With a predicted top temperature of 37C it certainly did not sound like a good afternoon to be caught riding a bike along the Warby Trail. With this in mind I made the decision to switch our scheduled riding time to 8 am. It had been some months since our last morning ride, and, although it meant getting out of bed a little earlier than usual, it would be preferable to doing a slow bake in the afternoon sun.
By 8 am Peter and I had assembled at Mt Evelyn, but there was still no sign of the “reigning King”, our own Crasher Lewis. Although Crasher had been crowned only a few short weeks earlier, his time on the throne had been less than spectacular. Surely he would not disappoint us yet again? As we cast our eyes up the road in the direction of Lilydale, my mobile phone rang.
A somewhat slurred voice identified itself as belong to our erstwhile leader. It went on to say that because he had just returned from a visit to the all night dentist, he was feeling too sick to be with us today. All this from a guy who regularly preaches to us about the “extreme virtue of experiencing pain”. As I told him to return to the comfy warmth under his doona, I looked at Peter and rolled my eyes. It looked as if only the two strongest riders would be out on the trail today after all.
After a final drink we mounted our bikes and headed off into the cauldron. Fortunately the temperature in the shade was still comparitively modest – probably no more than 30 C. We had not gone more than 500 metres before tragedy struck. I pulled to a halt to examine my deflated rear tyre and gave a shout to alert the mobile mechanic to my needs.
Within a few minutes Peter had removed the tyre and discovered the cause of the premature evacuation that I had suffered. A huge thorn had pierced my tyre and protruded about half a cm into the tube. Fortunately I am now quite good at tackling such repairs, especially when I can rest while Peter fixes things up again in a jiffy. About 5 minutes later the tube was replaced and waiting to be inflated again. Not wishing to look completely lazy I offered to pump the tyre up all by myself.
As I laboured away with the pump (another souvenir that came as an accessory with my $200 bike), the tyre gradually resumed the desired pressure. With the job almost done, Peter advised “Just ONE more push should do it”. I gave it the final requested thrust, only to see my blessed pump concertina almost in two. The shaft had buckled under my enormous muscle power. As I disconsolately studied the remains of my pump, I tried my best to blame Peter for the disaster, but all he could do was laugh at my misfortune.
Trying not to let the less than perfect start ruin our ride I remounted and headed off again. Within a few km I was aware of another problem in my bike. Every time I exerted pressure on the right crank it was accompanied by a friendly (but extremely annoying) “click, click”. It became hard to concentrate on my pedalling when I was being constantly entertained by a loud rhythm section from somewhere near my bottom bracket.
As we turned a slight bend in the trail we were met by a gush of superheated air that must have been hiding somewhere in the trees. We could not help but feel that it was a foreshadowing of the heat that would most likely be following us on the return ride. Fortunately, with the shade of the trees, the current temperature was still probably not much over 35C – no wonder there were NO OTHER RIDERS anywhere on the trail.
The outward intermediate sprint was completed with a little less vigour than usual, and I only just managed to cross the finish line a couple of metres ahead of Peter. Once this hurdle was passed, all I could concentrate on was the thought of a nourishing cup of coffee at Warburton. My clicking cranks kept pace in a sort of lop sided syncopation with my thumping heart as we finally flew down the Main St and screeched into the coffee shop car park.
In spite of the puncture and the heat, we had still managed to complete the trail in 1 hour 30 mins. Not a bad effort under the circumstances, I thought as I savoured the inrush of caffeine into my bloodstream. It was great to sit in the shade and read the paper, while cracking jokes about John and Bob.
When the time came to head back, the temperature was hovering near 38C (or so we told ourselves). The trail was almost deserted as we headed back assisted by a strong tail wind. We were making such good progress that I could not at first figure why Peter was slowing down so dramatically. When I looked up, however, I could soon see why. There, a few metres ahead of us was a striking female walker, attired in a skimpy, two piece outfit. Was it my imagination, or was she trying to catch our attention? Maybe she had heard about the legendary ghost riders? Maybe she would be the next applicant for membership? Maybe I had been in the sun too long? Whatever the reason, unlike our lady friend of last week, this girl did NOT ask if I could take her around Australia.
About this time, the wind which had previously been at our backs, swung around to confront our faces. It is funny how often that happens, but we had no option other than to put our heads down and push harder. At least we knew that we would soon reach the cool waters of the Killara drinking trough. Like an oasis in the desert, that trough is always such a welcome sight for tired riders suffering from imminent heat stroke.
As we finally pulled into the trough we were welcomed by a friendly voice, “Sorry mate, there’s no water, I put me back hoe thru’ the pipe!” The voice came from the blue singleted farmer who had obviously had a recent mishap of another variety when he had dropped a large tree right across his new timber fence. As he stood there, looking at the ruins of his fence I did not feel I could really complain about the lack of water, or his obvious ineptitude with his tree felling endeavours. It was obvious that we would have to continue to Mt Evelyn in the heat, WITHOUT WATER.
Fortunately the temperature was only hovering in the low 40s, as we huffed and puffed our way up the steep incline back to the cars. At least we would be back before 12 noon, so we hadn’t really done all that badly, all things considered. The cars were certainly a welcome sight as I click-clicked the final few metres to the top of the hill. To my horror, Peter, obviously completely spent (and his mind gone), managed to forget to decleat before stopping, and staged a spectacular (and humiliating) crash within metres of the car. What a pity that more were not present to witness the event.
Although he was originally planning to ride all the way back to Emerald, Peter did not really take much convincing, that, at his age, it would be wiser to accept a lift back with me. It had been another eventful day on the trail.