6 Things That Surprised Me On My First Self Guided Cycling Holiday In Australia

Cyclist artwork on the route between Gulgong and Dunedoo | Michele Eckersley
Cyclist artwork on the route between Gulgong and Dunedoo | Michele Eckersley

6 Things That Surprised Me On My First Self Guided, Multi-Day Cycling Holiday In Australia

Michele and her husband, Andrew, recently rode the Central West Cycle Trail in rural NSW. It was Michele's first multi-day bike tour and, as you'll learn, she discovered a profound interest for this unique style of travelling Australia. In this article, Michele describes six interesting things she learned as a beginner on her first self guided cycling trip. 

Heading off on my first ever cycle tour was a little scary – only because I’d never travelled this way before. I’d ridden a bike on a couple of overseas trips, but for no more than half a day at a time, so signing up to do 7 days of cycling was in a different category.  
Cycling the Central West Cycle Trail meant I’d be pushing the pedals for 400 km on a circuit of unknown terrain from Mudgee to Dubbo and back via Dunedoo. Here are 6 of the most surprising things I discovered about cycle touring during this Australian bike holiday.

1. The Pace 

Not too fast and not too slow, I love the pace of cycling.  I’m an avid walker and am very comfortable covering 15-20 km a day on a multi-day walk.   At the other end of the spectrum, like most Australians, I think nothing of driving 6 hours or more in a day when I’m travelling by car.  
In between the two, cycling is slow enough to take in your surroundings and be constantly present, and fast enough never to be bored with them.  As well, there’s the freedom to stop wherever you like and for as long as you like.
Cyclist with Windmill on route between Gulgong and Dunedoo |  <i>Michele Eckersley</i>

2. Ease of Travelling

“What time should we get going?” is probably the most difficult decision of the day. With accommodation pre-arranged, luggage transported between stops and the map app clearly showing the route, multi-day cycling on a pre-arranged route would have to be some of the easiest I’ve done. Being in Australia, there are no language challenges, no timetables to follow and no currency conversions. 
Everywhere we stayed was clean and comfortable, although not luxurious and there were restaurant options nearby, serving cold refreshments and plentiful food. I guess there were a couple of days when we had to plan ahead enough to pre-order a lunch to eat on the road but that’s as hard as it got and to be expected in country NSW.
A basic standard at the Dunedoo Hotel with cyclist |  <i>Michele Eckersley</i> Afternoon tea in Dunedoo |  <i>Michele Eckersley</i> The Royal Hotel in Mendooran on the CWC |  <i>Michele Eckersley</i>


3. The Camaraderie

On day 2, we’re cycling down the main street of Wellington, looking for a coffee stop before heading off for the day, when we see several bikes stacked outside a café.  Decision made, we add ours to the stack and, in no time, are amiably chatting inside to four other cyclists on the trail.  This community of friendly cyclists is ever-present on the trail.  
We meet Wendy and Nell on our second night and discover we are cycling the same trail and staying in a few of the same hotels in the coming days. It’s nice to meet up and swap stories and tips as the journey progresses.  We meet Brett out on the trail a few times too.  Although he’s travelling in the opposite direction, he rides as many country trails as he can find and it’s always a pleasure to cross trails with him. 
Beergarden of the Royal Hotel in Mendooran |  <i>Michele Eckersley</i>

4. The Stories

As well as other cyclists, there are some memorable non-cycling travellers and locals we meet along the way. At the bar in the evening or at breakfast before we get going, we chat to people we don’t get a chance to meet in our everyday life routine - and the stories are so entertaining. 
Graham the pilot has us enthralled with his story of landing planes with both engines on fire in Hawaii, and we listen as some tough-looking local farmers console a young rodeo rider who has just missed out on a place in the national competition. We realize that every pub has a story – and these encounters remain some of the most memorable parts of the trip.  
Cyclist completing the route in Goolma |  <i>Michele Eckersley</i>

5. The Welcome

Being on a bike somehow makes it easier to meet people.  Perhaps it’s the ease of starting a conversation along the lines of “Where are you headed?”, but the fact is that interactions with strangers are surprisingly frequent and easy. It may have something to do with the fact that life in the country is slower.  It may be to do with the Central West Cycle Trail’s popularity.  
There are dozens of touring cyclists passing through every week and it seems that locals have noticed – and they approve. Whatever the reason, almost every time we stop anywhere near a town, someone greets us warmly.
Friendly farmer on the CWC |  <i>Michele Eckersley</i>

6. E-bikes

I should say up front that I wouldn’t have considered cycling the trail without an e-bike.  Of course, I’m all for building fitness and I love the sense of accomplishment that comes from a day of physical pursuit.  Happily, for me, I get all this and more with an e-bike.  Having access to the “e” part of the bike means I avoid the stress of struggling to keep up and I’m actually energized by the activity, rather than spent.  
Naturally, I’m mindful not to flaunt my electrically-enhanced prowess on the trail, and I don’t zip past my human-powered cycle buddy on every hill (as tempting as it is!)  The bottom (pardon the pun) line is that e-bikes mean more of us can cycle for longer.  Bring it on!
E-Bike for use on the Central West Cycle Trail |  <i>Michele Eckersley</i>

Have you been inspired by Michele's story? Why are you passionate about cycle touring? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.


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