gravel grinding

Ol Dirty 2017

Posted on Updated on

Ol’ Dirty is an off-road bike event hosted by Andy Van Bergen who is the founder of Hells 500.  This event has been running since 2012, and this years event promise a mix of newly discovered tracks, killer lines, and deep grooves.  Andy promised “it wouldn’t be an Ol’Dirty production without beats, liquor, batchies, and chow. We’ll bring the party if you bring the party. We’re delivering a route this year that will blow your tiny minds.  Not to mention a mid-ride break and lunch stop the likes of which you’ve never seen before (probably with good reason).  All delivered under the wash of amazing beats, an incredible crew, and some of the gawdamn best peeps in this amazing little community.

The name Ol’ Dirty refers to the rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard. His tunes are always played at this event and riders are guaranteed some great quiet roads  A company of like-minded crazy riders, and always some super steep unsealed climbs.  You are guaranteed to see at least one, if not all riders getting off to walk.

This is the second year that this event was being held in Marysville, situated in the heavily forested areas of the Great Dividing Range.  This was once a gold mining area. Today Marysville is a popular tourist destination, and tourists are attracted to the areas beauty and serenity.  Cyclists, well we’re attracted to the hills.

The 2017 Ol’ Dirty is paying tribute to one of the last days of Ol’ Dirty Bastards life spent at Coney Island, by offering a carnival atmosphere.

2017 Ol’ Dirty

Due to suffering a number of broken bones late June I’m currently off the bike indefinitely.  Whilst pain is preventing me from riding, my love of cycling hasn’t waned and I offered to volunteer for this great event.  The alarm was set for 4:45 am, and coffee was my friend as I set-out in the dark of night.  Much of what I was going to be doing today was a mystery.  All I was told was this ride was to have a carnival theme and to expect hip-hop, popcorn, fairy floss, jumping castles, show bags & clowns. Psycho clowns.

My kinda scene.

There was a massive turnout and the course certainly didn’t disappoint.  There was a mixture of mud, single-trail, mud, super steep climbs, more mud, hip-hop, psycho clowns, mud and to top it off a carnival near the end of the ride.

The entree of the course was a tough climb up to Mount Gordon.  From here it just got harder.  The highlight/low light of this years course was the super steep climb up to Dom Dom Saddle in the Black Spur.  This peaked well in excess of 30%, and covered in mud.  It would be nearly impossible to climb on a good day.  The climb and muddy conditions nearly finished off a number of riders.  Virtually every single rider was forced to get off and walk their bikes up this very, very, very, difficult climb.

I could feel their pain and could imagine their legs screaming trying to push their bikes up this hill.  Many colorful words were being thrown around, but at the top was a treat.  There was a rest stop and riders were handed out Bertie Beetle showbags.  Yes showbags!

The ‘Bertie Beetle Showbag’ is a true icon of Australia.

It was first produced in 1963 and has since become one of the most popular showbags ever made. The Bertie Beetle is a small chocolate bar manufactured by Nestlé. It’s a chocolate coated bar containing small pieces of honeycomb, shaped like an anthropomorphised beetle.

Not what any of the riders would have expected going into Ol’ Dirty.  This  gave them something to bring up their spirits as there was still a long way to go.

After many more challenging roads riders were treated to one final surprise.  A carnival in the middle of nowhere.  There was a jumping castle, prize machines, popcorn, fairy floss, Burritos and some much needed refreshments.  Waiting to welcome the tired riders.

Many looked shell shocked, but there was a good vibe that they had just experienced something wild.

I haven’t been able to do much since my injury, and was all a bit too much for me.  I was very exhauted towards the end, but very glad that I made the trek out to Marysville.  As a bonus I had the chance to catch up with a large number of friends.  My favorite part was the climb up to Dom Dom saddle.  It looked absolutely crazy.  Most likely I would have had to get off and walk up it, but I would certainly have given it a crack.

A big thank you to Andy and Tammy Van Bergen and all of the support crew for putting on such an amazing event.  The level of detail they put into an event like this is truly amazing.  Going so far as to getting custom made teddy bears of Ol’ Dirty Bastard (see image below).  My young son loved it when I brought it home.

