What is the Indian Pacific Wheel Ride?

Before we talk about the Indian Pacific Wheel Ride we must first talk about the 2017 Indian Pacific Wheel Race.

The Race

The brains behind the race was Jesse Carlsson, co founder of Melbourne-based Curve Cycling, a manufacturer of specialist road, mixed surface  and off road adventure bikes, predominantly made  out of titanium. “Brains” is the right word, Jesses holds a PHD in theoretical physics but he is also a world class bike racer. He was a BMX age-group world champion before developing a passion for ultra distance cycling and subsequently came second in the 2013 Tour Divide, a 4,418 kilometre (2,745 mile) solo, unsupported mountain bike / off road race along the Continental Divide from Banff in Canada to the Mexico border (yep, its on the bucket list!!), and won the 2015 6,800 kilometre (4,200 mile) Trans America Bike Race, another self supported ultra in the US, from the west coast to the east coast.

At the time Self Supported Ultra distance road racing was in its infancy. The Trans Am was coming into its 4th year and the Trans Continental, another road based event across Europe, its 5th. Without putting words into Jesse’s mouth I assume that he wanted to bring the concept to cycling mad Australia. He was particularly inspired by the “Overlanders” – early adopters of the bicycle in the late 1890’s to early 1900’s who cycled across and around Australia in search of fame and fortune, riding out into the unknown not knowing if they would have enough food and water. Newspapers covered their epic rides, and the Overlanders were often welcomed by large crowds as they passed through towns and cities. They earned large sums from bicycle manufactures keen to show off the speed and sturdiness of this news means of transport.

In fact one of the tag lines for the event used to attract entrants was “Is the Overlander in You?”

The Route

As Jesses explains in the following video the route was designed not to provide an opportunity to set a cycling record from Fremantle to Sydney, rather the opportunity for adventure by taking in 4 very distinct “phases” across the Australian Continent:

  1. The Nullarbor Plain,
  2. The rolling hills of the South Australia wine growing region,
  3. The Great Ocean Road, and
  4. The Australian Alps.

…while not avoiding the larger cities, rather heading directly though the centres of Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney as the Overlanders did back in the day.

The Story of the 2017 Race

70 intrepid cyclists departed South Mole Light House, Fremantle at 6am on Saturday March 18, 2017. It was a field of dramatically varying experience and ability levels but all united in a love of riding far and adventure. Top Billing was the head to head between the 2 most accomplished self supported ultra distance racers of the time (and arguably of all time), Mike Hall from the UK and Kristof Allegaert from Belgium. This inaugural Indi Pac would be the first time they had raced each other.

Heartbreakingly, 14 days later Mike who was coming second behind Kristof was hit by a car and killed 500 kilometres from the finish in Sydney on the Monaro Highway, south of Canberra.

The whole story is told beautifully in the unofficial documentary, The Journey To The Other Side which you can access via the YouTube video below. (Apparently the mobile version may not be viewable in certain countries)

The Ride

There was a subsequent coronial inquest into Mike Hall’s death and the Indian Pacific Wheel Race organisers were unable to play a role in organising or promoting the race while it was in session. From 2018 the race has continued in an unofficial capacity and organsied via a Facebook Group; https://www.facebook.com/groups/IPWR.DW. It is now referred to as the Indian Pacific Wheel Ride.

Each year at 6:22am (the time Mike Hall’s GPS tracker stopped in 2017) there is a minutes silence, honouring Mike’s  memory at the start line at the South Mole Lighthouse in Fremantle before the ride commences.

At the time of writing it is just under 10 days to the start of the 2023 edition…….I’ll be there!!

To give you a feeling for the ride here is a video put together by John Pearson, aka Binky Farmbush who competed strongly in the 2021 ride.

The Rules

Although the ride now has unofficial status the basic rules and ethics of Self Supported bike racing remain, although perhaps not as stringently enforced as there is no central organiser. To give you an idea of these rules please refer below which I have copied and pasted from https://www.indianpacificwheelrace.com/rules:

1. Ride the full route under your own power.

  • This means that any deviation from the route not due to road or trail closures will exclude a rider from the General Classification. No exceptions. Navigation is part of the challenge.
  • Riders may ride any type of human-powered bike. E-bikes of any sort, even if charged through dynamo power, are not permitted.
  • It is fine to go off course to resupply or for emergency reasons (mechanical or medical). Riders must return to the exact point of departure from the route to recommence their ride and not miss even a meter of the race route.
  • The race will be tracked through an online tracking service, using rider supplied GPS tracking devices (SPOT, or similar). Final placings will be based on GPS tracking data and racers will not be included in final results if a tracker is not used. Riders are responsible for ensuring the correct use of their tracking devices. Riders with devices that are switched off or not active for long periods may be excluded from the final results.
  • Riders must ensure their tracking devices (SPOT or other) are operating correctly at all times. Riders should realise that turning off a tracking device could be seen as a way of hiding behaviour that is against the rules. If a rider’s tracking device is not functioning then that rider should be extra diligent in collecting records to prove their location at all times. This could take the form of photographs at key intersections, keeping Garmin (or other) tracking files for later proof, collecting receipts at resupply points, etc. Riders should be concerned about proving their location at all times.

