Dave Byrnes' Adventures

Round Oz Bike Record Attempt - 2008
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Day: 032

17 June 2008




40km north of Gin Gin

Daily Distance:


Daily Speed: n.a.
Relative to Schedule: n.a.
Daily Podcasts: n.a.
GPS Track Here

Having finally got my wireless modem to work last night, I was up later than planned catching up on diary uploads and reading my incoming e-mail.  I didn’t get to bed until 10:30pm and decided to sleep in until 3:00am.  I packed and then stopped in at the 24-hour roadhouse next door for a slice of carrot cake and orange juice before hitting the road around 4:00am.
It was raining when I got up, but had stopped by the time I started riding and, although mostly cloudy, a setting full moon occasionally peeped through.  The road was relatively flat and traffic was light and I made good time heading south towards Perth, which I would reach in another 160km.  Tomorrow I would pass Cape Leeuwin, the most south-westerly point of Australia and turn to head home along the south coast.
It rained lightly every now and then and the road was wet.  At 5:30am, after about 40km, at a time when it wasn’t raining, I was on a long straight level stretch of highway when the road in front of me was lit up by the high-beam lights of a vehicle approaching from behind.  There was nothing coming in the opposite direction.  I felt safer riding at night than during the day because, aside from there being less traffic, you always had very early warning of approaching vehicles, from both in front and behind, because of their headlights.  I always rode with two headlights, powered by my front-wheel hub generator, and three battery-operated flashing rear lights (plus a spare not switched on), two on the bike and one on my helmet.  I also was wearing a large reflective yellow and silver patch, similar to the colours worn by police, which covered the entire back of the backpack I always wore when riding and had a large reflector on the bike rack at back.  I once had a driver who had passed me on the road at night tell me that he thought I was a police breath-testing station when he first spotted me in the far distance.
Anyway, as the vehicle approached me from behind, I got as far left on the road as I could, either on the white road border line or on the narrow 25cm strip of road surface to the left of it, and waited for it to pass me.  Generally, when there was nothing coming the other way, passing vehicles moved over a lane giving me a wide clearance.  I cannot recall anybody passing close to me at night.  If there is a vehicle coming the other way at night, I steer off the road surface onto the verge and stop and wait until they have passed.  I waited for the vehicle to pass then, as it reached me, felt a huge impact on my right arm and elbow and remember thinking “he’s hit me”.  Next thing I was lying on the wet road, conscious enough to think that I must get off the road surface before another vehicle came along, and aware of the lights of a vehicle coming from the other direction.  Lying on my back, I inched off the road, gasping with the pain from my arm, and trying to examine the rest of my body for injuries.  When I got off the road onto the gravel, I just lay there collecting myself and groaning from the arm pain. My bike lay a few metres behind me.  It was pitch dark as the moon had now set.  The vehicle coming the other way turned out to be the one that had hit me.  The vehicle was a high-topped white escort van, mounted with amber flashing lights and signs, that was returning from Karratha in the Pilbara after escorting an oversize truck on a trip up there from Perth.  The driver thought he had killed me, and was very relieved to see me move my good arm as he approached.  He parked his van behind me and set the flashing lights going as a warning to other traffic.  He claimed not to have seen me until the moment of impact, which had smashed his wing mirror.  I don’t know what speed he was traveling at, but it was open highway and the limit was 110kph.  I slowly sat up and then stood up, even managing to put a little weight on my damaged arm.  Incredibly, I didn’t seem to have any other significant injuries, although I did feel like I had been in a prize fight and my arm hurt badly.
I told the driver I didn’t want to call an ambulance at this stage and set about assessing the damage to my bike and gear in the dark.  As the van had passed me from behind, it had sheared off my right rear pannier bag with its wheel well, and collected my arm with its wing mirror.  The contents of the pannier were now strewn about 30 metres up the highway and the pannier bag was completely destroyed yet, miraculously, the bike seemed to have been untouched and the left pannier and rack-top bag were fine.  My rear-view mirror was snapped off either by the vehicle as it passed or the fall.  I found the rear light from my helmet in the middle of the road 10 metres on, still winking red, and the front headlamp from my helmet 20 metres up the road in the gravel on the opposite side.  I wasn’t conscious of banging my head or helmet, but daylight later revealed it was heavily compressed on the right rear side and fractured on the right side.  It was an expensive helmet and I think I may have got my money’s worth out of it.
