Touring Tassie: East Coast
10 days of riding
882 km travelled
10,824m of climbing
2 x 25kg cross bikes
27 mini mars bars
1 x can bbq baked beans
1 x can of guinness
1 x go-pro
This pretty much sums up our Tour of Tassie 2016.
The south is calling
My husband Phil and I were invited to a wedding in Hobart in November 2016. We’d only been to Tassmania once before for a weekend, so we thought this would be a great opportunity to pack the new touring bikes and go exploring. For those not familiar with Aussie geography, Tassie is our smallest and most southern state and Hobart is its capital city, it’s own little isle sitting off the bottom of our vast country. Tasmanian travel guides conjure up romantic images of cow filled pastures, sparkling coastlines and wild craggy mountains. However when I think to Tassie all I see is a land of fine cheese, pinot noir and craft beer stretching out before me. Can. Not. Wait. Get me to the cheese.
We had 2 weeks, 10 days of which we’d spend riding and the rest we’d be hiking. We decided that 2 weeks wasn’t long enough to circumnavigate the entire island, so we chose to ride up the east coast from Hobart to St Helens near the Bay of Fires, then across the north to Cradle Mountain and fly out of Launceston.
There is one word to describe our trip - brilliant. Seriously, if you are ever thinking about touring or even road biking in Tassie don’t delay, just do it. The roads are quiet, the drivers are polite, the locals are friendly, the food is delicious and the scenery is just epic.
I’m a planner. I generally have holidays completely mapped out so I don’t miss anything. However this time I was really busy in the lead up to the trip and just didn’t get time to do much research. We knew where our ride ended each day, and we did book accommodation just in case, but I had no clue what the terrain was like or what we’d see along the way. It was actually quite invigorating - I’m determined to be less OCD in the future (...probably won't happen).
Our touring bikes “Larry and Barry” were packed with the few essentials that we thought we’d need for 2 weeks. We were staying in hotels along the way so thankfully we didn’t need to carry camping equipment.
When the panniers were loaded up and latched on, Larry and Barry were seriously heavy.
I’m used to riding a road bike and the first time I actually tried to move Larry I literally almost fell over. Phil laughed. I was secretly hoping he’d be chivalrous and offer to carry all my stuff too. He wasn’t.
So I manned up & decided that this would be an adventure & the notion that I would be getting super fit over the next two weeks kept me going.
Surprisingly once we got going the bikes rolled really well, and despite the weight our 32 cog on the back gave us a lot of relief on the hills.
Days 1 - 4: East Coast.
Our first 4 days of riding were a good warm up for the rest of our trip. There is only one coastal road between Hobart and St Helens in the north, and to our surprise we found that this road was relatively quiet despite it being a highway.
We are used to riding 100km+ days on our road bikes, and we felt that despite the additional weight we should be able to manage this distance on our tourers. We were resigned to the fact that we’d be going slower than usual, but we figured we had all day and as it was late November, the sun didn’t set until around 9pm so we weren’t too bothered about hurrying.
Also, we were on a holiday! So we were feeling fairly chilled.
The road turned out to be quite flat all the way to St Helens. However there are two nasty passes you have to go over between Hobart and Triabunna, which was our first stop on the trip. They are aptly named “Break me Neck” and “Bust me Gall”. They are only 3 or 4kms long but over 10% in gradient which was testing out my legs on heavy Larry. I was starting to wish I hadn’t packed that shampoo and conditioner…
Tassie weather is supposed to be quite unpredictable, but the sun was beating down on us on that first day as we slogged our way up over the passes. We came across another cyclist who was descending. “Come on - push it!” he yelled as he flew past us.
I hated that guy.
Thankfully once we got to the top of these climbs we had smooth sailing for the next couple of days and the terrain was fairly flat along the coast allowing us to warm up the legs and get into a groove.
Crazily, the scariest section of road on the entire trip was riding over the Tasman bridge out of Hobart.
There is a very narrow bike/pedestrian lane on both sides. It is two-way and not really possible to pass one another without stopping and squeezing through. It was windy as hell and really high. I refused to look over the edge as I kept having visions of getting blown into the Derwent River.
Obviously we made it without that happening!
Rain rain go away
Possibly the most mentally challenging day of the trip was day 4 from Coles Bay to St Helens. We woke up to find our lovely weather had disappeared and had been replaced with torrential rain. It was also freezing! I had cup of tea after cup of tea that morning, staring out the window hoping the rain would let up. Sadly it didn’t so we had to bite the bullet, pull our wet weather gear on and ride the 112 kms to St Helens. It rained the entire way.
The worst thing was there weren’t many towns to stop at along the way, so when nature called we were forced to “bush-wee” as we call it here in Aus. For a female if you are wearing bib shorts, you pretty much have to take everything off to go to the loo. It is so much worse when it is freezing cold and your entire body is drenched. Yup...I try to forget that day.
Actually, it wasn’t all bad. We were lucky enough to have a tailwind the whole way, so it could have been a lot worse. We even stopped in Bicheno to try one of Tassie’s famous scallop pies - basically a curry pie with scallops rather than mince. It was honestly a bit weird, but hey it’s a local icon so we’ll go with it.
We made it to St Helens in record time due to the tailwind and I only had to pour water out of my shoes once.
FYI if you are going to do a trip like this make sure you pack suitable wet weather gear. I stupidly didn’t pack covers for my shoes and I paid the price for it on this day. Also spend the money on a decent rain jacket - it is worth it’s weight in gold.
In all honesty though, who can complain about one wet day when you wake up to find yourself in the Bay of Fires with the morning sun shining brightly above you. Bliss.
Check out the second half of our trip across the north east to Cradle Mountain here (it’s the best bit!)