Today, despite thrashing rain and thunderstorm warnings, I took my bike for a bit of a ride.
Driving out to the Blue Mountains in driving rain - and a couple of scary aquaplaning moments - I questioned the wisdom of doing the ride at all. There was a lot of rain on the radar, and thunderstorm chances were high, but arriving at Katoomba things looked dry-ish
So, off I went. The first potential mistake happened when I parked on Cliff Drive. The start there is, I have subsequently discovered, at the top of a category 5 climb. Lovely on the way down, pretty harsh on the way back up. However I digress.
The rain was minimal as I started, but within three minutes, as I arrived at the sensible riders' parking spot, the rain was battering down.
I had second thoughts. For about two minutes. Rain doesn't bother me in and of itself. The effects of rain do, but more anon.
The official start of the track is a little further along, past some steep tarred road, and though there is a small descent immediately after the gate, you're looking at another 5-6kms of on-off climbing, until the really good bit starts.
And it's the final half of the outbound ride that really makes the day. Raining insanely as it was, I found the lesser inclines welcoming, and the surrounding forest began to open out, leading to a long descent to the lookout at the far end of Narrowneck, where I caught up with three riders I'd be trailing behind for most of the way
Which is where this happened
Oh Lawdy. Thunder.
Shortly before that, I'd seen a perfectly straight, single bolt of lightning between the valley floor and a point in the clouds below where I was standing. I was slightly worried about running the last 12-13km back along an exposed ridgeline, on a metal contraption, with that storm heading my way.
So I started to head back.
It was during this run back, which if anything was easier than the ride out, that I rediscovered some old habits. Such as conversing with my own legs. They tend not to answer directly, but they seem to at least respond somewhat, though the climbs became walks in short order. And the rain continued.
Additionally, I realised that the sandy soil of the Blue Mountains, when mixed with water, becomes a grinding paste. The sandy mud is probably less of a problem for a modern, disc-brake equipped bike, but my bike is early-90s vintage and still runs cantilever brakes, grinding sandy mud against my expensive-back-when-I-bought-them rims.
My wheels are in trouble. If I ride these trails much more, I'm going to have to buy new wheels three times a year.
Still, I was almost back to the car. With only a very large descent - and then that cat 5 climb - to go. And on the descent I discovered that I'm rubbish at judging corners whe I have no glasses on. And the tree I crashed into (non-injuriously) was probably as surprised as I was. Still, it was nice to get the heart racing (more) before the final climb.
I slogged hard but still ended up pushing the last section, though when the riders I'd met earlier drove past me, they gave me a hearty "great effort" for my work.
Verdict on the route: Fantastic, would get 5 stars in dry conditions. So I'll be back, obviously.
Now, give me more beer.
posted @ Saturday, January 21, 2012 10:51 PM