I wouldn’t call it a downpour – more like a heavy drizzle for 5 hours, give or take, on a highway. With 2 punctures. I almost turned around. It was still the first day.
Adventure cycling – various forms of touring, supported and unsupported, slow and fast, on and off-road – has become hugely popular in the last few years. These sorts of rides (and riders) have always existed, but growing attention on social media has brought the adventure cycling sub-culture into the mainstream.
In the depths of winter cabin fever – especially in Perth, where rain falls only on the weekend – plans were made to kit-up and ride our bikes, unsupported, from Canberra to Melbourne. In reality, this is a relatively tame way to get into touring; after all, we expected to be in accommodation each night, and at a different bakery every other hour. We would head via the alps, beginning after Christmas, and plan to be in Melbourne with enough time to make the train for the Tour Down Under.
948km and a tickle under 15,000m – not including, of course, extras done during extended stop-overs, such as in Bright.
Given we expected good weather and (mostly) paved surfaces, we kept it light; 3 bags between the 2 of us, slicks, and lycra. Other than a few choice essentials – tops and bottoms, tubes, bidon-cage-shaped-speaker – we relied on towns to supply the remainder. Having raced and ridden in team-supplied kit for the past few years, I had basically become numb (pun intended) to the notion of good and bad kit – after all, who cares when it’s free. Wrong. Good kit (PedalMafia Tech jersey and knicks x 2 – the second set was to stay off the nose as much as possible) was the backbone of this trip. Not only because one should look good when attracting stares from the locals, but also because of my rather unseasoned derrière (which, I should add, features heavily in these photos) – after all, training for this trip started in December...
Top of Thredbo (a couple of days in). This is also the entirety of our luggage. And yes, I am bringing the triple back. PedalMafia Tech black.
The first day was, truly, pretty horrible. ‘Summer’ and ‘rain’ are not typically lumped together in Perth, and when you’re limited on space, rain jackets narrowly miss the cut... I wouldn’t call it a downpour – more like a heavy drizzle for 5 hours, give or take, on a highway. With 2 punctures. We almost turned around. It was still the first day.
Start, end. Happy, sad. Left, right.
Despite needing to re-shuffle our days from Thredbo onwards because of the rain, the weather quickly picked up again thereafter, and the rest of the trip was near-on perfect. The roads did not disappoint – the next 900km were, perhaps, some of the best in Australia. Compared to Europe, the terrain is far less alpine, meaning that you sacrifice scenery, somewhat, in exchange for towering forests and bushland, but this does not detract from the experience.
Along the way we had extended stays in Bright and Mansfield – both of which have their fair share of day-trip climbs, including Hotham, Falls, and Buffalo from the former, and Mt Buller from the latter. Bright, especially, is as close to cycling mecca as one can enjoy without being in the French alps, and is sufficiently big and busy that there is enough to do off-the-bike if a few days away from tarmac are needed.
By this point Emma had triangulated the exact location of the milkshakes seen on the right, and was directing us towards them with haste.
I’ve always thought the best thing about our sport is chatting to non-cyclists about cycling. ‘Oh yeah, we’re riding from Canberra to Melbourne’, the conversation goes, invariably followed by some expression of shock and awe. Really, though, our ride is achievable for the majority of cyclists – no sprints, intervals, or efforts, just 10 x 100km days, broken up with reasonable rest. Call it what you will: bikepacking, touring, adventure cycling; if you’re interested in riding your bike point-to-point, unsupported, the ride from Canberra to Melbourne, via the Alps, is an excellent idea. Take a rain jacket, though.
Hit me up on firstname.lastname@example.org if you want more info about the route or some of our recommendations on gear. Is there something else you’d like to see on the blog? Give me a bell!