FAQ: How to Ride Around
This is a semi-serious page
for touring cyclists interested in cycling around Australia. My
poetic licence taken in my journals probably don't make them the best
guide to cycling Australia. This document is to answer the most basic
When is the
best time to go?
What do you do about water?
much luggage do you carry?
What about food?
far is it?
How do I cope with all that distance
between places to stay?
What are the
highlights/things not to miss?
I have 1 month to
spend in Australia, What do you recommend?
2-3 months to spend in Australia, What do you recommend?
have 3-4 months to spend in Australia, What do you recommend?
have 4-5 months to spend in Australia, What do you recommend?
have 5-6 months to spend in Australia, What do you recommend?
have 6-12 months to spend in Australia, What do you recommend?
do I get spares?
Where are there decent
are the roads like?
about all that traffic?
What about those road
What is the weather like? Is it too
Why do you rabbit on so much about the
is the best time to go?
Northern Australia is best cycled in
the dry season from April through to October. The cyclone season
(December through March) is probably best avoided. Southern
Australia's climate is OK anytime though I strongly recommend
avoiding winter (June, July, August) and January where summer school
holidays make the roads and destinations overly crowded.
you do about water?
Most guides will tell you 2 litres per
hour are required while exercising in the Australian heat. This is
definitely true in extreme cases, which can and do occur any time of
the year. However this is not the norm. Linda and I usually carry
between 20 and 25 litres of drinking water between us, which we find
enough for two days and one night on the road, with a bit left over
for washing. We carry this in two (one 10 litre and one 6 litre) MSR
water bags which we strap of our panniers.
luggage do you carry?
The bikes are bout 15ks each (with
bottles, fenders, racks, pumps etc), and 15 to 20ks of luggage spread
over 2 front and 2 rear panniers on each bike. Everything goes in the
panniers except the tent and extra water. I’ve no idea how
We used to carry a Trangia hikers cooker to make
bland pasta or rice meals or reheat awful freeze dried stuff. Now we
make better use of the surrounding resources. Most dots on the map
have either a pub or a roadhouse where you can always buy products
that will meet your daily calorie intake requirements. Vegetarians or
gourmet lovers may find their standards compromised! Even after
cycling great distances you may find you have purchased something
somewhat less than appetising, but then again we have enjoyed some
truly excellent pub meals (it's very hard to bugger up Barramundi!)
in some extremely unlikely places. Supplies you can take with you to
cook later are not so readily available.
Towns with a population over
1000 will generally have some sort of supermarket.
It is about 16000km right around Australia, give or
take 1000. It depends on which short cuts or detours you take. It is
3500km from Adelaide to Darwin, 4000ish if you make the detours to
Uluru and Kakadu.
do I cope with all that distance between places to stay?
of outback Australia is uninhabited. It is possible to set up your
tent just about anywhere. In fact, I find this the most enjoyable
form of camping, and it offers a degree of flexibility not available
elsewhere in the world.
the highlights/things not to miss?
I'm into natural rather
than man made attractions. So some of my favourites are: Kakadu NP
(NT), Victoria River gorge, Karajini NP (WA), Royal National Park
(near Sydney), the Great Ocean Road (if it's not too wet or too busy
- ha). Tasmania. The Snowy Mountains.
I have 1
month to spend in Australia, What do you recommend?
Springs to Darwin, via Kakadu. There are probably easier and possibly
more scenic rides in Australia, but this ride will show you the bits
of Australia you won't find anywhere else in the world.
2-3 months to spend in Australia, What do you recommend?
to Darwin via Kakadu. Include Uluru (Ayres Rock) in your cycling
schedule if you have time, but don't skip Kakadu! There are heaps of
busses to and from Uluru if needed to fit into your schedule. If you
are ride only one way, ride to Uluru and get the bus back to the
highway rather than the other way (which will be into the wind).
3-4 months to spend in Australia, What do you recommend?
to Darwin via the Great Ocean Road, (optionally Uluru, see above)
Alice Springs to Darwin, via Kakadu.
4-5 months to spend in Australia, What do you recommend?
to Geelong (skip Melbourne) via the south coast of NSW and the Snowy
Mountains, the Great Ocean Road, (Optionally Uluru), Alice Springs,
Kakadu to Darwin.
5-6 months to spend in Australia, What do you recommend?
Sydney to Darwin via Tasmania, Alice Spring and Kakadu (if you like
hills and the odd splash of wet weather)
Sydney to Broome
via the Great Ocean Road, Alice Springs, Kakadu and Darwin (if you
like wilderness, long distances and fine weather).
