Darrell Stone

dasmero@gmail.com

Bicycle Touring in Eastern Australia

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Tips

Learn something from every trip that you do!

Updated 25-10-2016

 

Accommodation
Are you leaving an empty house behind?
Dehydration
Domestic Airline Travel
GPS thoughts and considerations
Helmet Brim for Protection from Sun/Rain
Hill Climbing
Internet access
Magpies
Nocturnal Toilet
NSW Train Travel
Packing
Puncture Repairs
Rear View Mirrors on Drop Bars
Snake Bite
Tent Choice
Travelling with Children
Travelling with Others
Tyre Problems
 

 
 

Magpies

In these regions, swooping magpies can be a hazard during their mating season between August to late October.  I seem to have overcome this problem by lacing 5 electrical cable ties (5mm x 300mm) onto my helmet so that they stick up as spikes.  Don't have them all vertical because you need them at the side to keep them from coming in from those directions too. The ties on each side of my helmet are roughly horizontal and more than shoulder width. Since I've been using this setup, I've rarely been struck or had to take evasive action. They usually just don't come within 2-3m of me, so I ignore them - even the country maggies who delight in playing tag with their neighbours as you are riding along through their territories. I think that the general directions of the spikes is important, and more than 5-6 is probably an overkill.  You look a bit of a dork, but it keeps you safer, and is always a conversation starter in each new town.

I have also found that the Helmet Brim mentioned below offers some protection from magpies too. They will still swoop, and possibly strike, but the brim keeps them away from one's face and ears, making their sharp beaks less of a danger.

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Packing

  • Backpack.  I have found it to be useful to include a small light weight backpack to carry groceries, etc, back to camp.  There are a number of towns that are now or becoming plastic bag free, so this is very useful in these circumstances.  The pack can be compressed small enough to be held in your cupped hands.

  • Batteries or battery charger.  I carry spare rechargeable NiMH AA batteries for my radio and GPS.  I charge all of the spares before the trip.  I have purchased them so that they all use AA batteries.  This makes it easier to replace as they can all use alkaline batteries if all of my NiMH's are flat.  I also carry a charger that has 6 USB ports for charging such items as phone, iPod, Kindle, camera, mini tablet, wifi modem, etc.  It can punch out a total of 12 watts to these ports, so charge time can be reasonably quick as the charger interrogates the devices to enable it to charge as quickly as they will allow. It is ideal for a touring cyclist with limited access to power supplies as it only requires access to one 240v powerpoint, but can handle up to 6 devices. Cables and types can be a minor issue, but I have a number of short cables with the most widely used USB types, and one with adaptors to cover any other contingencies. It saves all of that time waiting .......waiting ......waiting!

  • Blanket - light weight.  During the variable late spring/early autumn months, I carry only a light weight sleeping bag that is rated to 10 deg C.  I have found that the inclusion of this blanket provides flexibility for unseasonably warm or cold nights.  I made it from a length of polartec (or similar) fabric purchased for less than $5 from a local fabric store.

  • Chain lube screw top container - empty.  This is only recommended if you are flying and you are unable to carry a normal quantity of chain lube in its original container.  However, even if you are not flying, it is wise to carry your lube in a screw top container to prevent leakage that may damage the contents of your panniers and their contents.  As you might be prohibited from carrying any lube on flights, you may need to purchase it somewhere along the route if you have flown to your start point.  Many manufacturers use alternate methods for closing the container, many of which are not really suitable for touring cyclists.  By carrying this empty container, you can decant lube purchased along the way and be confident that you won't have lube stained gear.

  • GPS and spare batteries.  My GPS is a Garmin Etrex 20.  I have found that Enerloop 2000mAh batteries last for over 25 hours continuous use when the GPS is set to normal tracking.  This equates to about 5 days riding per set of batteries provided that the GPS is turned off when stopped for more than a couple of minutes.

  • Hats.  Using baseball caps to keep the sun off in Australia is not too smart.  The intensity of our sun requires a broad brimmed hat to provide as much shade as possible.  I recently purchased a Columbia unisex hat with a 90mm brim, mesh sides on top and a light weight fabric across the top.  It weighs next to nothing and folds up into a small bundle for touring and springs back into shape when worn.  See the tip on Hill Climbing.

