Updated: May 17
Complacency, that’s what it was, not that I didn’t put many hours into the preparation and packing up, a quick bikepacking over-nighter surprised me by showing me my failures. Not for one moment did I think I’d learn anything from such a short trip, after all I’d spent months riding across the mountains of Spain 18 months ago.
Whilst I was back in the UK in 2019, after my accident in Spain, whilst my broken shoulder healed, I used the downtime to prepare my bikepacking gear for my next trip. I swapped the broken items for new ones, I swapped some less efficient items for new ones and also made some additions to my kit. A blog listing these changes will be coming soon btw. Why I'm telling you this is to point out that my bike is now packed with some different items than it was for the Altravesur ride, so there was a few unknowns.
With all these kit changes, it was important to make sure everything packed up into my bike luggage and onto my bike okay, so I fully built my bike up in the UK before stripping it again and boxing it up to take to Australia that Christmas. It certainly felt heavier than before but it looked good! I was hoping that the additional items weigh no more than the weight I have saved with lighter swapped items. One day I’ll weigh the bike to see just how much it does weigh fully loaded.
I flew to Australia with all my bikepacking gear only to find temperatures of 43°C on the day I landed and rising to 45°C a couple of days later. The temperatures remained in the 40s for several weeks and this blistering heat resulted in what is now known as Black Summer, where Australia experienced wildfires of the like they hadn’t seen for decades. Living in the foothills of the Australian High Country and Great Dividing Range, with those national parks ablaze and smoke even in urban areas, bikepacking wasn’t a safe option for me, or the emergency service who would have to rescue me, should it go wrong.
After a spell working back in the UK from March to June 2020, as soon as the Covid locked down borders opened I flew to Spain with all my bikepacking gear, intending to finish the route I’d so dismally failed at the year before. I'm very slowly writing a blog of my time in Spain during this period, I'm finding it hard, as it is very upsetting for me, but I hope to publish it sometime in the coming months. You can see my YouTube showing snippets of that time here. To cut a long story short, a dear little foster puppy came into my life whilst I was in Spain, so my bikepacking plans took a back seat until around January 2021, when, still in Spain I finally built my bike up for a quick two-night adventure, only for the plane tickets that were to get me to Australia to be cancelled on the day of setting off bikepacking. I went nowhere, It took three days to sort my flights out.
Never mind, I’d be going on a tour once settled in Australia, right? Unfortunately, no! I planned to ride part of the Victoria Divide route, I built Bay (my bikepacking steed), loaded him up, subscribed to both Garmin and Ride with GPS, downloaded the route and offline maps, only for my daughter to be so upset on the day I was leaving, because she thought I’d be murdered or injured, I decided not to go.
On arriving in Australia, it was six months into a housing boom, with rapidly rising house prices. I needed to buy myself a house, and with the Australian tax rules, it was necessary for me to A) buy quickly. B) spend more than I had intended. And C) live in the house instead of renting it out. Those requirements meant I needed to get a job and quick smart, so bang goes my bikepacking plans again.
I was beginning to wonder if I should sell my bike and bikepacking gear as I’ve not found a full-time job, although I have done a few casual hours at a local food takeaway. It seemed that bikepacking for me, just wasn’t meant to be. Anyway, I didn’t sell it. Still packed up from my failed Victoria Divide ride, when I had completed the purchase of my house, I rode Bay, fully loaded across town from my daughter’s to my new house. That’s as near to bikepacking as I got before this overnighter. Even though it was just a suburban ride across town, it felt so good to be on the bike. And I realised, even though it is heavy, that it’s so much easier to ride on surfaced roads than on mountain roads!
In the area I live it’s a short drive to numerous mountain bike trails. If I travel a little further, an hour or two, I can be at some of the larger trail centers, or uplift assisted bike parks or out on the remote mountain bushland. It really is a good place to have a mountain bike. But what I wanted was to find some trails close to my house, that I could ride to. My house is surround by bushland and wooded hills after all. So, I set off with Stumpy in my car, checking out local gravel roads to see if they led to the hill rides. After a couple of hours driving around, I parked up at a new-to-me trail head. This was on the same hill but the other side of it, Nailcan Hill, that I often ride some downhill mountain bike trails. The route I was to ride this day was more a 4x4 track running along the spine of the range, aptly named the Ridge Line, eventually becoming the Bakes Trail. Whilst riding this, I was thinking what an excellent little bikepacking trip I could have on this very trail. You can see my YouTube on this here.