Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Little Ride In The Countryside

I have managed to talk a mate into some crazy all day ride down in country New South Wales. We have been in training, reasonably solidly, so that we don't embarrass ourselves too much.

But when an email like the following comes from the organiser I really do have to think twice about this insanity........

Unashamedly this email is to help you ask whether you are up to Thunderbolt’s Adventure. It’s not going to tell you whether you’re ready for it, that’s up to you. If you’re not 100% sure then you have some questions to ask and preparations to do (or gracefully bow out).

We’ve already had a few decide they won’t ride because the more they researched it the more they realised it wasn’t the right time for them to undertake such a big adventure.

If you’re not sure then sit this one out and we’ll let you know when another adventure comes along that isn’t as big as this one. You may want to still come to Gloucester and ride the Barrington's on your own, we can provide ideas on what route to take. There’s a 90km with 1500vm route available that we’ll publish.
I'm going to sit this one out

Please let us know if you no longer plan on riding

We are all adults, it’s totally up to you to get around the route and make it back to the pub afterwards.

There is no room for error. This isn’t a grand fondo. It’s not even the 3 peaks challenge. It’s further, higher, self supported, remote and you have to navigate mostly on gravel roads that could get washed out.

Long distance
The route is shaping up to be about 230km (we did say at least 220km in the advertising 😃 ). You will have wanted to have ridden over 200ks on the road. This isn’t the ride to push your longest distance. Even the flat sections of this ride can be slow due to the surface. Think you’re going to average 25kph? I doubt it. Most fit normal riders will be lucky to average 20kph with the dirt and the climbing. Remember your bike is going to be heavy. It’s going to have extra water, clothes and lots of food on it.

A lot of climbing
There will be over 5000 meters of climbing. That’s a heck of a lot. If you haven’t done that much yet, there’s a good training day for you. Those who have done lots of big climbing days will tell you that when you’re not up for it you’ll hit a wall. If you start walking all the hills, your time will completely blow out. There’s often no coming back and the flats will get hard too. An all day climbing base speed of 500vm/hour would be a starting point. That’s 10hrs of climbing alone.

You have to navigate
There will be no signs, no cheer squad or markers of any fashion. You won’t even be given a map. Do not reply on those around you to help you know where to go. Over the whole day you’ll likely end up out on your own. You should prepare you own maps and route notes. If you haven’t done this before, don’t learn on this ride. Remember there’s no mobile coverage. Make sure you know how long your devices will work if using electronic navigation. Make sure you’ve tested offline modes in GPS apps etc. A standard Garmin will likely need topping up with power during the ride. Unless you know how to save power on your phone, it too will die. Take a charging battery and backup navigation method.

Self Supported
You can’t pull out early if you didn’t bring enough spares, or get that weird mechanical that requires a special tool and replacement part. One of the joys of travelling through these remote areas is being self sufficient. It’s finding that right balance of having enough of the right gear clothing and supplies and the knowledge of how to use them, but not too much so you can keep travelling. You can’t top up your food with the exception of Moonan Brook Pub (I doubt they sell gels). In the end it comes down to you. Did we say there’s basically no houses or locals who you can rely on?

Most will be racing themselves for the adventure. Challenging themselves to see how they go. We aren’t providing timing or a podium. If you want to race other riders then make sure you run Strava on the ride. Someone will create a segment for the whole ride and you’ll be able to see how you went by looking at the leader board. You’ll also see riders trickle at the pub afterwards as in and gain bragging rights as you share stories of the adventure.

Eat & Drink (you can be merry later)
You will eat a lot. You will drink more than you think (if you’ve brought enough). Don’t turn up with a few pockets full of gels and a couple of bars and think it’s just like that 100ks you do but a bit longer. You’re out all day and some of the night. You’ll likely end up struggling to eat food during the ride (probably on the second big climb) eat anyway. Have a variety of food. I like real food. You’ll hit a wall if you get low on food. You’ll also drink more than you think. 2 bottles won’t cut it, find a way (and test it) to carry more. You can get water top ups at Moonan Brook at about 135ks in. Otherwise there’s no water, unless you want to drink whatever chemicals the farmers have sprayed on the land mixed with cow shit.

You’re By Yourself
Groups will possibly form. They’ll also break up. Don’t think you’ll tag along, it’s not that kind of ride. Choose to ride in a group if you like, but make sure for you own sake that you have everything you need. That you can take care of yourself. It’s not your fellow riders job to carry the beacon, or make sure you’re eating.

Open roads, no signage
We are just a bunch of people who’ve met on the internet going for a ride. The roads are open. There will be cars (along the first half at least). Normal road rules apply. You can’t just roll through intersections or ride more than 2 abreast. Drivers will not know that you are on the roads until they see you. If you’re uncomfortable with this, sit this one out. There won’t be signs warning you of steep descents or loose surfaces or corners without guardrails.

Alpine Weather
There is 1200m elevation difference between the start and the highest point. It could snow. It could also be very hot on the long exposed climbs. Don’t rely on the forecast. Further you won’t be able to grab that gillet from the support car. Take more clothes that you think. There’s nothing worse than needing to stop for a while and sitting in the rain freezing. The Tops has it’s own weather. I’ve seen it sunny and 28C at Gloucester and have been in cloud with sleet on the tops. Bring your jacket...

Farmers, tractors and cows
There’ll be farmers with tractors and possibly even dairy cows crossing the road. Don’t be silly. Be respectful and wait your turn.

Test Everything
Have everything dialled beforehand. Make sure you’ve riding rough gravel roads with your bike fully loaded. Don’t wear new shoes. Every piece of gear and way you use it should be tried and tested. If you haven’t done a long ride in those bibs then do one beforehand. You get the picture.

The Decision to Ride
It’s up to you to decide if you’re up to the adventure. It’s constantly up to you to continue to ride. If you’re uneasy about a section, you can return back another way, or re-trace your route. We’ll see you at the pub. There are surely other potential risks and hazards that haven't been outlined here.

Look after each other
We are all lovers of cycling and doing adventures. Look after each other. Respect each other. Have a laugh. 

Ahhhhh, how bad can it be?

I rode much bigger days than that during the Tour Divide on a much heavier bike. Right?! I have a dynamo hub, lighting and a cache battery to power us into the night. Right?!

The only resupply point on the ride is in Moonan Brook, at the pub. Mmmm...looks inviting.....

Really, how bad can it be......?