Rediscovering the beauty of cycling

It's easy to get wrapped up in the details when it comes to cycling. Distances, wattages, victories and other measures often lead us to forget the simple joy of riding a bike. Brothers Gus and Lachlan Morton (yes, the one who races with WorldTour team Garmin-Sharp), got back to basics in an attempt to recover the lost magic of the sport. This is their story about the 2500km journey from Port Macquarie to Uluru in just twelve days.



We have the view that sport in general has been losing its sense of magic and wonder in recent times. In part due to scandal and in part to the reduction of all achievements to a bunch of numbers and all title-winning efforts to a scientifically predetermined plan.

We wanted to do something that re-embraced that magic of old. We wanted to participate in the frontier-type adventures of Lawson and Wentworth, to be pushed to our limits, in over our heads all while exploring a true wilderness.

So we threw away the conventions of modern day cycling: the lycra, the training bible, the diet, and the carbon fibre road bikes. We stopped talking about our form, we stopped talking about other people’s form, we stopped stopping at the coffee shop, and we stopped worrying about the height of our socks. We ignored everyone else’s opinions.

We picked a route we knew would be extremely challenging, would have us end up in places way off the beaten track and with people we’d normally be too afraid to approach. We told Mum and Dad, and then we just went and did it.








We started the trip in our home town of Port Macquarie, 400km north of Sydney, and basically headed directly west through Walcha, Gunnedah, Cobar, and Broken Hill. We crossed into South Australia and went down to Peterborough, then Blinman in the Flinders Ranges, up to Marree at the beginning of the Oodnadatta Track, then to Coober Pedy. We crossed into the Northern Territory and stopped at Kulgera, then finally made our way to Yulara and Uluru.

The total distance was about 3,000km of which we rode a little more than 2,000km in 12 days. We had to drive parts of the trip purely because the distances between settlements out there can be up to 400km which is a little too far to be doing day in, day out. That said, we did do back-to-back 300km+ days at the end.

The result was a true adventure. We found and met some of the most interesting people we ever have. We were challenged mentally and physically in some of the harshest environments across Australia (and the world) and had a hilarious time doing it all.

This adventure spawned a new sense of excitement in the sport that had grown stale for us. We discovered the bike was an incredibly diverse tool. One used not only to test yourself against others in competition or to explore and see the world in a unique way, but one that can open the minds and hearts of even the most steeled bar flies in the dustiest, dirtiest pubs halfway to nowhere.

This was the birth of “Thereabouts”, an idea that is focused on challenging the conventions, disregarding the rules, forgetting what your friends would say, ignoring the voice that says you can’t and just going and doing it.

Thereabouts is about changing the way you think about sport. Forget the superstars and the teams. Engage with people you never would have, push yourself, test yourself, and all because you want to. It will change you.

Below are two anecdotes written by both Lachlan and myself from our trip to Uluru.



Lachlan’ Story  



“We rode on with an unspoken sense of each other’s mental and physical condition, the type only brothers share.”


It was 5:30am when the sun began to spill out across the stone-covered desert earth and Gus and I were already 20km out of Marree. As those first rays hit my skin they stood only to magnify the hangover which already had my head in a vice, and confirm the fire was well and truly lit inside the furnace that is the Oodnadatta Track.

For once, however, I welcomed the dull thud; it was a physical reminder of the night before. An unbelievable blur of gun shooting, car driving, beer pouring and tale swapping. All fueled on West End Draught and questionable local wine. A night you’d barely believe if I told you, and a night I won’t ever forget.

What I had forgotten as I uncorked another bottle of the unknown plonk not eight hours earlier was the enormity of the day we were about to undertake.

The Oodnadatta Track was struck from our route in the week leading up to the trek. It was deemed too dangerous. However, on a whim, and perhaps a false sense of invincibility, two days prior I suggested we put it back in, and who was Gus to back down? I believed it was just the sort of epic challenge we were looking for.

As the sun rose it revealed a wide, rolling, corrugated dirt highway that stretched past the horizon into an unknown red desert. I spun a quick 360 as I stood taking a piss. We were finally in the middle of nowhere. Gus and I were alone, trekking across one of the harshest landscapes on earth.

We didn’t speak a word to each other for almost five hours. We rode on with an unspoken sense of each other’s mental and physical condition, the type only brothers share. Without utterance, when the head wind spun around into a crosstail we pinned it at 50km/h.

Swapping turns, surfing the corrugations and washouts of this frontier land with disregard, our hands at each other’s back. It was a battle against the immovable, with no-one to bare witness. Cycling in its purest form.








As we pumped out of the saddle, cresting another roller, from the mirage appeared an acrid, acidic, extra-terrestrial landscape, bound by a black poisonous ring of salt. We had hit the shores of Lake Eyre, The Dead Zone.

I was, for a reason still unknown to me, overcome with emotion. An amazing mixture of fatigue, elation and companionship washed over me as I tried to figure out what it was we were doing out here. We stopped for a few minutes. Sitting in silence on the edge of the world’s largest inland sea, staring at its vast nothingness. Then we pushed on.

The next hours were more painful and taxing. The furnace had reached melting point. It was now spitting wind in our face with more ferocity than ever, a warning against the harsher conditions ahead. The corrugations became more severe and the washouts more regular.

