Cycling in Sydney
I’m sitting at Sydney airport trying to make sense of the last six days. I’ve spent less than a week in Australia, much of it severely jet-lagged and packed so much in that it’s hard to know where to start with this update. But naturally, the very beginning of my adventures in Oz is the most obvious place to commence so I’ll rewind to my first day on Aussie soil.
With just three days to explore the capital of New South Wales I’d given myself a packed schedule, my days filled with cycling, the best outdoor activities and visits to some of Sydney’s finest laid back restaurants.
My first priority was cycling some of Sydney’s best cycle routes, of course, and so that this blog post doesn’t become overly long, I’ll write about that first and save the other stuff for another entry.
Like any major city, cycling is big news in Sydney; bikes shops are numerous and cycling clubs plentiful. Looking for some people to ride with I uncovered a thriving early morning, pre-work ‘bunch ride’ scene. Sydney’s cyclists like to meet up at 5.30 or 6.00am for group rides before it gets too hot or the traffic gets too bad. If you’re heading to Sydney and would like to find a group/bunch ride to join, try this Bunch Ride Finder.
One of the most (in)famous bunch rides is the Colluzi/Latteria ride which sees a regular turnout of pro-cyclists and the cities fastest riders. I was considering going along, even encouraged to do so by Rochelle Gilmour (!) but with my fitness not yet back to pre-injury levels and jet lag so bad I felt like I was on another planet, I didn’t have the nerve.
My first morning I was up very early so I headed off on a ride I’d spotted on Strava’s Sydney ‘locals’ page, the Eastern Beaches loop. Stupidly, I hadn’t downloaded the route and uploaded it to my Garmin before I left the UK and there’s currently no way to send a GPX route file from your phone to your Garmin via WiFi or Bluetooth (there definitely should be, come on Garmin!). So instead of being able to follow step by step instructions, I had the Strava route open in one tab on my phone and Google Maps in another and I’d switch between the two, cross-referencing where I was. It made for some slow progress until I reached the beaches, where I was able to just follow the coast with the ocean on my right hand side.
Riding away from my base at The Rocks, I rode through the city towards Hyde Park then continued on to Centennial Park, a popular pre-work sport for cyclists wanting either to ride laps or meet up for bunch (group) rides, or so I’m told. I took a traffic free cycle path that skirted the path and didn’t actually see many Lycra clad riders, leading me to believe I was either in the wrong place or it was the wrong time. Who knows.
After a few wrong turnings I headed away from the main road which was getting busy even at such an early hour and rode through some wide, quiet residential streets. The first beach I reached was Clovelly where they have a fantastic looking pool, surely one of the best places to swim in Sydney (though it has some stiff competition) and as it was only about 6am there was barely a soul to be seen. Continuing along the coast up and down ever so many hills (Sydney is hilly!) I passed more beautiful beaches on my way to Bondi and spotted a great number of extremely fit looking Ozzies working out, running and swimming along the way – healthy living is big business in this outdoor city.
Really struggled to sleep last night as I was so excited about my first day exploring @sydney. I ended up having breakfast at 6am then spending a few hours riding along the coast past so many lovely beaches including Bondi, which is in this photo. Jetlag made navigating more difficult than it needed to be but I just about managed the loop I had planned. I was surprised there are so many hills in the city; I had this crazy idea that Sydney was flat. #ilovesydney #NewSouthWales
I paused at Bondi to watch the surfers enjoying waves unlike any I’ve ever experienced in the UK (yes, I know there’s good surf in the UK too, I’ve just yet to ever be in the right place at the right time!). From there it was pretty straightforward to ride through Dover Heights and up to Watsons Bay and Camp Cove beach, as pretty as spot as you could wish for with clean, light coloured sand and an inviting looking turquoise bay. A few hills later and I was in Wooloomoloo and the Domain, a shady park with an adjacent outdoor 50m swimming pool which I duly added to my list to visit.
As it was still pretty early, the traffic wasn’t at all bad really, the worst bit being going through the city and Hyde Park. Many other parts of the route were actually really quiet as they went through residential areas and past tourist spots that weren’t yet busy due to the early hour. It was already pleasantly warm but not yet too hot – I was in a sleeveless base layer and jersey which was perfect as I kept stopping to take photos. So all in all, I can see why Sydney’s cyclists get up early.
After an incredible lunch at Graze MCA at Circular Quay, a superb little spot opposite the Opera House where I ate sweet little oysters and the best baked salmon dish I’ve ever had (served on a salad of heirloom tomatoes and watermelon – sounds odd, tastes amazing) I headed off on a slightly different ride, meeting up with Bonza Bike tours for a spot of sightseeing on the Sydney Highlights Bike Tour.
I always find it’s easier to get a feel for a city from two wheels and it’s even better if you can get some insider knowledge and a bit of history thrown in. I was somewhat ‘over biked’ on my Goomah next to my host on his rental bike but it was enjoyable to roll around getting some facts on Sydney.. We rode round The Rocks, past the Opera House, under the bridge and through the new Barangaroo reserve before checking out the new development along the quay, which is home to heaps of new restaurants.
Sadly, in the short time we had we couldn’t get out to the somewhat more hip areas of Surrey Hills and New Town though my guide left me a great map of where to go if I had time later. It sounds like there are all kinds of weird and wonderful places to go, such as Soda Shop where you enter a bar through a drink’s machine or something and another place that looks like a butchers.
My next ‘proper’ ride was another snagged from Strava. I wasn’t actually intending to only go and ride on my own, in fact I did email one of Sydney’s cycling clubs asking if I could join one of their rides but they never replied. A lot of the bunch rides started from parts of the city I couldn’t really get to and I had an offer from a friend of a friend to ride one morning but it was hard to coordinate because of the other stuff I was doing and the fact I was so jetlagged I could barely keep my head together. I nearly always ride on my own anyway though, so no biggie. It’s nice being able to do exactly as you please!
The ride is called the North Loop. I’d definitely recommend it though pick your time of day wisely though as the traffic can be absolutely terrible if you don’t leave early enough.
Heading North from my hotel I rode straight over the Harbour Bridge on the dedicated cycle lane enjoying far reaching views of the city. Unfortunately the cycle lane does have step access at one end which is a right pain in the bum if you’re wearing cycling shoes – I wince when I have to walk on my cleats as they cost a bomb!
From there I headed through Neutral Bay and Cremorne along Military Road, which was hella busy with buses charging past and not leaving you much room. As I used to be a bike messenger, I’m not intimidated by riding in traffic but if you’re not down with that kind of thing there are some cycle routes through some of the quieter surrounding streets that would make a good alternative.
A photo posted by Juliet Elliott (@julietelliott) on
From there, it was over Spit Bridge, which is epically pretty, though of course, ram-jammed with cars and then up a road that winds it’s way up the hillside and offers great views of the Spit Reserve and all the boats below. As Sydney is a city built around water, you’re never far from a beach or a bay, but that doesn’t make any of them less lovely; certainly I never tired of looking at the blue of the ocean whilst I rode my bike in gorgeous weather.
The next part of the route followed Wakehurst Parkway all the way up to Narrabeen, going through a forested area on a wide, straight road then back towards the Ocean. At this point, I’d wasted so much time stopping to navigate (and take photos as I was doing a takeover of the Assos Instagram account) that I made the decision to turn around and ride the same route back rather than have to keep looking at my sodding phone for the remainder of the ride!
Stay tuned for a new video on my YouTube channel about my time in Sydney and racing the Etape Australia.