Melbourne to Perth via the top end

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Melbourne to Perth via the top end

Postby harv86 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 5:52 pm

Hi guys.

I have used this forum before as a resource but have decided to post my own topic as I am going to need advice/ideas on my upcoming trip.
In 2008 me and a mate rode from Melbourne to Perth via the Nullarbor and it was by far the best thing I've ever done. If you're interested there is an entertaining blog written by my mate. http://onyabiketour.blogspot.com.au/

The original plan was to ride around the whole country but due to money and hand circulation problems we had, it ended in Perth. I always said I would finish the trip and the time has come to start preparing. The plan so far is to depart February 2013 and cover the top part of Australia. I am planning to hit the most southern (Wilsons Prom not Tassie), eastern, northern and western points of the country along the way. I am giving myself approximately six months to complete the trip.

The first thing I want to organise is my bike. I did the last trip on an old Apollo mountain bike which I happened to have lying around. It did reasonably well, although I went through a lot of rear spokes due to having rear panniers and a trailer. So I am going to set up this time with front and rear panniers and of course a new bike. I am also looking to tackle the Gibb River Road as part of my trip so I need a bike that has front suspension. Would a standard mountain bike do the job? Any suggestions? Also i need to find some touring bars as I don't want to suffer hand issues again.

Thanks,
Harvey
Last edited by harv86 on Wed Jun 13, 2012 11:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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by BNA » Wed Jun 13, 2012 11:38 pm

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Re: Melbourne to Perth

Postby Meditator » Wed Jun 13, 2012 11:38 pm

I'm not sure your thread title is best for maximum results. But i could be wrong. Melbourne to perth via the top end would be clearer. When i read melbourne to perth, i think nullabor plain. I've only answered because no one else has replied.

Did you ever do anything to address your hand circulation problems. You don't want to have that again. I can tell you that padded gloves won't solve your problem. Correct bike fit, not leaning on your hands, perhaps a second hand rest and most likely front suspension will all help. I have had this problem before too. I don't have it any more. I don't have a second hand rest, but my bike has front suspension and the fit is fine.

"The plan so far is to depart February 2013 and cover the top part of Australia. I am planning to hit the most southern (Wilsons Prom not Tassie), eastern, northern and western points of the country along the way. I am giving myself approximately six months to complete the trip."


Can you clarify what this means. Ie where are you starting exactly. Do you mean you are riding from Perth to Melbourne via the top end? If so, that's probably not the right way to do it. You should ride east to west to get the best of the winds. Headwinds are awful. Leaving the winds aside, I believe the hardest part of your whole trip will be from Perth to Broome. There are some long empty stretches. I think it would be a much better if you could start your trip in Melbourne , travel north then west. But then if you do this, you want to be travelling from Cairns no earlier than Mid May and finish in Broome no later than End of August so i wonder if starting a bit later might be better for you, or extending the duration of your trip. If you travel in the top end outside this period you might find yourself having to ride at night time to cope with the heat by day.



Last year i rode the GRR on a Giant mountain bike. IT was the third longish trip i've done with it and it held up well. This bike cost me $500 when new in 2009. I put on good tyres, and recommend whatever bike you buy that you ensure that it has a SEALED BOTTOM BRACKET. Mine wasn't and it seized up 400km before darwin on its first trip due no doubt to all the mud and water we'd been through. Now its good. So yes a mountain bike is good. Oh i also kept my old pedals as they had a cage and i liked them. So far i've done about 12 months worth of travelling on this bikes and no broken spokes. My set up with very full panniers and gear on the back, no trailer. I don't use front panniers. But i'm a woman and so a bit lighter than you. I have learnt that the broken spokes can come from stress fractures so if you ever ridden it roughly over potholes and that sort of thing, it might have caused it in the long run. But perhaps too much weight also causes them. I reckon you are better off travelling without a trailer. OR just a trailer and no panniers. When you meet some steep hills in rough places it will be impossible to ride your bike up the hill. TRavelling light as possible is the way to go.

I"ve ridden from My place north of Cairns to cooktown and back in 2007. via the coast road.
Cairns to Darwin via the dirty savannah way in 2009
Darwin to Fitzroy crossing and back up the GRR and darwin again in 2011

Try to include a trip to the bungle bungles. It was probalby the highlight of my trip, though i also loved the communities on the highway. The GRR is very popular with grey nomads and very dusty though i 'm not saying you shouldn't do it. Its just hard going and the dust is the worst of it. The roads are rough enough but manageable and variable. On the GRR plan to make your last big shop in Kunnunurra and don't expect to be able to buy anything else along the way. Send a food parcel to Mt Barnett or Imantji from K. This will save you money and ensure you have enough decent food to eat. The only things worth buying at these stores are a cappucino at Imantji and fish and chips at Mt Barnett. ie don't count on getting any supplies here. There are some but probably not what you want and very expensive of course. Next shop will be derby.

