Jess Douglas

My Dirty Secret.

03 July 2017

It is 11 am Monday morning.  I have 1hr to write this, well that is my goal!
It's a blog about my bike, it's a dirty secret I have.  I take my road bike on the dirt and I do it deliberately and often. Yes, I have a CX bike, and 3 mountain bikes but this bike...well she is good.

She is Avril the Avail. Available for anything.  
Her birth name is Liv Avail Advanced Pro - what a mouthful!

Earlier this year I had my eyes on adding this versatile bike to the stable.
She has disc brakes and a much comfier riding experience than my racing roadie.
In my mind I was envisaging multi day tours, bike packing, off road gravel grinding style experiences and big days in the saddle. Avril has done it all already.

My alterations were to drop the handlebars to slammed, I do like a low position in the front end and cut off the steerer tube popping out. The other one was to change the tyres over on the tubeless ready wheels to the Schwalbe G One Speed 30mm tyres, tubeless of course.
Bike Matters in Torquay helped me out with these 2 changes, oh and nearly forgot some stealthy looking Giant carbon bidon cages.

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Peaks Challenge Falls Creek - March 2017.

Her first real outing was the Bicycle Network Falls Peak Challenge where I was part of the 11hr Wave/Pace Team.  235 km with 4000mts of vert and some rough surfaced roads as well as a lot fast descending in windy and rough bumpy conditions. The bike was perfect.

Why? Wow...and with a compact crankset, a 34 at the front and a get out jail card ‘32’ at the back you can climb anything without feeling spent.  Yet on the downs and faster pedally descents, a 50/11 did the job too.  

So let me tell you what the tyre change did for my descending confidence in the wind! It was a blustering NW wind pushing against us as we descended of the back of Hotham and Dinner Plain, and this bike with 60 psi in the tyres and 30mm at that as well as the more relaxed geometry, had the bike sitting like it wasn't going anywhere the whole time.

I just bought myself some confidence!

The bike has mechanical Shimano Ultegra gearing and I normally have Di2 Dura-Ace, it was fine and for the longer trips I plan to do, the no worries about charging is a good thing.

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Up the back of Falls Crk WTF corner and beyond for the next 10-11km of 10-12% climbing, Avril excelled.  My goal was to only use the 32 if I saw on my Garmin that I was riding a 12% gradient, so it was nice to have that up my sleeve and save some energy.  I have never ridden with a 32 and thought a 28 was luxury.

A bike like this was built for days like these.  We got a lot of crew in under 11hrs that day, had a heap of fun myself and rode some brilliant roads with magic views.  I always wish that one day, I plan to reverse it straight after I finish and do 2 x 3 peaks in one hit. One day…

 

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2 Days - 600 km Bike Packing Trip with Rishi - 18th & 19th March

A good friend was in training for a 4000km bikepacking race in July so this was part of the journey, get out and do 300 km each day with an overnight stay but eating normal food at cafes along the way.

I brought out all my gear and bought some extra gear which I did not yet own and Rishi mapped out our 300 km day 1 route. Meeting in Werribee I rode 50km from home to meet her and she the same.  Our journey was on country roads to Avoca via a non direct route.

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Small country towns and amazing beauty along the way.  It was one of those stinking hot days and 50 km was as much as we could get out 2 full bidons to last before they would need refilling and that was being conservative.  We even stopped at a country pub and got ice as well.

The final leg into Avoca was glorious with the afternoon early evening sun setting we arrived well in time to order dinner at the pub. It was Saturday night andthe locals were already smashed and wondering what the heck are these girls doing.

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Our plan was to pay a fee at the caravan park but when we arrived the office was shut and we were going to see if we could have a shower and camp on the grass. We had showers and repacked our gear. Low and behold the idea was planted to sleep in the laundry and we would be gone by 4:30am anyway, who would want to do laundry at 10am tonight?  So we did and survived much better than being outdoors for sure.

