200 KM (150+ on gravel)
3000 M Elevation gain
Numbers can say a lot about a ride. They can make it sound ‘epic’ (trademark Rapha – 2004) or they can reduce a ride to data and graphs. They can obscure as much as they represent. It is thankful then that the inaugural Treadly Adventure Club (Est. 2014) ride was a decidedly more casual affair – an overnighter to the Murray River and back, taking in some of the picturesque roads-less-travelled between Adelaide and Mannum. The M.O. was to pack light and enjoy the ride. There was no race. We all go back to work on Tuesday.
The #Treadlyadventureclub met at Adelaide Railway Station at half-six on Sunday 21st of September, with the intention of catching the first train out to Gawler and riding on from there. There were six of us all up. Sam and Hamish work at Treadly Bike Shop. J.R. builds his own bikes (including two used on the ride). Tannon is a sparky and an academic. Phil I had never met before, but his 80s Look road bike had a 23-tooth small cog, so you can be assured he’s a hero. The train ride took the best part of an hour. Topics discussed included food security and what could be done with disused rolling stock. Occasionally we would talk about bikes.
Upon arriving in Gawler, we got our bearings and rode out of town to a rail trail that transitioned to a rolling mixed-use trail that wound its way up and down alongside the North Para River. The trail deposited us in downtown Tanunda, where we took in lunch at the Linder’s converted barn. The view consisted of a well-maintained garden, a docile cat, and an expansive lawn that backed onto the river. Tunes were supplied by an old portable LP player. Audio fidelity was irrelevant. Fruit, fresh-ground coffee, bacon and egg rolls and German cake were provided gratis. Wine was offered but unanimously declined by the group – the consensus being that the afternoon was already languid enough, and if we started drinking we’d stay there and not bother with the ride.
Well-fed and carb-loaded, we rode out of Tanunda for Mengler Hill – the first proper climb of the ride. It’s easy to paint hill climbing as Sisyphus’ Suffer-fest, but aside from the gradually rising temperature Mengler, and indeed all the other major climbs of the trip, were taken in the stride of the individual cyclist and ridden with élan. The ‘fast’ guys finished when they did and the ‘slow’ guys (raises hand) were never too far behind. The view from the top is worth the climb alone and shortly after the top we were on the first section of dirt for the ride. Already having a penchant for riding unsealed roads, I was happy with the change of surface. Furthermore, my ChroMo juggernaut soaked up the bumps far better than J.R. and Hamish’s spritely road bikes which I had been oh so jealous of minutes before on the climb.
The gravel roads took us further away from civilization and cars, and closer to nature and the spectacular scenery that we often take for granted (or overlook entirely) in SA. Shortly after hitting the gravel we were followed along the side of the road by a juvenile grey kangaroo, who seemed to enjoy trying to keep pace with the gently descending bunch. Undeterred by a tumble into an overgrown ditch, it shortly re-joined us on the other side of the road. It was around this point that the group settled into the pace it would maintain for the rest of the day – not slow, but hardly a team time trial either. Unsuccessful attempts to ride through farms and smiling at stink-eyed denizens of Eden Valley were punctuated by stops to eat and photograph sleepy lizards (and bikes). Sticking to the unsealed roads ensured the surroundings and the riding remained engaging. Peggy’s Hill road contains pretty much every variety of unsealed surface found between snow and lava. Rathjen Gap was actually like riding on Mars. Long Gully Road was more relentless than slightly-downhill hardpack has any right to be. Turns out bore water tastes like arse.
After what felt like the longest “almost there” in history, we arrived in Mannum and promptly located a supermarket to replenish with ice cream and San Pellgrino. Winding our way down towards our accommodation, we gleaned more than a few sideways glances from the locals, what with our dusty visages and stretchy euro clothes. Made us feel a bit like cowboys. Accommodation obtained, we parked our bikes on the upstairs verandah of the Mannum Hotel and changed for dinner. Sam went for a swim. We also met up with Dean. Dean was supposed to be our seventh rider. He managed to get the first train to Gawler (we ended up on the second) and made his own way to Mannum. He got up before any of us on day 2 and presumably made his own way back to Adelaide as well. Dinner was at the Pretoria Hotel, where Sam made a small profit thanks to a greyhound that could run faster than other greyhounds. I turned in early and presumably missed Sam shouting cognac and cigars courtesy of his winnings.
