Linen panel dress

[Intro: I’m switching direction again – from personal development to motorbiking to sewing. I design stuff, patternmake and sew; and I thought I might share some of my projects…]

The concept

I’m studying a Diploma in Fashion design and for an assignment had to design a mini spring/summer range. Amongst other things, I sketched this dress:

First sketch

First sketch

Which turned into this flat:

1.dress

The fabric

I actually thought I wouldn’t be able to make this – it depended on being able to find colours that went together in the same fabric. I don’t have very good access to fabric stores so went shopping to look for things for another project. You can imagine how surprised I was to find these, all in lovely-quality linen:

5 examples of linen fabric

The pattern draft

The pattern is pretty simple. It’s from a standard dress block. I removed ease under the arms, moved the shoulder dart to the side seam, let out the waist darts a bit, widened the skirt and then drew in the neckline and panels. You can see most of it in this photo. The reason there is so much drawing on it is that there are a couple of stages of modification, each in a different colour (green is the final pattern). It’s messy, but easier (and more accurate) than tracing it for each variation.

Making the pattern

Making the pattern

I did make a toile, but the photo is fairly awful. I just traced the pattern straight onto the calico – again, that was much easier than cutting out the pattern and then cutting the fabric. I made it all in one piece to check the overall shape – I didn’t’ bother with the panels just yet.

The prototype

I made a prototype out of sheeting so I could double-check the pattern and see what the panels looked like, and it turned out great. All I needed to change was to narrow the skirt a bit.

Prototype dress, made from old sheeting

Prototype dress, made from old sheeting

I love the prototype – it’s almost wearable except for the fabric.

The final pattern

The final pattern pieces look like this:

Front pieces

Front pattern pieces

Pattern pieces for the back

Back pattern pieces

Lining pattern pieces

Lining and facing pattern pieces

There are a few little pattern features that may not be obvious:

  • The strap is the same colour as the top panel, but cut as a separate piece so it can be cut on the straight grain, not part bias (so it sits nice and flat)
  • The strap is perfectly positioned over the bra strap
  • The bust dart is hidden on the left, incorporated into the panel seam (but I couldn’t manage that on both sides)
  • I made a skirt facing instead of just turning up a hem. I wanted a bit of weight so the linen would hang straight and heavy-ish. I have never sewn a large turned up hem and have it look great. The facing is excellent for a really neat hem.

The dress

And here it is – the finished dress!

The final dress, and matching jacket

The final dress, and matching jacket

Just the dress

Just the dress

Sucking in my belly

Sucking in my belly

The wrap-up

I really love it. I’ve worn it twice already. It fits perfectly of course and is really comfortable. The linen crushes, but that’s just what happens with linen. I could even imagine making it again, which is unusual for me – I usually don’t use a pattern twice. If I did, I’d change the top angle of the centre panel to be less straight across the body – it’s a bit straight and visually wide, but that’s the only thing I’d do differently.

Posted in Patternmaking, Sewing | Leave a comment

Sinking sunk costs: Don’t continue work you hate

You may not know this, but I’m a weaver. I’ve had an enormous loom for longer than I’ve had a daughter, and my number 1 criteria when house-hunting is making sure I have space for my loom and sewing machines.

Some years ago, I made a rag rug out of denim jeans and gave it to my Dad. He hung it on the wall instead of using it as a rug, but that was OK. It was a good rug and I liked it enough that I eventually decided to make one for myself.

I collected jeans for years – going to op-shops and church sales, picking up $3 jeans, and delighting when I found a cheap pair of fat-man jeans.

I tore them into strips for years. Standing on my back deck, breathing in cotton dust, tearing until my arms hurt.

Thousands of strips of jeans

Thousands of strips of jeans

I wrapped them into balls by colour. Starting small and gradually getting bigger. It took ages and for a couple of years there were piles of denim strips in my loungeroom that would sit untouched for months at a time.

Rolled into balls

Rolled into balls

I wound a long warp and patiently put it on the loom. I threaded around 500 warp threads through the heddles, through the reed and tied them onto the front beam. It took days of continuous effort.

