Thursday, 18 June 2015

Sometimes ya just gotta go...

Finally getting around to posting again!

My riding plans for 2015 had revolved around riding the Transcontinental Race across Europe from Flanders to Istanbul.  Its a road based backpacking race with the added difficulty that instead of a predefined route (as per Tour Divide for instance) instead racers are given four checkpoints and left to choose their own route.


Especially when you've never (really) been to Europe!

Anyway, had managed to get an entry and was on the upswing with training and had started the process of at least roughing out the route (was looking to be about 4500km or so).  I was looking at a race time of roughly three weeks or so.

But then disaster.

Whilst in Oz, my attitude to work had pretty much been 'its a job - I can take or leave it'... but here I seem to have (somewhat and within reason) rediscovered my enthusiasm (although that's probably too strong a word) for my career.  Sadly this means that in the conflict between backpacking and earning the $$$ to support backpacking sometimes the $$$ does override things.

As I started to get into the planning I realised we would have a whole series of major 'work stuff' tat would be due probably in the week that I was due to depart.  Hmmm, in a perfect world this would be ok but more than likely not.  This was making me stress and then through this whole period I'd be trying to plan a route... it just got too much and I pulled the pin on the big TCR adventure.

Luckily I had a plan 'B' - as part of my training for TCR I'd been doing lots of rides with Singapore Audax and had done the pre-requisite rides to qualify for Paris-Brest-Paris, a 1200km ride to be completed in under 90hrs held every 4 years.  Best part was that the dates worked and the time boxed nature meant only needing to take about 4 days off work!  Genius.

Also I gotta admit I am a bit of a sucker for big mass participation events and am pretty pumped thinking about being part of a group of close to 10,000 cyclists riding across the French countryside!

However, in order to have been able to go to TCR as initially planned I had pretty much not taken any leave across the first 5 months of the year (saving it you see) and I found I was starting to get quite run down.  Little things that should have been mildly irritating were becoming major problems, co-workers who used to be frustrating were now making me homicidal etc.  I needed a break.

With PBP not until August, I looked at my schedule and worked out that in between Lisa going away, the boys having school holidays and my work commitments I had about 2 weeks that I would be able to get away.  So I immediately began looking for some sort of event I could do to get away.

Tragedy, no events (well there were but this time of year in the US is dominated by Tour Divide and Transamerica so not really good for a 7 day get away.

But then I realised that what I wanted to do was to ride and be damned if I needed and 'event' to do that - I just needed to pick a place and then go!

Whilst the Northern Hemisphere is better for riding this time of year, the logistics were just too complex so I settled on going back to Australia and giving the Munda Biddi trail a go.

The Munda Biddi runs between the outskirts of Perth and Albany (about as far south as you can go) and at about 1000km is billed as the worlds longest off-road cycling route.  Sure Tour Divide is longer but Munda Biddi promised to be a more off-road experience than TDR which uses a lot of road sections to link stuff up.

Munda Biddi on the other hand has been developed as an off-road cycling trail so pretty much its been put together to maximise the amount of dirt but also in a way that ensures that there are ample places along the route to be able to resupply if required (unlike the Bicentennial National Trail for example which is more designed for horse riders with their large gear carrying capacity and hence supply points can be many days apart).

The trail either has a town or camping hut about every 50km or so.  The camping huts are cycle-specific shelters that basically give you a roof and a floor off the ground to bivy on as well as a rainwater tank to resupply water.  Luxury.

Of course the recommended dates to ride the trail are Spring / Autumn and I'd be giving it a go in winter but really - I have the gear to ride in the cold and lets face it... at projected minimums of 4'C or so and daily averages in the high teens... its not exactly the Iditarod!

The other good thing about Munda Biddi as a travel destination is that the amount of pre-planning you have to do is pretty limited.  A 9-map set is available from the association which clearly sets out the route and points of interest along the way and its all well laid out for cyclists to use.

Now, I gotta admit that once I saw the maps and their covers of smiling happy families riding bikes along groomed paths my enthusiasm did diminish somewhat.  After all, it did look somewhat 'noddy' really.  Oh well, time away is time away!

Once I looked at the planning I decided that the best option would be ride from Albany to Perth as this would work out much easier with transport options etc.  Also, from the map descriptions it was clear that the trail was more technical and hilly in the North so starting South would give me a couple of days at least to ride myself in.

Whilst it wasn't really a race, I'm also not aware that anyone had given the track a 'serious' go to try and set a decent time end-to-end and to see just how quickly it could be completed.  With that in mind I planned I would essentially be riding Tour Divide style - eat, sleep, ride and see just how quickly I could get it done.  I was aiming for sub 6 days.

It was to turn out to be a very interesting 6 days!

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