Unscripted – The bike, the gear, the route

The bike

Bicycles must earn their names. Some bikes I’ve owned have never had a name. And some bikes I’ve owned had names that became apparent over time: Lil’ Demon, Lil’ Boy Blue, Pansy, The Wizard. 

And so now I’d like to introduce you to Atlas. 

We’ve known each other since 2018, though he did not come into my possession until May 2019. In mid-late 2018, I started feeling a teeny bit better and thought there might be light at the end of the sickness tunnel. So I did a bunch of research, test rode several bikes, and eventually settled on the idea that I wanted a Salsa Timberjack. 

This hardtail mountain bike would be able to take on the more and more difficult 4WD tracks I’d been riding before falling ill. I was getting tired of having to push my touring bike because the 35mm tyres and rim brakes just weren’t capable of those steep or rocky tracks. The Timberjack would have more powerful brakes, grippier and wider tyres and some front suspension for the really rough bits. And I could take it mountain biking when not touring, too.

It’s pretty impossible to get a Salsa bike in Oz. But my parents’ town in America has a dealer. So my parents got the bike for me and stored it at their home until I could pick it up in May 2019. 

But by May 2019, I was very sick again. So Atlas sat there in my living room, enduring and enduring.  My world felt very weighty and I was very sad that I was not well enough to go ride my new bike. This bike was the key to more remote adventure and isolated tracks. Yet the poor thing just sat there, waiting and waiting on me to get well.

So sometime in 2020, on a short ride down local dusty tracks, I realised that the bike had earned its name: Atlas.  

He had endured with the weight of my unwell world upon him. And once I was well again, the bike would take me to the far corners of the map – a bike for exploration of all the pages of an atlas. 

Atlas and I don’t know each other all that well yet. I’ve made some modifications and tried to get myself educated on maintenance related to hydraulic brakes, tubeless tyres and front shocks. But I expect a bit of a steep learning curve on the road!

Meet Atlas – ready to go for a short shakedown ride.

I took the bike down to Comet Cycles in Albury for a service and to check over the bike (fluids, etc) so that it’d be ready for a long tour. They suggested that the rear hub was pretty sub-standard and would likely pack it in pretty quickly. But they could order in another hub, rebuild the wheel and have it to me by the 26th or 27th. 

They were really helpful with explaining the wheel settling in and tips regarding the tubeless tyre set-up. They also gave me a better dropper post lever and threw in some sealant for free. It was an expensive exercise but most likely saved me from getting stuck somewhere far-flung in a month’s time in the Mallee. They also did a nice job shortening up the cables so they fit better behind the front roll cradle and ensuring the bike is ready to go exploring. So call in to them if you’ve got bike needs in Albury Wodonga!

Nigel has been awesome helping me with adding the Salsa cradle and Topeak fork cages and helping me brainstorm ideas for different things.

My touring set-up on The Wizard has been the same for many years. Everything has its place. 

That is not the case with Atlas – nothing really has its place yet – it’s something that is just going to have to morph on the road.  Here’s a few things I’ve done:

  • Replaced the Salsa Salt Flat handlebars to some Richey’s with less backsweep.  Cut a few mms off these bars for comfort and reach, too, as my shoulders are not as wide as a man. Pushed them around ‘backwards’ for more reach for now.
  • Put on some Ergon grips with bar ends for more hand positions. I’m hoping to be able to do lots of climbing (my favourite!) again.
  • Added Topeak fork mounts with Bike Bag Dude 1.5 litre bags.
  • Added a Blackburn multi-mirror.
  • Added a side-pull water bottle cage on bottom of downtube for carrying fuel.
  • Got a Salsa frame bag – but with a small frame there is not much capacity in there, but hoping to carry most tools there.
  • Salsa front roll for my tent with a little handlebar bag for the guys.
  • Salsa Alternator Rear Rack – bought this at the same time as the bike as it is specifically designed to work with this bike. I’ll use my existing Ortlieb panniers on this for the long tour but can use my small Lone Wolfs for shorter rides.
  • Oveja Negra feedbag – the guys used to sit in this, but now I will use it for my wallet and camera

I currently have a 32 tooth chain ring up front, but I have a 30 tooth to swap, if I feel like I need some more gear inches for a few easier gears.

