A blog about cycling...especially the long distance stuff

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Why Cycle Across The Nullarbor?

Perth to Adelaide....3500km of remote wilderness...not much water, lots of wind...and not much of anything else...the "Nullarboring" so they say?

photo credit: SA Tourism

I'm not so sure. Frankly the world is a small place...and our time on it, is short! There is something quite appealing about pushing oneself deeply...and stripping back life to the basics. We fill our lives with the noise and chaos of the day to day, and forget what living really is.

This is no mid-life crisis for me, I've felt the need to do this kind of adventure for a very long time...

Maybe out in the expanse of outback Australia I'll get a reminder of how small and insignificant we are, how we need to make the most of our time here? Hell, I may even inspire others to do the same?

And on that note I have another, slightly less selfish, reason why I am doing this trip. Sometimes we are reminded of ,the fragility of life when we see others stuck down by the immense misfortune of illness. My wife, who works in the medical industry, must see this every day, and has had to develop deep professional fortitude to handle it. Her and her colleagues, are all hero's in my mind!

Most of us are not up close to such pain most of time, and when we see people suffer, it hurts. Rather than wallow in this I'd prefer try and do something more proactive about the situation: and that is hopefully raise some money for a very good cause.

So that is why I'm riding for Cure Cancer Australia...maybe that money will save someones life?

Anything you can do to help this cause would be fantastic, you can donate here if you feel like it...

About My Route

The Nullarbor itself is only one section of this whole journey. Starting in Perth, I plan to ease into things with some shorter days while I head south through Margaret River and down to Cape Leeuwin. After that there are some hills and spectacular forests to negotiate, before joining up with the southern coast and the first really remote section out to the oasis-like town of Esperance. 

If the weather is good, and the bike and I are in OK condition, I'll consider a very remote route up a 4WD track through Cape Arid, but more likely: I'll take the more well beaten path north up the highway to Norseman which is the last chance for decent supplies before the scarily long and remote Eyre highway cuts across the plains towards the Nullarbor itself. There are roadhouses about every 200 km here and I'll need to carry enough water to get between them no matter what the conditions. Food is equally a problem as there is only "trucker" type food available at these outposts and I'll be burning huge calories each day.

But of all the concerns, its the wind I'm most worried about. The theory goes, the area experiences a prevailing westerly wind...but it can seriously blow, and from any direction in reality. Look at the last 2 weeks for example:

Source: http://wind.willyweather.com.au

Not many Westerlies! But I should hit at the area at the calmest possible time of year on average, so that at least improves my odds. Indigenous Australians in South West Australia have ‘season’ for this short period of relatively calm weather in April and May, it’s called “Djeran.”

Should I make it through all that, the route ends after turning south from Port Augusta, and I'll probably head through the Clare Valley to finish up in Adelaide...3500 km later.

Monday, 6 March 2017

6 Weeks to go....training!

Departure day is approaching fast...and there never seems to be enough time to train! But that has been the focus, along with collecting various bits of gear needed to do this safely. The big purchase was a new bike which I'll give a full rundown of a bit later. But the reason behind this was that my tried and trusted "Bianca" which I've ridden already from Adelaide - Melbourne and Melbourne - Sydney, and across England and Scotland on my first fundraiser. I just don't trust she will survive hauling a heavy load across the outback:

Bianca on the Great Ocean Road
Bianca is a modified cyclecross bike with racks added...she's fine for week long tours but too liable to break down for me to risk a really remote trip with.

As for training: well to get a good kick-start I gave up alcohol for two and a bit months and kept increasing my distance each week since Jan. That helped me lose a fair bit of weight and get me focused properly. My long commute to work is my training base...and I've been adding on one bigger weekend ride most weekends, up to about 145km so far for those and about 150-180km covered on the weekdays. Doing all that on top of a full time+ job isn't so easy but not too much I can do about that...

Of course no amount of training can really prepare you for the sustained nature of a long tour hauling heavy loads, so, my strategy on the trip itself has to be to start slow and build up fitness as I go. Cue laughter from my wife who knows how impatient I am!

