Four days of riding my bike with little else to think about. Days warmed with spring sunshine and draped with landscapes that stretch the eye to where earth and sky shimmer as one. Night skies aglow with moonlight carrying the sounds of weary bodies sleeping. Sleep, Eat, Ride, Eat, and Repeat. This was my first ‘Cycle Queensland’ Adventure Tour and it ensured my spring began with a most enjoyable ride.

Cycle Queensland is an annual event run by the not-for-profit bicycle advocacy organization, Bicycle Queensland. Each year, the tour takes a different route delivering about 500 cyclists a nine-day cycling holiday. This year’s ride started inland at Goondiwindi, a small town in Western Queensland, and ended at Currumbin Beach on the Southern Gold Coast, where I live.

Two things attracted me to riding the 2017 route. One was that the tour would finish where I live and there was something strangely appealing about the thought of riding home. The other attraction was the route would take us over ‘Tomewin’, a road that connects the Tweed and Currumbin Valleys, and bears a challenging climb that I’d long wanted to try. For similar reasons, Jane decided to join me for the four days.

Choosing the half-tour option, my Cycle Queensland (CQ) began in Stanthorpe known best for apples, wine and cooler climes due to its elevation of 811 metres. Our bikes had been serviced and boxed by our local bike shop, and then transported by truck under the guidance of Bicycle Queensland. After a bus and train ride to Brisbane, we caught a bus to Stanthorpe chartered by Bicycle Queensland.

When we arrived in Stanthorpe, the CQ campsite was chilled, both in mood and temperature. The full-tour riders were relaxed having enjoyed a rest day after riding four days from Goondiwindi to Stanthorpe. Plus, an icy southwesterly was whipping across the campground. After registering at HQ, finding our bike boxes, assembling our bikes and sorting the night’s accommodation, we were ready for the nightly pre-ride briefing at 6.30pm.

Splashed with bellbirds ringing…

Our first day of riding took us from Stanthorpe to Woodenbong along roads lined with gum trees, dotted with granite boulders and splashed with bellbirds ringing. It was also the route’s longest day. Riding a distance of 105.4 kilometres, I experienced my first ever century-plus ride. And survived! Thanks to morning tea at a lavender farm with freshly made lavender scones served with jam and cream, and a healthy tailwind throughout the day.

Day Two brought an icy greeting with sub-zero temperatures overnight. Ice had formed on our tent, bike handlebars, tyres and bike bags. I was glad to be up and eating, and even happier once we started riding and generating warmth. Our second day ended in Kyogle after 60.5kms among bushland chiming with Bellbirds and beside pastured paddocks thirsty for rain.

I know you now…

Climbing rolling hills featured in the route from Kyogle to Murwillumbah on Day Three. Along winding roads with views of Wollumbin coming ever closer, we entered the Tweed Caldera having ridden 1059 metres elevation over the 76.8 kilometre ride. However, rolling hills bring a reprieve. You climb then you descend, then you climb again, and descend. Climbing Tomewin on the following day brought a different story.

With Tomewin, you climb and climb. For five kilometres, you climb, with no downhill reprieve. Yet ascending Tomewin on our final day brought my personal highlight. The climb was harder than I’d expected and more rewarding too. Rolling over the top of the range at the NSW/Queensland border and descending into Currumbin Valley, I felt the exhilaration of having looked an aspiration in the eye and being able to say, I know you now.

A quiet space descends…

Although there might be hundreds of riders participating in this tour, I found a quietness riding along that stands in stark contrast to city riding. In a wide landscape with few cars, the sounds of wind rustling trees and grasses, punctuated with the calls of magpies, galahs and cockatoos, are all there is to hear. A quiet space descends. As I sweep downhill, as I climb steadily up the hills, something quiet lands within. Perhaps it’s the simplicity of travelling by bicycle. Perhaps it’s the closeness to the elements as they touch my senses. Whatever the source, this quiet is a feeling I enjoy.

Riding past canefields in Tweed Valley.

Crossing the NSW border

Crossing the NSW border on the way to Woodenbong.

Lavender Farm for morning tea

Lavender Farm for morning tea

Gravel sections on the road to Woodenbong

We had a couple of gravel sections on the road to Woodenbong.

Paddocks dry and skies blue.

Paddocks dry and skies blue.

Ice on every surface of my bike!

Ice on every surface of my bike!

Barney was a backdrop for our ride to Kyogle.

Mt. Barney was a backdrop for our ride to Kyogle.

Grasses in a wide landscape.

Grasses in a wide landscape.

Wollumbin coming every closer.

Wollumbin coming every closer.

Stokers Siding, an old railway stop near Murwillumbah.

