Celebrating the Hike a Bike

Intro by Mattie Gould
Words & photos individually credited to each contributor

13 minutes

I’ve recently found myself pushing my loaded bike up more hills than usual, and it got me thinking about the term hike a bike. I started to wonder if the action was unique to bikepacking. The longer I spent thinking about it, the more I started to like the idea that it is.

Do you ‘hike a bike’ in other cycling disciplines?

When you’re pedalling along the road (road cycling), you spend most of your time doing just that: pedalling. Roads are generally designed to be passable by most vehicles and providing you have a sensible range of gears, and the required fitness level, most roads are able to be ridden by cyclists.

When you’re riding mountain bike trails (mountain biking), you’ll occasionally find yourself pushing up or past a small section of seemingly unridable or challenging trail. But this isn’t the same as a hike a bike. This is a minor blip on the trail. Indeed, most times you’re hopping off the bike, it’s because your skill or fitness level isn’t yet high enough to get over that section of the trail. It’s been designed to be difficult, but not impossibly impassable.

Hike a bike in the Jagungal Wilderness
Hike a bike photo from a bikepacking trip near Long Plain, Kosciuszko National Park

The Glorious Hike a Bike

When it comes to bikepacking trips, you‘re occasionally riding on the road, you’re sometimes cycling along singletrack, but mostly you’re navigating the dirty backroads and trails inaccessible to most.

Perhaps this is why so many bikepacking trips involve a hike a bike. You’re traversing routes that are usually only driven by 4WDs, or walked on two feet. You’re travelling on roads that weren’t designed for bicycles.

And to me, there’s something quite marvellous about that idea.

A good hike a bike, while often unpleasant at the time, is part of what makes bikepacking trips into adventures. It turns bicycle touring into adventure cycling.

So if you ask me, there’s something wonderful about the hike a bike, something definitive, something special and something to be celebrated.

Thanks to the following Desire Lines CC contributors for sharing their hike a bike stories, thoughts and memories.

Pauls Creek Track

From the edge of my bed I had hastily copied the route over by sight. It seemed like an easy Sunday afternoon ride twelve hours ago.

The blonde mud that bloated my tyres reminded me of the sweet pastries we didn’t have to eat. Each metre added another layer and each tree was an opportunity to stop and fruitlessly clap my shoes clean.

When we reached what seemed like the top of Paul’s Creek track a group of four wheel drivers were there to greet us. ‘You pushed those things all the way up here? We can give you a lift, there’s still a while to go.’

Hike a bike memory from @headlights_race

Hike a bike up Pauls Creek Track
Hike a bike photo from @endless_cycle taken in the Jagungal Wilderness during the Hunt 1000

Jagungal Wilderness, During the Hunt 1000

Hike a bike sucks.

Memory from @endless_cycle

West Coast, Tasmania

You know you’ve found something pretty special when it’s caterpillar tracks territory.

I discovered this beauty in darkness, having absolutely no idea how long the 30% wall of loose baby head boulders would last. About one hour of romantic strolling (throw-brake-drag-repeat, using my pushie like an ice axe) later, we watched the sun rise over the wild wild west together.

Revisited it months later in the opposite direction, as the sky tore itself apart with daggers of hail. The hike a bike theme continued, only this time downhill.

Classic Tassie stitch-up…

…of course, I included it in a race route. 

Memory from @oneflukeshot

Hike a bike photo from Emma Flukes, somewhere in Tasmania
Hike a bike photo from @timmeh500 taken on Valentine Trail in the Jagungal Wilderness

Valentine Trail, Jagungal Wilderness

Meet Jack, first time bikepacker, last time trailer user.

Jack drove all the way down from the Gold Coast to do his first bikepacking trip. His choice of equipment, the trusty trailer. With plenty of space and an attitude of “Let’s fill it”, we began the climb of Schlink Pass.

Apart from the first nasty section, Jack surprisingly pedaled most of the way up.

We then made it to the Valentine Trail; the steep pinch climbs were a little too much for the heavy load and Jack learnt how to hike a trailer.

The view from the top was well worth the effort. The broken hub the next day was not. It was hike a bike all the way home!

With all this pain, you could not wipe the smile off his face.

Memory from @timmeh500

Volyn region, Ukraine

Looks like everyone in Australia pushes their bikes on uphills; but here, in Volyn region, Ukraine, we have no uphills at all.

Instead we have swamps, bogs and river floods, and it’s so cool to explore them! 

