#ROADTRIPPINGCANBERRA WITH BROCKY & GERRO

 

A crack front bench of ministers had been appointed, a weekend away planned. From the humble residence of Soup Boys HQ in Melbourne’s inner north west we would journey to our fine nations capital. We weren’t sure if we would unlock secrets to winning the federal election, but we were sure that in one way or another, we would be rewriting the book on cycling road trips.

 

ABSTRACT: ADL > CBR

 

Heading interstate from Melbourne was going to be one thing, but finishing the #roadtrippingcanberra cake would be a delicious layer of narrative that would involve three members of our Adelaide Division making their way across the Grampians and the Victorian wheat belt and to Melbourne. Kind of half way. Slumped in the back of the Holden Colorado and stuck in traffic trying to get off the Tullamarine Freeway, Alex elaborately recollects what has been an eventful Friday.

 
My journey began at midday on Friday. After a long 5 hour shift at work from 4am, I finished packing my bags and made for the city to meet lil’ Matty J. He was having a mad session at the barber after work so he stayed there a little longer than expected. This left me looking through the City X (aka. City XXX) foodcourt for something to eat at lunch hour on a Friday. I settled for sushi since it was the only place with less than 10 people in line, terrible decision, but alas I was satiated. While eating the sushi I headed to the nearby convenience store and purchased a lil’ Bic for $2 with eftpos, so I had to pay a 50c surcharge, that's $2.50 for a babby Bic. I felt robbed so I immediately proceeded to comfort eat more sushi to deal with the trauma. I had genuinely hoped that it was going to be better than the first lot, but it just wasn't. What a way to start this journey.
Matt and I drove to the airport in a taxi that was cranking the kind of Indian talkback radio you wouldn’t even believe. Wild. Thanks to the powers of digital technology (digitech), we managed to pull a sneaky and check into our flight while still in the taxi, making our way through airport security with ease. Being the Minister for Self Defence and Hard Country, I just showed them a couple spin kicks and the security let me through no questions asked. Days spent pitting to IKTPQ finally paid off. We spotted the Cooper's Bar (for those who haven’t been to Adelaide Airport, the Cooper’s Bar is almost the first thing that greets you after getting through the x-ray deathtrap that is airport security) obliging ourselves in some Sparkling Ales. In waiting for Jack, we became more and more concerned. We were sure he was going to miss the flight, a kitty had already been started and was growing as we got closer and closer to our 14:10 departure time. Minus a phone, there was no point of contact for young O’Loughlin, we just hoped that he would make it to the gate in time. Soon waves of Jack induced paranoia became replaced with realisations that something out of the ordinary was going on with our flight. Surely we'll be boarding soon. Have they called our flight yet? In fact what time are we boarding? Matt checks the conveniently placed departures board in the Cooper's Bar. Boarding 16:20? You mean not 14:10? The fuck? My heart dropped, to the point where I didn't even want another pint! Truly, disaster has struck.
Not long after “The Incident”, Jack arrived, brimming with knowledge of the current stitchupation (much like the FBI, the working title for our case, our predicament was changing faster than many could manage to keep up with). Fearing this would fast become the sequel to The Terminal, we downed another ale and began to walk aimlessly around the airport. Amongst half stung and somewhat nervous-in-anticipation banter, I suggested to the boys that we ask if Jetstar could get our seats moved next to each other. They agreed that it was a mad strategy and we ended up getting myself moved next to Matt, and Jack to an exit row. It was paramount that we formed a strategy to get the person sitting between Matt and I to swap seats into Jack's aisle seat, halfway up the plane. It was decided that our best chances are to be as obnoxious as possible entering the plane, scaring off the random person, and ensure the filling to the Soup Boy sandwich was Jack. The first step to our plan began as we passed the boarding gate. We boarded our plane through the front entrance (we were in row 27 of 32) and congested traffic through the aisle so much so, that we end up further delaying our flight by about 10 minutes, but it was only a papercut compared the wounds stabbed in our morale by the first delay. We all sat in a row of empty seats while we waited for everyone to walk past us. Nobody asked us to move, so either our plan worked, or the plane was really empty. I wonder why nobody flies with Jetstar? Could it be a similarly veined voicemail left by Lugo in 2015? Well my wonder ceased when I ordered a bottle of water from the friendly cabin crew. I hadn't opened it yet, but i nearly choked on my water when she told me it was going to cost me $4. If I wasn't so insatiably thirsty I wouldn't have purchased it. Was it karma for walking down the wrong entrance? Well where's my karma from having my flight delayed over 2 hours? I want my karma back. This and the energy drinks Matt and I consumed before we got on the plane made the trip really tough. Not even 50 Baw Baw repeats could compare to the suffering Jetstar had made us endure in the last 4 hours. But like most proper Beach Rd slogfests, the true suffering doesn’t begin until you venture beyond the 4 hour mark…
 
 

I: ROADTRAPPING CANBERRA

 

With heavy rain beating down on the window of the Holden Colorado, and yet to satiate his need to scribble words to paper, Alex went about penning then spitting a fire verse in dedication to the concept of the cycling roadtrip. Normally we would be satisfied with a simple playlist, however a road trip of this magnitude calls for the big guns. Enter the realness.

