Holy shit! It’s been a crazy past few months! I’ve been away travelling northern Asia and everyone else has been working their butts off.
Apologies for the extended sabbatical, but it’s been a hectic couple of months!
I know. As bike bloggers we have been less than dutiful, but this time of year you don’t need any inspiration to get in the saddle right? Well we do have some goodies in store for you soon anyway. Pinchy is composing our first interstate post, I’m building a ‘Sunday’ bike, and we’ve all enrolled in the Festive 500 Strava challenge, which means there will be plenty of riding to report on.
Get off the internet and go soak up some vitamin D.
I first mapped out this ride about 2 or 3 months ago, knowing full well that it would making a ride that would be quite challenging. 110k’s with 2400m elevation can be a decent ride at the best of times, but when 80 or so of those k’s are on dirt, things could get difficult very quickly. Here is a link to what it looks like.
We met at Launching Place at 8am and got quickly on our way. We headed down Gembrook rd until we hit The Pack Track, along the way experiencing what would be the first of many flats along the way.
As soon as you turn onto The Pack Track it turns to gravel. It also begins to climb in altitude, with some parts getting pretty steep but never lasted for a long distance so didn’t pose too much of a problem. We ended up slowly snaking our way through the dense forest, taking in the awesome surroundings and even saw (and heard) a koala not far from the road while we waited to repair another flat. I have never heard a koala in the wild before, and for a second I was actually shitting myself.
After about an hour or so we cleared the treeline and came to a junction in the road. The paths all appeared to be inaccessable or access roads for power companies and we were about to turn around and head back down the way we came until we heard the familiar sound of dirt bikes. Four of them emerged from one of the paths heading up and over the ridge line, so we decided to ask them if they thought the way they had come would be suitable for road bikes. “Yeah, you should be fine, but it’s a bit hilly.” We knew it was intended as a warning, but that was presisely why we were here. We said thanks and headed up the hill, glad we didn’t have to do any backtracking. It was a nice ride along the top of the ridge-line from then on, up until we had to descend. That descent was definately one of the hardest we have done, with the constant 8-9% gradients, loose surface, pot holes, ruts and corrigations keeping us on our toes the whole way down. I had a massive grin the whole time. Be warned though, the bottom brings an intersection with Yarra Junction-Noojee rd, and is a great test of your brakes. (I certainly appreciated my ‘new’ 7410 dual pivot Dura Ace ones!)
We now had done about 50k’s, 1500m and had no water left so we turned left at Yarra Junction-Noojee rd and went in search. Three lessons were learnt while on our water mission:
1. Horses are awesome.
2. People in the country like to put non-functioning taps in their front yards.
3. DO NOT jump front fences to fill water bottles unless you like being sworn at by country people.
We found some water at the Gladysdale tennis courts and headed back to Black Sands rd. Black sands is a well maintained gravel rd that winds its way upward through the forest just below Warburton. The climbing starts immediately, and is steady for 7.5k’s. It averages 6.6%, but we decided that as it is on dirt it deserves another 2%. I know I sure found it a tough slog as the unrelenting nature of the climb made it hard to get your breath. Really, there is only one small flat of a few hundred metres halfway up and that’s it. I did get to enjoy some pretty awesome scenery though, the mix of huge green ferns and tall Mountain Ash made the journey quite bearable. It also allowed me to stop and ‘take photos’.
After the main climb the road meanders along the ridge line and eventually, at the roads highest point, you are rewarded with a waterfall. We decided to risk it and filled our bottles again. No-one got sick so I guess it was ok. As the ride turns northward and heads toward Warburton we headed through some logging areas, which is always kind of a downer to come across after riding through so much untouched wilderness.
The descent. God, the descent. Scott thought the earlier one was bad, but Gareth and I disagreed. This downhill section was truly dangerous, littered with debris, deep ruts cut into it from running water and large exposed rocks. Or pot holes. And it got bloody steep. I ended up getting a flat on the rear and was in the process of changing it when Scott noticed that my from tire had not one but two cuts in the sidewall with inner tube poking cheekily out the side. Great. Luckily it was at this moment that a genuine stand up gentleman, Bruce (name has been altered due to the fact I forgot) arrived on the scene in a Patrol. I seized my opportunity and bought a lift down to Warburton. I won’t bore you with the details of my awesome adventures there, but suffice to say Scott saved the day and we ate doughnuts in the end to make up for it.
