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The wheel thing: this has only happened in Victoria

Simon Parker's picture
A bike path near Tawonga in the Kiewa Valley, Victoria. Cycle Traveller

The shock of it almost had me fall off my bike. I couldn't rationalise it when it happened, as it was the first time it had occurred in around 10,000kms. At first I thought I had imagined it – the only thing that had ever passed us were cars and trucks. Oh, and a kangaroo, almost to the detriment of my wife Alia when it decided, at the last nanosecond, that it wanted to cross the road in front of her bike.

I digress. Why the kangaroo wanted to cross the road is one for a later blog perhaps.

It was a such a pleasant surprise – random enough to shock me – but one that has now been repeated several times since.

"G'day, how you going?'"

What the...? Where did that come from, I pondered? My head whipped around, momentarily forgetting the steep road ahead.

Tunnel on the Great Victorian Rail Trail. Cycle TravellerThe question was from a fellow cyclist, who was on a road bike ascending Towonga Gap in Victoria's High Country. It was the first time in the many hundreds of hours we've spent spinning our wheels across this great land that a cyclist has overtaken us. Wow.

Yes, we've met a few cyclists heading in the opposite direction, particularly on the Stuart Highway as we test rode our Red Centre Route. And we've met them in caravan parks and motels, cafes and pubs along the way. And we've seen riders out on the bike paths in Canberra, as you would expect in a capital city. But really, when you think about the seven months we've spent on the road, we've come across a mere handful of cyclists. So never had one come up from behind and overtaken us on a road thus far.

Perhaps it shouldn't have been a surprise. We were in prime cycling country, in between the two wheel meccas of Bright and Mount Beauty, in the shadow of Australia's second highest peak, Mount Bogong.

"We're alright," I eventually stuttered, still in shock.

And that was it. Another cyclist soon passed us, and then a third one an hour or so later as we closed in on the delightful town of Bright.

Why am I making such a big thing about this seemingly innocuous event? Well, while cyclists might pass each other every day in our major capital cities, the fact that it's not common in rural and regional Australia makes our long distance cycle touring routes so important. We want this to change, and we hope our efforts eventually prompt more governments and councils to see cycling as a viable form of transport, giving it the infrastructure – and respect – to match.

Cycling into Bright, Victoria. Cycle TravellerVictoria's extensive network of rail trails, and their tourism authority's general promotion of cycling in the High Country area, is an insight into what could be an exciting future for so many more parts of Australia. Bicycles are literally everywhere; from families cycling along the rail trails through to athletes going hard up the steep roads that dominate the area, and mountain bikers, too, shredding the dirt. Drivers, made aware of the Amy Gillett Foundation's one metre separation plea via prominent signs, seem to respond. Some drivers were so patient they waited behind us until we rounded a blind corner, even though we were only travelling at 10km/hr.

Where possible, and in keeping with us following the Great Dividing Range, we've attempted to utilise existing bicycle infrastructure. Not just because it's safer, or easier – we believe it's important to support existing cycling infrastructure to help encourage future projects. Furthermore, being amongst other cyclists makes for a wonderful change from such a car-dominated country; just cycling through an area where you're appreciated – and where there's bicycle-friendly facilities to match – makes your journey that much more enjoyable and relaxing. Where else, apart from South Australia, can you so easily, and safely, cycle from one winery or cafe to the next?

Victoria's trails are being noticed in other parts of the country, largely due to the tourism revenue they deliver. And we're pleased to note that there's the chance our route might eventually take advantage of more rail trails if proposed projects in NSW get the green light.

Certainly, many of the roads we've taken the GDR Route down are quiet, with minimal traffic. So cars or trucks aren't often an issue, and most locals we meet love the idea of having more cyclists using these often underused roads. But it's the times when you do need to cycle down a busier road that you appreciate every little bit of assistance you get, from the simple act of a sign warning drivers about cyclists using the road, through to roads that have a wide (and continuous) shoulder on them.

We're glad we can take the GDR Route through towns like Bright, as we're sure cyclists will appreciate the infrastructure at their disposal. You'll be sure to love the scenery, with much of the route dissecting some of the most spectacular mountains and gourmet food-growing regions this country has to offer.

We're in Melbourne at the moment – the GDR Route takes you directly past two railway stations that have regular services into Victoria's capital, making it an easy journey. We're taking three days off for Christmas before our final push to Adelaide, where we should be by the second week of January. In the meantime, Alia and I wish you all a safe and festive holiday season, and a happy New Year – a year in which we'll deliver the GDR and Red Centre Route maps and guide. 

Images from top: 1. A bike path ambling below Victoria's Mount Bogong. 2. A tunnel on the Great Victorian Rail Trail. 3. Cycling into Bright.


when you have a similar isolated incident, half up Cape York peninsular, that,s when you know you know you aren,t the only one doing it tough, as we stopped and chatted for nearly an hour. Merry Xmas, Guys.

Alia Parker's picture

That would have been a spinout :)

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