Being Paul ~ Reward yourself ~ Ain’t no Mountain High Enough!

2013 Me and my Tarmac

2012 Atop Stelvio with Michael and Chris

2012 Atop Stelvio with Michael and Chris

I met Paul on Facebook (who’da’thought?!) through the Lifecycle Rider closed group forum. He has ridden 17,613.4kms since up-loading his rides on STRAVA. That’s a whole lot of pedal time! Paul is one of the many Heart and Souls of Lifecycle. In between his day job and caring for his family, he supports Lifecycle with regards to the Lifecycle Racing Club. I have been working with him creating new material for Lifecycle and have been in communication via email only.  I finally got to meet him, in person a week ago, outside Lifecycle early one chilly Saturday morning for a group ride to Gap Creek. He is a wonderful and enthusiastic man willing to support anybody whom asks. In one of our conversations, I discovered that he had lost an outstanding amount of weight from cycling and that he is a touring cyclist…my favourite subjects! If you like the concept of bike touring like Paul does, perhaps you might like to check out Bicycle Queensland’s (Australia) current 9 Day ride in September? It is a good basis for any future longer rides you might like to try, and very useful preparation for bike touring. I hope you enjoy reading about Paul and his cycling journey.

Here is his story…

To passers by, I looked like any other cyclist sipping his macchiato after a vigorous morning ride through the streets of Echirolles outside Grenoble in France. I was waiting for my two companions who had spent the night at le Bourg-d’Oisons at the foot of l’Alpe d’Huez. I should have been with them – looking forward to climbing the mighty alp.

Just a few years before I was a fairly chunky 117 kilograms. Even for my big-boned 183 centimetres I was, undoubtedly, obese. A friend had some success with a medically supervised very low carbohydrate diet (VLCD) and encouraged me to do the same.

Kudos to Dr Colin Armstrong with whom I negotiated a compromise – I would diet but I would not exercise. Each week I’d check in with the good doctor. He’d check my vitals and log my weight – and we’d chat. I think most of his patients were older women so he would look forward to my visits – or maybe he was just a super friendly guy. In any case I looked forward to my weekly visits.

I had good success – 4 kilos in the first week and a further 12kg over a few months. My weight settled at around 100kg and I could not budge below that mark. Even at 100kg I was categorized as overweight – at least I was no longer obese! To fall within the normal range for my height I needed to lose another 15kg. Clearly diet alone wasn’t going to get me there.

Maybe I should give exercise a go. As a kid I used to ride a bike every day to school. And on weekends – with my surfboard under one arm – I’d ride 10km from home in Labrador to Main Beach on the Gold Coast. My bike was built by my granddad from parts he salvaged from the tip. It was a piece of junk. I thought all bikes were junk. Once I got my drivers license I was happy never to ride again. Once mandatory helmet laws were introduced it sealed it and I stopped riding altogether.

Dr Colin was a cyclist, but not a die hard. We developed an easy rapport. Soon talk turned to bicycles. I bought a hybrid – flat bar and fat road tyres. I couldn’t believe how much the technology had progressed from my old junkyard bike.

Since I now had a bike, I needed a goal to keep me motivated. I respond well to rewards. My plan was that in six months I’d be ready to join Bicycle Queensland’s 9 day ride from Port Douglas to Mission Beach. I had lived in FNQ and had a good friend, Michael, who still lived in Cairns and who had a bike. I convinced him to come along as well. So I needed to start training if I was to ride over 600km in 9 days.

At first, a 10km ride would result in me needing to have a good lie down but after a few weeks I was managing 25km rides. After a couple of months I was hooked. I knew I needed to get a proper road bike. A mate, Big Tim, took me in to meet Blair at Lifecycle. Blair is a gentleman of the highest order. I now had two bikes and started riding with Lifecycle but getting dropped off the back with a bunch of others who quickly became very firm friends. I still rarely miss a Saturday Lifecycle ride.

Regular riding with the Lifecycle crew meant that I was ready to take on the Cycle Queensland Challenge. It was such a great event. Unfortunately, along the way, Michael picked up a tummy bug and was unable to complete the ride. He too was loving it up to that point but hadn’t been doing a lot of riding. In his university days, Michael used to do a bit of unsupported touring and he and his former touring buddy Christopher convinced me to give that a go. So Michael and Christopher plotted a course around Kosciuszko National Park.

