The Great Awaba St TT

March 9, 2011 at 21:03 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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I’ve been meaning to try this for a while; ever since it was raised over a year ago on SydneyCyclist. How quickly can you ride up Awaba Street, possibly the steepest street in central Sydney? I’m not much interested in how fast I go, but of course I did have another much more intriguing thought. Could I get up it on the fixie?
Awaba Street stretches for about 500m from the lovely Balmoral Beach up to Spit Road in Mosman. At its steepest the gradient is nearly 30%, and over it’s length it rises about 70m. It’s not far from where I work, although I’ve never been there.
Until now. On Sunday I got out for a ride, and I decided the time had come to tackle it. I rode out to Mosman, and took a route that would bring me to the foot of Awaba Street. I didn’t want to ride down it; I wanted to contemplate it from the foot of the hill – and then attempt the ascent.
From the bottom, it didn’t look too bad, to be honest. I’ve ridden the fixie up into the Blue Mountains, through the Northern Beaches, climbed out of Coogee – and this didn’t look much different. But then again, I remembered the descriptions people had posted online about it – descriptions from fit cyclists who ride every weekend – and they seemed to think it was something special.
Nothing for it – I was going to have to give it a go. I rode back a few metres along the promenade, and then turned to get a bit of a run up. Unfortunately my run up was foiled by a lady who decided to cross at the pedestrian crossing right at the bottom just as I got there – so my rolling start came to nothing. Oh well, just get on with it from a standing start.
Up we went, and the beginning part wasn’t too bad. Cruisy, in fact. I was out of the saddle, but was making good progress. However, after a hundred metres or so, I started to realise the cruelty of this hill. The gradient gradually increases – so as you get more tired and slower, it gets steeper. Things started to get difficult; my cadence had dropped to very sub-optimal levels and I was really grinding – and we weren’t even half way up.
Was I going to have to stop? Possibly. I dived into a side turning, and rode around in small circles three of four times to regain some energy. Then back to it. Ouch – this was getting really quite hard. It was a real effort to get the pedals over the top each time; the veins on my neck were standing out as I forced then round.
This was no good. A quick look back over my shoulder – no traffic. I put in three or four zig-zags across the road; gaining height at a slower rate but mercifully easier on the legs. Then a car starts to approach, so I have to go back to grinding straight up. I’m really gasping now, head down, sweat dripping off me. I dive into another side street, ride ten metres or so on the flat, turn around and ride back, gathering some speed and then back onto the hill for the final push to the top. It’s in sight now, and the better cadence and motivation from seeing the end point give me enough energy to get to the top. My legs fell like jelly, but I got there.
So did I succeed? Did I conquer Awaba St? The jury is still out. I didn’t actually stop, or put a foot down, so in one way yes. But I did have to dive down two side streets for a quick respite, and the zig zag thing really isn’t very cool. I think I shall have to try again, with a better run-up, and focus on keeping the cadence up in the early stages. But maybe not just yet. Maybe in a year or so’s time…

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