In Which the Riders Take a Beating (and an Unwelcome Enemy makes a Reappearance)

With our most senior rider languishing in the Maroondah Hospital, Mal resting at home with “sore lungs” (whatever they are) and John in bed with a “wog”, I was beginning to wonder what had happened to the Warby Riders. Although I could also have been sorely tempted to find an excuse not to hit the Trail I nethertheless dug deep, strapped the bike on the carrier and headed off to Mt Evelyn. I felt I owed it to our faithful supporters to maintain the discipline of the club and complete one more traverse of the horsepoo trail.

When I arrived at Mt Evelyn the clouds had started to part and I actually started to muster some enthusiasm for the ride ahead. My previous best time for the ride from Mt Evelyn to Warburton was 1 hr 18 mins, so I felt that I might be able to add some extra interest to my solitary ride by trying to set a new personal best time. Somewhere in my mind I felt that I should be able to get the time down to 1 hr 15 mins and so I set off with that figure as my target.

The first section of the ride went without incident, although I almost managed to lose control at the construction zone near Wandin. Why do they insist on dropping so much loose gravel on the trail there and parking their huge vehicles right on the track ???

Wandin in 10 mins, Killara in 25 mins, it was starting to look as if I had the new record in my pocket. Unfortunately fate was yet to play its hand in my endeavours. Between Killara and Woori Yallock there are two cuttings which must be ridden through, sometimes loosely referred to as “hellfire passes”. I had barely entered the first of these cuttings when I looked up and saw, a few metres in front of me, a large tree trunk spread across the path.

Fortunately my aging brakes were sufficient to stop me (just) in time, before a nasty accident occured. I pondered the stupidity of whoever would have been responsible for such a dastardly act while I wasted valuable time pushing the trunk safely to the side of the track.

Once the track was cleared I remounted the bike and headed off trying to catch up on my record attempt. Quickly building up speed I rounded the downhill bend into the next cutting. Due to the shade cast by the overhanging trees it took me a few seconds to register the new horror that lay lurking in the darkness. There, ahead of me, was another barrier – this time comprised of numerous tree branches, rocks, wood, etc. The same clown had obviously been busy again trying to cause a serious accident.

This time the clearing process took a little longer as I moved all the debris safely to one side. I could not comprehend what could have motivated anyone to behave in such an irresponsible and potentially lethal way. Even more importantly it had caused me to fall well behind schedule in my record attempt. My mind began to wonder whether the barricades might have been deliberately erected by someone trying to prevent me from setting a new time.

Once safely back on the bike I again cranked up the speed as I headed down the hill towards “bone shaker bridge”. It was during this section that I first began to realise that I was going to have yet another enemy to contend with. A fresh wind had sprung up and was blowing straight in my face. Although I felt like yelling out at the top of my voice “WHY DO WE DO THIS?”, I tried to convince myself that the wind would probably soon pass and I would soon be back in still air again.

Unfortunately the wind increased in strength and was against me all the way to Millgrove. All chance of a record now looked forlorn, but at least I could comfort myself with the prospect that I was going to have a tail wind most of the way back to the car.

It was not until I reached the shelter of the trees (and the smooth bitumen) of the final run up the hill into Warburton, that I was able to build up any sort of real speed. A glance down at the watch showed that although the record was out of reach I could still at least achieve a respectable time. With this in mind, along with the noble aim of “doing it for Bob”, I willed myself up the final couple of km and managed a final time of 1 hr, 19.5 mins. Although not the record I was hoping for I was able to comfort myself with the fact that I would have indeed set a new time if I had not had to twice stop to clear the track.

With heart thumping and knees a knocking I rolled into the coffee shop for the customary lunch. I had to explain to the shopkeeper that, while the rest of the Warby Riders had fallen apart, I was still there to uphold the reputation of the Club. She said to pass on her warmest feelings to Bob and told me how much she would miss him. (Sounded like another secret admirer to me.)

While sitting having lunch I noticed a couple of young guys near the bridge obviously having a different sort of bike trauma. They had one of their bikes dismantled on the ground while they scratched their heads and considered their options. After lunch I rode on down to see if I could be of any help. They showed me the source of their distress – not only did one of them have a HUGE split in his rear tube, but the tyre itself had split away from the wire hoop over a distance of at least 15 cm. They were going to need a new tube and tyre if they were going to be able to ride back down the trail. I did not have anything suitable but suggested they try the hardware store where Mal had managed to buy the tube repair kit a couple of weeks earlier. While one of them headed off in search of Bicycle Shangrila, I wished them luck and headed back down the trail on a quest of my own. At least I could be comforted with the sure knowledge that a friendly tail wind would surely be waiting to greet me at Milgrove.

With this in mind I could not help feeling a little disappointed when the long awaited wind seemed to have gone missing. Indeed, within a couple of km, it was actually blowing in my face with the same degree of gusto it had opposed my outward journey. My worst fears were confirmed on the bitumen legs near Launching Place. I had encountered another BDOH (the worst of all cycling enemies). Last time we encountered this foe I at least had Bob to share the load, but this time I had to face it all alone.

As I pushed up into the wind I could not help but comtemplate the massive unfairness that the cyclist has to contend with. Adversity takes many forms – “pinch flats”, slow leaks, broken spokes, bent wheels, shattered derailleurs, bumpy bridges, pilling lycra, horse manure, flatulent companions and a host of others, but the dreaded BDOH is certainly the worst of them all. I began to have memories of the last time Bob and I had fought a fierce BDOH all the way back to Wandin, and wondered if I would have the resolve to continue against such an adversary on my own.

Although I was sorely tempted to give up, I knew that I had a job to do and dug deeper and kept pedalling. Fortunately the wind strength never rose above about 50 kph, so I was able to maintain a reasonable rate of progress and arrived back at Mt Evelyn at about 4.45 pm.

It had been a good ride, but a lonely one. I sure hope that some of the aged and infirm riders will be back on duty again next week. Speaking of aged and infirm riders, I went off to visit Bob after the ride. He seemed glad to see me, but I think he is missing his bike more than his mates …….