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Down Under


My eldest son Arif graduated last December with a Masters in Architecture.  Attending his graduation was a high point of 2013.  Naturally my Ritchey Break-Away made the trip with me to Melbourne.

I have read a lot about the social cycling scene in Melbourne.  Much of it on the always-excellent Cycling Tips blog.  So I was keen to experience it.

I managed to ride every day I was in Melbourne.  The first was on the day I arrived.  I assembled the Ritchey and went on a very short ride along Beaconsfield Parade from Albert Park to the St. Kilda Pier.  I rode along the bike paths that are separated from the roads.

Photograph courtesy of

Photograph courtesy of

I rode along the pier up to the St. Kilda Pavilion.  The kiosk sits at the end of the pier, more than 400 meters from the shore.  The kiosk was destroyed in an arson attack in 2003.  Thankfully it was reconstructed to the original 1903 plans, utilising some of the salvaged components, such as the cast iron roof, decorative cresting and weather vane.  The kiosk was reopened in 2006.

Photograph courtesy of

Photograph courtesy of

I went further afield the next day, still sticking to the bike paths that wind beside the beach.  I was just south of the Royal Brighton Yacht Club when I turned around.  I had to get back to Albert Park in time for dinner with my hosts Nico and Jules.

Photograph courtesy of

Photograph courtesy of

It was a particularly windy day, and the kite boarders were out in force.

Photo courtesy of Luster Lai

Photo courtesy of Luster Lai

I soon learned that cyclists out for some fresh air and the view use the bike paths.  If you wear Lycra you use the bike lanes on the roads.  Safety is one consideration.  The bike paths are also used by walkers, joggers, and skate boarders.  So riding at anything more than a gentle pace on a the bike paths would be dangerous.  Another consideration is the difference in surfaces.  The bike paths are made from a variety of materials.  Concrete blocks and slabs, wood planks, and asphalt of varying quality.  The bike lanes offer a smoother and, more to tyne point, faster surface for cyclists.

Photograph courtesy of

Photograph courtesy of

The ride of the week was with Arif.  We covered 50 km or so on the road to Rickett’s Point and back to Arif’s apartment in central Melbourne.  We stopped on the outward leg for a very nice breakfast at the Brown Cow Cafe in Hampton.  Early birds get the bike racks.

Melbourne 04 Eat and be Merry

Arif and I didn’t pick the best day for a longish bike ride.

Melbourne 03

The heat made the ride back to central Melbourne a challenge.  This stop to refill our bottles was at the Foreshore Reserve.  I am not sure if Arif is smiling or grimacing.

Melbourne 02

There were lots of people on the beach, despite it being by far the hottest day of the week.  I can’t imagine that it was any cooler inside these cabañas.

Melbourne 01

My long solo ride was on day four, to Chelsea.  That ride also included a food and coffee stop at the Brown Cow.

Melbourne Route

The views along the east bay are spectacular.  Especially in cooler weather!

Photograph courtesy of

Photograph courtesy of

I had one last ride on day five.  You guessed it.  To the Brown Cow in Hampton for a coffee, and back.  It was a Saturday.  So I had lots of other cyclists for company.

Cycling in Melbourne was a treat.  The infrastructure is generally excellent.  There are lots of places to stop for a drink and a bite.  Including the BP station near St. Kilda Marina, where Arif and I took advantage of the air-conditioning on that 38° C day.

My Ritchey Break-Away is coming with me again the next time I visit Melbourne.

Rapha Grand Tour Shoes Review

My Trek FX 7.5 had platform pedals.  I didn’t need special shoes to ride it.  My steel Alchemy would be delivered with clipless pedals.  Any shoe would no longer do.  I needed cycling shoes.  Some research on the internet pointed me toward the Sidi Genius 5-Pro Mega.  The “Mega” designation indicates that this shoe is wider than the standard Sidi Genius 5-Pro.

Sidi Genuis 5

I was guilty of showrooming with this purchase.  I tried the shoes for size at a bike store, but bought online.  A practice that does not support local retailers.  A practice that I try not to repeat.

