logo image
Racing, riding and adventure by bike

Fatbiking around Tasmania: Thoughts, planning and advice

It has long been a goal of mine to fat bike the west coast of Tasmania. In fact, i have been talking about it since i first got a fat bike all those years ago. It’s wild, it’s remote and it’s close to home so decidedly afordable compared to flying to the northern hemisphere. The problem is that all i did was talk about it. This year was different and Timmy and I actually put our money on the table and bought some tickets. Welded up some pannier racks and basically spent far to much money on ‘gear’.

When you actually sit down and look at it, you soon realize that the west coast of Tasmania isn’t very long. If you take Strahan to Marrawah as a rough estimate, it’s about 220k’s give or take. Which is rad for a weekend ride probably a bit short to occupy the 2.5 weeks i wanted to spend on the bike.   So pretty quickly we were looking at more coast line and it wasn’t long before we decided that we should probably just ride around the whole island (except the southwest which just doesn’t seem to be possible).

Figuring out a route?

I’ve ridden a lot of NSW coast line and beach access isn’t really an issue. Just about every beach has access from either end and you can mostly link it up with minimum road k’s in order to be able make a pretty stellar route. This isn’t quite the case in Tasmania. Significant portions of the coast line are locked up by farming, where a single property owner may own 10 or 20k’ms or more of beachside property and there are generally no public access roads between farms. This means that if you get on a beach, you can wind up stuck on the far end because the trail you thought departed the beach is actually on private land. Similarly, if you assume you can skip a creek crossing in favour of following a beach access trail further down the road, you soon find the ‘access trail’ you found on google maps is again private property. On the whole, it’s really really frustrating.

So prior to the trip, i spent a LOT of time on google earth drawing a line of ‘best intent’. I had no intention of following the line completely, but it was a starting point to figure out where we were on the ground. At times the line was invaluable. At other times it was utter shite and to be disregarded at all costs. It was stellar on the West coast and we would have spent a LOT of time route finding through dunes if we didn’t have it to find connecting trail at the other end. However once we left the west coast, it often found us in places that were either completely un-navigable by bike or too much private land.

Tim had the garmin topographic maps which were our saviour on more than one occasion. They have so many tiny little goat tracks which show up as you drill down and we estimate that 80% of the time you went looking for a trail it showed, it was there. That’s impressive because we would only ever go looking for a trail when we were completely out of ideas and there was nothing obvious from where we were standing.

River crossings:

River crossings are kind of the deal breaker on the west coast. There is everything from tiny little streams that bubble up out of the sand in front of you, through to the Pieman river which is a proper river and going to need some form of boat to cross. We elected to take the pack rafts along for the ride since all coasts had rivers where crossing looked difficult and the go-around looked excessive.  Having said that, i would advise that you will burn the best part of an hour by the time you unpack, inflate, paddle, deflate, repack – so think hard about how often you want to be doing that. You generally get very wet and very sandy and most beach river mouths are soft enough for you to sink well past your ankles in the sand so it is hard going. Frankly, it’s a royal pain in the arse by about day 4, so when route setting, try not to give yourself more than 1 or 2 paddles a day if avoidable.

16195495_614877031525_5933350626579684465_n

Crossing the Pieman

 

What to bring?

We brought pack rafts. Pack rafts are pretty heavy. It’s not just raft weight itself (my alpaca is actually fairly good in that regard), but you really have to run a rack in order to be able to carry it and then there are paddles so the weight penalty is probably getting close to 7 kgs by the end. I could potentially have strapped it to my bars to avoid rack weight, however that would have compromised me for storage capacity for things like clothes so a rack was really the best option.

1

I spent a lot of time thinking about water before the trip also. I’ve been caught without water more times than i care to remember and i was determined that it wouldn’t happen this trip. So i ended up running 5x 1.25L bottles + 1 x 750 bottle. 2 on anything cages on the front. 2 on anything cages on my ‘Rakcessory’ mount that i fabbed up for the rear and 1 under the down tube on a BBB cage (that thing is bomb proof and is the best large bottle cage i have found).

In the end, the west coast was positively brimming with water – there was basically a stream every couple of kilometers and although the water was a deep brown from all the tea tree tanin dissolved in it, it tasted fine. With some aquatabs just for peace of mind, we had no water problems at all on the west coast. The North Coast you could basically fill up from taps between towns and similar for the East Coast. Going around the North East tip required us to carry all our water and Tim was completely out by the time we hit Mussleroe bay. Thankfully we bumped into some friendly locals who gave us a top up.  Did i carry too much water? Not even close – there were times I was getting marginal for water and when you camp at night, it is absolute luxury to have litres of water to rehydrate with after 8-10 hours in the saddle. Having said that, i picked when and where to completely fill all the bottles -t hat extra 7kgs of water weight was pretty noticeable when climbing!

This a typical water source and we drank from this particular river

This a typical water source and we drank from this particular “river”

So with a raft and water alone, My bike had 14kgs of crap on it. That’s on top of a 15kg bike weight and that’s without ANYTHING else. So heavy bikes are really the only option for this kind of trip. I could have skimped on some luxuries and left behind stoves, clothes, fishing equipment to try to offset some of the weight however this wasn’t a race so having a couple of luxury items made for a more enjoyable trip.

I destroyed my ye olde Pearl Izumi X-alp shoes shortly before the trip and spent quite a lot of time looking for HAB friendly footwear. In the end, I went with Shimano MT54’s and was really happy. They were wet with salt water greater than 50% of the time and had surprisingly good grip when scrambling over rocks. They were rad.

16473317_10154755784225630_5635949668939262344_n

So much salt

Weather and other ideas.

We went in late Jan/ early Feb. For the most part, it was hot during the days. Given that there is almost no shade along the coast , it actually gets pretty brutal.  However the nights were lovely and far from cold. I think we had one night where we were feeling the cold and went to bed to get warm. Basically, we got the weather about as good as you could expect.

For the love of god – don’t forget sunscreen.

Sand march flies – These were unexpected. If you are silly enough to stop while on the beach, then they are going to make you bleed. Bring DEET. Bring lots of it.

Wind: Yep, it was windy. Every day. Plan your ride accordingly. We went South – North on on the West Coast for a reason. Go to the BOM website and look up the wind roses and familiarise yourself on what they mean. We rode for 12 days and only had a headwind on the last 2 days. The direction we rode at that time of year worked perfectly. Check it out and plan accordingly.

So much stuff

So much stuff

With everything strapped on

With everything strapped on

 

Ride journal with more words and pictures here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *