Friday, August 5, 2011

Northern Rivers Tour Day 4: Short ride back into the suburban jungle

I didn't expect to find myself wide awake at 0441 in the morning, but that's when my eyes cracked open and for some reason I was completely awake and ready to start the day.  I stepped outside the tent and it was cold, dark and windy.  Everything was wet with a heavy dew, so I hopped back into the tent to pack up my bedding and most of my gear.  At about 0530 I wandered off up the main street of Kingscliff to find a bakery for some breakfast.  In the pre-dawn darkness, most of my earlier negativity about the place had evaporated.  I grabbed a fruit bun and a coffee and went to sit by the beach and watch the sun rise over the ocean.

As I love to say to people when I wake them up early "you're missing the best part of the day!"

The Pacific Ocean steaming in the sunrise

The adventure ends
By about 0800 our tents had mostly dried out, so we got our bikes out of the shed, packed our gear and headed off north towards the Queensland border.  It turns out our decision to stop at Kingscliff was a wise one, within about 15 minutes of riding we were in a congested mess of heavy traffic, roadworks and non-stop buildings all the way back to the train station at Varsity Lakes.  It was only a 30km ride, but trying to charge through the traffic on a loaded touring bike used up pretty much all of my mental and physical energy for the morning.  After a sprint finish for the final 7km or so on a very busy arterial road with zero space for bikes, I arrived exhausted at the station.  I rolled right up to the station gates, dismounted my bike cyclocross style, much to the dismay of the girl checking the tickets, and hurried down to the waiting train.  We had made it into the final carriage and rested our bikes against the wall with just three minutes to spare.

Back onto the Pacific Highway for a short blast to Queensland, where we were no longer permitted to ride our bikes on the main road

Over the border and back into Queensland, the skyline dominated by beachside high rise development

Riding through busy Gold Coast streets where the car is king.  Not the most relaxing place for cycling

With 5km to go, Rudi snapped a bidon cage.  He quickly ripped it off, chucked it out and kept moving

The last carriage of the train is where it's at for stowing your bike.  Some of the bogan kids were a bit pouty we'd stolen their "cool kids at the back of the bus" status

After 1.5 hours we'd passed through the southern suburbs of Brisbane, through the centre of town, and disembarked at the north side station of Eagle Junction.  This was a really strange feeling - it was an unusually hot winters day, I was tired from sitting around on the train, and here I was about to ride along the same old roads I'd ridden on hundreds of times before.  I figured the best option was to head down to the secluded bike path that leads straight to my house, to finish the trip in a peaceful and relaxed headspace. This proved a little difficult - after I farewelled Rudi my way was blocked by a vast tunnel construction that had closed the bike path.  I could have just ridden another way along the main road to get home reasonably quickly, but I was determined to finish up on that path.  After some convoluted detouring across two main roads, an unfamiliar suburb, a kids playground, and walking my bike through a construction site, I was eventually back on the quiet path to my house.  Turned out to be worth the effort, I didn't see another person the whole way home, and I arrived home recharged and refreshed at about 1300.  I said hello to the dogs, and wandered inside to get myself a well-earned coffee.

Eagle Junction Station, Brisbane.  Nearly home now

Kedron Brook bike path, empty as expected.  A fitting end to a great ride

Breakdown of the shakedown
Part of the reason for this trip was to shakedown my "ultralight" touring setup for a few days straight to see how it works out.  A cycle touring blog just wouldn't be right without some sort of analysis of how the gear went, so if you're not into the minutiae of bicycle touring, you should probably look away now.

The bike in full ultralight touring trim at the end of the trip

On the whole, I'd say the setup worked extremely well.  The bike was fast and stable, all the luggage stayed where it was supposed to, and the extra weight of only 11kg definitely made a huge difference to how the bike climbed and turned.  In terms of the gear I was carrying, I managed to use every single item I had, always a good sign that I'm carrying just the right amount of gear.  However, there were few luxuries I did without that I will definitely be including on my next trip, regardless of the extra weight and bulk.  I missed my "usual" hat and sunnies, having to squint my way around town or wear my cycling cap and sunnies while walking around town was annoying.  The other item I'll definitely pack is some kind of small travel pillow.  The item I missed most of all was my flip-flops.  I never really had an opportunity to air my feet out, and having to slip into shoes for short trips or walking on the beach got very old very quickly.  The other downside of not having my flip-flops (here in Australia we call them thongs), was that I was constantly thinking about them, which in turn led us to be constantly singing Thong Song by Sisqo for four days straight.  Not cool.

As with any good cycle tour, I also learned a little bit about myself and challenged my own attitude.  I'm a very organised and highly detailed sort of a person, and this normally applies on rides.  I'm obsessed with numbers and maps, I like to maintain a certain speed to get to certain places at particular times.  However on this trip, with all the waiting and mechanical failures, I had to rethink all of that quite a fair bit.  Sure we had delays and things didn't work out according to plan, but as it turns out, things turned out far better than we could have ever imagined.  We got to do cool things, ride in unexpected places and meet interesting people, none of which would have been possible if I'd stuck rigidly to "the plan".  This new, flexible approach to cycle touring is definitely something I'll be taking with me on all my future adventures on the velo.


  1. What a marathon of writing! Getting all that out almost took longer than the tour itself...

  2. Very entertaining reading.

  3. Great write up Leon. Looks like a cool trip.
    I am setting myself up for some bikepacking and was wondering what sleeping bag you are running and how well it works?(I hate being cold at night)

  4. Hi Dave, I was just wondering two days ago how you were going! I have a Vango Venom 150 down sleeping bag - it's very light and packs down very small. I find it not too bad, but anything below about 5 celcius I find I do have to rug up in the bag a fair bit. If it's a cold night I usually end up putting a space blanket under the air mattress to reflect my heat back into the bag and keep the cold ground out, usually works pretty well.

    Flick me an email if you're keen for a ride sometime mate, there's an "email me" link on my profile page above.



  5. Thanks mate. Will do.