Club tales: Hills Riders
Raining again! Last Sunday of the month, Hills Riders regular ride day, rotten weather once more. The planned destination is Mt Donna Buang, just out of Melbourne. The summit has been challenging the group for years but every attempt has been foiled. Surely this time? The forecast mentioned, “clearing in the afternoon” and it’s only 11.30am so there’s still hope.
The lead and tail riders are quietly hoping nobody will show up, providing a good excuse for a dry, quiet lunch at a local Emerald eat spot but, out of the mist and rain, the first of the dedicated band arrives.
Paul pulls off his helmet. “Wasn’t raining down the hill!” Paul is one of our several father-son teams and fairly typical of our demographic: somewhere between 50 and 60 years of age and returning to bikes after the usual family rearing years. Paul’s dad, a proud 86-year-old, had bikes on his “bucket list” a few years back and proved to be a natural.
The weather seems to have put off the youngsters so the hardy few head out to challenge the peak – quite a few with partners on the pillion seat and a real mix of bikes (sports, adventure, touring, cruisers) represented with riders dressed to match. As the group arrives at Warburton, all hopes of conquering the mountain disappear along with the visibility. So Hills Riders do what they do best: find a cafe and settle in for a feed, warm coffee and a good talk.
Monthly rides, always the last Sunday of the month (except December), start at the St Mark’s church car park at 11.30am in Emerald in the Dandenong Ranges of Victoria. There is usually a one- to two-hour run to a suitable lunch cafe or a barbecue area using the Hills Riders catering/back up trailer. This is when we sit, talk and enjoy each other’s company before the run back home. Being a Dandenong Ranges-based group, most of the rides include typical mountain roads to Healesville, Marysville, Noojee, or the Strzelecki Ranges and West Gippsland. Less-experienced riders are welcome – the tail riders will always stay with you – but some experience in the twisties will help.
Hills Riders’ origins date back about 15 years when a few mates decided a regular ride would be a good idea. As the numbers grew, so did the need for organisation.
A lead rider, two tail riders and corner marking became the standard system for keeping the group together. There are still occasional failures, notably once when, after starting with about 15 bikes, the lead rider pulled into a servo followed shortly by the two tail riders with nobody in between! Ah well, no system is foolproof.
There is a gradual turnover of riders: new riders appear, some stick with us while others disappear, some move out of the area, some kick the bucket (though none from bike accidents). It’s handy to have the church connection as we’ve had weddings, baptisms and funerals at St Marks’.
Although there is no formal ‘club’, ‘membership’ or cost, the group is thoroughly organised, with trained leadership. The church origins of the group have become part of the DNA (even though the Christians are outnumbered 10 to one!) New riders will be welcomed, cared for and included. For many, Hills Riders has become like a second family.
In addition to the regular monthly jaunt, there are several other all-day Saturday rides, these being longer though usually still less than 500km. Past destinations include Tasmania, the Victorian Alps and Snowy Mountains. These rides usually include at least one rest day and the distances are not too challenging so they’re ideal for pillions. Numbers are capped for this trip so early booking is essential.
BIKE FOR CAMBODIA
A new addition to the activity list is a monthly meeting, held at a local café which opens just for Hills Riders on the last Wednesday of the month. There have been some excellent guest speakers including MT’s own Rob Blackbourn. Spannerman is on a promise for a future date if he can be trusted in mixed company.
In their first year these meetings have proved to be a great success with the venue full to capacity. We have discovered great generosity within the group and with some light-hearted, no-pressure fundraising, we managed to donate a motorcycle to an education group in Cambodia.
There was no middle man, just direct payment to the visiting teacher at a Wednesday meeting.
When the heart-breaking story was told about the harsh life of the girl who would use the bike, I think we could have doubled the donation!
So is Hills Riders for you? Well, if you want to blast through the Reefton Spur at record speed then boast about the heroic near misses, then the Hills Riders will probably be a little tame for you. However, if you live somewhere near the Dandenongs and would like to ride with a group that will welcome you (and the co-pilot), then join us anytime. It’s easy.
It’s on the last Sunday of the month (except December), St Mark’s car park, Church Street, Emerald, at 11.30am. We might even, one day, get to the top of Mt Donna Buang…
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