Home safely today from our first bicycle touring experiment – a short 8 day trip camping in Tasmania. Now to the unpacking, cleaning and reflecting on what to do differently next time. What have we learnt from bicycle touring 101?
1. Pick one main type of accomodation and pack accordingly. B&B’s? Wild camping or camping in Caravan Parks with facilities? It depends on the destination really.
Tasmania is well set up for camping or B&B’s. We camped in Caravan Parks most nights, with one pre-booked night in a self-contained unit at Cradle Mountain as we expected terrible weather there. We were also prepared for wild camping but found convenient and beautiful settings at (most of) the Camp grounds made it worth the minimal cost. Most places were between $10-20 per night and had facilities, hot showers, kitchens with microwaves and kettles and power. Hardly roughing it…
2. Money is time, time is money or so they say. Lugging all that camping gear around was definitely worth it to wake up in a national park or beside a creek. But with so much time spent packing up and setting up when moving each day – if you want time to explore in between riding and packing you really need to stay put for a few days. In the areas we visited, there wasn’t actually much else to do in between. I guess that’s where bicycle camping is a real plus – over long periods of time with no particular hurry, you can spend as long as you like for very little cost, and the exploring is done on the bike en-route.
For a shorter period of time, or in places where there is lots of off-the-bike activities you want to do – I suspect credit card touring in hotels/B&B’s might be a better way to fit more in. Without the need for towels, cooking equipment, lilos, sleeping bag, tent etc we could have ditched 2-3 panniers and a few kilos of weight, and perhaps had a little more time to explore the surrounds each day. But it would have come at a greater cost. And during peak season in small country towns this could be a riskier option with most places booking out completely. There was absolutely no vacancy for anything but unpowered camp sites at Cradle Mountain this Easter.
3. A hybrid option? Tassie is also seriously well set up to cater to the Grey Nomad’s – Baby Boomers in their many and varied forms of camper trailers and vans seem to be retiring and heading off to do a lap of Tassie. We marvelled at how quickly all the Camper Trailers arrived at dusk and were set up and sitting in a deck chair with a glass of wine to watch sunset within minutes. Though we’re certainly not ready for that yet – another option I’d perhaps consider for next time would be to take the car with the bikes on the back and do lots of long full-day rides unloaded or even leave the car somewhere and do a few days bike-camping then head to the other coast. This would allow alot more of the amazing National Parks to be explored on both the East and West Coast and all the remote wilderness in between – and would certainly make those hills alot less threatening!
4. Plan for the Hills. As I mentioned before, sticking to the roads marked/numbered C was by far the most pleasant way to ride around. If you’re planning a trip around Tassie by bike its also worth visiting the Discover Tasmania Cycling page and reading through this brochure on bicycle touring which shows the gradient maps and elevations of some routes and doing some pre-planning on Bike route toaster to get a feel for the hilliest areas. But as a friend remarked before we left – everywhere in Tasmania is Hilly! This hilliness completely threw out our plans – we’d expected to cover about 80km-100 per day (as we would normally ride on a big day out) and had hoped to ride across to the East Coast or at least to the Tamar Valley. This plan was shattered after we rode to Cradle Mountain across Cethana and Forth River. After that experience we only expected/planned to cover about 50kms each day whilst fully loaded.
All up it was a lovely place to travel by bike, but we feel we barely scratched the surface in 8 days which just means we’ll have to go back in future when we can. I’ve just noticed that the Bicycle Touring Brochure has been updated quite a bit since we picked up a copy last year at a cycling event. I know we’re beginners at the touring thing but I think they’re being a bit optimistic to suggest you can circuit to whole island in 3 weeks!