November 21, 2015
Medowie to Sydney
Distance: 200km
Total distance: 1010km

Ever since completing the Sydney to Perth cycle tour back in 2011, I promised myself to one day complete a circumnavigation of Australia. Doing it in one go would be nice but other things in life get in the way too easily. As such, doing it piece by piece over the span of a few years is the next best thing, the first piece being the 2011 tour. Four years later, I have yet to make any progress, until now. I chose Brisbane to Sydney as my second piece as it is the easiest section, logistically speaking – Brisbane being my current home and my brother lives in Sydney. Bail out points everywhere – trains, buses, ferries, private vehicles, are all there ready to be summoned if required. My inner sense of adventure is far from dead, but it may just well be if I put this off long enough. I wanted to do this quick, life is too short to simply stand and wait for an adventure.

It’s day 5 and IT IS THE FINAL DAY of riding! Woke up feeling confident that I will arrive Sydney today. But I was aiming for a little more. Earlier in the week I agreed to attend a dinner gathering at 6:30pm with 3 of my former schoolmates who were all happen to be in Sydney, one I have not met for more than a decade! The original plan was to ride a distance of 172km, but yesterday’s ride ended prematurely which means I had to make up the distance today, with the new distance now 200km. With 3 major climbs, the total elevation tops the list as the hilliest of all 5 days. Also taking into account the potential traffic and navigation issues riding in Sydney metro area, I knew I had to start my ride early if I were to make it for the dinner.

First night ride! Mmm... that luminance

It was just before twilight when I left Medowie, at about 4:15am, which makes this the first and only time I rode in the dark for the entire trip. The moment has finally arrived to show off my brand spanking new B&M Luxos U headlight working in its full glory! But what a shame, no one was around to witness! The roads to Newcastle took me across two long bridges, across Hunter River, both the North and the South Arm. Approaching Newcastle, I rode through a huge industrial area, which was nice and quiet on an early Saturday morning. I skipped Newcastle town centre by continuing South via B63. It was on this road that I encountered an unexpected steep hill climb! Why didn’t I see this coming!? Ah of course, my planned route was to get into the town centre, so this road wasn’t part of my original route. The climb was relentless, and sneaky too, the reason being there’s a false flat at every corner that made me think I was getting near to the peak. Oh well, that makes a total of 4 major climbs then for this final day ride.

An unlikely charm of an industrial zone

Copenhagen style bikeway in one of Newcastle's suburb. I'm impressed.

A gentle descent follows and then it was time for a quick rest stop at the 42km mark at a service road on the Pacific Hwy. Note that even though I was back on the highway, it’s no longer the most major and busiest road (role taken over by Pacific Motorway), thankfully. Later, I came to this suburb called Belmont. Brisbane has a suburb with the same name, which made me wonder why so many repeated town names across different states here in Australia. Did you know that there’s a town called Perth in Tasmania? Why not use aboriginal names instead? At Budgewoi Peninsula, I got to ride next to the coast but the ocean view was entirely blocked by a coastal sand dune all the way. I could only hear the waves from the road. Out of frustration, I stopped at one of the beach entrance just so I can get my ocean view. I was not disappointed!

What you can't see is the awesome ocean view on the left, which I can't see either :(

Stopped and walked over the dunes just to see the ocean. Not bad.

Looking back at the road, the view ain't bad either.

Coastal scrubs are fragile, hence the fence

Just before crossing the bridge to The Entrance, I was flagged by a driver. He drove past me, parked abruptly at the roadside, then got down from his car and signalled me to stop. Instinctively, my ears were all prepared for something abusive. Something along the line “You know you shouldn’t be on the road!” or “Are you on a death wish?”. As I was stopping, I memorised the registration plate, just in case, you never know. Turns out he was just another curious passer-by, about what I was riding, phew! He was extremely curious, loaded with many questions, and said that he’s been thinking of getting a recumbent but never got a chance to see one up close. A medical condition rendered him unable to properly ride an upright bike. So I gave him the details of the nearest bike shop that sells recumbent (in Sydney) and also my email if he needs to hear more about first hand experience.

Had a proper rest stop at a service station at The Entrance town centre. Well, as proper as I can get, since I can’t find any other shops that’s opened. It was only 9am and I have already covered 93km. Satisfied with the progress made but even more happy with the weather today – strong overcast and a very comfortable 18-22°C. Checked the forecast earlier to see that the weather condition would remain stable thru out the day, which means the heatwave has officially ended! Traffic on the road (now Central Coast Hwy) becomes progressively busier approaching Gosford. I rode on a semi-decent shared path next to Central Coast Hwy for as long as it remained semi-decent. Quite a few local riders were out and about. Lucky for them to have the heatwave ended before the weekend. The shared path ended at some point or becomes a footpath (can’t really tell), so I got back on the road, only to be honked and yelled at while waiting for the lights by an impatient driver waiting at the back. Not wanting any trouble, I got off the road and waited for the lights at the pedestrian crossing instead. I didn’t expect to witness such impatient driving behaviour this far from Sydney. My mind started imagining worst case scenario and started contemplating if I should just hop onto the train as I get closer to Sydney to save myself from running into more of these impatient drivers.

Close to Gosford, a bike path appears, which I was grateful. Unfortunately, the rest of the path doesn't look this good

Sydney can be brought even closer, sooooo tempting!

Apart from bad drivers, I was also thinking about the forthcoming climbs past Gosford, that 3 dreaded climbs. Do I still have it in my legs now that they’ve clocked 900km in the past 5 days? It started to drizzle when I arrived at Gosford (116km), but the roads were wet so there must have been quite a bit of rain here this morning. Just then, the golden arches appeared before my very (or weary) eyes. I laughed, as Macca’s has truly become a cyclist refuge centre! Here, I had a few text exchanges with my brother about the climbs as he used to frequent this area on his road bike. Not a problem for you, he said. That’s very nice to hear, but given my current state, I wasn’t too convinced. Took me a while to build up the courage to finally decide that I was going to give it a crack. At the very least, the downhills should be refreshing for my tired body. Just before leaving Macca’s, I caught myself in the toilet nearly performing the head-to-toe wetting routine. The heatwave had done more damage than I thought!

Gosford on a Saturday morning

Climb 1 of 3 made an appearance in less than a kilometre after Macca’s. The rain has stopped at this point, but I’d take rain over heat any day! The climb was steep enough to warrant the use of my 24t chainring. With fresh legs though, I could probably get away with 36t. Riding conditions however was quite poor – narrow shoulder and heavy traffic. A short lookout loop on the left provided a nice temporary relief (no views though – obscured by trees). The climb ended at the entry to Pacific Motorway and immediately after that, traffic was almost non-existent! More importantly, I got to ride in a forest again. This was very welcoming after many miles of noisy and smelly motor traffic, hoons encounter, and generally riding in fear. A speedy twisty descent follows and I arrived at the crossing of Mooney Mooney Creek. The second climb kicks off right after the bridge. I noticed a significant number of motorbikes travelling through this area, a few even made repeated runs up and down. I also noted the complete absence of cyclists here, but I think that has something to do with the time of day – it was past noon when I was there. Earlier, I gathered from Strava that this place is quite popular among cyclists, and I can see why now. On each of these climbs, I made sure my 3s average power did not exceed 200w, and best kept at around 150w, with careful selection of gears and cadence. This takes a conscious effort, and any distractions are good at this point. My knees were hurting more than ever, but the pain was still tolerable, no painkillers taken so far.

First climb. Not much shoulder to ride on and I took this photo when the traffic was briefly quiet

Second climb. A lot more pleasant, and all road users are made aware of the popularity of cycling here.

An old steel bridge over Hawkesbury River that connects to Brooklyn. Third climb starts immediately after the bridge

Another fast descent took me to the Hawkesbury River Bridge, lies adjacent to its big brother that supports the Pacific Motorway. The Southern side of the river was a town called Brooklyn, looked potentially interesting but maybe next time! The third and final climb was the hardest of all – a solid 200m of climbing with an average 5% gradient. Again, with fresh legs, I would never regard 5% as hard climb. I was made aware by my brother earlier that there is a famous pie shop at the top of this climb that makes a good rest stop. Needless to say, that became my main motivation for this climb. Food is ALWAYS a good motivation for a long distance rider. I now face a tough decision – should I go for my all-time favourite peppered steak pie, or curry pie for a stronger flavour? Never mind that, for some unknown reason, I got a cheese steak pie instead when I arrived. Flushed it down with ginger beer. This could have been the perfect rest stop, IF there were no pesky flies! On a positive note, those flies forced me to waste no time, as I got back on the road as soon as I was done eating. Time for some stats – I had done 156km by the time I left the pie shop, which sits at 200m above sea level, and the destination point below Harbour Bridge in Sydney sits at sea level. Only about 45km left and a net loss of 200m await – you have no idea how amazing that feels!

Thank goodness for a pie shop in the middle of nowhere. Look at that queue!

View from the pie shop. The motorway can also be seen here (bottom right).

Loving the cool weather thru out the day!

The stats sure looked promising, but I was rolling into the land of Sydney drivers, and we all know what that means. Every time I passed a train station, I found myself asking, should I? Anyway, while riding on the city-bound Pacific Highway, I made some observations on the traffic pattern and devised my own survival strategy. There were tons of traffic lights on this road, so the traffic comes in waves. It was also mostly downhill, so if I make use of my high gears I can keep on pedalling, in between those waves, to cover a significant distance before the traffic caught up to me again. Even when the traffic did caught up, on the downhill, I could sometimes move at 50km/h, which wasn’t too far from the 60km/h speed limit. Being a weekend, the left lane of the multi-lane highway was made available for on-street parking. Even though the parked cars appeared sporadically, drivers tend to avoid the left lane entirely, and drivers that do choose to use the left lane, usually intend to turn left into a side road soon after. So most of the time, the left lane was vacant for me to use. Pacific Highway was quite undulating, so on ascents, I just hopped onto the footpath especially when there were already parked cars on the left lane. This strategy worked for most of the journey until I got much closer to the city centre where riding on the footpath becomes more awkward, as I found myself being paranoid about coppers around. Eventually I arrived at a proper bike path but sadly only lasted 400m until I arrived at the bottom Harbour Bridge. This was when I first found out that for cyclist who wants to get onto the Harbour Bridge, one must get down from the bike and push it up stairs! There’s a ramp next to it to roll the bike wheels but still, for such an iconic bridge, one wouldn’t think of providing such an inelegant way for transporting bicycles. An officer of some sort stood at the top of the stairs, which made me think for a moment that payment is needed to use this bridge. Luckily not, and then comes the actual path on the bridge, where I immediately noticed the ugly inward facing metal fences on both sides, for preventing jumpers I think.

I asked that hi-viz cyclist if all riders have to go up here. It's the only way, he said. Sigh.

And so that was the 5th climb I did today!

A caged bike path

Somewhere along the Harbour Bridge, I took a long gaze over my right shoulder, beyond the fence and was in awe with the many heads and bays that are characteristic of this natural harbour city. Just then, I was struck by a moment of disbelief, and to realise what I have just done – after 5 long days pedalling from Brisbane, I have finally made it to Sydney! My mind earlier was so immersed in road and traffic conditions, drivers, infrastructure, terrain, I have completely lost sense of why I was here, in this busy city that looks every bit unattractive, until now. The sight of the harbour, the city skyline, and later on, the Opera House, reminded me how beautiful this metropolis is. My journey ended right after crossing Harbour Bridge, at Hickson Rd just under the bridge. There were many tourists out and about, and a number of wedding couples doing photo shoots. Both the Harbour Bridge and Opera House can be seen in the background, making this a popular spot for a photo shoot. A blanket of clouds and a strong Westerly greeted my arrival. The time read 4:30pm and I have ridden 200km on my last day for a total of 12 hours 15 mins. No one here knew what I have just done, except for the Vietnamese dude selling ice cream from his truck. As I was paying for my soft serve cone, he asked where have I ridden today. Told him I started from Brisbane 5 days ago, but he didn’t look amused. I concluded that he’s either a super strong rider that can probably do this distance in much shorter time, or simply a non-rider with absolutely no idea how far it is to ride any distance. Sat on the grass for a bit, updated my social media, and then I was off again, one last time on the bike, on a southbound journey to Surry Hills, where my friends and I will be meeting for dinner. The 3km journey took me across the city and 30 mins of fear-filled riding. Should have taken the train instead. A friend offered me to use the shower in a gym nearby where he was a member. Our laughter-filled little reunion dinner in an exotic restaurant made a fitting end to a thousand-kilometre bike ride!

