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From Launceston to Hobart

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From Launceston to Hobart

Postby Cakebelly » Tue Jan 28, 2014 2:48 pm

Hi there,

I'm having trouble finding first hand information for a relatively quick (7 day) tour from Launceston down to Hobart.

The plan thus far is to leave Launceston early Feb, and make it alive to Hobart via the Bay of Fire.

Has anyone here done the ride? If so, is it best to ride from Launceston to Hobart or the other way around, in terms of headwinds and shoulder-width? It seems heading north is the popular option, but I can't seem to find out why. Also, do you have any recommendations of roads to stick to, and roads to avoid? Already shying away from the Bass Hwy based on people's comments here.

We're camping, I'm riding a specialized myka and my buddy is hiring. We're fairly new to touring so any advice would be incredibly appreciated!

Thanks :)
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by BNA » Wed Jan 29, 2014 10:24 am

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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby rangersac » Wed Jan 29, 2014 10:24 am

Ron will probably crop up soon, he did this trip a while back and has a good journal of it here. The direction you choose is probably more a reflection of how you plan to get in and out of the state. If you are coming/ going on the ferry I think most probably get to Hobart with the bike on bus and then work their way back to Devonport. If you are flying it doesn't affect you as you can enter/ exit from different airports. Having said that if it was me I'd go from Launceston to Hobart rather than the other way around because of prevailing winds. In Tassie you are guaranteed to have winds coming from the west to the east, so for the leg from Launceston to St Helens you should in theory have more of a tailwind. After that it's a bit more of a lottery, if you get a spell of good weather (which should be more likely during Feb), you'll probably have winds ranging from northerlies to westerlies, good for the trip down the coast. However if you cop a cooler patch (not unheard of in these parts!) then you'll get a more southerly/ south-westerly flow which will see you punching into it. You takes your chances.

Given you only have seven days you'll have to take a fairly direct route. I'd take the B81 to Scottsdale rather than the A3 as its quieter, but from then on you'll be on the A3 with side trips off it until you hit Hobart. I don't see how you will have time to go to the northern end of the bay of fires, you'll just be accessing it from St Helens into Binnalong Bay. The A3 is fine for riding on, there isn't much of a shoulder for lots of it, but the traffic is pretty light and in general cyclist friendly. It's a well worn tour route. Good information on distances and roads can be found here.

As you are new to touring I'd say don't overestimate the distances you will cover each day, as the route is winding and there are plenty of hills to sap the legs. I'd budget for around 60-80km, you can always put in a bit more if you have a good day, but this is realistic and gives you a good amount of time to see the place. I'd also say ease into it with a shortish first day given your mate will have to get used to his/her tour rig. Maybe just Launceston to Scottsdale.

Good luck, and pictures are expected or it didn't happen!
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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby RonK » Wed Jan 29, 2014 11:00 am

Yes, I'm with rangersac. I'd go Launie to Hobart so the afternoon sea breezes are on your back, via the B81 and the A3. I have actually done this ride when BV held their Great Escapade there. It will be much more pleasant without the crowd.

The first part of the route across to St Helens is quite hilly. I think 7 days will be pushing it if you are not used touring and riding good distances day after day. And you won't have any time to take in some of the main attractions of the east coast, such as the Bay of Fires, or the Freycinet Peninsula.

I recommend an itinerary like this, and take one day off at least in Coles Bay to visit Wineglass Bay on the Freycinet Peninsula. In my view this would be the highlight of the trip and is not to missed, even if you have to forego a visit to the Bay of Fires. If you like oysters and mussels, call in to the oyster farm on the way into Coles Bay. You'll never have cheaper or fatter oysters. With luck the ferryman will be operating from Swanwick across to Dolphin Sands to save you backtracking to the A3. This itinerary will let you ease into it on the first day before you hit the hills. :D


Click on the Google icon for the full map and route instructions.

When passing through Swansea, be sure to visit Kate's Berry Farm on the southern outskirts of the town. Kate makes the best scones I've ever had.

BTW - if you will be using a bike bag or case, Tassielink will move it to Hobart and store it for a small fee.
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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby Cakebelly » Wed Jan 29, 2014 3:47 pm

Thank you Ron and Rangersac! Excellent route there. So taking your advice we'll skip Bay of Fires and relax near Wineglass Bay. Then eat dozens of fat oysters.