The next big job on the list is to do an overnighter somewhere to test the bike fully loaded and see if I can remember how to camp!

Friday, 13 January 2017

Perth to Adelaide this Autumn

Its been quite some time now since I had a good tour...way too long! I hope the legs can remember what to to do...and of course that means some training now to at least get a reasonable fitness base ready.

The plan this time is to fly out to Perth, head south through Margaret River and Cape Leeuwin, then veer east through Albany, Denmark to Esperance and then across the Nullabor Plain to Augusta, before turning south and heading through the Clare Valley down to Adelaide.

It's about 3500 km all up, and I have a 5 week time limit. I'll also be fundraising for a charity so a little more on that later...so many details to plan now but it's just very exciting to have a big goal again...more to follow...Game On!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Point Cook to CBD Cycle Route

About a year ago I posted about the ever growing transport problem in West Melbourne, and a race at the time between bicycle, car and public transport to the CBD from point Cook as part of a "Get Wyndham Moving campaign. (the bicycle won). I was quite critical of the campaign for using a bike on their logo, when the initiatives in their brochure seemed more geared towards the motorist. At the rate of our population growth out west, I personally can't see anything other really quite drastic change as having much of an impact - for example I wonder how many new car parks would have to be built at Williams Landing to accommodate the population growth for say, the next 5 years? Getting people out of their cars seems to me to be the only sustainable, if a little unrealistic option.

So on that note, something  a little more proactive that I have meant to do for a long time, and that is share some decent information about the beautiful cycling option we have out west here. And this is also a great day trip with cafes etc at Altona and Williamstown.

As often as I can, I cycle to work. It is faster, cheaper, and more reliable than a car, bus or train, and I arrive to work on time and with a clear head and having done something to get off my butt. It is a fantastic ride - largely traffic free on shared bike/pedestrian paths, and is very quiet and safe as far as city commutes go. The only real hazards are the odd over excited dog off leash, and a few short sections on the road with some traffic...on a clear morning with the first glows of the sun pouring over Port Philip Bay, it feels like the best commute in the world!

Entry points

..or skip this and look at the route on a map

There are a couple of options for starting this depending on where in Point Cook you are based - but try to avoid the Point Cook roundabout by the Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre, which is a major hazard. Point Cook road is seriously dangerous for cyclists despite the intermittent bike lane. Bypass this by:

1. If coming from the Laverton end, join the path down Skeleton Creek somewhere - there are numerous entry points. If starting from Skeleton Creek / Seabrook below, add 3.7km:

2.If coming from Salt Water Coast (+5.2km), head down the prom and turn right onto Spencer street. At the end or Oprheus street you can wheel your bike up a small embankment (don't ride it, you'll damage the landscaping) and then connect. up with Sanctuary lakes. You can also use the later part of the route if come from West Point Cook/ Featherbrook/ Alamanda Estates:

From Sanctuary Lakes

Assuming you've done either one of those, the route starts from Beach Walk off Sanctuary Lakes Boulevard. Cross the footbridge over the creek - on cool and crisp winter mornings there are stunning sunrises, and I make a special effort to stop for a minute - this sure beats sitting in a traffic jam!

Winter Sunrise

Cross the bridge here and you are now traffic free for the next 5 or so km along the wetlands on the shared path to Altona

Cheetham Wetlands
This section is usually pretty calm in the mornings if it's a southerly, or a bit harder if it's a northerly. Either way the coastal breeze is normally stronger in the afternoons so enjoy the sweet ride in. In the afternoons, a sea breeze picks up pretty much every day. More often than not from the south-west, and because it is pretty exposed here it can be a bit tougher coming back home.

Part of the route
Another great spot for photos is the small hill at 100 steps, just before Laverton Creek if riding towards the city. Head up to the top of the hill if you are into photography.
The route then pops back out onto the road along the Altona foreshore. In the mornings, this road is totally dead from traffic and its another beautiful section of the ride, with more great sunrises!

