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Chris Rishworth fuses solar and pedal power to bike Oz

Alia Parker's picture
Cycle touring past Uluru. Cycle Traveller

Chris Rishworth's ride around Australia is a little different to your average bike tour: he's doing it completely off the grid, that is, generating all his own power through a bicycle hub dynamo and a solar panel. And he is filming it all! The challenge ups the ante for someone who has been bicycle touring since he was 10. Back in June this year, Chris cycled out of Albury, NSW, where he had been living since cycling in from Cairns in North Queensland five years before. Cycle Traveller caught up with Chris in Alice Springs to find out how his Co2Friendly adventure is travelling.

CT: How did you get into bicycle touring?

CR: My parents were into bush walking. Most holidays we would go away camping and bush walking some place in Australia. My brother, sister and I joined little athletics when I was young. My brother started doing fun runs on the weekends and as I had to tag along I also went in these. At age nine I was running 25km events and finishing in the middle of the field. At ten I started going further, bicycle touring with my BMX, which we put a pack rack on for load. My brother was five years older so I tagged along. He did the planning and carried more of the load. At 13 years, my brother and I caught the train to Sydney and bicycle toured back to Melbourne via Mt Kosciuszko. You could cycle to the summit in 1983. Then from 16 years I got involved in cross country skiing and by 18 had won the Victorian Under 18 champs and the NSW U18 champs. In 1989 I got to represent Australia at the world junior champs in Norway. Living in Albury, I liked to strap my skis to my bike and ride 100km to Mt Bogong, hike to the top and go skiing. My home of now is the bike and I have no fixed address.

Chris Rishworth bicycle touring in the Flinders Ranges. Cycle TravellerCT: Whereabouts in Australia do you expect your current tour to take you?

CR: My current tour started in December last year (2012) where I travelled The Main range of Australia's Mt Jagungal (2,062m) and Australia’s highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko, followed by the Snowy River and out to Bega and Batemans Bay before heading back to Albury. I had a break deciding what to do then started again on June 14, 2013. I crossed the border into South Australia and headed up the Mawson Trail from Willington to Blinman. Then I went up to the Oodnadatta Track and I turned south at William Creek to Coober Pedy to get cheaper food supplies.

CT: What did you think of cycling the Oodnadatta Track? Any tips for others cycling up that way?

CR: The Oodnadatta Track was bumpy to start, but overall had a good surface. The woman at Maree servo said there was no water at Coward Springs (not correct). When I got to Coward Springs I was told the tank water was fine and that if there was none there any cyclist was welcome to go to the main house and ask for some. After Coward Springs the road became very smooth to William Creek. This is where I headed to Coober Pedy. That road was a bit sandy for about 25km, then just got better and better. I’ve now travelled up the centre on the Stuart Highway and turned off to see Uluru, the Olgas and Kings Canyon. For those coming up that way, there is an IGA at Yulara just near Uluru.

A tip for travelling the outback: make sure you can carry a lot of water. I can carry up to 23 litres. It takes the stress away for the longer sections.

The Olgas. Cycle touring outback Australia. Cycle TravellerCT: Can you tell us a little about your Koga Signature bike and how it's performing, belt drive, hub gears and all?

CR: My Koga Signature bike is performing outstanding so far (except for a few minor details with the stand – the front kick stand spring broke and the back stand rubber bit fell off). The main components are doing well. The internal gears I haven’t had to adjust after 7,500km and I've had one oil change at 5,000km so far. The carbon belt drive is still running perfectly. I’ve been through mud, sand and dust and it’s going great at the moment. I’m quiet amazed how well it’s done. The bike is just doing excellent so far.

CT: You've got a pretty cool solar power set up. How long does it take to charge your electronics and how does it compare to the dynamo?

CR: My power source is a 60 watt solar power film which unfolds. It weighs 1.45kg, or 1.7kg with a Goal Zero 120 watt power supply, so it does weigh a bit. I use my dynamo connected to a Busch & Muller E-Werk charger to charge the phone, which works well while riding. I use Memory Map from Hema digital maps of Australia to navigate on my phone. Add my 12 inch Aleinware solid state drive, a Nikon D800 camera, two GoPros and a Galaxy S3. In the end, I’m able to make videos and surf the net when in range. I have a 5Dbi antenna for extra distance. It takes a day or two every week or ten days to charge up before I can move on. It works well because these are like rest days to get my videos rendered and blogger site up to date as well as Facebook and other uploads like Flickr etc. It’s amazing how far technology has come in the last ten years! I recently uploaded a 23 minute video to YouTube that took six hours. The first day I ran out of power before it was uploaded! Uploading does take quite a bit of time and rendering the videos.

Bicycle touring. In the sand on the way to Finke Gorge. Cycle TravellerCT: Your ride is off the grid, but does that apply to everything? For instance, do you stop in at the odd motel or cafe?

CR: No, I’m totally of the grid. I haven’t had to plug in yet. I’ve stayed at four private camp sites: Coober Pedy, Yulara, Kings Canyon (they gave me one night free for cycling there) and Alice Springs, plus Flinders Rangers National Park. In total, I've spent $122 on camping since June 14.

CT: Where have you enjoyed cycle touring the most?

CR: The Mawson Trail in the Flinders Ranges National Park may be the best bit so far with the single track riding. But having said that, all the places have been very nice to see.

CT: Where to next?

CR: I’m currently just outside Alice Springs. On this tour I expect to cycle the West MacDonnell Ranges then up the Stuart Highway to Katherine, turn left and head for Kununurra and then do the Gibb River Road. I then plan to head south towards Perth and onto Albany then across the Nullarbor and onto Kangaroo Island and Tasmania around January, February. Then maybe I'll head up the east coast to the Daintree then around to Darwin, with a whole lot of other places in between. I've done three months with maybe one to two years to go. I just take each day as it comes.

Keep cycling and being green for a brighter future.

You can follow Chris's adventure and see videos of his journey on his YouTube channel Co2Friendly.

Images courtesy of Chris Rishworth. From top: 1. Touring past Uluru, NT. 2. Chris in the Flinders Ranges. 3. The Olgas. 4. In the sand on the way to Finke Gorge National Park. 

Comments

Roger Chandler's picture

I've opted to pull a second dynamo in my trailer wheel. Critics have claimed there is too much drag. I don't even know the load is there once I get going. You adjust to whatever load you have to pull. I try to avoid ranges which really turns the rig into a "Push Bike". I power an iPad, phone, head torch rechargeable batteries, a wifi dongle. I have a B&M light set which demands all the power from the front wheel when I opt to move in the dark. Otherwise my battery banks are plugged in. The Chinese have developed quite a range of cheap Power Banks to support Mobile Phones. I have a 2200mah iCable that came with my dynamo. This will charge a phone once. I also bought the Pedalpower+ battery rated at 6800mah that will charge a phone and head torch AAA rechargeables, or put half a charge into the iPad. That lot cost me $240. I then found a big range of Battery Banks on Alibaba. I bought a 12000mah power bank for $34! Which will fully charge my iPad. It has both 1a and 2a USB discharging ports. It recharges through a mini-USB port at 5v 3a DC. My regulated dyno power supplies this. Recently, I found a 20000mah Powerbank advertised on eBay for $38 inc postage. It has 1&2a discharge USB ports and a micro USB recharge port. It came with a range of adapter plugs for all common phones and tablets. I bought it and it is performing well at home. I hope to be back onto my bike soon. Do you save your power or do you use it as it comes? I generally discharge my BB's into my appliances while I sleep then put them back onto the dynamos during the day while I am moving, one in a front glove box and the other in my trailer.

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