Australia  

A Quick Reference Guide

 

Geography:

Australia is approximately the size of the continental United States.   Most of central and western Australia is arid and flat.  The majority of the population (about 20 million people) lives along the coast between southern Queensland (Brisbane) and eastern South Australia (Adelaide).  Perth is the major population center in the west.  The moderate climate permits an “outdoor” life style which includes a beach culture and a variety of activities including cycling, bush walking, camping, fishing, and even snow skiing at the higher elevations during the winter months.  If you are wondering how this compares to the northern hemisphere, cities with equivalent latitude are listed in Table 1 for your comparison.  You’ll notice that the “tropical north” is indeed quite tropical.  Banana plantations and sugar cane fields dot the landscape in Queensland and Northern New South Wales. 

Table 1

Australian and North American

Cities with Approximately the Same Latitude

 

Australian City North American City
Adelaide Bakersfield, California USA
Brisbane Ciudad Oberon MEXICO
Darwin Leon NIAGARA
Hobart Grants Pass, Oregon USA
Melbourne San Francisco, California USA
Perth Ensenada MEXICO
Sydney Los Angeles, California USA

 

 The Australian continent is divided into six states (Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales) and two territories (Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory).   The national capital is Canberra.  To get a feel for the vast distances one must travel, the Table 2 lists straight-line (“as the crow files”) distances between selected Australian cities.  The distances via motorway will be larger. 

Table 2

“Straight Line” Distances

Between Australian Cities  

From/To Distance
(kms) (miles)
Sydney to Perth 3002 2064
Sydney to Brisbane 713 445
Sydney to Melbourne 704 440
Perth to Darwin 2650 1656
Darwin to Melbourne 3138 1961
Melbourne to Adelaide 622 388
Adelaide to Perth 2107 1316

 

There is excellent public transportation (trains, trams, ferries and busses) for getting around the metropolitan areas.  In addition to the domestic air system, there are train and coach services to most of Australia.  Be sure to book intercity train/bus in advance.  You MUST book your bike and it MUST be in a box.  You can usually pick up a used cardboard box at a bike shop.  Sometimes the rail stationmasters will save boxes.  The train provides relaxing travel with catered meals etc.  Consider it when planning your cycling holiday. 

 

Things you need to know.

Trading Hours:  Most shops are not open nights.  They close between 5 and 6 pm.  Depending on the state, shops are usually open one night per week.  This is either Thursday or Friday. 

The exception is the convenience store, restaurants, pubs etc.

Pubs: The pub is more than a bar.  Most offer meals and accommodation.   They are a good place to socialize with the locals.

RSL and Bowling Clubs:  Throughout Australia you will find the RSL (Returned & Services League) and (Lawn) Bowling Clubs.  Both offer meals at a reasonable price.  They also have pokie (slot) machines and a bar.  Both the RSL and a Bowling Club are excellent places for a good, reasonably priced meal.  You'll be required to sign the guest book for entry.

Phones:  When you venture away from the major cities you will encounter pulse dialing as opposed to tone dialing.  Pulse is the system used on rotary phones (before touch tone).  If you are packing your lab top and need to connect to an online service, reconfigure your modem (software) to use pulse rather than tone dialing.  If you are trying to access a bank, credit card company, etc. which require touch tone phones here's what to do.  Be sure the phone you are using has a little switch (usually hidden somewhere) for pulse/tone operation.  Dial using the pulse setting.  When the party answers, switch to the tone setting.  The other alternative is to stay on the line for a operator.

Restaurants & Bottleshops:  If you plan to have a drink with dinner, enquire if the restaurant is licensed.  If they are not, you will have to stop at a bottleshop for your beer, wine, etc.  There may be a small corkage charge at the restaurant.

Caravan Parks:  Australia's caravan parks are more than just campgrounds or places to park a caravan (RV, camper etc.).  Many offer cabins or cottages.  When planning your cycling holiday, consider caravan parks, even if you are not camping.

Things to Bring: 

Gear: We decided not to publish a laundry list of items for your cycling trip.  You'll have to decide how many pair of cycling knicks you need.  Here are a few things to consider about your bike and gear.  You will need a helmet (mandatory in Australia).

Most likely you will bring your own gear.  If you forget something or need a replacement while touring, you'll find heaps of well stocked bike shops in the major cities where you can purchase cycling gear, tyres, bladders, puncture repair kits and other accessories for your bike.  However, you may not be able to find your favourite brand.  Australia has a local company (Netti) which make jerseys, knicks, helmets, gloves, jackets, etc.  That will be the major brand on the shelves.  We recommend bring your own panniers.  The pannier selection may be a bit lacking in Australia.  Tents, camping gear and other essentials are also available in the event you have forgotten something or need a replacement during your tour.. 

Bikes:  If you have a choice of bikes, consider the following:

Flash is out -- the more common the better.  Don't plan on finding a lot of exotic parts in rural Australia.  The best recommendation for bikes is to keep the components as common as possible.  No special hubs or odd tyre sizes.  (Shimano components are very common down-under).

Australia is hilly - good climbing gears are essential - that triple chain ring would be a good idea.  Unsealed roads and "pick a plank" bridges may be encountered on your tour.  The very thin racing tyres (700 x 18) are not recommended.  The unsealed roads may be hard packed or loose sand (you might even get to walk a bit).  In the eastern states, planks on some of the older bridges run the long way (with the traffic flow) on the bridge (not across the road).  It's best to walk across these bridges since they do eat tyres.  Many cyclists have taken a tumble when a tyre gets caught between the planks.  You'll be better off with 700x32 tyres on a road bike.  A good hybrid or mountain bike with smooth tyres are also excellent choices.

Spares:  We all have our own comfort level for the number of spare parts we carry.  Don't forget spare parts for your shoes.  That may sound a bit funny, but those plastic Look cleats that wear out are hard to find.  How about a spare strap for your SIDI shoes?   Don't forget a few extra screws.  While Australia has converted to the metric system (distance measured in kilometers, fruit purchased by the kilogram etc.) the fasteners haven't kept pace.  The hardware stores have mostly imperial sizes.  Your bike is metric.  From personal experience (searching through the parts bins at the Holden dealer) it's easier to have a couple of spare screws tucked away.