Altona Foreshore

Keep following the road, it degrades badly as you start to run parallel with the railway briefly just past the Alton Boat Harbour, in winter make sure you have decent lights here so you can see the potholes. There is a river ford are Kororoit Creek which is only a problem if it's been raining seriously hard...on those days there may be 1ft of water here but in summer it's totally dry most of the time.

The path then snake around Jawbone reserve - in the mornings here there are people out walking, especially from a nearby old peoples home - so remember it is a shared path, slow down and let them know you are there before passing. I have seen snakes here too, 4 times in 2 years, but nowhere else on the whole route. All 4 times it was on the first hot day in Autumn when they are most active..around October-ish.

Williamstown Beach on a summer day
Once you escaped snake country, the bike path pops out at Williamstown beach. Not a bad stop for a dip on the way home when it is warm! For the rest of the ride in you'll be back on roads. You can either follow the road around Point Gellibrand, or to take maybe 1km off,  there is a path behind Williamstown station. You then follow the Williamstown foreshore with the option of the road (which has a good bike lane) or a shared path on the coast.

2 options to finish this off:

1. Jump on the cyclists ferry the The Punt which runs every 20 minutes just in the mornings and afternoons (timetable on their website) and takes a few minutes to short cut off a fairly unpleasant ride through the docklands industrial area by taking you across The Yarra. The punt is a small cyclist/pedestrian ferry with a bit of a community of like-minded people on board, and often has plenty of good banter going on. It is extremely reliable and I've never seen it not run, even in the direst weather. A $10 card will get you 5 trips + 1 free on weekdays (its more expensive on weekends) or $2 for one way.

The departure point for The Punt is below and before the Westgate Bridge.

The Punt. Just to set expectations: the one in the foreground...
2. Keep cycling around the docklands area. There is a bike path, and its OK riding with the exception of a few dangerous sections where the path crosses roads or over horrible gratings that will catch thinner wheels. Road cyclists don't use these sections. If you take this option, its +10km - I haven't added this on here but you can find it easily enough by using the bike path filter on Google Maps.

Assuming you took option 1, from the Punt landing point it is about more 5km to get into the city Head along Lorrimer St until you get to a left hand turn for Foundary Way. You can then get off the road and ride along the river for the last section. I've measured my route up to the Southbank directly opposite Flinders St station. Be very slow along the Southbank, cyclists have been getting bad press there for being a hazard and its a busy shared area.

And here is the route itself in full.


Distance: From sanctuary lakes to Flinders St its about 28km. This is not the fastest, most direct route - but I think it is the nicest.
Best months to ride: in Autumn the wind is calmer and it is still warm but not hot. My favourite cycling month is April.
Worst months: Spring is the windiest, I don't like October despite it getting warmer! In mid-winter you need good warm gear and good lights as there is NO street lighting on a lot of this route - but once you toughen up winter is no major problem.
Hazards: Dogs off leash. And they are totally invisible in winter. Also a bit of truck traffic in the docks area where you get off The Punt, although there is a lot space.
Cost: Less than $4 return. You'll need a decent breakfast.
Time: Depends on your legs and your attitude! About an hour and a quarter riding + 5 - 10 minutes on The Punt. You could be faster or slower.
Stress facto: Nil.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Think you can cycle a long way?

Flabbergasted. Astonished. Respectful...even at time disbelieving. That was how I felt after reading 'Unsurpassed' the incredible story of Tommy Godwin...a long distance cyclist who has given new definition to the word 'endurance'.

The year was 1939. A 27 year old amateur cyclist from Stoke on Trent pedaled away from home to set about challenging a cycling magazine competition with a challenge to see who could cycle the farthest distance in a calender year, under club riding rules. Now here is the crazy part. 1 year later, Tommy had racked up a thigh screaming, buttock blistering 75,000 miles (120,00km). Yes, you read that correctly...an average of 205 miles per day, times 365. This was on a heavy steal bike, without modern nutrition (and in fact through war time Britain and rationing) and through a notoriously nasty winter.