Despite the damage to my gear and arm, I was very conscious that, to continue my quest, I couldn’t afford to lose any time or accept any assistance in terms of a lift.  I slowly collected all of my belongings from along the road and then, by the headlights of the van, repacked them into my remaining bags.  I did a quick check of the bike and found that the wheels seemed to still rotate freely and the only damage seemed to be to the right-hand brake/gear lever which was awry but fixable with a bit of (left-handed) muscle.  I decided that I would get back on the bike and continue riding to Gin Gin (40km) and make a more measured assessment of my situation in daylight.  The van driver insisted that he was going to follow me in his van with the lights flashing until it got light.  I was angry with him for hitting me, but could see he was shaken up and genuinely remorseful, and I knew it would have been easy for him to keep going after he had hit me with little risk of being caught.  There was no point in arguing with him about the accident and I was grateful for his help in getting me going again.  I rode for 10km towards Gin Gin, but my arm was extremely painful to put any weight on and I was having increasing difficulty manipulating the right-hand brake and gear levers.  By 10km I knew that I would not be able to continue and needed to get the arm looked at by a doctor.  I stopped and the van driver made space for me and my bike in his van and drove us into Gin Gin where he had found out by radio there was a medical centre and an ambulance station.  The medical centre was closed, but he called an ambulance which arrived a few minutes later.  While I was being loaded into the ambulance, a doctor from the medical centre arrived and said she thought the arm was broken and I should be taken to hospital.  Two policemen also arrived and got some details from me before I was driven away to Joondalup Hospital.  The police took my bike and said they would work out a way to get it to me later.  The paramedics also offered to get my bike to me.  Everybody was extremely sympathetic, professional and kind.
At the hospital, about 60km away, I was admitted to Emergency and spent the next four hours there getting assessed.  X-rays did not show a fracture but may indicate a chipped bone in the elbow.  I had a puncture wound in the back of my upper right arm where a large chunk of flesh had been gouged out and this was stitched up.  I refused pain-killers (I like to know when I am hurting!), but took the prescribed anti-inflammatories and left with instructions to wear a sling (for at least a couple of days), do no significant lifting for a week and to work on gentle mobility.  I caught a taxi to a motel in the north Perth suburb of Wanneroo where I booked in for the night.
The police kindly returned my bike to me at the motel the next morning and said they will be investigating whether the van driver had observed the rest regulations applying to professional drivers.  If not, then charges may be considered.  I think the police accept that I was appropriately lit up and riding on the left.  The van driver told the police and me that he sticks to the left of the road when driving at night because road train drivers tend to drive down the middle of the road.
Sharon booked me a flight back to Sydney yesterday morning and picked me up from the airport.  As we were driving back to the Central Coast up the F3 Freeway at 110kph, I again felt a sense of wonder that I was not dead or in a wheelchair, having been hit by a vehicle traveling at such a speed (recognizing that my forward speed of 25kph would have mitigated the impact).  If the van had hit me a few centimeters to the left I would have been history and this sense of relief largely offsets the anger and disappointment I feel at having stolen from me what would have been one of my life’s great experiences (assuming I finished…not a given) after making a huge personal investment.
It is now three days since the accident and my right arm is grotesquely swollen and bruised from the bicep to the knuckles, and difficult to move.  But the pain is not great and I have little doubt I will heal quickly.  The stitched wound also looks healthy.  I have a number of other cuts and abrasions, but they are no worse than the usual mountain-biking fare.
I don’t think I will be making another attempt on the record for riding around Australia.  I do have in mind a West to East crossing of Australia on a mountain bike via the outback tracks and deserts, to follow the South to North ride I did in 2006, but it won’t be a ride against the clock.  And there are lots of other ideas for adventures to follow up.
I’m very grateful for all of the encouragement and support I received from you all along the way.



Round Ireland

Hume & Hovell Walking Track

Via Alpina

Australian Alps Walking Track

Land's End to John O'Groats

Round Oz Bike Record Attempt

Round Oz Bike Record Attempt

Round Oz Bike Record Attempt

Australia Tip to Top MTB

Adelaide to Darwin MTB

Sydney to Melbourne MTB

Three Peaks Race

Appalachian Trail

Alpine Track

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