Touring: Gold Coast to Cooktown

brunch

In a few days, Tom (my partner) and I will be riding north from the Gold Coast to Port Douglas and then onto Cooktown, and return in a few weeks. A round trip close to 4500km. A life adventure that will be over before we know it… along with those aches and pains. Many of our friends and family are not into touring, so I thought I would put together a “wee blog” about our preparations, gear and itinerary etc.

Why? Part family, part adventure, part conservation. Tom’s parents are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary at Port Douglas, and one of us said… why not ride there. We got hooked into adventure touring after riding the Indian Himalayas with Himalayan Rider last year. And so we are riding to Port Douglas, and then onto Cooktown (we are pretty keen to ride the famous Bloomfield track), and then turn around and head south. On this trip we will be completing at least a few of the top rides in Australia, including what is on our door being the Gold Coast Hinterland. We also intend to raise $4,500 to represent the number of kms we will travel for important reforestation projects in partnership with Rainforest Australia Trust and One Me, One planet. You can donate via oneme.raisely.com/tomnaomi

Our itinerary Gold Coast to Port Douglas: I could upload a very detailed spreadsheet (we both share another passion and that is spreadsheets!). For you, here is a rough idea:

  • Day 1: Gold Coast to Wallumbilla (just past Roma) / 544km, 7hrs
  • Day 2: Roma to Carnarvon Gorge NP / 284km, 2.5hrs
  • Day 3: Carnarvon Gorge to Belyando Crossing Roadhouse (or if we are making good time we might stay at a Cattle Station) / 530km, 6.5hrs
  • Day 4: Belyando Crossing Roadhouse to Undara Volcanic NP  / 581km, 6.5hrs
  • Day 5: Undara Volcanic NP to Port Douglas / 314km, 4hrs
  • Total = 2,253km (yew!)

Our itinerary Port Douglas to Gold Coast: This is still in the works, but essentially we are traveling down the east coast road. Imagine lots of beach camping and enjoying mid-day ocean swims. We will update you.

Preparations: Over the last few months we have been ramping up our weekend adventures and day trips to test our gear, set up and stamina. If anything, it is your mental capacity on the bike that will get you to your destination. Staying alert, in control and not having too much fun. All jokes aside, it is also team work, and you need a good team member to spot you, look out for you, and keep you pumped up. We give each other “precious time”, meaning that the other person supports whoever is feeling “precious” (we do this anyway regardless of being on or off the bikes). We also have a very detailed plan and know when our breaks are coming up, how much further, how long that might take, and have lots of yummy snacks and hydration stops, which also means lots of toilet stops (a good excuse to get off the bike). And we are both pretty fit human beings, love the outdoors and have a passion for health and wellbeing. Yet, as our motorcycle trainer used to say, “relax your shoulders, grip your tank with your legs, have soft hands and look up (always!)”, and if you follow this, your body will thank you. I personally think that it is about core strength, so lots of yoga, planks and stretching has been part of the preparation to do list.

For this trip (and most trips), I have done the meal preparations. For this trip, we have lots of protein balls, real fruit roll ups, snack bars, fruit and a good trail mix for snacks; intend to make sandwiches / wraps for lunches; and have nourishing light meals for dinners. You don’t want to be too full and feeling sluggish, so light meals are the best for touring. We also recently purchased a Biolite, so our set up will be pretty hi-tec (it comes with a coffee plunger and USB charger!), and we also have a toaster grill to enjoy a continental breakfast! For liquids, we both have hydration packs (mine is yellow-hi-vis, which is great for visibility), and will take electrolytes and magnesium additives to add to our water bottles for that mid-afternoon pick-me-up. On the health and safety side, we have muscle creams, suncream, a good SPF lip balm, wind protectors for our necks, a full first aid kit and snake bite kit (we are in Australia), orange and mint essential oil sprays (yes, I am serious and have since convinced Tom), and I am taking a yoga mat as I intend on doing morning and evening stretching… We are super prepared, but do have that feeling of have we forgotten something?

Set up: The best thing next to the Biolite cooker that we purchased is a bluetooth intercom set up – OMG, if you are into riding with a crew this is a game changer. We got the Cardo Bluetooth set up, long range and battery life (apparently). We try not to be out of each other’s vision for too long, but being able to chat and mainly talk about the road is a bonus on long trips. I have Andy Strap panniers, while Tom has Neilsen Rigg (both are good quality and got good reviews, because they are good), although they are not hard case and lockable, they are practical for what we are doing. I have to admit, I do like my set up better, it is easy to put on and off, while Tom’s set up is more tricky. We also have a duffle bag each for our clothes that we strap on behind us (back seat). I have a bright blue Sea & Summit bag, which is also great for visibility, has good straps for bikes, usable for other adventures in life, and is pretty. And Tom has a lockable top box, which is pretty much empty most of the time (good spot for helmets when we stop and check out country stores, and his Arukbra while we are on the bikes). We are also taking a 3L jerry can each for extra fuel just in case. You can get some pretty hi-tec ones for motorcycles, but our budget was starting to blow out, so we just went for some simple ones you can also use for cars / boats etc. The thing with adventure sports is that you need a shed for all your gear, so when I get gear I try and think, what else could I use this for. We also have a small two man tent that is long enough for Tom, two tri-pod seats, sleeping gear… and a hint of luxury with a small pillow each (I made two small pillows and they fix into a small all-weather bag that trap it onto our other bags). We ditched the picnic blanket on this trip, and I also bought a pocket size one… so that might be one thing we regret (we could pick up one on the way anyway). We also have an extra 4L water bladder that you can fold up (so we have ample water (10L between us). Not sure how many litres of storage we have, but we are tracking good knowing that we are about to leave with half-filled panniers.

