2012 planning continues

1 08 2012

With the Sept 1 2012 fast approaching, we are very close to releasing the final route file for the Big HuRT. I have already updated the file for the 324k HuRT which can now be found under ‘the route’ tab.

I have been sharing the working files on facebook as things have progressed but I will endeavour to get the finalized files up here in short order for those not sucked into using facebook. If you have any questions, shoot me and email: pi11wizard@gmail.com

 

Happy Trails!

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Hang onto your hats…..

21 02 2012

I’ve restled with this decision for many months and kept putting it off because it always seemed too hard but i’ve finally decided to migrate my blog across to my own site. Not because I have aspirations of becoming a major commercial entity, but primarily because I could never find a single column wordpress template that I actually liked. Since I’ve started carrying (and breaking) the SLR on my rides, it now seems time to use a more photo friendly format.

So….. i’m setting up a redirect and you will likely be seeing the new blog any time now. Hopefully this will be as smooth as silk but I apologise if things go pear shaped over the next few days. If this kills any RSS feeds or bookmarks, you can now find me at:

http://www.theunknownrider.com

or my feed at:

http://www.theunknownrider.com/blog/

 





Fat Bike Odyssey: The video

19 02 2012

Here’s some footage from the fat bike tour.





Fat Bike Odyssey: Day 5

18 02 2012

I slept deeply although briefly and awoke around dawn after 5 hours sleep. I was still feeling pretty wrecked but we needed to get moving since we weren’t far from the side of the road and my tent is a beacon for anyone passing.

The night before had pretty much confirmed that this would be our last day. Brad’s knee was ruined and we were still close enough to home to self rescue rather than pedalling further along and then needing someone to bail us out. We had planned to ride a long way further but things don’t always go like you had planned and our immediate problem was going to be sourcing tubes to get us home. We knew there was a bike shop of sorts in Anna Bay but it was a mixed surf, skate, ride store so who knew what he had in stock. In fact, if he had standard tubes in stock, we were going to need 4 or 5 just to get us back to Newcastle judging by the rate of failure the night before. The chances of them having a puglsey tube in stock were significantly less than zero.

The fat bike wheel barrow

Next to the bike store was a takeaway store so we waited out the front for it to open. When it finally did, I gorged on bacon and egg rolls along with coffee as I needed to find some energy from somewhere. Chatting to the store owner, he confirmed our suspicions that the dive, skate, ski shop didn’t open until 11am on monday’s but he also said that same shop sold motorbike tubes…. interesting. There was nothing for it but to grab the paper and a fresh coffee, settle in and wait for 3 hours.

Going nowhere fast

Talking to another local who showed up and had a history of motorbike touring, he confirmed that the largest motorbike tubes came in 21 inch size – there was every reason to be hopeful we could stretch that onto a 26 in fat bike rim. Of course, they run schrader valves and Brads bike had only been drilled for presta. We obviously weren’t packing a makita drill (although you’d wonder if you tried to lift up my bike) so the most obvious solution was to buy a cheap rat tail file from the hardware store around the corner and enlarge the whole.

When the bike shop opened, we bought his only motorbike tube in stock and a thornproof 2.2; 26 inch backup tube and set to work fitting the moto tube. Needless to say, it looked, felt, smelt and tasted exactly like a factory surly tube and with a little tinkering to get it to accept the new valve size, the whole thing inflated without a hitch and left no void which had been the source of all the friction. The 21 inch size was no issue whatsoever, it just slotted straight in.

Of course, since we were heading home and it was now blazingly hot in the midday sun, we weren’t going anywhere fast. Instead, we rolled around to fishermans bay where we passed some time flicking lures around a likely looking set of reefs to no avail. I then had a quick nap under a tree before we grabbed some pies and did some more waiting by the beach. I finally got to put up my hammock and laid in the shade waiting for the sun to set far enough that we wouldn’t cook on our ride home.

