A long loop south

I began this ride with the hope of completing a 1200 Audax in 100 hours or so. This is a little outside the standard 90 hours, but I'm getting old. And it's mid-winter. I met my first day target, but the cold clearly took its toll, and I needed to amend my plans.

Tuesday July 5

Adelaide from New Norton Summit RoadTuesday was a day of mild winds. I left at 7am and took a slow climb up Norton Summit and across to Summertown, where it was still only 2 degrees at 9am. Cold was no problem due to the constant climb, but I soon added a padded jacket for the easier ride out to Dawsley and then downhill out of the range!  I topped up my water and filled a 1 litre reserve bottle at Balhanna OTR and enjoyed a  second-breakfast pastie at Kanmantoo. An old bloke whose car had passed me earlier, and was also having breakfast there said I had reminded him of Aesop's Hare and Tortoise by catching him up.

100km Mark GPS(Picture: 100km GPS ride around Monarto) Starting with a climb through the Adelaide Hills seems counterintuitive for a long Audax, but the winds were going to be more in my favour if I headed south rather than taking a flat route north. After 100km, the downhill run from Dawsley, and the flat country from Monarto towards Wellington, meant I had begun to reach a reasonable moving average for a laden touring bike.

Because it was winter, and because I was planning on some fairly remote roads, I felt it prudent to carry a bivvie and sleeping bag, and extra water.  This was not the fast and light ride one might risk in the spring.

At Wellington I but topped up my 3 bidons and reserve litre and crossed the Murray via the ferry.

03-WellingtonGPS 04-WellingtonView  

The sunlight hides the fact that the windchill was pretty sharp.  While waiting for the ferry, I put on full-fingered undergloves.


05-MeningieGPS(Pictures: GPS and Meningie Sunset) Tea at Meningie was followed by the addition of my night riding clothes. These comprised: arm warmers, a second set of tights, a head tube, and booties which come almost halfway up my calves.  I was already wearing what proved to be a genius purchase, which is full length Kathmandu ski socks.  Not only does the wool blend help with the cold but the extra padding for ski boots works well when riding. Normally, I wear woollen Explorer socks and have an older pair for shin protection, plus heavy duty booties made from wetsuit material. These are heavy, and bulky to pack during the days, although ideal for commuting due to their toughness. The new light ones are showing considerable wear after only four days, but with the long socks, were much warmer.

Meningie Sunset

07-SaltCreek(Picture: GPS at Salt Creek) The temperature of 9 degrees at Meningie dropped dramatically after sunset, getting down to -5 degrees at times.  The road to Robe runs only metres away from the Coorong at times so I had a constant accompaniment of waves and bird calls for most of the night.  It was also extremely foggy, including about 30km where I could not use my glasses at all. 



08-TilleySwampDuring this time, not being able to see clearly, I accidentally turned off my GPS recording whilst trying to read something else; not a happy event.

Moving average slowly increased with the dropping of the wind and the flat Coorong road. My accidental turn-off was at 241km.

Wednesday July 6

05-aKingstonI arrived at Kingston in the early morning and filled up my three bidons for the last leg into Robe.  The sign says 5km to Kingston, matching the -5 degrees showing on the GPS at that time. 

09-RobeI had a motel booked at Robe, but arrived later than I had hoped. Adding this GPS total to the 241 gives 349km for the day. Although the moving average was almost 19kmh, my Real Average Speed was only around 16.3kmh. This was above the RAS needed to complete the 1200 in 90 hours, but of course would drop prodigiously while I slept.

I left the motel about 9.30, so just on the minimum possible average to achieve a 90hour 1200km, but took time to buy defogging goop for my glasses, and sandwiches and pasties from the bakery. The legs are always slow in the morning after a really long ride, (especially with only 3 hours sleep,) but this time they didn't come back after 10-15km.  More worrying was the fact that my salt balance seemed to be a bit out. I was unexpectedly thirsty. I begged some water from a farmhouse at Short, having drunk a ridiculous amount for a cold day, and beginning to run short after only 80km. The 90 hour time was clearly out of reach.

I decided to play it safe and stop at Penola. My partner found me a motel room, old and shabby, but good enough, and I took a good night's sleep. I also took the cleat off my left shoe and oiled it all up, which seemed to get rid of a pronounced click which had developed as I pedaled down with that foot.

Small towns in western Victoria often do not have potable water in public facilities. So I bought an extra couple of litres of water at Penola, plus food for a long night.  My back had been a bit sore, so I went through the full suite of exercises which keep me mobile before turning in for the night.

Thursday July 7

Life felt much better when I left Penola at 1a.m.  I found I was very slow climbing over the ridge west of Coonawara. It was not very steep, but a shock after 500km with no real hills, and a sign that I was still a bit unwell.  I abandoned my loop through Edenhope and Goroke and decided on a shorter route through Apsley. In the glorious quiet of the night I observed roos, wombats, and deer.

11-LangkoopI took a break at Langkoop. It was amazing looking up with my head torch and watching the plume of steam rising off me. It was again a night of heavy fog, but for the most part the defog wipes for my glassess worked brilliantly.

