Indian Pacific Wheel Race – Lessons Learned

Well what sort of Lessons Practitioner would I be If I didn’t include some of report on my lessons learned from the IPWR. There are some general observations and a review of my equipment.

If you have arrived here without reading the full story, I can recommend you do so first, otherwise it is a bit like watching the credits to a movie, without watching the movie.

Indian Pacific Wheel Race – Part One Fremantle to Mundrabilla

Indian Pacific Wheel Race – Part One Mundrabilla to Adelaide

Indian Pacific Wheel Race – Part Two Adelaide to Melbourne

Indian Pacific Wheel Race – Part Three Melbourne to Sydney

The general observations are in no particular order

March (horse) flies –  You need to be wary of these little buggers across the Nullarbor. They can be very annoying and they bite. If you are planning to sleep roadside during the day you will certainly need to take this into account.
Recommendation: Carry some insect repellent, the bushman’s brand I carried proved highly effective in deterring them.

Broken spokes – It doesn’t matter how good the brand of wheels are or how light you are, spoke will break, prepare yourself. I watched Brad’s DT Swiss wheels slowly disintegrate across the Nullarbor. As one spoke breaks it places greater pressure on the rest, increasing the likelihood of additional failures.
Recommendation: Noting that with most wheel sizes you will have three different lengths of spokes. Front, Rear drive side and Rear non-drive side.  Just carry 3 of the longest required spokes, in an emergency you can usually make the longer spoke fit into a smallest length required.  Also consider taping the spare spokes to your rear stay so they packed out of the way.

Drying clothes – This is a great tip to get your lycra dry overnight when staying at a motel. After washing them, wring them out much as possible. Lay a towel on the floor, then lay the wet lycra on the towel. Roll up the towel tightly with the clothing inside. Then stomp on the bundle trying to compress the towel as much as possible. This squeezes excess water out of your clothes and into the towel. Then hang the Lycra out as normal. I found this got it almost dry if not completely dry but certainly dry enough to wear the next day.

Racing line on the road – This is a tricky one because you need to trade safety for speed. I found riding on the right side of the white line that marks the shoulder of the road is much quicker. The shoulder of the road is quite rough whereas on the right side of the line the road is much smoother from the traffic. At times I found it up to 3-5km/hr quicker, multiple that by 10 hours on the bike and you have just got yourself at least an extra 30kms for the day.

Communications with friends and family – One frustration I had was every time I stopped and turned my phone off flight mode I would be bombarded with text messages from friends and family. Often asking the same question
Recommendation: Consider establishing a point of contact to channel your communications through, so you only have to answer questions once or set clear guidelines about when and how people should contact you.

Riding at night – At night on the country roads approaching traffic will usually have its high beams on, this can be even painful if a roadtrain doesn’t dim its lights. Avoid looking into the lights, I would focus on the side white line so I could look down away from the lights but still be aware of my road position. Consider closing one eye so the approaching light doesn’t completely destroy your night vision.

Know where your stuff is and packed – When you are tired or its dark you don’t want to be scratching around trying to find stuff. I had three discreet storage areas on the bike. The top bag was for stuff I needed while riding. The frame bag was stuff I might need for a short stop. Saddle bag was for long stops. As an example I always kept my power bank on the right hand side of my frame bag and sunscreen on the left.

Waterproofing and charging devices –  This was a big gotcha for me, keeping my phone charging when it got wet. Even though the Samsung 7 is water proof, it will not charge if the USB port gets moisture in it, which as it turns out, is easy to do. If I was do it again I would consider looking for an inductive (wireless) cradle of some sort to mount to the bike.

Plan for tomorrow  – There is no point riding into the night if when you stop you don’t have any food. For me it was always thinking about my next day, think about your arrival times, how big is the town you’re arriving at, what is likely to be open. I can’t stress this enough. It’s a long race which will not be won in a day, play the long game.

Sleeping bag liner – If you are using an emergency bivvy bags to save weight, consider getting a sleeping bag liner, a silk one will take up very little room and will make the bivvy bag infinitely more comfortable. Because of the foil lining there is a tendency for it to be very clammy in the bag.The liner helps absorbs the moisture.

A Checklist – Build yourself a check list of equipment you plan to use and then refine it with every training ride you do. Why? Because on the day you start packing to leave, you’ll have a million things running through your head. The check list will be your friend and make sure nothing gets left behind. Trust me on this.

Larger Shoes – Due to the long hours and heat there is a good chance your feet will swell. As happened to me, this was so bad it resulted in nerve damage which I felt months later. Consider getting shoes a half size bigger to allow for this, The shoes I ended up didn’t feel as rigid as my regular Sidi shoes, but they where comfortable over the long distances.

Reflective stickers for frame – Its common and for races you maybe required to apply reflective stickers/tape to your bike to increase your visibility. There’s only one problem with this, which you discover after the race. If you use the thin foil reflective stickers it is bloody difficult to remove. It’s taken me months to scrap it off. Recommendation: Apply a layer of insulation tape down first, then apply the reflective sticker to the tape. This will make it much easier to remove.


I’ve only listed the equipment worth commenting on. A full list of my inventory can be found here.

Crank set: Sram Red 175mm 53-39t – No issues but would consider changing the 39 to a 36. I wouldn’t consider a compact crank set but is purely because of pedalling style. On many occasions I found myself comfortably pushing a 53-11 gearing, anything less and I would have spinning and when your legs are tired that can be hard to do.

Tyres: Continental GP4000s II – Not one puncture so really happy with the tyres. Had a rear tyre change after about 4000k in Melbourne but could have made it on one tyre.

Saddle: Brooks Cambium C13 158mm wide – Just awesome, I can’t stress how good this saddle was. Initially there was some discomfort but after about day 3 I don’t recall having any saddle soreness

Handlebars: 3T with aero bars and Di2 controllers – This is a definite recommend, having the Di2 controllers on the aero bars just made life so much easier at times. Even when it is flat there will always be little rises and drops. The Di2 controllers just meant you could make these small adjustments without having to change your position on the bike.

Ay up lights – Very happy with the performance of the lights. The lights were bright enough on the low setting meaning I was getting good life from the batteries.

Garmin edge 520 – Performed well, synced all my data daily without issues until it died. KUDOS to Garmin Australia for replacing the unit even though it was out of warranty.

Garmin Varia radar – In the end probably didn’t use this as much as I thought, especially across the Nullarbor you had such good line of sight you could see trucks coming from miles away. At night it was even further. The battery life wasn’t great so it become another thing I had to charge during the day. That said I remember using it on the section from Nelson to Portland where you didn’t have good line of sight and the logging trucks where coming thick and fast.

Wired headphones – Next time I would consider using bluetooth headphones. The number of times I got tangled in the cord was frustrating.

Powerbank 20,000 mAh quick charge compatible – Worked extremely well, supported all my devices for days. Being quick charge compatible meant it would charge quickly and charge my phone quickly. I would definitely take this again over a solar charging unit.

Travel towel –  one of the few things I never used. Mainly because if you stay in motel they supply a towel, if you are sleeping rough, you don’t need one.

Bivvy bag & Silk sleeping bag liner – As previously mentioned, I consider the liner a must have.

Backsack – An absolute must have for carrying extra food when required. I would use this on a daily basis but the nice thing is when not in use, it takes up very little room.


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