“My page was too white
My ink was too thin
The day wouldn’t write
What the night pencilled in” Leonard Cohen
We always try and sit down a few days after the Newcastle Overnight ride and look back on the ride
The forecast in the week leading up to the ride was undoubtedly a tad on the grim side, 50mm of rain and thunderstorms forecast. After almost two years of lockdowns, cancelled cycling events and other covid restrictions, we took the view that it would take more than a bit of bad weather to nudge us into another Saturday night on the couch.
On the Friday and Saturday before the ride however the forecast improved and it was a very pleasant surprise to ride to dinner at York Lane Bar and then stand at Observatory hill above the city lights with barely a drop of rain. There was a pretty undeniable tailwind pretty much the whole way, it was easy to forget about it and just kid yourself that you were pedaling unassisted. Turning the corner for the last few hundred metres into the baths heading into the wind was a rude shock and a reminder that really the ride was very kind to us this year.
We hit 335 people registered which we believe may well be a record for us. Exactly how many of those foolishly stayed home we do not know, but the crowd at Observatory Hill certainly seemed pretty sizable.
A combination of the weather forecast and some organisational hiccups meant we needed to pull the plug on the second tea Stop At Budgewoi. This is always a hard one with riders spread between about 1am and 7am, a difficult location and a long drive for Volunteers. In hindsight it was a good idea to pull it as most riders rode through Budgewoi in moderate rain and a steady tailwind, we suspect few would have been inclined to stop for long in the slim shelter of a roadside marque.
As it was, the Ocean Baths Cafe was open from about 4:30am doing a busy trade. We truly appreciate them opening early for us as there is always a degree of incredulity when we ring to discuss our ride plans. While the number of riders going for a dip in the pool was a little low this year, it is quite understandable as the majority were thoroughly soaked already.
As always there were a couple of odd stories from the night and we would feel remiss not to share some.
We generally discourage riders from going hammer and tongs on the ride as it puts them in Newcastle around 3am. Try as we might, we can’t convince the Newcastle Baths to open their cafe quite that early and generally speaking there is not a lot happening at the baths at that hour. This year however by some accounts the earliest riders found themselves interrupting a romantic rendezvous in the baths. The exact details of which will likely stay between the consenting adults and this first batch of speedy riders, but we as organisers are chalking it up as another reason to slow down and enjoy the ride.
A similar lesson was learned by a gent who was seen cycling furiously out of the Mt White tea stop chasing his mates who had departed off down the road. He reappeared a few minutes later saying, “Why hurry, it’s warm and dry here and there is food to eat”.
At the opposite end of the ride our applause goes to a hardy group of three women riding together who found themselves dealing with a flat tire and a stuck thru axle on the highway outside Newcastle around 7am. With heavy rain falling and the light of day bringing an increase in traffic, they were apparently spotted using a cycling shoe to hammer out the stubbornly stuck axle. When this failed A Woolworth delivery truck came to the rescue with a vague promise to deliver them somewhere closer to Newcastle. Only two could fit in the truck so one was left to ride solo. Of the two who went in the truck one rider appeared at the finish around 10:30 am and the other has not been seen.
We would like to tip our hats as organisers to the resilience of all these three women, the one left alone to ride on, the one who made it to the finish and the last woman who may well be happily munching away in the back of the grocery truck.
And somewhere in the middle we have to congratulate two gents in their early late 50s who despite never having ridden more than 60kms, tackled the ride on a pair of older mountain bikes. Starting from Lane Cove, and then rather unfortunately taking a wrong turn at Budgewoi (every year quite a few riders seem to take this unsanctioned detour) , their total ride was probably closer to 200km. A very good effort gents and proof that really the only prerequisites are a functioning bike and a modicum of fitness.
Standout riders in our most inappropriate bike awards have to go to Garth (an organiser) and his mate Pete on the home welded tall bikes. These garage creations, born out of lockdown frustration, made it all the way in surprisingly good time. Peter on the second tall bike was apparently so tired towards the end he couldn’t climb back on so had to stop only near handy mounting rails. While they may look precarious by all accounts they are very stable and have the added bonus of not needing mudguards as the water flung off the wheels doesn’t go high enough.
Also worth mentioning was a very keen bloke on a TokyoBike Mini Velo, a bike designed for Japanese apartment life and the grocery run. Apparently it was a moderately challenging bike to ride with its short wheelbase and limited gear range. Well done on making it to the finish and barely looking tired.
To wrap up, can we express our immense gratitude to everyone who turned up to ride, thanks for engaging with our slightly off the wall vision for a good time on a Saturday night.
Massive thanks also to our sponsors, Omafiets, York Lane Bar and K-Lite Dynamo Power.
The Winner of the Dynamo Wheel and Klite dynamo setup was a nice gent called Brent who has stoked to win such an awesome prize.
Photo Credit: Oliver Cashman, David Thompson, Jason Lynch.