I first became interested in cycle touring after seeing cyclists in South East Asia. I was jealous, they went way off the backpacker trail which is no doubt a unique experience and I wanted in. When I arrived in Australia and found most people taking buses and trains up the east coast missing everything in between the thought came to my head; cycle touring Australia? Perfect. After finding a bike I really wanted, the Surly Long Haul Trucker, I knew I had to give it a shot. So, I put together a kit and started to plan my touring journey beginning the trip with cycling Sydney to Gold Coast.
Cycle touring Australia is a bit unconventional as a way of traveling, especially for backpackers, so right away I knew it was for me. I have done long rides back home such as RAGBRAI, but that was on a light road bike without panniers and more beer than water. This was an adventure quite the opposite. The heavy Surly Long Haul Trucker is a purpose built touring bike meant to carry the weight and not to crush miles, or kilometers in this case. And the weight, which I tried to keep light, just kept adding up.
As a backpacker coming from South East Asia, I pretty much had nothing for biking around Australia and a bunch of stuff I couldn’t take with me on a bike. It was obvious to me that this was going to take some work. Luckily, the man who I bought my Surly Long Haul Trucker from already had it setup for touring with a rack and panniers. Then I set out for clothing, tools, spare part and camping equipment while trying keep in mind my backpacker budget. This took a little prep and planning to get everything together but there are many cheap department stores and opp shops in Sydney that made it possible. Figuring out what to do with all my normal backpacking stuff was a bit of a trick until I found the AusPost, too easy. The only thing left to do was ride…
Prep for cycle touring Australia:
Bike: Surly Long Haul Trucker with two rear Ortlieb Classic Panniers that I found on Gumtree. I spent a fair amount on this bike with the intentions of keeping it although there were many cheap bikes in Sydney that could have done the job.
Maintenance: I bought chain lube, spare tubes and patches a local Sydney bike shop and the essential tools (allen keys, spanners, tire pump, multi tool) from Kmart. I only brought the essentials as I knew there would be bike shops along the way if something major happened and I really didn’t want to carry the extra weight.
Clothing: Rebel fitness had a decent pair of cycle shorts for $40 AUD.
Camping Equipment: I picked up a cheap tent from Kmart, although I would not suggest it. $15 for tent sounds good until you actually need the function of a tent. Spend a little more and get a proper one! Hostel free bins usually have some good camping gear or check Gumtree for good deals.
Bag transfer: I shipped my main travel backpack to a hostel in Brisbane using the Australian Post Office. My bag was 63cm in length and 10kg which cost $23 to ship. I wrapped my backpack in a large plastic bag and then taped around the bag to tightly seal it. The postman said it would have been acceptable to not package the backpack as long as the bag had a padlock on the zippers.
Cycling Sydney to Gold Coast Route:
I roughly planned my route based off of a few blogs that I had read although there is an old Lonley Planet Cycling Australia book that was used to plan those trips. My itinerary eventually came down to how far I could ride in between camps or towns. I did have to plan ferry crossings which sometimes only run on the hour or a couple times per day otherwise I would get stuck. Google maps does an incredible job of routing and giving time tables but be aware that not all cycle friendly routes on google maps are actually ridable by road bike. I found myself stuck on a 4WD only road several km’s from a main road when it turned to sand. Not fun. Also, Maps.me just released a cycling route feature on the app. The offline maps were very useful while riding in areas without cell service.
My final actual cycling route from Sydney to Gold Coast:
Detailed Route Here!
Sydney to The Entrance
The Entrance to Newcastle
Newcastle to Myall Lakes National Park
Myall Lakes National Park to Forester
Forester to Laurieton
Laurieton to Crescent Head
Crescent Head to Nambucca Head
Nambucca Head to Coffs Harbour
Coffs Harbour to Tyndale Road House
Tyndale to Broadwater
Broadwater to Byron Bay
Byron Bay to Gold Coast
Tips for cycling Sydney to Gold Coast:
Keep your bags as light as possible. Really, if you don’t think you will need it, don’t bring it unless it would cost you a lot if you actually did need it and had to purchase it on the road.
Take a train to Newcastle and start there. I spent two days riding out of Sydney and surrounding metro areas. It wasn’t very enjoyable to be in the traffic all day, save yourself time if you want.
Get WikiCamps app to find the best campsites and hostels in the area. It is pretty much how I planned my stops along the ride.
Maps.me is great for finding your way when you do not have 3G. also, it has different routes and sometimes can help find a better route than Google mas alone.
Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance! Riding is dangerous and sometimes the roads are narrow, having insurance is a must! I have World Nomads and highly suggest them as some companies may not cover cycle touring Australia!