Finally using my hammock - yes that is a swimsuit photo shoot going on in the background

Finally, around 5:30-6pm we got moving to correspond with the bottom of the low tide. The beach was like a superhighway. It was pancake flat, the sand was rock hard,it was over a hundred meters wide and the wind was at our back. To be truthful, you could easily have ridden a road bike along it which suited me just fine since it was exorcising some of last nights demons. We reached Lavis Lane (about 2/3rds of the way home) in just over an hour and we were giddy with excitement at how quickly we were motoring along. So much so, that we decided to again stop at the Sygna and throw some lures around in a gutter just to round out the holiday.

The wrecked Sygna

A sea eagle perched on top

As I was feebly throwing lures into the ocean, some dark, dark, dark storm clouds approached. One of them had a strange finger like projection from the underside and I joked to Brad that we might get a water spout. Low and behold, a couple of minutes later it touched down and I ran for the camera while Brad took emergency action – he put on his rain coat.

Fat and skinny

Ground zero

Changing of the guard

Getting close to shore

Better put a raincoat on....

Dying gasps

It was an awe inspiring site. It started with a pencil thin twister which eventually faded away and was replaced by a much larger version. It couldn’t have been more than a few hundred meters up the beach. We were far enough away to be comfortable and still be able to get some great photos. It crossed the shore line and continued up into the dunes where you could see it throwing sand high into the sky. The sand cloud grew larger and larger before finally climaxing and the whole thing disappeared and the cloud of dust fell back to earth. It was simply amazing to stand there in the cold wind on a hot day, watching the sky darken, the rain start falling and a twister coming towards you on the beach, it couldn’t have been a more perfect end to the trip. Thanks Huey!

The post twister storm - this one has to be viewed in full size to do it justice

The sand after the Sygna was again soft but quite manageable and in short order, we were back in Stockton headed for the ferry home. As we rolled down the main street, we watched as the ferry pulled away from the terminal so we made a b-line for the pub for a quick beer. We kept and eye on the ferry and as it approached, we rolled onboard where we bumped into the same ferry drivers as the day before. They were amazed that we had been up to Anna Bay and back and we had a grand old chat before the driver invited us upstairs to view the crossing from the drivers cabin. I’m pretty sure we had him convinced to buy a fatbike by the time we reached the far side of the river.

It was without doubt one of the most fun tours I have ever ridden and it was a horrible shame that it had to end early but those are the breaks. We saw some amazing things and we didn’t even have to travel further than a few hours from home to see it. You can spend big money on fancy equipment and overseas trips but it’s amazing what’s in your own backyard. With a fat bike and a little imagination, you can open up a whole new world of riding.

Just as soon as Brad’s knee comes good, we will finish the rest of the trip as crossing Port Stephens was where things were really going to get interesting. In the mean time, I have an ITT of the HuRT coming up that will consume some of my focus and some more mapping for the Big HuRT. Then there’s the Snow to Sand on the June long weekend and the Berra Brev-it. There’s also the Paterson Kona 24 and the rAD100…….. man i’m going to be busy.





Fat Bike Odyssey: Day 4

17 02 2012

The dawn creeped in through a fine layer of mist. The air was swimming with moisture and everything it touched was already dripping. Throughout the night the the still air and cool temperatures had brought forth an unfathomable amount of condensation. “I guess the tent is going to be put away wet this morning”.

The sun creeping over the horizon. I missed the predawn glow by seconds

We packed quickly to depart our hidden campground as a viewing platform above would allow keen eyed walkers to discover our stowaway position. Not that we actually expected any problems, but it’s just nice to make a clean getaway without some self important person creating trouble where none was needed.

The early morning riding was joyful. After the melancholy of insufferable chain suck the previous day, the spotlessly clean drive train was now a joy to use. We had also discovered that an overly short gear cable had been disrupted by my bar bag and unseated from the rear mech. Fixing this had fixed many of the ghost shifting problems I had been experiencing and better still, can be permanently fixed for next to nothing. We discussed heading to a bike shop to replace it during the day however since it was Sunday, everywhere we could think of was closed.