For the early part, don't depend on shopping at Roper Bar. But Doomadgee, Borroloola, Normanton, Croydon, Georgetown are all good enough. Expensive but good. Then Katherine and darwin of course. Last place to shop up good after cairns is either Atherton or Mareeba. I recommend going out to chillago from mareeba then cutting across back from almaden to Mt Surprise if you have time. chillagoe has good caves. YOu can skip Mt Garnet. The road from almaden is going to be more enjoyable.

If you've any further questions, feel free to ask.

Also when travelling around Noosa area, there are some nice trails that you can enjoy. I was down there this year and used them.
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Re: Melbourne to Perth

Postby il padrone » Thu Jun 14, 2012 12:16 am

Meditator wrote: I reckon you are better off travelling without a trailer. OR just a trailer and no panniers.

Trailer on its own is not such a good rig IMHO. You have fairly limited capacity (equivalent to 3 panniers) and the load can be quite destabilising unless you are a heavy rider.

Meditator wrote:When you meet some steep hills in rough places it will be impossible to ride your bike up the hill. TRavelling light as possible is the way to go.

Are you sure about this??

* Photo taken on a 20% gradient climb in Gippsland

Image



I would not expect that front suspension is necessary on the Gibb River Road. By accounts I've heard it is getting less severe all the time - most of it is just a gravel road.
Riding bikes in traffic - what seems dangerous is usually safe; what seems safe is often more dangerous.
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Re: Melbourne to Perth via the top end

Postby Meditator » Thu Jun 14, 2012 12:26 am

Gravel road as opposed to what? Front suspension is nice and i really think it does improve the issue with the hands because from my experience it is vibration that really makes hand numbness worse.

Well i haven't ridden with a trailer so i dno't know about stability. I saw some women using them on the GRR. No panniers. But we didn't get to discuss this. But i do remember a story about the struggle some people had getting up the roads on the bloomfield track (to cooktown) and having just ridden it, its easy to see why. IT required the group of four to push up each bike separately. There's a few very steep hills there. Steep and not paved.

I've got to say that part of the road in the picture doesnt look too steep. But you were there so you'd know better than me. There's not a lot of hills in outback of australia but there are a few and i doubt you'd want to take a trailer into the bungle bungles. there are 29 creek crossings and each one is completed by a steep little hill, most of which i had to get off to push my bike up even without a trailer.

YOu won't be able to take a trailer on the noosa trails though that's only a small section. Ultimately it doesn't matter to me but i think less is more usually.
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Re: Melbourne to Perth via the top end

Postby il padrone » Thu Jun 14, 2012 12:36 am

Meditator wrote:Gravel road as opposed to what? Front suspension is nice and i really think it does improve the issue with the hands because from my experience it is vibration that really makes hand numbness worse.

This did not require suspension:

Image

Nor this:

Image


Nor this either:

Image


Meditator wrote:I've got to say that part of the road in the picture doesnt look too steep.

Believe me, it was! Measured the gradient with my sky-mounti hill inclinometer. And I have ridden up plenty of 10-15% gradient climbs fully loaded with four panniers. Climbing effectively is part fitness and a good part state of mind.
Riding bikes in traffic - what seems dangerous is usually safe; what seems safe is often more dangerous.
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Re: Melbourne to Perth via the top end

Postby harv86 » Thu Jun 14, 2012 12:56 am

Thanks for the reply, I have changed the thread title.
Meditator wrote:Did you ever do anything to address your hand circulation problems. You don't want to have that again. I can tell you that padded gloves won't solve your problem. Correct bike fit, not leaning on your hands, perhaps a second hand rest and most likely front suspension will all help. I have had this problem before too. I don't have it any more. I don't have a second hand rest, but my bike has front suspension and the fit is fine.

I did try a few things to remedy the hand problem. I put heaps of foam on the bars, i suppose much the same as thick gloves, did nothing. I put those little end bars on the handlebar so i could sit up straighter and take some weight off, but as it was just the convenient bike I had lying round, the frame size may have been too small. I am looking at getting some form of trekking bars for the new bike. I will definitely be going without a trailer and loading up on panniers.

I will be starting in Melbourne and following a mainly coastal route all the way to the top including south eastern VIC. I will take on board what you said about Cairns to Broome, and maybe push the start date of the trip to March, allowing me to get all the way to Cape York and back to Cairns right round mid May? This would give me plenty of time to head across to Broome in the dry. Although I'm yet to figure out the difficulty of getting to Cape York. I have found it difficult to get clear cut information. I have plenty of time still to figure out the details of my route.
Hope this post makes it easier to understand.

