ninemsn firmly refuses to wear Lycra but discovers there are many advantages when it comes to swapping four wheels for two especially when cycling from Launceston to Hobart.
You have to feel sorry for people as they whizz down the east coast in their rental cars. They may have comfy seats, air-conditioning and the stereo pumping, but I can't help feeling they're missing out. For when the speed dial nudges 100km/ph they're whooshing straight past the smell of freshly baked pie and a potential invitation inside a stranger's home for a slice. In the Apple Isle an invitation like this is a distinct possibility. And anyway, who needs the comfort of a rental car? Bicycles are fully air-conditioned and the sound of nature's stereo chirruping birds and the ocean's waves are the perfect soundtrack to any holiday.
Because most of the way is flat and traffic is fairly light, riding down the east coast is an excellent way to soak up Tasmania's laconic lifestyle. Gentle gradients mean you can cover distances of 40-70km a day (perhaps more) depending on time, fitness and inclination. And the sense of achievement as you dismount each night far exceeds taking the keys out of the ignition.
All geared up
, head to Rent-A-Cycle
to choose your trusty steed. Douglas, the entertaining owner, looks like the English astronomer Patrick Moore
and he did a stellar job in preparing my bike for the trip. He rents out panniers, bicycle repair kits, tents and sleeping bags all you have to bring is two strong legs.
My friend Martyn and I embarked on the trip to get fit. The only exercise either of us had done in the last five years involved running for the tram to get to the pub. Douglas immediately offered us a discount on the third week of our bike hire because he was confident we'd only last two. We were slow but managed to keep the bikes for three weeks, popping them back on a Tassielink bus to Launceston once we reached Hobart.
The east coast has a number of towns so you'll be able to stock up on food as you go. It's a good idea to get most of your provisions from a supermarket in Launceston as shopping in smaller towns is more expensive and there's less choice. Lightweight camping stoves and gas canisters can be purchased in Launceston from Allgoods
. Take a good map and a container that holds at least three litres of water. There are plenty of opportunities to replenish water supplies along the way. Simply knock on a local's door or ask in milk bars and they'll happily refill your bottles.
Have bike, will sleep for free. Forty clicks northwest of Launceston is a campsite underneath Batman Bridge
. There are also great spots at Mayfields Bay
near Swansea, Little Beach Conservation Area
in St Marys
and inside the Douglas Apsley National Park
, the turn-off for which is just outside Bicheno. A kilometre outside Scamander
you'll find a campsite near the road although it is shielded from passing cars by bushes. This site is metres away from the beach.
Top tips for a super cycle
How easy your journey is depends on how much preparation you put in beforehand. For the first three days of my ride it felt like my lungs were on fire and I gazed at the bitumen rather than the scenery. Training beforehand isn't necessary, but it's highly recommended.
Make sure you don't pitch your tent in area prone to flooding. Check the weather forecast regularly (either ask locals or carry a phone). After camping in Stumpys Bay (Mt William National Park) I woke up to find my bedtime read floating past me. By the time Martyn and I had hurriedly hauled our gear into a nearby toilet our tent was standing in the middle of a mini lake.
And watch out for possums. Rustling food bags are an invitation to these furry little critters to try and steal your dinner. If you're not vigilant, they will. Always remember to keep your rubbish inside the tent.
Leave Launceston and head northwest, cycling past the wineries dotted along the Tamar River
. Hug the bucolic north coast and head towards Mt William National Park
. Although you're not likely to see many people, expect an audience as you cycle in. Forester kangaroos
gaze inquisitively as you approach rugged coastline, undulating sand dunes and Eddystone Lighthouse
Further south and about 10km northeast of St Helens is the peaceful hamlet of Binalong Bay. Huge rocks covered with orange lichen sprawl along the coastline. They make great loungers on which to watch shooting stars zip through the sky. Also while you're here, make sure you take a walk along the gorgeous beaches of the Bay of Fires.
Heading south past St Marys, Douglas Apsley National Park is dripping with unspoilt rainforests and deep river gorges. If you have time make a detour to Freycinet National Park and Coles Bay. Triabunna is the place to catch a ferry to Maria Island where there is some great cycling.
Samaritans and squatters
En route you're guaranteed to meet some top people. Andrew, a farmer, let us sleep in his caravan for free and Hugo the architect picked us up in the middle of nowhere after Martyn had an accident and snapped off his gear changer. And then there was Graham who we found squatting in a large tin shed because his girlfriend had stolen all of his cash and credit cards. I still don't know if Graham made it back to Queensland, but I can tell you that if I'd spent my time in a rental car then I would never have met any of these people and formed such an intimate connection with the east coast.
Have you cycled the Tassie trail? Or have any Aussie cycle spots to tell us about? Share your stories below!