It became impossible to ride as a pair, and we were forced to spread out and go it alone. Our two figures cutting a lonely path through the impenetrable desert, slowly being ground down.

As I slowed to a stop, the sharp clack of my cleat signaling the end of our jaunt, my ears began to ring in the silence. My joints, legs and head were aching. We both sat in the gravel at the side of the road. Suddenly out here I felt at home.

I could have sat all afternoon. A new clarity of thought enveloped me; I knew exactly what we were doing out here. We were finally using the bike for the purpose I had always intended and it was having a profound impact on me.



Gus’ Story  



“There’s no escaping the pain and there’s no welcoming it either.”


“F@%k it!” I’d just missed another road sign indicating how far left until to Yulara, our day’s end and final stop before Uluru. I slipped back in behind the camping trailer I’d become so familiar with over the past two weeks. My head sunk a little lower, I tried to focus, the flapping black plastic tarp whipping in the relentless wind. I was beginning to doubt if I’d make it.

“If only that f#$%ing plastic wouldn’t flap. F#$* it’s loud. Had it always been flapping like that? Who the f$%# loaded the bags at the front? Don’t they know it creates a vacuum making the tarp flap like a f#$%in’ helicopter back here?”

I was losing it. I tried closing my eyes, and taking a deep breath. Hoping in vain to slip into a peaceful painless groove. It was futile, I knew it would be. There’s no escaping the pain, there’s no welcoming it either. You’d be lying if you said you did. There’s only tolerating it.

“315km was 315km.” I told myself. I knew that in the same way I knew we’d averaged 50km/h since we hit the 150km marker. And I knew, because I’d done the math a hundred times, that in less than half an hour we’d be finished. Yet every time I’d missed one of those signs a panic set in.

I just needed to see a physical number. Just to be sure we were getting closer to the end, to be sure my mind wasn’t failing me. It was ridiculous, and it was an indication of my withering mental state. The road signs were winning.

Twelve grueling days in the saddle, with my WorldTour kid brother, and I’d barely slipped up. Now, with the end in sight it was the road signs that would grind me down to dust, leaving me in the middle of the desert.









‘Y – 15’. Yulara 15km. Thank God. I knew it couldn’t have been much further, but just to see the proof was an overwhelming relief. I glanced at Lach, he adjusted his knicks, slipping back half a length before popping out of the seat, ’da! da! da!’, he danced gliding back up alongside me.

It’s something I wouldn’t have dared do, I was sitting so close to the back of the trailer my tyre had burnt a solid black rubber mark across its back. If the slight wind there was slowly cracking my resolve, the comparable cyclone half a length behind would crush my soul in an instant.

“I’ve been thinking, we should start…” Lach began, his mouth continued to move but I could no longer make out his words. I channeled my gaze on the endless black stream of tarmac flooding out from beneath the trailer in hope of clarity. I slipped into a trance.

It wasn’t until Lach moved from beside me into the wind and accelerated that I was brought back to reality. When you’ve been on the road together that long, all goes without saying. I knew exactly what was up. Empty, and as I had so many times already I pushed on the pedals and slowly clambered up to his wheel and tucked in. ‘Y-10’. Yulara 10km. F%#$ it; it was the one final time to go blow for blow, like we used to.

I can’t really explain how the body is capable of such torture, of being on the brink of shutting down for days then turning around and giving you another 10%. I think it was something in the fact that we were in it together, and we weren’t doing this for anyone else or for any gain.

We were simply testing out how far we could push ourselves, just to see what would happen. We let the road take us, challenge us and transport us to wherever it had in mind. There were no motives, no prejudices, no expectations.

I don’t know how fast we covered those last 10km, or if I was even able to take a single turn in the wind. It didn’t matter. We’d long since abandoned our HR monitors, and our power meters. We’d discovered that the true power of riding our bikes lay in the story and not the numbers.









I’ve come to realise that each of our lives is an experiment. We are given a ‘hypothesis’ based off of custom, hereditary, history, morality and personality. We plot our ‘method’ but instead of letting the experiment run its course we constantly adjust it to keep inline with the result we have hypothesised, the results we tell ourselves we want.

We think we know where we are headed. We tug hard on the wheel with blistered hands, as we try to maintain our co-ordinated path. But we are, essentially, just making guesses. Some educated, some instinctual, and some rebellious. We have no way of knowing exactly how our method will carve its course in time.

We are just being taken along for the ride, whether we resist it or not. The more we fight the ride, the less personal it becomes. The less our own genuine experience and more the more contrived, and structured one of our hypotheses.

As I reflect on it all now, the hardest part of the journey wasn’t that day to Yulara, surviving only by the little green road signs counting down the kilometres, or the wondering when my body would finally give out as Lach wound up the pressure. It was not being able get up and go to the bathroom on the flight home when the seatbelt sign was switched on.

You see, somewhere along the way we had completely let go. The experiences we had in the desert opened our eyes to another side to life, another way of understanding the world. In those two weeks we shed ourselves of society and it was this little red warning light, forcing me in my seat as the flight attendant ran through the location of our emergency exits, that signified our return to it.

We were no longer playing by our rules, we were no longer in the wilderness with the castaways, and we were no longer letting the road take us wherever it wanted. We were back in reality, and we were being forced to hypothesise.