We've decided to forgo camping, as it adds equipment and knowledge we don't have between us yet. (I left my gear behind in Canada, thinking it'd save me a few dollars... )

Is leaving the tent at home a dangerous idea? Scottsdale to St Helens looks quite challenging, but doable in 12 hours, however the suggestion of an overnight stay Branxholm puts my mind at ease.

Ron's blog has made me super excited for the trip! Great detail, and sometimes hilarious, thank you so much for the link.

Haha, photo's will happen if I still have the energy to lift a camera by St Helens :)
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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby Cakebelly » Wed Jan 29, 2014 4:06 pm

Also, in case anyone else stumbles upon this thread: The boatman no longer operates between Dolphin Sands Rd and Sandwick :(. Fingers crossed there are some nice boat owners around there!
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From Launceston to Hobart

Postby RonK » Wed Jan 29, 2014 4:23 pm

You don't need to camp at all along this route, all the stops I've suggested have either a caravan park, backpacker, or country pub, and these will all offer reasonably priced accommodation. The exception would be Lillydale, where the tavern offers rooms at motel rates. But what the hell, you're on holiday.

If you are able to splash out for a luxury treat, I'd recommend you stay at Freycinet Lodge in Coles Bay, but there is a caravan park with cabins and vans to let and a backpacker dorm if the budget is tight.

On my tour I stayed at Launceston Backpackers as I mentioned in my journal, and was quite impressed.

The ferryman at Swanwick is a private operation and seems to run intermittently. Apparently he's a rather gruff character. You'll have to ring him to arrange passage - I'll try to dig up a phone number for him but be aware that he might to be available on the day you want to travel so you'll have to backtrack.
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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby Warin » Wed Jan 29, 2014 4:45 pm

The route RonK has given you misses St Marys .. it in it self is not much of a place - the suggested route takes to the coast. If you go up (and it is up) you travel along a narrow highway with a rock gorge on the right. Once past St Marys you travel up a bit more then down hill .. but stop at the Elephant Pass Pancake barn and feast on what ever the special is... If you cannot do this they have another one in Launceston .. without the view (or the ride).
Note .. trying not to tempt the rain god/s .. St Marys and northwards is in a bit of a 'rain shadow' .. if it is not going to rain anywhere in tassie it is there. Oh .. I've had snow on Mt Wellington on a Christmas day (Hobart), so do take some warm clothing.

Umm your flying .. Launceston airport is closer to Perth (Tasmania) .. a bit south of Launceston .. ? You might bet the bicycle hire place to come out to you.. or maybe pick you up? It is not far and fairly flat if it comes to a ride.

If you going by the Ferry then you get into Devonport .. there is a chocolate place a bit south east of there in Latrobe .. worth having some food there (as well as chocolate).

Tassie has both good and bad places to eat.. not much between the two. I found fruit and veg lacking is smaller places if you want to self cater.
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From Launceston to Hobart

Postby RonK » Wed Jan 29, 2014 5:35 pm

The Elephant Pass pancakes are not good enough to bother with the climb, and the german couple running the place were rather grumpy last visit. :)

The coastal route however rivals the Great Ocean Road for my money. :wink:
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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby il padrone » Wed Jan 29, 2014 6:08 pm

Yes, I'd say the Elephant Pass Pancake Kitchen has suffered from the road re-alignment (which has been that way for about 10 years at least). Also the guy who used to sell fresh crayfish at the bottom of the pass seems to have given up.

The coast road (main Tasman Hwy) is nice, but...... rivalling the Great Ocean Road? Nup, not a patch on it. The coast road from Swansea heading south past Mayfield is a bit more like the Great Ocean Road. Like this too.
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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby il padrone » Wed Jan 29, 2014 6:18 pm

RonK wrote:With luck the ferryman will be operating from Swanwick across to Dolphin Sands to save you backtracking to the A3.

As of two years ago he had ceased operating, possibly a victim of excessive public liability insurance, or maybe he just retired.

