Visiting : Woodlands, Hanging Rock, Kyneton, Mt Macedon
Distance : ~220km
When : Sunday 19th July 2009, 6am @ Fed Square

Strewth, that was a hell of a ride. Straight out to Mt Macedon and up over the side of it. Then on out to Kyneton. Then turn around and head back over Mt Macedon again, hitting the War Memorial at the top. Then down, down, down to eventually hit the Federation Trail and roll back into the city. Well that was the plan…

Out to Mt Macedon

Rolled out of Fed Square about 6:30am and made a beeline for Gellibrand Hill Park for the first dirt of the day. Plenty of roos sighted – no numbats. I hit Wildwood Road from start to finish for the first time – beautiful countryside, no cars to speak of, only one other cyclist. Had a horse gallop along beside me on the other side of the fence for a while. The forecast was for a 30-40km/hr northerly and it felt like that was pretty accurate – it was head down into the wind all the way.

Kept a reasonable pace out to Lancefield Road and then it was dirt all the way to Riddells Creek where I grabbed a pastie and had a break before the first climb of the day. Pastie scoffed, I hit the dirt again and pretty soon I was mashing up into the trees and the houses were getting fewer and farther between and then it was time for the first lesson of the day. When a sign says “No road” it doesn’t mean “No through road” like I initially thought it did. “No road” actually means “You’ll be right mate, just don’t send granny up here in the Corolla.” I kept seeing fresh 4wd tracks and I could see glimpses of the odd shed and house further up so I ignored the sign and pushed on. Literally. It was way too steep and gravelly to ride so I hiked it.

First time up the hill

The morning was mostly clear – nice blue skies – but as I approached the mountain I could never see the top of it – it always had a big bank of cloud sitting on top of it. Well, now I was climbing up into that cloud – the more I mashed up the hill, the cloudier and hazier it got. The temperature dropped but I actually felt warmer because a). I was climbing and b). I was completely sheltered from that northerly so there was no wind to speak of. It made for a pretty tranquil scene, towering gum trees disappearing up into the cloud, tiny little birds scratching around in the ferny rainforest undergrowth and everything mossy and dripping wet with cloud.

Walked a couple of steep clay sections that were too greasy and chopped up to ride and then found myself on the descent down the other side. Fortunately the road was made – nice and gritty if a little wet – so I came down at a decent pace. I really noticed the wind though – I was on the northern side of the mountain now so that northerly was howling in my face again. Paused at the base of the mountain and took a few minutes to scrape some of the clay off my shoes and pedals – it was caked on thick but a bit of scraping and I was good to go. I run double-sided SPDs and MTB shoes – they seem to manage ok in most cases – dunno if there’s a better setup I could be using?

Back roads and paddocks

Now it was all flat backroads until Kyneton. I don’t know how but I always manage to screw up my trail notes – in this section I’d put “L” instead of “R” a couple of times and ended up adding a bunch of extra distance. I only realised my mistake when I turned up at a crossroads that I’d passed about half an hour earlier. Faaark! To make matters worse, there were a few google maps errors in this section too. One road was clearly marked on google maps but when I got there all I found was a big gate with a grassy paddock behind it. All part of the fun I guess and just goes to show the internet doesn’t know everything.

Rolled into Kyneton hungry and looking for food. Sat down in a little park to eat and I found a little monument thing with a plaque saying “Unveiled by Hon. H. Opperman, Minister of Immigration” No way! Oppy! That spiked my tone up a bit so I saddled up and hit the road with a purpose. It was about 3pm already and I’d only travelled about 100km – I figured I wouldn’t make it home before dark and started thinking of possible bailout points. I figured I just had to get up and over Mt Macedon again and then it was all downhill with that northerly at my tail so I’d just spin it as fast I could and see how far I got. With this plan in mind I pushed on through Woodend and onto Hanging Rock and Straws Lane, the start of the climb.

