For a while I’ve been wanting to string together three or four days of longer rides, for no other reason to just see if I can do it.
So with an excess of leave and permission granted, I set off last Tuesday on a jolly that would cover some lovely NSW countryside – a mountain climb, the gentle hills of the Central Tablelands and some magnificent farm land.
I had a couple of rules for itinerary planning. First up, I’m not made of the stuff of Normie, Ginger, Pidgeon or Happy – 100k’s (ish) per day is more than enough for me. Also, no starts before 8 am (it’s cold out there), no gaps between towns of greater than 50ks (just in case) and all days need to finish before the sun sets.
I also wanted to travel light but comfortable, so pub camping and big dinners were scheduled, rather than schlepping around bivvies, or sleeping in bus shelters or under hedges.
The TourDay One (102k : 1700m) was a trundle up the mountains to Blackheath. I’d mentioned the ride to Limpet and Victa to test interest and whilst a multi day offering wasn’t high on their agendas, a Tuesday Winter Westerly suddenly formed up with a handy group to join me – Dasha, Doc, Limpet, Oma and Victa. A standard run up the mountain followed, although the fog was particularly heavy from Bella Vista through to Yarramundi. We arrived at Blackheath in good time: as the escorts trained it back to Sydney, I ducked out to Govetts Leap.
Day Two (136k : 1700m) was meant to be a positioning ride – a flat trundle from Blackheath, down Vic Pass, through Lithgow to Bathurst via the Great Western Highway and then the Mid Western Highway to Blayney.
Alas, I was wrong on many counts, but two stand out. First up, there’s plenty of serious climbs from the bottom of Vic Pass for the next 60 or so k’s, peaking around Yetholme Crest at 1200m elevation. Not particularly steep, but long; up and down; on dead road. Even worse, the infrastructure is a cyclist’s nightmare, with many sections of road without any verge to pedal on. B Doubles passing at speed are not pleasant.
Mark Renshaw has a bike shop in Bathurst – it’s a great shop if you are ever in the area. I popped in to get advice as the thought of continuing on to Blayney via similar road was doing my head in. The crew there were very helpful – they had an alternate route mapped out in a flash, showing it off in google maps on the register. Instead of the Mid Western Highway, they routed me south to Perthville and Georges Plains, with a monster climb up to Newbridge, then a descent (sort of) to Blayney. With a cheery wave they sent me on my way, warning me about the Newbridge climb (again). Off I set, 50k’s to cover in 2 1/2 hours to beat sunset.
A glorious ride, cycle touring at its best. The road was fast, the weather perfect, with the afternoon sun warming and lighting the countryside in a glorious, brilliant way – dappled light amongst trees, paddocks for miles, heaven on two wheels. After the noise and bustle of the highway, the sounds of truck tyres and air brakes and hydraulics, the choral songs of birds was so refreshing. The few cars I shared the road with I could hear minutes before I saw them. With plenty of waves and a good distance as they passed, I felt safe. Even the climb up to Newbridge was a charm.
I arrived at Blayney as the sun set. Mission accomplished, the beers were good that night at dinner.
Day Three (111k : 1600m) I’d planned as the adventure day, to ride off piste far from maddening highways and 4G reception. As so it was to be: return to Bathurst, ride through Brewongle and South Bowenfels, then join the highway back up to Mount Victoria, via Berghofers Pass.
Highlander and I were pinging each other in the run up to the ride. As it turned out, Conor was going to be at his property (near Sodwalls) this week, so we arranged to meet at Tarana for lunch, about 80ks into the ride.
The return to Bathurst was as good as the ride out. From Bathurst there is a delightful flat run to Brewongle – arrow straight roads and a horizon that seems to go forever. Mind, it was a tad cool on the pedal at this point (maybe 4 deg C) with a cross wind and some squalls. Nothing disastrous, but enough to know you are alive.
I pinged Highlander from Brewongle – 25 k’s to go, I reckon an hour. Bad call – it is seriously hilly. You know, like Cottage Point hilly. Again, wonderful countryside – not as rolling or fertile as Blayney, but plenty of views, forests and train tracks. Yup, the road loosely followed a train line. A bit disconcerting – one minute you’d be looking down at the tracks, the next you’d be looking up way up at the embankment.
