Well, it turns out this was an eventful little old ride! Perfect conditions, great track and excellent company - but the odd mishap...
Johnbo, Brian and Stephe left from Middle Cove at 6.32, for the short sharp road section to the Tryon Road Tennis Courts at Lindfield, picking up Whisperer along the way. This 15 minute road section is a great little warm up to the action... Ed rang along the way to say he had only just woken up (surprised gasp from everyone!), but still managed to pass us on his way to Tryon Road.
As we met up with Ed at the car park, we also met Brian's mate Donal, and then dropped down to the fire trail to find their two other colleagues, John and Martin (with Brian and the latter two planning an AROC race in the near future - this was their "learning what a mountain bike was" practice).
So, as eight happy little mountain bike riders, off we set for a good roll down the hill to the steps at the beginning of the Two Creeks track.
A couple of serious attempts were made at the rock climb without any dabs, with very limited success - and then, once we'd all made it to the top, our first mishap of the day: Brian's rear wheel, having been beaten senseless for the last few years decided it had finally had enough and gave up the ghost (with the free hub locking up solid). Some quick whispering failed to resolve the issue, and - after briefly flirting with the idea of riding fixed wheel style (!) - Brian set off back to the car park, fortunately with Ed's keys so he didn't have to walk all the way home...
The remaining seven adventurers had a good little ride to the Roseville Bridge, climbed up on to the single track around the harbour, cruised through there like seasoned professionals, exited at the first road section and re-entered at the Old Folks Home in Forestville.
Here we encountered our second mishap of the day: Martin (who was one of our 'new to mountain bike riding' folk, but scathingly fit!), missed the fact that his six colleagues turned left off the road down to Bantry Bay (let's hope he's not navigating during the adventure race), and kept on going down the track to the bottom of the Bay. With the operative word being "down"!
Alerted to his plight, John and Stephe gave chase, but didn't get him until he had actually managed to turn around at the end and started working his way back up again.... Ah, an interesting little 1 or 2km hill diversion on a ride which was already turning out to be both long and hot!
In any case, we meandered on over to the oval at the end of the fire trail, along the sniggle to the lookout over Bantry Bay, past the Scout HQ and finally emerged at the sniggle on the Northern side of Wakehurst Parkway. Where we bumped into the first of 5,342 other mountain bike riders out enjoying the glorious spring day...
After another moment or two sucking up the sights, we crossed over to Manly Dam and started in on the 'standard' lap - with Donal coming in to his own, on what seemed to be very familiar territory... Managed to get a couple of snaps along the way (in the group photo, we have Donal, Whisperer, Martin, Johnbo, John, with Ed starring up front):
Shortly after that section we came across Matt doing his duty on the Trail Maintenance Day, although Nic was too busy organising things and generally being in charge to make an appearance as we hung around and chatted. Lots of good work being done by stacks of volunteers - very impressive!
Finally managed to pull the troops away, and we headed off for the downhill Manly Dam blast - yee ha! Along the way, while waiting for the bunch to catch up, Whisperer was overtaken by some strangers which sufficiently affronted him that he demanded we chase - and off he went like a bat out of hell.
Because of this little effort, Whisperer and Stephe missed the next instalment of disaster - which was Ed coming off the bike at the top of the last drop into the Hydraulic Labs, managing a "chest plant" into a big rock, with subsequent winding, hand and other damage, and general lack of cheeriness (these photos were about ten minutes after the recovery process was underway!):
We finally managed to patch Ed back together enough to get him on to the bike, and on with the lap of Manly Dam - including some solid efforts at the steep white sandy hill up behind the houses before the road section to the golf course:
Unfortunately, by the time we'd made it to the Golf Course, Ed was becoming much the worse for wear, and he and Stephe limped off down Wakehurst Parkway, until they managed to find a spot to relax, get a car, and get out easy...
The then diminished bunch did the rest of the Manly Dam lap, some of the bush track on the return, but perhaps with a little more road section, and headed home - hopefully a little more bike informed, wiser (?), and happier... (?)
The full set of photos are here