Recently, we have had quite a few cold, wet weeks in Victoria. It has rained most days and the temperatures never really climb above 12 degrees. So why not do the illogical – buckle our boots, throw our legs over our bikes and ride! After all, it’s just a level 2 ride. What could possibly go wrong?
The day started by meeting at the Romsey Ampol. Brett has been sidelined for a bit, so we were delighted to see him arrive in Romsey on his brand new KTM 890 Adventure R! We were saddened to learn he would not be joining the ride. Rather, he was there for two other reasons: (1) make us all envious and wishing we had new bikes again; and (2) deliver some club merch to Benji. Cue the first moment of madness for the day.
Wait, what are you talking about Brett? Benji’s not on the ride!! The ride list is pulled and consulted, no Benji. The Internet site is checked. There’s no Benji on the ride list! For 5 minutes we rib Brett about his wasted hour in the cold to meet up with someone who isn’t on the ride! Finally the puzzle was solved when Benjamin (who was indeed on the list) showed up.
Anyway, on with the main event. After a great briefing from John, we head off. It is good to quickly get into the flow of a ride and today was no exception, within about five minutes we were into a water crossing where Bolinda Creek intersects Rankins Road. The creek is up a bit due to the recent rain, but Rankin’s Road is well maintained so the creek bed was in decent shape – no drowned bikes. Today is going to be a good day!
We worked our way across some great tracks to the north of Mount Robertson, then briefly into Macedon before heading into Macedon Pine Plantation on the western side of the Calder Highway where we stopped for our first break along Canning Park Road.
As we jumped back onto our bikes, some goose remarked to John that we might get lucky with the rain. What an idiot. We travelled not more than 100m down the road before I felt the sting of both my lies and the rain on my face. Anyway, we ignore the rain and push on through Wombat State Forest – the weather was not going to beat us this day!
As if it was an ominous sign of the mayhem to come, there had been obvious recent attempts by the local authorities to improve some tracks by dumping thick layers of gravel that had our bikes dancing a little. But, again, we would not be beaten! So still further we push on through Wombat Forest and into Trentham for warm food and coffee. As we pulled up, I noticed the air temperature in Trentham was a balmy 7C.
Our stop was at the Redbeard Historic Bakery. The Redbeard menu was not your typical small town bakery menu – you could order a boutique pie or perhaps a Croque Monsieur for the refined amongst us, but nothing for the common people like me – no plain pies and only full cream milk. Yes, I understand the irony in ordering both a plain pie and a low-fat coffee. I’m complex, deal with it.
Anyway, the company was great – we talked the usual bike talk and listened to people share their dreams of what might happen during the upcoming Madcats trip to Laos. Somehow that conversation turned to more about plans for Bangkok nights than Laos days …
With new warmth in our bodies, we jumped back on our bikes and headed back along Blighs Road and into Wombat Forest once again. The track between Blighs Road and Peukers Lane to the west had become impassable due to recent weather. Large pools of water covered the trail and a couple of decent sized trees had been blown over in recent winds and now blocked our path. Attempts to create a chicken track were futile so we turned back. No big deal, but maybe the weather might disrupt our plans after all.
So we rode west, skirting around the north of Wombat Forest before heading down Lockheeds Road. This is the point when things really started to go a bit pair shaped. Picture an unkept downhill trail, a heavy tree canopy so whatever water has fallen over the last few weeks has not dried, a heavy cover of slippery wet tree litter from the same winds that downed the trees mentioned earlier, and some bikes on 80:20 tires.
Shaun is (was?) a friend of Neil. Shaun had heard about our club from Neil and Shaun wanted to ride with us to see how we roll. Shaun’s a great guy, but I am unsure if we will ever see Shaun again. He was in front of me when he went down on the ice rink we were now attempting to deal with. Bike down. Shaun’s pinned underneath and calling for help. I jumped off and raced over to help. Forgetting the tempreature was only just above freezing and that we hadn’t really moved our legs for hours, I rush to lift Shaun’s bike off him and pull a hammy. There’s Shaun, still trapped under his bike, needing help and I am hobbling off into the bush clutching my hammy. Thankfully, the cavalry arrived quickly to save Shaun, who escaped to be OK. Lockheeds Road was also no good for the day, so we gingerly tip-toed our way back out and around to the south before heading into Daylesford.
We were heading for Limestone Track, north of Daylesford. John had recced the track and remembered it having a great sandy-gritty layer that would suit the wet. It sounded perfect and we were keen to get into some solid riding once again!
As it turns out, sometime during the last 2 weeks since John and Brett rode the track on a recce, a grader had taken the top couple of inches off the road and taken it down to its clay base. Then it rained. It rained a lot. Then seemingly most of the 4WD owners in Victoria ploughed it. Then Madcats rolled in. We pretty much slid down that track for about 2km before we finally stopped sliding long enough to do another 180. At some point during our retreat Wael’s Tiger 1200 decided it had had enough and wanted a quicker exit off the clay.
The photo he took is great but really does not do it justice. The photo was taken looking down a reasonable hill. The Tiger’s wheels were uphill and it took about six grown men to wrestle it back.
It was a slow, careful ride back out to the Midland Highway where, understandably, some riders made the (probably sensible) decision to retire and return to Melbourne. The slow learners who stayed then travelled back south along the Midland Highway before cutting along Leslies Road across to Porcupine Ridge Road and onto Woolnoughs Road. It was a treat to come across the Kangaroo Creek crossing on Woolnoughs Road – dry during the recce ride, it now had a slow flowing causeway in good condition. This presented the opportunity to record some water crossing action shots before we continued towards Glenlyon and north along what was probably one of the best roads of the day – a great, flowing run along Green Gully Road, coming out on Vaughan Springs Road. It was then a great ride back through Kyneton, the Cobaw State Forest and arriving back at Romsey around 3:30pm.
So far this year, it’s been a wet winter in Victoria. Consequently, adventure riding can get a bit interesting, even on very well-planned rides like this one (a ride we can really look forward to in the drier months). But these interesting rides also challenge and improve our riding skills in a great way. The other great thing is how Madcats do it together as a group – with encouragement, support, laughter and a bit of fun. Yes, it was cold, wet and at times a bit nerve-racking, but it was a brilliant day irrespective of the inclement weather.
By Richard Lane