I eventually met up with Highlander at Tarana, where after coffee and lunch, his siren song (wanna lift to Lithgow?) proved too strong. I scabbed a lift. It was a good call – it saved two hours of solid hills so I could make it to Berghofers Pass in daylight.
So why Berghofers Pass? It was built around 1912 as an alternate to Vic Pass. Albeit it fell into disrepair, it is far more preferable to mixing it with B Doubles climbing the Pass. There’s not much about it online (I found the pass phaffing around on Google Maps). I figured out the start is about 500m from safety camera gantry at the start of Vic Pass (how useful is Street View?). Berghofers is very rideable, although I’d recommend a minimum of 32 mm tyres. There’s a little slippage, but otherwise it’s straightforward. Indeed, if need be, it’s easy enough to wheel your bike. All up, it’s 2.5k.
Day Four (100k : 900m) was always going to be a crystal crank day. A fast run down the mountains, then a lazy run back to Tuzza. It would be fair to say my legs weren’t just cooked by this stage – they were sliced, diced, steamed and served. I took it pretty easy from Mount Victoria all the way to Turramurra.
There were a couple of plan variations. Rather than risk riding from Blackheath to Katoomba on the road verge (another nightmare) I remembered reading somewhere there were firetrails following the road. I found the trail head at Blackheath and trundled safely on dirt to Katoomba (part of it is actually paved).
The other variation was to flip do
wn Mitchell Pass from Blaxland. Apart from being much more cycle friendly, there’s a wonderful convict bridge (Lennox Bridge) which is well worth a stop.
To round out the ride I trundled home via Parramatta River. It’s a great cycle path. If you’ve not ridden it before, buy Zlatco a coffee so he can escort you on a Zorbital.
Bike and Kit
I used my Gravel Lynskey, fitted with 32mm Maxxis Refuse. I’m big fans of these tyres – grippy, strong sidewalls and much more reasonably priced than Conti’s. Drive train is Shimano GRX (42 / 11:34). I could have used a bigger granny around Tarana, otherwise very reliable. For storage I used Apidura Bags (Frame – 5l and Saddle – 10l) and a Rapha handlebar bag (2l). It all worked well. I took plenty of tools and spares (4 tubes, patches, pp, etc), none of which was needed.
All up I had about 17l of storage, which isn’t that much. Still, Limpet did ask me to carry his tablet on Day One. Anyway, I kept it light with two sets of kit (which I washed each day, allowing two nights for drying if need be) and light clothes to wear to the pub for dinner, with cycling shoes of course.
Again, it worked well, with some minor variations to the kit list for next time.
Did the Accommodation Work?
Regarding the accommodation, it worked really well. Generally it was comfortable, clean and warm. I had good mobile reception, which was critical for ride planning the next day. Electric blankets seem to be de rigueur at these places – I don’t like using such malarkey, but it is a great way to finishing drying off freshly washed kit 🙂
The most disappointing part of the ride was the road infrastructure. It was abysmal, with cyclist black spots between Katoomba and Blackheath, the GWH, the MWH and, of course, the ascent through Vic Pass. The good news is there are alternate routes to follow.
Would I Do It Again?
In a heartbeat.
Till the next ride,
And Some Follow Up Questions
- Was the Weather Good?
- Sheer joss the weather was as good as it turned out. I did track it from three weeks out, it seemed to get better with each passing day. The most likely shocker was Day 3 (Thursday) which promised rain for much of the day. Instead it was a light shower and a few squalls. In some ways, the days were extreme – near zero to start, warming to a very reasonable mid teens by 10 am.
- How did you dry kit?
- All kit dried in time. Heaters make a big difference, though wringing the kit dry with a towel worked well. Finishing off by electric blanket was a nice touch. Who doesn’t like pulling on pre-warmed knicks?
- Is safe routing possible?
- Routing w/o trucks is entirely possible. Normie and I compared notes and we seemed to have plugged all the gaps. I did forget to include a special we worked out on Day 1 (Tuesday). To exit Sydney via Richmond you need to get to Windsor Road. Unless you leave at a very unreasonable 5:30, it’s hard to do, especially with Berowra Waters ferry out of action. The solution is to trundle to the Metro at Macquarie and train out Bella Visit. Voila – cycle path and wide verge all the way to Richmond. After Richmond, it’s all country roads and Yarramundi switchbacks to Springwood. Too much fun.
