In Which we Farewell Winter

Can it really be three months since we faced the start of another Warburton Winter? It seems that Winter somehow forgot to visit us this year. Although the temperature dropped considerably, apart from our perpetually dripping noses, there was almost no other form of precipitation visible. As we gathered for our final winter ride for 2006 we were once again greeted by another fine and sunny day and a predicted top temperature of 24C. Although global warming is undoubtedly bad for our planet, it is not so bad for cycling.

The warm weather certainly helped bring out the fair weather cyclists. By the time the ride was finished we would see no fewer than 18 riders out on their treadlies, including two riders who were joining us for the first time. The first of these new recruits was “Mark” who had caught the train out to Lilydale and ridden up the hill to Mt Evelyn. He looked like an experienced cyclist, although the vicious looking knobby tyres on his bike were to prove an overkill for the smooth dry surface we would be travelling along. I suspect that if he continues to ride with us, he will soon be looking for a lighter set of rubber.

Because of the fine weather I decided to wake up the faithful red rattler from its winter hibernation and bring it out on its first ride for some months. The poor thing had been locked up in the bike shed since I returned from China and its hangdog expression and moarnful whining was starting to make me feel guilty. It seemed like a good idea to take it back out on the trail that it had faithfully traversed so many dozens of times. As I clamped it to the car I could have sworn that it was actually smiling at me.

Once the introductions were done, and once Peter finally arrived at the start, we were underway. What a pleasant sight to see that the peloton had shed its winter pelt of leg and arm warmers and rain jackets. In their place was a proud display of pale white flesh as arms and legs were exposed to the sunshine for the first time in many months.

The early pace was maintained for an extended period, resulting in the group becoming a little fragmented. At Woori Yallock the bolters stopped to wait while the rest to catch up again. This also gave Cheryl a chance to finish her makeup and polish her finger nails. (Some things never change). Finally the enlarged group was back underway again, although there was no sign of Hooters or the Spanner. We suspected that maybe the sun was a little too bright for him and he was worried about an unseasonal bout of sunstroke.

With thirteen already in the group we made an impressive sight on the trail. Little wonder that other cyclists stopped to watch us pass by with open mouths. (I don’t know why our mouths were open, but I guess at our age it helps to swallow more air).

It was only as we neared Warburton that we discovered where the rest of the peloton were. Hooters, Spanner, Willem and Glenda had obviously set off early and were already on their way back down the hill. Theye were accompanied by our other new rider. Merelyn had read about our group in the local paper and had taken the chance to join us for her first ride. She later told me that she was an experienced runner but had only recently started cycling.

By the time we were all gathered at Trail Blazers the peloton had reached its final total of 18 riders. Considering that we still had a number of our regular riders missing, this was a most impressive turnout. The only problem is that the coffee shop does not have enough chairs or tables to accomodate this number of people. Maybe as the weather gets warmer we will move across to the other side of the road and spread out on the grass.

In spite of the cramped conditions it was nice to be able to enjoy our coffee and calories, while we chatted about bikes. For some strange (but all too obvious) reason Bruno seemed even more animated than usual as he endeavoured to impress one of our new guests with his cycling knowledge. It seemed that Crasher Lewis also was wearing a larger smile than usual.

On the return ride the majority of the group proceeded back along Settlement Rd. Although we showed a good degree of restraint there were still a couple of riders that were all over the road without looking back to check for overtaking vehicles. I think that in future we will relocate the sprint to the quiet road leading to the bridge. This means that on Settlement Rd we will be riding no more than two abreast.

Fortunately the great weather lasted all afternoon and the relatively brisk pace meant that we arrived back at Mt Evelyn at 4.45 pm. Now we have three months of Spring to savour before the long hot summer hits us with a vengeance. Let’s make the most of it.