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The ride begins! How we're doing eight days in...

Simon Parker's picture
Cycling north of the Clare Valley, South Australia on The Red Centre Route. Cycle Traveller

Our dream is as big as this vast continent; to start developing long-distance cycling routes across Australia. Cycle Traveller's core goal has always been to help collate the many disparate bits of information relevant to cycle tourists, from short cycleways through to travel summaries from people cycling across the country. This information has already proven to be a valuable resource for the many cyclists – particularly foreigners – when planning their cycling trips here.

Taking this one step further though is the Australian Bicycle Route Project, where both myself, Simon Parker, and my wife and founder of Cycle Traveller, Alia (yes, the boss), begin to map out a series of official routes across the nation. These routes, including the Great Dividing Range (GDR) Route, will be broken down into a series of maps that will be created and ready for sale by mid 2015.

First on the list is The Red Centre Route, from Adelaide to Darwin – an estimated 4,000km journey up the guts of Australia. And it's eight days into this project, in the small South Australian town of Hawker, that we greet you with this first blog from the road.

While we've conducted extensive reconnaissance of some of the these routes by car, we always thought it was essential we cycled them ourselves, just to ensure we they were the best routes possible for those on two wheels, taking into consideration the need for regular opportunities for food, obtaining supplies, cycle stores, camping/accommodation, and the suitability of the roads.

Cycling through the Flinders Ranges on the Red Centre Route. Cycle TravellerSo how are we finding it? So far, amazing! It never ceases to take our breath away just how beautiful this country is and the freedom of seeing it on a bicycle is like nothing else.

We've travelled just over 430km so far, and the route has already snaked its way through some of the country's most enchanting scenery, taking in a variety of charming small towns and historic sites. The pace has been steady to ensure other cyclists don't feel the need to race through such highlights as the Barossa and Clare Valleys – both world class wine growing regions – and to give people time to get conditioned for the trip ahead.

It's winter, and while it gets cold at night the days are fresh and invigorating, perfect for cycling. This is prime time for cycling this route, edging into Central Australia when it's the coolest - another plus is the prevailing winds, which at this time of year are from the south and east.

Towns are plentiful on this first leg of the trip giving us the ability to pack light, carrying only what we need for a day at a time. It also leaves room for a bottle of wine or two from one the many wineries you'll pass, should you take up this route yourself. The locals are friendly and engaging; we've had numerous yarns with people of all walks of life, from a few blokes who grade (i.e. repair and maintain) some of the state's roads through to farmers who were only too happy to make sure we were OK, even offering us a spare house if we needed them. It's a generosity rarely seen in a city.

Best of all perhaps is the cycling-friendly paths and roads we've selected. Even coming out of Adelaide we've made use of some of that city's impressive cycleways, which effectively get you to its northern fringe with minimal fuss. Of the roads you'll find modest traffic volumes; even the busiest section, up near our present location of Hawker, sees only a few trucks and cars passing, the vast majority of which have given us adequate clearance.

Riding through Riverton, South Australia on the Red Centre Route. Cycle TravellerNow we sit on the edge of the vast Australian Outback, adjacent to the ancient red ochered rocks of the Flinders Ranges. Towns may become fewer and farther apart yet it's the pure solitude that's the attraction in these parts, where the soft shifting (hopefully!) of gears will often be only sound you'll hear. That, and early mornings or nearer dusk you'll more than likely get up close to a flock of Galahs screeching across your path, or a mob of kangaroos bounding haphazardly away. The colours are subtle yet enduring, the sublime pinks, browns and oranges contrasted against the deep blue of the Australian skyline.

And the Red Centre Route will take you right through it all.

More blogs will follow, so please stay in touch and start thinking of putting yourself in our saddles as we traverse northwards towards the Top End.

Comments

Looking forward to reading all your travel diaries :)

You're doing a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Can't wait to hear all about it and then follow it one day.
Good Luck, Travel Safe and have a ball!

How did you get out of Adelaide? Did you utilise the Northern Expressway bike path and if so how did you connect to it? It starts in the middle of nowhere on the Adelaide end.

Alia Parker's picture

We don't actually go near the highway. We follow the bike path right along the river and then use quiet back streets up to Gawler from where the rail trails start up.

Sounds wonderful safe traveling.

Mmm. Tempting.

Loving reading about your travels Keep us posted love the blogs I am down in East Gippsland and it's cold and wet so hope it is warmer up in the guts of Australia.

Look forward to reading more of this adventure.
Just a few questions. Are you going to use any of the Mawson trail, it seems to have pretty extensive cycling notes? The other is bikes and equipment? Tire size, what is the roughest roads/trails you are expecting? Are you camping most nights?

You maybe going to answer this in latter posts

Thanks Scott

Alia Parker's picture

Hi Scott,

We bump into the Mawson Trail a few times but we're keeping this route quite separate. The route we've chosen uses quiet sealed roads and also some dirt roads, but you won't need a mountain bike. It is designed for classic loaded touring bikes, so it will be a little smoother than the Mawson. Our route also brings you into closer contact with towns, water and food all while focusing on the gorgeous scenery.

We'll be writing more in detail about the bikes we're using to ride the trail in detail in upcoming posts, but they're your traditional steel frame touring bikes by Clamont frame builder Geoff Scott. We're using Rubena Flash Stop Thorn 700x35 tyres and we're really happy with those. For people who would like a bit more comfort on the dirt, you could push it up to a 700x40 tyre to play with the air pressure, or use suspension, but it is not necessary.

So far, the sections of dirt roads we've ridden have been good. A little gravelly and corrugated in some sections if the road hasn't been graded in a while, but it's generally smooth at the edges of the road. We've been picky not to choose roads that are too rough. And then most of the route is actually on sealed roads, so much smoother :)

We're mostly camping with some motel stops in between. For the entire Red Centre Route from Adelaide to Darwin, you will need to have a tent with you to complete, but for the section we've ridden from Adelaide to Wilpena Pound so far, you can actually leave the tent at home and stay in pubs/motels/cabins.

There's sections of the route we're still tweaking as we ride, so all the info won't be available until we finish the whole mapping project at the end of the year.

Cheers,
Alia

This is something sorely needed to encourage cycle touring in Australia. Well done and safe riding.

a wonderful project.i hope to be able to keep reading your blogs about the journey north.peter

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