I guess it’s true to say that no-one really loves riding in the rain. If we had our choice we would all rather be riding our bikes under a blue sky with the warming rays from a beaming sun keeping the nose drips far, far away. The problem is that, short of emigrating to Queensland, if you are going to maintain a cycling addiction through a Melbourne winter, there are going to be times when you just can’t escape getting wet (and cold as well). The only other alternative is to live a life where you stay morbidly fixated on the weather radar map, looking for any tiny blue dots that could possibly indicate than rain was on the way.
This was certainly the case last Thursday, when the weather bureau predicted rain for the afternoon. There was once a time when such a prediction would have resulted in an immediate cancellation of the ride, however I like to think that we have made some progress in our cycling development over the past four years. As I unloaded the bike from the car at Mt Evelyn I eagerly scanned for other Ghost Riders waiting to join in the ride. There weren’t any. Peter had already rung me to say that he wouldn’t be coming but did not give a reason. I just hoped that I would not be completing a lonely solo waterlogged ride all the way to Warburton.
It was a relief to soon see other riders arriving. Soon we had Bob, Bruno, Lothar, Phil and Brendan so at least I knew that I would not be only one getting wet if the skies really opened up. I had also been phoned the day before and told to expect another rider joining in the fun. This new rider said his name was “Max” and that he would meet as at Mt Evelyn. I looked around for any sign of a new rider but, since I could see no-one else, I decided to head off regardless.
To my surprise, just as we were about to leave, Peter did turn up in his car. He was not dressed for cycling and announced that he had just come along to laugh at us riding in the rain. I knew that Peter was getting old, but I had to admit that I did not expect to see a wheelchair in the back of his van. He tried to explain that it was not for him, but the rest of us were unconvinced. I shook my head as he drove away back towards Monbulk.
Another caller had introduced himself as Neville and said that he would be meeting us at Wandin, however when we reached Wandin there was no sign of anyone. Obviously the threatening weather must have had a negative effect on these fair weather cyclists. At least we were joined by Gary, John Dawson and Ben and this helped to give more respectablility to the early peloton. By the time Willem joined in near Killara we had a good sized group.
Fortunately the weather had stayed neutral. Alhtough it was cold, the dark clouds seemed to be parting to make a path for us to ride through. The surface of the trail was firm and dry, making the riding conditions quite good. I expected that Hooters would be joining us at Woori Yallock for his customary “mini ride” but when we arrived he was nowhere to be seen. Apparently he was home on his computer, transfixed by a small rainstorm down near Cape Otway. We all know that Hooters does not like to get his hair wet and so he had stayed home in his rocking chair, covered by a knitted shawl. No sense in taking risks I guess.
It was at Woori that we caught up with another female rider called Heike (pronounced Hiker). Although she had only recently started cycling she was already a much stronger rider than Hooters and did not seem to mind the thought that her hair might get damp during the ride. Heike already had the big advantage of a very impressive bike and settled down to a very respectable speed.
Apart from the fact that my ride was interrupted by some clown ringing my mobile phone to ask if “I would take 10 minutes to complete a short survey”, we all managed to make it safely to the lunch stop without a drop of rain falling on us. While I was eating my salad roll, my mobile rang again. This time it was another clown (called Peter Warren), calling to let us know that it was now pouring rain in Emerald. I thanked him for his concern,although I don’t think he could hear me over his laughter.
While we were enjoying our coffees we were met by an unfamiliar rider who had apparently been chasing us all the way from Mt Evelyn. Answering to the name of Anthony, this tall and wiry guy turned out to be an ex student of mine from the early 1980s. We learnt that he had arrived at mt Evelyn a few minutes late and had been eating our dust al the way to Milgrove.
After lunch I quickly realised that the air temperature had dropped a couple of degrees. I could certainly smell rain in the air, but miraculously the downpour did not eventuate. There was however, a certain degree of nervousness in the peloton as the pace increased in an attempt to make it safely back to cover ,before all meterological hell broke loose over our heads.
It was only as we reached Killara that a very light drizzle started to fall. It was not heavy enough to wet us very much, but the puddles on the trail were clear evidence that heavy rain had been falling in that spot. As it turned out, we were rather muddy when we reached Mt Evelyn, but it was mostly due to dirt thrown up from our wheels. Bob set a cracking pace up the final hill and seemed quite pleased with himself. I felt sorry for those who had stayed home for the afternoon and had actually missed out on a good ride.
Anthony arrived at Mt Evelyn a few minutes after the group and looked a little the worse for wear. He informed us that this had been his longest ride ever, so I guess it had been something of a rude introduction for him. I am sure that, if he completes a few more rides, he will quickly gain the increased stamina required to keep up with all us old guys.
After a cold ride it is always a fantastic feeling to be able to head home for a hot shower with the feeling that you have used the day well. Thanks to everyone who turned up.
PS Our official ride chronicle tells me that this is our 175th Thursday ride since we started on July 2nd 2002. I guess that is not a bad milestone. And they said it wouldn’t last !!!!!!