I recently took part in the Monaro Cloudride 1000 a 1000km bikepacking race Canberra – Canberra via the rooftop of Australia.
Canberra to Tumut – Batlow – Cabramurra – Jindabyne – Tubut – Delegate – Bombala – Cathcart – Nimmitabel and back to Canberra, it’s a tough race with approx 20,000vm of Climbing through some reasonably remote country using road, dirt fire track, single track, it’s a real test of endurance, skill and preparation.
I’m very new to Mountain biking only having ridden for a couple of years, to me the Monaro Cloudride 1000 was more a fitness challenge, adventure and a chance to ride across some amazing country, a goal to keep me motivated on the bike. Although I wasn’t racing as such, I definitely trained for the event. Over the past year I steadily built myself up to ride 150km day rides and 200km+ overnighters, I also religiously rode hills in the dark near work after every 2nd dayshift over winter, rain, hail, or shine just sneaking in training whenever I could.
These rides not only built fitness but allowed me to test my gear and sort out what I would really need for Cloudride, being new to this style of riding this gear testing and experience was invaluable, during Cloudride I was well prepared, the topic even came up that my sleep system was too good, I definitely didn’t miss out on sleep!
Here is my kit, more a lightweight touring kit than race set up, but suits my needs well.
Oveja Negra Saddle bag carrying,
- Merino wool thermals top and bottom
- Lightweight down jacket, this really was the best thing I packed and I will never do a big ride without it, the extra warmth and comfort is worth it.
- Spare nicks, underwear and socks
- Kathmandu Comet down sleeping bag rated at 6 deg, although this has suited my needs I will be looking to upgrade for colder rides over winter.
- Furno gas stove and furno small pot.
Bike Bag Dude Handlebar sling/harness
- BigAgnes Tumble 1p tent. My review can be found here http://gippslandimages.com.au/big-agnes-tumble-1p-mtnglo-tent-review-2/
- Klymit Inertia Ozone Sleeping pad. My review can be found here http://gippslandimages.com.au/klymit-inertia-ozone-sleeping-pad-review/
- Water proof pants
- Lightweight silver space blanket
- Water proof jacket
Oveja Negra Seat post bag
- Spare tube
- Lithium Batteries for my gps, headlamp and back up light.
Oveja Negra top tube bag
- Multi tool
- Small pump
- Spare chain quick links, small length of chain
- Spare brake pads
- Small pliers/knife/multi tool
- Spare battery powered headlight
- Cable ties, heavy fishing line, needle, piece of rubber for repairs, patch kit, sleep mat patch kit
Osprey Raptor 14 Hydration pack
- Camera, Sony alpha a6500 and Zeiss 35mm f2.8
- First aid kit
- Bike Lube
- Water purification tabs
- Power pack to charge phone, bike light etc
- Phone charger and usb cable
- Thermal arm warmers
- Skins calf guards
On the bike
- 3 water bottles
- Spare tubes
- Bontrager ion700 headlight
- Bontrager Flare rear light
- Garmin etrex 30x gps. I also had the Cloudride route and relevant base maps loaded to my mobile phone as a backup.
- I also used 3 small 1l Sea to Summit dry bags as chaff bags, these worked surprisingly well.
Everything I took on the Monaro Cloudride 1000
The night before we were due to ride off we all met up for a race brief with race organiser Steve Watson, he gave us a quick run down of what to expect, handed out our spot trackers with instructions of how to use them. We all stayed for dinner, it was a a good chance to chat to others that would be lining up on the start in the morning.
The morning of the race we all met up at the Bent Spoke in Braddon ready for the start at 8am and off we went through the streets of Canberra, a few kms in was my big chance to lead the race so I quickly shot off the front for a couple of hundred metres and pulled back, just a bit of fun, not sure what others thought but I was enjoying myself, this was the last time I saw the leaders of the race.
