Ride Against The Tacks

24 Hours of riding the Yarra Boulevard and a little bit more

Below is my account of a ride undertaken starting on June 7 and concluding about 33 hours later on Monday afternoon. My participation was due to my frustration at the constant presence of tacks on the Yarra Boulevard, a ride of defiance dubbed the “RAT Ride” (ride against the tacks). There are others that can better convey the myriad of problems that have arisen out of the stupid act of strewing tacks over a road surface, but I can describe the experience I had in quiet protest of this act.

Not clever. Not funny.

The alarm was set for 4am on Sunday – a different alarm tone to usual helps me get excited when waking up at silly o’clock – and I was on the way to Jolimont by 4:30 with a few snacks in the back pocket. My intention was to roll some laps with the “Jolimont 3” before heading off on my own adventure, and it really helped set me up for a big one. Rich, Dave and Jason were about 10 hours in when I arrived, having a stretch and having a bit of a whinge…. After 15 laps or so riding a blue bike with them, I could see why – those guys truly have a central core of hardness and an amazing sense of humour. They’ve probably forgotten by now, but all 3 of them gave me a massive confidence boost when they wished me good luck for the RAT Ride – this meant so much to me coming from some rad Hells 500 heroes.

Rich having a stretch in between donuts

By the time I arrived at the top of Walmer St, just before 7, I’d been riding for a couple of hours and covered about 20km and 500 odd metres of vert. Hints of daylight were breaking through and slowly cars were filtering into the “top carpark”. Everyone was asking the question, “are you going for the everesting?” to each other, and my response each time was pretty vague… usually something along the lines of, “I dunno.. I’ll try and ride for 24 hours, hopefully I can manage that and I’ll be happy.” The estimates were around the 450-500km mark to achieve that…. something I had done before and didn’t really want to contemplate again.George was running a little late, and all the riders assembled did some posing for the Channel 7 camera, but we got moving by 7:30am.

Suffice to say that the pace was fast for hours. I was out of food by 10:30, and was waiting for Donna to turn up with supplies, and really didn’t feel up to a 24 hour ride early on. I had a hot lap chasing down the bunch after I did get some more food, with my heart rate creeping over 170bpm (I was sure that this was not a good thing). But with a longer mid-afternoon coffee break and a decent lunch, I was definitely feeling better.

Brad and I took off a little earlier on lap 11, deciding it was time to keep our own pace for a while, and not try and pace in the bunch. I think this was probably the case for most of the group by this stage, with others heading out in smaller groups with new support riders as others dropped off. I was trying to keep to George’s strategy of taking a small break every 5 laps, and a longer break every 10 laps, and this really worked for me. The only real alterations to this was coming in a little early to put lights on (after a stunning sunset!) and at 8pm to have dinner with Donna (she brought me two large pizzas which I was thankful to chow down on throughout the night).

After 290km I was definitely up for pizza!

In comparison to the Humevale night laps, the boulevard was kind of fun (type 2 fun, anyway). I wasn’t worried about wildlife, the road wasn’t rough, I’d occasionally have other riders passing one way or the other to say hello to, and there were support riders out! Jake swung around on me near the Studley Park Rd bridge around 10pm and gave me an hour or so of conversation, some friendly grey stripes rolled through and a number of other randoms kept me awake – thank you all! I had no issues with charging, no issues with lights, and wasn’t constantly changing in and out of trackies. Plus the u-turn at the Chandler Highway end, by the bus stop, was under street light…. anyone else riding lap after lap that night must have felt the same security and relief at that end… Marginal Gains.

Getting close to dawn, George rolled out after a break soon after me. I was determined not to let him catch me and was spurned on to ride a little quicker. This definitely proved to be a great wake up for me, and we rode quickly together through sunrise, both benefitting from the kick in of our cicadean rhythm. Anyone that has done a similar ride will know what this is like – and I really felt that George and I were steam rolling laps for a couple of hours! The regular riders were out for the weekend exercise, and I couldn’t help but wonder how many realised what we’d been up to all night.

I’m not sure what time it was, but 24 hours had well and truly elapsed and George was onto his last lap. His Edge 510 had him at the mark, whilst I was kilometres ahead but had gained less than 8000m according to my Edge 500 (don’t forget the vert I’d already gained before I got to Walmer St!). I was unsure as to what reading I should believe, but everyone that was still going at that point had covered a shitload of kilometres but had very different vertical gains (Marginal Gains again?). In any case, I’d completed 33-34 laps when George called it a day (i’m pretty sure he was one lap down at that stage), and still had legs to keep going. I’d mentioned to George earlier that I’d like to go for 10000m vert and join the High Rouleur Society, and was given the advice that was already on mind from what Brad had been up to around midnight… once you’re sure that you’ve completed YB, just start lapping Walmer St!

Donna had already given me the green light to keep going, and arrived mid morning with a coffee and bog roll (best thing that has happened to anyone, ever). I caught up with Alan and Rohan on their last lap when they were pulled over at the top of the Guide Dog Hill with a flat. Unlucky. It was great riding back in for the end of their ride… I hadn’t spent many kilometres with them at all, but I was so stoked to see them make it through the 24 hours and then some. And they rode fucking fast that last half lap. My last few were quite a slog. Occasionally I could put in an effort up a small hill in the big dog, but mostly I was just spinning along. Getting passed by people, passing people – really just going through the motions of YB laps. I ditched my wind shell for the last lap to reveal the Grey Stripe… This gave me another confidence boost, and it was certainly not as cold and windy as it had been the whole way through.

Coffee!!! Poop Time!!!

40 laps of the Yarra Boulevard were done. Dinner party conversation for the next couple of months – check! Tuesday #RFWYA conversation was not yet up to scratch in my mind :p. I was going for 6 seasons and a movie. At that point I’d covered 570 odd kilometres and was only 250 vertical metres or so off hitting the 10000m mark (or so says the Edge… maybe it was already a lot more). Turns out doing box loops at the end of the boulevard is really hard when you’ve already covered a lot of ground in a lot of time. Normally I can smash up those hills in a pretty big gear and keep up with the Hells 500 group. This time it was like screws tightening in the back. The chain wouldn’t stay on the biggest ring on the back (a 25t), so it had to be the second biggest… whatever that is. A couple of loops around here was shit. But I got through it and took a quick check at the car at the top of Walmer St. The vert was essentially in the bag, but I was only 20km off hitting 600… what would Martin English think if i didn’t round it up?

The last 20km I was finally feeling flogged. The steep vert around Walmer might have done it, but I was actually feeling pretty good before that, all things considered. One more trip north on the boulevard and I decided I’d loop around Kew and Ivanhoe to finish the day. 10000m ticked by and I was feeling pretty stoked, but I was none to keen to shift back into the big ring. On roads I’d normally try and rip along, I had very little to give. It was demoralising getting onto Heidelberg road and realising I’d have to do some laps around Alphington and Fairfield before I got home. But I swung the leg off the bike, walked through the gate and at 2pm took a magical photo.

Money Shot

Thank you to all involved. I really do hope that I’ve seen the last of the tacks on the Yarra Boulevard. And I look forward to the next reason to wrap that grey stripe around my chest.