Ol’ Dirty Bastard

One thing is for sure.  Many would already be queuing up for tickets to 2018 Ol’ Dirty.

No shame in walking

 

 

 

We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!

Bowden Spur Road

Posted on Updated on

Distance: 3.9 km
Average Gradient: 9%
Elevation gained: 350 meters
Surface: Hard packed gravel with some loose gravel
Traffic: Minimal

Click here for link to the Strava segment.

Bowden Spur Road is a steep, unsealed climb which takes you up the south side of the Kinglake Ranges. This climb will take you through the Kinglake National Park and is quite brutal at times. This is a climb which would suit those that love gravel grinding, or love taking on the challenge of a very difficult climb. It also offers some of the best views you are likely to see by bike in the northern suburbs, and on a clear day you can see the Melbourne CBD.

Start of the climb: From Strathewen turn onto Bowden Spur Road. You have the option of either taking Bowden Spur or School Ridge Road to get to the climb.

There is quite a bit of very steep, undulating climbing to get to the base of the official start of the climb. Don’t be surprised if your legs are feeling it before you even get onto the climb.  The surface is quite hard-packed, with some loose gravel which is easy enough to ride around without too much difficulty.

You’ll come to a cyclist sign to the left hand side of the road. This is the official start to the climb, which you’ll probably figure it out for yourself as the road goes vertical from here.

Start of the climb

This area was cleared in order to build power lines, to prevent the risks of fires. These power lines follow the road. This has left the road exposed to the elements.

Please do not attempt this climb in extreme weather such as heavy winds & on hot days.

The power lines join onto the power station at the top of this climb.

The climb starts with a long, straight steep section of road. The area around it has been cleared to reduce the risk of fires and is quite exposed. It can be quite a daunting climb given how stark the terrain is.

At the top of the first straight there is right-handed switchback before the road flattens out and there are some impressive views of the valley bellow (minus the power lines of course). The gradient will get steep again and this is a climb that will be a grind. The road isn’t always maintained and expect the road to get rougher the higher you climb. With stretches of corrugated surface.

There are two very impressive and incredibly steep switchbacks. These offer some impressive views which you may need to distract yourself from the grind.

After the final switchback you will round a bend to the left before the road straightens on for the remainder of the climb. You will see a mobile phone tower to the right hand side of the road which you can use as a beacon to signify the end of the climb.

This ends at the intersection at Whittlesea-Kinglake Road.

End of the climb

At a glance

  • Two very impressive hairpins
  • Narrow road
  • Spectacular views
  • Notable for power lines that cross the road on their way up the hill
  • Keep an eye out for wildlife
  • You can see the Melbourne CBD on a clear day
  • The road surface becomes rougher the higher you climb with long corrugated sections
  • Tire selection is essential, and you will want to run a minimum of 28mm tires
  • You will want to be running a compact
  • Toilets available in the Mountain bike carpark at the top of the climb

How to get there:

Bowden Spur Road is located in the town of Strathewen which is located 50 km to the north east of Melbourne.

Mountain Biking

At the top of the climb is the Bowden Spur Mountain Bike park which was opened in 2012. It has a number of downhill mountain bike trails which offer a 233 metre descent. These trail have dirt jumps, rock gardens, bomb holes, flowing earth berms and has large sections of off-camber riding. . The tracks are extremely difficult and recommended for experts only.

There is a designated parking area for these tracks approximately 200 meters from the intersection of the Kinglake-Whittlesea Road.

Bowden Spur Road

During fire season

Bowden Spur Road is in a fire district. Anyone entering parks and forests during the bushfire season needs to stay aware of forecast weather conditions. Check the Fire Danger Rating and for days of Total Fire Ban at www.cfa.vic.gov.au or call the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226.

The Dirty Dandys ride

Posted on Updated on

There’s something special about bringing together a group of strangers and introducing them to new roads.  I put together this little event which included some of the Dandenong Ranges finest gravel climbs.  I invited a small number of riders to join me for a Dirty Dandys ride.  We had rain forecasted overnight.  It was supposed to dry up by the time the ride was due to start.  On the drive up it was raining quite heavily and just kept on raining.

