February 2018

Introduction1200-spalding 2
Intended Route

Log of Each Day
Lights and Luggage


I had been planning a mid-March 1200km effort, but March began to fill up with unexpected work issues. So when the forecast showed unusually mild weather a month earlier, I set out with 48 hours notice— including a new back wheel via my amazing bike shop. I was a bit under-cooked, so was content to merely finish the distance. Doing the 1200 in the Audax 90 hours was only going to happen with an extraordinary alignment of the spheres!

I made some strategy changes from my last trip up north  which paid off really well. I'd love to do a 90 hour 1200, or at least get it in within 4 days (96 hours), so maybe the learning from this latest trip will help a future attempt. In the event, I brought up the 1200km in 110 hours, 11 minutes.

I planned a route which avoided the horrendous stretch between Blinman and Parachilna, not to mention the hard slog up to Blinman from Hawker and the threat of the local gully "breezes" on the Parachilna road. (Link) This all paid off.

1200 Checker Hill
Checker Hill on the first morning. I walked the last half; no point burning energy I'd need later. 

Intended Route
The planned route was

  1. Elizabeth to Angaston (via Birdwood – Murray Bridge – Sedan.) This has been a favourite route in the past.
    2. Angaston to Clare via Nuri and Tarlee, and the bike trails. The Rattler and Riesling Trails are a quiet and easy way through the Clare Hills, and bring you to a 24 hour On The Run service station.
    3. Clare – Hawker (via Orroroo.) This is a fast and long run north, and another favourite route of mine.
    4. Hawker - Quorn – Port Augusta – which brings you to the 24 hour Puma Truck stop.
    5. Port Augusta –Wilmington. This route, via the old Wilmington Road from Stirling North, keeps you off Highway One.
    6. Wilmington - Gladstone – my home territory as a boy and fast.
    7. Gladstone - Clare.  (via Crystal Brook, Redhill Cattle Track and Blyth.) The idea of this route is that you can revisit the On The Run at Clare, and swap the hard ride straight down Main North Road from Gladstone for the longer but easier ride to Blyth,  and then one steep pinch over the range into Clare from the west.
    8. I was then planning a loop to Burra – Morgan – Waikerie – Morgan (back on the south side of the river,) down to  Swanreach via the river road, and then across to Sedan. This is all flat country after the climb out of Clare and over a couple of bumps on the way to Burra. There is a small climb out of Burra.
    9. Finally, from Sedan: back to Angaston and on to Elizabeth via the Bobridge trails. This would mean a 1200 total somewhere close to Angaston, and a safe off road return home. I can reach my Elizabeth house from Angaston via back streets in Gawler and a few kilometres of country road outside Elizabeth. About 50 kilometres of this 60 kilometre trip is bike path!

For those not familiar with South Australia there are two salient points here. One is that apart from the 24 hour food outlets mentioned, it is possible that there will be nothing open. My initial scheduling suggested Clare to Clare might have everything shut! And it is never quite certain just how the planned schedule will pan out.

The other point is that somewhere you have to cross ranges, unless you can stand a short circuit 12 or 15 times somewhere around Mallala!

The final route ended up being different. Sedan to Angaston involves climbing back into the Mt Lofty Ranges. There is a 20km slow grade to the top of the range, and about 6km of this is real hill. Half of the real hill is around 2.5 – 3.5 per cent, the rest is around 5-7%. On the day there was a brisk head wind rom Sedan, which meant even the slow climb out along the Stott Highway to the real hill became a "real hill." I rode the lot, but realised that attempting this climb again at the end of 1200km would definitely prevent me from finishing within 90 hours.

Despite my gentle ride down to Murray Bridge, I was more tired than I expected, which probably reflects heavy workloads through January and February.  I set my mind to devising another route to avoid this climb.

Later in the trip, I decided that the "not too hard" Pichi Richi Pass from Quorn to Stirling North, and the subsequent climb back up to Wilminton through Horrocks Pass was not worth the energy burn, especially since the timing no longer required a visit to the Puma service station. This cut out 30 km or so, and avoided quite a lot of climbing.

My eventual solution to the Sedan problem was to go north again from Clare, but only as far as Orroroo, and to return via Appila and Laura. I brought up the 1200 a little north of Templers, only 40km from home.

1200map1Day One – Thursday Feb 15 – 6am to 1:53 Friday – 288km
Time 20:01 hours at Real Average Speed of 14.4kmh, Ride Time: 16:48 at 17.2kph

The time to finish in 90 hours would be a Real Average Speed of 13.33kmh, so at this stage I was still in the hunt.

