Dave Byrnes' Adventures

Round Oz Bike Record Attempt - 2007

Overview     Schedule     Map     Diary     Pictures     Messages     Conclusion

IDEA

During the last stages of my ride from Wilsons Prom to Cape York in August 2006, I began pondering what to do for my next adventure.

Riding across Australia from western tip to eastern tip had some appeal and seemed like a natural follow-on to the south to north ride.  It would be tough to do it by the most direct route which would take me through central Australia and maybe the Simpson Desert.  It might not be possible to carry enough water to get across the desert unsupported and there was bound to be plenty of unrideable sand of the kind I found tough on Cape York.  However, the challenge appealed and I spent time in September and October researching the route and the Simpson crossing, in particular.

While doing the research, I discovered that there was an unofficial record for riding around Australia solo and unsupported of 55.7 days for 14,430km, set by 53 year old Eugen Schilter of Eastwood in Sydney in September 2004 (www.aa56.org/Default.aspx?tabid=131 ).  This was an average of 259km/day.  I had never ridden 259km in one day, so averaging that distance for 55 consecutive days seemed like a very formidable challenge.  However, on a ride from Adelaide to Darwin in 2005, I had ridden 255km on several days on a heavy hybrid bike with 25kg of gear, so it wasnít impossible, and had managed three consecutive 200km days reasonably comfortably on last yearís ride to the Cape.

It was hard to decide which to tackle first but I finally decided while driving back to Sydney from Melbourne where I had attended the memorial service for long-time friend, Tom Yuncken.  Tom had recently died from injuries sustained in a crash during the annual Round the Bay bike ride in Victoria.  His death, at the age of 59, reminded me of two things - there are no guarantees that you will be around tomorrow and that we are all getting older.  Tom had half-jokingly e-mailed me during my south-to-north trip asking about joining me on the west-east trip next.  He would have been a good companion.

I decided to make an attempt on the Round Australia record.  Firstly, it was a very ambitious enterprise that would be a challenge for anybody, let alone a 56 year old.  I could not really afford to leave it any longer if I wanted to make a serious attempt on the record.  Secondly, I needed a year off from sand, corrugations and mountains and, despite the likely jousting with heavy traffic and road trains, the sealed roads had significant appeal.  Finally, it seemed like the venture would make a good subject for a book and I had thus far made no progress on the writing career I had hoped to pursue when I retired from work in 2003.

RECORD

All of my research about the record was done via the internet.  As far as I can ascertain, there is no official record or route for riding round Australia solo and unsupported.  However, there appears to have been supported races around Australia in 1999 and 2000 where the Canadian endurance cyclist, Perry Stone, set a record of 41.02 days for a 14,200km circuit.

Perry returned to set a record of 57.4 days for a solo unsupported 14,321km ride around Australia in January 2003 (seewww.spokepost.com/news/?articleID=99&catViewAll=10 ).

In September 2004, Eugen Schilter improved on Perryís record by completing his 14,430km circumnavigation in 55.7 days (seewww.aa56.org/Default.aspx?tabid=26 ).
 

PRIZE

With less than two weeks to go before I started my attempt on the record, I learned that, on 10 May 2007, Eugen Schilter announced the offer of a $15,000 prize for the first person to break his record following essentially the same route as he had travelled.

In summary, the prize is payable provided the claimant breaks Eugen Schilterís time of 55 days 17 hours and 8 minutes by more than one hour while observing the following rules

      The prize is to be for a solo, sealed-road approximate perimeter ride, without a support vehicle.