  • Laundry mesh bag.  I have a large mesh laundry bag with short lengths of rope tied in each corner.  If I have to carry wet clothes on the bike, I put them in this bag and tie it on top of my rear luggage so that it will dry during the day's riding.  The bag is also useful for carrying clothes, etc, to and from the laundry.

  • Matches - wind and waterproof.  I recently came across matches that were both wind and waterproof. I've always carried waterproof ones, but they tended to be a bit of a problem if the box got wet and so wouldn't strike, and certainly were not very good in windy conditions. These wind and waterproof matches seem to cover both of these issues very well.

  • Pants - long or short.  Trousers with zip-off legs are the most practical to take on a trip.  They are usually suitable enough as long trousers to get into most venues and provide comfortable shorts as well.

  • Plates.  When travelling without my family, I have found that it is unnecessary to carry plates.  I just eat out of the saucepan.  Saves on weight and washing up!

  • Seat - light weight.  I have found a fold-up seat to be very handy.  It enables me to sit in some comfort almost anywhere, and not have to try to find a dry bit of ground to park myself or to keep away from the creepy crawlies.  The weight is minimal but the benefit is well worth the extra bit of effort up the hills. I'd recommend NOT getting one of the seats that only has 3 legs as they tend to be less stable.

  • Socks - quick dry.  It is best to take dark socks on a tour, rather than white or light colours.  It takes numerous washes to remove evidence of the road dust from light coloured socks, so even when they are clean, they look dirty.  Dark socks are also more suited to being worn after riding.  I have found the thick Explorer socks available from supermarkets to be good for travelling.

  • Tools - spanner for removing pedals.  This is only required if it is necessary to re-assemble the bike after a plane flight or train trip.  In most cases a 15mm spanner is required.  Before packing it, check that it will fit your pedals - I had to file the front and back of my spanner so that it would slip down between the crank and pedal. Alternatively, an allen key of the appropriate size to fit into the back of the pedal spindle (usually 6mm) may offer a lighter and smaller option.

  • Washing powder.  Most caravan parks will sell you washing powder at exorbitant prices.  It is best to carry sufficient in a re-sealable plastic bag or small plastic bottle to satisfy your needs for the time that you are away.

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NSW Train Travel

  • CityRail is continually doing track work which can effect timetables and the ability to travel with a bike.  It is wise to check their website (Links) for any track work to be done at the time that you plan to travel.  Where buses are used to replace trains, it is likely that bike travel may be limited or even not allowed.  I have found that provided the bus has a luggage compartment underneath, usually it is not a problem, but I suspect that it also depends on the driver attitude.  I have even had a situation on one trip where five of us were allowed onto the Muswellbrook train at Newcastle and the train became a bus at Singleton.  Being in the country, the driver was really helpful even though there was no luggage space under the bus.  He put all of our panniers in the small compartment at the back of the bus, and the five of us and our bikes boarded and moved to the back of the bus.  Then we headed off on the 50kms to Muswellbrook without any dramas.  That's the real country attitude of "let's solve the problem"!

  • Bikes can travel on all CityRail trains and no fare has to be paid for the bike.  This is a relatively recent change due to the introduction of the Opal card.

  • Bikes can travel on all CityRail trains without being packed in a box. The extent of the CityRail network is quite good, allowing easy access to towns well away from the city, therefore enabling touring cyclists to start tours away from heavy city traffic. It goes to Dungog in the north; Scone in the northwest; Lithgow and limited train services to Bathurst in the west; Goulburn in the southwest; and Bombaderry (Nowra) in the south. These limits can put a starting/ending point for a tour well beyond 200kms from Sydney CBD.

  • All trains.  Do not board the train with your bike at the front or rear vestibules of the train. They must be kept clear as emergency exits for the driver and guard. Always try to minimise the inconvenience that your bike may cause to other members of the travelling public. I normally carry a roll of insulating tape for miscellaneous uses. I've found that it is best to tape the front brake lever hard on to prevent the bike from moving about. I also roll over a flap onto the end of the tape going around the brake levers so that it can easily be removed when I want to move the bike. It acts like a flag as to the location of the end of the tape.

