Impromptu Mini-Cogal – Newcastle, Australia 2012

Impromptu Mini-Cogal – Newcastle, Australia 2012

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Riding bicycles brings people together. It forms bonds. Bonds that can last for years, lifetimes, transcending distance and even a total lack of contact and communication. Friendships are forged through a common passion shared only through the medium of the internet, as we experience here on this very site. It’s a unique entity that has the power to bring total strangers from opposite sides of the world to a common ground, a ground to be rolled over on 23mm tyres, the only known denominator between the former strangers, now counted as good friends.

Travelling halfway across the planet to meet a dozen or more web/cycling geeks on hallowed turf is a pretty daunting task. All we know about each other is gleaned from words on a screen, an image of a lycra-clad body, and the ability to conform to a set of Rules that are nothing more than fashionista’s ticklist on two wheels. But the core element, the act of riding a bicycle for leisure, fun or more competitive pursuits, is what is at the heart of such an extreme undertaking. The Keepers Tour will no doubt forge even more new friendships, which will last a lifetime. At least the memories will.

When I first met Col, it was on a ten day training tour in Tasmania. We had crossed paths before, he being a customer of the shop I was working in, yet I’d never really ‘met’ him. Over the course of the tour, we rode over huge hills, through rain and cold, heat and dust, challenging each other up climbs and in town-sign sprints, and finished each day sharing our stories over cold beers. When we returned to our hometown, our friendship was consumated with more riding and more beers. While his bikes were covered in tape and string and dirt, his clothes mismatched, tattered and falling down, his pure love for the sport, our sport, was impossible to ignore. He was a Velominatus, long before the term was even thought of. Moreso, he was the catalyst, the blueprint, for what would later become known as The Rules.

Scotty was known to me a long time before we became friends, always at the head of the Masters fields at the MTB races, a name more than a face to me. He seemed almost untouchable, up at the pointy end while I hovered a little further back. As my racing nous was honed, I got closer to the front as he was probably winding his own efforts down a bit, and we got to scrapping during the racing and talking after it. He seemed like he was on the same wavelength too, with a similar twisted humour to that of myself and Col. While there are many like us who love to ride, only a few can connect off the bike, on a level that some may view as slightly off-kilter. It’s the difference between being a bike rider and a Velominatus.

El Ganso. The Goose. What can I say about one of my oldest and dearest friends? We’ve been mates for twenty years now, after meeting in a carpark in a forest at a mountain bike race in ’91. It was the music wafting from his car that got us talking, not the fact that we were going to be battling it out in the Novice class of the XC the next day. We would run into each other over the next year, always at races, but then we’d disappear from our respective radars. Not until 1995, at the World Cup race in Cairns, 2000km from our home, would we meet again. Steve picked me out in the crowd of thousands, and if he hadn’t then our lives would be so much different now. We travelled to Europe together, sharing some of the best moments of our lives, before he met another of my good friends and married and impregnated her (not necessarily in that order!). Our almost snobbish love of beer possibly exceeds our love of riding.

As I was back in Newcastle NSW for my first Xmas in my hometown for five years, catching up with as many of my friends as possible was always going to be a big ask. But these three are always on my list. We’d had a couple of off-road jaunts already when we decided that a road ride was in order. When I arrived at Col’s house to borrow one of his many steeds and start the ride, the sight of him and Scotty in their V-kit brought a smile to my face. We had ourselves a mini-Cogal! Of course Steve was there too, but was lacking the V-kit but not lacking any Essence of V. The fact that Scotty and Col had ordered and bought their V-kit without my knowledge or help shows what kind of mates they are. They didn’t expect ‘mate’s rates’ or any favours, they just wanted to support their friend, be part of the community, and look stylish while laying down their usual helpings of Rule #5. It’s the best I’ve ever seen Col look!

The conditions were Rule #9, with steady rain for most of the ride. It wasn’t long before we were watching Scotty fix the first of the four punctures for the day, and each enforced stop was a chance to extend the good times, to talk crap and try out our bad jokes on each other. While we only rode around 60km, we were out for around four hours, with a nice long espresso break included. It was about more than just the bike. It was about what the bike had brought to us, how it had brought us together, and kept us together.

On return, Col’s lovely partner Kelly had prepared lunch for us, proffered beers and a hot shower. We chilled out and watched cricket and flicked through Col’s magazines, savouring the moment for as long as we could, knowing that we wouldn’t get to do this again for a good while.

I realise that it may be another eighteen months before I see these guys again, but I hope it won’t. If it is, then I know that they will still be the same great mates, the same good people, the same twisted nutters that I love. And we’ll still be riding bikes, drinking beer and having a load of fun doing it. Together.

Vive La Vie Velominatus.

*I have some videos, but this stupid site won’t let me upload them!

// Cogals // La Vie Velominatus // Nostalgia

  1. @ChrisO

    Make me homesick… where did you ride (map ?).
    I grew up just up the road between Maitland and Newcastle… if I could afford not to work I think I would quite happily go and live somewhere there.

