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Touring the Mawson Trail

Onwards and upwards...
Onwards and upwards...

Traversing the spectacular 900 kilometres of the Mawson Trail provides a marvellous opportunity for cyclists. Supported rides are available or, for the more adventurous-minded, the challenge of completing the trek under one’s own steam may prove a more satisfying venture.

Mountain bikes are best-suited to meet the demands of the off-road but mostly-good terrain. It can, and has, been completed on hybrid and touring bikes but, if you want to stay relatively comfortable and don’t want to push up any more hills than necessary, consider the mountain bike.

As far as the right time of year goes, autumn is best. The days are still a good length, the skies are generally blue and the days are warm without reaching the extreme temperatures of summer. Rain can have a significantly adverse affect on some sections, so winter should be avoided.

Before any attempt is contemplated, it is important that travellers have undertaken necessary preparations. Bikes must be in good condition, and spare parts need stocking. Tubes, chains and spokes are regularly under duress, and bike shops are few and far between, especially once Melrose is left behind. Riders themselves will need to be in a reasonable state of fitness. The Mawson is not an overly technical ride (although it has its moments) but there will be some longer days in the saddle, and there’s plenty of climbing – Blinman is the highest surveyed town in South Australia. Thirdly, and of equal importance (especially for unsupported riders), it is very important that at least one rider in any group possesses the skills and knowledge to repair bikes en route. Mawson trekkers should attend a bicycle maintenance course before departing.

Organised, supported rides will see you arriving in Blinman after two weeks on the trail. These will set you back around $120 per day. This allows riders such comforts as luggage transfer, camping sites, all meals, and support en route, while other services such as bike maintenance and massage are made available at an extra cost.

If riders are attracted by the satisfaction of completing the trek without relying on organised support, it will be on a much heavier bike, and issues around provisions and maintenance must be addressed. Respite, however, is never too far away. The Mawson features towns along its route, most within a relatively easy day’s pedal of each other, and all manner of accommodation is available.

In terms of gear required, supported or otherwise, riders will need to take all that is needed for at least a two-week trip. Tent/swag/sleeping bags, riding gear, clothes, bike maintenance equipment, health and injury treatments, navigation aids (excellent maps are available, and the trail is well-signposted) and food & drink supplies are minimum requirements.

The Mawson Trail offers riders the chance of a great adventure. The trail features a range of terrain, the wide open spaces are to be savoured, the towns are friendly and the Southern Flinders Ranges are truly magnificent. It is a trip worth doing at least once in a rider’s life but, like anything requiring significant investment, it needs to be undertaken only after careful consideration of a number of aspects.

Tooralie homestead
Tooralie homestead

© Copyright David Robinson, 2012

Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author