Rider Story - Robyn, Andrew & Ray Get Their 'Gravel' On....
Cycling super-couple and third wheel ride from Lithgow to Mittagong
Ray had been harassing two friends to cycle with him on Saturday mornings for a long time. “But Ray, we have to get up at 5.30am. That’s not possible for us.” Complained Andrew.
“But Ray, there will be people in Lycra.” Whined Robyn. “You will like it” Said Ray.
The thing about Ray is that he is not very convincing.
Far from it, he often has what appear to be very bad ideas. The worst, in fact. It’s worth mentioning here that he was once hospitalised for six months after a cycling accident (such an incident does not bode well for one’s credibility.)
Nevertheless, to his credit, Ray is utterly relentless. After months of his incessant water-torturous tenacity, the cycling couple caved in and decided to give the MC Classic a whirl.
Ray was right, they did like it!
After a couple of months of trading REM sleep for sunrises over La Perouse with the MC Classic bunch, Ray was at it again. This time, he wanted to do a two-day cycle tour from Lithgow to Mittagong.
“It’s only two days” said Ray “Two days of torture” scoffed Robyn. “We’ve never been touring before. It might be a bit much for us to start with” mused Andrew. “You will like it” said Ray
The pedalling pair did some soul searching. They had earlier that year each bought a super breed of road bike that could apparently handle anything, with a view to expanding their cycling cachet to include touring (His and hers Specialized Diverges.... matchy matchy!).
So, the score quickly changed: Relentless Ray 2. Goodhills 0.
Preparation for the tour involved Robyn breaking a gear cable and a bottom bracket two days before leaving. “It’s an omen. We are not meant to go on this tour” Robyn asserted. “You will like it” said Ray.
In a classic Goodhill attempt to circumvent the 4am wake-up required to meet up at the Lithgow start point on Saturday, a decision was made to stay the night in Lithgow on Friday. The trio met up on Friday afternoon and fully loaded with panniers and camping gear, rode up the George Street Cycleway through Redfern to Central. Bikes sure were heavy with all this stuff on them, they realised. But it was too late to turn back!
Robyn was so nervous upon reaching Central station that she almost boarded a train to Newcastle. “Guys, my subconscious is trying to tell us something important” she reflected. At this point, the others began to regret bringing a Psychologist along with them.
Although the wondrous Chris Moore (of Omafiets bike shop in Redfern, for all your touring needs.... However for all your other bike needs you should totally go to MC Cyclery in MaroubraJ) had ridden the route before and had “organised” the tour, the ride was unsupported. In fact, there were not any real options for bailing out along the way.
The first 20km was deceptively easy. Only a little uphill, beautiful sealed road, cows, wind turbines, and lots of sunshine. A veritable utopia!
We spent about 8 hours in the saddle that day, and the surfaces were mostly bearable. There were the eerie leftovers of a pine tree massacre, bushland bits, farmland bits, lots of echidnas... the scenery was truly beautiful.
We enjoyed a whimsical descent into Jenolan caves (although it heralded the first flat tire of the trip). The uphill was another story. To say it was steep would be an understatement: 4.3km, 11.2% average grade. Robyn and Andrew cursed their road gearing (not low enough!) and back-loaded luggage meant there were some unintentional wheelies/brushes with death. It doesn’t matter who reached the top first, what matters is that we all made it (but in case you were wondering, it was Robyn).
We rode until sunset, at which point we stopped to camp at an old abandoned hut along the Colong-Oberon stock route at Mt. Werong.
The next day we continued along this route and discovered that sealed roads were well and truly a thing of the past. Fire trails, dirt, sand, gravel, rocks, corrugations. Not ideal terrain for our road tires; Two flats within an hour of setting out!
In her newfound state of delirium, Robyn composed a song entitled “riding in the bush” that she sang repetitively in a meditative attempt to distract from the pain of the vibrations and bumps, as well as to keep morale high (who said having a Psychologist along was a bad idea...?). Needless to say, our bums were WELL SORE! The descent into Wombeyan caves was a godsend: sealed road and mighty fine views to boot. Wombeyan caves even had a café and we greedily demolished their entire stock of mars bars.
Another climb (exceedingly more enjoyable than Jenolan), and we were ready to luxuriate in another downhill. Unfortunately, the travellers stumbled across a serious-looking road closure at the top of the hill. There was an awkward period of deliberation about whether to disobey the signs and continue, and the decision was ultimately made based on the fact that there was no available detour, and it was way too late to turn back....
The story that followed involved an angry contractor and a serious shaming, the details of which will not be elaborated here (ask Ray for the full story in person). At the bottom of the hill we crossed the oasis-like Wollondilly river. Then, you guessed it, another uphill. Gentler than previous ones and in fact, the trio had habituated to hills by now. However, time was slipping by. The race was on to get to the train by sundown and energy was low. Not to mention the sore bums! Two full days on the saddle – our road saddles mind you – and you have a disastrous recipe of pain, pins & needles, and “chaffage”.
More farmland. More trees. More hills. Then suddenly, we were on a sealed country road. Were it not for the fact that we had been pedalling for almost two days straight, that we were carrying a bunch of luggage, and our rising anxiety about making it to the train out of Mittagong... this would have been our ideal riding conditions. Smooth surface, courteous drivers, undulating hills. Gorgeous!
In the end, we did make it in time for the train, and even had time to smash a kebab in our gobs before jumping on! We’d do it again – let us know if you want to come – but for now, we’ll stick to the MC Classic until our legs recover:)
R, R & A