Early that morning I discovered that all was not well with my SLR. I thought Huey had been looking after me and saved the camera but it turned out Huey was looking the other way when it all went down. The camera body was fine although it did have a few gouges out of it to remind me of my stupidity however the $850.00; 10-22mm lens was not so healthy. It had a rather obvious ‘bend’ and would no longer focus. It actually took me a couple of minutes to figure out what was going on as the first thing I tired to photograph was miraculously at the fixed focal length of the lens so I didn’t notice immediately.  F*$&!   The only bright side I could come up with was the fact that I could leave it behind in Newcastle rather than keep carrying its dead weight. You have to look on the bright side sometimes.

We rode Caves beach and despite our optimism that we would be able to get around the headland, we were again turned around by sheer cliff faces and massive boulders – taking the road up over the head land looked like a much more sensible option. This soon gave way to a delightful section of single track that took us most of the way through to Swansea where we stopped at McDonlads for breakfast as it was the only place open on Sunday.

The next beach on the list was Blacksmiths. I have ridden here before and it wasn’t really looking forward to it again. Last time it was stupendously soft at the Southern end with an unloaded bike. Huey redeemed himself however as the tide was relatively low so the conditions were significantly better than I had been dreading. The tide was still running in though so we needed to get moving.

About halfway along this 10.5km beach we noticed amongst the ruccus of 4×4’s and dogs a photographer running down the beach and pointing his lens at us. Brad was the first to figure out what was going on…….It’s Gaz!  Much to our surprise, he had been watching our spot tracker and timed it perfectly to run out and grab some pictures. It was great to catch up and we relayed stories of our adventure so far and  many laughs were had. As we chatted, it continued to get hotter and hotter and eventually we had to keep going, especially if we were going to beat the tide and the soft sand. It was getting increasingly difficult and i had submerged my drive line several times when sneaky waves caught me out and the sand precluded any sharp turns to avoid the salty fingers of the ocean. Instead, I found I was better off just coming to a stop and accepting I was going to get a wet foot rather than churning the sand slurry with my tyres and depositing it all over my chain. It’s an unconventional approach but it was all I was left with.

Gaz pics - professional stalker

When we reached Redhead, we hit up an old favourite of the cogheads – i.e the sand track. The cogheads will only ride it if it has rained recently to firm up the sand and it is known to have some of the most unforgiving trailside vegetation of any track i’ve ridden (with the possible exception of ‘Chad’s fault’). While it is normally a skatey ride on a standard bike, you couldn’t even tell you were riding on soft sand on the fat bikes. Unfortunately, fat bikes don’t any special powers against the trees and the combination of recently sunburnt skin and trees genetically identical to a rusty nail left my legs howling for mercy with the only thing propelling us onward being a mini pub crawl in Dudley.

Our first beer in Dudley nearly put me to sleep. Evidently I was a little behind on fluids and I was already light headed after a single beer. The publican came out to check out our bikes and hear about our travels as it was still before lunch we were the only people in the bar. He wished us safe travels as we rolled across the road to the next pub but neither Brad nor I thought it wise to drink any more beer. We’d both be asleep under a tree in the courtyard if we did that. We drank a coke instead since it was the closest we could manage to our intended pub crawl before heading to lunch with my sister who’s birthday we were celebrating and our arrival in Newcastle had timed perfectly to meet.

The short ride along burwood beach was horrendous. The sun was at it’s highest point as was the tide and it felt like we were riding in a blast furnace. There is no shade on a beach and it was becoming abundantly clear that beach riding should be a winter sport in Australia. At least we could stop and have a shower and wash some clothes at the club house when we reached Merewether Baths.

Lunch with my sister allowed us to wait out some of the heat and let the tide start running out again before we headed over the Mick from Gateshead Cycles house for a home brew tasting session. Mick began pouring beer after beer and I felt it wise to call it a day after my second as i’m well known as a light weight. I charged my phone and set about charging my point and shoot camera. I’d remembered the charger for the SLR but had completely forgotten the charger for the P&S since I had 3 batteries for it (although I could no longer find the third). So I only had footage from the first 4 days to use in the video I had planned to make.

We crossed the Hunter River on the ferry (the ferry drivers loved the bikes) and stocked up on some supplies in the IGA. Everywhere we went, we had conversations with people about our bikes and trip. To be truthful, it was starting to get frustrating when you couldn’t roll further than 20 meters down the road without being stopped by someone else.

