Sarah: Bike shuffles

I guess the concept of a “car shuffle” is pretty common in “outdoorsy” circles, and especially amongst paddlers.  The idea is simple enough: leave one car downstream or at the end of a proposed one-way trail, drive the other car/s upstream or to the start of the trail, have the adventure, then drive the finish car back to collect the start car/s.

Being a sad geek with no mates (!) who often plays outdoors alone, I have for some years been employing a similar technique – but using my bike to complete the shuffle rather than a second car.  It’s great for trail walking (I’m rarely inspired by an out-and-back) and of course for river paddling (where it is unappealing at best and completely impossible at worst to paddle back upstream). I’ve used this trick in all sorts of places and have at times felt quite clever when I am zipping back along the tarmac on my bike while other walkers slog it out on foot or hitch-hike.  I hate road walking and am too inherently shy/stubborn/independent to hitch unless it’s absolutely imperative.

The other thing I like about the “bike shuffle” is that I get to feel like I’m having a multi-sport weekend.  Not just walking, and not just biking, but a bit of both. I’m easily bored and though this is primarily a “biking” website, our secret is gradually leaking out: we don’t just ride bikes.  In fact, if we had to choose between mountain biking and bushwalking, or kayaking, or rock climbing….. well.  Thank goodness, we don’t have to choose.

Bibbulmun/ Munda Biddi

I went off for one of these little capers about six weeks ago, figuring that as the Bibbulmun Track (our long-distance walking trail) and the Munda Biddi (our long distance mountain biking trail) are roughly parallel here in the Perth hills, it should be possible to walk down the one and then cycle back up the other. With this in mind, I hid my bike in the bushes where the Bibb Track crosses the Brookton Highway, then drove back to the trail head at Kalamunda.

I walked the northern-most 70km of the Bibbulmun in two days, marvelling at having huts all to myself despite being barely out of the metro area on a gloriously sunny weekend.  I then successfully retrieved my bike from its hiding place (there’s always a moment’s apprehension) and cycled back to my car along a combination of road, Munda Biddi, and various other assorted trails.  This part didn’t quite work out according to my Cunning Plan: I’d carefully downloaded GPS co-ordinates for a trail from Pickering Brook through to Kalamunda onto my i-Phone but by the time I reached that section my battery was completely dead.  Zen navigation, as it turns out, is a pretty reliable fall-back strategy.

Helena Campsite, one of the Bibbulmun’s 3-sided shelters with its accompanying rain water tank. My home for the night.
Making camp: my stuff, spread out in the hut
I’m a cheap date, really. A picnic table with a view at sunset is my idea of luxury.

Dwellingup: Sea kayaking the Murray River

I’m just now back from another little weekender where the bike’s been usefully employed as one leg of a “shuffle”.

It being early spring, I decided to get myself out on the water before there isn’t any.  With Tom working and Rachel and Ben head down tail up in their respective books, I once again found myself short of playmates and set off alone.  The destination: Dwellingup, about an hour south of the city, where the Murray River runs through Lane Poole Reserve.

After a certain amount of obligatory faffing about to figure out water levels and good launching spots, I actually had a pretty good time.  Those of you who know me at all won’t be surprised to hear that “Plan A” involved putting my boat in as far upriver as conceivably possible, thereby maximising the distance covered before making it to a family Father’s Day gathering in Pinjarra on Sunday afternoon.  I ended up, probably sensibly, abandoning Plan A when I found I was spending more time out of my boat than in it.  It’s a bit like hike-a-bike’s: there’s an acceptable ratio of carrying-to-riding/paddling beyond which the whole adventure starts to feel a bit ridiculous and un-fun.  And trust me, hauling a loaded sea kayak over and around objects is way, way worse than pushing or carrying any bike.  I’ve done far more of both than any right minded person ever should.

So with a bit too much time pressure (Plan A also involved a 40-odd km bike shuffle) I paddled/dragged my boat back upstream to my car and moved on to a more sensible and conservative Plan B.  In the end I left my kayak upriver at Dawn Creek Road, my car downstream at Bob’s Crossing and cycled back upstream to my boat.

In a moment of sheer brilliance, I forgot to leave my paddle upstream with my boat and ended up having to carry it back up by bike.
Bike shuffling technique. Sometimes the crux is being able to find the bike again myself!
A 5.1m long bright red sea kayak is a bit harder to disguise….

I love the way getting in a canoe or kayak instantly transforms the world.  From the water, life is different.  There was no-one around, just a few birds, a few ducks, and me.

Typical Murray River conditions: brown water, glass-like stillness, perfect reflections

I managed to camp just outside Lane Poole Reserve – my intention, as the idea of paying to share a campsite with the bunch of noisy weekend car campers who are the norm in this neck of the woods has little appeal, when I can camp in serenity for free just a bit upstream.  I’ll even forego the picnic tables in favour of some privacy and peace.

I got back to my car way earlier than necessary on Sunday morning and drove back upstream to collect my bike.  Lurching my way over a rough washed out dirt road and tilting precariously to one side in a deeper-than-expected puddle, I decided that the driving was actually the most challenging part of the whole weekend!  I don’t think I actually like four wheel driving all that much.  Especially not with a sea kayak working its way loose on the roof.

Coming in for landing at Bob’s Crossing

With both my favourite toys safely back on board, I headed in to Pinjarra in plenty of time for tea and scones with the family.  All in all a successful mini mission.

Got no mates? Got a bike? Go anyway!



  1. This looks like a really nice get-away, Sarah. Amazing camo job on the bike, as well. I looked at that photo, and thought to myself, “Ummm…that’s an odd photo of a bunch of brush…” :-)

    Thanks as always!

  2. Hey sarah, i think that you need a suspension folding bike that can fit into the kayak. I am about to leave santiago de chile via bici heading for the lakes district then down to coyhaique for a 6 weeks of mountaineering. Am enjoying the post.

  3. Glad you like my bike camo Scott! The tricky part if you leave the bike downstream is recognizing where to get off the river….

    David it occurred to me too that I need a bike that would fold up onto my kayak, then I could just go as far as I liked…. Or a kayak that folds up onto my bike…. Have a brilliant time, will be awesome to really get up into the mountains there. Look up the Warm Showers people in Couhaique for some top notch hospitality (but they may be at uni in Santiago if it’s term time). Sarah

  4. I’ve considered folding bikes and packable rafts, but there are certainly compromises over a real boat and a real bike. What a wonderfully creative trip! The huts look beautiful.

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