Each year since then we’ve gone on a touring adventure: New Zealand, Tasmania, Border Ranges, back to Tasmania and here we are in France.

The outline for our European adventure was to start in Milan, Italy and finish in Nice, France. Along the way we had three milestones: Christopher wanted to ride over the Passo dello Stelvio – the second highest mountain pass in Europe on the Italy-Switzerland border; Michael wanted to visit friends in Bregenz in Austria; and I wanted to climb l’Alpe d’Huez.

With a week to go of our four week adventure we had cycled over 1,300km through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world; we’d witnessed Ryder Hesjedal snatch victory of the Giro d’Italia in Milan; endured massive mountain passes; ridden through snow and rain, visited Italy, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria, Germany and now France. We had ridden over the Stelvio, visited Michael’s friends in Austria and today is the day we were going to climb l’Alpe d’Huez – only we wouldn’t. Because I couldn’t.

Across the road from my cafe was a hospital. That’s where I had spent last night after the ambulance rushed me there with a suspected broken collarbone. Yesterday, in a quiet rural village less than an hour from the foot of l’Alpe, my front wheel got caught in a pothole and I fell awkwardly – damn!

We spent the last week of our adventure on the French Riviera – with my shoulders strapped to support the broken bone. When, a week later, we returned from Europe I weighed in at 87kg a full 30kg less than when my weight loss journey began.

And the journey continues. I’ve got a few more kilograms to lose and I have to get back to France. I have unfinished business with l’Alpe d’Huez.

Bicycle Queenslands next Cycling Tour:

Lifecycle Brisbane Australia:

Being Bronwyn Kelly ~ A Cycling Biography


2013 Ipswich 100


I met Bronwyn at my brothers house one day. We were participating in his ‘Bike Cleaning #101 for Remedial’s’ course. If you know Jon (JD), you will know he is obsessed with making everything clean. He keeps his bikes immaculately clean! Most friends make jokes with him about it. Some of us want to be like Jon…and some of us just want to know how to wash down and lube your chain…like Jon! So…I got to know Bronwyn that afternoon, as we (and another lady) were standing around, watching Jon hose down her bike and explain the types of clothes you should use, and in what order, what detergent is best, how to scrub the grease off your chain, wash it down correctly (don’t forget to wash each individual spoke ladies!), wipe down every last drop of water and lube the chain within an inch of its life! During this session I discovered that in 2011 I had ridden 570kms with Bronwyn on the Cycle Queensland Goondiwindi to Brisbane bike ride! There were 1,500 cyclists on that tour…I met a lot of them…but not Bronwyn. I wished I had! Bronwyn was riding her Giant Transend 1 and I was riding my Specialized Myca mountain bike. Seriously! Both bikes are heavy bikes to ride and, like Bronwyn explains, it is a real push to make it on time to all the rest stops…and home before the SAG sweeps you up! Watching all those road bikes swoosh past me made me also think…maybe I need a road bike? Bronwyn and I have ridden together on many bike rides. Our farthest stint was the STRAVA 100 mile Challenge where we clocked up 170kms in one day. I have been privileged to be included in her Deadly Domestique River Loop group ride (recently resulting in a real live domestic!) and enjoy chatting with her post ride over coffee and ‘soldiers’ at GoMa. One day my brother and friends, decided to ride to Mt Nebo. There were two groups: mountain and road. Bronwyn and I took the mountain option. I was absolutely amazed and inspired, as I watched Bronwyn climb every single steep bit of that mountain on Ted’s Heritage Cannondale CAD 3 MTB…whilst I walked bits of it! She is a determined young woman and takes on any challenge 100%…including Coot-tha…but I shall let her tell you her story…

I hope you are also inspired by her as I was…

I have been commuting to work for over a decade. Not everyday but I like the idea of saving money on bus fares and never liked the idea of paying to go to the gym. Especially when I can save money, time and get exercise.

