So, when Damien buzzed last night saying it was all go for another ride at Woodend today, I was rather sceptical. Lately, there's been a lot talk about rides but people tend to pike when rain / cold / lack of sunlight / baby / work / shitty girlfriend / etc., gets in the way. Nonetheless, I made sure I was packed and ready to roll tomorrow if the ride eventuates.
Anticipating a mud bash, I had to think about which bike to take and what tires will keep me upright. (Yes I'm blessed with choices). I-Drive would be perfect in Woodend as it's proven at our last epic ride in there, but I was sure the mud, shit and corruption will kill the fun, if not destroying the bike. So, it was my trusty old Zaskar's turn again, booted with HighRollers because they're loved by UK riders riding crappy English mud, so they can't do too badly here in Oz.
Woke up nice and early at 7am to see pouring rain outside window. I was sure the ride was canned. Wrong. A quick SMS to Paul and Damien and both were as keen as mustard to go. Brilliant. Wolfed down my breakfast, loaded the bike up in the rain and shot off to meet up Damien and Paul.
Arriving at Woodend, the rain's eased considerably although the ground was soggy as expected. Interesting tire choices between the three of us. Paul still on his dry racers (CrossMarks), totally confident with his ability to deal with slippery conditions, and Damien, out on full wet spikes (Tioga Black Turtles). My choice of HighRollers would be somewhere in between Paul and Damien. It would be interesting to see who ends up face first in a pile of mud. Paul noticed I was running V-brakes and was sure I was going to kill myself. He's onto something there.
We headed into the Pine Plantation attempting to retrace the BMC 100 course. This time, equipped with maps, we were confident in not getting lost like last time around. It only too us 45 min before we were lost again. No big deal, we were full kitted to deal with the worst and I've brought along plenty of Enduro / water / food after last weekend's stuff up at Chase The Sun Event, so march on we went.
The first casualty of the day was Paul, who, as usual, was inches behind me doing cowbell jeers. Down an embankment awash with mud, I braked, leaned back and held on for dear life and skidded down into a valley. Survived. Next to drop in was Paul, full of usual confident self. However mother nature was out to get him today and his choice of dry racers didn't pay. Out of control and out of shape, tumbled into a log he went. The crash was rather spectacular but Paul and his baby bike came out all OK, other than a slightly dented ego. Damien and I had a good laugh but the funny business soon stopped for Damien as it was his turn next. Well, what can I say about Damien? Super efficient as usual, no mess, no fuss. Cleaned the drop in as if it was dry. Damien & myself 1, Paul 0.
After that rather unexpected incident, we continued our way in search of the single tracks, to no avail, so we stuck with fire roads for most of the way and this is where Paul kicked our butt. He can ride and ride strongly. No hill is too steep for him and the only thing holding him back is the fact he was getting crap flung into his eyes as he forgot to wear eye protection.
Eventually we gave in and retraced our way back to our car. Paul wisely decided to take things a bit easier the second time around the scene of his last crash. Damien went first this time, again nailed it as if it was dry. I was next, sketch as hell, much to the amusement of Paul. Damien had his camera ready to record all the glory of Paul's descending antics. This time, he wisely chose an alternative line with lots of leaf litter, and with better traction than skidded out mud, Paul got down no dramas this time. Good thinking - no point being a sheep and follow blindly.
Our back tracking brought us back to our car, and a much need stop for a food break. We had another hour to burn so the decision was made to tackle the know single tracks. I've done these tracks before and loved them, so I was in my element in there. Love tree dodging and not even mud could hold me back from having a blast. Even managed to drop Paul & Damien through a fast twisty section, although I have to admit, it was because I had the right tires, not so much because I was a better rider. Damien was falling back in an unusual way and it soon became clear that his rear brake faded. Typical Avid Juicys - V-brakes never fail.
Eventually, the mud bath had to come to an end. We were all caked in but happy. Damien's bitten by the Commodore Bug and tried to roll his car doing handbrake turns, while Paul was being the usual funny sarcastic self when we were having Maccas, and his antics while in the car wash was legendary, but politically incorrect . I won't go into details here but Paul's one liners are can make a stone statue laugh.
Lesson for the day:
1. Always ride with better riders, it will teach you more and it will be more fun.
2. Can always count on Paul and Damien for a good ride, rain hail or shine.
3. I have a long way to go fitness and endurance wise to be able to hang out with either.
4. V-brake sucks in the wet, HighRollers are utterly brilliant all rounder tires.
5. Hanging out with Paul is like having fireworks in your hands - good fun but potentially volatile if you let him get carried away. Damien is the safety switch that Paul needs.
6. Damien wants to be a race car driver.