  • Intercity trains from Sydney to Newcastle or Lithgow and Kiama.  The CityRail trains, will most likely consist of 4 + 4 or 2 + 4 carriage electric sets. This means that in the middle of the train, there is a guard/driver compartment at the end of each set. This is usually the best place for bikes, and occasionally the connecting doorway is unlocked enabling the bike to be placed into the vacant guard/driver compartment.  Put your bike there in that vestibule.  It may be a bit tight, but there won't be passengers pushing you and your bike out of the way as they walk between carriages.  There are usually toilets at each alternate carriage.  Avoid that end of the carriage and the end of the carriage adjoining it.  The location of the toilet is easily seen before boarding the train.  It is in the end that has a white tinted window.

  • Sydney suburban trains.  These trains will be busy with regular on/off passengers. Load your bike at either end of the carriages and place them in such a way as to provide the minimum inconvenience to other travellers. If possible, limit 1 bike to each end of a carriage.

  • Diesel trains of the Hunter, Blue Mountains, Goulburn and South Coast lines.  These trains will be busy with regular on/off passengers. In the newer trains, load your bike at the centre of the train and place them in such a way as to provide the minimum inconvenience to other travellers. There are usually 2 hanging racks in one carriage, while the other carriage has space for wheelchairs/prams that can be used for bikes if there are no wheelchairs/prams.  To use the latter, look for the carriage with the painted out window for the toilet and enter from the door nearest it.

  • XPT trains operated by CountryLink.  Booking of your bike onto train is required at the time of purchasing ticket. Failure to do this may result in the bike not being carried on the train with you. The bike must be boxed and will be considered as luggage. Individual pieces of luggage must not exceed 20kgs.

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Domestic Airline Travel

  • Boxes from bike shops can be used, but are smaller than those provided by the airlines. VirginBlue bike box size is 300 x 800 x 1420 and weighs about 5kgs. Qantas is 300 x 800 x 1400 and either can be purchased for less than $20 at the major airports.  Check availability beforehand. Neither Jetstar nor Tiger Airways supply bike boxes. Use plenty of packing tape on the box.

  • If you intend to box your bike at the airport, you must supply your own packing tape.  Be warned that the airlines sometimes run out of boxes at the airport.  If your bike is not boxed, it won't be allowed on the flight.  I once had this happen to me at Melbourne, but fortunately one of the other airlines had bike boxes that I was able to buy.

  • Some airlines recommend letting all of the air out of your tyres before packing the bike.  My experience has been that this is unnecessary, particularly as they claim that the luggage compartments are pressurised.  This eliminates the tedious pumping up of the tyres as you are assembling the bike in your destination terminal.  However, I usually reduce the air pressure in the tyres a little.

  • I normally pack my tent, spare tyre and light weight folding seat in with the bike.  This reduces the number of pieces of luggage, and where the contents of the bike box are treated as 5kgs of your allowable luggage, it helps to minimise the chance of an excess baggage fee.

  • Tape 2 pannier bags together to reduce the number of pieces of luggage that need to be collected at the destination baggage carousel.

  • Don't have tools or anything sharp or inflammable in carry-on luggage. 

  • Do not pack any metho/gas or batteries, however, you should check whether chain lubricant can be included in with your checked baggage. I have had conflicting answers on that. All fuel and food can be purchased at your destination to save any potential excess baggage costs. Batteries should be included in carry on luggage.

  • If taking a fuel stove, the burner and storage bottle should be purged of any traces of fuel. For Trangia stoves, put metho in the burner, light it and allow it to burn out completely, then wash it out. In the case of the bottle, thoroughly wash and soak it. Allow both the burner and bottle to dry with their lids off.

  • Arrive at the airport with your bike packed at least 1 hour before your flight departure.  You will usually be required to provide photo ID to be able to collect your ticket and lodge your baggage.

