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“Pick me up at 5.45 on Sunday morning.  We’ll leave the car at Greg’s place and head on from there”.  Instructions from Tim prior to our early morning rendezvous outside his place.

Tim Darby claims that age is slowing him down somewhat, and that the only prospect is even slower.  A sculptor amongst so many other things, he’s certainly accrued more than his fair share of niggling aches and scars.  General opinion, though, is that he’ll have to age quite a bit more before the rest of us have a hope!

Loaded up, and sitting in the car, we both realise that we only know how to get to Greg’s house by bicycle.  After a moment to grin at our shared limitation, we decide to approximate our motorised route as closely as possible to the bike path into Perth, and hope that a little bit of ‘zen’ will get us there.  Tim’s only reference for timing is an extended rush-hour return in a borrowed car. So, even allowing for a regular smattering of dead-ends, one-way streets and “we just want to be over there!”s, we arrive early and in time for tea.

Greg and Clint make up our foursome – they both are regular participants in the local mtb races. My growing sense of concern is heightened when they reveal that they think our ride will take 4 hours.  All 90km+ of it!

Our plan is to ride along main bike path to Midland, get onto the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail up into the hills, and finally link onto the Kep Track at Mount Helena – endpoint Northam and lunch with the Mums and kids who are bringing us home again.

The riding’s easy, without anything technical unless you go looking for it.  Hence the anticipated pace.  For me it’s an interesting intersection with the more mainstream (or at least visible) mountain biking scene locally.  Onto the rail trails and gravel – the conversation turns to tactics in races, the merits of various muesli bars and sweets for fast-energy, and Clint’s tendency to casually pull ‘wheelies’ in relaxed fashion when the rest of us are busting a gut trying to keep up!

Sometimes following the water pipeline, the trail is rarely technical and only occasionally soft.  Ideal for a slower paced meander.  Greg and Clint had set up their families to arrive in Northam at 1pm, so relaxation wasn’t going to happen.

I am definitely the weakest link – and only possibly because my fat-tail is inherently the slowest bike by far.  It comes as a relief when the final few kilometres down into Northam provide some narrower, more technique-oriented options and I can hold-parr with the others (barring Clint).

A good morning’s work, but humbling.

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