A very long warp

A very long warp

I finally started to weave – about 8 years after I started the project. And I hated it. It was just not fun weaving. I couldn’t get any rhythm, every piece of denim had to be placed in by hand, the warp was too wide to do it comfortably. So naturally, I stopped and did other things. I think it sat still for well over a year, possibly two.

It just sits there and stares at me

It just sits there and stares at me

The rug sat on the loom until last night, when I had some free time and thought I’d give it another go to get it woven off so I could start something pretty. It took half an hour to weave 10cm and I still hated it.

With only 1.6m done (out of a potential 8m), I decided it was not worth continuing. I didn’t want it to sit there for another 2 years, not being done. I wove a header to finish it off, took the scissors to it and cut it off the loom.

Finished weaving

Finished weaving

Twisting the fringe - another 3 hours work

Twisting the fringe – another 3 hours work

Ah, what a good decision that was. Now, instead of a hated project that I felt like I should continue because of the time I’d already sunk into it, I have an empty loom and infinite possibilities.

The rug is lovely. I would like more of them. But I don’t want them enough to risk locking up my future into a project I hate.

The finished rug is gorgeous

The finished rug is gorgeous

Now for something pretty.

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Seat, tyres and boots

It’s been far too hot to ride recently – around 37°C for the entire week (and it starts getting hot too early to get a ride in).

I did get out on one great ride on the Australia Day holiday – about 11 of us spent a few hours on the back roads before settling in for a burger at Jugiong. That was fun – after saying I could probably manage 80 on gravel roads, I managed a top speed of 112 before it got a bit wobbly (my top speed on tarmac is only 124). But most importantly, I kept up with the group (of mostly big bikes) all morning.

I also got some practice in a friend’s paddock – doing slow speed stuff, learning to lean the bike right in, initiating turns with my feet and getting off the handlebars. I also channelled my inner 10 year old by riding sitting down, half off the seat, with a leg thrown forward for balance. All good practice that I can’t get while on rides.

But otherwise, (well, apart from this thing called work that I occasionally have to do), I did some playing with the bike.

Lowering the seat

I’ve been thinking about some of the things I’m still afraid of, and a lot of them revolve around falling. Well, not falling specifically, but losing balance and not being able to catch myself. I’m not bothered by the height of the bike any more for most situations, but I imagine being in the middle of a creek, and not being able to get my foot down to catch myself.

There seemed to be three options – lowering via the shock (apparently about 3/4″), getting a lowering link, or lowering the seat. I’d really prefer not to play with the clearance if I can avoid it, and I had bought a spare seat foam a while back, so thought that would be the best, first option.

I pulled the seat off and looked at the spare foam. There’s a ton of foam in there! I’m only 70kg – surely I don’t need that thickness of foam to support me.

There's a ton of foam there

There’s a ton of foam there

I drew a revision of about 1cm, and cut it down (haha, with one of my best kitchen knives). It was pretty rough, so I grabbed some sandpaper and sanded it until it was smooth enough, then glued it back to the seat base and re-stapled the cover.

This simple change dropped my heels by about 2cm. I still couldn’t flat foot it, but I don’t really need to – I just needed more grip with my toes – I could finally push back while sitting on the bike, and felt more able to get to the ground if I needed to.

Fixing the tyre

After the last ride, I looked at my tyre, and it was doing something very strange. Half of the tyre (around the circumference, not across it) was almost worn right down, and the other half still had 5-6mm on the central knobs. After a bit of asking around, I concluded that it was incredibly out of balance – it has one rimlock and it’s right near the valve stem. This combination means that one side of the tyre is heavier than the other, and results in uneven wear. I’m not sure, but it may have been made worse by a 400km tarmac ride on a 44°C day!

So I got a new tyre (a D606) and asked them to balance it. Just look at the weights they needed to balance it! No wonder it was out of shape.

Wow!

Wow!

Before I changed the tyre, the bike vibrated so much that I usually wore cycling shorts when riding any kind of distance. With the new, balanced tyre it’s beautifully smooth.

