Preparations in November.

November marks the six months to go milestone in the preparations for the ride.  Since the middle of 2006, and the training for the Great Victorian Bike Ride which we completed in December last year, we have been continuing to ride increasingly longer and tougher rides most weekends, ranging from 40-50km circuits of the lake to a 100km loop through Spring Range Rd and Gundaroo.

John's preparations.

Bike and trailer at Lake George lookout


This month I have completed my toughest test to date, a ride to Lake George and back with about 12-15kg on the trailer and about 5kg on the bike, a day after a normal 50km circuit of Canberra.  The total distance was 73km, and involved several tough climbs on the new and old Federal Highways.  The temperature was in the low 30s and there was little wind, in fact once or twice I was cycling uphill in air that was exactly matching my own speed and it felt like I had entered an oven until the wind shifted enough to provide a cooling breeze again!

I made the 37km out in one go, and at Lake George found that I only had 600ml of water and nearly a litre in the thermos.  I drank a cup of tea and then the 600ml of water, about a litre in total.  Although still thirsty I started the return trip and was able to forget my thirst.  With about 15km to go I called into the Eaglehawk service station and filled my water bottle, drinking about a litre and a half before heading home.  At no time did I feel dehydrated and had energy for the whole ride.  Some saddle soreness was evident in the second half of the ride but the legs and knees held up well.

This ride is typical of what I expect to be cycling daily after a month on the road, and provided a good test of how I might cope.  I was pretty worn out that night but woke up fine next morning and completed a comfortable 30km ride after work.  I am now quite confident that our schedule of 50km per day for the first month increasing to 70-80km per day in the second and up to 100km per day across the top end will be achievable.

Preparations in December.

Five months to go from the 1st of December.  Time is starting to move more quickly now, but so are we, we hope.

Pete's preparations.

Pete has run out of bore water at his farm and has been busy setting up a solar powered pump to deliver water from the river that runs along his boundary.  This has required extensive research and planning, not to mention preparing the ground and designing and building the infrastructure for a system to lift water over 300' and just over 1km. 

But in between the travails of life Pete has maintained a training schedule of three rides around the lake per week and at least one ride of 40-80kms on weekends, mostly on the Kona road bike, rather than the Randonneur.  Pete has also started to load up his Randonneur with panniers and ride around getting used to the extra effort required for a loaded bike. 

He has settled on a 4 pannier configuration for the trip up the east coast, and intends to have his BoB trailer sent up to Cairns for the more remote riding along the top end, which will require up to 13 litres of water to be carried on certain stages.  With two large rear panniers, and two small front panniers, together with the tent carried on the rear rack, and a front handlebar pack for items close at hand, Pete should have enough on board storage to travel through the populated sections of the trip.

John's preparations.

It's now the middle of December and I'm getting an idea of how I need to configure the bike and trailer.  As a test I got together everything I thought I would conceivably want to take and packed them into the various bags available.  The trailer bag was filled with the camping gear, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, cookset, cutlery and plates, first aid kit, spare shoes, road atlas etc.  Total weight around 9kg, but close to capacity.

One rear pannier was filled with clothing, basically just 2 nicks, 2 shorts, 2 t shirts, one long sleeved shirt, one light jacket, 4 sets of underwear, trackie daks, spray jacket and that's about it.  The other rear pannier was filled with food, with cereal rice and pasta and some packets of this and that, filled up fairly quickly. 

On the rear rack is an Arkel Tail Rider, which will contain my digital SLR and accessories, as well as some of the items I will want instant and constant access to.  I also have a Topeak Tour Guide handlebar bag which will contain the video camera that I will be using to record the trip as we ride along (and therefore needs to be where I can use it while riding), as well as all the items I will want to access constantly such as sunglasses, maps, sunscreen, phone and the like.

Finally, I loaded up one front pannier with all the electronic items I expect to take, battery chargers for the video and still cameras, spare tapes, wide angle lens, rechargeable batteries, external hard drive and the like.  Altogether the paraphenalia required to record the trip in reasonable fashion will fill up half the pannier.  I may yet decide to distribute the items in the trailer but as part of a test ride it had no real impact on the bike's handling or performance.

Altogether what you see in the photos above weighed in at 22kg according to my bathroom scales.  Add the 6kg for the trailer and it looks like I'm likely to be starting out with 25-28kg of gear to haul around.  It sounds a lot but it only represents about an additional 25% over the weight of me and the bike together.  On the flat and anywhere tending downhill there's almost no difference in average speed, but for any climb the difference is quite noticeable.  At a guess I would say that for most uphill gradients greater than 2%, the speed penalty is 30-40%.  However over an average day's ride of 60km undulating, I expect to average 18km/hr, compared to 22-25km/hr that I would average on a bare road bike.