I'm probably the only person who has ever laid on the wet bitumen of the Langkoop road and done back twists and stretches at 4am! But the back was in good shape. Unfortunately the click in the left pedal stroke had come back and I had to resign myself to the probability it was in the bottom bracket and would annoy me all the way to Adelaide.

I took another brief break at Apsley—signs saying don't drink the water,  and then headed up towards Lake Bringalbert. From 4.30 there was a wonderful pre-dawn chorus of magpies which lasted until the sun came up.  There would be heavy flutters in the trees which are over the road as I disturbed the white cockatoos who inhabit the area, often accompanied by indignant squawks. After dawn they would shriek at me, following me in ones and twos to alert the next mob down the road that an intruder was approaching.  I stopped at Bringalbert for breakfast.

Bringalbert Dawn Dawn 15-dawn
Dawn pictures at Lake Bringalbert and beyond.

16-Bordertown(Picture: GPS Bordertown) I stopped at Frances for a second breakfast and took off the night clothes it was sunny enough to take off my shirt and jacket to dry them a bit. Then it was on to Bordertown and my cousin Jodie's excellent bakery.

Friday July 8

My original plan had been to travel north to Loxton on the Ngarkat Highway and then loop around to Adelaide via Morgan and Eudunda. This would bring up the 1200km, be a low traffic road for a tired cyclist, and have me on bike path from Angaston on. Not to mention that for a tired cyclist, getting from Morgan to Eudunda is a lot easier than any other route across the Mt Lofty Range. I was out of time for this distance, so settled on leaving Bordertown early and going across from Pinnaroo to Murray Bridge. This is because I thought that riding the Duke's Highway at night would be an exercise somewhere between dangerous and suicidal.

From the motel where I stayed in Bordertown there is a lane parallel to the highway. In the 500 metres up to the Bordertown OTR, 6 semis rolled through as I rode up to the highway entrance at 3a.m., so my plan seemed pretty wise.  But I did have to take the Duke's out to the Pinnaroo turn-off— about 10km— during which time there were only another 8 semis and almost no private traffic. So I decided to take Dukes to Tintinara and then go via Woods Well Road to Meningie.

17-Dukes Quiet(Picture: The Duke's Highway at night) This extremely busy highway is surprisingly safe to ride in daylight because of the wide verges and the divide in the centre lane. You ride the truck-rut and head for the verge as traffic approaches from behind. (See this link) Most traffic is well behaved, and the big interstate B-Double drivers are almost universally courteous, and do not travel particularly fast.  The trouble with heavy night traffic is that you can get lost in the headlights.  People don't seem to realise just how little reaction time they have travelling at 110kmh on low beam. But without the cars, life was pretty good.

I was at Keith just before dawn, and from there the the car traffic picked up rapidly— local commuters and early traffic oncoming from Adelaide . I was very glad to get onto the quiet of the Woods Well Road at Tintinara. The highway traffic may be mostly well behaved but it requires 100% attention—I find I'm watching the rear-view mirror every 5 seconds or so,  and the traffic is incredibly noisy. Not long after taking the photo I was on a long sweeping bend with at least four vehicles behind me and a clutch approaching. Fully occupied for a minute or so as it all roared past, surrounded by headlight wash, I found myself in silent daylight! The sun had come up in those few moments.

Woods Well Road is rolling country. I was heading into a light head wind and endured several sun showers per hour to the Coorong and then up to Meningie. 

 19-WoodsWellRoad 20-woodswellroad 21-Coorong 22-coorong


25-MurrayBridgeI had tea at Meningie, put night clothes on, still debating whether to ride right through to Adelaide, and decided to book a motel at Murray Bridge.  That worked well— it rained all the way from Tailem Bend to Murray Bridge. The photo shows my two jacket bags which protect jackets from being abraded in the panniers etc, which are now doing carpet duty along with tissues in case anything drips off the chain.


Saturday July 9

I left Murray Bridge at 6am and began the long slow climb through to Nairn. My Bombtrack is low enough geared that hills are effortless up until 7% slope and no real work needs to happen until nearly 9%. But with the panniers, the 9-10% climb up through Dawsley was really hard work. At some point I looked down and noticed a slight shimmer near the right crank. That clicking noise had been caused by the tip of the front derailleur cable which had snagged on something and been bent slightly over. It was just touching the crank as it went past!

Traffic picked up from Nairn, although it was manageable. But from Balhannah the road was crazy. People pass too closely with no understanding of how hard it is to manage a laden bike when you miss them by inches, or cut them off by pulling in too soon. It's not just about bikes. So many folk seemed to be driving with no understanding that if something went wrong they would take out, or be taken out by, two or three other vehicles.  I do not understand what changes the character of a road and its drivers from one side of a town to the other, but it clearly happens.

27-home(Picture: Final GPS back at Hillcrest) It was very nice to take the road at the top of Greenhill Road and lead the traffic down once the slow car got out of my way. And to see that I am not crazy. There were traffic marshals at the top to assist people running the 100km ultra marathon.  My trip was about 950km, but I think I had the easier time!


 Route Maps - Click to enlarge

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(Posted July 2022)

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