Written by BERNHARD SAYER
I’m a different kind of cyclist – I freely admit it. When the Tour Down Under rolls around, I take part in the Challenge Tour, proudly eschewing lycra (except for the mandatory event top), riding a simple hybrid bike (as opposed to a multi-thousand dollar road bike), with a pannier bag holding my puncture gear. No-one else rides the Challenge Tour like that, and I love it. Doing my bit to represent the everyday commuter cyclist (I like to think) amongst the sea of lycra egos.
My expensive piece of equipment is my iPod. Technically I’m not allowed to use it while I’m cycling, but if I’m going to ride 93kms on my own while thousands zoom past my right hand side, I’m going to need musical company.
And so this year I put the iPod on shuffle for my ride from Gumeracha to Strathalbyn. What struck me about my ride this year was how often I found myself humming along to lyrics that perfectly matched where I was riding. Bear with me while I take you through the journey.
A word of warning, fellow UniSA’ers. I’m a mature age student. Most, if not all, of these songs will be new to you. Consider this the first stage in your tertiary musical education.
Five songs in, I was slowly climbing out of Gumeracha towards Lobethal. Colin Hay began singing ‘Waiting for my Real Life to Begin’. It was probably more a case of waiting for my legs to kick in. A few songs later, I was riding uphill towards Lenswood, and Cartman were imploring me to ‘Go’, trying to talk my legs into doing what they were supposed to. It didn’t motivate them to the degree that I was hoping, but nor did I get off and walk, so that was something.
Tiers Road out of Lenswood gave me some climbs that I could have done without. Steve Kilbey of the Church advised that I had ‘to grind, grind it out’, and he was spot on. It’s the only way to get to the top, after all. A drink fill up stop at Balhannah, and soon I’m zooming off southwards along the beautiful – and flat – Onkaparinga Valley Road. Magnificent. Which was, coincidentally, the U2 song playing as I found myself thinking that this hills riding thing wasn’t so bad.
That sensation didn’t last long. When I climbed up Heysen Road to Hahndorf, with Tasha Coates of the Audreys singing about her ‘Head So Heavy’. It was probably more my legs feeling heavy and my head being acutely aware of the fact. How long was it going to take me to get to ‘The Bitter End’ as Placebo called it? Billy Joel in a few songs time suggested that it would be ‘The Longest Time’. Fair dinkum, people – someone was looking over the distribution of my playlist, chosen randomly from some 6800 songs stored for my listening pleasure.
A water stop in Mount Barker, and then the constantly undulating ride to Macclesfield. Ice Cream Hands, who can trace their roots back to Adelaide, sang to me in one verse of ‘It’s Always Going to Get You’ about how it was ‘all downhill’, only to be followed in the following verse with the reality that ‘it’s all uphill’. And so it was. I hated the uphill bits. The Audreys popped up again and suggested that I could ‘blame it on the banjo and violin’. I don’t think they were fair targets for my anger.
The route turned and I rode to Meadows. This was MURDER. This was, I admit, where I got off the bike and walked. The bits that I managed to pedal seemed to have a fitting soundtrack when Iva Davies of Icehouse sang about the ‘Miracle Mile’. A few songs later the Beach Boys were asking Rhonda for help. Serious help. I wanted to join them. But I wasn’t necessarily seeking out Rhonda. Just anybody with some kind of anti-gravity device.
Meadows greeted me with another uphill climb out of town. The Beatles muttered something about a ‘Fool on the Hill’. I barely heard them over my muttered swearing. How much longer? ‘God Only Knows’ suggested the sadly departed Troy Newman.
I was getting tired, despite the downhill stretch to Ashbourne, but the end was in sight. I’d ridden 93km of very undulating road on my not-expensive-bike, and I was building up a hunger. ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ in fact, thank you Duran Duran. Time to pack up the musical equipment and pretend that the crowd lining the sides of the street in Strathalbyn really were there to cheer me home.
One totally unmusical thing that I love about finishing the Challenge Tour are the kids that wait on the side of the road and give you high fives across the barriers like you’re a slightly older, slightly more overweight and slightly less equipment savvy version of Lance Armstrong. There isn’t another feeling like it, not for me anyway.
And so later that afternoon I took the bus back to Gumeracha. Along the way, the Audreys pipe up for a final time and sing about my ‘Long Ride’. Oh, a long ride it was indeed. If only they knew the truth of it.