Touring plans…

Posted on October 18th, 2007 in Automotive News,Driving Emotion,pedal power by Julian Edgar

Regular readers will know that when it comes to shopping, I am happiest digging through the junk at a tip shop, foraging at garage sales or even – if this can be called ‘shopping’ – picking up stuff that others have dumped by the side of the road. In short, glittering neon’d shops and my version of fun don’t go together. (Except, it needs to be said, when buying cameras or watches…)

So today was very unusual. I spent nearly all day with my wife Georgina and 3-year-old son Alexander shopping for brand new items: assessing and evaluating; picking up things, weight being felt in hand; turning products over and over while assessing quality; even putting some things down on the ground and lying on them. Yes, right there in the shop.

And when the day was finished, we’d spent something like AUD$700.

So what were we buying? Camping gear!

After doing a long drive in a diesel Hyundai i30 fell through, both Georgina and I felt all psyched-up for a tour. The Hyundai trip was going to have been a very long one, but when I was mulling-over its cancellation, I realised that the distance travelled wasn’t of that much importance. In fact, in my view, neither was the fact that it was to be done in a car.

Then, almost of its own volition, the thought popped into my head: why not go touring on our trikes?

Both Georgina and I are enormous fans of recumbent pedal trikes. These vehicles, which are simply nothing like a bicycle to pedal, incorporate stability and cornering fun in a way impossible to imagine if you’ve not experienced it. (In Georgina’s trike-selling business, over three-quarters of those who book a test ride buy a trike.) 

However, many people ride recumbent trikes not for cornering hard or swooping down hills at insane speeds. Nope, instead they ride recumbent trikes because they’re brilliant touring machines.

Without going on at length, a recumbent trike won’t dump you on the road if you put one wheel on gravel or sand (or even off the edge of the bitumen), it won’t give you a sore bum (or for men, testicles) after hours of riding, and the gearing allows you to trickle along at a walking pace while climbing mountains – or to be speeding down the other side with complete stability. And that stability lends itself to carrying heavy loads in panniers, and/or pulling trailers.

apple-eaters-small.JPGIn fact, we often trailer our son behind a trike, something that with the 4-point harness, aluminium tubular cage and absolute towing stability is infinitely safer than putting him on a child seat mounted on the back of a conventional bike.  (For those interested, the trikes and trailers can be found here.)

But while we are familiar with trikes and trailers, we’ve never done any touring on them.

As a very young man I did some bicycle touring – for South Australian readers, a mate and I used to take the Melbourne Express train to Murray Bridge, then ride our bikes home to Adelaide on the old road. Being spilled out of the train in the middle of the night at Murray Bridge and then pedalling off into the distance to find somewhere by the side of the road to sleep was pretty exciting when you’re about 18… In fact, to be honest, I’d still find it pretty exciting!

Anyway, back to today’s shopping. When Georgina and I were discussing the idea of going trike touring, it didn’t take more than about two seconds for us to realise that we simply don’t have the gear to do it. Sure, we might have a tent somewhere around the place and probably a gas-powered camp stove, but carrying all that lot by pedal power alone? Forget it! So when local outdoors store Anaconda mailed a flyer showing 20 per cent off everything – including those products already on special – we headed down the mountain to the Gold Coast.

We’d done some eBay research first and had picked the necessities as being sleeping bags, sleeping mats, lightweight cooking gear and a tent. But the subtleties and complexities of product selection are mind-boggling. Sleeping bags good for minus 5 degrees C – or alternatively, 15 degrees C. Sleeping mats filled with air, sleeping mats comprising bumpy foam, sleeping mats labelled ‘super comfort’ and twice as thick as other sleeping mats, which, paradoxically, weigh about 75 per cent less!

Obviously weight was an enemy, but light-weight things add up very quickly in cost. I mean, a sleeping bag that weighs 750 grams and is good for minus 15 degrees C must be better than one that weighs three times as much and has the same temperature range, no?

Maybe, but not at a cost that made my eyes dilate!

In the end, by juggling specials already occurring with the 20 per cent off, we selected three sleeping bags (Two Black Wolf Compact Lite and one Black Wolf Micron Mini), three Denali self-inflating sleeping mats, a Spinifex Jindabyne 3V tent, and a Trangia 25-1 methylated spirits cooking system. Rejected were special ‘camping’ pillows at $30 each – perhaps we’ll just use conventional cushions that can also add comfort to Alexander’s seating position in the trailer. Also put back on the shelf were polycarbonate cutlery and breathtakingly expensive ‘fold-flat’ plastic bowls and plates. I figure a cheap shop or even a secondhand charity shop should be able to provide lightweight – and very low cost – plastic equivalents. 

We’ll be towing two trailers – a Burley d’Lite carrying Alexander and a Burley Nomad with camping gear in it – and the trikes will have Arkel RT40 and Samurai panniers, so there should be plenty of room for, well, stuff.

But I think before we venture on the road under just leg power, we might try out the camping gear on a quick trip to Sydney – there’s a home-built electric vehicle field day  at Rouse Hill on Sunday 4th November 2007 that looks like it will be fascinating…

6 Responses to 'Touring plans…'

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  1. Angus said,

    on October 18th, 2007 at 11:44 pm


    Great to hear about your love of recumbent trikes. I’ve often wondered about these.

    My main concern with them is visibility and therefore safety on the road. Do you have any comments on this? Do you feel visible in traffic? Moreover, are you able to look around well enough to negotiate traffic successfully?

    – Angus

    PS Great blog, and I just discovered Autospeed… intend to become a member ASAP.

  2. Julian Edgar said,

    on October 19th, 2007 at 7:39 am

    Re visibility, I have found what most recumbent trike riders apparently find. That is, because of their odd shape and apparent width, drivers tend to give you a wide berth, often in fact waiting until the they can move right across the road to go around you. This contrasts with the “squeezing past” that all bike riders know well.

    I do a lot of my riding around here at night. I run four 1-watt Luxeon LED red flashers at the back and a white 5-watt focussed Luxeon LED at the front. On these semi-rural roads, many drivers are so overcome with the lights that they come to a near standstill behind me before overtaking! The headlight is so bright that occasionally a driver will flash their lights, thinking I am still on high beam.

    The trikes all run flags however, I don’t think I’d be happy sliding up inside lanes in heavy traffic. In that situation, where traffic is only just moving (eg from traffic light to traffic light), I usually chose to take up a whole lane.

    Some recumbent trikes are very low indeed but my own designs use a 40-45 degree seat and a higher seat height (the higher centre of gravity offset by the wider track I use) so that I can get a good view. Lower angle seats (eg 30 degrees) also make it hard to glance over your shoulder.

  3. Jason said,

    on October 19th, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Don’t forget a cheap / lightweight set of headsets for communication, saves lots of yelling and having to turn you head to project you voice back to the rider behind. I have seen Dick Smith / Tandy / Jaycar sell ones that have an effective range of about 500M or so…

  4. Julian Edgar said,

    on October 19th, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    Jason, good point. We have some light weight two ways that we’ll definitely take.

  5. Matt said,

    on October 23rd, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    I will probably see you at Rouse Hill then. I’m in the planning stages of converting a car (probably going to be a crx) to battery power. In fact I came across your website when looking for ways to improve aerodynamics once the car is moving again. I’m sure you will find plenty of info and great projects and maybe even some electric hub motors for your touring plans.

  6. on May 28th, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Hi Guys, spotted your blog by accident. I am starting my trip March 1 2009 from Melbourne heading west along Great ocean Rd.
    My blog is

    See you out there