A weekend cycling trip to Toodyay provides a taste of adventure that's worth relishing.
Jack Thompson is unlike most Perth cyclists in that he despises the monotony of regular bike routes. He seeks more rugged paths — and journeys full of unknowns.
Last year, aged 27, he quit his job as a project manager to pursue his passion full time, planning and completing cycling adventures. He’s ridden across Europe and Taiwan, the length of Japan, across the Nullarbor and across the Chinese Himalayas, in stretches of more than 900km over almost two days.
It would not be unusual for Jack to roll out of his Claremont home at 3.30am for a casual ride to Pinjarra or even Yallingup.
When the chance came up to gain an insight into what it is like for Jack during long days in the saddle I jumped at it.
Jack is hosting a series of adventure weekends around WA and even the world. The first was from Perth to Toodyay and back in December.
He limited the ride to six guests, feeling this the perfect number, so that he can interact with all the riders.
I must admit to some trepidation, especially when I found out all the other riders would be men. But nothing was going to stop me.
Jack sent us all a two-day suggested packing list, including spare tubes, tools, clothes, sunscreen and toiletries. We were staying overnight in accommodation in Toodyay, so wouldn’t need camping equipment and a bike-packing saddlebag strapped to the back of my seat held everything I needed, weighing 3.2kg. I thought about the “real adventurers” who needed to be self-sufficient for weeks on end.
When the day came to set off, I felt like a kid before a camp and excited about riding my bike all weekend with others who loved doing the same.
We met at a cafe in Perth and after some introductions headed east — out of town and towards the hills. At Swan View, we switched from the road to gravel tracks, letting some pressure out of our tyres.
Having barely ridden my road bike on anything other than tarmac surfaces before, it took a few minutes (and overcoming some fear) to get used to gravel under my tyres. We were on gravel for the next 10km or so before our first stop, Mount Helena.
The next leg was considerably tougher, alternating between bitumen and gravel with some climbing to test our legs. We stopped at the Bakers Hill Pie Shop for a well-earned lunch — by that point, 90km in, we were starving. The heat was increasing and, with food in our bellies and 60km to go to Toodyay, we knuckled down and rode on.
All my fears leading up to the ride disappeared as we got further into our journey. Despite the strong guys, the pace was not too fast and the gravel fun.
The stretch to Toodyay was even harder than the second leg, as the heat bore down, punctures were plentiful and water was scarce, but we rolled into town mid-afternoon, heading straight to the supermarket for food.
We spent the afternoon and early evening at the Toodyay pub, swapping stories and getting to know one another in a relaxed setting. But an early night was in order and it was lights out by 9pm.
We woke up to near winter conditions. Had the season changed overnight? Rain had bucketed down in the early hours, so the roads were wet and the skies cloudy. “It’s all part of the adventure,” Jack grinned.
We left Toodyay at 7.30am after a bakery breakfast, heading back to Perth on a different route, with no gravel. The climb out of town took its toll, riders asking: “Will it flatten out soon?” The scenery was breathtaking as we rode the rolling hills of Toodyay and into Chittering.
Jack took us to an orange orchard in Chittering about 50km into our 110km ride home, where we drank fresh orange juice and stretched our legs.
The cooler conditions were a lot more conducive to riding but I felt a strange fatigue setting in after about 70km. My legs were fine, but my brain was trying to switch off.
My lethargy, which I eventually overcame with lollies and conversation, took my thoughts to true ultra-endurance cyclists. It is not uncommon for riders to hallucinate during long hours on the bike, and to get to a point of such exhaustion that concentrating becomes near impossible. They push their bodies and minds to the absolute limit.
It put my little adventure into perspective. It was a speck in an ocean, but one worth relishing.
We rolled into Guildford about lunchtime and with a sense of accomplishment we sat at a cafe, ate and reflected on the weekend we had shared, before the group splintered off on their own journeys home.
Me? I was exhausted but content.
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