A Whole Bunch of Firsts


For 5 days before Easter 2018, I had the opportunity to embark on that most james-like of holidays – a cycling holiday. But that holiday prooved to have a lot of firsts:

  • First time riding on the Bellarine Peninsula.
  • First time riding on the Mornington Peninsula.
  • First time on a ferry or ship.
  • First time I used a hiking tent and pack for a cycling holiday.
  • First time camping overnight away from towns on a cycling holiday.

Sunday 25th March, and the forecast was for strong winds, possibly rain, and fairly low temperatures. Not exactly the best weather for a cycling holiday, but it was that or spend my annual leave at home. After uneventful train trips from Springhurst, near Wodonga, in Victoria to South Geelong, I started the first ride of the holiday – the Bellarine Pensinsula Rail Trail. I always imagined the Bellarine Beninsula as a fairly flat place, but the rail trail was more undulating than a ‘fairly flat’ region would have required. And there were even a few descent climbs which got my huffing and puffing while lugging about 10kg of extra weight in the bike’s panniers and the hiking pack on my back. The first section of the rail trail was over or along side the old broad guage Victorian Railway branchline.

Cycling kit for the holiday: a 29 inch rim mountain bike, an old (as in about 20+ years old) Carribee hiking pack, and a Topeak bag and panniers.

Bellarine Rail Trail

Aleppo Pine decendant plaque near the rail trail.

Aleppo Pine decendant near the rail trail.

The old disued and somewhat overgrown broad guage railway line remains between Drysale and Geelong South.

But after Drysdale, the trail was beside the 3 foot 6 inch guage Pellarine Peninsula Tourist Railway all the way to Queenscliff. The Bellarine Peninsula Railway is on the formation of the broad guage branch, but re-guaged to 3’6″. Being quite insterested in railways, this suited me fine, and I pedalled along at a fairly leisurely pace, or at least it felt that way with the rather strong tailwind that blew me along. I was hoping to see a train or two while riding along this section. Eventually I did see a train or two, but it wasn’t until much closer to Queenscliff.

Drysdale railway station on the Bellarine Peninsula 3’6″ railway.

Drysdale railway station

Shed at Drysdale railway station

Looking towards Queenscliff at Drysdale railway station

Drysdale railway station

Carriages near Drysdale railway station

0-6-0T tank engine, and 2 carriages near Queenscliff.

o-6-0T tank engine at Queensliff railway station.

Shipwreck / marine disater alert bell.

Diesel locomotive and ‘Q Train’ at Queenscliff.

After reaching Queenscliff, I found the Queenscliff – Sorrento ferry, for the next leg of the day’s journey. The ferry was a rather large ship, but not like the huge cruise liners or sea-going ferries. It was large enough to inspire confidence in it’s ability to make the journey, always a good thing! By the time I got to the ferry it was about 2pm, much later than I thought it would have been so while on the ferry I purchased some lunch, hoping that I would not experience sea-sickness. Retrospectively, I needn’t have worried. Even with the up and down motion of the ferry, and a belly full of food I didn’t feel even a slight bit queasy.

Queenscliff Ferry Terminal

The ferry

Looking towards Sorrento from the ferry.

Once the ferry arrived at Sorrento, I continued my journey to the foreshore camping ground I had booked online for the night a few days before. After I had been riding for a while I started to wonder if I had passed it, but just about that time I saw the sign indicating that I was there. Phew! After setting up camp, I had to walk into Rye, a few kilometres away, to buy something for the evening meal and breakfast the next day. While walking back from the Rye shopping centre to Tyrone Foreshore Campsite I found a reconstructed Limeburners Kiln, shown above. A nearby plaque commemorating it said

“This reconstructed kiln is a memorial to one of the earliest industries on the [Mornington] Peninsula and is a tribute to our early settlers and their rugged enterprise. Duein the mid-1800s natural limestone was mined and burnt in kilns to produce lime, for making mortar. Most of the lime as loaded in barges and shipped to Melbourne for use in the building industry. The last commercial burning of lime on the peninsula was carried out in the Rye area”.

