Well, what a ride! Riders came from all over and joined in from various locations. For many it was train from Violet Town back to Seymour, with cars left at Violet Town. For some it was train from Euroa to Seymour. And joining in at Seymour directly.
V-Line made the ride interesting before it even started, with our southbound train coming into the wrong platform at Violet Town
. This had riders and other waiting passengers scurrying to get onto the right platform before the train departed. There was good bike storage in the train’s baggage car.
Riders came from Melbourne – north, east, south, inner. Castlemaine. Bendigo. Kyabram.
There were bikes of all types. A couple of Trek roadies, a good selection of cyclo-cross, a hybrid/commuter, a stealth de-logo’d Repco roadie which had been lovingly restored and upgraded, a 20 year old steel-framed Fondriest roadie with beautiful chrome-work in showroom/wall-art condition, and others.
The weather was on our side. Clear skies. Cool morning. Predicted maximum temperature in the mid to high 20’s. The possibility of headwinds, but not too strong.
Priorities first. After the train arrived at Seymour, there was a café stop before we even started. This allowed for introductions and a good coffee before we commenced. The café stop delayed our start a little, putting us slightly behind schedule. But we knew where we stood due to detailed timing information from the previous week’s ride along the same route. We set off at a leisurely pace and soon cleared Seymour’s outer limits.
Disaster struck about 10km into the ride, with our ride guide/leader’s bike’s left crank arm deciding that it didn’t like his bike anymore, and undergoing permanent separation
. Poor Nixtrader now had a bike which was no longer rideable. Fortunately this occurred only 10km into the ride. Even more fortunately it was a gentle downhill roll for him to get back to the start at Seymour - although his car was still at Violet Town.
Our group continued on, leaderless. However, Nixtrader’s good ride notes, gpx file and directions meant that we were able to continue on as planned.
We soon hit the gravel and uphill sections. This was a challenge, especially for those on the skinnier tyres. Gravel, corrugations and deep sand drifts made detailed bike control imperative. Deep ruts also appeared occasionally on the “roads”, plus there were some rocky outcrops on the surface to mix things up a bit. The need to continually focus on the ride surface meant that some of the nicer views could only be glimpsed for short periods of time. But beautiful views they were.
A pinch flat on the rear tyre of one of the road-bikes was quickly sorted out. The location was well worth stopping at anyway; in a valley by some rocky rapids in a fast flowing creek. Very picturesque.
Some more climbing. Some more rocks/sand/dirt. Some more jarring corrugations. Some plagues of locusts - a "biblical" ride(?). And soon we were at Ruffy, about a third of the way into the ride.
The café at Ruffy is an oasis in the middle of nowhere. Expansive old oak trees shaded the outdoor lunch tables. Permanently installed retro bikes adorned the cafe's fence and added to the atmosphere. Occasional acorns dropped in our vicinity, and bike helmets may have come in handy if one of them dropped on a rider’s head. Nixtrader had set up a much appreciated water refill station at this café the previous day, so our bidons were replenished as required. The food, drink and service were great at this lunch-stop.
We could easily have called it quits there, as it was so relaxing sitting under the oak trees enjoying good food, drink and company. But Violet Town was calling, with more hills, gravel, dirt and corrugations in between. So off we went to tackle the remainder of the ride.
Some riders had to be back in Melbourne by a certain time, so took a bail-out option and headed straight back to Euroa. The remainder continued on for some surprisingly steep climbs which were encountered during the second part of our day in the Strathbogie Ranges. The steepest parts of these climbs had riders zig-zagging or walking to get to the top, very thankful that the steep sections weren’t too long. Figures of 20% were bandied about. It certainly seemed like it.
A little more distance under our belts and some new scenic areas soon had us riding into the Strathbogie township. By this time, Nixtrader had endured a two hour wait for his northbound train at Seymour (with the train again coming into the wrong platform
), made it to Violet Town to pick up his car, then driven back to Strathbogie to wait for us there. What a guy!
The time spent Strathbogie café stop was shorter than Ruffy, as we were still full from all the delicious lunchtime food. However, there were good drinks and milkshakes on offer at Strathbogie. Plus another of Nixtrader’s water drop-offs for bidon refills. This water drop-off was nicely chilled!
Note: these isolated townships don’t have mains water, so if you ask the shop to refill your bidon, they’re using their own expensive bought water or boiled tank water.
After the Strathbogie café stop, it was time for the (mostly) downhill run back to Violet Town. The group split in two, with some riders following the planned dirt route, and others opting for an alternative sealed road route.
Violet town was reached by remaining riders well ahead of the latest time schedule. Nixtrader had even marked a finish line for us, which enhanced the feeling of a great day’s adventure and achievement.
Some celebratory drinks were had in an outdoor setting in front of the Violet Town pub, accompanied tales of what had occurred on this memorable ride, including a Snake Tales story for the riders on the dirt road back to Violet Town
Over 100km. Up and over the Strathbogie Ranges; both the south section and the north section. Only the occasional car. Heaps of climbing. Heaps of gravel. Heaps of fun!
All in all, a wonderful day was had by the riders, thanks to Nixtrader’s meticulous ride scoping, planning, organisation, communication and support. Plus the keen riders themselves. It was a shame that Nixtrader couldn’t complete yesterday’s ride due to his mechanical problem near the start. However, he completed the same ride with other riders the previous weekend, so was with us in sprit all the way.