 
 

[Rapped to the tune of Mask Off by Future]

CyclingTips, Soup Boys, CyclingTips, roadtrip, smashing hills on a Scott Addict,

bike so stiff, you'd mistake it for addict, he likes Colnago's? I don't think he Scott Addict.

 

Mad skids, we be poppin' mad skids, mad sprints, we be poppin' mad sprints.

CyclingTips, Soup Boys, CyclingTips, try your best but you won't beat us in a sprint.

 

Big ring, 53, we don't need one smaller, wind it up, watch us take KOM's up Gibraltar.

Dropping hubbards, we only see them over our shoulders, they see the drones, then they ask

"how we become shareholders?"

 

Pull away, V8, SS, SB, CT, rubbernecking cause the 8 cylinders sound so sweet,

then they catch a quick glimpse of the holy Scotty fleet, they see my shaved head,

think it's Simon Gerrans, OBE.

 

II: HUME HWY CLUB MIX

 

Adrian bounded down the stairs of his workplace, and huddled himself behind the La Marzocco caffé latte machine. A short caffé latte was brewed, and various road snacks were purchased. For whatever reason Dean opted to sit outside on his phone, in the rain. Like a farmer trying to guide a baby calf through the yards and towards it mother in the sprawling paddock, coaxing him into the safety, warmth and dryness of the V8 Commodore company car meant we were almost ready to go, and the time was only just touching 4:30pm.

It hit 5pm. Still no sign of Ron. But he was demanding a fork for his risotto apparently in tow, but we had no clue of the deadline that came for the required fork. Eventually he would arrive, sopping wet from running across the street in the pouring rain. Any moderate annoyance for his tardiness was immediately forgotten once smells of risotto wafted through the car. All of a sudden mild panic at running late was replaced with comfort snacking as we made our way out of Melbourne, stopping in Donnybrook to inspect the beauty of both the company car, and the bikes that sat on top. It was a chance to get a first dinner, and to suss where car #2 filled with Harry, Alex, Jack, Matty J and Mal was. No news just yet.

 
 

Now we’ve hit the Hume Highway a lot. If you’re a loyal reader of this website, which you all ought to be, you would know just how well we know the Hume. We have produced an extensive library of Hume Highway playlists that its leaving even those with 6 stacker CD’s unable to properly accomodate the musical library. But until this particular evening we had never seen it so busy. The pouring rain while cleaning our (brand new and no in need of a clean) bikes, but was wreaking havoc with the traffic, slowing everything down to well below 75kmph. The plan was to arrive in Canberra somewhere around 11pm, now…with adjustments to speed, maybe 1? am? Who knows. As we emerged through the super tight peloton of hella semi trailers we finally caught wind of where the others were. Still in Melbourne. We were nearly 2 hours up the road, but picking up Ben and taking a bit of time to grab some food at Wodonga Charcoal Chicken or similar would mean that we would come together on the Victorian/New South Wales border. All was well.

About half an hour out of Albury/Wodonga (a town either side of the border) a phone call came through to Adrian’s phone. As he was in the drivers seat, duties were passed on to Dean who precariously navigated the beginning of a phone call before delegating to Adrian via speakerphone. It was Adrian’s Nonna delivering a stern warning that we would not be visiting Wodonga Charcoal Chicken or similar. We would in fact be visiting her home in Wodonga for tortellini, to ride out the storm or wait until the other guys arrived, whichever came first.

 
 

Upon arrival we were greeted with a warmth that no charcoal chicken outlet in the world could possibly match. Lessons in Italian cuisine, and stories of Nonna’s vegetable gardens were passed on to Ron for the first time, while more advanced polpette’s of knowledge were dropped on Dean and Ben’s minds. While we hadn’t overstayed our welcome, we anticipated the arrival of company car #2 shortly, so we prepared by getting the car refuelled. It was as we flogged it around the streets of Wodonga that we were notified of car #2’s whereabouts. Seymour. Somehow we had extended our gap. This would be the definitive breakaway of the roadtrip. Onwards to Canberra where our accomodation and embedded photographer Josh Thomas were waiting. We would roll out the welcome mat when car #2 would arrive.

