Visiting : Ridge Rd, Pine plantation, Hazeldene, Extons Rd, Pine Ridge Rd
Distance : ~110km
When : Saturday 24th October 2015, 4:00am @ Hurstbridge

(Note: I’ve got a backlog of solo rides that I haven’t written up for various reasons. I’m trying to get through them all so I’m up to date. Bear with me as I’m writing these well after the fact and my memory may be hazy.)

This was a nice local roll to check out a few knowns and a few unknowns. I wanted to see some old favourite roads, check out some new roads and also try out a different bike setup on some decent k’s. My main “road” objective was to check out Long Gully Road out of Hazeldene as a legal option to access Extons Road. My main “bike” objective was to see how my Inbred would go in fixed/flats mode on some moderately interesting terrain. All objectives were achieved…

I started just before dawn and visited a few old favourites – Ridge Road and Humevale Road. Not the quickest way to get up to the Kinglake Ranges but certainly very cruisy and scenic. Predictably, there were many roos on Ridge Road and zero cars on Humevale Road. Good times.

I rolled along the main road to Pheasant Creek and turned down Watsons Road to the pine plantation. I think it’s kinda cool in its own way. Been through there before and thought I’d check it out again – plus it’s a more interesting way to get to Hazeldene than just sticking to the main road.

It was nice and sunny already and I was in cruisy solo mode so I had a good wander around to see what I could see. I found a hangout spot in a high clearing. Lots of bullet shells, ciggy butts and premix drink cans and the remains of a couple of fires.

I love scrounging around in places like this, trying to piece together the stories that must have played out. Who were these people who came out here to drink and shoot guns? Local kids? Will my Max drive up here with his mates in ten or so years and shoot old bottles and flick ciggy butts and throw empty Jim Beam cans in the fire? So many stories, past and future…

I tore myself away from the riveting banality of the scene and rolled on back up to the road. It was beautiful “Summer of Gravel” terrain and a bluebird day.

But my eye was drawn to little bits and pieces on the side of the road, a business card, some receipts from an osteo, old catalogs for Mitre 10, pages torn from a Melways?

Hm, tell me more…

The seemingly random junk strewn across the place came more frequently. At first I thought that someone had cleaned out their glove box or something but I started to have my doubts. Soon I came across broken plastic pieces, bits of headlight, bits of bumper. The pieces got bigger and bigger and I was following them with my eyes down to the road like a bloodhound when I got to the big burned out patch in the middle of the road. I looked up and said “Oh!” out loud.

It all made sense. Car stolen from somewhere, driven up here far from any houses, ransacked, glove box turned out and all papers and junk thrown out in search of anything valuable. They’d obviously been driving it like a dodgem car, all over the road, slamming into the dirt embankments and joyriding the hell out of it. They got to their fave spot at the water tank up on the hill and – BOOM! – torched that sucker.

All that was left was a burnt patch on the road where the melted, stinking remains of the car had been scraped off a day or two before and taken away for scrap.

The water tank where the car was burned was obviously a hangout too. I climbed on top, had a look around, took some photos. The graffiti on the side told the story :

Just another tale from the pine plantation…

I rolled on down the hill to the main road and cruised it all the way into Hazeldene where I bought the titular Hazeldene pastie. Man, what a solid meal that was. Big and fat and chunky. A+++ would eat again.

I sat outside at the shop and ate my food and minded my own business while eavesdropping on the small group of middle-aged locals that always seem to be hanging around there. Local gossip, current affairs, news of what their kids are doing, off-colour jokes. Other locals would come and go, pick up bread, milk, smokes etc. stop and chat for a while, lots of loud greetings and goodbyes and laughs. This is the only shop for miles around so I reckon it must be a bit of a locus, a meeting place. Probably even more so after the fires. I don’t really mind feeling like an outsider at the Hazeldene shop.

Food done, I headed off for Long Gully Road, a couple hundred metres from the shop. It shoots up a spur to Mt Robertson towards the northern end of Extons Road. Depending on which map you look at, it actually joins Extons Road or it doesn’t. I was pretty sure it DID join up but this part of the ride was going to confirm it for sure. So I rode up through some houses, past one or two half-hearted private property signs and then I was hiking up the unridably steep spur to Mt Robertson.

It was a steep track – chunky and little bit ledgy – definitely 4wd terrain and way too steep for me to ride a onespeed and probably even a manyspeed. Doesn’t matter, I like hike-a-bike. I pushed and pushed, had a few breaks, sweated a lot (it was getting hot…) and finally made it to the top where, indeed, it did join up with the northern end of Extons Road (aka Mt Robertson Road).

Recon complete.

Extons Road is rad, nice and undulating, scrappy 4wd track at the northern end and then the surface gets progressively more civilised the closer you get to Kinglake Central going from clay, to chunky gravel, to buff gravel, to gravel superhighway, to paved road. Nice.

Just for shits and gigs, I decided to get down off the Kinglake Range via Pine Ridge Road. Years ago it used to be a proper fire road but in recent times it’s been left to rot and grown progressively more gnarly as the seasons pass. Now it’s eroded to hell and impassable by any wheeled vehicle. The ruts and ledges were impressively deep. Good times.

Hike-a-bike downhill is fun, specially when you’re not wearing cleats, which brings me to my “bike” objective for the day.

A while back I’d changed my Inbred from singlespeed to fixed. I’d been commuting on it, hitting up Yarra Trails, Hurstbridge area dirt roads, a couple of missions to Smiths Gully etc. and my objective for this ride was to see how it would go with a bit more distance and bit more elevation. Turns out it went alright! Flat pedals, no foot retention, never had an issue.

Flat terrain and uphills were no different to riding with a freewheel (except for lack of coasting of course); gnarly descents I’d keep my feet on the pedals for control and to modulate speed; fast safe descents I’d put my feet up on the top tube and let the pedals spin away underneath me.

Skid stops, no, but speed modulation, yes. Five-Tens with Stealth rubber and wide flat pedals with gnarly pins kept my feet in place always. Skills gained from a year of riding the same pedals (albeit with freewheel) on all sorts of terrain certainly helped. Flying out of control downhill with the pedals spinning madly like a 200rpm calf-shredding meat grinder? No, sorry, the reality is not nearly as dramatic. XT hydro brake on the front coupled with 2 inch rubber meant that I could keep speed in check well before things got out of control. Also, judgement – never take your feet off the pedals unless there’s a safe runout – and, most of all, just ride slow and safe. All in all, everything went pretty much as expected.

Research complete.

It was a cruisy roll on familiar roads back to Hurstbridge…

And then I found this little guy waiting for me in my backyard :

Indeed it was a nice day to be outside in the bush riding a bicycle.

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