There are memorable routes on which the MC Velo Longest Day has taken us. When considering where to ride in the last week of Daylight Savings in March before clocks change back, we thought we would put it to the vote for a favourite route to emerge from previous adventures.
The winner was clear - a loop to Ettalong, via Wisemans Ferry. From MC Clubhouse, this is a big ride, totalling 228kms 3000^m on our route plan, but with several distance options for riders to choose how adventurous they felt (with train shortcuts to Hornsby or from Woy Woy). We last rode this route in November 2020, and we still talk about the tale.
The MC Velo Longest Day is a day of riding that everyone looks forward to. Book a day off work and ride your bike all day? Yes please! There is no clock-watching and no computer screens on the Longest Day…only freedom for the soul, country air, bakeries on route, great views, and many laughs.
Of course there are some rules….make sure your out-of-office is on, leave your watch at home, and put your phone on aeroplane mode.
Leading up to the day, Swerlo, a Longest Day regular, was looking disappointed. He had a client meeting booked which wasn’t looking likely to be cancelled. We suggested that he wasn’t looking very well and may be sick (wink wink) on Friday. Julia, another regular long day rider, was riding the Snowy Classic and out. Jen and Frankie seemed pleased to be working after reading the advertised ride headlines.
We saw riders through the Clubhouse days before the ride, ensuring their bikes were tuned, and on-bike nutrition was stocked, batteries charged. Ever since DanD told us that he polished his shoes after every ride, we are sure that shoes were being polished ready for the start, bright and early.
Planning starts with the ferry timetable from Ettalong to Palm Beach. We targeted the 14:30 ferry, which meant rolling from 05:00 and a couple of hours of riding north in the dark as we met Dan, Dami, Kelli and Gursu on the way at Hornsby. We were a peloton of 9 riders from Hornsby.
It was a cool start after the weather in Sydney started to dip this week. Dave confessed his arm warmers ready for the cool plunge into Galston Gorge, which teased us wondering about how cold the Gorge would be. The irony was that he hadn’t put them on when we left Hornsby, and putting them on while moving is a yet-to-be-acquired skill - he carried them all day without wearing them. We saw the sun rise on the Old Northern Road and its warmth broke the crisp morning air and began to lash our faces and arms. It was a lovely cosy feeling, building more excitement for the sun-filled day to come.
Keep following the Old Northern Road to Wiseman’s Ferry and you will get to the Great North Road at Wisemans Ferry, a 240km convict-built road joining Sydney and the Hunter Valley. It was built by hand between 1826 and 1834 and is one of the major engineering feats of the convict era. Today it is home the Convict100, a challenging MTB race featuring a mix of fast fire trail, technical rock gardens, rocky descents and spectacular ridgeline views.
Damiano was carrying a musette when he met us in Hornsby. What was he carrying in that bag? Carlos hoped it would be a pizza. It wasn’t until we arrived in Wisemans Ferry at 80kms, that we discovered his treats. Not only did he have a glass bottle full of chocolate milkshake, but Dami brought two sticks of salmon jerky. Asked about it, he said “it tastes terrible! …a sweet fishy flavour.”
There has been a lot of discussion lately about whether to run tubeless tire setups or not. At the cafe, Carlos waved his tubeless plug around crowing preparedness. That was until he dropped it, and lost it to the garden. This moment would haunt him.
After a short breakfast, we headed to the ferry to cross the Hawkesbury River for our ride along the river eastward. I had thought today wouldn’t bring tales to tell, and then Dave slipped on the ferry ramp with thunderous noise.
On the southern side of the mountain towering above us, we rode in the shade for the next 1.5 hours, crossing brief, brightly lit and warm segments. It wasn’t the constant sweltering heat we recalled from our last visit, to everyone’s relief.
Soon we came to our unplanned stop. Remember those tubeless plugs? Hitting a medium-sized pothole, Carlos’ tire burped all its air and without plugs, it was a tube to the rescue. Dami tested the inflated tire pressure with his tried-and-tested Italian method, “just like we do with the parmesan!”
Lunch timing was a loose plan, enough time for James to save a turtle on the busy road, but leaving enough time to reach the ferry meant that we had a prompt departure from the Harvest Kitchen after climbing to the top of Central Mangrove. It was a bit slow going in the kitchen with the influx of lunch orders. As we eagerly awaited our meals and counted down, Dan was getting nervous little by little as the time to reach the ferry reduced, and the required average speed increased.
In the end, after learning that James’ lunch had been dropped from the kitchen list, he graciously forfeited lunch to get riding. Carlos and Dave shared some of their food with James, and he ate the morsels of on-bike food we were carrying, hoping to not bonk, yet powered on at the front eager to complete the segment. All he spoke about was the sausage roll he hankered for.
We had only just over an hour to make 32kms. Kelli and Gursu made the decision to target the later 15:30 ferry, and we stepped on it to make the 14:30 departure from Ettalong. It was touch and go, but seeing people lined up on the wharf was enough of a prize that we had won that race - no podiums necessary.
Ironically, the ferry left at 14:40, and as we waited for it Dan reminded us of the unnecessary race. That was until he started thinking about the 50kms yet to ride from Palm Beach back to MC Clubhouse!
We hit Palm Beach with a promise of food for James. Our regular cafe was closed, so the next option was the Chick’n Shack Cafe down the road. A burger and chips and coke was what James needed to come back to life and be ready for the home stretch.
Pittwater Rd at the best of times isn’t wonderful, but late on a Friday afternoon is not for the faint hearted. The bus lane was our friend, allowing us to ride freely and fast, spurred on by the allure of refreshing beers at the Clubhouse. We had lots of good quality discussion on optimising routes through Neutral Bay and the CBD to get us back as quickly as possible safely. The only truth was that every way was crowded, full of cars.
We made it back to the MC Clubhouse at 17:47, making this adventure just short of 13 hours.
There was celebration and achievement. For some it was their longest ride ever. For others, their achievement was acknowledged by all. The package of weather, people, exertion, and pleasurable riding, topped it all off for each of us.
The MC Velo Longest Day has something for everyone, and for most people, riding 200kms in a day is beyond normal expectations. While each Longest Day is different, the camaraderie that develops over the day helps ensure that everyone completes, has fun and laughs, is always the same. This day was no exception.
Kelli & Gursu made the 15:30 ferry and took their ride home to the Northern Beaches in their stride. James skipped celebratory beers, but there was no way Dave was going to miss them. Damiano was last seen heading to Bondi with his salmon jerky still poking out his jersey pocket. Carlos went looking for extra kms, and Dan had to do extras to get to his car parked far from the finish. Swerlo had a successful client meeting, and was happy enough to not get seasick as usual on the ferry. Tim still had a smile ear to ear from a great day riding.
- Group distance 1947.18 climbing 23841^m
- Rider distance 216.92kms, climbing 2,888^m (from MC to MC)
- Moving time 8:33 (from MC to MC). Elapsed time 12:47 (from MC to MC)
- 0.3 salmon jerky stick consumed
- Baked goods consumed at each stop > 1
- 1 puncture
We have already made a diary entry for the next Longest Day - Fri 11 August 2023.