2. No drafting.

  • Inevitably a rider may travel at the same pace as another rider. When riding together riders should ride side-by-side.
  • Riders should recognise that riding in a group, even when not drafting, is significantly easier than riding solo. Riders will be asked to declare the extent of group riding after the event and this data may accompany the final results.

3. Accept no help that others couldn’t also receive along the way.

  • This means no support from team cars, friends or family. Serendipitous support offered unexpectedly by race fans along the route can be accepted within reason. Encounters with such “trail angels” add to the experience of these events. Each rider will have to live with their own decisions in this regard (accepting some water is fine, maybe a rider is comfortable accepting a small amount of food, but accepting private lodging is a step too far).
  • Use the available commercial services – restaurants, service stations, motels, etc. Supporting local businesses in small towns is the right thing to do. If offers of large amounts of food or shelter are made by trail angels, politely decline – it is the right thing to do on a self-supported adventure. It is fine for a trail angel to OFFER small amounts of food or water but never ASK a trail angel for food or water and definitely not shelter. If you want to sleep inside find something that is available to ALL riders – not a trail angel’s couch, floor or caravan.
  • Using any form of social media to broadcast requests for help is forbidden. By all means riders may contact commercial services through whichever channel they like but having social networks help source assistance while in the field is not in the spirit of self-sufficiency.
  • Riders are responsible for finding food, water, accommodation, laundry, bike store services and anything else they may need along the way. Any service utilised must be available to all riders.
  • Friends and family are welcome to visit riders during the race to offer encouragement but they must not offer any material support of any kind.

4. Do not make race arrangements or bookings before the race begins.

  • No mailing supplies or equipment ahead. Shipping supplies or equipment ahead to Post Offices or other businesses is not permitted. This is not in the spirit of self-support. If a rider wants to change clothes at the halfway point they will need to carry spare clothes or purchase them along the way.
  • Riders must not book services to be used in the race before the race starts. This includes accommodation, bike services or making any arrangements along the route with commercial services. Accommodation and other services may be booked ahead once the race begins.
  • Riders should always act in the interest of equal opportunity. Bookings for services should only be made if they are definitely going to be used. For example, booking a room removes the opportunity for someone else to book that room. Only book services that you know you will definitely use.

5. No doping.

The IPWR takes a zero tolerance position towards doping in sport. Doping goes against the spirit of integrity and fairness to all, that self-supported ultra-endurance racing relies on. The IPWR follows the Cycling Australia Anti-Doping Policy (available here, at the time of publication: http://www.cycling.org.au/Anti-Doping-Policy-Information).

6. You must be visible on the road and have sufficient lights to ride safely at night.

  • You must comply with the following light and visibility requirements:
    • Two independent front lights and two independent rear lights must be available for use (i.e. attached to the bicycle or carried). The front light must be white. The rear light must be red;
    • Independent means that both front lights cannot be powered from the same source. Likewise both rear lights cannot be powered from the same source. The same source can power one front light and one rear light.
    • One of each front and rear light must be fixed to the bicycle or to a secure accessory (eg a rack or saddle bag);
    • Between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. (local time) or at times of low visibility at least one front light (of fixed beam – not flashing) and one rear light must be illuminated;
    • A rear red reflector must be permanently fixed to the bicycle. Note that the rear reflector may be part of a rear light;
    • A reflective ankle strap on each ankle must be worn at all times;
    • Strips of reflective tape must be applied to crank arms and seat stays;
    • An acceptable reflective upper-body garment (most commonly a vest) must be carried and must be worn between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. (local time) or at times low visibility. The reflective garment must be worn over the top of all garments;
    • Acceptable reflective upper-body garments will use retroreflective materials (reflects light from all angles) which are at least 10 mm wide and placed horizontally across the front and back of the rider, or from the shoulder to the waist or have a reasonable amount of retroreflective material on the front and back.
    • Reflective piping alone is not considered sufficient.
    • It is strongly recommended that riders use reflective upper-body garments adhering to Australian Standard AS/NZS 4602.1:2011 class N, which require at least 50 mm wide retroreflective material strips, amongst other requirements.
  • Further recommendations:
    • It is strongly recommended that riders wear bright coloured jerseys;
    • It is strongly recommended that riders use multiple rear lights, mounted at different locations (eg chainstay, helmet and saddle bag) during times of low visibility; and
    • It is strongly recommended that riders add reflective tape or stickers to their bikes and helmets, and attach reflective straps to their bags to assist with visibility from behind.

7. Race to protect yourself and the future of all unsupported races.

  • Do not bring the race, or unsupported racing, into disrepute. This will jeopardise my ability (and the ability of others), and compromise my desire, to stage races in future.
  • I can’t list all possible ways that you would do this. Unfortunately you are probably more creative than I am. This is my catch-all “don’t be a doofus” rule, which will allow me to remove you from the race if I decide I need to.
  • Examples of violations of this rule include: breaking road rules, the Chief Instigator receiving a complaint about a rider from the general public or police, littering, etc
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