The Kudlila Rally was an idea and route that came together this past year as I regularly traveled between Adelaide and Port Augusta to visit my partner. Furthermore tying in with my Mawson Trail encounters.
The route travels out through the Adelaide hills into the Barossa and makes a zig-zag path to the Southern Flinders Ranges before descending into the red desert terrain around Port Augusta.
Riders had a choice of two distances. The short route was 562 km/8000 vm, while the slightly longer way was 689 km/9500 vm. Either length would be an excellent introduction for a beginner to bikepacking racing or simply a rider seeking a quick tour through scenic South Australia.
Sections of the route also offer up a more gnarly alternative to the southern section of the well-known Mawson Trail before rejoining at Wilmington and continuing north.
What does Kudlila mean? Kudlila is the Kaurna (traditional custodians of the Adelaide plains) word for the wet season and why the inaugural event began at the start of July. This timing stayed true to its name, playing a significant role in how the race unfolded, starting with a high wind and hail forecast for the morning of the grand departure. Unfortunately, it also meant that rain on many 'all weather' roads around the Barossa and Clare Valley would be difficult, offering up a non-rideable peanut butter-like surface. Furthermore, riders would be challenged by exposed and dry ridgelines in the Southern Flinders Ranges, giving no shelter from the weather.
My preparation for this event started a few months before, when I announced a departure date, gaining some interest from mates. My plan from the start was to attempt a sub-48-hour time trial for the long course. Knowing the event wasn't as long as others I've succeeded at, I changed up my training, focusing on shorter rides at a higher intensity to improve my overall speed. I forced myself to train in bad weather to test out what gear worked but mostly prepare myself for the likeliness of lousy weather when racing.
My plan for packing my bike was to keep it light to increase moving speed. I would also aim to take short sleep breaks, ensuring I stay warm when cold and wet. For me, this appeared to be an achievable plan.
Nine local riders signed up, plus a few supporters met on the Torrens on race day, Saturday morning, well before the sun rose. Unfortunately, the Kudlila Rally would be limited to those living in South Australia due to the ongoing border restrictions. As the group gathered, city lights were in our faces, and the looming buildings of the North terrace were over our heads. I thought this would remind riders of civilization before heading out into more remote areas. The group also performed a wheel dip in the Torrens, a tradition created by the original Overlanders when heading out on a big journey.
I spoke a few words to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, the Kaurna, Ngadjuri, Nukunu, and Banggarla, and pay respects to elders past, present, and emerging. After this, the group rolled out together. It was nice to keep a steady pace on the Torrens bike path and have a chat with everyone who had decided to support my event, plus hear more about what their ride plans were. As we approached the Amber's Gully climb, the pace quickly changed; no one was waiting on each other anymore. Having this climb in my backyard meant I knew the steep sections well, assisting in timing my pace while climbing. I was first to hit the top. Most of the climbing on the Kudlila Ralley route is within the first 150 kilometres, so I tried to create some distance between the other riders before nightfall, grateful for the advantage of a lighter-than-usual setup.
I was unsure what other riders' plans were for sleeping. Being a much shorter event, some riders have the strength to ride through the night with nothing more than a few minute's nap. However, no sleep isn't something I'm experienced in, and I knew at some point I would need to stop, possibly sacrificing my lead. The first 280 kilometres to Clare flowed well, providing enough rest between the single track sections and some serious hike a bike. It was pretty enjoyable even though the wet conditions. Heading into Clare around midnight, the rain started to come in, and my clothes were wet thoroughly. The thought of taking refuge in a 24-hour servo in Clare was somewhat comforting, but I was worried about not getting any sleep staying damp, cold, and with no spare clothes. I decided to rethink my plan over a doughnut and searched for a public toilet to hopefully get a short rest. Public toilets can be a good option, as the accessible toilet typically has space to store a bike while you nap. I advise that this is only useful in the late hours when not being used by the general public. There was even a hand dryer to dry my clothes out. Once sorted, I grabbed a 15-minute nap in my bivvy. Then, feeling a little warmer, I headed back to the servo for a significant resupply, unsure what small-town general stores further ahead would be open for me.
I appeared to be the entertainment for the young folk staggering out of the pub as I packed large quantities of strange food into my seat pack, followed by an average-tasting black coffee at 1 am. The pub-goers all came over for a chat and had way more questions than I had answers about what I was doing. I was happy to answer what I could, but they made me question my life choices as I was tempted by the warm accommodation options across the road. Knowing I had trained for just this situation, I chose to give myself a pep talk and head out into the rain. I was concerned about the next leg into Burra, plenty of 'dry weather' roads that may present considerable challenges. It took me almost 4 hours to make the 42 kilometre trip from Clare to Burra, leaving me utterly exhausted from carrying, dragging, lifting, and sliding my bike through the thick clay mud. At times, I even used the paddocks on either side of the road to move forward and clean my bike down from time to time. Finally, I was so tired that I decided to have another sleep to maintain efficiency, this time for 45 minutes. Knowing ahead was another bogged-out clay road towards Caroona Creek and near Mt Bryan.
After my nap, I pushed on, averaging a slow 7kph for the next two hours. I was unsure how much longer I could tolerate this terrain; I hoped roads would be drier over Goyder's Line. Historically, Goyder's Line is a line that runs east-west across South Australia and operates on two different rainfall patterns on either side. The north of the line is typically too dry for high yield farming, while the south is recommended for farmers looking to acquire land for agriculture. It seemed almost comical as I headed north over the line that the blue skies of a new day emerged, and the rain ceased. I was even treated to a rainbow.