The view from Sawyers Gully Road
The first day for me was quite easy riding on mainly bitumen until we got to Sawyers Gully road by this time I was riding on my own. Sawyers Gully rd was a typical country dirt road, easy riding but with some amazing views, it was here that I met my first challenge of the ride. I jumped off on a short sharp pinch to walk and grab something to eat, we were only about 70km into the ride and I was hit with massive cramps in both legs that literally stopped me right there, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t get back on the bike, I just stood there. I’ve never had cramps like this before and believe it was caused by my late minute change from oval 32T chainring to round 30T chainring the night before, I had a gel, an electrolyte capsule and slowly walked off, a few minutes later after the cramps eased. It was a real struggle to get across to the Wee Jasper Road with my legs wanting to cramp up constantly.
Once I got over to the Wee Jasper Road I felt much better on the bitumen, a little way down on one of the first hills I heard this voice “coming up behind you” It was Paul another rider on the Cloudride, he looked so strong on those hills pulling away every time we hit an incline. We rode together to Wee Jasper stopped for a drink, chat and water re-fill and headed off again, once we hit the dirt again it was clear my cramps weren’t going to let up and I told Paul just ride at his pace, definitely don’t hold up for me, the first steep dirt incline the cramps were back hard, I hopped off the bike for a rest and stretch and started to walk pushing my bike, this was the last I saw of Paul.
I eventually jumped back on and rode to Micalong Creek Camp and started the steep narrow climb, this was the first of one of the very steep sections on Cloudride mostly un-ridable for me, I finally reached the top and my cramps had disappeared. The rest of the day was a mixture of walking and riding, my plan was to make it to the water point at Micalong Swamp at about the 125km mark so I kept riding in the dark under an epic night sky, the cool night air was a bit of a relief and was feeling really good on the bike. I eventually found a small flat spot near the creek at Micalong Swamp, pulled out my tent and set up camp in the dark cooked a dehydrated meal and had a coffee. This was probably the coldest night of the ride so I wore pretty much all the clothing I had with me to bed, down jacket, thermal top/pants, arm warmers, calf guards, riding gear, two pairs of socks and my waterproof pants, this was a tip I heard from another rider, waterproof pants keep you warm! Despite the cold I had a good night’s sleep.
First day of riding, distance was about 125km I didn’t reset my odometer at the start of the day.
The next morning I woke up early feeling good and keen to get some decent kms in, had some breakfast and a coffee, packed up and re-filled my water ready to go and headed off, what a great morning perfect weather and a nice trail. All was going great until i put a nice sharp rock through the tread of my tyre causing tubeless goo to spray everywhere, it took me a while to get tyre off the rim, apply a patch and fit a tube, I only had a small hand pump so couldn’t re-fit the tyre tubeless, I was off again. Eventually I hit the bitumen and was making some good time with some really fast descents I checked my repair and found that it looked like the tube was pushing through the hole in my tyre so pulled up again to pull the tyre off, the patch was still in place but the hole was quite big so I decided to avoid a blown tube I would sew and re-patch the hole, I figured I needed this tyre to last me until Jindabyne unless there was something available in Tumut and I was off once again making slow progress but still moving forward.
I was getting close to Tumut and as I came around a corner there was a rider riding up the hill, he stopped and asked me if I was Daniel and Introduced himself as Peter, this kind of confused me so I asked if Steve Watson had sent him out looking for me knowing that I wasn’t making much ground, no he was simply watching my progress and rode out to chat and get some pics. We rode back into Tumut together, I told him what had happened and asked if there was a bike shop in Tumut, Peter said no but there is a toy shop that could possibly sell some bike gear. Peter was setting a pretty quick pace so I just sat with him keen to make up some kms after such a slow start, we hit Tumut and I headed straight for the toy shop, to my surprise they had a Maxxis 29r tyre sitting on the floor, I grabbed it, two tubes and some sticky tape to tape them to my bike and cable tied the tyre to my saddlebag so I could change it later at camp or whenever I needed to. Peter said bye and took off, I looked around and saw the Toy shop closing, thanks Peter for setting that pace!
Lunch at Tumut, tyre dangle.
Pretty clean tyre repair, its still going strong 400km later!
Off again I headed towards Batlow following the pink line on my gps, a while later I reached the bottom of the Blowering Dam wall for the steep hike a bike section and staircase and then headed off on the Hume and Hovel walking track around the foreshore, now I was really enjoying myself, single track, great views, fresh air, what more could you want. It was somewhere along here that I caught up with Noel another rider doing Cloudride.
