LANTERN ROUGE-ING THE 2017 OL' DIRTY
Lantern Rouge; nope not those you see about in Amsterdam, nor a reference to the song Roxanne by The Police. French for bringing up the rear, it would be the role Okky would occupy. Originally planning to make his maiden Ol Dirty appearance on a Cinelli Mash, we convinced him otherwise, becoming an eleventh hour inclusion to our troupe of Soup Bæs and friends. He was now aboard a Specialized Turbo Skrrrrrt Edition, all on the proviso that he undertook Lantern Rouge duties, something we were happy to go along with.
We’ve put together a lot of bike ride matched playlists in our time, but this could be considered our coming of age masterpiece. Humbled to have been commissioned by the chief legend himself, we were bestowed with the honour of curating the official Ol Dirty playlist, an integral part of the day. Informed by musical education passed down by older sisters, video game and gang film sound tracks, and childhoods spent ruining family computers with limewire viruses, Harry & Adrian present a collection of songs close to their hearts. Made available through Spotify for riders, we would hear these banging tunes wistfully willowing through the forest throughout the day, plenty of riders choosing speaker docks over a second bidon. Click the link below and use the just-short-of-5-hour playlist as the perfect accompaniment to reading this retelling, not that it will take you that long.
II: CASA CAM
‘The Factory’ aka Casa Cam – hooked up via the namesake, occupied from early Friday afternoon. Cam and Kip drank as they lovingly prepared a high in carbohydrates dinner for Ben and Adrian’s evening arrival. Described as “the meal I cook to impress people” it was matched perfectly with Spanish wines from the factory shelves, and Italian beers from Adrian’s work. With heating blasting a gentle scirocco through the lounge, we dissected our thoughts on dinner, and harked back to our collective experiences of mid 2000’s hardcore and metal. Leading the discussion was Don Kipo, looking extra regal with his luscious beard – who also decided upon accompanying classical music that contrasted the vibe of the weekend, and the vibe of the particular conversation quite nicely.
III: MORNING BROKE
A reluctant dawn awakening was met with the sounds of cereal hitting bowls, pasta from the previous night being re-heated and gripes of having to kit up and leave the factory made vocal. The weather wasn’t all that bad, but held a presence that made you know it was cold outside. There were whispers going around on the official event page that we would be running into some snow along the way, so in order to keep warmth to a maximum our sartorial decisions were founded upon an embracement of layers. Base layers (optional) followed by kit or skinsuits, followed by jacket, followed by flanno’s – arguably the best winter kit money ($7AUD) can buy. A neck buff, gloves and potentially thicker socks would be added once we had a chance to assess the climate upon our arrival in Marysville.
With all our shit packed in the cars, the final requirement was to activate, and increase the temperatures of our cores. Fortunately, like he has done so many times before, Ben was grinding some caffé latte beans for his patented Benopress method.
• Metal filter (easier to travel with than standard paper filters)
• Filter coffee; today we are working with Everyday Coffee and using a Porlex Grinder (preferred brand)
• Kettle or water just off the boil
• Aeropress scoop; trick hint stooge you can also use the back side to agitate
• Live.Love.Laugh. Mug #important
Thanks to Cam for supplying the required equipment & the beautiful preparation space.
1. Boil the kettle.
2. Recite the following: "It's all in the grind Sizemore. Can't be too fine, can't be too coarse. This, my friend is a science. I mean you're looking at the guy that believed all the commercials. You know, about the "be all you can be." I made coffee through Desert Storm. I made coffee through Panama while everyone else got to fight, got to be a Ranger. Now it's "Grimesy, black, one sugar" or "Grimesy, got a powdered anywhere?"
3. Grind one level scoop of whole beans (settings differ but look it up and play around, I'm not your mum...work it out).
4. Prepare the Aeropress, Inverted method ONLY.
5. Place freshly ground coffee into the chamber.
6. Pour enough freshly boiled water into the chamber to cover the coffee.
7. Start timer and stir the coffee to prevent any dry spots from about 0-15 seconds.
8. Fill the rest of the chamber up with the recently boiled water and let it brew til 2:00.
9. Insert filter into the filter cap and screw on.
10. Turn over Aeropress onto the mug and slowly and smoothly plunge. Using the forearm is ideal.
All you need to do now is enjoy ya brew. Cleaning is easy, simply rinse under hot water and throw away the grinds thoughtfully.
