Riding Canberra to Melbourne always seemed like a great idea. My good friend, Sam, lives in Canberra so me, Dan and Harry would get there and ride back - easy. Well turns out it wasn’t actually easy.
We had all worked on our bikes, sorting out better set ups since our trip across Vietnam, except me apparently. The second I got on my bike I remembered the joy of riding a fully, and poorly, rear loaded bike.
We left Canberra heading south into the Namadgi National Park, relatively flat for 50Km, being led out of town by HBC rider, Martin. Eventually we started to hit some hills, and by the second stretch of 17% gradient I was starting to realise that riding the next 900km might not be as easy as I had imagined.
We wrapped up day one. at the Mt Clear campground, some 90km and eight and a half hours later which set the tone for the rest of the ride - hilly, long, hot and hard. Over the next few days we made our way through the NSW part of the ride, eventually riding over Thredbo and through Kosciusko National Park.
We were riding up Thredbo when we found out there had been a snap COVID lockdown in Victoria and we couldn’t just casually ride into the state. We considered staying on the NSW side of the Murray, riding through to Albury, hopefully outlasting the lockdown. However after some consultation with the health department we decided we would ride to the Victoria border, and my mum would be able to pick us up and take us to the planned family farm stop in the Kiewa Valley. It meant skipping about 150km, but would allow us to keep riding on-route as soon as the lockdown ended.
We were looking forward to three days of lockdown enforced resting at the farm, or at least that was the plan. About ten hours after getting there, Daniel and Sam started feeling pretty violently ill, followed by me some hours later. I thought we would avoid all the food poisoning issues we had in Vietnam, but apparently rural NSW cafes aren’t much better. We left the farm 3 days later having mostly recovered, and with the state now out of lockdown we made our way through Bright, following the Buffalo River south. We decided to push a bit harder riding about 100km and 1300m vert daily average back to Melbourne. We stayed mainly at campsites, but did make one visit to the Mansfield backpackers, at that point the feeling of a mattress was very welcome.
The last day came, what we thought would be an easy roll into Melbourne ended up being an agonizingly long day, almost entirely out of bad luck we had to stop over 10 times for punctures, failed tubeless plugs and patches. We eventually made our way into Melbourne, we had planned to go to our favourite pub, the Grace Darling, but we realised on the way into Melbourne it was actually closed on Mondays. So, we just went somewhere else, the beer was welcome, but the Nando’s chips were even more welcome.
Over the course of the trip, we had quite a few bad mechanicals, mainly me actually, my improvised rack snapped a bolt, and I broke two different spokes, luckily, I had brought enough spares to replace everything.
We had tried to pack as lightweight as possible, the 1.5kg of dried mushrooms we had probably didn’t count as ultra-light, but we made exceptions to make dinner a bit more bearable. We didn’t really make the same exceptions for breakfast, that was instant oats with milk powder and brown sugar, it doesn’t sound too bad, but 10 days of that really sucked.
In the end 830km and 11,000m vert in 10 days doesn’t sound that hard, and even now writing this it doesn’t seem that bad, but then I remember that it really was.