RideWA Summary – 16 August to 11 September 2021

This is a summary of RideWA, which Greg and I rode over four weeks from Broome to Albany.

Key stats for each day are presented below. In summary, we did a total of 3,900km over 27 days, including 2 rest days. This was an average of 160km per day for the 25 riding days. Our average speed across the entire trip was 22.4kph, with an average daily riding time of 7 hours (moving time) and about 3 hours stopped time.

The ride route is at this link (actual route with minor adjustments, this is what I would recommend for anyone else who wants to do a similar trip): https://ridewithgps.com/routes/37528670.

We spent $9,750 in total. This was an average of $160 per night for 23 nights of accommodation (including pre-trip in Broome) and $160 per day for food for us both. We camped out 6 nights.

My bike setup is shown below. If you want details about what I carried, check out this link: https://ridewa.net.au/emmas-gear/

Below are our responses to common questions about the trip. There are separate posts on this blog with day-by-day summaries and more photos if you want more details.

How was the route and the traffic?

Emma: The route that we followed, as per the link above, was terrific. A few bits of the original route were varied on the ride, which were improvements – we had to change tack on the way into Port Hedland to minimise time on the main road, particularly where there was zero shoulder and trucks going in both directions. We also ended up bypassing Karijini National Park because the access road was closed due to a fire. This meant we went down the coast via Karratha instead, which was a much easier route due to less distance, less climbing, and more services (towns) en route. These improvements have been incorporated into the route linked above. I wouldn’t make any other major changes, except possibly to bypass Margaret River – it was a big detour on pretty boring roads.

We had originally planned to finish in Esperance, but as we reduced our distance per day after the first week, we didn’t make it that far. It was good finishing in Albany though, as the remaining four days would have been longer days mostly on highways.

Traffic overall was excellent – we had no issues with trucks, they all gave us a wide berth, and if there was oncoming traffic and no shoulder, we would pull off the road. It was really helpful having rear view mirrors so that we could see what was coming behind us. We had minimal buffeting by wind from vehicles, although this may have been just the luck of the wind direction. Caravan drivers were all courteous. Over the entire trip, I could count on one hand the number of vehicles that passed us unreasonably close, and they were all cars.

Greg: Traffic was totally fine until we got to Perth. From Perth south, there was more urgency in the traffic, compared to the northern part of the route where people seemed to be more relaxed and have more respect. The route was challenging and enjoyable. However, we had idyllic weather and it could have been more challenging if we didn’t have tailwind for the first week and moderate weather for the southern parts.

What was great about the trip overall?

Emma: I loved the simplicity and not needing to make complex decisions. The route was pre-mapped, we had only one set of kit and clothes, and every day we just got up and rode our bikes. The most complex decision was what to eat and where to stay, if we actually went through a town. I also loved being self-sufficient, particularly on the days that we stayed at rest areas so we carried and ate all our own food. It is fun figuring out what we can eat that is compact and durable to carry, provides enough energy and delight to eat, and can be prepared with our basic non-cooking gear. This included muesli with fruit and milk, cold brew coffee, cheese and salami wraps, and rice with tuna and avocado.

I really enjoyed the early mornings, I loved watching the sun rise and hearing the birds waking up while I was already getting a start on the distance for the day. It was a great time for quiet thinking and appreciating the beauty.

Greg: It was mentally refreshing because we were just riding our bikes. The time and effort put into the pre-planning made it less stressful and easier on route, as we knew where we were going and distances between all the places. It was also rewarding to get to our target each day, and soulful to be out in nature. Because we were both relaxed and knew what we had to do each day, we just did it and there was less pressure and more support for each other.

What were specific highlights and wonderful experiences?

Emma: The best bits of the route were Kalbarri to Geraldton (1 day), Dalwallinu to Bullsbrook (1.5 days), and Dawesville to Nannup (3 days). These were all scenic and undulating, and incorporated the Chapman Valley, Chittering Valley and Ferguson Valley. We also had reasonably good weather for those sections, which helps the mood.

Many of my favourite experiences were sunrises: in the Pilbara when we had sun glowing off red rocks on the hillsides, at Coral Bay we walked down to the beach with a mug of coffee and a croissant and saw funny seagulls bathing in the calm ocean before fog rolled in, and on the day we left Kalbarri we rode on sweeping roads with no traffic out to a coastal cliffs lookout where we watched the sun rise while eating second breakfast. Other highlights included the spectacularly scenic Ferguson Valley (including lunch at Bush Shack Brewery and wine tasting at St Aidan’s Wines), all the sundowners (ginger beer and crisps carried to rest areas, or Bridgetown Cidery with wine and cheese), and the best meals out (Cafe6714 in Karratha, Bob’s Bar in Geraldton, Cafe on Uduc in Harvey).

There were also the many small delights – seeing a pony or donkey or alpaca, many lambs, many friendly chats with people and the generosity of strangers.

It is very different doing a bike tour compared to driving in a car to a destination. We saw a lot of countryside, but we didn’t see all the tourist attractions – if it was not mapped on the route, we didn’t detour to see it. A 20km round trip to see something is an extra hour of cycling, and often it was a lot further than that, and down a dirt road! While we didn’t have a particular pinnacle destination, we did experience many small and large souful things each day, and we were immersed in the landscape. It really was all about the journey and exploring new things.

