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The IGC 2012 Brisbane and SE Qld bikeride

In August 2012, there was a major geology meeting in Brisbane which was a perfect excuse for another bikeride around SE Qld. Yes, august is winter, but Brisbane is cool rather than cold in winter. As part of the conference I offered to run 2 short bicycle events for geologists at the conference and there were 7 participants for the 2 hour ride around Brisbane city on a sunday afternoon and 3 participants for  a longer 2 day ride to the Glasshouse mountains and Caloundra beach.

Cycling route map                     A detailed interactive route map is here.
south east qld route map 2012

As usual, I rode to the airport in Darwin and packed my REACH folding bike and checked it in for the midnight flight to Brisbane, where I reassembled the bike upon arrival at 5:30 am. It was still dark and cold outside the terminal, so I deliberately had a very slow coffee while I waited for some warmth from the morning sun before riding off to the city centre. I knew it was not easy to cycle from the airport to the city as there was no continuous bike route and many busy roads and a freeway to cross, so I had mapped out a route using the roads through the freight handling section of the airport. This worked well and led me to a major road along the Brisbane river bank, which had a marked bicycle lane! Amazing - this would be easy after all! But after just a few Km the bike lane simply ended, with no alternative but to block a lane on the busy roadway. Brisbane has tried hard to cater for cycling with numerous bike routes, but they don't quite connect which is quite useless, even dangerous as the motorists don't always understand that cyclists only intermittently have bike lane space.

Brisbane is an interesting city as there are numerous bridges across the river at the city centre. Most of these have bicycle access on a footpath and 2 of them are restricted to pedestrians and bicycles only. One of the pedestrian/cycle bridges had a coffee stall halfway across and I stopped there every day en-route to the conference venue to enjoy a coffee and serene view of the city as it awoke, while isolated from the buzz of the vehicular traffic. On the last afternoon of the conference 8 of us (using bikes rented from a nearby vendor) rode on the bike paths and bridges around the city centre for 2 hours. Our interesting route included 4 bridges, but could easily have included 2 more. I particularly liked the fact that the newest bridge, which charges a toll for motorists to cross, has a dedicated cycleway and cyclists cross for free!

After the conference I borrowed 3 bikes from a very kind friend, Owen, so that 3 geologists could undertake a 2 day bike tour north to the Glasshouse mountains and Caloundra. We caught the train to Caboolture where we started our cycling. It was a great sunny day with no wind and perfect for enjoying the mostly quiet roads north of Caboolture. But we were not traveling very fast and so after lunch at Glasshouse mountains we skipped the geology and rode on to Caloundra, a total ride of about 60 Km. Here we relaxed with a brief swim at sunset. Although we had planned to cycle back to Caboolture next day, this would be rather boring as we would have to use the same road, so we went swimming instead and arranged to use the bus for return transport. I always like to visit the yandina ginger factory, so while Anastasiya caught local buses and walked there next day, I cycled the 60 km and arrived first, despite getting lost on the way through the densely populated seaside suburbs. Buses are good, but bicycles are better! After purchasing far too much ginger, ginger chocolate, macadamia nuts, macadamia coffee and some tourist souvenirs we traveled to Nambour and this time the bus was faster than the bicycle - but not by much!