      In principle, the route must pass, in any sequence, certain fixed points along the route of the existing record.  Start and finish must be at the same spot.  A route same in spirit but clearly more strenuous also qualifies.  The fixed points are
o      Sydney Harbour Bridge
o      Brisbane Storey Bridge
o      Innisfail Town Centre
o      Junction Gulf Developmental Rd / Burke Developmental Rd (approx 7km south of Normanton)
o      Carnarvon West Coast Hwy
o      Cottesloe
o      Mandurah Town Centre
o      Yallingup Caves Rd
o      Leeuwin Naturalist National Park Caves Rd
o      Walpole
o      Esperance Town Centre
o      Wellington Ferry across Murray river
o      Policemans Point
o      Nelson
o      Lavers Hill
o      Torquay
o      Melbourne Spencer Street Bridge
o      Eden

      A male rider must break the record (55d17h8min) by at least one hour and claim a new record.

      Pre-arranged local support (shelter, spares, food, transport, guidance) is allowed up to a maximum of four places (not counting the ferry in Wellington).  Local means that the supporter does not travel a substantial distance to provide the support.

      Pre-arranged drafting assistance is not allowed.

      The contender must observe the drug rules of the major world sports bodies.  If such a body demands a test it must not be withheld.

      Essentially the contender must obey the Australian and state road rules.

      To claim the prize the claimant must tender:

o      The details of the claimant
o      A signed travel log which must, as a minimum, contain arrival and departure times at all fixed points.
o      A list or a reference to a published list of third party endorsement which must, as a minimum, include at least ten viewing statements more or less evenly spread along the ride and including start and finish.  Each endorser must be identified and contactable..
o      A statutory declaration declaring that all the rules of the by-laws have been adhered to.  Exceptions must be listed.  The declaration must contain the sentence: Ď If, at any time after the granting of the award, evidence becomes available that my claim has a defect, I am liable and will pay back the moneys in full within 30 days of me becoming informed of the defect.

ROUTE

My original intention had been to follow Highway One around Australia as near as possible, only deviating to avoid gravel roads and then only where the deviation involved an increase in distance.  Highway One does not really officially exist any more and some states have changed to their own numbering systems and, in many places, what was originally Highway One, has been replaced by new more direct routes or freeways.  I planned to follow these revisions where cyclists are permitted.

However, having become aware of the prize offered by Eugen Schilter for someone breaking his record for riding around Australia using his route I decided to change my plans.  Although the distances were very similar (my planned route 14,368km versus Eugenís 14,450km), my planned route differed from Eugenís in several minor respects.  It was longer in that it went all the way north to Cairns before turning westwards, rather than turning at Innisfail, but shorter in that it did not hug the coastline in south-west Western Australia and western Victoria.

It was not so much that I wanted to win the prize money.  I was making the trip anyway.  It was more a case of recognizing that other cyclists would also take up the challenge, and Eugenís route would become the accepted Round Australia route.

I then worked out a schedule based on roughly 270km per day which would get me around Australia in approximately 53 days, giving me two days up my sleeve to deal with mishaps and/or fatigue, injury or illness.  That isnít much of a margin for error and I knew that if I had any major problems, the record attempt would be off.  However, even if that happened, I was determined to finish the ride regardless of how long it took.

Although the theory is to ride 270km per day, the location of, and distance between, settlements means that there will be significant variation in the daily distances travelled.  From previous experience, I knew that such schedules are only a guide and didnít intend to stick to the schedule religiously.


PLANNING

As with my earlier long distance rides - Sydney to Melbourne down the Bicentennial Trail (2004), Adelaide to Darwin (2005) and Wilsons Promontory to Cape York (2006) Ė I have planned the trip carefully and enjoyed doing it.  Half of the fun of such adventures is in the planning and anticipation.  A good part of the satisfaction on completion is in knowing that your planning was a critical factor in your success.

Bike

The first decision to be made was whether to use the trusty modified Trek 6700 hybrid bike I had used for my previous trips, and which had never let me down, or go for a lighter and hopefully faster road bike but travel with less gear.  I noted that Eugen Schilter had travelled very light on a carbon fibre road bike.  I decided that I also needed to travel light, although perhaps not so light as Eugen, and purchased a Specialized Sequoia road bike with an alloy frame and carbon fibre forks designed for longer distance touring.  The alloy frame allowed me to fix a rear rack to the frame and the carbon fibre components incorporated vibration dampening inserts.  Vibration will be one of my biggest problems because it can lead to various hand, arm and shoulder problems.  Even using a faster bike, I expected to be on the road for around 14 hours a day so bike comfort was critical.

