Come Highway or Gravel Strewn Byway

The idea was simple but the challenge was tough. Two RCC Chapters, from Sydney and Melbourne, would ride over two days from their respective cities to the start line of the Dirty 130 at the Gears and Beers Festival in Wagga Wagga.

I first heard about the RCC Melbourne pilgrimage to the Dirty 130 ten weeks before the event. And whilst it sounded amazing, it was also one of those adventures that could easily be flipped into the ‘too big’ basket. The challenge was to ride 380 km over two days from Seymour, some 100km north of Melbourne, to Rutherglen and then from Rutherglen to Wagga Wagga, in New South Wales. To ensure that we finished in daylight each day the average speed had to hover around of 30 km/hr. Some task. Why Wagga Wagga? Because the journey was only the beginning, real reason to ride was to line up on Sunday 2nd October at the start of the Dirty 130.

The tests began early – a weather system bringing cold air and heavy rain, flooding, fallen trees, delayed bikes. We all knew what that lost time would mean a higher than anticipated average speed, shorter stops, and potential route changes. But we would get to our destination because not doing so was never an option.

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The memories are already a blur, but I can tell you that the sight and smell of the canola fields took me back to my childhood growing up on a farm, that the first time I rode through ankle deep, cold water I was incredibly nervous and I soaked my shoes. I remember thinking that riding on gravel reminded me that road bikes really should get dirty and I recall that when one of us was having a ‘down’ spot there was always a helping hand to giving you a gentle and timely push, or to offer words of encouragement. An experience shared, a destination in mind and a dash of magic. And all this before the real ride began.

The ride - riding the Dirty 130

by Kat Carter

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There was an amazing hum of energy on the start Dirty 130 – everyone around me ready for an adventure. And then came the news, “the course is flooded, let the adventure begin”…

To get here I had ridden out of my skin from Melbourne – refuelled by the excitement around what lay ahead but with serious doubts about how much more my legs had left in them.

“It is not a race”… these words rang through my head at various times through the day as I picked what looked like the best line through gravel and puddles and chuckled to myself – ‘who are they kidding?’

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We set off in chase, a good wheel giving me a clean run out of town and through the first of many water crossings. But as the sealed tarmac gave wave to gravel, the ride (not race) blew open. Dirt will test even the best bike riders and any orderly lines and predictable riding quickly disappeared. But working together with those who just seconds ago were strangers, led us back onto the hard (sealed) stuff.

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A pause with fresh watermelon, Anzac cookies and cake and then more gravel, mud and water – a clean bike had become a dirty bike, noisy bike. And then the finish loomed and the talk was of rewards for our effort – a few beers, a clean bike, new kit; all great suggestions but my vote went to let’s do this again next year.