The financial squeeze is being felt across the country – the cost of living is up the proverbial, and the RBA is pushing interest rates higher than the elevation of Maydena. The need to be frugal with spending has become critical, and finding cost-effective holiday options may seem out of reach in the current environment.
We’re here to suggest that travelling with your bike doesn’t need to cost the earth. A camping holiday is an economical way to explore your state – pair this with the joys of mountain biking, and you have the recipe for a fulfilling yet frugal holiday. To help you venture out of the clutches of expensive city living, here’s our must-dos for saving costs while exploring with your bike.
Pick and plan your camping spot
For what it costs to book a bike bag onto a Qantas flight, there are a lot of places you can reserve a primo camping spot for a weekend and still have money left over for a lovely pale ale or two.
Part of the excitement can be discovering the incredible campsites that Australia has to offer right near epic trails. Research camping options around new trail networks that you’ve been wanting to explore, or maybe it’s a local trail you didn’t know had nearby camping facilities.
Government websites are a great place to start, often offering free or cheap campsites in incredible locations. There’s also several campsite-focused websites and apps that provide information on free and paid locations across Australia, like Hipcamp or Wiki camps.
However, the last thing you want to is get booted from a campsite because you broke a rule you didn’t know about, or get stuck on the driveway because you need a high clearance 4WD to get in. Understanding the requirements or restrictions of your selected campsite is essential, and factors such as park permits, seasonal closures, 2WD/4WD access and site costs/booking fees are all considerations in ensuring you don’t get stuck with a bunch of junk fees or a big fat fine.
Better still there are plenty of free camps, and some are within pedalling distance of some of our favourite trail networks. Take the Yack Tracks, one of our favourite riding destinations that has played host to many a Ride High Country Test Session.
Just down from the trails are multiple riverfront campsites spread along the Yackandandah Creek. It makes for a tranquil spot to explore the Yack Tracks or the Indigo Epic.
Waking up to the sounds of a rolling Yackandandah Creek might be our favourite way to start a day of riding. Campsites are free all year round and are on a first-come, first-served basis, so get in early on those long weekends.
Keeping costs down | Prep your meals & a menu plan is key
No one wants to return to camp from a big day shredding trails and dive into excessive dinner preparation or shopping for the masses.
Stepping out a meal plan and bringing some kitchen essentials from home is a great way to keep costs down and enjoy a simple meal post-ride.
As part of this meal plan, precut and cook as much as possible before you leave home. Having near-ready meals packed in containers will save you heaps of time and hassle when you arrive back at camp.
Saving on cooking time = more time for riding.
If you can, purchase key items from a local butcher or bakery. You’ll often find the cost will be comparable to major hubs, and by doing so, you support the local economy of the town you’re visiting. With that, it’s also worth checking to see where the closest places to pick up essentials are. For example, if you’re planning to ride in Forrest, beyond the General Store — which is great if you’re after baked goods or locally made tomato relish, not so much if you’re looking for a can of black beans — the closest grocery store and butcher, is in Colac, which is about half an hour in the car.
We’re partial to fried rice a great high-carb meal to get you ready for another day on the trails, and also doesn’t require much refrigeration.
You can do just about all the prep at home, chuck the cooked rice in a container, and your diced veggies into a separate container, wang them on the stove and spin up an egg with some soy sauce when it’s time to eat. Voila, bonne apitite.
Keeping your food cool over the weekend or overnight is important, but you don’t need the latest and greatest car fridge to do so! A decent esky (or chilly bin for our New Zealand readers) is more than sufficient for keeping the food cool and the beverages icy.
Longer adventures | Pick a central location for multi-night camping trips
If you’re looking to tackle a larger trail network or a cluster of riding spots over several days, it’s useful to pick a home base to explore from.
Often you get what you pay for when it comes to facilities at campsites. Many free camp spots will have a pit toilet, and sometimes caravan parks are the only option for a hot shower. Derby for example, has free camping, but the showers are coin-operated — they’re also THE nicest camp showers we’ve ever seen.
Alternatively, you might enjoy the ruggedness of camping areas which only have a flowing river for a wash.
There’s something therapeutic about returning from a ride covered in dirt, legs full of lactic acid and diving into a crisp river or lake to recover. It’ll sure get the legs prepared for another day of exploring the trails!
Jindabyne and the surrounds is a great central location to do this, with several campgrounds sprinkled along the picturesque Thredbo River. These campsites are an excellent home base to explore all Thredbo has to offer.
These locations are run by NSW Parks and usually require pre-booking and a permit, make sure you visit NSW Parks for more information on this.
