Apologies in advance for this late post.  This ride occurred nearly 3 weeks ago (15th Sept 2012).  It’s been a crazy past few weeks with birthday parties, gettting rummy, moving homes and general lack of motivation hindering this blog entry.

To help get the ball rolling and for added inspiration, I decided to read fyxo’s blog and bumped into this gem of a post –

http://www.fyxomatosis.com/index.php/blog/66-r-i-d-e-s/838-a-new-resolutionrevolution

To put his blog into context, FYXO (Andy White), is one of the reasons why we spend our weekends riding around the bush.  His blog is a revelation and has been a huge inspiration for VVMCC.  Unfortunately, he’s recently announced that he will not be renewing the lease on FYXOHUB and this coming November, one of the most unique shops to ever open in Melbourne will cease to exist.  If you can find time on a Saturday during the next month or so, duck by to Sth Yarra and buy some jerseys and frames.  Support your local bike shop!!!

… Going back to our ride – Gareth, Pinchy and myself decided to give West Gippsland another go.  The ride took us through the towns Ellinbank, Seaview, Trida, Hallston, Allambee South, Mirboo North, Thorpdale, Childers, Yarragon and back to Ellinbank.  Apart from a couple of minor detours around Thorpdale, this was pretty much the route that we took.  The ride was approximately 115km with an elevation of 2,200 meters.

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It started off as usual, plan to meet up at a rendezvous (Ellinbank primary school), to start at 7 am.  We headed southwest from Ellinbank to start our first climb up through Warragul-Leongatha Rd. We’ve done this road on a number of occasions and Pinchy has previously described the climb as such –“Not too steep at a fairly consistent 5% and 7.5km’s long, so enough to get the legs warmed up.”

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ImageImageImageThe ride continues on to Grand Ridge Rd taking us to Hallston.  Be mindful of the left turn to Hallston, or else you will continue down south to Strzelecki Hwy.

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Grand Ridge rd (smooth tarmac) eventually turns into Old Grand ridge rd (Shitty shitty loose gravel).  Gareth can attest to this, as halfway through Old Grand Ridge, he flatted.

Once we got ourselves going again, we rode up Mirboo-Yarragon Rd.  This is another steady 4% climb that’s approximately 5 kilometres long.  Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances/stupidity, Pinchy was forced to abruptly finish his ride.  Fiddling with his gearing (whilst riding), had caused his front derailleur to wrap itself around the cranks.

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As we had only covered 30 kilometers, we decided that the best course of action was for Gareth and I to continue, and to leave Pinchy to rub one out whilst waiting for his better half to pick him up.  Thus, we ventured forward to Mirboo North for lunch at the local bakery.

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After our quick bite, we headed north up Strzelecki Hwy and through Mirboo North-Trafalgar Rd, taking us to Thorpdale.  We took an impromptu detour into McDonalds Track as we had seen a sign for the “world’s tallest tree.” FYI, the tree was cut down during the 1800s and was replaced with this sign.  Suffice to say, the best thing about the world’s tallest tree is the small climb to get to it.

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We then took Childers Rd which eventually turned into the final climb of our ride, the unsealed Childers – Allambee Rd.  It had been raining sporadically during the days prior to our visit causing Childers – Allambee Rd to soften and turn the surface into a claggy-wheel-grabbing consistency.  On that day, Childers – Allambee Rd was essentially 10 kilometres of shitty bike masochism.  Gathering by the facial expressions that a couple of 4WD drivers were giving us as they drove pass, I doubt that anybody had ever attempted it with road bikes.  We might have appeared foolish, but that climb was easily one of the most fun I’ve had in Gippsland.

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ImageNote to self – buy a cyclocross.

The mud eventually turns into tarmac once it meets up with Leongatha – Yarragon Rd.  After that, it’s a pleasant downhill ride to Yarragon and back to Ellinbank.

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Thanks again Gippsland! It’s been a blast!

xox Ronskivitch

This weekends’ ride was initially intended as a ‘back by lunch’ affair. I’d been meaning for a while to head out to Healesville and tick some climbs off the list, so as per usual I convinced Pinchy to come along (to give me a bit of a descending workshop). I thought we could do as many climbs as we could before we got over it and decided to go home. As I was eating my breakfast however I had an idea. As I pictured the map of the area in my head I had an epiphany, the proposed climbs were North and South (Chum Creek Road and Panton Gap respectively), with Black Spur to the East, and if we started in Yarra Glen the Eltham Road climb was a convenient fourth point of…a cross. The Healesville Crucifix, It would even look better on a map than the famed Dandenong sequence! It became the days’ obsession to form this imaginary cross on the Strava map with a little red categorized climb dot at each point. Pinchy must have got out of the right side of the bed AND had his Weeties that morning because he let me convince him that it was a good idea.