I was really excited about this ride.  There were a number of riders who were travelling quite a distance just to eperience this ride.  All the way from the western suburbs, & one of the riders ventured all the way from the beach to join us.  There was going to be two groups with the second group due to meet us in the Basin car park at around 8:00 am.

Basin Olinda Road

The first group consisting of Adam, Geert & Fabian headed out to Old Coach Road.  This is a climb which I found so hard that I’ve only ever done it once.  Old Coach Road is a dead-end road, which then turns into a walking track.  Most riders are turned off venturing up it due to the dead-end sign (plus the fact its ridiculously steep).  Very few have done this climb.  When you get to the gate which leads onto the National Park, this is super steep and littered with really wet rocks and debris all over the path.  There was very little in the way in traction, and was really hard work to get up today.

The guys worked out pretty quickly that this wasn’t going to be an easy ride.

Climb no# 2 was up Basin Olinda Road which is easily the Dandenong’s most popular dirt climb.  Its a stunning road to climb which is easy to access and located right next to the start of the 1 in 20.  The road was wet and slightly muddy and everyone had to work overtime to climb.  It was great conditions to ride though.  We were treated to a low hanging mist on the second half of the climb. Things were going well until the skies really opened up on us.  I love riding when it rains, but these were conditions where the last place you wanted to be was on a bike.  As everyone crested the climb, we weren’t giving each other high fives.  Everyone went and huddled under the shelter next to the shops to hide from the rain.

Many were wondering whether to pull the plug and head home.

 

Not night time. 8:30 in the morning.

We descended down to Olinda Creek Road and made our way across to Silvan Road.  This is a climb which is 6.7 km in length with an average gradient of 5%.  I felt sorry for those sitting in the wheel of the rider in front of them.  The roads were wet and muddy and all they were doing was eating mud.  By now everyone was well and truly soaked to the skin.

Silvan Road is quite a hard one to climb.  The gradient is nice and easy down the bottom and steadily gets steeper until it hits you in the face at 13% in a number of places on the climb.  With rain adding to the misery there were a lot of riders in the pain cave on Silvan today.  Near the top is the R.J Hamer Arboretum Gardens and one of the finest lookouts in the Dandenong’s.  Today there wasn’t much in the way of a view, and there’s sill a bit of climbing to get to the top.  One of the riders spied a shelter, and the climb could wait.

Everyone agreed that it was a good time to shelter from the rain.

Image taken by Mesh Gammune

Everyone looked shell shocked. Soaked to the skin, yet somehow there were grins on the guys faces.  We had all traveled up some truly stunning roads, in conditions that most would not dare ride.  You want all your rides to be special, and sometimes it just happens.  There was 11 riders on the ride, and for most the course was completely new to them, and they didn’t quite know what to expect.

It was a bit daunting the fact that we weren’t even halfway through the ride.  There was still five climbs to go.

Brad Akers in his VeloOne kit

Warwick Farm Road was next.  I don’t know how it was possible but it started to rain harder.  A few of the riders were physically shaking.  One of the guys came up to me and said;

we’re having a great ride but the conditions are just too bad.  We’ll have to finish this up“.

Warwick Farm Road was now set to be the final climb of the day.  We weren’t even half way through the course, but I was relieved that we were going to be pulling the plug.  I would hate for any of the guys to get sick after a ride like this.  There was some very exhausted looking riders at the top of this climb.  Some were still able to smile.  Then my ears perked up when I heard my favorite words.

One more climb!

Down the base of Perrins Creek Road is a dirt climb up Coonara Road.  Its this great little 2 km climb with a fairly consistent gradient which joins onto one of the Dandenong Ranges most iconic climbs.  The Wall.  Earning itself the nickname of being “the Dirty Wall“.  I have climbed Coonara Road a number of times, but today it was at its most stunning.  The road is surrounded to either side by imposing Mountain Ash, and ancient ferns which can grow over 10 meters in height.

