I love going big on the bike. Completing a big epic challenge is always appealing, there’s something about the adventure, and overcoming the challenge that I thrive on. Having looked through the Trans Con and Trans Am races, I was drooling at the chance to go and ride one. 4000+ kilometres, unsupported across a continent? YES. Unfortunately the need to feed and house my family somehow cut that plan off at the ankles. Families…. Always getting in the way of stuff…. (Love you darling if you are reading this).
So what else to do? I was scratching around thinking of something, and came up with the idea to ride from Melbourne to Adelaide, non-stop. That’d be massive, I’d only need to buy a few parts and supplies, and a flight to Melbourne. Easy enough to organise. So I mapped the route out, and decided to take the Great Ocean Road route instead of the normal highway, largely due to there being way less trucking traffic. That added a lazy 300 extra kilometres to the trip, but whatevs man, this was all part of the adventure.
I sat on it for a while, and kept planning it out. After a couple of months I realised that doing this by myself was probably a tall order. Falling asleep in the middle of nowhere on a highway I figured was perhaps a touch too dangerous. So I thought about who I’d choose for company, and what rules we’d have.
Rule 1: You finish, or you don’t turn up to the start line. There is no support, so there is no ‘maybe’, there is no ‘get out clause’, no sag wagon. Either you are 100% confident in your abilities to roll the whole way, or you just don’t come, because getting home otherwise would be BLOODY tough to organise.
Rule 2: Quality roosters only. Egos can stay at home, this is a team effort. I needed the kind of guys that wouldn’t question why we were rolling, they would just put their heads down and get the job done. Also, MUST HAVE a foul, and I mean truly awful, sense of humor. This was going to be a long time in each other’s very direct company, so we needed to get along, and I like gross jokes. A LOT.
Rule 3 and 4: There are no rules 3 and 4.
Rule 5: Well that’s always Rule 5, and anyone doing this ride would need a HTFU attitude in buckets to get through.
So that was it. I asked 2 guys – James Raison and Sam Jeffries. We had all everested together in August, so I knew that they were both very good riders, and would provide great banter.
Over time, whilst chatting online, we realised our biggest concern was sleep deprivation. When your muscles need a rest, they just spasm a bit and get sore. When your brain needs a rest, things get crazy. Sleep deprivation is the worst. Sam wondered about how another rider in the Hells 500 from Melbourne – Pete Arnott – had gone during a double everesting he had conpleted, and how he had coped with sleep deprivation over the 41 hours of his ride. I knew Pete, so I asked him. He told me what he had done, and then asked why I had asked. When he found that out, he waited 10 minutes before also wanting ‘in’. And so now Pete was on board.
Flights were booked, gear was organised, a time line was planned and we rode our bikes a lot. How do you prepare for something so massive? You can’t really, you just do what you can, and hope for the best.
We giggled like school kids on our flight to Melbourne, laughing at how dumb this whole idea was. It was just so crazy. Pretty much we spent the most of our time dismissing, and making fun of the ride as something stupid, so that we wouldn’t have to think about it. That way we couldn’t be intimated by it. If you think about the reality of the distance and time-frame, it seems impossible, and you are defeated before you start. Be blasé, and pretend that you are cool by ignoring it, and you can get a leg over your bike just like it’s a normal ride.
A top mate of mine, Rich Kemp, met us at the airport with Pete. We loaded our bikes into the cars, and stayed at Rich’s place for the night. We stayed up way too late, sank a few beers, and slept 4 and a half hours only. Pretty much everything that you aren’t supposed to do before a ride like this. But whatever, Rich and his wife Georgia are good people, and it was great to see them.
We rolled out from Rich’s at 4:30am, with Rich in tow. Not 300m in, and James gets a puncture. Dead serious. Brand spanking new ‘all season’ tyres, and he has a flat… Classic James. Fixed that and off we rode, thankfully that was the only mechanical problem of the whole ride.
We rolled over to the MCG where we met a bunch of Hells 500 riders that were rolling with us to start. We figured we’d ride MCG to Adelaide Oval, as two comparable landmarks to aim for. Being there on Jollimont Street, out front of the MCG in the dark with Rich was surreal. The two of us had everested there on Melbourne City Hire bikes in June, and it was where he had become one of my very top mates. Returning there, in the dark and on bikes, brought a flood of those memories back.
Rolling out as a crew, there was a tonne of nervous energy in the team. Lot’s of laughs, chatting and banter. The Melbourne guys were happy to look after us tourists, and we eventually got out onto Beach Road. I do not get why this road is so popular. Seriously, it’s flat, suburban, and has a lot of traffic, but there are cyclists out EVERYWHERE. Each to their own though, and so we rolled along. We’d get passed by some guys, who’d give some fairly odd looks at the bags hanging off of our frames. We’d pass other guys, and feel a great sense of pride that blokes on a 2-day ride were still faster than dudes out for a morning roll.
