Imagine for a moment that there was only one more.
A single day, a final chapter, a last ride. Of all the miles covered and all the roads ridden, which would draw you back to experience them one more time?
RED LINE MOTO PACING
Seasoned Photogrpaher // Artist // @camillejmcmillan
There was this motorbike in the garage, I never rode it but I loved it, it gave me speed.
Speed was what I was about.
It was not a big bike, a Honda CB125, and really a very dull standard bike.. but did that thing give we the whip I needed. The bike was the old man’s. He paced all the local studs with it, and there was nothing better than a summer’s day hooning behind it.
There were different rides to be had behind the moto… a fast 3/4 of an hour around the country lanes, through and off if there was a group of us or, my favourite, a lead out machine. A few miles from our home was a slight, very very slight downhill… straight with a slight kink about 2 klm long. Mostly two of us would go out with the old man to do this. Take it in turns to go behind the bike. Starting at the top, the old man would wind it up, not super fast but fast enough to have to work hard to get behind the bike. A real effort and by the time you hit the board you was almost flat out in the 52x13. Not a big gear, this was all about getting speed.
The board was a plywood construction to stop us hitting the motor back wheel. It had black marks all along it, we would ride up to that board and try to leave some rubber on there. The old man would wind up the bike. As a kid I had good fast leg speed, spinning the 52x13 was easy and when fit, the pedals were not there, everything was fluid. It was easy to move up to the board slip back a few cm and back again. If he was not getting enough speed you would bang into the board and yell ‘up up’ so he would wind it on more. Other times he went that bit too hard and hanging onto the board was a grim struggle of pain. When it was just right it was bliss.
The slight kink in the road sometimes came up faster than you expected and you could loose contact, slip out the side, get hit by the wind and ruin the sprint; and there again, when it worked, it was great. There was a mark in the road towards the end… not a finish line but a go line, that was the place to go around the moto. Coming around the moto was an impossible task, to draw level and hold it was such a good feeling. The old man would turn the bike around, motor back, pick up the other rider as I recovered riding back, ready for the next run.
There was a silence behind the moto. Yes the engine sound but a silence in the slipstream. As soon as you went out of this envelope sound would hit you like a tidal wave, an almost wall of wind, the 125 engine seemed to roar. I guess one’s senses were up, you were alive, the moment was all there was. Alive pulling in the air feeling the lactic acid build, pushing harder through the pain till burst. ‘Why?’ you wonder maybe.
Why, you wonder maybe, not a race at full title, a bunch sprint? That was different … that was to the line against others.
Maybe now people train differently. An alloted amount of time within a threshold…. doint it to a line again, trying to empty to the line. But for me that lacks the poetry of red-lining as far as you could go… its another poem.
To be behind the motorcycle was when the world was right, the world was easy. I spun my legs , my bike floated over the roads… without the moto one pulls the world around.
Sometimes, when on the road, or cyclocross racing the whip would not be there but you didn’t need the moto to get you to the speeds, the moto had done its job.
And so for me, I had to go back and get some more of the good stuff…speed.
Last Ride? Put me behind that moto, let me hit that board one more time.
FATHER & SON ON THE CÔTE D'AZUR
Danish National Champion // Pro Cyclist // @akcph
My last ride would definitely be on the French Riviera. My father would join me for the ride, where we would set off from where I live, Beaulieu-Sur-Mer. I would take him up to La Turbie, which you might call the appetiser. From La Turbie the direction would be towards Col De Braus. An extraordinary 10 kilometre climb, with a plateau half way up. That plateau makes it “easier” to handle the first real climb and it does help you to look over the view that you have while climbing up Col de Braus before hitting the famous switchbacks.
After summiting Col de Braus, it is downhill to Sospel. In Sospel we would visit the local boulangerie to fuel up before Col de Turini. When riding from Sospel and up Col de Turini, a 24-kilometre- long climb, the views are breath-taking. Not because of its beauty but because of its raw and naked nature. Climbing up this fascinating rugged and rocky landscape for a little bit more than 17 kilometres, you wouldn’t think that you will end up in the woods. But suddenly as the hairpins start again, greenery surrounds you; the complete opposite of what you have been riding until that point. It’s fresh, and it’s challenging - a cyclist’s dream.
When riding down to L’Escarene we would start climbing the narrow, twisted, green roads that would take us to Peille, and from Peille to La Turbie. I would differently make my father have another pit stop (it is after all my last ride) this time to enjoy a big fat ice cream in La Turbie, before heading back down to Beaulieu Sur-Mer. From La Turbie to Eze Village and then all the way down to the coast. We wouldn’t really have to pedal much, but the view is breath-taking.
The sun reflecting in the sea, the sea that is so crystal clear blue. The mountains, the smell of summer, the feeling of freedom and the vibe of the French Riviera.
SNOW RIDE...IN AUSTRALIA
Soul Rider // Winter Lover // @mr.henry.y
Australia may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of cycling destinations; it is the flattest continent in the world after all.
However, we’re quite lucky in Victoria. We might not have the highest mountains around, but they sure are pretty. One of my favourite loops is one that includes Mt Donna Buang and Lake Mountain, connected via Acheron Way. If I were to pick a last ride; this would be it, done in winter, with the peaks covered in snow.
Lake Mountain is an alpine resort, with a summit of 1400m, the vegetation well and truly becomes alpine. The grey, skeletal trees jut out of the mountain side like the spines of an echidna; still recovering from bush fires ravaging the area a few years back.
Most of Acheron Way is gravel, which means car traffic is minimal. It’s a beautiful stretch of road; the gravel section giving way to smooth hot-mix, empty roads, the sun filtered and flashing through the epically tall mountain ash. Many a time gliding along this road I‘ve thought if I ever needed to convince someone to take up road cycling, I’d take them through here.
Mt Donna Buang; arguably my most memorable times on the bike have been climbing and descending her. Memorable for the exceptional beauty climbing up this mountain covered in snow and also for the incredible pain descending this mountain in sub zero temperatures with brutal wind chill. You don’t forget that pain.
On the climb up in snow you don’t notice the cold; kept warm by the heat of your effort and minimal wind chill, your multiple layers of jersey, gilet and jacket are flapping as you attempt to regulate your temperature. The only thing that betrays the cold is the fog out of your mouth with each laboured breath.
The descent; however, is a different story. You’re not keeping warm because you’re not pedalling. Your fingers are so cold it hurts to brake and shift. Your shoulders and neck ache from shivering. Ice is packed into your cleats, so you can’t even clip in. That was my first time descending in the snow. I’ve since learnt you need to bring a handlebar bag to pack a change of jerseys, jacket and multiple gloves.
But I would ride up Mount Donna Buang in the snow again in a heartbeat. It was, and still is, the most beautiful ride I’ve ever done. Donna Buang is a mountain covered in rainforest; so when it snows all the ferns and 20m tall mountain ash are dusted with white powder. This, along with the fog from the melting snow being slowly evaporated by the sun, presents a scene of complete whiteness. Most times, cars are parked to the side of the road as parents herd their children to play in the snow; this is understandable as this is a scene straight out from a fairy tale.
My last ride would be capped off with a sip of whisky in my Stanley hip flask tucked into my jersey pocket.