This is definitely a ride recommended. There are a few other options through the northern end that may make the descent less hair-raising, but either way it can still be done safely if you take it easy. But I just got 25c tires the other day, so maybe this way out isn’t such a bad idea…
Until next time. Pinchy
*When Scott dispenses his pearls of wisdom, he is known as Shark Expert.
There will be some new steeds in the VVMCC stable in the coming months. The good thing about being an amateur mechanic is that every build is assembled with greater skill than the one before. #foreverlearningtofuckshitupless
I went back to the old town for the last weekend of ATB training. It was a long weekend for me, and the weather promised to be near-perfect. The other guys were getting some miles done down on the peninsula. My plan was to do a circuit of the ‘peaks’ around Bendigo, namely Mt. Tarrengower (in Maldon), and my old favourite, Mt. Alexander. I’ve touched on Bendigo before. It’s drier, and a little bit flatter (don’t even bother going North, it’s flat as a tack), but here is plenty there to construct a fantastic ride around. I find the countryside in the Goldfields to be either long slow slight uphills, or long fast slight downhills, and every now and then there will be mount that will come out of nowhere and stick out over the landscape.
History and stuff.
For my first ride I headed straight to Maldon to tackle Mt. Tarrengower, which was a new one for me. Pinch had done some recon and assured me that it was right up my alley. I was pretty keen by the time I rolled into Maldon, but soon got a sinking feeling. There were signs saying “Hill Climb” all over the place and I could hear the buzz of activity from the hill. As luck has it I’d turned up on the one day of the year that Mt. Tarrengower is closed. ‘The Mount Tarrengower Historic Hill Climb’ is an event which all the classic car enthusiasts, petrol heads, and steam punks come out for the day and race up the mountain. Balls. I’d wasted 80km round trip getting out there. Oh well, maybe I’ll just try again tomorrow. I headed to Mt. Alexander and somehow managed to snag the Maldon to Chewton KOM on the way. Hey I’ll take it, beggars can’t be choosers.
On the way the south side up I ran into a friendly young lass who was doing some last minute training for an upcoming race. It was interesting to chat to someone about how to approach training for actual competition, the ins and outs of injury management and measured efforts etc. It’s a different type of cycling altogether. She set a pace that was fine by me too. When we reached the summit we parted ways, she was off to do some more repeats of the south side.
On the way down I passed an older chap that caught up with me and immediately comment on my unshaven legs. The polar opposite to the conversation I had on the way up; we spoke of cycling in retirement and hand built Hillman frames. Thank heavens I’d done my research on my frame. He apparently used to race on them back in the day (some further research indicates that he used to win on them back in the day). He set a surprisingly quick pace (more than I’m accustomed to) and we talked shit for the 30 or so kms home, which we covered in no time flat. He mentioned that I “kept up alright” and should race. I don’t think he understood why I was doing all the distance and all the hills if it wasn’t training for anything, a man from simpler times. His comment “what does that thing tell you?” pointing at my Garmin, said everything.
The next day I dragged my tired legs out of bed, saddled up, and again headed towards Mt. Tarrengower. I took a recommendation to go via Fogerty’s Gap, which is a steep little pinch old Phil thought I’d like. The road rises quite steeply into the trees and he noted that when he was younger they used to say the white line looks like a goalpost. I LOLd.
When I rolled up to Tarrengower for the second time I was relieved to see that it was ‘open’ and headed up. It’s only 2.5 kms or so, but at 9% average it’s not for the faint hearted, especially since the steeper parts are well over that. Thanks to the notoriety of climb due to the yearly events the road is also in pretty good nick. The views top were fantastic thanks to the geography (pimple in the middle of nowhere) and the grand old lookout tower.
The way up.
Mount Alexander 14 1/4 miles.
