27hrs without technology, and cycling a lot of hills.

I’m not normally one to go anywhere without gathering photographic evidence and a whole lot of gadgets to keep me entertained, but this weekend I decided I needed a bit of a detox as it were and decided to head out for a bit of a cycle to try and prove my legs still worked and to return myself to a slightly more normal state.  Now for the very astute among you an observation could be made that it is only half way through a long weekend in Australia, but as my story will fail to justify I’m back on my way home. Continue reading

New Toys: Bike Bag Dude Frame and Chaff Bags

Two days ago I received a parcel from the east coast with exciting new toys. For a few years I have been trying to work out how to carry more and more water as I wander further from the beaten track. Actually living in the desert, I am more concerned about being precisely on the track, but not having access to water for hundreds of kilometres.

Anyway, the parcel contained a Bike Bag Dude Frame Bag, and BBD Chaff Bags. In my excitement I have fitted them onto the LHT and aim to get out and test them in the coming weeks. These bags are made of a special light weight material, so I will be trying to use and abuse the bags as a “product test”. I will be giving info back to BBD and will keep the world posted about the bags exciting exploits.

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Update: Three Days of Commuting

So after three days of commuting with my fun new bags I have made some discoveries and fallen in love.

  • Discovery One: Frame bags are not designed to be packed out to their capacity. I made the mistake of throwing a 2L water bottle straight into the bottom of the frame bag, and not using the internal divider. By the time I reached work the bag had wobbled around so it was rubbing against the front cassette, which as you can imagine is not good for anything.
  • Discovery Two: Chaff Bags are bloody amazing. I mean seriously. They are great! I like to ride sitting you and without hands on the way to work, because it is currently about 5 degrees during my morning commute and having chaff bags on the handle bar with a water bottle, and to hold wallets and keys etc while commuting is so incredibly convenient! I’m not afraid to say it. I am in love with an inanimate object!
  • Discovery Three: Panniers are more flexible than I ever realised. I tried to take the frame bag shopping and you know what? It is hard to fit a celery plant and several cartons of soy milk in there along with all the ingredients for a cheesecake. Thank be to the small gods for ocky straps!

All said I am pretty impressed with the frame bag still. It looks great, is function for running around town (eg so you can stash your man bag somewhere rather than having it slung over your shoulder).

I think I will take it for a tour and see how it really copes though!

Kangaroo Island – An Awesome Place to Ride

What island has a really unoriginal name, is really easy to get too, and is absolutely amazing?

Well unfortunately I can’t tell you that because it is a surprisingly well kept secret, but I would strongly recommend looking at the title of this post.

As you’ve probably worked out, I recently spent 2 days riding from Adelaide to Cape Jervis and 8 days riding around Kangaroo Island camping in caravan parks and national parks and council campgrounds. Some of these campgrounds have hot showers, while some are pretty basic without water sources. The roads around Kangaroo Island are a mix of great sealed roads and unsealed roads that range from well made gravel to white limestone and sand constructions which makes the days variable and fun. Anyway that is probably enough of a summary of facts. Here is a list of links to the days of my trip each one will eventually be linked to a full description of the day and a collection of the best photos.

Day 1: Glenelg to Aldinga Beach (58km)

Day 2: Aldinga to Cape Jervis and Penneshaw (64km)

Day 3: Penneshaw to Murray Lagoon (62km)

Day 4: Murray Lagoon to Seal Bay (41km)

Day 5: Seal Bay to West KI Caravan Park (57km)

Day 6: Rest Day (Remarkable Rocks) (51km)

Day 7: West KI to Stokes Bay (85km)

Day 8: Stokes Bay to Kingscote (58km)

Day 9: Kingscote to Brown Beach (57km)

Day 10: Browns Beach to Penneshaw via Cape Willoughby (56km)

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Pain, Pleasure and Purpose

Having failed to set out on my planned 8 cycle tour through the Victorian Alps last week I ispent three days over New Years in the Namadgi National Park, which is just south of Canberra. The three day ride presented some of the hardest riding I’ve ever done, so people out there, perhaps don’t follow my lead on this ride.

Day 1: Pain
65km – 40km of dirt – so so much climbing!
Day one started with a casual, easy ride out of Canberra along the cycle tracks south to Tharwa and the Namadji Visitors centre to check that tracks were open and whether there was likely to be water around. After a chat and brief lunch I continued south towards the start of my dirt riding and Caloola farm, a common stopping point for walkers on the Bicentennial National Trail.

At the farm I checked in with the manager as per instructions and sought further information about the route I was to take that afternoon. In a truly understated way the manager foretold a day on the Naas Fire Trail that would be “a bit warm with a lot of up hill”. If I had of been wise I would have headed for home then and there.