Despite being “Mega” the Sidis are slightly narrow in the forefoot for me.  This isn’t a problem on shorter rides, but I develop “hot foot” once the ride exceeds about 60 km / 37 mi or so.  At times I have had to completely unfasten the caliper buckles and loosen the velcro straps to get some relief.

The Sidis came with me to Den Haag.  I swapped out the insoles, which helped a bit with the “hot foot” problem.  Perversely the shoes didn’t keep my feet warm enough in the Dutch winters.  There wasn’t enough room in them for thick woolen socks.  A pair of Endura neoprene  shoe covers delayed, but didn’t prevent, the onset of frozen toes.

My next cycling shoe purchase was the Shimano SH-RW80 Winter Road Shoe.  I liked those shoes so much that I wrote a review that appeared on roadbike  I took the advice of other reviewers and went two sizes larger than my Sidis.  That gave me plenty of room in the toe box for my wide feet and thick socks.


As Spring 2012 approached I saw posts in cycling blogs about a new shoe.  The Rapha Grand Tour shoe.  First John Watson posted thirty nine captioned photographs of these shoes in his excellent Prolly is Not Probably.  Soon after Wade Wallace ran a review and posted more photographs in his equally excellent Cycling Tips.

I looked at the Rapha site.  I was smitten with the version of the shoes in white.  My biker chick liked them too.  All of a sudden I needed new shoes!

Rapha Grand Tour New 2

It was my good fortune to be in the UK in April 2012.  I went into Condor, Rapha’s retail partner in London.  They had a pair in my size.  The shoes smelled soft and warm in the way that only leather does.  The perforated uppers had style.  The single black strap and the absence of large logos gave the shoes a minimalist look.

I love my Grand Tours.  I still have the Genius Pro-5s, but they are very much my back-up shoes.  The only time I wear them is when the Grand Tours are sitting in a cool airy spot, tongues flipped up and insoles removed, drying out after a wet ride.

You can read the online reviews of these shoes or go to the Rapha site to get all the technical details.  For me the winning qualities are the fit and comfort that make these shoes unnoticeable when I am riding.

I have put almost 11,000 km / 6,835 mi into these shoes in fourteen months.  They get better with age.  Like the leather in Brooks saddles, the leather in these shoes breaks in with use.  The Grand Tours have moulded to the contours of my feet.  The customizable cork / EVA footbeds have also formed themselves to the soles of my feet.  These shoes fit like gloves.

Robust gloves at that.  This is what the sole of the shoe looks like out of the box.

Rapha Grand Tour Sole 1

These are the soles of my shoes today.

Rapha Grand Tour Sole Now

The heel cups and toes are scuffed, and the soles are scratched from the times I walked on stones and gravel.  The white rubber bumpers on the heels show the most wear.  These are non-replaceable so it will be interesting to see how long it is before they wear down to the carbon soles.

Rapha Grand Tour Toe

One buckle bears evidence of a low-speed fall.

Rapha Grand Tour Buckle Now

Apart from that the shoes are holding up very well.

Rapha Grand Tour Now

Even the insoles, with their homage to Fausto Coppi on the left and Jacques Anquetil on the right, show little sign of wear.  These are the insoles before any use.

Rapha Grand Tour Insole New

These are mine now.  The images and text are still legible despite thousands of kilometers in all weathers.

Rapha Grand Tour Insole Now

The Grand Tours have not needed any special care.  Just a wipe down with a damp cloth, careful drying when they get soaked, and the application of some shoe cream once in a while has kept them looking good.   I expect to get at least another 11,000 km out of these excellent shoes.

Apart from a proper bike fit and quality bib shorts, shoes are the key to a comfortable ride.  In that regard the Rapha Grand Tour shoes are worth their weight in gold.

Share The Road 2

Posted on

A recent post on the always excellent Cycling Tips blog asked the question “How far from the curb should you ride?”  Like the author I think it depends on the road and traffic conditions.

Traffic conditions that these creative “Share the Road” campaign posters from LifeCycle seek to improve.

Share the Road 1 Share the Road 2 Share the Road 3 Share the Road 4 Share the Road 5

Email at for the hi-res posters.