Sunday, April 21, 2013

SEQ Bike Packing Trip Part 1

I have been threatening to attach my bikepacking bags to the bike and go for a ride since last November and with a week off work coming up it looked like the perfect opportunity to put my bum on the seat and see just how far I could pedal my mountain bike before I started to come apart at the seams.

I wanted the route to be at least 300km(188mi) to make it worth dirtying my gear. Fellow blogger and Brisbane MTB rider, Neil Ennis, has been logging some long rides through some of the less travelled areas around South East Queensland over the last few years. He very kindly has made these ride routes public, so using Garmin Basecamp I snipped and joined some of his routes, then pasted them to some of mine. I also just plain pinched some others from Garmin Connect (all public of course) to help fill in some gaps. This allowed me to construct a route from my driveway, around SEQ, looping right back into my driveway! No shuttling to the start point required. Excellent!....or so I thought.

The route was a little longer than I had intended at 615km(385mi). Being a techno numpty, I couldn't find a way to calculate the climbing, but with some decent sized hills along the way there would be a "sufficient" amount.

I elected to do the route anti-clockwise. This was mainly because I have done the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail several times now and am a bit over the long grind to climb up it. I thought a nice gentle descent for the last 200km or so (with the odd small climb in the way!) would be a good way to finish the ride. There is nothing like coming home with the sun and wind at your back.

After all of the rain last Saturday I decided to push my start date back a day to Tuesday, hoping that the trails might be a little drier by then. The forecast was for some showers with possible thunderstorms. Looking at the synoptic chart, I could see a long trough across most of western Queensland, which would slowly move eastward bringing unstable conditions. Nothing I couldn't handle though.

Packing up the bike with all of the gear to be totally self-sufficient takes some time. it is amazing how much gear you can fit in the Revelate bags. Just a small sample can be seen in the photo below!

The first bit of dirt is just a few hundred metres from my driveway. Wallum Froglet trail in Cornubia would soon have my heart rate "in the zone" and get me accustomed to what lay ahead for the next four days. The mandatory pre-departure photo was taken at the lower trail head. Just a small note, these WILL be photo heavy posts.

I was surprised at how easily the loaded bike handled the climb and the narrow sections of the trail. I couldn't really feel the 23 to 24kg(51 to 53lb) that the bike now weighed. Good stuff!

It was such a nice morning I even pointed the super tanker down Jack's Track. Not surprisingly I didn't feature on the Strava leader board today.

Entering Daisy Hill from the Nirvana end, I avoided the temptation to hit up Nirvana, rationalising that I had far enough to go today that I had better not go crazy so close to home.

The goal today was to hopefully make Mapleton. At approximately 200km(120mi) with quite a bit of climbing, I wasn't going to beat myself up if I fell short and stopped at Palmwoods. At 17km(11mi) closer and significantly, at the bottom of the range I would be disappointed with myself if I didn't make Palmwoods.

Now, my technical ability with the gps route seemed to be adequate. A pink line on the eTrex denoted the path I needed to follow. The fact that I was carrying no paper maps as backup didn't sit well with me but I couldn't carry that many maps and I had tested the start of the route on the Sunday prior. All seemed to be going swimmingly so far. Some cool, new-to-me trails on the um....north side of Ford Road made it really start to feel like an adventure even though I was only about 15km from home as the crow flies.

Getting your feet wet always gets my attention.

As I negotiated the streets around Burbank I noticed that the little pink(magenta actually) line on the gps seemed to end a little way behind me. What the?

It seems that the route just ended. I was not sure why the route ended(and still am not). I broke the overall route into smaller section so that I wouldn't exceed the waypoint limits of the eTrex 30 and whenever I looked at the route in Basecamp it always looked right? Anyway, no time to wonder about these things. I just zoomed in and out a bit on the tiny map on the gps and found a way to the start of the next route section which was the bike way along Tingalpa Creek. This took me parallel to the Gateway Motorway along some quiet bike paths, through the Murrarie crit park and on to the Gateway Bridge.

This was my first time riding across the Gateway Bridge, so it was cool to take in the view that can't be seen from the car. It was a still, clear day and the river was like a millpond.

From the bridge I headed through city streets toward the Boonah Wetlands cycle path. This was another trail that I hadn't ridden before, so it was great to see this area. Again, so close to the airport, but seemingly so far away from everything.

Unfortunately, as I pedalled along I noticed that the route had ended on the gps quite some way behind me. This section of route was about 140km long and detailed all of the back streets, forest trails and short cuts that I would need to take to make Palmwoods or Mapleton in an interesting fashion. Bugger!! 

Now, as I said earlier, I wasn't carrying any paper maps. I had emailed myself screen shots of all of the sections of the ride route as a backup. Very clever, right? Right. Except that my 3 year old Samsung Galaxy was playing up and wouldn't download any emails!! Bugger!! Plan "C", I phone my wife (whom I also emailed my route maps to) for her to text them to me. Well, the texting worked but it degraded the quality so much that it rendered the maps unusable. Bloody bugger!!

The next few hours consisted of me trying to find my way through the northern suburbs toward Caboolture, where I figured I could follow my nose to my overnight destination. The off road, forest route was gone and I would just have to stay on the main roads now. Here, I learned another little idiosyncrasy of the eTrex compared to the Edge 705 that I normally use. It wouldn't navigate to a destination. If I typed in an address it just drew a straight, magenta line to that point. It wouldn't create turn by turn directions. Bugger!!

