So, i participated in the inaugural Gravelaide ride a week and a bit back. This was the ride that tipped me over the edge to getting a bike suitable for gravel riding a few months back.
In short, it was a ripsnorting ride, it had almost everything, it was one of the toughest rides I’ve ever ridden. I think the 3 Peaks was harder, it played games with the mind, but even though Gravelaide #1 was only 105 km long with around 1,600m vertical gain, but it was a struggle all the way. Riding gravel does make you think about what you are doing, i have no doubt that it will improve my cycling skills, but when the weather turned on us that Sunday, it was rough.
The day started off well enough with around 80 cyclists turning up at Mt Torrens for a respectable 9am rollout. The sun was shining, there was a slight breeze but nothing to raise an eyebrow at Everyone was chirpy and were quite enthused about the first Gravelaide.
There was a 60 km route and a 100km route, the latter having a 40km loop added to the 2/3 mark of the 60km loop, down towards the Murray River, I’d signed up for the 100km loop, thinking even at 20km per hour that’d be a 5 hour ride. Surely not.
Setting off from Mt Torrens oval had us winding through a mix of private property driveways taking us through some marvelous rolling hills, bumping into property owners and wandering cows gave it a unique rural feel.
It wasn’t too long though before the technicalities of a gravel ride started to pop up when we hit a sand. It also wasn’t too long before i found that my technique was lacking a bit. I had my weight a little too far forward, ploughed into the sand and tracked into the bush. OK, first lesson learnt, more weight on the back wheel over the sand.
The gravel rolled along quite nicely until I hit rutted hole at the bottom of one of those nice nice long smooth descents. In the dappled shadows i didn’t spot it until i was almost on it. That and the fact I was playing with the camera didn’t help too much also. Bam, that sinking feeling of feeling the rim bottom out and then that pissed feeling when you feel a little bit further up the road when you feel a little wobble, look down and realise your tyre isn’t looking do healthy. Bugger.
Front wheel flat, so it wasn’t too long before i was back on the road again enjoying the scenery and “bumping” into people I had only met online before. Hmm, that didn’t sound right. Things were moving along smoothly. Yessss.
By this stage the wind was starting to pick up.
It wasn’t too long before the ride became insane, in a god way, We were riding along goat trails. In fact have you seen those goats that climb up near vertical walls in the search of mineral salts to lick? I think i passed a few of them on the roads we were travelling on.
The fire trails had huge rain ruts in them, and at one stage i can remember thinking i might be taking this a little too fast as I was bucked back onto the bike after losing control going downhill.
With all the sharp rocks and perhaps taking it a bit too fast, you guessed it, lesson #2, a little more cation downhill – puncture # 2. People riding past saying “not again”.
Hmm, a little awkward, not expecting two flats, my second tube was a leftover 25mm tube. Had me feeling a little exposed with more than 50 km left of the route. Fortunately the guys had a spare spare at the hydration stop a while later that i could borrow to allow me to carry on.
Steep Hill Road lived up to its name, fricken steep, but with the ever strengthening wind, riding up on the pegs allowed the wind to act like a sail and help me up. Across the top however was a sign of things to come. Cross winds had everyone fighting just to stay upright. It was a challenge. Fortunately though we eventually turned east and wound down through scenic valleys towards the Murray Plains. Heck, the wind was so strong there we were even pushed up a light gradient hill. How sweet was this, but, there was a but coming, a big one.
The Murray plains was flat and a big contrast from where we had just come.
A few kms away from the river we swung north and hit the cross winds again, this time they seemed to have picked up in strength, and then a few kms later, swung back into the wind to start the long slow grin back into the wind.
Riding at 13 kph into 60kph headwinds was terribly hard, but the hard part hadn’t yet been seen. The climb back up Mt Botroff into the headwind with a 32-25 gearing was for me impossible. And not only were we competing against the wind, it started raining vertical sheets of needle like rain. Ouch.
Once over the top it didn’t get much better. Fatigue was setting in, headwind wasn’t letting up, and a bit further down the track a 3rd friggin puncture and a busted spoke. Shite. Lesson #3, make sure i have the right sized tubes on board. Lesson #4 – discs are friggin awesome. Had i been riding with rim brakes, i would have been out of the ride, but as it was, i was able to not only limp to the hydration stop, but was able to nurse the bike home to finish.
(Unfortunately my camera batteries ran out at the bottom of the hill)
Oh, did i tell you about Mt Beevor. I got lost following Noel and Robbie. I eventually caught up to them when they stopped to figure out where the hell we were. We could see Mt Beevor, but we were miles away from where we needed to be. So it was decide the best way to get to the top of Mt Beevor was to ride across the steep rocky paddocks. Robbie was a powerhouse but Noel and i had to walk up a good portion.
Upon cresting Mt Beevor, the wind as at its strongest,. Listening to others after the ride there were few riders “pushed” off the bike by the strength of the wind.
Keep an eye out for our new book called “Stormin’ the Beevor” in the next few months.
With a bit of luck, we’ll get some interest from Hollywood. I’m hoping Brad Pitt will agree to play me.
But I’d probably get Jim Carey.
More goat tracks, another wrong turn and i eventually rode into Mt Torrens, as it turned out the last rider under their own power.
What a day.
A big congratulations to the team at Gravelaide for pulling this together. It was an awesome day, awesome people and really looking forward to the next one.
The following photos have been grabbed of various Facebook sites.