In Which we all Enjoy a Clayton’s

With the ever so fickle nature of Melbourne’s weather it is sometimes very hard to make the call on whether to proceed with a particular ride or not. The forecast for this afternoon had, at various times, varied between “one or two showers”, “mainly fine”,”clearing” and “bucketing down all day”. Although we all enjoy our weekly rides, I am not so sure that any of us really relishes the idea of riding the entire length of the Warby Trail in the middle of a wintry downpour.

After much soul searching I eventually decided to proceed with the ride, but at a much shorter distance than usual. My plan was to start at Woori Yallock at 2 pm. This would at least give us the opportunity for a ride, even if it was a bit of a Clayton’s Ride. In fact it would reduce the ride down to the length that John Seamons does every week, and that was NOT a pleasant thought.

At 2 pm I was met by Peter and Little John at the Woori Yallock car park. Bob soon rang in to say that he was feeling cold and would be staying home in bed. When Hooters arrived it was time to head off. Although the skies were black as pitch, at least it was not actually raining. It did not take long to see that the area must have experienced some recent very heavy rain. The trail was liberally covered with large puddles and muddy patches. On top of this, the mystery man with the big grader had obviously been busy and had managed to convert many more kilometres of previously hard packed surface into a sloppy mess. It did not take us long to splatter mud and manure from the track all over the backs of our jerseys and over our legs and shoes.

In spite of the unusual shortness of the ride, it seemed somewhat difficult to get anyone up to a reasonable speed. As we threatened to exceed 20 kph, Hooters started his familiar lamentations about “being a weckweational wider only”. I decided to pull ahead and, since no-one tried to challenge, maintained the lead until the end of sprint straight. At that point we were so far ahead of schedule that it was no longer necessary to race and so we all slowed down to a leisurely canter.

I had thought that because of the state of the weather that we would not be likely to meet any other riders. It was somewhat surprising to find that we passed one of the largest groups of fellow pedal pushers that we have ever encountered. I did not think that they looked like elite athletes (unlike us), but they all seemed to be enjoying themselves regardless.

About halfway up the final climb into Warburton Peter and I passed a young lady riding a bike with a toddler riding in a rear seat. We were able to give a cheerful “Hi” as we passed, and then proceeded to demonstrate our superb level of fitness by quickly pulling away into the distance. It is always good to be able to show casual riders how the experts do it.

Unfortunately for me I somehow managed to score a puncture about 500m further up the trail. Since we were only about 300m from the end of the trail I decided to walk my bike the remaining distance into Warburton, while Peter rode ahead. You can imagine my embarrassment as the young woman I had passed a few minutes previously now rode casually past and sneered at me walking my bike up the hill. I felt like yelling out “I can race up this hill but I’ve got a PUNCTURE”, but she was already out of sight.

By the time I clip clopped the full length of the Main st up to the Coffee Shop I was not in the best of humour. This was not helped by the fact that Peter and Little John had already purchased the last remaining pie and sausage roll in the shop, leaving only a seasoned lentel burger for me to eat. As I sat at the outside table “enjoying” my lentel burger and looking at my flat tyre, I tried to think positive thoughts. Well at least the rain had held off, that was a positive thought.

About this time Peter took pity on me and proceeded to repair my flat tyre. Soon he was liberally covered in black grease and assorted road filth from my wheel. As he vainly rubbed his filthy hands up and down his yellow jersey, trying to get them clean, I thought up another nickname for him. I seem to remember a comic book character called “Black Pete”, and this seemed an apt description of our riding cycle mechanic at this time.

At 3.30 pm we turned back to Melbourne. By this time the dark clouds had started to part and we were even treated to occasional bursts of sunshine as we made our way back down the trail. Hooters started to make a sport of deliberately riding through the middle of the biggest puddles in an attempt to splash mud on Peter. Black Pete retaliated in like manner. The state of our riding clothes deteriorated rapidly from that point onwards.

As we approached Woori Yallock Little John confided in me that he kept having “little spurts”. When I suggested that maybe he should make an appointment with a Urologist, he went on to clarify that he was referring to “bursts of speed”. Well that was a relief.

Back at the cars we had a chance to examine the state of our clothes. We certainly were in a rather deplorable state and had to strip off the worst offending pieces of apparel before we could drive home. It was pleasing to hear that Little John had decided to enter the Round the Bay in a Day. In my mind he has the front running for the most improved rider of 2004. In spite of the diminutive length of the ride we were all glad that we had made the (brave) decision to go ahead, even though it looked as if it could have a potential washout.