So far in December I haven't done any long rides, but most days I'll ride between 12 and 40km, with and without heavy loads, which is ample to keep the muscles in shape.  An indication of how the training is working was on a ride to Woden and back early this month.  A year ago I considered the climb up Hindmarsh Drive to be a 'hard' climb and I would come over the top pretty buggared.  This time I sailed up the climb and kept thinking the roads people must have done something to the gradient, because it was quite an easy climb.

Preparations in January/February.

26 Feb. Nearly the end of February now.  In a couple of days it will be only nine weeks to departure.  The preparations continue at a satisfactory pace.


We have stepped up the ante a little on the riding front.  Mondays Thursdays and Fridays we do a ride around the lake after work, for me that's 30-40km for the day depending on whether I've been elsewhere on the bike.  These rides are done on the 'town' bikes, Pete's Kona and my Giant Hybrid.  Saturdays we head out for a training run with bikes loaded up and try to emulate a hard day on the ride, with 25-30kg of gear on board and a route that takes us up and down as well as along.

Recent rides include:

Out from Campbell along the Monaro Highway towards Cooma, at the top of a long 4km climb equivalent to only about 1/4 of the climb we may face out of Cairns, we turned left at Royalla towards Queanbeyan where the photo above was taken, tea being the object of the stop.  Then we continued along past the Burra turnoff, before descending into Queanbeyan down the winding narrow road where half-witted tradesmen in utes think that the 3-4 secs they lose in waiting until they can see the road ahead clearly is just tooooo much for their primitive egos to bear.  After a stop at Sue's place to fix the video leads (multi-tasking) we headed back to Canberra and did a lap of the lake before finishing up. 

The total distance was around 85km and the degree of difficulty was probably as high as we will face anytime in the first two months.Another ride of close to 90km from Campbell was a loop out along the Federal Highway to the Sutton turnoff, where we turned left and through Sutton towards Gundaroo.  We stopped for the old tea break at the corner of Dick Smith's (a sponsor of the ride) property in the shade of some pine trees.  From there we headed west along the road to Murrumbateman and after about 15km we turned left again towards the Barton Highway and Hall.  The ride is a good balance of hills and undulating country, and another good test of our stamina.  Thankfully, although we were tired after the ride, by the next morning we could have done the ride again.

This last weekend (Sunday 24th) we did a standard ride from Campbell to Lake George and back. On the way back a diversion through Sutton and Majura Lane to assess how the bikes would handle a dirt road with corrugations and potholes.  Total distance was 78km for the day, and with the steepness of the old Federal Highway hills, a stiff crosswind most of the day, and a full load, it was a good test.  The highlight of the day was finding a Royal Gala apple tree laden with crisp ripe apples on the side of the road.  We left the tree with a few less kilos on itss branches!  The day was fairly relaxed and altogether we were on the road for over 7 hours, which is probably typical of the pace we will set on the ride proper.


Pete has settled on the 4 panniers configuration for the trip up the east coast, while I have continued down the trailer path.  Altogether I am carrying around 28 kilos, made up of about 20 kilos of gear, 6 kilos of trailer and the bags and panniers weigh another couple of kilos.  Travelling up steeper slopes sees the speed drop to as little as 8km/hr, but the loaded bike with trailer is a comfortable push along the flat at about 20-23km/hr.  The average while actually riding is 17-18km/hr apparently, according to the speedo. 

Pete is travelling about 4 -5 kilos lighter and this translates to about one km/hr faster on the hills, but no difference to speak of on the flat or downhill.  For more info on Pete's preparations visit the site


Preparations in March-April.

7 April Tea stop on the road from Gungahlin to the Sutton-Gundaroo Road.  A perfect day for a 73km test ride, not too cold, not too warm, a brisk westerly but not enough to knock more than 5km/hr off the speed.  The configuration on each bike has been more or less finalised so apart from tweaking and the changes that will need to be made once we're on the ride, the amount of stuff on this test ride is what we'll be leaving with on May 1st.

This is probably the last post before the scheduled departure on May 1st.  A breakfast has been organised for supporters at 7.30am, and we intend to ride out of Canberra's Lennox Gardens at 8.30am, across Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and up Northbourne Ave.  By mid-afternoon we should be in Goulburn.  It will certainly be different leaving Canberra in the morning and knowing we won't be back the same afternoon.

My kit has settled out at just on 30kg including the bags.  The trailer weighs an additional 6kg, making a total of 36kg.  The bike weighs 17kg.  That makes a grand total of 53kgs.  That sounds like a lot compared to the basic bike, but when you factor in my 80+kg, the percentage increase over me on a bare bike is just 30%.  Included in the 30kg is about 5kg of electronics, 5kg of clothes, 5kg of food and cooking gear, and around 7-8kg of camping gear and tools.  It might be possible to pare off 5kg off the total with a major effort but that would save maybe 10-15minutes over a whole day's ride, so it doesn't seem sensible to be brutal at this stage.  That might change as the ride progresses!