Back in 2002 I rode into work on a Sunday to start with. No one showed me how, held my hand or encouraged me it was something I decided I wanted to do and quietly went about it. I found out where I could lock my bike up, how to access the area and I was away. The first time I rode in on a weekday. I got to the office garage door and pressed intercom for security to open it and nearly lost my breakfast. After that I learnt to not push it quite so hard. It didn’t take long to find out the safe paths through the city that weren’t too populated with pedestrians.

I became dependent on cycling and was missing it in mid 2002 when after it had been raining solidly for two weeks and I hadn’t been riding, I was about to head to the bus again when I looked out the window and saw blue skies. I went and changed into my riding clothes and set off into one of the loveliest mornings. I was so happy the air was clean and clear from all the rain, I had a good song in my head and I could see the hills as I crested the SE Freeway cycle path beside the southern end of the Captain Cook Bridge.  But from there I didn’t take enough consideration of the speed I was going down the pinch into the corners, nor the wet leaves that had become a sodden mess over the weeks of rain and I ended up coming off and breaking my front teeth.


Bronwyn breaks her front teeth in an unfortunate cycling incident

I was pretty upset more than in pain but your teeth are pretty important you realise when you don’t have them. I was checked out at the hospital and was fine other than the teeth and my brother found an amazing dentist who worked on my teeth for the next 6 months. My dental bills were covered by WorkCover as I had been on my way to work, which I appreciated when it totalled $7,000. In that time I didn’t ride but I did win $500 from a radio contest and when they asked what I was going to do with the money I said I would be getting a new bike. I mainly blamed the old Kmart bike for my stack and my lack of concentration. The old bike is still being ridden by my nephews at my parent’s farm. I bought a new burgundy Apollo hybrid. It was made of steel but I didn’t know better and I loved it. It was so much sturdier than the old Kmart bike so I wasn’t concerned that I couldn’t pick it up to carry it more than over a couple of stairs.

Once my teeth were fixed and I was again able to eat apples and sandwiches, I set back off on my bike commute but now I was a bit afraid of going down hills so I carried a mouthguard and would wear it going down hills. After a while it was so hard to breath with it that I stopped using it and it has now sat in its case for the past 9 years. Eventually I got over my fear of coming off again while going down hills.

When I moved to Scotland I got another Hybrid and would go on little rides around Edinburgh and then Glasgow. I had dreams of cycling the 60 miles from Glasgow to Edinburgh, but that was beyond my endurance at that time. I was quite proud of my ride from Partick to Bells Bridge which was a 60km round trip. I had never ridden so far before I just kept going until I felt I had ridden half way of where I thought I could ride home from. I got a bit lost on the way home and ended up following then chatting to a South African doctor who cycled to and from work in Dumbarton and turned out lived around the corner from me.

When I returned to Australia, I still rode my Apollo but when I had a job working out past Ipswich there was less cycling to be had. Other than cycling to and from UQ to study for my masters degree. I found it took the same amount of time including waiting to cycle or catch the bus, so I rode. When I changed jobs and started working at TMR I found the only way to get to work was to cycle or walk as I was so close to home. And that is when I started thinking about Cycle Queensland. My flatmate Meeki had done it a couple of years before (the Darling Downs Loop), so my thought was, I ride more than her…I can do that. I was also inspired by the blog TMR people wrote and went in the internal messages for the Yeppoon to Bundaberg ride. So I got a new much lighter ladies bike. It took me a while to find as I had something in mind and all the shops wanted me to buy a flat bar road bike. My thought was that yes I want to ride from Goondiwindi to Brisbane but for the rest of the time I want to be able to ride to and from work in a dress. So I was happy when I found someone happy to sell me the bike I wanted I bought it immediately. That is a Giant Transend 1, which I call Gigante which is Spanish for giant and because I ride it to and from UQ where I am studying Spanish.

One of my favourite things to do while riding out to UQ from the CBD along the Biccentenial Path in my frock and with my pannier is to ride as fast as I can without appearing to. I always find some bloke on a road bike who will try and pass me I just like to make it so he has to work a bit harder to do so. I can usually get to the Go Between Bridge before they have been able to get enough speed to pass me.