With help and advice from Rod Martin of Rod Martin Cycles in Gosford, and intensive web research, I modified the bike by

       adding stronger wheels,
       tyres from Schwalbe in Germany which I knew to be almost puncture proof and long-wearing (I never even added air to the Schwalbe tyres I used to ride 4,200km through very rough terrain in 2006 from Wilsons Promontory to Cape York),
       a Schmidt hub dynamo to the front wheel to power two headlights (the extra drag is supposed to equate to climbing six feet in every mile!),
       two headlights
       extra handle-bar padding
       a rear rack and slide-on rack bag
       a small handlebar bag
       two 1.25 litre drink bottle cages
       a high quality Selle Italia saddle

Iím not much of a bike mechanic, but will take some basic bike repair documentation in addition to three spare tubes, a spare tyre, spare spokes, a puncture repair kit, spare chain links, cable ties, wire and a small tool kit.

I will also mail ahead spare Schwalbe tyres to several locations in case I need to change them over.  If I donít, I will mail them ahead to another point on the route.

Lighting

Because I will be travelling a lot at night on unlit outback roads, I need to have good lighting and planned to have three front lights, two driven by the hub dynamo and one (flashing) headlamp, and three flashing red tail-lights along with a very large reflector.  I will carry a small store of batteries as spares.

Entertainment

I will have my trusty small AM/FM radio (I love listening to the local country radio stations and am a current affairs addict) with me along with my trusty iPod Nano with the 200 greatest songs of all time.

Communications Equipment

On my last trip, with the help of a laptop carried in a waterproof and padded bag in a backpack and assistance from Sharon, I maintained a periodic journal on a website by stopping occasionally at internet cafes and libraries.  The diary received a good reception from my friends and I enjoyed writing it.  This time I intend to keep more comprehensive notes, perhaps to help with a later book.  I will take a laptop, camera and voice-recorder so that I can, with Sharonís help, maintain a comprehensive website.  I bought a Telstra Next G USB modem and subscribed to their data service in the hope that I can have internet connectivity on most days (assuming the Telstra Next G network lives up to their advertising!).

Additionally, I will carry a mobile phone using the CDMA network.

Timing

I wanted to avoid the heat and humidity of the north as much as possible, and also to complete my trip before my daughter, Alicia, graduated from High School on 20 September.  I also wanted to avoid school holidays and the associated traffic and accommodation squeeze and settled on a mid-July departure date.

I had heard reports that it was better to cycle eastwards across the Nullarbor Plain because of prevailing winds.  This was confirmed when I researched prevailing winds, daylight hours and temperature ranges on the Bureau of Meteorology website.

To complete the distance in record time I will aim for a daily average of 270km and, given that most of the trip will be in winter with shorter daylight hours, this means planning for night-time riding and cold temperatures, with wet weather in the south.  I donít mind riding at night, especially in the outback, providing I have good lighting, but do not enjoy the cold and rain so have bought some quality adverse weather gear by mail-order from the US.

Daily Schedule

Although it will vary and perhaps be modified over time, I intend to get up at 3:30am each day and be on the road by around 4:15am for an average 14 hours riding which will include short 5 minute breaks every 20 or 30km and longer 30 minute breaks two or three times a day.  I tend to choose break spots according to where there is a good place to stop, i.e., a town, picnic area, etc.  In the north, where the temperatures will be quite high during the day, I may try riding through the night, as did Eugen.  However, previous trips have shown I can handle quite hot temperatures and still make good progress.  I am hopeful that, by establishing a daily routine, my body will handle the workload more easily.

I know from previous trips that the first week will be very hard.  Accordingly, I will not be too aggressive in my daily totals as my body adapts.