Noel was struggling a bit with his gps and had gone off route a few times, his mood was pretty down. I gave him some quick tips as he was using the same gps as mine and rode with him to the campsite not far away where he made camp for the night. I kept riding wanting to make it to Batlow, it got dark very quick and I found myself riding in the dark as soon as I hit the climb out of the dam, another epic night sky, if only I had a tripod for some milky way images.
Steve Watson had sent out a message advising there was a section that needed a re-route due to thick blackberries blocking the road, I was almost at this point so pulled out my phone for a more detailed map that I had on the gps. It was slow going in this area at night navigating the narrow overgrown tracks, the signs warning of wild dogs were just a little unnerving, eventually I hit a small creek crossing took the shoes off and walked the bike across, looking at the time I realised I wasn’t making the Batlow pub for tea so figured this was a good spot to set up camp and head into Batlow for breakfast, I’m honestly not sure where this camp was.
Nice campsite on a creek somewhere, good night’s sleep despite the Wild Dogs.
The next morning I cooked another de-hydrated meal, packed up, topped up with water and set off again. 100 metres down the track I realised I had literally camped the night in someone’s backyard with a farmhouse only a few hundred metres away.
Once in Batlow I stopped at a Cafe ordered a big breakfast of bacon, sausages and eggs, a coffee, three sandwiches to go and an orange juice and plugged my Jupio power bank in to charge on a nearby powerpoint. Despite the fact the Cafe was full and there was a muddy, unwashed, long haired mountain biker pinching power and eating a huge breakfast no one battered an eyelid, a bit surreal, the whole ride was a bit like this, off to the local service station/supermarket for more supplies and I was again off.
Today was a pretty tough day it was a few days in and muscles were tired and sore there was some easy riding along the power line roads mixed with some really steep climbs that had me pushing the bike, there were spectacular views and quite a few people around camping and four wheel driving, the plan was to make it all the way to Bradley and O’briens Hut but again I found myself in the mountains in the dark with a long way still to go, I could see the lights of Cabramurra, very strange when you know it is so far away. I was totally wrecked and talked myself into just stopping at the next spot I could camp, the track was narrow with no space and I kept riding trying to find somewhere, eventually I gave up and just pitched the tent right on the side of the track putting some reflective ties on the edge of the tent in case a 4×4 came through in the night.
A quick stop somewhere along the powerlines between Batlow and Cabramurra.
The next morning I was feeling great after a good sleep and headed off on what was easily the best day I’ve ever had on a mountain bike. High in the mountains the ride started with a short climb and nice descent on sunrise with a big flowy descent to Tumut Dam where I stopped and chatted to a couple of guys touring, took some video and pics and eventually ended up in Cabrumurra, Australia’s highest town for lunch and possibly the best steak sanga ever!
In Cabramurra I charged my phone, power bank and chatted to the girls in the bistro who told me I’d literally just missed Lochie, Anders and Chris on their Indian Pacific ride, bummer, I’d talked to these guys at Bruthen a few days earlier it would of been cool to hear more about their epic ride.
Fantastic view on the way over to Cabramurra.
The Steak Sanga was so good at Cabramurra It deserved a pic.
So this is what I came for, the ride from Cabramurra to Jindabyne was what I was most looking forward to on Cloudride, I absolutely love being up high in Alpine areas, I was pretty excited by this and headed off. The ride from Cabramurra over to Selwyn Snowfields was a cruise, it’s hard to describe the feeling of riding down that huge empty carpark at Selwyn, I had a smile from ear to ear that became even bigger once I crossed that locked gate that signalled I was on my own for a while, the terrain was exactly what I was hoping for rough trails, that Alpine scenery, epic views.
Just past the closed gate at Selwyn Snowfields, epic.
I was totally keen to make the most of this part of the ride so a little way in took a detour to Four Mile Hut that was about 1km off of the race route, apparently there was a race going on. Four Mile Hut is easily one of the most amazing huts I’ve ever been to, small, but with so much character in picture perfect surroundings, I will definitely go back.
Four Mile Hut, this should be on the list for everyone to see.