My first big ride was in April 2011 the Ipswich 100 – 100km route. It took my 6hrs and I realised several things. You shouldn’t wear underpants under knicks (shy shorts in this case) and big comfy looking saddles are not so much after 50km and even worse after 75km. I fixed these issues later.

After starting work at TMR making maps of Queensland I realised I was only familiar with the South east corner and had no experience of the rest of the state that I was mapping everyday. So I decided that the best way to rectify this was the do a road trip of North West Queensland with a friend and Cycle Queensland (CQ) that was cycling from Goondiwindi to Brisbane. After coming back from my road trip in July I had 8 weeks to train up for CQ. I found a training plan on the BQ website and set about getting some decent time in the saddle. I found it very good as it got you used to spending a longer time riding starting with 20km distances and working up to longer ones with riding on consecutive days. It also included suggested days with hilly rides, so I took my bike up Mt Coot-tha. Starting with the front and then tackling the back.

In September 2011 I rode Gigante from Goondiwindi to Brisbane and then home. I really enjoyed it as a “slow cyclist” I would have chats to people all day along the way, ask them about themselves and their riding and discuss their bikes. Good fun. At the end of the day the TMR people were always surprised how many people I knew simply from who I had chatted to along the way. The hardest day was the 100km from Texas to Stanthorpe and the most rewarding was from Woodenbong to Rathdowney leg to lunch. I set out that morning a bit later than I wanted and everyone else had headed off already. So I was riding hard to catch up. We were suppose to be at Rathdowney State School at 9:45am for a presentation about cycling and I was carrying the bicycle helmet we were to give away. So first I had to get over the Border Range. That actually wasn’t too bad with a bike with a triple chain ring. The best bit was coming down the other side with kilometres of long sweeping roads which is where the weight of my bike came into its own. I was overtaking everyone, with a big grin on my face. I finally caught up to Robyn and Gavin at the morning tea stop in Pallin Creek then we travelled in my first pace line along the flats to Rathdowney. I was surprised to find that I was able to maintain 30km/hr on a ladies step through bike with someone else blocking the wind for me and we made it dead on time for our appointment.

Over the 9 day holiday and 8 days of riding I had the TMR team of cyclists work on me with the constant suggestion of “You should get a road bike”. After the persistent recommendations to get a road bike I finally broke under the weight of the peer pressure after CQ2011. I succumbed and found one I liked, a Specialized Dolce Elite fitted with a massive mountain bike cassette (11-32T), which I got fitted because I could and it gave me as wide a range of gears as I have on my hybrid with a triple chain ring. I had always had a bit of a loathing of climbing hills on my old steel framed Apollo but with the lighter Gigante with a good range of gears I seemed to forget that and often on CQ would end up riding past lots of people walking up steep sections because they had run out of gears. With the massive cassette on my road bike it allowed me to never have any excuse for having to walk up a hill. Since October 2011 I have ridden 7200km on it, completing countless river loops, several 100km rides and Mt Nebo climbs, another Cycle Queensland, a 100 mile ride and many Mt Coot-tha ascents.

I got introduced to Strava last year by JD (who I started refering to as Captain Strava, as I doubt there is anyone more keen on Strava that JD out there). These days have no problems descending hills and have found I have a bit on an aptitude for it having captured a few Queen of the Mountains (QOMs) coming off Mt Coot-tha. Late last year I started doing repeats of the back of Mt Coot-tha in an attempt to improve my fitness a bit quicker so I could keep up with the people I ride with during the week. So when the Stava Tour Down Under Mt Coot-tha Challenge came up I joined as I was doing it regularly anyway.

Bronwyn Coot-tha

Bronwyn rides Mt Coot-tha early mornings

It turned out for most of the month I was the one who had completed the most ascents until halfway through when another woman started doing 4-5 in a session. On the last day I had been lent a carbon bike I was test riding and in the morning had done my best time up the back when it turned out I was only 3 ascents short of the other lady and only needed 4 to win the most ascents prize. I got egged on a bit and decided since I had done two in a row and three is only one more than that, four shouldn’t be too much of a problem. So that afternoon I decided to drive over, so conserve some energy and started my repeats, after the first one I sent a message to a few of the people that had been egging me on that I was doing it. JD replied and said he should be over in time for my last one, so  I got two in before it started getting dark and while coming down on the third realised my front lights were inadequate for riding in the dark with no street lights. Luckily I have a string of red fairy lights I had attached to my back which at least illuminated me very well from behind. I was so glad to see JD when he arrived in the pitch black with a decent set of headlights. So he led me up for the last one and down again. So for my efforts I got a Stava Jersey Bin and a Strava cap. I thought JDs efforts riding up with me deserved the cap and I kept the Jersey Bin.

