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Cycle Touring

Original authors
Helen Beggs and Brad Phillips, 1997
Wayne Kelly updated links in 2007
Revised and reformatted Aug-2011
info@biketas.org.au


When to come here

The best time of the year to cycle Tasmania is January to April, when the days are long and the weather is warm and generally drier than in the spring (when it can be very changeable and windy). Peak tourist times are Christmas to the end of January and during Easter. It is important to book the ferry or flight early if you intend travelling around these times. However, even during peak season the State never feels crowded or the roads busy. After all, Tasmania only has a population of half a million people, in an area roughly the size of Ireland.
How to get here
Sea: The Spirit of Tasmania ferry operates daily between Melbourne and Devonport. Bicycles can be wheeled onto the ship
Air: It is easy to fly from Australian mainland centres to Hobart or Launceston, and the return fare can often be absorbed into the price of an international ticket. A standard flight from Melbourne to Hobart is about $A200 each way but there are often cheaper seats on offer particularly with
Virgin Australia or Jetstar. Qantas tend to be the most expensive and have far fewer flights available to Tasmania but will permit you up to 32Kg luggage without extra charge. Bicycles can normally accompany cyclists on the same flight on which they are travelling, but it is always wise to check beforehand with the airline and they do require the bike to be boxed. 

Boxes are the safest way to transport bicycles by air. You will need tools and allow yourself plenty of time to dismantle and pack your bike. Hint: if you remove wheels, take skewers out too. Often you only need to remove front wheel and drop the seat, which means the derailleur and chainring are kept off the box floor. Remember the standard box iteself weighs ~3kg. A cardboard bicycle box can usually be obtained from the airport for about $A15.00. For those who wish to crate their bike most bicycle shops can provide an empty carton.

Virgin Australia free allowance is one item of luggage (eg your bike box) up to 23kg, and up to 7kg in cabin baggage.The bike box is meant to contain just the bike, but putting in panniers and a few soft items is good for protecting the bike [updated Apr 2013]
 Jetstar also allow you 20kg but will charge $A5 per kilo for any luggage over this limit. [date unknown]
 - modified from
Bicycling Tasmania.


