Blinman and bust

You always know you might not hold together on a very long ride. But I have not had the bike let me down until now. That said, it gave me 120 kilometres on a broken spoke before the second one went, so things turned out pretty well!

The plan: three days.
Day 1: up to Hawker ≈ 385km
Day 2: on to Blinman and back to Hawker— the clockwise loop ≈ 231km
Day 3: get back to Adelaide ≈ 434km

I travelled with enough food to cover the nights, and the no-shop zones, and with extra layers for the night ride, plus a sleeping sheet and blow up pillow. The pillow is a great investment.

The date was chosen around work commitments, and starting the ride depended on the forecast maximums not being above 32 - 35 degrees. This means 42 – 45 degrees on the bitumen during the afternoons as things heat up. This is usually no problem. The logic was that the summer night temperatures would make all night riding more comfortable.

My only anxiety was about the last night, which had an expected minimum of 12 degrees. I used a rack-top bag with narrow fold up side panniers, which cuts the drag. I planned to leave one side up except for the trip on from Quorn, where I would buy extra water bottles to cover the remote areas.

 What happened:
I worked a normal Wednesday, except for taking the old van to work instead of the usual 70 kilometre ride, and managed a short nap before tea.

I left at 8:37 p.m. and crossed over to Virginia at a comfortable 23 degrees. It had dropped to a standing temperature of 17 degrees by Balaklava, but the wind chill, even with a slight following breeze, took it down to 14 degrees; not a good sign.

By Brinkworth the standing temperature was 11 degrees. This is sleeping bag territory, but I had decided not to bring the bag because it tends to be too hot. These are the perils of traveling light! On a full weight tour, I would have the sleeping sheet, and a bag. I slept for an hour and a half at Brinkworth, and woke up shaking cold. Thursday Breakfast was at the Crystal Brook bakery, with the following day rising 30 degrees to 41 Celsius somewhere between Melrose and Quorn.


Looking from south west of Crystal Brook, on the Cattle Track, now bitumen from Redhill. Home was just over these hills.  And the big hill is Hughes Gap. We used to roll down to the creek, or walk down our creek to an old orchard two farms over, but you always had the long haul back up to "Hilltop."

Try right-clicking in your browser to open these pictures full size.

"Temperature" can mean several things. The forecast temperature is what they expect you will get in a Stevenson Screen, which is the standardised white slatted box the Bureau uses for recording. (This evens out the location effects we can get at home between thermometer in the damp shade house out the back, and the one in full sun on the veranda.  

The cyclist is not in a Stevenson Screen, which is great, because it means we get the cooling effect of the breeze as we ride. But we are also in full sun. So when the GPS heats up to 52 degrees standing out in the sun, as it did on Day One of the TDU at Lyndoch, that means I begin to heat up too! That's what I call the standing temperature. Riding temperature will bring that figure down, and on that particular day in Lyndoch, it rapidly came down to 47 degrees as I began to ride home— much nicer. But at night, that cooling effect is called wind-chill, and it hurts. In the extreme, it can kill people just as effectively as heat stroke. When you are tired, it also saps energy faster than an endless hill.

Since it was quite hot at Melrose, I bought three 1.5 litre bottles of water, emptied one into the bidons, drank half the other, and tipped the rest in their garden, judging it was not necessary to travel with the extra weight. I bought them there in case I decided to stop at Wilmington to let things cool down— the Wilmington deli has gone bust— which would mean I was too late to buy water in Quorn. Going on from Quorn with only a couple of bidons would be seriously stupid.

I had a decent tea at Quorn, and intended to sleep for 4½  to 6 hours— I seem to run well on 90 minute sleep cycles. Although I managed to doze a bit on a park table, it was still too hot to sleep properly, so I continued on to Hawker after a couple of hours. Quorn is exactly 320 kilometres— 200 miles— from home.

Getting ready for a nap.

