1600+ kilometres in one day within the Australian Capital Territory borders! 20 laps, winter cold, ACT lunatic traffic, 160 fixed speed camera passes, mobile speed cameras and even a sneaky unmarked Camry keeping the peace. Why? I’ll tell you…
Group rides aren’t common in Iron Butt-land and an ACT Insanity is very rare. After an invitation by Ollie 9 riders and one pillion turned up ready for a 3.30am start in Hume ACT. Thankfully the -2 C forecast didn’t eventuate however I still needed the or the four – five layers I was wearing and the Hoteeze in the boots. And the bala of course, that’s me looking like a ninja up the back.
Ollie led the first lap to familiarise those of us who had no real idea about the loop and pointed out the fixed cameras. I followed close behind him but the first lap wasn’t over before others, more familiar with the area, decided to make an early break. At the end of each lap there were volunteers waiting to record our ODO and other stuff on a log which we had to sign. The first time around was the only time I took my gloves off to sign the form. 30 seconds extra I didn’t need to spend. My goal for today was to ride as efficiently as I could from start to finish with an even to negative split for the second half of the day (marathon runner style).
It wasn’t a race, it was much more of a mental challenge for me. Everyone who finishes the 20 laps within 24 hours gets the same certificate. Getting it done or taking your time makes no difference to the result.
None of the route was instantly recognisable to me, Ollie was waiting for everyone else to leave so on the second lap I followed another rider on a V-Star and stuck with him until the end of lap 3 when he needed fuel. A KTM or two dragged me along for lap 4 and 5 while the sun rose. I needed to stop to fuel up, eat a muesli bar, drink 300ml of water and dispose of about 600mls of fluid. That’s a short description for the first 5+ hours of the ride. About 12 minutes of stopped time all up. I was feeling very happy to make 5 laps on a tank on the Super Tenere and was looking forward to only stopping twice more.
Each lap was about 84kms, speed limits varied from 60 – 70kph to 100kph. Traffic lights and roundabouts were abundant in the first third. The Tuggeranong Parkway and slower zone though Flynn in the middle third followed by roadworks and mad traffic on Northbourne Ave then the open 100kph (mostly) riding on the Majura Parkway finished the loop off.
With the sun up and traffic building some other riders decided to ride anti-clockwise to avoid the traffic and right turns. It wasn’t on my plan, the route had started to sink in and I didn’t want to waste mental effort learning another set of landmarks. It was good that I did make that call because I started lap 6 by myself with only the blue line I’d been etching on the Montana 680T to tell me if I got off track.
I also assumed that the people who were in charge of traffic in the ACT would work to make sure that traffic flow towards the city on a Saturday morning went smoothly. I felt I only needed to catch a green early or lane filter to the front at the first red (legal in the ACT) and by riding close to the speed limit I wouldn’t be unnecessarily delayed. Whether or not the assumption was correct it seemed to work out just fine with a minimum of holdups and an easy pace in that section during the A.M.
I rode laps 6-9 by myself, not really seeing any of the other riders. I focussed on minimising stopped time, maximising opportunities to lane filter when I had to, accelerating hard to the speed limit with a view to keeping my moving average as high as possible without coming under any notice or taking risks with a momentary lapse of concentration around the abundant fixed and moving cameras waiting to double demerit me. I’m protective of my points, that’s why I still have a full set of them.
However, ACT drivers – what a bunch of lunatics! It seems to me that there’s an unusually high sense of entitlement there and drivers just didn’t seem to like having their front position at the lights supplanted by a yellow bike. Given the place breathes on bureaucracy they have to know lane filtering is legal and safe but giving over and maintaining safety isn’t in the collective mindset. Everywhere else in the country you get a sense of who might and who might not be a dick about it. It’s usually white utes with big wheels or doof doofs in WRX’s. In the ACT it can be anything from a Chery sedan to a hellishly expensive Audi 7. Even perfectly coiffed, silver haired grannys in Camry’s will have a crack at you, but that might just be an over indulgence on hairspray hydrocarbons. In any case if you missed the green drop by half a second they’ll just stomp the pedal and drive right past you. It happened! Moving on…
At the end of lap 9 I needed fuel. Bugger! That meant I would need an extra fuel stop. I drank 200 mls of water, ate another muesli bar and made a move to dispose of some fluid but there was a queue for the little room and a longer queue to pay for fuel. Oh well, I guessed I could wait another 4 hours and I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice my OA for comfort just yet. I paid for the fuel and left. 11 minutes for the stop.
To pass the time I had started taking note of who was fuelling when I arrived at the end of each lap. I was trying to guess how many laps they’d done, how many more stops they’d need. With people going in different directions and not really passing anyone or being passed it was impossible to work out “where I was” in terms of progress. I say again, it definitely wasn’t a race, that’s not the way of IBA riders. But the more I have to think about on a ride like this the more alert I typically remain. Running numbers is the way I maintain mental focus and test my fatigue levels. If I can’t answer the sums in my head it’s time to stop and rest. Having said that there were also plenty of hazards on the route to keep me on my toes too!
The volunteers, bless them, also started recording the time at the end of each lap on the log which gave me something else to count and gauge my efficiency on, lap times.