I retraced my steps from the day before and mashed it (perhaps a little too hard) to Mount Alexander. When I got to the base of the climb I hit the wall, hard. I had nothing left and I started to freak a little bit about being in the middle of nowhere, with no food, and no one to call. Eventually I realised I wasn’t so far away from Harcourt, and food, but the quickest way was over the mount. I was feeling marginally better after 5 minutes so I chucked it in my 29t straight away and gingerly crawled upwards. There was no diversion this time and I was definitely feeling the 110km from the day before. After a climb that was a lot less painful than I’d imagined I made it to Harcourt, had a ham and mustard pickle sandwich and a half a bag of lollies. I don’t remember the way home so clearly, but it did involve, insane headwinds (and swearing loudly at them), minor hunger flats, grimacing, cramps, weeping, minor climbs feeling like major climbs and some mild sunburn for good measure. I’m fairly sure if I had a mechanical of any kind on the way home I would have lay down and let the earth reclaim me. Did it dampen my enthusiasm for my next ride? Of course not, it only whet my appetite.
My last minute training involved 230km and 3500 vertical metres in 2 days. I think I’m ready…if I can recover in time.
I’ve always been convinced that there are some underrated roads to be found out West. This Saturday it was only Ron and I, so I convinced him into taking me out that way. We headed out to Bacchus Marsh at an ungodly hour and rolled out North to Mount Macedon, with the intention of tackling the Gisborne side (the hard one…I’d heard), and the other side if we felt so inclined.
I made the assumption that the Bacchus Marsh-Gisborne road, which hugs edge of the Lerderderg State Park, would be nice ride, but we soon found that the traffic was too much, the shoulder non-existent and initially the scenery wasn’t even good. Luckily, when we started to get closer to the park we found ourselves on a pretty nice ridge. The road itself was no more hospitable, but now we had something to look at, on both sides. Lerderderg State Park looks like a lot of fun to explore if you had some knobbier tyres.
The rain that had started as soon as we stepped out of the car only got progressively worse as the morning went on. Maybe that’s why we didn’t waste much time getting to the hill, until we succeeded in getting lost in the foothills of Macedon, which frankly, was quite pleasant. I’m certain I’ll waste more time getting lost around that area in the future.
The beginning of the climb is unceremonious. One thing you know you’re ogling huge country mansions (Ron is planning on retiring there ASAP), the next thing you’re passing a ‘12% Next 2km’ sign. I wouldn’t say the 12% is very accurate, but it does put the fear into you. Since I was being flippant and putting the fear into Ron, he told me to piss off and we went our separate ways.
Note: Ron was running a 39×23; I would want my alone time with that ratio too. He most certainly deserves a pat on the back for making it up alive.
As the first ramp ended I found myself in a little township (“Have I even bloody started this climb!”), and then there was another, and another. For the most part the percentage is in the low teens on these steep bits, and the flatter bits are quite short. I was thinking of Ron as I mashed away in my 26t, making a show of solidarity by not going into my 29. My 23t cog is somewhere in the middle of my cassette, if I even have one. There was no way I was going to be THAT sympathetic.
It was a tough one, but before I knew it I was turning into Cameron Drive for the second part of the climb, which I was familiar with and knew it was nothing but mere undulations. I relaxed and took some photos, until my phone momentarily stopped working. It came out of my pocked at 75km/h the other day. If you’re going to put your phone in your back jacket pocket, zip it up before you bomb a descent.
Up top it was thick with fog, and my feet were completely numb. Even though I was dressed pretty appropriately for the day, I was wet, and knew the descent was going to be an unpleasant one. Unfortunately for Ron he was not so appropriately dressed. Plans to the head down to Woodend and come back up the other side soon became waterlogged. After high fives, hot chocolates and some snacks at the restaurant up top we headed back down the way we came.
Descending in the wet can be sketchy at the best of times, but the addition of shivering induced speed wobbles and given the steepness of the Gisborne side of Macedon meant we were taking it pretty easy. Memories of wearing my brakes out on Donna Buang after my snow misadventure was also in the back of my mind. We made it down in one piece though and wasted no time legging it back to Bacchus Marsh.
I’d been thinking for a long time that it would be a good idea if we got some practice rolling turns (is it generous calling it that with only two riders?), but we’ve never managed to organise any. After some false starts and some yelling though rain we managed to get in a good rhythm all the way back through some of the worst weather I’ve ever ridden in. It was heaps of fun though.
Then we ate jerky and listened to country music all the way back to Melbourne. Good times.