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Trial Ride - Newcastle to Forster

Heading off down the road from home was such an exciting time!

Off on our brand new, very shiny bikes, fully loaded, we began our trial ride along the notorious Fernleigh Track and it felt soo liberating when by about the 10th minute mark a road bike Fernleigh frequenter rode along side and said “wow, where are you guys off to, seems like your packed up for a decent trip”. I told him of our intentions of riding up to Forster and back, then on our overseas travels and he was pretty stoked and wished us well on our adventures. To think we had just endeavored on a trip of riding and living on the road for the next week had us pretty pumped.

The first leg of our of our trip we took the cycleways along to Newcastle city centre and the ferry over to Stockton. Working out a route prior to leaving we had decided to avoid the highway as much as possible and take a scenic tour. Although when it came to it this meant deviating from the main route, taking longer to arrive at our destination and also lots of hills and hard work climbing them, especially as we were riding with approximately 26kgs and 29kgs of added weight on top of approximately 13kg bikes themselves. Another downside was the minimal shoulder space to ride on at road side and a lot of the time no shoulder at all.

A few days into the trip we quickly realised that every bit of weight that wasn’t being utilised was deadweight we were just carting around and making it harder for us by slowing us down. Taking a couple of luxury items with us along the way meant we could brew our own coffee and have warm water for a shower. Reading blogs of other cycle tourists before we left, it was starting to sink in and make sense when stated every bit of weight counts. Although we weren’t going to go to the extreme of chopping our toothbrushes in half or cutting holes in t-shirts to drop weight. Who knows how strict we might be with weight in the future, especially when approaching the Himalayas.

Of an afternoon we would arrive at our place to stay and camp for the night by approximately 4pm, this ensured we had ample time to unpack, cook, eat, set up camp, re-pack and relax before bedtime. It was really surprising how much time everything took to do, especially cooking a meal in one pot. Shortly after arriving at camp each day it was crucial to do a thorough stretch, the countless yoga sessions I’ve attended really were a great benefit here. Although the stretching didn’t completely eliminate the feeling of lead legs by bedtime.

I want to give credit to John for discovering waterproof SPD sandals for our trip. These were a very smart purchase and came in very handy especially on the couple of hot days we experienced. They kept our feet cool and yet provided the grip needed to make it up those hills from Bulahdelah to Forster. They were also not too uncomfortable to walk around in when you weren’t on the bike and clipped in. Although I would strongly recommend taking a set of spare cleat bolts for when yours come loose and somehow fall out and then you are riding around with 1 clip in for two and a half days up hills... not cool.

Third day in we decided to plan for a rest day, visit friends and travel a little further than Forster. So we stopped in at Old Bar, a beautiful coastal town just 40kms past Forster. We spent a whole day resting after 4 days of big hills and an average of 55kms per day on our bikes. It was great to shower, wash all our gear and most of all catch up with old friends.

The highlights of the trip for me was our third day of riding but mainly the location of our camp site that night. We stayed along Myall Lakes at a place pretty close to the Booti Booti campground, although we detoured just before the turn off to get out paying for a camp site and stumbled across a beautiful spot right next to the water which was ours for the arvo and night. We enjoyed a delicious burger with chips in town at Blueys Beach at a Thai-style restaurant called Kemabli before finding our camp spot and getting to go for a swim in the water which seemed pretty perfect as this was our hottest day riding. We created a time lapse of the sun setting over the water as we cooked dinner, set up our tent and packed away our gear for the night ahead.

Money spent

Our money spent for the 24 meals on our 8 days of travelling was a total of $414.00

We started out with $90 groceries and cooking essentials. Purchased really only a few meals out and about, the rest of our meals were cooked by us in our multi fuel stove or items that were ready to eat foods.

We did buy a few coffees and a some beers which are both expensive in Australia.

What we learnt

For shorter trips you obviously wouldn’t need the gear that we took but it was a test ride for a much bigger trip and we quickly learnt what we do and don’t need. Little things that are a must have included: mozzie repellent, sunscreen, basic tools and spares (also a bike ahah). What did we really learn on this short trip?

  1. Invest in a tent that is 100% waterproof and is big enough to house your gear with a little bit of wiggle room. Our tent wasn’t 100% waterproof and it sucks having to wait for things to dry the next day. John is a bulky 6ft 4 so he took up most of the room in our two man tent.

  2. Have a comfortable saddle. We went with the Velo Orange touring seats for our bikes and these were pretty good. Not sure we have spent enough time planted on them to really understand and we definitely can’t provide any real comparison at the moment.

  3. We purchased a lightweight, fold down sink bag by Sea-to-Summit and this doubled as a laundry bag for us too. It was easy to carry around clothes or dishes that were wet or dirty.

  4. For us sandal SPD cleats were perfect. They are likely to be the best option when we travel overseas in Asia due to the warm climate. I personally overheat easily. Additionally, we feel cleats are very important due to their improved cycling efficiency.

Mapped out route

We tracked our positioning using our GPS Spot tracker and once we get around to importing the GPS co-ordinates on google earth you will be able to see our route mapped out.

We totaled approximately 390kms in 8 days on our return trip with a rest day in between, average of 55km per day. Some minor setbacks that happened along the way included: one badly sliced tyre and tube; cleat bolt falling out whilst riding along; getting stuck to the bike and falling over because of the lost cleat bolt stuck my sandles into the pedals; a loose pannier rack clip and railing came off whilst riding. All very easy fixes in the end.It definitely proves that you have to be regularly checking your gear and bolts and ensuring you have some spares or, if lucky, not far from a bike shop.The trial ride was a success. Navigating the roads with our gear we found relatively easy. Plus, we were happy that we didn’t have any major issues and were lucky enough to catch up with a couple of friends and family for a hot shower on 2 different days was a definite added bonus.

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