Saturday, June 20, 2009

Third Revelation

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Visiting : Federation Trail, Bulban Rd, You Yangs, The Wild West
Distance : ~150km
When : Saturday 20th June, 7am @ Fed Square
Where : Click here for route map


Awesome ride once again. Rolled out of Fed Sq about 7:15am by myself. Uneventful ride out to Werribee on the Federation Trail. Stopped in at a servo and picked up a pie for breakfast and then on, on to Bulban Road. Bit gusty but traffic was light and my head was in a good place for churning into the wind.

The wind used to make me angry but not any more. It struck me on Saturday when I was out riding in it that wind is only a problem if you're in a hurry. I used to fight against it and try to maintain my speed regardless of the wind and end up getting tired and pissed off that it was somehow "beating" me. Now I'm happy to just go with the flow - if the wind blows hard I go slower, if the wind dies down I go faster. The wind keeps blowing whether you ride through it or not.

So, feeling pretty chuffed that I was in a good place with the wind I decided to roll around to the main entrance to the You Yangs and then pick my way through the trails all the way over to Stockyards. Nice plan but I've never been on those trails before so I got lost almost immediately. Asked some other riders for directions a couple of times and finally got out onto Great Circle Drive and up to the top carpark. Pretty steep ascent in places and I was on the limits of traction pushing 70 inches on 28mm tires on the loose sandy surface. Oh, and some hellbeast corrugations on some of the descents too - they seemed perfectly spaced to violently shake me off onto the shoulder like some sort of gravelly dog shaking me from its back.

Plan was to roll around the perimeter on the number 1 gumby run to get a nice tour of the place. It follows a ridge line for quite a ways so there's some awesome views from up there, the You Yangs being the highest point for many miles around. Melbourne off to the left, Geelong off the right, the bay in the middle - magnificent.

It said on all the maps that the number 1 was suitable for beginners, families etc. so I thought it'd be a piece of piss. I must have neglected to read the fine print where it says "Note: There are some short steep sections." I was having a ball cruising down hill, getting faster and faster, dabbing the brakes and rolling with the terrain thinking "Pffft! Who needs mountain bikes!" when I hit the steep bit and received my second physics lesson for the day.

The trail got more rutted and eroded the steeper it got and hence required more skill to get through in one piece. Not having the luxury of suspension or fat tires, I was instinctively hitting the anchors to slow it down so I could find a line before getting thrown off by some rut or rock or smacking a pedal into something. So, I was hard as I dared on the front brakes and then skipping, skipping the rear wheel but I just couldn't slow it down. I was still picking up speed and getting more out of control when I missed a corner and jumped off into the bushes.

Fat tires equals more traction which means you can put more braking force into them before they skid. (So that's why you run disk brakes on mountain bikes with fat knobby tires!) Skinny tires on loose surface equals no traction which means you can only put pitiful braking force into them before they let go of the road and start sliding. In this case, there wasn't enough traction to stop my downward momentum so I ended up walking it *down* the rest of the hill until it flattened out. I called out to some guys at the bottom "This is meant to be the easy trail right!?" to which they quite succintly replied, "Yeah but not on a f**kn racer!"

Too true. God invented mountain bikes for a reason.

The rest of the trail down to the bottom carpark was fast and easy, nothing too technical, and then it was out onto the road again. A lot of Subaru-with-bike-on-roof traffic around here but I turned left out of Drysdale and they all must have turned right beause pretty soon it was just me and the wind again. And so it went until I turned down Kirk's Bridge Road and saw something with flashing lights coming towards me in the distance. The road was paved but only a single lane wide so I moved over onto the shoulder which was dirt but very smooth and hard packed. As the vehicle got closer I could see that it was... a ute with flashing lights on it...huh? Two roadies were right behind it absolutely hammering into the wind. Fark me, it's a bike race. The lead car and the two-man breakaway sped past and then not far behind was the peloton, taking up the whole road. I kept rolling towards this mass of men and wheels, all jostling for position and trying to get around each other. Lucky the shoulder was in good nick - must have been about forty guys coming at me head on across the whole road - I left them plenty of room and gave a feeble "Allez! Allez!" as they passed. Subsequent googling reveals it was the Footscray Cycling Club.

So, on into the wind and the start of a 10km dirt road section. This was a great part of the ride. Dead flat farm land for miles around and absolutely no traffic or, in fact, any sign of life whatsoever. No houses, no cows, no people, no nothing, just the vast windy flatness of the Werribee Plain and the horizon far far away in all directions. There's a great sense of isolation out there. It's the kind of place where if you need to stop for a leak, you can just drop your dacks in the middle of the road and sing a song while you're pissing.

Which is not to say that no-one ever visits this part of the world, far from it. There were piles of rubbish dumped regularly along the side of the road, old faded bottles of beer in the dirt, rusty car doors propped against the fence and riddled with bullet holes, graffitied old pumphouses with illegible scrawlings about something, something, "...f**ken ute", remains of garbage fires, and yet more bullet holes in anything big enough to shoot. The piece de resistance was a smashed up and burnt out car sitting on the side of the road surrounded by rubbish and broken glass. Insurance job maybe? Or most likely the remains of a fun night out for some local larrikins, bless their hearts.

There was one thing of beauty which stood out in this wasteland. There were big thistles growing along the side of the road and they had the strongest most vivid pinky-red colour. I spent a bit of time trying to get some decent photos of them because the colour was so stunning. The natural beauty of the Australian countryside, huh? It was only when I saw the same red colour splashed on the grass and dirt further up the road that I realised it was Roundup.

The open plains eventually came to an abrupt end and I suddenly found myself in Wyndham Vale. One minute there was empty paddocks, the next there was a brand new housing estate. Bizarre. Also I shouldn't have been there, I should have been much further north. Turns out both google maps and street-directory.com.au are wrong. They both show Edgars Road going all the way up to Ballan Road but, in reality, it doesn't - where the road should be, there's a gate with "Private Property" on it and the only way forward is the road I took to Wyndham Vale. Oh well, it's not the worst mistake I've found in google maps.

So, on on to Werribee and then uneventful ride on the Federation Trail back to Fed Square and then on home.

Could think of worse ways to spend a Satdee :-)

>> Click here for more photos <<

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