The mud was being thrown around thick & fast.

This was definately going to be the last climb for the day.  If any of the riders had energy left this climb was guaranteed to suck the life out of them.  At little over 5 km in length, this is a climb which many underestimate, and is quite a difficult climb to do.

Coonara Road

From here everyon headed back down to the Basin for a Coffee except for Geert Vercruysse “aka Geert the vert”.  He was loving the conditions and kept on riding.  Geert headed down Falls Road, past the National Rhododendrom Gardens and then up to climb Olinda Creek Road.

Overall this had been an incredibly hard ride.  But not all bad experiences are bad and a ride like this, even though it was hell may turn out to be one of the most memorable rides of the year.  The forecast had given everyone false hope that the ride would be dry.  Instead, it rained on us for 3 and a half hours straight.

Has the weatherman ever told you stories that just make you laugh?

-The Strangers, Always the Sun.

It was wet, cold and very muddy which was the story of the day.  A number of riders got back to the Basin and started to shake uncontrollably.  Everyone was soaked to the skin.  Covered in mud, and freezing cold.

Brad Akers commented: “How good was that ride!  Really didn’t want it to end

Sing Ling commented “Ain’t no sunshine in the hills, only rain and mud. Lots of mud“.

Mark Skinner said “S0 many great climbs and due to the cold we were praying for climbs ha ha

A big thankyou

A massive thank you to Mesh Gammune who drove as a support car & course photographer.  Taking some very incredible photos on the day.

A big thanks to everyone who helped out with this ride.  During the week my young son gave me the flu and I was knocked for six.  I was forced to pull out of this ride at the very last minute.  I witnessed a truly epic ride and gave Mesh some company in the support car.  Even though I didn’t get to ride I had an incredible day, and hope to put together another ride like this one at some point in the future.

The Dirty Dandys ride

If you want to learn more about the dirt roads of the Dandenong Ranges click here.  Some of the best roads out there are the one’s you are yet to ride on.

Image taken by Mesh Gammune

Why let mountain bikers have all of the fun

Posted on Updated on

Located just 38 km east of Melbourne is Lysterfield Lake.  This is one of Melbourne’s most popular mountain bike parks which was really put on the map when it hosted the 2006 Commonwealth Games.  Some of the tracks that were specially built for the games still remain today, and are just as hard.

With a rise of popularity in gravel grinding.  It’s a wonder that many road bike riders haven’t realised that many places such as Lysterfield Lake and the You Yangs.  Places which are traditionally seen as mountain bikes only parks, actually have some great fire trails which you can easily ride a road bike on.

Today Geert and Brad came out with me to explore some of the wonders that this park holds.
Trig Point

We were treated to yet another beautiful crisp winter’s morning.  The sun was yet to rise and we hit the trails with our lights lighting up the path in front of us.  The park his home to quite a large population of Kangaroos, and for much of the ride we were dancing in and around them.  It was unpredictable which direction they would choose to hop off onto.

We were lucky see some of the mothers with their joey’s poking their little heads out of their pouch.

We made our way up to Trig Point.  The highest point at Lysterfield Lake, and the 3.2 km climb is quite a challenging one.  This climb has a nasty bite towards the top with the gradient going upward of 18% on very loose gravel.  And very little traction.  I’ve climbed it enough times to know all you can do is suck it up and pretend there’s no pain.

We were treated to magnificent views up top, and of course more Kangaroos.

From here we descended down to the Churchill National Park.  I prefer riding around here as the climbing is very steep, and usually you get the place to yourself.  We made our way around the only flat part of the park.  My intention was to take them up Bellbird track.  Which is quite challenging, but felt they could do it.  Next to this climb is the “Link Track”.  This is a climb that I’ve always avoided like the plague as it’s just too hard to climb (see image below).  I’ve only been up there once in the 50 odd times I’ve ridden around this park.

One of the guys pointed out the crazy track that goes up the side of the hill, and could hear WTF!  I couldn’t help it, and made a change in plan.  At the last second I swung my arm out and turned up this insanely steep path that’s quite corrugated and littered with loose gravel.

