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Tandem touring: enduring a Victorian heatwave

Alia Parker's picture
Sunrise in Victoria during an Australian summer heatwave. Cycle Traveller

Alan and Wendy Baird have cycled much of the world on their tandem bicycle. Since selling their dental practice in 1997, the Scottish couple who now call south east England home, have toured through the likes of Morocco and Europe, New Zealand, Asia, the United States, Canada, Central America, Colombia and Cuba. They have cycled in Australia numerous times, including a tandem crossing of the challenging Nullarbor Plain in 2011.

This time, the pair have been making their way from Adelaide to Sydney via Geelong, the Victorian Highlands, Canberra and the coast, making use of the rail trails, including the Great Victorian Rail Trail, the Murray to the Mountains and the Bass Coast Rail Trail. But the summer weather has thrown a few hurdles in their way, and dangerous ones at that, with scorching temperatures, high winds and catastrophic fire warnings. We caught up with Alan and Wendy last month to see what life's like with two on a bike.

Alan and Wendy crossing the Murray River on the ferry to Talim Bend. Cycle TravellerCT: How would you compare touring on a tandem with riding individual bikes?

AB: Wendy just can't keep up with Alan on solos, so it is always a game of waiting and catching up... not much fun.

CT: Tell us a little about your tandem. Has it been customised for touring?

AB: We have a Thorn, custom built tandem with S+S couplings, which we think are essential for touring as they allow us to dismantle the tandem to put it into a car boot, train or plane.

CT: You're smack bang in the middle of a summer heat wave at the moment in an area of Victoria on high alert for fire danger. How are you coping and what precautions are you taking?

AB: As you say, we have found ourselves in a heatwave with high fire danger. To combat the heat we have been leaving at sunrise and finishing by midday to avoid the worst of the heat; we make sure we have plenty of water and cover our heads well.

To help with the fire danger, we have been asking locally at police stations what their best advice is for the day. In the end there were fires in several directions, so we ended up losing a few days waiting to see how things went, we decided to hire a car to make up some time, it also meant that we could leave the area more quickly if there was a problem.

CT: Have you had a favourite region that you've pedalled through so far? If so, what did you like about it.

Bicycle touring on Warragul Road, Victoria. Cycle TravellerAB: Gippsland in Victoria has always been a favourite of ours. We like the rolling terrain and the views from the tops of the hills.

CT: Any sections of the route you would recommend to other cyclists?

AB: We would recommend the whole route, especially the rail trails in The High Country (The Great Victorian Rail Trail and the Murray To The Mountains).

CT: Anywhere you would recommend others avoid?

AB: No.

CT: Where to next?

Cycling on the Bass Coast Rail Trail, Victoria. Cycle Traveller

AB: We were thinking of possibly of going to Italy in a few months for a short trip then to Azerbaijan and some of the surrounding countries.

You can read all about Alan and Wendy's many trips on their inspiring blog.

Images from top: 1. Cycling on Warragul Road, Victoria. 2. Wendy and Alan crossing the Murray River on the ferry to Talim Bend. 3. Sunrise over the fields, Victoria. 4. Riding along the Bass Coast Rail Trail, Victoria. (Images courtesty of Alan and Wendy Baird.)

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