Ol Dirty, named after the bastard. Brainchild slash showpiece of the Hells500 calendar. Traditionally held a little bit out of Melbourne, on gravel roads and tracks that have had the whole winter to marinate. A day to challenge the shit out of your riding abilities, but one where new friends are frequently borne. Every year we’ve ventured to the host-town with a relative knowledge of what lay ahead. Every year we have been blown away in amazement.
Despite its passionate attendance of a few hundred riders, all packed into the carpark of a hotel in a town of a few hundred people, the sign on process and official grand depart is one of the smoothest you’ll get. Coffee was on offer from the local brew sponno, and we collected our Ol Dirty buffs, socks and tickets (more on those later). Stretching wasn’t entirely necessary, but right before his briefing, in a Joe Biden/Barack Obama kind of way we happily engaged those shoulder muscles to wrap arms around man at the helm, AVB – founder of Hells 500. Pushing his way through the crowd he jumped atop a CyclingTips car and delivered the kind of concise ride brief many need take note of. Key takeaways were:
- We were sick motherfuckers for putting a playlist of such calibre together.
- Everyone was going to love the course, conditions were primo.
- There was just a little bit of clay, a tiny bit.
- The lunch spot would be kickass.
And with that he told us to get lost. Well, everyone except us. We were still waiting on someone…
IV: WHERE'S RON?
We had arrived, parked, unpacked and had begun socialising by 8:30am, the ride due to roll out at 9, which it more or less did. The road between Warburton and Marysville is truly something else, and trust us when we say we will bring it to you in all its splendour some other time – but as with most jawdroppingly gorgeous roads, mobile reception is scant. By the time we emerged in Marysville, and had time to check our phones we were greeted with the first message in the Soup Bæs group chat for the morning.
Ron Nott, 8:05am; “wait, its in Marysville??”
Not entirely fussed, as we were chilling with Okky at the absolute rear of the field, we stuck around practicing posing and track standing in the hotel carpark. Messages of advice, updates on ride start time and questions of “where the fuck are you?” were sent Ron’s way, but no response was received. Eventually, slightly sick and tired of waiting around we began slowly plodding our way up the hill and towards the surrounding forest that would be our playground for the day. In the event that we were to enter radio silence for the next few hours, we tried one last attempt. It paid off. Ron was “5 minutes out of town” and ready to go, so we made the executive decision to wait a little while longer outside the Our Lady of the Snows Church. Ol Dirty was half an hour older, and we weren’t in the least bit dirty yet. Hopefully that would change soon.
A five minute wait turned into a fifteen minute weight, followed by a collective tantrum being thrown in the middle of the country town street. Sticking to the back end of the field, we figured that Ron would run into us eventually if he was to at all, so we dropped down into the wilderness to let the fun begin. As part of his role Okky was stopping every once in a while to pick up the route markers that Andy had so lovingly and strategically placed in the days prior. After a quick stop to see if a rider repairing a puncture 5 minutes in to the ride was okay, we were greeted with our first Choose Your Own Adventure fork in the road – an optional climb to the top of Mt Gordon (stay right) or continuing along the rest of the Ol Dirty route via a bushy piece of single track (turn left).
Knowing that optional inclusions during Ol Dirty often came with great reward, we opted for the climb. Despite the cooler and thinner air as we ascended, the changing conditions were no match for our $7 Pro Team Flannos. In perfect formation, and with the sounds of Okky’s UE Boom interrupting the still air around us, we made our way up the mountain, passing a few on the way up, but with every intention of waiting at the top until we were the last to leave.
And welcoming us at the top truly was a sight to behold. The summit of Mount Gordon had us looking back towards the town of Marysville, and across to Lake Mountain, the more ominous figure in the area. While waiting we received face-to-face messages of praise for the playlist, even though most listeners would have been a handful of songs in. When the coast was well clear, and with an added layer of warmth in our hearts, we returned to half way down the mountain to continue along the bushy single track.
