Monday, November 1, 2010

The hills are alive...

Its always great to meet new friends on the saddle. Tony, a very seasoned MTB and World Tourer, took us to Kelmscott to do his favourite Brookton Highway loop, with 8km of climbing awaiting us. This is where the famous Araluen Botanic Park is, renowned for its beautiful tulips in August. Tony mentioned that this part of Perth reminded him of Europe so that got me sold to give it a go.

We caught the train to Kelmscott which was painless enough and being a Saturday morning, we had the whole train and the stations all to our three selves plus bikes.

After my trip to Laos, I have grown to appreciate hills and climbs, as it rewards often with magnificent scenery. The Brookton Loop did not disappoint.

Tony enjoys eating wild fruit and introduced us at the beginning of the ride to juicy, sweet, black Mulberries. It was a great novelty for Chris and I to be able to eat fruit plucked from the roadside without paying. Typical city folks we are! Just ten minutes after the first fruit stop, Tony pulled over again to feast this time on golden loquats. I enjoyed this better as its yellow flesh was really refreshing and its sweetness gave us the necessary boost to start out climb.

Chris’ Surly LHT tackled the climb effortless and my Speed Pro did very well too with a low 27" gear range, with Tony in the lead on his Giant MTB. I found the long climb to the top manageable despite being warned that at some stages, we may "die". The challenge laid in it being almost continuously uphill with some granny gear stages. I supposed when we have survived many mothers of all hills in Indonesia and Laos, we don't "die" that easily.

Halfway up the climb though, my steering started to feel very unresponsive. Closer inspection revealed a possible headset problem which could not be resolved. At the top of the climb, we borrowed some tools at a local garage but still could not overcome the stiff steering.

This was most unfortunate as I could not enjoy hammering downhill on the return leg as the bike had a very unpredictable weave. This proved harrowing when tackling long sweepers at 40+kmh with cars passing close by. I knew I should go slower but alas, the need for speed prevailed. Needless to say, both Chris (56kmh) and Tony left me behind in their wake.

We enjoyed a nice lunch break of ham sandwiches, hard boil eggs with fruit and swop bike stories (what else?). Tony explained his new found passion of recycling used bicycles. He has about 10 in this house awaiting his attention.

I was very pleased and grateful to Tony for showing me this new bike route. It is a welcome change indeed from the flattish rides of Perth.

To use the famous words of Julie Andrew’s song in the 1965 musical production, “The hills come alive, with the sound of music (from bicycles cranking uphill and flying down)”.

Update 2 Nov: I'm delighted to report that the Speed Pro had a new ball bearing head set replaced by George's Bike Shop at Willetton and running like new again. Great service! Thanks Ellis.

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