Anastasiya departed on the train next day to return to Brisbane and then Russia, and I met Mike who arrived from Brisbane on the next train. After spending a pleasant night with Mike and Sandra at their magic duck-pond villa nearby, it was time for me to commence my serious cycle touring and I headed off up into the mountains next morning. From the Blackall range there are impressive views back over the entire sunshine coast region and it was a pleasant, though challenging ride. Here I met the only other cycle tourist on my journey, a Norwegian. Next day I traveled south along the edge of Somerset dam, one of the water storage reservoirs for Brisbane. It was a pleasant ride, and the motorcyclists also enjoy this scenic winding route. After stopping at Esk, it was time to climb westwards up onto the top of the great dividing range. This quiet route is a great alternative to the other busy highways up to the range top. I stayed in Crows Nest, a small town, because my next plan was to ride through the Bunya mountains to Kingaroy in one day, which would be some 160 km and quite a serious ride. After some 80 Km across open pasture lands next morning and quite pleasant riding I stopped for a drink at a small store. The proprietor warned me that the road ahead was unpaved, and I could take an alternative road which was paved, although this would add about 20 Km to my ride. After taking the paved route detour it was some 110 Km to the beginning of the Bunya mountains, which started with an immediate 20 % gradient long climb. I climbed very slowly up into the densely forested hilltops but it was already late in the day, I was tiring and I was still 60 Km from the nearest overnight accommodation! After a seriously undulating and challenging ride along the ridge top of the mountains, i reached the descent, which was terrifyingly steep and twisty on a very narrow roughly paved surface. After another 50 Km I reached Kingaroy just after dark and was glad to find a motel to rest for the night after a ride of 185 Km. Sometime in the last few days I had contracted the flu, despite having had a flu vaccination, and with the exertion of the ride through the Bunya mountains I needed to rest for a day in Kingaroy before continuing, as the next few days rides would also be quite long.

From Kingaroy, the peanut growing capital of queensland, I rode north to Gayndah, a major citrus friutgrowing region. This was a nice ride through open, gently undulating sunny fields all day, but there were almost no shops for the last 100 Km and it is necessary to carry food and drinks on this inland route to Gayndah. By now I had decided to return to Brisbane and fly home in 3 days time, so I needed to ride some long distances to keep on schedule. The ride east from Gayndah to Maryborough is pleasant but long, and I made it longer by deciding to visit the paradise dam en-route, which entailed a 40 Km detour. So this became another 180 Km riding day with an evening arrival at my destination. Arriving at Gympie the next evening was exciting as I arrived in the middle of the Gympie muster, a music festival. I was lucky to get a motel room with help from a bike shop proprietor whom i spoke to, as most of the accommodation in town was booked out.

Next day i rode south to Nambour through the very enjoyable sunshine coast hinterlands with several saturday morning markets in full operation. But I did not stop at the markets as I choose not to buy things which i would then have to carry on the bike. It is better to look and enjoy the memories rather than carry heavy souvenirs! From Nambour I caught the train to Brisbane to avoid the traffic congestion in the sprawling Brisbane suburbs. I planned to ride the last 10 Km to the airport from the trian station, but bicycle access to the airport  was quite difficult, even though I had expected that. I became lost on a bicycle path to nowhere and eventually carried the bike up an embankment and over a fence to reach a busy highway towards the airport. Unexpectedly, I found a bicycle lane at the next intersection - but it disappeared just as soon as i crossed the intersection, and I then guessed my way through a maze of freeway access ramps and overpasses, eventually finding a route into the airport.

Once again I folded the bike and checked it in, with no need to pay excess baggage. In Darwin, at 1 am next morning I unpacked the bike and rode home the last 40 km in the warm night. A successful conclusion to another 1500 km cycling journey on my nice and trouble-free Reach folding bike.

A detailed interactive route map is here.

Bike technical comments

During my previous tour ( in Melbourne), my Shimano Tiagra gearshift lever had given problems. After that tour I installed a Microshift brand rear derailleur gearshift lever, leaving the Shimano lever installed for the front derailleur. The microshift lever uses 2 "paddles" for gearshift as the brake lever does not twist like Shimano levers. Now this may sound rather odd to mix these 2 different types of lever, but I quickly became used to the shifting. In fact I have come to like the microshift lever as the gear changes are crisp and precise. And I had no problem with the gearshifts in the entire 1500 km journey. Although i have repaired the Shimano Tiagra lever, I presently plan to leave the Microshift lever on the bike as I like it and it works so well!

I originally purchased the Microshift lever groupset as an emergency spare as I had had problems with 2 prior Tiagra levers. And Shimano lever replacements are surprisingly expensive. But now I am a convert. The Microshift levers are reasonably priced and work very well. Don't underestimate these nice bike levers!