Perth Augusta Perth – Ride Report (10/10/22-13/10/22).
I took off from Tullamarine airport Saturday morning and when I arrived in Perth it was still Saturday morning due to a 3 hour time difference from ‘over east’. After checking into my hotel in South Perth I unpacked my bike and was relieved to find that it had arrived in one piece.
On Sunday I awoke early, the weather was amazing with blue sky, light winds and with the temperature in the mid 20’s. Having come straight out of an extended Melbourne winter it was a novelty to wear shorts and tee-shirt again. I explored the city a little before heading to the BBQ and bag drop off, this was a great opportunity to meet the ride organisers and get to know a few of the other riders. This continued at the evening meal where I was lucky enough to sit next to Scott Lovegreen and Warren Page from Vic and NSW respectively who became solid riding buddies over the next few days.
Image 1: The Grand Départ
We rolled out of Perth at 05am Monday morning and soon settled into a steady tempo despite a steady headwind and patchy showers which hung around for the next 3 days. It was good to be riding after the weeks taper and blow away the pre-ride butterflies. Bunbury was the first major checkpoint at 200km and the ride was mainly flat. A group of us were working hard pushing into the head wind and we arrived in Bunbury in the early afternoon. Despite stopping for lunch, soon after Bunbury due to the morning effort I started to run out of oomph and had to let Scott and Warren go, dropping the pace and take on some extra food and fluid. I often go out too hard on these rides, then again you only have fresh legs once.
At sunset I passed through Balingup, the wind had now dropped and I was beginning to feel a little revived and turning toward Nannup I started to get a second wind. Although now dark the final 40km’s into Nannup offered some of the nicest riding of the day. The road wound its way through rolling hills with dense bush on one side and farm land on the other as it gradually descended into Nannup, our Check Point and overnight accommodation for the next 2 days.
I slept ok on the first night but woke with stiff legs and low energy from the effort of the day before and was feel sorry for myself. This must have showed as Wayne Hickman who was close by and gave me some encouragement saying ‘with 350km down, you’re more than 25% complete and where else would I rather be? I recalled a Jack Kerouac quote: ‘in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing the lawn. Climb that ‘expletive’ mountain’ and took a few moments to meditated on Rule #5 before breakfast.
After breakfast, Scott, Warren and I rolled out a little after 05am, we were making ok progress but appreciated an early stop for coffee at Manjimup. Graphite Rd into Manjimup and the South Western Hwy out were quite busy and where we were near passed by a 4×4, so we were very happy to turn onto the quite Channybearup Rd a few km’s out of town. This linked up with the scenic Stirling Rd where Scott discovered a puncture, we all pulled over for a breather and provide helpful advice on the repair. With tube replaced we got moving again and soon arrived at Pemberton the next Check Point.
A SpotWalla dot watcher page had been set up to display linked GPS tracker locations across the entire course. I had shared the link with my family who found it reassuring to see my progress, except for one occasion when my tracker didn’t refresh and I appeared to get stuck in a toilet block for several hours. Although I thought was discovering South Western WA for the first time, later this day my parents having seen me pass through Pemberton sent me a photo from a trip Pemberton we had taken when I was a toddler. Cycling is a unique way to experience the country side and now as I ‘rediscovered’ the roads around Pemberton perhaps some experience from my childhood had the chance to speak to my adult self.
Image 2: Forest around Pemberton circa 1971
Due to having recently stopped for the tyre repair and a misjudgement/group-think regarding the distance to the next ‘secrete’ control we passed through Pemberton. This was a mistake as the distance from Pemberton to Augusta is 120km’s with no resupply point in between, and we just made it 150km, Manjimup to Augusta. With water bottles emptying and legs getting very tired our oasis ‘on a dark desert highway’ came in the form of a strategically located secret control at a road side rest area 50km’s out of Augusta. Offering a warm reception and equipped with comfy chairs, hot food, water and snacks this was the best Check Point of the entire ride. Refuelled, we continued on the Brockman Highway. The road was wide, traffic was quiet and although exposed and a moderate side/headwind we made good time into town.
Augusta was somewhat of an anticlimax, especially as a titular destination of the P.A.P. Here we only had a quick break as there was a planned dinner at the Margaret River Control. Turning north the wind got behind us for the first time and the ride into Margaret River was reasonably quick. We arrived just on sun set and initially missed the Check Point riding straight through town. Doubling back we found the Kebab shop and another rider who was just finishing their meal. The kebabs were great rivalling the best of Sydney Rd Coburg. As the temperature was starting to drop I ate mine with my gloves on which were then soaked in garlic sauce which I could smell for the next 2 days! We were soon joined by other riders but I was starting to cool down and having another 70’s km’s yet to ride I quickly finished and jumped back on the bike. Mowen Rd between Margaret River and Nannup was a newly surfaced mining road, smooth and wide with long straight ramps and flowing descents. Over this section I passed one rider and we exchanged a few words of encouragement, it’s amazing how a small interaction and a kind word can stay with you.
