Rider Story - Alfred's Journey

THE PROLOGUE (okay lets call it a TT)

I can’t decide what is worse, the deafening metallic hum of the MRI scanner or the constant ache in my shoulder…who am I kidding, the shoulder wins hands down.  Next I ask myself: how did I get here?  The answer: proof of that tried and true equation, NEWBIE + CLIPLESS PEDALS = DISASTER (or a rotator cuff tear in my case).  

Now I can hear my wife’s voice in my head…”I told you, you shouldn’t have bought that bike”.  But I did buy that bike and that was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life and there was no going back now, I was going to be a roadie and it was too late to turn back now!

“MEINE REISE”

Greeting fellow riders, here is a little story I have entitled ‘Mein Reise’ which about how I came to be part of the MC Classic bunch.  Mein Reise is German for ‘my journey’ and in case you are wondering about the German (because I obviously don’t sound or look German) it is because of all the flak I catch from the boys at the shop for using a certain German engineered bike computer…for the last time, not everyone has to have a Garmin you know!

BIKE #1

I remember the day I bought my first bike like it was yesterday. After being inspired by Andy Schleck scaling up Col du Galibier in a 60km solo breakaway to take stage 18 of the 2011 Tour I walked into a bike shop and walked out with what I thought was a ‘hell of a bargain’ at the time.  

Well, that and the fact that my knee cartilages were an endangered species after 2 decades of pulverising them on basketball courts so I had to take up a low impact physical activity and cycling was supposed to the bees knees, no pun intended. 

The novelty of sweating it out in dark smelly spin classes at the gym had worn off pretty quickly and the ever-expanding waistline was a constant reminder that something had to be done sooner rather than later.

A silver tongued salesman at a bike store in town pretty much sold me a bike that had been in the shop window for 2 years and at the tender age of 33 I owned a bike for the first time in my life. 

My ‘hell of a bargain’ was a black/sliver 2010 Giant TCR Alliance with a 105 grouppo with a white ('pro') bar tape and a white Fizik Pave saddle, which they definitely don’t make anymore. 

Now for you kiddies who are too young to remember the Alliance frames, they were so named because they were equal parts carbon and aluminium…carbon was not tossed about in those days as much as it is now. 

The Head Tube, Top Tube and Seat Stays were carbon while the Down Tube, Chain Stays and Seat Tube were aluminium – on reflection pretty much the whole bike was an interesting balance of materials.

I loved that bike, even though it was too big for me (something I found out after a full year of riding) and had crappy wheels that barely stayed true for more than a fortnight at a time not mention that I had my “pants pulled down” over the price, but I didn’t know any better.  

Centennial Park became my home away from home and I went through all the newbie (or 'hubbard')motions: Yep I wore baggy mismatched kit, short socks and I had an enormous frame pump, an even larger saddle bag to match and worst of all I wore a helmet with a visor!  

Yes indeed, our old mates the Velominati would have had me arrested for breaking nearly all The Rules pertaining to etiquette and style!  I guess ignorance truly is bliss.

I am still embarrassed about the upturned stem and the 3 million spacers underneath it.  Anyway, I digress…back to the story.  Going around Centennial Park for weeks became as exciting as watching paint dry and one day I found myself I riding up that little lump on the north side of the park…it was a mistake.  I could have been climbing Mont Ventoux for all I know because I was damn well near vomiting my lungs out and what was even worse was that I didn’t even make it to the top! 

I came to a grinding halt barely two-thirds from the top, still clipped in and that’s how I ended up in the MRI scanner.  Luckily I didn’t need any surgery but I was off the bike for 2 whole months and despite some consternation from the Wife I came back with a vengeance determined to enter the wonderful world of bunch riding. 

The boys at the Maroubra shop were amazing, they taught me everything I needed to know and a special shout out goes to James Duke who patiently answered all my dumb questions, which were a lot, and didn’t judge me whenever I had done something stupid to my bike, which also happened a lot.

My education culminated in my first bunch rides in the winter of 2012 in what has now become the MC Classic Ride.  Back then the ride had no name (I think), there was no kit and it was a big ride turnout if 10 of us rocked up…anybody recognise the gentleman in the Babici jacket?

TO HELL AND BACK (VIA BIKE #2)

After having survived to live to tell the tale of what was my first (and last) Sydney to Wollongong I decided that I had truly earned the stripes and the right to ride a better bike and this time I did my research.  

Of course I had to get my five seconds of fame on the fabled MC chair so there are no prizes for guessing where I sourced my second steed from…!

A Group Set upgrade to Ultegra was priority number one but the white/red colour scheme the 2013 Giant TCR Advanced came with was not to my liking so a frame swap was arranged and just like that I was the proud owner of a pseudo-custom black/blue machine…you have got to love that new bike feeling!