I won’t repeat what was said behind me.  Suffice to say they left a nice tip in the swear jar.

 

This climb scares me and I was only expecting to get halfway before jumping off to walk.  The boys, were sitting on my wheel and guess I figured if they could do it then I had to keep climbing.  Halfway up I was feeling ok, and looked over my shoulder and had dropped them somewhat.  I kept gliding and suddenly I had a feeling that I was going to do it.  I chucked a quick glance over my shoulder, and noticed that Geert & Brad had gotten off to walk.  Can imagine that they weren’t liking me at the moment.

The peak couldn’t come quick enough, and a major relief to crest the climb.

With limited time we only had time to do one more climb, so being me.  I picked the hardest one I could think of.  The Powerlines climb is over 1 km in distance averaging over 11%.  Given a third of the climb only averages around 5%, you can imagine how steep this sucka is.  Given that the path is quite rutted in places, and a tonne of loose rocks which offer nothing in the way of traction.

This climb has hurt me every single time I’ve climbed it.

Powerlines climb

Long story short, Geert & Brad got off to walk and I got cursed more.

Maybe it wasn’t the best of experiences, but I’m sure they’ll be back for more!

 

It was a shame that I had to get home to head off to work.  But even a short ride is a good ride.

Both Lysterfield Lake & the Churchill National park have some amazing fire trails which are really enjoyable to ride.  Just keep an eye out for those Kangaroos.  We ended up seeing over 100 on our ride.

If you want to plan around Lysterfield Lake or Churchill National Park I have put together a number of pieces on all of the best climbs.  Please click on the links below:

Click here for link to my Strava Activity.

Why let mountain bikers have all of the fun

Mount Tanglefoot

Posted on Updated on

Distance:  8.6 km
Average Gradient:  4%
Elevation gained:  352 meters
Surface:  Gravel
Traffic: Minimal
Category 1

Click here for link to the Strava segment.

Mount Tanglefoot is located in the Toolangi State Forest, approximately 10 km north of Healesville.  There is a fair bit of climbing to get to the base of this climb with the choice of climbing this from either Chum Creek Road or Myers Creek Road.

Whilst this road is relatively free of gravel, if you were to give this one a go expect a bumpy ride.  There are quite a few corrugated sections all throughout the climb.  A CX or Mountain bike would be advised.  The road is wide enough to allow two cars to pass, however the edges of the road aren’t suitable to ride a bike on.  It’s easy to find a riding line, but you’ll want to ride as far into the middle road as you can.

Start of the climb

Mount Tanglefoot climb

The climb starts at the intersection of Sylvia Creek Road and Myers Creek Road.

This climb takes you through the Toolangi State Forest and to either side of the road is a forest of tall Mountain Ash and tree-fern.  This area receives a fair amount of rain and is always stunning.  This is a climb of two parts.  The climb begins with the steepest section, with the first 800 meters averaging close to 10%.

The road eventually flattens out until you pass the Wirrawilla Rainforest car park around the 4.6 km mark where from here there is solid climbing until you reach the peak.  Overall this section offers a fairly consistent gradient, and is by far the most scenic part of the climb.

On the far side of the climb is a campsite, and the area offers some challenging hikes.  Mount Tanglefoot has also inspired Yarra Ridge (wine) to produce a nice Shiraz which they named after the mountain.  If you head to the bottle shop first, maybe you can celebrate in style at the top.

Mount Tanglefoot

Bulga Park Road climb (Tarra Valley)

Posted on Updated on

Distance: 12.3 km
Average Gradient: 4.1%
Elevation Gained: 517 meters
Surface: Gravel
Traffic: Non-existent
Category: 1

Click here for the link to the Strava segment.