This was the very first time I had camped in a hiking tent when on a cycling holiday where I had to carry everything I needed. And so by the evening I was very thankful for the rest.

Private bathing boxes near Tyrone Foreshore Campsite

Campsite at Tyrone Foreshore Campsite

View from the campsite

Reconstructed Limeburners Kiln between Rye shopping centre and Tyrone Foreshore Campsite

Monday dawned overcast and windy, with threatening grey skies. So I wore 3 layers of clothing on my body – a cycling jersey, a second long-sleeved layer for warmth, and then a waterproof jacket just in case it started raining. Well, it didn’t start raining. But there were some places along the ride where I was thankful I had the waterproof jacket on. In places the route I took was within about 10 metres of the beach, and the wind was so strong that the normally docile Port Phillip Bay looked like a surf beach and sent sea water spraying over me from the waves breaking against the sea walls.

The Bay Trail

Lighthouse near Bay Trail

Waves crashing over the beach wall.

Mural on the Bay Trail

View across the water from near Safety Beach.

Bay view near Mornington

Statue of Matthew Flinders at Mornington.

Rougher than usual bay near Franskton.

After climbing through Safety Beach, Mt Martha and Mornington I eventually arrived at Frankston, expecting that I would have a nice leisurely train ride into central Melbourne. Alas, this was not to be. About 3 stations along the line from Frankston, the passengers of the train I was in were informed that the overhead wires that feed electricity to the train were damaged and that the train wouldn’t be continuing and would be replaced by a bus. Not one of this big coach busses with plenty of space to carry a bike in it’s metallic belly but those much close to the ground metro busses with no storage area at all. So I had to ride to Cheltenham, about 15km away. Thankfully it was fairly flat, and it wasn’t raining, and I could ride along the roads that followed the railway or I might have got somewhat lost. Eventually I arrived at Cheltenham railway station and caught a train to Southern Cross statuon in Melbourne. Then it was on to Bendigo, where I stayed at a caravan park about 10km from the railway station.

Bendigo has a good network of bike trails, but I only really got to ride on one of them that day, the Bendigo Creek Trail.

Lake Weeroona.

Chinese building near Bendigo CBD

Giant flower near the Bendigo Chinese Musuem

Flowers in the park near the Bendigo CBD

Flowers in the park near the Bendigo CBD

Flowers in the park near the Bendigo CBD

Flowers in the park near the Bendigo CBD

Sculpture near Epsom on the Bendigo Creek Trail.

By the next morning the weather forecast for the region was for sunny days, even as high as the high 20’s celsius. And I was on my way to Pyramid Hill. A place I had been through on the train numerous times, but had never actually explored the town and it’s environs. The plan was to explore the town, ride out to the town’s namesake – a pyramid shaped hill and stay overnight at the caravan park. This was been the least expensive caravan park I have ever stayed at, costing only $10 for the night. After a rather pleasant afternoon riding around, and talking to others staying at the caravan park, I went to bed early (there really wasn’t much else to do after dark).

Bendigo railway signal box at the south end of the station.

VLocity northbound, and locomotive hauled southbound passenger trains at Bendigo Station.

Bendgo railway station

Pyramid Hill caravan park

Commeorative Plaque to Major Mitchell, the disciver of the Pyramid Hill and surrounds.

Pyramid Hill, in detail

Pyramid Hill rock formations

Pyramid Hill, rock formations

Entrance to Pyramid Hill via the Golf Course.

Pyramid railway station, which serves the town of Pyramid Hill

Pyramid Hill memorial hall

Pyramid Hill IGA supermarket – rather ornate for a supermarket!

Pyramid Hill silos

Pyramid Hill railway goods shed – it’se not been used in a while.

