In Which Werner Gets a Weally Wobbly Wheel

I arrived at Woori Yallock only about 20 minutes late and was not exactly surprised to see only two other cars there. After all, the weather forecast would have been enough to deter any sane rider from venturing out from the safety of their own front yard. It was supposed to be just about as bad as a Melbourne winter gets – cold, wet and windy. Not exactly the weather of choice for cyclists, even for those of the elite class of the Ghostriders.

At least it was not actually raining when I arrived, although I was not sure if that was a blessing or a curse. At least if the rain had been falling, I would have had a legitimate excuse for staying in the car and heading straight back home. As it was, I felt some sort of compunction to at least start the ride. I added a few layers for warmth and a few more for waterproofing, and one more just for show, then wobbled off towards Mt Evelyn.

Since the unfortunate puncture in my normal bike last week I have not been able to source another thornproof tube of the right size, and hence my trusty Norco has been resurrected from its bicycle slumbers under the house. Several spiders were not happy at this unexpected turn of events, but after pushing some air into the flacid looking tyres, it looked like it would be able to make the distance. At least with its comfy suspension and fat tyres I would not be so conscious of the ruts on the trail.

It did not take me long to realise that I was riding into the mother of all vicious headwinds. In fact the wind was so cold and so strong that it even made my teeth ache. I have heard tales of polar explorers whose teeth literally froze out of their jaws and hoped that such misfortune would not befall me. Fortunately I was spared from riding too far into the wind when I met a small peloton coming towards me near Killara. Or at least they would have been coming towards me if they had not all been gathered around watching John Bird fix a puncture.

After the incredible number of punctures suffered during the last ride I would have thought that the Law of Averages would have dictated that no further punctures would be encountered till sometime near the end of 2016, but here we were with the fickle favour of the puncture gods obviously seriously against us once more. I could not help stopping to give my own tyres a tentative squeeze, just to reassure myself that they were not also going down.

The next ten minutes were spent while the repair was made and we were all able to continue on our way again. At least this time we were riding downwind and had the assist of a 40 knot gale blowing us along the trail.

Since there were still no others waiting at Woori Yallock we continued on our way towards Warburton. The skies were black and threatening to open up any minute with a deluge of Biblical proportions, but to our relief the rain held back.

We made it (almost) to Launching Place without further incident, but that was where things took a rapid turn for the worse. I was riding alongside Warby Phil, with Hank and Werner riding close behind when I heard an ominous crack behind me followed by a cry for assistance. When I stopped and looked behind I noticed that Werner was lying on the trail, looking rather grazed and dazed. A glance at his bike showed that it would not be continuing any further on today’s ride – the front wheel was buckled over almost in half.

Apparently he had turned to look behind him and, in so doing, had veered slightly to the edge of the trail. This would not have been such a problem if there hadn’t been a fallen tree branch just waiting to impale any wayward cytclist’s wheel. The said branch speered through the spokes, jammed the wheel and sent poor Werner into low Earth orbit. In spite of the mishapen state of his wheel, he insisted that it was “only a flesh wound” and that he would be able to continue his ride without a problem. I wondered just how hard he must have landed on his head to come to such a conclusion, but we tried to humour him by attempting to bend the wheel back into something resembling a circle.

With half the spokes broken and the other half missing, Werner determinedly climbed back on the one wheeled bike and announced that he was ready to go. I had heard war stories of one legged soldiers running miles for help and almost wondered if we were about to witness a similar miracle, but after a couple of metres he looked at his bike and accepted the fact that his ride was over. At least the damage looked like it was limited to just his front wheel (and his brain).

The decision was made that Phil would ride ahead and collect his car so that he could take Werner back to Mt Evelyn. The remnants of the peloton continued on in disarray to Milgrove. In keeping with the disastrous state of affairs the lady in the coffee shop informed me that the only pie left was a curry one. I told her that I would rather eat my wet socks. At least the coffee and cake were welcome.

After lunch the small peloton fragmented even further as we made our way back to Woori Yallock. It had been another incident packed afternoon on the trail, but we could be grateful that we somehow had remained dry throughout the entire ride. It was not until we were back in the cars that the rain set in with a vengeance. At least something went right!