Bulga Park Road takes you through the majestic Tarra Bulga National Park, which show cases some of the states best rainforest. ‘Bulga’ is an Aboriginal word, meaning ‘high place’ or ‘mountain’ and the word ‘Tarra’ comes from Strzelecki Ranges Aboriginal guide, Charlie Tarra.  The park is part of the Strzelecki Ranges which stretches across Gippsland for roughly 100 km. These ranges were named after the Polish explorer, Paul Strzelecki, who in 1840.  After climbing and naming Mount Kosciusko, Strzelecki set off to Gippsland to explore the ranges.  His party entered the north-eastern end of the ranges and struggled through the rugged country for 22 days. Finally emerging starved and exhausted at Western Port Bay.

The climb commences at the junction of Bulga Park Road & Baxters Road (in front of the State School Reserve) in Macks Creek.

This is a climb of two parts with two short flattened out sections which spans Macks Creek (which unfortunately you can’t see from the climb).  The first 6 km has a soft sandy surface which may not offer the greatest of traction depending on weather conditions.  This first part takes you through a dense forest which has several sections which open off whcih offer amazing views of the valley to the right of the climb.  There is a mixture of long dead straights with switchbacks to mix up the climb.  For the majority the surface is dirt, however there are a few short rocky sections which are challenging to find a smooth riding line through.

The second part of the climb takes you through the Tarra Bulga National Park which will take you on a journey through an ancient forest of Mountain ash, Sassafras, Myrtle Beech, Silver Wattle and Blackwood. These trees create a canopy that reaches as high as 60 meters. This can filter out as much as 95 percent of the light. The area has 33 different species of ferns, some growing as high as ten meters which are just incredible to see.

The road surface in the National Park is different.  This surface consists of hard packed dirt and rounded rocks which are a low risk for punctures.  This section of the climb offers much better traction, and has lots of sweeping bends which makes it much easier to break up your climb. Plus is alot easier on the eye.

Bulga Park Road climb

This is a climb with a nice easy gradient, which will suit riders of all abilities, and an adventure down one of the roads less travelled, and a worthy addition to anyone’s bucket list.

The climb finishes at the town of Balook

Bulga Park Road climb at a glance

  • Long undulating climb
  • Breathtaking scenery
  • The area is a naturally damp rainforest and can experience tree debris lying across the road.  Expect damp, cold conditions
  • Heavy canopy which leads to poor drainage of the road (expect anything on this climb)
  • The National Park is home to a large number of wildlife
  • Toilet facilities available in Balook
  • Limited places to purchase food in this area; Café in Balook (limited opening times) & at the Tarra Valley Caravan Park (Tarra Valley Road). It is advised to bring adequate supplies with you
  • During summer this is a bushfire area
  • This is a logging area.  If you hear a truck come along it is advised to pull off the road to safely let them pass

About the Tarra Bulga National Park

The Tarra Bulga National Park was created when fifty acres was set aside in 1903.  This was later extended to eighty hectares. A separate 750 acres was reserved in the Tarra Valley in 1909 and the intervening land was purchased later. The Tarra Valley National Park (1230 hectares) was then declared in June, 1986.

During fire season

Tarra-Bulga National Park is in a fire district. Anyone entering parks and forests during the bushfire season needs to stay aware of forecast weather conditions. Check the Fire Danger Rating and for days of Total Fire Ban at www.cfa.vic.gov.au or call the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226.

Further information for the Tarra Bulga National Park (on Parks Victoria website)

Bulga Park Road climb

Cycling Grand Ridge Road

Posted on Updated on

Images courtesy of Andrew Clifforth photography.

If you’re looking for a grand adventure on the bike.  Grand Ridge Road (GRR) is one of Victoria’s most spectacular tourist drives.  Taking you through the heart of Gippsland.  GRR is mainly unsealed, but well maintained in most areas, and can be ridden on any sort of bike.  The road snakes its way along the ridge of the Strzelecki Ranges.  Covering 135km from Seaview to Carrajung.  This road provides stunning views through the La Trobe Valley, and to Bass Coast and Wilsons Prom to the south.

 

It is an incredible road to cycle because of the ever-changing scenery.  From fern forests to rolling pastures, towering mountain ash to forestry plantations.  If you ride down Grand Ridge Road you will feel like you’ve gone back in time  This road was built in a by-gone era.

