FAQ

Some of the questions I get asked a lot, and other stuff that people might be interesting.

0. So you're cycle touring.

Some might say that, but I don't classify myself that way.

No fixed address since 2009, I ride my bike, and live outside, by the road.  There is no "home" to return to.  I'm not on a holiday. I don't have any plans to visit tourist attractions. I'm not on a mission to complete a ride or tour. I spend very little time in camp grounds and caravan parks. I'm only in town to resupply - food and water, then out again.

I'm more like a tramp, or homeless vagabond, but on a bicycle.


1. Why not get a car?

Some of my reasons for riding a bicycle are:
  • its fun (seriously, would you keep doing something if it wasn't?)
  • gives me exercise. The 2007-08 National Health Survey shows that in 2007-08, 61.4% of the Australian population are either overweight or obese. Exercise is good for your health. Get more exercise or eat less. Riding everywhere gives me lots of exercise.
  • its slow. I'm not in a rush, so cycling gives me time to look around, smell the gum trees, feel the breeze, hear the birds. By bicycle I'm in the country - not travelling through it.
  • its cheap. The NRMA has the cheapest car ownership at $75 per week. That's just owning the car! And you still need to eat.
Update: September 2012

Well, now I have a van, how does that change the above. It doesn't. The above is all still true. The van has some advantages, but I find the trip in the van no where near as fun as cycling.

I got a van as a metal tent on wheels. It was time for a change. I wanted to be able to carry more gear, spend more time in places without easy access food and water, have a sense of security in that I can lock my stuff up in towns. Tenting, its just leave everything in the tent and hope that its all still there when you come back. In smaller towns it wasn't a problem, but as the town size increased, so did the theft concerns. No I never had anything stolen, but it did cause me concerns.

Also needed to spend some time in the city, and wouldn't be able to cycle for several months. A van seemed a better option than a backpackers dorm, or a share house.

Update: February 2014

Well, sold my van in January and returned to bicycle/tent living. It was useful to live in in the city, and when I couldn't cycle about, but otherwise, van living just wasn't working for me. I didn't do that much travel with it either. It did have good points, but on the balance, I prefer the bicycle/tent living for all the original reasons and more.  I can say now that I've tried it, and it doesn't agree with me, and I'd rather be on my bike with the tent.  And that often surprises people!

2. How many punctures?

I rarely get punctures, because I'm using quality tires: Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour tires. I do try to avoid glass, nails and thorns, but that's not always possible. I ride on bitumen, gravel, fire trails and off road. A few times my tires have been fury with thorns. Those are the times when I didn't want to be fixing a puncture.

Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour tires are good. I won't use anything else. I've had sets wear out without puncturing.  I typically keep using the same tire until the wear indicator shows, and then keep using it. When it finally does puncture, then I change it. One tire went from Sydney to Cairns like this. Another went from Perth, across to Port Augusta. That's about 2000km.

3. How far do you ride a day?

Depends - anything from zero upwards. The record for me is about 220km in one day. That was a big day. It depends on the terrain, weather, mood, location, what books I'm reading, who I talk with.  Mostly about 80km as that is an easy day (mostly). My current average speed is about 19km/hr. I rise early, and ride until it gets hot about midday, then maybe a few more hours in the late afternoon or early evening.

A big factor in distance covered is the resupply situation. Towns close together, can do shorter distances.  300km plus to the next water stop encourages bigger distances per day.

4. How far you come?

Up until July 2011, over 22,000km.  But then I lost track somewhere about 25,000km while I was in Western Australia.  I've another 10,000km on my odometer now, and that was from when I broke the last one, months after I'd lost track. So, my distance covered is approaching 40,000km at the beginning of 2015.

5. How long?

I've been travelling since 2009.  I'll keep travelling for as long as I want.  After the van period, I can't see that I'll be stopping any time soon.

6. Where do you sleep?

Side of the road, in my tent. Caravan parks can be too pricey, with many wanting to charge $25+ for a nights stay. Caravan parks can be noisy also. The free or cheap camping areas tend to have caravan, motor homes, camper vans, car campers who can be real noisy - car doors banging, dogs barking, TV, radios, stereos, (and the worst one) generators. Obviously there isn't always a choice, but given a choice, somewhere quiet wins out every time.

7. What do you eat?

Anything I want is the short answer. I have a stove, so can cook meals. I also carry non cook foods for the times I don't or can't cook. Pasta, oats, rice and sultanas or dates top the staples list. Baked beans are a key "emergency" or no cook food. (Yes I carry tinned food. The weight of the tin isn't an issue, nor the weight of the empty tin until I find a rubbish bin.) Fresh food is not so easy to get in the country, but I try to eat more fruit and veggies when passing through towns. What I buy depends on the price and availability. I find that after going for too long without fresh fruit and veggies I start to crave something. Sprouts are good at these times. I sprout chick peas and peas in a jar. Depending on the temperatures, a couple of days and they are done; eat them raw, or lightly cooked.

I have tried road kill cuisine. I'm not that keen on meat, so tend to just pass it by. Fresh is best. There may be a lot of road kill, but its only fresh for a short time. Then spends days, weeks, months or years decomposing. Finding fresh road kill is hit and miss. When food is low and you really want some, none can be found.

Water is more a problem than food. I carry purification equipment, but Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world. Rivers, creeks and lakes on the map probably don't have water in them. Unless its flooding. I usually carry up to 25 litres with me. This lets me stay out of a town for between two and five nights, depending on the temperatures.


8. What about bad drivers and semi trailers and road trains?

Yes there are bad drivers. I don't think this is going to change in a hurry as Australian authorities are very slack about road safety. The good news is that the better drivers still vastly out number the bad ones.
Semi trailer and road train drivers on the whole are good. They drive for their living so tend to be more careful. The worse group are the cars towing caravans. They don't know where their car sides ends, let alone that their caravan sticks out half a meter further. They forget that the extra length means they can't "just quickly serve".
It will vary, if your on a busy road, there is more traffic, more chance of finding those rare bad drivers. I prefer the quieter roads.

9. Internet access

I've been using the Telstra mobile network. It isn't cheap. Using my phone, its $20 for 700 MB. Mobile broadband is $200 for 12GB. If you mess up and don't buy the special pack to get those rates, its $2 per MB. It pays to watch usage.

There are cheaper carriers, but Telstra has the best coverage. Carriers will advertise something like "covers 98.5% of the Australian population". Sounds good. But that covers the major cities, and a strip of minor towns. Most of population lives near the coast.

Wi-Fi forget it. The number of wi-fi spots I've found in the country that I could have used I can count on one finger. Its a rare beast in the country.

10. Do you feel safe travelling alone? Definitely. Read why here.