Visiting : Woodlands, Merrimu, Bullengarook, Pyrete Range
Distance : ~170km
When : Monday 28th December 2009, 6am @ Fed Square

This one’s a nice loop out of Merrimu with a decent climb and a fair bit of dirt through the Pyrete Range. Inspired by a ride posted on fyxomatosis a while back.

Well that was a hard day at the office but we all made it back in one piece and saw some beautiful country on the way.

Good start?

My preparation for this ride was bad – hadn’t been riding for a couple weeks and was feeling pretty drained – I’ve been fighting some sort of bug and it was currently causing havoc with my guts. For the first (and hopefully last) time, I actually packed a spare pair of knicks – just in case!

nikcee and x-campbell were waiting at the start when I rolled up and then we took off. A short break while Campbell dealt with the first flat of the day and then it was off up Sydney Road.

Pretty uneventful run up to Gellibrand Hill Park for the first dirt of the day. Roos in the trees, planes taking off and landing just over at the airport, overcast but kinda muggy weather. We filled up on water and hit Sunbury road. It’s generally flat as a tack round here except for when you hit a valley caused by a creek – then you bomb down it, cross the creek, and crank it up the other side. If my lungs weren’t awake before, they were now.

Licensed to sell ammunition

The miles flew by – there was lots of chatting, straight flat roads – a few navigational issues in Diggers Rest – and pretty soon we were in Toolern Vale where we stopped for some food. Not much to the place really – just a general store and a some other weird shop with a funny-sounding dog behind the gate. The old guy in the general store looked pretty wary of us. Across the top of the door there was a sign “Licensed to sell ammunition”. Ha!

On we pushed – next stop Merrimu Reservoir. Beautiful blue skies now so slapped some sunscreen on and we hit the big climb up Gisborne Road. Was a lot mellower than I thought it would be. I was feeling pretty average so I just cranked along at my own pace while Nick and Campbell took off ahead. Beautiful views on either side of the road but the view off to the left into Lerderderg State Park was spectacular. It was all thick bush and gnarly steep hills. You could hear dirt bikes fanging around the trails and there were plenty of cockies flying around laughing at us all.

The bad place

I actually had our route going down through all those gnarly trails but I was feeling pretty average at that point and knew that I really didn’t have enough in the tank to take it on.

I mentioned this to the guys when I caught up to them (waiting under a tree for me) and we decided to save this section for another day. A quick mental adjustment of the route and we pointed ourselves down the hill towards Gisborne where we stopped and found a bakery.

I was in a pretty dark place at this point – feeling very very drained. I really wanted to pull out here and tell the others to go on without me so I could curl up under a tree and sleep for a while. Gah!

But, I didn’t say anything because I knew the feeling would pass. In my experience, if there’s one thing that’s certain on a long ride it’s that no matter how you’re feeling right now, eventually it’ll change. Feeling great right now? Enjoy it while it lasts, because it’ll change. Feeling crap right now? Stick it out, do the right things and it’ll change. There’s a quote by Winston Churchill that sums it up perfectly :

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

So, I set about doing the right things in Gisborne that would help me over this bad patch that I was in. Pretty simple really, I took on food (ham/cheese/tomato sandwich), took on water and soaked up every minute of rest off the bike as we sat in the bakery. That’d hopefully get me right physically. Then I took stock of the situation mentally. We were over halfway, that means we’re on the way home already – good. I remembered from my maps that it’s generally all downhill or flat on the way home – good. My two riding buddies looked as fresh as daisies and, class acts that they are, would probably continue to let me sit in behind them and get towed along – good. (Well, good, but not ideal, I felt like a moocher but I knew I didn’t have it in me that day to pull turns.)

Never as bad as it seems

When I thought of all those things it started to seem manageable again. So we packed up our stuff and prepared to roll out of Gisborne. A quick poke around google maps (thanks again Nick!) and we’d planned out a nice alternative route that would take us across the front of Mt Macedon to Riddell’s Creek and then via backroads across to Lancefield Road which shoots straight down to Sunbury. I remembered this area from a previous ride so I knew what was in store for us – nice views of Mt Macedon, quiet back roads and a nice dirt road section next to the railway tracks. Things were looking up.

We made good time towards Lancefield Road and we were so close we could hear the cars on it when Campbell’s rear tire exploded. I was following right behind and copped a faceful of dust and fine gravel from the road while Nick copped it sideways on his legs. The sidewall was blown and there was a big tear in it. Brand new Gatorskin, 120psi on a rocky dirt road – should have been fine, right? Oh well, it was patched up soon enough. Nick had some pre-glued super patches and Campbell used one to patch the inside of the tire to hold the tear together. A new tube in, co2 to get it up to pressure and we were rolling again, fortunately on road from then on.

Cranking into the wind

The run down to Sunbury and then on to Bulla was where Campbell and Nick really shone. They pulled turns all the way and we were maintaining 30km/hr into a headwind. Honestly, I was just hanging on at this point – I knew that if I lost touch with the guys then they’d just disappear up the road without me. They would have waited for me of course, but I didn’t want to be waited around for any more than was necessary so I hung on for dear life as we fanged it down Lancefield Road. Campbell was a machine along this section – and the booted tire was holding together perfectly.

We hit Bulla and went down into one of those creek valleys again – there was no way I was going to ride up the other side of it so I got off and walked. The guys were waiting up the top and we hit the servo for some cold drinks. I took Nick’s lead and went the watered down coke option. Half a can of coke in each bidon and fill them both up with water – that juice kept me going all the way back to Fed Square.

On from Bulla we hit the airport and, a couple of navigational issues later, we were ticking off the suburbs as the city drew closer and closer. Feeling good now, cruising down Mt Alexander Road, plenty of traffic lights to stop at and and angry drivers to wave to. We rolled into the CBD soon enough and it was packed – public holiday crowd I guess. Felt very strange to be in such a throng of people and cars after coming in from the long empty roads of the country.

Job done

High fives all round when we reached Fed Square. Despite the change of route, we still did the advertised distance of about 172km. Thanks to Nick and Campbell for towing me all day and pretending that I didn’t whinge. Top ride, top weather, top crew and there’s still something out there for another day – that gnarly Lerderderg State Park section must be ridden. It’s on the list…

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