I'd not been to Fraser Island before, so was very much looking forward to this ride. What better way to see the island than by bike? Who wants to see the island from a cushy 4WD seat, behind salt-laiden glass and in freezing air conditioning? Beer just doesn't taste as good when you haven't earnt it!
Sand and salt don't mix well with bike drive-trains or any moving parts though, so I decided a sacrificial lamb was in order. I picked up this great pre-loved bike from Bicycle Revolutions in West End for the princely sum of $50. It's a 21 speed Centurion Sundowner, and came complete with kick-stand. Bike bling, you beautie! My only modification was to swap-out pedals. I don't think I could go back to platform pedals. Egg-beaters rocked in the sand.
Ever since using the single-wheel Extrawheel trailer on our ride across Oz earlier in the year, I've been hooked on this concept for load carrying on bikes; very stream-lined, and takes so much load off the rear wheel when it already has to support my lard-arse. Most of our riding would be along hard-packed sand on the waters edge at low tide, so I felt comfortable with this choice given I already owned the trailer and it saved me fitting panniers.
Our ride route was from Rainbow Beach to Sandy Cape via Inskip Point, and return. This route follows the eastern coast-line. This is also the main 4WD route stretching the full length of the island. Eric and Mike did this same ride last year, and to the best of our knowledge, may have been the first to do so. There was going to be a group of 5 this year, but two pulled the pin last minute. Click on map to enlarge.
Whilst the extemely corrugated stretch from the ferry drop-off to Dilli Village was murder on wheels for Mike and Eric with their panniers, my Extrawheel trailer took a lot of the shock out of this ride for me. It was still slow going though. This hard-compacted sand was more typical of the bulk of the riding we did:
Poor Mike felt like crap halfway through the first day's riding. He was not quite over the flu, and made a very smart decision to instead spend a couple of days recuperating at Eurong, and re-join us for the return leg.
I found this number plate on the corrugated road en-route to Dilli village. I figured it was destined for Sandy Cape, so I figured I would take it the rest of the way:-/ I got lots of comments from passing 4WD's.
There was no escaping pushing over some sand dunes, but still we were faster than some 4WD's burried up to their axles.
My own personal pergatory came on the second day though with a 6km push through deep sand from Indian Head to Orchid Beach. The load on my Extrawheel trailer was ploughing through the 4WD tracks. It was too low for this terrain, even though ideal for road touring for which its really designed. Very hard work. That 6km hike a bike was equivalent to 50km steep MTB riding effort. I was only able to ride 20m in that 6km, but Eric was no better off even with his high panniers and 3" wheels on his Surly 1x1. We didn't even bother with dinner on the 2nd night; just fell asleep from exhaustion.
All better for day 3, we refuelled with a big breakfast, and set sail for the Cape. We made good speed into the head-wind on the way up with hard sand at low tide. We simply rode around the rock outcrops, passing 4WD line-ups through their tricky sections. Our ride back from the cape was with wind at our backs. Eric was max'ed out with his Single speed, but it was a relatively effortless 35km for me. We stopped to explore a few small water eroded rocks on the way back.
The view looking back on Sandy Cape from the waters edge:
I had to take a photo to highlight some of the finer points of Eric's bike; and his great handiwork:
* 3" fatty downhill wheels with knobs cut-off for reduced rolling resistance
* Home-made chain guard with drain holes
* Ready access can of WD40 for regular re-lubing
* splash guards
* low maintenance Surly 1x1
On day 3 we hauled arse from Orchid Beach to the Cape and back. We waited several hours at the shop at Orchid Beach to time it for low tide en-route to Indian Head, and all the way beack to Eurong. We rode through most of that night (126km), including return hike-a-bike, with a 30min nanna nap at the wreck. This night riding was a real different experience for me. Salt in the air had a similar effect to that of fog. Sea on our left, soft sand on our right, little rock outcrops, lots of creek crossings ... had to watch where we were going. There were lots of dingo tracks on the waters edge looking for washed up fish. We saw lots of their green reflecting eyes, and also one turtle. Sea eagles glided effortlessly above us in their search for fish during the day.
The sunrises were great, but pitty by this point the March flies would not let us sleep.
I was extremely reluctant to head out on day 4 at 1pm. It was stinking hot! But I'm pleased we did. It enabled us to catch the low tide around the south of Fraser Is, and escape the harsh corrugated road back to the ferry. The southern tip of the island was amazing. Had we been there 2 hours earlier or later we'd have been treading water. AMAZING place. I'll be back, but maybe in winter.
The Centurion Sundowner held up well, although expectantly, the bottom bracket was on its way out after 4 days of abuse in sand and salt. Both Eric and I got a couple of flats each. The cantilever brakes also worked well. I certainly got my money's worth.
It's also worth mentioning that the guys on Mantaray ferries gave us a free ferry ride since we only had bikes. Thanks heaps guys.
What a way to see out 2008. Started it on the bike riding across Australia, and now to finish off with bike tour of Fraser Island. Happy New Year everyone!