6-12 months to spend in Australia, What do you recommend?
full lap. The recommended direction is anti-clockwise. This will
almost certainly give you the best of the winds. This is not 100% of
course, but it's definitely odds on. Add/remove detours to Tasmania,
bus from Tennant Ck to Uluru to fit your schedule. The SW corner of
Western Australia is rather nice, but it's a long way and the short
cut via Kalgoorlie is not the worst route either if you are pushed
How do I
We have found Australian Post to provide an
extraordinarily fast, efficient, cost effective and (most
importantly) reliable service. Delivery of 2-3 working days in
Eastern Australia for normal mail and 1-2 days “Express”
just about anywhere is the norm. Call Australia Post and ask for
estimated delivery time and you can have confidence in their
estimate. “Australian Air Express” couriers can offer a
next working day service from anywhere to anywhere in Australia, and
we have found this too a cost effective reliable service. The same
cannot be said for some more expensive private courier services we've
I recommend making a list of all your bike's parts before you go,
taking a short list of bike shops and or mail order bike parts
suppliers with you. If you need a spare part, you should be able to
get it within 48 hrs just about anywhere. Getting to a phone to ask
for it is another matter!
carry the same basic spares in outback Australia that we do touring
anywhere else, though I must concede that we do take a couple of
extra spare inner tubes each.
are there decent bike shops?
I'm no longer aware of any great
touring bike shops in Australia since Christies of Hawthorn closed
down. Please let me know if you know of any Australian retailer
specialising in touring.
the east coast, the SE corner and SW corner of Australia you are
rarely a days ride from a selection of good bike shops. There are 3
or 4 bike shops in Darwin, 1 in Katherine, 2 in Alice Spings, 1 at Pt
Augusta, 1 at Karatha, and that's about it! Partial services (toy
shops or bike hire places) are available at Broome, Mt Isa,
Carnarvon, and that's about it!
the roads like?
Generally the sealed roads in Outback
Australia are of very high standard with very little traffic. Roads
in the populated SE corner of Oz are not as good, cover hillier
terrain and carry heaps more traffic.
about all that traffic?
Traffic along the east coast of
Australia or almost anywhere within 200km of our major cities need to
be treated with fear and respect. In Outback Australia (and that's
pretty much the rest if the continent) other vehicles on the road are
an occasional welcome diversion.
about those road trains?
Checkout the Riding with Roadtrains
the weather like? Is it too hot?
A Brief Guide to Australian
The SE corner and SW
corner have a mild Mediterranean climate. The settled areas get
between 400 and 1200 mm of rain a year, usually in rare short bursts.
200 to 250 fine days a year are the norm. In coastal areas
temperatures occasionally get above 30C and rarely fall below 10C.
Inland is a bit different. In Summer (December, January, February)
30-40C daily maximums are the norm, and overnight minimums of ~0C are
typical in Winter (June, July, August). Victoria and Tasmania have
something closer to a European climate with more rain more often, but
not (always) so heavy, and about 5-10C cooler. Only Alpine areas
receive snow in Australia, and then only in Winter.
Tropical Australia has two distinct seasons: Wet
(November, December, January, February, March) and Dry. During the
wet season coastal get daily maximums around 40C are common,
humidity is high, and serious thundery rainstorms can be expected
most afternoons. Inland temperatures regularly exceed 40C and get
only occasional rain. This is why Australia is considered hot. We
also get “cyclones” (hurricanes for your northern
hemispherites) mostly January through March. Australian cyclones
bring winds that are as destructive and dangerous as a North American
tornado, except they are hundred of kilometres across. Don't get
caught out in one.
During the dry season tropical
Australia gets pretty much no rain at all (2-3 wet days in a strange
season) and not even that much cloud cover. Maximum temperatures
between 28C and 35C are the norm, and overnight temperatures of about
15 to 20C are typical. In short, the weather is just about perfect.
do you rabbit on so much about the wind?
As so much of
Australia is flat and arid there is an awful lot of space of wind to
gather and not a lot to stop it once it has. Australia is not an
especially windy continent, but wind is the biggest physical obstacle
a long distance cyclist will face in outback Australia, more so than
other parts of the world. Further, the wind in Australia can be
general, the wind blows from the east. (This is due to a common
weather pattern of a “High in the Bight” during winter,
and tropical lows over Northern Australia during summer). This is not
a certainty by any means, but it still the most common weather
patterns. The effect is most prominent in the North of the continent
and in the west. In settled Australia (where people live) the weather
and the winds are more variable.
For more information
the right time of year and right direction to cycle outback Australia
can make a huge difference to the enjoyment of your trip.