Expand your itinerary | Find bike-accessible attractions to do
Australia has some incredible historic towns, unique natural attractions and other monuments which can often be accessed by bike.
Why not expand the itinerary and do some research on exciting attractions to visit whilst on your riding holiday? Or maybe it’s a local spot you’ve known about for years but never had the time to investigate.
This can be a great activity to involve those family members or friends on the holiday who may not be mountain bikers or are less confident riders.
Walyunga National Park on the outskirts of Perth is one of these historic locations which has attractions that could be a holiday on their own. The campground is 2km from the iconic Swan River, providing picturesque bushwalking trails, picnic locations, canoeing and an Aboriginal Heritage walk.
The best part is this campground is it’s located a mere 24 km from The Goat Farm Mountain Bike Park — one of Perth’s premier mountain bike locations with over 20km of trails suited to all ability levels.
Visit Explore Wa Parks to find out more about Walyunga Campground.
Save on fuel costs | Carpool with friends and family
There are few things as a mountain biker more rewarding than riding new trails with mates and even more so whilst on holiday.
The jollies of flying down a section of trail, and watching friends in front get sketchy as you hoot and holler your way down an unfamiliar track — it’s a hard feeling to match.
Or maybe you’ve just gotten your crew organised for an overnight camp near a spot you frequent, knowing all the cheeky passing zones and the best side hits.
Pulling this crew together can help save on costs in the pursuit of the economical mountain biking holiday.
We’ve all seen the astronomical fuel prices, and carpooling is a great way to share this expense, plus a good soundtrack and some bad jokes in a packed car always makes for a great time.
Pro tip: make sure your co-pilots have one of the many fuel price monitoring apps, and send them on a quest to find the cheapest petrol while you’re at the helm. We try to make a game of it, everyone shouts the person who finds the cheapest fuel along the route a drink at the pub.
Keep it simple but organised | Don’t feel the pressure to buy fancy camping utensils
Camping doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive, and keeping to the basics will still mean a great time.
As much as we love showing off our favourite blue anodized titanium spork that only weighs 12g, bringing utensils and basic kitchen items from home will save you an unnecessary trip to the supermarket while you’re meant to be relaxing or riding.
You might even have spare items which can become part of your ‘camping kit’ for a newfound appreciation of mountain bike camping holidays. A pair of tongs, a wooden spoon and some cutlery is a great base.
But there are a few non-negotiables that will go a long way to ensure all campers are happy campers.
Invest in a good set of camping lights – this might be a quality headtorch or some 12v lightbars. You don’t want to find yourself cooking or walking around at night in darkness.
Practical storage is an ally for camping trips. Use labelled storage containers to keep your back seat and life organised. Even more essential when you’re travelling with a car full of people!
Seasoned Camper Tip: A collapsible bucket, wire brush and scourer have been especially useful cleaning items on these trips. The best part is they all double as cleaning devices for your bike to get it in tip-top shape for the following day — just be sure to rinse them out really well.
Don’t forget your mountain bike essentials
A crucial point to ensure your trip isn’t short-lived! While camping out near trails, you likely won’t have easy access to a bike shop or tools, so come prepared.
There’d be nothing worse than watching your mates enjoy the trails while you’re stuck at camp with a flat or doing a last-minute brake bleed because your lever goes straight to the bar.
At least bring the basics — sealant and a spare tube, chain lube and spare link, tools and a first aid kit should all form part of your supplies.
A tool roll is something we’ve found to be a fantastic asset when travelling. It gives you the ability to include a shock pump, Allen Keys, some spanners and a multi-tool – all wrapped up in a neat little burrito.
At night, you want to keep your pride and joy safe, pack a decent chain and lock for security.
Most importantly – have fun & enjoy the great adventures in your own backyard
You don’t need to get on a plane to have a rad mountain bike holiday. We’d bet there are a few hidden gems just beyond the range of a day trip that you and a few buddies can pack in the car and have a rad weekend without spending a fortnight’s mortgage payment.
Of course, there are places to put on your riding destination bucket list, but when the financial strains are hitting us all, a penny-wise holiday is a great way to have a break while ripping epic trails and sharing a laugh.
There truly is a plethora of exciting areas to ride and camp across Australia. Utilise the numerous resources online to find campsites at new trail destinations, but also dig a little deeper into what surrounds your usual trails to create a unique way to experience your local. Camping provides a great avenue to get your family, riding crew or even friends looking to enter the scene together, rip down some trails and enjoy a cheap holiday in the great Australian outdoors.
If you’re looking for ideas about where you should ride, check out our Destination Hub.