Pyramid Hill Catholic shurch

An old style shop in Pyramid Hill

Result of my fall off the bike nearthe Mt Terrick Terrick Campsite

Result of my fall off the bike nearthe Mt Terrick Terrick Campsite

Then there was Wednesday. After a good night’s sleep on my self-inflating bed roll and with my self-inflating pillow to rest me head on, it was time to pack up camp and head south east to the Terrick Terrick National Park, near Mitiamo. When one travels through the region by train, it looks very very flat. But I was to find out that looks can be deceiving. Or maybe it was just the roads I rode along to get to Terrick Terrick National Park were more hilly than everywhere else in the region? The ride was along almost all gravel roads, with the destination being the Mt Terrick Terrick Campground, a free camping campground with no facilities except some tables and a drop toilet. After setting up camp I walked to the top of Mt Terrick Terrick, about 400 metres from camp. Mt Terrick Terrick is a rather large granite outcrop rising to about 120 metres high, and the view from the summit was amazing – 360 degree views, with flat land as far as the eye could see in all directions punctuated by the occasnial mountain range. I reckon one of them looked like the Grampians, but I wasn’t so sure it would be close enough to actually see from where I was. I also rode into Mitiamo to buy some food for the evening meal and tomorrow’s breakfast, and some water. On the way into Mitiamo I was not concentrating on where I was going. The bike went into a deep rut in the road, and as I realised it and overcorrected, the bike slid out from underneath me and I hit the gravel. It didn’t hurt much, and there were no broken bones or concussion. But there was plenty of blood oozing out of the resulting abrasions! So when I reached Mitamo, 7km away, I found the nearest public tap and doused the abrasions in water, to clean the wound and wash away the dried blood.

 

Cactus with flower between Pyramid Hill and Terrick Terrick National Park

Mt Terrick Terrick Camp Site

Mt Terrick Terrick

Mt Terrick Terrick

Mt Terrick Terrick

Mt Terrick Terrick

Mt Terrick Terrick

View from Mt Terrick Terrick towards Mitiamo

“Intrusion” in the rock of Mt Terrick Terrick

View from Mt Terrick Terrick

Mt Terrick Terrick

Bennetts Rocks, Terrick Terrick National Park

Bennetts Rocks, Terrick Terrick National Park, looking towards Mt Terrick Terrick (that bump in the middle of the photo)

Bennetts Rocks, Terrick Terrick National Park

After retuning to the campsite, I went for a short ride around what was called Bennett’s Rocks. Not quite as high as Mt Terrick Terrick, but the view was just about as spectacular. And the ride itself was enjoyable too. I also found the Mitiamo Cemetery, and it was interesting to see that the cemetery was still being used for recent burials.

Mitiamo Hall, 1885.

Old church at Mitiamo, now a private residence

Mitiamo war memorial

Mitiamo silos

Old country style house at Mitiamo

Mitiamo General Store

VLine passenger train passing through Mitiamo heading towards Bendigo.

The next day, Thursday, I packed up camp, and rode into Mitiamo where I had some breakfast. While eating breakfast, I saw the morning Swan Hill – Southern Cross passenger train rumble through town. Then I struck out for Elmore about 45km away. The ride was very flat, with very straight roads. Not exactly the most interesting places to ride, but the scenery still held a few surprises. After about 20km of straight road, the road turned very lazily to the left and, behold, hi-rise haystacks. And I thought to myself, for there was no-one else around, “you know you’re in the country when there are more haystacks than people”. Eventually I happened upon an asphalt road, and I continued to follow it towards Elmore, with a brief stop to inspect the grain silos and what was left of railway station (not much apart from a mound of dirt) at Hunter.

The very straight and flat road between Mitiamo and Elmore.

Welcome the really really really really flat lands

Haystacks between Mitiamo and Elmore

Hunter hall

Hunter silos. Once upon a time, a railway ran by here.

I though I must have been within a very few kilometres of Elmore, but the sign I saw near Hunter said it was still about 11km away. So on I peddled, a little less energetically than before, and within about half an hour or so I was at Elmore where I stopped for lunch. This marked the end of my cycling holiday, but my cycling activities weren’t over yet. Over the next few days, while camping at Elmore I managed a few more rides and one rather eventful single track mountain bike trail that destroyed the rear derailuer on my mountain bike to the point where I couldn’t even ride the bike.

