500km Loop

20200204-torrensgumer-sThe plan was for 600km ridden in six six hour hundreds, which is a pretty good touring speed for an old bloke. In the event, I rode 500km. 300km or so of headwinds, and cross winds from the front, made it a hard and cold trip— although I appreciated 95km of tail breeze along the Murray.

The planned route was Elizabeth to Morgan, via Mannum. I would then head to Jamestown via Burra and Spalding.  The home leg would be south through Gladstone, but crossing from Main North Road to Brinkworth (south of Yacka) and Hamley Bridge, to avoid the worst of the highway traffic. Because I had committed to be home by 8pm on the second day, I turned south at Spalding and cut over to the intended route once I hit Tarlee. This saved the last 100km.

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I wondered if this new route would be enough to bring up the 500km, or whether I would need to loop some streets somewhere.  I hit the 500km mark 3km from home, which exposes one more oddity of how body and brain work together: typically, the last 10km of a long ride feels the worst for me. Watching the numbers, I was fine until 500 popped up on screen, and then felt awful.  Turning full into a 30km breeze probably didn't help!

On this trip, I also disabled the auto pause on my GPS, so that it showed a real average speed rather than average riding speed. This also means that you can see your speed go down while you are stopped! I paid particular attention to keeping stops short, but didn’t have much time spent above the 16.6km I needed to hold.

20200204-murraydusk-sThe Adelaide Hills are always a delight for cycling, and it gets better with the plummet down into Palmer, and the roll down into Mannum.  The Mannum to Walker Flat road is relatively quiet, and the road up the east side of the Murray River to Morgan is better again. There are few things in life better than riding in the warm of a late afternoon, and into the dusk, on a back country road. Unless you add river views and an AfterShokz headset playing Carrie Newcomer.

Long distance night touring in Australia has some unique challenges. One is the cold— it got down to seven degrees centigrade— and the other is the management of food and water.  I wanted enough water to cover the distance from Blanchetown to Spalding, which is over 160km, or else I'd be begging water at the pub in Morgan, or taking a risk on the water in the riverside park. (I've learned— painfully— that some country towns have unpotable public water sources but don't label them as such. The water at Spalding is good, but with nothing but the pub open in Morgan, food would not be available until at least Jamestown, so I needed to cover that, as well. What about Burra, you ask? Well, I've been in Burra late at night. The town toilets were locked, and entering front yards is likely to rouse a dog. It can also take a surprising amount of time to find a tap. As it turned out, it was "all open with lights on," but I've learned that it's not worth risking things being shut.

20200204-morganferry-sIt was cold.  While eating a small meal, I put on puttees and toe covers in the dusk at Morgan, added a skull cap and head-wrap, and pulled on a pair of woollen under-gloves. Keeping the arms warm is a real challenge when it's cold, especially with the added wind-chill of cross winds. And it's only at night that you realise how much the sun warms us, even on a cloudy day.  So I added a second jersey for the sake of the sleeves, and set off for Burra. I still needed to stop not too far out of town and add my wind-stopper jacket over the top.

One of my New Zealand friends says of Australia that it's not just the temperature that gets you in the remote areas. It's the fact that you sit exposed to the wind for hours; there are no valleys or hills to provide any respite. That's the truth of the Burra Road.

Despite what the boys in marketing say about breathable fabrics, they never breathe enough. You get wet. But with the layer of two jackets and my deliberately not body-hugging wind-stopper there is enough distance between skin and the evaporative surface to stay warm. [More on Cold]  That said, I stopped at Spalding for a 40 minute nap, and in the time it took to wrap up my blanket when I woke up, and to strap it back to the bike and snack some food, I was shivering uncontrollably.

I'd planned to snooze in the little rotunda in the park at Spalding, but the whole place was awash with sprinklers.  Night watering of parks is a real pest; you can wake up with sprinklers spraying on you— another painful lesson. Watching the sprinklers at Spalding, I wonder if they have deliberately set them up so that they wash the seating area and picnic tables!  I lowered the tone of the town by napping on the bench outside the town hall. I set the clock for an hour, but woke up before then.

A close second to the joy of riding in the dusk is riding through sun-up. Spalding to Clare is a delight, the sandwiches at the OTR are brilliant, and the park is all a cyclist needs to strip off all the stinky wet stuff, and repack a bike.  The day would reach 34 degrees.

I was now in the range I had planned to avoid by going through Brinkworth, so I took the Reisling and Rattler trails down to Riverton. The grades are much gentler than the road, and the traffic is zero.  It's a short trip from Riverton to Tarlee, but once the Barrier Highway met Main North Road I was again reminded of why I never use the bitumen: it's crazy busy.

The plan was to go across to Hamley Bridge and down through Wasleys to Roseworthy, and then take a dirt short cut to the Stuart O'Grady bike path. Deb and I used this a few months ago, but it turns out that on weekdays the Owen Road is a very busy thoroughfare where no one is bothered by the thought of radar traps. It felt worse than  Main North Road. And I'm not sure that I'll end a long ride on metal roads in future!

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Just short of Hamley Bridge, my Wahoo Bolt spat the dummy, crashing out to a blank screen. Amazingly, it recovered the whole 447 km with all the other associated data, although it took nearly ten minutes to bring it all back!  But the system crashed out only a few minutes later, and  I abandoned the recording, rebooted the machine, and started a new recording.  It pays to photograph gps screens at key points of a trip, and it pays to have the auto upload to somewhere like Strava or Ride With GPS turned on; I found all the trip data there the next morning. I keep an old trip computer running to log cumulative kilometres on the bike, and it gave me the final distance and time… which were very close to the two Wahoo recordings.

Total distance: 503km, Time: 34.5 hours, Real Average Speed: 14.6, Road Speed: 18.5

2020025-map (The map shows the small data loss around Hamley Bridge. The north-south scale of this map is approximately 165km "as the crow flies.")

Andrew Prior (Feb. 2020)




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