Thunderbolts Adventure Ride 2021 – Rider Recap

Words by Johno’s Riding Adventures
Photos by Bob Barrett

5 minutes

The Thunderbolt Adventure Ride is a bikepacking event hosted by James and Mike from Graveleur. The town of Gloucester is a vibrant home for the bikepacking community and Graveleur host many events throughout the year. The town is based just 39km from the Barrington Tops summit.

Leaving the bad weather behind on Friday, we had a late afternoon roll in from Newcastle. After a quick pub feed at the local, we settled into camp for the night. With temperatures not dropping too cold throughout the night, we were well rested for a fantastic early morning start. 

Day 1: Gloucester to Moonan Flat

On Saturday morning, about 171 riders arrived to set up and prepare for the 2021 Thunderbolts Adventure Ride. I always like the chance to check out other people’s set-ups.

After the usual checkups at registration, making sure we had all the correct gear, and the additional COVID safe checkins, it was time for morning coffee. Cycling devices were turned on and I hit record on my GoPro. The atmosphere and the vibe was fantastic.

Riders set off in four different waves 20 minutes apart. The first wave had an 8.00am roll out and I was good to go. Coming from a cross country MTB background, you always feel that race start buzz.

‘Riders ready, set, go! Have a fantastic day! Stay safe!’

How to wheelie on a gravel bike
Descending to Moonan Flat on the Thunderbolts Adventure Ride 2021

A Major Climb to Dingos Gate

Off I went, leading the pack. The first 40km was a casual blacktop roll before hitting the endless winding gravel roads. We passed over creek crossings, cattle grids and just absolutely amazing backcountry scenery, before hitting the first major climb of the day. 

At a heartbreaking 29% grade, on a fully loaded bike for just under two hours, it was a tough section. With the major climb out the way, and with 50km to go, we had a quick stop for a refill of water on top of the plateau.

We continued, there were endless opportunities for that top-quality photo along the way. The day was getting on, the sun was getting lost in the mountains and the temperature was dropping. All this made for a great arrival at the Dingo Gate.

Anyone that knows the Barrington Tops area can appreciate this amazing view, especially after a big day. Many people were taking in the view over a quick beer, before rolling down one of the best descents in the region. We then arrived at the famous Moonan Flat pub where the party was in full swing. 

With a cold one on arrival, it was time to head to the campground to quickly put the tent up, then back to the pub for fantastic food with great people. A time to reflect on day one‘s adventure, with riders still arriving throughout the evening.

Camp was a short roll back to settle in for the night and get ready for day 2. After countless beers it was a good nightcap.

Day 2: Back to Gloucester

Rise and shine it was at
5.00am. Time to roll up the tent and make sure everything was ready to go. Morning coffee was on point and breakfast was awesome: bacon-and-eggs and nice warm porridge. That was a win because it was pretty cold!

I was then keen to roll out with a  much more relaxed start this time. This made for some awesome early morning photos. We continued, watching the cattle and the horses play in the fields. Some chose to greet us at the fence and some get excited and continue running around.

Once again the first major climb of the day quickly approached. This one was on the blacktop. The views at the top of the climb were truly amazing as the sun popped over the mountain vistas. 

I was starting to feel good and ready to dig deep. Riding the course backwards offered a different perspective and challenges on the way, which is something I truly enjoy about the sport. 

There were plenty of party trains to get to the first feed spot for the day at the 70km mark. I was feeling on fire, with supplies still on board. I rolled on for the last 70km at a very high average speed and was pretty much on the hunt to get back to Gloucester.

When I rolled into town, the tank was completely empty! Mission complete. 240km over two days with 6000vm of some of the best backcountry riding you can do.

Johno from Johno’s Riding Adventures

Johno’s Riding Adventures

I have always been interested in this type of thing and I have met some amazing people on the way that continue to promote and showcase how amazing bikepacking is.

Doing stuff like this, you learn a lot about yourself and how to manage situations whilst living off the grade. I now find myself always looking for that rush and adventure, creating loops that put you to the test and push you out of your comfort zone every time. I have many loops I have created and  always happy to share my experiences.

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