Elmore silos

Elmore railway station

Elmore railway water tank

Once we arrived home I removed the deraileuer, and I am still pondering exactly what to do. That is the 3rd rear derailuer that has failed in about as many years. I’m seriously thinking of converting my mountain bike to a single speed – you know, those bikes that have only one gear. That would mean no derailuers! And from what I’ve read, it would make the bike much easier to maintain and repair, and would make it lighter. But it would be harder to peddle up the steeper hills. Maybe I need more of a challenge when climbing hills on my bike anyway.

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Batlow Biking


Batlow, not far from of the Snowy Mountains, and somewhat succeptible to snow itself, was the decided destination for a cycling holiday with a difference. Normally I look for rail trails to ride, and often in the state of Victoria – a veritable mecca for rail trails! But on Wednesday 5th April, right after I finished work, the car being packed the night before, I left home and drove 2 and a bit hours to Batlow Caravan Park, my base camp for some days of cycling adventure. The plan was to stay a week and ride as many roads and see as much as possible. As I had never ridden any of the roads or tracks in the region except south of Tumbarumba. So it was really virgin cycling territory for me. I was somewhat aware of the terrain, though, because I had driven through the area on a number of occasions.

Batlow_CaravanPark_2664

My ‘home’ for a few days while exploring the Batlow area

The first bike ride which took 11 hours from start to fnish was quite an adventure. I left the Caravan Park on Thursday morning at arounf 7am, and didn’t get back until around 6pm. It was one of those bike rides that was not necessarily fun at times, but even now a few days later I look back on it with pleasant memories. Here is how the ride went.

I rode from Batlow along Bago Forest Way, and stopped first of all at the Pilot Hill Arboretum. I had been there before, but never ridden there. The ride was uneventful, and quite enjoyable along logging roads and mostly through pine forests with the occasional breathtaking view across to the Snowy Mountains.

From Pilot Hill, the plan was to ride along roads and tracks I had never been along before (driving or riding) through to Talbingo via Snubba Road, and Browns and De Beauzevilles Tracks. Buddong Falls is about 30kms from Batlow, and has a small (very small) camp ground and it quite isolated no matter how you plan to get there. Browns and De Beauzevilles Tracks would be quite slippery and muddy after rain as would the approach from Talbingo. Thankfully there had not been any rain for a while and they were nice and hard to ride on. One thing that I did notice was the large amount of piles of manure – evidence of wild horses. Brumbies marking their territory I was informed. Buddong Falls themselves were quite beautiful, but I suspect there was more falls even more spectacular further along the walking track but as the walk was quite precipitous in places (increasingly more so the further I walked along it) and as I was by myself I decided it would be best to not go too far from where I had left the bike at the Buddong Falls camping area.

From Buddong Falls I headed towards Talbingo, a small ex-Snowy Mountain Scheme town nestled at the foot of the Snowy Mountains, a ride of about 20kms. From the Falls there was a 2 or 3km climb to the Powerline Track which as can be imagined followed the high voltage power lines over the mountains. The Powerline Track itself was mostly downhill, of varying steepness. The disk brakes on the bike really had a workout on this section and I had to stay very focussed on the road surface and my speed to ensure the bike was under control. As I am not a reckless downhill rider this presented no real problem! Although it did take me quite a while to descend to Talbingo. The views on this section were amazing with views right down into Talbingo, and across the mountains, especially where the track was on exposed ridges.

BuddongFalls-Talbingo-Ride-Map

Not long before Talbingo is the Tumut 3 Hydro-Electric Power Station. probably not very big by world standards, but quite impressive with the very large pipes snaking over the mountains from above it to feed water into it.

At Talbingo I stopped for some lunch, although I knew I couldn’t stop for too long – by then it was about midday, and I still had (I thought) about 30 kms to get back to Batlow and I knew there was going to be some major climbing to get back with the possibility of that section avergaing about 10kph. At Talbingo the battery on my Polar sports watch went flat as using the GPS and heart rate monitor on it will do that after about 5 hours of riding. So I switched over to the phone for the rest of the ride, and when I did so I found that the phone only had 30% charge on it. Oh well, I still wanted to track the ride as far as I could so I turned on the Strava app. Then after riding along the Snowy Mountains Highway for a few kilometres I go to the turnoff to Batlow along Yellowin Access Road. At this point the climbing started. And it wasn’t just a few percent climbing grade, this was sometimes as much as 16-20% incline (thats 1:5) according to Strava! I certainly felt those climbs.