To put this into perspective: A fit and trained cyclist can do a 100 miles in a day and be pretty much OK  the next day with good nutrition and a good nights sleep. 200 miles in a day is a whole new level that heads into Audax territory - and you just don't hear of riders being able to sustain anything close to that level of distance for weeks...let alone months...let alone a year.

At his peak in June, Tommy knocked out the following distances over consecutive days...in miles:


I just can't imaging riding 361 miles in a day, even with fresh legs! Astonishingly...at the end of his 1 year completely smashing all other records...in true Forrest Gump style but without the Hollywood script writers, Tommy kept on riding until he hit day 500, and with 100,000 miles done, and only 1 rest day!!

You would think after a ride like that he'd have earned a jolly good lie down - but 3 weeks later the war had caught up with Tommy and he was conscripted into the Army. Problem for the Army was, Tommy could still not walk properly yet!

The story of Tommy Godwin has further endearing quality's too because of his humble upbringing, complete lack of fame and ego...and for those who have pushed themselves physically on long rides can appreciate, the incredible mental strength and bloody mindedness he must have had to keep going. Really inspiring stuff...some great photos and information here if you are interested in his story.

His record still stands.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Melbourne to Sydney - Tour Summary

A trip summary with information here helpful to anyone else planning something similar...

Basic Plan

Cycle from Melbourne to Sydney via the southern coastal route through Gippsland then up the NSW coast, avoiding the Princess Highway where possible. Most of my route is on road, though about 150 km all up on dirt roads (Rail Trails in particular, which are great for riding).

Route Summary & Stats

Journal Link / Distance* / Elevation Gain (Map links are hosted on http://www.ridewithgps.com)

Day 1: Frankston to Kilcunda / Route Map / Distance - 93 km / + 393m
Day 2: Kilcunda to Yarram / Route Map / Distance - 129 km / + 721m
Day 3: Yarram to Lake Wellington / Route Map / Distance - 147 km / + 553m
Day 4: Lake Wellington to Orbost / Route Map / Distance - 141 km / +944m
Day 5: Orbost to Cann River / Route Map / Distance - 75 km / + 1144m
Day 6: Cann River to Eden / Route Map / Distance - 111 km / + 1452m
Day 7: Rest Day
Day 8: Eden to Bermegui / Route Map / Distance - 100 km / +1600m
Day 9: Bermegui to Surf Beach / Route Map / Distance - 120 km / + 1406m
Day 10: Surf Beach to Ulladulla / Route Map / Distance - 81 km / + 975m
Day 11: Ulladulla to Shoalhaven / Route Map / Distance - 102 km / +864m
Day 12: Shoalhaven to Wollongong / Route Map / Distance - 78 km / + 657m
Day 13: Wollongong to Sydney / Route Map  / Distance - 78 km / + 1080m

* I am noting actual distance ridden each day. The map links are sometime a bit less, where I didn't track side trips.

Total Distance: 1,255 km - Averaging 104 km a day and 1 rest day.
Total Elevation Gain: 10,289m - South-east Australia is not flat...
Nights Camping: 9
Nights Indoors: 4

Flying Domestic With a Bicycle in Australia

I flew back to Melbourne with the bike. Carriage rules and weight restrictions depend on the the airline, this information is for Qantas Domestic and is correct at least at the time of writing!

To fly with your bike:

  • Book your flight, and figure our how much your luggage will weigh, including the bike. A ticket currently allows 30 kg max with your main bag, so I purchased an additional allowance of 1 more bag, so my total was 60 kg. Book the additional luggage allowance. This cost roughly 70$ extra.
  • On Qantas, the bike must be in a box, which you buy from the sales counter when you check in ($22 extra)
  • I used a bike bag (below) to get my bike to the airport. I then just loaded the whole bag into the box, for a bit more protection. The box on its own has no padding. I also bought my own tape to the airport.
  • You are allowed to pack accessories in the bike box, provided they meet all other luggage rules!
  • You must deflate the tyres, remove the pedals, and turn the handlebars sideways before boxing it.
  • The bike then gets loaded into oversize items, which is also where you collect it from when you land. This all went smoothly for me, though not all the staff were all that familiar with their own rules..to be expected I suppose, given its probably not all that common as a request. 
  • I used 1 large bag for all my other kit...panniers and all.


