Combining the best elements of backpacking and bike-touring, bikepacking is an excellent choice if you want to add some spice to your outdoor adventures. By bringing a bike along, you can cover more miles than you would by backpacking, and you can access trails and roads that can’t be reached with other vehicles. Located in Australia, the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail was purposefully created to support bikepacking. The trail follows the now decommissioned Brisbane Valley railway line and stretches for 161 kilometers, from Wulkuraka to Yarraman. Being one of the hidden gems of the world, we thought it would be worthy of a review. Here is what you need to know about bikepacking in the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.
Brisbane Valley Rail Trail Route
The top end of the trail is located in Yarraman, right on Australia’s Great Dividing Range, which is situated north-west of the city of Brisbane and west of the Sunshine Coast. The route from Yarraman to Moore goes through Blackbutt, Benarkin, and Linville.
The bottom end of the trail is located at Wulkuraka Station in the town of Ipswich. From Wulkuraka Station to Toogoolawah, the trail goes through Fernvale, Lowood, Coominya, and Esk. Up until recently, there was a missing link between the trailheads at Moore and Toogoolawah – however, as of August 2018, it has been opened for public use.
What Type of Bike do I Need for the Brisbane Rail Trail?
Unlike many bikepacking destinations, which can be reached via forest-service roads, the Brisbane Valley Trail stretches through rural landscapes. The type of road largely depends on the location. The trail is suitable solely for cycling, walking, and horse riding and is incompatible with horse-drawn vehicles, personal mobility vehicles, and road or racing bicycles. Motorized vehicles are completely prohibited.
As for the trail surface, here is what you should expect:
- Compact gravel with concrete causeways between Moore and Yarraman;
- Rough gravel, with occasional rocky sections between Linville and Benarkin;
- Compact gravel between Benarkin and Blackbutt;
- Gravel between Diamantina Bld to Toogoolawah;
- Degraded granite from Fernvale to Lowood (although this section is more suitable for short excursions by foot).
Taking into consideration the abundance of gravel and rocky sections, the best options in terms of bike types are as follows:
- Cyclo-cross bikes. These are typically used for cyclo-cross races on trails covered with grass, dirt, pavement mud, and even snow. Its framing looks similar to your typical road bike, the only difference being that it features drop handlebars instead of upright bars. However, there is a drawback – as good as they are on gravel roads, drop handlebars can become uncomfortable after a while;
- A mountain bike is probably the best option for riding on gravel and rocky roads thanks to the wider tires and the sturdy frame, which both feature great shock-absorbing qualities. Furthermore, mountain bikes usually have brakes with greater stopping power, which can come very useful when traversing roads filled with potholes and rocks. Word to the wise – don’t forget to adjust your suspension accordingly, as the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail can be quite unforgiving in some parts.
Gear Essentials to Bring Along
In terms of gear, bikepackers carry essentially the same stuff as regular backpackers, plus bike-specific tools and components. But unlike backpacking, you do not have to physically carry all of it as most of the items can be stored on the bike.
In fact, carrying a lot of weight on your back is not recommended. Because you will need all the agility and flexibility you can get on the Brisbane Valley’s Rail Trail. You should place as much weight as possible on the bike, as doing this will greatly improve your riding comfort.
Here is what you should bring along to get the most out of your bikepacking adventure through Brisbane:
- A dry bag secured to a rear rack to hold heavier items, like changes of clothes, electronics, and similar stuff;
- Water bottle cages to keep the water weight centered and as low as possible. You will need to carry a lot of water through the scorching Australian heat. This is also a great way of bringing as much as possible without weighing yourself down too much;
- Panniers – an optional item for heavy items (blankets, food, even a camp stove if you so desire)
- A daypack for light, but bulky items that are susceptible to vibration damages;
- A handlebar bag for light to moderate supplies – tent, pad, various clothing items.
Brisbane Rail Trail Bikepacking Tips
Since bikepacking requires more physical effort than backpacking, you should take some additional riding precautions:
- Make sure the gear is as light as possible to reduce fatigue;
- Don’t rush it – take as many breaks as possible;
- Make sure you have a longer stopping distance to avoid potential injuries;
- Since you will be riding mainly on gravel and rocky roads, limit your speed as much as possible, especially on downhills;
- Ensure you have adequate room for cornering;
- To support excess gear, add more air to both tires.
Australia’s Brisbane Valley Rail Trail offers a good occasion to both test your bikepacking skills and enjoy a nice trip with friends and family. In terms of gear and safety, the same rules apply, with the addition of bringing bike-related supplies and components along. We hope this article has given you some insight into what to expect from this trail and convinced you to give this hidden gem a shot.