Buying the boots

I had been wearing Gaerne G-Adventures. I bought them in Italy, using my limited Italian and much hand waving, and carried them in my backpack all the way home. They’re great boots – super comfortable and easy to walk in. They are so comfortable that I rarely think about my feet at all. Except when I’m standing on the pegs for a long while – then all I think about is how much my arches hurt and how I want the ride to end. It also seemed to be getting worse – starting to hurt earlier in rides, rather than my feet getting stronger. I needed something with a stiffer sole, and something that would protect my ankles a lot better if I fall under the bike.

The incredibly hard thing about finding good boots is that I have girl-sized feet. I wear a European 39 / UK 6. Most of the boots that were recommended to me start at a Euro 40 (except Garne SG-10s, which come in a 39). The bigger problem is that retailers don’t carry boots that small. Because clearly, girls don’t ride! (BTW – there are no appropriate boots in women’s styling). I asked at my local shop and they were happy to get me in a pair of Sidi Crossfires, with no obligation to buy them if they didn’t fit. That was awesome! Then when I tried them on, they fit well enough – with an innersole to support my arches better, they are pretty much perfect. They have a reputation as a narrow boot, which was perfect for me. It took me a week of wearing them around the house to soften them up for riding, and I can’t lift my toe high enough to change gears without lifting my foot, but that’s ok.

Sidi Crossfires

Sidi Crossfires

But now I can’t touch the ground again

The combination of a higher profile tyre and a boot with a stiffer sole means I could only just touch the ground again. I couldn’t push the bike forward or back.

Lowering the seat

I only took 1cm out of the seat first time, and there was still plenty of foam where I sit, so I took to it again, this time removing another 1cm. I didn’t want to slope the back of he seat, as changing the angle of the seat could make it uncomfortable to ride, so I cut it down square.

Marking the foam before cutting

Marking the foam before cutting

The result was excellent. My heels almost touch the ground and I can push the bike around if I need. I feel safer if I need to stop, and the foam is still supportive for riding. Win!

Testing it out

I took it for a run with a friend on the weekend and it was most excellent. I missed the shifter and brake a couple of times with the new boots, but that was the only issue. I felt comfortable and happy on my bike. Here’s a pic from the top of Tinderry Rd.

Tinderry Rd

Posted in Riding | 1 Comment

Beating fear

After spending a lovely week in Melbourne, catching up with friends, doing a little work, hanging around, it was time for me to head home. Not directly, of course, but another 3-day adventure ride!

Our plan was to explore a bit of the coast between Orbost & Mallacoota – we had thought of going there after new year, but called that trip short.

We’d had a discussion during the week about my riding skills. Well, a long email (R), lots of sulking (me), some hard thinking about what kind of riding I want to do long term (me) and a couple of follow-up discussions. Long story short – fear is holding me back.

My fear (though a healthy one of crashing) makes me ride too cautiously, which makes the bike harder to manage. This makes the fear worse, then tires me out. This makes me slower, until I feel every rock and rut and bump in the road, and ride like a nanna because of it.

It’s only when I push myself to focus and go faster that things start to smooth out and riding becomes a little easier. The problem is staying focused…especially with so many lovely rivers to swim in! Once I stop and relax, it’s hard to push myself again. And the less I push myself, the less I learn, and the longer I spend nanna riding. If you read between the lines in my ride reports, you’ll be able to see this pattern. To break the pattern I need the skills to be able to push myself without crashing to the ground or something similarly unpleasant.

So planning for the weekend revolved around what I really want to do with riding, and what I need to learn to do it. Riding comfortable dirt roads is a quite different thing to going exploring without knowing what’s going to happen. I really had to think about what I want to do and eventually decided that I do want the skills to be able to go exploring. I don’t want to choose a series of safe roads because I don’t know how to go up and down hills, or because there may be sand in the way. R made a rough plan that would be fewer km than previous weeks, with options for developing my skills without pushing me too hard.

But first I had to get there.

Day 1: F*** it’s hot!

Map of the route from Melbourne to Marlo

Slabbing it from Melbourne to Marlo

The whole of eastern Australia had been in a heatwave for a week. Melbourne had seen consistent 44℃ temperatures. The forecast for Friday was no different. I had about 400km to cover and hoped to get away early enough to get through some km before it started to heat up.