    Hexham? God I hope not…

    We rode from Rankin Park, up the freeway interconnector, out to West Wallsend, back of Killingworth, Wakefield, Toronto, Speers Point, Charlestown, home…

    Every time i go back to Newy, I realise why I moved away and how awesome living in Wellington is. Can’t see myself moving back there, not in the foreseeable future anyway.

  2. Really really enjoyed this read. Thanks @brett

  3. I can’t believe Col ordered a kit and I didn’t realize it was him. And, I agree with @Mikael Liddy…that is a sexy as shit S-Works…not a fan of Spesh but that is a monstrously hot bike, even if I would never ride it with those bidons on there like that!

    Great read, thanks for the story, Bretto! Glad you got back from the loo safely…

  4. @brett

    Every time i go back to Newy, I realise why I moved away and how awesome living in Wellington is. Can’t see myself moving back there, not in the foreseeable future anyway.

    I left Minneapolis under the same guise, only I moved to a place I liked less before I moved to a place I like more (Seattle). Minneapolis isn’t as bad as it seemed to me then, but similarly – there are so many reasons to love the PNW and I can’t imagine ever leaving.

    Just to name one: the fact that roads are ridable in Seattle while in the mountains (45 minutes away) there is a snowstorm dumping more powder on some of the best ski areas the world knows than we’ve had in 1985. The sun shone here today, but you’ll need a snorkel to ski in the mountains tomorrow…

  5. @frank
    Bracing for the snowpocalypse. Merckx, I need to get on a bike. I hate the fucking trainer.

  6. Thanks for the great read! I’ve got friends on the other side of my continent that I enjoy riding with once a year.

  7. @brett
    Not quite, but Hexham was a favourite place because of the OAK and their fantastic thickshakes.

    We lived at Hamilton for a while and then Beresfield but my parents both came from Maitland, my grandfather was postmaster for years at Lambton and my father taught at West Wallsend high school and also Francis Greenway.

    Often used to catch the train from my grandmother’s at East Maitland down to Newcastle to go to Knobby’s or to the movies and shops.

    Maybe I look back on it with nostalgic rose-tinted glasses – like I said I would only want to live there if I didn’t have to work, or have kids to send to school.
    But you could do worse than live in some of those nice old places along Merewether way, go to the beach every morning, not far from the central coast and Sydney, inland to the Hunter, up to Port Stephens.

  8. @ChrisO, @brett

    We lived in Sydney for four years and would often head up the coast for the weekend to places like Port Stephens, Myall Lakes, Smith’s Lake and Barrington Tops. Great camping, beaches and walking. Loads of happy memories although maybe not getting the car stuck on Stockton Beach near the Sygna with a somewhat pregnant Mrs Chris.

    Not sure I’d want to live up there full time but I could quite easily head over there for the UK winters.

  9. It’s always a magical moment when the band gets back together, especially when they’ve been apart for awhile. This story has an underground-band-with-cult-following-that-gets-back-together-and-hits-the-road-on-the-downlow-and-under-a-different-name-just-for-themselves kind of vibe. Sounds like a great day.

  10. I really appreciate the Sense of Place thread to this article. Sure, we can move to new places and may (or may not – I lived in the PNW and SE Alaska for 5 years and never really found community but loved the area) fall in love with a new home. We can take vacations to hallowed ground and forge new friendships, lasting memories, and partake in a trip of a lifetime. But at some point we’ll return home, click in, and point our front wheels up the familiarity and comfort of a road at home and feel like we can’t anywhere else. When we’re with old mates, then all the better. Great one Brett.

  11. WTF?
    You’re supposed to promote the Cogal before you ride it!
    Yes – nice Spech. Someone has serious guns (RH side in garage shot – that You Brett?)
    Great story and write up. So many good times boil down to sharing experiences with people. I could have a blast shovelling shit – provided my fellow shovellers were like-minded, cracking characters.
    But not a proper Cogal….

  12. I love these stories almost as much as I love riding bikes.

  13. Great article. There is so much crammed into this piece it’s hard to comment… so many of the reasons I ride, so much about the rhythms of life, and the cycle of friendships, all intertwined in these words. Sounds like a great day. And it was raining, so it truly was a great day.

  14. Great one, Brett! Thanks for sharing.

    One part really stood out to me – I do a lot of group rides but have almost nothing in common with most of the folks, beyond cycling. That’s kind of weird to me, but how it goes I suppose. So, to find someone who you get on with and who is a Follower is pretty rare indeed.

    I also only get to see some of my mates every 12 or 18 months, or longer. The times when you get back together, no matter how short, are truly special.

  15. I just hope that when we get to Belgium for the Keepers Tour that there is wifi in the cottage. Otherwise, how the hell are we going to communicate with each other? Freaked out, now.

  16. @roadslave
    Not only that, those of us not lucky enough to be attending will expect full daily despatches!

