And it’s begun….

Leaving to cross the Nullabor Desert by bike(written by Melinda) Eddie left yesterday morning.  He had planned to leave around 9.00, however his first departure with the fully laden bike showed an alarming wobble in the third wheel.  There followed two hours of googling, tweaking, repacking, re-googling, re-tweaking and more repacking.  He finally left just before 11.00am.

I estimate his bike is carrying around 90kg of supplies, and that’s without all his water containers filled.  They’ll be filled once he starts across the desert, however while he’s still around civilisation it’s not necessary.

Yesterday he didn’t make it as far as planned.  The late start, the really heavy bike, unexpected long and high hills, plus continuing issues with the third wheel meant he only reached the outskirts of Perth before needing to stop for the night.  We’ll see how he goes today with the third wheel and if the issues continue we’ll probably have to replace it with some other kind of trailer.

Travelling software

I bought myself a new Android tablet to record my trip across Australia, I went with a tablet due to the fact that I couldn’t find an acceptable way to charge the small HP laptop that my daughter has.  I’m using an Bauhn 9.7 Android tablet, apparently Aldi sells these or smaller ones every now and then.  I used to have the smaller 7 inch version, but that had a heating problem and would freeze up requiring a reset, which was a pain in the bum as I would need a pin to fit in the hole to push the reset button. Plus the smaller tablet didn’t have GPS or 3G and the fact that I broke it.

Software that I have installed for the trip.

1. OSMAND+osmand (paid version)

Global Mobile Map Viewing & Navigation for Offline and Online OSM Maps –

OsmAnd (OSM Automated Navigation Directions) is a map and navigation application with access to the free, worldwide, and high-quality OpenStreetMap (OSM) data. All map data can be stored on your device’s memory card for offline use. Via your device’s GPS, OsmAnd offers routing, with optical and voice guidance, for car, bike, and pedestrian. All the main functionalities work both online and offline (no internet needed).  Especially the offline use was the main selling point for me.  There are also a few plug-ins which can enhance your maps.  I joined and downloaded some of their POIs for the trip, such as IGAs, Coles, banks, chemists, police, hospitals, Camping sites, ambulances etc

2. Evernoteevernote

Evernote is a suite of software and services, designed for notetaking and archiving. A “note” can be a piece of formatted text, a full webpage or webpage excerpt, a photograph, a voice memo, or a handwritten “ink” note. Notes can also have file attachments.  You can drag a section of a webpage and dump into your note and it will copy text and pictures across.  Plus you can install on several computers and sync them as one, so start a note on the PC and finish it later on the tablet.

3. QuickOfficequick officer

Quickoffice is a freeware proprietary productivity suite for mobile devices which allows viewing, creating and editing documents, presentations and spreadsheets. It consists of Quickword (a word processor), Quicksheet (a spreadsheet) and QuickPoint (a presentation program).  Can open up and edit my MS word templates and documents.

4. Quick PDF Scanner

Quick PDF Scan allows you to scan, export and share multipage documents in PDF format. The software uses the camera of your Android device to help you scan and digitise your paper documents so you can easily manage and store them. Quick PDF Scanner is with flexible and modern user interface, custom camera configuration and full customisation of the output PDF file.

5. Dropboxdropbox

Dropbox is a home for all your photos, docs, videos, and files. Anything you add to Dropbox will automatically show up on all your computers, phones and even the Dropbox website — so you can access your stuff from anywhere.

6. Picture editor – I have a few of these installed and haven’t decided which is the best one yet.  So watch this space.

7. What

A program by Aitchehtee. Do you want to know what the clouds tell you? Then check our What Cloud. Compare the clouds you see to the ones built into the app to determine what weather thay may bring. It’s database of cloud pictures, which tell you what you want tonkow about them, should I stay in the tent or pack up and ride?

8. Useful knotsuseful knots

Might have been a Boyscout, but I only remember a few basic knots. So hopefully I won’t need to know any knots but just in case.

9. Gaia Guide.gaia

Gaia Guide is an online field guide. It supports downloading of fieldguides and parts thereof to mobile applications like this one. Review the website, select the field guides you want in your pocket and then open this app to start downloading your customised field guides. I downloaded their Australian Birds, Australian Gumtrees, Australian Insects, Australian Orchids, Australian Scrubs and Australian spiders, scorpions and centipedes guides. Plus Oz mammals (stand alone install).

