Monday, December 24, 2012

A mountain pass

With Christmas just around the corner I finally checked out of work and have nothing but lazy time to look forward to so I took the opportunity and went for a solo ride up to the top of Mt Buller and bike to stretch my legs an blow some air between my ears.


It's that time of year isn't it where everyone seems just about ready to crack and go postal, the pressure of finishing up for the year, finalising last-minute plans to see this person or tidy up that last job. I felt like my head was going to implode with it all personally, and the only thing that was really going to flush it all out was a good long ride. I couldn't have asked for a better setup - we landed on the first Saturday of two weeks holidays on a scorching hot day and after a mega sleep in (I never usually sleep past 7) I got up at 9am followed that up with bucket loads of procrastination and small bursts of effort to be useful around the house, before I thought; fuck this I'm gone.

 I loaded the Wolfman saddles on not knowing how far I was going and chucked in the little laptop (gotta get footage off of the Drift somehow on the fly) and bottled water and rode out onto Ballarat Highway heading for the hills. It's great to do that sometimes, no real plan, and no timeframe to keep and just see where you end up. I decided I'd head out on the Western Ring Rd for a good 20 mins hike to get to Plenty Rd which is the start of getting out of the city for me coming from out West.

 

From there I know the ride heads up into the country and into Whittlesea pretty easily and from there I could take a variety of back roads to get into some twisties and have a bit of fun. I did that and decided I was enjoying myself and the open road, but I'd forgotten something: just how incredibly loud the Arai XD4 is. My brains were rattling with from the wind noise and induction roar beneath me. Not good when you're trying to clear the mind. A quick stop for some fuel and a set of ear plugs and I was back on the road pondering intense heat situation. I don't normally like the heat a whole lot but this day it felt fine, it was kind of helping me bake my way into some clear head space and letting my concentrate on riding .

 From Whittlesea up to Kinglake and another turn off decision - carry on up to Flowerdale through some nice sweepers in the foothills, or cut across to Toolangi and over to the Spurs... I always like the ride to Flowerdale, climbing mountains, long fast sweepers and then a gentle descent of much the same and onto Yea. So that was soon behind me and I'd only just found a comfortable position and started to connect with the bike so I fuelled up (again) and kept going up through the centre onto Molesworth and Merton before I knew it I was seeing signs for Mt Buller only 99kms and I just thought that seems about right and kept going. Quick fuel stop at Mansefield (the Hyper fuel situation really is ridiculous, I get too 200kms between stops on open country roads comfortably, but beyond that is super sketchy) and back on the road to Mt Buller.
 


 These roads are nothing really amazing to speak of but it felt great just to be out with little traffic and well, just doing my own thing. Heaps of Police I might add, I even got pulled over for a RBT, which always freaks me out, but it lasted all of three seconds when I think he realised I had a video camera strapped to my helment and not a whisker of booze breath.


Post ride I also told Santa I needed new gloves because this keeps happening (see below) on day rides when the sun is out and I'm wearing my Dainese shorties, not a big deal but kinda annoying so so longer ones are on order for Christmas.

 
 The whole reason you do this ride out of the city is for the last 30kms that ascend the mountain. That's it. Ride 3hrs to get to 30 mins of challenging fun corners. And then you haven't got much choice but to turn around and come back down again. But man it is worth it. And part of the reason I kept going - on a really good hot day in Melbourne, Mount Buller is going to easily be 10 degrees cooler, so in effect it should be a nice hot road. 30kms of hot sticky bitumen with yellow lines (my new favourite) filled with 25 hairpins, 45k corners on the edge of cliff faces and stretches of  straights egging you onto the next double back hairpin...It's the stuff we live for. On the way up, it's climbing and on the way down it's all on the front pegs falling downhill at a rapid rate - it's the flying sensation I probably favour less over the climbing part actually. Once you get to the top it's nothing but surreal mountains almost 360 degrees.

And on a 35 degree Saturday before Christmas, it's also like a scene out of The Shining, dead as a dodo just waiting for the snow. I was lucky enough to find a Foodworks in the village just before the Summit and grabbed myself a Mrs Macs Bacon and Cheese Pie (worth every kilojoule) and a Lucozade (also great - king of rehydration IMHO) and pretty much shot back off down the mountain. Embarrassingly I was overtaken by a Honda  Star or similar cruiser as I bumbled downhill, I even tried to play catchup for a bit but just didn't have my 'eye in' for any sort of racing antics and let him go. Back through Merijig, Mansefield, Yea and Flowerdale and into Melbourne from the Western Road. All up probably 6.5 to 7 hours day ride. Noice. Felt really good, and of course all that wind had blown clear a few random thoughts that just needed blowing away. And I hit a my first century to mark the occasion.


 

 Was really a sub plot to get out more before the ADR comes around again. I think my brakes must be almost dust by now and I'm sure the oil could be dumped, so I just need to click over another 2,000k before the Jan 26, 2013 weekend. With another ride up to the other side of the Great Alpine Road just around the corner with Big Steve (on his Harley of course, no comment) before the weekend this should be no problem at all. Man I love this bike.

 The only real downfall for me whatsoever is the fuel range. It really is pitiful. And maybe those mirrors could go for some bar end pig spotters... and that tail tidy.. hmm. If only they could have stuffed a 16-17 litre tank in a new 4 valve Hyper with a 1200 Testastretta donk ....