This blog will cover my first two major cycle tours; the first, Australia from top to bottom, "The Long Red Road", and the second, New Zealand from top to bottom, following "The Long White Cloud". The aim is for this to be a pretty comprehensive guide as to how to get started, as well as a general log of my experiences on the way, both for myself and interested parties.
It might be obvious as to why I would write a blog for my travels (everyone does these days, don't they), but I hope that this blog might also encourage others to give cycle touring a go. One of my main aims is to try and make taking the plunge a little easier for those that are adventure minded like myself, yet find starting a bit daunting and complicated. Perhaps this blog could also be titled, "An Idiots Guide to Cycle Touring", as I literally knew absolutely nothing about bikes when I started. I still don't know that much, even though I now have 2 major tours under my belt, but all the mistakes I make will be jotted down here for all to see, and maybe some can learn from them.
I have long been an adventurous type, but hiking has been my main source of outdoor experience up until recently. My inspiration for cycle touring came from two sources: Firstly, a number of years back, I watched a very well put together documentary about, "The Man Who Cycled the World", this chap was called Mark Beaumont, who managed to break the world record for cycling around the world in the fastest time. Since then, of course, this record has been broken, but not by a man who made such a good documentary about it. It did look a fabulous adventure, and the experiences he had were extremely interesting, even though he was quite single-minded in what he was trying to achieve; there were no detours to places of interest and no time to appreciate the sights, yet his trip still had huge appeal. This struck a chord with me especially as I am quite keen on pushing myself physically, as well as having an interest in traveling and adventure generally. It seemed like setting a physical challenge whilst traveling at the same time was a jolly splendid idea.
The second source of my inspiration came from a friend of mine, who I met back in South Korea, where I taught English for a number of years. He too had been inspired by the same man, Mark Beaumont, but he didn't wait nearly ten years to fulfill a dream, he took the bull by the horns and joined his Scottish friend in cycling back home to the UK from Korea! Over 8000 miles (over 13000 Km) and 8 months later he made it home after traveling basically the whole width of China, passing through potentially dangerous areas like Iran and eastern Turkey, and finally traversing Europe. I followed his journey on a blog which he maintained really well along the way, check it out, https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=tS&doc_id=8142&v=c0 .
It looked a remarkable adventure and I have been wanting a taste of that kind of thing myself now for quite a while. For years, however, I found it a struggle to make happen, life got in the way, money got in the way, fear got in the way, and lack of knowledge made it difficult to know where to start. I was also living in Korea for most of this time, which is very mountainous (great for hiking, not so for biking), and although roads were of fantastic quality, the driving was worryingly bad. These were obviously just excuses, as they never stopped my friend from doing it. He was a little lucky that he had a crazy friend to join him, though, I have not been so lucky to find someone with the same ambition and who is able to do such things at the same time. Doing this stuff on your own is obviously an added barrier. Maybe one day he might join me in an tour, here's hoping (if you are reading this Peter Hoyle, the offer of a touring mate is there, we'll have to pick a place and make it happen at some point).
I then moved to Australia, though, and these excuses just simply couldn't stop me anymore; if I didn't do it now, I'd never do it. There are some good hikes in Australia, but with massive distances between places, they weren't as accessible as the mountains of Korea. Biking as a form of adventure seemed to make perfect sense in Australia, and with few mountains in the way, I could hardly chicken out of things because of that either (although I currently live near some of the most hilly and mountainous parts of the country). Once you are out of the cities in Australia, the roads are also quiet and the network of roads is not vast or complicated.
At the time of writing, the first of the two big tours is less than a week away. I haven't set myself an easy first major trip. My first major expedition takes me from Darwin back home to Melbourne, and I have about 34 days maximum to achieve it, as I leave for New Zealand soon after. Some preparatory rides have been done and I have planned enough to know the dangers and roughly what to expect, now we'll have to wait and see how it turns out.
Note: Both rides have now been completed and were a great success, and the story of both are up on the blog for all to see. This blog will continue with future rides logged. On the near horizon is a shorter trip of a few days from Bairnsdale in Victoria to Albury NSW (about 500Km) via Mount Kosciuszko, the highest mountain in Australia. The climb up to Kosciuszko will actually be my hardest climb yet, with the road hitting its peak at nearly 1000m higher than the highest sealed road in New Zealand. Strange considering how much taller the mountains are generally in New Zealand. Much of the journey will also be on unsealed roads.