Like Redhead beach, I’d ridden Stockton before and had found it was like trying to ride a bike in a ball pit. Soft, soft, soft. I knew it got better at the North end however, on a beach that is 32kms long, that leaves and awful lot of soft sand to ride. We had already decided we were better off riding into the night than trying to ride it in the heat of the day and our goal was set for Anna Bay. We left Stockton around 6pm and I confess to being a little bit nervous. I knew what a slog this was going to be and hoped my loaded bike was even capable of riding it.

When we hit the beach, the difference a low tide can make had never been so dramatic. Clearly it had been a raging high tide when i was last here beause this was a cake walk. We were making great time… right up until Brad flatted again. This is the point we realised that we never did get around to patching his spare tube like we’d told ourselves. Changing tubes on the beach is fraught with difficulties. Sand gets in EVERYTHING and since it is such an excellent abrasive, you really don’t want it anywhere near inner tubes. Since his original Surly tube had long ago developed an undetectable slow leak, Brad had been running standard 2.5 inch downhill tubes and had done countless k’s on them in the bush without incident at trail pressures. What became apparent when we overinflated the tube to look for the hole was was that the tube didn’t inflate evenly at the valve stem. The extra rubber in that area made the tube volume much narrower. At higher pressures, it didn’t present a real problem as the tube would eventually uniformly expand, however at reduced beach pressures it left a void allowing the tyre carcass to rub and eventually make a hole in the tube. Since Brad had let more air from his tyres when hitting stockton, the friction was much worse and the flat was the innevitable result.

Another storm chases us along in the afternoon.

Since we weren’t sure how long it would take for the tube to go down again, we had several attempts at re-inflating the tyre and riding it however each time it went down again after a few hundred meters. Inflating a 3.8inch tyre is an ordeal in itself and despite having a reasonable mini track pump with us, took a large chunk of time. . Eventually we were forced to pull the tube out and patch it.  It seemed promising and everything aired up, however we made it no more than 500m down the beach before it was flat again. We tried a re-pump but only made it 200m this time before it was pretty clear we would have to try a different strategy. I was carrying another a spare tube which turned out to be a 29er tube but we managed to get it to fit. We fabricated a tyre boot out of a spare piece of plastic and crossed our fingers that our luck would hold. We had already lost close to an hour playing with tubes, the sun had set, the tide had started marching back in and we were only a couple of kilometres down the beach.

The wreck of the Sygna

As we pedalled onwards, it began to appear that we were on a giant treadmill. The lights of Anna Bay were hanging seductively on the horizon but never seemed to get any closer. It was now well and truly dark so we pedalled onwards with out feint head torches trying to pick a line through the 4×4 ruts which had consumed the beach. Stockton beach is one of the most heavily trafficked beach is Aus and there was barely a scrap of sand that hadn’t been churned up by cars. Brad chose to ride right on the waters edge and flirt with incoming waves while I tried to pick a path through the maze of tracks. Neither was a good option.

A red moon rising over the churned up beach

The moon rose over the water and we pedalled on in silence, it was doing our heads in. It was also doing Brad’s knee in. Since it was now nearly high tide again, the soft sand was unforgiving and Brad needed to stop and stretch regularly just to be able to keep on pedalling. I could sympathise, it was just what my knee did on the Nullabor and the memories of it were all too fresh.

Occasionally a landmark would appear, only to crush our spirits as we realised we had so far to go. Just before midnight we were able to make out the lights of the kiosk and we knew had only a few hundred meters to go when Brad’s tyre again sounded its deflation with a wild flapping noise. With no more spare tubes, we pumped it up several times to get to the kiosk and then I cracked.

I had been surviving on muesli bars and chocolate but my body wanted real food. We stopped, broke out the stoves and made a hot meal and weighed up our options. The caravan park that we had been hoping to make was now clearly closed and there are very few stealth options within walking distance of Birrubi. We walked around to the caravan park to make sure they didn’t have a late check in facility (they didn’t) before heading to a place that Brad knew might be our only option. It took forever to walk there with Brad balancing his bike on the rear wheel and we both just wanted this day done. We just wanted sleep so when we came across a slither of bush where some kids had built a jump track behind the scout hall, we had unpacked and were asleep within minutes. It was an ugly bit of scrub but beggars can’t be choosers and I was so tired I didn’t even blow up the boat for a mattress, I just slept on the ground and was thankful.