  • Expect inconsistency.  Security at all airports have some different criteria.  Things that are let through at one place may not get through at another.  (I have had to dispose of electrical cable ties in cabin luggage that I carried for emergency use. It was considered that they could be used as restraints.  However, the 4m length of clothesline and roll of insulating tape in my cabin luggage were not problems.  You figure it out!)

  • In order to minimise potential excess baggage charges on my flight home on one of my bike trips, I used Australia Post to send home as much of my gear as possible a day or so before my flight.  At the time of my flight, excess baggage cost was $10/kg.  I was able to mail home 10kgs for about $20, but the box size needs to be as small as possible, as it incurs a weight penalty based on size too.  Check to see whether your departure airport has a post office branch as you may be able to mail your bits home from there.

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Accommodation

  • Unfortunately, many caravan parks have a minimum charge, which is for 2 people, so if you arrive alone, you have to pay for 2.  Often the privately owned parks will drop the price if you point out that you are alone on a bike with only a small tent, but the council operated facilities are completely unsympathetic.

  • If travelling near mining or power station areas, and planning on pub, motel or cabin accommodation, it is wise to book in advance.  When mines and power stations have maintenance shutdowns, this type of accommodation is at a premium for workers who come from out of town for the maintenance work.  This is particularly the case in the Hunter west of Branxton and in the Lithgow area.

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Dehydration

Most people need 4-8 litres of water per day (coffee, tea and alcohol help to further dehydration).  Remember, if you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

Early symptoms include feeling thirsty, excess sweating, headache, dizziness and nausea.  If dehydration continues, it can result in seizures, a loss of consciousness and even death.

First aid consists mainly of

  • Lie the person down in a cool shaded area:

  • Give them water in small quantities at a time (creek water is OK if you have no other water);

  • If the person cannot keep the water down, or does not recover quickly, seek medical assistance.

Dehydration for a touring cyclist can also slow down recovery for the next day's trip, so keep the fluids up regardless of the day.  If you drink too much, it will pass through you.  If you are not drinking enough, the sign will be little or no urine.

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Snake Bite

Of the world's top 10 deadliest snakes, Australia has 5, as well as a deadly sea snake. You may find this detail of the locations of their habitats, as well as pictures of the types of snake in the nominated areas, useful when planning your trip.

 

In the event of a snake bite, the “pressure-immobilisation” technique is currently recommended by the Australian Resuscitation Council, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists.

 

The lymphatic system is responsible for systemic spread of most venoms.  This can be reduced by the application of a firm bandage (as firm as you would put on a sprained ankle) over a folded pad placed over the bitten area.  While firm, it should not be so tight that it stops blood flow to the limb or to congests the veins.  Start bandaging directly over the bitten area, ensuing that the pressure over the bite is firm and even.  If you have enough bandage you can extend towards more central parts of the body, to delay spread of any venom that has already started to move centrally.  A pressure dressing should be applied even if the bite is on the victim’s trunk or torso.

 

Immobility is best attained by application of a splint or sling, using a bandage or whatever to hand to absolutely minimise all limb movement, reassurance and immobilisation (eg, putting the patient on a stretcher).  Where possible, bring transportation to the patient (rather then vice versa).  Don’t allow the victim to walk or move a limb.  Walking should be prevented.

 

Having recently read of a fellow touring cyclist's experiences after having been bitten by an Eastern Brown, I've found this additional information on the subject. I hope that none of us never have to use it.

 

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Travelling with Children

Travelling with children offers its own special challenges - are we there yet, I want lollies/ice cream/chips/a drink, etc. Early in our travelling days we found that the best way to control these "I want's ........" was to give the kids pocket money for the day. It was to cover all snacks and meals that we were not preparing ourselves. They got to keep whatever money that they had left over at the end of each day. It soon stopped the whinging and made both of our boys a little more financially savvy.

 

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Travelling with Others

Travel professionals have told me that the dynamics of a group will begin to splinter after 2-3 weeks, and after 4 weeks, there can be some major confrontations.  Choose your travel companions carefully, and remember, it's a holiday for all of you, and we all have our own individual foibles.  If friction develops, implement strategies to minimise the risk of it ruining the holiday, and possibly destroying friendships.

