Often referred to as the World's largest island, Australia's landmass comprises over 7,692,024 square kilometres. Due to its enormity, Australia is home to a wide variety of landscapes from tropical rainforests to mountain ranges and dry desert. Believe it or not, the world record for the fastest solo bicycle ride around Australia (14,100km) is 37d1h18m - that's some seriously long days in the saddle with very little sleep.
Whilst living in Adelaide back in 2008, I had the unique opportunity to participate in the Simpson Desert Bike Challenge, an event which sparked my interest to see and experience as much of our wide brown land (by bike) as I could.
Having observed and spoken with countless Grey Nomads since (in some rather remote and far out places), I promised myself that I would devote time each year to pedal the roads less travelled. Why wait for retirement?
My time in Adelaide also led me to meet with a like-minded gentleman called Ian Fehler, owner and manager of Escapegoat Adventures. Naturally, when I was looking for another off-road adventure somewhere different, I called Ian and signed-up for his Flinders Ranges By Bike tour.
The Flinders Ranges By Bike tour offers four incredible days of cycling through picture postcard "outback Australia" scenery, plus a bonus morning of singletrack riding in the famous township of Melrose. If you're familiar with any of South Australia's tourism marketing campaigns, most of the iconic outback landmarks used in their promotional material is encountered from the comfort of your own bicycle - up close and personal - on this tour.
With most rides being around 50km, one may be fooled into thinking it's going to be an easy pedal through the countryside. Thankfully challenges abound, with countless rocky creek crossings, dry sandy river beds, steep loose climbs, and even kamikaze wildlife (kangaroos and emus) to dodge. This is a true "Aussie Experience". Oh, and did I mention limited mobile reception? A great way to escape reality for a few days!
On this particular adventure I was joined by: John (South Australia), Richard (Victoria), Anne (France), Steve (UK), Rhys (Queensland), Sarah (Ireland), Andy (Guide - also from South Australia) and of course Ian himself - a worldly bunch of riders! The small group size made for a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere, with ample time to get to know each other.
With delicious meals to keep us fuelled, comfortable beds and luxurious homestead lodgings, all we had to do was ride and take photos. Thanks to the knowledge and expertise of our guides Ian and Andy, the tour ran perfectly. Even the weather Gods looked down upon us favourably during our week in the outback, keeping temperatures not too hot or cold (by my Far Northern standards anyway).
Escapegoat Adventures have been taking cyclists to the Flinders Ranges for several years, with at least two planned tours each year. If you've got a group of five or more friends, Ian can assist you with your own private experience ... which is what we may just have to do (again) next year if anyone else is keen to join us?
Escapegoat Adventures do offer great hire bikes, however, I took along my Giant Anthem Advanced SX 27.5, kindly provided by the fantastic team at Bicycle Centre Cairns. With my tyres set-up tubeless with sealant, I had no tyre issues across the varied terrain. Riding a dual-suspension bike also afforded me more confidence through the rocky creek crossings, and kept me feeling fresh after long back-to-back days on the bike. Coincidentally, Richard (from Victoria) was also aboard the same bike - which we took joy in comparing positive reviews every day.
With a slight red discolouration on my once beautiful orange grips a permanent reminder of the Flinders Ranges, it's time to prepare for my next adventure in Japan (with Adam Cobain).