In which we encounter Snow White and her 700 Dwarfs

With Christmas only two short weeks away this was most likely going to be our last club ride for 2002, so I eagerly studied the heavens for early indications of a fine afternoon. A quick visit to the Bureau of Meteorology web site confirmed that there were no rain storms on the horizon and so the decision was made to hit the trail for the last time this year.

I headed off to my normal starting spot at Mt Evelyn, but since there was no sign of old Bob I had no choice but to again hit the trail solo. At least that would give me some extra time to accomodate a couple of punctures should they choose to again plague me along the way. The weather was cool and fresh and the riding quite pleasant as I rolled merrily down the hill.

By the time I reached Wandin there was still no sign of Bob, and I still had not scored a puncture, so I kept on riding towards Killara. Any minute I expected to be overtaken by an elderly rider in teddy bear lycras, but each time I looked behind me the trail was deserted. Surely he was not languishing again in some crowded emergency ward with more ghastly hemmorhoid related incidents ?

I pushed on, trying desparately to put that thought out of my mind. Finally as I rounded the final turn to Launching Place, the familiar friendly sound of Bob and his Bismark came up from behind to join me. In the meantime I had received an exciting mobile call from Mal with some good news and some bad news. The good news was that he was bringing in a new prospective member for the Warby Riders, the bad news was that he was running late and would have to catch up from behind.

At the Launching Place Hotel we met John and we set off down the back way towards Warburton. We were all in high spirits as Bob and I started to recount some of the events of the recent Wang to Bright expedition. John stated that he will definitely be joining us on our “Return to Wang” ride in April 2003. Bob and I reminded him that 220 km is a long way to ride and hence he will need to dramatically increase the tempo and length of his rides in order to prepare himself (or else he becomes a member of the female support crew).

While engaged in this conversation we began to notice a disturbance on the track ahead. At first we thought it sounded like a swarm of bees, but as we drew closer we could see the awful truth – the trail was closgged with hundreds of miniature riders on little bikes. Wobbling all over the path, chattering and giggling, a decided hazard for serious riders. Although we tried to reason with him, John replied that this was the only way he knew how to ride and he had no intention of changing now, even if the little kids would be watching him..

For the next 2 km we dodged and weaved, John tooted and shouted, but they kept on coming. Bob showed off his swollen calf muscles, but they really weren’t interested. We had never seen so many young riders in the same place. What sort of crazy school teacher would schedule a “kiddie ride” at the same time as the legendary Warby Riders’ regular ride? This was certainly NOT the way to show respect to riders of our standing.

Eventually we reached the last of the kids but by that time our nerves were shot. Bob was apparently upset by the fact that he overhead one kid say that “he looked like Santa, only much older”. John’s hooter battery had gone flat from so much tooting. And on top of everything else my blasted crank had worked loose yet again. Why do all misfortunes come in threes???

Just when I thought that things could not get any worse I looked up and noticed a huge fallen branch across the trail in front of me. Too late to stop or swerve, I had no choice but to hit it head on. Fortunately I still had my superb riding skills and somehow managed to stay on the bike and warn the others behind me about the deadly hazard.

We limped through Milgrove and started up the final hill. John decided to take the lead, only to discover that the track was clogged with another group of teenage students sauntering along as if they owned the place. It must be uncool to move out of the way of cyclists as we soon discovered the only way to clear the path was to literally start running into a few of them. We made the excuse that we were all senile and did not know any better. After all, Bob has been using this same excuse for everything he has done over the past 30 years.

At about 2.30 pm we finally limped into the coffee shop, desparately in need of a caffeine fix and a morale boost. Bob was devestated to note that his “Lavender Lady” was nowhere to be seen, but his spirits quickly picked up when he met two stout women who had ridden up on a tandem bike. He was even more excited when he found out that they were from New Zealand and spoke the same unintelligible gibberish as he did. Soon he was proudly displaying his inflatable calf muscles (but not a word of his hemmorhoids!).

One of the women noticed John’s bike and asked him “How tall are you big boy, six foot ?”. John thrust back his shoulders, pulled in his stomach and replied “At least 6 ft 2 , maybe 6 ft 4 or maybe even more”. The lady looked back at his bike and stated bluntly “Then why don’t you put the seat up to the proper height?” Although we had been offering him the same advice for the past 6 months, it obviously had much greater significance coming from someone of the fairer sex. He replied that “he would get on to it straight away”,(and then promptly forgot all about it again).

By this time the sun was starting to wane in the sky and thoughts started to turn inevitably to the return journey. There had still been no sign of Mal, or of his mysterious new recruit. All calls to his mobile went unanswered and we resigned ourselves that he was going to put in a “no show” for the afternoon. We had no alternative other than to climb back on our trusty bikes (and later deduct heaps of points from his championship score).

It was at this point that a remarkable thing happened. No sooner had we headed back onto the road than we saw Mal and his new friend powering up the road into Warburton. We had to stop for a few more minutes so that we could let them catch a coffee and have time to humiliate the new guy.

Mal introduced his friend as Robbie Williams, although he looked more like a basketball player than a famous singer. Because he had only just arrived in the country from England it gave us a great opportunity to chat about the abysmal state of English cricket and to see what a real 6 ft 4 ins guy looked like. (Not like John – the Clayton’s giant). Although he was tall he did not look like a true sportsman to us, he didn’t even have a decent pot belly. I guess we will have to teach him something about Australian health foods.

We eventually got back on our bikes for a second time and headed back down the trail. Bob thought he would show off with a display of brute speed, but our new chum managed to keep right up with the peloton all the way back to Woori Yallock. This was in spite of the fact that Mal had thoughfully provided him with one of the worst bikes we had ever seen. Obviously Robbie was NOT another Inspector Gadget, but a potential threat to the established pecking order of our club. And come to mention it, just what has happened to Inspector Gadget ????

About half way back to Woori Yallock Mal let fly with a huge “Oh No”. I feared that he might have suffered yet another lycra split, but soon found out the real cause for his dismay. Apparently he had left his riding gloves back at the coffee shop! It was too late to turn back so he had to complete the ride without them. Since they also doubled as his “riding handkerchief”, his face was not a pretty sight by the time he made it back to the spot where he had left his car.

Bob and I continued back to Mt Evelyn without further mishaps while we looked back over the past 12 months with more than a little touch of nostalgia. Maybe we have all learnt a little, got to know each other better, gained a storehouse of memories, had a lot of laughs, and possibly increased in fitness during 2002. In any case I had better wish all our readers Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you in 2003.

P.S. Mal apparently drove back to the coffee shop and retrieved his missing gloves – apparently they were stuck to the table so securely, no-one else had any intention of stealing them……