It’s been a while! In fact it has been nearly two years ago since we last went on a cycle touring trip. After that six week adventure we progressed through a tropical summer, floods, busy work schedules and more tropical summer before finally the cooler weather and our enthusiasm connected!
We were keen to test out our new fat bikes and we know from experience that the road from the Burdekin Dam to Mt Coolon is notoriously rocky, hilly and…well…dirty! Along with the luxury of a pub at Mt Coolon, it was decided this route would be a perfect introduction to fat bike cycle touring and see how the fat bikes fared.
After a foggy start to the morning, we left from Ravenswood with our 4.8″ tyres pumped up to roll nicely on the first 80km of bitumen road.
Mick got to tow the ExtraWheel fat bike trailer, although he only had light stuff in the trailer’s panniers…sleeping bags, mattresses and such. The trailer wheel was built by Mick (of course) as well as the beginnings of an aluminium mount for our solar panel. The purpose of this piece was also to prevent the mudguard from slapping up and down every time the trailer went over a bump (something we would consider a design fault!).
The road is bitumen and hilly, but the best (steepest) hills don’t kick in until the final few kilometres leading to the dam when you’re already knackered! Thankfully we knew this and were mentally prepared…
Needless to say, we were happy to reach the Burdekin Dam in the early afternoon where our friends were setting up camp ready to join us on tomorrow’s ride.
That night’s feast was generously provided by Steve and included cold beer and great company as, together with Steve’s sons, Zac and Jordie, we talked up the next day’s ride.
At our usual start time of 8amish we set off happy and smiling and clean, with full knowledge of the 12% ascent we would encounter once we crossed the dam wall.
Here’s a tip, when you reach the big green road sign that promises Mt Coolon is only 93km away, don’t believe it. Or believe it, but know that the Mt Coolon that has a pub, showers and cold beer is at least 105km from this sign not 93km! All five of us can confirm that the distance between the Burdekin Dam caravan park and Mt Coolon pub is 110km!
It was here we lowered our tyre pressure to about 8 on the front and 11 on the rear to provide a more solid ride on the dirt.
The first 20km from the Dam was hilly and slow, but we were prepared after our previous trip and so it was all part of the fun…
Our fat tyres made the rough, rocky roads, gravel and bumps in the dirt road seem almost inconsequential as we rode up and down, up and down, up and down…
We did eventually get to the flatter part of the journey, but a persistent headwind kept up the rolling resistance.
We had a sneaking suspicion the trip to Mt Coolon was going to be around 110km long, but the BGS (big green sign – mentioned previously) had created some doubt. It also fanned some hope, because as we got more and more tired, our hope in the BGS grew and grew…
Of course, once we hit the 93km mark with no Mt Coolon in sight, our hopes were dashed. It was sometime after 5pm when we reached Mt Coolon pub (who knows where the actual Mt Coolon is as listed on the BGS!). Mt Coolon is in the Whitsunday Region…somewhere.
Photos are sadly lacking from that night (might have been a bit spent!), but the beer was cold and the food was good. We paid $20 for pub grub, plus we got a spot of grass on which to pitch our tents, a hot shower and some soft seats to rest our bums on in the pub. The grass was remarkably free of rocks and was hidden amongst the workers’ dongas. We’re not sure what Zac and Jordie got up to that night, but the rest of us were asleep before 8pm. Steve had done his knee and apparently spent the last 17km of the trip alternatively walking and riding, all the while cursing and swearing (probably at us).
Jordie did a deal sometime during the evening and scored a lift back to the Burdekin Dam in a car so he could drive Steve’s ute back to pick him up. This was a great relief to Steve (we are sure Zac and Jordie only chose to return in the ute in support of their old man), particularly as he had to return to work in a day or two and didn’t need a bung knee!
The pub was very kind in letting us enjoy their workers’ kitchen facilities in the morning, but we were kind of banking on a real coffee from the coffee van. We know, a coffee van?! In Mt Coolon?! We had seen it advertised on facebook and were anticipating a delicious, freshly brewed coffee to set us up for the day.
There was definitely a coffee van out front of the pub, but it was not looking particularly open. When I enquired of one of the pub staff what time it usually opened, he responded with…”It might open at 8am…or it may open later…or it may not open at all today.”
Halfway through a generously provided mug of instant coffee we spied a quaint coffee van down on the corner that was definitely open for business! The instant was instantly outed…
A couple of backpackers run the ‘On the Grind at Coolon’ coffee van in between working on a property 40 minutes out of Mt Coolon. They supplied us with Coffee Dominion coffee, fresh baked muffins and some friendly chatter while we stood around in the freezing cold.
Because it really was freezing in Mt Coolon! We had noticed it cooling down the previous day as the afternoon wore on, and the morning was so cold we started riding with our jumpers on!
We seemed to have the wind in our favour as we set off, and the kilometres rolled by with pleasure. The hills were going to appear later in the day, but for now we were making the most of the relatively flat terrain and beautiful scenery.
We reached the infamous fork in the road and checked out The Bicycle Pedlar sticker we stuck on the road sign nearly two years ago when we last rode past here. Full credit for our proven long-lasting and durable stickers goes to Mike Coleman from NQ Custom Coating and Signwriting!
We inevitably got back into hill country…
There was one hill we both had tried walking up (just to see how it felt of course!), and a few where the speed barely reached 5km/hour. Being mentally prepared is a big part of of riding up any hill, and we already knew it was going to be hard work so we carried on pedalling…and pausing…to take in the views…
It was a joy to reach the Burdekin Dam…
And even more exciting to reach the campsite after climbing up the final hill with yet another 12% gradient.
After two luxurious nights of having dinner provided for us, we got to try out a freeze-dried meal for the first time ever! It was pretty good too! Much better than we anticipated and much better than the initial ‘packet food’ smell when we first opened the packet. Once the boiling water had been poured in and the meal had been left to rehydrate, the smell improved and the result was delicious.
We used Outdoor Gourmet Company meals because we have easy access to these through our shop. For this dinner we tried out a butter chicken and a spicy green curry. We decided to go straight for packets that ‘serve 2’, figuring we would need a ‘serves 2’ type of feed at the end of a long day in the saddle.
We managed to eke out our methylated spirits sufficiently to boil water for dinner and still have tea and coffee in the morning despite rather foolishly only bringing our 500ml fuel bottle. Or maybe the foolish part was having multiple cups of tea during our restful but long afternoon in the Ravenswood caravan park before we had even started the ride!
The soap bottle, which had accompanied us on every cycle touring trip we had ever done (over 8 years worth) starting cracking throughout the weekend, so we said a farewell and tossed it before leaving the dam.
And the ‘Fumpa’ finally got a go out in the field, pumping our fat tyres back up to pressures better suited to sealed roads in double quick time.
Pedalling from the Burdekin Dam back to Ravenswood was a delight. The hills seemed quite pleasant after yesterday’s steep climbs…
And so the ride continued quietly and beautifully…
…until we reached Top Camp Roadhouse at Ravenswood where we enjoyed a fantastic hamburger and chips to celebrate the end of the ride (well worth a shot if you’re out there!)…
We are pleased to say the fat bikes handled brilliantly on the rough and rocky dirt unsealed roads as well as on the bitumen, even with the loaded panniers and the trailer.
Where can we take them next?