Beautiful nature, awesome landscapes, a lot of birds and loneliness makes those areas super attractive for me!

Memory from @helen_semchenko

Hike a bike photo from Helen Semchenko Pushing through a river bog in Ukraine
Hike a bike photo from @iventurous

Jagungal Wilderness, NSW

A mate and I went bikepacking in the Jagungal wilderness only a few weeks ago. We got caught out by a track that was supposedly there according to all our (m)apps, but had been destroyed/disappeared after the 2003 bushfires. Trees down everywhere and nearly 20 years worth of very dense alpine regrowth. 

We were dragging and pushing and carrying our bikes, and even just taking them into the river to make some ‘easier’ progress, which had slowed right down to about 200m – 300m an hour. 

We ended up making the call to carry our gear and leave our bikes behind. It still took us about 4-5 hours to finish the remaining 5km of that track, which was followed by another 13km in the dark back to the car along a fire trail.

Another mate and I went back the next weekend, and hiked in a completely different way, but we were able to successfully retrieve the bikes.

Hike a bike memory shared by @iventurous

Namadgi National Park, ACT

This photo was taken by Jasmin in Namadgi National Park on the Brandy Flat fire road in January 2021. At this point we’d been riding/walking/lying on the ground snacking our way up this climb for about 4 hours.

We had passed through the stage of something like delirium hours earlier, and were now in a previously unseen stage of Type II fun. It was at this point the four of us made a pact, sworn by the blood of Hanalei’s grazed shin, to never return to this climb. Still a great ride though. 

Hike a bike memory from @c_ateb

Hike a bike memory from @c_ateb
Hike a bike memory from @tim_ashelford

Flea Creek

‘There’s probably only an hour of sunlight left, how are you feeling Bec?’
I’m bikepacking with my brother and his wife. Their first time doing this, my second.

We’ve made alright time but sunset has crept up on us and Bec’s getting tired. On the map, Flea Creek isn’t that far; a steep descent, one big climb then smooth sailing along the ridgeline and a bomb into camp. The gravel’s been fast so far, should only take an hour right?

We descend, hooting and hollering on the first downhill in 40 clicks, but it’s rough, really rough. My dual suspension is working overtime and my seatpost bag slaps the tyre. Now we’re pushing up a steep track, headtorches on, praying for that ridgeline to appear.

It does, but only in darkness. I quickly realise that the scale on my map is wrong, we’ll be pushing up sandy firetrail and gingerly descending for hours to come. My foot slips and the bike goes down bUt I keep a brave face, I organised this trip after all.

We consider making camp, but we’re low on water so we push on. Finally we reach switchbacks. Bec’s flying, the light of her torch zips back and forth. Surely a sight for the campers below, three tired lights falling towards a finale.

Pushing a bike always feels like defeat to me, but that night just making camp felt like a resounding success.

Hike a bike memory from @tim_ashelford

Barrington Tops during the Thunderbolts Adventure Ride

With plenty of experience hiking my bike through bogs and rocky outcrops, this 8km gravel climb up to Barrington Tops on the Thunderbolts Adventure ride stands out.

Knowing the elevation gain we had to come, we started the climb and quickly decided we’d take it at our own pace: walking. With gradients hitting 25% at times, energy reserves running on empty, 70km in the legs already, my internal warning lights were all flashing; this climb near broke me.

On balance though, the support from my riding buddy, and a strong focus on just keeping my movement in a forward direction, got me to the top… that and a banana and a bottle of cramp-juice.

Hike a bike memory from @oldsteelguy

Hike a bike memory from Jonathan Milford

Talanganda National Park, during the Cloudride Prologue

Deep in the brain fade, having run out of water, it’s only like twenty kms until the water tank, too bad they are kms like this.

Hike a bike memory from @j_o_n_o

Kangaroo Creek, NSW

From a four day trip last year from Yamba to Coffs, to Dorrigo, to Dalmorton, to Jackadgerry, to Fineflower, finishing in Grafton.

This unrideable was a short cut from Kangaroo Ck to Ulong.

Great trip.

Hike a bike memory from @boxhead.3

Hike a bike memory from @boxhead.3
Hike a bike memory from Kathleen Burke

Margutapu Saddle – The Road to Pelorus Bridge – Otherwise known as Hell Road, NZ 

January 2019, bikepacking between Queenstown and Wellington. We’d ridden our fair share of on and off-road hills/mountains but the route between Nelson to Pelorus Bridge was Hell. 

