Ride the Night: Week 189

Brochure for Sydney RIdes Festival 2014

Every now and then I have a very uninspiring week- the kind of week where I just want to lounge around the house in pajamas. I’m not saying that’s bad, but it just makes it hard to do my ‘new thing’ for the week. After browsing the weekend newsletters in my inbox, I realized that the only thing I had any chance of attending was ‘Ride the Night’. It was one of the last events of the Sydney Rides Festival, a two-week long bicycle celebration.

The only problem was that just before Ride the Night was slated to begin, storm clouds came rolling in over the city and Barret and I didn’t even have our bikes. They were still stored at our friend’s house.

“You sure you want to do this?” Barret asked before we caught the bus headed through Newtown.

“I think so.” I replied.

The weather wasn’t any better by the time we reached our friend’s house and the delicious kitchen smells also didn’t help. I was having a hard time convincing both myself and Barret that we should head into the nebulous fog that cloaked the CBD.

“I think my neighbors took their kids to that.” John mentioned as we hemmed and hawed on the comfortable couch.

In the end my project prevailed. I needed to do something new.

Ride the Night ended up being an illuminated circuit along Mrs Macquaries Road in the Royal Botanic Gardens. There were more people than I was expecting for such questionable weather, but luckily the rain stayed at bay. A few light installations were placed along the route, the most prominent being the multi-colored spheres.

Compared to the seasonal Gift of Lights drive-thru Vegas Christmas extravaganza that I grew up with, Ride the Night didn’t come close. Not by a long shot.

However, my fellow bike riders made up for the underwhelming light display. Their bikes came in an incredible assortment of styles and were covered with LEDs and bubble machines. Ride the Night wasn’t all it cracked up to be, but a night ride through Sydney is almost never a bad thing.

And, on the way back home, Barret and I found ourselves at the Night Noodle Market. It was the last evening so everything was discounted! In the end I was glad I scraped my lazy butt off the couch, but I think it goes without saying how my Sunday went- wonderfully uneventful.

About: Sydney Rides Festival

The Newport Arms Hotel: Week 166

A meal at the Newport Arms Hotel: Pittwater, Australia

“Where should we ride this weekend?” Barret asked. He wasn’t feeling particularly inspired by the forest green dots on Google Maps.

We’d covered a lot of ground on our bikes, but we hadn’t made it to Sydney’s northern beaches. Because of this we were inspired to plan our most ambitious route yet- a 50km roundtrip with friends to the Newport Arms Hotel. Aside from a spectacular view of Pittwater Bay, the hotel is a perennial darling of ‘best pub food’ lists.

The Arms was first established in 1880 by Charles Edward Jennerett, an entrepreneurial man with his hands in real estate, trade, and government. His endeavors proved fortuitous because in 1881 he was considered eminent enough to host Princes Albert and George (later George V) on their visit to Sydney.

View from the patio of the Newport Arms Hotel: Pittwater, Australia

Over the last 134 years the hotel has undergone major refurbishment and changed ownership four times. Today its sprawling outdoor patio overlooks Scotland Island and the edge of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

Jo enjoying a beer on the patio of the Newport Arms Hotel: Pittwater, Australia

It was not easy, after a heavy course of food and refreshments, to find the energy to return home. The temptation to spend the night and call in sick was strong, but we dug deep and peeled ourselves off the mint lounge chairs just before sunset. We still had 25km to go.

The final destination was gorgeous, but what continually surprises me about Australia is just how stunning the coast is no matter where you are. The beaches of Curl Curl and Dee Why are not on most tourist’s radars but their sapphire water and golden sand gleams just as brightly as the most popular southern beaches.One of Sydney's northern beaches: Warriewood, Australia

Portions of the route from Manly to Newport are also specifically set aside for bicyclists. From Dee Why the trail runs beneath tree canopies and along the Narrabeen Lakes. There’s something about the crunch of an unpaved route under my tires that brings me so much joy. It’s the sound of all great adventures.

How to get to the Newport Arms Hotel: 2 Kalinya Street, Newport NSW 2106

Bike path along the Narrabeen Lakes: Narrabeen, Australia

The Red Bicycle: Week 148

Riding my bike into downtown Sydney

Anything that doesn’t fit in my backpack feels like a big commitment. This was the reason why I didn’t want a bicycle.

“But we can resell the bikes when we leave!”

Barret tried his best, but I still wasn’t convinced. I was also not keen on the idea of arriving at work covered in sweat and having to change clothes.

“What if I forget to pack pants?”

“You won’t.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Well then you’re just stuck wearing your shorts.”

“No,” I shook my head. “That’s not going to work for me.”

And so I remained at this impasse until I began a new job in downtown Sydney and finally admitted to myself that I was a settled-down government employee. My backpack rule might have made me feel much more nomadic and unencumbered, but it wasn’t getting me to work any faster.

Barret bought me a red bicycle for Christmas and over the holiday break I did a test run to my office. It started at the top of a steep hill, ran around a park, and then crossed Pyrmont Bridge. During peak pedestrian hours, park rangers along the bridge scowl and wave orange cones to remind the bicyclists to slow down.

Five minutes further is the parking entrance to my building and where the bike lockers are. The greatest thing I discovered was that the ride only took 15-20 minutes compared to the 35-40 minutes on the bus. Even in summer I barely broke a sweat.

Now that I get around so much faster I can’t imagine wanting to walk everywhere again. Barret quickly got himself a bicycle as well and now the both of us save money on bus fares. Best of all though, I can carry all the heavy groceries up the hill in my basket.

Yes, Barret does have some clever ideas sometimes.

About: Reid Cycles

Waiheke Island: Week 50

Waiheke Island is approached by a rapid and expensive ferry from Auckland. It is a popular day trip with wine lovers, vacationers, and wedding parties. The busiest part of the island is the west side- where the town center has cafes, shops, and a movie theater. Our destination however, Crescent Valley Eco Lodge, lies closer to the quiet and verdant middle of the island.

Each day at the eco lodge was punctuated with a burst of early afternoon work followed by a walk to the beach or an evening marathon of classic British murder mysteries. After a “demanding” 10 hour work week, a clear and bright Sunday rolled around- perfect for a bike ride to Stony Batter, an old WWII tunnel system.

The hilly route was arduous and I frequently walked my bike up the steepest sections. However, my legs felt recharged after gliding downhill through a canopy of tall pines and winding through pastoral fields covered in nervous sheep.


The loose gravel road had finally gotten the better of me. I was barreling down the last hill and unable to match the trajectory of my bike with the curve of the road. Barret glanced back just in time to see me crash into an embankment.

“Are you OK?”



I could tell he was trying not to laugh.

The same woman who sold us tickets administered gentle words and loving strokes to the injured sheep lying at the entrance to Stony Batter. After receiving a lantern we entered the chill concrete chambers. Walking the tunnels reminded me of the days I stood behind my father’s shoulder and watched him play Doom. The setting was just right for an unleashed demon to come tearing up a subterranean staircase.

While the canons never fired upon enemies, I am sure any invader would have thought twice before approaching. The larger shells weighed 380 lbs and needed two 60 lbs explosive charges!  Although I am sure the construction crew felt just as daunted- they had to clear the namesake stones and build the tunnels in secrecy with pick shovels. I really appreciate my two hour workday!

How to get there:

Waiheke IslandFullers operates a passenger ferry from downtown Auckland and a car ferry from Half Moon Bay

Stony Batter accessible only by rental car, bicycle, or hitch-hiking. It is on the NE corner of the island on Man O’ War Bay Road.

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