SWAG Family share Aus cycling adventure

A Tassie family last year did what many of us dream of doing, spending a year travelling around  Australia.

But the difference with the Hughes family’s trip was that it was via tandem bicycles and living out of swags rather than 4WDs and swish caravans. And with Hope and Wilfy aged under five it may not have been everyone’s idea of the most relaxing way to see the country.

The other difference was that along the way teachers Nicola and Andrew were putting together lessons for primary school students and teachers who had subscribed to their website and unit plans.

Children in years 1 to 6 learned the nature of adventure as well as the plants, animals and people the family encountered on their journey.

The family spent 350 days on the road, travelled a distance of 14,011 km, averaged a speed of 12.4 km/h and spent 1134 hours in the saddle.

Andrew and Nicola were both the lead riders on the tandem bikes, with Hope and Wilfy on the back, both with pedals that helped their parents along.

Each bike was loaded with panniers and they also had a trailer to help carry their tents, sleeping bags, clothes, food stores, first aid, bike gear, and video and computer equipment, and no, the bikes did not have electric assist! Water was the big weight, with the hotter states requiring them to carry up to 40 litres of water at a time.

The bikes were both Thorn Cycles tandems from the UK, so they had to be shipped out to Tassie especially for the trip, with the family only having about three months to put them together and get used to loading and riding them.

The Raven Twin bikes came with Rohloff hubs and had to be modified so Wilfy could reach the handlebars. The family also sought the advice of local bicycle guru and Velosmith frame builder Tim Stredwick to ensure the bikes were ready to go. 

They used Tasmania as their warm-up, getting used to the ins and outs of bike touring doing a circle around the state, before heading over Bass Straight and north through Victoria via Bendigo and Echuca.

They cut through the middle of NSW through Deniliquin, Hay, Cobar, Bourke and Brewarinna, before hitting Queensland and the towns of St George, Roma, Emerald, Clermont, Charters Towers, Ravenshoe, and Cairns before heading inland towards the Territory through Borroloola and Katherine to Western Australia. There they headed west through Gibb and Derby to the coast at Broome.

It was then south through Eighty Mile Beach, Marble Bar, Wiluna, and Kalgoorlie before heading east to Rawlinna and Cockabiddy then to the South Australia border and the Nullabor.

From Ceduna and Smoky Bay they cut across to Port Augusta, then down to Adelaide, Goolwa, Robe then across to Victoria through Casterton, Port Fairy, Cobden, Torquay, Frankston and back on the Spirit to get back to Tasmania, where they cut straight down the centre to get back home to Woodbridge.

You can check out their preparations via their website, including how they sorted and packed gear and the training rides they did before they left.

The SWAG Family will be sharing the lessons they learned along the way, including the challenges of bike packing with children, at two events during Tasmanian Bike Week in March, adult tickets are $15 and students $5.

Tickets to the Woodbridge event are selling fast so get in quickly if you want to attend that one, Hobart is also selling well but the theatre has greater capacity.

Woodbridge – Sunday 1 March, 4.30–6 pm, West Winds Community Centre, 3528 Channel Hwy 

Hobart – Friday 6 March, 7–8.30 pm, Stanley Burbury Theatre, University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay