Monday, May 23, 2011


A recent work trip saw me with a decent layover in the far north Queensland town of Cairns. Decent (read usable) layovers here are almost unheard of for us pilots as it is usually just twelve or thirteen hours, then back on the bus.

So, thinking a couple of days ahead I figured that I would organise a hire bike to check out some of the hills that Cairns is surrounded by.

The weather on the day turned out to be windy with showers around but as the temperature was still in the high twenties I wasn't worried about getting wet. As soon as I got to the hotel it was a wirlwind of activity to get changed and walk down to the hire shop. I would have just enough daylight to get my four hours of riding in before dark.

I had hired a flat bar roadie thinking that most shops use Giant bikes and that is probably what I could expect here. Out rolls the Schwinn "Spoterra" complete with toe clips. Hmm...maybe I should have packed my shoes and pedals? No worries, I can make do but I made a mental note not to pick the bike up and feel how heavy it was.

As it was such a windy day I asked the shop owner to point me toward some hills where I would be a little more sheltered by the rainforest canopy. He cheerfully pointed out Lake Morris road up to Copperlode Dam adding that there was about 1200m of climbing in that little ride. Perfect! I saddled up and headed out of town toward the hills.

The first thing I noticed about riding in Cairns is that there is zero respect for cyclists. I was buzzed twice, while riding in the bike lane, within about five hundred metres of the CBD and I witnessed a bus turn across an intersection in front of a woman cycling through the intersection at about the same time. Ok, point taken. Treat every vehicle like it is being driven by a redneck bogan and I will be sweet. I am always ok once I have the ground rules sorted!

Fifteen minutes or so later and I was at the turnoff I was looking for. The road from here went up.

I felt I was starting to get used to the toe clips, but as the climb became steeper my feet began to slip out of the cages as I tried to pull back at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Then I was unable to get my foot back in because there was too much grip on the pedal and pushing my toe into the cage just rolled the pedal over! I am sure you would get used to this style of pedal hookup if you persevered but I will definitely bring my pedals next time.

The climb was moderately steep and I was soon back in granny gear spinning away. Going for me today was the fact that I felt great! It was a beautiful day sheltered like I was in the trees, I was spinning easily without putting the heart rate through the roof and best of all I was technically getting paid for the privilege.

After all the years of flying into Cairns it was great to actually have a chance to venture outside the city limits, although I was probably still within the city limits. The hills and the rainforest are in Cairns, or should that be that Cairns is partly in the forest?

               The city centre is literally just four or five kilometres on the right of this photo!

Oh yes. I forgot to mention the sexy helmet that the hire shop owner fixed me up with! We were having a bit of cheeky banter while he readied my bike and just as I was about to leave I reminded him about the helmet. He reached around the corner of the office and handed me this sexy aqua blue and white number. Not really my style, but hey, whatever takes the focus off my dial I guess!!

Did I mention the climbing? Well, I still was!

The scenery was amazing. Be it the outlooks over the city centre, the bay or the forest when it enveloped the winding, snaking road.

The highest grade on the way up was about 17%. Not too bad in itself unless you consider the pedals. So, I was spinning and spinning and spinning some more. And thinking. Rides like this are exciting because it is all new. No previous experience to fall back on, just kilometres in the legs and self belief. It is always interesting to ride a new trail or a new road because you do not know how much to conserve yourself. Many of the rides I do are over familiar trails or roads that I know when I can blast along and when I need to rest for a climb.

Finally I crested the climb and began downhill for a while. Then the ride turned into a series of rolling climbs and descents before arriving at the gates of Lake Morris. As I am on a tight schedule ( I have to have the bike back at 5pm) I sit at the totally deserted kids play area overlooking the lake and take in the view while munching on a sandwich. Ahh the simple pleasures!

And my partner in crime wanted a portrait as well....

Actually, it was a nice straight, well adjusted bike. The gears changed smoothly, the brakes worked well and the seat wasn't as "Fizik Tundra like" as it looked. I would, er will ,certainly hire one again when next I have enough time to enjoy a decent ride.

Now it was time to turn it around and head back into town. Those downhills after the crest were now uphills and my now cool legs complained bitterly about being awoken. I gave myself an uppercut and got on with the job at hand though and was soon whooping it up through the twisties on the way back down. I could line up the corners motorcycle style and apex them, carrying as much speed as I was game to into the next bend. This was possible due to the almost total lack of traffic on the road. Only two cars went up and back while I was climbing, while just one passed me on the way down.

All too soon I was at the bottom of the climb again and was passing some after work/school riders out on training runs. How nice to have this as your local ride!

For those interested in the stats from today, please have a look here.

I have a multi day layover coming up next week in Perth and subject to weather I feel the need for a bit of cycling, western style. Lets see what eventuates......


  1. Looks like a nice motorcycle ride to the top of the hill as well.

  2. Yep, some great roads around the hills up there. Explains all the motorcycle shops in Cairns.


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