Planning my next small tour

  1. Home
  2. Camping
  3. Planning my next small tour
, ,

With the com­ple­tion of my bach­e­lor’s degree only a few weeks away (excit­ing!) I want to cel­e­brate the past five years’ hard work with a mul­ti-day bike tour. There is a lot going on in the mean­time, how­ev­er, both in my own life and in the broad­er world:

  • I live in Vic­to­ria, Aus­tralia, where the cur­rent coro­n­avirus sit­u­a­tion has us under strong gov­ern­ment restric­tions, and Vic­to­ri­ans are barred from enter­ing oth­er states.
  • I live in a region­al area, which means I can trav­el to oth­er region­al areas with­in my own state.
  • I can only leave my fam­i­ly for a few days at a time, as I have kids.
  • I’ve just recent­ly (this past June) pur­chased a brand new Surly Disc Truck­er tour­ing bike, which I’m super keen to take on a large ride and break in properly.

With all that in mind, and giv­en my deep love for the Mur­ray Riv­er, I’m plan­ning on a trip between Swan Hill and Echu­ca — towns on the Mur­ray Riv­er, which forms the bor­der between Vic­to­ria and New South Wales. As such I will have to keep to the “Vic­to­ri­an” side of the riv­er1 to not run afoul of COVID-19 reg­u­la­tions. I will catch a train from Mel­bourne to Swan Hill, ride along the Vic­to­ri­an side of the Mur­ray to Echu­ca, then anoth­er train back to Melbourne.

Mapping out the route

Online mapping services

There are lots of map­ping appli­ca­tions and ser­vices avail­able these days, and there are an equal amount of “lis­ti­cles” detail­ing all their respec­tive mer­its, so I’m not going to do that. I used the Ride­With­G­PS Web Route Plan­ner as it suit­ed my way of doing it for this ride. Some­times I use Google Maps. Oth­er times I use Open­Cy­cleMaps. I tend to jump around from ser­vice to ser­vice on a ride-by-ride basis.

The most dif­fi­cult aspect of online map­ping ser­vices in my expe­ri­ence is the rout­ing along roads. Despite some good efforts on the part of ser­vices like Ride­With­G­PS, Komoot, and oth­ers, there are still seri­ous lim­i­ta­tions to the AI behind rout­ing along cycle paths and any­thing “non-car”. Espe­cial­ly along routes such as this one — rid­ing along the Mur­ray Riv­er, bush tracks and grav­el roads and farm fenc­ing to dodge — the lim­i­ta­tions of the rout­ing engines start to real­ly show. I’d love to see a “let me explore” option on some of these ser­vices: some­thing that lets you say, “your nav­i­ga­tion isn’t suit­ing me/is inaccurate/road’s blocked/etc, I want to ven­ture off the planned track, but let me know if I get x kilo­me­tres too far from the plot­ted route”…

Offline paper maps

Due to the nature of the Aus­tralian land­scape, lim­i­ta­tions of bat­tery-pow­ered devices, and some bad expe­ri­ences in the past with ‘bro­ken’ direc­tions from online maps, I always car­ry a paper map. Some­times, like with my trip to Ade­laide last year, this involves car­ry­ing many maps to cov­er a long route. Not only does this present stor­age prob­lems, but paper maps are increas­ing­ly dis­ap­pear­ing from print/being dis­con­tin­ued in favour of elec­tron­ic GPS. This time I got lucky and am using Hay­man’s Cohuna–Echuca–Gunbower For­est Activ­i­ties Map (2nd ed.), a 1:50,000 scaled camp­ing and tour­ing map that cov­ers the route from Murra­bit to Echu­ca, and shows all the river­side tracks and dirt paths in the var­i­ous state forests along the way.

Swan Hill to Echuca: Planned route along the Murray

Down­load file: Planned_Swan_Hill_to_Echuca.gpx

Gear and equipment

Accommodation

With a key focus on weight, I’ve trav­elled before with my very light­weight and com­pact DD Jun­gle Ham­mock. Unfor­tu­nate­ly riv­er red gums — although incred­i­bly beau­ti­ful and per­haps my favourite tree — are noto­ri­ous for drop­ping branch­es, espe­cial­ly in the humid­i­ty of spring­time and sum­mer. There­fore hang­ing a ham­mock under a red gum is prob­a­bly not the best idea.

