I've knocked over the first leg of my push around the big island (Australian mainland) and that includes a smaller one too; Kangaroo Island off the Southern coast of South Australia where I rested my red raw arse and briefly made a bit of coin.
-I'm not a 'cyclist'.
-I don't wear lycra.
-I briefly considered walking around Australia but cut that idea loose as too much of a dreary trudge.
So a blue steel gravel bike with 4 lime green panniers was my mode of transport and fuck me it's been a wee bit of fun.
THE ROUTE: I rode off the Spirit of Tasmania ferry and pointed the bike North West to Ballarat via some C roads (minor roads, both paved and gravel), through the Wimmera and across South Australia to Cape Jervis where I hopped another ferry to Kangaroo Island, Australia's 3rd largest island.
The last time I was at Cape Jervis I was heading off on the Heysen Trail from the Southern Terminus located there.
After poking around the windy interior and the wild coastline I pushed North through Adelaide to the Yorke Peninsula and followed the 500km Walk The Yorke trail from Port Wakefield to Moonta Bay.
|Fancy map of my riding route sourced from Google Maps.
- Marin Four Corners Gravel Touring Bike.
- Ortlieb panniers, large ones for the rear, small for the front.
- Tubus pack rack carriers.
- Heaps of spare inner tubes. Slime. Tools to hopefully fix shit that went wrong.
- Camping and cooking kit I always use for hiking.
- A fuck ton of sunscreen.
There are plenty of silly Youtube videos and pretty pictures all over the interwebs depicting long distance bicycle touring as this isolating, beautiful experience where amazing vistas are constantly stumbled onto and friendly fairies and unicorns are only a short 5 kilometre ride away.
While some of this is true some of the time, I discovered while riding around rural Australia at the tail end of Summer;
that the roads can be very busy,
the roads are mostly narrow and crap with minimal shoulder,
many Australians have a pathological hatred of cyclists
and bike repair shops are few and far between when out of the major cities.
when I reached purpose built/ designated bicycle trails such as the Ballarat to Skipton trail and the amazing rail trail from Willunga to central Adelaide the fun factor increased by 10.
Regardless, I had a very positive experience. Hell yeah!
On the whole people were very encouraging and drivers courteous. Even if they weren't I reminded myself that I had chosen to be out there, on the gravel shoulder of the road pedaling away like a loon and no one owed me anything.
I actually got sick of the waving and fist pumps and friendly tooting, I just wanted to be alone and stop being looked at.
That's the difference between hiking and riding that is the deal breaker for me; I can disappear into the woods on foot. I'm an extroverted introvert that prefers my own company.
But I had plenty of serendipitous moments and reasons to throw fist pumps of my own.
PROS & CONS OF BICYCLE TOURING:
- Potential to eat far more healthy than hiking due to the access to fresh food and at times, regular shopping outlets.
- Plans can be made up on the fly, changed, totally shit canned and resurrected with minimal energy expenditure. Going an hour out of your way unintentionally isn't the imagined mood breaking disaster it might be if you had done it on foot.
- Stealth camping only requires a little push into the bushes.
- You can carry more stuff and more weight without breaking your back. For example I packed a small collapsible chair to use when camped out which was pretty much every night.
- Mileage wasn't consistent but I averaged 120 kilometres a day. Enough to feel you are a long way from where you were yesterday.
- The absolute reliance on mechanical componentry. Granted mine was mostly bombproof and well suited but constant niggles and flat tyres can detract from enjoyment. The what if factor.
- Being stared at by everyone. People driving past. People sitting in their caravans. The roo's in the paddocks. And the sheep. Nah, they're ok. People in caravans driving past. Staring, staring.
- The potential for catastrophic disaster.. Like I said though, most folks are courteous and it's more the draining hyper awareness on busy main roads that grinds.
- As a solo shopper I was always pushing it to get back to my bike. The potential for theft of gear is always there. In one obviously dodgy town in South Australia I pulled the panniers off the bike and stuck them in a trolley and wheeled it around the supermarket, the risk was too high.
- Wind sucks.
- Hills suck. When they face uphill.
- Corrugated roads suck.
- Rain sucks.
- The broiling, brain splitting Summer Sun sucks. Whine, whine, whinge, whinge.
|Shingleback Lizard, also known as a Stumpy tail. Loads of them were sighted crossing the roads.
|This is the Port Wakefield terminus of the Walk The Yorke.
|Penneshaw Ferry Terminal, Kangaroo Island.