After a snack, some pics and video I was off again. The backdrop for most of the day was Australia’s main range the highest Mountains in Australia, I just cruised and soaked it all up including an amazing sunset, like I said this is why I was here and I was going to enjoy it. I also had it in my mind I was sleeping in a hut on this ride, at the start of the day the plan was to try and make it to the hut near the Gungarlin river but given how often I stopped It was a long way off and I ended up making my way off course to Cesjacks Hut, that was a long 2.5km in the dark up hill.
At Cesjacks Hut I got a fire going, cooked up some dinner and set up my bed for the night. Camping in a hut is nowhere near as good as it sounds, the size of the hut meant despite the fire It wasn’t warm, I was also sharing it with a few rats meaning I had to hang all my gear from the roof to keep them out. It was a terrible night’s sleep, those rats are noisy, in hindsight I would of been better off sticking to the race route, making up a few km’s and having a better night’s sleep in my tent, or given the lack of sleep could of just ridden to the Gungarlin river campsite. Oh well I know for next time, I guess it was type two kind of fun.
Wow was Cesjacks hut different the next day, again another hut with a lot of character set in a stunning location, the day was another good one, we had been really lucky with weather, only a week or so before this area was covered in snow but we were met with sunshine everyday, I believe on one of the past Cloudrides this part of the ride was particularly dangerous with terrible weather and no visibility.
So off I was again, off to Jindabyne, todays riding or should I say walking wasn’t too hard although there were a few steep sections, my body was getting used to the riding although my calves were on fire from all the hike a bike, again it was another great day and I just soaked it in. Eventually I reached the Gungarlin River where I stopped to re-fill water and grab something to eat a couple of guys were camped here on a bit of a mountain bike trip, they were keen to check out my set up and chat, I was keen for a rest so that really wasn’t a problem, I think these guys may line up for Cloudride next year. After the chat I headed off up the hill walking, I didn’t have the leg strength to ride some of the steeper tracks by this point, about 30 mins later I hear “I’m so sorry”, and one of the guys I was chatting to at the river just comes spinning up past me, he had been wanting to ride that track and felt bad that I was pushing while he was doing it easy.
The ride from here into Jindabyne was pretty straightforward and before I knew it I was riding in behind the Snowy Hydro Station and down the hill towards town, I thought of riding the single track from Hatchery bay into town but decided best to keep to the race route or be disqualified. I got to Jindabyne pretty early in the afternoon and decide to stay the night rather than head down the Barry Way, the idea of staying in a warm cabin was too much.
I’d stayed at the same place in January so I knew where everything was and headed over to the supermarket to get some things for tea and the next days riding. I checked the map progress website and noticed Jo, another rider was only a few hours behind me, I knew Jo before Cloudride, we had met on Instagram of all places and had chatted over the phone about the ride, I was really hoping she would try and get to Jindabyne that night so kept an eye on her progress while I stood in the lake trying to give my calves some recovery. Sure enough she arrived, quite late though, I gave her a call and walked down to get some chinese with her.
The next morning we caught up, grabbed breakfast and headed off down the Barry Way together, was good to ride with someone, Jo was a bit worn out, so after a while I started to pull away.
Today’s plan for me was do a big ride to Delegate I was feeling 100% and knowing the Barry Way was all down hill was keen to get those kms in so really tried to make some time and distance up on that fast down hill. Somewhere at the top I hit a fair ditch in the road and instantly lost the ability to easily shift gears, having to use two hands to get gears to shift down, I stopped quickly to have a look and the bottom of my shifter was loose I couldn’t find a way to tighten it so as it was all downhill I decided to keep riding until the snowy crossing to have a proper look, once I crossed the snowy I looked again, without pulling the shifter apart I wasn’t going to fix it.
I’d taken a bit of time and now saw Jo was about to cross the Snowy so waited and we started the steepest part of the whole ride together, my lighter set up was making it easier for me on the tough hike a bike and it was not long before I was on my own again.
Jo crossing the Snowy
The start of the hike a bike, yep there was a long way still to go.
