Syd to Mel Normcore Bicycle Tour Lord Nerd Beta
November 12, 2015 | Sydney, Australia
We weren’t signing up for a RAAM-style slog across Oz, this wasn’t going to be just about riding bikes, we wanted to see destinations and experience the culture. We wanted to go surfing, run with wild kangaroos, take a lunch in the arvo with an ornery koala or two, hit up a waterpark, sample the country’s best meat pies, and have a Carlton draft with the locals in a lonely little town in the middle of the afternoon.
I Syd 2 Mel Prospectus
Australia is known around the world, as it well should be, it’s one of the Earth’s seven continents. And like any globally-known proper noun, a lot of what we think we know about Oz is only half true—if that. For example, those without firsthand knowledge might expect a land overrun by curious marsupials and legions of venomous snakes, a giant island beset on all sides by ravenous saltwater crocodiles and great white sharks. The uneducated might expect Foster’s to be sold at every shop, or assume the people of this land to be so exacting in their barbecue rituals that adding just a single shrimp to the barbie is a common, every day practice. We were not exempt: our heads were full of these and other whimsical expectations as we packed and prepped for our Australian Normcore Bicycle Tour. Okay that’s not entirely true, everybody knows the Foster’s thing is a myth but dude(s), WE DID expect to see at least one Koala. Dead or alive, it didn’t matter. That’s not true either, we hoped to see a living Koala in a living Eucalyptus tree. Point is, we were open to Experiencing & Exploring the real Australia exactly like Lewis and Clark (and the Corps of Discovery) Experienced & Explored the real Louisiana Purchase, in 1804.
At any rate, we know exactly what you’re thinking, you’re thinking why Australia?, and why in the form of a Normcore Bicycle Tour?
That’s easy, but first some background. For a year now—basically throughout all of 2015—Yonder Journal’s Bike-Packing Campaign has been dominated by mountain ranges, weather and high adventure. You know, tough terrain in harsh environments. Everywhere we went it snowed, the air was thin, the animals were menacing, and by and large we were left to fend for ourselves. And we loved it. The rides, our experiences, the whole thing, it was dynamite, all of it. But Dead Reckoning isn’t JUST about a one-dimensional, stock-standard interpretation of adventure. It’s also about culture, and stuff. For example, Lewis and Clark didn’t shoot bears and ford rivers 24/7, they also traded with American Natives, participated in celebrations and rituals, and dedicated a large amount of time to observing (and recording) the natural world around them. Their purview; flora, fauna, mores, traditions, costumes, customs, all of it—EVERYTHING! Yes, they were in fact adventurers, but they were also anthropologists, archaeologists, botanists and emissaries.
And so, because it’s known for being warm, flat-ish—listen, we knew about the Snowy Mountains, it’s not like we don’t have maps for Christ’s sake (though maybe we didn’t appreciate the angles and the cumulative nature of gain in respect to “undulation”)—and rich in a culture similar-but-different to our own, we chose to explore Australia. And with an eye to truly experiencing Australia’s culture as much as to dominating its topography, we decided to travel as incognito as possible, as Americans on vacation! Thus, Dead Reckoning’s inaugural Normcore Bicycle Tour was conceived.
The only thing left: the creation of a rough Route Outline. We needed something well-researched and solid enough to deliver on our cultural corps of discovery mandate, but flexible enough to alter should we become tired, over-stimulated and/or bored. So we did what anyone would do in our situation, we emailed Stevan from Attaquer for some “on the ground” insights into the nature of his country, we contacted Chris Tank, our resident route-planner, and we did some interneting. Our research turned up these things:
- Something like 90% of Australia’s population lives in the southeast corner of the country between Sydney and Melbourne.
- Princes Highway is a highway. Yes it’s on the coast but it’s still a highway. The whole way.
- We needed to attend a Ute Muster. And maybe a B&S ball, maybe.
- You can always find somewhere to stay in Wollongong.
- You can maybe ride your bike all the way to the top of Mt. Kosciusko, Australia’s highest point at 7,310 feet.
- Jamberoo is a water park.
- Wogal Hut is a must.
- Australia has dirt roads.
- A night in the green room at Bondi Beach is NOT that expensive.
