Brisbane, I love your donuts.

Every Tuesday and Thursday at 6am in Brisbane, you’ll find a motley, even eclectic, crew of cyclists, who might also be described as mostly of a certain age, gathering in Mollison Street, West End. They are there for a ride known simply as “Donuts”. Some stick to the more traditional “doughnuts” spelling, but it is mostly said rather than written, so the point may be moot.

I recently called it venerable, because it has been going on for many years. How many? Well, I’ve been riding it consistently for about 6 years, and am still a relative newby. Some people come and go, but there is a fairly large core group who ride Donuts pretty often, most of whom have done so for a long time. Since I published this, one of the originals advised the ride started in 1996 as training for the longer Saturday rides of that time. So now we know!

It involves five laps of a route formed by Montague Road and Riverside Drive, West End, with the last lap heading up Dornoch Terrace for a grand uphill finale and competition to see who is that day’s First Up the Hill, which I guess is the Donuts version of King of the Mountain. On some summer Tuesdays in recent years, sometimes some head over to the University of Queensland for three or four laps then back up the other side of the Dornoch hill.

The ride has altered quite a bit over time as new road arrangements meant some variations to the basic route. New yellow safety bars, speed bumps and other changes have some old hands thinking the ride is dying the death of a thousand cuts, and making threats to boycott it, but Donuts keeps on rolling anyway.

It is old school in its manners. The two riders on front generally do a full lap and at a speed that suits the group, and are then thanked with varying degrees of sincerity by the other riders in turn as they drop to the rear after their lap. Even though we repeat the same lap, holes and other potential safety risks are regularly called each lap. It’s kinda nice that way. Mind you, this doesn’t always happen, so some pointed comments are heard on occasion…

A major plus of Donuts is that you can join and leave it whenever you feel like it. Running late? Just ride slowly around or go the other way till you sight the peloton and join in. Not feeling energetic or short of time? Leave after 3 or 4 laps or skip the effort up Dornoch.

One unchanging part of the Donuts tradition is that it ends up at the Roundabout Cafe in West End for coffee afterwards. The same group of tables are pushed together and reserved on Donuts day for the crew, and while the ownership and the quality of the coffee has changed over the years, it is the spiritual home of the ride. Many and varied are the conversations – tall tales and true from the legendary past are mixed with sports, political and whatever commentary takes people’s fancy on the day. Some serious stuff is contemplated and a lot of breeze shot. Some don’t bother with the ride and just come for coffee. The time spent there varies too – some dash off after a quick coffee, some linger over second cups and once a year a record attempt occurs, around Christmas. The actual record is unclear, but it was well after 9am that the last left that day. The current owner, Tony, is a most convivial and welcoming host, a generous and accommodating soul who often features the Donuts crew on his cafe Facebook page.

What characterizes the Donuts experience more that anything for me is the good humour and camaraderie that prevails, both during the ride and at the cafe. The bonhomie, esprit de cours, joie de vivre, je ne sais quoi and any other applicable French phrases appropriated by the English language.

So here’s what I reckon: Donuts is a rich contribution to life in Brisbane, and as part of its cycling scene is one of its stalwart rides for stalwarts.

Vive la Donuts and all who ride in her!

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