What doesn’t sound good about taking a Friday off work to simply enjoy riding your bike? No clock watching. No computer. No Zoom schedules. The Longest Day is that. A target of 200kms that brings freedom for the mind. Nothing but country air, new scenes, and all day with like-minded cyclists.
Our inaugural Longest Day was in July and after such a great event, we had planned for another one in 2020.
Our plan this time was broadly to ride to Ettalong on the Central Coast. This is typically a 160km loop from Maroubra - so some work needed to meet the 200km requirement for Longest Day. The ride along the Hawkesbury was so memorable that extending to Wiseman’s Ferry was an easy option, but with a start from Hornsby to reduce some kms.
An escape route was planned. For those who wanted or needed a shorter goal - the train from Woy Woy at 130km (from Hornsby) was available.
Planning had short timed stops to keep us on time for ferry departures at Ettalong, and keep us moving. While desktop planning for lunch in Central Mangrove (atop Mangrove Mountain) worked well with times, the risk of only finding a general store would have made for an unrewarding lunch stop and under-fuelled riders. Peter did a reccy with some local knowledge to organise some extra hands at the Harvest Kitchen in Peats Ridge, and passed the specific details to Kelli. All set.
By Thursday midday, 20 people had let the office and home know that the bike was first for Friday. By 0400 Friday, we had a solid group of 16 ready for an awesome day.
To the start. Starting in Hornsby meant first getting there (from Maroubra for most of us). The train was an option, but for those who live by ‘ride to the ride’, it was bike all the way from MC and the promise of a ‘gentle’ saunter’ up the Pac Hwy to now blow all the matches early. As Timmy said, ‘For me, it wasn't morally right to not ride to Hornsby’.
It was going to be (and was) a hot one - sunscreen essential! There was talk of headwinds and elements, and it being ‘not a day for a brick’ [on a bike].
Coffee and briefing at Hornsby (at our now twice frequented coffee shop by the adult store in Horsnby). Keep together. No-drop. Short stops. First stop for breakfast was Wiseman’s Ferry at 40kms.
We arrived at Wiseman's with perfect timing and no issues. At the cafe, I spoke to a guy sitting alone with a bikepacking bike decked out with new panniers. He had just started a 3 week adventure riding from Sydney to Brisbane (935km) - his gap after completing university and before starting work. An idea for another time!
We anticipated the ride from Wiseman’s Ferry (turning East to follow the Hawkesbury River) to be similar to our last ride in this area (previously we turned left to follow the Hawkesbury). It was a quiet road (with quite a few holes) with lovely scenery, sided in several places by large mangroves along the river. It was very different to our ride to the West which offered broad vistas over green space out to the river. Lovely, fresh and free nonetheless.
The last 15kms of this section before lunch was the 320^m climb up Mangrove Mountain. Before we got to that, we heard the gunshot explosion of a tire sidewall...in the middle of nowhere. A quick decision to help our mate Sean fix that tire with a handy gel wrapper, and not leave him to fend from hillbillies. We rode gently from here to to lunch to preserve the tire bulge that was only just holding it in.
It was hot! Sun beating down. Heat radiating from the road. Not a breath of air. We continued to ride across the top of the Mountain looking for lunch. Kelli was riding out front and asked if she was ok with those details for lunch from Peter, she replied, ‘no, not really’. A quick check in the shade on the side, and we were back on track for lunch in 5kms.
Lunch at Kitchen Harvest was set for us in the cool under a tree. We couldn’t believe it when we were shown to the table set aside for us. Food and multiple drinks all round. Frozen blood orange iceblocks were the hit. Kev had some good time saving advice for all as we waited for food, and Dick & Ecky happily looked after every uneaten portion they saw.
We were an hour behind our schedule and a new ferry time to make. This wasn’t a real issue and our first priority was to fix Sean’s bulging tire. A taxi was organised to take him to The Edge Cycles in Gosford, we would meet him there. The idea of an air-conditioned taxi compared to the heat brought a smile to his face, but after $140 and a personal history tour of Ettalong by the driver, the bunch bought the tire and met him at the ferry for 1530. Oh...and the taxi had no air-con!
By the time we reached Palm Beach, the temperature had dropped from 30+ to 24. The local meteorologists said we were headed into a storm! Wherever it went, we missed it. But the cooler air was welcome relief.
There was talk of swimming, of beers, of putting feet up, and getting a kip. The final 35km was now. As riders gradually peeled off to home, it was the final stage to a tremendous day on the bike and fresh air and freedom.
We started with a large group ride for 200kms. This was the longest ride ever for most participants and there was some real uncertainty. Every person played their part to help the group complete the journey. Everyone rode within their abilities, kept their cool, and the group together. It is a solid reminder of how a team can achieve more than an individual.
- Per rider distance: 203kms (with train), 242kms (no train)
- Per rider climbing: 2144^m (with train), 2939^m (no train)
- Moving time 8:19 Elapsed time 14:33 (with train)
- Moving time 9:47 Elapsed time 15:01 (no train)
- Group effort: 3200kms and 36390^m
- 1 sidewall and new tire
- 3 chain throws
Ready for the next one!