Last week I rode the Attack of the Buns, a 300km trail through the New South Wales southern tablelands. I actually started the journey in Newcastle and rode south for a few days before arriving at the start of the trail. This meant that I rode it in the opposite direction from what is suggested on the bikepacking.com writeup, and I started at Fitzroy Falls rather than Bundanoon. However, to make up for this I carried on cycling all the way to Canberra, before catching a bus back to Melbourne. I’ll share a few tips for bikepackers contemplating taking this route as well as the various logistics involved.
It’s tougher then it sounds
On Bikepacking.com it has a 3/10 difficulty rating. I’m not sure how these ratings are graded but I thought it deserved at least a 5. There are some pretty steep sections that made for tough pushing on a loaded gravel bike. I did the ride solo and didn’t meet a single cyclist the whole way. During the offroad sections, I’m don’t recall meeting anyone at all. If I’d taken a tumble then help would have been a long time coming. My shoes also didn’t have much grip and this made pushing the bike up steep gravel sections particularly challenging. The ride is definitely doable for a beginner but just don’t expect it to be like a 300km rail trail.
Getting there and away
I started in Newcastle and cycled south to Sydney following the routes recommended on the NSW Coast Cycle website. Was made for a pleasant and easy day ride of about 130km. Cycling in Sydney isn’t at all fun so I took the train from Martin Place to Wollongong. This just required an Opal card and the Sydney train and ferry system seems very friendly towards people taking bikes with them. From Wollongong I then rode to Fitzroy Falls, and the start of my Attack of the Buns route. I did this taking the Jamberoo Mountain Road, rather than the more trafficked Macquarie Pass. Jamberoo was very steep. It goes straight from sea level to the NSW Tablelands plateau, about a 500m climb. By the time I got to Fitzroy Falls, I was exhausted and was very happy to set up camp a few kilometers along the trail. However, the view from the Falls is amazing (photo above) and well worth the long day.
The Attack of the Buns officially finishes in Bungendore, and I chose to ride from there to Canberra. I followed the suggestion from Google Maps from Bungendore up to the M23 and was pleasantly surprised to find that the freeway into central Canberra was well designed for cyclists. I then returned to Melbourne on a Greyhound bus. Taking the bike on the bus cost me an extra $49 but I was able to strap it into the luggage area under the bus without any disassembly. It’s annoying the Greyhound charges extra for bikes, as it didn’t take up any more space than a couple of suitcases.
I never needed to carry more than one day of food and water with me as there are ample shops along the way. However, as mentioned in the article, there is the need to camp out somewhere between Nowra and Braidwood. I managed to travel light, much lighter than when I did the Tour Aotearoa. A small tent, sleeping roll, sleeping bag and a change of clothes is just about all that’s needed. Plenty of water is important though as there are long stretches without supplies.
Attack of the Buns was the first serious bikepacking trip I’ve made in Australia and it was a great introduction. I’m looking forward to exploring what else is on offer.