  17. Sounds like a great day Brett. Meeting up with those old Novocastrian friends that you don’t see very often must have been a blast. The old steel town is a great place to visit, but rough as guts in some parts. Did you do Fanny’s?
    That is a very cool looking S-Works BTW. The bidons are a tad tacky though.
    @ChrisO
    and don’t forget the giant mosquito! A must see on any trip up north.

    @harminator
    mate, if you’re serious about a Cogal, then happy to co-ordinate something? Northern beaches area yes? Some nice rides up that way or heading past Hornsby from memory? I’m south (St. George/Shire area) which has some good rides through the National Park & further. Drop me a line – ciclistomedio@gmail.com and we can suss out something if you are and then put it up in the Cogals. Same goes for you @jellybean

  18. Since the Aussies are here for Q&A…I was checking out photos from the Tour Down Under and it seems that Alessandro Petacchi finished second to Greipel here, on Stage 1. So, where the heck is he? (Haven’t seen a video of it but maybe all the way to the right? Just odd that everyone else is bunched and he’s not even in the frame.)

  19. @Ron

  20. @Ron
    Petacchi is over on the left barrier, out of shot.

    @harminator
    Yep, me on right… my guns aren’t that impressive in the flesh, more like pop-guns.

    @ChrisO

    @Chris
    There are worse places to live than Newy, for sure. It’s just depressing to see the city center so desolate, due to the huge malls popping up in every suburb; Charlestown Square is just obscene how massive it is now. No-one goes into the city any more, and shopfronts are defaced and there are more empty premises than occupied. I remember when I was a kid, going into Hunter St on a Thursday night, all the shops open and lit up, it was like a wonderland to me. Now I just get down when I go there.

    @il ciclista medio
    Fanny’s! My god, some memories of that dive… dodgy ones mainly.

  21. Nice one, Brett. And you’re right – your guns aren’t that impressive.

  22. @Jellybean

    WAAAAAAAA!!!!!
    no way!
    i’m in sydney! you guys have gotta let me know next time you plane one of these!

    At first I was slightly upset there was a Cogal just north of me, but after reading, I would have felt out of place. Bikes are great because of stories like this.
    I’d like to ride with more humoured people. I am the only one who makes jokes in my posse, and although I think I’m hilarious (really, I AM!), it would be nice if someone else could do the jokes occasionally.

  23. Ahh, there is Alessandro!

    That guy has a bad habit of finishing 2nd. That must really be frustrating.

    I also saw the lead photo and thought, “That doesn’t look like the U.S.” Being an Amurcun, I assume all life transpires in the U.S. But, it did look familiar. Spent some time in Sydney and Melbourne, including the ‘burbs of ‘bern. I really liked all the ranch-style houses there. You can save the guns by not climbing stairs!

  24. rhys – I couldn’t agree more about riding with fun folks. So damn many of the group rides I do are so fucking uncomfortable. No one talks, when they do it’s about work bullshit or some nonsense. Maybe a COTHO discussion or two. It makes me want to scream. A major problem, as I see it, arises from the fact that I think far too many roadies are skinny nerds who found a bike, found a power meter, and are in heaven. To them, cycling is only about data & charting progress. As a litmus test I’ll show up to new group rides on one of my sharp steel Italian beauties. If none of the Trek-riding guys in ugly kit show any interest, I’m pretty sure the ride is not going to be a laugh fest & I’m not going to do a whole lot of rides with them.

    I wish I could just tell them to lighten up, but sadly, I think a lot of roadies are dour, boring people. They ain’t gonna get any lighter.

    And since I’m on the topic of cotho types, a junior version lives right in my neighborhood. I’ve ridden with the guy before but he pretends to not know me when he sees me, whether on the bike or off. He has also drafted me, unannounced, as I was winding down and heading back into town from a long ride. He’s also dangerously overtaken a friend and I as we rolled to the pub after soccer. As if this wasn’t enough to have him sorted as a COTHO, the jackarse also gets kitted up to ride all of 3 km to campus. No joke, he pulls all that gear on for a ten minute ride. (I had the unfortunate luck of riding the same road a few mornings and know what dept. he’s in on campus, so know where he’s heading when I see him on my block in the morning).

    How can we purge these folks from the ranks? Oh wait, they’re roadies, not Velominati. Let them enjoy their uptight misery.

  25. It’s true, Ron. I used to get the impression everyone was a boring curmudgeon but all you have to do is show a bit of personality after taking a turn or two on front to show that you mean business.

    @Ron

    How can we purge these folks from the ranks? Oh wait, they’re roadies, not Velominati. Let them enjoy their uptight misery.

    It makes me angry because I love this sport/lifestyle/experience so much, I want to kick the people out. Sometimes you just have to let it ride, and it will sort itself out eventually.

    We’ve had a lot of new people show up at the velodrome recently. I like this – new pedalwans and a chance to be a cycling sensei. The problem I have is that they’re mostly from triathlons, and think they have a right to just jump in the paceline on the back of the motorbike. This is something you have turn earn over time as it’s really quite dangerous.
    Anyway, time for another Sapporo silver bullet. Have a good ride this weekend.

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