touring Oz - will it be relaxing / enjoyable?

Discussion in 'Australia and New Zealand' started by daviddd, Nov 15, 2006.

  1. daviddd

    daviddd New Member

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    OK, how long is a piece of string! But I'm thinking of doing 'the lap' around Oz next year but I'm reading lots of blogs / books that bemoan the fact that many Oz drivers are inconsiderate to cyclists; that the main routes are busy and often don't have hard shoulders; that the hard shoulder is littered with glass and rubbish and is cracked; that many police officers are intolerant of cyclists etc. I know there are sometimes other routes, inland, that will be less busy when on the east coast, but choice seems limited in some areas. During my tour in the Alps in July I encountered few of these problems, and I'm afraid that a year of all that will just spoil it for me.

    I'm not Aussie bashing, honestly, but I need to examine the pros and cons before I commit myself.
     
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  2. 46kgToDate

    46kgToDate New Member

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    We realise you need to consider these things before investing so much of your life on a gamble. What can we say? We can't gurantee there will be no cracks on the sides of the roads. There will almost certainly be an intolerant driver or twoand ther will be broken glass, after all beer bottles break when you toss them out of car windows! Heck its a risk...
    Far better to stay there in Scotland! The weather is beautiful - all year round, everyone is so sober and well behaved, the roads are perfect, the scenery constantly changing. How could you consider leaving?:)
     
  3. anthonyg

    anthonyg New Member

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    Keep on researching. Cycling all around Australia is a challenge that one shouldn't take lightly. The east coast with its less than perfect highways is the least of your troubles.

    You could DIE traveling down the west coast or across the southern coast from dehydration and heat stroke and you may not be found for days.

    It's been done but its not a challenge to be taken lightly. Less than ideal roads or traffic are the least of your problems if your up for it.

    Regards, Anthony
     
  4. LeojVS

    LeojVS New Member

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    and DAMN its a long way around. Make sure you know just how far it is for part of your planning. Anyone know? And up the top end its fuggin hot, down low its fuggin cold, so be aware of that. \

    If you plan it right, it would be an awesome trip, but make a mistake, and as was mentioned above, you could die and not be found for days.

    Good luck mate!! :)
     
  5. Jono L

    Jono L Well-Known Member

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    Yeh, there's a good stretch of road across between WA and SA that hasn't got a bend in the road for a few hundreds k's:eek:
     
  6. geoffs

    geoffs New Member

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    depends where you are in Australia but cycling around you will meet the whole spectrum from ignorant redneck to those who will give you the shirt off their back. You will find Aussies a pretty friendly bunch most of the time same as anywhere. If you join Warmshowers, you'll find plenty of places to stay. We've only cycled the east coast and most of our experiences have been good. Sydney is a whole different kettle of fish and you need to be very confident of your traffic skills. We have world class food in our major cities and the number of towns that serve good coffee grows by the day but if you are in outback Australia it seems their idea of haute cuisine is tomato sauce.

    For us, given the choice of cycling in Europe or Australia we'd go for Europe every time, especially if you like good food. We had 5 weeks in France last year and only one lousy meal in Avignon. We also had a week in Austria and the food wasn't as good but but we still found a few good places in Vienna.

