For more than a decade, I have day-dreamed about riding from Sydney to the far north coast of NSW (Mullumbimby). I used to drive the Pacific Highway once a year on holidays every since I moved to Sydney but, ever since getting into cycling and then seeing the reports of the old Comm. Bank Cycling Classic as it passed through terrain I’d become vaguely familiar with, the idea that it was possible to cycle north was planted in my mind.
I didn’t become a serious cyclist until I left Telstra a few years later, and reached the end of my comp. sci degree; at that time I had found out about the NSW Big Rides, and rode them constantly from 2003 (I’m still bitter that Bicycle NSW decided running such events wasn’t worthwhile). Those trips, along with participating in the Gong Ride each year, gave me the confidence that I could ride 80-100km routes for several days in a row. For the past several years I’ve been riding on my own from Coffs Harbour to Mullumbimby and back over Christmas while taking the train the rest of the way. I’d been hesitant about extending the cycling portion of the trip since that entailed a time commitment I wasn’t sure I could spend and I also wasn’t sure about manageable routes that avoided the Pacific Highway.
This year, after quietly letting ideas percolate, I’ve started serious planning. I have a route mapped out that includes options for various levels of achievement, including getting part-way and finding that the limits of my ability were surpassed. It’s tentatively about 930km over 9 days of riding and a few rest days, that goes through Gloucester, along Thunderbolt’s Way to Armidale and Glen Innes, back to Grafton and north via Casino. There’s some serious climbing (along Thunderbolt) and a few days of more than 140km, but I’m feeling fitter than I have been for a few years. I’m also allowing for the possibility of camping overnight where needed. That will mean I am not restricted to finishing up in one the few town with accommodation each day.
The internet is a wonderful resource for planning. Using RideWithGPS and Google Streetview, I’ve been able to investigate options that balance distance with gradient, and virtually travel certain roads in order to check the condition – admittedly from as early as 2011 – and have been able to determine that some of the route uses dirt roads or have broken bridges, and I have mapped out alternatives for problematic sections.
I now have all of April off work to do with as I want, and I’m building lists and making sure I’m as self-sufficient as I can be. Water is obviously an issue, and I am looking at balancing how much I can carry, and where it’s possible to get a refill. The Feedzone Portables books have been a wonderful resource to play with over the last few months, and I am going to make sure that I have a store of travel food to carry me over those long stretches where I’m in the middle of nowhere. Normally I have gone riding in December, but summer in Australia is now so hot that I’ve had to truncate a couple of trips due to heat-stroke. Hopefully April will have much more comfortable riding weather.