About 17km from Talbingo there was a nice big yellow sign saying “Detour to Batlow”. So I turned right onto the road indicated. I thought, and hoped, it was the Snubba Road. But as it turned out it was an un-named track that went down to the Lake Blowering foreshore to detour around some areas closed for logging purposes. It was along this road that a kind of panic set in for a while when I realised what the time was, and how muich further I had remaining to get bacl to Batlow. What added to that was the realisation that the looming mountain range on my left had to be climbed before I could get back to Batlow, and I was starting to experience some pretty painful leg cramped and a general lack of energy. I was also not entirely trusting of there being any further detour signs or that I would reach a “dead end” on the road, as when I drove this route in the opposite directions some time ago when trying to get to Talbingo from Batlow we were confronted by a closed road sign which meant we couldn’t get to where we wanted to, and I was a bit concerned the same thing might happen this time.

It was about that time in the day that I checked my phone, which had been happily tracking my ride by GPS, but was now down to 4% battery charge. I decided to stop tracking the ride on the phone to conserve the battery, as I realised that it may have been after dark that I got to Snubba Road and that I might have to “camp” in the bush over night if I ran out of light. And I wanted to inform Rebecca (my wife) of this possibility once I got onto Snubba Road where I was fairly sure there would be mobile phone signal. There certainly wasn’t much signal for at least an hour before I would reach that road.

Along this section by the Lake Blowering foreshore I encountered some kangaraoos on the road, and while I was concentrating on those in front of me I saw out of the corner of my eye another one crouched on the bank, and as soon as I saw it, it jumped OVER the back of my bike! That was scary! A few kilometres further on I heard a single screach / growl / snort kind of sound. Where on earth had I come? And what on earth produced such a sound?I decided the best thing to do was to keep going. Thankfully no other scary sounds or anything like it happened, and it wasn’t long before the climb up to Snubba Road started in earnest. By this time I was walking the bike rather than riding it as the climb was just to steep for my cramping and unenergetic legs. And about every 30 minutes I was taking a 5 minute rest and eating some trail mix to try and build my energy. After about an hour or so of climbing I finally reached Snubba Road. And after one last hill to walk the bike up on Snubba Road, and then I finally was able to hop on the bike and pedal along as the road levelled out. Man, was I thanklful to be on Snubba Road. Not long after I arrived at the turnoff along Yellowin Access Road, which led me down into Batlow. By the time I saw the apple orchards on the outskirts of Batlow and the townhip itself nestled against the opposite hill it was just before sunset. I don’t think I have ever been so happy to see a town before as what I did that evening. By the time I got back to Batlow I had travelled an estimated 100+ kilometres, 80km (and 1800 metres of climbing) of which was tracked by GPS on Strava. The rides on Strava are:

The next day I decided I would drive to Tumut and ride some of the trails there. I found out that Tumut has Mountain Bike (MTB) trails in the state forest on the edge of town and I wanted to experience them. I started with the Mundowie Loop, and then part way along turned onto the Womboyne Loop. This brought me back onto the Mundowie Loop again which completed by riding back to the car park. Then I noticed a loop that wasn’t on the map – the Creek Loop. So I rode that as well. While the previous day’s very long ride was very suited to a mountain bike (mostly dirt roads and vehilcle tracks), most of the trails at Tumut State Forest park are single track – that is, about the width of a walking track. I haven’t done much MTB single track rides, but thoroughly enjoyed the hour or so I enjoyed riding those trails. Then after I had done all the intermediate level trails there, I proceeded down into town and rode the town trails along the riverside, and the wetlands areas next to the Tumut River. After the very long and arduous ride I did the day before, the 20 or so kilometres ridden while exploring Tumut’s state forest and riverside was a welcome change.