On the outskirts of Murwillumbah, we stopped at the old railway stop of Stokers Siding.

Campsite at Murwillumbah Showgrounds with Wollumbin in the background.

Campsite at Murwillumbah Showgrounds with Wollumbin in the background.

Canefield-lined roads in the Tweed Valley.

Canefield-lined roads as we leave Murwillumbah through the Tweed Valley.

Climbing up Tomewin.

Climbing up Tomewin.

 

Brisbane City Cycle

They’re silver with a yellow tail and seen in growing numbers around the streets of Brisbane. Once an exotic species and thought to be on the brink of extinction, Brisbane’s CityCycle bicycles are pedaling their way to a new life. On a recent visit to this sub-tropical city, I enjoyed a winter weekend wheeling my way around Brisbane’s inner city sights using the city’s bike-share scheme.

Bike-sharing systems allow people to share public bicycles. At the time of writing, this mode of urban mobility is available in over 900 cities worldwide. Their successful use contributes to creating sustainable cities by providing residents and visitors a transport option with low environmental impact. The specific features of each bike-share system vary from city to city.

Known as CityCycle, Brisbane’s bike-share scheme has been reinvigorated to make access to public bicycles easy and affordable. As visitors to the city, we easily registered online for a Casual Pass, costing A$2 each and valid for 24 hours. The next step was to find a CityCycle bicycle station where the share bikes are docked. With 150 stations, this is easy. You’ll see the bicycle stations throughout the CBD, West End, Toowong and Newstead.

Because I like using technology, I downloaded the ‘All Bikes Now’ smartphone application which helped me locate the stations and told me how many bikes were available at each station. This was helpful because another revision to Brisbane’s CityCycle is that you can ride for thirty minutes, return the bike to any station, pick up another one and ride for another thirty minutes for no fee. The app allowed me to plan where we’d return our bikes.

The thirty-minute-free option works best if you want to ride from ‘a to b’, say from your CBD hotel over to Southbank, which is what we planned. However, if you want to stop along the way to take photos (like we did) or look out over Brisbane’s iconic river snaking its way towards Moreton Bay (like we did), then thirty minutes passes very quickly. We found ourselves rushing to dock the bikes within the free half hour. For future visits, I’d pay the extra AUD$2 fee so I can have up to sixty minutes to return the bike to a station.

If you’re a Brisbane local, CityCycle would be very useful for travelling to work, meetings, cafes, university and between workplaces. For access to this style of urban mobility (and healthy exercise), you’ll pay a monthly access fee of A$5. For students, the fee is A$3.

As cyclists in Australia are required by law to wear helmets, bike-share schemes must provide helmets. This fact has dampened the uptake of our bike-share schemes compared to other countries where helmets are optional. On our visit to Brisbane, we took our own helmets but at each station I noticed the bright yellow CityCycle helmets were readily available in the hire-bike baskets and ready for cycling.

On our winter weekend in Queensland’s capital, we rode through the leafy Botanical Gardens, across the Goodwill Bridge, along Southbank Parklands, and enjoyed a morning at the Queensland Art Gallery. Brisbane gave us its best blue sky, mild temperatures and gorgeous sunshine for free. CityCycle gave me transport and exercise for a very affordable two dollars.

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Riding through Brisbane’s Botanical Gardens on a CityCycle share bike.

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CityCycle bike station near the Queensland Performing Arts Centre at Southbank.

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The bikeways around the river are well-signed.

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A screenshot of the All Bikes app showing bike station locations, capacity and share-bike availability.

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Stopping on the Goodwill Bridge to look out over Brisbane’s iconic river.

 

This September, I’m riding in Cycle Queensland for the first time. Each spring, about 500 bicycle riders pedal their way through this nine-day cycling holiday. The route changes each year. And each year I’ve been tempted to register but taking time off work, as well as doubts about whether I’d make the distances, has stopped me. Not so this year.

Having ridden in the GreatVic bike ride last December, my first long-distance tour, the distances are no longer daunting. Plus, being able to choose a four-day option makes getting time away from work easier.

There was another incentive too. The 2017 Cycle Queensland is finishing at Currumbin on the Gold Coast, where we live! The prospect of seeing hundreds of bicycle riders streaming jubilantly into Currumbin on the last day of their cycling holiday was just too much. There was no way I was going to miss out.

This year the tour starts in Goondiwindi in western Queensland and weaves its way towards the southern Gold Coast. Jane and I have registered to ride for the final four days from Stanthorpe to the Gold Coast. As Bicycle Queensland put it in their recent blog post about our adventure, that’s 271kms of riding too good to miss!

If you’re interested to know more about Cycle Queensland, go to: www.cycleqld.com.au

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