Stockton beach had kicked our arse.





Fat Bike Odyssey: Day 3

16 02 2012

While there had been a strong wind blowing as we went to bed, it died overnight making for a sticky nights sleep on a plastic boat. Shortly before dawn however, the wind started howling, lightning and thunder sounded across the lake and rain started to fall. While normally this wouldn’t be the ideal situation on a bikepacking ride, all we could think about was how hard the sand was going to be and how much cooler the day would be if it remained overcast.

The first segment for the morning was another sandy firetrail which was just the perfect fat bike trails. A standard bike would have been completely useless in the soft sand but the fat bikes just rolled over it like it was a cycle way.

We re-joined the beach a little after Norah Head. It would have been lovely to get up close and personal with the old time light house but it wasn’t to be this time around.

Pedalling along the next beach, we knew we needed to get onto the access roads for Frazer park but weren’t really sure what lay at the end of the beach. There was clearly a very steep headland but from our viewing distance, there was no discernible trail and the beach was insanely soft so we chose to pick up the central coast highway instead and ride a couple of kilometers to the main entrance gate to Frazer Park.

While the roads in Frazer were still sealed, it was much like riding along a deserted country road and combined with the gorgeous scenery, this section of road was bliss compared to riding a highway. While stopped at the top of a particularly steep climb, we got to chatting with a ranger who was particularly excited to see cyclists off on a crazy trip. We chatted for several minutes as the hill had removed all sense of urgency from us as the fat tyres had done for him.

Looking north across the headlands through the sea haze

 

We had studdied the map board on the way in and knew we were heading towards snapper point so we followed the signs and spent quite a bit of time climbing in the exposed sun. Since we had a planned camp site which was now only a couple of kilometers down the coast, we knew we could soak in the views so we stopped to view the surfers at Frazer beach and the ocean cave big enough to sail a pirate ship into at snapper point. To think I live so close to these gorgeous places and hadn’t been there was a bit of revelation to me. It’s amazing how sheltered a life I lead sometimes.

I took quite a few photos and video and then we started to climb back up the headland so we could pick up a sneaky bit of single track that headed into a valley towards flat island. You could see a wide fireroad climbing out the far side so we were pretty certain we could make it all link when we got there as our next beach destination was only a couple of hundred meters on the other side. The single track descent was a mix of white knuckled riding and hike a bike as some ridiculously large ruts swallowed the moonlander whole on more than one occasion.

There is something about trying to walk and coax the moonlander down a steep slope that is utterly infuriating when it is loaded. It develops this bizzare harmonic bounce in the rear end that then encourages the rear wheel to try and overtake the person pushing on the opposite side of their body to where the front wheel is. It ultimately leads to a solid wack in the back of the leg with a crank, pedal or tyre, several swear words and a snide comment about the morals of the BFL’s mother. The BFL is a funny tyre, it seems utterly devoid of side knobs and steadfastly refuses to grip to anything unless you really don’t want it to when it will immediately grab on and not let go.

Eventually we reached a horrendously overgrown section of trail that was clearly Chad’s fault. I reached for my video camera only to find empty space. Immediately I recalled sitting it ontop of a fence post overlooking the pirate cave while I played with SLR lenses. All I could do was swear, throw the moonlander into the bushes and run back up the ugly hill we had just come down in the midday sun. I reached the top and started jogging back down the hill and just as the road changed from dirt to sealed, my backpack which 20/20 hindsight tells me i should have left at the bottom of the hill unzipped and spilt my SLR onto the road which fell with a gut wrenching clatter and started rolling down the hill. More swearing ensued.

