Dayna's Blog

Holidays, walks and who knows what


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Melbourne Brompton Club ride to the Melbourne Tram Museum – 27 June 2015

When you think of Melbourne icons, our trams must surely rank in the top 5.

A Melbourne B-Class Tram (Route 86) turning at top of Bourke Street onto Spring Street in front of Parliament House

A Melbourne B-Class Tram (Route 86) turning at top of Bourke Street onto Spring Street in front of Parliament House

The Melbourne Tram Museum at Hawthorn is just off the Main Yarra Trail (a shared path along the Yarra River); a worthy destination for this month’s group ride.

Meeting up at Federation Square we took a few snaps (because you can’t let the chance go by), before walking past the temporary ice skating rink (as instructed) then we were underway!

It’s a pretty cruisey ride along the river. We followed the Yarra Trail along the north bank of the river the whole way to where Wallan Road crosses the Yarra River. Some of it is a floating walkway, but mostly it’s firm river bank.

The Tram Museum is in a beautiful red and cream brick building on the corner of Wallan Road and Power Street, Hawthorn. Next year will be the celebration of its 100th birthday! The museum doesn’t occupy the whole of the premises any longer, and isn’t as large as the Hawthorn Depot was in its heyday. Despite now including residential units in the main building, and having a new apartment building at the back where the second shed used to be, the facade has remained as it’s protected by its listing on the Victoria Heritage Register (read more here).

The exterior of the Hawthorn Tram Depot, now containing residential apartments and the Melbourne Tram Museum

The exterior of the Hawthorn Tram Depot, now containing residential apartments and the Melbourne Tram Museum

Arriving at the Tram Museum - the entrance is off Wallan Road

Arriving at the Tram Museum – the entrance is off Wallan Road

Totally unfazed by the arrival of a group of ‘folders’, we set our bikes and bags down while one of the volunteers gave us a bit of history about the history of the depot and a couple of the trams they have. Then we were welcome to explore and take as many photos as we wanted.

One of the volunteers giving us some of the history about the Tram Museum and trams on display

One of the volunteers giving us some of the history about the Tram Museum and trams on display

A recent addition to their collection is the Z1 81 ‘Karachi W11’ (the link provides information on the history of the Z Class trams as well as how tram 81 came to be ‘Karachi W11’ as well. Definitely worth a read!)

This gorgeously extravagant tram is the work of 5 Pakastani artists and was run on Melbourne’s City Circle loop during the 2006 Commonwealth Games. A recent addition to the museum, I hope it becomes a permanent resident!

Although no questions were asked as we carried our bikes in, it’s not to say that they didn’t draw any comment at all…

“What make of bike is that?” was the first question (it’s usually a good starting point). Before long, the museum volunteer who asked had all – and more – of his questions answered by our enthusiastic group!

Discussing Brompton design with one of the tram museum volunteers

Discussing Brompton design with one of the tram museum volunteers

At present, the museum also has a Tramway ANZACs exhibition to honour the tramway employees who went off to fight in the Great War and the role of the tramways during that time. If you can’t visit the museum you can read more about the displays and personal stories here.

Unlike other Australian state capitals who ripped up their tram tracks years ago, Melbourne has grown its tram network over time, although we no longer run cable trams anymore. You can compare a map of the lines that were in service in 1916 here compared to today’s network managed by Yarra Trams here. The irony is that “light rail” is now being (very slowly) reintroduced to the Gold Coast and expanded in Sydney. I don’t know of any plans to expand Adelaide’s single line, but at least they kept that as a functional means of transport for commuters – if you happen to live close-by.

The afternoon was getting on; we’d explored the trams, seen the ANZAC exhibition and answered Brompton questions in return, so it was time to say goodbye and head back to the city the same way we’d come. Just before leaving Stephen kindly bought each of us a badge from the gift shop to remember the trip.

It was another enjoyable ride with the group.

Next ride planned for the weekend of 26-27 July. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Strava to keep up to date with rides.

: )

Thanks to Stanley for letting me use a couple of his photos in this post.

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The Inaugural Ride of the Melbourne Brompton Club

The plan was to meet at Green Park (near Velo, Carlton North) at 8am on Sunday, 3 May 2015, for a group ride into and around Melbourne/Southbank/Docklands.

After an initial wince at the thought of an 8am start, I told myself it wouldn’t be any worse than a usual workday, and to grow a spine. But honestly, Stephen and I have been really looking forward to this ride, so there weren’t any grumbles when the alarm when off this morning – I even got an extra half an hour’s sleep compared to a weekday!