Mission accomplished!!!

I swear Sydney Opera House looks 100x better after riding the 1000km journey from Brisbane!

Strava ride profile

At dinner, I was asked if I had booked my return flight to Brisbane. The answer was no, as I wasn’t confident that I would make it to Sydney. The sense of achievement was intense, but I will never repeat this ride, not unless it’s in the name of charity (or record attempt?). The stress and risk of highway riding was simply too great to do this simply for personal enjoyment. I miss the touring days in 2011 where I wasn’t all too concern about the distance I covered in a day, and if I liked a place, I just stayed for longer or even camped for an extra day or two. The idea of doing this Brisbane to Sydney ride was intended to be more of a vacation than a personal challenge, but had somehow reversed its role by the end of the journey. True, the weather is the ultimate game changer. I could have done a bit better in my planning to avoid the extreme heat. Compared to the same time last year where I completed a 1200km ride in 4 days, this time I was no where as fit as then, and obviously made the ride more challenging. However, the past few years of Audax riding has definitely helped in preparing myself for solo long distance rides like this. Energy conservation, navigation ability, traffic awareness, and mental endurance are some of the most invaluable skills gained from riding with the Audax community. Despite all this, confidence is not something that can be taught, but if you have it, you’ll complete many great rides with it. But if you don’t have much of it, just like myself, that’s when a supposedly smooth sailing ride morphs into a crazy adventure.

Another adventure checked :)


November 20, 2015
Taree to Medowie
Distance: 142km
Total distance: 810km

Of all the good things that a touring cyclist can carry, the greatest of all would be the ability for good decision-making. Secondary to that would be the ability to rescue oneself from a bad decision. Failing that, of all the assets that one can afford to leave behind, do not leave behind common sense! Yesterday I made a decision to modify my route due to extreme temperature. Today, I was faced with another tough decision, as the temperature has just gotten even worse.

Whenever someone asked if I'm alright today

The planned route for the day covers a distance of 228km. With a peak temperature of the day expected to exceed 40°C, it made sense to skip all detours and just stay on the highway. The detours would have taken me to The Lakes Way where I got to ride next to a couple of lakes system, which include Wallis Lake, Smiths Lake, Myall Lake, Boolambayte Lake, and Bombah Broadwater. The signage for The Lakes Way was printed on a brown background, which indicates an official point of interest. Sounds fantastic I know, but apart from the greater distance, the infrequent townships in this area also made it risky to ride on such a hot day. It may or may not be cooler riding closer to the ocean (depending on wind direction). I’ve decided not to take my chances. By keeping to the highway, I shaved off a whopping 53km of riding which means my total distance to Newcastle slashed to 175km. After 3 consecutive days of riding 200+km, this was very welcoming distance-wise.

About the only time I enjoyed my ride was the first 2 hours

I left the motel at 5:30am to a nice and cool 19°C. At one point, I thought of time trialling my way while the early morning temperature remains low but my legs protested. Yesterday’s speedy 70km run to Taree didn’t just come at a cost of nothing. I soon encounter an 80m climb at the 7km mark which completely kills off this idea. From then onwards, it was highly undulating thru out. Despite the hilly terrain, I was able to maintain a 25km/h average speed until my first rest stop at Coolongolook at 45km. Pretty happy with my effort so far. At about 8:30am, the temperature shot up from 24C to 31C in a span of just 9 minutes! Had an opportunity to stop at Bulah Delah township at the 75km mark, but I must not waste any time while my body can still cope with the current temperature. My mind was completely occupied by worries and thoughts of anything heat-related – I hardly get to enjoy the ride. I got to 95km before I took my second rest stop, at about 9:30am. The temperature now reads 35°C. This was the first stop where I completely drenched myself with water. This method of cooling helped immensely, but this was as far as I got, as I didn’t know how else to keep my body cool. Little did I know at that time that from this rest stop onwards, each time I got back on the road, I never got further than 12km before needing to stop again to cool myself.

I don't fit in here

How do people re-apply sunscreen on sweaty skin?

Not quite Uluru, but pretty close weather-wise!

Only 10km down South, I came to a service centre. Ah finally the rescue is here, an icy cold drink or two (or three)! With absolutely no hesitation, I steered towards the shop, thru the intoxicating stench of petrochemical. An elderly gentleman asked if my bike was petrol-powered. I said no. Then asked if it was battery-powered instead. I said no. “Good on ya mate!” he said, and walked away immediately. Guess he wasn’t too keen to talk to a crazy retarded rider. A packet of milk, a bottle of coke, and another bottle of water took care of my hydration needs. Another round of clothes-on shower before hitting the road again. Next rest stop was the township of Karuah (118km) where I stopped for a lunch of buffalo wings at the local IGA supermarket. I was too embarrassed to ask if I could stay in their air-conditioned supermarket, so I just sat down on the carpark walkway kerb to have my lunch, with the company of a couple of dozen flies. The flies weren’t interested in my food, instead they were eager to land on my juicy salty nearly well done skin. I was amazed at how these flies can even survive in this heat, let alone flying persistently chasing small rewards, c’mon give it up already!

Karuah River crossing. Lots of fishing boats here.

Sitting on a carpark kerbside eating buffalo wings while frantically shooing flies wasn’t exactly the best condition for nourishing new ideas. Not sure how, but I managed to think up something exciting – mental imagery. It’s a mental exercise practised by some professional athletes to improve their performance, by simply imagining themselves performing the act prior to competitions. My modified version of mental imagery do not improve performance as such, but imagines a different situation from the reality to hopefully trick my brain to execute the activity as if the condition was favourable. My wishful condition was a strong overcast above me, with moderate to strong cool wind with signs of storm approaching although it won’t quite reach where I am, as is often the case riding in Brisbane. I swear it worked, momentarily at least. I felt the wind brushes on my skin started to feel slightly cooler. I could hear a faint thunderstorm. I waited in anticipation to feel the first drop of rain on my skin, however tiny it might be. I kept my eyes closed to aid with my false sense of reality… until I lost it completely when a fly tries to creep into my ear. Back to reality it is then, sigh.

My motivation to leave Karuah was the desire to get the air flowing again. Temperature under the shade at Karuah was 35°C, back on the road under the sun it rose up to 39°C. It still feels hotter riding under the sun despite the increased airflow, D’oh! After a scorching hot 10km, I came to a rest stop with a public toilet, hooray! A couple looked a bit puzzled as they see me walking out of the toilet completely drenched from head to toe. They must have thought the toilet was broken or something. Back on the road, and my display now reads 41°C – this was all unchartered territory for me. I began to have some serious doubt whether I can hold on to this much longer. Lucky me, just 3km from the last rest stop, another rest stop mysteriously pops up! This was at the turn off to Medowie Rd at 132km. Once again I performed my routine drenching but this time I decided to stay a bit longer under one of the sheltered picnic bench. While seated, a couple came and offered me a bottle of water and a cold bottle of orange juice, which I gratefully accepted! A bit later, the same generous couple gave me an apple and a banana! I was so touched by the kindness of strangers. Had some flashbacks moments to the times riding at the Nullarbor where I was spontaneously stopped by some kind travellers that offered me food and water. As a traveller, I have come to realise that people are inherently kind. I’m sure that most travellers, especially touring cyclists, would arrive at the same conclusion.

Sydney looks achievable!!

Spare some thought

Life savers from the kindness of strangers!

So it was decision-making time. To get to Newcastle, I now have two route options. I could stay on the highway and ride the 40km distance, or head South towards Medowie to ride closer to the ocean (potentially cooler) but with an additional 3km to Newcastle. A friend of mine Terry, while sitting comfortably on an armchair in his Brisbane home, informed me that the shoulder on Medowie Rd and subsequent roads weren’t too bad, as seen from Google Street View. Option number 3 was to stay at this rest stop until it cools. But it was getting too hot to even rest in the shade, therefore I’ve decided that I must get to an air-conditioned shop ASAP. My brother in Sydney informed me that the nearest shop was 9km away at Medowie. My weather app informed me that the temperature was expected to remain high and only fall into sub 35°C after 5pm. It was just past noon when I arrived at the rest stop. There was no way I can survive a 5 hours wait at this rest stop. I had to relocate, quickly. It was windy at the time, which helped cool my body even though it was hot wind. I braced myself to make that 9km journey to Medowie town. It was horrendous – by far the toughest 9km ride since I left Brisbane! I did my best to prevent my body from overheating by squirting water all over my arms, chest, and thighs at 1-2km intervals. I didn’t have much in my mind besides chanting repeatedly “I MUST make it to Medowie” while looking at my odometer.

It took forever but I arrived at Medowie without too much drama. As soon as I got into town, I went straight to the nearest café but was disappointed to find that they didn’t have air-conditioning. Got myself a milkshake anyhow to cool off. It helped but wasn’t good enough. The temperature now reads 43°C and apparently still on the rise. With 34km left to Newcastle still, I made a last minute decision to ditch this and just call it a day at Medowie. The nearest accommodation was only 200m away, and lucky for me, there was vacancy for a motel room! Took a refreshing cold shower and slept with the air-conditioning at full blast before waking up at 6pm to find that the temperature outside was still uncomfortably warm. I believe I made a good decision to end the day’s ride here at Medowie and rewarded myself with a hearty steak meal at a local pub. It didn’t matter that I have to make up this distance the next day. All that mattered was I survived to ride for another day!

In retrospect, it seems like a common sense to cut my journey short riding in this weather. But at that time, it was a decision that requires extensive thought

Good decision must be rewarded! XD

Strava ride profile


November 19, 2015
Coffs Harbour to Taree
Distance: 229km
Total distance: 668km

On a solo self-supported long distance ride, you’re out there all on your own. Everything from finding your way around and searching for food and shelter is all self-reliant. Except that, this is not true at all, not in the modern days of cycle touring. We have technology backing us up! With an offline map app on my smartphone, I never have to worry about getting lost and not find my way out. With a comprehensive weather app, I know in good probability what’s coming towards me (or what I’m running into). With dynamo hub generator, I never have to worry about any of my USB-charged electronics running out of batteries. I get to manage my energy use effectively with the aid of a power meter. For as long as I have Internet connection via cellular data or Wi-Fi, I was able to have full access to social media and engage in two-way communications with friends and family. Riding for long hours are both physically and mentally challenging, why make it even harder by not making good use of technology?