GRR takes you past the Mount Worth State Park.  And into Mirboo North, which has colourful murals depicting the history of the town.  Adorning the sides of local shops which are great to get a photo with your bike next to. If you enjoy a Beer, then Mirboo North also has the Grand Ridge Brewery.  You drop in and sample some of Gippsland’s finest Beers and Ales.  The final part of your journey will take you through the magnificent Tarra Bulga National park.  This is one of Victoria’s most spectacular cool temperate rain forests.

 

You will rarely have the opportunity to ride such a beautiful road that offers stunning views throughout.  You’ll find it just a delight to ride, and will offer you a adventure of a lifetime.  Whether you ride a short section.  Or take on the whole 135km you will be left with lasting memories.

Cycling Grand Ridge Road

Start:                                Seaview

Finish:                             Carrajung

Public Transport:          V-Line Services run alongside the Princess Highway.  Check out the PT Website for further details

As with all unsealed roads, the road surface can change depending on weather conditions.  Take appropriate equipment, and some extra spares and make sure you take lots of photos along the way.

Cardinia Aqueduct Trail

Posted on Updated on

Cardinia Aqueduct Trail
Location:   Upper Beaconsfield – Pakenham
Distance:   5km one way
Surface:     Generally smooth dirt or gravel track
Access:       Parking access from Officer Road or Thewlis Road
Dogs Allowed

Thewlis Road entrance

The Cardinia Aqueduct Trail is set in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges.  It is an excellent recreational trail suitable for bike riders, walkers, horse riders and joggers. Feel the serenity and tranquility as you make your way through grassy woodlands.  Wet gully forests and tall Eucalyptus trees. The trail begins in Pakenham, and follows a disused section of the Bunyip main race Aqueduct and maintenance track.  This is a trail which is steeped with history.  Playing a major role in the rural and urban development of providing water to the Mornington Peninsula.

The trail ends near Dickie Road in Officer.

The Cardinia Aqueduct Trail

The Aqueduct trail is 5 kilometers in length.  You will find the surface is generally smooth dirt with some gravel.  Overall the trail is fairly flat throughout with one steep section to the west of Officer Road.  The trail has a pretty good surface and is suitable to ride a road bike on.  And is a popular trail for walkers, horse riders, bike riders and joggers and even suitable to push a pram along.  If you’re travelling by car you can’t access the start or end points of this trail.  You will need to backtrack to complete a full lap of the trail.  Many people will just come along to do a small section of the trail instead.

At a glance

  • Easy walking on level trail
  • Suitable for prams
  • Dogs allowed (on leash)
  • No toileting facilities
  • Parking available on Officer Road & Thewlis Road
  • Located 57km south east of Melbourne (easy access from the M1)
  • Road crossings at Officer & Thewlis Road (take care when crossing the road)
Map courtesy of Cardinia government website

Recommend

The trail is quite isolated, so make sure that you bring adequate supplies as there are no shops along the trail. The trail is a 10km return trip, and if you are doing the Aqueduct trail by bike.  I can offer some additional climbs around the area which are great to bike/hike.  Click on the links below to read about some of the great local gravel roads:

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can find some steep hiking trails to the north of the Aqueduct Trail.

 

Cardinia Aqueduct Trail

Ben Lomond aka Jacob’s Ladder

Posted on Updated on

Distance: 23.2 km
Average Gradient: 
5%
Elevation gain: 
1,070 metres
Terrain: Gravel (MTB or CX only)
Road Surface:
Loose gravel

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

Ben Lomond is a mountain to the north of Tasmania, and situated 42 km east of Launceston.  It is visible over much of the northern midlands of Tasmania.  Its stark treeless plateau is roughly 14 kilometers in length, 6 kilometers wide.  And is in excess of 1,300 meters in height. A summit on the plateau named Legges Tor is the second highest point in Tasmania at 1,572 meters.