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Here it is, in all its glory. The only flaw is the missing red dot to the East, where DOES the Black spur climb segment end? Your guess is as good as mine.

We rolled out of Yarra Glen at about 8:30 and headed up the Old Healesville Road, which proved to be more challenging, scenic, and light on traffic than either of us expected. The weather did however live up to our expectations. I don’t remember being that warm on a ride for a long time, let alone at 9AM. Let the tan lines begin.

I thought it would be a good idea to get Black Spur out of the way early, as I knew it was a pretty traffic heavy road. After climbing up the first little mellow gradient hill we decided that wasn’t enough, so we pushed on, aiming roughly for the end of the dark bit on the map (I had limited knowledge of the road). We soon realized why it was such a popular tourist road. The dead straight mountain ash forest was a sight to behold. We soon realized how popular it is too. If you intend to beat the traffic I recommend that you get up at 4AM, it got pretty silly in some points. We were feeling pretty sprightly, so we had to resist the temptation to keep riding to Lake Mountain. I’m glad we didn’t though, as we would soon find out that the day would be big enough.

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After a super fun descent without too much traffic (relatively) we rolled into what has become the equivalent of Beach Road for middle aged/retired motorcyclists. I’d hate to think how bad the traffic would’ve been if they were actually all riding instead of sipping mochacchinos.  Some snacks were eaten and we headed to what I had a feeling may be the most difficult climb of the day, Panton Gap. It turns out that it was. A welcome reminder that I‘ll have to step up my upward training on the way to 3 Peaks next year if I’m going to have a fun day. Of course these thoughts were running through my head while I was grinding up one of the 10%+ pinches, but in between were some more manageable pitches of half that gradient. One thing I was noticing for the first time in many months was the heat and humidity factor. It was by no means hot, and it was only really (slightly more) humid in the forested areas, but it was an indication of things to come. I’m going to have to get better at drinking regularly that’s for sure, and I’m all the more glad of the recent addition of a second bidon cage mount.

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I’m having to wait up top for Pinchy less and less the more we ride, a few minutes later and lo and behold, triumphant again, a perfect advertisement for a 2nd bidon cage, he rolls up, with that grin on his face again, ready to give me another descending lesson. I tried to follow his line on the way down, and all was going ok, until some rough stuff got me back on the anchors again. I didn’t catch him again until Healesville

Despite the gap smashing us both we were still feeling pretty confident that we’d knock over the ride with plenty of day to spare. Perhaps that was why we didn’t feel any urgent need to stop and take a break and eat at this stage. We forged onwards to Chum Creek, but we didn’t get far before we both started to bonk and had to eat the last of our (my) food. The jubes did the job (somewhat) and we started the climb. Chum Creek Road is really nice surface and a consistently friendly gradient, so I went for it, using some mystery energy stores, leaving Pinch to suffer his blood sugar crash in solitude. Apart from the odd drifting sports car it was a relatively tranquil ascent, finishing at the Toolangi Tavern, where we had some well-earned pints and eats. Don’t expect to be able to top up with water at the Toolangi Tavern, apparently its poisonous.

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Yet another exercise in descending, Pinch graciously stuck with me as we tried not to touch the brakes the whole way on the mellow corners.

It was home time, via Eltham Road climb. The bonk monsters had done their work on both of us, so despite me hassling Pinch all the way, he was heading for the van. His decision was strengthened by the Old Healesville Road rollers. I was reluctant to admit that I was pretty much in the same boat, but when we got to the bottom of the climb we parted ways and I pushed on, hell bent on that fictional little red dot on the Strava map (OCD?). I’d done the ride up to Skyline Road a few times before, but this turned out to be one of the hardest climbs I’d ever done. I was completely flat and it was all I could do to turn the pedals over, one hint of cramp and it would have been all over. I made it eventually though, but it was a good 5 minutes before I could even be happy about it, or see for that matter. It was lucky Pinch was waiting for me just down the bottom in Yarra Glen.

7 Categorised climbs and 2400m elevation, I don’t know how we thought we were going to be home for lunch, the map looks pretty good though.

P.S. It was also Pinches’ first ride over 2000m ascent, whatta guy.

P.P.S HAPPY BIRTHDAY RONSKIVITCH XO

Gareth.

