I’ve been back riding around the same area that belongs to the eagle that went for me the other day. Alas, he has left me alone, but I swear I can feel when he’s watching me. When you’re out riding these roads in the country, and especially in the middle of winter, the locals often peg you as crazy, which I only ever take as a compliment.
No matter where you go, there will always be someone doing something crazier than you. I’d like to think that it takes a bit to give me a surprise out in the back blocks. This guy did a good job. Coming around a corner we saw what appeared to be the love child of Mary Poppins and Forrest Gump. Cruised next to him for a while and had a brief chat, turns out he had intended to take the bike out but was put off by the weather and decided to go for a run instead. He certainly looked quite a sight running along with his brolley. He must have been a good 10-12k from nowhere. We picked up our pace again, and within about 800m the snow started falling. Awesome.
Getting into trouble is the easiest thing in the world to do, easier than falling off a bike. Knowing your limits and putting some effort into being prepared goes a long way in avoiding situations that are unnecessarily risky and could go pear shaped a little too quickly. Knowing what you are getting yourself into, having the right gear and taking adequate food are my 3 top rules for these long back country dirt rides.
I always plan on having food still in my pocket when I finish a big ride, especially on the jaunts around 200km in length. I figure if I get back to end with nothing left in my pockets, I’ve either needed my emergency food, shared it with someone or underestimated how much I was going to need. This is one of those situations where experience makes a big difference. Out in these parts, you can’t stop at a cafe, refuel and catch the next train back. There’s a whole lot of not very much.
I certainly needed most of my food on the ride last weekend. I found a new road, which always excites me. I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t ridden it before. It was sensational and I can’t wait to go back and ride it in the opposite direction. But I still have snow on my mind. There was a lot of snow up in the hills where we were. The novelty value of riding in snow wears off real quick, it’s hard work and traction is terrible. Very pretty, but diabolical. And it was snow that brought this adventure to an end.
Well, not an end, but a necessary diversion to one of my plan B’s. Another one of those roads I had always planned to ride was our destination, but it was covered in snow and with no vehicle traffic over it, it was not going to be easy. With over 100km in the legs at this point, Plan B seemed the prudent option. I had no idea what the state of the road would be in. The snow may have lasted 200m or 14km. The difference between a fun adventure and a harrowing experience are poles apart, and sometimes only separated by a choice of one option over another. We decided that we’d managed to cover a lot of what we set out to to and this road could wait til after the winter. We hauled back towards Warburton, an 80km route I’m more than familiar with and it’s quite a challenge not to consider it a trudge. Especially when you’re trying to convince yourself you’re not disappointed that you didn’t give the last part of the journey a better shot. But, I do think we made the right decision under the circumstances. All told, we rode 180km with over 3200m of climbing in proper winter conditions. Doing it on my mountain bike also left me pretty buckled by the end. I was certainly glad the day stayed dry, if the weather turned and it snowed or rained on us, it would have been properly miserable.
I wasn’t sure whether to include this or not, but I will, as life is not always fun and games. On the way back we were overtaken by a police vehicle with lights on. When we came to where they were stopped, we also saw a couple of motos with nobody to be seen. Seemed a little strange. Further on we were waved down by a policeman coming the opposite direction. Like a lot of the people you meet out there, he was pretty intrigued as to what we were up to, and rather impressed with our feat. Turns out he was on his way up the road to where there had been a suicide. A young bloke had gassed himself in his car. In my life I’ve had more mates than pass out of this world before their time, and I’ve seen the curse of the black dog do it’s damage. If you are feeling isolated, depressed, anxious then reach out, there is always help. Those closest to you may not understand your suffering, but they will be there to help, just ask them for it.