Ride Report by Nick Mandoki
with photos from Aaron Young
A good turnout for a 6.30am start at the Bell Tower in the City of Perth. Three 50km riders for a loop through Swan Valley, a 100km rider for a loop through some of the Perth hills, a 300km rider to head via Chittering Valley to Toodyay, Northam and Wundowie, and three 600 km riders heading to Beverley before heading way north through the wheatbelt to Wongan Hills and then south back to Perth.
Riders headed off in a number of small groups. I rode with Wayne as far as Swan Valley where we caught up with Murray who was stuck at a traffic light.
Then on to the first climb of the day, Campersic Rd. I must have been struggling quite badly as Aaron overtook me on the climb and I didn’t even see him – I was surprised to see him at the top of the climb with Wayne.
On through the Lancewood roller coasters, after which Murray turned off for the 100km, leaving three of us to head into Death Valley. Somewhere around this point Perry caught up and the three became four, and we leap-frogged each other through the hills.
Finally the hills died down and we had some nice, quick riding into Wundowie. Aaron and I arrived first, with Wayne and Perry not far behind. All of us felt pretty exhausted at this point, with less than 100km completed! Perry spent some time swearing at his Garmin – it had been trying to direct him the wrong way all morning. It helps if you load the right route, Perry!
Shortly after we said goodbye to Perry as he headed towards Bakers Hill on the 300km route, whilst Aaron, Wayne and myself headed towards Beverley on the 600km route. This was a nasty little section, in the heat of the day, and with a terrible headwind. Wayne started to fall behind Aaron and myself. So, like proper Audax team members, we left him to fend for himself.
Arrival in Beverley was a real relief. Time for a quick rest and to fill up water bottles before heading on to York. Now we were moving. The headwind had become a tailwind, and the pace really picked up. Even the hills on York-Beverley Top road suddenly didn’t seem so bad.
I was the first to arrive in York, with Aaron just a few minutes behind me. I checked the tracker to see where Wayne was, and he was still in Beverley. So not far behind, given the tailwinds. I expect he will catch us up when we stop to sleep. Now late afternoon, the temperatures were dropping, so a nice easy ride to Northam.
Arriving at Northam shortly before nightfall, Aaron demonstrated how the youth of today are comfortable with modern technology. All whilst riding along, he managed to use his phone to locate Dominos Pizza in Northam, order a pizza, and have it ready and waiting for him on arrival!
I took the opportunity to check the tracker. To my surprise, Wayne’s spot was still in Beverley. Then an SMS came through – it was Wayne to say that he had had enough, and had got Alison to come and collect him from Beverley. Oh well, Aaron and I will just have to continue without him.
Heading out of Northam, it was now properly dark. A lady motorist pulled us over to complain about my back light. Because it doesn’t flash (dynamo light), she said she had confused me for a marker post at the side of the road. Yes, I was wearing a reflective jersey. Yes, I was wearing reflective anklets that moved up and down. Yes, I had a front light that lit the road ahead, and I was moving along. But apparently I looked like road marker. Well, assuming that she will be doing her best not to hit the road markers, that sounds fine to me.
Into the night we rode, now beyond any signs of civilisation. Just two riders in the cool of the night, and a beautiful starry sky above, with the occasional flash of a lightning strike somewhere off in the distance. Progress was mostly quick, with tailwinds helping us along, and we arrived in Goomalling shortly before 11pm.
Neither of us felt too tired, so we decided to press on. Wongan Hills was another 50km away. But I’d done some exploring on Google Earth and found a few buildings that looked useful for sleeping at Konnongorring, about halfway between Goomalling and Wongan Hills. This turned out to be a good target, as the lightning strikes were becoming more frequent, and seemed to be getting a lot closer as we headed towards Wongan Hills.
On arrival in Konnongorring we found a toilet block with a concrete floor and plenty of space in the Gents’ for two riders and bikes. This turned out to be a good choice as the wind was howling all night long, and we were glad to have the protection of four walls and a roof.
We set off again on Sunday morning, just as the first light was coming into the sky. We were treated to a spectacular sunrise as we rode the short distance into Wongan Hills. There are plenty of shops & facilities in Wongan Hills, but none of them were open early on a Sunday morning. So we ate breakfast from whatever we were carrying. Aaron took some time to message his family, to let them know he was OK. I decided to message Wayne, to send him some choice insults, much to the amusement of Aaron!
The route then took us Westwards towards Piawaning. This was my favourite part of the ride. Gentle rolling hills. A mixture of wheatfields, rocky hill tops, and natural bush, plus views across to Lake Hinds. Early on Sunday morning there wasn’t a single car out there. A brief (10km) section South into Yerecoin was notable for the strong headwinds. We’ve got a long way to go southbound today – so not looking forward to that.
I’d done my research again and new exactly where to find the toilet block in Yerecoin. Aaron was impressed – both by my toilet locating ability, and by the standard of facilities on offer – large and clean, complete with showers.
Then across to New Norcia and a quick stop at the roadhouse, before racing off again, trying to beat the thunderstorm that was rapidly closing in.
We made our escape along another scenic back-road which took us across to the main Moora-Bindoon road. This became another morale-testing stage. 60km into a fierce headwind. Progress was very slow. Slower for some than for others, as I watched Aaron disappear into the distance. At least the cloudy conditions provided some protection from the sun, unlike the previous day heading into Beverley.
After what seemed like an eternity I finally arrived in Bindoon. I expected to see Aaron at the bakery. When he wasn’t there I assumed he must have left already, so I topped up my water bottles and was on my way.
Progress was slow again, but being on familiar roads, and with the distance to go now down to double digits, things didn’t seem quite as bad. I stopped for a snack outside the Chittering Community Hall. To my surprise another rider started approaching from behind. As he got closer I realised it was Aaron. Apparently, he had tucked himself away in the public park on the way into Bindoon, and as a result I had ridden straight past him.
Onto the home stretch now. Through Bullsbrook and onto the new Tonkin PSP. Remarkably there were no headwinds, and progress was fast, until somewhere around the Gnangara Rd area when the winds picked up again. Not to worry, we could taste the finish line from here.
In the distance somewhere, on top of one of the PSP bridges, a lonely rider could be spotted. As we got closer, the rider started to look familiar. It was Wayne who had come out to welcome us home, and give us some moral support for the final few km to the Bell Tower.
And what a relief it was to reach the finish line. Certainly one of the toughest 600km rides I have ever ridden, thanks to the hills, heat, and headwinds.
Congratulations to all finishers, regardless of distance. But special congratulations to Aaron who was riding his first 600km, but never looked in any doubt as to whether or not he would finish, and in fact rode the whole distance with a big smile on his face!
Thank you to Aaron and Wayne for the addition images.