Like Rob, a Super Series was on my list of things to do this year. After the weekend’s Brutal but Fair, I’ve now completed it.

BbF 600 had 18 starters; a record for a Sydney 600 I'd say and it was not without incident.

I teamed up with the guys I’d be rooming with in Muswellbrook and we planned to ride it together. The aim was to complete it by 6pm Sunday i.e. within 36 hours and about 1.5 hrs quicker than when I last rode this course in 2011.

Unfair ... Geoff had 2 rear flats before Kulnura putting behind us schedule.

Brutal ... I had a front tyre blow out on the descent near Lemming Corner. Had a choice of hitting the guard rail or dropping the bike. Went for the latter. Couple of chunks of skin gone and some grazing but otherwise ok. Front tyre a write off. Used a tyre boot to get it to Wollombi where fortunately the support car with my bag and spare tyre was waiting. Left Wollombi over an hour behind our 2011 schedule!  So much for making up time.

Fair ... tail wind up the valley to Wollombi and Cessnock

Brutal … some of the hills before and after Dungog eg the Wallarobba Hill, only 600m but 11% @ 260kms and Bingleburra 5.3kms at 5.1%.

Fair … felt pretty good leaving Dungog and I rode the hills strongly, rather than wait for the others at the top of the hills, I decided to ride to East Gresford where I could put more clothes on under the lights and shelter of a shop awning. Waited 25mins for the others and they hadn’t appeared, so I flagged down a car driver coming from the same direction. He said he hadn’t seen any cyclists and had driven 10kms into town on the stretch of road from Dungog. Gave up waiting and rode on by myself.

Unfair ... leaving Singleton discovered that the lever to change the rear gears down had given up. Rode with a choice of 52×25, 39×25 & 30×25 to Muswellbrook. I let the derailleur out a little to move the chain to the 23 cog before starting the next morning (having considered the 21 but wary of already having 300+ kms in the legs, the couple of short steepish climbs out of Muswellbrook and the long climb to The Letter A/Kulnura I decided to take the conservative approach). I was able to average about 23km/h to Wollombi. Having managed the climb to the Letter A comfortably, I adjusted the gearing to the 21 at Kulnura. In hindsight I should have opted for the 21 at the start and then 19. I finished just before 6:30pm, only 30 mins later than my original plan.

I had thought if there was a prize for perseverance, I’d win it for riding 300kms with only 3 gears … that was until I came across Howard Dove having a rest about 2km short of the top of the climb to The Letter A. I thought he had been cramping as he was stopped and stretching his legs but no, he was riding without a saddle. His seat post had broken about 10km north of Wollombi. He rode the last 120kms with no saddle!

Howard told me as we sort of rode together (up or down hills we couldn’t easily stay together but when flat we could) that Si was out having broken a rib. Which I thought odd as he’d been right behind me as we crossed over the plank bridge shortly prior to Wollombi. I checked behind as we went up the short hill after the bridge to make sure he was safely over and then continued up over the hill expecting him to catch me as once over about 30km/h I could only coast. Never saw him again.

Anyway Howard subsequently got another message and corrected the incident to a cracked rim. No doubt Si can fill in the details.

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well done Garry, all sounds brutal to me.

BTW, Howard had a cracked seat post on his bike on last weeks Wing it West 300, same bike/seat post?

Different bike, last time it was his Colnago, this time it was on his Ti frame.  Unbelievably, he had a spare seat and seat post in his overnight bag but that was still in Muswellbrook as the support car was broken down.

You did say audax is meant to be a grand adventure. I think your ride demonstrates that pretty well. Good on you. And thanks for the report.

Rim, not rib (which would have been worse). I think it was the hole that you shouted "Hole" when I was behind you and couldn't manoeuvre out of the way of it in time, but then it could have been just wear and tear as it has seen a fair few  kms on crappy roads. 

Then again, maybe it was the pick-a-plank...?

Bad luck Si, was wondering where you'd gone until Kath and Ian stopped for a leak in Wollombi and picked up all the goss. BTW, how did you get home?

So impressed with Howard, a real stand out.

I was happy with my first 600, finished a bit behind Howard and Garry, but 36 hours was better than I dared hope. Legs a bit stiff today and achilles suffered over final 100 km. That stretch from Wollombi to Kulnura certainly qualifies as Brutal, especially with all the revheads on motorbikes doubling the speed and/or decibal limit.

Putting two and two together... Now I know who you are!!

Yeah, bummer. Writing a blog about it at the mo. My wife came and picked me up. We drove past almost everyone on the way home - except Howard, Gary and the youngsters far away at the front. Even stopped at Calga to make sure Ian and Katherine were ok, they were fixing a puncture. You looked to focused to hear the "Allez! Allez!" I shouted out the window while waving when we passed you.

I'm not too annoyed about it. There was plenty of opportunity for it to have happened outside of mobile range and it didn't. I also did not have to suffer up the climb to Kulnura and then have to DNF. Most importantly, I still got experience of a multi-day audax ride and the logistical challenges and, not least, 495km is not that shabby an effort anyway.

I had already decided that Syd-Mel is off for me. I was worried about the Kulnura climb so a full second day of proper Alpine is something I might not be up to yet.

Anyway, thanks for the loan of the USB cable (life saving!) and good work on finishing. 36 hours is good!

So you were the hoon with the bike on top?

Yes, the Kulnura climb was certainly the Brutal bit. My achilles is still reminding me. It suffered from about halfway between Wollombi and Kulnura.

Only done two work commutes this week, at a leisurely pace. Might have a quiet weekend.

Still quietly positive about Sydney–Melbourne. Depends how much riding I can get in while in France.

Glad you aren't too disappointed.

Well done Garry. So now I know what you guys put yourselves through. Totally bonkers, but a great sense of achievement. Thanks to all those who gave tips regarding charging lights and Garmin. Bought a VEHO Pebble mini ($59) which packed plenty of punch for both, kept the Garmin backlit at night and did not reset it. 

Sounds like Dads Army out there. Is it going on Strava?

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