Cheers,
Harvey
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Re: Melbourne to Perth via the top end

Postby Meditator » Fri Jun 15, 2012 2:27 am

Harv i think you will find your hand problems clear up with front suspension. I had foam on my handlebars too. My hands got so numb i couldn't really hold the pen to write my diary. That was my first bike. I don't have these problems any more. Also on that bike it was too big for me so it was hard to take the weight off my hands. I would never ride on such a bad bike again but i am glad i did it that way to begin with.

The change in your route timing sounds ok except you don't want to travel north of cairns much before beginning of may even up the cape. Its just too hot. really and the roads may not be open. That said, i am reminded that when i did my trip westwards starting mid may some guy from tassie had already been up the cape and back so he must have done it in the heat. I just think its mad myself. I haven't been all the way up to cape york and i have been somewhat put off it by people who told me they enjoyed the kimberley more. The road up to cape york used to be very heavy with bulldust. I am sure you can find out what its like these days. Phone up the RACQ to for advice about road quality for the month you expect to be riding it. that is from cooktown north. I have met other cyclists who've done it. People like bamaga and another place up there beginning with S. You are not travelling on the coast for most of the way. Part of the problem with the cape york road if you do it later than may will be other vehicles and dust. Anyway phone or email the RACQ.

You ride ride from mossman up towards daintree turning off towards cape trib. At cape trib the road becomes gravel and its very steep and hilly for a while. The road is so steep they've had to pave it with concrete in parts to prevent the big messes that happen in the wet season. But its really worth riding up to cooktown i believe. When you come back down, it would be worth doing the same leg back from cooktown to MOssman then up to julatten perhaps. Unless you saw a raoad that you could take west and skipping the atherton tablelands. Its just that the inland road from cooktown to Mareeba is really boring and you will see plenty more country of this type whereas the coast road around cape trib is so nice and its such a small area it is worth doing more time there.

you should be able to find other cycle blogs or parts of blogs of people who have gone up to the cape. but really its nothing to stress about. Oh except carrying food. I am not sure how its done past cooktown to be honest. Probably some parcel posting from say cooktown. But if you ever get really stuck there will be other drivers to make sure you don't starve.
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Re: Melbourne to Perth via the top end

Postby Meditator » Fri Jun 15, 2012 2:33 am

padrone i'm not suggesting that those roads require suspension but i am suggesting that if you are riding day after day suspension does make it easier on your hands. And if you've already had a problem with numbness you'd do anything to relieve it. As said before, not leaning on your hands is key. But i can't always do it and so i reap the value of a better bike fit and front suspension.

Riding up 10%with fully loaded panniers is also about how good your gearing is. To be honest, i wouldn't know what a gradient was but i know what steep is. And i know that the story i recounted was true.
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Re: Melbourne to Perth via the top end

Postby GJ_Coop » Fri Jun 15, 2012 10:24 am

Harv

I've been riding around Oz on an old dunga hard tail mountain bike for a while, it's got straight bars but I invested in Ergon grips, got the cork variety now, and haven't had problems with my hands, the grips are like flippers which spreads the load. I ended up taking my bar ends off as I didn't need them but I reckon they aren't a bad idea.

When you are planning the timing for your trip May is the earliest you should probably head north from Cairns. Even in late May there was 100mm, well 91mm, one day this year. Further north the creeks etc can be up and the tracks flooded prior to that.

As far as the end of the dry season is, well it's officially December, but November can be wet as well. That gives 5 months from June to October, inclusive, when you can avoid most heavy rain. I rode the GRR in September and it was warm, OK, 38º most days but when you are out there it doesn't matter much. Even when it was 42º around Newman in early November it was a case of having a snooze under a shady tree during the heat of the day. The real issue there was the afternoon thunderstorms, not much lightning protection with quite a show happening most afternoons, even if it was dry.

I'm currently just about to start heading to that northern tip of Australia so I might have a bit more info in the meantime there's always Gaye and Ed Bourke's website.

Dunno, there's too many fear merchants around, as long as you are as prepared as you can be you should have a great trip.
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Re: Melbourne to Perth via the top end

Postby il padrone » Fri Jun 15, 2012 11:19 am

Meditator wrote:Riding up 10%with fully loaded panniers is also about how good your gearing is.

Did I ever say it was not?

Most half-decent MTB or touring bikes these days have the gear range, yet even with that, if you don't have the fitness, or more importantly have the wrong mind-set you'll still find the climbs cruel.
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Re: Melbourne to Perth via the top end

Postby Meditator » Sat Jun 16, 2012 12:35 am

Stop arguing with me. I am not arguing with you. I am just pointing out things. I think its worth pointing out the things you have left out to the novice cycle tourer at the top of this post. Obviosuly you and i have some different opinions. We can both be right. It is to the benefit of the OP that he hears these different opinions. So far you haven't convinced me of anything and evidently i haven't convinced you of anything. It really doens't matter.
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