Taking the Slow Track: Solo Winter Bikepacking in Tasmania (Video)

Mick Turnbull’s latest video chronicles a solo shakedown ride around his home in Tasmania ahead of an upcoming bikepacking journey across Peru. Join him on a stunning spin around Tasmania and read his reflections on returning to filming after several months of leaving the camera behind here…

I recently finished an overnight ride along a rocky and slow trail in the Central Highlands of Tasmania, my favourite place to ride in my home state. It was the first time I’d taken a camera with me in six months. With a longer trip to the Cordillera Blanca in Peru with Danielle looming, I was keen for a shakedown ride, sleeping setup test, and to warm up my filming skills.

It’s not a ride for everyone. As Dan said last time we rode it, “It would be a nice walk.” But I’m drawn to places that don’t see many tire tracks, or for that matter, people. I knew I was unlikely to see another person here at this time of year. The Central Highlands is a region favoured by critters of the water, land, and sky, and those with a penchant for shooting and fishing. This ride wasn’t about going fast or churning out the miles, it was about riding slow. And I was riding slow, averaging just over six kilometres per hour (four miles per hour).

Taking the Slow Track, Solo Bikepacking Tasmania, Mick Turnbull
  • Taking the Slow Track, Solo Bikepacking Tasmania, Mick Turnbull
  • Taking the Slow Track, Solo Bikepacking Tasmania, Mick Turnbull

My decision to take time off filming came by accident. I’d set off mid-summer for a three-day solo ride in the same region. I’d been riding a lot, and pedalling was a joy. As always, I had my camera and was filming early in the ride: big Tassie sky, a caterpillar crossing the road, wide-eyed cows, etc.

I stopped to get a shot of the valley: golden dry grass, gentle hills, and a well-graded gravel road winding towards the horizon. Rural. Picturesque. I framed the shot, checked my settings, hit record. But bending down to lift my bike off the road, I froze. I’d “done my back in,” as you do when you’ve just turned 50. I stretched gently, assessing the damage. A four-wheel-drive slowed as it went by, probably seeing my pained expression. I waved to signal that everything was fine—just an old man with a backache.

Eventually, I got back on the bike. I managed another five kilometres before realising… nope, no go. The day’s plan had been 112 kilometres (70 miles) with 2,147 metres (7,000 feet) of climbing, but it was time to just head home.

Recovering on the couch, I calculated what I could take on rides without all the camera gear: camera, lens, GoPro, tripods, light, batteries, microphones, and so on. Some spreadsheet calculations later, I decided to do the ride again when I’d recovered, but no filming or photos.

  • Taking the Slow Track, Solo Bikepacking Tasmania, Mick Turnbull
  • Taking the Slow Track, Solo Bikepacking Tasmania, Mick Turnbull

I’ve never been an ultralight bikepacker. Most of our rides take us to remote places requiring several days’ worth food and plenty of water. Balancing traveling light and a few comforts worked for me. But somehow, the camera had become one of those comforts.

I started filming by accident. One winter, I took our dog Pixie for a walk. Crossing a beach and looking at the lazy pink dawn and the less lazy waves on the sand, I spied something unusual. Peering closer, I realised it was a GoPro. The lens was scratched and sandpapered, suggesting it had been for a very long swim.

Taking the Slow Track, Solo Bikepacking Tasmania, Mick Turnbull

Attempts to find the owner were unsuccessful. Eventually, I replaced the battery, lens, and battery door cover and took the GoPro to Mongolia to make a short film for family and friends. Never a photo-taker, the process of filming and editing sparked something. Learning from the “university of YouTube,” six years later, I had filmed almost every bikepacking trip since.

When you ride and film, you become conditioned to look for the best shots. I’d find myself thinking, “That would be a great shot.” But for six months, without camera, I simply savoured the view from the saddle rather than from behind a camera. I was no purist; I still took some photos with my phone. But with the reduced weight of the bike and the freedom to keep moving, once again, riding became the rhythm. Riding was the thing.

  • Taking the Slow Track, Solo Bikepacking Tasmania, Mick Turnbull
  • Taking the Slow Track, Solo Bikepacking Tasmania, Mick Turnbull

I haven’t turned into a riding Luddite. I love filming and plan on continuing. However, by taking a break, I was reminded of the simple joy of riding with the sole tasks of propelling, admiring the landscape, and finding a spot to eat and drink and sleep. I don’t think we all need to ditch our cameras, pick up our cameras, slow down or speed up. I simply wish to suggest that sometimes, a break from our riding habits offers a new perspective.

The Route

In case you missed them, catch up on a bunch of Mick’s videos in the Further Reading grid below.

Further Reading

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