Tips for Cycling The Mawson Trail

Cycling the Razorback into Bunyeroo Gorge (Image by Helmut Schoo)

A few bumps and scrapes is a small price to pay for an epic experience.

That’s what I told myself sat in Adelaide airport on my saddlesore ass admiring my swollen toe and cut chin, after cycling one of Australia’s great bike trails.

From the deep outback of the ancient Flinders Ranges to the world class wine regions of the Barossa and Clare Valleys, the mammoth Mawson Trail is an outback to city trail of thrills, spills and almost 900 kilometres of pure adventure.

Boy did we earn that Barossa Valley glass chinking. We’d endured some gruelling terrain and testing moments carrying every survival essential on our two wheels, including enough food and water at times for two days, before we could really kick back and enjoy a few of South Australia’s finest.

I’m often asked why put yourself through it? Well, there are many reasons. The challenge;  the achievement; the camaraderie; the people we meet along the way and the discovery of something new, to name a few, but if I had to give one reason alone I’d say it’s because I can talk myself into anything after a few glasses of vino. 

Even the pain has a part to play in the game of adventure. There’s nothing like pulling yourself out of the depths of fatigue for one last push and finding a new energy. It’s like finding a key to the secret world of endurance. And it’s just a little addictive.

If you’re not convinced (or half cut) and you would rather let someone else do the hard part,  maybe this supported cycling tour I did in Tasmania would be more up your bike path but watch out for invisible wormholes. 

A few tips if you fancy the Mawson Trail…

Go in the cooler months: The trail is open all year round, however December to March can be fiercely hot and are best avoided.

Most people start at Adelaide: This is the sensible way to do it and gives you time to sort out any teething troubles while you’re still close to help. We did it the other way around because we didn’t trust ourselves to push through three wine regions in early part of the trip.

You’ll need to carry plenty of water: There maybe days when you can’t get water and campsite water tanks can’t be relied on.

Accommodation: We mixed it up from camping to sheep stations and wineries.

Get good maps:  Maps that cover the whole route (several) are available from Bicycle SA on +61 8 8168 9999.

You’ll need transport into Blinman or back. I used Genesis Tour & Charter +61 8 8552 4000

More info: 

Here’s an article I wrote in Outer Edge Magazine  “In at the Deep End” 

Here’s a little three-minute film I put together to give you an idea. It was one of my first so don’t judge me!

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20 Responses to Tips for Cycling The Mawson Trail

  1. Queen Merino October 17, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    Awesome vid, looks like a very challenging and rewarding ride.
    I want to go!!

    • Tracey October 17, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

      We should do the WA trail. It Will be longer when it’s finished next year.

  2. Johanna @ The Zigazag Mag October 18, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    Wow Tracey! I am seriously impressed! Well done 🙂 What an awesome achievement. I’m sure the adventure had many ‘moment’s; times when it was great and good and others when it was downright difficult, but you did it! I loved the video by the way – really good, and different to the norm too.
    Johanna @ The Zigazag Mag recently posted..10 Life Skills You Can Learn From Travel – Western Australia to TimbuktuMy Profile

    • Tracey October 19, 2012 at 11:32 am #

      Thanks Jo. Of course you’re right, and as a fellow intrepid traveller yourself, you know it’s the difficult parts that make the good bits so great. I love playing around with imovie. My technical ability doesn’t quite match my grand ideas just yet ; ) so wonderful to hear you enjoyed it. Thanks for the feedback.
      Tracey recently posted..Australia’s Longest Bike TrailMy Profile

  3. Red Nomad OZ October 22, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

    Wow! That’s an amazing accomplishment – at least it sounds that way to someone who hadn’t ridden a bike for 20+years until going to Lord Howe Island last year, where I became the world’s slowest cyclist!! What a bonus to travel through such magnificent countryside!! I’m impressed – AND inspired!
    Red Nomad OZ recently posted..Good Times @ Gantheaume Point – Broome, Western AustraliaMy Profile

    • Tracey October 23, 2012 at 10:48 am #

      Thanks Red. The world’s slowest cyclist huh… that’s quite an achievement. Have you contacted the Guinness Book of Records? ; )
      Tracey recently posted..Australia’s Longest Bike TrailMy Profile