Friday, 11 April 2014

Melbourne to Sydney: Day 13

It was pouring with rain all night and I was expecting more of the same when I got up, only to see patches of bright blue sky in the morning perfect riding weather - brilliant!

My plan for today was to ride up the coast, through the national part and emerge on the edge of Sydney's Southern suburbs at Grays point. I'd then try and negotiate my way to the town centre. If that failed: plan b was to take a more easterly route across the national park to Bundeena, get a ferry to Cronulla and then the train into the city centre.  Either way its not far, but navigating to the centre of Sydney was not going to be all that easy.

The bike path north of Wollongong is whole lot better than the southern part. Its clearly marked, in great condition, and winds its way alongside the northern beaches through some stunning scenery.

North of Wollongong

Near Austinmer its back on the road, which becomes windy and hilly as you start to climb towards the hills in the photo above. Then there is the superb sea bridge section. The road has been raised on huge concrete pillars next to the massive coastal cliffs, and winds its way alongside the dramatic coastline...complete with a big swell rolling in below and alongside you while you ride. I put my helmet cam on here and took some film footage I'll post later. Just a still for now.

Sea Cliff Bridge

I stopped briefly before and after this section to put the helmet cam on/off. Riding round the next corner...was another shock.

Road workers had set up a temporary block. Sirens wailing behind as the police arrived...to what turned out to be a nasty van vs bicycle accident. It sounded bad...I believe the rider was coming the other way...there is the monstrous descent in that case, so he probably was travelling quickly. A passer by told me the van was pulling out of a side street and didn't see the cyclist. I hope he is OK, the airlift helicopter got there very fast so he was at least getting excellent care...but it sounded bad.

The road got closed here as a crime scene...and this was a bit for a problem for the trip, for what its worth. I waited around for a while to see if the road was going to be re-opened but the police were saying it would be about 5 hours and all the traffic was getting turned back. The only alternative route for me would mean about 30 km cycling back towards Wollongong, and then head north along the busy Princess Highway again. I didn't really have the range or inclination for that! Instead, settled on riding back to a train station about 2 km back, waiting an hour for a train, then going forward 1 stop to Coal cliff which would get me just past the accident site, and start riding again from there. This all worked fine but I wasn't riding again till well after lunch, so had a long way to go still.

The climb up to Bald hill from here was awesome...but my mind was more on the poor guy who'd got hit. The remaining traffic on the road had got the picture and were all driving with great care at least. 

Top of Bald Hill
At this point the road heads into the national park for another beautiful section of road to ride. But 'Bianca' (my bike) had been playing up. Whenever I was coasting, the chain would catch and try to detach itself...and off and on when pedalling, the forward motion of the pedals was not driving the rear wheel. Bearings I think...and not a problem I can fix. The next town was still 30km away which felt like a very long way...I limped along here pedalling, coasting, and occasionally walking...too busy to take many photos of the beautiful park unfortunately!

Finally at Audley, feeling very hungry and tired, I connected with the Bundeena track and emerged in the southern suburbs of Sydney at Grays Point. A relief to be here, but riding down town was now not an option. I got the bike as far as the Gymea train station...and jumped on board to end the trip somewhat unceremoniously as dusk fell.

This last day felt the toughest on the trip...despite a meer 79 km!! The last 30km was a major slog. It felt a bit of a shame not to ride into the centre of the city...I'd built up a mental picture or riding right to the harbour bridge. But in the end took some satisfaction from at least reaching the suburbs.

What a great trip. Such diversity in scenery, such a massive and beautiful country to explore, and on a bike you see it at what I think is the 'right' pace. 

I'll sum up the trip soon and add route maps, helmet cam footage etc when I get back to Melbourne. But for now, its time to enjoy Sydney with my wife!

Distance: 78km
Route map