Coffs Harbour was a nice coastal town. Unfortunately, my memory of this beautiful place was partially contaminated by the horrible experience staying at the youth hostel. At least the weather was delightful when I returned to the road – nice and cool sub 20°C. This went on for the first 2.5 hours of riding. The first 28km was also fantastic to ride, as I get to avoid the A1 Highway, I rode on Pine Creek Way followed by the Old Pacific Hwy instead. Back at the main highway, the construction work appeared intermittently. Had my first rest stop at the (closed at that time) information centre at Nambucca Heads (50km). I was starting to get a little nervous about the looming heatwave. The hottest day was predicted to be the next day, but the temperature for the day was expected to rise up to 39°C. It didn’t help that I had on my plans to ride 252km to make it to Taree. No, that’s not going to work. I must aim to minimise my mileage in order to reduce my exposure to this dangerous heatwave. Had a good look at the map and identified a route that would cut down the distance as much as 23km. That’s at least an hour worth of riding, which means an hour less in this heat, yup I’ll take that please! BUT, this wasn’t an easy decision as I would have to ride fully on the highway and forgo visiting a number of potentially interesting places, namely the coastal cliff of Pacific Drive and Tacking Point Lighthouse at Port Macquarie, Lake Cathie, Queens Lake, and the entire length of the scenic Ocean Drive. What a shame! But I made a promise to my family and myself that in a case of conflict, I must take the safer option.

Love my ginormous helmet visor!

Fully appreciating every meter of bike lane before being dumped into highway again

But of course, bike path is even better!

Had a bit too much food at Nambucca Heads, so took it easy by tootling along the existing bike path until it ended 4km down South. As soon as I got off the path and back onto the highway, the remaining 175km journey to Taree was 100% on the highway. Daunting. And potentially very boring too. How does one find motivation in a situation like this? I wasn’t collecting for any charity, nor attempting any speed record. This ride was merely meant to be an enjoyable personal vacation. For times like this I begin seeking inspiration from others – of people whom I admire for achieving unbelievable feats. I have deep admiration for Andrew Cadigan, the Oz On Foot guy who completed an extraordinary 15,000km solo walk around Australia. We crossed path back in 2011 at the Nullarbor, me on my trike, and Cad on his feet. Cad walked an average of 50km a day and when we met, I rode alongside him for several hours. We shared our stories on the road and talked about many things in life. One of which I held strongly in my memory – Cad made a connection that the many miles of walking on the road every day in a sense actually reflects what life is in general. To be able to see the big picture of life is to suffer in a harsh environment, where our survival is dependent on the very basic elements of life – food, water, and shelter. Everything else is trivial. How could I have not made this connection earlier? I’m all good for food and water, but I’m desperate for shelter, at least later in the day when the temperature is predicted to approach a potentially life-threatening level. With that thought, I found a new meaning and therefore was fully determined to make it to Taree.

While touring in 2011, I crossed path with Andrew Cadigan in the arid land Nullarbor

Temperature rose quickly – by 10am, my temperature sensor read 35°C. I was counting down the distance left to the next major town Kempsey. Every now and then, I had to stop to make way for trucks moving in or out of the construction site. After 30km of riding since Nambucca Heads, I decided I needed a break just to stay in the shade for a little longer. It wasn’t easy finding a suitable place to stop that is both shady and at least 10m away from the highway. Saw a gravel side road at 84km and quickly turn in. Flies are a real problem here. I was sitting on the gravel road munching on snacks while constantly waving my hand to keep the flies off my face, until I realise I might be accidently sending help signal to drivers on the highway. No problem there, just turn my body away from the highway and continue my fly shooing. Back on the road as soon as I was done eating, and made a non-stop blazing hot journey towards Kempsey, bypassing the town, and finally stopped at Kempsey South Service Centre next to the highway at the 120km mark. I particularly enjoyed riding that long bridge over Macleay River even though there was absolutely no shade. But the joy was short lived, as I had to tackle two slow climbs after that and a very slow and sweaty final climb just before the service centre. Just like the day before, I seek refuge in the Macca’s here and stayed for more than an hour.

Make way for the road work machineries!

I was instructed to ride beyond the line of witch hats. Last time I did that it didn't end up well for me.

Not easy for me to find a rest stop like this!

A source of great relief

As soon as I got out of the service centre, the temperature hit the highest level for the day at 39°C. A bit smarter this time – just before I left, I filled up both my bottle and hydration bladder with 1:1 water to ice ratio so that it would remain cool for much longer. Riding on the highway, signs popped up once in a while showing the kilometres until the next service centres and major towns, so I made plan to have my next rest stop at the 160km mark, yet another service centre with Macca’s! This was starting to feel like I’m on a car trip, stopping only at service centres eating fast food because the objective is to simply travel from point A to B as quickly as possible. The highway construction work continues, complete with narrow sandy shoulder, but I think I was starting to get used to it by now. With only 6.5km to get to the service centre, I came to another river crossing, a huge one in fact – Hastings River. I could already tell from a distant that this was yet another old steel bridge. Not surprisingly, I had to get off and push my bike across some overgrown grass to get onto the bridge path. Since I’m already stopped, I took the opportunity for a 10 minute break. I sat on the ground in an awkward pose as I tried my best to keep most of my body within the shadow of a small road sign. I felt really demotivated at this point. My only source of comfort is sipping the cool water from my hydration bladder buried in my seat bag (helped insulate it from the heat). Once again, it all comes down to the basic needs, which evidently becomes more important to me now more than anything else. Only 6.5km left to an air-conditioned shelter with plenty of ice water, I kept reminding myself, as I pulled myself together to bridge this distance gap (and over this ridiculous bridge too).

Cyclists deserve better!

Managed to shoot this from the bridge in between the violent vibrations caused by passing vehicles

The fast food restaurant was surprisingly packed. One man spent a good 5 minutes looking at my parked bike. It’s quite entertaining watching people’s reaction when they see a recumbent. Anyway, I made sure to fully rehydrate and refuel myself before stepping out from the comfort provided by one of the best human invention ever – air-conditioning! Felt a lot better now. It was 3pm when I got out and the temperature dropped to a tolerable 30°C. Another mood lifter was the highway from here onwards was dual carriageway with a car-width wide shoulder, hell yeah! Being the opportunist that I am, I time-trialled the remaining 70km to Taree non-stop with an average speed of 28km/h!

Finally, Taree! What a huge sense of relief!

When I got to the pre-booked motel at Taree, I was so knackered I had great difficulties climbing the stairs while carrying the bike up to my room at first floor. After a very refreshing shower I went into the reception office and asked if there are any shops that sells food nearby, doesn’t even have to be a restaurant. I was informed that there is an Indian, Italian, Chinese, and Thai just right across the road. Oh my goodness, my life is perfect! Bought myself a very satisfying Thai seafood meal, a variety of drinks and more food from the supermarket, and an ice bag for the legs. The ice treatment is looking quite promising. I reflected on the day and concluded that it was a good call cutting the journey short and having long breaks at the service centres. My third day of riding covered a distance of 229km and yet another 12-hour day on the road. This would be the longest distance I had to do in a day and I’m so glad I survived it.

Strava ride profile

Andrew ‘Cad’ Cadigan was an inspiration to many. I was fortunate enough to meet him and more so during his epic feat. Sadly, Cad suffered critical head injuries in a motorcycle crash just a month after completing his walk, and passed away a few months later. He may be gone for good but he still lives to this day in the memory of those touched by his overwhelming determination and his strong will to survive. Thank you for the inspiration Cad :’)

The inspiration lives on


November 18, 2015
Ballina to Coffs Harbour
Distance: 219km
Total distance: 439km

The Eastern coast of Australia is densely populated. Riding in this small strip of fertile soil is unlike most parts of Australia, which are harsh and largely uninhabited. Food, water, accommodation, and medical supplies are readily available so it’s comforting to not have to worry about these basic life supports. Yet, this is hardly a cycle touring utopia. The heavy motor traffic and high number of impatient drivers are enough to put off many touring cyclists from riding these roads. For those brave enough to ride them, it is probably because they had to, and I doubt many actually enjoy it. Day 2 was the first day I had to endure many miles of highway riding.

I had a little sleep in to make up for the sleep deprivation two nights ago. Hence, I hit the road a little late at 6:10am, but hey Queensland was still only 5:10am! The planned route led me out of Ballina, onto the Pacific Hwy briefly and exited to Pimlico Rd at the 7km mark. I was aware that I could only avoid riding the highway for 10km, but grateful that this alternative road exists. With almost no traffic, Pimlico Rd was very pleasant to ride on even though it was a bit rough. The road then joins the highway at Wardell, followed by an old steel bridge crossing with its uncomfortably narrow footpath. I admitted for breaking the law for riding on footpath several times but rest assured it was all done in the name of safety of others and myself!

If only the entire highway was like this

Pimlico Rd felt like a typical Brisbane suburb street

Narrow path on an old steel bridge at Wardell

First rest stop at 50km, in a rest area called New Italy. There’s a free museum here and apparently a public toilet that I failed to locate after spending 5 minutes searching for it. The highway cuts across several forest reserves. Tall trees on both sides of the highway provide a nice cover against the morning sun. At Harwood (85km), I came to another narrow old steel bridge. This time the path was at the opposite side of the road, poorly maintained and with an entrance full of overgrown grass. Same deal when I arrived at the other end of the bridge. Sigh, do people in this town not bike or walk across this bridge?

New Italy Rest Area at the 50km mark

Concrete!! Extremely welcoming after countless miles of bumpy road surface

A decent infrastructure that was poorly maintained :(

The rough road surface had been solely responsible for much of the rattling and things coming loose on my bike. One of which was my headlight mount. I can see it bopped violently as I hit small bumps or just from surface irregularities. This particular instance though, as I completed the bridge crossing, I noticed it bounces weirdly. Gave it a good tightening and moved along. All was good until just a few kilometres later the plastic light mount cracked and eventually split into two pieces as soon as I touched it. Argh! Not quite yet a disaster, luckily, another mounting hole was available on the plastic bracket. Took a rest break at Ferny Park at the 92km mark. Looked at the map to see that I only have about 40km or so to get to a major town Grafton. It must have been the strong desire to seek refuge from the rising temperature, as the remaining distance to Grafton took me only 1.5 hours to wheel down.

My bike is falling apart :(

Not a bad view from the picnic shelter at Ferny Park. But it's no fun riding under the cloudless sky on a hot day

A note to any touring cyclist passing Grafton, the Macca’s here makes a good pit stop. It’s literally just next to the highway and the air-conditioning is bliss! The employees were happy to top up my bottles and provide ice water, which I happily gulp down to my heart’s content. The temperature recorded by my GPS device was 32°C just as I arrived at Grafton. Naturally, I took more than an hour lunch break here, also to serve as a reward for having done 133km in the morning. The temptation to stay on for even longer was strong, but I must resist as I still have 86km to get to Coffs Harbour before I can call it a day. When I got back to my bike, I found it lying on the ground! OMG, did someone tried to steal my bike!? Upon closer inspection, everything was still there, although a few items like my sunglasses, gloves, and helmets were scattered all over the ground. The lock was still unbroken. I then concluded that the wind was the culprit. The outcome of the fall was a damaged retractable nylon cord where I used to secure my hydration hose to the left side of my seat. Now that it’s broken, I can no longer drink water from the hose while riding. Not a major problem, I was still able to reach for my water bottle instead. Only day 2 and the unexpected failure count on my touring rig are up to 4 now! A real adventure is never smooth sailing ey ;)

The ice lasted 15 mins tops but every little bit of cooling helps

Eventually (albeit reluctantly), I left Grafton on a Southeast bound journey. Only 15 minutes into the ride, the temperature now shows 37°C! I was stopped only 7km from Grafton at a sheltered rest stop to splash some water onto my head and body. The ice water from Macca’s got warm pretty quick. An old couple seated there gave me the strangest look. No time to entertain them, quickly got back onto the highway and powered thru to overcome two long climbs and then stopped again after 25km. Long stretches of the highway was under construction. This makes riding the highway many times more unpleasant. The shoulder width was cut down in half and littered with gravels and sand. The air was filled with dust and loud noise everywhere generated by the machineries. The only plus side to this was the reduced speed limit from 100km/h to 80km/h and sometimes 60km/h. I also noted a significant number of drivers that chose to ignore the new speed signs. I think my eyes spent nearly half the time mirror checking.

