Go for a ride around Canberra they said. It’ll be fun they said.
When I first heard about this ride I really couldn’t see how I could ride around my city 20 times without it doing my head in. When I do a big ride I don’t like droning up the highway just to do miles, I like a destination, I like new roads, I like getting out of town. So the thought of going in circles for no other reason than just to clock up miles just isn’t me.
However this is a challenge and I’m up for a challenge.
The ACT is only 50km north to south by road. So to complete a 1600km ride in the ACT we had an 83km Canberra loop that we rode 20 times. The loop utilises and links as many main arterial roads as possible, the Tuggeranong Parkway, the Barton Highway, the Federal Highway, the Madura Parkway, and the Monaro Highway. To add to the challenge, we need to navigate 600 sets of traffic lights (30/lap), pass 140 speed cameras (7/lap), 400 speed zones (20/lap) and only 25% of a lap is at the open speed limit of 100km/h, all while dealing with the ebbs and flow of city traffic. So the speeds will be lower, there will be more traffic to navigate, and the vigilance needs to be higher.
Yes this seems like a normal Saturday ride …
To certify this ride we need to prove we completed the distance and needed to stop at the end of every lap to have it witnessed, speedometer sighted, and ride log signed. A huge thanks to all the volunteers who stood around the servo all day and night just to sign off our paper work, encourage us, and send us on our way.
And thanks to Lynne for some of the photos in this post.
This was always going to be a different ride to my typical 1600km rides. Generally I set off at around 3 to 4 in the morning. Stop for coffee and then lunch and grab something late afternoon in small towns along the way, and while we are on the clock we really aren’t watching it too closely. Then we would roll home somewhere between 10pm and midnight. This ride is not going to be like that. There are no wide open spaces and big distances between towns, only slower roads and more traffic. This is not conducive to long distance riding and timing to have this completed within the allocated 24 hours will be tighter.
Leading up to this ride I’m really not very ride fit as I haven’t been doing the big miles, so it was good to get out a couple of weeks ago for a bit of a warm up ride when I did the silo ride where I did close to 1500km for the day.
Unsurprisingly I didn’t get much sleep on Friday night, I never sleep well on the night of a big ride. However, rolling up to the service station to be greeted by a number of riding friends and getting my start receipt at 2:46am I felt really good and ready to get underway.
There was no ‘go’, no staggered start, no send off, just riders rolling up to the servo to fill up and get their start receipt and head off into the night. I actually have no idea where I was in regards to the other riders as this wasn’t a race, there was no competition, and no prizes for who gets in first. This was an individual challenge that we were doing together. So after I fluffed around for a while recording times, odometer readings, and tucking away my first receipt of the day I headed out into the dark on my first lap.
I rode with a number of riders on the first couple of laps, however after that we spread out as our different riding rhythms, rest stops, level of fluffing around, and fuel strategies started to play out. In fact excluding the first few laps I only saw three other riders over the course of the whole day.
My fuel strategy was to stop every 5 laps or about 415km per leg as that should be achievable from my 29 litre tank relatively comfortably. I then coordinated my main breaks around my fuel stops, with a longer break at the half way point to have lunch and catch up with other riders briefly who had the same idea and to catch up with friends who had volunteered to help us out during the day.
Being on the same roads all day you see distinct traffic patterns across the day – early morning there was pretty much no one on the road so we had the lights in our favour and there were very few hold-up. That gave way to the tradies at dawn with their utes and trucks busily getting to the job site, then the retail sector woke up and went to work followed by the sporting crew that followed throughout the afternoon. Come late afternoon everyone came home again which then brought out the P platers heading out on the town with their mates, and parents taking out their learner drivers. Each group having their own driving style and things to be aware of.
Here is a time lapse video at around 8:30am after the first couple of waves of traffic.
I was also going through different phases as I circulated the Nations Capital. I started off in the dark full of anticipation of what the day would hold but really looking forward to a day on the bike, but strangely not going anywhere … Was that dead roo there on the last lap… No, I don’t remember it being there. I hope one of our crew didn’t hit him.
Then approaching the pre-dawn the temperature drops a few degrees leaving me wondering whether I should have put on another layer as I clicked the heated grips to low for a bit of warmth to soak into my hands while I tell myself that it’s going to be warm soon. I also know that it’s the pre-dawn that I get the yawns, but unlike other rides I am feeling surprisingly well. Then as the sun creeps over the horizon the first of the traffic starts which shifts my focus towards navigating traffic. The stop go nature of the traffic starts to become a grind as all those traffic lights start working against you, like they are waiting for you so they can turn red, and the time it takes to ride a lap grows, and you start calculating the laps and time left in your head. But I know I am fine so I push that thought out of my head. It’s fine I tell myself as I quickly do the calculation again. In the end I turn my music on in my helmet to distract me from those thoughts.
Then as the sun starts to go down over the Brindabellas my rear view mirrors are lit up with a magical glow over the new suburb of Whitlam, like an aura but there is no place to stop. So I only catch quick glances over my shoulder. Yes I could have got to the top of the hill and spun around, but often those moments are only fleeting and the will to keep going was stronger.
After peeling off the Federal Highway the sunset was flickering between the trees on my left, then the trees parted and there was an opening and spot to stop, so I quickly pull up and take a sunset shot.
Then like a light switch we were back in the darkness and it was quickly time to put that extra layer back on that I had removed during the day as the temperature dropped quickly.
With so many speed zones and speed cameras you need to remain vigilant about your speed and this is one thing I don’t like about the ST … I find it really hard to maintain a constant speed. It doesn’t have cruise control and I have to be always watching the speedo as it is so easy to stray. It is such a contrast to my ZX14R which blows the ST to the weeds as far as power and acceleration, but I can maintain a speed on it relatively easily. The next day riding the 14 to meet the guys still in town for breakfast it hit me. I can hear the note of the 14 and when I am riding I modulate my speed by ear. So I am subconsciously adjusting the throttle to maintain speed, I also guess after 300,000+km on ZX14s you do become attuned to them. Whereas the ST is so quite, I have nothing to work off.
Honey I need a bike with cruise control … the K1600GT has cruise control. Or a new Goldwing you’d be so comfortable on one of those…
To keep me entertained and occupied during these long rides I like to take photos, but it feels weird to be riding around my home town looking for photo opportunities of things I ride passed everyday. So I take a few photos of fellow riders and then on my first lap I decide to take a photo at the same point on each lap. So every lap after that (until later that night) I reach forward and hit the button of my DJI Osmo mounted on the dash as I pass a particular sign going passed the National Arboretum.
Post Ride Thoughts
As I mentioned earlier, the challenge was going to be riding in circles over the same road in my home town where I had ridden a million times. I did a couple of laps a couple of months ago just to see what it was like and I thought I was really going to struggle with the monotony of the same circuit all day. However I was surprised that going in circles wasn’t as big of a challenge once I got into it. However, if I was doing this by myself without any of the other riders or friends checking off each lap than I think I would have struggled to get through it.
Would I do this ride again? For the ride, no. But to get the chance to hang out with friends who are just as crazy as me who share the same long distance passion … then yes.
and yes it was one of our crew who hit the roo and other than some plastics damage and a driving light he was fine.