I have installed paint protection tape on the bike to minimise paint rubbing from fork and frame bags. Boy was that a fun experience…

Working on the paint protection tape. I had the magpie for assistance… or annoyance. She’ll come right up to you to beg for food since Nigel feeds her.

The gear

New gear – 

  • Personal Locator Beacon – This is probably not necessary for the next couple months but definitely the responsible thing to own when heading into Eastern VIC and the high country. I felt like the Garmins and Spot Trackers were overkill for me. I really just need a way to alert authorities in a life threatening situation. As long as I check in once a week, all my loved ones are happy. On my first trip to Oz, I rang my parents every few weeks from a payphone and that seemed sufficient, so I can’t imagine tracking my every move would be something anyone would want to do!
  • 4 litre MSR dromedary bag – so I don’t have to carry water bottles in my panniers.
  • Sawyer Squeeze water filter – because tablets are crap in silty conditions which there may be a lot of with La Nina, negative Indian Ocean Dipole and positive Southern Annular Mode climate drivers occurring. Plus, I don’t need any more bugs! The filter is better with amoebas and cryptosporidium than the tablets. I’ll still take some iodine tablets, too, as back-up. I won’t take the filter with me on the first part of the tour as I won’t be that remote and expect to be able to find water in towns every 2-3 days at least.
  • Anker solar panel for charging tech; I have a 10000 mah powerbank that the solar panel charges in a few hours and the 10000 mah powerbank charges my tablet to about 75 percent in a few hours, also.
  • Galaxy Tab S8 – I wanted something more than my phone to use while living on the road.  Very happy with this so far – got it on an EOFY sale.

House and sleeping gear –

  • MSR Hubba Hubba tent – purchased in 2017. Found a couple small holes in the fly on a late 3-day September ride, so I’ve patched the holes and resealed the seams. Cross fingers that is enough for the rainy conditions!
  • REI sleeping bag rated to 15F – also from 2017. Don’t laugh too hard; I have always been a super-cold sleeper and have some autonomic nervous system issues post West-Nile that make it hard for me to cool down or warm up if I get too hot or cold.  I use a silk-like sleep sheet with this that my mom made me many years ago.
  • Thermarest closed cell foam pad – purchased in 1994, still going strong. I like the simplicity of this. 

Cooking gear – 

  • Trangia stove in a titanium Firebox set-up;
  • Titanium 600ml pot and 200 ml frypan; 
  • 500ml methylated spirits fuel bottle;
  • MSR wind shield; 
  • Lighter, plastic sheet cutting board, sponge, collapsible bowl, plastic spoon, cake fork, paring knife, small tongs, plus pliers that I also use for removing crap from the bike tyres;
  • Various herbs and spices in small ziploc baggies plus some Massel chicken stock;
  • 1 litre Nalgene bottle with measurement markings 

Clothing – 

  • Rain gear – With 3 climate drivers currently spewing out heaps of rain, this might be all I live in! I do have a new, as of March 2022, Kathmandu rain jacket and old rain pants that I’ve resealed the seams. 
  • 2 fluoro shirts (one long sleeve; one short sleeve)
  • 1 t-shirt for off-bike and sleeping
  • 2 pairs shorts
  • 1 pair lightweight hiking pants
  • 1 pair underwear; 2 bras
  • 2 pairs riding socks; 1 pair wool socks for sleeping
  • 1 thermal top
  • 1 thermal bottom
  • 1 warmie jacket
  • 1 sarong
  • 1 pair flip flops
  • Helmet and riding gloves

(2 pairs of riding shorts, shirts, socks, bra etc means I can wash one pair and have it drying while I wear the other pair).