 

I have found that it is best at the beginning of any tour to talk to travel companions to determine how they would like to travel.  Sometimes there may be an expectation that everyone will remain together as a group, but this can cause problems, as some in the group may wish to do things differently to others.  I prefer to start early - between 7-8 am - and arrive in camp in reasonable time to wash clothes and have them almost dry by sunset.   Others may start later in the day and get into camp before sunset.  Sometimes, if our speeds are similar, we will meet every 10 kms or so - at the nearest hill top enroute - and preferably in the shade.  At other times, where personal travel speeds are different, or interests are divergent, we meet at the camp at the end of the day.  These strategies enable everyone to enjoy their trip and not be in the pockets of one another unless they want to, and no-one is forcing the group to follow their preferences, or preventing others from doing as they wish.

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Tent Choice

After your bike, the choice of a good tent is one of the most important decisions that you will have to make for bike touring.  Typical tents suitable for bike touring weigh between 2-4kgs, making them also the heaviest individual item that you are likely to have to carry.  I've chosen my touring tents based on the following criteria:

  • Had vestibules at either entrance that could be used for storing gear outside the tent but under cover, or cooking in during bad weather;

  • Was a multi-pitch tent which enabled both the inner and outer to be pitched simultaneously, or separately if required - which is really useful if it has to be put up in the rain;

  • Was easy and quick to pitch, having only 2 poles and 6 or so pegs;

  • Was insect proof with a good floor and its floor was tough enough to prevent damage from rocks, etc and very waterproof;

  • I could kneel in the tent to get dressed if required, and pockets on the walls with a "mezzanine" floor for small items is an important consideration:

  • I could lie comfortably in it - most tents are about 2.1 metres long, so if you're tall, check your fit;

  • It was a 2-man tent if there is just one user, and a 3-man if there are to be 2 users, allowing reasonable space if confined during bad weather; and

  • It is at least a 3 season (spring to autumn) tent, in that each of the internal doors has a screen, which can be fully closed off - not just a mesh.  This helps to keep some of the warmth in and cold out.

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Tyre Problems

It is always wise to carry a spare tyre on a tour.  Sometimes one isn't enough, and it is necessary to patch a tyre that may have a torn case in order to limp into the nearest bike shop to get replacements.  Probably the most effective way is to use one of Australia's plastic bank notes.  Wrap it around the tube in the location that the tyre has been cut, or alternatively, just fold and place it at the damaged part of the tyre.  It will usually have sufficient strength to allow you to proceed with care to the next bike shop.  I have been told that the same can be done by cutting a plastic drink bottle and wrapping it around the problem area.  Because of its rigidity, it may cause a consistent "thump" with each revolution of the wheel, and I suspect more care would be required to ensure that the plastic from the bottle does not cut or abrade the tube.  However, I carry a piece of sail fabric with me that I obtained from a sailmaker.  It is about the size of a $5 note and has an adhesive on one side.  I place the adhesive side lengthwise onto the inside of the tyre, and work the sail material until it is evenly bonded to the tyre.  Once that has been done, reassemble the wheel and regularly monitor the condition of the cut to ensure that the "patch" is holding.  I've ridden several thousand kms with one of these repairs in one of my tyres without any problems (the cut was about 1cm long and the tyre was used for my local riding and was pressurised to 120 psi.)

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Puncture Repairs

I was told of this method of repairing punctures, and I have found it to be extremely good, but not necessarily usable while touring unless you can borrow a hair drier in one of the camping areas.

 

Roughen the area to be patched and then place the glue on the tube where the patch is intended to be placed.  Allow the glue to dry - for 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 days, or until you are able to properly repair the tube.  Heat the dried glue on the tyre with a hair drier for about 30 seconds and then firmly place the patch on it.  I have found that this fixes even those "unrepairable" tubes with the holes next to the ridges where the moulds have been joined.

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Rear View Mirrors on Drop Bars

I have never felt comfortable riding without a rear view mirror. Those available in bike shops don't seem to cater very well for the drop bars (perhaps it is not "cool" to use a mirror on a road bike!). They either vibrate like crazy, or fit into bar ends - which means a large eye movement down to look at what is happening behind. To overcome this, I made my own many years ago, and it has been quite successful. Having bought a new carbon fibre toy with Ultegra gear for local riding, I had to re-design the original concept to accommodate the gear/brake lever combination.

