On Saturday, 22 August 2009 I arrived in Kalamunda for a 160km hill ride. The ride would take us past 4 of Perth’s dams and was named ‘Dambusters’. As the ride organiser checked us in he played the theme from the movie ‘Dambusters’ and gave us all code names. It added a bit of fun to what was shaping up to be a pretty hard ride.
6 of us set off at 8AM in dry conditions but with more rain threatening. The first part of the ride down the zig-zag was easy as it is all down hill. Shortly after we hit our first hill (which I have ridden up before) but I really struggled up this time. I took a bike with a triple chain-ring to make the hills easier but they didn’t seem easier.
Eventually I struggled to the top of the hill to find Aaron waiting at the top. The next section through John Forrest National park was flatter and more scenic with views through the forest of rolling hills in the distance. A light drizzle started part of the way through but not enough to get really wet.
Heading through Hovea there was another series of hills where Aaron left me. I struggled up the hills by myself and then headed off for Gidgegannup. There was a couple of steeper hills out of Stoneville which slowed me down again but soon the road became rolling hills and I picked up the pace.
The road took me through open farmland with intermittent forest, much nicer than urban riding. The next section was uneventful until I got to Mundaring. I was pulling up at a set of lights ready to unclip (my first time using cleats) and my foot would not come out of the pedal. I started to fall and just got my foot out of the pedal with time to plant my foot on the ground to prevent my first clipstack.
I cycled carefully to the first control point where everyone else was leaving! I knew at that point I was way behind time and would struggle to make the deadline. The first control was for an English Tea (tea with scones) in accordance with the theme of the day. However, out of time I grabbed a huge (and delicious) scone, wolfed half of it, and took off. I went to clip in when I realised that my cleat was in the pedal. I had not unclipped at the lights, I had ripped my shoe right off the cleat! I knew it would take some time to fix so I sent Aaron off and started to get myself organised. I ended up riding down the road to find a good spot and found Aaron looking for the road to Mundaring Weir. Aaron on his way, I set about removing the cleat from the pedal. I managed to dislodge it with an Allan key and replaced the cleat, tightening the screws a lot more this time.
The run down to Mundaring Weir was great. It was mostly downhill and a lot of the road surface was new, so a smooth, fast run. I made my way across the Mundaring Weir Dam wall. It was fun and different riding across a dam, which I have never done before. The hills back into Kalamunda are quite long but not too steep, so I started to feel better about the ride.
The next section through Carmel to Roleystone seemed like it was up hill all the way. Glen Isla road was really steep too and I barely made it to the top. By the time I got to Brookton Highway, I was really hungry and looking for the deli control point. The first part was a long, slow uphill into a bitterly cold headwind. However, the rest was all downhill and a nice rest from all the hill climbing. As I pulled into the Deli I saw Aaron coming back the other way, so we grabbed some food and coffee together, while I tightened my cleat screws.
Reinvigorated, we set off for Churchman Brook Reservoir up quite a steep hill. In the middle of a climb, my chain jumped down 2 cogs at the back, bringing me to a sudden stop. With no time to unclip, I very slowly tipped onto the road verge. I fell quite gently onto my side, so picked myself up and kept going. I did notice that my bike was not staying in gear though, which was going to make the next serious of hills impossible.
Fortunately Aaron knew how to adjust the barrel adjuster to keep the bike in gear, but it was not engaging the biggest rear cog, explaining why I had been struggling to get up the hills (I thought I had been using the biggest cog all day).
On our way again I managed up to the Soldiers Road and finally made some good time down to Albany Highway.
Wungong Reservoir was spectacular with a nice ride over the dam wall. More steep hills to get out though and by the end of those I was not sure I would be able to ride up any more hills. However, we pressed on and eventually reached Canning Reservoir. The view from the end of the dam wall was great, but unfortunately the dam wall was closed so that was one Dam we didn’t bust.
The road out of Roleystone really tested my resolve as my energy levels lagged and I struggled to maintain any forward momentum. By to top of that hill, Aaron said I looked like I was about to collapse and I felt like I was.
There was just one more big hill at the start of Canning Road before a wonderfully long downhill section into Pickering Brook followed by and even steeper downhill though Carmel.
I was so close to the finish point and thought I might be able to make it within the time limit. But then I hit the first hill on Aldersyth Road and stopped the bike. I had nothing left in my legs, so jumped off and walked up the hill munching on a muesli bar. I stopped at the bottom of the next hill and did the same thing. By the time I had walked to the top of that hill I was out of time, the sun had gone and the roads out there are unlit. My pedals are one sided and I don’t have a helmet light yet, so I could not see well enough to clip in. I realised I needed more light. Luckily I bought a gimmicky mobile phone with a torch function so I mounted the phone on my helmet and set off. I could look down and make sure my pedals were the right way up before I clipped in. Safely clipped in, I very slowly made my way up the seemingly never ending hill up to the finish point.
I was totally exhausted by the end of the ride, but this was my week 12 challenge ride. I had set it as a goal 12 weeks before so it would have been very hard to quit, even though I felt like quitting lots of times.
This was the first time I had mechanical problems on a ride and having to be resourceful and solve the problems added another dimension to the ride and fitted with the Dambusters theme.
I farewelled Aaron and made my way to John’s house to drop off my Brevet card and to be treated with a cheese sandwich. As my energy levels were lagging it felt really good to eat!
This ride was the most physically demanding thing I have ever done and my hardest ride to date. After weeks off the bike, it was great to be back on the road. It was also a huge personal achievement for me to push past sheer exhaustion and to finish regardless. It shows how far I have come since March when I struggled to finish a relatively flat 100km!
A huge thank you to John for organising a challenging ride which became an epic adventure.