VI: DOUBLE BLACK DIAMONDS
So we ventured down the track. It started off innocent enough, but following an introduction of fallen trees and puddle formed chicanes things began heading quickly downhill. An easily identifiable track became thinner and more overgrown as off camber sections sent Adrian and Kip tumbling in unison. As it eventuated we were better off taking our hands of brake levers and letting the bike guide us to the light at the end of the tunnel. That light was AVB himself, standing road side at the first of a handful of designated crossings, his smile matching ours as we began to get a proper feel for the amazing course.
Whistles wet the squad marched on ahead, catching up with the back end of the rest of the bunch, coming across Rob (also vibing the $7 flanno/kit combo) who was railing everything for the sake of stoke. Late comers Rye, Matt, Lawrence and Howie had joined us, but there was still 0 sign of a Mr Ronaldinho Nott. We’d assumed that he skipped the optional climb and just cannonballed it down the single track like a young Sam Hill, so we lifted our pace a little in anticipation of catching him. This strategy, while sound in principle was a little hard to put into practice, AVB having us pass by a number of “Scenic AF” signs along the route, inviting a number of babby detours to small lookouts, camp grounds and creek crossings. Every few minutes the landscape would change significantly, going from dense forest, to vast timber plantations (albeit chopped down). The rule was that inspired by videos of Whistler bike path, we would take the hardest route available, no exceptions. This commitment to the double black diamond lines came with great reward, but required great risk on our behalf, wheels almost ending up well beneath the surface of puddles, front wheels and riders lost, and almost thrown into the bush by off camber trails, little jumps and deep ruts. With such constant changes, a lack of mobile reception (or a desire to touch phones for anything but taking piccy’s) it’s quite easy to lose your bearings on such a ride, but we made a return to familiarity as we were spat out of the forest at the Black Spur Inn, the hotel along the famed stretch of road between the villes of Heale and Mary.
A break was taken to rally the troops, adjust bikes that had bits and pieces rattled around, or head back up into the forest to retrieve spilled bidons. The general rule of thumb for the days nutrition was no gels, no sports supps, just sweets. Adrian broke open the party mix, Cam, Kip, Ben and others gnawing on muesli bars, chocolate and other lollies. Peak nutrition. Losing feeling in toes was a surefire sign that we had spent too much time standing around, so it was back into the unknown, taking the gravel road that cuts through the middle of the Black Spur Inn, and into what would be a puddle-y wonderland.
If you made it out of the near bike depth puddles that riddled the next kilometre or so of the course, and you had managed your time well enough to make the start of the ride, you were greeted with arguably the biggest challenge of the day – the SRAM Scrambler. An endless steep uphill pitch, it challenged even those with mountain bike gearing, as the clay surface (there was just “a little bit” of that remember?) combined with potholes, deep ruts and other debris meant taking a clean line straight up the hill was damn near impossible. Once you were off the bike, it was a two footed journey to the top. Howard would make it further than all of us, persisting with the grind before being rudely blocked by Rye, obviously jealous of the newly set benchmark. If after a lengthy trek you were able to make it to the top, a snack stop is what greeted you. Bertie Beetles and Redskins handed out in showbags, a menacing clown providing the added motivation to hastily make your way to the fire road that signified the summit of the SRAM Scrambler.
VII: OREO CORNER
Our dedication to the double black diamond lifestyle continued, to the shock and awe of many who asked if we had taken “the path of most resistance” like of course we had. If the puddles of the previous section of course were cause for concern, it was nothing on the following half hour, as the mud (another “small clay section”) came thicker, and slower. Cam would sporadically attack some sections of the course, only to stitch up the next riders through, leading them directly into puddles. The biggest victim would be Ry, flying up the hill into some BB depth mud to which he became rather intimate with.
Back on 2 feet it was a mini SRAM Scrambler, breaking at the fire road at the top (now tradition) to break open the pack of Oreos Adrian had in his jacket. Biscuits shared all round, offered to the passerby’s as we waited around hoping to see either Ron or Okky once more. The familiar feeling of frozen feet began to kick in so we got back to moving, slaloming our way down some beautifully muddy fire trails (via double black diamond lines ONLY) and into Jurassic Park territory.
