gravel grinding

Churchill National Park

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Churchill National Park is located 30 km’s South-east of Melbourne and joins onto Lysterfield Park.  This 271 hectare National Park offers a variety of Fire trails for Mountain Bikers or CX riders.  There are a number of climbs throughout the park, which have a high degree of difficulty.  Not only are they steep, but all of the trails are littered with gravel and traction is quite difficult.  You will need a high level of fitness, to circumnavigate the park.

Churchill National Park

Churchill National Park is famous for its 173 different species of birds.  Such as the Australian Wood Duck and the Pacific Black Duck.  Most mammals are only active at night, so if you arrive early or leave late, you might be lucky enough to see one.  The Park is also home to a large population of Wallabies & Kangaroos.  Take care when riding to keep an eye out for them.

The entrance to the Park is off Churchill Park Drive.  You can easily combine a ride around the Churchill National Park up to Lysterfield Lake.  Just be mindful that the climb out of the Churchill National Park up to Trig Point is extremely steep.  Many a cyclist has walked up it, however there are 360 degree views up the top that will make it all worthwhile.

If you haven’t visited the Churchill National Park, I would highly recommend it.

Details:

  • Entry via Churchill Park Drive, Bergins Road and Lysterfield Lake
  • 24 hour parking available on Curchill Park Drive
  • Parking is available within the park (observe gate closing times)
  • Picnic & B.B.Q facilities (next to main car park)
  • Toileting facilities (next to main car park)
  • No dogs allowed (National Park regulations)
  • Joins onto Lysterfield Lake

Click on this link for a map of the Churchill National Park from Parks Victoria.

The Churchill National Park

Thewlis North (Officer ) gravel

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Distance: 800 metres
Average Gradient: 12%
Elevation gain: 100 metres
Traffic: Light traffic
Terrain: Farmland
Category: 4
Road Surface: Loose gravel

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

The Toomuc Valley is easily one of Cardinia’s most scenic areas to ride in. If you venture off the main road and onto the gravel, it also boasts some of Cardinia’s most challenging climbs.  Next to Berglund Road, Thewlis is arguably the most challenging climb in the area.  Not only is it super steep but has a lot of loose gravel and you’ll be fighting for traction all the way up.

Don’t be ashamed if you need to get off and walk up this climb.

There is a short steep pinch to enter Thewlis before the road flattens out over the next 50 metres.

There is a 90 degree left hand turn and once you come round the bend you may wish you hadn’t. The road rises straight up and over the next 300 metres averages a whopping 16%, with the final 200 metres barely dipping below 10%.

The road flattens out as you reach the intersection of Bathe Road, but if you’re like me & you don’t consider you’ve finished a climb until you’ve climbed as high as you possibly can, then turn right onto Bathe Road where there is a really steep pinch of about 200 metres to contend with till you can finally celebrate.

A climb like this is incredibly challenging, and when the majority of riders average less than 10kmph you know you’re in for a battle. You may only ever do a climb like this once, but getting to the top of such a difficult climb is like a rite of passage to consider yourself a climber.  Yes it is hard, but then it’s good to test the depths of your abilities.

Do or do not. There is no try

-Yoda

Thewlis North at a glance

  • Loose gravel surface (offers little in the way of traction)
  • No line markings
  • Stunning views looking back towards the Toomuc Valley
  • Super steep gradient which gets steeper towards the top
View from the top

How to get there

Thewlis Road is located approximately 60 km south-east of Melbourne, and accessed of Toomuc Valley Road.

Skyline Road (gravel)

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Distance:        8.3 km
Surface:         Gravel
Traffic:           Minimal

Click here for the link to the Strava segment.

The adventure

Skyline Road is a gravel road which extends from the Bend of Islands to Yarra Glen.  Its a road which is one for the adventure seekers and will offer you a Roller coaster of a ride.   You will be challenged with climbs.  Lots of them.  They aren’t long but they’re steep with the gradients ranging between 12% – 18% in gradient.  Getting up them is extra challenging as you’ll face traction issues as you’re climbing on loose gravel.  Getting down them has its own challenges.  The descents are very steep and you will need to take care dodging loose gravel.  They will require all of your descending skills to safely get down.

