Kate Bates is a former professional cyclist, a broadcast journalist and a Velocio Advocate. She weighs in on her favorite places to pedal as her native Australia enters the spring cycling season.
Riding a bike is one of life’s great freedoms. I’ve believed that from a very young age, and having had the opportunity to ride countless km’s around the world, and in Australia, my faith strengthens. I fell in love with cycling as a youngster growing up in Sydney, on congested roads where cyclists were seen as the anomaly on an ever-crowded road system. I would often peer inside the cars as they sat at traffic lights, drivers looking distracted and miserable, and think that they were missing out.
I rode with my sister and my Father, his watchful eye teaching me how to be safe and considered. I listened very carefully as he regaled us with stories of his youth, the Bates family history in cycling, and the evolution of the sport over the years. My love for cycling is in no small way thanks to the adventures he would take my sister and I on.
So, with Dads encouragement, my short rides around the suburbs soon turned into longer forays into the outskirts of Sydney, where the roads were a little wider, and the cars fewer. The sights changed from congested urban to wide-open spaces, and the smells changed to that of freshly mowed grass, and livestock.
As I got older, fitter and stronger, I would ride just with my sister, or alone. Each evening Dad would ask us where we had gone and how many km’s we had ridden. I would tell him in great detail about the new roads we’d found, the adventures we’d had.
Riding very quickly became about seeking the undiscovered. I have ridden through truly magical places, from the baron Spanish landscapes to the mountains of the Americas, on the coastal roads of Italy, but it is on the roads of Sydney that I discovered what I think is one of the world’s best rides.
About 45km North West of Sydney, there sits a small river settlement called Berowra Waters, a one pub and one ferry kind of community. Set in bushland on the dazzling Hawkesbury River, Berowra Waters has a far away feel. Once you descend down to the river, the only way out is a U-turn or a ferry ride to the other side. There is little as indulgent on a bicycle ride than a 5 minute trip on the ferry across the delightfully gorgeous backdrop of the river snaking through lush, eucalypt rich bushland. Feet up, fresh air, smells of all things Australiana. No matter how hard you have worked to get there, the sweat and tears are forgotten in that boat ride.
I used to ride up there a lot with my sister, through the gorges of the north western surburbs of Sydney, on quiet roads with the delightful surprises of Australiana flora and fauna. We would ride along and discuss our plans to take over the world, so inspiring was the beauty that surrounded us. If you head up there in the summer, you’ll see the koalas and lizards on the roadside, seeking shade from the seering sun. The smells, the sights, the freedom of riding my bike, it is nothing short of glorious.
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