The Newcastle Overnight was an amazing success. The toughest in recent memory would have been Day 13 of Perth to Sydney. I did 186km in a savage head wind. Over night I think this ride was just as hot.
The day started off hot. Ruining my plan to beat one of the challenges of this ride. The plan was simple. Stay up really late as I tend to do and have a nice sleep in. Problem here was that it was so hot, despite the fact I was up well past 4:00am I could not manage to fall back asleep past 9:00am. I prepared a couple of things for the ride and decided to get out of the house for the afternoon and went around for some beers with a friend. About 6 beers and a heap of Indian food later I was back home getting everything together. As is typical for me, I packed too much.
I wish I had had a handle bar bag. Since I was riding my road bike there isn’t much storage space. I decided then to use my Camelbak to hold the bulk of my water as I’d need at least 1 water bottle cage for the light battery. My packing included, rain gear, food (couple sandwiches, nuts, cheese, forgot the crackers), extra battery (not needed), arm/leg warmers, couple other small things. All tools and spares where in a saddle bag.
Once ready I went around to a friends to pick up a loaner light. This is one of the early generation LED lights made in New Zealand. It is a really nice light, very high power but…. it used old NiCad batteries each of which is the size (and shape) of a water bottle. There was concern that the batteries had degraded from there original 8 hours to about half. Fortunately this was not the case and I got a solid 8 with mostly using the medium setting and turning off while riding in lit areas. Unfortunately this meant I had a water bottle shaped (and sized) spare battery in my backpack I didn’t need.
Turned up to Observatory Hill about 8:30, chatted with a couple of folks I knew from Bike Polo and met some new folks, made some really bad jokes and prepared to depart.
The ride started off nicely with a couple of people jamming right off the front. I took my time but was still near the front of the main group. I held in this group for the first hour or so but as the climbing started getting more intense I dropped of a little more each time. Apparently I don’t have climbing legs since leaving San Francisco. This group had been pulling a fairly intense pace so I was probably for the best to back off and join the next group back.
I stuck with this next couple for a couple of hours. At least until the tea stop. This group also had the toughest/craziest guy on the ride. Sporting an old Shogun funny bike converted to fixed gear with a not so sensible gear ratio. He did manage to throw down a Herculean effort but the climbs of Mt. White left him walking. As there was a large gap to the next group back, he’d not much of a light and there was the occasional speeding car, I walked with him until the crest. A small group caught us just after the top and we jumped in with them until the tea stop. The last group I was with was still there and I jump in with about half of them a few minutes later.
Some people rest on descents. I think if you are resting on a descent you are not going fast enough. Sadly this attitude, fun as it is, didn’t leave a lot for the next climb, which I did very slowly. I spent the next hour or so on my own until I decided it was time for a rest. I had a lay down on the lawn outside a gas station until the next group was coming up. Got my shit together and hoped on. We arrived in Swansea together and continued on to the straight flat marsh lands to the North. I was working with one other in the group taking turns on the front. This is when the lack of sleep was really starting to hit me bad. I wasn’t hungry but should have been, my stomach was hurting and I was starting to see spots.. okay I gotta throw up. I jumped out of the group and relieved myself. There was a small parking lot which I used to rest up, took a power nap, ate some food and was feeling largely much better. That is until the next group past.
I didn’t see them until they where just passing, I packed my stuff up quickly and tried to catch them. Bad idea, basically wasted the little rest I just taken. I’d given up on trying to catch when I noticed one (of the three) pulling off to the other side of the road. Water stop or rest maybe, said it he was okay. I then ended up catching the other 2 while they where stopped. I managed 2 big efforts with them but I just wasn’t on the same pace. Turns out heavy weight touring and light weight hammer aren’t really transferable skills, who’d of thought.
On my own again I decided some motivational music was in order. Riding with no hands selecting some music I didn’t see the giant pile of glass until I’d riden through it twice. Before I was even done wiping the front tire down the rear went flat. And turn out matching Mavic tires and rims are impossible to remove without tire levers… which I didn’t have.
About 15 minutes later a lone riding pulled up. I’d recognized him and turns out we’d met through a mutual friend a couple of weeks earlier. He was happy to stop at this point and take a break. We then departed together and were on very similar pace. The company was very welcome at this point. We’d both been having similar nights. We had about 60km to go about this point.
It was still very hot at this point in the night and there was a thunderstorm cracking away on the horizon. Interestingly this is the same place I was absolutely hammered on during the first night on my Sydney to Brisbane tour.
The rest of the ride was fairly routine. Will and I stopped occasionally for rest and food (I was thankfully hungry at this point) and chatted while knocking down the distance. The last 15km where great. We left the main highway and took a Rails to Trails route that was extremely beautiful with natural Australian coastal growth.
We arrived at the rock pools right around 7:00am to a cheering crowd and a croissant. Getting off the bike knowing I was done was an amazing feeling. Everyone around the table looked shattered but with the most amazing smiles of haggard satisfaction on their faces. Through the sharp feeling of pain and exhaustion I felt that look on my face too. We sat around for the next hour sharing our story of the journey, most of the people there I’d riding with at least once through the night. A great bunch of people whom I am very glad I was able to meet and ride with.
I cannot thank the people who organized this enough. Ollie and Garth are super nice guess and did an amazing job bringing us together. If you are in or around Sydney this time next year you must do this ride. It was a truly amazing experience.
No Newcastle Overnight, Thank You.