Laps 9-13 were just about grinding it out and maintaining complete focus on efficiency. 30 second stops to sign the log with the gloves on and gone. A lap without too much intervention by traffic or lights was about 58 minutes at this time, not so good laps were about 1hr 02 mins. I was really looking forward to stopping at lap 13 by the time it came around. I was starting to get a wee bit uncomfortable. When I pulled in the volunteer who checked the odo told me I was the first one in for this lap. I was surprised but had other things on my mind. The inevitable relief, fuel, a mouthful of water and an iced coffee which was skulled between paying for fuel and walking back to the bike. I desperately needed the sugar and calories for brain function.
During that stint I renamed the Tuggeranong Parkway the Tuggeranong Raceway. The traffic flow had changed and there were more red lights to slow proceedings. It was time to take full advantage of the well established local proclivity to control the front of the traffic no matter what. If I got the jump at the lights and checked the mirrors to see which one of the lanes behind was trying hardest to run me down I’d pull into the other lane and let them past. Then something strange but very predictable happened. Once they had “lorded it over me” and had the lead they either doggedly refused or were too embarrassed to capitulate (the former most likely). I learned if I immediately pulled in behind them they only slowed down for the speed cameras. I like that sort of interference, it saves fuel. However there were still the true crazies on the raceway that I was very happy to let head off into the distance because my sense of safety was severely assaulted – madness.
Enough of that. Here I am out on the road (photo by Nev).
As I was walking out to kick off lap 14 another rider, Ron, left the servo. Ollie walked up to me for a quick chat, I donned the helmet and he followed me out. An inefficient but very necessary 13 minute stop done.
Fourteen was a weird lap for me. I hadn’t ridden with anyone for the last 8 hours and looking in the mirrors hadn’t been necessary other than to dodge cage speeders. I guessed Ollie would pass me if I was going too slow for him. However through the lights and roundabouts section he must have got caught up so my focus was forward again. About three quarters of the way around I caught up with Ron. That was a real surprise. The way I’d seen him squeeze his bike through traffic earlier in the day was magic to watch as he rode off in the distance making me feel like an elephant on the Super Tenere.
We were just about on Majura Parkway at the time so I sat behind him until we checked back in at the end of the 56 minute lap. The traffic light gods were very kind. Pizza was on offer, Ron said “Yes”. I couldn’t get my head around why I would stop to eat Pizza during an IBA ride, even the question did my head in. So I signed the log, still with my gloves still on. As Ron took his helmet off I gave him a nod and left. Ollie rode into the servo as I rode out, I gave him a wave and was pretty sure I’d see him again.
Sure enough about a third of the way around on lap 15 Ollie pulled in behind me. Ollie had an auxiliary tank on his GSA and from a forum post he’d made pre ride he might only need fuel 3 times during the ride. I needed to stop once more for fuel and at a set of lights Ollie confirmed he’d need some too and we made a plan. It was in this section of the ride I’m pretty sure there came an unspoken agreement we were going to ride this out together.
We swapped the lead a couple of times, it was great to give the head a rest and just follow from time to time. After lap 17 we pulled up to check in with the volunteers and fill up for the last time. The servo had run out of Premium Unleaded so I suggested we get fuel somewhere else rather than inflict 91 on our bikes. Ollie agreed but nature was calling for him. I turned the bike off and happily waited. As he came out of the servo I was pretending to tap my watch impatiently and encouraging him loudly to get a move on. A man running in full cold weather motorcycle ATGATT attire is a sight to behold!
We were off, me in the lead until we turned onto Northbourne Avenue where Ollie took control and led us into the BP. I filled up and grabbed an iced coffee from the fridge. I skulled half of it on the way to the bike, dumped the rest and was ready to leave. There was nothing else I needed to do between here and the finish. Lap 18 was 1:01 with the five minute stop. Ollie took the lead and on the way down Majura Parkway we took note of a mobile speed camera secreted in the dark in the 90kph zone.
Not far past the BP on lap 19 Ollie rode past me and indicated he needed to pull over briefly. I waited on the bike and after a short time we were off again with me in the lead to finish the penultimate lap in 58 minutes. The mobile camera was still there.
After checking in, with only one lap to go Ollie and I nodded at each other and I waved him through. I pulled in behind him and we rode a glorious lap with hardly a stop except for the right turn onto the Majura Parkway that I didn’t get a single green for the whole day. I was great sitting behind him, he was focussed and had the local knowledge so I put everything out of my mind, kicked back and relaxed confident that if I kept pace with him I didn’t need to worry about the cameras or progress.
Ollie had led me out 20 and a bit hours earlier and I followed him in to the finish, awesome. A negative split for the second half of the ride for me and a 56 minute lap to end it. Here we are just fresh in.
The logs were signed off and a final receipt was required for documentation. In addition to my customary end of “Iron Butt Ride” Cherry Ripe a servo pie was in definitely in order. Solid food felt soooo good after my last muesli bar 11 hours or so before.
All the riders involved finished safely, a testament to the skill level and endurance capacity of competent IBA riders. I remain in awe of Michael and Lynne who did it two up on a BMW RT1200. Negotiating that bike two up through the course for nearly 1700kms is an entirely different proposition to a normal IBA ride where most of the time you are kicking back with the cruise soaking up the scenery. Great work guys, big effort!
Thanks Ollie for organising the ride and a huge thankyou for the volunteers who turned up in the cold to assist with the documentation and smiley faces throughout the day.
The SPOT track is a classic!