10. Evernote Food.evernote food

From finding new restaurants to documenting how to make family recipes, Evernote Food gives you one place to discover, collect, and remember your life’s memorable moments in food. Download Options. Discover, collect, and share your favorite home-cooked and restaurant meals. Keep your recipes in one place.

Similar to their notes version, but food related, I can try some recipes out on the road and take notes and pictures of them for later. See what works and what just sucks.

11. Panostitchpano

PanoStitch is an easy to use, professional, panorama software. It will assemble a mosaic of overlapping pictures into a complete multi-row panorama. With others software, you’ll only get a VERY long picture (several pictures wide), but a single picture tall! Take the next step!

Use your favorite camera application to take pictures, and use PanoStitch to stitch them. PanoStitch will take care of alignment and/or exposure issues for you, without any manual intervention.

Please note that PanoStitch is NOT a camera application, it will create professional grade Panoramas out of your Gallery/camera roll.

Any programs you think I may have missed or should take with me?


Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink.


The cycling tourist may find themselves exposed to the organisms that can cause diarrhoea.  E.Coli, Shigella, Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia, Cryptosporidiosis.  Don’t assume that water at that rest stop  is safe to drink, even if it comes from a tap.  The water may look crystal clear but could contain various bacteria that can cause illness, and the last thing you need when cycling is running.

Unless it is posted on the tap/tank or a local has told you that the water is safe to drink.

There are several methods to purify water, some are more effective than others. The decision on which method to use should take into consideration the likely level of contamination of water along your journey and whatever is deemed the most practical and acceptable to you.

The main methods of water purification are:

  • Boiling
  • Filtration
  • Chemical
  • Sterilisation


This is the most reliable method, although stoves, kettles and camp fires may billybe inconvenient, but think of the consequences of not doing it. Boiling is an excellent way to make contaminated water safe to drink but takes time and you need the necessary gear (some way to heat the water) must be done in small batches, requires pouring hot water into containers and then waiting for the water to cool, and uses up your limited fuel supply.

To boil water properly it should be kept at a vigorous, rolling boil for at least one minute and at altitudes above 2000m the water should be boiled for three minutes and at higher altitude for up to five minutes (at 5800m water boils at 180c). Water purified in this way should be cooled and covered to avoid contamination after boiling.


A wide variety of filters are available and prices vary accordingly.

Filter pore size determines how effective a filter will be, although micro-organisms will also adhere to the filter material.  Filters are usually effective at removing bacteria and parasites but may not adequately remove viruses.  If this type of filter is used, filtered water must also be chemically treated, boiled or use an UV light.  Good filters are effective against cryptosporidium and giardia.

Filtering water can be a good way to decontaminate water but its effectiveness varies depending on the quality of the filter. It is important that the filter you use filters not only viruses but bacteria as well. There are several types of filters on the market and can be divided into three main types:

Gravity filters slower, bigger and generally less effective, gravity filters work by allowing water to drain down via an inner core, usually in the form of an iodine or charcoal impregnated element. Most are slow and should only be considered as a backup or if you have plenty of time on your hands with nothing better to do.

Manual filters these are an improvement on gravity filters and work by msr-miniworksforcing water through a micro-porous ceramic filter, sometimes in conjunction with a chemical element.  These types of filters are ideal for the travelling cyclists.  However, they are more expensive than gravity filters but they provide safer drinking water at a much quicker rate of about 0.5 – 1 litre per minute.  The ceramic cores needs regular cleaning, especially when filtering sedimented water (pre-filtering with a Millbank filter or using a coffee drip filter wrapped around the inlet end of your hose, this will help reduce cleaning, and it can help the filter last for 1000’s of litres.  The ceramic filters are usually 2 to 3 microns is size.

Millbanks Filters – This type is a portable water filtration device made of tightly woven millbankcanvas made for use out of doors.  They are light, compact and easy but very slow to use.  The bag is filled with water, which filters through the canvas by gravity. It is useful for removing sediment and organic matter but the water will require further sterilisation before being drunk. Would make a good pre-filter if you had the time in your hands.


