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Held over five days between 01-05 October 2013, the Challenge is made up of 10 stages. The course is approximately 600kms with each morning stage being 80Kms and each afternoon stage 50Km. Day 4 was reduced to 70km morning and 40Km afternoon due to the strong winds and extremely dry, soft sand. Day 4 saw 7 riders “swept” as a result of being unable to complete within the allocated time. Swept riders are unable to achieve 100% completion, which is the goal that most competitors set for themselves. In the 26 year history of this event, only 10% of riders have achieved 100%. The course runs West to East across the Simpson Desert. Starting from Purni Bore near Dalhousie Springs in South Australia and finishing at the iconic Birdsville Hotel in Queensland. Approximately 700 sand dunes have to be crossed during the 5 days with the average height being 16 metres.



Training has to start 12 months prior to the event for most riders. 5 days endurance riding with calorie burns of around 8,000 for 3 of the 5 days are hard to replicate. Multiple back to back 100km days are essential, with hills that provide over 2,000 metres climbing each day. The riding extremes of sand and heat play havoc with hydration and nutrition strategies. Day 1 in the desert peaked at 44C with the remaining days being in the mid 30s. Riders were consuming between 10 and 16 litres of water per day with rider weight recorded at the start and finish of every stage. Excessive weight loss would prevent a rider either starting the next stage, or being forced to retire from the race altogether. In 2011 one rider lost 10kg in a morning stage and was unable to complete the event. This year one rider lost 5.5Kg during a stage and was monitored by medical staff before being allowed to continue. I lost 3.7Kg on stage 1 and was directed to put on at least 2.5Kg over lunch or not be allowed to start Stage 2. Six doctors made up the event medical staff with riders monitored at every water stop and at the end of each stage.

Brownie and I peaked at 1,000Km per month towards the end of the 12 months training. This often included 2 hours of hill repeats up and down Black Mountain in Canberra between 5-7am, rides every evening and 200 plus kilometres every weekend. 6,000Km of training was completed on the Rohloff hubs prior to the event. The hubs were not on for the full year of training. The bulk of these kilometres were on dirt with an average speed of 15km per hour, including the steepest tracks in the Blue Mountains, Brindabella Ranges, Wee Jasper and sand on Stockton Beach. Including the event, this equates to 400 hours of training on the hubs plus another 40 hours during the event.



An oil change was performed on the hubs prior to the event and a new chain fitted, not because it was needed, only to ensure everything was mechanically perfect for the race. 8 hours of riding every day didn’t leave much energy for bike maintenance of an evening during the event. Thankfully nothing was needed. A number of riders replaced chains, with one rider using 3 chains for the 5 days. The soft sand and high winds played havoc with traditional derailleurs. 2 riders failed to complete 100% as a result of drive chain issues. The Rohloff hubs and chains remained maintenance free during the entire event. One rider asked Brownie what maintenance had been performed on the bikes and the reply was “we wiped the chain one evening”. The chains were checked following the event with no measurable wear! They have now been cleaned, lubricated and are back in use.

A significant advantage of the Rohloff Speedhub in the extreme conditions of the Simpson Desert, is the ability to approach a dune in a relatively high gear and make an instantaneous change down to a very low gear whilst continuing to pedal hard up a dune. The ability to crest a dune without having to resort to pushing a bike over saves considerable energy. Again, on the downward slope a simple twist of the grip enables a rapid change to top gear to maximise momentum in the lead up to the next dune. Then repeat this 700 times!

The Rohloff Speedhub contributed significantly to our 100% completion achievement of all ten stages in the 2013 Simpson Desert Bike Challenge.



1.      Simpson Desert Bike Challenge 1st – 5th October known as “Satan’s Velodrome”

2.      10 Stages over 5 days, approximately 130kms per day

3.      The goal for most riders is 100% completion. Attained by only 10% of all riders over the last 26 years

4.      Course runs West to East, 600kms – 700 dunes with an average height of 16 metres

5.      Up to 8,000 calorie burn per day

6.      10-16 litres of water per day

7.      12 months lead up training essential

8.      Peaked at 1,000Km per month towards the end of the training regime

9.      6,000Km or approximately 400 hours of training completed on the Rohloff hubs and 40 hours riding during the event

10.   Only maintenance during the event was to “wipe the chain one evening”

11.   No measurable wear on the chain post event and now back in regular use

12.   No other hub maintenance or adjustments performed during training or the event

Rohloff Fatbikes, Speedhub XL, Speedhub XXL and Rohloff Simspon Desert Challenge, fatbikes, desert riding, desert cycling
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