When the wind blows... (361km)

We were spending some time in Melrose, so I took the bike to ride home. I planned a 24 hr 400km ride with lots of gravel, but it became clear from the weather forecast that this was not really going to be an option. 20-30km head winds were forecast, and for once, the BOM was exactly correct.

Dawn from the Wilmington Bike PathDawn from the Wilmington Bike Path.

The plan was to leave Melrose, head north to Wilmington and across to Orroroo. Then I would head south east to Peterborough. After this I would head south  on Booborowie Road to Gum Creek, covering 50km of gravel road until about 20km north of Booborowie. I checked with Peterborough and Goyder Councils that this was a made road and not earth formed (with the possibility of sand.) I need not have bothered because it is in very good condition, mostly because it follows the Moomba gas pipeline and is probably its all-weather service road.

Road to OrrorooThe road down into Orroroo

Willowie CemetryWillowie Cemetery

For about  100km from Orroroo to just north of Booborowie I rode directly into the wind as it worked its way from SE to SW during the day. The roads were mostly flat with gently rises, but there was no option for coasting. I think this is the most tiring thing about head winds. It’s easy to drop back a cog or two and not fight the wind.  But having to pedal all the time, even downhill, just to keep moving, really chews up the energy.  I was very glad to find the wind dropping just north of Booborowie (again as forecast) and used every option of coasting for as long as I remained on the bitumen.

Metal Road in dry countryBooborowie Road just south of Peterborough

The effects of wind and road surface can be seen quite plainly from the following statistics:

Riding to Orroroo from Melrose I averaged 15.5kmh real average speed, including photos and stopping for a chat at Willowie.
For the next 35km to Peterborough, still bitumen, but now with a head wind, that drops to 15.21.
Then, on the metal road to Booberowie, wind rising, the real average speed drops to 13.14.
Gum Creek to Clare drops right back to 12.17, mostly because of one unrideable hill (see below) even though the wind has now dropped.
And the final 145km, despite being very tired comes back up to 15.9. This is due to the excellent surfaces and lack of wind.
The moving average speed for the trip was 17.1kmh, which indicates just how misleading a statistic that can be! For the entire 25 hours the real average speed was 14.4kmh.

6-12hoursAnother indication of the effect of a headwind is this 12 hour shot of my GPS.  In this country, I would normally expect to be showing between 200 and 210km by now.


WindfarmsThis is windfarm country. At one point, without looking behind me, I could count 88 windmills. If I'd counted a full 360 degrees, there would have been quite a few more!

Old Single Teacher School at Gum CreekThis is the old one teacher school at Gum Creek. My mother was a teacher here in the early  1950's.

Despite checking the Booborowie road, I didn’t think to check the status of the road from Gum Creek across to Barinia, which is the top of the Riesling Trail. Braefoot Road, which begins at Gum Creek turns into a very steep (12-14% in places) track over the ridge between Gum Creek and Clare. It was freshly graded, and so a quite treacherous surface.  I had to walk the last few hundred metres. The first kilometre or so of the downslope was also barely rideable, although now because it was “gravel” with a high proportion of loose golf ball to cricket ball sized rocks.

Country Road into the hills at duskBraefoot Road just on dusk. A civilised road across to Clare through the hills?

8-trackTen minutes later, not so good! It was darker than the image suggests and very deep and slushy. I soon had to walk.

It was now fully dark, but I noticed I was I was entering a paddock freshly slashed for hay.  The descent continued with cropping to the very edge of the road, which was slowly improving in surface quality.  I found myself in a farmyard comprising about 200 metres of sheds and silos, and finally found the road again on the other side! From there I had a much faster ride into Clare and on to Adelaide. I took the Riesling and Rattler Trails to Riverton and then, given that it was very late, took Main North Road to Gawler. (I don’t use this route during the day.)

Just on dawn, I jumped off the SOG bike path onto Petherick Road, thence to Andrew’s Road and the West Avenue Bike Path past Edinborough Air Base. This allows a “back street ‘n’ bike path’ transfer to the Parafield and Levels bikeways, which take me home.

It was two weeks to the day since I had ridden 680km nonstop from Creswick to Palmer, and this 360km was a bit too soon. I don’t think I had another 20km in me.

9-mapAndrea (Oct 2023)


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