Public Transport
There are no passenger trains in Tasmania. There is a network of bus services around the State, although weekend services to many areas are limited. Full details can be found in Tasmanian Travelways . If you are stuck on a main road around Tasmania and need an alternative mode of transport to cycling then you can phone the following bus companies:
    • Tasssielink Wilderness Transport Ph: 1300 300 520 (Bikes $10)
    • Tigerline Coaches Ph: 1300 653 633 (Bikes $10)  (needs checking)
Climate
Tasmania has a temperate maritime climate and experiences unpredictable and rapid changes in weather, particularly in the western half of the State. Snow often falls on the higher mountains, even in midsummer. Generally the best of summer is between January and March, with the coldest and wettest weather between June and August. It can be windy thoughout the year, with early autumn usually enjoying the calmest days."Summer days are longer than on mainland Australia allowing more time for cycling, sightseeing and setting up camp. In midsummer (December 21) there is cyclable light between 5:30 am and 9:30 pm. Of course, midwinter days are very short, with usable light between 7:45 am and 4:30 pm." - Bicycling Tasmania.
Maps
You will need to obtain a road touring map such as the RACT Touring Map of Tasmania (which shows camping grounds and tourist spots) and/or the 1:250000 maps of Tasmania published by Hobart Land Information Bureau (which show contours and more of the minor roads). The latter maps are available from Service Tasmania in Macquarie St, Hobart, or you could contact the Land Information Bureau, GPO Box 44A, Hobart Tas 7001, Ph: (03) 6233 3382, Fax: (03) 6233 2158.  There is an excellent shop for maps in Hobart, Tasmanian Map Centre, 96 Elizabeth St. 
Accommodation
I have listed camping grounds, caravan parks and youth hostels in the text of the Giro Tasmania, along with the cheapest other accommodation options. Warm Showers and AirBnB are other good options.  However, if you are prepared to spend upwards of $100/night for a double room then there are a wide range of excellent bed and breakfasts all over the State which are good value for money. You can pick up a free guide to accommodation in Tasmania (Tasmanian Travelways) from the Tasmanian Visitor Information Centre, 20 Davey St, Hobart Tas 7000, phone: 03 6230 8235, fax: 03 6230 8353 or email.  They can also make reservations for you. Youth Hostels may be booked by writing to YHA Tasmania, GPO Box 174, Hobart Tas 7001, or your local YHA office can make the bookings for you for a small fee.
Camping
If you are willing to carry camping equipment on your cycle tour then you will be much more flexible, save money, not have to book ahead, and be able to camp in some really lovely places. There are a range of camping options, from staying at Caravan Parks or Camping Grounds, which have hot showers, generally a laundry, and sometimes a campers kitchen and cost about $8 - $16 per tent, to staying in free camping grounds (maintained by the local Lions or Rotary Club) which have toilets, drinking water and often a picnic shelter, to wild camping in state forest or National Parks, obtaining drinking water from streams. If you will camp then please take care when going to the toilet that you bury your faeces at least 100 m from any water. At present it is generally safe to drink from creeks and rivers provided that you drink up-stream from camping areas (where others may not have been as careful as you in their sanitary habits). Tasmania is one of the few places left in the world which does not have giardia ("Bali belly") and where you can still drink from rivers and creeks. Let's keep it that way!
Money
Away from the major centres in Tasmania - Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie - you may have trouble finding an automatic teller machine (ATM) or a bank which is open. Nearly every small town, however, has a post office.  These are agents for the Commonwealth Bank and will cash traveller's cheques and provide cash advances on credit cards. Banks will also provide this service. Most supermarkets in country centres have EFTPOS facilities and may allow you to withdraw cash when making a purchase with your ATM card. Along the Giro route I have listed the banks, ATMs, shops with EFTPOS and post offices. Many of the ATMs (e.g. Commonwealth Bank and Westpac) are connected to Cirrus, which means that if your ATM card has a Cirrus symbol on it then you can withdraw money direct from your bank account back home (anywhere in the world). Check with your bank.
Road Rules
Cycling helmets are compulsory in Australia. Cyclists of all ages are permitted on footpaths in Tasmania unless otherwise signed (such signs are generally around busy pedestrian areas like shopping centres). Traffic drives on the left hand side of the road and a bicycle must be ridden in accordance with normal road rules. Cyclists may ride two abreast but this is not recommended on narrow, winding country roads. Tasmanian motorists are generally not bicycle aware.
Hazards to Cycling
Cycle very defensively in Tasmania - and don't expect the drivers to use their indicators! Tasmanian drivers are not as polite to cyclists as European drivers, and will try very hard to overtake you without having to change lanes. Large trucks carrying logs are the major concern of cyclists touring in Tasmania. Log trucks can be expected on nearly any road in the State. "Use caution with log trucks, especially on narrow, high speed roads or gravel roads, or if a truck is about to pass with another vehicle approaching from the opposite direction. Always be ready to pull over and wait if you feel it's unsafe." - Bicycling Tasmania. Many of the roads in Tassie are so narrow and winding that it is wise to get off the road completely if you see or hear a log truck approaching either from in front or behind.
"Some bridges in Tasmania are built with wooden planks running parallel to the direction of travel. The gap between planks can trap a bicycle wheel resulting in nasty falls and extensive damage to the bike." - Bicycling Tasmania. Be prepared to stop and walk the bike across, if necessary.
Always lock your bike securely, even in country areas, and even if you are sleeping by it or have just popped into a shop to buy something. Don't leave valuables on your bike.
Swimming: Although this isn't exactly a cycling hazard it is important to stress the dangers in swimming at deserted beaches around Tasmania. The water, even in the middle of summer, is very cold and there are commonly dangerous currents which will carry you out into the Southern Ocean. Never swim out of your depth.

Books and Information

Lonely Planet has published "Cycling Australia" (various authors, 1st ed 2001) and has 40 pages covering cycle touring in Tasmania.

RideOn magazine, pub Bicycle Network, regularly features current reviews of Tasmanian routes.

For more information on cycle touring in Tasmania, I recommend the excellent book "Bicycling Tasmania" by Ian Terry and Rob Beedham, pub. Nugara Guides, GPO Box 887, Hobart Tasmania 7001 (2nd ed. 1993).

"WheretoRide - Tasmania" by Andrew Bain, pub Bicycling Australia - has detailed riding instructions and full colour photos and maps.  This is available online from Bicycle Network and also from bookshops.

A new book  "Cycle the Tasmanian Way" offers an alternative to the Tasmanian Trail. This is an interesting 500km ride from Devonport in the North to Cockle Creek in the South.

A more detailed cycle touring book which contains both 1-9 day touring bike trips and off the beaten track mountain bike routes is "Cycling the Bush - 100 Rides in Tasmania" by Sven Klinge, pub. Hill Of Content, Melbourne (1993).

In Australia, the "Tasmanian Trail" official guide book may be bought from "The Wilderness Shop" in any capital city or most outdoor equipment shops and many bookshops.In Tasmania, it may be obtained in most outdoor equipment shops.

The free newspaper "Tasmanian Travelways", published bi-monthly, is available from Tasmanian Travel Centres in all states of Australia. Tasmanian Travelways contains current information on travelling to and from the state, internal public transport, accomodation of all kinds, restaurants, guided tours, adventure pursuits and other visitor activities and attractions.
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