CYCLE TOURING 101- test your equipment and expect the unexpected
Objective: An introduction to cycle touring and a practice run! The Ultimate Plan: cycle solo across Canada. My accomplices: Stuart and Liz. These are some of the valuable lessons I learned on that inaugural multi day cycle tour.
The ride was an abridged version of the “Cycling Australia” Lonely Planet Gold and Wine Country circuit. It covered 4 days with rugged terrain and spectacular vistas. The goal was to be fully self sufficient!
Lesson #1 – Be prepared for any weather!!
We camped in Bathurst the night before the start. Granted, it was ANZAC day weekend and we were in Bathurst, but there was just no way we were prepared for how cold it was that night!
Lesson #2 – know your equipment. That includes its limitations!
Our bikes were pretty much loaded to the hilt. We were covering vast amounts of gravel roads (at times, the only pavement was at the top of the climbs – we were told that was to enable the buses to get over the hill! Yikes.) We had a number of flats along the way. The most memorable was on the road to Mudgee. We were on the last stretch of gravel in the rural back country of NSW’s central west. Just as we were passing a farmer and his dogs working the sheep – BAM – the familiar sound of the tire giving way to the pressure and air quickly vacating its chamber! Patch after patch was applied, but all to no avail. In the end, all we could do was load Liz and her equipment onto the back of the ute and wave as we watched the farmer drive her back to town! With so much time spent fiddling with the flat, the rest of us had to double time it back to Mudgee before dark. The valuable lesson of carrying extra tubes was forever imprinted on my mind.
Lesson #3 – Aerodynamics can most definately be altered by panniers!
The fully loaded touring bike takes on an entirely new aerodynamic profile. This lesson became etched in my memory as we were descending the final hill on the way back to Sofala. Front and rear panniers, coupled with the speeds of rocketing down hill, and changing head and side winds as we roared down the hill equates to the need for nerves of steel, strength of an ox in the upper body region and a calm head! As I rocketed down the hill, the wind caught on my front wheel, tried to pick it up and change its course! My arms and shoulders were tensed so hard trying to keep the bike straight, the muscles shook in protest! What a rush!
Lesson #4 – Savour the moments.
Cycle touring tingles all the senses. The crisp morning air as you set off from your campsite, not knowing what the day will bring. The thrill of being on the road, with only you, your bike and your tent and the sun on your face. Somehow, the food tastes better on the road. Savour the moments – the exhilaration of flying down the hill, the satisfaction as you climb up the other side and the pleasures of rolling along the quiet roads.
The most memorable moment for me on this trip remains the encounter we had with a small group of kangaroos on the first day. We were whooping and hollering as we sped along a flat gravel section when all of a sudden, out of the brush, we started a small group of roos! Now, I can’t remember if they were red or grey kangaroos, but I certainly remember the sound of the THWAK as the biggest one bound across the road in front of me! My heart was in my mouth – the moment still etched on my brain! How close I came to barreling into that kangaroo still gives me goosebumps!
#5 – Pack less – you are only going to have to carry it up that hill!
Perhaps learning #5 is better described as pack smart! Let your clothes do double duty so that you have less to carry. Share the load of common equipment amongst the group. It also comes back to knowing your equipment and using it to its fullest potential. Since doing this trip, I have gone across Canada – over 6,000 kms carrying everything on the bike. This trip prepared me for a trip of a lifetime, but that’s another story! Get out there – enjoy the pleasures that are cycle touring.
Gold & Wine Country Circuit, modified from the Lonely Planet Cycling Australia guidebook.
This tour passes through former gold mining country en route to Mudgee. The terrain is rough at times however the scenery and quiet roads make it all worth while. There is also plenty of wildlife to see along the way.
Places of interest
Sofala – stop for lunch at the Royal Hotel, dating back to 1862.
For a taste of regional history, the History Hill complex is just outside of Hill End.
Step back in time and stay at the Hill End Holiday Ranch – 1930′s sleeper carriages are available for the night.
Visit Mudgee wine country. In September, check out the Mudgee Wine Festival.
If you have an extra day, take a detour to Dunns Swamp. Dunns Swamp is an ideal location to experience the bush, including visiting pagoda rock formations and an Aboriginal art site.