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Wine & Bikes

When we undertook The Tour Survival Kit with our friends at MAAP, we were keen to explore where else (beyond the Tour de France) wine and bikes crossed paths. We wanted to hear from someone who was insanely passionate about both. Col McBryde was our man.

Winemaker, doctor (oenology), father and tattoo enthusiast, Col (together with partner Jen Gardner) is responsible for some of the most exciting wines to emerge from South Australia’s Clare Valley, under both the Adelina and Some Young Punks labels. He also happens to be insanely passionate about his bike.

And so we asked Col if he’d be kind enough to pen a few words for us about how wine and cycling fit into his life, and the commonalities that exist between both. We even offered him a Tour Survival Kit for his trouble. He was only too happy to oblige.  – Matt

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Admittedly, I only came into the cycling fold later in life. I’ve been relatively immersed in the booze trade for some 20+ years, however only pedalling squares for about five years now. Sure, I rode a bike as a kid, however that is truly a remote comparison to the world of apparel, frames, wheels, power meters etc. that I’m somewhat engaged in now.

Observationally, I am a bogan. This point is largely responsible as to why I’m late to the sport. The thought of lycra and shaved legs always conjured untoward, if not slightly derisive thoughts, well at least it did. My previous sporting endeavours (as a grown man) included cars (watching) and pies (eating)… However, the impetus to get on a bike was simple: I was pretty overweight and I needed to do something about it.

A friend was into riding bikes at the time and coerced me into it, and the rest is a relatively short history. I am of course glamorising both my prowess on the bike and level of fitness now; I’m what you would eloquently describe as a ‘hubbard’. I’d be lucky to hold a wheel in a D grade under 15s race, however the enjoyment I get out of riding is paralleled by the enjoyment I get out of wine, both as a gustatory experience and making the stuff.

Wine (consumption) and cycling are pure hedonism for me. There are mutual benefits to both, yes, but they are by and large conducted for the simple pursuit of pleasure. The thought of what I should drink tonight, whilst eating breakfast, is a common occurrence. I loathe the thought of an AFD (alcohol-free day), a day where I miss out on engaging in something potentially awesome, to the extent that drinking choices often overshadow the liver-recuperating prospect of an AFD, merely because I justify it as an educational experience. This, as far fetched as it sounds, is a truism for me. I was taught from a young age that breadth and experience in drinking/tasting wine was grossly important: drink vastly; learn about areas, styles and producers – so I choose to.

An understanding of what is happening globally, I hope helps me make informed decisions about the wine I make. Further on from the justification of an educational standpoint, riding also provides mitigation: I’m putting some healthy back into my relatively unhealthy lifestyle. The enjoyment from a great wine is amplified generally by company, the environmental stimuli, conversation, the meal and location, and all weigh greatly on our perceived level of enjoyment. For me, the same can be said for riding bikes with mates.

That discussive nature, the scene or environment you’re riding in, all pique the senses and thus the enjoyability – hence the reference to hedonism. My wine choices are a little more curated these days than when I started drinking. The same can be said for my choices surrounding bikes, apparel… actually anything with reference to bikes. These consumerism parallels are an easy target – vintage v kit manufacturer, producer v frame builder – but in my world they have become a vice for one another. Work in order to achieve time on the bike, and this subsequently provides me with justification for cracking another bottle or dining out (which is something that I would consider myself far better at than riding a bike).

This avid consumerism is halted only by my lack of funding. It goes a little something like this: in the beginning wines would be chosen on interest value (they still are), some cheeky bottle of Pinot from the hills turns into a paralleled comparison of sites, which turns into a new-world-old-world comparison, which unfolds into a comparison with Nuits-Villages, and before you know it, you’re fronting to dinner waging war on your palate with a swathe of GC wines. The scenario would be easier if that addiction didn’t translate to bike stuff… from a good carbon frame to a custom Ti bike, more steel bikes, wheels, the misconception that a power meter may aid my level of fitness (unfortunately the addition of such does nothing for the amount of power I can sustain). I have no idea why I have more than one set of wheels for a bike – I can’t ride two sets. The same sentiment can be applied to having more than one bike (despite that logic, I’m a huge fan of the concept n+1). It’s all an amazing amount of fun, but I worry if my kid wants to go through Uni, whether she’ll be pawning booze and bikes to find tuition fees…