Tackling the CREB

Graeme drops us across the Daintree, then drives on to meet us at different points on the trail. Although he's ridden the CREB he's never driven it and was keen to put an advanced 4x4 course he'd done to the test.

Wil and I climb and descend, heading up in steep pinches that have us out of the saddle on the red dirt, with short plunges back down. It's tough but rewarding riding. In time we descend to the first river crossing, where Graeme is waiting. I ask him about his bike setup for their one day epic.

“I had a 2x11 on my bike, and it was compact 34/50 on the front with a 11-28 on the back,” Graeme tells me. Wil and I are both running 1x11 setups on our Norco Threshold cyclocross bikes. It's not terrible, but we both would have downsized our chainrings quite happily. “We had to walk up Big Red because it was wet.”

That was one of our next sections to tackle. Big Red is a long hill to the highest point on the CREB track. Graeme's point about the wet conditions are important. When they did the route a significant amount of rain fell overnight. Drivers laughed at them for tackling it on bikes – but the drivers were also stuck on the track. The fine dirt becomes mud very quickly, and vehicles have been known to be stuck on the CREB for days after rain.

“If you get 10mm of rain, turn around and go home. Even if you're on it and it starts raining you can be in trouble because it changes that quickly,” warns Graeme.

Wil and I set off, with wet shoes and socks providing some relief from the increasing heat of the day. Soon enough we're dry and covered in dust.

Big Red looms on the horizon, and the CREB is a red line straight down the face. It looks impossibly steep, and this is when we have already been way off the back of our bikes on the descents, and been grinding our lowest gears on the climbs.

Graeme is waiting at the base. We grab some extra water. We had plenty in the car but could have filled up at the second creek - and the first. I was curious as to how Graeme did the ride, as their planned support vehicle couldn't get into the CREB track on the day.

“We didn't fill up with water at the creeks on the day we did it. I had a couple of big bottles of water and that got me through. We met a vehicle at Wujal Wujal and refuelled there.” Clearly they were on a mission to get through. The route seems ideal for carrying a frame bag with a bladder in it, or a hydration backpack – plus some water treatment tablets.