Motorized Bicycle – The Grand Tour

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Roos on bicycle tour
Kangaroos pictured on bicycle tour
My first real, full-on adventure with my 80cc 2-stroke gas powered bicycle. I had been backpacking in Melbourne for a month and had caught a few of the big events that sports-mad Melbourne is famous for. I had become friends with an Australian called Curt who I met in an area of Melbourne known as the “Devil’s Kitchen”. This trendy zone is a narrow, urban industrial alleyway festooned on both sides with wonderful cafe’s serving cheap food.

My introduction to mountain bikes

Curt had taken me to see a one day cricket event that the Aussies call “The Big Bash”. Surprisingly, despite expectations to the contrary, it was pretty good. I had anticipated that I would have preferred to watch some paint dry but it turned out to be a lot more action packed than I had been lead to believe. If the stadium had more of the razzamataz of the Yankees matches it would have been every bit as good as major league baseball. I had moved on from my stay in Melbourne and traveled to the outskirts to catch up with my Scottish friend Greg, who lived in the outskirts of Melbourne. Geelong is a small town 45 miles South West of Melbourne but still in the Melbourne commuter area. Greg was an enthusiastic biker and he encouraged me to buy a sturdy framed mountain bike so that we could visit some of the local sites.
gas powered bicycle
gas powered bicycle
Night sky on bicycle tour
Night sky on bicycle tour

Fitting an 80cc bicycle motor kit

I struggled to keep pace with Greg, especially on hills. So, knowing that I am not a riding enthusiast, I fitted an 80cc gas bicycle engine kit which made great sense for me. The simple, easily fitted, low cost engine turned the tide of biking in my favor and Greg had to press hard to keep pace with me. The little engines are so simple and so much fun that Greg fitted one to his bike less than two weeks later.

Bicycle motors are great

The Scots have a great sense of adventure and, after several “stubbies” (bottles of beer) on a Saturday night, Greg blurted out in his strong Glaswegian accent
“Right! These little motors are great. We need to take them for a trip round Tazzie”. Thinking it was a drunken joke, I agreed.

 

I got out of bed the following afternoon to find that Greg had already sorted out ferry tickets and our tour had suddenly become real.

Touring beaches by bicycle
Touring beaches by bicycle

The bicycle motor made the adventure

I figured that the bicycle engine was the only way that I could ever cover the distance I wanted to travel. The convenience of the little motor provided all the freedom of cycling with none of the effort. I have to recommend these little engines to anyone who hasn’t tried one. The night before I set off, anticipation got the better of me and I had a fitful nights sleep. I was so restless that it was easy to get out of bed at first light and load up my black and yellow, mountain bike, with every possible saddle bag that I could fit. I strapped bags under the crossbar, the down-tube and behind the saddle. I even fixed a sleeping bag under the handlebars. Apart from my backpack, my little bicycle was to carry everything I would need to survive, miles from civilization, for the next two months.

The tour starts

It had rained overnight which gave the air crisp, fresh perfume. The roads were beginning to dry and I could smell the freshly mowed grass. The sweet smell of honeysuckle was particularly pleasant as I purred passed some picturesque houses on the suburban streets.
Rocks on bike tour
Rocks on bike tour

Big distance on a motorized bicycle

Weather in Melbourne Australia is always changeable and this spring day in September (Remember that Australia is a topsy turvy world where everything is upside down and back to front) was especially cool for this time of year even for early morning. Luckily, the roads were, more or less, dry by early afternoon and the temperature was pleasant enough with a warm jacket. The Saturday road towards the city was respectably devoid of heavy traffic. I was expecting to have a clear run towards the overnight Tasman ferry which was to depart from Port Melbourne late afternoon. I had taken my motorized bike for excursions before but these were local fishing trips to camping destinations only an hour or two away from home. I had never attempted such a long journey before and was not quite sure how long it would take me to cover the 45 miles or so before I could board my little hard framed bike onto the Tran Tasman ferry.

Heading for the ferry

We had booked ourselves onto the Tasmania bound ferry which would sail at 6:30pm and I had less than 3 hours to reach our destination. The springtime weather was perfect to start the journey.
Bicycle tour of wetlands
Bicycle tour of wetlands

Motorized bikes don't cure saddle sores

All went to plan, and after my first 3 hours on the road, I had reached Port Melbourne ferry terminal. After boarding, I had the best part of an hour to settle in. I had been anxious on this first leg of my journey as I had a deadline to reach the ferry. Now it was time for me to relax and rest my aching backside. Bikers will know the dull, burning ache of saddle pains that you get when you have been on a bicycle for over two hours for the first time in a while.