Gear: Motorcycle gear…

Me: I splurged last year and got new gear after my old gear that I had for 10 yrs was either too small or falling apart (though, I still have my Dri-rider leather gloves with kelvar inserts). For this trip, I will be wearing a Bell helmet with a transition lens visor (best idea ever, so you really have a visor for all weather and conditions) – I totally recommend a transition lens! For the upper part, I have a BMW women’s jacket for all weather and conditions (fully rain proof, great for summer and winter as well, and the insert liner is actually fashionable on its own, so you don’t need to take another ‘dress jacket’), and seriously it is ridiculously comfortable. This was my surprise purchase last year and fortunately got a decent discount when I bought my bike, because they retail for $1000. But as the guy in the shop said, “you will have it for life”, (let’s see). For pants, we both wear Draggin jeans – the World’s safest motorcycle street-style jeans. I wasn’t a fan of them in the beginning, because of the stitched-in-patches (the engineered-innovation that protects you in a fall) made them quite uncomfortable and itchy. But as I wore them and washed them they have loosen up, and super comfortable now. I also got them taken up as they were too long, which can be a bit of a hazard on bikes – years ago I crashed my 250cc with it landing on top of me in a garden bed when my flares got caught on the foot peg (so be careful old souls!). Boots, I have a solid pair of leather suede boots from Winsdor and Smith (see the pic above), and if we get hit by too much rain I can always change into my Salomon gortex hiking boots. We are not going off the beaten track too much, so I think we won’t need adventure touring motorcycle boots. I also wear a soft cotton scarf that I have had for years, and use my old North Face Gortex pants to cover up my bottom half in the rain, and another pair of all weather Dri-rider leather gloves (good for winter, rail or hail) that I have had for many years.

Tom: pretty much the same as above, but wears a Rev It Touring jacket, and street-style motorcycle boots, and his old snowboard neck protector for wind and sun protection, and hi-vis Dri-rider wet-weather gear. He is pretty keen on my BMW jacket… that might be his next purchase.

For those thinking about getting into motorcycling and/or touring, your gear is almost as (or is more) important as a good bike. I would say I have spent almost $2000 or near on my gear in the last year (ouch, I need to finish that Phd and get a real job!). Our set up above would have also set us back about $3000-$4000, which includes brackets, panniers etc. Then add extra for the comfort hi-tec gadgets – Biolite, solar power charger for phones etc… adventure sports are expensive, but once you have the gear the idea is to use it and abuse it and it will last.

Tools: We have a standard motorcycle toolkit, tyre repair kit, general maintenance gear like tube lube… and guardian angels and Tom has RACQ roadside assistance membership  just in case! Both of our bikes recently had major services, so they are good as new and will be able to do the distance + more before they are due for a service again (a cost that I didn’t budget but still tracking OK). I also got a new chain recently, and brakes, so my bike is super prepared. I do like to get regular services (more than necessary) and we have a great mechanic called Tony at Gold Coast Motorcycles. He has been my bike mechanic for many years, so definitely a great guy and does the extra stuff we might not of thought of and explains what we need and why.

Our bikes… finally getting to what it is all about. I ride a CB500x, while Tom has a Transalp XL650V. Both Hondas, so no competition… we also have similar tyres, 80/20 for off-road / gravel / smooth road etc. Depending on what you like, Australia has endless bitumen roads, unlike the trip we did in India. In saying this, I did love those hectic days of off-road riding in India on a Classic Royal Enfield! Although in saying this, this is my first time riding with off-roadish tyres and it take a few rides to get use to the tread, and I am glad I went for a tyre that can handle dirt tracks. Because almost every trip we have been on thus far has included some surprise dirt tracks, and my normal road tyres were pretty sketchy on those trails, while Tom would leave me in the dust. Basically, both of our bikes are made for this adventure, and our tyres are ready to do the distance (have done about 100km on them now, so we have many more kms yet to do on them).

Ok, this blog has kind of turned into an adventure motorcycle touring review and we haven’t even left yet! We (mainly me) will be spamming on Instagram @naomiedwards, so feel free to check it out.

Wish us luck! And remember to donate via oneme.raisely.com/tomnaomi

Much love, Tom + Naomi xoxo