Desert ride was first of its kind

Four friends have become the first to ride unsupported across the world's largest sand dune desert.

Chris Rollings, left, with friends Keith, Benny and Tim at the finish line, the Birdsville Hotel in Queensland. Picture: Benny Littlejohn
Chris Rollings, left, with friends Keith, Benny and Tim at the finish line, the Birdsville Hotel in Queensland. Picture: Benny Littlejohn

Among them was 35-year-old Chris Rollings, a former Durrington High School student who now lives in Sydney, Australia.

Mum Jennie Rollings, of Brook Barn Way, Goring, said: “Chris has just completed an amazing bike ride across the Australian desert with three others, totally unsupported, in aid of Act for Peace. This has never been done before.”

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Chris was brought up in Worthing and went to Northbrook College before studying digital media at university. He moved to Sydney in 2010 and works for Google managing innovation projects.

The eight-day ride across The Simpson Desert, covering three states in the arid heart of Australia, put the group in grave danger and tested their bodies to the limit.

Chris said: “I went into this trip wanting to test my mettle and have the challenge of a lifetime. It was so much more than that. Yes it nearly broke me, but it also made me appreciate how incredibly capable our bodies are and what a waste it is to spend our lives living inside our comfort zone.

“It’s not very often a man looks you dead in the eyes and says what you’re about to do could kill you.”

That man was the owner of the Mount Dare Hotel, the last bastion of hope before entering the desert.

It had taken three days to ride there and a ranger had already tried to talk the four cyclists out of it.

Chris said: “I’ve always loved mountain biking but this trip was different, this was far bigger than anything any of us, particularly me, had done before.”

He and friends Tim, Benny and Keith had spent six months in training, after Tim first suggested the idea.

Following advice, they changed their plan to follow the notorious French Line and instead set off to ride the Rig Road, adding an extra day but enabling them to ride 80 per cent of the dunes. They then get back on to the French Line, before reaching the home stretch and tackling the giant dunes on the QAA Line.

They awoke at 5am, rode from around 6.30am to 6pm, with two short stops and were in bed by 8.30pm each day.

Chris said: “It was a gruelling regime, not helped by head winds, heavy bikes and an endless sea of sand dunes. Yet we remained positive, continued cracking jokes, learned to eat, drink and take a leak off our bikes.

“We marvelled at what the human body is capable of. Yes, we trained, but nothing can quite prepare you for riding ten hours a day for 11 days.”

As well as the physical challenge of the weight they were carrying, including water, there was the mental challenge and the extra miles to cover, having changed route.

Chris said: “Exercising to the point of exhaustion, then having to push on and ride another 25km over sand dunes is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and it was my lowest point of the trip.

“For the first and last time on the trip I thought ‘I can’t do it’. This made me angry, that anger turned to determination and thanks to the encouragement of the team, we hit our target on what turned out to be our biggest day.”