36.4!! What am I doing out here???

Looks like I've entered a brumby region. Unlike me, they weren't stupid enough to come out in this weather condition

Massive road construction work. I didn't take any photos at the horrible stretches as a full concentration was required

This rest stop had a service station and a café. Gulped down a 500ml milk carton and a 500ml soft drink. The brain started playing with numbers. I still had 54km to go and this should take about 2.5 hours. But the 32km I did since Grafton was incredibly difficult with the heat and construction work. I can’t imagine myself spending another hour riding in that condition. Back to the map then, in search of a better motivation. Aha! Motivation located! And it’s only 15km away, that’s where I exit the highway into an alternative road in the town of Corindi Beach. That should take care of the highway stress, and riding near the sea, the cool sea breeze should take care of the heat problem. Am so glad to find out that my prediction was accurate! After Corindi Beach, the alternative road took me across a series of coastal towns. One of which was Woolgoolga (191km) where I stopped at a Woolies for a very delicious thirst quenching icy cold bottle of Coke. It’s the simple pleasures like this that would stay forever in my memory.

Past Woolgoolga, the road, aptly called Solitary Islands Way, stays parallel to the highway and eventually runs adjacent to it. Had an odd encounter with a young adult male riding on what looks like a beater bike trying to race me. Ordinarily I don’t respond to a situation like this but why not have a little fun and show this bloke what a recumbent is capable of ;) He soon became a tiny dot in my mirror and never saw him since. The road further South becomes a lot smoother and has bike icons stamped onto the shoulder indicating a bike lane. There was little to no traffic on the Southern section of Solitary Islands Way – I’m guessing cars would prefer taking the highway instead. The road finally ended at Korora Basin and I got dumped onto the highway again. I was only 8km from my destination so didn’t make a big deal. Besides, it was dual carriageway with plenty of shoulder. The only dodgy section was the narrow climb up a hill where The Big Banana resides. But a bike path (covered in fallen leaves and twigs) took care of that! Plenty of traffic lights crossings as I got closer to Coffs Harbour town centre.

Solitary Islands Way is THE way to go!

A semi-decent path next to the narrow and busy highway is better than none. Oh, and The Big Banana in the background.

I arrived at the backpackers an hour or so before sunset, where I booked a bunk bed for the night. I rode the same distance as day 1, at 219km, and just like day 1, I was on the road for 12 hours. How I managed this feat was beyond me! After check-in, I took a walk along Harbour Drive towards the sea and absorbed the sunset view of Muttonbird Island and the marina in the foreground. Walking on cleated shoes was awkward so I decided to go barefoot. The knee pain was still present, so I got myself another ice bag. Back at the hostel, it was packed, noisy, and the air was filled with awful smell of cigarettes, alcohol, and sweat. I knew at this point that I should have taken a room at a motel or a motor inn instead. This was basically a party house, I couldn’t fall asleep until around midnight with the constant door opening and closing and the party noise. I also wasn’t feeling comfortable leaving my bike outside the premise. I came to realise that for a ride like this, when a quiet and peaceful night is needed, it’s best to just stay away from youth hostels.

Kids were seen playing in the ocean as the sun sinks into the horizon. Shows you how hot the day has been.

Looking East towards Muttonbird Island

It was a pleasant walk :)

The state of the hostel room was in stark contrast to the peaceful walk on the clean street

Strava ride profile


November 17, 2015
Brisbane to Ballina
Distance: 220km
Total distance: 220km

Brisbane being only 100km away from the NSW state border, it means that on the first day itself I’ll be losing an hour as I cross over to NSW with daylight savings observed. Not a big deal, I just had to start riding an hour earlier than originally planned. So I pedalled off at 4:40am. Made the 5km odd journey to Brisbane CBD because that’s the only definitive way to claim that I’ve actually started the journey from Brisbane ;) As usual, for a major ride like this, I didn’t get much sleep the night before – think I slept for only 2 hours or so. It was the constant mind chattering, but I think the excitement wins over the anxiety this time. I had some level of confidence that I would complete this ride, and a little bit of confidence is all I need really. Brief snapshots at Redacliffe Place followed by Goodwill Bridge and I’m off for the 1000km adventure!

Goodwill Bridge at about 5:10am

I feel good, no, I feel GREAT! I could barely contain the excitement, but I must not be distracted. I rode the SE Bikeway until the path ended at 17km mark, where I got onto the motor-heavy Logan Rd. I was clearly not focused enough when I took my first wrong turn only a few kilometres later. Am very grateful for the off-course navigation alert on my Garmin. While stopped at a shopping centre carpark to assess my route, I quickly put on some sunscreen. It was a humid morning and this was when I realised I should have applied the sunscreen earlier as the spewing sweat on my skin now displaces the sunscreen. Onto the mildly undulating Pacific Hwy that runs parallel to the bicycle-prohibited Pacific Motorway. Many tradies in utes and 4WDs spotted in both directions. Some appeared to be quite impatient. I tried applying lane control here but failed miserably when the drivers forced their way thru to close pass me despite tight roads, blind corners, oncoming vehicles, etc. Made a mental note to never ride on this road again at rush hour.

Mt Stapylton Weather Radar in the distant

Pacific Motorway looks relatively quiet compared to the Old Pacific Highway

After riding for about 30km, I noticed my derailleur post is tilted slightly towards the drive side. Ugh, not a good sign – it means that the boom was not fitted securely into the frame tube so the boom rotated when pressure was applied. I can even feel the asymmetry on my legs as both my feet were pointing slightly to the right. It has happened before a while back and to have this problem occurring so early on for this ride was really disappointing. Decided to fix it later at 40km when I stopped for a snack. Not the best decision. By that time, my right knee was starting to hurt due to the prolonged leg twist. I don’t know what else I can do to fix the boom rotation problem other than tightening the clamp. For the record, I never got to permanently fix this problem for the entire ride. I later learnt that not applying too much force pedalling and retightening the clamp every 50km or so seems to keep the problem from developing into a catastrophe. That was problem number 1. Problem number 2 was my seat bag occasionally touches the rear tire, which resulted in a hole on the bottom fabric of my seat bag! The reason this happened was because of the increased load in my seat bag, it sags so much that it rubs the rear wheel whenever I hit a bump. I reluctantly threw out some water to lighten the load. Next, I shoved my lightweight jacket in between the seat bag and my seat as a stopper to prevent the bag from sliding down further. I’m guessing with this summer-like heat I wouldn’t need the jacket anyway. Regarding the water, I just need to remind myself to stop more frequently to top up my bottle and hydration bladder. Problems solved!

One of the many theme parks in Gold Coast

As it was still peak hours, the traffic condition never got better until Nerang. Climbs become progressively steeper as I approach Nerang National Park. My knee pain didn’t go away but didn’t get any worse either. Oh well, only had to endure the pain for the next 950km! My next rest stop, Carrara at 82km, marks the end of the undulating terrain. The glorious beach city of Gold Coast is known for its great surfs and theme parks. But as a recumbent rider, there was only one attraction – the flat and smooth bitumen. Secondary to that was the ocean view from Miami onwards. Not long later at 112km, I crossed the state border into Tweed Heads and found myself sitting in a new time zone where the new time is now 12 noon. Might as well start adapting to the new time by calling it a lunch break! Searching for food was easy. Just as I decided to have a lunch break, a Woolworths supermarket comes up, so naturally that’s where I got my food. Took note of the high number of senior citizens out and about. A few curious eyes on my bike, rather unsurprisingly. One was very impressed seeing a recumbent for the first time and even commented that I should lock my bike securely. In reality though, no sensible bike thief would be interested to steal a recumbent.

Took a break under a tree shade at Burleigh Heads

Currumbin Creek

At Coolangatta, goodbye Queensland!

And hello New South Wales!

Somewhere in Chinderah I took a wrong turn again. Garmin alerted me of my mistake so I quickly made the U-turn and enter the road plotted in my route. Turns out the correct way is a road reserve! Grassy and gravelly, and importantly, a road sign indicating a dead end. Hmmm, can’t fully trust these online maps anymore. Thankfully, the detour added only half a kilometre. At Casuarina Beach all the way down to Pottsville, there appear to be a dedicated bike path next to the road which I happily rode it. Apparently it also goes up North all the way to Chinderah via Kingscliff, more than 20km long! How could I miss this in my route planning? Anyway, upon arriving at Pottsville (141km), it felt pretty hot even though it was only 27°C. Wet my helmet and head sleeve at a public toilet before getting back on the road. I stopped again at Brunswick Heads after only 24km as I was starving and wanted some savoury food. A crappy meat pie from a service station somewhat did the trick. Hopped onto a shared path after that and not long later the Pacific Motorway. Bicycles are allowed on motorways in NSW, which means more route options for cycle tourist like myself. Riding on footpath in NSW though is illegal, which suggests that the NSW government sees a cyclist more as a vehicle rather than a wheeled pedestrian. This short 6km section of the motorway until the exit at Woodford Ln was superb with wide and smooth shoulder.

Tweed River on the right, I got lost a couple of minutes after this shot

That awesome bike path next to Tweed Coast Rd

That spider must be high

Look at THAT!!! Cudgera Creek at Hastings Point

Puffy white clouds, blue sky, and green pastures. What more can you ask for?

Making progress

Past Ewingsdale, my bike points East where I comfortably rode in my own shadow. Approaching Byron Bay, I saw more and more people on bikes, cruiser style bikes mostly and hardly anyone wore a helmet. One even carried a surfboard while riding. The Byron Bay vibe was clearly in the air! Eventually I got onto an adjacent bike path even though the traffic was light and slow moving because why the hell not? I pretended to blend in amongst the local residents but I probably stick out like a sore thumb! The path led me to the back of some residentials and I saw these weird car icons stamped onto the path which means cars are allowed to use the path, what??? Soon I arrived at Byron Bay town centre and it’s pretty obvious now I stick out like a sore thumb! The reaction I got from people was a bit more than usual so I maintained a poker face and couldn’t be bothered stopping to refuel. But I must admit it was quite nice to watch people chilling out at the beach, just having a good time with friends, or strangers. Rode past a group of twenty something seated in a circle with this dude playing some jazzy tunes on an acoustic guitar. Vivre la vie!

Seriously, why is this still call a path when cars are allowed on it???

The 100m climb up Cape Byron Lighthouse reminded me of my tired legs. Thought I was the only one crazy enough to ride a bike up, was surprised to see 5 other riders that did the climb in the time I was at the lighthouse, all on ordinary town bikes mind you! The stunning vista reminded me why I took this climb, it was worth every drop of sweat. With only about 30km to Ballina where I have a motel room booked prior, I took my time to soak in the view and enjoy the sea breeze. Silly me, I underestimated how much time I needed to make that relatively short journey to Ballina. I have completely forgotten about the afternoon rush hour, riding becomes stressful once again, now with bumpy roads and narrow shoulders thrown in. That 30km took me more than 1.5 hours, including a brief rest stop at Pat Morton Lookout. The coast road from Lennox Head onwards was sharply undulated thru out.

Cape Byron Lighthouse

View from up here never fail to amaze me!

Windy up here too!

Pat Morton Lookout, what am I seeing?

This! :)

Eventually I arrived at Ballina at precisely 12 hours since I left Brisbane, and clocked 220km. After a quick shower, I took a short walk to the town centre to find food. Disappointingly, I discovered that my knee problem extends to the walking motion too. Had dinner, shopped for breakfast for the next day, and grabbed an ice bag on my way back to the motel. This would be the first time I iced my legs after a long ride. Time will tell if this good old treatment works. Although I do carry them, I have so far resisted from taking any painkillers. I wanted to check out more on the route that I planned for tomorrow, but fell asleep with my smart phone still on my palm. Overall it was a good first day of riding. A great sense of freedom was felt, and this very personal feeling brought me back to the great memories of the 2011 tour across Australia – as if I had travelled back in time.