    Our next cycle tour will be in Italy or France

    Cheers

    Geoff
     
  7. daviddd

    daviddd New Member

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    I take you point A, I've done a lot of research and read umpteen books / blogs about cycling in all parts of Oz. I wouldn't be wandering off Highway 1 very far (although I'm a bit peeved that it appears *impossible* to cycle to Cape York, I really fancy riding in the rain forest but unless I can join in the annual group tour to the Cape I've had it. Might have to settle for a plane ride or boat up from Cairns.). I'd have fixed where all the roadhouses are too, and with a trailer could carry up to 10 litres or more of water.
    I'm going through all kinds of indecision at the moment to be honest, I have a year off work to go where I want and starting in September at Perth and going anti-clock would get me round nicely in that year - I'd be doing about 12 to 13,000 miles. 1000 a month is OK. I am an experienced cyclist and know my limitations. However another option is to cycle Perth to Sydney in1st 3 months; then 3 months in NZ, then 3 months crossing USA W to E, and the last 3 months in Europe. I do love Europe but it's not too great in the winter weather-wise. I spent 3 weeks cycle-camping in the Southern French Alps in July and loved it. It was very hot so gave me an idea of what Oz will be like (OK, worse and for longer!!). I need to make my mind up soon, hence this thread....
     
  8. daviddd

    daviddd New Member

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    About 10,000 miles around sticking to H1 I think, but zigzagging about 12 to 13K miles (20,000 km). Might nip down to Uluru too LOL. Sounds better in miles LOL. As I said above, the seasons are *favourable* leaving Perth in September (springtime) - summer in the south - autumn in N.Queensland and winter in the north / NE.
    My partner and I are actually travelling to Oz next week for her sons wedding so I can see some of it for myself. Watch out for me on top of SHB on 2 December!
     
  9. daviddd

    daviddd New Member

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    Thanks Geoff, good comments, I have to admit I love my food, I too had a great gastronomic time when in France in July, but I won't be getting paid any wages for a year so will be living v.cheaply, lots of cheap calories for fuel. I'm sure you're right about the rednecks etc. I think it's the motorists coming close that I fear the most, that really winds me up.
     
  10. Thylacine

    Thylacine Member

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    There are idiots everywhere. Fortunately, your chances of being cut off by someone with two heads and a shotgun on the back seat are slightly slimmer than in other parts of the world.

    Seriously though, Australia is an extremely safe place to cycle-tour. Our driving style might be a bit more aggro than say England where they invite you around for tea if you cut them off, but I've only ever seen or heard off good attitudes towards cyclotourists here.

    Granted, talk of them is usually punctuated with "Hey Kev, didja see that nutbag on a bike out in the desert?", but that just comes with the territory!
     
  11. artemidorus

    artemidorus New Member

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    The only parts of Australia where I have consistently encountered nasty, aggressive drivers are the North Shore of Sydney, Parramatta Road in Sydney and Northern/ North Western Tasmania (north of Sheffield and west of Devonport). Everywhere else I have toured just has the occasional nutter, like anywhere else.
    Cycling touring in Australia only works if you absolutely avoid busy, main routes whenever possible. Realistically, this means a bike with a minimum tyre size of 28-32mm, and ideally 559mm wheels and a frame that can accommodate 2+" knobblies (which I would carry as foldables for use as needed - slicks, for the same reason, would also best be foldables). Europeans consider our roads to be atrocious because they often are - cracked, potholed, often unsealed and covered in deep dust and/or broken glass. Those relatively few roads with decent shoulders are usually so busy as to be intrinsically unpleasant, and the majority of Highway 1, I would imagine, has no shoulder at all.
    You can have a great time with appropriate route planning, but a "lap" would involve a lot of dreary slogs in the baking heat, with a long distance between spots of interest in some areas. Culturally, much of Australia is pretty homogenous - most country towns cannot attract professionals because they are just too dreary. I second Geoff's comments about food in many places.
    I have never encountered cyclist-unfriendly police on the road, nor ever spoken with anyone who has, but just wait until you try and report a cyclist v driver traffic accident: 90% of cops seem completely uninterested.
    If you encountered hassles touring in cyclist-loving France, perhaps you should avoid Australia - my experience of touring in France was that everything was blissfully safe and easy in comparison with here.
     
  12. Thylacine

    Thylacine Member

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    I think you'll find a great deal of it has an emergency stopping lane which is essentially a shoulder. Freeways/Highways/Motorways are by nature unpleaseant, but probably statistically safer than country roads I'd hazard to guess.

