It had been an incredibly busy week and with a long appointment in Doveton scheduled for Thursday morning it would have been very tempting to simply cancel the planned bike ride. The only problem is that, when you are leader of men, destiny has dictated that sometimes you just have to rise to the occasion (even when common sense advises otherwise). The weather bureau had been promising us a warm, sunny afternoon and, since my last ride was completed while I was still recovering from the flu, I was starting to hang out for a real ride to leave some of my increasing frustration behind.
Although I had originally planned to start from Mt Evelyn, my losing battle with the timepiece meant that I would only have time to ride from Wandin. Bob had already rung in to say that he was off to the airport and not able to join us and Mal had rung to say that Thursdays (along with Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays) were not convenient for him. I was assured by John that he would not let the club down and that he was in fine shape for a good hard ride, although he would be meeting me somewhere further down the track, after he had completed his customary four course lunch.
When I arrived at Wandin I was already running late so I just had time to pump some air into the tyres, don my yellow jacket and hit the trail. A glance at the darkening skies did not do much for my faith in the forecasting abilities of the Bureau of Meteorology, but I was starting to enjoy the ride once my frozen arms and legs started to thaw out a bit.
The recent storms had obviously hit this area badly and there were numerous fallen trees both near and across the trail, although the path itself was fairly dry. It was good fun hurtling down the hill while weaving in and out of the new chicanes. The rain was holding off and it was not such a bad riding day after all. The only problem was that, since I had not yet had lunch, I was already starting to drift off into my fantasy world of imagining the capucino and sandwich that I was soon to enjoy at Warburton.
When I reached Killara I met up with John who was having a quiet rest at the side of the track. I greeted him with a smile and slowed down to about 12 kph to allow him to catch up with me. After about 4 km he finally caught up and started tooting his hooter and loudly exclaiming “HEAD WIND” and ‘SPEED ALERT”. I had not been aware of the wind up this point but it was apparently bad enough for John to insist that we stop for a drink and some trackside calisthenics.
After John’s premature “windbreak” we finally got going again, but a couple of km down the trail the entire pantomime was acted out again. “Head Wind” he yelled, “I’m too hungry to stop” I replied. “I’m too full to go on” he responded. I had no alternative but to wait again while John bent and stretched, standing first on one leg and then the other. He looked like he was auditioning for the Australian Ballet, but I tried hard to bite my tongue and hope that the farce would soon be over.
Unfortunately this same routine was repeated 4 or 54 more times before we finally cruised into Warburton much later than usual. I was terrified that the coffee shop might have already shut for the day, but fortunately I was able to (finally) enjoy my lunch – after all it was about 3.30 pm. During the final 2 or 3 km I had become aware of a strange sensation while riding my bike. At first I thought it might have been a flat tyre but a quick examination of the rear wheel eliminated this possibility. I also feared that maybe I had broken another chainstay, but this was also eliminated. Eventually I had to just put it down to hunger and try to ignore the unfamiliar feeling I was getting.
After lunch we crossed the river and started back down the smooth bitumen on the opposite bank. By this time I was convinced that there WAS something askew with my bike and started to examine the rear wheel closely. It did not take long to identify the real source of the problem – I had a broken spoke. In fact it was the FIRST broken spoke I have so far experienced. There was not much I could do apart from secure the broken section and hope that it would hold together for the remainder of the ride.
A short distance further on we noticed a group of lilac haired elderly ladies gathered outside the Warburton Elderly Citizen’s Club. As John rode past one sprightly 70 year old chick he made the suggestion that “you should join that club over there”. The lady in question did not take his suggestion well and made a swing at him with her walking frame as he passed. I tried to pretend I did not know him, and hoped that she would not be lodging a formal complaint with the local police.
AS soon as we rejoined the trail John remembered his familar chorus and again yelled “HEAD WIND” and “SLOW DOWN”. It was actually hard to see much trace of the wind that John was hallucinating about but I tried to humour him anyway by saying “Yes, it is a bad day for wind, have you tried taking something for it ?”
We thus gradually made our way back down the trail, with John’s “wind problem” getting worse and with my mind concentrating on the deteriorating state of my rear wheel. It felt a little like I was riding one of those carnival crazy bikes with the elliptical wheels. By the time we reached the Launching Place Pub, John was insisting that we stop for another session track side calisthenics, although I tried to reason with him that I had to get home before nightfall.
The last 5 km back to Woori Yallock were punctuated by 5 drink stops, 4 rest stops, 3 mobile phone calls, 4 calisthenics breaks, 7 wind breaks and 23 hooter toots. In spite of these amazing odds we did eventually get back to the car park where a quick look at my watch told me that I should be able to get back to Wandin before dark, providing of course that I rode at an average speed of about 42 kph.
To cut a long story short I did make it back to Wandin before midnight and the rear wheel of the red rattler did hold together for the whole distance. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the afternoon’s events was that I actually enjoyed (almost) every minute of it. Even more exciting was the thought that the next ride would be held in Springtime. It really will be nice to be able to ride in increasing warmth and lengthening days, but at least we had confronted the long, wet and cold winter and ridden right through it.