I had about 2 hours of OK temperatures, then they started to climb. The last 2 hours was awful. Everything was furnace-hot. I stopped every half hour, drank water and soaked my t-shirt. I was very glad I’d bought my new jacket & pants – they both have excellent venting so the air can flow through and cool me off (home-made evaporative cooling). I closed the vents in my helmet and shut my visor to reduce the hot air flowing across my face. I just rode minute to minute. It was tiring and draining. My poor tyres!

At last I reached Marlo, where the temperature dropped at least 10 degrees. We were staying at Jungle Beach campground, about 15km away & I headed there straight away.

As I turned onto the road to the campground, I noticed it was gravel, and there was sand in the corners. Immediate nervous reaction! I rode the 2km like I had never seen dirt before – I just couldn’t settle my nerves. Naturally, that made me anxious about the weekend. I had a nap and went into Marlo for dinner (but abandoned that – the pub was full and I really wasn’t up to eating alone in a full pub); bought beer and came back to cook soup instead. I was better both times on the road, but my head was still doing me in. I thought up a few excuses (blazing bushfire to the North, not far away) but knew I wasn’t actually going to wimp out.

R arrived, we talked about the plan and went to sleep. While we were asleep, the sea breeze came in, then a stronger wind, bringing cooler weather. It also brought an endless hail of noisy gumnuts on our tin-roofed caravan annex – that was one of the strangest sleeps I’ve ever had.

Day 2: Killing the sand demons

Map of Marlo to Mallacoota, via Bemm River and Cann River

Marlo to Mallacoota, via Bemm River, Cann River and Point Hicks

Our plan today was to get to Mallacoota, with a ride of about 260km (all new roads to both of us). R had said there were likely to be some stretches of sandy track, but I hoped there weren’t too many.

I led off, so I didn’t have to eat his dust, and he didn’t have to constantly watch over his shoulder. It wasn’t very long before I spotted the first sandy part of the track.

I hesitated for just a second, then remembered what I’d done last week and what we’d talked about. Weight back, throttle steady, look at where I want to go. The front wheel wobbled about for a while, then bit into firm ground and just kept going. That was OK. Then there was another bit. And another. About 20 minutes of it! At the end I was running on adrenaline, panting a bit, but hadn’t hesitated. I was shaking and needed to sit down for a bit, but felt amazing. R was just a little bit surprised – he’d thought I’d see the sand and stop. He showed me some better technique (I wasn’t moving my weight back far enough) and we continued.

I can hardly remember the next section of the ride – I think it was a fairly decent gravel road, with some corners, some sandy parts, some rocky parts. But the end result was that we ended up in Cann River (via Bemm River) and R said he had never seen me ride so well. He was right too!

After a burger, we headed out to Point Hicks Lighthouse. Again, normal gravel road. The gate on the lighthouse road was closed, and it was a 2.2km walk up. It’s quite picturesque.

Point Hicks Lighthouse

Point Hicks Lighthouse

After that, we’d planned to take the Cicada Trail. This was my first trail on this bike – everything else had been ‘road’. It started with a lumpy downhill, to a creek crossing. I am incredibly embarrassed to say that I chickened out on what was a quite shallow creek crossing. I don’t know what was going on, but even though R took my bike across and back a couple of times, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

The impossible creek (far out, I'm a wimp!)

The impossible creek (far out, I’m a wimp!)


Then on the other side of the creek I couldn’t get the bike off the side stand, and by the time I finished the ascent out of the creek, I needed a Gatorade, cool down and a rest.
Having a rest on the Cicada Trail

Having a rest on the Cicada Trail

I was enjoying the trail – there was lots of variation – dirt mounds, sand, rock, corners, ruts and branches. I do like picking my way through a trail, finding the best line, figuring out what to do next. We rode for about 12km before I realised how badly I was starting to ride. Again, my pace was way too slow for the bike and trail, and my corners were woeful (however, every time I hit sand, apparently I got some really good speed up, even around corners). We decided to cut out to the road and abandon the rest of the trail. On the way out, I had a lesson in crossing logs and did the most embarrassing thing ever by asking R to ride my bike through what turned out to be a hard-based PUDDLE! He has permission to tease me forever for that one.

We rode to the highway, then to Mallacoota, where we got the second-last campsite, right on the water.