The next day was Sabbath. Normally I don’t ride my bike on Sabbath (although occasionaly I do). I decided to explore some of the walking tracks in the state forest around Batlow on foot and contemplate the universe (yes, men can do more than one thing at once). I am still not sure whether I walked all the ones on the signage I saw, as I only saw the two signs – one at the start and one a short way along – so I don’t know whether I got to the destinations mentioned on the first sign. But I did see some good views of orchards (of which there are many around Batlow), and views over to the distant hills. I also explored the Reedy Creek park a short distance from the Caravan Park. It was the site of the first Olymp[ic-sized swimming pool to be built in the entire district. The swiming pool was suggested by Mr Sam Ross, the president of the Batlow Progress Association. This is recognised as the beginning of the “Learn to Swim” campaign. The original pool had wooden board sides, and the concrete construction was completed in 1934. Because the pool was the only Olympic-sized pool in the district many other towns travelled to Batlow by car, bus and train to hold their swimming carnivals at the pool, even from as far away as Wagga Wagga (115km away), Cootamundra (120km away) and Junee (105km away). Today all that remains of the pool is what looks like a section of concrete that might have been part of the sides of the pool and a green expanse of grass.

Saturday night or maybe before dawn Sunday morning the rain started. And the thunder and lightning. I thought maybe it would stop by sunrise. But that only revealed looming dark grey clouds moving quite quickly over the town, and with each new batch of clouds another heavy shower. No riding today! So I spent most of the day driving around the district exploring roads that I might have otherwise ridden the bike along. I tried, in vain, to find the site of the Kunama railway terminus. I think I was in the correct general location (I travelled along Back Kunama Road to try and find it), but if the remains are on provate property, which the nswRail.net states is the case, then that explains why I didn’t actually find it. The nswrail.net site did have some photos of the Kunama station, including this one of the station platform and building.

I also found saw interesting local points of interest, including the “White Gate” at the corner of Tumbarumba – Batlow Road and old Tumbaraumba Road and a poem about a “Fallen Tree Hotel” at the same location.

"On the lonesome line of traffic
Where the Tumbarumba track
Forks for Bago and for Taradale as well
Where the wallabies and wombats
And the kangaroos have combats
I once beheld the Fallen Tree Hotel"
(Will Carter)

I explored the now very disused and somewhat derelict railway infrastructure at Batlow. It’s a pity such railways aren’t still in use and I always find it a bit sad seeing railways that were once an important part of a community being neglected and disused. There is talk of the Batlow railway being converted to a rail trail for use by walkers and cyclists. That would be much much better than letting it rot and rust away, and at least the general community and visitors could enjoy the scenery of what must have been a very scenic railway to travel on in it’s day. But alas some landholders think that turning the old railway into a rail trail on still government-owned land is somehow disrepecting the landholders that border the proposed trail. It’s a pity those landholders don’t have the same progressive spirit that drove Sam Ross to suggest doing something new in the district which led to the building of that Olympic sized swimming pool in Batlow all those years ago! He encouraged the building of the pool, and people came from miles around to use it, and I dare say some of the visitors money got spent in the town, and there was a general community benefit from having such an asset. A rail trail to Batlow is likely to generate the same sort of economic and community benefit. Narrow self-interest too often gets in the way of real community progress.

As the rain was not slowing down, and the forecast was for more the next day, and as my sleeping bags were wet, and the forecast was for near-freezing temperatures overnight I decided to cut my Batlow adventure short and head for home. So after a very fast packing up of gear, I settled in for the drove home and arrived home at about 9pm to cuddle up to my wonderfully warm wife for a good nights sleep.