The ride started conveniently close to where we live, so we rode to the meeting point and found Stanley and Elsie waiting for us.

Meeting Stanley (left) and Elsie (centre) at the meeting point. Stephen is in blue on the right - Melbourne Brompton Club - Green Park, Carlton North

Meeting Stanley (left) and Elsie (centre) at the meeting point. Stephen is in blue on the right.

 

Our ‘maybes’ for the ride didn’t turn up, so with just the four of us making up the group and the whole day pretty much at our disposal, it was decided to follow the Capital City Trail (the bike path we were on – which used to be Melbourne’s Inner Circle Railway Line) west towards Royal Park where it skirts around Melbourne Zoo.

Heading off - rail trails make for a pretty cruisey ride

Heading off – rail trails make for a pretty cruisey ride

Crossing over the tracks at Royal Park Station, Capital City Trail then crosses Poplar Road within about 20 metres to continue following the railway line along to Flemington Bridge Station.

Here the cycle path does a sharp zigzag and drops down to street level. Capital Trail continues along beside Railway Canal, providing views of Citylink, old bridges and wildlife that the traffic rushing overhead won’t get to enjoy. Or possibly even suspect is there.

In addition to the very common Pacific Black Ducks and Australian Wood Ducks, I’m sure I saw some Chestnut Teals a pair of Black Swans, a few Great Egret’s last week, a pair of Purple Swamp Hens this week. Eurasian Coots are also fairly common. And they were just the obvious species! I’d love to take a pair of binoculars and stop around Royal Park to try to identify more of the passerines (perching birds) heard as we cycled by.

 

By the time we reached the intersection where Capital City Trail crosses Footscray Road we had been joined by quite a number of other cyclists. The previous weekend when Stephen and I had come this way we’d had it all to ourselves! I admit, both the rain and the fact that it was ANZAC day may have had something to do with that… Today, on the other hand, was a great day for riding.

We've got quite a crowd with us now

We’ve got quite a crowd with us now

After a quick photo with the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel (still working!) we headed around to the pier.

Bromptons of the inaugural ride in front of the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel

Bromptons of the inaugural ride in front of the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel

Naturally we couldn’t pass up a photo at the pier. Or with the colourful buildings and strange – or should I say, ‘artistic’ – mountain-things around us.

 

Not much further along Elsie spotted a bike. Well, a bike-shaped bike rack, to be precise, so naturally that called for another photo. I was quite enjoying this ‘see and stop’ style of riding. The guys came back to check we were ok; reassured all was fine (our respective partners understand and have learnt to cope with our frequent stopping for a photo habits, it would seem) we set off again.

 

A bike-shaped bike rack. Neat!

A bike-shaped bike rack. Neat!

Leaving Docklands, we used the lovely Jim Stynes Bridge to connect with the distinctive Seafarers Bridge, where we crossed the Yarra River.

 

Although Stephen and I had eaten a light breakfast before setting off this morning, it turned out that Stanley and Elsie hadn’t eaten at all, so we stopped at The Boatbuilders Yard, right next to the Polly Woodside for breakfast. It seems to be a popular stop for cyclists and pedestrians. I was pretty happy with my toast; finally – somewhere that gives you sweet and savoury spreads!

Enjoying breakfast at The Boatbuilders Yard

Enjoying breakfast at The Boatbuilders Yard

Making our way up Southbank after breakfast was fun. There weren’t crowds of people (yet) so even though we were riding at a considerately slow pace, we could enjoy the plane trees, whose leaves are turning colour and falling at the moment, the artworks and easy ride along the smooth dark pavers.

We crossed the Yarra River again at Sandridge Bridge, continued under Princes Bridge (St Kilda Road), then road back up to the main street level using Princes Walk, after briefly stopping to greet some quite large, but very lovely, fluffy dogs (a Malamute and an Akita) and their owner.

 

This close to Flinders Station, it would have been ridiculous to pass up the opportunity to stop for a photo beneath the clocks at the main entrance. Lucky it wasn’t peak hour – it was hard enough getting a clear shot as it was!

Melbourne Brompton Club at one of Melbourne's best-known icons - Flinders Street Station (photo by Stephen Powell)

Melbourne Brompton Club at one of Melbourne’s best-known icons – Flinders Street Station (photo by Stephen Powell)

From here we were more or less on the homeward leg… with a small diversion to the Queen Victoria Markets. Setting off along Swanson Street, I was incredibly thankful for the bike lane. City riding is tricky enough at the best of times, what with trams, horse and carriages (for tourists), and – worst of all – pedestrians!

