Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Wombats That Ate Lancefield


Visiting : Wildwood, Lancefield, Cherokee, Riddells Creek
Distance : ~180km
When : Sunday 9th January, 7am @ Fed Square
Where : Click here for route map

A long, cruisy (mostly) flat ride to start the new year. This one heads out north for a tour of some beautiful country roads and lanes in the shadow of Mt Macedon. Big views, big skies and big wombats will be the order of the day as we hit up Lancefield in search of long-extinct megafauna before paying a brief visit to the lower parts of Mt Macedon to check out some of the back roads and big trees in its foothills.

Not too much climbing and no singletrack on this one so it should be a pretty cruisy ride through some of my favourite country places.

The full story
That was a good solid ride - no wombats but plenty of other wildlife. Here's how it looked from my point of view :

Beach road of the west

Three of us rolled out roughly on time and chatted all the way to the airport. Good mix of bikes again - carbon roadie, steel singlespeed cx, 50's-era 650b "le mad max" psychotouriste. Sime hadn't seen kangaroos for ages so he was stoked by the huge mob in Gellibrand Hill NP just next to the airport - big ones, little ones, even joeys in the pouch. We rolled on to Wildwood Road and met heaps of cyclists coming the other way. Wildwood Road = Beach Road of the west.

Tweaker freaker

The wind was behind us and the weather was overcast - great riding weather. I was digging the few small tweaks I'd made just prior to this ride - 10mm longer stem and 10" higher gear. It felt like either the bike had grown or I'd shrunk. The longer stem stretched me out a bit and made all bar positions feel just right. I'd noticed recently that I'd been trying to reach forward past the bars so this small adjustment made the bike fit even better with what my body wanted to do. Incidentally, I saw Dr Dom for a fit last year and he said my fit was almost spot on as it was except for my stem was too short. Thanks Dom! I should have listened to you a year ago.

I was also really digging the slightly higher gear. I went up to 63" from 54" and I found it much less spinny on the flat. I was happy cruising along with two geared bikes and I don't think I slowed them down too much. I've been feeling like I'm constantly spinning out lately, pushing 54" on the street - never used to feel that way. I think it coincides with a change I've made to my form recently - I've started pedalling properly!

"Pedal in circles"

Riding exclusively fixed for so long I think my pedal stroke was square as hell and I was totally laming out on the dead spot. So, it's taken a few months of riding exclusively singlespeed for me to realise that if you apply pressure to the pedals throughout the whole stroke then you get more and smoother power to the wheel. Yay! I've finally learned how to pedal! So, despite the higher gearing, I felt great on the flats and also on the hills - just focussing on keeping it smooth and working the whole stroke and the bike feels so much more alive. That's the sort of performance improvement I like - upgrading the meat machine is not as easy as choosing a product from an online catalog but, in this case all it needed was a tiny, invisible change somewhere inside my skull and now I'm instantly faster, more efficient and better in bed. And all it cost was hours on (and off) the road, having fun riding. The words of the Cannibal still ring true :

"Don't buy upgrades, ride up grades", Eddy Merckx

Deep Creek runs deeeeep

And, getting back on topic, there were plenty of grades to get up on this ride. The country we were riding through was pretty much flat basalt plains. Flat, except for the deep, narrow valley carved out over thousands of years by the meandering Deep Creek. I knew we'd be crossing Deep Creek a couple of times (once on foot) but it turns out we crossed it no less than six times! And each time was a fast descent down into the valley followed by a short sharp climb to get up out of it again. The descent/climb up to Bulla? That's Deep Creek. The descent/climb near the start of Wildwood Road? Deep Creek. We basically rode upstream of it in a straight line and it kept meandering back and forth across our path so that we were going down and up, down and up. It was rad!

Except it wasn't so rad for Sime's roadie. He was running 28s and tweaked the pressure down for comfort on the rocky roads but, there's always a trade off, and he pinch-flatted on one of the fast descents. Tristram and I were on fatter bags so we were able to fly down in relative comfort - I expected Sime to be close behind us but as minutes ticked by I started to fear the worst. If you get caught in a wide section of corrugations sometimes it's impossible to get out and you just have to hang on and hope for the best. Sime flatted halfway through one of those sections and had to ride it out on the rim - yow! I bottomed out a couple of times throughout the day, nothing too bad, and Tristram was running 42mm Hetres so he probably didn't even notice the bumps.

Lancefield lunch

We pushed on north and the Deep Creek valley was threatening to bring the bonk upon us. A bit of food sharing and map checking and we kept it ticking over until we reached Lancefield, the halfway point, and sat down for a feed. Good food, reasonable coffee and questionable art in a cafe/gallery did the trick and we turned around and headed back south, on the way home, straight into the wind.

It was slow going but we were fueled up and in good spirits. Still plenty of chatter and laughs among the group. We rolled past an alpaca farm at one point and saw a tiny alpaca that was still so wobbly on its young legs that it was almost being blown over by the wind. A bit further up the road we saw a fox that was just doing it all wrong. We startled him as we rolled by and he started running up the side of the road in the bushes in front of us. He kept pace with us for about 30 metres before running directly across the road about two metres in front of my wheel and then finally took off sideways into the bushes for cover. Dude! You're totally going to get hit by a car if you keep acting like that!

Go with the flow

Pretty soon we reached the foothills of Mt Macedon. A bit of climbing on paved roads and we stopped at Kerrie for a breather and a choice. We could either follow the planned route up a gnarly dirt road that I knew from experience led to a very steep and very rocky descent, or we could turn down the hill now onto what looked like a fast flowing paved descent. Time was running out, I wanted to get home in time to put Max to bed, and I didn't want to put Sime's roadie through more hell than it already had been so we all agreed to save that dirt road gnarliness for next time. Good decision - the paved descent was a ripper - it just kept going down, flat, down, flat, down and we were flying along in full tuck position as fast as we dared. Felt awesome after grinding along dirt roads into the wind for so long.

Take it home

A quick stop at Riddells Creek and we decided to keep it paved for the remainder of the ride so we hit Riddell Road to Sunbury. We were still pushing into the wind but we were making good time, pulling turns and making a tight little group. Sunbury came and went and then the last crossing of Deep Creek was upon us - the climb up to Bulla. Damn that climb to hell! I'd been up it twice before and had to walk both times. Sime told stories of how he'd flown down the descent brakeless, at night, after riding all the way from Echuca. Tristram hadn't ridden it before but was fading towards the end of the day and because we'd been building up this killer climb so much, said straight out he was just going to walk it. Well, it turns out that, due to radness, we all got up it without walking. Ha! In your face Deep Creek Valley!

From Bulla it's a short ride to the airport and, from there, it's suburban streets all the way to the city. Tristram peeled off home at Moonee Ponds and Sime and I rolled on to Fed Square to close the loop. Despite the course corrections we still finished with 180km under our belts.

>> Click here for more photos <<

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