2000km later…


The new Jamis Durango mountain bike

The new Jamis Durango mountain bike

Three months ago I purchased a new bike, a Jamis Durango 29inch Mountain Bike (MTB). At the time it was ‘on sale’ and cost about 2/3rds the normal price, so it was a desireable option for the price. The previous bike that was purchased new was a 26″ foldable bike, which travelled an estimated 20,000km over the time I had it, and last year was on it’s last legs. Before I purchased the Durango I had looked at road bikes, single speeds, cyclo-cross, even a footbike. But none of them seemeed to fit my needs – either I had to travel hours to purchase, price was too much for my budget, or I had concerns about the a bike’s ability to handle the sorts of roads I often travel on. “Roads” might even be a bit of a overstatement of some of the places I had taking the 26″ foldable and a 20″ foldable bike I had been riding before I purchased the Durango, so anything that couldn’t handle some rough tracks really wasn’t a viable option. No ultra-thin rimmed road bike for me!! Then I was in a bike shop in the nearest regional city to our home, and saw the Durango. “A mountain bike wasn’t necessarily the most desirable option” I thought, mostly due to them being heavier than other bikes, and greater tyre resistance on the road, but the more I thought about, the more the Durange seemed like a good choice. It also had disk brakes on the bike, and the lockable suspension front forks for the extra bumpy tracks, which seemed like a good idea for where I was likely to ride. So I purchased it.

 

Mud - there has been plenty of that this winter!

Mud – there has been plenty of that this winter!

Three months, and 2000km, later I am happy to report that the Durango has been, without a doubt, the best ‘fit’ for me of any bike I have ever owned. Not only has the bike allowed me to do some rougher and muddier trail rides (can you hear me giggling uncontrollably, and see me grinning uncontrollably as I negotiate large mud puddles on farm tracks near home), but it is a dream to ride on the bitumen too. My average speed on most rides on the new bike is about 5km faster than it was on my previous bikes – something that really surprised me as I thought the heaviness of the bike (around 14kg) would have the opposite effect. As far as long rides go, I have probably done a higher proportion of long rides on the Durango than on previous bikes – over the last few months I clocked up some rather long rides on the new bike, about 85km being the longest. But haven’t managed a 100+ ride like on the 26″ foldable, yet. Other notable road rides on the new bike include a 50+ km ride in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains with a local cycling group, two 65+ km rides to Albury and back, a 60+ km ride to explore some disused railway formations near Ryan and Henty, and a 50km exploration ride along a road called “Gluepot Road” (I had imagined there was a valid reason why they called it that, and so hadn’t attempted it on any of my previous bikes). With the very wet last few months, and often muddy stock and farm tracks, I would have been very limited on just about any other type of bike. This is where the mountain bike really came into its own as I felt a lot more confident traversing some of the very large puddles and mud patches I encountered on the various rides. A total of 2000km in 3 months is a decent effort, even on a much lighter road bike!

 

A bit of Edgehill Track in the tyres of the MTB

A bit of Edgehill Track in the tyres of the MTB

About the only things I needed to do were replace the seat that came with the bike with a more comfortable seat, and figure out a way to carry multiple water bottles, and other ’emergency’ kit such as spare tube, tools, money, etc. The seat replacement was easy – I replaced the seat with the ultra-comfy ‘big butt’ seat from a previous bike, problem solved. But the water bottles and emergency kit was a bit more complicated and I still haven’t managed to figure it out satifactorily. Not long after purchasing the bike I purchased a Topeak seat mounted bag which I thought would fix that problem but as it turned out the size of the bag when attached to the seat post / back of seat fouls the rear tyre. So the bag is mounted on the front of the bike in a rather weird way, but at least it “works” there (even if it looks a little strange) and doesn’t foul any other moving parts on the bike. That solution is still not quite satisfactorily, but as the bag cost me a whopping $90+ dollars, I figured it will have to do for now.

 

When I took the bike in for it’s 3 month warranty ‘adjustment’ service, the guys at the bike shop said the chain was already fairly worn, and when I told them how much kms I had done they understood why. And one of them made possibly the biggest understatement I have heard in a while : “sounds like you are enjoying the bike then”. Enjoying? Yes! Really really enjoying!