If the first day was characterised by rolling down through valleys to the river, then the second was all about gently punching our way back up to the Adelaide Hills. Day two was warmer, but the winds were also stronger, so once we were rolling we were saved from the worst of the heat. 80kph roads and the best/worst false flat ever brought us out of Mannum and back onto sweet vitamin G. The first ‘location’ we passed was a ‘town’ called Tektro errr I mean Tepko. This place (“like someone’s memory of a town”) consisted of little more than an ex-railway, a farmhouse (possibly inhabited) and livestock pasture. Perhaps a train used to stop here once…
Leaving Tektro, we slowly wound our way uphill. Did you know photographing old buildings on a bike ride is called #Fobblin? Neither did I, but it’s as much fun as it sounds (a lot). The group stopped at the top of a rise to ‘gram and feed. Phil had his first taste of energy gel and the long grass actually looked like a green ocean. We stopped to climb a rocky outcrop in the middle of someone’s paddock to take group photos and J.R. got to learn how to operate his camera via remote control.
The next part of the ride was up an old stock track through an abandoned farm the other side of Rockleigh. It was the hottest part of the day and the road was one of the steepest of the whole weekend. 20-something degrees felt like 30-somehting. Rocks felt like mountains. The mind goes to a different place and you find yourself grinding uphill somewhere between Simeon Stylites and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. This climb is burned more vividly into my memory than any other part of the weekend – an absolute highlight. A giant gum tree, a dam and one helluva view of Mount Beevor were the rewards at the top of the climb. SlipSlopSlap, a damp casquette and quick dip for J.R. and we we’re on our way again. Also, unlike bore water, dam water is perfectly potable. Aside from an encounter with a 6 foot ‘roo in what could best be described as an ‘attack crouch’ it was steady rolling through back paddocks for all. “What’s the word of the day?” “How’s J.R.’s carbon holding up?” “Is Hamish getting his 4G?” A laugh a mile.
The other side of Tungkillo saw the only “I think we were meant to turn back there” moment of the trip. A route diversion, a double-back and a shortage of water saw the Treadly Adventure Club looking for the quickest route to Mt. Torrens we could find. After a quick flat repair, necessitated by someone too cheap to throw away burnt-out tires, we were on a quick (paved!) descent into Mt Torrens to top up our water and glucose. A peek at a vintage bike in a storefront and it was uphill again to get onto the Amy Gillett Bikeway. After two days of almost exclusive gravel, the bikeway was a second wind afforded by infrastructure. Phil said it was like riding a travelator. He would know – he was in the drops and pushing the big ring all the way down to Charleston.
Sam’s lie about the route being “all downhill” til Little Italy was quickly exposed outside of Charleston, where we punched uphill again to meet Woodside Road to take us to Lobethal at or around the time school knocked off (oh bugger, cars. Remember those..?) Last food for the day at the bakery and it was up hill to Mawson Road. Special mention must go the Maniacal Magpie of Mawson Road, who flew into my head eight times and managed to knock my sunglasses off twice. I made sure to stop and shout at it as I didn’t want it to think I was riding away purely because of its attacks.
The bunch regrouped and were making more than acceptable time through Forrest range until J.R. decided to pull a whip-skid down a dirt track.
A line of black rubber and a shredded Vittoria were the reward for J.R. getting some #braaap. Unlike my flat caused by not replacing too-far-gone out tires, J.R. had managed to shred a new tire, as well as the tube. Some creative tire booting and a few attempts at getting the tire and tube to stay up were punctuated by conversation about how good the skid and subsequent detonation were - end result notwithstanding.
Tire repaired and spirits rejuvenated, we headed down Blockers Road, which is actually quite pleasant to go down. Sam stopped to pick some flowers. Turns out “Road Closed” sighs have almost no implications for the bicycle. Knott’s Hill/Pound Road was dispatched at each riders own pace. The cooler afternoon, the separation from other riders and the knowledge that home was just a Norton Summit away made for a nice moment to contemplate the weekend, where we’d been and what we’d seen. Turns out there’s a waterfall there too. The descent down Norton Summit Road was the last bit of fun before we went our separate ways and began the grind through the burbs to get home. It was warmer at sea level and it took a few blocks to get used to traffic and red lights again I said goodbye to Tannon a few blocks from mine, and rolled through the empty backstreets, pleasantly distracted by memories of the weekend and plans to do it all again somewhere else sometime soon.
Overall, the inaugural Treadly Adventure Club ride could be considered an outstanding success and, personally, was an enlightening and eye-opening experience. A massive thank you has to go to Sam and Hamish for planning the thing, the Mannum Hotel for graciously accommodating us and our bikes, and the Linders for putting on the literally wonderful lunch on day one. With a little preparation, what we did is entirely possible for anyone else to do and it would behove you to visit the lesser-seen parts of this wonderful state by bicycle.
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About the author.
Henry Veitch is a slightly overweight self-described “bicycle derelict”. He enjoys shoehorning bikes and daytime drinking into almost every social activity he involves himself in.