Riding along Swanston Street

Riding along Swanston Street

But we made it through; all intact and without incident, only to be laughed at – laughed at!! – by some bloke at the QV Markets when he saw me and my Brompton! That’s not the usual reaction I’ve had to-date, and my first thought was ‘Wait until you see there are three more following me!’ but he reportedly laughed at the sight of the rest of them, too! I’m not sure what he found so mirthful. Maybe we took him by surprise? Maybe he was delighted? I have to agree with Elsie, though – he did seem to be a bear-ish kind of a bloke.

Laughing bear-like men aside, we’d reached the donut van. Stanley and Elsie declined, but Stephen and I treated ourselves to a bag (shared) of piping hot, jam donuts. Oooh what a treat!

Stanley posing in front of the doughnut van - Queen Victoria Market

Stanley posing in front of the doughnut van – Queen Victoria Market

The MELBOURNE sign is very near the donut van, in the middle of the market. It would have been nice to have a fifth Brompton along for ideal spacing, but… maybe next time. Stanley’s shared a great panoramic photo of the bike from today on the club’s Facebook page.

Bromptons in front of the Melbourne sign at Queen Victoria Market

Bromptons in front of the Melbourne sign at Queen Victoria Market

Leaving the market, we rode one block up Elizabeth Street, then followed the green bike lane along Queensberry Street to the Carlton Gardens. Yep, you guessed it. Another group photo! This time in front of the Royal Exhibition Building and the Melbourne Museum.

The Carlton Gardens are one of my favourite places in Melbourne. Maybe because they’re so familiar – I walk through them each weekday and see the changes in every season. It could be that Melbourne gardens are just lovely. Riding your bike through the gardens is not allowed though, so we set off along the shared footpath on Rathdowne Street, then rode down the (slightly) steep and leafy Barkly Street to meet up with Canning Street, which would take us all the way back to Green Park and our starting point.

The leafy Barkly Street leads to Canning Street

The leafy Barkly Street leads to Canning Street

I believe we all enjoyed today’s ride. We were out for about 4 hours, but that included a lengthy breakfast stop, numerous photo stops and a riding pace that I would describe (overall) as ‘unhurried’. Estimated distance travelled was 18km (~11 miles).

I hope the success of this first ride bodes well for many future rides.

: )


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Ticket to Ride (…a Bicycle)

As long as I can remember, I’ve always had a bike. But until very recently, I would never have imagined owning anything like my latest acquisition… a Brompton.

We rode a lot as kids – either just around our front yards with the kids next door, or on family rides from Mt Gravatt (a suburb on Brisbane’s south side where we lived) to Stones Corner and back, or through Toohey’s Forest, or sometimes over to Annerley to meet Dad riding home from work, and once or twice into the city – that was always a big ride.

The whole family about to go for a ride in late 1980's style

The whole family about to go for a ride in late 1980’s style

Things were made a bit easier when the bike path along the South East Freeway was put in, but going home was always harder than coasting away downhill, whatever our destination. Living on hill also meant there was a good chance you’d find yourself getting off and pushing your bike up the last 20m or so – until we grew bigger and had bikes with gears, anyway.

When I moved out of home to a place closer to the city, I naturally took my bike with me. Still near enough to bike paths, I could now explore along the Brisbane River up to St Lucia a lot easier than before. The Eleanor Schonell Bridge for busses, pedestrians and cyclists, connecting Dutton Park on the south bank to the University of Queensland at St Lucia on the north bank, is very convenient compared to the ferry service it replaced (as fond as I was of the ferry).

Don’t get me wrong; these weren’t everyday or every weekend rides. I’m not what you’d call a fitness junkie. But I do enjoy riding a bike.

Having said that, it was left behind when I moved to Melbourne. It didn’t fit in my suitcase along with my other essentials. My intention was to bring it down eventually – it was a great bike… but that never happened.

It boiled down to 3 S’s – space, security and safety. Where would we put it? When your house is 5m wide, and with no front or back yard to speak of, you don’t have much room to play with. A lot of people chain their bikes to their front fence. I don’t know how secure that is, and I didn’t want it to be in the weather. As for personal safety…a bit of green paint (indicating a bicycle lane) on the road means nothing to some drivers. Nor does a ‘Stop’ sign, sometimes.

