It rained pretty much all winter here last year, the wettest winter for 70 years, so there wasn't much riding done and I laid plans to build a winter bike capable of withstanding the never-ending deluge. Or an ark. The former project continues but thankfully this winter has been a return to the norm with lovely crisp days and the occasional pearler with bright blue skies and welcome warming sunshine. Mudguards seem somehow redundant this season.
Since I have Sunday-Monday off and my wife was working Monday I decided it would be the perfect day to have another crack at the Riverbank Ramble 200km Permanent on the road bike with Bicycle Tim - a favourite route for us both and a good chance to get some miles in our legs. It's a challenging loop ride, lots of good-sized hills for the first 120-odd kilometres, followed by a fast downhill then flat run home broken only by a final bump about 5km from the finish.
What a perfect day it turned out to be. Though mostly overcast, there were more than a few moments when I felt distinctly overdressed in a long sleeved top and winter gloves as the mercury nudged up to 15 degrees Celsius. My last attempt at this ride in November wasn't an overwhelming success. I rode well, but a stiff headwind over the last 80km and perhaps a lack of conditioning left me completely knackered towards the end. I've been spending a fair bit of time at the gym of late and had a few easy days beforehand so I was feeling rested and fit, but a few strong gusts of wind rattled the house Sunday night and left me feeling worried I'd be bitten again. My concern was misplaced, Monday dawned unusually warm for winter and still and overcast.
We set off from Kingston Beach spot on 7am and quickly made our way through Hobart and up the bike track before climbing the ride's major climb - the 400m grind to Glenlusk. Despite a brief scare on a wet wooden bridge on the way down the other side we were cruising smoothly and decided to take our first break at Bushy Park 70km in, where we refreshed with toasted sandwiches and cake and a big plate of chips.
Back on the road through my favourite section of this ride through Glenora to Westerway I was having such a good time I clean forgot about the next big hill - on the way into Ellendale which slowed me to a granny-gear crawl. The following two are steep but nowhere near as long of high so it was was across the Derwent causeway and right up the Lyell Highway to Hamilton for a brush with an angry log truck driver and a spot of lunch.
From the top of the big hill past Hamilton the ramble ride becomes a pearler of a downhill and with a slight tailwind we zoomed down towards New Norfolk where we had a quick bite to eat before knocking off the relatively flat 50km into Hobart- made even easier by roadworks which have smoothed out at least one of the hills I remember from my last trip. With plenty of time on the clock we stopped at the Riverview Inn at Taroona for a delightful couple of beers before knocking off the back side of Bonnett Hill to finish in a respectable elapsed time of 11h30m, of which 9h30m was spent on the bike. The time was about an hour less than my last effort, mainly I suspect thanks to Tim setting a fair pace out front all day. And despite 2000m of climbing for the day and not having done that much riding lately, I felt surprisingly good at the finish.
2,736km so far this year.
Photo from Flickr by Smiling Da Vinci.