  4. Katie October 31, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    Whoa – you are way more hard core than I am…maybe you’ll be my “hardcore” mentor? I like a little risk when traveling, but I also am fond of a soft bed and restaurants within walking distance. Seriously though, what an awesome experience! Looking forward to reading more!
    Katie recently posted..The Story of Riga’s Cat House (Worst. Revenge. Ever.)My Profile

    • Tracey October 31, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

      Thanks Katie – I think it was fond thoughts of a soft bed and fabulous restaurants waiting in the Barossa Valley wine region that got me through the hard yakka. And I confess I shamelessly binged all the way back to Adelaide. Happy days.
      Tracey recently posted..It’s Bucking Tough at Australia’s Biggest RodeoMy Profile

  5. Life Images by Jill November 26, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    My goodness Tracy. I wouldn’t even contemplate doing this let alone do it! Congrats girl – well done you! and you lived to blog about it too!
    We hope to go through the Flinders Ranges next year, but in a 4WD!
    Life Images by Jill recently posted..Searching for Platypus – Great Short Walks in Tasmania, AustraliaMy Profile

    • Tracey November 28, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

      I would go again in a heartbeat Jill. The photo at the top of this blog post was taken on the part of the trail where it crosses with the 4WD road so if you see any cyclists, you’ll know what they’re in for. Also, I don’t know if you’ve tried Quandong (wild peach) pie, but if you haven’t, it’s delish and on the menu in the cafe’s of most of the small towns we passed through.
      Tracey recently posted..Never a Dull Day in QueenslandMy Profile

  6. Leigh December 1, 2012 at 3:07 am #

    What an adventure. Those tough, epic days are the ones that stick with you forever and that sense of accomplishment is always wonderful.
    Leigh recently posted..#FriFotos – Ten of My Favourite PeaksMy Profile

  7. Tracey December 1, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    So true Leigh. Here’s to your next challenge – chink – looking forward to reading about it.
    Tracey recently posted..Never a Dull Day in QueenslandMy Profile

  8. Anita Mac December 20, 2012 at 1:37 am #

    What an amazing adventure! I love getting out to explore the world by bike….one of the biggest items on my bucket list is to ride around Australia…I am talking the entire coast, Sydney to Sydney! A little daunting, I know, but maybe with a few group tours en route like this one, to add to it, would raise it from epic adventure to really insanely amazing epic adventure! I did across Canada alone and know that around Australia just won’t work by myself…but finding a travel partner crazy enough to do the entire thing…now there is a real challenge!
    Anita Mac recently posted..Waiting for the snow to fallMy Profile

  9. Tracey December 24, 2012 at 1:43 am #

    I might just know someone ; ) We did our trip with a bunch of friends. If you follow the coast there will be some really challenging sections up the far north of Queensland and the Top End Northern Territory. Go in the winter months to take advantage of more comfortable and stable weather. Some Top End areas would be inaccessible in the summer. It would be an epic adventure with a capital E.
    Tracey recently posted..Give the Gift of Reading This ChristmasMy Profile

  10. Terrigal Accommodation August 2, 2017 at 11:18 am #

    this is very impressive!! thanks for sharing!!

  11. Ryan December 26, 2017 at 5:01 pm #

    Hi Tracey, what an impressive feat! It certainly looks like a big challenge, not for the faint-hearted!

    • Tracey June 4, 2018 at 6:41 pm #

      Thanks Ryan, still one of my faves after all this time. ?

  12. Jodie August 8, 2018 at 4:07 pm #

    Do you think 35 nobby rear tyres and 38 nobby front tyres on a gravel bike would be alright?

    • Tracey September 28, 2018 at 1:10 pm #

      HI Jodie, It’s not a technical trail, although there are some places you might struggle with a gravel bike. I’m thinking of those dry, rock-filled creeks etc. You can always walk those though.
      Tracey recently posted..The Trail Tart: Mountain Biking in MacedoniaMy Profile

  13. Yuki March 23, 2020 at 12:30 pm #

    You did a great job Tracey! As a big fan of cycling, I feel really excited about this post! Save it in case I will cycling The Mawson Trail one day in the future.
    Yuki recently posted..Difference Between Mountain Bikes And Road BikesMy Profile

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