The road surface is fairly consistent throughout (see image above).  You’ll find the road is littered with loose gravel.  There is a limited racing line you can ride on.  Whilst the road is not in the greatest shapes, it’s a road that you could get away with riding 23 mm tires.  We would recommend that you use appropriate CX tires though.

Skyline Road will treat you to some stunning views of the Yarra Valley on the approach to Yarra Glen.  This a quaint little country town is set amongst the rolling hills of the Yarra Valley.  This is one of Australia’s most renowned winery regions (please don’t drink and ride).

Its quite a tough climb to get here is hard but its well & truly worth it.

Skyline Road (gravel)

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Skyline Road (gravel)

  • Loose gravel surface
  • CX or Mountain bike recommended
  • Technical descending
  • Stunning views of the Yarra Valley
  • Quite roads free from traffic
  • Incredibly challenging climbs
  • High level of fitness recommended

North Boundary Track (Powerlines climb)

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Distance: 1 km
Average Gradient: 11%
Elevation gain: 110 metres
Terrain: Rough
Category: 3

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

This climb is also known as “the Powerlines climb”.

The North Boundary Track is one of the most popular climbs in the Churchill National Park. It is quite difficult with some very, very, very steep pinches.  What makes this really challenging is the rough & course surface which is often rutted.  You will find it difficult finding traction. The views from the top are worth it, with some impressive views of the Churchill National Park as well as the Dandenong Police Paddocks to the south west of the Park.

Official start to the climb

North Boundary Track climb

You can start the climb at one of two points:

  • The traditional start to the climb is at the cross section of North Boundary Track (see image above)
  • Personally I think all riders that start it from here are soft.  If you drop down to the fence & do the climb right from the base (pictured below).  You’ve got guts!
Heads up. This will hurt!

The secret to getting up the climb in one piece is really pacing yourself. If you go too hard you risk wheel spin, and you need to tap out a consistant rhythmn.  Don’t be surprised if you cook yourself early on into this climb.

Expect a rough surface

The first part of the climb is truly brutal, and there aren’t many climbs that will compare to this one.

If you reach the Link track which is just next to the powerlines.  The path flattens out briefly.  Its worth stopping here to take in some very impressive views.

The second part of the climb undulates and has some steep pinches.  This section is not all that steep, but you will find the first part of the climb will always do a number on your legs.  This second section can really hurt & be a grind getting to the top.  If you’re lucky you may see a Kangaroo or Wallaby along the way.

The finish line is a much welcome relief on this climb (see below).

Top of the climb

Details:

  • Entry via Churchill Park Drive, Bergins Road and Lysterfield Lake
  • 24 hour parking available on Curchill Park Drive
  • Parking is available within the park (observe gate closing times)
  • Picnic & B.B.Q facilities (next to main car park)
  • Toileting facilities (next to main car park)
  • No dogs allowed (National Park regulations)
  • There are a large number of placid Kangaroos & Wallabies throughout the park. Take care to keep an eye out for them on the descents
  • If you’re using a CX bike, it is recommended to run at least a 32 mm tire
  • Joins onto Lysterfield Lake

Click on this link for a map of the Churchill National Park from Parks Victoria.

Just a heads up that if you take on a climb of this difficulty there’s always the possibility that you may need to get off and walk.

North Boundary Track Churchill National Park

Mount St Leanord (via Myers Creek Road)

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Distance: 12.5 km
Location: Healesville
Average Gradient: 7%
Elevation gain:  859 meters
Traffic:Light traffic
Surface: Sealed/Gravel
Category: HC

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

Myers Creek Road is a very popular climb north of Healesville which follows the Myers Creek valley and is quite popular with recreational riders.  The climb takes you through the beauty of the Yarra Ranges National Park, and  through Paul’s Range State Forest. Hidden at the top of this climb is a 4WD track which is 3.3 km’s @ 10%.  This road will take you to the Mount St Leanord car park, which you can take to get to the summit of Mount St Leanord, 1,021 meters above sea level.  The climb from the base of Myers Creek Road, is arguably one of Victoria’s most difficult HC climbs.