For a seven day tour, if you are new to cycling you may be better to ride the route that used to be taken by World Expedition Tours back in the 80's-90's. Have a day in Launceston, ride south on the Evandale Rd, Nile Rd and Kingston Rd to the Esk Hwy (World Expeditions used a farm road to short-cut to the Esk). Then ride up the Esk via Fingal to St Marys, go over Elephant Pass and down to the coast, and carry on to Bicheno, Freycinet, Orford and beyond. This will save you about one day and is much easier cycling (though open river valleys rather than the rainforest of the Weldborough Pass). Missing Freycinet would be a terrible sacrifice.
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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby il padrone » Wed Jan 29, 2014 7:27 pm

RonK wrote:You don't need to camp at all along this route, all the stops I've suggested have either a caravan park, backpacker, or country pub, and these will all offer reasonably priced accommodation. The exception would be Lillydale, where the tavern offers rooms at motel rates. But what the hell, you're on holiday.

Lilydale has free camping at the Lilydale Falls reserve about 2kms north of the township.

The hills in Tasmania are another thing entirely - 8% is normal for main roads, many backroads and forest roads will have 15-18% grades. The steepest we struck in 2011 was 20% crossing The Dazzler Range on a gravel road from Beauty Point to Devonport. Between Lilydale and Scottsdale there are some choice 8-10% hills that keep repeating on you. Fore-warned is fore-armed :wink: :P
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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby skull » Thu Jan 30, 2014 5:52 am

Warin wrote:
If you going by the Ferry then you get into Devonport .. there is a chocolate place a bit south east of there in Latrobe .. worth having some food there (as well as chocolate).



It's called anvers. Mmmm yum.

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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby Wingnut » Thu Jan 30, 2014 11:54 am

This is all very interesting...seeing I'll be moving to Tas in the near future...
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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby Diddybike » Thu Jan 30, 2014 4:57 pm

Rode from Devonport to Hobart a few weeks back. We only had five days due to holidays and kids etc so couldn't do the north east.

Caught the Spirit of Tasmania over, fixed first puncture at the docks in Devonport :). This was boxing day so holiday traffic was on all the major roads, following good advice from forum members my wife and I left Devonport for Railton, Deloraine, Meander Valley Way into Launceston for the first night. A hot day following no sleep on the boat, 106km (first time my wife had ridden that far in a day, even unloaded). This avoided main roads, provided a good shoulder and good spacing of small villages. Launceston seemed to be very hilly, more than we expected, wlked Cataract Gorge, well worth it.

Next day we left Launceston for Perth, Longford Campbell Town. Again mostly on quiter and scenic backroads, road betwen Launceston and Perth was major holiday highway, caravans, boats etc no allowance for bikes. Woolmers lane out of Campbell Town is very pretty, high hedges on a country road trees often create a tunnel over the road, flat ride most of the way.

From Campbell Town we took the Lake Leake rode across to Swansea. Probably a nice quiet road, but when the first 35km is a constant climb (okay a hill is a hill) this was upset by 60km crosswinds which can make just staying upright challenging. Still a good ride. Despite less traffic we still got to experience both good and bad drivers, some seem determined not to leave their lane and speed past within just inches. Swansesa was a good little town to visit, great ocean views. Good bakery and Ugly Duck Out restaurant.

The coast road south from Sswansea is spectacular, no this does not rival the Victorain Great Ocean Road.... it beats it hads down (the only way to see the GOR is by walking the coatline). For a main coastal highway this is very narrow and windy with no overtaking lanes so traffic was often travellinmg in angry bunches.

Stopped and stayed at Orford. Really glad that we wore hi-vis at all times, even spoke with local councillor who is concerned that they are missing out on cycle tourism by not improving facilities and roads, he cautioned us about the winding stretches ahead and described his grand dream for a system like traffic lights so that when cyclists pass a point entering a dangerous area we can flick the switch and alert drivers that there are cyclists on the road ahead. We thought he may be overstating the risk but decided to start early the next day. We learned why we were being warned. First 15 kms out of Orford was windy and steep in places, drivers constantl drive the centreline on the road or cut corners. Numerous blind corners. The countryside opened up towards Buckland (only to let in that bloody wind again), then there were some hills "Bust me Gall Hill" and "Bust me Gut Hill" before getting to Sorrell then across the bridges into Hobart.