The campsite - you can't see the neighbours, but we can hear them

The campsite – you can’t see the neighbours, but we can hear them

The trailstar, set up with 2 mozzie nets and still plenty of room for gear

The trailstar, set up with 2 mozzie nets and still plenty of room for gear

The camp ground was close-packed and relatively gross, but had HOT SHOWERS. I walked to the shop for beer & groceries, cooked completely revolting soup, went to bed at 9pm and wished people would just shut up.

Day 3: The great luggage switch

Map of route from Mallacotta to home

Mallacoota to home, via Imlay Rd and Bobeyan Rd

Sunday was just a day to get home. I planned to take Imlay Road, then some back roads across to Bobeyan Rd (the dirt road I always leave home on). R planned on finishing the track we hadn’t done yesterday, then slab home.

I wasn’t loving my new luggage, and R had wanted to try it. I had planned to buy the luggage he had, but thought I couldn’t put it on my bike without a frame, so didn’t buy it. When I looked at how it worked on his bike, I realised it could work on mine without a frame. So we switched – he went home with a Giant Loop Coyote and I came home with Andy Strapz pannierz. I’ll write a separate post comparing them. If we both are happy, we’re just going to keep them.

The wrap up

This was yet another interesting weekend. On one hand, my skills ramped up dramatically. I am no longer scared of sandy tracks (I may not be riding the Simpson Desert any time soon though). Except for when I was almost exhausted, fear didn’t rule me. On the other hand, I still am trying to control the bike (instead of letting it move around under me), am completely rubbish at cornering and am hitting exhaustion earlier than I’d like.

But I have 2 plans. Plan 1 is that two friends have offered me paddock space to practice all the low-speed manoeuvres I need to learn how to tip the bike in and balance with my feet (I need this skill to do it at speed). Plan 2 is to find a route to ride regularly, focusing on improving every single time. I will enact this plan in the next two weeks. I will probably even tell you about it…

I also have some gear sub-plans. I need to buy a tent (we fit in R’s trailstar fairly well by making a spare bedroom with the extra mozzie net, but I can’t always do that!), buy new boots (my Gaerne Adventure boots fit beautifully but the sole just isn’t stiff enough for multi-day rides – my arches hurt like mad after 10 minutes) and buy gloves that don’t rub so much (mens gloves are wide across the palm & move around too much). Ah, the never-ending search for the perfect gear.

But first I should find beer and unpack.

Posted in Riding | 2 Comments

First (3-day) adventure ride on my WR250R

The plan for this weekend’s ride was to ride some easy roads through the Victorian high country, this time on my small adventure bike (my WR250R). I was going to ride down by myself, then we’d ride together for a day, then I’d spend a week in Melbourne doing some work and seeing some friends.

I bought my WRR last June, as a way to get practice on the dirt with a small, light bike. But due to a whole bunch of boring excuses (not reasons), I’d only taken it out twice on the dirt. The first time was a terribly slow ride, where I spent the entire time scared of the height of the bike. The second I took the same route, telling myself the entire time that I didn’t like this, despite the fact that I was riding ok and had no mishaps (sometimes my head tells me some really stupid things).

But after a week of getting ready & getting my kit all sorted, I was really looking forward to it.

Day 1: Barry Way to Omeo

Map of route Canberra to Omeo

Canberra to Omeo

Today’s goal was to get to Omeo – riding to Jindabyne, then along the Barry Way then Limestone Road. I’d ridden all of this except the last part of Limestone the previous week, so knew what to expect. But it was on a different bike and I was going to do it in one day, not 2, so it was going to be a big day. There were also some parts that had made me nervous the previous week.

I made it all the way to Jindabyne for morning tea. The 40km of gravel on Bobeyan Rd was a good chance to get a feel for the bike – it is an easy road and one I know well already. It was a comfortable ride & was a good chance to get a feel for the bike and my body position.

Bobeyan Rd, on the ACT/NSW border

Bobeyan Rd, on the ACT/NSW border

There was going to be nowhere to stop for lunch. There’s nothing between Jindabyne & Omeo, and I was at Jindabyne too early for lunch. So I planned to eat on the road.

