Overview: The Great Queensland Rail Trail Adventure

Part 1 of a 10-part series describing a bike touring route by Andrew Demack, from Ipswich (Wulkuraka) to Gladstone, the “Great Queensland Rail Trail Adventure”.

Next: Day 1 Wulkuraka to Toogoolawah

Background

I visited the two developing sections of the Boyne Burnett Inland Rail Trail in June 2020, and met up with Mike in Gayndah, and Desley O’Grady at Kalpowar, and was impressed with their vision and enthusiasm and commitment to this great project.

So when the news came that the Kalpowar section was going to be opened in September, I thought, “why not ride there, and promote the idea of linking up Queensland’s three major rail trails”.

This 9-day ride uses the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, the Kilkivan to Kingaroy Rail Trail (in part), and the new sections of the Boyne Burnett Rail Trail, linked up by back roads, and some main roads.

Resources

What do I need to know?

Bikes and tyres

The rail trail adventure covers a mix of surfaces but never gets into singletrack that would be suited only to a mountain bike.

Rail trails don’t have long steep climbs – after all, they follow a corridor which used to be a railway line. Some Queensland rail trails have short steep climbs out of gullies where the trail routes around rail bridges which are no longer in service.

And there are some long climbs, such as from Linville to Benarkin on the BVRT, or Wondai to Wooroolin on the KKRT. But those climbs are usually at a very rideable 2% gradient.

The surface of these trails is quite variable. There are certainly plenty of opinions about what the right sort of bike is for Queensland’s rail trails, which with one exception are all gravel surfaces.

Our group mostly had tyres of 42 mm or wider, with perhaps the “average” tyre being 650x48 or 700x40-42. My view is that a tyre width of approximately 50 mm is the sweet spot on rail trails. Any bigger and you are wasting a little bit of energy in dragging around more tyre than you need. Any less and you will dig in on the sandy sections, and be bounced around on the rougher sections.

Carrying your stuff

You will also see in our photos that there isn’t one correct way to set up your bike for rail trail / gravel road touring. We did a mix of camping and staying in pubs, so almost all of us were carrying camping kit.

If you see a setup in the photos on these pages that you are interested in, get in touch, and I can give more details. Here’s my bike for this trip, but I also have toured on rail trails on a mountain bike, and can offer some tips and tricks on what to bring and how to bring it.

Weather and wind

The best time of year for bike touring in Queensland is winter into early spring. We rode in early September 2021, and the weather was superb. We had a couple of cool nights (Kingaroy, Yarraman) with overnight lows down to about 3 degrees Celsius.

Riding south to north makes sense in Queensland, especially near the coast where the prevailing breeze is a south-easterly. In late winter / early spring, there is always the chance of a gusty westerly wind. We only experienced mild breezes, and didn’t notice a headwind of any sort until the second last day.

Mobile phone service

Telstra is so far ahead of Optus once you leave the south-east corner that it is not even funny. Those of us with Optus phones found them mostly useless on the nights we stayed in Proston, Eidsvold, Mungungo and Ubobo.

Next: Day 1 Wulkuraka to Toogoolawah

Andrew Demack @briztreadley