Eliana negotiating a large mud patch on Wyoming Lane near home

Eliana negotiating a large mud patch on Wyoming Lane near home

Hickman Lane flooded - very bug puddles

Hickman Lane flooded – very bug puddles

The staff at the bike shop suggested I convert the drive train (front and back cog sets and chain) for a more durable set, which would cost around $600 fitted. That would bring the total cost of the bike up to about $1000, still considerably below the $1500 I was quoted for a cyclo-cross bike I originally looked at. So I am hoping to have the conversion done as the budget permits. Another possible upgrade that might be worth me considering is an upgrade of the brake system from cable to hydraulic disk, but I have no idea how much that might cost.

So here is the run down…

The Durango mountain bike has overall been a great choice. It is durable, tough, good on all types of road surfaces (probably mostly because of the 29″ wheels), feels very saure-footed on slippery sections, and is heaps of fun. The price at the time of purchase, and the fact the little 20″ K-Rock foldable bike I was riding wasn’t really suitable for me to do long rides on, and the extra time it would take to save the money to get a $1000+ bike, were the main reasons I initially decided on buying the Durango. But after 3 months of riding anywhere and everywhere, I am glad I did.

Gluepot Road calls

Gluepot Road calls

 

And the holidays continue…


This is a follow-on from my previous post. Photos will be added in a future post.

Last Thursday and Friday the weather was rather inclement – thunderstorms, quite a lot of rain, high winds. So my base for those few days was my parents-in-law’s house. I pondered what to do over those two days, especially regarding my bike, which really needed some repairs to get it back to workable condition after the failure of the aforementioned vital part failure. The component on the rear derailer that had failed was beyond my ability to fix, so I decided that I would take the bike by car to the nearest bike shop some 50km away. The bike mechanic estimated the repairs would not be able to be done for a few days due to his workload and would be about $150. That blew the budget for the holiday out of the ballpark, but couldn’t be helped.

Over the Thursday and Friday I found some contentment reading a book about Martians and Venusians. If you have read such a book you will know that one I am talking about. On Friday the (whole) family arrived for the weekend. Sabbath was spent having a bible-study and lunch at the house of one of Rebecca’s aunties, and the afternoon around the in-laws house, and walking along the River Trail at Wahgunyah. Quite a pleasant way to spend a Sabbath.

Sunday dawned a little overcast but otherwise pleasant, so I borrowed a bike from the in-laws, and went for a ride. This ride was a mix of asphalt road, farm track, bike trail and rail trail, and by the time I had returned I had ridden around 32km but no where near the amount of climbing I had done during the earlier days in the week. Then in the evening once we got home I wanted to go for a ride but there were only two bikes I could use – a 20″ rimmed K-Rock foldable bike, and a $20 26″ Mountain Bike which I purchased while in Geelong back in February. The Mountain Bike had a rear flat tyre and as I couldn’t be bothered fixing it I opted for the K-Rock. This bike was aquired from my father-in-law to take to Nowra when I had to go here for week for work back in May as it as the only bike I could take on the CountryLink XPT train for free. While I was there in Nowra the rear brake assembly failed so I replaced it while there. The bike itself is quite tough but not designed for rough surfaces and with those 20″ rims it gives the impression of not being able to go very fast. So I trundled off on this 6 speed wonder. At least I thought I was trundling (ie, not going very fast), but when I got back and synced my ride to Strava I noticed the average speed was the fastest average speed of any ride I have done for quite some time. That little 6 speed low-geared ‘morris mini’ of the cycling world turned out to be a great bike on the 20 or so km ride, and I even got a KOM on one of the segments towards the end of the ride!

Today, Monday, dawned and started with an aborted ride along the road near the house. The weather forecast for the day was for 30 degrees celsius, clear skies – seemed like too good a day to waste. When looking through the garage I found a rim and mountain bike tyre that still had air in it (which meant there was no puncture in it) that had the same number of gears and was the same size as the one on the mountain bike that was flat so I swapped them and headed to Wagga Wagga to explore some mountain bike trails there at the Pomingalarna and Silvalite reserves, and along the Kapooka Bikeway. This was the first time I had ever really done any riding on trails designed for mountain bikes, and it proved a lot of fun. The $20 mountain bike worked great and I had a great couple of hours exploring the aforementioned reserves, then headed home for some lunch and a relaxing afternoon.