    Elitist much? I think you'll find that country towns can't attract professionals simply because the money and jobs are in the city. There are many facinating country towns with great food that I'd move to in a second if it worked logistically for me and my family.

    Your food comment is misinformed, too. Sure if you walk into the first cafe you find in any country town you're going to get a ham and cheese sandwich and a crap coffee. However, if you're into your food, you'll find that almost every country town has at least one excellent cafe or bistro. In Victoria, some award winning restaurants are found in the country, like The Daylesford Hotel in Daylesford, Ripe in Sassafras, Del Pieri's restaurant in Mildura whose name escapes me atm - get 'The Age Good Food Guide' and go nuts.

    It's true we have a very short history and a centralised population, but to draw cliche's about that is no different than saying all you can get in France is cheese and baguettes. That's just plain misinformation.

    Again, you have to compare apples with apples. Australia is a huge place and there is no doubt big expanses of bugger-all (just ask my mate who rode the Nullabor), but to not cyclotour here because it's 'different' than France or wherever else you care to mention, would be missing out BIGTIME.

    Like all big endevours, you just have to do your homework. If you do that, you'll find cyclotouring here rewarding.
     
  13. artemidorus

    artemidorus New Member

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    OOhh, I can feel the bristling from here!!!
    Look, you've only got to look around this forum to see that I've done a bit of touring around Aus, and I certainly intend to do a lot more.
    I stand by my comments about country towns - I could name many that are an exception to my generalisation, but you can't tour just through those if you actually want to get anywhere. We certainly can't compete with Europe for cultural heterogeneity.
    I stand by my food comment also - how is a cycletourist going to be in the know about the only good place in any given town? In somewhere like France (outside the largest towns), you have to work hard to find bad food, but in rural Australia, it's lurking at every turn.
    I'm thinking hard to try and remember any shouldered main route in Australia that I've enjoyed touring on, but my (blinkered?) memory just can't.
    Finally, my comparison of Aus and France was made simply because the OP suggested he'd considered (at least parts of) France a hassle - if France is a hassle, then Australia is big brother hassle on steroids in terms of the OP's original concerns of bad, littered roads, nasty drivers and limited routes. Forgetting France as a yardstick, Australian touring is fantastic, but the OP wanted his concerns addressed.
     
  14. Thylacine

    Thylacine Member

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    Damn straight I'm bristling! Actually I'm bristling more from the fact that you obviously appreciate good food yet own a Trek Y bike! :p;)

    Listen, I've ridden in quite a few places and traveled a fair bit in my time, so let's just sum things up for the OP by saying that all the 'culture' is in the cities, there's a whole boatload of 'not very much' between them, and the geographical/logical landmarks are also seperated by large distances.

    So, if you want 'compact', well then duh, Australia is not for you.

    If you're scared of cars, then probably touring isn't for you.

    If you're a total food slob and lazy, you're also gunna hate the distances between a nice Pinot and Wagyu.

    I mean, I'd suggest if the OP wanted 'compact' they should look at NZ, but the roads aren't any better, the drivers nuttier and the food's even worse. :D

    Ah screw it, just stay at home and watch Discovery Channel!;)
     
  15. artemidorus

    artemidorus New Member

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    The price was right, and stable platform rear shocks do a lot to compensate for overly simplistic design...
     
  16. daviddd

    daviddd New Member

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    Crossed wires here somewhere, I stated that "....in my tour in the Alps in July I encountered few of these problems....." not "a few " of these problems LOL. And I never mentioned "compact"???!
    I can see that wider tyres would be useful, but was counting on using my present touring bike which is a Thorn Audax. It has road-type brakes so 28mm is prob the widest tyre I can manage, I think this would do because as highlighted above I wouldn't wander too far of the principal roads for safety reasons, being alone and all that.
    I'm not scared of cars - I said that I don't like cars coming close - I mean very close, like inches away, as has been suggested in some blogs happens in parts of Oz.
    Thanks to those of you with constructive comments!
     