For those of you who follow The Climbing Cyclist this route will look familiar to you. We accidentally did the cycling blogger equivalent of turning up to a party wearing the same dress. Here is the recap of our version of Arthurs Seat return.

Pinchy and I decided, seemingly along with the rest of the tens of thousands of Around the Bay in a Day participants, to get serious about our training. We’ve signed up for the 250km version of the seminal loop around Port Phillip, and the date is looming. We knew we needed some training on the flats, but as a climbing junkie I knew I’d feel a bit unfulfilled if we didn’t hit at least one hill, thus Arthurs Seat became our midpoint.

I really enjoyed the luxury of starting the ride from my house and not having to fold up into a car before and after the ride, but unfortunately Pinch didn’t have that luxury, so I met him in St Kilda. The early Sunday morning run through the city is always fun, everyone else is tired/drunk/barefoot/stranded/hung over/notridingtoday and I’m flying through the city at 40km/h with the wind in my beard. I was especially buoyed by the fact that that wind in my beard was only a gentle wind, after a gale force opening week to spring.

At St Kilda we kept the foreplay to a minimum and got going. It was easy to forget that we had 170km to cover when we were hooking along at 45km/h. We kept on trying to chill out, saying we have to save ourselves, but we’d creep back over 40km/h within seconds. It remained like this pretty much all the way to Frankston, shedding layers of clothing along the way as the weather got more and more perfect. Pinchy is from around those parts, so he found some traffic-free back street sprints for us to enjoy all the way to Franga, but not before he turned my Garmin off for a while, the darling.

After a delicious coffee in Frankston we took the less scenic route by cutting inland on the Nepean, for some reason. Next time I’ll remember to hug the coast, but hey, I hit some climbs I’d never done before. Eventually we got to the high point of the day (so to speak): Arthur’s Seat. Pinch was a little nervous about the short but brutal climb, since it was his first proper attempt, but thanks to me only planning rides centred around climbing (and modifying his to include MORE climbing) he was turning into quite the closet grimpeur. I must admit my confidence was brought to heel very early on the climb, and moreso after some unexpected cramps halfway (I’m not generally a cramper). I’d expected to smash my time, but in the end only took a measley minute off, which was probably about my stoppage time on my first climb up. I guess it’s ok.

These are the only three photos that we took. It just wasn’t scenic enough for us.

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After a minute or two Pinch rolled over the top grinning from ear to ear, he too had battled cramps, but victory was his, and the Arthurs seat monkey was off his back. One thing is not in doubt though, he can descend like a beast. While I was actually slowing down to 15km/h for the 15km/h hairpins (Only slightly faster than my ascent speed), he was overtaking bewildered elderly Sunday drivers. It was his turn to wait for me…down the bottom.

We had some eats in Dromana, checked in with the locals, and made sure the tilts of our cycling caps were right, then we were on our way. We pretty much retraced our steps on the return leg, making pitiful attempts to take turns. Pinch likes to take front seat for some reason on the flats, and I find it difficult to complain. Other than a brief bout of asthma, a thrown chain, and both of us having to put up with my incredibly creaky stem/bars (I’ve fixed it Pinch I promise) we got home pretty unscathed. It was a relief to have a little left in the tank after 170km, as we’ll need to add another 80+ to that in a months time. Can I go back to the hills now?

Gareth.

Sunday was looking like being a great day for a ride in Melbourne, one of the best in what has been a cold winter. Gareth and I planned to do a loop around everyone’s favourite reservoir, Sugarloaf. Because of this fact and Gareth was so excited he went out and purchased a heap of new kit. So to celebrate his new understated yet epic gear, we present you with the Rapha edition.

I was awoken at the not overly early (for a cyclist) hour of 8am with a phone call letting me know to open the door. Bad start, probably due to the 7-8 whiskies consumed at a going away party the night before. We got slowly underway and eventually made it out to Warrandyte where we planned to start. Essentially our ride went something like this:

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Riding up from Warrandyte we turned right at Pigeon Bank Rd and continued up to Menzies and finally onto Skyline. The pinches along here were short and sharp, but a whole lot of fun. Be warned though, if you want to do this ride large sections of it are gravel, albeit well maintained and vey rideable. The scenery is great too, with views on both sides overlooking the valley down to the Yarra on one side and everyone’s favourite reservoir, Sugarloaf, on the other.

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Gareth even managed to urinate epically thanks to the new jersey.

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It only tool about 10k’s for us to agree that it was our new favourite ride.

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…until I suffered through a flat. This was a low point. Both in elevation and mood.

