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plenty of dangers

An obsession with fear sometimes obscures things we could otherwise value in life.

What are those perceived dangers in off-main-road travel?

• Bogans? (That’s rednecks, but usually without guns.) They don’t venture far from the shoot-em-up computer games these days.

• Wild aboriginals? Actually they are the first, and sometimes only, people who will stop if it looks like you need help. Not that you could fit your bike, all the gear and yourself into a car with 7 giggling inhabitants squashed in. Often a great sense of humour but quite baffled as to why you didn’t take your car for the trip.

• Snakes? Yeah, there are 9 of the 10 most poisonous snakes in the world in the outback. Very seldom see them. They are often nocturnal. Why are 90% of snakebites to male victims? Here’s a tip: don’t try to pick ‘em up, or kill ‘em.

• Crocodiles? Not often seen on the road, but don’t go swimming either in the sea, or big rivers, in the tropics. River crossings? There are no known instances of people pushing bikes through knee deep water being attacked. If you’re not a leggy German model you are pretty safe.

• Dingos? Man, they are small dog size and generally timid at that.

• Creepy crawlies and mozzies? Zip up that tent at night.

• Heat exhaustion? Now you are talking. Wear a hat and long sleeves in hot weather. Stop and sit in the shade of a tree if it feels really hot.

• Dehydration? Take plenty of water and then a bit more. Keep drinking.

• Trucks, roadtrains ? Those guys, and gals, are professional drivers and will give you plenty of space, if nothing else is coming. Generally considerate on the remote roads. A minute stopping and getting off the road is good insurance if there’s any traffic when you can spot in your mirror that one of those 50m long monsters is about to rumble past.

• Caravanners? Well, that’s another story.

Your biggest real fear should be the 70 something Grey Nomads pulling an overly large caravan with their brand new mega 4WD and their substandard driving skills.

Or worse, their version of 20 Questions once you have stopped.

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how far

bike touring, Great Northern Highway, Western Australia

Question 6 of 20 Questions is:

“How far do you go each day?”

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Arrrhhh, wind

remote trail, Pemberton, south west Western Australia

Hills ain’t too bad.

Anything you have to crank up you eventually get to speed down. There might be a view at the top.

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camping out

budget accommodation, Italowie Gorge, Flinders Ranges, South Australia

You have to camp out.

Ain’t that why you are travelling this way in any case. Those fantastic sunsets and clear night skies with stars in a dome from horizon to horizon.

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road surfaces

bike tyre on Tanami Track

On the highways it’s not the surface, it’s the width of shoulder that counts.

WA? They are often great.

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flies and other annoyances

flies Tanami Track, Northern Territory

Australia is home to several million species of insects.

You will meet many of them.

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bushfires

bike touring, Kapunda, Mawson Trail, South Australia

38ºC+ temperatures. (That’s 100ºF+.)

Strong winds.

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roadtrains

Tanami Track, Northern Territory roadtrain

The other travellers driving in their tin cocoons always ask: What about roadtrains?

These are a peculiarly Australian creation, invented by Noel Buntine in the 1950s, for transporting vast loads on deserted tracks in remote regions.

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temperatures, rain

bike touring, Parmango Road, south coast Western Australia

Australia is a huge continent, and has extremes of temperature. Like 45ºC or -5ºC.

In summer many inland areas have temperatures in the high 30ºs and in some areas mid 40ºCs. Alice Springs’ average January maximum temperature is 36.4ºC.

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20 Questions?????

bicycle touring, Mereenie Loop, Northern Territory

Ask any long distance bike tourer who has been at it for a while what’s the toughest part of the journey and there’s invariably one response: caravan drivers.

Not so much their driving which is bad enough but the repetitive questions now been asked hundreds of times.

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theft

Tanami Track, Northern Territory

What about theft? Losing your bike or some essential component would end your trip.

Australia is a relatively rich and, mostly, law abiding country. Touring bikes are relatively rare and people tend to stare in curiosity, or amazement, rather than with thoughts of knocking your bike off. People tend to respect others property.

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doing something else

cycle tour, Echidna Gorge, Purnululu National Park, Western Australia

Out there, when 4WDers stop for a chat they often confess they have been driving for 6 hours without a break and travelled 700km since breakfast. Ask them about some feature along the way and they look blank. No, they didn’t see it.

It’s almost as if there’s a fear of wide open spaces, that they must be traversed asap.

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too much sun

almost epic bike tour, road to Finke, Northern Territory

If you haven’t spent time in Australia before you might not realise the power of the Outback sun.

On a long bike trip you will be living outside for weeks at a time. The sun is a real issue. There’s a shortage of cloud cover and extreme UV levels. It’s tempting to take the shirt off but be careful with sun exposure: heat exhaustion, sunburn, sunstroke.

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