  17. 46kgToDate

    46kgToDate New Member

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    Glad to be of service.:)
     
  18. slaw

    slaw New Member

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    I did "the lap" in 1982 so my experience is pretty dated, though I have been touring extensively since. I did it on a 27" wheel touring bike with 1-1/4 in tyres as that was all there was in those days. There were some stretches of unsealed roads even on Hwy 1. Would have been easier on a fat tyre bike.

    Starting from Perth, it would be good to spend some time in the south west of West Australia. That has the best scenery of the state: tall forests, wineries, coast. From there you're on the Nullabor which is a good introduction to outback cycling. Some people find it dull, but I love desert riding. Takes a while to get into, but forget about gormet dining and encounters with locals. Just enjoy the moods of the desert and bike pace is a good speed to get into it. It's much more mind numbing by car or bus.

    Once into South Australia and the East Coast, you'll have more options for routes off of the main highways, and a lot will be sealed so your bike should be fine, especially if you don't mind the occasional dirt road. The further north you are though, the options again become limited. There are shoulders on the highways in places, but not the whole length. Local knowledge might help for alternatives.

    Once you leave the East Coast to head inland, you're into outback cycling in a big way. Carry your own supplies and water. Camp by the side of the road. It's a great freedom to be able to pitch a tent just about anywhere at the end of your day's ride.

    For food, if you visit wine regions, there are sure to be good places to eat. Elsewhere, it can be hit and miss, so you're best to carry your own. Stock up in the bigger towns for more exotic supplies as all you get is tinned food in the small towns and little in the way of fresh food. You could also package up food and send it down the road via bus freight or plane old Australia Post. It wouldn't cost much.

    I'd imagine the majority of encounters with people should be fine. When I did it, there was some other cyclist who had a less than favourable experience with a cop in Port Augusta, but that would have been an isolated incident.

    World cyclists Tim and Cindie http://www.downtheroad.org/ have been in Melbourne recently and commented that they thought that Australians were amongst the most friendly people they have encountered yet.
     
  19. artemidorus

    artemidorus New Member

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    Thylacine's reply is mainly directed at me rather than being deliberately pessimistic for you, I think, and it was I who misinterpreted your comments about the French Alps rather than he.
    Once again, I can't overemphasise the importance of being able to get off sealed roads as required. I'm not talking about singletrack or technical riding, simply unsealed, corrugated, potholed, dusty roads for 2WD vehicles. Almost all my most fondly remembered touring vignettes come from these parts of a trip. If you are going to devote a year of your life to it, it doesn't seem much to get the best bike for the job. You don't need suspension, simply the option of fatter tyres when needed. Many old steel rigid fork MTBs would fit the bill. You could put drop bars on one.
    The main roads between Cairns and Adelaide, through Bris.,Syd. and Melbourne, will all be very unpleasant, with a few bits excepted, such as East Gippsland. Parallel small roads can often be idyllic. Being scared of cars or not is not the issue, it's whether you're having fun and I don't enjoy riding on much of Highway 1.
     
  20. daviddd

    daviddd New Member

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    Yes I can see why the off-road bits might be very enjoyable - it would be wild and wonderful to camp out miles from even the sounds from vehicles on a road. I have considered whether a Thorn Raven (with Rohloff) would be a better option, and whilst I could do without the cost it could give flexibilitiy; I could carry a pair of knobblies for offroad and slicks for the sealed roads. Either way I will probably be hauling a fairly large 2 wheeled trailer so should have enough room for spare pair of tyres, extra water for offroading etc.
    I'm sure too I could find plenty of quiet inland roads in the east if I were to zigzag a little - not really a problem if I have a year. Other than a few off-road excursions in the desert I will be doing long distances between roadhouses etc. I know there are some compulsory sections on H1 though so I'll just have to put up with those.
    I'm slowly
     
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