Monda Road

The climb up Myers Creek Road is 8.5 km long.  It is quite challenging as the gradient continually fluctuates, and has quite a coarse road surface which makes you work that little extra harder.  It is a beautiful road to climb, continually twisting and winding its way up to Toolangi, with an average gradient of 6.5%, and a maximum gradient of 15%.  You will rarely have a long stretch of road ahead of you. The majority of the climb averages between 5 – 7%, but does not let up.

Once you reach the peak of this climb, turn right onto Monda Road, which is hard packed gravel.  After climbing for so long, your legs may be feeling a little bit tired.  The sight of an unsealed road which goes skywards is not a pleasant one.  The road kicks straight into 10% and and does not let up until you reach the top.

Myers Creek Road

Monda Road

This is a challenging climb as the gradient continually fluctuates slightly.  It has quite a coarse road surface makes you working that little harder.  The climbs average gradient is highly deceptive as the road will hit sections in excess of 15%.  Monda Road will feel a lot steeper than its average gradient suggests.

Monda Road is narrow, and 2 cars can just squeeze by. The climb up to the car park is 3.3 km’s in length with an average gradient of 10%. This climb should only be attempted by those who enjoy gravel grinding and feel comfortable with climbing steep roads such as Mast Gully Road and Terry’s Avenue. The climb is a real lung burner, but thankfully there aren’t too many long stretches.  This is a climb which you can break your climb up corner by corner. The last km does get a bit steeper, so hold something in reserve.  At the top of the climb the road flattens out and there is a makeshift parking lot for the Mt St Leonard lookout.

Turn-off from Myers Creek Road

Mount St Leanord

Next to the car park is a gate to your right.  If you push your bike through there is additional climbing to the top of Mount St Leonard lookout.  During the winter months this area does receive Snow, and can get quite muddy.  You should check weather conditions before attempting this climb over the winter months. Very few riders have attempted this climb, and you will feel a sense of achievement climbing such a difficult climb. Monda Road has a very consistent gradient.  Although the surface is fairly good for an unsealed road.  There are bumps and holes to negotiate through which makes it harder to get into a rythmn.  Due to the steepness of the gradient.   You will have to work with the bike to get traction which makes the last 3.3 km’s extremely hard.

The descent

This is a dangerous descent. As with all unsealed roads, the road surface can be damaged by the elements and care should be taken depending on the condition of the road. This descent is very steep, and care needs to be taken to avoid rocks and fissures in the road. There is just enough space for a car to pass you either way, however you will be pushed to the corner of the road which is not in good condition, and you risk puncturing your tires or losing control of the bike, and would advise to pull off the road and let vehicles safely pass you.

Mount St Leanord lookout tower

During the fire season the Mount St Leanord lookout tower provides an excellent lookout.  Forming an important role in the early detection of fire danger. The tower also houses a wealth of communications equipment. The original tower was in the form of a small cabin perched precariously on top of a sawn off tree (see image below) and held in place by wire and several cables. Access was by a long (scary) ladder.

This was replaced in 1949 by a steel structure.  In 1988 this tower was superseded by the present larger structure built by Telstra to a height of 37 metres.

 

Image courtesy Healesville Historical Society

 

Mount Donna Buang (via Don Valley)

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Distance: 27.1 km
Average Gradient: 4.2%
Elevation gain: 1,146 metres
Traffic: Light
Terrain: Gravel/Paved

Here is a link to the segment here

Mount Donna Buang is one of the most popular Mountain climbs in Victoria.  It is located approximately 74 km East of Melbourne.  If you enjoy riding the roads less travelled.  There are three lesser known gravel ascents you can  do to ascend to the top of Mount Donna Buang.  These are via Don Valley, Panton Gap or through Acheron Way.  The climb to Mount Donna Buang (via Don Valley) is quite the adventure, offering some spectacular views along the way.