Essentially the mirror is just a Mirrcycle mirror with the handlebar plug cut off. The important bit is the 2.5mm aluminium attaching it to the brake hood. It is rolled to fit over the brake lever and under the rubber boot and is firmly held in place by velcro strapping. Up and down movement on the arm is minimised by the depth of the arm, and I have reduced sideways movement by putting a slight roll in the
flat metal along the arm.

 

 

The wing nuts on the mirror enable it to be easily adjusted if necessary while on the road, as well as allowing the mirror to be folded out of the way when the bike is up-ended to fix a puncture, etc.

 

Over the years, I've progressively modified this design slightly to improve on it. Below is the latest permutation.

 

drop bar mirror

 

As you can see it no longer looks quite like the original arrangement. The lug at the rear is now only used to stop the rear cable tie from slipping off, and it doesn't slip under the brake hood. Apart from that, the arm itself is the same as before. The use of cable ties enables the mirror to be held more firmly onto the brake lever housing, thus further increasing its stability. The locking ends of the cable ties are strategically placed on the inboard part of the brake lever housing in a position that doesn't foul one's fingers. I've found this arrangement to be quite comfortable on the hands, so no further padding, etc is required, nor does anything foul the brifters in any way.

 

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Hill Climbing

When you have a reasonable sized hill to climb, I recommend that you adopt the following:

  • Ensure that your shoes are tied up tight enough to prevent them from causing blisters;

  • Carry a quantity of bandaids in case of blisters;

  • Take off your helmet and gloves then secure them to the top of your rear load;

  • Wear your broad brimmed hat and plaster yourself with sunscreen; and

  • Walk up the hill on the opposite side of the road with the bike on your right closest to the edge of the road.  This enables you to see the oncoming traffic, and it puts the bike between you and any snakes that might be sunning themselves in the debris at the edge of the road.

And for the tandemists, when my wife and I were touring, we made a "harness" for the stoker so that she could pull the bike up the hill while I balanced and pushed it. As you know, tandems aren't easy to balance and push up hill, and it is pretty near impossible for 2 people to push. We used our 3-4m clothesline and tied it to a shoulder strap that we had for carrying our handlebar bag. The strap formed a sash over the stoker's shoulder to spread the load and it all worked quite well for us. We got quite a few looks (especially from the tourist buses) and plenty of friendly toots, but it really made it substantially easier for me in getting our load up the hills.

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Nocturnal Toilet

From the 1970's to 1990's I used to fly sailplanes (gliders).  One of the problems faced was how to accommodate toilet needs on a long flight (3 to 8 hours) in a confined space.  The "piss bottle" became a regular accompaniment on these long flights, with special efforts made to ensure that it did not get mixed up with the "drink bottle".  (I believe that the women used Kimbies.)

 

So, on to bike touring, where nocturnal visits behind the most convenient tree or to some far off toilet can sometimes be damp and chilly as well as creating a major disruption to a decent night's sleep.  Not any more! Acquire a plastic "piss bottle" with a screw top lid, the appropriate sized aperture and volume, and these nocturnal wanderings become a thing of the past.  Empty its contents in the morning or as need be (outside the tent of course), and if it is re-used, rinse it out and make sure that it can't be mistaken for a drink bottle.

 

Thanks to the advice of one of our band of lady touring cyclists, I can now add this link for their added nocturnal toilet comforts.  She has one and speaks highly of it.  Use this device in your tent with a piss bottle and there's no more wandering off into the cold, damp night for a toilet stop.

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Are you leaving an empty house behind?

Apart from all of the usual security measures undertaken when leaving a residence empty, remember to turn off all electrical appliances that are not necessary, especially the off peak storage hot water service.  There is no point in paying for hot water that will not be needed, and it will help to reduce the carbon footprint of your tour.  These hot water services are usually the largest consumer of electricity in a home. 

 

Remember to turn it back on as soon as you return from your trip, but you may not have any hot water until later in the day.

