Sunday 2 April 2006

Sunday 2 April – Old North Road, with a twist!

Again, the Old North Road proves to be a superb ride, with challenge aplenty, but fun galore to go with it. We bit off a little bit more than anyone was originally planning to chew – with a total ride distance of 53kms over 6½ hours (hoooeee!). The original plan was to leave an hour earlier (5.32am) taking advantage of the extra daylight savings hour. That worked all right, and we got to Mangrove Mountain pumping station around 7am, with a chance to do some quick maintenance work on the bikes, setting off at about 7.30am.

Graham joined us for another attempt to check if we were sane (I’m pretty confident that the result has again been returned in the negative), and Doug, Whisperer, Rees, Brian and Stephe made up the balance of the crew.

The warm up was excellent, the weather was nothing short of magnificent, and the run across the top was looking positive. Unfortunately, we arrived at the rocky ledges with at least a couple of the riders feeling a little cocky – Stephe’s first attempt at the climb trashed both a perfectly good tree, and yet another hanger. Brian’s form was pretty near perfect up until his first couple of shots at the ledges - which chewed him up and spat him out (and also bent his hanger!). Whisperer was the first to accomplish what really shouldn’t have been that hard but was proving well nigh impossible, and Doug was inspired to do the same thing (successfully, including a rare photo). Rees also had a few shots at it, but – unlike his form on the rest of the ride – paid a heavy price in ego damage! Graham sat back and wondered just why people would blow themselves up on a couple of rocks at pretty well the beginning of the ride. There are pages and pages of photos of the rocks for those that think it might be interesting to see wombats in action…

In any case, when we finally tore ourselves away and moved on – with both Brian and Stephe’s bikes emitting very sad noises in the gear changing department – the ride was as good as ever. As we neared the end of the ridge line (just before the white road down to Wisemans), we took the little track off to the North, and set off to explore what we assumed was a quick drop back into St Albans (or something!). Turns out no-one had any idea where we were going, and there were about a million spiders across the track (which kept getting in people’s faces etc, erk). That aside, the little track was in fact a blast, with a very solid drop down to a creek which proved immensely challenging, and certainly worth a re-visit (Rees capitalised on the huge effort he was making on all the uphill sections, by demonstrating that he could get to the bottom of the downhill sections faster than anyone else too!).

We followed the creek for a while, finally managing to escape in some farmer’s back paddock (with all the attendant scary issues about getting shot for creeping through the backyard!), then back on to the nearby road – looking for the way out.

After cruising along the road for a while, we came across yet another old convict road (which I have since been told is called Shepherd’s Gully (and some further history here)), which was a long, long, long slog up a hill with long, long patches of loose rock to get over. After around an hour or so (that might even be an accurate time), we joined into the top of the white road from Wiseman’s Ferry (top of Devines Hill) and then sat down at the beginning of the Finches Line track for a bite to eat.
In light of the generally felt massive exhaustion the ride home was a much quieter and more sensible affair, with various folk getting off and walking their bikes as the hills got steeper and the legs got weaker!

To finish off the ride, Stephe managed to snap his chain right at the bottom of the 500m vertical bitumen road back to the car – a sad, but fitting end to a really great ride, with significant physical stress…

Photos up here, (there are five pages of them!) with some highlights below (including the magnificent profile):


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