When i picked it up, it turned on and it let me review images so I let out a sigh of relief, re packed my bag and continued running to save the point and shoot. I arrived at the bottom wearing a helmet, cycling shoes and out of breathe causing several of the people viewing the cave to stare at the lunatic approaching. Unbelieveably, the camera was right where I left it so I retrieved it and started my way back up the hill. All ideas of running were now long abandoned.

I stumbled my way back down to the valley where I had left the bike to encounter Brad looking forlorn. The fire trail we had seen from the top of the hill was in fact a rock formation and it terminated in the deepest darkest most impenetrable scrub one could conceive of. Brad had already wandered around the rock platform at the bottom of the cliff and got within 20 meters of the beach but then faced a huge drop into the water which made getting bikes around impossible. I was now fairly frustrated so beat a path to the top of the hill sacraficing significant amounts of skin and after 15 minutes of being scratched to pieces, had to concede there was no way in the world we were going to get bikes through there. We were defeated, our only choice was to sit and have some lunch, then lug the bikes all the way back to the top. Damn it.

The hike back up was horrible. I lost count of the number of times my footing slid out from under me sending me flailing onto my knees. The bike got stuck on all manner of objects and the sun beat down on us. At one point, we were stuck in a rut with the bikes on the verge of toppling ontop of us as we pushed them along above our heads on the edge of the rut while we walked in it.

Thankfully, when we got back to the top and took the fire road descent rather than the sneaky single track, it actually linked up and turned out to be an exceptionally fun loaded bike downhill run. It deposited us at the North side of Flat Island but with such a whimsical looking landmark, its draw was too strong and we decided we had to pedal out to its tip. There was some quirky grassy single track across the top of the island and soon we were lying in the sun on Flat Island, or as we took to calling it…. Fat Island.

When we finally summoned the energy to start pedalling again, we road along the beach, up over the headland and straight to Catherine Hill Bay pub. We were flogged. The day was really, really hot and all we could do was stare at our beers and be thankful we had at last found some shade. Again the bikes caused quite a stir as you could hear locals discussing them around every corner of the pub.

Two or three hours went by before we decided to make a move. Brad’s knee was giving him trouble and the soft sand on the earlier beaches had made the situation worse. The longer we sat around, the lower the tide got and the easier it would get on his knee.

The approaching afternoon storm gave us hope that it would cool down soon enough so we headed along Catho beach and made for the flat and surreal rock shelf at the far end. We rode most of the way around the headland only to encounter a cleft in the rock that was almost narrow enough to throw your bike over but impossible to cross never the less. Our only option was to ride up over the headland and be the tallest, most electrically conductive object at the top of the hill, not to mention we had to go up another bloody hill.

You could 'almost' bunny hop it!

At the top, the storm seemed to magically part around us while we watched on. We traversed some of the fire trails along the ridgeline before encountering the puddle from hell. Brad called for me to ride on the right hand side which I duly did right up until the moment I hit a submerged rock that shot me off to the left hand side of the puddle where the water was over my hubs and doing its best to infiltrate my frame bags. It had no difficulty infiltrating my shoes however – the soggy sock tour continued.

Not long after, Brad’s front tyre went down. We threw a spare tube in it and promised ourselves we would patch the tube when we made camp that night.

We were now within site of our camp site and connected an unknown beach to the coastal walking trail before setting up camp in an old quarry beneath a cliff and overlooking spoon rocks. It was still early in the day, with a several hours of useable light left however we elected not to keep pedalling purely because of the amazing place we had to camp in. Since we weren’t meant to acutatlly camp there, we waited until dusk to put up my orange beacon of a tent and passed the time cleaning our drive trains and making dinner.

My inconspicuous tent

For a light weight solution to a chain cleaner, I found removing the chain via the power link and putting it in a zip lock bag with some metho from my trangia to do a remarkable job. The drive line was positively pristine by the time I was finished with my sawn off toothbrush and alcohol rinse.

The mosquito’s were few and far between at this camp site and despite the exposed camp area, the wind was delightfully calm as well. It was one of the best places I have ever camped and when you leave no trace you have ever been there and depart shortly after dawn, no-one gets upset either.