I slept on a picnic table on the Riesling Trail somewhere near Watervale. I had taken a deliberately slow ride out through the hills, making sure I under-pedalled up the larger hills, but was still taken by surprise at how tired I was when I had to climb up to Keyneton from the plains. My stop was much earlier than I intended; I would like to have gone clean through to Hawker, or even Quorn, to bring up an on the trot personal best of 600km, but the body was clearly not feeling like it. Strava

1200map2Day Two — Friday Feb 16 — 6am Friday to — 6:14 Saturday —329km
Time 24:14 hours at Real Average Speed of 13.56kmh.

This was a great day, with wrinkles!  I was at Orroroo early enough to buy a bit of stuff for tea, and stopped to eat at Carrieton, which even has a little swimming pool. I've not travelled much of this road by day light, and found the ranges in the dusk, as I headed on towards Craddock, absolutely beautiful.

1200 towards Hawker
Towards Hawker
1200 not much left
Not much left now.

I stopped for a half hour lie down at Hawker, decided to sleep a bit, and was awoken by the public toilets' cleaner somewhere around midnight. This has happened before; the woman keeps a weird schedule!

I left Hawker in good shape, but found myself so sleepy near Willochra that I had to get off the bike and walk, where I instantly began to fall asleep on my feet, despite some serious interval running along side the bike. It is over grazed country, full of burrs and bulldust, so I was glad to be able to finally wake up enough to make it into Quorn. I set the alarm there for a three hour sleep, but was woken by ants, and had an earlier start.

My GPS bombed out round the 24 hour mark. This has happened before. I think what is going on is that the algorithm for calculating average speed assumes you will never ride more than 24 hours… which is pretty stupid, given that the thing is advertised as 32 hour battery life! Not the way to go Bryton. So I had the total km's but a ridiculous average speed. My Cateye Strada did the same thing sometime later… although it simply threw up an error message. Not impressed. Strava

1200map3Day Three — Saturday Feb 17 – Approx 9.15 Saturday to 2:42am Sunday – 223km
17:32 Total Time with Real Average Speed of 12.74kmh, Riding Time 14:21 at 15.54kmh

I left Quorn and headed directly to Wilmington. This was the hot day. It had been down to 7 degrees at Foreston on Thursday morning; just North of Melrose it was 41 degrees on the road. At Gladstone, I took the back road to Crystal Brook, a trip replete with childhood memories, when it had been a basic white-metal road. The wind was up at Crystal Brook, so the trip to Brinkworth, where it eased off, was harder than I expected. There is a back road to Red Hill from Crystal Brook which is called The Cattle Track, which I've only ever ridden south to north. Going the other way into a head wind was quite a climb. Likewise the normally gentle downhill from Redhill to Brinkworth. In the head wind, things were a bit harder. 

1200 Willowponds
Willow Ponds west of Gladstone

From Blyth there is an immediate climb up to Armagh, before the descent into Clare. Sleepiness seems to be the new normal for me, so by the time I entered the 6% plus zone of the climb — the serious bit, I was nodding off again. I got off to walk, and fell asleep walking up a 7% slope! I really needed to stop, but being in the hills, it's pretty heavily grassed even in summer. You could burn before you know it, and it's good country for snakes, so I struggled up the hill and then coasted down into Clare. (I think I fell asleep around one of the corners on the way down.) There is a skateboard park cum BBQ park in the middle of town, and I slept on a bench until around 5.30am. Strava

1200map4Day Four – Sunday 18 Feb – Approx 5:53am Sunday to 15:00 Sunday – 132km
9:07 Total Time with Real Average Speed of 14.5kmh, Riding Time 7:36 at 17.35kmh

An interesting day. The early morning up to Spalding was simply delightful. Deer at the old Bungaree turn off, and more again in Hutt River. These things go up the side of hills as fast as a euro. From Spalding, I began to push into a north wind, which persisted past Jamestown. Nothing but a petrol stop with ice cream and drinks was open in Jamestown, and I bought a couple of Taurine/Caffeine cans to try to deal with the sleepiness later in the day.

1200 church at mannanarie
The old church at Mannanarie

Across the hills from the Hornsdale power station the wind changed to a wild westerly in a matter of seconds. It moved to the south, and not far north of Mannanarie, pedalling became optional; the spot is clear visible on the speed graph.  This left me concerned about the return which I planned through Appila and Laura, which would be heading directly into the wind. I began wondering about heading across wind to Wilmington (60km) from Orroroo to lessen the effect of the wind, and maybe pick up some protection from the range on the way south. But Just out of Orroroo there is an s bend into the town, and moving across the wind to the west it was hard to maintain 8km. I bailed out and took a room in the pub as the wind blew up even stronger, and it began to rain.