 

III: SCORSESE TERRITORY

 

“Harry, may I just cast your mind back to earlier this week...” Adrian (Minister for Planning) was referencing an evening in which Harry (Minister for Summernats) returned home to Soup Boys HQ in Melbourne inner north west, absolutely fuming over a conversation he had just had with his dad. He had called Harry to ask the question of how far his car could get if the fuel range read 0km? “Like could I drive 5km to the petrol station?” Already weary from another day wheeling and dealing in the avocado trade (in which business is booming) this was the tipping point for the Soup Boys Directeur Sportif. That was Monday, possibly Tuesday. But now it was Friday, technically Saturday as it was 3am. Centimetres from resting their weary heads on their pillows following a 6 hour drive, Adrian and Ben (Minister of Industry & Mechanics) had returned to the Hume Highway a little bit sooner than the envisaged Sunday afternoon drive home. An 80km fuel range reading, 85km from the nearest fuel at the Yass roadhouse meant the second CyclingTips company car, the more fuel efficient of the two (diesel as opposed to a hefty v8) was left stranded on the side of the road with four Soup Boys and a single embedded videographer probably already annoyed he had been roped into this crock of shit. 

 
 

Having sat through the life story of the clerk at Yass roadhouse, things were finally back on the straight and narrow. Off the Hume Highway and onto the Barton we achieved the unfathomable, but at the same time the inevitable. With a watertight itinerary planned out, which included a contingency plan should it be required, our ETA was supposed to be somewhere between 11pm and midnight. Instead we pulled up outside our accomodation (for the second time) at the rather poignant time of 4:20am, Alex (Minister for Power), Jack (Minister for Bonking) and Matt having travelled to Canberra at around 70kmph, Tony Martin levels.

 

IV: MINISTERIAL FRONT BENCH

 

If you thought the last few years of Australian politics had bred a hearty wealth of political memes at the expense of both front and back benches, time to get your shit rearranged. Even an estranged aunty to one of the Soup Boys, related by a marriage ended over a decade ago getting caught up in scandal for the misuse of taxpayer funds could top this. Who the hell wants to buy property in the Gold Coast anyway. Thus, we present to you, the Soup Boys Party 2017 Ministerial front bench. Ready to serve the people, after they serve themselves.

(L-R)  Benno (Minister for Industry & Mechanics), Harry (Minister for Summernats), Matty J (Minister for Embezzlement), Ron (Minister for Mooseheads), Alo (Minister for Self Defence and Hard Country), Jack (Minister for Bonking), Ado (Minister for Planning), Dean (Minister for Flat Lays). Absent: Josh (Minister for Fine Arts), Mal (Minister for Weekend Long Father Figures).

 

V: THE SLOW ROAST

 

Back in November, we did up a road trip to Ballarat to preview the road nationals and eat a whole bunch of baked goods. While only an hours drive away from most of our homes, we spent most of the weekend barely running on time, somewhat hampered by crashes (while showing off), a handful of mechanicals, wrong turns and hunger flats. Regrouping at the local Pizza Hut before boosting back to Melbourne at the end of the weekend, we were all shocked and perplexed that despite pretty much everything going wrong, we had made it through the weekend relatively successfully. Waking up on a frosty Canberran morning, the dye had been half cast as to whether we would somehow manage to set a new benchmark in the art of screwing up a cycling trip. The Governor General in all of this, Mal (having been on a number of these in the past) wasn’t willing to offer any feedback...yet. Maybe he was worried about what lie ahead, maybe he was afraid of offending us, but we stuck by the belief that he, like us was still mostly asleep.

 
 

With the exception of Ben who had a Capital Punishment under his belt, none of us had ridden in the nations capital before, and only a few of us had ever visited Canberra. That meant our to-do list was a little unconventional. Cooking ourselves was an inevitability, but we also hoped to enrich ourselves with the cities architecture, cuisine and #culture, and if we said our prayers loud enough, and with our Lord Tom Boonen looked down upon us lovingly, we would run into Clive Palmer and get the opportunity to ask him about his truly remarkable twitter presence

Our “watertight itinerary” that has been carefully developed and curated was wistfully thrown out the window and onto the side of the Federal Highway at around 4:18am, with a sleep in beyond the previously planned 6am deemed absolutely necessary to have any hope in hell of making it through the day we had in store. Thus the revised roll out time was somewhere mid morning, naive. Through being distracted by the gang of BMX riders staying next door (#rivalry, but also #relatable), obsessively tinkering with bikes (some succeeding, most failing) and still trying to wake up, that mid morning Plan B roll out predictably turned into a Plan C few-minutes-before-noon kind of roll out. 