Pete's kit seems to have settled out at about 28-30kg including bags, but he doesn't have the extra weight of the trailer.  He is about 1km/hr faster up the steeper hills, but there is essentially no difference on any other terrain.  It will be interesting to see if there's any difference that manifests itself after many kilometres.

During the last week of March and first week of April I have ramped up the riding to levels approaching those we will need to accomplish for the first month.  During the week I have been putting 40-55km per day under the wheels for 4 days of the 5, and on the weekend an 80km ride on Saturday followed by more than 50km on the Sunday.  No major tiredness or stiffness as a result, and with a conservative attitude for the first month or two on the ride proper I cannot see the scheduled 63km per day for the whole ride being a problem.  Of course, the difference between a few days in a row isn't the same as several months of toil, but all the indications from other people's experiences are that it will only get easier as the ride progresses.

Recent Equipment changes and purchases.

There have been a few changes to the equipment list as the testing has progressed. 

The most recent purchase has been of two Pletscher double kickstands.  They were difficult to find in Australia but after a Google search and contact with the parent company in Switzerland, the local distributor Joad Sportz Supplies got in contact and we were able to purchase this unique stand.  Apparently they're very popular over in Europe, and I can imagine that with a better distribution and awareness strategy they could become standard fare for touring bikes in Australia. 

Originally I was going to take an external hard drive card reader for digital image storage, as each media card filled up I would transfer the photos to the hard drive, which would have needed charging at various times, and as battery powered items are wont to do, be flat when needed.  So instead, I bought an 8GB CF card for the Canon 20D, and a 2GB card for the Canon 720IS pocket camera.  Even at maximum resolution and superfine settings, that translates to over 2250 photos I can take before I need to download onto something.  There is a risk obviously with having all the images on one card, so I will probably endeavour to burn CDs as each GB is taken and post them back home for safe-keeping, but it should mean a lot less weight and resources devoted to image storage.

I have also managed to find a secure way to attach the large bike pump to the trailer so that it doesn't interfere with the load.  Having a proper floor pump is almost mandatory for efficient touring, because at 70 psi the tyres roll so much better than the 40 psi that seems to be the comfortable limit of most hand pumps.  It only takes 20 or so strokes to take the tyre from 30 psi up to 70 psi, a task that would take maybe 150 strokes with the hand pumps.

Wrap up

Well unless I get motivated to edit this page before the departure, this is it for the website for the time being.  It's quite daunting realising that there are only three more weeks before departure, but at the same time I'm feeling confident it will be a good solid adventure that will be very do-able if we remain positive and strong.  Time will tell.

13 April

Update:  Yesterday we loaded up with the final load configurations again (36kg all up for me, 30kg all up for Pete) and rode out to Lake George, via the old Federal Highway and to the first rest stop along the lake.  The total distance was 81km for the day.  This compares well with the first day's expectation of getting to Goulburn, 98km from Canberra, because although the distance to Goulburn is greater, the riding is a lot easier once we get to Lake George and can pedal along the flatter country towards Collector and Goulburn.  Just before we got to Lake George we came across a loaded-up touring cyclist.  First one we've seen on any of our local rides and it was good to share experiences with Lother, who was pedalling to Goulburn, camping overnight and returning to Canberra today.  We were also joined for lunch by Mike, who turned up on of them fandangled lightweight machines, no panniers, no trailer even!

On the way back from Lake George we were not surprised to see that the apple trees along the old Federal Highway had been stripped bare of all the ripe fruit, but the raiders had left some branches unmolested on one tree, so we picked what we could.  I ended up with a pannier full of apples, confirmed at home to be 8kg.  The additional weight brought my total load for most of the return trip to 44kg, and yet I really couldn't detect any difference in the behaviour or feel of the bike and trailer.

Both Pete and I have been slowly coming to the conclusion that although weight makes a difference to the speed and distance we expect to travel in a day, the difference is not as great as we first thought.  By pedalling a bit slower, the load doesn't seem to punish us even up hills.  I would estimate that each 10kg of extra weight results in a 1km/hr loss in average speed for a day's riding.  Assuming an average day is 75km of undulating roads, and a rider with only a light bag of essentials might average 20-22km/hr and complete the rip in 31/2 hours, I would expect to average 17km/hr as I have been doing, and complete the same distance in 41/2 hours of pedalling.   When you've got all day from sun up to sun down to complete the day's 'chore', it seems a bit pointless to sacrifice too much in the way of gear in order to maximise daily speed.  I could get my gear down to 20kg if I tried, but that would mean not taking electronic gear, sufficient clothes, reasonable camping essentials such as sleeping mat and pillow, etc, and for a 1km/hr penalty I'm happy with the 30kg of baggage I'll be hauling up and down the hills around Australia.