Hey, folks! Its Robbie here. I’m a trans* ultra bikepacker from Aotearoa/New Zealand. Road Runner Bags asked me to write a bit about my adventures on this year’s Hunt 1000 route.
The Hunt is a 1000-kilometer brevet across the Australian Alps, from Naarm (Melbourne) to Canberra. It crosses Wurundjeri, Gunaikurnai, Jaithmathang, Ngarigo, and Ngunnawal Country.
It’s organized by Dan from Hunt Bikes, and is a “grand finish” rather than a grand depart. All riders estimate how long they think they’ll take to complete the route, arriving at Capital Brewing for a 6pm celebration on Saturday, 2nd of December. Leaving times varied from 14 days to 5 days. I was extremely mid-pack at 10-and-a-half days.
As far as I know, I’m currently the only *transgender person to complete the Hunt 1000. Each year, only half of all riders who enter manage to finish. It’s a difficult route, with plenty of hike-a-bike, changeable alpine conditions, and rocky descents. There are limited resupply options, with what could be a day between water sources and three days between access to the small general stores that sell food.
I rode my Salsa Fargo, size extra small, with Rohloff gears, a SON dynamo, and a Moné fork. For bags, I have Road Runner Bags’ Anywhere Bikepacking Panniers, the Co-Pilot Stem Bag, and my own handmade-to-fit frame bag.
These photos were, of course, from when everything was still lovely and clean. My gear is now much more beausage. I’m pretty sure that the Hunt 1000 ages each bicycle that completes it by about a year.
I arrived in Canberra a lot filthier (according to some, the filthiest rider to make it to the finish). I crashed five times in slippery red clay on the final day.
I rode the last 75km without a functioning shifter, as my shift cable managed to fray and jam the shifting. We got to the end 1920’s Tour de France style, having to dismount and adjust gears at the wheel every time we got to a hill. I managed to convince myself that all my friends would have been there for hours waiting for me while I painfully half-single-speeded my way to the end, so I rode hard, and accidentally got there early. Whoops!
The Hunt this year was not struck with snow as I’d been hoping. Instead, the storm that had been rumored to be on its way throughout the week hit just before we got to Tar-gan-gil (Kosciusko). The rivers swelled to dangerous levels, and Dan released a detour for most of the riders who came after us, avoiding the Valentines and Geehi crossings.
We were already in the mountains, so we didn’t hear of the detour until we were already there. After some deliberations, we decided to push through rather than ride 100km back to get on the detour.
This was the biggest adventure of the ride (as the Tar-gan-gil and Jagungal wilderness sections tend to be). In previous years, riders have been known to get stuck in snow, or tape up cycling shoes broken from too much hiking, or worse – occasionally break themselves.
We waited in the Valentine Hut hoping for the rivers to subside. With everything very wet and cold, those of us who were still on the original route had resigned ourselves to ‘hut-hopping’ – using the emergency huts for a little respite, shelter, and warmth before pushing on further.
The rivers were still high and fast-moving. We would use tactics borrowed from the NZ Tramper website, which I still had saved on my phone from my prep for the Sounds to Sounds earlier in the year.
- Drop as many bike bags as possible
- Cross on the diagonal, with the flow of the river
- Groups are stronger, use the biggest heaviest person at the top with others supporting
- Keep the bikes out of the water to avoid drag
The crossings were a success, always running groups of three for both bikes and bags for safety. This is a moment where I mention, “Water resistance in your bikepacking bags is a very important thing!” I chose the Anywhere Panniers for their balance between waterproofness and lightness – plus a simple attachment system that can’t break when I’m in the middle of nowhere.
The Hunt 1000 route for me epitomizes what makes bikepacking an interesting, inclusive sport.
I’m not fast, nor am I strong. I’m not even a confident mountain biker – I just have a serviceable grasp of the theory needed not to hurt myself. I grew up in an environment that taught me that the outdoors was too dangerous, and not for me. And I come from a group of people – transgender people – who are often marginalized and systemically denied access to cycling and other sports.
But that doesn’t matter here. The strongest riders aren’t necessarily the ones who survive all the way to the end, because this ride needs more than just brute force (though of course, it helps).
You need to know how to survive, avoid injury, plan, and adapt. You need to manage your supply of food and water. You need to fix stuff when it breaks. You need to ride a bicycle that will, inevitably, be the wrong bike for the job half the time (some road stretches, some full-suspension-worthy descents).
When rivers swell, brute force might even be the worst answer. The better answer is to have a plan. And a plan B and C, too. Know your alternatives and escape routes.
And hey! You know who might have to be good at reading the room and figuring out how best to survive? Trans people.
Would I do the ride again in a hurry? Probably not! There’s so much more out there for me to still do.
Is it one of the greatest, difficult, inspiring, soul-destroying bikepacking adventures out there? Absolutely, yes.
I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands I had the privilege of crossing: the Wurundjeri, Gunaikurnai, Jaithmathang, Ngarigo and Ngunnawal peoples.
Photos + Words: Robbie Danger Webb