Don Valley

Mount Donna Buang (via Don Valley) climb

From Launching Place turn onto Don Road. There is no definite start to the climb as it starts on a false flat.  You will find the climbing starts in earnest after you pass Dairy Road.  The road eventually turns to dirt, but the dirt section is usually a good surface to ride a road bike on.

When you reach the bridge (pictured above), please use caution when crossing as it can be quite slippery.  From here, you will find the gradient fairly consistent.  Its easy to get lost in rhythm.  You will eventually come to a big “T” intersection where you need to turn right onto Donna Buang Road.

Here’s where the fun begins.

This road will be sealed over the next few km’s.  During the winter months 13 km of this road is closed to motorists.  You will find debris all over the road, as this section is not maintained over the winter months.  This offers its challenges but makes quite the adventure to climb during winter.  This should definitely make any adventurers bucket list.

There is a flattened out section of road.  Shortly after you will come upon a sign alerting you that the road will turn to gravel again (see image above).  This section is 13 km long.

Stop for a drink at the waterfall

 

The scenery through this section is amazing.  This is easily one of the greatest sections of dirt roads that you can ride in Victoria.  There are some steep pinches throughout this section but overall the gradient is fairly consistent.  This road is single lane.  You won’t be likely to see much traffic, but please keep an ear out for traffic

Photo by Brad Thexton

There is a lookout which if you’re fortunate you will get a clear day and can see the valley below.

You will encounter long sections which don’t see much sunlight.  The closer you get to the peak you will be guaranteed the temperature will drop.

When you come to the last “T” intersection turn left onto Mount Donna Tourist Road.  The last 1.5 km is sealed and quite steep.  After you turn left you have 1 km of climbing to go until you reach the top.  The end of the climb is at the base of the lookout tower.

At a glance

  • Narrow road which can experience a bit of tourist traffic
  • During the summer months this is a popular motor bike route
  • Use caution when crossing historic bridge
  • Very impressive hairpin
  • Toilets at top
  • Viewing platform at top (not cleat friendly)
  • Picnic shelter which is good to shelter from the cold
  • Temperatures at top will always be colder than at the base. Bring adequate clothes to keep you warm on the descent
  • Please use extreme caution on the descent

If you enjoy this climb you should try the other three ascents up to the summit of Mount Donna Buang:

Donna Buang Road

Panton Gap

Acheron Way

 

 

 

Mount Donna Buang (via Don Valley)

 

 

Old Coach Road (Montrose)

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Distance: 5.5 km
Average Gradient: 8%
Elevation gain: 430 metres
Traffic:Light traffic
Terrain: Sealed/Unsealed
Category: 2

Old Coach Road is for those that enjoy a challenge and love a sense of adventure. A fair part of this climb is unsealed & boasts the steepest average gradient for a Category 2 climb in the Dandenong Ranges.  I would go so far as to say this is one of the hardest climbs that you can do on a Road bike in the Dandenong’s.

Here is a link to the Strava segment here

The climb commences from the township of Montrose on the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road

The first 700 metres of climbing is dead straight with an easy gradient averaging around 3%.  Traffic can get pretty busy on this stretch of road.

At the Sheffhield Road turn-off sign you have the option of turning right or going straight ahead.  Head straight ahead and you’ll notice that the road goes skyward and the next 500 metre section is super steep with gradients hitting over 20%. Maybe you’ll wish you turned right instead…….

This section is still sealed with an average gradient of 11%, though it will fell a lot more.

Shortly after you round the hairpin the road will turn to gravel, and the name of the road changes to Old Coach Road.  This is where the fun begins.