This was an excellent trip, loved it despite the wind and holiday drivers (only ever tow the caravan once a year so forget that it is wider than the car). Hiring a van and driving back we re-traced a lot of our steps, impressed by how far we travelled, marvelled at how little shoulder in places. We actually noticed that we luckily had more shoulder going south on the coast road than we would have had going north.

We would have loved to have more time. Considered a bus from Launceston to Bicheno so that we could do north eats, but no buses at that time of year. We loved it so much we both accessed another weeks leave and after returning home to collect kids did Tassie by car, visiting all the places we could not get to.
Advice:
Be visible, where bright colours, have lights even in daytime.
Tasmanian roads often don't have much shoulder, but don't be put off by this outside of Hobart and Launceston traffic is normally light.
Country/coastal towns are bike friendly, locals will welcome you and be interested in you trip.
As someone said before, try not to do too much distance each day, take some time for sightseeing, sampling local foods etc.
February should be better traffic conditions than we had (not holidays, peak time for coastal area).
Carry some cool weather gear, Tassis can still get some cold days in summer.
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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby il padrone » Thu Jan 30, 2014 6:18 pm

Sorry about the OT, but....

Diddybike wrote:The coast road south from Sswansea is spectacular, no this does not rival the Victorain Great Ocean Road.... it beats it hads down (the only way to see the GOR is by walking the coatline).

Having ridden both sections of road several times I really can't see how you could think this. The scenic section of the Tasman Hwy that runs close to the coast is from Swansea to a bit south of Mayfield - about 15-20kms at the most, and only with really elevated views at one section. After Mayfield Bay the road runs inland from the coast to Triabunna. The back-road south of Orford to Rheban is actually a lot more scenic (but the Wielangta Forest Road is a really hilly route). By contrast the most scenic section of the GOR runs from Fairhaven to Apollo Bay (about 45kms with many elevated spectacular views), and then there is the Shipwreck Coast section from Princetown to Peterborough and the Bay of Islands (over 30kms). Far more scenic in my estimation. Yes, walking it would be nice, but this will take well over a week, possibly two to get out to Peterborough. The route is a great 4 day ride from Geelong to Warnambool.


Diddybike wrote:For a main coastal highway this is very narrow and windy with no overtaking lanes so traffic was often travellinmg in angry bunches.

Windy?? Yes there can be a lot of wind down in Tassie :wink: One tour way back in 1985 we had an amazing ride in strong wind. After a day of solid rain that kept us in the YHA at Orford, the rain stopped and we decided to push on to Swansea at 3pm. The tailwind was phenomenal - we were comfortably riding along at 50kmh at times, fully-loaded on flat road 8) . We got to Swansea in 2hours and the only reason it took this long was because I had a puncture :o :lol:

Diddybike wrote:We learned why we were being warned. First 15 kms out of Orford was windy and steep in places, drivers constantl drive the centreline on the road or cut corners.

Usually the worst drivers who cut close or squeeze by on the blind corners will turn out to have Victorian plates.
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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby Diddybike » Fri Jan 31, 2014 8:55 am

"Usually the worst drivers who cut close or squeeze by on the blind corners will turn out to have Victorian plates".

Or hire cars, which in Tassie had tassie plates. But yes the best drivers were clearly the local (farm ute or sgnage as being a local business). We also found that the worst drivers were between 10am and lunchtime, which we worked out were the tourists having to checkout by 10 and then travelling to the next destination.
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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby redned » Fri Jan 31, 2014 2:13 pm

I have done this general route but ducked up to the coast at Bridport.
If it fits your itinerary, I would stay at the Weldborough pub. Camping out the back, but if you want a room you should book because it is the only accommodation in Weldborough. Craft ciders from all over Tassie. mmmm!
And scallop pies at Bicheno. Don't forget the scallop pies.
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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby il padrone » Fri Jan 31, 2014 5:24 pm

redned wrote:If it fits your itinerary, I would stay at the Weldborough pub. Camping out the back, but if you want a room you should book because it is the only accommodation in Weldborough.

