A contribution from Lam Chih Ming, a running, cycling and triathlon enthusiast whose day job is a software code warrior.
During a recent trip to the gorgeous Gold Coast region of Australia, I decided on a novel approach to holidaying – combining sightseeing with a tough physical training programme. What better way to do this than to fast pedal one’s way on a good road bike to explore the beautiful Springbrook and Lamington National Parks, part of the World Heritage listed Gondwana Rainforests, the most extensive subtropical rainforest in the world. The sceneries over there are truly spectacular, as the accompanying photos would attest. More impressive is the unique atmosphere that provides an intimacy with nature that is hard to reproduce elsewhere or to even explain; you have got to go there to fully appreciate and understand. And all of this is easily accessible through a short drive (and even ride) from the pristine beaches that the Gold Coast area is more acclaimed for.
As a cycling and triathlon enthusiast, the choice of a 2-wheeler human powered mode of transport was a natural decision. All I had to do then was to get hold of a good, sporting-grade road bike that was well fitted to my body measurements. I turned to Paradise Road Cycles to hire an all-carbon Felt racing bike equipped with Shimano 105 groupset components. I provided my vital stats, namely seat height and handlebar reach measurements, ahead of time and the friendly proprietors, Justin and Emily, got my bike ready in short order and even had it delivered to my hotel. Both the bike and service were excellent.
As it turned out, the Gold Coast of Australia was the perfect destination to go on a cycling holiday. For a start, the mild cool weather was conducive for strenuous physical activity. Hard pedalling definitely felt easier than what I was accustomed to in my home, tropical country of Singapore. The well-maintained roads were also bicycle friendly, with proper bicycle lanes on many of them and drivers who were generally respectful of the safety of cyclists. Finally, the proximity to the hilly Gondwana Rainforests provided endless possibilities in terms of planning cycling routes that were both scenic and challenging.
My three-day bike rental period started with a familiarisation ride along the coastal roads and seaside esplanades. Riding at a more pedestrian pace, I had the chance to soak in the seascape atmosphere, admire the vast sandy beaches and turquoise blue sea, and enjoy watching people engaging in all manners of water sports.
On the second day, I rode along the Currumbin Valley, stopping along the way to take photos of farms, lakes and creeks. The road ended at the Mount Cougal section of the Springbrook National Park, at which point, I ate my biker’s lunch (literally to-go), before turning back for the return journey. If you do go there, be sure to take time to trek to the world-class Cougal Cascades, a fantasy-like waterfall with pristine clear waters.
The highlight occured on the third day, a return journey comprising an ascent of the Beechmont mountain range onto the Lamington Plateau, followed by more lateral traversal along the famed Scenic Rim, leading to the outbound destination, the Binna Burra section of the Lamington National Park, an area famed for its rugged hiking trails and rustic mountain lodges. The 10 Km or so ride up to the Lamington Plateau was pretty intense, not so much for the gradient of the road, but for the relentlessness of the climb that was almost without reprieve. Selecting an easy gear, I spun and crawled my way up. You just got to be patient and keep cranking along. Eventually I reached the charming little town of Beechmont atop the plateau and proceeded along the Scenic Rim. There however, I encountered very blustery crosswinds that threatened to blow me off course. I struggled to keep my front wheel pointing straight ahead and there were more than a few nervy moments when I wobbled with passing vehicles in close proximity. I honestly would have preferred to climb than to navigate the flat sections in those windy conditions. Enroute to Binna Burra, I rode past the spectacular Rosins Lookout Conservation Park, a popular launch site for hang gliders and paragliders, and even the remnants of a still smouldering forest fire. Not too surprisingly, the descent down the mountain was the best part of the day’s ride. I would have liked to roll down even faster, but my enthusiasm was curbed by the bumpiness of the road. Nevertheless, the sheer thrill of freewheeling down the switchbacks and leaning sharply into the hairpins, while feeling every imperfection of the tarmac, was something one would never get to enjoy within the comfort of a four wheeler.
By the time I reluctantly handed the bike back to Justin, I had accumulated 160 Km or about a century ride’s worth of pedalling. At my weight and pace, I reckon I did about 4500 Cal worth of activity in the 3 days. At least I can safely say that was one holiday where I did not end up putting on weight and became fitter instead. Combining vacation with fitness training surely kills two birds with one stone!
I will let the following sequence of travel photos tell the rest of my story. Please click through the slide show.