On Wednesday 8th Jan, Easy Riders raised more than $1700 for the Rural Fire Service in response to the recent bushfires affecting NSW and the rest of Australia. This allowed us to invite current EF Education First World Tour rider Lachy Morton to ride with us on a special Rhodes Roubaix.
After the ride, we swapped Lachy’s EF Education First jersey for an Easy Riders commuter jersey.
We’ve just auctioned this jersey to raise further funds for the RFS. Congratulations to Ginger, you look like world tour material to us..
Lachy is a true gentleman and it was a privilege to ride with him and help him support a great cause. He’s now got a swag of new fans who will be watching his progress during the year.
You can donate to the RFS to help support their life saving work.
Here you go………..
I’ve probably waffled on too much however this was not such a straight forward affair……
The bongos were thumping last night, a steady beat, well below 140, stirring the troops who were primed to march a different route to their usual soft commute, a route only a hobbit would love.
YHC waiting for the alarm to go off in the middle of the night…. the many multitudes of ERs being drawn by bonds of friendship and wistful sadness .and lets face the bloody drums….and then
sparrows farted ( YHC could not be sure it was sparrows )
Rolling out of the garret into a pitch dark night , YHC was mostly solo .. .. Billions of stars overhead + an extra B1.
Surfing off the upper reaches of Monte Colah and down to Turra where a dawn service was due to start.
A cloud free chill, clammy with a hint of anticipation.. ( and the weather was pretty good too )
The ER troops were already on the pedal , rolling up to the launch it was wall to wall egg and tomato, obviously the word had got around, and all the cracks had gathered to the fray..lights flashing, voices hushed and plenty of the usual back slapping and bonhommie. Roll call and Laurie briefing the multitude to fight fair , no kicking or scratching the usual terms and conditions.. everyone after Andrew , Keith and Grant became another ER..and the boys lead us out.
YHC enjoys this part of the ride, a 4 km gentle slope ever downward .. cruising in convoy, into that magical piece of forest Browns water hole.. YHC slips a chain, and without further ado is at the back of the peloton waiving a lanterne rouge..some things never change.
Laurie’s briefing said there would be a regroup at the top.. there was. ( Kind of a new experience for our HMOTN ) Rolling out a group which was now about 50 strong, left plenty of time to regain a little breath and say hello to GottaRide.. only she gotta ride a moped..not too embarrassed to wear the colours though. ( quick plug here, if you are looking to dope your bike.. please opt for an electric one )
The ER traffic jam processed to the LCNP stopping normal traffic and turning just a few heads .. B1 would have enjoyed the irony of filling the park with an ER gridlock. So far the pace was sociable, banter the order of the day, Ravi and Comet in the bunch, moon blue as it was big overhead. Then just when you think all is sweet, you hit the wall, the Fullers Slap. It is vertical, with a little horizontal thrown in, pleasure becomes pain, and all the hobbits laugh as they take the front of the group and dish it out. ( only in their minds as hobbits are generally much too nice to laugh ) Satnav was on the fixie. didn’t seem to miss a beat. YHC coughed up a lung. but discreetly rolled to the front of the regroup ( to take a few pictures ) not going to be dropped with half a ride left. ( Meanwhile Andrew and the boys had peeled off to go back to school )
Chatswoo to the city is well worn OTP territory so how come the hobbits have a windy little track past a grotty little shack on the way to find the top of Tindale, this being YHC’s first hobbits ride navigation was surprisingly complicated. By now of course the ER peloton has swelled past 60 and even blind Freddy could follow the procession. No doubt the devil would take the hindmost, but there would be plenty of company.
