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YONDER JOURNAL: AUSTRALIA

Join Lachlan Morton and the Yonder crew as they set out to make the journey from Sydney to Melbourne on a good ol' fashioned bike tour aboard their Diverges.

In 2015, the Yonder Journal crew spent more of their time battling their environment then connecting with it in the traditional sense. Helivac rescue missions, fjord crossings, situations where bear mace is more than just a mere recommendation—Yonder had willingly ridden through a bizarre upheaval of the status quo, putting normalcy on its head. In essence, they existed in a parallel dimension of bike riding, like the 11th dimension of the multiverse where experience is dictated more from probability than the laws of certainty. Here, their fate was more left to a roll of nature's dice, and while adventure was sought and found, a break was in well-deserved order. Australian Normcore Vacation was born.

Joined by Lachlan Morton and Kevin Franks, the crew set out to make the journey from Sydney to Melbourne on a good ol' fashioned bike tour aboard their Diverges. Rather then go by the traditional route via the Prince's Highway, however, they opted for a mountainous route, filled with every imaginable type of road, tourist trap, roadside diner, backwoods bar, and the occasional waterpark. It was a self-supported adventure, but this time, danger was more likely to come from a lack of sunscreen than a violent glacier runoff.

AUSTRALIA

AUSTRALIAN NORMCORE VACATION

Australia, the well-known island-continent/country south of the equator, is a geographic, evolutionary and cultural anomaly. As such, generalizations about the place tend to get stretched into near myth. Those without firsthand knowledge might expect a land overrun by curious marsupials, poisonous insects and venomous snakes; a giant island beset on all sides by ravenous saltwater crocodiles and great white sharks. Outsiders might assume that certain ball sports featuring rules and rituals more incomprehensible than those of ōllamaliztli hold almost religious significance. The uneducated might expect that Foster’s would be sold at every shop, and that the people of this land are so exacting in their barbecue rituals that adding just one more shrimp to the barbie is a tradition-steeped practice far more involved than just throwing a shrimp on the barbie, in the vernacular of one Paul Hogan. We were not immune to the mythology, and our heads were full of these and other whimsical expectations as we packed and prepped for our Australian Normcore bike tour.

What’s a normcore bike tour? Well, we’d spent the better part of 2015 bikepacking across tough terrain in harsh environments. Everywhere we went it snowed, the air was thin, the animals were menacing, and by and large we were left to fend for ourselves. In short, our rides were dynamite. But adventure isn’t just about putting oneself in harm’s way, though risk can certainly be a part of it. When you boil it down, adventure is ultimately about creating a memorable experience. We had managed to ride ourselves into some spectacularly ill-fated situations, and the time was ripe for an adventure that was somewhat more accessible, and hopefully a little less soul crushing. Something a little bit more normal, but still hardcore enough to leave a mark. Normcore.

With 2015 coming to a close we realized that we had yet to do a ride that showcased the Diverge, the third bike in Specialized’s adventure lineup. So we got to thinking, what does a Diverge adventure look like? Our conclusion; Normcore Bike touring in Australia. Diverges are fast like road bikes, but comfortable enough to ride all day long. They can handle dirt, gravel, and light trail work and are solid enough and outfitted in such a way that they can easily be straddled with racks and packs. We decided that the right thing to do was ride from Sydney to Melbourne. Both are amazing cities, and the Snowy Mountains sit right in between. Most of our research indicated that the majority of people riding between these two cities took the Princes’ Highway along the coast. Don’t go getting it in your head that we have a beach bias. Sure, the beach is beautiful and it’s got that whole breaking waves-sunset-dolphin thing going for it, but it is also damp, kinda flat, and the Prince’s highway is just that - a highway teeming with semi trucks and utes that are constantly blasting by with shoulder grazing proximity. We wanted empty roads, small towns, the experience of the Australia’s mountains, and some sunshine. Besides, we’d see the coast at the beginning and end of our trip anyway, so we planned a route that would more or less cut a straight diagonal across the southeast corner of the country.

We weren’t signing up for a RAAM style slog across Oz. This wasn’t going to be just about riding bikes; we wanted to see destinations and experience some culture. We wanted to go surfing, run with wild kangaroos, take a lunch in the arvo with an ornery koala or two, hit up a waterpark, sample the country’s best meat pies, and have a Carlton draft with the locals in a lonely little town in the middle of the afternoon. If you’re thinking National Lampoon’s Vacation on bikes in Australia, then you’re starting to get the picture. In addition to the aforementioned tourist attractions we planned to ride along fire roads, gravel roads, back roads, and only very occasionally busy highways. We wanted to be self-supported, carrying our own gear and some cash and sleeping in the motels, huts, and shacks we found along the way. We ate in restaurants, snacked at pubs, and when there was nothing in between we stuffed our jerseys and packs with enough food to get us through. We knew we didn’t want to be cold on this trip - we’d had our fill in 2015 - so we designed a route that’d have us depending on sunscreen rather than merino, wearing t-shirts instead of jackets.

Two wonderful individuals - Lachlan Morton and Kevin Franks - rounded out our crew. Lachlan is a professional road racer, pro-tour pro, and not only would he be casually ripping our legs off throughout the ride but he would be acting as our cultural liaison; deftly interpreting the finer points of the Aussie living like how to bet on the dish lickers (the greyhounds) and what exactly is happening during a game of cricket. Kevin lives in Santa Cruz and more or less runs the adventure show at Specialized. He’s kind like our benefactor/guidance counselor, has the physique of a tawny 24-year old surfer, can crush miles like Darth Vader crushes throats, and is a one hell of an interpersonal meme-generator #2EZ.

Inevitably, the ride was more difficult than we expected. The days were long; sneaky 70s as Lachlan described them, and no one told us that this little corner of Australia doesn’t do flat. We accounted for something like the huge burned expanse in the middle, but what we got was nothing like the huge burned expanse in the middle. Instead our road bucked and writhed like a Anaconda going through withdrawal; incessantly undulating under our wheels. And the sunshine that we wanted? We got it in spades. Instead of a by now totally par for the Dead Reckoning course surprise snowfall, we were treated to an unexpected heatwave with triple digit temperatures that melted the chipseal beneath our tires.

But our Australian adventure wasn’t just one heatstroke near miss after another; our experience was much grander, much more nuanced than a simple succession of ill-managed body hydration events. What I’m talking about is meat pies, party shirts, and stepping into the green room. I’m talking about pool sharks, biker gangs, and unsinkable surfboards. I’m talking about how much “fire” a professional tour rider can bring to a pub in the rural town of Bowral by requesting Hotline Bling? Or how you would set about establishing a hierarchy of outback pub parmis? Wondering what its like to stay the night in one of Snowy Mountain’s most haunted huts? We wondered, and we stayed the night! If you want more, and we’re sure that you do, head over to Yonder Journal for all the nuts and bolts of our ride through eight days of bucolic Australian countryside.