The mainland fades

On board the Spirit of Tasmania, I watched Port Melbourne shrink into the background as we crossed Port Philip Bay.

 

It was inspiring. My adventure had become real. I watched the turbulent wake from the stern of the ship for almost an hour as we passed from the Bay into the Bass Straight. That’s when things started to change.

Lake bridge on bicycle tour
Lake bridge on bicycle tour

The crossing

The sea became rough very quickly and the Bow of the ship plowed into the huge swell. Soon after, lighting began to light the sky and an ordinary size vessel in the middle of a monster storm. Most of the theater is obscured by the sea spray and rain but when lightening strikes the water close to the ship it illuminates a huge body of water which boils until it fades out of sight of the ships lights.

The storm

The instant crack of thunder associated with the flash is the most deafening sound I have heard.

You would think that fear would have had me worried out of my wits but the storm itself was the least of my concerns. After only an hour or so out to sea, I had started feeling nauseous. Like most of the passengers, I was now feeling far to seasick to be worried by the dangers of the storm.

Boiling sea
Boiling sea

Oranges cure seasickness?

Proceeding to the ships bar, I knew I would find Greg there. He was the only one in the empty bar and was passing time chatting to the barman. Greg had joined the British navy to help fund his university degree. He could see that I was struggling with sea sickness and handed me an orange as the solution.

Wow!” I said “I didn’t know oranges cured seasickness” Greg responded “No, it won’t cure anything, but it will taste a whole lot better when it comes back up!”

 

I guess that’s why they are called Naval Oranges.

Motorized bicycle reality

We docked at Devonport early in the morning. I had had little sleep and was still feeling awful. Our adventure was in front of us though so I pushed my heavily laden bicycle off the ferry and persisted through the mizery.

 

Our adventure would now take us west across Tasmania. I had often fantasized of setting off on such an adventure of a lifetime but now my powered bicycle had turned my dream into a reality.

Touring the rock tower
Touring the rock tower

Scottish humor

We rode into the center of Devenport and sat down at a cafe for a couple of hours to let my stomach settle and to let Greg fill up on breakfast. We talked for a long time before I felt human again and Greg opened up to me with some very personal things.

Greg has a great sense of humor and laughed about how he had found his fiancé in bed with his best friend the day before his wedding. It seemed like a strange thing to find funny but it was long in his past and his rye Scottish humor and the way he told the story had me splitting my sides with laughter.

Touring on a powered bike

The feeling of freedom and the raw, natural sensation of wind in the hair that bicycle touring provide is unbeatable. Add to this traversing a remote wilderness with a little help from boats to cross the turbulent Tasman sea, and it tuned out to be the greatest experience of my life.
Bicycle tour of wetlands
Bicycle tour of wetlands

Bicycle engines are inspiring

On the third morning of our bike journey across Tasmania, the temperature was dropping. We were close to a small town called Westbury, near to Pearns Steam World. Pearns had a large display of vintage tractors and other farm machinery which appeared to be the only commercial tourist attraction for miles.

I opened the covers of my tent and met two locals from Launceston who had been loading up a truck to head back into the mountains. They worked for a company that maintained the power lines in rural areas. With temperatures well below freezing in the hills, they were wrapped up so that only noses, eyes and mouths protruded. They were admiring our powered bicycles and believed that everyone and especially every cyclist, should have a list of dream destinations to visit. Our little bicycle engines had inspired them and they assured us that they were also going to motorize there rides.

Tasmanian Tiger

They felt that the wild rugged landscape of Tasmania should be top of everyone’s bucket list. They advised us where to find crystal clear waters, mesmerizing beaches and unusual animals. They also assured us that the Tasmanian Tiger was still at large.

 

They told us which rain-forest to visit nearby and where to partake of some of the world’s top wines. Australia is is a massive country and Tasmania is the lushest, greenest and most fertile part of the continent that boasts so much variety you simply have to visit.

Beach rocks tour
Beach rocks tour

Conclusion

This page covers a lot of questions that I am regularly asked about travelling long trips on a motorized bicycle. I have tried to answer every aspect thoroughly.

If you are interested in bicycling tours, I would urge you to read my other articles.

Ultimate Guide to Powered Bicycles
Touring on a motorized bicycle
Everything About Power Bicycles
Touring on a motorized bicycle
Ever wondered what it would be like to head off on an open ended adventure into the wilderness? We set off on gas powered bicycles to discover some of the most remote parts of the southern hemisphere.
Steve
Power Bicycle
Powered Bicycle
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