The bike is a lovely Tourer. It runs silently, and handles very smartly. This was well proven when a snake came out onto the road about 40 kilometres north of Quorn, and rocking around it was smooth and effortless. Of course, that manoeuvrability  is also a function of traveling with a light load. It's much more like riding an unladen  bike, than the stodgy, heavy ride, of a full weight touring load. In vehicular terms it's like driving a small sedan compared to a big pantechnicon. And the "fuel costs" are similarly different!

Hawker has the same No Camping signs as Quorn, but I decided a nap on a park table was ok. After all, who, at 11pm, was going to be bothered? Well, at around 3 a.m. Friday one of the local dogs decided it was not ok, and stood barking 20 yards away until it had woken up the whole town. Or maybe they were all woken up by the owner who stood somewhere down in the street and bawled at the dog to come home, for the same several minutes!

This second night was warm— further inland should mean colder, go figure— so I began the ride to Parachilna. Four a.m.  seems to be the bad time for me, so I added an hour on the side of the road to my sleep tally, about 40 km out.  Happily, I had forgotten the snake!

Country night riding is always beautiful, but up north it's just glorious. The full Milky Way always amazes me; so much is blocked out by town light. And out from Hawker the range on both sides blacks out parts of the sky to quite dramatic effect.

This year there are as many kangaroos as fleas on an itchy dog, which gave me some concern for the first 25 kilometres, but then it was just me and the crickets.

I arrived at Parachilna about 8 in the morning. It's not big enough to say "in Parachilna." This is where the fun— in heavily inverted commas— began.

Dawn. Looking back toward Hawker. Parachilna

Do you take the Blinman loop clockwise or anticlockwise?
Anti-clockwise, it's a long climb to Blinman if you go up the east side of the main Flinders ridges, with lots of flood-ways that need the bottom one or two cogs to climb out from. And then, despite the welcome drop from Blinman out to Parachilna, you ride back down the west side of the range, exposed to the full force of the southerly. And have 25 kilometres or more to climb at the end, to get back into Hawker. That Hawker slope is not steep from the point of view of a day cyclist, but when you are doing hundreds of kilometres a day, and carrying a bit of a load, these things become really significant.

So I chose clockwise: roll out of Hawker, downhill, and take the flat 70 kilometres, plus a tailwind to Parachilna. Back to Hawker from Blinman is still lots of up and down on the east side— with a couple of big "ups," but downhill overall, and with some wind protection. The last 25 – 30km is pretty much flat. It makes a lot more sense to go clockwise around the range.

The fly in the ointment is Parachilna Gorge. I use this expression deliberately. I have a beekeeper's head-net, and a couple of times had to clear the damn things off to see properly! I have never seen so many flies.

I've ridden two other roads through the range up there; the rules are simple: go slowly, be patient, and pick your way. If you are patient, you can get across anything, so how hard could it be?

As they say… very.

The current of the first 10 kilometres is the worst metal road I've ever ridden. One inch gravel, fist size rocks— and larger— all over the place, corrugations and, a first for me, white dolomite bulldust holes!

It was clear the 32 kilometres was going to take well more than 3 hours. I took 4½. There was no wind in the range, and by 10:15 it was 41 degrees. On bitumen, 41 degrees is nothing— and it did see off the flies. But walking up hill in slushy road surface that's unsafe to ride, and so steep that I stopped walking for a breather, at least half a dozen times, 41 degrees is a different thing altogether. It took me uncomfortably close to my physical limits.

In past Angorichina, (half way through the range) the first spoke broke. I tied it of,f and rode very gingerly on to Blinman.

In Parachilna Gorge. The funny thing about these photos is the road... in the good spots I had time to look at the view. Elsewhere, I was too busy, or buggered, to think about photos!

In Blinman the kangaroos really do hop along the main street, so it was a captivating experience for a car load of Chinese tourists. Given the heat, and the fact that Blinman in summer is about as lively as Dawson— even the pub shuts down—  I suspect this made their day!

I washed out my shirt, filled up my  5½ litres of water containers,  and headed south.

Heading South.   The Great Wall.