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Day 2 was even hotter than day 1, but it was amazing for its own reasons and it astounded me how easy it was to ride with 7 kg of extra gear attached to the bike and what speed I was doing as well as how low my HR was.

As we were nearing Melbourne the wind was really bad, the heat was up around 36 degrees celsius and we were both trying not to talk about how hot we were. First we stopped in a strawberry farm at Bacchus Marsh and filled up and left.  

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Then finally at a Mcdonalds just out of Werribee. Filling bottles up again with ice and Coke!  It was not soon after I departed to head back as did Rishi her way. It started to cool down and the sun was starting to set.

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This is a magic time of day. Some say they think sunrise is best, but for me, my energy just lifts at Sunset.  It was at this point I could have kept riding forever.  I have not yet revisited a trip like this, but it is there on the tip of my memory, eager for another amazing weekend like this.  Oh and Avril, she was wonderful, didn’t complain once.

 

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House and Dog Sitting at Grey River on the Great Ocean rd.

I had organised earlier in the year to look after a friends place and 2 dogs in their property on the Great Ocean Rd, right at the beginning of May, right after moving house for 1 week and finishing off our Forrest 6hr MTB Event. It was hectic but knew I needed 3 weeks away to recalibrate and get away so I could see what I needed to do.

For my trip away, I brought along my runners and  2 roadies, the Envie and Avril the Avail.

Being May the weather was chilly sometimes rain sometimes sun but certainly not warm.
The plan was to walk the dogs twice a day and ride and work on my coaching business as well as a few social visits.

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Out of the 20 days I was there I didn’t ride on only 1 occasion.  Sometimes it would be a quick 40km return to Apollo Bay, sometimes a hills ride, sometimes a mega loop of the Otways and then there was the Gravel Grinds. Having lived in the Otways for 8 years I knew all the roads but had not ridden all of them as yet.  So I spent time exploring with the limitations of my Avail. Not totally 4wd territory but sometimes almost!

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The only times I felt the limits were on the occasions where the gradient was steep and the road surface lacking grip and maybe a bit muddy. I walked once for about 50mts.  Brakes were amazing and responsive though I still treated these with respect not wanting to wear them out quick with muddy wet conditions. Also being on skinnier tyres with no suspension, it is a safer option all round to ride so you can still actually see and with the ability to put the brakes on and not be out of control.  

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Each time I took Avril out we ventured further and always aiming for 2000mts of climbing.  Whilst a CX bike that could handle wider tyres with some extra lugs would be better suited, I still feel that this bike has been a great purchase for all round cycling opportunities and exploring.

A quick calculation had me doing about 500 km of gravel on Avril over the time I was there and around 9000 mt of climbing.
The Otways is a great place to explore gravel roads with beauty, hills, and some awesome scenery and food along the Great ocean road region.

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The 2nd Annual Tour of the Otways. 4th June.

After returning home, cleaning my bikes and living in my place again after being elsewhere for 3 weeks, it was time to have a little rest.

The invite to attend this social ride was on and Norm and I said yes. The Eastern region of the Otways is an area I don’t and have not explored much and I asked if Avril could come along and she was given the tick of approval.  

The day ended up being huge with around 200 people riding.  

Big rolling hills with gravel roads and even sand, mud, dirt and great views.  

A few sections were really technical for such a bike, but for me I enjoyed this. As soon as we got to the Anglesea heath area, there was all sorts of sand, mud, rocks, water, boggy bits and fast descents and even single track.  I certainly had respect for the terrain on this bike and chose to slow down in certain sections.

I was stoked to have tested her out on such a course doing 100 km of gravel goodness.

I have not ridden Avril since that day, been a bit busy training for a marathon, yeah that was a running thing, but it was on trail and sand and dirt and up and down hills.  I loved it fact.

Not sure when the next time Avril is available for a fun trip away, but I am hoping I can start to plan a multi day trip to visit my mate Claire in Adelaide.  Just a pity we are in thick of winter and it's dark and cold!

Maybe Avril needs a puffer jacket too!

Click here>>>  Info sheet on bike deets.