If you had ever wanted to know what it’s like to ride 140km into a forty kilometre per hour wind, gusting to sixty, and occasionally raining needles, I can now tell you. Oh, and this is in the middle of a dust storm with dead frogs still appearing on the road! The answer is that it is incredibly gratifying, and completely  (add your choice of scatologia here) ..........., all at the same time. It also takes 11.5 hours, 3 meals, and enough chocolate and muesli bars to give a dietitian a fit.

The good bit is being able to achieve what the theory and training says you can do. The shite bit is that riding 20km a time in second to bottom gear on flat road, does your head in. Today would be the only day I’ve ever had to change down a gear going downhill just so I could keep moving! The principle is to maintain a constant cadence (rate of pedaling) of around 80-85 per minute (in my case) and just move up and down the gears as required. You ignore the speed and concentrate on the cadence, just like climbing a hill. Keeping pedaling like that on flat ground for a couple of hours in second to bottom, and wait for it, even in grandpa gear, is really hard to maintain. The mental work is almost as had as the physical work.

True, but any slower and I would have gone backwards!

The physical work is not trifling. With some of the gusts it was a matter of just letting everything come almost to a halt and starting over again when the blast was past. There were no opportunities to coast. Trying to coast downhill meant being blown to a stop by the head wind.

Fortunately there is an excellent verge on this road, because the noise of the wind was so loud that even semis were almost on top of me before I could hear them. It was too risky to work from the mirror alone, as I had a lot of trouble holding a straight line in the wind, without looking behind all the time. In the end I just sat in the verge the whole way.

I found some of them have a kind of bow wave that would push me forward and off the road as they came behind me, and then suck me in towards the truck as they passed. Some of them had a secondary wave that would then rock me out again, and repeat the sucking action. I was blown right off the bitumen a couple of times. I had the same experience from the wind itself, unaided by trucks, on at least three occasions.

The noise was also very tiring. It was like being on the back of a ute and doing the trip from Adelaide to Hay. I think I was sitting in a 50km breeze for most of the time, which is quite noisy. The gusts simply roar, as does the buffeting you get from a brace of semis and a dozen cars in convoy. They set up a kind of wake that lasts for 20 seconds of more after the last oncoming vehicle has passed.

It was cold. I began by putting on a jersey, then a windcutter vest, then booties, and even the heavy winter tights. Then it began to rain, so 30km out from Mildura I added the rain jacket and it stayed on until Renmark.

Silly bugger!

The paddocks were getting up and walking away in the wind today. I was losing sight of cars after about 500 metres unless they had their lights on. It was gratifying to be told by a truckie at Yamba, who had passed me in the morning and was now returning to Renmark that he could see my daylight flasher “for miles.” To be in the middle of this and be rained on at the same time was a bit weird!

There were odd things to enjoy. A semi went passed fully laden with one excavator bucket. I was impressed by this until I met another semi with a bucket at least half as big again. He had several escort vehicles. Another semi, laden with the back part of a tipper, had a tent set up under the load to save on accommodation. This lot all had to park at Yamba on dusk, to comply with transport regulations, and then unhitched the prime movers and drove them into town, presumably to the pub. I’m a bit puzzled about why they didn’t just all go in in one of the escort vans.

Tent on a truck

I have now reached 2850 kms for the trip and have done over 15000km on this bike in the last 18 months, so I’m quite chuffed. I’m also heading for bed; my clothes have dripped out enough to put under the aircon fan and I can sleep!


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