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Internet Access

We have found that there is an increasing tendency for free/cheap internet access to be available at local libraries using either your own equipment or theirs. However, they may not always be open, so, when you arrive in a town, check on their opening hours. I have recently purchased an 8 inch tablet and a wifi modem to enable me to be more independant for internet access. I prepay an exorbitant amount for a few Gigabytes of data for a month from Telstra. They offer the best coverage throughout the country, so it was a no-brainer to go with them.

 

I primarily use the internet for weather forecasts utilising the websites shown on the Links page (particularly the Bureau of Meteorology site mentioned there), as well as keeping up with email.

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Helmet Brim for Protection from Sun/Rain

Before a recent tour, I decided to purchase a helmet brim from Da Brim. I was initially concerned that it would move around on fast descents. However, on the tour, it withstood any movement whatsoever at what was my maximum speed of 73kph. It is claimed to be able to withstand winds (so presumably speed) up to 56kph. I found it to be an excellent sun shade, with the added benefit of keeping rain away from my face too. When using it, I felt less fatigued at the end of a day in the hot sun than I have in the past. I'll tour with it on all future trips.

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GPS thoughts and considerations

My current GPS is a Garmin Etrex 20x.  My reasons for choosing this model were:

  • It is Garmin, and Garmin seems to be the most widely used GPS for outdoors activities.
  • It uses 2 AA batteries and they last for 18-22 hours.  The newer 2,450 mAh batteries can extend it to about 25 hours. You can use rechargeables or just the normal alkaline if you choose or there are no NiMH available.  This is important for touring.  I think that all of the bike specific GPS’s have inbuilt batteries, and they only last for about 14 hours, so you need to regularly recharge (not always possible).  With this arrangement, GPS, tail lights and radio all run on AA batteries, so recharging or replacement with easily obtainable AA’s is not a major drama.  Not only that, I can swap them around if need be.   I normally carry 8-10 fully charged NiMH cells with me, and they cover my whole trip for all of these bits of equipment.  I’ve never exhausted my battery supply, even over a 4 week trip.  I don’t carry a charger with me because I’ve never needed it, and I can just pick up alkaline AA’s pretty well anywhere if need be.
  • The number of tracks that can be used and waypoints able to be done on this model are better than the others that I looked at.  I have only 1 track per day but there is a large number of tracks able to be used.  I use lots of waypoints – mainly to indicate 10km markers, but also things like location of overnight stop, potential camp locations in the event of the weather turning to custard, start/end of gravel road, tops of longish climbs, places of interest, etc.
  • The screen was colour, which is really important in trying to follow anything.

These GPS’s all come with a very basic map. You can buy other maps if you wish, but, in the GPS I use a mix of Shonkymaps and Tracks-4-Australia. Both are free, but I think that Shonky is the better of the 2. They both give about the same amount of detail as the 1:250,000 topographic maps and generally are more than adequate for the type of touring that I’ve done, particularly as I can plan the finer detail before I leave home.

 

For overseas travel, I download for free all routable road maps that I might need for any country from here. I use the Velomaps rather than the Openmtbmaps. I've also used these for overseas travelling, and they're free too! For finer detail in Oz, I've downloaded one of these mapsets, which I only use when i get to major towns.

 

I would recommend a micro SD card to store the daily tracks that you have travelled, as you will be able to keep far more info on that than what can be retained in to “toy” memory that they give you as standard in the GPS itself. Then you can download them onto your PC when you return from the trip.

 

From what I’ve seen of the bike specific GPS’s, I would not buy one, mainly because of battery life. I think that the Etrex range is far superior, and I’m not interested in heart rate monitor stuff going through my GPS. I have a separate HRM for that.

 

In planning for my trip I use OziExplorer, and the most recent version can be purchased/downloaded from here. I use a mix of maps in that, but now mainly GoogleMaps or OpenCycleMaps. They are all much more up to date that other off the shelf stuff. I use these maps to prepare my track (route) for the trip, as well as determining the route profile. Then I download the tracks into the GPS so that I just have to follow the breadcrumb track. Easy as ………… .

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