This is very personal, and it depends so much on whether you’re touring, bikepacking, or credit-carding. The Mawson is great because it accommodates all these options.
The official Trails SA Maps call it an “off-road” route, which, with due respect, it’s not. It’s just about all on roads, guys. They are generally gravel and dirt roads, but they’re roads. The Trails SA website is more accurate: it says, “the trail includes little-used country roads, State forest and national park fire trails, farm access tracks and unmade or unused road reserves. The trail avoids traffic and bitumen roads and leads cyclists into the remote areas of the Ranges.” That’s a fair call.
So – how to see it?
I’m a credit-carding kind of guy. My idea of “unsupported” is having to pour my own wine at dinner.
I like to travel solo, using a combo of camping and staying in country pubs, which generally charge $35 – $50 for a single room with no ensuite, and including helping yourself to breakfast (i.e. several bowls of Nutri-Grain and many pieces of toast) in the mornings. This means I usually only need to carry water and snacks for the day, and some regular clothes so I’m not hanging around the bar in bike kit, scaring the locals.
Tourers, of course, carry everything, and are a law unto themselves. I toured for a month a long time ago, and I did a couple of months riding from Paris to Barcelona in 2017. Even so, I figure I know less about this than just about anyone who owns a set of panniers, so I won’t comment. I did take my tent, bag, mat and Trangia up the Mawson in 2016, but man it was heavy. I think I’ll mainly stay in pubs/cabins if I can, and take some lightweight emergency/bivy gear with me to give me more options. I am planning a solo self supported trip of the Munda Biddi for June 2018 though, so we’ll se how that pans out.
I will say something about bikepacking, because it has become so trendy recently, and it’s an ideal way to see the Trail. Bikepacking bikes look really cool, and the bags look really cool too. Bikepackers themselves look badass whereas tourers can look kinda dorky.
Bikepackers with mud all over them look even more badass. I think it’s a great idea, and I WANT (note capitals) a bikepacking bike with a Rohloff like the one Gunther Desmedt rode in the Race to the Rock 2016. Here’s a link to his gear list BTW.