The Machine performed solidly today but the engine needs a bit attention

Strava ride profile


Nearing the start of the summer, the mercury can only travel upwards in the coming months. Summer in Brisbane can be very unpleasant for cycling, let alone long rides spanning the entire day. Not much time left now to fit in one long ride before it gets too hot. For reasons I’ll explain later, I had to do this ride, and I want it done soon, maybe in December? NO, sooner! Okay how bout the end of November, so that I can get a couple of weeks to condition my legs. But wait, only 2 weeks for training, who am I kidding – it won’t make any difference. Next week it is then! So that was basically my thoughts process on a Saturday morning that led me to the decision to ride that 1000km journey to Sydney, commencing only three days later on Tuesday. Phew, that was easy! But of course now comes the hard part, to actually act on it…

That's the plan!

The number of days planned for this ride was 5, averaging 200km per day. Any shorter would require sacrificing some sleep, as I don’t believe my current physical fitness is up for a fast ride like that. Any longer would be costly accommodation wise as I don’t intend to camp since not one of my bikes is currently equipped to hull camping gears. Speaking of carrying capacity, since I won’t be camping, I can travel lighter and faster that way. The ideal bike for this ride is of course my carbon high racer, Carbent Sea Dragon. One large seat bag and two smaller frame bags should be enough to carry one set of cycling apparels, a set of normal clothing, toiletries, sunscreen, backup lights, powerbank, bike tools, pump, a couple of tubes and a tire. Food and water was kept to a minimum as I pass many townships along the journey so I can refuel frequently.

The bike was setup for long Audax rides, so nothing much else needed to be done to make it suitable for a credit card cycle touring. I did however made a few changes, actually they were more like general upgrades. The dynamo headlight was swapped with a higher model B&M Luxos U that comes with USB plug that I use for charging my Garmin GPS and smart phone. The GPS was also upgraded to a newer model Garmin Edge 520 with Open Street Map installed for full navigation support. My existing 44-32-22 triple chainrings were swapped with larger and surprisingly more lightweight 48-36-24, which should reduce the times I run out of gears on the high end. I didn’t measure the overall touring rig weight, but my guesstimate is around 20-22kg – quite a bit less than my 50kg touring behemoth back in 2011!

By far the best upgrade on my high racer!


We live in such a wonderful part of the world. Only 15km from the CBD, we enter an uninhabited bushland with so few signs to remind us that we are still in close proximity to civilisation. Mountain biking is such a great way to explore these bushland as one can cover much greater distances than on foot, and leave far less footprints than trail motorbikes and 4WDs.

So yesterday the three of us (Ian M, Terry B, and myself) took our mountain bikes to explore the SE area of D’Aguilar National Park. Earlier, I have plotted a route forming a circuit that covers all the places we were interested in riding, namely the Ferny Grove Rail Trail, Goat Track, and South Boundary Rd. These are all spectacular trails to ride (from my own experience and others who have ridden them) and to do it all on the same ride means triple the enjoyment! The trails are all unpaved so an MTB would be ideal although I’ve been told that this is also cyclo-cross territory.

All drove and met at the Ferny Grove station carpark which was our nominated start point. We kicked off at exactly 7am. We were all excited and fully pumped for the ride! Nevermind that we have the widest range of mountain biking experience, from Ian’s many years of off-road riding and multi-day adventures to Terry’s first day on the MTB. I’m somewhere in between, only started MTB riding about 2 years ago. I’ve learnt that for these kind of rides, road riding fitness can usually make up for the lack of mountain biking skills.

The first 3km was all bitumen road riding. We arrived at the start of the Ferny Grove Rail Trail only to find that the trail was closed! Orange fences stretches across the trail but since there weren’t any workers around, we decided to sneak thru. Apparently work has begun on paving this rail trail. We saw someone walking their dog on this trail so we are not the only criminals here. The 1.5 km rail trail was short but sweet. The idea of converting disused train tracks into riding and walking trails is absolutely brilliant and should really be heavily promoted everywhere around the world.

Ferny Grove Rail Trail (soon to be entirely paved)

The end of the rail trail brought us back onto quiet roads with a view of green pastures and horses left and right. The roads here are sharply undulating but is nothing compared to what we would later encounter on the dirt tracks. We entered another section of dirt track just before Mt Glorious Rd, a bit rougher this time. Terry took a fall in this section as he was getting back on the saddle after stopping. He is now partially covered in mud and blood but assured us that he is fine. Getting a battle scar so early in the ride must be frustrating.

We rode on the shoulder of Mt Glorious Rd for 3.5 km until the turn off to the start of Goat Track. Spotted a number of horse riders on an adjacent trail and a few roadies in the opposite direction, presumably on their way down from Mt Nebo / Mt Glorious. We stopped for a photo opportunity beneath the Goat Track sign before the 320m climb up to Mt Nebo. This was my third climb on Goat Track and I found myself enjoying it more with each climb. Doing it on the MTB felt a lot more solid than on my high racer recumbent fitted with 28mm tyres. We stopped several times on the Goat Track for photos. Somewhere along this track we begin hearing the songs of the bellbirds. Strong overcast meant that we get to ride in a very comfortable 21ºC, despite the temperature soaring above 30ºC the day before. Very lovely riding conditions.

The historic Goat Track went thru a major reconstruction after the 2011 flood

Start of the unpaved (one-way) section of Goat Track

An awesome view neutralises any climbing pain!

View from the Goat Track

Persistent climber Ian

The ascent didn’t stop at the top of Goat Track, so we continued climbing on Mt Nebo Rd and headed straight to the cafe. Climbing was slow but pleasant as we get to look back down on the Goat Track to the left as we inch our way up Mt Nebo. We arrived at the cafe and each ordered some eggs on toast with coffee. At the cafe, we met two other mountain bikers that just came up via South Boundary Rd and went on down to Lake Manchester after breakfast. Not sure where they’d go after that, but it sounded like an all-day ride given the distance they needed to cover.

It was nice and cool at 549m above sea level

With a satisfied tummy, we proceeded with our 1.5 km descent on Mt Nebo Rd and arrived at the start of South Boundary Rd. When I say descent, I actually meant ascent, 60m climb to be precise. On this part of town ascents and descents are mostly short lived, making it hard to tell if we were actually gaining or losing in elevation. Before entering the trail, we lowered our tyre pressure a bit for an increased traction on the loose gravels. Earlier at the cafe we checked the radar on Ian’s phone (only Telstra have mobile reception I think?) and it seems like there wasn’t going to be any incoming rain soon. By the time we hit South Boundary Rd, the rain came in, radar FAIL! Not to worry though, it didn’t last very long. Around that time, we all agreed that today’s weather was fantastic, and how grateful we were that the weather was nothing like the scorching heat the day before. South Boundary Rd was fun. This was my first time doing it in this direction, and it definitely felt like there’s more downhill than uphill, but I suspect Terry might disagree! Poor Terry could no longer generate enough power to turn the cranks on the steeper climbs, as he now adopts the hike-a-bike strategy. Mind you it’s not a strategy to be frowned upon, given that hiking the bike almost matches the speed of us climbing on the bike!

Entrance to South Boundary Rd from Mt Nebo

Middle of nowhere at South Boundary Rd

Now imagine the sound of Bellbirds

We had the trail all by ourselves, no other MTBers were seen

Campsite along South Boundary Rd

We arrived at a campsite that has a comprehensive map of the area. Ian has a good knowledge of the tracks in this area, so he warned us that Centre Rd, the track that links South Boundary Rd to Mt Nebo Rd, is painful to climb. With that piece of information in mind, I wasn’t looking forward to doing it, but only later to discover that the route that I plotted doesn’t go thru Centre Rd, oh the relief! I somehow had the impression that because Centre Rd was so bad, any other alternative tracks can only be better (you can see where I’m going with this). We soon arrived at the connecting track that’ll take us to Mt Nebo Rd. It’s called the Holmans Track. The track starts with a steep descent, just barely rideable at my skills level. That’s the first sign of the horrid that was about to come. I was still being hopeful that the track would become better. I plotted this route, carefully avoiding any dangerous slopes, and selecting only routes that was frequently used with the aid of Strava heat map feature. So I trusted this route, and my riding companions trusted me. Off we descended and more descending and we soon came to this drop so steep that none of us dared to ride on it. Ian wanted to give it a go but wisely changed his mind later on. So what now? The alternative is to turn back and do the massive climb back up. I found myself in a state of disbelief that I have selected this course in my route planning. We proceeded with this crazy steep descent anyway (on our foot) as the alternative is seriously unattractive. Besides, there’s always a chance that the climb up from this on the other end wouldn’t be that steep. Wishful thinking I know but it’s in the human nature to always postpone the pain if given the option.

Second descent at Holmans Track

We began our descent and oh how incredibly stressful it was. It started pouring again which made it more miserable than it should be. When the steep section ended and becomes somewhat flat, I remember saying to myself “Phew, glad it was over, could have been worse”, and right after that, the trail led us to a cliff, my jaws dropped. We can see the bottom, and there’s a creek, far away down at the bottom. %#$@&! Well there wasn’t any other choice, we still had to get out via this trail, and at least now we know for certain the descent ends at the creek down at the bottom. Strava recorded an average -30% gradient with a maximum of -40%. I apologised to the gang for bringing them to this trail and at this point, it was clear to me that I made a mistake in the plotting. I have done the common mistake of placing points too far from each other so that the program automatically calculates the shortest route between the two points which isn’t necessarily the most cycle friendly route. Painful lesson! We carried on our miserable hike-a-bike down-the-creek and when we finally got to the bottom, the water level was already quite high. It’ll only get higher in this heavy downpour, so swiftly, we walked our bike across the creek. The deepest point reaches just above my knee. It didn’t matter that my shoes are completely soaked in water now because it’ll soon be anyway because of the rain. So what’s on the other side of the creek? It begins with a rideable incline but soon we come to a wall! Thunder was heard and lightning sighted. The trail quickly transformed into a mini waterfall of muddy water. Huffing and puffing and lots of stopping. Lots of fear too as I tried my best to maintain balance. Walking a bike has never been this difficult! With a bit of luck and massive effort, we reached the top of the wall and took an extended break. Fearing hypothermia next, Ian and Terry put on their wind stopper jackets. We were completely drenched. I said to Terry, in the hope of inducing some optimism “Well, it could be worse!” only to be responded with “Tell me how Melvyn!”.

Third and most insane descent!

No caption needed

Surely the worst is over now, and what a great relief I was right this time! The remaining climb up to Mt Nebo Rd was still steep but it was rideable. My calf muscles were sore from all the walking – even though we walked only 1 km but that took us 30 mins, so it was a nice relief using a different set of muscles pedalling. Another great relief was riding on the paved road when we got onto Mt Nebo Rd. We were finally doing some productive distance – not the miserable 2km/h at Holmans Track! Only 300m of riding on Mt Nebo Rd before we turned into Bellbird Grove where we had an awesome longish but gentle descent all the way to a sheltered picnic area at the end of the road. It was good to stay out of the rain even just for a few minutes. With about 10km to go, 3km of which on dirt, we took the opportunity to refuel while waiting for the rain to subside a bit.

We got onto the unpaved Link Rd as soon as we left the picnic shelter. Here we encountered an unexpected 1.5km long climb. We were all pretty exhausted at this point. I took it easy by stopping midway to enjoy the view and took some photos. Ian took a slow and steady approach without stopping until reaching a bend where he thought was the top but turns out there was more which resulted in a loud F word and a forced break. Terry looked like he was ready to give it all up but soldiered on hike-a-bike style and even managed to pull a smile for the camera. We were rewarded with a small view of Brisbane city skyline at the top but weren’t too excited as our desire now is simply to finish the ride. Three more short climbs followed before we got out of Link Rd for good. Interestingly, on our last unpaved climb, we went over the most upstream crossing of Kedron Creek. The creek was so small Ian didn’t even realise we’ve just crossed one.