The riding temperature was ranging between 37 and 40 degrees, which is quite manageable,  but the head wind was easily gusting to 30kph. It was clear that the gorge had knocked me around pretty badly, as every jump-up meant I had to drop straight into granny gear. But instead of spinning up these slopes, I was struggling. So I stopped at the old Oraparinna Ranger Station for a couple of hours, to let the heat pass.

On this trip, the public phone box was actually working, so I rang Wendy who found a motel in Hawker. The proprietor, on being asked to leave the key in the door, was astonished that a bike would be riding at night! I topped up the water bottles from the rain water tank, added puratabs, and dozed for a couple of hours.

It was a cool 33 when I began the last 80 kilometres to Hawker— slowly dropping to 16, but because it was a late afternoon the head winds were now the gusty gully breezes of Wilpena Pound. They  turned the headwind into a refrigerator. You sweat pushing against the wind, which makes you cold as this wet evaporates. Wind speeds of 30 to 40 kph at night are winter gilet territory— even in February.

I was back in Hawker at 11:30 p.m., having consumed 11½  litres of water, yet wearing a balaclava, a long sleeve base layer, long sleeve top, winter weight jersey, all covered with an impregnable hoodie I bought from the bike shop at Melrose. But still really cold. And the motel room was a toasty 35 degrees. 

The air conditioner worked its magic and I had an excellent sleep, followed by a good hot breakfast from Teague's Garage. (Saturday)

Because the back wheel was holding up, I decided to ride the short route of 350 kilometres home, rather than the longer way I had planned. This even gave me a chance of finding someone who could true the wheel at Melrose bike shop. My estimate of having breakfast at home on Sunday was quickly revised to "lunch-maybe" when the wind outside of town proved to be in the 25-gusting-to-35 kph range. And 4½ kilometres out came the tell-tale bang of the second spoke breaking. This made the wheel look a little more true, but I also knew it to be fair warning that more would follow.

So we rolled back down into Hawker, and found out the next bus was Thursday. The Cochranes* weekend duty officer was sure they'd never fit a push bike in their paper truck— the things are huge, so that was out. He didn't even tell me when the next one was coming through— in case I guilted the driver into a ride, I guess. Hitching out on the highway, watching empty four wheel drives with empty roof racks, not to mention unloaded utes, drive past,  I found via Facebook that my colleague Sandy has a house in Hawker,  so I was right for accommodation. But Wendy and I decided that picking me up was shaping to be the best option. So I went back to the service station, and on the first try, scored a ride to Port Augusta. And here I sit.


If I been on the old bike, this trip would have brought up 60,000 kilometres sometime on Friday. And I never had a broken spoke— even the time I hit a bitumen pot-hole at 70kph, and dented the rim! I think I'll transfer the heavy duty rims over from the old bike, and get Gavin to teach me some wheel truing with what remains of the present rear wheel. Although wheel truing is not really a job for part-timers— I'd be as likely to make matters worse, which is why I left the back wheel as it was, up in the gorge.

So this trip has been character building.

I did get 600 kilometres in the two days, even though I missed the third 300 plus day to make a full thousand. And I've settled a few things in my mind about multiple all-night rides for later in the year. Basically, light touring doesn't work for more than a day at a time. I'll write more on this.

Stray fact: Hawker has more white cockies then people; possibly by an order of magnitude.


*Cochranes Transport run overnight trucks to just about everywhere in South Australia: milk, papers etc.

Quorn - KMZ - GPX
Hawker - KMZ - GPX
Blinman - KMZ - GPX

  Click to enlarge



















Two Wells







Jacket on, 13 minutes down.





15 minutes down





58 minutes down








Leave Brinkworth







Sun is up



Red Hill





Crystal Brook





Bundock Parade

















Lunch. Left at 1.10pm





Averaging 20.9kph road speed overall.





15.14hours ride time. 21kph. 16kph raw average. Raw average discounting sleep: 17.3kph




















18° Slept an hour 40km out


















Left O.







16.3kph riding speed. 14.13hours riding 11.5 litres water.


Copyright ^Top