There must have been a community meeting at some stage to agree to have ample taps in front yards but have none connected to running water. We seriously tried three taps and none worked. With everyone’s favourite reservoir, Sugarloaf, just to our left it was cruel punishment for my forgetfulness indeed.

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From the junction of Skyline Rd. and Eltham Rd. you can descend into Yarra Glen and then climb back up. It is apparently a good climb and Gareth seemed to enjoy it, but I decided to try and find water (fail) and take this photo:

Getting a bit stalker-ish on this one…

From here we turned around and headed down Ridge Rd. and stopped in at a bbq/ picnic area that had water. It said it was untreated rainwater and not for consumption, but at this stage we were willing to run the risk.

The ride back down Menzies Rd. was heaps of fun with some fast, smooth rolling descents, but we knew what was coming: Pigeon Bank Lane. We had come down it so we knew it would be hard, but not that hard. It was like hitting a wall, a 30% wall of bullshit steep road. I couldn’t do it, I had to walk it, even the mountain goat himself was in the up-til-then unused 29 tooth cog and was delivering mail to both sides of the street.

Menzies Rd. down is a whole lot of fun

It was so steep that it even looked steep in a photo

All up we only rode 50k’s, but climbed about 1300m. It is a ride that could be easily done in a few hours and would still be a good ride. I know we will be doing this one a few more times over the upcoming warmer months. Well, after I fit that compact crankset…

Pinchy.

As I mentioned previously I had intended to do a ride up in the Snowy Mountains. Unfortunately my car didn’t make it, and Thredbo being in NSW, the trip was off (unless I wanted to take a coach that went through Canberra). From now on I had nothing but my legs to rely on to take me places.

Although I was disappointed, I could hardly complain. The sun was shining in Melbourne and I’d avoided almost certain hypothermia from riding up a snowy mountain, and potential broken bones from snowboarding down one. I was determined to go on a worthy ride to make up for it. Armed with some hot tips from a friend of mine, I decided to explore the Kinglake area.

The day started pretty haphazardly, and a little later than it should have. I’d planned to catch the train out to Hurstbridge to avoid most of the suburban chaos, only to discover that Metcards didn’t exist anymore. I decided that embracing said chaos wasn’t going to be so bad, but I couldn’t help but think the whole way how much I’d rather be racking up these k’s and elevation under a canopy of tree ferns, especially when forgetting to turn the Garmin on in parts meant some of it didn’t even count anyway.

My first port of call was the Kinglake climb which, although it seems like it would be on the way down, isn’t terribly difficult; a perfect place to go for a PB. Since I’d done it once before I knew what I was in for, so I felt comfortable pushing it, managing to beat my time by over 3 minutes. I’ve recently installed a 12-29 cassette, which I don’t often have to use to its fullest, but it does give me a very versatile spread of gear ratios for climbing. I’ve done this with 3 Peaks Challenge in mind, since registrations open soon!

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After a brief rain shower and breather up top I headed towards Healesville, with the intention of looping back around and tackling Skyline Road climb just outside of Yarra Glen. A big thanks to Matt, the author of http://theclimbingcyclist.com/ for giving me some goals when I map these rides, I’m working through the list! Unfortunately I turned off just before the end of the official Strava segment, so I wasn’t awarded it, but I’m still ticking it off. As I turned right at the top I was faced with a wall of dirt, and for the first time i dirtied my 29t cog, It was time to get lost. The road was a gravel rollercoaster with fantastic views, as a matter of fact I’d been surrounded by fantastic views since I started the Kinglake climb.  So what if it wasn’t the Snowys, it was still a pretty bloody nice place to be.

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I tentatively used a rocky narrow track to get down to the road that led to my 3rd climb of the day: Mt Slide Rd. Then it occurred to me that I was hungry, very hungry, or at least I would’ve been if I didn’t eat everything that I had. I was very mindful of how I was going to feel when I got to the top of the climb. I have to go back there soon, I was feeling far too washed up to appreciate the beauty of the dirt road winding through tree ferns, trickling waterfalls and zero traffic. Then the views kicked in, which managed to pull me out of my stupor enough to reach the top.

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Unfortunately the climbing continued most of the way back to Kinglake (with traffic), where I decided to resurrect myself with some baked goods.