I woke up at 9— all quiet— but decided to take another sleep cycle to 11.30, and left at midnight into almost no breeze at all. Strava

1200map5Day Five – Monday 19 February – Approx Midnight Sunday to 20:51 Monday – 235.3km
20:51 Total Time with Real Average Speed of 11.2kmh, Riding Time 16:21 at 14.39kmh

A really nice night ride down to Georgetown. I began very slowly in Orroroo; it took about 15km to begin to feel fluid. The body rather objected to starting up again after the longer sleep! The trip was marked by thick fog outside Laura— it's not often I have to slow down for the weather conditions!  At Gladstone, expecting the East-northeast winds to turn south fairly soon, I took the hilly road direct to Clare. The hills do break up the wind a bit; unless it is really heavy you get wind shadows from trees and hills, whereas the Brinkworth Balaklava route, although flat, is completely unprotected. In the event, the winds never really got around to the south. I stopped for a break with friends at Clare and then took the trails to Riverton and brought up the 1200 somewhere north of Templers. I'd been keen to ride home, but give the big week we were both having, I thought letting Wendy collect me at Templers was only fair, given her patience over the proceeding days. Strava


Lights and Luggage
My old Serfa Thundebolts are beginning to wear out at the charge points. The mini usb connections don't hold on the road and they won't charge. I left these on the carrier frame as a last resort backup and added a new Thunderbolt and another Serfa Guardian to my light set.

This means I have all day taillight flash, and a ten hours light on the carrier and the same on my helmet for nights. I use a Volt 1200 headlight which will flash daylight and give me nightlight across 24 hours. On the Tarlee to Adelaide stretch I turn on the lot. Phone and GPS are added to this, and across the four days I used a 1100mAmp hour battery, two 10000 mAmp hour batteries, and had just begun the backup 8000 mAmp hour battery I pinch from my tech bag for these trips. It weighs a bit, but I have full lights and do not have to stop to charge anything. It lets me run Google maps as a share for my family, plus night music. (I have a smaller Volt headlight which uses the same handlebar fitting in case of emergency.)

I used my normal endurance packing scheme, but took a summer blanket instead of a sleeping bag, which was lighter and smaller. Given the remoteness of some of the roads, it seems to me smart to be able to camp in fairly extreme conditions, so I carry a Bivvie and a self inflating mattress. I used the Bivvie one night and only bothered with the mattress on a couple.  When you're really tired, a park bench and a pillow are pretty good.

Food is a problem. It is possible to be unable to buy food for hundreds of kilometres. You need to carry enough to manage a day without buying anything. The buying of food is also a time consuming process. I'm also pretty sure I picked up mild food poisoning on my Victorian trip.

On my last Blinman trip I experimented with a sugar drip feed via Natural Lolly Company Jubes, but found that I ended up with mild stomach pains by the last day and a half. I decided to change strategy this time.

I had my normal breakfasts of muesli and milk by taking powdered milk mixed in with muesli.
I had as close as I could to normal lunch and teas by eating pasties, which have a high vegetable content, and supplementing them with apples, a few peanuts, a few slices of fruit cake, and an occasional muesli bar and Snickers. I ate the occasional barely sugar.  This was much closer to the bulk of my normal diet and much lower in refined food than the last big trip. It worked a treat, and it's really fast to buy. (Some breads and cakes have an additive, not yet identified, which gives me a nasty allergic reaction, so I can't risk sandwiches or cake other than the fruit cake I take with me.) This all worked a treat.

I'd like to cut down on weight. My maximum load is about 8-9 kilos— I find it wise to carry an extra 1.5 litres of water. You can find public water points locked at midnight, and going over a fence looking for a tap is a really risky enterprise.  On longer daytime runs in 40 degree heat, a couple of bidons are not sufficient in any case. At the longer distances you can't afford to work up a water debt.

Given I haven't had a puncture in nearly 20,000kms, I may go without a second spare tube (300gm) and buy a light wire lock for the bike. Sleeping 1.5 to three hours a day, it would be foolhardy to have the bike unlocked. I had an opportunist visitor in Clare who had clearly not seen me next to the bike… I was barely awake when he arrived. An unlocked bike could easily be wheeled off. That could save another 500gm. I am wondering if I can fine tune the amount of food I carry, but as anyone who has bonked knows, running out of food is an absolute disaster. I may try a sugar jube emergency pack instead of my usual emergency meal, which should save another 300gm. I am not sure how much such savings would help overall speeds and time.

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