Setting up the trip

I've wanted to do a loop through Blinman for some time. It went wrong in February this year when my back wheel began to die mid-trip. This trip was the follow up.
I changed my ride strategy by leaving early morning rather than leaving early evening. Last time I did a dusk start I had drowsiness problems around 2am. I think it's called getting older!

I also planned to ride up to Blinman on the east side of the Flinders, which has lots of climbing, but which would allow a downhill ride to Parachilna. This is because the Parachilna Gorge road is at the limits of what a touring bike can handle, and that's even before the fact of the steep climbs that exist on the way through to Blinman.

And I had plans. Day One was to end at Hawker. Day Two would do the Blinman loop and, if all was well, would continue down to Quorn, Port Augusta (24 hour truck stop) and across through Wilmington and Crystal Brook to Bute. I wanted to crack my 566km 'on the trot' record for a ride. And all being well at Ninnes, I planned to double back to Clare (24 hour OTR) and then head home via Burra to bring up the classic Audax 1200km, perhaps even in the magic 90 hour limit. Things would have to go very well indeed for that to happen!

Day One

I left home at 5.00am and made my way over to one of the 'unofficial' entry points for the Stuart O'Grady bike path. This let me take the bike path up to Gawler and join the Nuri bypass around to the Tarlee road at around six am.

01-PethertonRoadEntryPetherton Road gate

There is a wide verge on the bypass, and that early in the morning it's not too bad to ride.

Gawler to Tarlee is always busy in daylight hours, but there is no avoiding this stretch unless you take the road north via Balaklava, which adds quite a few kilometres when you're heading for Hawker. Riding the truck rut and dipping out as traffic comes up behind, makes the trip tolerable, but it's not a road where you can ever relax.

2-RiverLightBridgeI love the old bridge at the River Light

I took the turn to Riverton, 10km on from Tarlee, and then took the Rattler and Riesling Trails to Clare. This adds a little distance, but takes out much of the climbing through the Clare Hills. Parts of the Riesling Trail have recently been "upgraded," but the work has actually damaged the surface. It requires a lot more attention to avoid coming off in slushy gravel.

3-RattlerBeginsThe beginning of the Rattler Trail

The trails are always a refreshing change after the noise of the highway, and after Clare the traffic simply evaporates. I arrived in Clare at 11.38 with a riding time of 6hrs 03 out of 6hrs 38 minutes, which is an excellent ratio. I managed this high riding to resting ratio right through the trip, which was a plus.

4-TarleeStill green down around Tarlee, it rapidly goes all yellow north of Clare.

An hour north of Clare. (Nov 2 2017)

Clare to Spalding is pretty much downhill. It has that long slow loss of altitude which makes for easy rolling for an experienced cyclist, with just a few hills in between. Of course, the same road in reverse, especially with a head wind, can be a long grind, and it's one reason I had no plans to return via that route.

5-SpaldingSignOutside Clare after the Anama turnoff to Gladstone

Spalding to Jamestown is fast both ways, and a tail wind is really helpful. I arrived in Jamestown at 15:52 for an early tea after 192km. There would now be nothing open apart from the pubs in Orroroo. Carrying the right food in this part of the state, is essential. My riding ratio was still high; 9hrs 31 riding out of 10hrs 52.

I managed this by quick photo and drink stops— less than a minute each, and by resting in the pedals. When the uphill is not constant, and if there is no head wind, you can spend a lot of time not pedalling and moving position on the bike as it coasts. This rests all the pressure points and all the muscles that can begin to seize up. It also lets you then take a slightly longer meal break three or four times in the day, which has its own benefit. There is much less opportunity for this with a head wind, but the winds were light and side on all the way to Spalding.

I also changed my food strategy this trip, and instead of chocolate bar sugar, went to Natural Lolly Company jubes (aka thick sucrose gel at about a quarter the price of a Cliff Gel) with very little solid food between meals. This worked really well.

7-BundaleerWallsThis stone wall is in really high country around Bundaleer / New Campbell Hill. Those early farmers worked hard!

8-OrrorrooSignThe Orroroo stage begins

9-HornsdaleThe Hornsdale Windfarm from the Orroroo Road

Love this country! You can just see one of the old railway bridges on the line to Orroroo

South of Jamestown the wind had begun to move north easterly and strengthen, which was not encouraging, but about 6km north of the town, where the road drops off down into Mannanarie it moved back to the south. This meant I had a fast and mostly flat ride to Hawker. There are a couple of ranges that need to be crossed, but they are small beer compared to the Flinders or the Clare Hills. The only problem on this trip, past Orroroo, was the roos. I took a few kilometres out of the back tyre with one desperate skidding stop. The frequency of this rider's menace would only increase.

11-DuskRiding into evening like this is one of my favourite times. The world is glorious and beautiful. (Just north of Orroroo)

At Hawker and Quorn there are No Camping signs, which I ignore, since I usually arrive well after dark. On Thursday night the cleaner was still at work at 12.30am, and her dogs were delighted to see me, waking the whole town! The main picnic spot is under bright 24 hour lights, to deter people like me, and I had planned to sleep up next to the play area which has a bed-sized picnic table out of the lights. It's been upgraded so that I would have been centre stage like some exhausted actor under a spotlight!
I shifted into the shade behind the playground barbecue which turned out to be a very good move because, sometime after 1.30, the new automatic sprinklers came on. The table was subjected to cyclical blasts from the sprinklers for some time, whereas I merely fished my phone out of the spray and went back to sleep to the regular pulse of a sprinkler on the metal next to me. One advantage of a bivvy bag and sleeping mat combination is that the water which leaked under the gal around the barbecue didn't wet me!

12-GPSThe day's stats.
Time: 19hours 35
Road Time: 16hours 38
Distance: 359km
Ride Speed: 21.6
Average Speed: 18.2

This was above the 13kmh I would need to do the 1200km in 90 hours, but it was clear that it would drop significantly on the way through the Flinders.

The day on Strava is here

Day Two




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