After developing experience in flash packing over the last few years, I thought that it was finally time to tackle a proper bike packing event. The flash packing that I had done had included several overnighters as well as a multi-day 650 km ride from the Blue Mountains to Wagga Wagga, in NSW.
Surely I was ready. The event was pencilled into the diary for 28 – 30 August 2020, I then started preparing the mind, body and bike for the event. Surely my previous experience has prepared me for the 520 km event in the Barrington Coast region? The course was a figure eight – firstly through the lush coastal area of Foster and secondly through the Alpine region of the Barrington Tops.
My Curve Uprock was set up rigid, running 1 x 11 Shimano XTR, tubeless wheels, a combination of bags of Curve Rocket Pooches, Skin Grows Back feed bags, Bike Bag Dude TT Garage and Revelate Terrapin Seat bag. Lighting provided by a KLite Bikepacker Ultra V2 and powered by an SP Dynamo hub. Total weight of the set up including water, food, tools and sleeping kit came in at just over 18 kgs. Previous flash packing trips, the weight of my set up had been over 23 kgs.
Despite the course being a lot harder than I had expected, I was riding at the right pace, the bike handled well, the charging and lighting systems where awesome, I had no mechanicals, there was a great variety of gravel, bitumen, the occasional stich up on course (aka sketchy single track plus a fenced off section), sleeping rough wasn’t that bad, I fuelled my body well and the clothes worked well.
I ended up withdrawing from the complete 520 km route, after 285 km. I withdrew because my sleep system wasn’t at all up to scratch for a remote alpine region. In addition to my bivvy, puffer jacket and insulated sleeping mat I needed to have a quilt or down sleeping bag, rather than a space blanket. As mentioned, the course was a lot harder than expected which equated to a slower overall average speed than I thought I was capable of. My revised time calculations had me finishing the entire course optimistically at 9.00 pm Sunday evening.
• That Bluetooth absolutely hammers the life of batteries! Luckily I was running a 20,000 mAH power bank to power my eTrex and Garmin 820. The battery was topped up the KLite charging system.
• Head torches are an essential item, especially when riding slowly or setting up camp at 10.00 pm at night – I will pack one next time.
• It is good to be kind to yourself and reset goals while riding – when I realised that it was slower going than expected, I reset my expectations on when I would finish sections and rode accordingly.
• It is important to find your own pace and keep moving – every stop is time overall lost.
• Self-supported bike packing is rad – I have unfinished business with the Barrington Coast 500 and will be back again to complete the entire course.
Finally, I would like to thank Curve Cycling for making amazing products that are purpose built for adventure, KLite Lighting Systems for making lights that are built tough in Australia for bikepacking and ultra endurance events and Skin Grows Back hardwear for making rad bags. Finally a big thanks you goes out to my partner in life Tish who believes in me and tolerates my adventures and for my beautiful girls – Ella, Kasey and Zoe – you are growing into amazing young women.