The Simpson Desert Bike Challenge 1999

In September each year 40 masochists gather together for the annual race across the Simpson Desert. Their only reward is the glory of having competed…..and of course the piss up at the Birdsville Pub. We’ve been there and done it several times. Here are some photos from 1999.

Purni Bore to Birdsville via the Simpson Desert. 587k, 800 sand dunes.

Official Website: www.desertchallenge.org

The start of the race is at Purni Bore on the western side of the Simpson Desert. Held in September every year.

The shower is a welcome luxury with plenty of hot water from the bore. It’s the only shower I know where you run out of cold water.
Race Meeting Purni Bore - Witjira National Park SA
Check in time. 40 individual riders and several relay teams roll up
A quick check of the track on race eve. Gaye with a knowing smile(this is her second time) and Ed ignorant of things to come
The convoy grinds to a halt with a vehicle stuck on the dune. With the large amount of sand this year the support vehicles had just as much fun as the riders negotiating the sand dunes.
Day 2. Traditionally the hardest day of the ride with lots of sand and dunes. 100 metres from the start and we're already walking in the loose sand. Only 80k to lunch.... groan Ed at right, Gaye 4th back. Only 2 of the 40 riders avoided the sweep on this day. Jack Oldfield (the eventual winner) and Ed.
Day 2. Traditionally the hardest day of the ride with lots of sand and dunes. 100 metres from the start and we’re already walking in the loose sand. Only 80k to lunch…. groan Ed at right, Gaye 4th back. Only 2 of the 40 riders avoided the sweep on this day. Jack Oldfield (the eventual winner) and Ed.
Noodles noodles….oh we love em. Great energy food and they go down easy. Any food requiring much digestive processing was rejected/regurgitated.
Lunch somewhere. Don’t know what day it is, dont care. Just make it all go away.
Day 3. Ben Edols(left) and Jack Oldfield finishing morning stage of Day 3 coming 1st and 2nd for the stage. (Ultimately Ben was 3rd and Jack 1st.)
Gaye finishing the stage on Day 3 morning.

The countryside had started to flatten out by Day 3 lunch. Still a bit of sand, corrugations and stony roads to contend with but much easier going. Cooler weather was also helpful. 130k a day though seemed such a looooong way and was mind numbing. Finding a comfortable position for our shredded backsides kept us occupied.

Timekeeper Su at work
Day 4. Some of the mud that brought the whole show to a halt. There was just enough rain to turn the track into a glutinous mass. Bikes clagged up and had to be cleaned, banged, carried and sworn at.
Day 4. Some of the mud that brought the whole show to a halt. There was just enough rain to turn the track into a glutinous mass. Bikes clagged up and had to be cleaned, banged, carried and sworn at.
Day 5. More mud. Not as bad as day 4 but many riders still had trouble. Very interesting riding on the slippery surface. Support vehicles also had difficulty keeping it all in line.
Ed finishing Day 3 morning stage
Day 5. The finish line, Ed 2nd, Gaye 8th. Is it really all over?
Obligatory group photo at the Birdsville Pub
The day after. L to R Mark Polley(support), Gaye and Ed.

2 comments on “The Simpson Desert Bike Challenge 1999

  1. Hi,
    I did this event with you in 1999. I was the old Kiwi guy with a red Cannondale full suspension bike. Still riding but a bit slower as I am now going on 81. Have been asked to talk about it at a special event here in Opotiki, New Zealand. I only got 3 or 4 decent pictures and I am wondering if you could help me out. I need to display some on a TV screen.
    Many thanks,
    Denis Lindesay

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