So, you’re contemplating travelling Australia with bikes or scooters, but just don’t know if they’re worth packing or not?
Many people wonder if taking the kids bikes on a Big Lap is worth the effort, but I can say that ‘yes,’ it’s worth taking the kids bikes. It’s not worth packing the adults bikes unless you’re avid riders, you just won’t end up using them as much as you’d hoped and imagined.
For our first year on the road, we travelled with four bikes on the back of our caravan. But, was it worth it with the extra weight and overhang? Would I recommend travelling with bikes or scooters?
As with anything objective, there is no hard and fast rule. Here I’ll share my own experiences and research, which will hopefully help you to make your own decision on whether it’s worth packing the bikes for a road trip in Australia or not.
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Travelling Australia With Bikes or Scooters
Did We Travel With Bikes?
Before we hit the road we had high expectations of setting up camp and riding everywhere that we could (that was within riding distance). So, we took two adults bike, plus two kids bikes.
There are a few benefits to cycling instead of driving to explore local areas:
- Good exercise
- Reduces your fuel consumption
- Saves money in your travel budget
- Saves having to unhitch the van to explore in the car
- Fun family activity
The reality is though, by the time we’d gotten to camp and set up, we’d usually been on the road for a few hours and there was work to be done. We’d had to source out our camp spot, make lunch on the go, stop to refill the water tanks and empty the toilet along the way.
I can tell you, the last thing you feel like doing once you’ve gotten settled is to pull the bikes off the back of the van and go for a ride into town to grab the bread and milk or to get your bearings. So… the more likely scenario is to pile everyone into the car and do it the modern way.
If we were staying at a camp for a few days or more and there were nice tracks around, we did occasionally take the bikes off and go for a ride, as cycling can be a nice way to explore, rather than on foot. You can also cover more ground on bikes.
How Did We Accommodate Four Bikes?
Our Jayco Starcraft came with the double Fiamma bike rack in-built on the back of the caravan, which was perfect for two bikes. But, we needed the space for two more.
The first option to explore was to see if we could get an extension to turn the double rack into a 4-piece bike rack. Unfortunately, our rack was missing a vital element that would give us that option and the wait for it to be shipped in from Italy would takes months, which we didn’t have.
After some research it seemed that adding a spare wheel bike carrier was going to be the best way to go. So, the heavier adults bikes went up on the Fiamma bike rack. While the two kids bikes went onto the spare wheel bike carrier down the bottom.
Locking up the Bikes While You Travel
It’s quite an intrusive feeling to come back to your van and find that someone has helped themselves to your personal belongings. So, it’s essential to lock your bikes up while you’re travelling and there are a few ways to do this.
Combination Bike Lock
The standard combination bike locks are handy and easy enough to buy at many different shops. But, they are really quite easy for a thief to cut through. Combination locks serve more as a deterrent than anything.
Chain & Padlock
The chain and padlock approach is a pretty secure way to lock up your bikes. Thick chains are a lot harder to cut through without heavy-duty bolt cutters. But the downside to this approach is that a good set of bolt cutters will get through the padlock pretty easily, plus chain is very heavy, adding unnecessary weight to your payload.
We went for the alarm lock option. The wire that you wrap around your bikes and belongings isn’t too heavy or thick, making it easy to use. The alarm that goes off if someone cuts the wire is ear-piercing! You won’t have to worry about no one noticing your stuff being knocked off or the thief not getting a fright.
The only annoying thing with the alarm lock is that you wouldn’t want to lose the key to unlock the bikes. Plus, be prepared to set the alarm off yourself sometimes as you’re trying to get the lock on and off – it happens!
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How Often Did We Use the Bikes?
All together, we rarely used the bikes. The most that we all used the bikes was during a 6-week stint in The Gemfields in Central Queensland. There was a nice wetlands area not too far from the caravan park and we could all ride our bikes around the track there. Plus, we also did a few rides to the park with the kids.
The kids used their bikes all the time, especially with other kids that they met along the way at parks and in campgrounds. In fact, I think having their bikes actually made it a bit easier for the kids to interact and make friends with other kids who were riding around.
Is it Worth Packing the Adults Bikes?
In all honesty, we wouldn’t have missed the bikes if they weren’t there. It was more a case of wanting to get some use out of them since we were lugging them around with us.
If you ride or cycle a lot at home, then you’re much more likely to use the bikes on the road. If you have some bikes that have been sitting under the house, weighed down with 10 years worth of dust and good intentions, then you’re not going to use them on the road. I wouldn’t even waste your time or payload in taking them.
