Recreational, touring and sports cycling
Any old bike will do to get started. Dust the cobwebs off the old clunker under your house and have it reconditioned, or hire a bike for an hour or a day.
If you intend on buying a bike, it is worth thinking about how you intend to ride, and investigating your options.
After several rides and getting to know your cycling needs, you might want to upgrade.
Don't push yourself too hard on your first day. Half an hour cycling and 8 km is a reasonable aim. You can slowly build up after that. Remember, the idea is to enjoy yourself.
Where to go
The most pleasant rides involve avoiding heavy traffic on major roads and heavy activity centres. Views, bushland, rivers, oceans or gardens are all factors to consider when planning a pleasant ride. Many bike paths are built with this in mind.
What to take
Remember to take plenty of water, sunscreen, a map and your helmet.
Cycling with others
There are many groups who cycle together.
Touring clubs such as the Brisbane Bicycle Touring Association* organise many trips from easy half-day rides to trips with overnight stays and week-long tours.
Social clubs meet and ride regularly – some for leisurely rides, some for fast training.
Racing clubs ride regularly for training. Local bike shops or Cycling Queensland* can provide you with details of these.
Bicycle Queensland* and some bicycle user groups organise social rides. Some mountain biking clubs ride regularly together.
There are also big rides, which are large organised rides lasting about a week. Meals are prepared for you and your heavier luggage is carried in a car.
People who go cycle touring find it rewarding, challenging and exhilarating. It is a good way to get fit on a holiday and enjoy the natural environment. Any age group can go cycle touring, even small children (trailers can assist with the journey).
A big ride is a great way to get started in touring and meeting people. Big rides are supported rides that last for six to 10 days and often have 1000 or more riders. They are supported as meals are provided, luggage is carried for you and there is a 'sag wagon' to give you a lift if you get too tired. Accommodation involves camping overnight and daily distances are usually about 80 km. Big rides are fairly new to Queensland. Contact Bicycle Queensland* for details of the next event.
Some companies organise tours for smaller groups. Tours are often centred around a theme, such as wineries, wildlife or historical areas. The quality of accommodation and catering varies greatly, and prices range accordingly. Details can be found in cycling magazines and at certain travel agents – or try a search on the web.
Tours with clubs
Queensland has several clubs that organise cycle tours. For most of these you need to carry your own luggage and cook your own meals (or join in group cooking). There are no charges for tours except membership fees and the actual day-to-day cost. Tours last from one day to several weeks and vary from easy to very hard. The Brisbane Bicycle Touring Association* and Sunshine Coast Bicycle Touring Club* arrange tours.
You can organise your own cycle tour with family or friends. Doing so gives the freedom to create a fantastic holiday. Solo touring gives even more freedom and can make it easier to meet people and chat at rest stops and accommodation places.
People planning a bicycle tour often advertise for companions in cycling magazines or on bulletin boards on the web.
Fitness helps but isn't everything.
Pacing, on the other hand, is important. Find a pace you can keep up all day. Stop early and often. Take rest stops before you need them. Allow plenty of time to get to your destination. Take hills easily. Drink plenty of water and protect yourself from the sun.
Don't push yourself too hard early in the trip. You will find your fitness increases during the tour. It is worthwhile to build up your fitness level in the weeks before the tour – try a couple of long rides of around 50 to 80 km.
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Places to stay
There are many accommodation options for the cycle tourist. Where you choose to stay will determine what you will need to carry and how much the tour will cost. Camping is economical and convenient, although the equipment needed means you will have more weight to carry on the bike. Other places to stay include overnight vans or cabins in caravan parks, country pubs, backpackers, motels and B&Bs (bed and breakfasts). It will be important to check the facilities provided, such as parking and security.
What to take
The standard advice for cycle touring is to 'make a list of everything you cannot do without, cut it back severely, then take half'.
