With the long awaited Wangaratta to Bright bike ride only 1 sleep away it was no wonder that we were all starting to get excited about the challenge lying before us. We had scheduled a final morning dash along the Warburton Trail before packing the treadlies for the big weekend. I arrived at Mt Evelyn at about 7.45 am under an overcast sky and cool conditions.
Of course Bob was again nowhere to be seen so I settled down for the long wait until one of the other riders appeared. I didn’t have to wait long before Mal pulled in alongside and started to prepare for the ride. Since I had been warned that Mal had been thoroughly trounced in his event at the weekend bike races (the over 60s handicap race) I was expecting that his mood might be less than sunny. I was, however, NOT prepared for the sight that he was soon to unveil before my eyes.
Out of the boot of his car he proceeded to assemble the pieces of the meanest bike I had ever seen. This contraption was sort of a cross between Ross’ Massey Ferguson Stump Puller and a Junkyard Dog. With huge knobby tyres, the suspension from a US Army Hummer and the smallest chain ring I had ever seen, this was truly a sight to behold. Such an ugly bike had to be immediately christened the “Pit Bull Special”. It was obvious that Mal must have taken his weekend defeat even harder than we thought – I even thought I could discern a hint of “Thursday shadow” on his legs!!!
After I had overcome my initial surprise we headed off down the trail. Mal’s legs had to rotate like an out of control catherine wheel cracker just to get the Pit Bull to inch forward down the hill. I had heard about low gears before but this was ridiculous. Even the sound of the massive tyres on the gravel sounded like an approaching hurricane, but Mal seemed to be happy so I decided to stop laughing and just concentrate on riding.
Bob eventually caught up to us at Killara station and stood open mouthed when he saw the Pit Bull. He was even more surprised when he saw the diminutive size of Mal’s chain ring – I guess we all knew the awful truth that size really does matter after all.
By the time we managed to reach Woori Yallock station there was still no sign of John, but he did appear a few minutes later. You can imagine John’ s relief when he looked at Mal’s Pit Bull (PB for short). I suppose he realised that he no longer had the funniest looking bike on the Rail Trail. We were disappointed that Inspector Gadget had not joined us for another ride, but surmised that he must be off somewhere solving another important case.
Obviously John was greatly encouraged by the ludicrous sight of Mal toiling away on the PB, and so he decided to become the new pace-setter for the peloton. Off he went, head down, bum up (and covered with flies) down the track, leaving the rest of us to follow along in his wake. Maybe the old guy had been foxing all this time about his true riding form.
While all this was going on the sky had been clearing to reveal another beautiful sunny day. We reached Warburton at about 10 am in good spirits and ready for a hearty lunch of healthy cream puffs and lolly water. We tried to talk but another truck driver had decided to park opposite with his engine running, so instead we just spent 30 minutes laughing at Mal’s bike instead.
After lunch we headed back along the track until we reached the Grand Incline (Warburton’s version of El Capitan). We had often looked at this massive slope before and joked about trying to ride up it, but common sense had always prevailed. But in the past we had never been equipped with a bike like the PB. We decided that we would indeed be silly not to try to ride up and become the first riders to do so.
Mal went first, filling his lungs with lots of fresh mountain air, slipping into his lowest gear, and pedalling like a banshee. Off he went up the slope, only travelling at about 2 kph, but his legs and lungs were making lots of noise. About one quarter of the way up he had to admit defeat as he started to slide back down accompanied by his own personal landslip of falling rocks and mud.
Of course Bob thought that he would be able to get much further up, however we were all in for a big let down. Without the aid of his plastic fantastic (aka Titanic) he was indeed a mortal after all. He huffed and puffed but only managed about 5 metres up the slope before sliding back down to the track and then slinking away in defeat.
Now that Mal knew the true state of his adversary he girded his loins (while we looked away) and prepared himself for one final onslaught. Off he went. We all cheered. Up he went. We all stared. The going got harder. We shouted our encouragement. He started to slow down, losing his forward momentum. Things quickly started to get ugly as the front wheel started to wobble. A weak seam on his knicks burst open. His strength was gone. The Pit Bull decided to throw him off into the sign which warned “DANGEROUS – KEEP OUT”. We all laughed as he fell unceromoniously into the mud with the bike on top. But we had to agree that he had at least travelled about 3 times as far as Bob had made. He came back down the hill a little the worse for wear but with a big smile on his face.(Editor’s note: I knew that I could probably have made it all the way to the top, but I knew that Mal’s ego was a little fragile and did not want to spoil his fun).
After tackling the Big Landslip John returned to his unlikely place at the head of the peloton and set a cracking pace all the way back to his car. Actually I think the cracking noise was caused by his osteoporosis, but I guess life was not meant to be easy. Bob’s ongoing battles with his hemmorhoids certainly adds extra weight to this premise.
Bob, Mal and I eventually made it back to Mt Evelyn at about 12.30 pm where we all agreed that it had been another great ride and made our final plans for the weekend mega ride. Only 1 sleep to go, maybe we should sleep with our bikes for safekeeping ?????