Old Coach Road itself is 2.3 km @ 11%. Given 2/3 of it is gravel expect this climb to be extremely hard.

Thankfully there is a fairly consistent gradient throughout and it is easy to get yourself into a rhythm.  Continue on until you reach the hairpin featured below.  If you turn right or left here the road goes skywards.  Make sure you turn right.

Once you hit the corner of five ways turn right and head up to Sky High (there’s singage to show you the way).

The next 2.1 km averages 7%.  Even though its a lot easier compared to the dirt part of Old Coach Road I’m sure your legs will be feeling it at this stage.

Enjoy the views as you earn a well deserved rest at Sky High.elp

How to get there

Old Coach Road is located in the township of Montrose in the Dandenong Ranges.  Located approximately 40 km east of Melbourne.

Plan your ride

  • Old Coach Road is quite narrow.  Please keep as far to the left as possible when a vehicle is coming
  • Toilets available in Montrose and at Sky High
  • Food available in Montrose or Sky High

Best times to ride

Monday – Friday:

Avoid peak hour traffic and ride between 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Weekend:

The Dandenong’s attracts a large number of tourist traffic over the weekend.  It is best to schedule your rides early in the morning.

Public transport

Train services available to the Dandenong Ranges, either using the Belgrave or Lilydale lines. Click here for Public Transport Victoria for train timetable.

During fire season

The Dandenong Ranges are 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.

Old Coach Road Montrose

Basin Olinda Road (The Basin)

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Distance: 6 km
Average Gradient: 6%
Elevation gain: 148 metres
Traffic:Light traffic
Terrain: Gravel
Category: 2

Here is a link to the Strava segment here

The 1 in 20 is Melbourne’s most iconic climbs, and riders flock there in their thousands to take on the 1 in 20.  Each and every time they will turn onto the roundabout and ride past The Basin Olinda Road.  Too many riders don’t take the roads less travelled and there are so many who have not experienced what is arguably the Dandenong’s best dirt climb.  This is a climb which is amazing to do for so many different reasons.  It has a great road surface, offers a very good workout and is easy on the eye.

Basin Olinda Road climb

When you turn off at the roundabout there is a short-fast sealed descent down to the base of the climb.  The climb begins shortly after the Gravel Road sign on the left hand side of the road

The early couple of kilometers of this climb are the steepest, but overall the gradient is fairly consistent throughout this climb.

There is easily enough space for you to pass a vehicle comfortably, but be mindful and watch out for traffic.

Of the dirt climbs in the Dandenong’s Basin Olinda Road is probably the most heavily trafficked road.  It may also be susceptible to storm damage and the road condition may change over time.

Given the length & gradient of the Basin Olinda Road, this is quite a challenging climb and it is important to pace yourself.  If you go into the red on this one you may not find it all that pleasant.

At the top if you turn left, and then left up to Sky High you can add an additional 2.8 km of climbing.

Click here for the extended Strava segment (8.5 km @ 5%).

Plan your ride

Public transport

Train service available to “Ferntree Gully” of “Mooroolbark” train stations.  Click here for Public Transport Victoria for train timetable.

Parking

There is limited parking at the base of the 1 in 20.  It is advised to park in the car park next to the Basin Fire Brigade.  There is parking available in front of the shops in the Basin, however these have parking restrictions.

Public toilets are available:

  • At the base of the 1:20

Water

Available at the base of the 1 in 20

Basin Olinda Road

Dickie Road (Officer)

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Distance: 3 km
Average Gradient: 5%
Elevation gain: 145 metres
Traffic: Light traffic
Terrain: Gravel
Road Surface: Poor

Click here for link to Strava segment

Cardinia has some truly amazing gravel climbs.  This climb takes you through to the picturesque Toomuc Valley.  Passing one of Melbourne’s best Mountain Bike tracks at the “GWS Scout Camp”, as well as passing the EA Owen Conservation Reserve.  This is quite a tough climb as the surface of Dickie Road is rough and course.  Which makes what is already a very challenging climb into something well beyond that.