We stopped for a quick breakfast and coffee stop in Black Rock, and were down to the 4 of us, with Rich and another Hells rider, Dave, for company. The mood had settled a bit, and the team seemed to be steeling themselves for the enormous task ahead. Still, James is pretty much a complete lightening rod for insults, so like school yard bullies, we spent a lot of time making fun of him… Worth it.
Rich turned around eventually, and the 4 of us, plus Dave, rolled down to the ferry at Sorrento. Still on time, we jumped on the 10am ferry, still giggling and laughing. Gorgeous spot down there. On the ferry over, whilst gorging on whatever food we could get, we were all laughing that we had just ridden 120 kilometres, and it was nothing more than a warm up. Any other bloody day, that is a decent hit-out, yet we had ridden just a tenth of the distance required. Insane to think we had ridden quite a long way, yet still had nearly 1000 kilometres to go. It is such a massive figure, that it felt laughable to us all. We were still dismissing the ride, even while doing it. That humour and ‘forced ignorance’ I can look back on as really bloody crucial in getting to where we needed to go. Any time my mindset got serious, or I really thought about the distance, my mood would sink horribly, and I’d start to believe it was impossible. By ignoring, we could focus on riding to the next town, and forget about what was past it.
With a flurry of photos, Dave turned off to ride back around the other side of the bay back home, and we went south down toward Torquay. We got honked at by a few drivers that wanted to remind us that they own a car, we stopped for water occasionally, but we just kept rolling until we got onto the Great Ocean Road. Then the entire view opened up. OMFG – GORGEOUS!!!
All of us started gushing, this stretch of road was simply stunning. The surface is smooth, it has rolling ups and downs along the way, with lovely little hairpin turns at every creek inlet. You have views out over sandy beaches with beautiful blue waves breaking on your left shoulder, and native forest on your right, with a stunning grey ribbon of road in between.
The stretch between Lorne and Apollo Bay, a distance of 44 kilometres is one of the greatest stretches of road I have ridden, and all 4 of us felt the same. If you haven’t, grab a bike and go and roll this road, it is a win for humanity to do so.
Quick stop at Apollo Bay bakery and supermarket for food and supplies, and then back amongst it. The following section of the ‘GROAD’ is totally different, but equally as spectacular, as the highway leaves the beach, and rides into the forest and hills of the Great Otway National Park. Seriously, how much scenery do you want in a day?! Beautiful rainforest towered over us, with some longer climbs to stretch our legs out, and descents to make you grin and laugh out loud.
These stunning roads were a great distraction to the distance we had covered. How can you feel tired, when the landscape around you is so alive? The two halves to this great stretch of road are the perfect foils for each other. There are totally opposite, yet compliment each other well, and are truly enjoyable. Whilst you are scoring a win for humanity by riding on the beach section, go and treat yourself to the forested section – excellent.
We got to the 12 apostles, and the sun had just dipped below the horizon. The carpark was choc-a-block full of people still, and there were some strange looks at the ragged looking blokes on bikes who had just rolled in, and were filling up their water bottles in the toilets… Weirdos. Now that it was dark, we could at least notice cars coming from much further away. Port Campbell was closed for the night, so we rolled on through, headed for Warnambool for a very late dinner.
The darkness. We had all waited for it, we had all experienced a lot of riding in it on previous everesting rides. We were not looking forward to it. The darkness was so much harder than I had thought. On an Everesting, you roll up the hill, you roll down the hill, and you keep doing it. You can stop to eat any time you like, you have extra clothes to put on, and most importantly, there are visual markers to gauge your progress. Out on a straight and flat highway, there is nothing. There was no moon, so we could see our lights, the lines on the road, and each other. That was it. It is soul destroying to ride like this. We were 400 kilometres in, facing 700 more, and our entire world was wrapped up in a 30 metre bubble of existence. It felt like there was nothing beyond but darkness. You start to lose hope like this, you start to lose your mind like this. Your world is suffering, deep fatigue and darkness.
It seemed like an eternity, but we made it to Warnambool. The first service station we came across, we stopped, grabbed food, sat on the damn tiled floor, and ate. Total hobos, sitting on the floor outside of the toilet, eating whatever rubbish we could get our hands on. We heard there was a Hungry Jacks up the road, so we went down there – drive through only. So we rode through the drive through, grabbed a bunch of burgers and coffees, and sat in the car park gorging. The eating habits of an adventure ultra cyclist are not pretty, they just get the job done.
1am rolled around, and it was back on the road. Man I felt awful. Tired, cold, and back on the hypnotic misery of the flat, dark and straight highway. I started to get small thoughts, doubting that I would make it. These thoughts always come on a long event. They are just part and parcel of pushing your limits. That’s how you know you are approaching your boundaries, because you start to feel you can’t go on.
600 kilometres to go….
Thanks so much for reading, stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of this epic. To stay up-to-date, please remember to drop your email into the box on the home screen, and subscribe to the blog. It’s worth it just for the welcome email I’ve heard… 😉