Riding through the night – to Newcastle!

I recently did something a little mad, even by my standards:

I left Sydney in the evening and rode with 250 of my newest friends through the night to Newcastle.  That’s over 170 kms, with more than 2,000 m of climbing, taking over 10 hours.  You heard me right: riding right through the night.

It was the (in)famous Sydney-Newcastle Overnighter, ‘a slightly organised adventurous … ride’ held annually in November when the moon is full (www.newcastleovernight.com).

On the first leg, up the Pacific Highway to Hornsby, I drafted behind a guy on a fixie with a sidecar carrying… wait for it… a skeleton.  Ever conscious of safety, the skeleton was wearing hi-viz, of course.

We quickly spread out

We then met my favourite part of the ride: up the Old Pacific Highway from Berowra to Kariong, which is familiar to all those of us who do Bike North’s Return to Reptile Park ride.  The big difference here was that it was pitch dark.  No cars, no motorbikes, certainly no streetlights.  In one glorious stretch, I was alone with the dark forest on either side, the tailights of two cyclists about 50 m ahead of me and a sky full of stars.  Magic!

The moon peaked through the clouds

The twisting descent into Gosford was surprisingly benign; only one car passed me and in the dark you can see cars’ headlights for a long time before they reach you.  In fact, the whole stretch along the Central Coast Highway was very quiet, with a wide cycle lane.  It was easy just to tick off the kilometres.

Sleepiness hit me hard between 4am and 5am, especially as I was in a very dark stretch, with little visual stimulation to keep me alert.  I was revived with the coming of the dawn, a quick breakfast at a road-side bakery and the ever-delightful Fernleigh Track.

Would I do it again?  Next November is a long way away; ask me again when it gets closer.  I have been processing the whole experience, through the brain-fog of shattered sleep cycles and recovering muscles.  I feel inspired by the experience.  That’s the word: inspired.

In the deep quiet

Phill Hart