Image taken by Jenne; courtesy of Flickr

Ben Lomond climb

Ben Lomond is a climb for the gravel grinders.  Offering 14 km of challenging undulating climbing over gravel just to get to the base of Jacob’s ladder.  The ladder is a section of road which has been built straight into the side of the mountain.  And looks more like a climb you would see in the Tour de France.  Not in Tasmania.   Once you hit the ladder.  To the side of the road are cliff walls and giant boulder gardens that flow down the face of the mountain.  The Ladder itself is 1.2 km in length with a large number of switchbacks with an average gradient of 13% over loose gravel.  This climb would test even a seasoned pro, and is easily one of the most difficult HC climbs in Australia.

Image taken by Jenne; courtesy of Flickr

The climb to the summit offers amazing views of rocky crags & surrounded on all sides by precipitous escarpments.  Its one that you will want to put on your bucket list.

Ben Lomond

Plan your ride

  • No facilities on sight. Make sure you carry adequate food and water supplies
  • CX or Mountain bike suggested
  • Bring adequate tools in order to make repairs.  Otherwise you will be in for a very long walk home
  • Bring some extra inner tubes
  • Keep an eye out for wildlife
  • Check weather conditions
  • Use extreme caution on the descent
  • Not suitable to ride over the winter months during snow season

How to get there

The climb begins at the intersection of Upper Blessington Road and Ben Lomond Road.  This is located approximately 42 km east of Launceston.

About Ben Lomond

The stark, treeless landscape of Ben Lomond with its imposing and precipitous cliffs is visible over much of the northern midlands of Tasmania.  It’s plateau is roughly 14 kilometres in length, 6 kilometres wide and is in excess of 1300 metres in height. The summit on the plateau named Legges Tor is the second highest point in Tasmania at 1,572 metres above sea level.

Ben Lomond is well known as Tasmania’s premiere skiing destination, and is one of Australia’s best gravel climbs.

Mount Erica

Posted on Updated on

Distance: 14.3 km
Average Gradient: 5%
Maximum Gradient: 24.2%
Elevation gain: 703 metres
Category: HC
Traffic: Tourist traffic only
Terrain: Forest
Road Surface: Part sealed/part 4WD track

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

Mount Erica is part of the Baw Baw National Park in Gippsland.  Situated approximately 120 kilometres east of Melbourne and is renowned for its hikes up to the Baw Baw plateau.

Mount Erica climb

The first 10 km from Erica to the Mount Erica turnoff is a real pleasure to ride you climb.  Moe-Wallhalla Road offers some great rolling hills.  With stunning scenery along the way to the base of Mount Erica.  The average gradient of this climb is very deceptive.  There are several descents along the way really bring down the average gradient of this climb.

After 10 km of undulating climbing you will see the sign for Mount Erica.  The turnoff is incredibly steep, averaging over 20%.  This climb starts tough and doesn’t relent all the way to the top. Mount Erica Road is a 4WD track and is a fraction wider than a 4WD so keep an eye out for vehicles.  The road is not maintained well & would recommend to do this one on a CX or MTB.

Ouch

The road is canopied by a tall majestic forest which shuts out the light, but has consequences. The road is more likely to experience storm damage & the road is more likely to hold moisture.  There is likely to be debris from trees falling onto the road.  Which when you’re climbing on gradients well in excess of 10% and are forced to dodge or bunny hop over objects makes for one extreme climb that you’ll be proud to make it to the top.  This road averages 11% over 4.3 km’s & is relentless.  The gradient never dips below 10% and with the road in bad shape this one is hell to get up.

The first pinch

Mount Erica at a glance

  • The first 10 km are undulating offering some great views of Mount Baw Baw
  • Quiet country roads
  • Great scenery
  • General store/Cafe situated at the start of the climb in Erica
  • The climb up to Mount Erica is gravel and incredibly steep
  • Please use extreme caution on the descent

How to get there

The climb begins in Erica which is located approximately 167 km east of Melbourne.  To get to Erica, take the M1 Freeway, and exit at Moe, and head north-east up Moe-Rawson Road.

During fire season

The Baw Baw National Park is in a fire district. Anyone entering parks and forests during the bushfire season needs to stay aware of forecast weather conditions. Check the Fire Danger Rating and for days of Total Fire Ban at http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au or call the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226.