- Canberra, Australia’s capital city, is a pile of shit and a debaucherous wonderland. It’s also worth a visit if you’re interested in Parliament, whatever that is. Listen, point is, opinions about Canberra varied, A LOT. Which, truthfully, really helped pique our interest.
- Trains are everywhere.
Our decision: Syd 2 Mel, a Normcore Bicycle Tour.
II Specialized x Yonder Journal x Thomas Slater Collabo Aussie Normcore Bike Tour Bikes
In the lead-up to our Australian Corps of Discovery Expedition it was determined that to achieve FCI (Full Cultural Immersion), traveling as incognito as possible was required, a state of being most effectively achieved through the employ of NormCore Camouflage. To that end we commissioned Illustrator and Anthropologist Thomas Slater to create a pattern specifically designed to promote and sustain the idea that we—Yonder Journal—were simply Americans on vacation. Drawing on years of experience exploring various memes, fads, trends and visual themes within cycling’s culture of “Basic”, as well as researching the most common and egregious misconceptions Americans have about Australians and vice versa, Thomas was able to create a pattern of symbols, iconography and words which he deemed the perfect “Vacation Cloak” for a Seppo in Oz. Once completed, the Vacation Cloak pattern was interpreted in paint by a team of experts at Specialized and applied to a pair of Diverges; the result is a pair of perfect Vacation Bikes on which to Normcore Bicycle Tour through both paved/urbanized and unpaved/rural environments.
III Bike Setup
- We planned to ride along fire roads, gravel roads, back roads, and only very occasionally busy highways. We wanted to be self-supported in a variety of casual environments; you know, sandals, t-shirts, swim trunks, and a credit card or two.
- Rather than sleeping on the ground and “camping,” which would have been too adventure(y), and which would have unnecessarily limited/stunted interactions with the locals, we planned to sleep in those motels, huts, and shacks we found along the way.
- We planned to eat in restaurants/pubs and snack at servos along the way. That said, we needed a set-up that would sustain us through any of the many substantial gaps between services we would encounter.
SETUP KNOWN KNOWNS
- The fire roads—we knew they existed but we didn’t know whether they’d be more fire or more road.
SETUP UNKNOWN UNKNOWNS
- 105 in the shade.
- Sneaky 70s.
- Sneaky 17s.
- Nearly every pub in rural Australia will say it’s a hotel, chances are it’s not. This has to do with the pre-cellphone, pre-internet, pre-New Wave days when pubs were the only places in any given rural Australian town worth a salt. So if you were passing through and got pissed up you could just pass out there. Pretty smart. But now that we’re in the post-Bieber era most of these places are just pubs, NO Vacancy. Don’t be fooled.
- You won’t find Foster’s in Australia. It doesn’t exist there, we Seppos have been duped by the Mad Men, or at least the Mad Men’s progeny. If you’re expecting to follow up your daily ride with a hulking oil can of thin yellow disgusting beer then you’ll have to bring it over with you from the States.
- No one ever puts just A-NOTHER shrimp on the barbie. Think about it; who would just put ONE more shrimp on the barbie? I’ll grant that maybe one fell off the prep table, or was discovered in the cooler (or eskie as they say down there) floating among the vegemite and Carlton’s you’d probz throw it on. But no one in their right mind ever asks for just one more shrimp to be barbequed. That’d be asinine.
- It gets hot enough in Australia to make the roads melt. Take this into account.
- Don’t expect a casual Koala Bear sighting. These little dudes and dudettes pretty much just get high on eucalyptus and chill. Think about your stoner friends, when do you ever see them out running around?
Packing List The following is our recommendation as a baseline and carries no guarantees of safety or pleasure.
Note: This is a Normcore Bicycle Tour.The whole idea is that you’ll have access to food and beverages along the route. We’re not suggestting that you simply throw caution to the wind and go on a ride with fate and the hapless gang. That’d be grossly irresponsible especially considering Australia with all its venom, fangs, and ozone problems. You should definitely plan ahead. For instance if, say, you want to stay at Wogal Hut, you’ll need to get provisions in Talbingo, its the last store before the hut, plus they have a great selection of canned tuna. The list here is devised to help you figure out the amount of food you should plan to carry daily.