Tools and spares-

  • Some needles and thread and small scissors
  • Topeak Road Morph pump
  • Valve core removal tool; one set spare valves
  • Tyre plug kit and one spare tube
  • Patch kit and tyre levers
  • One allen key for each different size on the bike 
  • 1 adjustable spanner (wrench)
  • Spoke repair kit
  • Chain lube and tyre sealant
  • Zip ties of various sizes and small roll electrical tape
  • Gear Aid ttape (for tent patching)
  • Spare nuts and bolts for each size on bike

Medications –

Current gut healing protocol includes all of these in ziploc baggies within a drybag: berberine, anti-fungal, olive leaf extract, bismuth, calcium citrate, magnesium citrate, liver support supplement, high potency vitamin b complex, quercetin, butyrate, colon support supplement, ginger, zinc, vitamin c, digestive enzymes and a stomach acid/bile pill. I also take a prescription thyroid pill.

You may laugh and say that stuff doesn’t work… but have you seen me go from only being able to walk 5 kms to climbing 4000 metre peaks? Addressing the SIBO and lower gut dysbiosis has been a key part in getting better, so I’ll lug around a big med bag to start. My goal is to eventually get the med bag to be smaller than my spice bag!

Other stuff – 

  • Folding nylon bucket I’ve had forever and a few wet wipes 
  • Basic first aid supplies
  • Toothpaste and toothbrush, soap, shampoo, deoderent, small microfibre towel
  • Sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses, reading glasses (sigh) and insect repellant 
  • Lightweight bike lock
  • Camera and phone
  • Stuffed turtle and frog (1 each) and their floaties

The route

Part 1 – Western Victoria 

The idea is to head west and wander around western Victoria for October, November and early December. We’ll be looking to hit up as many ‘green bits’ (i.e. national parks and state forests, etc) as possible and go check out some different geological features. 

The mountain bike is overkill for a lot of this, but I want to get used to the bike and its tech before we head into the high country and more remote riding.

Still thinking of something like this except not spending time along the Murray River (it’s in flood), adding Wyperfield NP, and not heading straight up to Ararat from the Portland area. Instead I’ll head over toward Mortlake and Camperdown to see some extra volcanic stuff.

Part 2 – Eastern Victoria

We’ll head back to Albury in mid-December. I’ll check in on Nigel, get my teeth cleaned, get my hair cut, restock supplies, make any changes to the bike I need and get all my scripts refilled. 

Then we’ll head into the High Country and East Gippsland and wander around for a bit. We’ll also head up into southeastern NSW at some point to go visit my old neighbour and cycling friend who now lives in Merimbula. 

Still thinking it could look a bit like this for the high country and East Gippsland. No idea really though.

Part 3 – ?

The high country starts to get pretty cool by mid-May, so if I still have cash left and don’t feel like returning to the work world quite yet, then perhaps we’ll head down the Murray and into Outback NSW. I’m not even planning a week ahead on this tour, so who knows what we’ll feel like doing by May 2023!

2 thoughts on “Unscripted – The bike, the gear, the route

  • Atlas. What a great name for the tough bike. Atlas will take you and the guys to some interesting places I am sure. Thanks for the checklist. I am currently setting up for my 3 week tour and will check my list against yours.

    Will the 500mm metho bottle be enough. Will you have to use the Firebox as a wood stove? Watch this space.

    We wish you well on the trip, keep the gut ticking over properly and ENJOY IT !!

    • Ohhh, that list should just be a guide. It is not exhaustive (e.g. I have two spare o-rings for the Trangia that haven’t made that list and some other stuff, too). I think 500ml of metho will be okay for Part 1 as I think I’ll have access to purchase more at least once a week. I also think I’ll be able to eat/buy veg out of supermarkets and get access to public bbqs pretty frequently. But, yes, once I head into the high country, I plan on carrying a litre. Not exactly sure where to carry the extra fuel at this point, as my space is pretty maxed out, but I’ve got a couple months to figure that out, I guess.

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