For many months Peter, the proprietor of the local bike shop, had been pleading with me to let him have a ride with the Warby Riders. Although I did not want to hurt the poor guy’s feelings I nevertheless had to remind him that the standards and traditions of the Warby Riders demand that only riders of exceptional calibre can ever be accepted into membership. He assured me that he was willing to do anything in his power to join the ranks of such immortals as Crasher Lewis, Spanner Billson and Super Hooters Seamons. I was still not convinced, however, when he kindly offered us a 90% discount off all future bike related purchases, I had no alternative other than to finally say “Sure, come riding with us anytime”. After all it’s fine to have standards, but we do have to be realistic.
The weather of the past few weeks had been absolutely miserable and today started out no different. The rain had been falling steadily and the clouds were so low I kept bumping my head every time I went out the front door. In spite of this the radar map somehow showed a completely clear horizon. I suspected that some new apprentice had probably unplugged the antenna but made the decision to declare the ride “ON” for the afternoon. Bob was keen but John was too tired for a full ride, but assured me he could probably ride from Millgrove to Milgrove North.
Peter was overcome with emotion as he proudly announced that he would meet us in Mt Evelyn and went out into his shop to choose which of his customers’ bikes he would ride for the afternoon. I guess owning your own bike shop is almost as good as owning your own cake/cappucino shop, but the rest of us in the real world have to work for a living.
I arrived at Mt Evelyn at about 1 pm to see Peter already there and busily preparing his Behemoth of a bicycle. This beast was so tough looking it would make Mal’s pitbull special go run and hide behind a bikeshed. I had never seen a bike with 4 wheel disk brakes, quadruple chain ring, tow bar, driving lights, bull bar and rifle carrier before. It was certainly impressive but I was glad that I would not be pushing all that weight all the way to Warburton and back. At least it looked like it would be great on the downhill sections at least.
Peter seemed undaunted by my fears and soon Bob joined us with his plastic fantastic. When his bike caught sight of the behemoth it yelped loudly and jumped back into the back of Bob’s station wagon. It took Bob about 5 minutes to finally coax it back out into the open, but finally we were heading off down the hill to Wandin.
We seen realised that the recent monsoonal rainfall had exacted a fearful toll on the Warby Trail. It looked more like the Kakoda Trail – only much wetter. Everywhere we looked we were confronted by fallen trees, marshes, landslides and quicksand. The only thing missing were the crocodiles.
Peter used the massive bull bar on his behemoth to good effect as we pushed on down the remains of the once glorious trail. In spite of being nearly decapitated by a fallen tree we did manage to reach the outskirts of Woori Yallock without any additional trauma. At this point I reminded Bob that we were again near the territory of the psychotic magpie. Surely it would not still be swooping and attacking innocent cyclists? Wrong ! We soon discovered that it was just as crazy as ever and had to battle our way past the station using a combination of shouts, wildly swinging arms, tree branches and rocks. It was worse than the Battle of the Somme, but somehow we finally broke through to the clear ground at the opposite end of the station.
It was at this point we spied an elderly couple riding towards us (they were even older than Bob). We decided to stop and have a chat with them and warn them about the danger lurking in wait for them. They had their bikes loaded with huge panniers, bags and other luggage and informed us that they were headed to Swan Hill. Swan Hill ! (And we were going to impress them by telling them that we were riding “all the way to Warburton”)
We decided to stop and watch them doing battle with the magpie, and the wait was well worth it. When they neared the station the black and white demon came swooping directly at them at about head height. It did not even bother to attack from the rear. It was great to hear someone else shrieking in fear and alarm as our recently introduced elderly riding friends battled for their very lives. Repeated attacks left them covered in blood and feathers. It also left us doubled up in laughter. Misfortune is always better when it is happening to someone else.
Although this was a most pleasant diversion we knew we could not stop. We still had a long way to go and somewhere ahead John would be waiting for us. Sure enough a short distance further along we spied John riding towards us along the track. We made the necessary introductions and Peter looked at John’s bike, rubbed his head thoughtfully and announced “You need to raise your seat a few inches”.
By the time we finally arrived at Launching Place Pub we were about 20 mins behind schedule. Peter asked “Which way do we go here?”. John said “along the trail”. Bob and I said “along the road”. We were soon heading off down the road and witnessed something of a minor miracle when John actually followed us onto the highway. Maybe there is hope for him yet. He might even sign up for next year’s “Round the Bay” ride, although I am not sure that the police would be prepared to provide him front and rear police motorcycle escort for the entire ride.
The remainder of the ride to Warburton went without incident and we were soon enjoying our coffee and examining the copious amounts of mud caked over our bikes (and our backsides). Peter looked again at John’s bike and said “Did you know your crank was loose?” John replied that he preferred it that way – it made it softer to pedal.
After a delightful rest at the coffee shop we headed over the river and introduced Peter to the delights of the smooth bitumen on the other side. The huge protusions on Peter’s tyres dug into the smooth bitumen and lifted out large chunks and threw them in the air behind him. We also began to notice that the strain of riding the behemoth all this way must have been starting to take its toll.
John departed company with us at Yarra Junction and left the rest of us to confront the feathered menace alone. But forewarned is forearmed and we somehow managed to get past with no further loss of blood. All that remained was the final traverse along the muddy trail back to Mt Evelyn.
As we started the final series of climbs I felt that Peter was beginning to doubt the wisdom of bringing out a bike that must have weighed 40 kg. He was soon talking of his plans to get a “good road bike”. I guess that’s easy when you own your own bike shop and don’t have to pay the standard 200% mark up on all new bikes.
By 5.10 pm we were all back at Mt Evelyn and already talking about when our next ride would be. Peter was lying on his back waiting for his heart to restart, but, apart from that, he seemed quite OK. Oh well, as John says “It’s a tough life, but someone’s got to do it”.