An unexpected 1.5 km climb up Link Rd

Spotted some bee houses close to the end of Link Rd

Final unpaved road climb!

The remaining journey on the paved road must have been a breeze after what we’ve been through, right? WRONG! Two more killer road climbs were thrown at us. Another F word was heard, Terry this time. My MTB is currently on a 1×10 drivetrain, I had no choice but to adopt the roadies’ attitude of HTFU and get over it quickly and no whinging. The second climb was one of the hardest climbs I’ve done in a while. High cadence style don’t go well with the lack of lighter gears on a steep climb so I had to maintain a relatively high minimum speed thru out the climbs. Eventually all of us got over it but the gang must have thought I’m a masochist for choosing this route. Hopefully that long awesome descent that followed neutralises any negative feelings. We finally arrived back at Ferny Grove train station carpark after 6 hours 17 mins, covering 55 km, although it certainly felt longer and further than that! It was obvious on our faces that we were all feeling so grateful and relief to be back. Terry commented that this was the toughest ride he has done in a long time. Ian agreed it was tough but enjoyed the ride no less. As for me, it was hands down my toughest MTB ride. Thank you for the fantastically unexpected adventure Terry and Ian!

Strava ride profile

Tough Rider Award goes to Terry for doing this ride as his first MTB ride and perseverance despite the crash early in the ride!


Bloodshot eyes, Achilles tendonitis, bruised shoulder, muscular pain, severe sleep deprivation, and I feel… terrific! Why so? Because today will be the day we pedal back into Perth, back to where it all started 4 days ago. No amount of physical pain can dampen my spirit now. Today’s ride is powered solely by an unstoppable desire for completion. What appears as an epic challenge of physical strength at the beginning has now evolved into a test of mental endurance. Not an easy day still, but I’ll be using whatever I’ve got left to see myself cross that finish line!

The cool calm morning at Williams Sports Complex sees the reunion of the Queensland boys. It is so good to see Brian, Mark, and Kym, all lycra-ed up and ready to tackle the final leg. The reassuring smile on all our faces, one can almost hear, “Let’s do this, we are all going to make it!”. What’s even more special is that Errol, Chris, and Duncan also make an appearance and will now join us for this final push. I look around and realise how big the field of riders is at this checkpoint. It looks like every single rider who has withdrawn came back to do this final day ride. I later found out that all the DNF riders are encouraged to join the final 215km ride, as this counts as a 200km brevet. So if a rider has pulled out from the full 1200, he or she can at least take home a 200. What a clever arrangement from the ride organisers!

During breakfast, I get to chat briefly with Audax Singapore riders Christina L and Winson S. Winson was forced to withdraw following a crash early in the ride that left him with a broken ankle. But he’s determined to complete the 215km ride today. Such is the resilience of a randonneur. Everyone is in such good spirit this morning. The atmosphere is once again filled with joy and hope.

This is Dave, the PAP bike mechanic. Dave worked tirelessly every night fixing bikes and watch over all our bikes. Thank you for doing this Dave!

It is now 6:00am, and I’m back on the road after all the well wishes. Plenty of opportunities to team up with other riders in a large field of a hundred riders or so, but I choose to ride by myself, as I strongly believe that keeping to my own pace yields the best performance. The goal is to arrive at Perth by 11:00pm and as usual, safety above all else. Only two checkpoints to pass through before Perth, the first being Hotham River, 68km from Williams. The sky is a bit gloomy today. In the first 20km or so, I feel some droplets hitting on my face but this works in my favour as it keeps me awake. I’ve heard of some horror stories of riders literally falling asleep while riding in 1200km events and I absolutely do not wish to become a story teller myself. The journey along Pinjarra-Williams Rd takes us across several creek crossings, completely surrounded by sheep and cattle farms, lush green throughout and rolling hills. Yes, rolling hills. Discouraged at first, but I later tell myself that this is the final chance of riding in a hilly terrain before hitting the dead flat section in the final 100km leading to Perth. Carpe diem!

Golden morning sunlight greets us as we hit the road

Lush green cattle farms, and a bit of shower to wash out the sleepiness

I soon caught up with Duncan, and we ride together for a while. Our pace plays along nicely as we both ride a recumbent (hence similar aerodynamics). Here I learn that Duncan was forced to pull out on day 1 due to a huge navigational blunder that cost him to run out of time. Duncan unknowingly rode an extra 25km! That must have been incredibly frustrating. Right after the turn onto Lower Hotham Rd, we confront this 130m ascent that last nearly 5km. Again, I flip the switch and see this as a wake-up catalyst. What goes up must come down. A wonderful long descent following the climb neutralises all kinds of displeasure.

At about 10:00am, we finally arrive at Hotham River checkpoint, another splendid bush checkpoint that reminds me of Shannon River checkpoint. Shortly after, I see a low racer recumbent arrives. The rider is no other than our national president Peter Matthews. I have earlier seen Peter in some of the previous checkpoints while he served as a vollie but today, Peter is participating as a rider to complete a 200km brevet. His low racer is equipped with this cool looking carbon tail fairing with the recognisable kangaroo decals from the new Audax Australia logo. From reading the elevation profile earlier, I’m now fully aware that we will soon encounter this awesome descent that will take us down to the sea level, I call this ‘The Drop’. All morning since leaving Williams, I’ve been anxiously monitoring the elevation reading on my Garmin and see it fluctuates between 200m and 300m. Because the elevation graph (for the entire 1200km) is way too small to estimate the exact location of The Drop, so whenever the elevation falls quickly, I find myself asking if this is it. The suspense helps keep me motivated but in the end I give in and ask Geoff for an update of what’s coming. He said the rolling terrain will end about 40km from Hotham River, right after passing the country town Dwellingup. That’s a relief.

Hotham River bush checkpoint

Peter with his sexy red low racer, check out the decals on the tail fairing

Back on the road, and eventually the ride becomes more pleasant as the road takes us right into the dense jarrah forest of the Darling Ranges. At this point, sleepiness creeps in and I now have to mentally fight this. The temptation gets stronger, especially right after I spotted a PAP rider comfortably napping on the dry forest ground by the road side. Thinking of doing the same, but I’m simply afraid of oversleeping and losing too much time. From a distance, I see another rider stops. As I get closer, I realise it’s Kym and he’s not stopping for a snooze, instead he’s desperate for some painkillers to help shut off a growing pain in his knees. Thankfully I still have some ibuprofen left and very glad that I could help him. We’ve come this far, there’s no way we’re giving up this ride for silly reasons like physical pain and sleepiness!

I ride alongside Kym and chat for a bit until I pull away and rejoin Duncan at the front. At Dwellingup, Duncan signals me to pass him as his GPS is giving him false directions again. Just a couple of kilometres past Dwellingup town, the horizon sinks and there it is, we have finally reach THE DROP! A couple of light pedals and my legs can finally catch a break with almost no pedalling in the next 6km or so. This is a fast comfortable descent with a stunning view of the flatland below the Darling Ranges. A railway line that runs adjacent to the descending road adds some character to the view. When the gradient starts to taper off, I find myself yearning for more speed. With only 13km left to the Pinjarra checkpoint now, I begin emptying out my tank and maintain a high cruising speed of 35-40km/h. So much fun and full of triumph! Admittedly, I must also give credit to the steady -1% gradient and a decent tailwind but I must say I haven’t been feeling so ALIVE in a long time! Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to arrive at the Pinjarra checkpoint. The unexpected photoshoot as I was crossing the foot bridge over Murray River makes it feels like this is the finish. Not so fast! Still a solid 86km left before claiming victory.

The foot bridge across Murray River where the photoshoot takes place

I allow myself plenty of rest at Pinjarra and fill myself up with freshly prepared ham sandwiches and lots of fluid. Temperature soars high as we leave Pinjarra. I team up with Duncan and Peter to form a 3-person recumbent paceline. The journey from Pinjarra to Perth is fantastically flat, so a recumbent is most advantageous here, but a recumbent paceline is truly unstoppable! It didn’t take us long before we caught up to a Japanese couple and the Audax Indonesia bunch. Together we form a relatively large bunch of 10 or so riders, with Mr President Peter taking the lead. Once we got onto the awesome bike path that runs alongside Kwinana Freeway (the same bike path we rode in the first 70km of the PAP), Peter goes into beast mode and start dipping into the >40km/h territory! It’s a crazy pace, considering my (nearly depleted) energy level, but why the hell not! It’s the final run of an epic ride after all. A quick look in the mirror reveal that our numbers have shrunk, the Indonesian riders are gone. No signs of slowing down from Peter so I just keep going. Eventually Peter had to stop to check on a suspected flat tyre. My turn to take the lead, but the group is now reduced to just the Japanese couple and myself. With no capacity of holding the speed we had earlier when Peter was leading, I signal the pair to move forward. Shortly after, the pair stops to take a breather under a tunnel and I’m back to riding all by myself. For a brief moment, I imagined myself being a GC rider in a pro tour, being led by several domestiques in preparation for my final sprint to a grand finish. Unfortunately, with about 30km left to ‘sprint’ still, I should stop dreaming now and focus on finishing the ride sensibly. At about 10km left to South Perth, and just past 5:00pm, the path gets progressively busier outbound. Swarms of commuters seen flooding the bike path. It’s a good thing seeing so many people on their bikes and the bike path being heavily used. My heart is racing as I finally got off the path and onto Mill Point Road with just 1.5km to the finish. For some reason I thought there was going to be a finishing arch at the finish but the final bits of the ride is a very anti-climatic pedestrian traffic light crossing on Mends St, followed by a clumsy manoeuvre in a full carpark into the gate entry of the South Perth Bowling Club.

Slicing through air in a 3-person recumbent paceline

Perth city skyline. Not far now!

THIS IS IT!!! My entry into the club building marks the end of my 1229km epic! I present my brevet card to the vollies with pride to get the final stamp in the last box under the heading ‘South Perth 1229km’. My official completion time is 5:35pm, which means I’ve been on the road for a total of 84 hours 35 minutes. All the physical sufferings and mind battles, so glad to know it’s all over now. But was it all worth it? Having completed the toughest ride I’ve ever done, I now feel an overwhelming sense of achievement, so my answer is a resounding YES! The Queensland gang are all here at the bowling club and we celebrate our achievements with beers, laughters, and ride stories. About two hours later, the lanterne rouge of Queensland riders Kym, checks in and we can’t be any happier and proud to see all the Queensland riders made it back to Perth.

PAP completed!!!

The Perth-Albany-Perth ride is truly a memorable ride. For this ride, I experience both my lowest and highest points in all the years that I’ve been riding. I suffered my first ever fall on a high racer recumbent at the very first day of the ride, I experienced the most physical pain I’ve ever felt from any physical activity, and had to endure it day after day while adding more hurt to the pain, I saw my much better comrades fail and had to convince myself I could do better, I had to overcome the fear of riding in some of the scariest traffic conditions, and despite all these adversities, I managed to somehow kept my spirit alive and believed in myself that I can complete this ride. It’s a battle against the odds, and I knew this quite well even before starting the PAP, having done almost zero training and minimal experience (longest Audax ride completed was only 400km). Now with this unique set of experience, I learned a very important life lesson and I would like to share this with anyone reading this. If you ever find yourself doubtful of your abilities, but have a strong desire to accomplish something hard and seemingly impossible, go ahead and take up the challenge. If you succeed, you’ll become stronger. If you don’t, you’ll still come out stronger than before.