You will need to take a few specific things on your tour. A typical list for a longer trip in most seasons (a shorter trip requires less) includes:
- thin pullover
- middle-thickness pullover (you can wear the thin one, the middle one or both together to give more flexibility rather than taking a thick pullover)
- cycling knicks x 2
- cycling jersey x 2
- cycling shoes
- clothes to wear when off the bike
- rainproof coat
- tyre levers
- chain lube
- patch kit
- spare tube (and tyre, depending on how far you are going)
- valve cover with attachment for removing valves
- spare valve
- double-length chain link pin
- Allen Keys
- 15 mm spanner (for pedals, especially if taking your bike by plane or bus)
- 8 mm spanner (for other nuts and bolts)
- spoke tool
- multi-tool (with knife, pliers, Phillips and standard screwdrivers)
- chain tool
- any spare parts you may need from a bike shop, depending on the distance you are going—also remember to give your bike a thorough service before you go
- first aid kit
- sun screen (small container)
- insect repellent
- bike lock
- maps and guides
- water bottles
Camping equipment (if required)
- lightweight tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat
- small cooking stove and fuel
- cooking and eating utensils, spices and dried food (keep food to a minimum and buy fresh food when you stop to keep your load light).
Carrying the load
You will have a fair load to carry even with a reduced list. Try and balance your load and position it low.
Most tourists use panniers, which are specially made bike bags that hang on either side of the bike. Good panniers are worth the extra expense because they are more durable and last longer. Poor panniers swing into your spokes, tend to fall off the rack, and wear out quickly. Panniers can also be used when shopping or commuting. Some touring clubs hire panniers to members.
Some cycle tourists use only rear panniers. Some use front panniers as well because this spreads the load and makes riding easier (but resist the temptation to carry a larger load).
Bar bags mount on your handlebars and can be useful for holding things you need quick access to, such as a maps, snacks, or a camera.
Bike trailers are increasingly popular as the load is kept very low and do not greatly affect the bikes handling. However, trailers can be awkward to take on trains or planes.
Cycling with a backpack is usually a bad idea. If you wear a backpack, the load will be high, uncomfortable and makes you hot. If the backpack is strapped to the bike the load will still be high, making the bike unstable.
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Planning your route
Plan your route according to your personal interests. Search the web or talk to other cycle tourists who can give you tips about good places to visit. Some possible attractions might include historical sites, wildlife, forests, gemstones, swimming and fishing. Work out what is a comfortable distance for you to ride each day, and how hilly the route will be.
There are many books and guides for cycle tourists available at your local bike shop, or travel book shop.
Guidebooks and maps can help when planning which roads to take.
When selecting roads, major roads often have a good surface, a better grade and shoulder to ride on, but are often very busy. Quieter country roads can be hilly and rough, but are often more scenic.
Be careful when seeking local advice as it can be misleading. People tend to think from a motorist's point of view and not a cyclist's.
Maps of a scale of 1:100 000 or 1:250 000 will be better for cycle touring. Any regional maps showing topography will be useful. The more local roads shown, the better. A map with contours can give an indication of the steepness of roads by how much the roads curve. Straight roads are generally flat – curvy roads are generally hilly.
Some parts of Queensland have winds that come from a particular direction in a specific season. Tail winds can make a big difference to your enjoyment. You might find that going from B to A rather than A to B gives you a much better chance of tail winds. Check the wind data on the Bureau of Meteorology* site for information on wind directions.
The Bureau of Meteorology* website also has useful information about rainfall and temperature patterns for Queensland.
Cycling for sport
Cycle racing develops:
- team work – but most of all, it's exciting.
Events are designed for men and women and for ages from under 11 to seniors.
The four major categories are track, road, mountain bike (MTB) and bicycle motocross (BMX). There are many types of event within each category.
There are also non-racing events such as stunt riding.
To get involved in competitive cycling, join a club affiliated with Cycling Australia*. This will give you:
- a licence that enables you to compete in road, track and mountain bike events throughout Australia
- insurance while competing in sanctioned events
- access to fully qualified accredited coaches
- regular issues of national, state and club newsletters.
Find out about local clubs by contacting:
Cycling Australia publishes a comprehensive introduction to sports cycling – Pump it up: getting started in cycling. You can get a copy through your club.
Local councils can tell you where bicycle motocross tracks and skate parks for stunt riding are located.
Most cyclists who wish to improve their performance in bike racing join cycling clubs. Clubs provide training, access to accredited coaching advice and entry to races. Contact your local club through Cycling Queensland* or through your local bike shop. Cycling Queensland also provides specific information about coaching for cyclists in Queensland.
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