By this stage I’d done nearly 2000m elevation and I was pretty spent, and I still had to get back home to Melbourne (via Arthurs Creek Rd, which is not the flattest). My one consolation was that southbound Plenty Rd is so fast you’ll find yourself doing over 40km/h on what seems like flat, which makes easy work of the last 30 ks. I strongly recommend that everyone pack good lights on long rides, especially in Winter and especially on Plenty Rd. You never know when you’re going to get back home. With the knowledge that I had a half eaten cheesymite scroll in my jersey to fall back on, and after thankfully remembering that I had legwarmers, I dove into the Kinglake descent. The rest is your typical slog back home. I finished with 170km (closer to 180 if you count the Garmin faux pas) and 2500m elevation, more than enough to make me forget, for the day at least, about where I could have been.

P.S. Don’t forget there’s a link to our Strava page on the right if you’d like to find out where all these nice places are, or if you’d like to beat us on any of the segments. Get out there!

Gareth.

The hills around South Gippsland are an area we have ridden before and while they might not be impressively high in altitude, they sure are picturesque.  So with this in mind Gareth and I drew up a ride that took us over Mt Worth, out to Mirboo North for a play lunch stop and pretty much down to Leongatha before turning up back into the hills to ride a dirt road Ron and I scouted the previous week called Wild Dog Valley rd.  Well there were no dogs, but it sure got wild.

this is basically what out route looked like. Actually it is exactly what our route looked like. Note last open tab displaying new skill learned.

We met up at the Ellinbank Primary School at about 7.  Schools are a great place to start a ride as there’s always water available.

It didn’t take long for the climbing to begin in earnest with the climb up Mt. Worth coming up in the first few kays.  It’s a nice climb and one highly recommended if you are ever in the area.  Not too steep at a fairly consistent 5% and 7.5km’s long, so enough to get the legs warmed up.  On reaching the summit you are greeted to the majestic sight of a local industry – logging.  Beautiful native forests make way to felled trees and forestry machinery.  It was actually pretty cool and eye opening thats for sure.

After passing six dead wombats (one of which scott bunny hopped) and a descent down a gravel road, the scenery opened out into farmland and rolling hillsides that categorise the region.

After passing so many of these guys it got quite depressing. Five dead wombats is funny, six is over the line. (despite much pleading, Scott decided not to ‘wombat’ hop this one)

Just off to the right was the most majestic Wedge-Tailed Eagle. You should have seen it.

Just over the fence was the most majestic dead wombat. You should have been there.

After a stop in at Mirboo North for food and water, we headed south and into what was going to be a characterising feature of the rest of the day – wind.  It was incredibly gusty and made for pretty slow going at times.  Despite the wind, we eventually made it to the start of the most difficult part of the day, Wild Dog Valley.

The first part of the climbing starts as soon as you turn onto Mt Eccles Rd from Wild Dog Valley rd.  It’s a steep, bitch of a climb that soon sorted the men from the boys, with me being the boy.  I was glad it was a road less travelled as I was forced to use up the whole road to reduce the hill’s severity.  It was soon all over though, enabling us to stop to collect our thoughts whilst we all finished off the last of our water and for Ron to admire a dead lamb.  At least the toughest bit was done…

“Dude there’s a dead lamb just over there”

…And then we climbed the next bit.  Just as steep, longer and on gravel.  This, coupled with the fact that the wind was stepping into the ‘this is fucked’ category made going tough.  So tough in fact, that in one extremely strong gust that blew me off course by about a foot, I turned around to see Scott had nearly been blown off the road.  This was definitely one of the toughest times I have spent on the saddle of a bike.

Scott takes some time out to adjust his rear derailluer and admire a local villa.

It was a tough one and I can’t wait to go back.

The return journey was rather uneventful, apart from a fallen tree or two.  The ride was completed just in time, as no sooner had we said our respective goodbyes, the heavens opened up and it bucketed down.

Well that’s it for this post, but we have some pretty cool rides planned (more snow riding hopefully) and we are always open to suggestions, so feel free to suggest any rides that contain climbs/ gravel/ sweet photo opportunities/ dead animals.

Until next time. Pinchy

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So I’m going to Thredbo tomorrow for some snowboarding. I heard there’s mountains there, so I’m going to try ride up one (weather (blizzards) permitting). I will document my frostbite for your reading pleasure.

Gareth.

P.S.  I know its pretty lame putting up two teasers in a row, but there will be some pretty Gippsland images to look at soon too, we promise.

Pinchy and I rode/drove around this area today to check out the terrain and to get ideas on where the best routes are for our next team ride. The weather wasn’t the best for scoping out the views, but added some mood and atmosphere to the shots we took for today. It also meant that we didn’t get to see everything, leaving us secrets on what the full ride will entail for next weekend. Stay tuned! Next week’s post will be a lot of fun!!

Xox ronskivitch

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