Looking North towards Newcastle

Looking South





Fat Bike Odyssey: Day 2

15 02 2012

Through a haze of rum addled confusion, my mind slowly and painfully connected the dots. Yes, I am definitely inside a tent.

Unzipping and peering into the early morning light, it all came flooding back. The only way out of this campground required a long steep climb up a fire trail. I slowly thought to myself “this is going to require some coffee”.

After much fiddling, the water finally boiled and coffee was made. It was then dropped almost immediately, and fell in slow motion as I watched helplessly while the ground greedily consumed it. Yep. It’s going to be a rough day.

Another coffee was made and i started to feel a little better. Despite being the first up, I was the last packed and the others patiently waited as my two left hands fumbled in every way conceivable. There sure are a lot of buckles on my bike now.

The climb out tasted a lot like rum and a faint odour of Jamaica could be smelt by those with a sense of smell keen enough.

A climb up, a descent and Killcare beach lay before us with the only thing holding us back being the trading hours of the beachside kiosk which was known for good espresso. Touring doesn’t have to be all suffering….

Fat bike love

The 'road' ahead

Killcare beach was short but Chad’s bike was still making all manner of grinding noises as we reached the end and he quickly taught us the value of a beachside shower as he hosed his bike off to clear the sand out of the bikes driveline. His alfinated moonlander is going to be the perfect solution to the sandy gear blues.

At the end of the beach, a daunting hike a bike loomed. It pitched straight up the side of the hill and was littered with rocks and ruts which meant long periods of carrying. The kitchen sink tour wasn’t looking like such a good idea now. In fact, I was completely ruined by the time we reached the top as the heat of the day was already making its presence felt and I was sweating at an alarming rate.

Maitland Bay had been previously ‘ridden’ by Chad and the Ninja and the reports were a 7 km loop that took well over 4 hours on unladen bikes. Sanity prevailed and we duly avoided this option like the plague and instead rode a mix of fire trails and sandy single track to get us through to McMasters beach via Cockrone Lagoon.

Throughout the morning, my rear rack had been giving trouble. Despite admirably taking a beating on the convict trail trip only recently, the pull down and re-lube of the whole bike before the trip meant the eyelet bolts kept backing out. No matter how tight you got them, several minutes later, the bike would again be handling like an articulated truck as the rack swayed on the loose bolts. All the free play was playing havoc with the racks stays which were now bent at a jaunty angle. Imminent rack failure was apparent to all and so Brad’s belt (what the hell was he carrying that for? ) was used to brace the rack against the seat rails to try and remove some of the sway. Despite inital appearance so the contrary, the belt made a dramatic difference and with some careful riding for which I am not normally known, I was able to coax the rack along with a minimum of fuss.

Before the descent to McMasters, Chad parted company with the aim of meeting us again that night for another night dancing with Captain Morgan. He also headed off in search of a 28mm offset rack to fit a 5 inch tyre which we all felt was probably a fools errand but it would ensure trouble free riding if he could locate one.

As we bumped along next to Cockrone Lagoon, Brad investigated a tapping sound coming from the front of his bike only to discover his rack had shed a bolt and the remaining bolt was holding by the last turn of thread. We scavenged another bolt from the pugsley’s vast array of braze on’s and bolted everything back together. Half a turn more and the whole rack would have swung forward onto the tyre and stopped the pugsley dead in it’s tracks – likely at the worst possible moment.

Luck was the only thing holding this on

McMasters beach was soft and it was HARD going on a laden bike, the front wheel kept slewing and the the steep angle of the beach ensured that any swell surge happened quickly and without any chance of escape ensuring several maddening wet drive line, wet shoe moments.

Normally wet shoes are an annoyance but for some ridiculous reason, I had ridden without any socks on day 1 and sand had began removing layers of skin at points where my foot moved in the shoe. Despite wearing socks on day 2, the abrasion continued and the wet socks were keeping the skin soft and continuing the process. In fact, wet socks was going to become another theme for the trip and despite carrying everything I could think of, I didn’t pack a second pair of socks!?