Within 10 minutes and 500m I was riding on a rocky fire trail that was at least recently graded and rode blissfully unaware of the fun to come.

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I road along this gentle trail for another kilometre before encountering my first creek crossing (there would be twelve in total) and despite being able to ride through it was only momentum that kept me vertical and the slope on the otherside was too much for a heavily loaded bike to handle so I pushed my bike for what would be the first of many many times.

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Anyway, the point I want to make is the track got steeper and steeper as the day went on. So much so that my arms were almost as tired from pushing 50kg of bike up hills as my legs were from the rare sections of riding.

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Vertical profile of the first day of riding along the Naas Fire Trail.

Vertical profile of the first day of riding along the Naas Fire Trail.

Needless to say once I reach Horse Gully Hut I was hot, sweaty and exhausted. Despite how painful the day was the sense of satisfaction of setting up the tent here, and having the place to myself well and truly made it worth while.

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Day 2: Purpose
47km – 32km of dirt and sand – downhills so long I stopped to cool my wheel rims.

Day two was looking better from the moment I woke up, there was light cloud, a breeze and I felt great. Then I sat up.

Imagine my surprise to discover that my muscles were tired after the previous days ride, personally I couldn’t fathom it, but these things happen. As I gingerly ate breakfast and packed up the tent I decided that the days goal would be reduced to reaching Orroral campground rather than the form tracking station, but that I was going to make it no matter what my legs said.

As I set of the clouds burnt off, my skin started burning in the sun and my muscles burned! Luckily the riding was easier that the prevois day and I was soon following smooth tyre tracks up the Naas Valley along the old Bobyan Rd.

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As I trudged through the day it grew warmer but more beautiful so the effort was worth it. At the peak of the days climbing I was welcomed with a downhill to match the previous days horror climb. With will over 150m of descent over a short distance, on dirt with regular washouts the canti- brakes on the surly got a serious workout (just like my fingers). I took a break until my fingers had relaxed enough to check the temperature of my wheel rims and then continued down the hill.

Vertical profile of my second day out. Including Naas Fire Trail, Old Boboyan Road and Boboyan.

Vertical profile of my second day out. Including Naas Fire Trail, Old Boboyan Road and Boboyan.

Not long after that, it was all down hill for a while, I reached the sealed road. It appears someone else had been rather excited to reach sealed road after a similar ride because the sign to Canberra had been stolen. Can’t say I’d have put on my bike bit everyone is different.

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The rest of new years eve was an uneventful but incredibly tiring ride into camp, followed by a lovely evening of food and chatting around a fire with strangers until I politely fell asleep satisfied that I had achieved my goal for the day!

Day 3: Pleasure
45km – no unsealed road!
There really isn’t much to say about new years day. I got up, road on sealed road back into Canberra, immensely enjoy riding down Fitz’s Hill and was back into Tuggeranong then on to Canberra.

Final day of riding of my Namadgi National Park ride. The big down hill is Fitzy's Hill.

Final day of riding of my Namadgi National Park ride. The big down hill is Fitzy’s Hill.

Stradbroke Island Cycling

On Sunday we braved the early morning cold and got up at 6am for an adventure out to North Stradbroke Island, the largest of the many islands which form the barrier between Moreton Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The crisp morning air demanded jumpers to be worn with our shorts so it was hard to raise the motivation to throw our bikes in the car, rummage through the cupboards for food and drive out to Cleveland where the car ferry begins the 45minute journey across to the Island.

Having parked the car and assembled my bike (seriously one day I am going to buy a bike that fits in a car or even a standard bike box) we bought our tickets just as the ferry started loading. The calm and beautiful conditions on the crossing confirmed to us that it had been worth getting up, and that we weren’t mad.

Our early morning ferry trip confirmed that today would be a good day!

Arriving on the island we were immediately in the shade of the sand hills the dominate the island. Panic filled me as my ideas of riding around on a perfectly flat island with lots of beautiful bays was shattered, but a coffee from the bakery restored my earlier optimism and we started riding towards Point Lookout at the northern tip or the island. The riding is easy, with good roads that seem well thought out and aren’t steep.

The hills are relatively large (80m maybe), the the slopes are gentle making them easy enough to ride. Continue reading

Tassie Cycle Tour- Days 7- 9 – Across the top!

This post follows on from my previous posts about Tasmania and it may be worth reading those posts first, alternatively enjoy!
 

Waking up at Friendly beaches on the east coast of Tasmania is a lovely experience. Before packing up we made an exciting breakfast of museli and wandered down to the beaches. As I have said before the coves at Friendly Beaches are amazing, and eating breakfast with clear water, white sand and red rocks can only lead to happiness! Eventually we got packed up (it was actually pretty early for us) and started riding for the day.

