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bike - reliability

Reliability and longevity.

You’ll hear that a bit in these sections.

It’s a long way between bike shops in remote Australia.

OK, you can get tubes and puncture repair kits in many towns even without a specialised bike shop.

Anything more complex, a 9 speed chain, spokes, brake pads even, and you may well be out of luck.

New rear wheel? Alice Springs, population around 25,000, has 3 bike shops. You could get lucky. The toy shop in Katherine, population 10,000, might be able to get one in for you. Sometime next week, if they remember to order it.

Reliable and long functioning bike components make a huge amount of sense.

And critical spares, (chain links, spokes, thornproof tubes, etc) are essential.

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bike - various ideas

not a mountain bike a touring bike

It’s not really about the bike.

Heinz Stucke departed Germany in 1962 on his 3 speed bicycle and has ridden it through 193 countries since, clocking up more than 550,000km along the way. His bike has been stolen, then recovered, 6 times and the frame has broken 16 times. Quite a few component replacements are suspected.

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bike - mountain or touring

Karunjie Track

A specialised touring bike, like the fabulous Vivente World Randonneur, is probably the best option if most of your riding is intended on highways or reasonable quality roads in Australia. These are designed for strength and long term comfort rather than the out and out speed of a highly tuned lightweight road racing bike. The geometry of the touring frame with a long wheelbase and more upright posture gives more comfortable riding, day after day.

Purpose built touring bikes have plenty of braze-ons so the attachment of both front and rear racks and multiple water bottles is a simple procedure.

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bike - tyres

bike touring, Bunyaroo Road, Flinders Ranges, Mawson Trail, South Australia

Heavily loaded.

Riding days on end on corrugated, soft or rocky roads.

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bike - tubes

remote biking Tanami Track, Western Australia

30 punctures in 3 wheels in one easy go. Thorns.

You can get em.

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bike - seat

budget accommodation, Broome, Western Australia

The professional riders in the Tour de France ride on rock hard plastic seats. Not much padding for the posterior.

That’s counter intuitive but there’s a good reason.

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bike - straight, drop or butterfly

Antonio was happy with his drops.

These suit the lightly loaded speed demons. Great for heading into the wind. Head down, arse up type riding. (There is an issue with riding with this style of bar over rough dirt roads: the brakes are fitted in an odd location that may not be easy to access in an emergency.)

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bike - gears

Buntine Highway, Northern Territory

The Rolls Royce of gears has to be the Rohloff internal hub, favoured by many a long distance bike tourer.

Why?

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bike - pedals

cycle touring, Bridgetown, south west of Western Australia

Clip on pedals are great for chugging down the highway, A to B style travel. That’s if you can stand clunking around the shoes all day and carrying another pair of footwear.

Once you leave the bitumen: dunno.

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bike bits - bike computer

bike touring, Quaalup, Bremer Bay, south coast of Western Australia

Some riders are obsessed by their little screens: how far, how fast, how long. Further and faster than yesterday, or someone else. Gotta make time.

They do indeed have their downsides.

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bike bits - mirror

Fitzgerald River National Park

Even out on the less travelled roads a mirror is useful.

Notice that car travelling towards you and then do a quick check to see whether a road train isn’t sneaking up behind as well. That truck and its 100 ton load isn’t going to deviate even for you, honey.

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bike bits - racks

budget accommodation, Pink Roadhouse, Oodnadatta, South Australia

Busting a rear rack on some isolated track out a long way from the nearest bike shop might turn out to be terminal for that leg of your journey.

A sturdy alloy, or stainless, rack is essential.

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bike bits - braze-ons, water bottles

Joe Creek, Gregory National Park

Braze-ons are the lugs for bolting on various components to the bike: racks, mudguards, (that’s fenders), water bottle cages, etc.

Specialised touring bikes seem to have them all over, carefully thought through to give plenty of flexibility to component choice.

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bike bits - mudguards

Solo touring.   Road to Arkaroola, South Australia

Useful to stop the stones flicking up from your front wheel as you bomb on down the long dirt road.

At least on the front.

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panniers v trailer - a polite discussion

cheap accommodation at Middlesight Waters Hut, Mawson Trail, South Australia

Let’s unleash the age old argument.

What really is better?

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panniers v trailer - panniers

solo bush camp South Lake Eyre, Oodnadatta Track, South Australia

Panniers are good.

With both front and rear panniers you can distribute and balance the weight well. The bike (probably) goes a little faster than with a trailer.

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panniers v trailer - trailers

bike at William Creek, Oodnadatta Track, South Australia

Trailers are great.

After a while you don’t tend to notice it hanging off the back of the bike.

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bike maintenance - breakdowns and tools

cycle touring, Top Humbert Yard, Gregory National Park, Northern Territory

During a long trip things wear out.

That’s an abrasive environment with dust, sand etc, huge distances, sometimes high temperature. Not to mention the bumpy old road.

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bike maintenance - tyres

bush camp, Esperance, south coast of Western Australia

Fortunately tyres tend to disintegrate slowly.

And even with bulges, slices and holes you can get a fair distance by throwing in a “boot”, an internal tyre patch kept in place by the tube pressure.

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bike maintenance - drive chain

the road to Point Ann, Fitzgerald River National Park, South coast, Western Australia

Riding a bike for long kilometres in dusty, sandy conditions under heavy load causes the drive train, ie the chainrings, cassette and chain, on the bike to wear out rapido.

The grit that accumulates speeds the stretching of the chain and helps grind out the cassette and chain ring teeth meaning the entire drive train deteriorates.

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bike maintenance - pumps

solo bike at Curdimurka, Oodnadatta Track, South Australia

Pump it up.

Here’s a little secret.

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bike maintenance - punctures

mountain bike territory, Arkaroola, Northern Flinders Ranges, South Australia

Pfffft.

With thornproof tubes and a Kevlar reinforced tyre with a trekking tread you shouldn’t get too many.

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bike maintenance - spokes

bike adventure, Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park, south west Western Australia

Standard spokes break when given a serious thrashing.

Usually on the rear wheel where they are under more stress. Usually on the cassette side where they are under the most stress.

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bike maintenance - chain

No great cycle trail, Fig Tree Yard, Gregory National Park, Northern Territory

Cranking up a farm track on the Mawson Trail between Clare and Burra, a great day’s riding, when ping, the chain’s snapped.

That was bad news, it had snapped a few times earlier, time to replace it no doubt, and changing gears under load heading up a steep hill has a downside.

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bike maintenance - cables

perils of bike touring, Meekatharra, Great Northern Highway, Western Australia

Some guy told another cyclist who told me she had heard that cables sometimes break.

Maybe.

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bike maintenance - catastrophe

emergency bike frame repair, bike touring

Punctures are easy. You can fix them.

What about what’s not so easy to fix? The tour ending disaster.

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bike - brakes

bike touring, Nanga, Munda Biddi Trail, Western Australia

The old reliable rim brakes edge out disc brakes for travelling in remote regions.

Why? Rack attachment. Read on.

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