Every bike you own reminds you of that one epic ride you forever associate with it because either you had the time of your life or you nearly died…for me it was the latter. 

Summer of 2012, the long rides had just become a thing and on the menu was a 130km round trip from Maroubra to West head. It was going to be my first 100+km ride ever and I was so excited. 

I turned up at the shop bright and early and after a brisk run to the city where we linked up with a few others.  At this point I should have started to get worried the pace was little spirited for my liking and then the jokes about how I should have signed a waiver agreement followed. 

Unfazed and determined I did my best to keep up and enjoyed the wonderful scenery through the lumpy North Shore, the costal cruise up Pittwater Road and I was beaming with pride when we reached West Head. 

Little did I know that my troubles were only just beginning?

First of all, what they don’t tell you is that you have to climb OUT of West Head and after that the undulations of the road back to civilization are not as fun as fun as they would have been an hour earlier.  The good thing was that I wasn’t the only one suffering and the group splintered into pairs and trios with yours truly was bringing up the rear. 

I remember someone dropping back and offering me a gel, which I accepted and gulped down but it would have been wiser to have maybe read the wrapper first.  The flavour was described as ‘intense berry with extra caffeine’, that in itself did not sound right. It turned out to be the most foul tasting thing I had put in my mouth for a few years and all I could do was muster a smile gratitude whilst holding back the retching! 

West Head Road is supposed to be 12km long but those undulations kept coming and the shakes from the ‘extra caffeine’ gel were killing me. After what seemed like an eternity I reached the T-junction that heads down to Akuna Bay where I was reassured that it was all “downhill from here” but that could have had another meaning. 

After an exhilarating descent and a very welcome lunch at Akuna Bay it was time to pay The Piper after all what goes down must come up.  As if things were not going to be bad enough for me, knowing full well that we had 80+ km in the legs with the mercury nudging 40 degrees, someone then decided that we go up to Terrey Hills via the other, much steeper way…I am squarely looking at you Harvey. (Ed. Harvey does not recall this 'actually' happening)

You know how the pros say they can taste blood in their mouths when they are on the limit? I so wanted to experience that on the climb because I would have at least had an explanation for the intractable pain I felt in every fibre of my being.  Instead all I tasted was the sickly sweet flavour of the Gatorade which at that point was nauseating and looking at the road gave me motion sickness because I felt like was going backwards. 

I probably was going backwards...

Graham offered a few words of support, I think, because I couldn’t actually hear a word of what he was saying.  Everything was fuzzy and weird and after he sped off I was left suffering alone and I kicking myself for not signing up for that lip reading class at work. 

It was becoming a bit too discouraging to look at the ever-ascending tarmac and decided to look down and perched right in the middle of my handlebar was a white butterfly…yep - I really was going that slowly. 

At first I thought “this is it, it’s a sign from above, my time from this good Earth is up” but it just stayed there and I realised what was really going on. The damn butterfly was mocking me and worst of all it knew I couldn’t do anything about it because taking either hand off the bars at that time was not an option…energy was at a premium. 

When it had had enough it flew off and at that moment I crested to find the rest of the gang there waiting.  Someone then joked about how they would have sent a search party down to find me if I hadn’t turned within a minute or two. 

For some reason decided that was the funniest thing I ever heard in my life and proceeded to cackle disturbingly like a hyena. 

Maybe it was the delirium setting in. 

Thankfully the stop at the top was much longer than I had thought because they were fiddling with Craig’s saddle - which had popped off and he had been nearly sodomised by his seat mast. 

Saddle and seat mast reunited we set off but just after Terrey Hills a double puncture and a lack of long valved inner tubes forced Craig to abandon and was made it home in a cab. 

To this day I don’t know why I did not do the same. The rest of the ride was a blur and I vaguely remember of stretch where we were sandwiched between a bus and an 18 Wheeler on Pacific Highway, which was something I was probably not going to tell my wife. 

The fact that you are reading this is proof that I got home in one piece, scarred for life with limited use of my lower limbs for a few days but I was proud to have survived this test, which opened the doors to many other adventures on the bike. 

Unfortunately Bike #2 is no longer with us as she succumbed to some injuries sustained in a violent trauma but that is a story for another day.  

AND SO...TO BIKE #3

Of course when you have no bike and you have the urge to ride who do you call? (insert Ghost Busters theme here) 

MC CYCLERY!!  They fixed me up with a Custom Painted 2016 TCR Advanced SL 1 and I have since gotten over my loss and I am back to doing what I love doing the most on a Saturday morning…long live the MC Classic ride!! 

Happy riding everybody…:)

Alfred