by Richelle Olsen
We had 2 weeks off over the Xmas/NY break. What could we do? Shane was injured, so our usual head to the mountains for hiking/running was out, and well we couldn't just stay at home! We had often talked about riding one of Victoria's rail trails, and had even bought a rail trail book, but like most things, ideas pass, and books go walkabout... Until now. Borrowing a friend's railtrail book, I sat down and found the longest one in Victoria, 97kms from Bairnsdale in Victoria's east, to Orbost. And with no way back from Orbost (you can't take bikes on V/Line buses on that route), it quickly became an out and back of around 194kms. 4 days/3 nights sounded about right.
Done, thats what we were doing. That was easy.
Our Rail Trail and/or Multi-day Cycling Experience
Shane - none, nada, zilch. Though he's a long distance, often multi-day, ultra runner, and has done his fair share of road riding and mountain biking over the years, so pain is not new to him.
Richelle - zippo, big fat zero. I've never done multi-day anything. Tho i do sporadically ride my mountain bike for 2hrs or so once every few months, and a few years back I did some crazy road rides, including the 210km Around the Bay in a Day. So I had a slight inkling as to what I was in for - and without an ounce of training, I assumed there would be a bit of hurt to go with it!
Day 1 - Bairnsdale to Bruthen 31kms
30 degrees with a 1pm start (after the 4hr drive from Melb) kept the day short, and Shane was very keen to not kill me on day 1! He showed he was human too, suffering from a cold, it was time to find some shade and the river.
Day 2 - Bruthen to Orbost 67kms
So today's intention was to smash me! Haha! And it worked! It was a big day on the trail after yesterday's ease in.
Day 3 - Orbost to between Nowa-Nowa and Bruthen - 53kms
Day 4 - Bush Camp to Bairnsdale - 44kms
The plan was to fill 30L backpacks with our camping gear for the 4 days, and wear them as we rode our mountain bikes. Shane's weighed around 15-16kgs, and mine 8-10kgs. So that's what we did. Shane recommends it, as it removes any excuse from just getting out there. I'd like to note my thoughts in that heavy packs on backs on bikes don't mix. They are uncomfortable and dig in where they shouldn't. BUT, it was definitely doable!! We were green with envy looking at the panniers attached to all the bikes we passed....sigh... I wish we had panniers!!
In saying that, we were also very lucky that we could be self sufficient with camping gear and clothes for 4 days, and food and water for 2-3 days in just 18kg of stuff.
Tent - MSR Nook (2 person) only 1.6kgs - many thanks for lending it to us Kylie and Adz. After being held hostage one arvo and evening by mozzies, I was very relieved Shane and I weren't sharing his 1 man tent!
Rollmats - Shane had his ultralight Exped Synmat UL7M , weighing next to nothing and taking up even less space. I borrowed a mountain designs rollmat, thanks again K &A!
Sleeping bags - again ultralight and packed small, we had Shane's Western Mountaineering -100 degrees beast (ok, Shane says I shouldn't exaggerate, its a -7 degree bag, same same - either way definitely overkill for this trip, but you make do with what you have!), and his Mont half bag, again, super light and super small, perfect for this trip.
Clothes - of course we both took too much. We were very lucky with the mild weather (well except for the kick ass storm!), so the thermals and the puffy jackets and wet weather gear went unused, but we would still pack them in case they were needed. I also splurged and brought my fave trackies, space takers, yes, but very worth it! I ended up tying my clothes bag to my handlebars to move the weight off my back a bit, which was a great relief.
Food - 2 min noodles, Ainsley Harriot cous cous, tins of tuna, muesli bars, porridge sachets, gels (don't take gels, they weigh a ton!), party mix, a packet of ginger nut biscuits, tea and coffee. We only ate around half of these though, as we did eat out quite a lot on this trip!
Water - We both had 1 bidon on our bikes, Shane carried 1L in his camelback and I carried 2L in mine. For the most part it was overkill. All we really needed was the 1 bidon, and maybe 500ml in the camelback, as there were a couple of points to fill up. The Snowy River Cycling Club very very kindly placed out some water on the trail in marked kegs in 2 spots, so the max between water would have been around 15-20km.
Bikes: Shane rides a Giant Anthem 29er dual suspension MTB, and mine is a Trek Fuel EX dual suspension MTB. These were great bikes for the rail trail, though you could do it on a hybrid, or a roadie with fatter tyres. I wouldn't recommend a roadie with slicks, as the hard packed gravel is soft in parts, and there's also some rougher sections.
Shane's an ultra runner and La Sportiva Ambassador, with a taste for adventure, always up for a new and different challenge.