Not a time to panic or give in, I just kept pedalling along with the traffic in the now quite hot afternoon sun. I don't get to the north side very often these days but the navigation went pretty well using my somewhat degraded, personal memory banks. Rolling into Caboolture I eyeballed the ominous looking clouds ahead. A couple of very sharp cracks of thunder sent me straight to the railway station which I was just pedalling past at the time.

A quick haggle with the ticket seller and in a blur I was throwing my bike on the train that had pulled in while we spoke. It sped off at an incredible speed and then I realised that I hadn't had time to ask which stop was Landsborough. A quick chat with some other passengers established which stop was Landsborough and I sat down to enjoy the ride as we sped under the thunderstorm and through the lashing rain. MTBer-1, Mother Nature-0! Ha ha!

Pedalling out of Landsborough with my huuuge 2.2 inch map(on the eTrex screen) I proceeded at a sharpish the wrong direction. Giving myself an uppercut, I retraced my steps and motored out the correct road. 

This road seemed quite minor but must have been an awesome short cut for there was a constant stream of traffic along it. Plodding up a long slow climb I noticed that thunderstorm again. Yes, the one that I "f@rted in it's general direction" was about to lay it's wrath on me. Passing a eminantly suitable shed and awning to hide under I got about 1km further up the road before all hell broke loose. Huddling under a bush by the side of the road, trying to keep my non waterproof electronics dry with my rain jacket, I watched countless cars appear around a bend in driving rain, speed past, then disappear around the next corner. I don't think any of them noticed me there. After about 45 minutes of hunching, the rain eased a bit and figuring that I was about as wet as I could possibly get, jumped on the bike and trudged along. MTBer-1, Mother Nature-1.

The really cool thing about riding in the rain when you don't know where you are going and having a 2.2 inch map is that you are going to get temporarily unsure of your position. I came to an intersection and thought the maps said right. I obediently followed and 5km later found myself at the Bruce Highway. With the rain(and myself) having now stopped, I looked closely to see where I really needed to go. The upshot of this was that I found a really nice cycle path along the side of the road past Ewen Maddock dam that I had not even seen while riding in the wrong direction. See, there is always a positive!

Rolling into Eudlo I decided it was finally dry enough to break the camera out and celebrated with a photo of a road sign that actually had my intended destination on it!

With a little bit more grinding along I finally rolled into Palmwoods. They sure don't build these Sunshine Coast hinterland towns on flat ground with nearly every street in town being 10-15% grade. While downing a "real" country cafe' burger and chatting to a local guy who stopped to ask about my bike bags, I decided that Palmwoods would make a perfect spot to spend the night. The thought of climbing up the Blackall Range to Mapleton with "these legs" wasn't very enticing.

I eventually found the caravan park tucked away up a hill, around a corner and let my bike bags spew forth their contents into the campers kitchen, which being mid week, I had all to myself.

Getting out of my wet gear was the first priority and once warm and dry my stress levels decreased somewhat. I had a few phone call from the guys following my Spot Tracker page and Neil very kindly offered several solutions to my gps/route issues. All involved putting himself out and were greatly appreciated. However, I thought that the only way to learn any lasting lessons from this issue was to work my way around it myself. I resolved to buy some paper maps in the morning and press on with the ride. I figured that I needed to learn the "ins and outs" of my particular gps before I really needed to rely on it somewhere.

The stats for the day were 172km(108mi) of which about 35km(22mi) were freeloading on the train. 1800m (5900ft)of climbing was also respectable as I don't think the train helped me out here.

I don't normally post up my Garmin Connect ride details but in the spirit of sharing that I had borrowed very heavily from in the planning of this ride, I will do so from now on.

I went to bed fairly content with the physical effort of the day. While I didn't break any distance or speed records, I was pedalling a mid-twentys kilogram bike and I felt like I had something left in the tank for tomorrow...and the days beyond.

Stay tuned for my antics on Day 2, which is coming soon.

Cheers and thanks for checking in.


  1. What Happened to your edge705 Dave? Was the eTrex a replacement? Nothing like 'working out the bugs' on your computer mid-ride :)

    1. The Edge only has a 12 hour battery life at best and needs to be charged with a USB cable whereas the eTrex goes for 25 hours and has changeable AA batteries. A much more flexible arrangement in the field.
      I still haven't had a chance to look at the routing issue but will get around to it before my next trip.

    2. I've been rocking an eTrex since 2005, I have a super awesome off road / national arks mapset from my ranger days if you want it.

    3. That would be awesome mate. My email address is under the header. Maybe we could tee up a meet/ride somewhere?
      On another note, have you got any idea why the routes ended prematurely? The longest one was about 158km which showed about 6 000 track points. In my understanding, you can go to 10 000 points per route?

    4. I had a similar problem once a few years ago, all my routes went mental and my nav didn't work. I sent the GPS to Garmin, they replaced it with a new one, same thing kept happeneing. Then one day I uninstalled and reinstalled Mapsource and it all worked sweet again. I've never had the issue using RoadTrip however. I'll have a dig around for the map file now - eTrex is definitely awesome for mapping and nav, but won't do turn / by turn, however there are some workarounds. Really keen for a ride / catch up for sure, it's been a long time.

  2. Looks like some fun was had still inspite of the techno bugs. Thats a pretty big ride you've undertaken.

  3. Wow, what a first day for your trip.

    Great pictures and way to plug along when things get tough. I can imagine the frustration of the electric route maps not working. Sounds like you managed well.

    Overcome, adapt, and improvise!!

    1. Yes, covered a few miles. Not as much fun as I had planned but still a good day.


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