Accommodation

To keep my equipment to a minimum I will be ďcredit cardingĒ the trip, riding from settlement to settlement, staying in a mix of motels, hotels, cabins and lodges, and only carrying a groundsheet and emergency bivvy sack in case I am stranded somewhere.

If I do get stuck somewhere, I intend to have a short sleep break, and then continue on.

Food

I do not want to carry much food so will be relying on what I can find along the way.  Being well-known for my propensity to eat junk food and having tested this as a diet on previous trips, I am reasonably confident I can manage, but still have some doubts about maintaining the necessary kilojoule intake to fuel 270km of riding day after day.

I plan to carry only as much food as I need to get me to the next re-supply point with maybe some ďsnakesĒ as an emergency food supply.

Drink

I can carry 3.25 litres of fluid in the bottle cages on my bike to add to the 3 litre Camelbak pack I will be wearing.  If I know I need to travel for a whole day in warm conditions, I will add two or three 1.25 litre bottles to my backpack load.  This will make for a heavy pack (the laptop will already be in there) but by using the fluid in the backpack first, the load will be lightened relatively quickly.  I used this method when riding from Adelaide to Darwin in hot conditions in 2005.

Clothing

I plan to carry two pairs of cycling knicks of the same brand I have used successfully on previous trips and one fluoro top, with the plan to wash the things I wear each day at night and put them on again, wet or dry, in the morning.  Additionally I will have a lightweight pair of shorts, underwear, a T-Shirt and thongs (sandals) for when Iím not riding.  For colder conditions I will also have a waterproof jacket, warm thermal jersey, a thermal beanie, long riding pants, some waterproof leggings, waterproof Goretex gloves and socks, and waterproof overshoes.

Pharmaceutical

I will carry plenty of Vaseline and use it liberally each day.  At night I have found applying some antiseptic cream to chafed spots has aided recovery and avoided nastier problems.  Windburn and sunburn will be addressed with lip salve and suncream, and Iíll include some Nurofen to deal with any significant pain issues.  I may carry some No Doz caffeine tablets, although I have never used them before, to help me get through any particular tough times.  I will stick to my daily multivitamins and Glucosamine intake.

TRAINING

I donít think it is really feasible to train specifically for this kind of challenge.  Riding 270km a day on familiar courses would drive me nuts, as well as being very time-consuming.  I am really trusting my body will adapt as the trip progresses and that the challenge will tap the resources and willpower necessary for success.

For the three months leading up to the ride I have ridden 300km to 400km a week (including occasional 200+km daily rides) and run 30km to 40km a week.  The riding has included a reasonable amount of mountain biking and a couple of 100km mountain bike races.

In March 2007, I equipped the bike as for the Round Australia trip and rode from Gosford to Melbourne via the coast and returned up the Hume Highway (direct) to see whether I could actually manage the daily repetitive distances required.

The trip down was quite demoralising with hills, headwinds, wet weather and wheel trouble causing me to take five days for the 1150km trip rather than the hoped-for three and a half.  After a planned two-day break in Melbourne, however, I managed the return 1060km trip in three days, despite adverse conditions on the second day, for an average daily total of 320km.  I rode 424km on the last day at an average speed of just under 24kph and this restored my confidence in at least being able to make a credible attempt on Eugenís Round Australia record.

ADVENTURE LIST

 

Round Ireland
(2016)

Hume & Hovell Walking Track
(2013)

Via Alpina
(2012)

Australian Alps Walking Track
(2011)

Land's End to John O'Groats
(2010)

Round Oz Bike Record Attempt
(2009)

Round Oz Bike Record Attempt
(2008)

Round Oz Bike Record Attempt
(2007)

Australia Tip to Top MTB
(2006)

Adelaide to Darwin MTB
(2005)

Sydney to Melbourne MTB
(2004)

Three Peaks Race
(2004)

Appalachian Trail
(1986)

Alpine Track
(1983)

You can email Dave directly at dave@davebyrnes.com.au or subscribe to his Adventure Blogs here.

You can see Dave's Running Blog here.