Day 7: Friendly Beaches to Weldborough – 65km

We started by tracking back into St Helens, travelling against the flow of recreational cyclists, and rode into town in time to pick up some fresh food from the markets. All stocked up we said our last good byes to the coast and rode up hill into the already strengthening headwind which would become our company for the rest of our trip. Fortunately the road levelled out and became a nice undulating road that followed ridge lines and valleys inland towards our penultimate destination for that day, Weldborough Pass, which would be he highest point on our east coast adventure. On the way we passed signs indicating that the pass would be one lane only road works were in progress but with the only option requiring many tens of kilometres more riding we kept going.

A lunch time we stopped at Halls Falls which are a series of small waterfalls which were previously redirected by in miners working this area around the turn of he centuary. Amazingly many of the diversions were still in place and we followed the man made water course along the side of the hill for almost a kilometre before it petered out.

From here we rode on towards our loft goal and the constant gradients, headwinds and warm temperature out of the wind took its toll. However we persevered and after nearly 20km of riding in granny-gear we reached the summit of Weldborough Pass (yes the Pass has a conveniently located summit) and took time to enjoy the knowledge we had climbed from sea level to 1680m that day, and that the ups and downs in the road probably added a lot more elevation change to that figure. To make matters even better Clare’s sisters had level a beer for her at the top so things were looking up!

The ride down the other side of the pass was fast and cold. A few minutes after starting out decent we stopped at a rainforest walk just off the side of the road and were immediately surrounded by ancient groves of Myrtle Beech and a rainforest community only found in Tasmania. The ancient trees are unlike anything else in Australia and their gnarled limbs are testament to how they have survived.

This ancient myrtle is a species remanent from Gondwanna forests that once covered Australia.

Riding on we stopped while an Echidna removed itself from the road and then finally made it to Weldborough Pub, the most welcome campsite and hot showers of the trip. For anyone going to Tasmania make sure you stop at the Weldborough Pub and make the most of the hospitality and the great selection of Tasmanian beverages including the Tasmanian Chilli Brewing Company (my favourite soft drinks in the world).

Day 8: Weldborough to Scottsdale – 59km

Something you need to know about riding across the top of Tasmania is that there are hills. Not long big hills, but those repetitive small hills that make riding a bike frustrating and tiring. Today started with the promise of lots of down hill, but once we reached the valley floor it would be a slow and windy day. To break up the day we took every opportunity we could to explore the side trips on offer. The first of these was the Moorina  cemetery were we looked at the Buddhist funeral memorial and met some locals who told us about all the stops we would take that afternoon. Uphill and much frustration later we were riding along hills smothered with dairy pastures and opium farms.

We eventually arrived in Derby were we were welcomed by the Berri Cafe which sold dairy-free cake! Derby was a pretty town with lots of old buildings including the old school house and post office, but as far as we could tell its claim to fame was as a stop for motorcyclists who all waved at us as they rocketed past at high speed. Not far out of Derby we followed signs to the Chinese Miners Heritage Trail, which was a private museum/memorial to the lives of Chinese miners who has pioneered gold and tin mining in the region. The walk wound through the remanents of old mining leases and mining works where the earthworks of manual labour were still evident. There was also a hut filled with great information about the lives of miners in the region.

The Chinese Miners Heritage Trail was a beautiful outdoor museum to the lives of Chinese miners in northern Tasmania

The final rest stop of the day was at Legerwood where we ate lunch under the shelter of the disused railway station and admired the war memorial, which consists of carved tree trunks. The carved trunks are those of the original memorial trees which were controversially cut down for safety reasons.

The carved trees of the Legerwood War Memorial.

Our day ended at a free campsite in Scottsdale. We made lots of friends there including an Aussie who was riding to Hobart for a friends wedding and a Frenchman who had arrived in Australia and then bough everything for his trip in Kmart.

Day 9: Scottsdale to Launceston – 69km

This was the day we discovered what the last day of the leg of any cycle tour is inevitably like. Knowing that there will be nice food and a bed at the day has an amazing ability to make the day pass slowly and miserably and today was no exception with Clare and I taking turns to be grumpy. The ride into Launceston is really very nice with lots of pretty scenery, and Lilydale Falls to look forward to, but the sky was grey and the head wind was relentless so we passed on taking side trips to places that had always been on our itinerary and had the sole goal of getting to town.

Long Weekend Cycle Tour – Rosewood – Lake Moogerah – Ipswich

It was a wet and windy weekend and all through the house chilly drafts filled every corner. The alarm stirred two sleepy figures who opened their eyes, mumbled a few words about how terrible it was and rolled over to go back to sleep. 
Ten minutes later one figure sat bolt upright and declared that it was time to go riding!