The next leg around Caroona Creek is a huge highlight and favourite section of the route. It's here the vegetation begins to change to arid scrub and saltbush surrounds, with plenty of native wildlife. It didn't last long as the route then dipped back south of Goyder's Line towards Hallett, bringing the rain came back, reinforced with solid headwinds and slushy roads. I was starting to get nervous about making my next resupply stop due to forever-changing conditions. Making it with half an hour to spare, I spent a short time warming up and packing for what was likely my only resupply for the next 290 kilometres. The Hallet general store was sparse, but I made do. The rain continued all day, not stopping until well after the sun had gone down. As I found myself gently cruising down a mellow descent, I noticed my brake pads had worn through to the backing plate. This is a common occurrence with red outback mud; it eats away your pads quickly! I thought my ride was over; having not packed any spares, I guessed being a shorter race, I'd be fine. The clay mud seemed to have lodged itself in the brake callipers and was constantly rubbing. Hoping to fix my blunder, I contacted Over the Edge Sports, a bike shop in Melrose, as a last resort. Luckily they were willing to deliver a spare set of pads to Laura, saving me from a rough, burly descent off the ranges. I collected my new brake pads and left Laura at 9:30pm. By this stage my lead was only 2 hours ahead of Erinn, currently in second place. I was hoping I could hold him off for the next 180 kilometres to the finish, but a lot can change in even a tiny distance in these conditions. The sleep monsters were getting worse, and I knew I would have to sleep before sunrise. So I managed a 15 min nap at a Heysen Trail shelter before another big descent down the BBQ track into the plains near Spencer Gulf. The rain had now wet out all my electronics, and I was battling to charge my GPS/phone. I needed to be minimal with my phone battery life, and not checking the race tracking page as often.
Taking on the last major climb back toward the Southern Flinders Ranges, the lack of sleep was becoming a problem, so another 15 min nap would be necessary to keep me moving along. I sprawled down on the open grass without even getting my bivvy out. I was that tired. I had zero trouble getting to sleep despite temperatures of 3-degrees just before sunrise. Feeling slightly rested, I hit the final singletrack out of Melrose, then recieved a message from Erinn confirming he pulled out due to knee pain. This news came as a relief after the constant feeling of being hunted the past two days, so I eased my pace slightly and enjoyed the sun coming up on the final day. By Wilmington, the course becomes more manageable with a flowy road descent before hitting a sandy and corrugated loop around Port Augusta, finishing at the shoreline.
All that was left was to dip my front wheel to complete my adventure. My ride ended at 2:27 pm, a total time of 2 days, 8 hours, and 27 minutes. Unfortunately, my plan of riding in at/under 48 hours went out the window when the rain came in, showing that it's outside of your control no matter how hard you train and plan. I was hoping for 18 kph moving speed but finished with a sluggish 15 kph due to boggy roads. I'm hoping to have another run with dry roads and more sunlight! The Kudlila Rally really lived up to its name.
April Drage: 2d 19h 23m (modified route)
Sam Rozenszweig: 2d 20h 38m
Aidan Lampe: 3d 12h 33m
Deni McCormack: 3d 20h 29m
Oscar Peh: 4d 10h 30m
Overall the route worked well, with a good balance between exciting scenery, challenging climbing, and ample rest in between to keep it enjoyable. I had ridden every section previously, but I was unsure how it would be a complete route. Running the race during Kudlila made it twice as hard, with the challenge of sleeping in the cold, battling endless mud, wet electronics, foggy glasses, and generally being soaked most of the time. Maybe another FKT (fastest know time) should only be recognised if it's run during this time? Maybe an FKT in a different season needs a different name, such as Parnati Rally (Autumn) or Wurltuti Rally (Spring)? Speaking to riders, it seems the new route was received well, which is excellent, seeing this is the first bikepacking event I've run. The key highlights included Telowie Gorge conservation, views over the Spencer Gulf, and Mt Remarkable and including riding past Heysen Trail huts.
I still feel there is more opportunity to include gnarlier sections to increase the climbing and singletrack. Furthermore, I would love to see more riders complete the route in their own time, and hopefully, this can remain an annual bikepacking race for Adelaide. My motivation is to increase the bikepacking community here in South Australia even more.
If anyone wishes to try riding either route, the links are below:
Short Course Link: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/35668816
Long Course Link: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/35541883
|Frame:||Curve GXR Steel|
|Wheels:||Curve Grav Al. 650b with Son 28 dynamo|
|Bars:||Curve Walmer 550 mm with Deda TT extensions|
|Groupset:||Sram Apex/Rival with 12 sp ratio GX hack|
|Gearing:||38t chainring 10-52 cassette|
|Tyres:||Schwalbe G-one bite 2.1|
|Lighting and charging:||K-lite with an additional helmet light|
|Navigation:||Samsung phone on Quad lock (old iPhone for backup)|
|Saddle pack:||Ortlieb large|
|TT bag:||BBD Garage|
|Feed bag:||Cotton on chalk bag, with home job velcro sewn on|
|Bivvy:||Cheap waterproof drawstring one|
|Clothing:||Synthetic L sleeve t-shirt, synthetic shorts, Patagonia Houdini jacket, waterproof gloves and socks, merino socks, buff|
|Shoes:||Specialized recon 2.0|
|Other:||Spares and tools|