Cairns to Karumba Bike Ride
Pack riding tips
Here are some basic tips that will allow you to have both a safe and enjoyable ride, each and every day on the road from Cairns to Karumba.
How it all works
Generally the road ride involves 6 packs of riders with approximately 25-30 riders in each pack. The slower or less experienced packs (5 or 6) hit the road first each morning, with other packs leaving every 10 minutes thereafter.
Each pack will have an escort vehicle in front and behind with appropriate flashing lights, UHF communication, signage and a designated pack leader in constant radio contact. No other support vehicles will be allowed/able to travel directly with the packs of riders – this enables a faster, safer, smoother flow of general traffic around each pack.
Support vehicles are urged to go ahead as much as possible to minimize the amount of traffic passing the packs of riders. A sweep vehicle 'Tail End Charlie' assists in picking up bikes if the need arises. In addition, escort vehicles and buses pick up riders who have bike problems or need a break.
Unsupported riders will be able to have their lunches carried in an esky to the lunch breaks – essential items contained in small bags may also be carried by the escort vehicles – however this does not mean back packs or large items of baggage which can be carried by the buses and luggage truck. Please check with your escort driver before stowing your gear in his/her vehicle.
As a rider, if the pack is too slow for you then move up a pack. If you are continually slower than the pack you are riding in, move back a pack. The key is to find the pace you can be comfortable at as the enthusiasm of Day 1 may not see you all the way through to Day 7 if you're not comfortable. Many people ride with one pack in the morning and change down a pack in the afternoons.
The pack operates on a rotational basis, riders at the front of a well organised pack will move around every 30 seconds to 1 minute – the pack is two abreast therefore riders on the inside move up whilst riders on the outside appear to fall back – so a clockwise motion propels the pack along.
This process is easy and gradually introduced by the Pack Leaders so that by day three (and when country flattens out) you'll be able to do it like clockwork! There will be times, particularly on Days 1 and 2, when the pack draws apart, mainly to do with climbing hills. This can't be avoided and in fact is encouraged as it's safer and allows riders to maintain a comfortable pace.
Packs will reform regularly and there will be considerable calm and friendly instruction given on how to make the most of hills in pack riding. Basically the front riders must attack the downward side so the pack gains momentum behind them. This momentum assists in dragging the pack up the next hill. This can cause some rubber-band type situations, however, once mastered, the pack will pull you up hills you never thought could be so easy.
Pack riding is very social. You will meet anyone and everyone riding in your pack, strike up conversation and this improves your overall enjoyment of the event. It is handy to have your name tagged on the back of your helmet or shirt so people riding behind can recall/remember your name.
A very important aspect of pack riding is communication. When in the middle or to the back of the pack your vision of road obstacles and conditions is limited therefore the pack needs to build trust in their communication. Once this happens then everyone will call out/point to rocks, potholes, road kill and other obstacles, ensuring all riders are aware of risks and hazards coming up. On some sections of the ride the road litter (rocks etc) is quite heavy and whilst it may seem you are continually calling out 'rock' it saves many people from a nasty fall and one of them could be you! Fortunately the route has been largely re-sealed and is in excellent condition.
BRAKING – this would have to be the hardest part of pack riding to learn and yet it is the most important of all in relation to pack riding safety and cohesion. A pack working well should never need to brake unless coming to a stop or hazard. I'm sure however considerable braking will happen, particularly on Day 1 and 2 as people are just trying to get used to pack riding. Unfortunately braking has an immediate flow-on effect to the people behind and by the time the ripple effect reaches the back riders, those in front have started moving again – thus stretching the group over a long distance.
A far more serious consequence of braking is crashing; anyone braking must call out loudly 'BRAKING' or 'SLOWING' so all riders to the side and behind of that rider knows they are going to slow down and possibly stop.
Tips for an enjoyable day of riding
Selecting a pack
Select a pack based on the speed you can average over the course of a full day.
This is a rough guide as actual travelling speed may be 5-10km/h faster or slower at any given time.
NB: A rider can opt to move to a faster/slower pack at any point in the ride. Simply make the move at a drink stop, or prior to departing a town or lunch stop.
How to ride in a pack
The escort drivers are wonderful, selfless people who give up their week to C–R–A–W–L behind/in front of the same backsides for 8 hours a day, at 25 km/hr – truly worthy of our thanks! Please follow their directions at all times, and at the end of the day, say thanks!
Getting the most out of your bike