I would like to end the ride report by shouting a huge THANK YOU to the organising team and all the volunteers for their support in the PAP. I truly appreciate all the services and contributions from each of you. Volunteers are known to provide support in the form of food, mechanical, and medical aid but unlike any other Audax rides, here I also received motivational support which kept my spirit high and kept me going. Well done, PAP vollies!

A full moon over Swan River as I walked back to the hostel while reflecting on the past 4 days

The 5th edition of PAP was ridden in honour of Martin and Matthew who signed up for this ride but lost their lives while road riding prior to the start of PAP. Tailwinds, Martin and Matthew.


Only 4 hours of sleep last night, and so the battle against fatigue continues. The goal for today’s ride is to get to my next and final nominated sleep checkpoint, Williams, at about 327km from Albany. And once I reach Williams, only 215km left of ‘easy’ rolling back to Perth in the next day to complete the ride. From the conversation with Steve last night, the ride today will take us through gently undulating wheat farms. Doesn’t sound so bad eh? That’s just the comforting bits. The Grand Randonnée, as the name suggests, carries with it many spectacular sceneries as well as spectacular in pushing one’s boundaries. In the first 5km of today’s ride, after a short speedy descent, we have to make up for all the lost elevation (and more!) by grinding our way up to the summit of Mt Clarence (177m). As you can imagine, this iconic Mt Clarence climb makes a hot topic discussion before, during, and after the ride.

The start of the predawn climb is gentle and believe it or not, is actually quite pleasant. The lit up eucalyptus tree barks lining both sides of the road create a posh entrance to the mountain. The steepness slowly creeps in until right after the second roundabout, when all of a sudden we face this shocking 20% climb, which calls upon the release of my final line of defence, the MIGHTY gear of 22t chainring with a 32t cog. With a nearly exploding heart, I survive the climb and arrive at the summit of Mt Clarence, where an ANZAC memorial stood timelessly. This is also a checkpoint stop, presumably to ensure each and every PAPer must suffer all the same. In retrospect, I think this might be a brilliant move by the route designers. The steep climb gives me a much needed jolt to an otherwise stiff body and tired mind. It is really tempting to stay to watch the sunrise but the uncertainty of what lies ahead means I must move on.

Summit lookout at Mt Clarence, overlooking the beautiful natural harbour. Great reward after a tough climb.

The 85km journey to the next checkpoint Stirling Ranges feels like an eternity. I blame this on some unfavourable internal and external conditions. Internal being my body not functioning in optimal condition, far from it in fact. I’m not feeling any stronger or any less fatigue after the sleep. My average speed continues to drop and looking at the numbers on my odometer progress is like watching paint dry. On a positive note, the pain in both my Achilles tendon seems to have reached a plateau and stopped progressing further. It is unnatural and perhaps nonsensical to push the body to continue performing an activity that causes it pain in the first place. Mentally, I find myself frequently hovering in the border of continuing the ride and giving it all up. Never had this occurred to me in any other rides. Perhaps I’m now starting to learn the ropes and the importance of mental endurance. The unfavourable external factors include having to deal with the rough roads which requires significantly more effort to roll, as evident from my power reading. Mild undulations means having to deal with long gentle climbs, but when coupled with rough road surface, it really absorbs my speed. Unlike the past two days, there is no longer a thick blanket of clouds above us so we begin to feel the heat of the sun ray hitting on our skin. I see some local Albany riders doing their morning workouts, they look so fresh and full of enthusiasm, getting out of their saddles and everything. Albany being a small town, they can probably tell we aren’t locals but I wonder how they would react if they know we have just ridden in from Perth in the past 48 hours. Bunch of crazy riders. Then this question pops up again in my head “Why am I doing this?”, this I believe, is also the no.1 question plaguing the minds of Audax Australia riders, since 1981.

Day 3 begins with a cool foggy morning

On this long section, I once again encounter QLD riders Mark and Kym as they passed me. Both still in good spirit, but not so good for Chris E, as we just got news that he pulled out yesterday at Shannon. Looking at the SPOT live tracking page, I see that Duncan M’s location has not been updated since Day 1, somewhere between Busselton and Nannup, it’s very likely that he has withdrawn as well. With 3 QLD riders out, I now inherit the title of lanterne rouge of the Queensland contingent. The rest of the ride sees me and Kym ‘fight’ to carry this honourable title to the finish line.

Imagine sailing in an unfamiliar sea on a foggy morning, then when the fog clears up, a massive island emerges in full view right in front of your eyes. That is my best description of what I experience as I crest this one longish climb and shortly after, the uncovering of the horizon brings up the majestic Stirling Ranges that stretches wider than my visual field. Truly a sight to behold, made greater and more meaningful after all the pain/frustration/dullness I went through earlier this morning. It did a great job taking my eyes off from the Garmin screen and once again appreciating what mother nature has to offer. The Grand Randonnée truly lives up to its name!

Stirling Range in its full glory. This alone is enough reason to do the PAP

By the time I arrive at the Stirling Range checkpoint, the sun is now far above the horizon. No trees or any other shelter means that this is going to be a quick rest stop. While seated on one of the camp chairs kindly provided to by the vollies, I get to hear stories from a fellow rider Steven Beverling about his experience competing in a team of four in RAAM, a 3000 mile race across America, and is now preparing to do the race solo in the next race. In the long distance community, RAAM is well known as one of the toughest endurance sport in the world. My mind is completely blown knowing that there is a RAAM racer amongst us. All the best to Steven for his future solo attempt! Some food, some more food, sunscreen, and more sunscreen, and I’m back on the road inching my way to the next checkpoint at Gnowangerup. Only 60km to ride but I’m now presented with new challenges, namely the rising temperature and the blowing headwind. A last chance to enjoy the Stirling Ranges as we exit into Formby South Road before the road once again become undulating but thankfully didn’t last long. Several riders pass me and some greetings exchanged. There are some really strong riders here, one of them is Joel Nicholson, an Audax Victoria rider who earlier this year won and set a new record at the Delirium 24-hour race with an impressive distance of 765km. The most talked about rider during the entire ride is of course no other than the lead rider, Jesse Carlson. It’s true that all finishers of any Audax rides receive the same merit (as long as completed within the given time frame), but Jesse deserves a special mention for his exceptional riding speed and seemingly lack of sleep. Last year, he raced to 2nd place in the Tour Divide, arguably the toughest mountain bike race in the world covering a distance of 4400km from Canada to Mexico. He eventually finished the PAP with more than 7 hours lead over the second rider and 14 hours ahead of everyone else. I wrongly assumed that we are all ordinary folks, superhumans do exist and some of them are here with us doing the PAP.

A closer view of the magnificent Stirling Range

The rest of the journey towards the next checkpoint Gnowangerup (837km) is relatively uninspiring as the combination of rough road, high temperature, and strong headwind continue to subdue our spirit. This checkpoint brings a great sense of relief as I finally get to stay under a shade for more than 5 seconds. As I sat down at the dining table replenishing my energy and resting my legs, the sight of the intense sun and blowing wind outside the window really makes me want to stay at this checkpoint until the sun goes down. The temptation is strong, but it’s only 1:15pm, and I’ve still got 177km to iron out before bedtime. After about 30 mins of rest at Gnowangerup, I fought hard the temptation and won, and so I can continue my agonising adventure of headwind and scorching heat. One of the vollies at Gnowangerup did mention that the next section would be better, with a bit more trees to provide some shade. I’ve also now learned that it didn’t matter whether the vollies speak the truth or not, they say such things to provide us riders some much needed mental relief and more importantly, to keep our spirit up. The depth of support we receive in this event is unparalleled and never stops to amaze me.

No hills in the wheat country, but heat and wind can be a problem

The volume of traffic for today’s journey has so far been tolerable. However, we also see an increasing number of road trains through out the day. I had a couple of close passes (1-2 metre) from the massive 100 tonne triple road trains which resulted in some nerve-wracking left-right swerving from the air being pushed and sucked by the road train. This is new experience for me and I was shocked when it first happened. The last time I rode close to a passing road train was on a 50kg recumbent trike and I didn’t experience this effect. Mirrors become extremely handy in such situation. When there isn’t enough of shoulder to ride on, I simply get off the road onto the dirt surface as I see a road train approaching. It’s still a stressful affair nonetheless.

So I’ve now ridden for more than 30km since the last checkpoint and I’ve not been passed by a single rider. My average speed is currently sitting at 15km/h and even had a rest stop under a tree shade. Something must have happened at the back. My suspicion rose when I see a rushing ambulance in the opposite lane. Oh please tell me this is not for the riders! I feel slightly uncomfortable now and the thought of Martin’s fatal crash came to mind. I keep looking at my mirror in the hope that I would soon see a rider, but it appears that I’m all by myself.

I arrive at Katanning checkpoint at about 5:15pm, and to my sadness, Russell confirms that a PAP rider had crashed, after swerving off the road to escape from a passing road train. The rider suffered a broken collar bone, a broken femur, and multiple broken ribs. He was later airlifted to Perth for an immediate treatment and surgery the next day. Obviously, I’m shaken by this tragic news. Also, as I was the rider immediately in front of him, that could have easily been me. The possibility is very real. Already so physically exhausted from having ridden 900km in the last 60 hours, keeping my mental spirit high becomes even harder now. Forget about time, I should really just aim to finish this ride as safely as possible and to arrive Perth in one piece.

Katanning checkpoint, where I got the tragic news of a rider seriously injured in a truck incident

As the sky is dimming, I put on my night gears and left Katanning in a melancholic state. Not long later I caught up with Japanese rider Jun S, and we ride together for most of the journey to Wagin. Not many words are spoken, but simply having a riding companion provide some sense of relief. Another great source of relief is the amazingly flat and smooth roads, especially once we get onto the Great Southern Highway that runs for 33km until Wagin. It’s night time now, and riding a recumbent here has one awesome advantage. Not referring to the flat terrain, but because we recumbent riders have our default head position tilted slightly upwards, we get a full unrestricted view of the astonishing night sky. The great Milky Way is clearly visible, but wait a minute, it shouldn’t be, as it is the full moon tonight. I then remembered that a friend had earlier mention to me to look out for the moon as the lunar eclipse is happening tonight! A quick scan landed me on the very rare and breathtaking view of the blood moon, the experience is almost magical! I don’t feel so bad now after failing to maintain a decent average speed for today’s ride, else I would have missed the lunar eclipse. I wonder how many riders noticed the moon tonight. Jun didn’t even realise the moon looks different tonight until I pointed it out to him.

Sunset view as we head North away from Katanning

Another highlight of this year's PAP - riding under the full view of the blood moon (lunar eclipse), a very rare moment!

I enter Wagin checkpoint at 8:30pm, feeling content and hopeful that I will be finishing the PAP. With only 61km to Williams sleep checkpoint, I take my time to enjoy a hearty meal of pasta and rest for a good 45 minutes. Before leaving Wagin, the vollies wish me luck and reassure me that I will do just fine, adding that I still look well and fresh compared to some other PAPers. Once again, it didn’t matter whether they speak the truth or not, the positive energy needs to keep flowing. Jun only made a brief stop at Wagins, so I’m back on the road riding by myself once again. The road is quiet and the night atmosphere is lovely. The flat smooth rolling road is gone now, but it doesn’t worry me too much. This is my last night ride for the PAP, so I’m making the most of it. Slightly tempted to forgo my sleep and just continue riding past Williams to make that 215 odd kilometres back to Perth. But I already promised myself to not worry so much about finishing time and that safe and sensible riding should remain my top priority. The road linking the Great Southern Highway and Albany Highway, with its multiple corners and dozens of intersections, sees me constantly checking on Google Map to make sure I’m on the right track (and not miss any turning). Unfortunately, Google Map is of little assistance in this area as it does not distinguish the major roads from the minor ones. Back to the old fashion cue sheets, which reliably got me through this section. James, one of the vollies, had earlier warned about going through the notorious Albany Highway, and we have to deal with it for about 20km. As the name suggests, it is the main highway that links the two major cities Perth and Albany and therefore carries a heavy traffic. Given that it’s almost midnight when I got onto the highway, I thought there will be almost no traffic and it would be a bliss to ride. I was right that the traffic was almost non-existent, but it was far from a blissful ride. For starters, the highway is undulating. That alone I can deal with it without much issue. At one point, I see a bright white LED in my mirror, thinking that some riders have finally caught up. From the brightness of the light, I could tell they are not far back, and that I probably miss them earlier as my view was obstructed by the undulating course. Anticipating the pass and prepared for a greet, I drift to the left, then turn my head to the right. Next thing I know, a road train zoom pass, just a few feet short of grinding my face off. The powerful side wind generated nearly throw me off the road! I stop anyway as I feel a little disturbed, and to assess what just happened. Or in simple terms, the close pass by the road train SCARED THE SHIT out of me and I need to now wipe off that pee and crap in my pants!!

