Muffy overstepped the mark with three little words in the car park of the Bunbury Youth Hostel: “That’s an order,” he said, telling me I needed to take someone with me on the Nannup-Balingup road.
Peter Thoeming says this about the road: “while it can be narrow and bumpy its corners are also pleasantly challenging.” He doesn’t suggest it’s beyond the competence of an average rider, and I am, unfortunately, very average. For someone like me it can be more dangerous riding with someone else than riding alone, because in upping my pace to keep up I am far more likely to make a mistake.
It was well-meant. The Blue Knights had been down here on a rideout recently and one of their number had made an unplanned departure from the tarmac. Someone had chalked “SLOW DOWN!” on one of the most technical bends and, far from being helpful, the message created its own hazard. Distracted by it, the rider fluffed the turn and exited stage right, damaging his pride but nothing else.
So, while I appreciated the concern for my wellbeing, I disliked the implication that I needed taking care of in the simple act of riding. This is me having my cake and eating it, because I was very happy to be taken care of when the GS proved to be rather poorly, but I am female and therefore under no obligation to be consistent.
Disobeying my orders and riding alone up to Collie, the first stop on my loop which would include the Nannup-Balingup road and the road to Bridgetown, I felt splendidly naughty. And following a tip from Biker Gran, who says that the best reason to ride by yourself is that you can detour whenever you like, I ducked off the Coalfields Road to look at the Wellington Dam, a decision which rewarded me with a beautifully twisty ride through the forest, kicking up leaves and making the birds erupt from the verges in clouds of black, white and green.
In Balingup, since I was about to enter the valley of death, I thought I should stop and have a coffee (and a processed cheese roll-up). If i was going to spend time lying in the forest waiting to be found, at least I could avoid a caffeine withdrawal headache or hunger pangs. The Taste of Balingup managed to provide excellent coffee and absolution in the form of this card, by a local artist. Geoff Selvidge pointed out, via Twitter, that you could make one almost the same that said “A bike is safe in the garage, but that’s not what bikes are for.”
Fed, watered and guilt-free, I rode 40km of bends through the forest, and it was the best rollercoaster I’ve ever been on. It is a beautiful, complex and technical road and it deserves respect, but I’m very glad I rode it by and for myself.