As of this week I have retired the Dolce having now purchased a new carbon fibre – Specialized Ruby Comp.

Why do I like cycling?

I like the self motivated transport. I like being able to leave when I like and not be fixed to a time table. Also I need the exercise, I hate gyms and enjoy the constantly changing scenery you get riding.

Why do I cycle commute to work?

I have been commuting to work for over a decade. Not everyday but I like the idea of saving money on bus fares and never liked the idea of paying to go to the gym. Especially when I can save money, time and get exercise.

Why is cycling your passion?

This has come as a surprise to me. But I am no longer passionate but obsessed/addicted to cycling. As I have now found a good group of people to ride with there is always a group ride on so I find I am riding nearly everyday as I don’t want to miss out. It must also be the endorphins. I may have taken it a bit to far as I was riding 6 days a week and have done 9 consecutive days of long rides (I think I was trying to make up for the excesses of Christmas and New Year). I am now managing it better by riding more like 5 days a week of long rides.

In the past 6 months since becoming a weekday rider (rather than just a weekend rider), I have lost 10kg and am better able to keep up with the group despite being on a heavier alloy road bike. The main contributor to my improved fitness and weight loss would be the many repeats of Mt Coot-tha I did last year. What started as 17 minutes of pushing myself has now dropped to 13 minutes, while riding the same bike.

What is your ultimate dream, when it comes to cycling?

I have dreams but they change all the time. I have thought about doing a cycling tour over some long distances unsupported. But haven’t seriously put any steps towards doing it yet. Other than the first trip I would like to do is a two day trip from home to my parents place in Gympie via Kilcoy, then either ride back over a couple of days or take the train.

I would like to be better at technical mountain biking, or at least get some training to improve my confidence as I am usually afraid constantly I am going to hurt myself.

I am going to continue to do Cycle Queensland. I have convinced my parents to join me this year. A few years ago they walked the Camino in Spain and they are fairly fit macadamia farmers but haven’t been cycling for years.

CQ2012 route went past the end of their road just outside Gympie along Cedar Pocket Road. I asked them to come and have a look and bring along Mum’s collection of dinner bells as people would get a kick out of that. They did it despite their reservations about the neighbours seeing them making fools of themselves. They were there from when the first riders, yelling encouragement and ringing their bells until the last riders, long after the police and marshals had all moved on.

So they have been a bit wary about how far their can ride, being in their mid 60s, so I have set them the challenge of riding the 50km return trip up Cedar Pocket Road to Kin Kin. If they can manage that then there is little that could be harder on the next CQ ride. This road includes crossing the range and some decent hills with a long 9% grade and some nasty sharp ones at 12% and 18% grades. They have six months and have now managed the 40km return trip to the top of the gap in the range.

Mum is looking forward to getting my current road bike as she is currently riding the sturdy 17kg Apollo but would love the 6kg weight loss that will come with my road bike. The massive cassette with 36 teeth I’m sure will help her to get up those steep hills with ease.

strava-segment-challenge-pr strava-segment-challenge

As Bronwyn said to me: “I feel like we both started out the same – using bikes for transportation and then reluctantly donned the Lycra after a while, however I have no aspirations of building my own bike”. Nor do I! You pick them up from a bike shop don’t you? 🙂

*Note* At the time of writing this blog, Bronwyn had a collision with another cyclist and is currently working on mending her ankle (chipped bone). It was a most unfortunate morning…having taken out her new Specialized Ruby Comp for it’s first trip up Mt Coot-tha. It’s wheel is badly buckled and will need replacement. We all miss her out on our rides and look forward to her return with open arms. 

Bronwyns favourite bike blog: Lovely Bicycle: