Today I did the biggest ride of my life, and I’d say right now, I am the proudest I’ve ever been about a riding effort. 203kms, at over 30km/hr average speed, well over 1000 metres of climbing and crucially – through extremely shitty, soul-destroying conditions.
And I tell this story not wanting to gloat. This was just another adventure me, Shirts and Ryan had planned. It was ambitious on paper, but with all the elemental forces that occurred today – it just accidentally got so much more important.
And this ride was so full-on it brought doom upon my beloved Garmin. It got so wet it first went a bit nuts, then faded and then went blank. Dead. I could have cried. At the time it felt like a part of my being had be excised, not to mention seriously ominous.
Art on the early morning Bicentennial
Since Wednesday Ryan had this plan to ride to Caloundra and back as prep for the big overnight ride to Toowoomba in two weeks. “Fair enough,” I thought. This was maybe achievable. In my brain I assumed I could bail sometime on the way back at a train station. So in that context I signed up.
I spent quite a good deal of Friday worrying about what would happen on the morrow, but I believed I was prepared. Mentally at least.
I set the alarm for 4:40am but woke at 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep so I got up. It was raining intensely outside and the tin roof made the feeling I should just get back into bed so much worse. So, so much worse. It was like a tractor beam gripping every atom of my body. But I resisted and continued with my prep. At 5am Ryan texted me saying – “This wet will make the ride pretty miserable”. But I was determined. I had spent all that time worrying. I couldn’t let that big, fat block of time spent fretting go to waste. I wrote back saying we have to do something. I’m up, let’s just do a route to Scarborough. Ryan agreed.
Ryan texting Shirts to see if he was still coming
So the hardest thing about riding in the wet, is just starting out. Once you are thoroughly soaked you grow accustomed to this fate. It was BLACK outside and I was freezing cold, but I just rolled the long way to the meeting point.
For once I was not the first to arrive. Ryan was like, “I kinda feel like doing it now.” And I said, “Totally. I wanna do something different. We can always bail at a train station if it gets too miserable.”
And Shirts was suddenly there and just a bit surprised we had showed up in such atrocious conditions.
Then we set out into the darkness. I should say at this point that it rained ALL DAY. At very brief points it just trickled. But it was quite relentless. Even now it is still pissing down. And if the roads weren’t like lakes, they were like rivers. Huge puddles and slippery nonsense and just perpetual spray from the bike in front.
So for the first 65km it was pretty dark and there was no drafting cause getting into the slipstream of the bike in front meant you got a face-full of intense road-grime. Gradually, when the road narrowed that became a given and having that grit in your mouth – like you had swallowed a fist-full of sand – was omnipresent.
Over this period we got a break when Ryan got a flat at the Bonney-View in Bald Hills and then a quick stop at Caboolture. At Beerburrum I halted the crew and reluctantly ate my first Chiko-Roll in many, many years. Although they advertised sausage rolls – it was too early for them to be ready.
The next 20kms was on quite treacherous roads. There was little or no shoulder and 100km/hr traffic blasting past. The shoulder was dilapidated and in some points the bitumen had been crushed into a hump that we had to smash over with no warning (like we were kids again on our BMXs jumping bumps). I put my sunglasses on, not to diffuse the glare, but to limit the splash. And they were foggy and wet and killed about 30% of my vision. But I just had to attempt to protect my eyes from all that shitty spill from the bike in front. Despite the glasses it was still like getting a horizontal shower full of grime and – what I realised later – road tar.
The whole ride my eyes, and everyone else’s, stung from the grit – my nose was perpetually running and I was spitting constantly trying to expel that shit the road had spewed into my face.
Yet we just lifted the intensity. I blame mad-dog Ryan. He just pushed and pushed and I felt good enough to reciprocate. We took turns in this mash and I looked down at my Garmin Temple and the average speed went up to 31.7km/hr. I felt good that the Garmin Gods would be pleased with this sacrifice.
By the time we hit the hill just outside Caloundra the average started to be dented. It was a shitty little climb – truth be told. We had just ignored a “bikes must exit” sign (I love doing that – and we got to do it again on the Bruce Highway at Bald Hills on the way back.) So pushing ahead on this brand new highway we had this massive shoulder which made that sign we just ignored seem even more stupid. The rain and headwind and traffic got mental, so we had to go easy into Caloundra. We stopped at Bulcock Beach and each had a big breakfast with bacon, eggs, sausages, mushies, tomato, hash browns and toast at some place we just randomly found.
Shirts was like, “How far do you want to go back?” Ryan said, “I’m happy to go the whole way.” I said, “I will go as far as Caboolture, then make a call then.” Secretly I knew I would almost certainly bail then.
On the way back we spent a good 5 minutes warming up again. It was so brutally cold. My teeth were chattering and I was shaking uncontrollably. We had a tail wind for a while, but it soon disappeared. We were smashing again through these horrible roads. At one point Ryan lost concentration and ran off the road into the grassy ditch beside but managed to stay rolling at speed until he found a suitable place top regain the road. I didn’t see this as I was leading but Shirts told Ry later, “You kept going through that mush at 30k/hr!”
There were so many points on this entire ride where I hit something and I felt the bike about to lose it. After the third heart-stopping event I remember thinking it was only a matter of “when”, not “if”, one of us would go sideways in this slippery, watery, grimey hell.
And it did happen. But more on that later.
Meanwhile this was when my Garmin suddenly stopped working properly and eventually died with apparent water damage. It was utterly tragic. I was lost without it. I had only a vague idea what distance we had covered and what mattered most: what was left. I also fretted cause this would mean my stats would all be comprimised. But then I thought – well it had worked for half the ride, so if I just double that it will all be ok. SWEET. And plus now I have the best excuse ever to buy a new Garmin.
At Beerburrum we stopped again this time for coke and lollies. I was starting to feel sore and miserable and was more convinced than ever that I would call it a day at Caboolture. We plowed on but then the tunes through my iPhone went nuts and I knew it was getting fucked by water. A quick stop and I tried my best to wrap the phone with plastic. But this meant no more tunes. DAMN.
For the next 15ks I was feeling tragic, and just sucked Ryan’s wheel. I could feel these twinges like I would get a cramp any moment – but I survived. And then at Caboolture I just got lost in the task of riding through the traffic and forgot I was going to bail. So when I realised the train station was far behind I just kept going and luckily the traffic lights and nonsense around here slowed everything down and gave me some respite.
After a bush-pee at Morayfields I was feeling a bit better and the ride to Petrie went quite well. I mean – I was still feeling shit, but I was gaining some confidence. At the approach to Petrie I was thinking of bailing again but then we were smashing down and I felt good and then this deadshit in a car was being nasty so I just smashed and drafted him and got a free 50/km/hr ride for about 800 metres.
It was then only about 25ks to go so I just had to keep going and I suddenly got quite excited that I was about to do this.
With the last 5kms or so to go we all went our separate ways and with just my own company I decided I felt pretty fucking good. I wanted to scream at everyone, “I have just ridden over 200kms today!” “TRUE FUCKING STORY!”
When I got home I was covered in grime and something else I have never encountered before: ROAD TAR. Sticky, black tar that has all the properties of old chewing gum. No matter how much I scrubbed with soap it refused to come off. I feel like one of those water-birds caught up in an oil spill. My right eye is also horribly sore. It feels like a piece of that tar is stuck in there. OW!
Meanwhile Ryan texted me saying he had a crash 100 metres from his home. I knew one of us would go down. Luckily for Ry Ry it’s just a few scrapes.
It was a great ride and apart from the hour of so around Caboolture – I felt pretty strong.
At this conclusion I would also like to say that my Grandma lived in Caloundra for many years and I would visit her by bus initially (when I was a kid – and on these very same roads) or by driving (when I was old enough). And if you had told my former selves back then that one day I would ride a bike to and from Caloundra in around 8 hours (including breaks) my old incarnations would have thought that notion was utterly ridiculous. Just fucking silly.
And so I say to my former selves, “fuck yeah, take that – deadshits.”