Last week when I rode along the Barry way on the big bike, I spent a lot of time nervous, and particularly disliked the descents (well, mostly the corners at the bottom of the descents). On the other side of the Vic border I had spent a lot of time not liking the ascents (can you see why I can’t figure out whether I like adventure riding…).

This time, on the smaller bike, I was looking for the descents that I’d disliked. I couldn’t find them. I liked it all, though I still wasn’t riding well or fast.

I stopped at the bottom of the road, ate jerky & chocolate & drank water. When I got back on the bike I felt so much better – it’s a fairly steep ascent, and last week I gave myself a bad neck ache tensing around every corner, imagining the consequences of dropping off the edge of that cliff. This time, it was good – I got a bit of a flow around some corners, didn’t worry about how to get up hills (the little bike just walks up, even at super-low speed) and didn’t once think about the fact that I was on the edge of a cliff. I just enjoyed it.

When I got to the turnoff for Limestone Rd, I still had 100km to go, and I’d been on the road for about 7 hours already. This whole stretch was tough. I was tired, hadn’t had a proper meal and just wanted it to end. The road is dead easy – it’s flat, with open corners. But I couldn’t get up any pace, and crunched around every corner. It was probably the easiest road I took all weekend, but all I did was watch the odometer & looked for the end.

And there, finally was Omeo, and the Hilltop hotel, with an ok, though squeaky bed & beer! R met me there later in the evening.

Day 2: The Birregun Rd (plus a swim & some sand)

Map of our route from Omeo to the beach

Omeo to the beach, via the Birregun Road

R had lots of plans for routes we could try, rated from grandma to challenging, but the main one was for me to ride the Birregun Rd. The first thing I did was to stop on a straight stretch & get him to ride the bike . I thought it was feeling a bit squirmy, but it turned out that it was completely fine – that’s just how light bikes feel on the gravel.

When we reached a spot with corners, I went ahead so he could watch me ride. It’s hard for me to put myself in a position where someone is assessing me (yep, 2 unfinished masters degrees). But he gives good advice so I was ok with the idea. I was riding badly though – I couldn’t get my posture right, my throttle control was all over the place, I was slow and my corners were terrible.

We stopped after not much distance and debriefed. Yes, I was as crap as I thought. R pointed out that I was taking corners wide and steering around them with the handlebars, which is just wrong. I need to keep the bike straight and lean it around corners. So it doesn’t fall over, I have to lean my body to the opposite side. He showed me how it looked on my bike. I also needed to get some pace up, to better ride across the rocks & rubbish. He suggested I try it for a while sitting down & then stand later.

So I tried it. I just focused on my bike & body position, and picking up the pace. I forgot about posture, throttle & where to position the bike in the corner. I just concentrated on leaning the bike in. I couldn’t do it sitting down as we were going uphill (& I need to stand forward to get uphills) so I did most of it on my feet.

It felt amazing. I floated around corners (well, for me), and zipped along. R had folded my mirrors down so I couldn’t see where he was. There were some long stretches of straight uphill ruts and I put on some speed to zip up them – they were lots of fun.

I saw a track off to the side & a bit after that, he zipped around me and stopped. He wanted to look at the campground we’d passed. We went back, got off the bike & he said ‘wtf just happened there?’ with a big grin. BEST PART OF THE ENTIRE WEEKEND.

You know how sometimes you can just feel your skills ramp up, and it feels amazing – yes,that!

On the Birregun Road

On the Birregun Road

Also on the Birregun Road

Also on the Birregun Road

We rode for a bit further and stopped to talk about which way to go – we could take a route with some easy hills, or one that was about the same as we’d been doing that was scenic. I chose the scenic. We stopped on the Dargo River and had a swim (in my underwear – I could strip in public & put swimmers on, or stay in my underwear. The easy option won, despite some looks from the neighbours).

Photo of the Dargo River

Had a swim in the Dargo River

After lunch in Dargo we talked about what to do next & decided on to take the tarmac for a while (we’d made much less progress than we wanted with the fiddling around with my riding). R offered me to ride the KTM. I was a bit unsure as it’s a bigger, more powerful bike than I’d ridden before, but I really should be a decent enough rider that I shouldn’t worry about that.

