For years I had eyed off Steve Watson's Monaro 1000 Cloudride, solo bike-packing race but baulked at it for a few reasons. The main one was that I felt my current mountain bike was too heavy, so late last year I took the plunge and ordered a Curve Uprock titanium mountain bike with a rigid fork and dynamo hub. So I had the weapon, I had the Easter Leave Pass and was now devoid of excuses.
I expected a difficult 1000 km given that it was a massive loop through the remote hilly Alpine regions south of Canberra – I got that and more. I just could not have anticipated how difficult some of the sections were; without the lightest of set ups I don't know if I would have made it. With warm sunny Autumn afternoons and full-moon clear evenings to appreciate the alpine wilderness, it was a beautiful but tough journey.
Some highlights included completing the hectic Snowy River crossing down in Victoria then surviving 5 hours of the Cliffs of Mordor before rolling into a gorgeous sunrise surrounded by peaceful misty farmlands near Tubbut. Another was passing through the Arcadian Stephenson Farm at the end of a long day to meet Judy waiting by her gate post replete with food and offers of coffee, then Bill and his grandsons who gave much appreciated tips for the tricky river crossing. Another highlight was the super fun BMX style Postman's Track that plunged endlessly into an idyllic sub-tropical forest north of Cathcart.
I had misgivings about a rigid fork set up rather than suspension, but have to say it was well matched to the task with only a few tracks that made me wish I had brought the dualie (you know who you are, Slap Up Fire Trail). When energy reserves are low, not losing anything to suspension is a real comfort and that is before you consider the 1kg weight advantage of the rigid carbon fork. The titanium frame teamed up with wide tyres does absorb some of the jolting as well, so it was not a complete suffer fest.
I felt it was a good achievement to finish that race in one piece, no aches or pains really. Arriving at the finish line at 7:30pm at the Bent Spoke Brewery, I felt like one of the happiest people alive. There were plenty of people there to welcome me, a sight for sore eyes, as I had missed the human race.