Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Bamboo biking around the world brings couple to Benalla

Julie Lawrence and partner Lisa Ditlef-Nielsen made their own bikes from bamboo and have ridden from London to Benalla before heading off to their final destination of Sydney.

LIBBY PRICE August 7, 2014 3:30am

Benalla woman Julie Lawrence and her partner Lisa Ditlef-Nielsen are raising money for brain tumour research and water aid riding hand made bamboo bikes from London to Sydney via Benalla

It was over a few drinks in a London pub that Julie Lawrence confided in her partner, Lisa Ditlef-Nielsen, that she had a dream of cycling to Australia to stay with her mother in Benalla whom she hadn’t seen for seven years.

Ms Ditlef-Nielsen, 30, admitted she too had given it some thought, so they immediately started researching and madly saving for the trip.

They initially wanted to build a tandem bicycle but did a test run on hired bikes.

‘‘It nearly killed us. We’re not compatible cyclists. I’m a much slower rider,’’ Ms Lawrence, 43, said.

They’d both been to New York to learn how to build single-speed bamboo bikes and were determined to use bamboo again.

‘‘There’s the beauty of bamboo, but it also conforms to the rider, is very solid and absorbs a lot of the vibrations. And it’s very affordable when you’re building a custom made bike because you can use bespoke geometry,’’ Ms Ditlef-Nielsen said.

‘‘And of course, it doesn’t rust!’’

The bamboo was imported from Mexico and the bikes took 10 days to make using a computer program that did the drafting using leg, arm and saddle measurements.

Ms Lawrence believes it was the first time the program had been used for making ‘touring’ bamboo bikes.

The women left London in March 2013 and headed to France, then Germany, and followed the Danube River to the Black Sea, taking a few detours to countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Hungary, mostly camping in tents. They caught a cargo ship across the Caspian Sea for an 18-hour trip which ended up taking four days due to bad weather. They arrived in Alma-Ata, the capital of Kazakhstan, where it was –20°C.

Unable to get a visa to ride through China, Ms Lawrence and Ms Ditlef-Nielsen ended up flying to Thailand, and were lucky to be among the first cyclists allowed to ride through Myanmar.

Ms Lawrence was anxious to get to Benalla, so they then flew to Perth and tackled the Minda Biddi trail in WA’s south-west, one of the world’s longest off-road cycling tracks through a natural corridor of unspoilt karri forests and bushland.

By the time they reached Adelaide, they decided to cheat and caught a bus to Benalla.

Next month Ms Lawrence and Ms Ditlef-Nielsen will embark on the final leg of their journey to Sydney, where they hope to set up a bamboo bike-building business and cafe.

Ms Lawrence’s passion is building bikes for disadvantaged children and women.

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