My friend Byron and me, when riding from Colac to Lorne one day, fantasized about riding all the way back to Geelong, and home, totally on dirt roads. It would be epic we reasoned, and would provide bragging rights to all of our friends (why else do you do this?)
Well, after careful planning (by Byron), that day had come, and the fantasy was about to be realized. Byron was equipped with a fantastic gravel bike (Specialized Sequoia), me, a good, but heavy mountain bike (Cube). On a beautiful Autumn day, I couldn’t think of anything better than riding the logging tracks and fire trails, through the Otway National Park, even if it meant a bit of suffering.
At the Geelong railway station
The morning started quite civilized really. We both met at the railway station at 8am, and caught the train to Colac, which is about 70km from Geelong, and the start of the Beechey Rail Trail.
This trail is one of the most beautiful tracks anywhere in Victoria, and passes through Gellibrand, and ends at Beech Forrest. The ride from Colac to Gellibrand hugs the road for most of the way, and is reasonably flat (excepting the first 5-7 km or so) to slightly undulating. We had a cracker of a morning, with the temperature in the low 20 C. After a quick drink at the local general store, we climbed around 700m over the 17km or so to Beech Forrest, and finished this portion of our ride at the Beechey pub, for lunch (calamari, and a couple of beers). The temperature had gone up a bit to the high 20’s, but we had a cool headwind which kept us in reasonably good shape.
After Beech Forrest, knowing full well we were out of phone coverage, and water stops, and although nervous, we knew the adventure (and enjoyment) really began.
Riding past the local logging industry in the Otways
Our route took us along fire access tracks and logging roads, which zig zag this whole area (return trip along the different side routes are inevitable). You could pretty much guarantee that you would not see another soul. We could just settle into a nice pace and soak up the sun and scenery. There is not a flat piece of track anywhere, but none of the roads are particularly steep, so all you had to do was kick into a low gear if you needed to, and spin.
Just when we were running out of water, which was our greatest fear, we came across a water tank. There is a yearly festival in this area, and we think this tank was for the patrons, as it was not connected to anything. After a quick stop we had totally filled our bidons and were confidently on our way knowing we had just 60km, or so, to go.
The rest of the trail was predominately down, but the gravel got thicker and more rutted, but easily manageable.
Certainly the overall ride took longer than I thought it would, ending up at around 11 hours elapsed for the total of 180 km in distance. We finished in darkness (making some of the final kilometers on shared roads a bit dodgy). No doubt however, it will definitely go down as one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had on the bike. If it was adventure we were after we certainly got it. Sun, scenery, hard tracks, snakes, fallen trees, all add to the fun.
From a training perspective, it was just fantastic. My friend Byron is about to embark on the Tour de Cure, raising funds for cancer research, and this was his last long hit out before riding from Mt Hotham, down to Hobart (lucky bugger!). For me, a long distance ride, with the added effort of pushing a mountain bike was just what I needed.
What can I say. Having the opportunity to train in some of the most beautiful tracks and roads, with a willing accomplice is not something to be taken for granted.
Back to work this week (sad emoji), but I’ll continue to ride zwift through the week, and plan for a long ride next week…stay tuned, I have no idea what that is just yet.