SWIFT CAMPOUT: TREADLY ADVENTURE CLUB
It's that time of year again, where our feeds are full of late sunsets, warm-looking nights and hot days. We're remembering our summer fondly, wishing for days that come January we'll be complaining about - but for now we just wish it wasn't so damn cold.
As has become tradition, Swift Industries organised a worldwide overnighter for the weekend following their summer (our winter) solstice. We took a digital pen to a digital map and traced some tiny, reddy-brown lines through the countryside and prayed to the gods of gradient that they'd be kind to our band of loaded-down explorers. We'd ridden about 20% of these roads before, and knew them at least to be worth the trip!
16 of us took a train North to the end of the line at Gawler, but not before we could cause some grief to the fine folk at Adelaide Metro who nearly saw fit to end a perfectly good weekend out before it'd started by not letting our last couple of riders on board - thankfully, we were all allowed to board the carriages. We headed straight out of town on arrival and quickly found ourselves in beautiful, rolling countryside and clean, crisp air.
We were all taken aback by how short our time on the bitumen was, and I think even more surprised that we found so much mud on those first few roads - one of which was nearly the undoing of one of our 25mm-tyre-clad friends! We headed up toward Tanunda but stopped short before taking Golf Links Rd back in the direction of Mt Pleasant - a beautifully smooth dirt road on a nice decline - and had to turn back for what turned out to be TWO mechanicals at once. A flat tube and a broken pannier were fixed up and we were on our way to Trial Hill Rd.
It was here that we found our first real test - the hardest climb of Day 1 and it was the last thing we had to do before lunch. A (thankfully) sealed climb to a stone-walled lookout that felt a little out of place surrounded by more lush green grass than we'd expected to see out here, Trial Hill is definitely on the list of roads to return to.
After regrouping at the Mt Pleasant Bakery and ploughing through nearly everything in the pie warmer (and then some) we made our way out toward two of the roads we'd heard much about - Gap Rd and Long Gully Track. These were to make up nearly all of the rest of our day, and after descending Davenport Rd (at what felt like it could've been break-neck speed had anything gone wrong) we found ourselves on the first of them - and it lived up to the hype. Odd, alien looking rock faces lined this road that wound its way around some lumpy hills and finally climbed up and over one, Gap Rd makes the list too.
While we're at it, add Long Gully to the list - it's incredible how fast you can go on a really slight descent when the road is perfectly smooth, hard-packed sand.
A night in Mannum meant taking the ferry across the Murray River to the campground after raiding the local Foodland for supplies, a big ol' fire and sleeping with your feet nearly in the river. We woke fresh and alert, with most of us having slept nearly ten hours (remember, the sun went down here at 5pm and didn't rise again until 7am). It was a hard slog to leave town, with the locals (ok, one local) doing his best to keep us around as long as we'd pat him.
We rode around the top of a houseboat-infested marina, and got back on the red stuff pretty soon after that, where we found the Lutheran influence of the Barossa region does stretch out East as well - makes for a good photo.
We spent a lot of time climbing up Black Heath Rd - a name we would become familiar with - before we found the much-awaited Pym Track. Sam had told us stories of Pym, its gentle ascent, its many gates, its beautiful view of the valley below Mt Beaver. He had neglected to tell us that the shortcut the map had on it was a private road, and so when we came to that sign we figured it mustn't be part of the route and it'd be at the next gate. Then the next. Soon we realised we were well and truly off course, and a plan was set in motion to regroup at Mt Torrens!
Mt Torrens General Store had closed a measly seven minutes before the first of us arrived, with three having left to head home a shorter, quicker way off the front. We regrouped as the skies darkened and decided to push on to Lobethal, where we knew we could refuel and perhaps reassess the two remaining climbs over the Lofty Ranges to get home.
The majority of the group made it to shelter just as I - a couple of minutes behind along with a couple more behind me - got hailed on for a grand total of about thirty seconds. Pretty drenched and with legs in need of still more of those pesky calories, we did the local supermarket a roaring trade in cans of coke, cornflake cookies and handfuls of those chocolate fruit bars you had when you were a kid (Bellis, if you're reading this, it's the choc apricot ones we like), and waited out the showers.
There was talk of skipping climbs and being boring, but common sense prevailed and we made our way up to Croft Rd for what might be the best half-hour of riding of my life to date. The clouds cleared and the sun shone through as we made our way along the rolling lumps of Mawson Rd, and it hung on just long enough for us to descend Blockers in one piece. We climbed out up Knotts Hill/Pound (pretty hard on a roadie on a good day if you ask me, so decidedly hard on a loaded touring bike after 80km of rolling hills) and skipped around to Norton Summit to descend Adelaide's favourite road in the dark.
After just over 200kms and with riders peeling off left right and centre to go home, five of us made it back to the shop just after 7pm, feeling a mixture of accomplished, exhausted, and just plain glad to be home.
Don't want to miss out on the next Treadly event? Grab a ticket to the annual Boucle de Burbs here!