The fine and sunny weather at the start of this ride gave no precognition of the disaster that was to unfold within the next three hours. When I left Mt Evelyn I was feeling in good spirits, still buoyed by the fun we had enjoyed on our triumph over the Bellarine Circuit only a couple of days previously.
John had indicated that he was still keen to keep his kilometres (or was it metres?) up before we tackle the Great Traverse in 6 weeks time, and therefore would again be starting from Wandin. The 10 minute ride from Mt Evelyn to Wandin went without incident and soon John and I were rolling down the hill and watching our heart rate monitors. Although we were only rolling, and hadn’t actually started to pedal yet, John became rather concerned when his heart rate went straight up to about 160. This prompted him to plead that we slow down before he dies right on the spot.
A little while later when his rate had stabilised on about 170 we were able to establish a reasonable cadence and soon we saw the unfamiliar sight of Mal riding up the trail towards us on his new Yellow Peril. The bike is so bright I needed to put my sunglasses back on to look at it more closely.
No sooner had Mal joined us than he took off up the track with his polished legs pumping like frenzied pistons. I tried to keep up, but was worried that my own heart rate might go over 110 with the effort. John vainly sounded his “speed alert” signal, imploring Mal to show mercy on him.
In spite of these minor problems we proceeded to reach Warburton in good time and settled down to ice coffee and sandwiches at the coffee shop. Without Bob’s presence we realised that it had been some weeks since we had been able to solve significant world problems. Even the lavender lady had not showed up since Bob had his accident.
After lunch we again detoured up the Yarra bank and enjoyed the incredible scenery. John asked “why do we do this?” for the 20th time and Mal announced it was time to head for home.
The ride back to Woori Yallock was undertaken in perfect conditions. On days like this there is simply nothing else better than being on your bike and watching the passing scenery. Mal parted company with us at Woori Yallock (yet another unfinished ride) and left John and me to complete the rest of the ride without him.
It was about this time that the ride started to turn to the dark side. As I rode I became conscious of an unfamiliar wobble in the bicycle. Thinking that one of the cranks had become loose I stopped and checked them, but all appeared fine. I had not gone more than 20 metres before John called out to me that my back wheel was wobbling violently. This was not news that I wanted to hear, but what choice did I have but to dismount and try to discern the problem.
It took no morethan 10 seconds to see what had actually happened. The RH chain stay had completely broken through near the rear axle, leaving the wheel only supported on the left hand side. This was easily the most serious accident that had happened to my faithful red rattler and I was sure that it had been caused by the violent shaking it had endured crossing the long bridge at Woori Yallock.
Since it would be impossible to continue I forlornly finished my ride at that spot and sent John on ahead to return with his car to rescue me. As I sat by the side of the track with tears glistening on my cheeks I could not help but think that the old bike may have travelled the trail for the last time. What a sad ending for such a brave old bike.
About two hours later John returned with his car after pedalling the remaining 4 km by himself. I lifted the spent carcass of my bike onto his carrier and sat sadly while I was driven back to Mt Evelyn. What was I going to do in future? Would there ever be another bike like the rattler? Would I need Mal to conduct a funeral service for it? Why couldn’t it have happened to someone else instead? How was I going to break the news to the family? Should I just borrow Bob’s plastic fantastic instead?????
Later that afternoon John and I paid Bob a visit and I recounted the tale of woe I had just experienced. With Bob’s broken hip and my broken bike I figured we had a lot in common right now. Bob tried to cheer me up by telling me that it might be possible to fix the broken bike, but I am not sure that his plan of using an entire roll of duct tape would be very useful.
About 7.30 pm that night I finally arrived back home and sadly wheeled the bike into the living room – I felt it needed company in its hour of greatest need. Why is life sometimes so unkind? Or as Joni Mitchell put it “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?“