April 06, 2021
Brad Miller (Queensland, Australia) - The Indian Pacific Wheel Race
Words by Brad Miller | Using The BIB Stealth since : Jan 2021
The Indian Pacific Wheel Race (IPWR) is a 5500km solo, self supported ride crossing the continent of Australia from west to east.
Consisting of four stages and following a designated route, it begins in Freemantle, Perth before ending in New South Wales on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. Riders follow the honoured tradition of self supported travel and no prize other than the honour of finishing is offered.
The inaugural race began in 2017 and attracted many of the worlds elite endurance cyclists. Sadly one of these elite, English rider Mike Hall was killed en route. The ride now is held in part in his memory and is entered by announcing your intent and turning up at the Freemantle Lighthouse on the 3rd Saturday of March in a given year. One rider or one hundred, the number is irrelevant.
In 2021 nine riders entered, COVID once again playing havoc with border closures and event uncertainty. At 6:22am, the precise time that Mike Hall lost his life in 2017, the race began.
The IPWR is a race and a ride combined. The clock never stops and riders are GPS tracked by a large community of dot watchers who are able to follow the riders’ progress via their designated dot on the race route. And so, packing 2x pairs of red and white bib shorts for comfort i straddled my trek 920 and set of under the dot BJ-55 into the vast Australian interior.
Stage one is simply the Nullarbor. Crossing Western Australia into South Australia along vast stretches of isolated desert. Services are minimal, with stages close to 200km with no resources other than what you pack. Riders endure immense periods of total isolation along with heat, head winds and of course the ever present road trains, some of which exceed 50m in length. Should you choose to ride at night you have nothing but the thin beam of your light for company. Wandering stock, kangaroos, wombats and wild camels add to the flavour and still the road trains rumble on.
Respite is found in roadhouses where much needed supplies can be replenished. The dedicated keep riding, 10, 15, 20 hrs. Sleep can be found in roadhouse motels or for the hardy , in a lightweight bivvy under the stars whenever the need takes. For me it was a mixture of the two and a sleeping kit is essential security to rest an aching body and tired mind.
And it is the mind that is the key. For when the body is begging to rest it is the mind that keeps it going. Your head will try anything to make you stop and the battle between yes and no rages constantly. Lose that battle and your race is over. Win and you simply keep pedalling for there is nothing else you can do.
And on it goes. Along Australia’s longest stretch of straight road , 90 mile straight. The windswept passage along the Great Australian Bite. Then further onto the great treeless plain where nothing at all exists to break the horizon. Ride this at night and you enter into a surreal world of total silence for in the small hours even the road trains disappear and you are as alone in this world as you will ever be.
And then finally, it ends. And if you are still riding you enter the arid lands of South Australia , the continents driest state. By now Western Australia is behind you and ever so slowly civilisation begins to appear. Small towns burnt dry by the sun that offer little other than food and water. You enter these places like a Viking raider, consuming whatever you can to replace the thousands upon thousands of calories left along the road. But mis-time your entry and you will arrive at a ghost town and you either wait or ride on because that is all you can do.
Halfway approaches slowly. Adelaide. There are some larger towns, but Adelaide is the first of the majors. It may take you ten days, twelve. For me it was fifteen. Body broken, mind exhausted my race ended here, 2700km from where it began and with 2700km still to travel.
As I write this four riders pedal on towards Sydney. Some still with thousands of kilometres to go. Foolish? Probably. It is one of the ultimate tests of physical and mental endurance. Regrets? None. Because next year will come and the lure will be there to endure once more. Mistakes? Some. But this is how we learn.
So I will make some changes to the 920 and line up again in 2022. What I won’t change however is the RedWhite bib short. For a riding kit the IPWR is quite possibly the ultimate test.
And the RedWhite passed. And passed with flying colours.