After being on the road for about a year, we actually dropped the adults bikes off with family before heading off again. They just weren’t getting enough use to warrant carting them around.
In saying all of that, whether or not your take the adults bikes can largely depend on your set-up. If you’re travelling in a Camper, RV or Motorhome without a secondary vehicle, you’re way more likely to use bikes. Once you’ve set up your ‘home,’ you’re not going to want to have to lose your campsite or pack away the awning just to run into town to grab bread or dinner. In this case, I’d recommend taking bikes.
Here’s some ideas for women’s gravel bikes if you’re keen on looking into it further.
Is it Worth Packing the Kids Bikes?
I reckon it’s absolutely worth taking the kids bikes for a trip around Australia. My kids used theirs all the time! Every time they headed to the toilet block, they’d jump on their bikes. If there were other kids riding around the campground, they’d be more inclined to go for a ride and would quite often end up playing with the other kids.
If your kids are the only ones in the campground without bikes, they end up being a bit left out of games. But, sometimes all of the kids will band together and sort out teams or a way of swapping bikes and scooters to get the game going.
Having the bikes on hand is also another way for the kids to feel independent and be able to go off (within reason) to explore together without having to have the parents around all the time.
Scooters for Travelling Australia
The fact is, bikes take up a lot of room and can be fiddly with trying to find somewhere for them to live on your set-up while you’re travelling. You may not have the room for bikes, but still want to take something for the kids.
Scooters are the perfect alternative. In fact, I remember meeting different families on the road who specifically bought their kids off-road scooters just for travelling, so that they could leave the bikes at home.
The off-road scooters are a far better option than the regular scooters, as they will easily roll over gravel, rocks, dirt, grass and bark. Normal scooters are really only designed for roads and pathways, which you won’t always find in a campground.
The small Outback Queensland town of Julia Creek has a great Council initiative where travellers can hire the community bikes for free. Whether you stay at the Donation Camp by the river or the Caravan Park in town with the famous Bath Houses, you can make use of exploring the town on bikes at no cost.
While not many places actually offer Free Bike Hire, paying to hire bikes is another alternative worth thinking about. If you think there may be a few places along the way where you’ll want to ride a bike, why not consider hiring them instead of having to take them with you?
For me, cycling around the base of Uluru is right up there on my bucket list, but I think I’d rather just hire the bikes there, rather than drag them all the way out to the centre of Australia.
You can opt for taking your own helmets or just use the ones that will be provided with every bike hire.
Do Other Travellers Take Their Bikes or Scooters?
I thought I’d put the question to other travellers in two different Facebook groups to gauge how many other people choose to take bikes and scooters with them on their road trips.
Across the two polls there were 121 responses.
As you can see from the results below, the majority of people don’t bother taking bikes or scooters on a trip. But there isn’t a huge difference in the number of people who don’t take anything and those who do take the bikes.
Only a small handful of travellers take both bikes and scooters, or just the scooters.
|# of PEOPLE
|Nope, can’t be bothered
|Yep, take the bikes
|Take bikes & scooters
|Pack the scooters
So after spending a few years travelling around Australia, we did use the adults bikes, but nowhere near enough to warrant lugging them all over the country side.
It was actually a relief to simplify the set-up on the back by removing them and only having the two kids bikes. You can imagine how much extra overhang and weight we had with four bikes.
Plus, having bikes can significantly add to your caravan length. If you’re wondering how to correctly work out your lengths, here are 6 different caravan lengths to look at.
I found that we either didn’t have time to go riding, or they were too much of a pain in the butt to get off, so we just didn’t bother.
On the other hand, the kids used their bikes ALL the time. They offered a great way for the kids to explore campgrounds and find other kids to hang with. I wouldn’t even think about travelling without some kind of bike or scooter for kids.
Both kids bikes were even upgraded on the road! Being that they lived on the back of the van and in the elements permanently (rain, dust, scorching sunshine), they generally aren’t going to last as long as if you store them under the patio at home. When their old bikes were stuffed, we source out second hand ones from Gumtree and Recycle Shops along the way.
What about kayaks?
Now you’re probably wondering if it’s worth packing the kayak or canoe for your Aussie road trip?! I can say that the kids used our kayak loads of times once we got out of crocodile territory. If you’re considering taking one, here’s a whole range of great blow-up kayaks to check out.
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