North vs South: one rider, two hemispheres

The following guest blog is written by a good riding mate of mine, Gavin, who until this year lived in Sydney but now calls Atlanta home. He’s actually the one who introduced me to road cycling about six years ago, something for which I will be forever grateful. Great to get his thoughts on the differences between riding in Sydney versus the States.
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The world has some great places to ride a bike, Sydney being one of them. Having ridden there extensively for nearly seven years, I’ve experienced the best rides for peddling a road bike fast.
Australia may be small, but it sure did show me just how big competition is amongst the lycra clad brethren. It’s not just competitive, it’s fierce and relentless. You can go as hard as you like and there will always be many riders who want to take you out in a sprint or a climb. Never mind the Strava segments. And we’re only talking about training rides. Most rides became mock criteriums or road race simulations to test one’s stamina and fitness. This type of riding only made everyone stronger, faster and more hungry than ever before.
Fantastic roads and rides are abundant in Sydney, which has seen the sport of cycling grow leaps and bounds. You can climb if you want, do a long endurance bunch ride or get your heart and legs screaming on a short course and anything in between.
There are of course a few downsides to riding in Sydney – the biggest and most controversial one, lack of respect and patience from motorists towards cyclists. Having been involved in a few incidents myself and witnessed many more, the aggression has reached boiling point. This was always a concern when going out for a spin. What is somewhat strange to me is the fact that Australians are generally a pretty laid back culture. This changes when two skinny wheels meet four fat ones on the road.
Now this brings me to the Northern hemisphere, and Atlanta Georgia specifically, where I now ride my bike. Somewhat different to the Sydney sessions, most bunch rides begin at 6:30pm during the week and 8:30-10am on Saturdays and Sundays. The road conditions are poor in places with many potholes that are left unfixed – and there are fewer road lamps to help you see where you’re going.
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It didn’t take Gav too long to start winning in the USA. He even wore his old Aussie club kit.
The competition is still there, of course. But it doesn’t feel as prevalent as it was back in Sydney. This also depends on the riders you keep company with. But make no mistake, these Atlanta guys are pretty serious and keen for a race or two. Routes are fairly limited and the terrain much of a muchness, unless you’re driving out to the mountains and feel like doing the well known three and six gap lung buster hill rides.
The Southern drivers are very respectful and cautious around cyclists which is a breath of fresh air. I haven’t yet encountered any aggression, but It’s bound to happen. For now I’d like to think that this is the utopian cycling world where drivers and riders can actually live in harmony. Generally speaking other cyclists are very friendly towards one another which is a change from the sometimes cold behaviour within certain Sydney bunch rides.
These are only a few comparisons worth mentioning that I’ve noted since riding in the North & Southern Hemispheres. But I have to say, without sounding biased – man I miss the riding in Sydney 🙂
This is actually the second time Gavin has had an article featured on Carbon Addiction. To read his 2012 review from one of the toughest one-day races in Australia, the 228km Grafton to Inverell, click here.
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