It was a swift transfer through Narrem Burn and a traffic disaster at the top of Crow’s Nest, once onto the downhill stretch there were a few very relieved faces until it became the usual coffee sprint, ( Schleckie had his traffic light greener working overtime ) 58 ERs get entangled in the shambles of Miller St, Schleckie is first in the coffee queue ( I made that bit up as I have never seen the tail lights of Schleckie by this stage of the ride some things never change )
Photoshop was not required to fill the space around B&T, it really was wall to wall egg and tomato some faces there that I had not seen for a very long while, and of course some who could not make it. ( Highlander , Flash you know who you are )
Stragglers rolled in and sat on laps, planters, or stood around gassing in the usual ER way. Vic and his happy crew turned out about 100 coffees in double quick time, I was well to the back of the line up and was sipping before I had the breath back.
Coffee and company, connection and caring mates, B1 you would have really enjoyed this ride dammit, we really miss you already.
With six (6) Easy Riders on the Fluffer this morning, a ride report is justified. It was Anna Police_Biscotti’s first ER Fluffer and her timing was impeccable with glorious weather as well as an ER peloton comprising Doc, Magoo, Blue Stratos, Happy and Ginger.
The glory days of 20 plus ERs on the Fluffer are long gone after Big Goaders relocated to NZ. Also, many ERs have already ticked off 3 Peaks Challenge and Around the Bay, as such, it is understandable that the effort to get up extra early for the Fluffer has become less compelling. These days, 3 ERs on the Fluffer is considered a good turn out as often Ginger rides solo.
Although, Doc, Blue and Happy are considered fairly regular participants on the Fluffer, Magoo only turns up occasionally. Based on Magoo’s recent impressive racing achievements, keeping the peloton together should Magoo decides to ride at warp speed would be a futile exercise. However, Magoo assures Ginger that she is tapering before spending 8 days at the AIS in Canberra next week, hoping to be selected as a member of an elite road racing team that will get the opportunity to race in Europe. Magoo also turned up with a brand new bike. It’s a Specialized roadie naturally!
At 5:16am 5 ERs rolled onto Mona Vale Road from the St Ives car park at a nice comfortable pace. Blue joined us at the Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Gardens just before the descent. Ginger was dropped on the ascent to the St Ives Show Ground. Thankfully, the peloton slowed down to enable Ginger to get back on.
Despite the overnight thunderstorms and rain, the road surface was nice and dry. The descent from Terry Hills to Church Point was enjoyed by all as only four cars drove by. Although the pace was brisk, everyone managed to stay together and chatted.
Doc joined the Fluffer even though she had to be in Camden by 11am to set up a spinach experiment in one of the farms there. She told me that if there are too much weeds among the spinach, the experiment won’t work. In fact, the experiment had failed three times due to weeds.
At North Narrabeen, the ER peloton took a left turn to cut across the caravan park fronting onto Ocean Street which is a flat road that the local cyclists love to fang along at warp speed. Luckily, Magoo resisted the temptation to spoil their party.
The sunrise was pretty spectacular, as we took in Long Reef, Dee Why, Curl Curl, Freshwater before arriving at Manly for a brief stop. Apart from cyclists, Manly beach has become quite a happening place with lots of groups doing boot camp, running, or simply out for a stroll with their pets.
Fortunately, due to school holidays, there was very light traffic along Sydney and Spit Roads. After turning into Parrawi Road, Magoo and Happy took off racing each other to the top. Parrawi Road offers fantastic views of Middle Harbor all the way through the heads.
The ER peloton rode through Balmoral, Mosman, Cremorne, and Neutral Bay along the back roads avoiding Spit and Military Roads. Eventually, the ER peloton arrived at Milsons Point and Anna Police_Biscotti had to ride back to Lane Cove. After riding across the Bridge, Magoo went missing whilst Doc, Blue, Happy and Ginger enjoyed a well earned brekky and coffee at the Yahoo Cafe. It was nice and sunny and life is good.
Any ERs who are yet to do the Fluffer should make the effort to get out of bed early to experience one of the nicest rides in Sydney.
PS It’s Happy Luke’s birthday tomorrow. Drop by the Google Cafe to wish him happy birthday!
An early departure under a clear blue sky was the most welcoming of sights….so of course it had to be another epic adventure on the Hobbits. With hardly any traffic on KPR, the 6.35 M2 tunnel rendezvous was made with ease. But would there be other Hobbits on such a glorious morning? As I waited for the appointed time, there came the rumblings of a some prehistoric beast smashing its way the dense vegetation. Was this a dinosaur of epic scale or the first reported sighting of the yeti in Australia? Tree limbs creaked and splintered asunder as Dopey steered his way through the brambles on his new mountain bike steed. My instincts justified on both accounts.