Dilem­ma: I have plen­ty of tents/swags but they are not light or com­pact, so it seems I’m in the mar­ket for yet anoth­er tent to add to my size­able range. This has caused a lit­tle con­ster­na­tion from the bet­ter half, and I find myself stuck between want­i­ng a bud­get option to keep Danielle hap­py that we did­n’t spend a bun­dle; or rather opt­ing for a sol­id, depend­able and durable qual­i­ty tent so I only have to weath­er the argu­ment once. 😜

In the end, I chose to pay once and get some­thing good, and I’ve read good reviews of the Big Agnes Cop­per Spur HV UL2 Bikepack tent, which seems to be the same as their Cop­per Spur HV UL 2 but with a short­er pole-set and a han­dle­bar-suit­­able car­ry sack. The guys at Back­pack­ing Light in Lt. Bourke Street Mel­bourne sort­ed me out over the phone, and reas­sured me that if I was­n’t hap­py with the tent — I’m a bit ner­vous buy­ing a tent sight unseen — I could return for a refund no wor­ries. Now I’m just wait­ing on the mailman…

Scheduling

Tour length

I can only fit in 5–6 days, mid-week, so as not to neglect fam­i­ly oblig­a­tions. The planned route is about 200 kilo­me­tres, so I fig­ure on rid­ing an aver­age of 50km a day for 4 days’ rid­ing, plus trav­el­ling there and back (a few hours each way on the train). I have two camp­ing pref­er­ences before I go: near Tor­rum­bar­ry in a place I always camp at with some mates each year, and near Bail­leau Lagoon (at the end of Young’s Road near Echu­ca) where I often camp with Danielle. Of course, the best part of the Mur­ray is the abun­dance of camp­ing every­where, so I’m hap­py to be a bit flex­i­ble as well. 50 kilo­me­tres per day is nice easy rid­ing, so I can stop often, enjoy the ride and have plen­ty of down time at camp.

Tour timing

As said above, at the end of my exam peri­od (about mid-Novem­ber) to mid-Decem­ber (when the kids start school hol­i­days) is my ide­al win­dow for get­ting in some riv­er-time. Oth­er con­sid­er­a­tions are bush­fire alerts, which are becom­ing increas­ing­ly con­cern­ing every year, but to be hon­est I’m not too wor­ried about giv­en the prox­im­i­ty to towns and ser­vices, and the weath­er. Giv­en the fam­i­ly oblig­a­tions it looks increas­ing­ly like­ly that I will need to just head out regard­less of rain, hail or shine.

Bike preparation

My bike is brand new and in tip-top shape, so it’s real­ly just tyres, some basic spares and work­ing out how I’m going to “rig” the bike. I’ll have racks and pan­niers front and rear with my tent on the han­dle­bars, and I’m hop­ing to squeeze on a few fun things such as a fish­ing rod, and strap­ping my solar pan­el to the rear rack.

I’ll then do a 30–40km dry run around Bal­larat with gear attached just to make sure every­thing’s sweet before head­ing off.

Getting there and back

The plan at this stage is to catch a train from Mel­bourne to Swan Hill, and then from Echu­ca back to Mel­bourne, but of course I’m not sure what the COVID rules are and the info on V‑Line web­sites and such is not very clear. It’s easy to find out what you can and can’t do if trav­el­ling to or from Mel­bourne, but not via Mel­bourne. If I can’t man­age a train jour­ney there and back, I might have to retrace my jour­ney back to Swan Hill and drive.


  1. Both banks of the Mur­ray Riv­er are tech­ni­cal­ly in New South Wales as the state has juris­dic­tion over the entire riv­er. A fun lit­tle fact that gets a lot of Vic­to­ri­an fish­er­men in trou­ble each year when they buy Vic fish­ing licens­es but are unwit­ting­ly fish­ing in New South Wales.
Category: Camping, Cycling
Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

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

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.

Other cycling-related posts