This section of the ride, the Tingaringi was simply un-rideable and seemingly never ending, you literally had to take a step forward plant yourself there and then push the bike a step and repeat, the short downhills were just as steep and I found myself sliding sideways down the track, eventually I reached a spot not far from the highest point only to see a lot of smoke in the direction the gps route was taking me, I could get mobile reception here so called Steve Watson to see if he knew what was going on, turns out it was controlled burns on the next ridge, thank god as I didn’t want to head back. Once I hit the highest point it was sunset and I still had a fair way to go to delegate, I knew Jo didn’t have mobile coverage so waited a while to make sure she knew it was fine to keep riding, it was just controlled burns. Eventually Jo came up the track in the dark and we rode on to Tubut, it was to late for me to head to Delegate so decided Tubut was it for the night.
We got to the Tubut Hall, on the race notes we had that the hall would be open for use and sure enough it was open so we went inside and set up for the night using a couple of gym mats for beds, luxurious as another rider put it. A little while later we hear a voice at the door “who’s in there” so I went and opened up and told the little old lady at the door what we were doing, turns out she lived across the road and looks after the hall and had no idea what we were talking about so I showed her on the notes, we had confused the hall for the small building next door but she was happy for us to just stay there anyway.
My luxurious accomodation at Tubut
The next morning I got up and had another look at my shifter and just couldn’t work out a way to fix it, I’m definitely no bike Mechanic. I’d flipped my tent poles to the top of my handlebar sling as they had taken a few big hits by my tyre a few days earlier, I think the constant vibration of them against the shifter and the occasional big hit had caused the insides of the shifter to come apart, it didn’t look good and I really had no idea how to fix it. I told Jo to keep going while I mucked around with it as I felt I was simply going to be making up kms from now on if i couldn’t fix it. There was no phone reception here but there was a phone at the hall so I called my wife and told her what had happened and said if she wanted to make the drive up I’d be heading to at least Delegate and making a decision there, not much I could do at Tubut with no reception and a long way away from bike shop.
I went over and thanked the lady across the road and headed off once again pretty convinced I wasn’t getting far, sure enough 10km’s down the road my shifter totally failed, my ride effectively over. I started walking and riding in the one gear until I found a quicker route to Delegate a little while later I’d hitched a lift into town and was waiting for lunch. The look on Jo’s face when she saw my bike was priceless, I still couldn’t get reception so used her mobile to let Steve Watson know I was out of the ride and was just going to wait at Delegate until my wife turned up whenever that may be.
Dellicknora the official end of the ride for me, approx 550km from the start at Canberra.
As I waited in Delegate I took another look at the shifter, maybe I was being to quick to pull out, so I pulled the shifter totally apart, yep I’m definitely no bike mechanic, if it could be repaired it was too late I’d stuffed it now, my wife turned up that afternoon and we headed back to Canberra.
There where lots of things going through my mind, I really thought I was fine with pulling out of the ride that morning but I definitely wasn’t, this was something I’d trained hard for and was thoroughly enjoying, I also felt really fresh and had a lot more to give, What if I’d hitched to Cooma? What if I got to Jindabyne? What if I just rode one gear? Could I have finished? Even on our trip back home I stopped in Cooma and headed to the sports shop to see if they had a spare shifter, they had a lot of gear but thankfully no shifters.
The ride was amazing I’d ridden the hardest sections with the most amazing scenery, I’d covered 550km by my gps, I’d ridden the areas I was most excited to see and realised I was totally comfortable being out there, I also realised this is the style of riding I enjoy most. I’d like to thank Steve Watson for putting together such an amazing ride through some epic country, a genuine challenge, I believe only half that signed up finished, what an achievement for those that did make it back to Canberra!
Am I disappointed I didn’t finish, definitely! But at the same time I still have something to train for, the goal is still there, next year I will be going in with a little bit more purpose, not just to finish but also try and push myself as hard as I can. I think if I had of reached the finish this time I might not be so keen to get back to training over winter, to do those big long rides and sign up again for Cloudride.
If you are interested in the Monaro Cloudride 1000 head over to http://www.cloudride1000.com also take a look at this great Blog post by Matt Turner for an insight into how the fast guys and girls do it http://www.cloudride1000.com/single-post/2017/04/25/Matt-Turners-Cloudride-17-race-report