As if Summernats came 6 months early, rolling as a group we cruised down Northbourne Avenue, claiming the lane and stretching out legs that longed for lactic acid and fresh air. The Scott missile squadron, a mix of Addict Discs and Foils were all coloured in the fastest hues and kept in the big ring to ensure a hasty take off should it have been required. The beauty had us awestruck, such artistry had not been witnessed since Ernesto himself designed the Ferrari Colnago. It was a true medley of amazement, unsurprisingly turning heads when we all pulled up to Sweet Bones in Braddon, for the lunch that was supposed to have been a breakfast.

 
 

It was 1pm by the time lunch wrapped up with short blacks and other kinds of café lattes, with the days ride commencing proper to questioning sounds of “really?”. In the weeks leading up we had consulted some close friends of the SBC whom were Canberra ex- pats (Simon & Paddy). They salivated at the prospect of planning our riding, and climaxed when they were told we wanted to feel cooked by the end of it all. So, having just run into an old Melbourne friend Brent, on his way to a cyclocross race out of town, we cruised towards Mt Stromlo for what was going to be a 200km/+4000m ride, or our last. The time was 2pm, we had ridden only a handful of kilometres from lunch.

 
 

15km in Melbourne can get you to the outer fringes of Camberwell, or various other “inner city suburbs” (c. Domain 2006-2017), in Adelaide it can easily get you out to many of the Soup Boys favourite climbs at the feet of the Adelaide Hills (Monty, Norty, Osmo). In Canberra it well and truly places you in the sticks. It was while were stuck at a red light at the Cotter spillway, half following road rules half waiting for Jack to catch up where we began speculating on what the route was going to be like. We knew it would be long, we knew it was going to be “pretty climby” but would there be the kind of scenery that would, when photographed, filmed and stored in our memories successfully enrich the treasure trove of cycling related hashtags we had grown to know. The bikes and the cars weren’t ours, so outside couldn’t have been free-er. Would be come across brothers lush and light? We knew what we had missed this morning, we were busy ripping skids in the hotel carpark trying to win the approval of our BMX-ing neighbours. Was Paddy sending us down the road less travelled? Or just paying homage to himself in sick, twisted way? The light went green and we crossed the Cotter River and onto Paddy’s River Road. It was 100m later when all our questions were answered.

 
 

Unbelievable. Like the most joyous, human powered rollercoaster you could possibly ride. We weren’t even an hour out of Canberra but found ourselves barrelling down a road that was the perfect blend of our 2 favourite sections of tarmac in the country, that being Adelaide’s Gorge Rd, and north east Victoria’s Great Alpine Road. Some rode side by side, occasionally holding hands, frequently wiping tears from their eyes at the beauty, some chose to solo off the front, unable to keep the excitement in their legs any longer. We had somehow stumbled onto this gem of a road, and at the perfect time of year, with big ass hedges and lines upon lines of poplar trees lining the road. Through rolling terrain in a tight valley, we sprouted up through the golden leaves and emerged into what was soon dubbed “Back Country ACT”. We had temporarily left behind the autumn vibes, replaced with the ominous white silhouettes of the woke centre of the ACT, the Discovery Drive Deep Space Centre. Praying for a clear night sky, we would be passing through on the way back, and we held hopes of coming into contact with extra terrestrial life, or at least Michael Rasmussen.

 
 

Our first turn off Paddy's River Rd would come at the Tidbinbilia Reserve. Not wanting to re-enact the events of the early morning, nor pay entry to the park Harry thought (meaning Mal probably tapped him on the shoulder) it best to go get some fuel, leaving us to fend for ourselves for the next half hour. Free entry for bikes, we welcomed the opportunity to rort the system once more and enter the park at our leisure. The 16km loop navigates its way around a large wetlands ecosystem, bustling with birds, kangaroos, tourists and little guys like the Northern Corroboree Frog, part of the extensive breeding program for critically endangered species facilitated at the reserve. Slightly intimidated by the larger Kangaroos frontin’ – Alex and Adrian went to lift the 15kmph pace, soon playing the roles of Chavanel and Voeckler all while discussing the loops potential as a racing circuit. We would later find that it was the home of the 2013 Oceanic titles, where a handful of laps were completed to finish the road race. While the scenery and the accompanying wildlife was pleasant enough, and a brief look into lives as French journeymen of cycling did hold its appeal, getting spat back out into the open air, mobile reception and the carpark of the reserve was welcomed with open arms. The welcome was not returned. Harry, Mal and Josh in the team car were nowhere to be seen. Immediately speculation turned to Harry hitting 150kmph down some Back Country ACT roads and emptying out the tank. But then conspiracy theories, some of which involved Michael Rasmussen lurking in the hills, others which involved the rescue of a beleaguered Jack began emerging. It would turn out that it would be none of those, they were just taking their sweet ass time.