Our plans for the weekend we’re fairly simple. We would catch a train to Rosewood, run an undefined distance and following an undefined route as far as we could be bothered which would hopefully be Lake Moogerah. We would then turn around and come back if we had sufficient energy. Amazingly it worked out quite well and to plan, though that was never going to be hard.

Our route for the June long weekend cycle tour and the vertical profile. Click on the image for an interactive version.

So on Sunday morning we rode to the station and headed off to Rosewood with little or no plan, but a good supply of food and some shelter in case it all got to hard. One of the best things about Brisbane is that it is really easy and cheap to get out of it by public transport. From Rosewood we turned south along the Rosewood-Warrill View Rd into a head wind that made riding like riding on sand, every spin of the pedals was harder than the one before and progress was slow averaging only 16km/h.

Anyway the ride improved after a stop for hot chips in Rosevale and the afternoon saw us riding along the nicest road we’ve ridden. The road ran between Rosevale and Aratula and was well graded gravel winding up a beautiful wooded valley with a creek next to the road. If anyone is in the area take the time to ride it!

After a late lunch we rode the last 12 kilometres to Lake Moogerah Caravan Park which is situated right beside the lake. We didn’t take any photos because we were tired and it was far to nice to lie on the grass. Instead I have provided some photos from their website to entice you!

On Monday morning we packed up in record time and started heading north. With sore legs and hills to contend with he first few kilometres nearly made us weep, but once we crested the last hill it was downhill for kilometres with rapid descents and very little pedalling to be done. The joy on our faces going down the hill would have looked amazing, but it was good enough to declare it our second best ride (after the day before of course). To top it off we finished the morning riding at brilliant cafe in Kalbar called the Art Cafe Du Kalbar, you all know I get pretty excited about coffee but this place is up there with the best. It has arm chairs in the wind, with books and magazines discreetly placed on the table and is wonderful. Also they now know how to temper soy well after yours truly educated them as part of my quest to enlighten the masses.

After coffee we rode on into the rain and wind, stopping only to put on rain coats, overshoes and play with historic water pumps.

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Riding with the crazy dutch guy!

I spent this afternoon riding out of Brisbane with Thomas our crazy dutch cycling friend.

Thomas has already ridden around Tasmania, New Zealand and from Melbourne to Brisbane. He hopes to make it back to Melbourne (the long way) by December.

For info on his ride or to see his amazing photos go to http://thodo.nl

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Sunshine Coast and Hinterland – Not Flat

On Tuesday I set out for what I thought was going to be an easy three day ride through the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, down to the Sunshine Coast Proper, and then back to complete the loop. Based on our ride in the Glasshouse MountainsI mistakenly thought that it would be a fairly easy ride with one day of hills and then a two days of relatively flat terrain. Little did I know what it would turn out like….

The start of my ride, the map on this board is better than the one I was using to navigate.

Continue reading

Tassie Cycle Tour: Day 4 to Day 6

This is a continuation of our report on cycle touring around Tasmania in December 2011. For an over view of the whole trip see our Trip Overview, and it might be best to read Days 1- 3 first, but that is up to you…

Tassie Cycle Tour Days 4-6

Day Four: Rest Day at Swanwick and Freycinet

Having struggled through day 3 we’d spent the night in a nice holiday house with Clare’s sisters and awoke fresh and ready for the day ahead. Freycinet is probably on the most beautiful bits of coast in Tasmania and is certainly up there with all the parts of Australia’s coast that I’ve seen so far.

We walked out to Wineglass Bay which is pretty amazing, the white quartz sand, orange lichen covered rocks and crashing waves made for an impressive display of natures beauty and power. After a quick snack we got walking again heading over land to the other side of the peninsula. Halfway along the track we came across a side track that lead to a large shallow lake surrounded by trees and reeds. The rest of the walk was beautiful and punctuated by rain squalls.

That night we went out the a fancy restaurant in Coles Bay called Madge Molloy’s, If you are ever in the area go there because it was fantastic!

Day 5: Scamander (93km)

This was our first really long day, but luckily we had the wind behind us as we headed north along the coast. The road was relatively flat along the coast and we made good time, except for some larger than desired hills when there we nowhere for the road to go but over the headland. At around lunch time we made it the Chain of Lagoons which was a beautiful series of beaches and lagoons along the coast, with lots of shorebirds running around. The chill breezed kept us from dwelling for too long so we reluctantly got back on our bikes and headed for Scamander.

We spent the night at Scamander Caravan park which is at the northern end of town. The facilities were a little old (the camp kitchen was not enclosed for example), but a walk along the beach and around the river mouth cheered us up. For anyone planning on stopping in Scamander get there early because there seems to be one IGA in town which was closing up at about 6pm when we were there.These windblown dunes were filled with shells, driftwood and other debris, Continue reading