The climb starts just after you pass the GWS Anderson Scout Camp.  You’ll notice the road going skyward, and a sensible rider might just turn around and take the soft way home….

 

The first km has several pinches in excess of 15% and averages over 8%.

You will find it hard to find a rhythm as the gradient constantly changes throughout this climb.

The next 1.5 km’s is quite undulating, and quite challenging with some steep pinches along the way.

 

The road is wide enough for a vehicle to pass you.  Make sure you pick a good line when being overtaken.  The  as the side of the road can be a bit rough.

 

As you can see from the photos there is a fair bit of gravel on the road.  This climb is more suited for a Mountain Bike or CX.  The last 600 metres is quite challenging, with the gradient peaking at over 15%.

You’re legs will be cursing you and screaming out “you’re a dick!”

It is a welcome relief to see the Yellow T-intersection sign which will signify the end of the climb.

It is a very challenging, and a willy long climb.  Please make sure that you don’t make any jokes about its name!

Dickie Road (Officer)

At a glance:

  • Long undulating climb
  • Heavy gravel
  • Not suitable for road bikes
  • Very little traffic

Berglund Road (Beaconsfield Upper)

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Distance: 1.1 km
Average Gradient: 11%
Maximum Gradient: 30%
Elevation gain: 123 metres
Traffic:Light
Terrain: Rural

Road Surface: Gravel

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

Warning: this has gradients peaking at 30%. Do not attempt this climb unless you are confident to climb climbs such as Mast Gully Road, Terry’s Avenue or Invermay Road, or don’t mind walking your bike up a hill

Berglund Road

BFucking shit program

Berglund Road climb

The climb up Berglund Road lies within the picturesque Toomuc Valley in Cardinia.  It is one truly brutal climb which is suited for a CX or a MTB.  Be prepared for the possibility that you may need to get off and walk your bike up this climb.  Berglund Road is one of the most difficult climbs you will find within a 50 km radius of the Melbourne CBD.

The climb starts about 1km into Berglund Road, and starts just after you pass the steep ascent climb on the left hand side of the road.

Berglund Road

Fucking shit cprogram
There is about 100 metres of climbing before you hit the apex of the corner and averages just under 10%.

Berglund Road

Fucking shit program
Prepare yourself, the climb around the corner has made a number of grown men cry, & no one’s going to think less of you if you have to get off and walk.

Berglund Road

Fucking shit program

The next 300 metres is crazy as you’ll be pushing gradients between 15% – 18% on loose gravel.

Berglund Road

Fucking shit program

Welcome to Hell

It will look like you’re coming to a dip in the road, but that’s just an illusion.  The road is about to get steeper.  You will see that the road was paved.  That was due to the fact that it was just too steep for cars to get up this pinch on gravel.

Berglund Road

Fucking shit program
The last 100 metres averages 18%, but if you have a look at your Garmin you will see yourself hitting pinches of 30% through there.  You’ll find the road is rough, and good luck getting up this final pinch.

Berglund Road

Fucking shit program
The road flattens out thankfully and turns to gravel again. Enjoy the rest whilst it lasts.

Berglund Road

Fucking shit program

If your legs weren’t tired before then this pinch.  With gradients that peak at 13% will really test you and there is about 200 more metres of grinding up the loose gravel.

Berglund Road

Fucking shit program

You’ll come to some houses and the road flattens out.

 Berglund Road

Fucking shit program

Of course the roads just pucking with you.  With another 200 metres of climbing at up to 12% gradient this undulating climb will throw everything at you.

This is truly one extremely difficult undulating climb.  If you take the road all the way to Split Rock Road, it is 3.3km’s @ 5%.  Link to segment here.

Berglund Road

Fucking shit program

H

Berglund Road
Berglund Road

How to get to Berglund Road

Berglund Road is located 56 km east of Melbourne.  Take the M1 Freeway & exit at Pakenham before heading north up Toomuc Valley Road.