Summary - A Short Ride? - CycleBlaze

May 27, 2011


Well, I'm back in Perth and just finishing off the trip with a summary.

I flew back to Perth from Esperance with Skywest. It's 23 km from town to the airport, so plan accordingly. It costs only $20 to take the bike on the plane. The airline says you don't need to strip and box it, just ride it up and load it on. But when you arrive at the airport their ticket staff will tell you otherwise. They will complain and mumble something about not being responsible for any damage (even though they are)and then take the bike as is and load it up. The bike arrived at the other end without a scratch. Including the bike fee, the flight cost $300 - I would have spent about that much on meals and accommodation had I ridden home.

Some things I learned:

After all that time in slow travel mode arriving back in Perth so quickly was a bit of a shock to the system...

I guess the most important thing is I enjoyed the ride and the wee adventure. Now I've started, I need to do this more often. What I enjoyed most was rambling down the side roads away from the main hiways and road traffic and talking to the people in the small towns.

I definitely don't like the narrow shoulderless roads and the heavy traffic, but I survived them both. I need to plan my routes accordingly. On my next bike ride I'm going to make a point to avoid the main roads and stick to the secondary paved roads, the maintained gravel roads and perhaps the odd back track.

While in Cape Le Grande, I spoke to a professional photographer who told me about the back track to the Nullabor highway. It starts off of Fisheries Road and pops out at the Balladonia Road House. If the track isn't too cut up, you can get a 2wd car across it in the summer and plenty of cyclists take the short cut every year.

Another crazyguyonabike, GJ Coop, has gone that way in 2009/10, so it can be done. Check out his trip, it's an excellent read and an impressive piece of riding.

I'm already planning my return trip next summer. I'll take the back roads to Hyden, then Lake King and the gravel road from Lake King to Cascade and then into Esperance. From there I'll take the track to Balladonia and then across the Nullabor to Adelaide.... Now that sounds like fun.

Something I'm finding hard to accept is that cycle touring is a bit harder and will take me a bit longer to do than I had originally anticipated. I need to make some concessions for my age. I either need to get into good shape before I start riding or accept the fact that it will take me several weeks (3 or 4) of solid riding to get into reasonable physical shape. 50 to 80 km a day is plenty for the first month of riding. If my knees don't blow out, I can slowly increase the daily distances after that. I also need a rest day for about every 5 to 7 days of riding.

Flyology 101:

* There are some bits of bush where flies are in plague proportions - absolutely biblical

* And there are other bits of bush where there are none...

* Bushflies don't like strong winds or rain

* They find it hard to keep up once you get above 12 kmph, even less into a headwind

* The little blighters can ride a tailwind just as well as you can!!

* They will hitch hike on your back and your panniers when you're not looking

* Don't breathe through your mouth

The Gear:

I only did about 900 km fully loaded, but feel I can make a couple points about the gear I used:

The bike held up well. The old school lugged chrome-moly Kuwahara mtn-bike frame is rock solid and reliable under a heavy load. The Japanese built good bikes in the 1980s and it's a crying shame the industry no longer makes bikes like this.

My mixed set of Shimano LX/XT and SRAM drive train never faltered.

Hand built 36 spoke Velocity Synergy wheels on XT hubs worked nicely and I think will keep rolling true for a while yet. All thanks to Sat and Aldo from Quantum Bicycles in North Perth.

The 2" Schwalbe XR tires may have been a bit of overkill, but were greatly appreciated every time I had to point the bike into the gravel when the road trains passed (some days every 15 minutes or so). They also give much more purchase and stability on the gravel roads and dirt tracks.... and I have had no flats (quick, knock on some wood). I have done about 3,000 km on them and they are hardly even worn in.

The Topeak SuperTourist DX racks are a viable alternative to more expensive racks and at less than half the cost. This rear rack can be fitted to the front fork by just reversing it and using your cantilever brake mountings to secure it.

Ortlieb panniers need no recommendation from me - they do the job faultlessly.

From now on, I'm always going to cycle in wool t-shirts: short and long sleeve in different weights.

I used two 6 ltr MSR Dromedary water bags. I can't think of any better way to reliably carry large amounts of water. They are very versatile, tough as old boots and reliable - they won't leak or break down.

A good camp mat is essential - My Katmandu knock off didn't work. I ended up borrowing my wife's Thermarest and combined it with a strategically placed bit of bubble-wrap. Don't underestimate the bubble-wrap! I'm pretty sure that provided you can get a piece big (and bubbly) enough, you could just use it alone.

The Henry Shire Scarp II tent was ok. It takes much longer to put up and take down than advertised and it's a real hassle to take down in the rain. It's fairly waterproof, but I do need to go over some of the seam sealing to make it 100% waterproof. And before the next trip I'll get a second storage bag to enable me to pack up the fly and poles separately when wet.

If you want to stay in touch with the world, take a small computer and get Telstra Mobile Broadband. It is a much cheaper alternative to using libraries or internet cafes on route. You can get a Telstra signal in many rural/remote locations - can't say the same for any of the other providers.

The mp3 player is a nice luxury and weighs naught. Same for a small am/fm radio.

I'm hooked on cycling with a Kindle - it's fantastic to travel with a full library. You can download pdf maps onto it. It's lightweight, robust, the battery lasts several days and if you get the model with 3G, you could also use it to check you email.

The flynet is probably the single greatest Australian invention...

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