 
 

4pm. Adrian and Alex continued the tradition of French breakaways and were trying to conduct a photoshoot atop Gibraltar falls. One in which Alex was attempting a track stand on a rock not much bigger than the wheelbase of his bike. Four failed attempts, five near deaths and he opted for the safer, the more traditional Slav squat. A kilometre or so down the rather steep, rather sketchy downhill road were the others. The team car had finally caught up and was providing fairy bread hand ups (known as sprinkle sandwiches to Ron) made famous by team SBC Directeur Sportif Harry at this years Tour of Mansfield Mount Buller stage, and much needed water. The blue skies and painterly clouds had been replaced by blanketed cloud, the forecasted rain now seeming all too imminent. Had our luck, that we had scant of...finally run out?

 
 

While aboard a bicycle have you ever done something so ridiculously dangerous, so utterly stupid that when you complete it you are forced to count your blessings and think as to whether you should ever tell your better half? You would be a lot sensible than us. The concept was quite simple, ride up Honeysuckle, a climb noted as averaging 4%, get to the top, drop back down, do another climb close by then make waves back to Canberra. Inspired by Keagan Girdlestone who holds the KOM, we imagined we would be getting to the top in pretty good shape. In short the profile lied. It all came about when, dodging kangaroos that were bounding across the road, Ron (Minister for Moosehead's) peered down at his Garmin which displayed a gradient well into double figures. The thing is that this was on the easiest section for quite some time. We couldn’t help but feel betrayed. Hitting the top (1200m) to the sounds and smells of the campgrounds many BBQ’s, we contemplated what to do next. The sun had set, and between Adrian (blind anyway), Dean and Ron there was a single front light to guide their path back down the mountain. They each took a deep breath and set sail for the bottom, stopping only to take these amazing photos on the way down.

 
 

Arriving at the bottom we donned our gang colours (Ol’ Dirty 16 buffs) and almost all black kit, smart for riding in the pitch black of night. The route had been cut short, as expected we had run out of light well before finishing. But it was in the darkness of night, and through the desperation of wanting to get back to a bed that the beauty of Canberra truly shone. Roads that looked like highways and/or freeways were simple roads with bike paths allowing 3 abreast, and drivers were nothing but courteous. Not that we had expected anything sinister, but we were shocked and pleasantly surprised. Had we in fact flown off the side of the road descending Honeysuckle, knocked ourselves out and sat in a dimension that closely resembled heaven?

 

VI: 2 CYLINDERS SHORT OF A PLUG

 

Did you really think we would put our fearless DS Harry behind the wheel of a V8 Commodore affectionately dubbed both Brocky and Skaifey, fill it with bananas, water and embedded multimedia superstars and NOT write a review it? Friends, you are too naive. Here we are.

 
 

As if Holden had Sussed the Soup Boys to gather intel as to what cars to give Cycling tips, the combo of SS Commo wagon and Colorado 4x4 was all too reminiscent of what we had to leave at home. The spacious and capable 4x4 pack horse to carry all of the Scott bikes and food stuffs, and the race-bred SS with the practicality and storage of a wagon. Both offerings performed their roles perfectly, with expectations of the DS exceeded as soon as the SS exhaust cracked open. 

The Soup Boys have experienced some terrible team cars in our time(if u kno u kno), with flat batteries leaving us stranded in country Victorian football grounds, and others just not capable of driving some of our planned routes, this pair was a breath of fresh air. Apart from an unscheduled fuel related issue on the drive up to Canberra, and a rather uncomfortable rear seat in the Colorado gold stars were given out all round. 

The SS got a comprehensive test on the first day, where it got to stretch its legs up and down all of the scheduled climbs. It makes all the right sounds when you give it a little squeeze, with enough power to have some fun but not get yourself in too much trouble. Handling wise it's quite neutral and much better than I was expecting from a car of it's size. Very comparable to a 3 series BMW.

 

VII: SBC LESSONS IN RECOVERY

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Like Revolver come dawn, the Soup Boys Canberran digs were a sight to behold come 8:30pm. Adrian, Ron and Dean made it to the bottom of Honeysuckle alive, to be met by Alex who had been practicing his sprints on a pitch black country road for half an hour, the others having left before that. Somehow (we would later find it was through Jack and Matt’s terrible sense of direction) the chase group would get back to the accomodation first – hungry, tired, confused and locked out. Those that hadn’t visited Sydney before were stoked to get the full experience without travelling further north. Ben eventually rolled in, hotel key in jersey pocket and ready to save the day...kind of. A number of us were still returning from the dimension of cycling heaven, others well beyond Ryder Hesjedal’ing and we had yet to begin our re-feed and other tried and tested recovery practices. With fifteen minutes to spare we phoned up an order for as many pizzas to the audible annoyance of the pizzeria owner. The DS and embedded video hero would go to collect while the rest sprawled across the room, indulging in much needed hops based sports drinks. Minutes spent waiting for their arrival was made a bit easier witnessing the BMX party next door, reminiscent of high school years only the characters we were familiar and nostalgic towards were men in their late twenties and thirties. They let us know they were headed to Moosehead's later on, they invited us. We said we would see them there. We lied.