Second time up the hill

So, in the morning I was picturing myself sitting at the bar at Keatings Hotel in Woodend sucking down Holgates and watching the world go by for a while. Instead I bolted through Woodend and hit the first 10% gradient sign while shoving lollies down my neck in an attempt to give myself a turbo boost for the climb. Ugh. So began the slow mash up to the top. Slow, slow, concentrating on keeping a smooth rhythm and keeping the heart rate down. The top of the mountain was still completely shrouded in cloud and it wasn’t long before I was climbing up into it. Again, the world turned hazy grey and everything was dripping wet and mossy. There were cars this time as well because I was on the main road. Not too many cars though because, surprise surprise, the weather was getting pretty bad up there and it was also getting pretty late in the afternoon.

The higher I climbed, the darker and windier it got. There was a steady stream of cars coming down the mountain all with their headlights on and lots of surprised and blank stares coming from their windows. I began wondering if the place would still be open when I got to the top – I didn’t want to get all the way up there only to find a locked gate. I was definitely getting the feeling I should be going in the other direction but I was damned if I was going to get this close and not reach the top. So, on on and finally I pulled into the carpark. There were only a couple of cars left in it and one or two couples shuffling along all huddled together and rugged up in their jackets.

Head in the clouds

So I walked out to the Memorial Cross and touched it and took a couple photos. There was no view at all – the air was thick with impenetrable cloud, it was blowing a freaking gale and it was getting dark very fast. I’d planned to come down the mountain on some tracks/backroads but, given my previous record with navigational mishaps, I decided it would be a bad idea to leave the main road and walk out into the bush in the rapidly closing dark and with the weather getting angrier by the minute. But then, I didn’t fancy a high-speed descent on the main road either, not with tourists coming down the road behind me on wet, winding, steep road with bugger all visibility due to the cloud. Track or road? I decided road – at least if I came to grief there’d be a better chance of being found sooner on the road than down some gully off a little track.

I started rolling down carefully and squinting into the darkness – my blinky is fine for being seen but it’s pretty bad at lighting the way. Heavy on the brakes, wet roads, big strips of bark and whatnot all over the place. Ugh. When I hit the first 15% downhill gradient sign I just laughed and thought, yeah, there’s a very real chance I’ll come off if I keep riding. It was pitch black by now, no streetlights, wet winding road covered in debris, cloudy as hell, windy as heck, and a 15% gradient with only front brakes.

I got off and walked.

Coming down

I jogged the bike down the steeper, gnarlier sections, clicking and scraping along in my cleats. Jogging and sliding down past the big expensive houses up there I could see people lounging on couches and watching telly. Hehe, those slackers! I managed to ride and jog down though Mt Macedon township and as I was walking down a steep section a car zoomed past and then stopped down below. It chucked a U-y and came back and pulled up alongside and the guy asked if I wanted a lift down the bottom. Ha! I thanked him but didn’t take up his offer. I’d already put a call in to the sag wagon for immediate evac and I didn’t want to pass wifey on the road going the other way. Very decent of him to offer though.

So, the road became ridable soon enough and I enjoyed a bit of the downhill and tailwind I’d been looking forward to all day. Didn’t enjoy the alternating pitch darkness and blinding light of oncoming cars with their high beams on. Half the mongrels didn’t even dip their lights for me! Surprisingly, I still had something in the legs and was really hoofing it despite the visibility. I’d made it to just before Gisborne when I saw wifey’s Camry and then the ride ended on four wheels rather than two.

Lessons learnt

Jogging my bike down Mt Macedon Road in the dark like a freaking tool I was laughing out loud at myself and thinking, “This ride = EPIC FAIL.” I was way off making the full 225km. But then I thought about it some more and realised that I’d just spent 13 hours riding my bike and it was freaking awesome! From before dawn to after dusk, every single daylight minute of the day, I was out riding somewhere I’d never been before. I can’t think of a much better way to spend a day.

I’d much rather bite off too much and then choke on it than bite off too little and go to bed still hungry.

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