Are you’re looking for a way to stay fit, see the world and be eco-friendly on your next trip down under? You can burn calories instead of greenhouse gases while enjoying a solo or group tour on your bike in Australia and around the world.
The view of the world is vastly different from a bike. There is time to appreciate the scenery, inhale the goodness of fresh air and perhaps the scent of spring wildflowers. Due to your quiet approach, there’s a greater chance to spot wildlife and, most importantly, you can look after you own health at the same time as caring for the planet. What could be better than that?
Whether you cycle for a day or a week, go solo or travel in a group, the choices are endless. Here are a few rides Explorer Girl Karen Graham can recommend in her home country of Australia.
Mass Participation Rides
The Great Victorian Bike Ride first took place in 1984 and, at the time, was the biggest all assisted bike ride in the world. Since then, the blueprint has been copied by several other Australian states and has undoubtedly contributed to the current boom in recreational cycling in Australia.
Event organiser, Bicycle Victoria (BV), has perfected the art of catering to the needs of thousands of cyclists. Campsites are set up in local communities, trucks carry luggage, there is medical aid, free bike maintenance and a team of volunteers serving meals. Logistically the operation is comparable to moving the entire population of a small town.
There is something incredible about setting off on a journey accompanied by thousands of like-minded participants, including an immediate sense of camaraderie. Billed as the ultimate cycling holiday, the ride has been described as ‘the greatest mass migration across Victoria since the Gold Rush’, but I liken it to being part of a travelling circus rolling in and out of country towns. Local communities spend months planning carnival-type activities for the whirlwind arrival of cyclists.
This year’s trip in late November travels from Portland to Geelong via Victoria’s famous Great Ocean Road. Cyclists will peddle past some of Australia’s most spectacular coastal scenery, including the Twelve Apostles near Port Campbell. Due to the popularity of the route the ride has been limited to 5,000 participants, so book early to avoid disappointment.
2009 Great Victorian Bike Ride – 546km along the Great Ocean Road from Portland to Geelong (Saturday 28 November – Sunday 6 December). www.bv.com.au
Other mass participation rides in Australia this year include:
Cycle Queensland 2009 – 560km starting and finishing in Toowoomba and looping around the Darling Downs (Saturday 5 – Sunday 13 September). www.bq.org.au
Bicycle SA (South Australia) – Annual Tour – Gourmet food and wine tour through the Barossa, Clare, Light, Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale wine regions (Saturday 3 – Sunday 11 October). Note: Numbers are limited to 200 participants for this ride, so book well in advance. www.bikesa.asn.au
Bicycle Victoria also coordinates one-day events in Melbourne such as Around the Bay in Day and the National Ride to Work Day. On their website they have a section devoted to women’s cycling, including inspirational stories and practical information on topics such as cycling during pregnancy. (http://www.bv.com.au/womens-cycling/)
Bicycle NSW (New South Wales) has an annual mass participation ride and other events, including the Earthride and Gear Up Girl challenges. www.bicyclensw.org.au
Rail trails are shared-use paths for cycling, walking and horse riding. They have been restored from railways no longer in use and can be found all over Australia. Some of the trails are only suitable for mountain bikes with dirt or gravel surfaces, but others are sealed and suitable for all bikes.
Rail trail routes generally link small country towns and meander through valleys, forests and farmland. They vary in length from a few kilometres to several hundred, so you can spend one day or several exploring a region. Victoria boosts the most developed rail trails, including these three gems:
• Bass Coast Rail Trail (17 kilometres)
• Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail (40 kilometres)
• Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail (97 kilometres)
The rail trails website (www.railtrails.org.au) has detailed route descriptions and recommendations for rail trails in other states.
Pedal Oz have inexpensive bike tours around Western Australia (www.pedaloz.com.au). Their trips include full support, bikes, equipment, accommodation and meals.
A little more upmarket is the Adventure Collective (www.adventurecollective.com.au) specialising in cycling, hiking, canoeing and 4WD holidays throughout Australia, Africa, Vietnam, South America, New Zealand and Europe. Their bike trips are fully supported and have built-in flexibility, meaning you can have time off your bike if you so desire.
The Adventure Collective also owns and operates Remote Outback Cycle Tours (www.cycletours.com.au) and girl+bike (www.girlplusbike.com). Remote Outback Cycle Tours have trips through remote areas of Australia, including Kakadu, the Kimberley and the Nullarbor, while girl+bike specialises in active holidays and bike tours for women. As well as encouraging women to cycle, girl+bike have information about female specific cycling products and offer the chance to meet like-minded participants.
Explore an Island
Rottnest Island is located off the coast of Western Australia and has long been a favourite holiday destination for travellers. In 1696, Dutch mariner William de Vlamingh landed on the island and found it inhabited by thousands of rat-like creatures. Not wanting to stay in such a terrible place, and presumably to warn others, he named the island ‘Rottenest’, meaning ‘rat’s nest’ and quickly departed.
The creatures he saw were actually quokkas, tiny marsupials that hide amongst the tall grass or shelter in the shade of tea trees. They are now one of the island’s big drawcards, along with the attraction of cycling the 25-kilometre loop around the island. It’s an easy ride and provides the perfect way to access secluded beaches for a picnic, swim or snorkel. Of course, you’ll have to watch out for the quokkas. www.rottnestisland.com
Kangaroo Island is another great option. This is an untamed wilderness where you are likely to see kangaroos, wallabies, seals, platypus, goannas and koalas, and of course incredible ocean views. If you are interested check out a recent article in Australian Cyclist here.
Tasmania is Australia’s smallest state (in area and population). It has diverse and spectacular scenery, and is ideal for cycle touring. The east coast has easier terrain with shorter distances between towns and is great for beginners. The west coast offers challenging mountains and an increased chance of inclement weather, but the reward is cycling through some of the most beautiful wilderness areas in Australia. You can download a free Tasmanian Cycle Touring Map online on the Cycling South website: www.cyclingsouth.org
For the more adventurous, why not go solo or with a group of friends. That way you can choose your own route and schedule. Check out Bicycles Network Australia (www.bicycles.net.au), which has information for all cyclists from novices to experts. There’s a directory to bicycle shops, clubs, tours and all the current cycling news.
Rob Taggart’s bicycle touring website (www.cycleaustralia.info) also has some useful information, including suggested routes that he has personally toured.
++Have you done any great cycling trips?
Or do you know if there are mass participation bike rides in your country? If so, please share it with us at Explorer Girls by leaving a comment or using the Forum.
Go on. Explore the World. Get on ya bike.
Images: Karen Graham and istock
Posted on 6 July 2009 - 5:16pm
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