Day 3 and another early start with Scott, Warren and myself rolling out around 5 after another substantial breakfast provided by the amazing WA support crew. There was a morning mist lingering as we climbed out of the Nannup river valley, this soon cleared to reveal rolling countryside heading into Bridgetown. Bridgetown is located in a river valley and would have been a fun descent, except for the fresh road works requiring the use of breaks all the way down. Although not a Check Point we stopped here at an amazing little café/general store for breakfast.
Back on the bike and climbing again up to Boyup Brook which is situated on a catchment plateau for Blackwood and Collie rivers. The countryside was beginning to changed, with more farmland and less wooded forests. From Boyup Brook we had a 95+ km jump to Kojonup, again this was broken up by a strategically placed secret control with warm toasties, coffee and water refill.
Image 3: Brockman Hwy b/w Nannup and Bridgetown
After a quick stop in Kojonup we were rolling well and looked like making Collie by early evening. However in the middle afternoon on approach to Darkan my rear derailleur cable broke restricting me to my 11 sprocket. I have had this happen before and was carrying a spare and optimistically told Warren to keep on going as I pulled out my tools to replace the cable. On closer inspection, the cable had frayed and snapped at the attachment to the cable-head which had moved around to the top position and I was unable to access or release the cable head. Sitting on the side of the road was not getting me anywhere so I pushed on, emphasising PUSH as I now had a limited choice of 36 by 11 or 52 by 11 gearing. The majority of the days climbing had been completed and there was an overall downhill grade to Collie, but not before a decent rise just out of Darkan. As the sun set my average speed seemed to be dropping like the evening temperature, I was slow and it was cold. Struggling with motivation was thinking of contingency plans to repair the cable in order to complete Day 4 or at worst a mechanical DNF.
30 or so km’s out of Collie I noticed what appeared to be the lights of a town in the distance, I thought had miscalculated the distance to Collie and was checking my Garmin when I noticed a fine dust settling on the screen and filling the air, I was passing a coal mine operating 24/7. The mine was a massive open cut and you could see deep into the excavation where a dump truck was receiving a house sized load of dirt. Further up the road, I noticed the lights of a transport approaching from behind and moved well off the road (one positive for mining areas is that they build really wide roads). I have been passed by B-double’s before but I was not expecting a triple, although he was across in the middle of the road I was buffeted by the draft. I was very happy to reach Collie soon afterwards.
The Collie Control was in the club rooms of the Collie Eagles football team and was warm and bright. Peter Heal was manning the Control and while signing my brevet card I explained by broken cable issue. Peter was happy to have a look at my gear cable and shooed me off to eat. With camping head light attached and multi tool in hand Peter partially disassembled my lever, extracted the lodged cable head, re-lubed the mechanism, threaded the new cable and re-tuned the gears all before I had finished my lentil casserole. I was sincerely thankful for this and Peter needs to add bike-whisperer to his long list of accolades.
Whilst I had been planning a later start for the last day, I had not slept very well, so got up early and set off before 6, it was slow going due to the build-up of fatigue over the last 3 days. I soon warmed up on the moderate climb out of the Collie to the edge of the Yilgarn Craton where it descends to the Perth costal basin. Here I was hoping for an epic long descent, however this looked bigger on RWGPS than it was in real life. It turned out to be a pleasant roll with nice views over the valley plane nonetheless.
Around Harvey I was caught by Andrew Johnson, we rolled together for a short while and got chatting about Audax jersey designs. Andrew had the traditional woollen style with Audax written across the chest, while I had the newer jersey with multi coloured accents. I had to admit the original is still classic and I would definitely be down for one.
Riding around the beautiful Dawesville estuary I was picked up by Jake Harper and Dale Rogers just before stopping in Mandurah for lunch. (Pop trivia: Perth band The Triffids’ seminal album ‘Born Sandy Devotional’, has an early photo of the Mandurah estuary as its album cover.) It was now essentially flat for the rest of the day. The sun was coming out and there was a moderate tail breeze, yet nothing like the head winds we encountered on day 1 and 2. I think it was Dale who mentioned ‘a tail wind never makes up for what a head wind takes away’! We team TT’ed the final 80kms into Perth picking up a few Strava segments on the commuter route.
Image 4: Borne Sand Devotional album cover.
Returning to Perth we road over the Mount Henry Bridge and stopped to take a photo; the sun was still high, the city looked stunning and the end was in sight. Next was the newly developed Elizabeth Quay area and soon afterward we reached our finish point at Bell Tower, where Wayne Hickman and a few of the WA crew came out to meet us. After congratulations and taking more photos we retired to ‘The Lucky Shag’ for a celebratory beer. With the brevet card complete, Wayne presented us with the awesome PAP medal which is a solid piece which features an almost 1:1 scale map of the southern western WA coast line.
Overall I found the Perth-Augusta-Perth LRM to be an amazing ride, the roads and countryside are unique and the organisation and support were excellent. Many thanks to Wayne and all of the WA members and volunteers who made it so easy for the riders to focus on riding and look forward each control point. See you in another 4 years.
Image 5: Dale Rogers, Chris Taylor and Jake Harper at Bell Tower
Image 6: Carl Gillies, Sacha Dowell and Wayne Hickman