 

VIII: THE EASY DAY

 

Kanye Wests Ultralight Beam echoed throughout the digs the next morning. Frost on the window, groggy heads, pizza boxes and beer bottles scattered throughout made for a treacherous departure from our accomodation. As to allow a proper comparative analysis of Scott bicycle models, a few bike swaps were done between those who shared sizing. If yesterdays ride was a slow roasting, today would be the day we would be getting flambéed.

 
 

The sun was out yet again in defiance of the rainy forecast we had set ourselves up for. Parked up at the the Cupping Room, we milled around the takeaway window getting a morning café latte and croissant fix. With a fleet of bikes that led the general public to believe we were IAM Cycling reincarnate, whispers of “are those guys sponnoed?” could be heard as we nonchalantly sipped our caffeinated drinks as if mid-photoshoot (technically we were). Kindly, Paddy had once again taken care of the route, defined as “the easy one”. The easy one with 6 climbs in it. Just easy. The Cupping Room would be our pre-breakfast, as anything heartier had to be earned, we would repent on the climbs.

 
 

PEAK #1 – BLACK MOUNTAIN

Like George Calombaris has experienced this 2017, sometimes life comes at you fast. The same could be said for climb one of “the easy day”, Black Mountain. Hoping to emulate Ben’s hometown hero Jesse Featonby, everyone attacked one another from the outset, trying to inflict pain or have the croissant rise to the surface. There was no leaders jersey, no points or bragging rights on offer, it just seemed that whenever Mal and Josh had their cameras out and pointed in our direction, everyone whipped up a frenzy in the name of jostling for prime camera position. Namely Dean who was feeling right at home on a bike fitted with a 32t big dog on the rear.

 
 

PEAK #2 – DAIRY FARMERS HILL (NATIONAL ARBORETUM)

Dressed in combinations of full kit, half kit and no kit, our Sunday route had us admiring Walter Burley Griffin’s handiwork as we weaved our way around the suburbs of Canberra. One thing that was noted early on on the day previous was the manner of ease in which you were able to get around on two wheels. We had ended up on what we thought were freeways, only that they had perfectly suitable bike lanes where three abreast would have allowed us enough space for throwing elbows and chopping each others wheels. The tradition would continue into day two, as we mixed roadside, and separated bike lane and path around Lake Burley Griffin. As proud horticulturalists, it was only expected that we stopped off at the National Arboretum to sample the local strains, and to take in the views. Remember how we mentioned we would be taking in Burley Griffin’s handiwork? This here was the poster child of that very handiwork. Take careful planning, time, political backing, unlimited amounts of cash, unlimited amounts of human resources and what do you get? A hill that has been landscaped the shit out of, and tended to with the love of the most Mediterranean of matriarchs. Truly immaculate.

 
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Unfortunately our casual mode of dress was drawing eyes from the crowds of tourists, so evasive action was required to escape these hordes with their loving eyes. Ben and Ron opted for a direct, off road route, while the others shot down to safety via the back side of Dairy Farmers Hill. The next destination would be actual breakfast at the Farmers Daughter. What a segue.

 
 

Imagine the scene for a minute, a vinyl wrapped team car pulls up skrrrrt right outside the cafe. Out jumps two handsome, rather trendy photographeurs and/or videographeurs, and one of Australias most promising amateur bodybuilders/young greco Dolph Lundgren lookalikes. They walk into the café, and the three of them take a seat at the longest table in the establishment, one that sits ten people. Minutes later to the sounds of sing-a-longs and cursing, seven weirdly dressed men who you could almost call boys show up. They’re all riding matching bikes, wearing matching shoes and helmets, but dressed wildly differently. One of them even has a bum bag around his chest. They walk in and kick their feet up around the ten person table. They talk about riding their bikes through the Royal Canberra Golf Course in the hope of finding shortcuts, the climbs they have ahead, and how badly they wish they had more than the single pocket of their chest bum bag. The one with a certain aura of internet fame searches the geotag of the café, rises from his seat and walks a lap of the establishment, peering down on other customers plates. The others food arrives before he has completed his lap, but that aura extends beyond the realms of internet fame, his food arrives, his order noted telepathically. For a moment there is complete silence, bar the sounds of the whirring La Marzocco. When forks are placed back down onto empty plates seats are emptied almost immediately. Bidons are refilled, and bikes remounted. Loitering takes place in the “fucking middle of the road” in one of Canberras most affluent suburbs. The group of boy men disappear into the afternoon sun, the other café goers watching them roll down the street and off into the distance. Who were those enigmatic children? Will they ever know?

