What the hell was I thinking?
The Simpson Desert is hot, dry and full of sand. So why the hell would anyone want to ride a mountain bike across it?
For the challenge and to raise much needed funds for a needy charity. The Royal Flying Doctor Service.
The Simpson Desert Bike Challenge is a 5 day, staged mountain bike race across the Simpson Desert. One of the most remote places in Australia.
Here is what the official Fundraising pack says about the race:
The Simpson Desert Bike Challenge – it’s the ultimate adventure race.
On an average day in the Simpson Desert the temperature will rise from below 5 degrees to over 40 degrees Celsius in the shade. High winds and sandstorms travelling at over 50 km/hr add to the experience. Throw in over six hundred sand dunes, camels, dingos, and vast salt pans with no food, water or civilisation in sight and the Simpson Desert is one wild place. Then add forty intrepid cyclists racing for 590 kilometres across the Desert and what you have is the ultimate adventure race in Australia.
For those who crave the challenge of adventure racing, the Simpson Desert Bike Challenge is the ultimate. For the past twenty-one years, riders have lined up on the start line at Purni Bore on the western edge of the Simpson Desert with the goal of reaching the legendary Birdsville Hotel in outback Queensland. Throughout five days of searing heat, seemingly insurmountable sand dunes and countless pedal strokes, the Simpson Desert Bike Challenge is a huge mental and physical challenge.
Very few actually complete 100% of the race, but the lure of adventure and the beauty of the Australian Outback continues to draw athletes from across the country and around the globe each year.
The race has been staged every year since 1987 and usually runs from the end of September into early October. The following document outlines how you can become part of this extraordinary event.
While the Simpson Desert Bike Challenge is indeed a race, it is probably best described as a test of survival and tenacity. Very few athletes can expect to tame the elements of the Simpson Desert each year and only the mentally fittest and strongest athletes will complete 100% of the race.
The event is conducted over nine stages, comprising five morning stages of approximately 80 kilometres each and four afternoon stages of approximately 50 kilometres each.
Morning sessions start at 6.00am and the afternoon sessions depart camp at 2.00pm.
An average day at the SDBC can go something like this:
4.30AM Riders and Crews are woken by the Race Director (not a popular guy!)
5.30AM Support crews and official vehicles depart and travel to the stage finish.
5.45AM Riders weigh in with the Sweep
6.00AM Morning stage commences
12.20PM Morning stage cut-off time
1.30PM Support crews and official vehicles depart and travel to the stage finish.
1.45PM Riders weigh in with the Sweep
2.00PM Afternoon Stage Commences
6.00PM Afternoon stage cut-off time.
7.30PM Evening briefing and results announced.
9.00PM Generators and lights switched off.
This program is followed each day, except for the final day of the race where only a morning session is conducted.
The event starts at Purni Bore in South Australia and travels along an eroded track called “The Rig Road”. The finish of the event is the legendary Birdsville Hotel in Outback Queensland. Purni Bore is about two days drive from Adelaide and Alice Springs, three days from Sydney and Melbourne and four days from Queensland. Although the distances may look short on the map, the tracks are rough and slow going.
I will be preparing myself mentally and physically for the event and will post updates along the way.
Throughout the race, riders must maintain a minimum speed requirement of 12 km/hr across the sand and desert tracks.
Should riders fail to average this speed, they will be caught by the pursuing Sweep vehicle and transported to the stage finish. Riders are not disqualified from the event if they are caught by the Sweep; however they will incur a time penalty and cannot qualify for 100% completion of the event. Water Stops providing water, shade and medical assistance are located at every 20 kilometre mark along the course in the morning and at 15, 30 and 40 kilometre marks in the afternoon.
During racing stages, all riders must be completely self sufficient. Each rider must have a support crew, who transport all water, food, cycling equipment, camping gear and any other items during the event. On average a competitor will consume approximately 100 litres of water throughout the race.
While the SDBC may seem to be an extreme event to many, it is not classified as an extreme sport. The nature of extreme sport is that the element of risk is the primary factor. While elements of risk are evident in the SDBC, they are not the sole reason for participation. With this in mind, the SDBC has strict policies on fluid consumption, weight loss and food intake. A team of doctors travel with the event for its entirety, with the Royal Flying Doctor Service also available in the case of emergency. Riders failing to meet the strict standards applied by the race management incur time penalties and even disqualification.
I am also raising money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Established in 1928 and developed on a national basis in the 1930s, the Service soon provided not only emergency medical aid to the people of the Inland, but also a comprehensive health care and community service.
The development of the Inland was in many ways made easier by the presence of the Flying Doctor. Previously, serious illness or accident often meant death and the Inland holds many graves of people who might have lived had they been able to receive medical aid quickly enough.
The late Sir Robert Menzies, Former Prime Minister of Australia 1939-41 & 1949-66, once very aptly said that the Flying Doctor Service represented the "greatest single contribution to the effective settlement of the far distant back country that we have witnessed in our time..."
The RFDS was the first comprehensive aerial medical organisation in the world and to this day remains unique for the range of primary health care and emergency services it provides and for the huge area of sparse population and climatic extremes over which it operates - 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Riders take it upon themselves to gain individual sponsorships from families, friends and work colleagues and raise funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. This is not a compulsory exercise however many athletes and volunteers choose to undertake this activity as it provides another element to the race and an additional level of satisfaction to their participation.
If you are keen to come along for the journey, follow the blog and I'll keep you posted.
More information about the race is here Simpson Desert Bike Challenge