No, no, no....... NOT the Weldborough Pub. Judith White (publican 2008) may have moved on since then - I hope so. We camped out the back. Only place I've ever been where some travelling cyclists, short on food and expecting a pub meal, were refused meals or supplies on New Years Eve "I turned the stoves off at 2.00pm and I can't do any meals". She gave us a loaf of 'white-death' bread that was 2 weeks past the use-by date, that is all she could summon the kindness to give us. What a horrible mean-spirited woman she was :x

Whe we spoke to the guy at Pyengana Roadhouse where we finally got breakfast the next day, their fabulous Big Brekkie, (after brekkie of tea and one Kingston creme bikkie each at Weldborough) he knew all about the woman's penny-pinching meanness :twisted:



redned wrote:And scallop pies at Bicheno. Don't forget the scallop pies.

Oooh yes, curried scallop pies, YUMMM! Probably the best in Tassie will be had at Richmond Bakery. A Tasmanian specialty, only VERY rarely found on the mainland - a bakery in Bairnsdale does them, but often sold out and sadly not as good as those at Richmond, Tas.
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From Launceston to Hobart

Postby RonK » Fri Jan 31, 2014 5:37 pm

Weldborough pub had just changed management when I stayed there in 2009, but unless it has improved I still couldn't recommend it.

I didn't much like the look of the Pyengana roadhouse, but go into the township and the Holy Cow cafe at the Pyengana cheese factory was very good.

Oh, and the bakery at Triabunna has good scallop pies, and makes a decent coffee.
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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby rangersac » Fri Jan 31, 2014 8:27 pm

The Triabunna bakery was unfortunately closed when I went through at the start of this summer. Not sure if it has been resurrected or not since. The fish and chip van at the boat ramp is worth a visit though.
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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby RonK » Thu Apr 03, 2014 2:38 pm

il padrone wrote:The coast road (main Tasman Hwy) is nice, but...... rivalling the Great Ocean Road? Nup, not a patch on it.

Well, not just my opinion, there is a concensus, and the verdict will disappoint parochial Victorians...

Yes, according to this survey by Australian Traveller magazine the east coast of Tasmania rates more highly than the Great Ocean Road. In fact 2nd only to cruising in the Kimberly, while the GOR managed only 8th.

Australian Traveller has listed Australia’s 100 Greatest Holidays Of All Time in a special collectors’ edition of the magazine.

The list is the result of more 12,000 nominations, a panel of 20 travel experts and hundreds of hours of analysis

Read it and weep. :lol:
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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby il padrone » Thu Apr 03, 2014 3:17 pm

Oh, for sure, the east coast as a tourist experience has a lot more going for it than the Great Ocean Road. The extra features along it including Freycinet, Maria Island, a lead on to Port Arthur in the south and to the Bay of Fires in the north, make it much more apealling to most tourists. Not to mention the gems of Swansea, Bicheno, and St Helens as tourist base towns. The Great Ocean Road is a shorter route in total, with just the one or two highlight towns (Lorne and Apollo Bay).

But my comment was less about the tourist pull of the features, rather the cycling attractiveness of the road as a coast-hugging scenic bicycle ride. The GOR is well ahead in those stakes. Just my judgement.



By the way, neither the GOR nor the east coast of Tassie has got a patch on the road along the west coast of Corsica. Again, just my judgement.

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Re: From Launceston to Hobart

Postby PapaJohn » Thu Apr 03, 2014 6:32 pm

I like Tassie. I've only ridden the East Coat South to North. Water was a bit hard to find North of Bicheno. One of the highlights of the trip was the Elephant's pass climb. It was a few years ago, No crays at the bottom and it was a Yank running the Inn. No grumpy Germans. The pancakes were worth the climb. I was in transit mode. Next time I'll take my time.

Lesson? Don't trust the Hema maps. Hopelessly outdated. I tried to take a back roads route to Mathinna and the road and bridge were gorn! 3/4 of the way along my route, I could see where the road had been, followed the line of trees, forded the river after a bit of a bush bash and it was all good in the end. Publican at Mathinna laughed at my little adventure and told me the bridge washed out 20 years before and that they should give those maps away. I spent quite a bit of the trip on minor roads and more than that once, I just had to "wing it" to choose the best route.
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