For all our climbing, hiking, our avoiding of puddles and kamikaze-ing down single track, we had finally been rewarded with a plentiful and rewarding descent. While it contained the occasionally rise, or pinchy climb, all was soon forgotten once we hit the downhill slopes once more, getting in the drops and going Marco Pantani all over the place. That was until…
VIII: FORCED INTERMISSION
38.56kmph according to Strava. That was the speed Adrian hit the deck. Having spent a good while flogging his bike down the descents he became complacent, forgetting he was on a cyclocross bike as opposed to a dually. Soft ground at the base of a step in the fire trail sent him about a meter higher than anticipated, and he ended up coming to a stop 20-odd meters away from where he left the ground. He was all okay, a double drop of nurofen, a pocket Oreo and an adjustment to his bent saddle all that was required to get him back on board. A bump to his shin and right hip not stopping him from getting to the feed zone.
Battered, bruised and deep fried, the course from point of impact to lunch would be the toughest yet. While still paling in comparison to last years dirt wall up to Hotel Room 420; the rollercoaster climb that lead us to the parkland hosting the Coney Island fair knocked the wind out of many. With each turned corner we were greeted with an uphill pitch disappearing up into the canopy of the trees, our squad of cute teens breathing a gigantic sigh of relief when we turned a corner to see the ticket booth versus yet another hill ahead.
IX: CONEY ISLAND
In 2015 it was the Redwoods, with pulled pork and corn bread. The following year it was a debaucherous Hotel Room 420, where it was so much like being at home we simply ate hella pizza and greened out. This time around, at the top of a fortunately smaller climb was the Coney Island Fair.
Handing over a simple ticket awarded you entry, it put 3 “Admit One” in your hand, it fed you. There was popcorn, there were tacos, there were games, you could win a plush Ol' Dirty Bastard. Things were vego friendly, vegan friendly, coffee was being slammed down quicker than crownies in the MCC stand. People were shocked Adrian had made it up off the deck, while emerging through the crowds, we were shocked Ron had even made it here at all.
X: THERE'S RON!
All we had heard from him was the infamous and mystical message at 8:05am, and a brief “I’m 5 minutes away!” Through a crackly phone call. After an initial interrogation he was happy to spill the beans on not only how his day has gone, but what the fuck happened? Tins the previous night had happened, and that was only the start.
Rushing through the trees. Dismounting, hopping over felled trees. High fiving friends. Riding through the mud. Through unrideable sectors. The action sending needles of humming pain rocketing through my legs. I was smiling. It was amazing. All these thoughts ran through my head, excited for Old Dirty. Excited for the day to come as I drove my shitbox to Marysville via Healesville.
I sped up knowing I was already pressed for time.
Then the image of a police car burst into my eyes, following a remembered wail of high pitched panic as I slowed the car below 60km/hr. FUUUUC. I’d been caught doing 85 in a 60 zone. Allegedly 86, recorded at 84. $312 and 3 demerit points, but all I was thinking about was whether the gang would wait for me.
For what it’s worth, I didn’t get to ride with the Soup Boys & Bæs, but I did get to experience everything that I had envisioned I would do whilst enroute.
The best thing about Ol Dirty? It always comes with surprises. Last time I did this was 3 years ago and I was able to do the loop with 23mm tyres. To do the loop with a cross bike was considering cheating. To do this year’s iteration with 23mm tyres would’ve just made you look ill prepared and stupid.
XI: FINAL STRETCH
Rain was falling as we huddled beneath the small shelter in the middle of the Coney Island Fair. We were tossing up our options. Kip was a little sore from a number of stacks, Adrian’s lump on his shin grew from golf ball to tennis ball size, and despite the fact we had smashed coffees, been on the receiving end of popcorn bukkake and downed some hellish tacos, we still didn’t know if we had it in us to follow the route back to the finish. AVB reassured us it would be totally worth it, the 8 remaining kilometres made of luscious single track that cut straight through shrubbery and the densest forest of the day, before rolling down by the Steavenson Falls track. With a pause in the rain, we held our Ol' Dirty Bastard dolls close, and aerotucked it towards the finish.
And it was truly worthwhile. With the exception of pausing for a token group photo on a blind corner, the remaining 8km was some of the most carefree and enjoyable. A gentle downward slope filled with nice fast corners meant hands were off brake levers most of the way down to the finish in town. It was our most eventful Ol' Dirty experience yet, but survive we did – meaning we can return again next year.