Dave Byrnes' Adventures

Round Oz Bike Record Attempt - 2008

Overview     Planning     Schedule     Map     Diary     Pictures     Messages     Conclusion

The 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 (see www.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 (see www.aa56.org/Default.aspx?tabid=26 ).

The Prize

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
    • Sydney Harbour Bridge
    • Brisbane Storey Bridge
    • Innisfail Town Centre
    • Junction Gulf Developmental Rd / Burke Developmental Rd (approx 7km south of Normanton)
    • Carnarvon West Coast Hwy
    • Cottesloe
    • Mandurah Town Centre
    • Yallingup Caves Rd
    • Leeuwin Naturalist National Park Caves Rd
    • Walpole
    • Esperance Town Centre
    • Wellington Ferry across Murray river
    • Policemans Point
    • Nelson
    • Lavers Hill
    • Torquay
    • Melbourne Spencer Street Bridge
    • 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:
    • The details of the claimant
    • A signed travel log which must, as a minimum, contain arrival and departure times at all fixed points.
      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.
    • 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.

Approach

I have worked out a schedule based on roughly 280km per day which will 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 know that if I had any major problems, the record attempt will be off.

Although the theory is to ride 280km 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.

Bike

Eugen Schilter travelled very light on a carbon fibre road bike.  I also want to travel light, although perhaps not so light as Eugen.  In the last attempt I learned that, for me, it was worth adding a bit of weight if it was offset by comfort and greater self-sufficiency.  Even with the greater weight it was possible to keep to the necessary demanding schedule.  With help and advice from Dan Cleary of the Pushy Galore bike shops in Umina and Wyoming on the NSW Central Coast, and help from Specialized Bikes, I have acquired a new bike for the new attempt.  It is a 2007 Specialized TriCross Expert which, while probably no faster than the 2006 Specialized Sequoia Comp I used last year, has better drive-chain componentry and is of more robust construction, thus reducing the chance of mechanical problems.  Like the Sequioa, the TriCross has an alloy frame and carbon fibre forks and seat post.  The alloy frame allows me to fix a rear rack to the frame and the carbon fibre components incorporate vibration dampening inserts.  Vibration will be one of my biggest problems because it can lead to various hand, arm and shoulder problems.  I have modified the bike by installing

  • a new Selle Italia Max Flite Gel Flow saddle (the same that I used last time).
  • the same Velocity AeroHead rims I used last time.  The front wheel has a Schmidt Dynamo Hub which provides power for two front lights with minimal drag (advertised as the equivalent of climbing 6ft in a mile).
  • Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres (Iím yet to have a puncture with Schwalbe tyres after more than 11,000 kilometres using them).
  • a rear rack with an easy-release Topeak rack bag.
  • a small front Topeak rack bag.
  • two large 1.25 litre bottle cages.
  • Shimano - PD-A520 - SPD Clipless Touring Road Bike Pedals.

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 Perth 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 again 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

My electronics capability for this trip has been enhanced by the addition of a Bluetooth handsfree headset for use with my mobile phone (it gets very tiring riding one-handed during long phone calls) and the purchase of an Asus Eee PC, a very small and light (less than 1kg) notebook computer which will leave more room and weight free in my backpack for food and drinks when I need to carry extra, and a TrackStick II, a GPS logging device, with which I plan to record and upload my daily route to this website.  The file, and hence my route, can then be viewed via Google Earth in various modes, including fly-through, if your computer has the capability.

A number of people suggested during my last attempt that the time spent maintaining the on-line diary was risking the attempt as a whole, especially when I was very short of sleep.  However, for me it was part of the adventure and I still have hopes to one day write about my experiences.  I also gained inspiration and motivation from the many supporting e-mails I received during the trip as a result of the diary, even though I rarely had the time to extend the courtesy of a reply.

Timing

I want to avoid the heat and humidity of the north as much as possible, and also to complete my trip before the mid-year school holidays.  There are benefits to avoiding school holidays and the associated traffic and accommodation squeeze.  I settled on an early May departure date which meets these date criteria and lets me compete in the annual Dirtworks 100km MTB race on 4 May 2008.  The downsides of an early May departure are that I will be cycling in very cool and possibly wet conditions across the south of the continent and that daylight hours will be short.

I will be travelling clockwise, having 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 282km 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

I learned from last year's attempt that a start around 3:30am works best, especially in areas where shops are few and far between.  By starting at that time, I can reach the day's objective, assuming 250-300km by late afternoon and can buy supplies for the next day's travel before shops close.  In the warmer latitudes, riding at night can be pleasantly cool.  Traffic is lighter too.  I tried starting even earlier on a few occasions, but always found myself going to sleep while riding just before dawn.  I will average 14 hours riding a day 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.

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 an old one-man tube tent, without poles and pegs (to save weight and time), which I can used for shelter in case I am sleep somewhere with no accommodation.  I am planning on a small number or "roadside" camping stops for legs where the distance is too great between habitation.

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.

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 tend to only carry as much fluid as I think I will need for the day.

Clothing

I plan to carry two or three pairs of high-quality cycling knicks and one top, with the plan to wash the things I wear each day at night.  I will rotate the cycling knicks so that I'm always putting on a dry clean pair each 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, a Goretex helmet cover, long Goretex riding pants, waterproof Goretex gloves and socks, and waterproof overshoes.

Pharmaceutical

I will carry plenty of Vaseline and lanolin 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 and Voltaren to deal with any significant pain issues.  I tried No Doz caffeine tablets on the last trip when I got very tired, but didn't find they made any difference to my fatigue.  A steady intake of caffeinated drinks (colas and iced coffee) seemed to serve me better.  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 280km 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 six months leading up to the ride I have ridden 300km to 400km a week (including occasional 200+km daily rides) and run 40 to 60km a week.  The riding has included a reasonable amount of mountain biking and some 100km mountain bike races, and the running has included some long-distance trail races.

In April 2008, I flew to Adelaide with my bike and then rode from there back to Sydney around the coast following the record attempt route via Melbourne, a distance of 2,100km, in nine days, including a day off in Melbourne.  The trip was a good test of bike, body and resolve for the record attempt.  I can't say I enjoyed it, or found it easy, but am hoping that my motivation will be greater for the record attempt.

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.