You usually remember the first time you see a Kickbike. From the front, it looks like an ordinary bicycle, but once you see it from the side or back, everything changes.
Ever since then, I have wanted to try using a kickbike for travel. Not just for short trips in and around town, but for a longer tour. The inherent simplicity of the design appeals to me and I wondered how it would fare on a long trip, complete with the bags and equipment needed for serious touring.
I clearly remember the first time I saw a ”serious” Kickbike. It was at an international adventure race in Finland, home of the Kickbike, and the premier Finish adventure racing team, Nokia, were using them on a section of the race that allowed the use of either scooters (kickbikes) or inlines.
Well, this December (2015), I found myself with a bit of time on my hands and needing to get from Tweed Heads (in Australia) to Sydney. In a moment of inspiration, I sent an email to Bruce at Kickbike Australia and asked if he possibly had one that I could borrow. He did! Which is how I found myself astride a Sport G4 model Kickbike, about to start on the 1,000 km journey to Sydney.
It needs to be said right here at the beginning, that my preparations were very hurried and, given more time, I would have liked to have outfitted the Kickbike with better touring gear. But I only had one day to spare and had to use whatever I could find at the local bike shops. After a bit of searching, I found a front rack that I was able to jury-rig onto the G4 and at another shop, I found some pannier bags. Along with the dry sack I already had, I was ready to go!
Day 1 was from Tweed Heads to Byron Bay, a 72 km kick that had me in Byron early in the afternoon, with plenty of time for sightseeing. My first day of kickbike touring had definitely been a success.
Kickbiking is both quicker and easier than walking, which has been my main method of travel the last few years, but slower than bicycle touring. It’s a nice compromise, slow enough to enjoy the scenery, yet quick enough to enable you to cover respectable distances in the course of a day. It’s also very easy to stop, step off and immerse yourself in your surroundings in a much more immediate way than when you are sitting on a bicycle. The differences are subtle, but they are there and I found myself slowing down and not having that resistance to stopping that I often feel when riding a bike.
It helps that the north coast of NSW is one of the most scenic in the world, and there are endless beautiful beaches and headlands to admire.
It eventually took me 17 days to get to Sydney, with 14 days of kicking and 3 rest days. I did not stay on the highways but tried to find smaller roads and tracks to follow, even kicking along the beach at some stages. It was great, rolling along the beach, with the waves almost washing up to the tyres and miles of emptiness ahead of you. Make sure you get your timing right, though. South of Yamba, I found myself on the beach at high tide and ended up having to almost carry the kickbike through the soft sand. Hard work and nowhere as enjoyable as kicking along the hard sand at low tide!
I even got to test the off-road capabilities as well. With the help of Google maps, I found a number of small tracks through State Forests and National Parks, tracks so small that calling them tracks is misleading. The G4 Sport model I was on is not really intended for off-road use, but it coped with it without any problems and I managed to make my way along some rough single-track that would have been impassable even for a 4WD.
After 17 days and close to 1,000 kilometres touring on a kickbike, I am pleasantly surprised at how competent a tourer it is. There are a small number of drawbacks, like not being able to carry as much gear as a fully set up touring bike, and the fact that it is slower than a bicycle. But both of those can also be seen as positives. Being limited in carrying capacity forces you to really consider what you need to take with you and the slower speed immerses you much more in the surroundings.
In fact, I am even considering changing my plans for a bicycle tour of the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia and doing it on a kickbike instead. After my walking and bicycle touring experiences in South East Asia, I can’t help thinking that a kickbike would be perfect there.
Physically, I had no problems at all. It was very nice to not have to endure the sore backside that bicycle touring always gives me for the first week or so, and I suffered only mild muscle pain despite having 2 days where I covered more than 100 kilometres. As always, it is important to set up the bike to suit you and I did change to a higher set of handlebars in Coffs Harbour, letting me stand more upright and relieving a bit of stress on my wrists. Setting off as I did without any kickbiking experience behind me at all, is probably not recommended. You would naturally be much better off setting up the bike and getting some kilometres under your belt before you go.
All in all, it was a great first kickbike experience, one that left me very much wanting more. I am sure that there are going to be a lot more kickbike kilometres ahead for me!