It was fun. It’s heavier than anything I’ve ridden, and more powerful, but not as scary as I thought. R still completely outran me while I figured it out of course!

We swapped back and continued on the tarmac. R stopped, pointed at a dirt road and asked if I wanted to go that way. I said ‘sure’ and we took off.

R had stopped ahead and I saw a patch of sand. I thought he’d set me up – we had talked about riding sand this weekend as I had convinced myself that I was scared of sand. We talked about whether I could ride across it and I said there was no way I could manage it. He pointed out that it was a perfect situation – it was quiet, the sand was a small section, I could tackle it using whatever method I want and he was there to help me if something happened. I finally agreed (there may have been some childish sighing and face pulling first). I faced it and said ‘I’m going to paddle through’, then as I moved towards it, just stood up and rode over it. Naturally it was fine. It was a short section, so by the time I realised the front wheel was moving all over the place I was out of it. My technique was rubbish, but I got through it easily. Later on the road I hit another, longer (but probably shallower) patch. All I knew was that the front wheel was gone again – I leaned back, looked where I wanted to be & just rode through. The theory does work.

We headed to where we were planning on camping, but the wind was starting to pick up. I was on a light bike, riding along a straight road with strong side winds – of all the hard things I’d done today, this was just about the hardest. I focused right down, thinking about nothing except bike and wind and staying on the road.

Fighting the wind

Fighting the wind

After a fruitless search for a shower, we got to the campsite. We went along about 5km of dirt road to the edge of the beach scrub then followed a walking path through the scrub and ended up here, all ready to set up camp.

Riding through the scrub

Riding through the scrub

Day 3: Grand Ridge Road

Map of the route from the beach to Melbourne

Beach to Melbourne, via Grand Ridge Road

We woke late, packed up, made breakfast & got ready to leave. Taking the bikes out forward meant going up the dunes. Naturally, both go bogged!

Bogged!

Bogged!

We laid them down, spun them around, and rode out down the hill (that was a good lesson). I couldn’t see the path, so tried to follow where I could see R had been. I finally go to where he was & he pointed to the path – metres and metres away – we had both missed it and gone straight through the scrub.

We took a twisty single-lane tarmac road to start. It was the kind of road I’d have hated riding with on the BMW – lots of really tight corners. The little bike was excellent for it. I still probably rode slowly, but the bike felt light and the corners were fun.

In the twisties

In the twisties

And we stopped for a quick look at a waterfall.

Going for a closer look

Going for a closer look

But the real goal today was to ride the Grand Ridge Road, or at least some of it. This is really a series of roads, running west/east across Gippsland, through very pretty, hilly country.

I can say with all honesty that I have never had a worse day’s riding. I rode like complete rubbish. I couldn’t get my throttle control right so was on and off the throttle. I couldn’t lean the bike into the corners so I crunched around them all and hit every rock, and when I had a straight stretch, all I wanted to do was rest, instead of speeding up and getting on with it. It was just an endless cycle of feeling like I was riding like crap, riding like crap, and feeling worse for riding like crap. The arches of my feet were screaming and I could feel blisters starting on this weeks callouses that we’re forming on last weeks callouses on my hands. By the time we hit the tarmac (and we didn’t actually go far – maybe 100km) I was ready to cry.

Too tired to even get off the bike

Too tired to even get off the bike

We had a late lunch at Mirboo North, said goodbye and I slabbed for an hour up the freeway to Melbourne.

Apartment, shower, beer, food!

The wrap-up

This was an interesting ride (in terms of skills, not roads). For a while I rode well. I was in the zone and not overthinking everything. But then I undid all of the good by thinking I couldn’t ride on the sand, and riding incredibly badly for a whole day. As some justification, by Sunday I was fatigued – I’d never ridden this bike before so had no bike fitness for it; and two long days had done my body in – I wasn’t sore, but I just couldn’t get my body to respond. The blisters/callouses on my hands were painful and that was causing all kinds of problems.

I learned more about my energy levels and mental fitness. And I watched myself dig my heels in and say I couldn’t possibly try something that turned out to be completely within my skills. It must be frustrating to ride with me! Even I dislike me when I’m being like that.

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