Shifting – Introduction

The road tilts up gently. The wind begins to push hard against your face. You automatically shift into an easier gear to maintain cadence.

Sometimes you can see when you will need to shift. Sometimes you can just feel it. Sometimes it’s subtle; sometimes it’s not.

One of the joys of having ridden for many years is how you know just by instinct when to shift. It becomes automatic and not something you usually even think about.

And so, this year looks like it will be all about shifting.

If you happen to know either of my email addresses, they indirectly or directly refer to the idea that 2020 was supposed to be my next big bike tour. Five years have elapsed since the last tour – so going into year six meant this should be the year.

But it is not to be. In the past two years, I’ve spent the bike touring funds on doctor’s visits and medical tests. And though my body rallied late last year with the assistance of antibiotics, I am still not well enough to begin regaining fitness and riding long distances or riding in challenging terrain.

So I can see what’s ahead of me. It requires some shifting… of goals and priorities.

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I’ve taken up a new job instead of going on the next big tour. My medical bills should decrease again soon, as I’ve finally found a good doctor to help me heal and should not have to do many more tests. It is just a matter of being patient, i.e. spinning easy gears, before I can begin shifting into harder activities in 9-12 months time.

So why not earn some money while waiting for the body to heal, if I can’t go on tour?

As I started to feel better in December last year, I began to think about what 3-day rides I most wanted to do in the area. I was thinking about how I should be able to start doing a bit more riding again by March when the weather cools, if my health continues on its gentle upward trend.

Immediately I was planning out some ideas in the Upper Murray because it has such interesting geology and is one of my favourite places to ride locally.

But that has all just burnt in the Green Valley/Talmalmo fire. Many, many of my favourite roads and areas have already burnt this season. Those forested areas won’t be much fun to visit for some time to come. When I think of all the places I’ve ridden in the past five years, it is unfathomable how many of those places have burnt this year.

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All the warnings around on the 10th of January. The black area in the top right corner is part of the Green Valley/Talmalmo fire. I live southeast of Wangaratta near the pointy bit of that orange warning area.

So once again, I’ve had to shift my thoughts about where to do three-day rides this autumn. The fires have been so extensive that many options have gone. I dare not mention the places remaining for fear of seeing them succumb later, for we are still early in the fire season.

Still, I hope this year sees a more sustained return to riding, even if it is still rather easy and short ventures. I hope to find a slightly more challenging cadence that will help me slowly rebuild my muscle and fitness.

I certainly think I’ve made it through the rockiest bits – those sections of road or track where you have to stop pedaling as you absorb the bumps and shocks and just ride out the terrain – and can at least begin finding a steady cadence to life again.

Now… just to wait for the summer heat and bushfire smoke to subside.

buffalo smoke

I cannot tell you what a joy it is to start looking at the ‘where shall we ride’ map once again.

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This map hangs on the wall above my desk. The three red dots are Jindera/Albury, Corowa and Milawa – all the towns I’ve lived in for the past 15 years. I currently live at the southernmost dot. Yes, I started the shifting in the last quarter of last year… shifting jobs and shifting over the border to live in a different state.

8 thoughts on “Shifting – Introduction

  • Been thinking of you up here lately and wondering how the fires are affecting you. The red smoke picture is worth a thousand words. My lungs ache for you. Crossing fingers for rain and a speedy end to a horrible fire season at the same time recognizing this is unlikely. Hang in there in the shifting winds.

    • Thanks, Jenny – it will go for months, but hopefully the smoke will ease over time. And hopefully they will decide we’ve all had enough smoke exposure through the summer and won’t subject us to more smoke with prescribed burns like usual in the fall. Surely enough acres have burnt this year already… often through areas that just burnt or had planned burns done in the past 12-18 months!

  • Slowly does it Emily. Building your stamina up gradually, letting the body continue to fight it’s internal battles and cycling through some new areas may be the way to go to start 2020. Once the regrowth kicks in the bush looks good – different but showing it’s resilience, so later in the year, riding through bushfire areas may not be a downer. In fact it will reflect your own regrowth.

    I hope rain comes to southern Victoria soon

    • Thanks, Tony. I will take it slow, but I do think I’ll be able to be more consistent in riding this year than last when I felt really crap for most of the year. I know from the 2003 and 2006/07 fires, and a bit from 2009, that you can’t venture into the forest without getting black all over you for about 12 months post-fire. It’s about 3 years before the weeds and erosion settle and camping is pretty decent again (and some shade can be found again) and it’s about a decade before it all looks ‘normal’ again. I will have to think creatively for a bit – but it’s good to be challenged to look at routes from a different perspective. Things become apparent that you just didn’t ‘see’ before.

  • hi emily and happy new year,
    it’s wonderful to hear you are recovering from a long slog of illness. i hope the new year is good to you. i observed the new year by riding all the potomac river bridges in DC, shaving a goodly amount of distance through better planning of the route. like in july, i had to abandon the route and go much of the home via subway. july was too hot and humid and there was the embarrassing bit when i couldn’t get on the water taxi. this time, i started too late and got caught by the early winter sunset. sometime this year, i hope to complete the loop from my home on pedal power alone. the washington post and new york times are full of stories about the bush fires. what a catastrophe for australia.

    • Wow, that’s great, Chuck! I admire your persistence and getting out in the middle of winter. You know, they say ‘third times a charm’, and with all the routing knowledge you’ve gained, I’m sure the next attempt will be a resounding success! Have you written up your ride anywhere? I”m sure other people would enjoy seeing what you’ve done. The folks on Cycle365 are very encouraging if you want to write it up there, if you haven’t put it elsewhere. Well done again for going after all those bridges!

    • Haha! Yes, that is “SHIFTING” – not shifty or shitty 🙂 We had strong northerly winds today that pushed the smoke away, so I was able to go for a short ride. I did get one new road – yippee! I rode into the wind all the way out and had it help blow me home.

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