There are two types of chemical treatment: those using iodine and those using chlorine. There are a variety of products on the market, so follow the directions on the bottle or the packet.  Point to note, that tablets have an expiration date and become ineffective after that point, usually six months once the bottle is opened.  If in doubt, buy a new bottle and be done with it.  Remember to check the expiration date when buying your tablets.

Remember that chemical purification methods may only be partially effective, depending on micropurthe water temperature.  Water purification tablets, such as Katadyn Micropur tablets, Aquatabs, Oasis water tabs or Coghlan’s emergency Germicidal tablets (sounds yummy) are some of the brands available in Australia.  Tablets are easy, inexpensive, and quick, but can affect the taste of the water.   Another issue is that chemicals are ineffective against some protozoa, such as cryptosporidium, and require much longer to work if the water is full of sediment or is very cold.

  • The effectiveness of all chemical treatment of water is related to the temperature oasisof the water, pH level, and clarity of the water.  Cloudy water often requires higher concentrations of chemical to disinfect.
  • If the water is cloudy or contains large particles, strain it, using a filter or thick cloth, before treatment.  Large chucks, if swallowed, may only be purified externally”.
  • Add the chemical to the water and swish it around to aid in dissolving. Use some of the aquatabstreated water onto the lid and the threads of the water bottle so that all water areas are treated.
  • The water should sit for at least 30 minutes after adding the chemical (liquid) to allow purification to occur.  If using tablets, let the water sit for 30 minutes after the tablet has dissolved.

Be aware that some people are allergic to iodine and cannot use it as a form of water purification.     

Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation.

The SteriPEN uses ultraviolet light (UV) to purify water.  The SteriPEN, steripensabout the only UV touring size tool I could find heaps on.  The UV light destroys viruses, bacteria and protozoa (such as giardia and cryptosporidium), and according to company literature, exceeds US EPA standards for microbiological water purifiers.  The SteriPEN has a problem with treating murky or muddy water and recommend pre-filtering which sounds like a good idea even before knowing about the murky problem.

You push the button once, immerse the UV lamp, stir continuously, and you’ve got one litre of safe water in 90 seconds.  For a half litre you push the button twice and wait only 48 seconds.

Other disadvantages of UV sterilisation are you need batteries, the possibility of electronic failure, although there is now a USB rechargeable pen so those touring with solar this may be the way to go.

So on closing, the SteriPENs are convenient, quick and easy to use. However, they’re only good for small batches pretty much the same as boiling water method.

Always have at least one backup method for your water purification in case one fails. This can be any combination of methods.  There’s always boiling the water, just make sure you have enough fuel or can find enough.

“Water is the driving force in nature.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

How much water do I need?”

More importantly how are you going to carry it?

Some bikes come with only one water bottle cage, others have two to three cages built into their bike frames, sure you could use those clip on or screw on types, but usually they can only fit 750 ml bottles, which when multiple by how many bottles you have would still not be enough to cross the outback with.  Plus the ‘add on’ types take up valuable real estate on your handlebars, or saddle area, I  have even seen them attached to your forks which rule out using panniers or you could have your water stored in their panniers, then you have to really focus on what you can/should take with you.  But sometimes, even three water bottles isn’t nearly enough to keep you hydrated (and alive) when cycling through especially hot and desolate stretches of road.

bottle on forksbottle on handlebarssaddle bottle2 saddle bottle DX holder

LongHaulTouring has an article worth reading.

In all cases of any one planning to cross the Nullarbor or even anywhere in the outback of OZ, you need to be carrying way more than what your bike water bottles can hold.  Calculating out how much water you should be carrying and where you can refill is the tricky part.

As with everything in bicycle touring, there are many players involved in coming up with a ball park figure of how much water you’ll need per day/kilometre.  Some considerations such as:

  • The weather, how hot and how windy?
  • The planned ground you intend covering (level (easy) vs. hills (harder))
  • How you are feeling that day and the day before.
  • The road conditions (sealed roads vs. dirt/gravel (which usually come with their friend Mr Corrugations).
  • The possibility of obtaining drinkable water along your way.
  • How far can you go with what you have and still have some in reserve.

This is where planning your days before leaving home and understanding how to read a map is so important.  You cannot plan on being in the right place at the right time on the odd chance that a Grey Nomad might top off your supplies.  Some Roadhouses along the Nullarbor do not offer up water to cyclists, but point them towards their refrigerators so that said cyclist can buy a few bottles which works out more expensive than a litre of petrol, while I’m not totally against free enterprise in this case and that the Roadhouse do have to ship in their drinking water, I’m just surprised how ill prepared cyclists who know they can get water anywhere in towns and cities not realising how limited it can be in the outback.

Some water points along your way may need filtering and treating before being usable.  No good stocking up on water in your containers to find out down the road that you should have filtered, boiled, sterilised it before filling up.

So, any pointers then?

  1. You need to be drinking a lot when you cycle on a normal day, on a hot or/and headwind day your consumption of water will go up.
  2. Remember Slip, Slop, Slap. Wear sunscreen, a covering for your helmet (you are wearing a helmet right?) and sunnies to protect yourself from sun damage and drink more water especially hot and windy days.  Maybe add zinc cream to your kit.
  3. Do a pre-trip ride before you leave on your tour, check how much water you drink during the day or each hour or every 10 kilometres, this will help you calculate your usages for when its important.
  4. Remember each litre of water you add to your bike / rack / panniers / back is an extra kilogram of weight.  Is your gear suited to carrying this extra weight?
  5. You can plan to start your day early before it heats up too much, siesta during the hot part of the morning and afternoon and continue on in the later afternoon / early evening.
  6. Finally, have a plan for carrying more water on your bicycle if you need to.

While weather, terrain, and road conditions are important points to ponder, you can usually guestimate how much water you need to carry by figuring out the distance between your current location and the next town or roadhouse or rest stop which might have water tanks (don’t rely on these to be full or drinkable all the time).

  • Civilisation is about 30 to 60 minutes and you can fry an egg on the road, you’ll probably be just fine with the water you’re carrying.
  • Maybe you got 60 to 90 minutes to go, however, it’s hot and it’s uphill, or it’s hot out and windy (not a tail wind though) or maybe all three, you should consider topping up if you can.
  • Here is a brochure distributed by the Royal Flying Doctor Service dehydration flyer, some good info on here especially the colour chart at the end.

So what type of water containers are out there that may be suitable for my bike tour?

Well here’s what I have found during my search of the above question:

8 litre collapsible water container:

W x H – 150 mm x 220 mm
8 litres of water equals 8 kilograms
Flexible and durable water bottle. Folds flat when empty and stand stable when full.
Resistant to extreme temperature:-20C to +80C8lt-28lt-1

Sterilise water, boil soup, melt snow, Deep freeze. Handle and tap on top.

Compact design and PVC construction.

Reliance Folda Water carrier: reliance

9.5 litre collapsible comes with tap and handle

dimensions TBA




MSR Dromedary water bags:

Cordura-1000 nylon TPU Heavy-Duty: Abrasion-resistant Cordura®, laminated with food-grade polyurethane, can handle everything from freezing to boiling.  Versatile: 3-in-1 cap lets you fill, drink, and pour with ease.  Easy to Fill: Low profile, ergonomic handle and wide-mouth opening for no-hassle filling.  No-Hassle Attachment: Perimeter webbing allows for convenient pack attachment and hanging.  Safe Drinking: BPA-free.MSR drom

10 litre 284 gm 600 x 340 mm

6 litre 247 gm 280 x 560 mm

4 litre 196 gm 480 x 250 mm

2 Litre 179 gm 420 x 200 mm


MSR Dromlite bags:

This ultralight version of MSR’s Dromedary® Bags weighs less, but still MSR drom litefeatures a tough 200-denier Cordura® exterior for reliable, back country water storage and delivery.  Inside is the same BPA-Free, food-grade polyurethane laminate that can handle freezing and accessories like the Shower or Hydration Kits increase your options on any journey.  Same size as the Black MSR water bags.  There is no 10 Litre size in these bags.




Camelbak type of water carriers:camelbak

Anywhere from 1 litre to 3 litre sizes.




 5L Collapsible Water Container:5lt coll

Ideal for camping, festivals, travelling, sailing, walking etc.

Features strong non-toxic polyethylene walls and screw cap with open/close valve & Handle.

  • Flat Pack for easy storage
  • Holds up to 5 Litres
  • Open/close valve
  • Handle

NB: All the above water containers are collapsible, so when empty they do not take up much space unlike any empty bottles.

Anyhow, the next drink is on me.