It was a BT paced ride which meant there was a 100% chance that anyone could catch us, it was just a question of where and when.
The Hobbits is a very pleasant, sociable sojourn: there are long downhill sections and only 2 steep category 4 climbs. It is clearly the best way to start the day and the connoisseurs choice of the best ER route (yes Schlecky – you know it’s true). One day, they will make a movie based on the Hobbits ride (maybe a trilogy) and someone famous will probably write a book, that will become a best seller. Remember, tell your kids you heard it here first.
No traffic and the only incident of note was Dopey losing control whilst negotiating the short 20m off road section under Lane cove bridge. He was out of sight for sometime, but made it out from under the bridge with a wide smile.
A rafter of riders was happily nesting at the B&T as we carved our way through the construction site that is Dalgety road. Weather was perfect for a ride into town, the company was marvellous, and the conversation memorable.
Departure times set for 5:15pm. Get plenty of sleep before the ride home – it doesn’t get better than this.
Tomorrow’s morning coffee debate will be on the 2015 challenges. Be bold, be brave, share your aspirations for 2015 (in no less than 20 words please). There is nothing like peer pressure and banter to help you achieve something you didn’t think you could ever achieve. NNNick: you can just roll forward your 2013 goal another year.
Farewell 2014. We will miss you.
The T-accounts in Strava start from zero – Yehaaa 2015, here we come….
Stealthy (in BT’s absence)
In the darkness and the rain they waited,
Fingers crossed and breath a-bated,
Alas Van Diemen never did appear,
As if the conditions where something to fear.
Stealthy and Flash continued their affair,
Matching bags, hats and in years to come, hair?
I ponder if Flash is actually Stealth in a future sense,
The possibilities of the space-time continuum are immense.
C.Hippo’s Jesus slippers continue to brave the weather,
As CFO they have been banished from my consciousness forever,
Although his commitment to the cause is to be respected,
His hairy big toe leaves me a little dejected.
SatNav rolled in with all his friends in tow,
Setting the pace until a certain roundabout, where he slows,
Phantom’s rear lights hovered in the distance yonder,
Mesmerised by their beauty I was almost clipped by a Honda.
Chilled and sodden was this group of six,
Yet showers await, providing a quick fix,
If it wasn’t already clear, let us declare it henceforth
These six are true hard men (and women) of the North.
YHC was stirred early enough to calculate the chances of rain to be sufficiently low, such that an ageing Mamil could conquer the North Shore , consume a coffee at the Cava , and be at work before the forecast showers were due.
Thus it was a pleasure to behold only 5 others lining up for a saunter along the one true path, a small but tidy peloton of the uber cool ER phenomenon.
Consulting the time gods, for a sign to depart, as BOF is now no longer scheduled at the appointed hour..YHC self selected to be Lantern Rouge, a role of increasing importance in the face of such greatness, let’s face it YHC could not hope to lead off the front anyway. And statesmanlike YHC rolled out to talk of stately things and be regaled of stirring tales of previous cycling derring do ..ok everyone was cycling in the rain and I was not..
The small group meant few if any regroup stops, and this kept the schedule almost to the second, meaning that Roseville and TIndale , and Crow’s Nest offered no respite but as LR and chuffing at a sedate speed( pre race taper for our heroes ) there was no need. Dry roads and favourable lights, few cars and nil conflicts meant the commute was business as usual, no incidents to report, a perfect day for a ride into town.
YHC has a view that rain and wet roads add to risk, not really from a bike perspective , more that the driving public are nearly twice as stupid when windscreen wipers are in use.. I can ride to conditions keeping the bike the right way up, using plenty of extra brakes and all that jazz, keeping bigger gaps, thinking ahead more, but sitting as I was on the bus in the pouring rain and watching cars dice with each other taking advantage of the bigger gaps and generally menacing each other fully ignoring the conditions, it makes me feel a little more vulnerable while in that environment on a bike.
The weekend is at least looking like a good one for a hurl , no doubt there will be a tide of ERs swirling the various national parks, beaches bushes and now swimming pools..
Have a great one all