
Conclusion. I had been intrigued and excited by the idea of participating in a Bunch Ride before having attended one. Now that I've attended my first Bunch Ride, although not particularly taken by the competitive nature of the riding or the pressure it can put on participants, I feel I am now ready to go to the next stage. I would like to attend a larger Bunch Ride. It is my view that more participants would have created a much different dynamic, (even one other person would have been nice.) I am sure that some would argue that since I was the only cyclist attending this particular Bunch Ride, unless you count the lady I met on that corner... but we didn't really ride in the same direction so I guess I can't even count her, that it wasn't technically a Bunch Ride! But it was my first ever so cut me some slack OK!
Oh Yeh... Conclusion... Bunch Rides are probably OK if you're wanting to improve your fitness and ride with a 'Bunch', however I will have to reserve my opinion until I've had a little more experience... At least I didn't have to endure any overt Nationalistic flag waving or Oi Oi Oi crap on my ride.