“Oh, and watch out for Brown snakes. Loads of ‘em out today!”
And with that delightful closing statement, the masked quad bike rider dropped his visor and roared off across the dunes like a modern day Lawrence of Arabia.
Let’s call him Steve of Stockton.
It was a cliff-hanger of a statement if I ever I’d heard one; the conviction in his voice (and speed with which he exited) suggested he wasn’t mucking around. The three of us sat bemused on our Fat Bikes upon the crest of a 30m dune in the middle of a pseudo-desert wilderness.
I had a sudden flashback to the Beetlejuice movie I’d watched in terror as a kid – was the giant sand worm going to get us? We’d forgotten water, sunscreen and anti-venom. We’d also left our friend Rose in the cool shade of a shrubbery. Snakes love the cool shade of a shrubbery…
The four of us were road tripping north from Sydney for a weekend adventure armed with two Reid Cycles Fat Bikes and a mission to explore the mystical landscape of Stockton Dunes, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest stretch of sand dunes at a punchy 32km long! A WWII Shipwreck now calls the beach home too, and the infamous Tin City is also a major draw card; an eerie off-the-grid settlement that is slowly being swallowed by sand. It’s also where the original Mad Max was filmed.
So what are Fat Bikes then? Essentially, they’re mountain bikes with oversize tyres approximately 4 inches wide that look more befitting for a motorcycle. Originally designed for snow and ice in the Americas, the wider footprint allows riders to navigate entirely new landscapes that beforehand simply weren’t accessible by pedal power. They look wild. They look semi-ridiculous. They’re a lot of fun.
Our bikes were strapped somewhat precariously to the back of Rob’s Subaru as we drove 3 hours north, weaving through Australiana to our campsite at an unseasonably quiet Myall Lakes. Campgrounds surround the eastern side of the lake, and we opted for Stewart & Lloyd’s (no sign of either unfortunately) as it has the best access to the dunes.
We’d all watched Danny Macaskill’s latest MTB assault on the rooftops of Cascadia, and so our confidence levels were unrealistically high. How hard could a corked backflip be?
We unloaded the car and I hopped onto my bike with all the excitement of a kid at Christmas. I put ‘pedal to the metal’ and rode full steam into the steep dune ahead, expecting the combination of desire and tire to propel me up and over the dune effortlessly.
This 100% wasn’t the case.
Upon contact with the dune I remembered I was pretty useless on a mountain bike and so began to question my unfounded confidence. The soft, heavy sand made pedalling extremely tough despite the lorry tires, so it wasn’t until we’d plodded to the top that we started to really ‘shred’ down the harder sand on the other side.
Wild, sharky ocean waves crashed into the rugged sweeping beach that seemed a world away from the pandemonium of Bondi. Behind this lay golden, glistening mounds as far as the eye could see, broken only by clusters of impossibly resilient flora that stood proudly towards the sun. Solitary 4×4’s dotted the beach, but other than that it was just us and our fat bikes. It was truly epic.
After some trial and error we actually started to find our groove. The bike’s extra large tires provided optimal grip to the sand, allowing us to power through conditions and obstacles that might cause a less endowed bike to swerve and lose control. We popped into turns and skidded out of them, hopping over the occasional patch of foliage and taking comfort in the fact our falls were met by sand and not tarmac. Once down on the beach, we started to get cocky and went as far as building a jump. Adam got at least 3 inches of air. Mr Macaskill would have been so proud / deeply embarrassed.
We returned to our camp battered, bruised but buzzing. Suitably knackered and with a belly to fill, we fried steaks on the campfire and enjoyed a hearty meal and even heartier bottle of whisky. At some point between the drunken dune-riding and breakfast we slept.
Sunday started with a bacon sanger and a cappuccino followed by a deep cleanse in the freshwater of Myall Lakes. Who said camping isn’t luxury? We then headed down to explore the southern part of Stockton Dunes near a place called Williamstown (no sign of a William either).
It was once we’d clambered to the top of an actual sand mountain that we bumped into Steve of Stockton, who proceeded to shout at us for trespassing despite the clear absence of any kind of private sign! In addition to his harrowing snake warning, he also told us to return to our car via an alternative trail to avoid being hit by the quad squad.
At that point we were pretty keen to b-line back to the serpent free haven of the Subaru so opted to go against his advice and return the way we came. Upon hearing what we thought was a quad bike engine we ducked into a neighbouring shrub, only to see something was already in there barely a metre from us….a great big f**k off Brown snake! There’s no question it was Rose who broke the weekend’s land speed record with her sprint back to the car.
Fat bikes are adventure steeds that create opportunities to explore Australia’s vast array of landscapes in fresh and exciting new ways. If you’re looking for a cheap adventure mobile, this could be your new calling – at under $1k, these Reid Fat Bikes really are amazingly good value. Give them a call if you want to find out more!