Two new fitness challenges will make 2021 an interesting year for maintaining my fitness level. One of the challenges is for cycling, and the other for walking / running.
For around 10 years now, I have been cycling regularly. It all started with a move to Nowra, NSW (Australia), where I would commute to and from work by bicycle – around 10km each way – on a 24 speed foldable bicycle. When I started I wasn’t very fit, and had to stop to rest, especially at the top of the major last hill on the way home. Over the next few months I got to the point where I could ride the whole journey without stopping for a rest. According to my manager at the time, who was also a part owner of the company, I was the fittest person employed by the company.
Fast forward a few years, and we were then living near, and later in, the small rural country town of Culcairn, NSW. While there I was still riding the foldable bike above for a while, but after a major mechanical failure, I replaced that bike with a 28 speed (I think it was) mountain bike, and regularly rode that mountain bike more than 60km in a bike ride, rode a number of rides greater than 100km, and during Spring and Autumn would often ride over 200km in a week. While living near Culcairn I also did a number of multi-day cycling tours. While there, I had the mountain bike converted to single speed. Single speed bicycles are supposed to be more reliable than their multi-geared siblings, and I found that to be the case. After converting the bike to single speed I had no real problems with the drive train for around 14000km! Riding a single speed was more difficult that a bike with 28 speeds, especially on long moderately steep hills, but I willingly accepted that in order to have a more reliable bicycle and did some rides close to 100km in length, with some weeks where I rode 200+kms. But I didn’t manage to do any multi-day bike tours on the single speed mountain bike.
About 6 months ago, we moved to the riverside town of Corowa, NSW. While here, my single speed converted mountain bike got to the point where it was needing major repairs. It had been ridden around 25000km by that time. After a re-fitting of the single speed system employed on the bicycle, and having it develop reliability problems again soon after I felt it was time to replace the bicycle. I considered my options. Should I buy a single speed bike? Well, doing that would be ok. But even a single speed has some complexity which makes them prone to mechanical failures, and at the time I was looking for something ultra-reliable that would require no maintenance for as long as possible.
So I opted for a Kickbike Sport G4, a footbike, a ‘scooter for adults’ (as I like to call it), a ‘scooter on steriods’ or ‘scooterbike’ as I have heard it called at various times.
So far I have ridden over 1000km on the Kickbike, and have found it to be good all-round exercise. It exercises more muscles and gives a more intense workout than a traditional bike. And it is extremely low maintenance because it has no gears, chains or things like that to repair. It is basically the frame, wheels and brakes! Not much can really go wrong there.
So what does the history of my cycling have to do with fitness challenges for 2021?
The 28 speed mountain bike was relatively easy to ride, and I was able to do most of the “7 Peaks” alpine bike rides such as Harrietville – Mt Hotham, Mt Buffalo, Mt Baw Baw, Mt Buller and Lake Mountain in one summer. After being converted to single speed the mountain bike was harder to ride and I didn’t attempt any of the 7 Peaks rides then, although I thought about it. The Kickbike is harder to ride than a single speed mountain bike, because it relies on a kicking action rather than a peddling action used on a traditional bicycle, and I think that the level of fitness I had when riding the geared mountain bike would not be high enough for me to do any of the 7 Peaks rides on a Kickbike. Because the workout is more intense on the Kickbike I can’t do as many kms on a ride or in a week as with a traditional bicycle – so far a little over 30kms is the longest ride I have been able to do, and around 100km the most kms in a week. So any cycling challenge I set myself is going to be more difficult on a Kickbike than a traditional bicycle.
LANDS END TO JOHN O’GROATS VIRTUAL CONQUEROR CHALLENGE
On 1st January 2021, I started my first major challenge on the Kickbike – the 1744km Lands End to John O’Groats Virtual Conqueror Challenge which covers the distance between Lands End in Britain and John O’Groats in Scotland. Each Kickbike ride I do goes towards the total distance for the challenge, and along the way I receive postcards and information about interesting places along the journey. So far, I have accumulated 3 postcards. One when I started the challenge.
Not long after I received my next one.
The Merry Maidens
“Nineteen stone megaliths situated between Newlyn and Lands End. Close to the Tregiffian Burial Chamber, a site thought to be around 4000 years old, they almost certainly formed two important parts of a holy place, and indicate settlement in the area from that time.
As with many other stone circle monuments in the UK, some of the myths and legends surrounding the Merry Maidens are pretty gruesome. Locals will tell you that they’re nineteen girls who were turned to stone for dancing on a Sunday, and that the Pipers – two stones situated north-east of the circle – were musicians who realized their error and were running back to town. Whether the tale is woven from folk memories of what used to happen here, or a later Christian attempt to make sense of the site – and impose morality – isn’t known.
As with many other early attempts at restoration of prehistoric monuments, 19th century antiquarians not only added new stones, but altered the position of some of the old ones. The original spacing and placing – now restored – formed a perfect circle with even spacing; an astonishing feat of prehistoric engineering.” (Info included in postcard email received).
The next postcard was received 3rd January and was of…
St Michael’s Mount
“Refuge of a pretender to the throne, and arguably one of the earliest examples of town twinning in history. Gifted by Edward the Confessor to the Norman Abbey of the same name, the association continued until war with France soured relations enough for it to be plucked back four hundred years later.
One of the strangest tales in mediaeval royal history is closely connected with the island. Perkin Warbeck claimed to be Richard, Duke of York – one of the Princes in the Tower. Although there’s no academic evidence to suggest Warbeck was anything other than an impostor, the resemblance to his supposed father, Edward IV, was astonishing, giving credence to contemporary speculation that he was an illegitimate son with a genuinely royal connection to the House of York.
In more recent times, and had the Second World War ended rather differently, the Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop would almost certainly have taken up residence, so taken was he with Cornwall in general, and St. Michael’s Mount in particular. Gifted to the National Trust in 1954, the St. Aubyn family continue to live there, as they have done for the past 400 years, and manage public viewing of the site.” (Info included in postcard email received).
As at 8th January, I have passed through Truro and with 80+km already ridden am well on my way. But 80 isn’t much compared to the total length of 1744!
The other major challenge I have embarked on, starting on 9th November 2020 is the …
RUN DOWN UNDER VIRTUAL WALK / RUN CHALLENGE
The aim of this challenge is to run and / or walk the distance around Australia. Like the Lands End to John O’Groats Challenge, any distance logged goes towards the total, except that this challenge only allows walking, running and hiking activities. The challenge starts from Canberra, and travels counter-clockwise around Australia. So far I have walked the distance from Canberra to Sydney, and am about halfway between Sydney and Newcastle in NSW, little over 393km since I started of the challenge, an average of about 46km a week so far. The most kms in a week was around 70km, as I tried (and succeeded) to reach Sydney by New Years Day 2021. At the current rate, according to my Run Down Under journey progress indicator I would have completed the 14000+km challenge by 3rd Dec 2026.