Greg: Sunrises and sunsets for the first two weeks (with big horizons and fine weather), handups from our fellow caravanners (beers and two dinners), and all the birds. Invigorating fresh air everywhere (except for near the mine sites and Port Hedland).

What were the hardest and most challenging bits?

Emma: The heat on Day 1 was over 40 degrees out on the road – I had to stop about every 30-40min in the hottest hours of the day as my heart rate climbed and my head got vague. The heat didn’t diminish on subsequent days, but we adapted or rested during the hottest part of the day. On the third day, the last 15km or so into Port Hedland were into a head wind, we had been riding long days in the heat without much sleep, and I was done in. We made it to our lunch stop at a crawl and I was thankful for Greg’s help in ordering drinks and lunch. This was the only time I really struggled to maintain forward momentum on the bike. There were two days with 100km long stretches impacted by winds – from Robe River Rest Area to Nanutarra we had a strong cross-head wind, and from Carnarvon to Wooramel Station it was a strong headwind. These were both tough stretches that were endured only with the distraction of audiobooks and knowing that there was an end in sight. I also had terribly annoying mozzie bites for the first week.

Greg: The hardest day was from Robe River Rest Area, via Nanutarra, to Yannarie Rest Area.

What went really well?

Emma: The mapped route was terrific, and it meant we didn’t have to figure it out on the go – we could just follow what I had carefully planned in advance. I had printed the route notes and a daily spotto on waterproof paper – these were both incredibly useful, and got used and referred to multiple times every day.

All of my gear was great – I used practically everything (except some of the emergency stuff), there was nothing extra that I wished I had, and everything worked as it was supposed to (e.g. waterproof socks keeping me dry). My top pieces of gear were:

  • Cork ball and mini foam roll. They weren’t used every day but were essential for the days when stuff hurt, particularly shin splints.
  • Green toiletries cell tied onto front of aerobars (you can just see this in the photo at the top of the post). This doubled my food storage capacity, was stable, didn’t weigh down my saddle bag, and didn’t impact access to other bags.
  • Dermaid 1% steroid cream. This was the only thing that seemed to improve saddle sores and nasty mozzie bites.
  • K-lite front and rear lights and Dynamo. It meant I always had lights at night and didn’t have to worry about running out of battery charge. I still had another rear light that I charged daily but the Dynamo lights were worry free.
  • Collapsible cup and spoon/ knife. These were used throughout the trip for serving breakfast and sometimes dinner, and were integral to the fun of being self-sufficient.

Greg and I have also done many multi-day trips together so we are well attuned to each other and we can tell when it is time for a break without having to discuss it. We also had similar objectives for the trip – to do a big long ride, to escape from our daily routine, but also to enjoy it and look after ourselves. So this made it a straightforward decision and agreement to start to ease back on the daily distance after the first week, so that we could enjoy the experience rather than just destroying ourselves.

Greg: All my gear – thanks to lots of pre-trip testing and selecting the right options. The bikes had no major problems and ran smoothly (except when Emma’s fell over and her hanger was bent). The weather was also much better than we had hoped for.

What would you do differently or change for your next big tour?

Emma: I would use our average daily distance from this trip (160km) as the basis for a future trip – we know that we can vary this up to 240km if we need to, but then we need some shorter days as well. In terms of gear, if we had less climatic conditions to deal with and we knew it was going to be more of a cold wet trip, I would probably take arm warmers and leg warmers or maybe a winter jersey, which would provide a more breathable warmer option. We were using rain gear as our warmer layers if it was cold, which worked ok, but when we started to warm up we had to take the rain gear off because it got too sweaty underneath. When we did have cold and wet conditions the weather was really variable with sunshine and showers on and off throughout the day – it was very frustrating having to stop to take off and put on rain gear frequently throughout the day as the rain and sun came and went.

Greg: I would use a different saddle bag, the one I had was difficult to pack consistently and symmetrically. I need to reconsider my sleep system – we had to deal with a 50C temperature range – with some mornings in the Wheatbelt getting as low as -5C, and highs in the Kimberly and Pilbara above 45C – which stretched my sleep system to it’s limits. The tradeoff was it being super compact. It was also a challenge choosing optimal cycling kit for such a wide temperature variation. I had some issues with one shoe rubbing on my toes, so might look into that. No major changes, just continuous improvements.

Would you do it again?

Emma: Not the same route, not the northern section. But the bits from Kalbarri to Nannup were awesome and I will definitely do some of those bits again. I loved doing a long tour, I would definitely like to do another multi-week tour.

Greg: Another long tour for sure, maybe Broome to Darwin. But not the same route again – that defeats the point of exploring and seeing new things.

What is next?

Emma: Recovery. I had 9 days of no riding after we finished, and then two days of back-to-back riding (60km then 40km). I felt great on the first day! But the second day I was toast, my legs felt like they had nothing to give. I expect it will be several weeks to build back up to doing some of the faster group rides that I was doing before the trip. I have toyed with the idea of doing a RideWA Part 2, which would be the Albany to Esperance but we didn’t do, plus some more in the Goldfields or Wheatbelt. But it would be some distance in the future. We also have a list of tourist places to go back and visit with a car, which seems more appealing at the moment.

Greg: ??? Something that has more hills!

A Selection of Photos Representing the RideWA Experience

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