I first mapped out this ride about 2 or 3 months ago, knowing full well that it would making a ride that would be quite challenging. 110k’s with 2400m elevation can be a decent ride at the best of times, but when 80 or so of those k’s are on dirt, things could get difficult very quickly. Here is a link to what it looks like.
We met at Launching Place at 8am and got quickly on our way. We headed down Gembrook rd until we hit The Pack Track, along the way experiencing what would be the first of many flats along the way.
As soon as you turn onto The Pack Track it turns to gravel. It also begins to climb in altitude, with some parts getting pretty steep but never lasted for a long distance so didn’t pose too much of a problem. We ended up slowly snaking our way through the dense forest, taking in the awesome surroundings and even saw (and heard) a koala not far from the road while we waited to repair another flat. I have never heard a koala in the wild before, and for a second I was actually shitting myself.
After about an hour or so we cleared the treeline and came to a junction in the road. The paths all appeared to be inaccessable or access roads for power companies and we were about to turn around and head back down the way we came until we heard the familiar sound of dirt bikes. Four of them emerged from one of the paths heading up and over the ridge line, so we decided to ask them if they thought the way they had come would be suitable for road bikes. “Yeah, you should be fine, but it’s a bit hilly.” We knew it was intended as a warning, but that was presisely why we were here. We said thanks and headed up the hill, glad we didn’t have to do any backtracking. It was a nice ride along the top of the ridge-line from then on, up until we had to descend. That descent was definately one of the hardest we have done, with the constant 8-9% gradients, loose surface, pot holes, ruts and corrigations keeping us on our toes the whole way down. I had a massive grin the whole time. Be warned though, the bottom brings an intersection with Yarra Junction-Noojee rd, and is a great test of your brakes. (I certainly appreciated my ‘new’ 7410 dual pivot Dura Ace ones!)
We now had done about 50k’s, 1500m and had no water left so we turned left at Yarra Junction-Noojee rd and went in search. Three lessons were learnt while on our water mission:
1. Horses are awesome.
2. People in the country like to put non-functioning taps in their front yards.
3. DO NOT jump front fences to fill water bottles unless you like being sworn at by country people.
We found some water at the Gladysdale tennis courts and headed back to Black Sands rd. Black sands is a well maintained gravel rd that winds its way upward through the forest just below Warburton. The climbing starts immediately, and is steady for 7.5k’s. It averages 6.6%, but we decided that as it is on dirt it deserves another 2%. I know I sure found it a tough slog as the unrelenting nature of the climb made it hard to get your breath. Really, there is only one small flat of a few hundred metres halfway up and that’s it. I did get to enjoy some pretty awesome scenery though, the mix of huge green ferns and tall Mountain Ash made the journey quite bearable. It also allowed me to stop and ‘take photos’.
After the main climb the road meanders along the ridge line and eventually, at the roads highest point, you are rewarded with a waterfall. We decided to risk it and filled our bottles again. No-one got sick so I guess it was ok. As the ride turns northward and heads toward Warburton we headed through some logging areas, which is always kind of a downer to come across after riding through so much untouched wilderness.
The descent. God, the descent. Scott thought the earlier one was bad, but Gareth and I disagreed. This downhill section was truly dangerous, littered with debris, deep ruts cut into it from running water and large exposed rocks. Or pot holes. And it got bloody steep. I ended up getting a flat on the rear and was in the process of changing it when Scott noticed that my from tire had not one but two cuts in the sidewall with inner tube poking cheekily out the side. Great. Luckily it was at this moment that a genuine stand up gentleman, Bruce (name has been altered due to the fact I forgot) arrived on the scene in a Patrol. I seized my opportunity and bought a lift down to Warburton. I won’t bore you with the details of my awesome adventures there, but suffice to say Scott saved the day and we ate doughnuts in the end to make up for it.
This is definitely a ride recommended. There are a few other options through the northern end that may make the descent less hair-raising, but either way it can still be done safely if you take it easy. But I just got 25c tires the other day, so maybe this way out isn’t such a bad idea…
Until next time. Pinchy
*When Scott dispenses his pearls of wisdom, he is known as Shark Expert.