 
 

PEAK #3 – RED HILL

With the harsh rays of the mid autumn sun blasting down upon us, the gruppo with thinned out considerably on the ascent of Red Hill. This could have been down to one, or a combination of things. It was a crystal clear day, and we were well above our typical height of 3 metres above sea level, or wherever it is Beach Rd sits. The gradient of the Red Hill climb was particularly hard, especially for an “easy day”. And finally, and this is probably the most likely, some good Greco men were stationed at the bottom repainting the bollards and bridge that welcomes you onto the climb. Combined with the heat, early stages of dehydration and bonking (forgetting that lunch was consumed no more than 5 minutes prior) this final factor was considered the most likely. Blaming whatever reason we deemed fit, each of us crested Red Hill, celebrating with the kind of dance party that couldn’t have gotten you any more amped for the first Saturday of the month. The only exception would be Ron, as he conducted performance based adjustments on his bike for the umpteenth time that day instead of joining in the festivities, or maybe he was saving himself for the latter climbs. Why? This was the easy day.

 
 

PEAKS #4 & 5 – PARLIAMENT HILL & MOUNT PLEASANT

Atop Parliament Hill we made a note of sliding into Clive Palmer’s DM’s. We came up short. Once again the day was getting away from us, so for once in our lives we began to get a wriggle on. Dropping down into the Army Academy, we rose up to the summit of Mt Pleasant (note its enjoyment factor of +10, versus Melbourne’s Mount Pleasant holding an enjoyment factor of -5), a never-ending right hand bend that when crested gives you sensational views of the city. The fight for the KOM, or the competition for best video features was remaining heated in the unexpected but welcomed hot April sun. There was only two climbs remaining, and to the best of our knowledge the hardest ones were already behind us. Wherever Paddy was right at that moment, he was laughing, and evilly.

 
 

PEAK #6 – MOUNT AINSLIE

Mount Ainslie. Could you say that it hides behind the Australian National War Memorial when it is a mountain? Unsure. But its (her?) road to the summit is something that certainly sprung a surprise. The entire way up, The Streets song “It Was Supposed To Be So Easy” was sung a cappella through double digit gradient enforced laboured breathing. In the hunt for KOM points Ben went hard with Alex and Adrian, only to rest back and focus on strengthening his third place in that classification and enlarging the gap to Dean in fourth. At the top, Adrian was focused on nothing but the ice cream truck, Alex focused on versing some Buddhist Monks at downball. Having obviously caught wind of Alex’s triumph over Lachy Morton at TDU, they were having none of it.

 
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PEAK #7 – MOUNT MAJURA

Dean had torn our legs off along the bike path that snaked its way around the back of Mount Majura, the softened sun warming our cores just nicely. Despite some solid kilometres in the bank we had been hit by a mad second wind, morale lifting further when we happened to stumble upon the pump track our neighbouring BMX’ers had been describing the previous evening. As much as we were keen to test the robustness of the Scott bikes atop a rather sketchy pump track in the middle of some dense pine forest, we had a team car waiting for us at the bottom of Mount Majura.

And that’s where it would end. Route notes had been totally forgotten about, but if they had been consulted any earlier than 2 weeks prior it would have been noted and remembered that the climb to Mount Majura is off limits to cars as there is the rather cumbersome obstacle of a big ass gate. Bikes could get through by employing the tried and tested cyclocross method of a dismount step and jump, but the fact we couldn’t get a drone in there, and have some proper, Soup Boys related fun meant we opted to lay in the middle of the road at the base of the climb for a while. All of a sudden we had a little time to spare, the finish line only a handful of (mostly downhill) kilometres away.

 

IX: DO PEOPLE EVEN...

 

...buy shit on disc any more? We consulted the Patron Saint of the Sartorial Cyclist. The Minister for Flat Lays. The reason we are late half the time as he is always meticulously perfecting his fire looks. The be all and end all when it comes to cycling fashions and reviewership to provide us with his thoughts on the fine Scott wares we got to play with over the course of the weekend. A Scott Addict as used by nobody in the World Tour (yet), and the Scott helmets keeping our noggins safe and fully functional and capable of continuing the production of content for this site.