After that frightening incident, I have four more encounters with road trains and for each of them, I got off the road and come to a complete stop to make sure I’m not sitting in the DEATH ZONE which is anywhere 3 metres or less from a speeding road train. In Queensland, we have a minimum passing distance law of at least 1.5m but this distance is way too close for a 100 tonne vehicle travelling in excess of 100km/h. I finally got in to Williams at 12:40am. Can’t remember when was the last time I feel this great a sense of relief. I’m totally spent but extremely glad to have gotten through day 3. It takes me a while to come into terms that I have just pedalled a distance of 1014km in the past 68 hours. All that is left is 215km for a whole day ride tomorrow. My whole body is weak now, but does it matter anymore? My confidence comes back, my hope soars up high, and that’s everything I need to get me through the finish line tomorrow.

The ultimate reward after a looooong day of riding - SLEEP. Total of 1014km after 68 hours. PERTH TOMORROW!


The time is 4:00am, and I’m awaken by one of the volunteers with a gentle nudge. Before going to bed, each of us is required to tell the vollies what time we wish to wake up. The use of personal alarm clock is not allowed, obviously. An hour is all I take to get back on the bike. Again, it’ll probably be much quicker if I get to extend my right arm fully and painlessly. Right before I got on the bike, I bump into fellow Queensland rider Chris E. I have not seen him since leaving Perth. Chris arrived here at Nannup last night at 11:30pm and isn’t feeling great. I should be thankful I got 5 hours of sleep, it’s still not enough but that is all I can afford. I wonder how many PAPers actually got the full 8 hours sleep last night. Meanwhile, the ones who got the least amount of sleep are probably not the slowest riders but the vollies! I went to bed and woke up seeing the same people sitting behind the desk tirelessly answering queries and offering assistance to riders.

Today’s ride is a huge one. The distance to Albany is 322km but the first 200km is all hilly. With seemingly endless undulations, the journey to Pemberton is unsurprisingly snail-paced. Lots of gear shifting work required as my speed oscillates between 10 and 40km/h. On the positive side, no need to worry about navigation as there is only one road to follow. A band of pretty yellow wild flowers can be seen lining both sides of the road which makes good distraction. This is also one of the few occasions that I wish I was on a road bike. Being much lighter and the ability to ride standing to overcome these short steep climbs would be beneficial. Usually recumbents are pretty good at handling rollers, but the distance between the peaks is just a tad too long to carry on the momentum.

Summary of the first 200km of today's ride

Pemberton is the second sleep checkpoint option for the first night. I doubt many riders nominated this as one would have to ride 442km to get here from Perth. Seeing how hilly the terrain is from Nannup to Pemberton, I’m glad I didn’t pick this sleep option. I know a few Queenslanders who did and wonder how they got on last night. Approaching Pemberton, an awesome long descent welcomes us to this beautiful sawmill town. This being a sleep checkpoint, full-fledge breakfast is served, and I happily gobble down whatever food given to me. Mostly pasta, cheese, and bread. Pick up some protein balls for the road too. I was told they’re good, it’s homemade and a specialty of Audax WA division. Just before leaving Pemberton, Mark and Errol arrived. Errol made a shocking announcement that he has pulled out! Looking visibly disappointed, he said that his body couldn’t handle the pain anymore. Completely understandable. I made no mention of any body aches so far, but doesn’t mean there weren’t any. I have an ongoing Achilles tendonitis on my left foot since I did my first 300km ride a year ago which I never seem to be able to shake it off completely. The pain usually kicks in at about 300km mark, but for this ride, it only becomes apparent this morning. I don’t know how much longer I can hold the pain as it will only become worse with more pedalling. There is a limit to how much the human body can endure pain. After all, we are merely a bunch of ordinary folks attempting something extraordinary. With an experienced randonneur like Errol out of the game, I begin to have doubts about my own ability and feeling a bit daunting.

Second breakfast at Pemberton checkpoint

After the long climb out of Pemberton town, the remaining roads to Shannon River checkpoint is pretty much the same deal, hills and more hills. There are however, a few pockets of happiness (read flat road) so I make the most out of them. I have fond memories of camping at Shannon National Park. While riding on this very same road 3 years ago, in the early winter month, I stumbled upon and spent a night in a tiny wooden hut complete with a pot belly fireplace which kept me toasty warm and dry. Right before the left turn to the checkpoint, there was a right turn with a campsite sign and I can instantly recognise that this road leads to the amazing wooden hut. A bit bitter that I don’t get to revisit this treasure campsite, but promise myself to return one day. Although the checkpoint is nothing like the campsite, it makes a great stop where we got to enjoy our meals sitting on a log in the middle of the woods. Not to mention the sleep tent setup for the vollies looks extremely tempting. At this checkpoint, Geoff updates us that the next checkpoint Walpole will see an end to all these undulations, and that we are already 2/3 done with it. This makes me smile and lift my spirit.

To a cyclist, wine country can only mean one thing, HILLY

Shannon River, a bush checkpoint!

We have broke into the 500km mark at this point. Having not completed any multi-day Audax rides, not even a 600, the second day is all uncharted waters for me. So this is quite a significant personal milestone. A long stretch of mild descent bump my speed up but right after this descent, comes a surprisingly long 5% climb. At a distance, I spotted a rider getting off his bike looking rather frustrated, and then stood leaning on his bike looking visibly upset. Ross C is having a mechanical nightmare on his road bike. His rear derailleur is broken and causes the hanger to bend 45 degrees! There isn’t much we can do, I suggest converting it to a single-speed by removing the derailleur and shortening the chain, although neither of us are hopeful. We are only 10km to the Walpole checkpoint so I hurry to the checkpoint to notify support about Ross’s situation. The support crew is now aware of Ross’s trouble but decide to allow some time before attending to him. The pseudo single-speed configuration somewhat worked as it brought him to Walpole checkpoint (long after I left) but sadly he only got as far as 7km after leaving Walpole before the drivetrain fails again. Poor Ross, this is one very unlucky DNF.

Riding amongst the giant eucalyptus is quite an experience

A chance encounter with Brian as he was about to leave Walpole checkpoint. Brian asked about Chris E, but neither of us have seen nor heard from him since Nannup. Hope he’s doing alright. Left Walpole at 3:30pm, and with only 125km left to Albany, I am looking forward to arrive Albany well before midnight. I was promised flat terrain from Walpole onwards, but I foolishly forgot the definition of flat in the Audax dictionary. Although the undulations is mild compared to what we went through this morning, the effect on my legs is accumulative and they’re really starting to wear me out. A 5% climb now feels like 10%. My legs just aren’t generating as much power as before. This isn’t subjective as I’ve been monitoring my power output from my PowerTap hub. I can no longer maintain a 200W effort for any longer than 10 seconds. My legs just couldn’t do it. Have I reach my endurance limit? If not, I must be goddamn near! Riding pass the 600km mark, the setting sun becomes my only glimmer of hope. I’d like to think that I’m a better rider at night, although tonight might prove me wrong. I arrive at Denmark in the astronomical twilight and in the worst of my body condition. The first thing I see when I arrive at Denmark checkpoint is a big sign that says “Ross the Flying Scotsman” held by presumably Ross’s parents. I don’t know if they are aware of what happened to Ross C, but I’d be extremely touched seeing my parents come down all the way to cheer on me.

Don't miss this out if you're in this area and not in the midst of completing a 1200km ride

The last of daylight to view the magnificent giant tingle trees

Above 608km is unknown territory!

The Denmark checkpoint goes down in my memory as the checkpoint of torture. Not in reference to the support which was excellent as always, but in reference to the immense soreness on my body when I got off the bike. For the first time riding a high racer I have a butt sore, I don’t even know it’s possible to get a butt sore riding a recumbent! As I set both my feet on the ground, burdening them with my body weight, both my Achilles tendons feel like they’re burning! I knew my ibuprofen tablets would come in handy. I take an extended rest at this checkpoint. My vision starts to get a bit blurry, it’s a sign that I must hurry and get to bed soon. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had any thoughts of pulling out. But this time I’m seriously considering of doing it, not here in Denmark but when I get to Albany. The plan now is to get to Albany, have a few hours sleep and then see how my body feels when I wake up before deciding if I should pull the trigger.

Down goes the sunlight and up comes the moonlight at Denmark checkpoint

With the thought that this next section of 60km to Albany may possibly be my final run of PAP, I give it my all, and ride in the best form I can manage given my current state. If I can no longer ride hard, I can at least still ride smart. I keep a close watch on my power output to ensure smooth pedalling and minimal deviation as the terrain changes, while also maintaining a consistent cadence with regular shifting. The increased cognitive processing also helps to keep me alert and away from absent-mindedly fixating on the road like one would do in a long drive (it’s dangerous and can lead to a very ugly outcome). The motivation is simple, to quote Martin’s words “I only have to ride as far as the next checkpoint”, and that is all that matters.

The terrain finally becomes flat which is a big relief but riding in the dark, you never know when the terrain is going to change until you get to it. My average speed gets a bump up, and I see myself passing a small number of (tired) PAPers. Soon I see a cluster of white LEDs from my mirror, seems to be approaching at a slightly faster pace than I’m at. There’s probably about 5 or 6 riders and they form a paceline. Perfect! I’ll be catching this “train” all the way to Albany! With 40km left still, I slow down, let them pass, and shamelessly hang onto the back of a group of Audax Victoria riders led by Sarah C, whom I later found out referred to as the Mother Teresa of Audax Australia, given her experience and contributions in the club. It’s such a relief to be sitting in the streamline, both psychologically and physiologically. I didn’t have any time at the front, and I feel guilty about that but as much as I wanted to, I wouldn’t be able to hold the group pace on my own, not to mention the reduced drafting benefit from a recumbent.

We got in to Albany sleep checkpoint (687km) at around 10:00pm, after a surprising and ridiculously steep climb up to our accommodation building. The entire city sits on a slope. It didn’t just end there, once we had our dinner, we had to walk up multiple flights of stairs (I stopped counting at 10) while carrying our belongings to get to our bedrooms. The nice thing about this accommodation is that each rider gets his/her own room. But the sleeping arrangement is such that the earliest who arrives gets the bedroom on the first floor, and the last rider gets the bedroom on the highest floor. Yeah that’s right, punish all them slow riders! At dinner, I got to chat briefly with one of the PAP photographers Steve K. No we didn’t talk about photography, instead he is saying that I should be relief that I made it to Albany as most PAP riders who quit in the past events did so on day 2 as this is the toughest day, being the most hilly day. “The worst is over now” said Steve.

It’s amazing how those words are so simple yet means a world to a cyclist on the verge of quitting. I see some hope now. Tomorrow will be a brand new day, and I’ll be riding somewhere new, and there will be much to see and explore. I’m looking forward to riding once again.