This was the first beach with any sort of crowds and the fatbikes were drawing all kinds of admiring looks and coversations. Everyone wanted to touch the tyres and the heavily laden appearance meant everyone wanted to know the details of our journey. If you were looking to pick up a middle aged man, you just need to ride a moonlander along a beach. They swarm to it like bees to a honey pot.

We were soon on Avoca beach which was much firmer and were making good progress until reaching Bulbararing lagoon which was flowing rapidly. A young lady was throwing a stick for her two dogs who were charging into the water and disappearing from view indicating the water was pretty deep even if it was only 10 meters wide. A quick discussion and she told us someone had just waded through it and it was about shoulder deep. Picturing trying to keep a 40kg bike above my head while walking through fast flowing water, I made my mind up that the boats were coming out.

While I have paddled with the bike on the boat before, I hadn’t put a fully loaded bike on the boat before and was unprepared for how poorly the weight was distributed. As I waded out, I looked down to see my bar bag was sitting beneath the water and I knew it was poorly sealed and would leak….. all over my sleeping bag. I then watched as a shoe fell in the water along with my fishing tackle ‘bag’ and who knows what else. I waded the shallow tidal flat before reaching the channel and padling across to the other side which left me with a soaked chamois to round out the full list of things I didn’t really want to get wet. Brad was next to cross and made land and was deflating the boat when we saw the jogger coming down the beach. He was a middle age man in a pair of budgie smugglers who didn’t even break stride as he surged into the ‘shoulder deep water’. His budgie smuglers didn’t even get wet as the water reached mid thigh at most. We’d just spent half an hour playing with our toy boats to cross a stream that was just over knee deep. What a laugh!

We again rode along the road to Terrigal beach where we stopped for a lunch of hot salty chips and hid in the shade from the heat, sea gulls and middle aged men.

With a full belly, we headed for the sand praying this beach was better to ride than Avoca which had been terribly soft and steep. As we rolled past a cafe at the beach, you could hear people’s eyes popping out of their heads as we rode down the soft sand and out of sight along the beach. It was almost awkward the amount of attention the bikes were attracting but at least it was all positive.

Looking back at Terrigal and Avoca headlands

The tide was now running out and Terrigal was a superhighway compared to Avoca so we made great time and connected through to the coast walking track where we noodled along in granny ring and didn’t see another sole. It was perfect sandy moonlander single track and an absolute joy to ride, as much for the trail as it was for the shade from the heat.

It started to cloud over as we reached Shelly beach and Chad was calling as we reached Towoon surf club asking whether we were going to find cover as the radar was showing heavy rain headed our way. We weren’t so convinced and instead headed to the surf club for a flat white and and a chat about fat bikes with the barista. Five minutes later, we were more convinced by Chad’s forecast and made for shelter from the impending rain where we sat around for an hour or so to let the storm front blow itself out.

Self portrait waiting out the rain

We returned to the beach after the rain had done it’s work to discover sand so hard you could ride a road bike and the first tail wind of the trip. Joy!

Before we knew it, we were at The Entrance and there was Chad waiting with a beer AND a rack! It turns out he wheeled his moonlander into the first shop he went to and they had a rack that you would swear the moonlander was built to fit.

A quick stop at the supermarket to restock on supplies and we continued on our way with the aim of finding camp in a sneaky section of sandy firetrail near Budgewoi lake. Chad had his camping gear in the car but after a little drive to the proposed area quickly decided he wasn’t going to park his car there overnight as it simply wouldn’t be there when he got back. Instead he headed off to grab pizza and beer and dropped them to us at a rendez vu point before heading home.

Brad and I had used the time to find somewhere to camp. It was incredibly slim pickings as the scrub was thick and the ground soft and highly sloped. Eventually, we settled on a wooden lookout platform as it was the most level spot we could find. Instead of the tent, I used my poncho tarp and through necessity, formed a mozzie net from the tent liner. Necessity is the mother of invtion after all.

The boats (our air mattresses) were wet and sandy after the ridiculous crossing early in the day but at least we were dry. The same couldn’t be said for my sleeping bag which was soaked but at least it was synthetic so would still keep me warm. With a belly full of pizza and beer, I drifted off to sleep to the sounds of mozzies exploring for a way inside my protective cocoon.