Billed as a safe alternative to riding the main road, it starts off nice, then the rocks get looser, the incline gets more and more, and it just goes up and up and up, seemingly never ending. Pedalling becomes impossible, pushing almost so.

I had to take gear off my bike and put it on my back to lighten the load to even push my bike up the loose gravel/rock road. My shins will forever have pedal scars from slipping pushing the bike up and up.

Stopping to give our aching arms and legs a rest we spot Hell Road written on a plank of wood, an apt naming of the route. When we finally reach the top, we run into 3 fellow bikepackers coming the other way grumbling about how their way was impossible to ride. We had some bad news for them the way down wasn’t going to be fun either.

We continued on pushing downhill until it was safe to ride and were rewarded at Pelorus Bridge with a beautiful river swim and some fellow campers sharing their curry dinner with us.

My recommendation, take the main road.

Hike a bike memory from Kathleen Burke

Finniss River, SA

This is my friend Fraser crossing the Finniss River in South Australia … “I do believe there may be a spot of moisture at the bottom of my shoe.”

Hike a bike memory from @gregmacc2

Corrugations on single speed – Elcho Island, Arnhem Land

This made for an interesting ride home.

Hike a bike memory from Andrew Iansdell

Tasmanian Trail 

Tasmanian trail going north Geeveston – Judbury.

Another awesome day on the Tassie trail. Arm workout today hauling the bikes up 2-300m of 35% gravel. Garmin did ask if it should pause half way up my pace was that good.

Hike a bike memory from Alexandra Riley

Murramarang National Park

Bush bashing, snake phobias, a lot of vertical pushing, oh and just one river crossing this time… and then bliss, grassy rolling descent. $10 yummy fish and chips.

Free spot in the forest under the stars with a cosy little fire.

Hike a bike memory from Alexander Page

Port Campbell to Cape Otway, VIC

This memory is from my Great Ocean Road bikepacking trip in Victoria. It was the most challenging part of the route where I had to change my route as the original one I planned was a 4WD path only.

Not long after that, I found myself passing the “Management vehicles and walkers only” sign, which was not rideable for the type of bike I had anyway.

Considering 30 more kilometers were left until my next destination, a campsite in Cape Otway, going back and changing my route again was out of the question.

Therefore I started to hike my bike and follow kangaroos footsteps for 5km on the route which later I found out was part of Great Ocean Road Walk, leading to Johanna Beach.

It took me a flat tyre and 7 hours that day to ride 87.13 km and 1,469m elevation in total. 

Hike a bike memory from Rahman Mousavian

Jagungal Wilderness
The Zeta Track

Jagungal Wilderness & Zeta Track, during the Hunt 1000

First photo: riders Sam Pierce And John Rees on the climb out of the Jagungal Wilderness on way to the Snowy Mountain Hydro plant, then onto Mount Kosciuszko. Wearing our Into The Wild Jerseys!

Second photo: on the Zeta Track, a brutal but shorter alternative to Billy Goat Bluff. Riders Frank, Phil, Sam and John struggle up

Photos taken by intrepid rider Paul Morton. Memory shared by Philip Stevens

Mt Terrible

Took this shot of my mate last summer on McDonald’s Track pushing all the way up to Mount Terrible.

Hike a bike memory shared by Mick Brennan

Keppel Hut Track, Rubicon

Trekking down the hill on the same tracks made in the dark the night before.

We found shelter and were able to eat food after hiking bikes through the blizzard for three hours.

Great times!

Hike a bike memory from @nick__mez

Yoauk, Cobberas Wilderness & Kosciuszko NP, NSW

The first photo is a blast from the past. It’s a bikepacking trip I did with my brothers in 1986. We are on Lone Pine trail, heading towards Yaouk from Oldfields Hut in winter.

The next photo is fast forward 28 years to April this year. pushing up a hill in the Cobberas Wilderness zone on a trip from Thredbo to Bright with my brothers and a few mates.

The last photo is one from The Hunt 1000 in 2018 on Long Plain road near Rules Point, again with one of my brothers. It was awesome.

Bikepacking is awesome. 

Hike a bike memories from Paul O’Brien

Hike a bike memories from Paul O’Brien
Hike a bike in Tasmania by Scott Mattern

Nr Derby, TAS

One of my most memorable hike a bike routes.

I’m old enough to remember when this was the only trail to ride in Derby.

Hike a bike memory from Scott Mattern