 
 

From the very first pedal stroke, the Scott Addict 20 Disc delivered a responsive ride, impressing me with its ability to go fast with the boys on the aero Foils but stop even faster. This is largely thanks to it’s racey geometry and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. On the flats, the bike was able to transfer minimal watts efficiently and swiftly deliver enough power to the pedal to ensure you don’t get dropped. On the steep descents of Canberra, the bike stayed glued to the roadwith no lack of confidence at high speeds. Whatever the terrain, the Addict is comfortable and composed as it glides over the groundunfathomed by potholes and sudden manoeuvres to get the shot. Whilst none of that stuff really matters when you’re out on the road with friends, in the end it was allowed to us to explore and take in the surroundings of Canberra in comfort whereby the bike would disappearing beneath us as cheesy as that sounds. It’s one of those bicycles that allows you to ride as fast and as far as you feel like.

The first thing I noticed upon putting on our new Scott lids was how unremarkable they felt and I say that in a good way, I quickly forgot I was wearing a helmet. I was soon wearing it all throughout the day, be it at the cafe or on the toilet because #safetyfirst especially after a handful of caffeinated gels. Once we got riding, what really shined through was how well ventilated they were when putting the hammer down. It was unusually warm in Canberra so it was the perfect opportunity to test the latest in Scott cooling technology. I can happily confirm that despite our best efforts, I could not fault the helmet even after dropping it from the handlebars which we’ve all done, there wasn’t a single scratch to be found.

 

X: WIND DOWN

 

Utilising the wide open space of the carpark of our accomodation as a change room, we de-kitted and stretched our legs with the knowledge that almost all of the riding was well behind us. It would also offer a chance to say goodbye to Matt, who as Minister for Embezzlement used up his spare company money to make the super smart decision of flying directly home to South Australia. We would cruise down Northbourne Avenue in one last tribute to Summernats heroes past and present, and snake our way around Yarralumla to celebrate the diverse architecture of the Embassy Quarter (we gave it that name just now).As the sun set, lining itself up with various Canberran landmarks like it was a scene in National Treasure, we sat outside Parliament House, rightly under the watchful eyes of some AFP guards who had caught wind of our exploits across the weekend. The riding was done, we finally had the opportunity to sit and reflect upon a typically rollercoaster weekend away with the SBC.

 
 

A few weeks earlier a vote within the Soup Boys group chat had been cast. Initially it was neck and neck between Tasmania, the Grampians and “getting crunk at home”. Then, like he so often does when a beer deep, Dean (Minister for Flat Lays) popped up out of nowhere to suggest Canberra. Such a left field, but revolutionary suggestion from the patron saint of the sartorial cyclist had us excited, thus the nations capital had just pipped “getting crunk at home” at the post. And what a suggestion it turned out to be. Sitting outside Parliament House under the watchful eye of some AFP guards clearly informed of our presence, there was a chance to reflect on the weekend that was. Left shocked by the ease in which bikes could get around town, we remained in a jealous awe of no waiting times at cafés on weekends, and utterly infatuated with the countryside surrounds and the riding on offer. Did we get an opportunity to meet Clive Palmer? No. Had we unlocked the secret to winning the federal election? Eh, probably not. We weren’t even sure if the book on cycling road trips had been given a shake up, at the very least we’ve forced the publishers to reconsider a few chapters here and there or publish a revised edition. Canberra gets a lot of stick by those from other Australian cities, particularly it seems from numerous Sydneysiders who choose to live the dictionary definition of complacent. It’s called dull, boring, too quiet, a country town. Apparently living there sucks, but visiting it, giving it your undivided attention for a long weekend had us thinking the contrary. Goddammit would we be returning.

 

XI: BONUS VIDEO CONTENT

 

The final chapter for this record breaking post (at least in chapter and word count) exists solely to showcase the wonderful work of our embedded video hero Mal. We can only imagine the texts he was sending back to CyclingTips HQ throughout the weekend, begging for extraction back to the safe zone, away from us. In the end he somehow put up with us all, then put together this stellar little piece that we’ve strategically put in at the end of this entire thing, as it tells the story far better than the last 5000 words has, probably. We’ll also use this opportunity to thank CyclingTips for entrusting us (for whatever reason) with one of their road tripping features, a section of their widely scoped website that has captured the imaginations of us at Soup Boys HQ for a little while now. For whatever reason they let it on their platform where we didn’t get totally flamed in the comments section, good as it saves us getting our mums to call your mums. As a token of our gratitude we have exclusive footage of Adrian as he sat opposite Wade, Andy, Leigh and Louis as they laid all the details down on the table at CTHQ. Holla to Scott bikes for the bikes, to Holden for the automobiles. To Canberra for not blacklisting us (as far as we know) from their wonderful city and wider territory. To the wildly talented Josh Thomas for his photo work showcased throughout this story. To our forever swole DS Harry for keeping it redlined in the company cars all weekend in order to keep up with a pacy gruppo. And last but not least, to Brocky, Skaifey, Gerro and Matty Hayman. If we didn’t have you looking over us, guiding us, nurturing us who knows where we would have ended up. Have we rewritten the book on cycling trips yet?