Come And Try

Visiting : Mt Dandenong, Silvan Dam
Distance : ~70km
When : Sunday 19th December 2010, 10am @ Fed Square

A nice cruisy one to finish off the year. If you’ve been wanting to check out these rides but were turned off by the distance and/or early start time, this one’s for you. It’s relatively short, it starts at a reasonable hour and it still hits some awesome terrain.

We’ll head out east on Canterbury Road and then hit Basin-Olinda Road for the first (dirt) climb of the day. Then it’s past the amazing Woolrich Lookout before bombing down through the national park to Silvan Dam. We’ll take Olinda Creek Road back up to Kalorama and then cut across the front face of the mountain before closing the loop at the Basin roundabout.

Depending on who turns up and how everyone’s feeling we can bail out on the train at Boronia or keep riding back to the city. Cruisy fun to farewell another year of TWBD.

A strange sight

Great turnout for this one – 12 of us rolled out of Fed Square at 10:15am and hit the boring part out to the suburbs. Weather was fine and the pace was a little higher than usual as we rolled two abreast and chatted our way out east.

A good spread of bikes this time – roadie, MTB, CX (both geared and SS), tourer, street fixed, 50’s era fat-tired 650b “le mad max” cyclotouriste – we must have looked like a pretty weird peleton but, to paraphrase the great uni-balled one, it really isn’t about the bike – we were out to ride, not make sense.

We got to the Basin roundabout in reasonable time and hit the shops for fuel. The old dunny block has been bulldozed but there’s a fancy new one just up the road – “Oo-la-la, don’t forget to wash your hands Shakespeare!”

First dirt climb of the day

Fuelled up, we hit the Basin-Olinda Road climb. Nice hard-packed dirt road – enough moisture in it to keep it tacky but not enough to make it slick and sucky. Excellent. We strung out on the climb and each went our own pace, forming little groups and chatting on the way up. Such a beautiful part of the world.

We regrouped at the top and hung out in the park waiting for the back-markers. A young couple were at the other picnic table while their dogs were running around all over the place chasing a ball. The little staffy was playing keepings-off the kelpie and then I grabbed the ball and threw it for them and the kelpie kept bringing it right back to me. Hehe, good pups.

When everyone had had a good rest we pushed on up the hill to Olinda proper, got through the tourist trap main street and pretty soon we were fanging down a dirt road to Woolrich Lookout.

Look out!

Woolrich Lookout is awesome. It looks out across the back of Mt Dandenong towards Mt Donna Buang etc. to the north and east. There’s a big car park, benches and a rotunda that looks down and out across the RJ Hamer Arboretum (tree garden) and down across the national park towards Silvan Dam, though you can’t actually see the dam from there. We stopped and took in the view, which wasn’t much because it was pretty cloudy. We hadn’t been rained on yet but it had been overcast all morning. A few of us took photos and I think one or two put on rain jackets at this point because there was a chill in the air and we were at the top of Silvan Road ready for the fast descent down to the dam.

Looking north across the back of Mt Dandenong there was plenty of low cloud in the trees and also the unmistakable dark vertical streaks of a big slab of rain coming down not far away. I noted that it was moving on a collision course with us and saw a faint rainbow in its depths – awww pretty. And so we rolled out, bone dry and in good spirits, looking forward to the long dirt road descent we’d worked so hard for.

Express elevator to hell

First it was fast and pretty dry, I let the bike go faster and faster, just a few nervous touches of the brakes when approaching the corners. I was happy to let it roll as fast as it wanted to as long as I could see a clear, car-less runout on the corners. My only real concern was pinch-flatting on the corrugations – I was running 35mm knobbies at 35/40psi which is great for smoothing out gravel-sized stuff but when you hit a long section of deep, hard corrugations at high speed you just have to hang on and hope that you don’t bash the rims too hard. Yow!

So, flying down the hill, scanning for loose patches, trying to pick lines through corrugated corners and then… spot, spot, spot, there’s that rain! Everything started getting darker the further down into the national park we went and pretty soon we were flying headlong into the storm that we’d seen up from the lookout.

Going down!

Bam! One minute it was relatively dry, the next we were soaked to the skin, dodging puddles and watching out for slick clay on the corners. There was lightning in the trees. And then we hit the hail. And then the hail hit us! Yow! I was in shorts and short sleeves and it was stinging like a bastard. There was nothing to do but laugh out loud and keep bombing down, down to the bottom. We rolled on until the descent petered out and stopped to regroup. The hail gave way to heavy rain and, one by one, the rest of the group came sloshing down the hill, absolutely soaked.

Finally we were all accounted for and we took off to find shelter at Silvan Dam and work out what to do next.

Dunny rats

That one descent had turned us into a miserable looking bunch. All huddled together in the doorway of the public toilets shivering and dripping water everywhere, half of us in short sleeves, shaking with the cold but still joking. Spirits were still high but I’m sure people were thinking, “This is not what I signed up for!” One minute we were on top of the world, the next we were in damage control mode and when the option of a bailout to Lilydale station was floated, there wasn’t much in the way of resistance.

Bail out

So, the plan was to take the aqueduct trail, join up with Warby trail and take that straight to Lilydale station. Allegedly, the aqueduct trail was “all flat” but, as we discovered, it’s not. It was still pissing down heavily and we were bashing through the sodden trails, slipping around all over the place, a few hill walk-downs and and walk-ups and some navigational discussions and we pushed on and on through the bush, completely soaked, thoroughly covered in mud and loving every minute of it.

Well, I was anyway.

Though it was bloody cold.

We strung out a bit here and lost touch with each other. Some of us were hanging at the back of the group to make sure everyone was accounted for and confusion occurred and we (the back-markers) ended up overtaking everyone and getting to Lilydale first. A few phone calls and we discovered the rest of the group had stopped at Cog Cafe in Mt Evelyn and was sitting around drinking coffee – bastardos!

Outta east

Anyway, eventually we all regrouped at Lilydale station and packed our filthy bikes and selves onto the train. The whole back half of the rear carriage was just mud and bikes and wet dog smell and laughs all the way back to the city.

And, in a nice outer-eastern suburbs moment that topped off the day nicely for me, a drunk old coot gets on at one of the stations, squeezes past our heap of muddy, filthy bikes and says in a bleary-eyed ocker drawl, “Where have you lot been? There’s shit all over your bikes and now there’s f**kin’ shit all over me!”

Thanks everyone who turned up, I hope you all had fun despite the weather. I guess for a “Come and try” ride it really was a good introduction to TWBD – I always put a lot of planning into these rides but somehow they never quite go exactly to plan and that’s what makes them fun, I think.

Oh well, beats Beach Road any day.

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