be prepared

Outback Australia is isolated and, umm, remote.

Well, that’s why you are going.

Travellers need to be self sufficient, resourceful and endowed with enthusiasm and determination.

Good equipment helps if you are out there for weeks, or months.

Weight isn’t supercritical.

Reliability is.

And there’s not a lot of bike shops out there. Particularly for specialised bits and pieces.

A whole lotta preparation before you set sail can make life a lot easier in the back of beyond. divider

shelter - gotta sleep somewhere

bush camping at Eringa waterhole, Finke Rd, South Australia

In the city you can find a bed in a backpackers at around $25 to $30 a night. It’s nice to reward yourself with a bed once in a while.

There’s not too many comfortable motels with satellite TV out there in Whoop Whoop.

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shelter - tent

free camp, Starvation Bay, south coast of Western Australia

Getting into your tent at the end of a long day’s effort. Bliss. Finally into your cocoon.

There’s some lightweight options: tarps, hammocks etc. Forget it. Try to find a tree out there.

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shelter - sleeping mat

Hawker Caravan Park, Mawson Trail, South Australia

The old cheapy closed cell foam sleeping mat has a couple of issues: bulk, and night after night it’s just not so comfy. Maybe if you’re young.

Thin self inflators, make that blow up, are the way to go. Lightweight and able to be rolled up tight.

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shelter - sleeping bag

free camp, Marrinup camping area, Munda Biddi Trail, Western Australia

With a decent sleeping mat you’re not going to get cold from laying on the ground but the night time air temperature makes a big difference. Australia is a huge continent and there’s a big difference between what’s needed in Tassie in autumn and Darwin at the same time.

The south of Australia is temperate: hot days and cool nights in summer, cool days and cold nights in winter. Not deep snow, blizzard cold, but light, frosty cold.

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food - it's an issue

free camping, Munglinup Inlet, south coast of Western Australia

Finding water has to be the biggest issue out in arid country, right?

Nah, it’s food.

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food - what food to take

Food? That’s pretty simple.

Compact calories. Lots of them.

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food - where to buy it

off road bike touring, Tanami Track, Western Australia

Arriving in Kulgera on the Stuart Highway after 8 days on tracks from Oodnadatta and guess what, there’s no longer a shop. The only food the roadhouse now stocks are the smallest cans of baked beans ever seen.

Still the cooked brekkie was huge, cheap and scrummy.

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food - cookin' (ie stoves)

Bike trail? Laura, Mawson Trail, South Australia

Choice of stove really comes down to what types of fuel are commonly available in Australia.

Cookin’ with gas is convenient. Issue 1: the expensive canisters may/will be hard/impossible to find outside the larger towns. Number 2, you have to dispose of the empties.

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water - it's the outback

Gibb River Road, Western Australia

Think Outback. Think water.

Less of a problem than you might think.

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water - how much

water, Bitumen Tank, Victoria Highway, Northern Territory

It can be a long way between water points in the Outback.

On the Oodnadatta Track it’s 210km from Marree to William Creek and then another 207km to Oodnadatta.

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water - where do you get it

finding water, Bunda bore, Buntine Highway, Northern Territory

This is one of the biggest questions that might discourage a potential long distance cyclist. With the distances between supply points it is something worth considering.

Towns are easy.

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water - carrying it

bike touring, Oodnadatta Track, South Australia

Just after leaving Melbourne for a circuit to Canberra a Dutch guy came the other way. He had biked from Holland to Singapore then flown to Perth. From there he had for some obscure reason decided to head directly for Noosa over on the east coast via the Great Central Road, (via Uluru), and then the Plenty Highway.

He looked at my rear panniers, rack pack, handlebar bag and fully laden trailer.

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water - electrolytes

Heading to Kulgera, Finke Road, Northern Territory

Coming into the Widgie Tavern, (note the pub only opens at 3pm and there are no other buildings for 100km), I grabbed some water.

Bore water.

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health - you are not a machine

bicycle adventure, Sandy Billabong, Kakadu NP, Northern Territory

OK. We know things can go wrong with a bike. With preparation, carrying spares and tools and having a dollop of ingenuity you can usually keep going.

Things can go wrong with a body as well: injury, snakebite, the occasional crash. What’s going to happen then?

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health - medical equipment

adventure cycling, road to Hopetoun, south coast of Western Australia

When it comes to health some people go completely over the top in preparing for any possibility: drugs for any condition; bandages for various injuries short of amputation; a full drug cabinet with concoctions for staying healthy.

Others take the minimal health junk.

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health - hygiene stuff

remote cycling, Hamersley Inlet, Fitzgerald River National Park, south coast Western Australia

This means the toilet stuff.

Often you will be camping out in the middle of not a lot. There are few public toilets on the 1050km Tanami Track.

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health - showers

Carinyah Shelter, Munda Biddi Trail, Western Australia


Just joking, but it’s pretty clear sometimes it just isn’t possible to do much in the washing-the-body department. There’s often not too much water around that’s not needed for drinking.

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helmet + clothes - you need these

bike trail, Johanna Beach, Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Clothes are the first place to start in your quest to save weight. Don’t get a lighter item, just don’t take it.

Two pairs of long pants? No, take one. Extra shoes? Gone. Socks? Who needs them? Etc.

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helmet + clothes - helmet or hat?

Stirling Ranges National Park, Western Australia

Yeah. Wear a helmet.

The laws in Australia are consistent.

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helmet + clothes - gloves

bike touring, New Crown Station, Finke Road, Northern Territory

When you ride hours per day the points of contact with your bike take plenty of stress.

After the arse the hands are the next vulnerable.

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helmet + clothes - bike shorts

remote trail, Pemberton, south west Western Australia

Seat and bike shorts.

An integral part of biking comfort.

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helmet + clothes - wet weather gear

rain on cycle tour, Meekatharra, Great Northern Highway, Western Australia

OK, so Australia is going through a 7 year drought. When the old weather patterns will return is not clear.

Around the coast it rains a bit. The Great Ocean Road in Victoria and south west Western Australia get hit by regular cold fronts at any time of the year. A day or two of showers and then some respite. Until the next one hits.

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