Wednesday, August 29, 2012

For the love of Black Betty

When we were thinking about where we'd like to buy our land, my hermit tendencies were eventually overruled by Pearl's pragmatic ones, so we didn't buy acres in the middle of nowhere. We have 2 kids who go to school, have friends and will probably do some kinds of sport and/or music and/or circus activities. We have to work. And we occasionally don't mind socialising with people, going to the markets and various other fairs and festivals. So being a million miles from anywhere was going to involve some regular long-driving activities. When we found our little block, we knew it was "the one" pretty much straight away. A north-facing slope, for the right price, only 10 minutes drive out of town. And the best thing about this last bit is that when you're here, it actually feels like you could be in the middle of nowhere. Win-win-win-win. My favourite kind of win.
I never really thought I'd be up for walking to town, but I knew I could bike it.
Black Betty's pannier was adapted from Pearl's old work-bag
Enter my new and beautiful friend Black Betty. For the past 3 weeks she's been happily conveying me to and from work, 10km and 30 minutes each way. We're having a ball. 
I got Black Betty from Sydney Electric Bikes, after talking to a local dude here who has an electric bike for his commute to work. I thought it seemed like an excellent idea for me. I really wanted my daily ride to be a sustainable thing that I would enjoy doing for years, as there is no way we want to get a second car. But our road ain't called "Peak Hill" for nothing, and I knew that my end-of-the-day hike was likely to be a killer. So I emailed Jake at SEB. I said "Hey! I'd really like to ride a bike every day to and from work. It's a lot of country unsealed dirt road and some killer hills. About 10km each way. What can we do?". He customised an Apollo bike with some internal hub gears, some front suspension and a pedal assist/throttle, and sent  her down to me. What this all means is that I can ride pretty much all of the way to and from work, but when I'm coming up to my Peak Hill, and I get to that bit when you're pedalling up a hill and you're getting really tired and you're almost about to get off and just push the bike, I turn on the throttle, and Black Betty helps me up the rest of the hill. It feels goooooood, and means I get home in time for dinner.
Peak Hill Road, around 5pm
Before Black Betty arrived, pretty much every time I drove to our land from town, I thought about what it would be like to ride, how it would feel, whether I'd make it up the hills, how long it would take me to ride to and from work. I can safely say I had no idea about any of these things, and I can also safely say (as most of you avid cyclists will already know) that nothing feels the same as riding your bike. I am noticing things on my daily ride that I never noticed before. I am experiencing our neck of the woods, rather than just seeing it, as I would if I were passing through in the car. On my bike, I have time to notice the animals and the trees and the temperature and the weather and the sun at different times of the day and the river and even the different parts of the roads I travel on. And I can actually feel and smell and hear as well as see all of the things as I ride on through. It's beautiful, and I notice new things every day. I notice new blooms on the trees as they ready themselves for spring. I notice baby foxes frolicking on the road-side (yes I know they're pests that will eat our chickens but that doesn't make them any less cute). I notice the way the temperature drops at certain points in certain little valleys. I see the frost sparkling on the grass. And I know that as the seasons progress and change, my daily ride will change too, and that's pretty exciting.

Cows, and a view over Springvale
For the next week I'm going to post a couple of photos each day, to record some of the things I'm seeing and enjoying on my daily commute, to share some of the things I'm discovering. I'm not going to get off my bike to take the photos. I want the angles and the views to be reflective of the glimpses I get as I'm pedalling along. And I also want to give those of you who've never visited us (or who've never ridden up Peak Hill Road on a bike) a little feel for the lay of the land in our neck of the woods, on the cusp of spring/summer, though still sparkling with frost. 


  1. That sounds and looks like an amazing ride. I have been riding to school (Wiley Park) which means I ride along some main roads and hate smelling in the fumes that come from trucks. Your ride looks AMAZING and I can smell it from here, I bet it smells so sweet and delicious. I cannot wait to do some country riding where the air smells fresh and clear. It makes the experience so much more pleasurable.

  2. Good on you, Annie! That hill is bloody steap!!!! Hey, baby foxes??? Oh so lovely. Might be the babies of the one Lew was feeding;) xxx

  3. Hi girls, its Kelly here your nans friend, loved reading your blog and seeing the photos of your home that I have heard so much about. You are both amazing.... well done your house looks great.