This also applies to us. (Source: Facebook.com/BankofMelbourne)

This also applies to us. (Source: Facebook.com/BankofMelbourne)

As a result of being somewhat deficient in the peddle department, we’ve pretty much stuck to bushwalking, although a couple of times we’ve hired bikes while on holiday. The George in Christchurch (New Zealand) has complimentary mountain bikes for hotel guests, and even a year after the 2011 earthquakes it was an interesting city to ride around.

We were more prepared when we went to Canberra over Easter 2012 – we took our own helmets with us. Being able to drive there from Melbourne also helped – fewer limits on luggage weight and size! But renting a bike is just not as good as having your own.

Me in front of the National Carillon in Canberra

Me in front of the National Carillon in Canberra

On our travels Stephen’s often mentioned that there are some great Rail Trails around Victoria that he’d like to do ‘one day’. Starting from one town and staying a night somewhere else, sampling local produce at a good hotel in a regional town… As you may know, we have a Mini (Cooper S). So while the idea was certainly appealing, we didn’t have a practical way to put the idea into practice.

The lightbulb moment came one day when Stephen was engaged in a rather frequent activity for him – waiting patiently for me. He saw a Brompton folding bike in the window of a bike shop and was struck by how small it could fold up. Admittedly, Stephen was looking in the window of a dedicated electric and folding bike shop, but Velo also have a second shop packed with other cycles of all descriptions at the end of the block.

Velo's latest order of Bromptons - March 2015

Velo’s latest order of Bromptons – March 2015

As is his wont, Stephen researched this new thing he’d found. And found it was good. Soon I was hearing about how good they were too, and our Saturday morning walks up to the local shopping strip inevitably included a brief stop outside Velo to look at the Bromptons in the window.

But I still wasn’t 100% convinced. How could something with wheels that small be efficient? Or comfortable?

Ok, so James May thinks they’re the bees-knees (read more in an interview here). Whoopi. But you don’t buy a Brompton with loose change found down the back of the sofa. They’re hand-made in London (watch this), not mass produced somewhere in Asia.

After at least a year of talking Stephen must have known the time was right. Either that or he was just getting impatient. “What if I buy you one so you can ride along with me when I go for a run,” was his opening offer. It was tempting and I tried to resist (not all that hard) by playing the Fiscal Conservative card. It didn’t end up working, and by that afternoon I was the proud owner of a red Brompton.

Riding around Princes Park is the only way I can keep up with Stephen!

Riding around Princes Park is the only way I can keep up with Stephen!

In the end the only real questions were 1) how high do you need your handlebars and 2) how many gears? My red Brompton is a H3L which translates as having a long front stem, three speeds, and guards over the wheels. Check out Brompton’s Bike Builder for heaps more options – or visit your local folding bike shop to get a good idea of the differences between the options.

Compared to the 18-speed mountain bike I used to ride, my first impression was that the front wheel felt like it was right beneath me (it’s not quite, but they do have a great turning circle). Look away and it’s easy to forget that you’re not on a ‘big bike’. The crank shaft is the usual length and the gears are fantastic. Even when I had 18 gears to choose from I can’t honestly say I would normally have used more than 3-4 anyway – the highest, lowest, and one or two in between. But, possibly the feature I love most about my Brompton is that it feels so light to handle, which makes it a pleasure to ride.

Before we left the shop with our exciting new purchase, Cory (store manager and also a Brompton rider) wanted to make sure I knew how to fold and unfold my bike. It’s not hard and after a couple of goes I had the hang of it. These are the main steps but there are plenty of videos to watch online and there are competitions on who can do it the fastest! (Watch from 1:15 for the finalists.)

Naturally we couldn’t leave without picking up a couple of accessories, like this really awesome tool kit that fits inside the frame of the bike! How cool is that?!

The Brompton tool kit is compact and has a neat hidy-hole

The Brompton tool kit is compact and has a neat hidy-hole

I also love the way the front bag (there are plenty of designs to chose from) clips on and releases so neatly, and is fixed to the frame – which means a heavy bag won’t effect your steering. Brilliant design!

I may not ride it to work (many other Brompton riders do), but my little red bike has already ventured beyond Melbourne to Ballarat and been ridden around Lake Wendouree while Stephen’s run a few laps. Stephen’s also tested its practicality and found it to be the fastest and easiest way to meet up with people around Melbourne during the week.

Once my red Brompton has the company of a Turkish Green Brompton (due to arrive sometime in May) we can start to enjoy even more cycling adventures. Stay tuned!

: )