Queen's Birthday Tour Recap - Ourimbah to Bell
Posted on June 15 2018
Our shop tour scheduled for the June Long weekend was originally intended as a medium-intensity introduction to off-road touring and bike-packing. Covering some amazing roads between the Blue Mountains and the Central Coast, it was intended to start at Bell (1,100m above sea level) and finish at Ourimbah (15m above sea level). Unfortunately trackwork on the Central Coast line meant we had to reverse the trip direction, which meant we would be climbing 5,400m over 230km in three days, a tough challenge.
Trackwork also meant we had to start Friday night and as we rolled out of the shop in the dark and light rain, we wondered whether anyone would be foolish enough to join us. These fears were allayed as we rounded up another 10 brave souls on the train and another 8 or so who were waiting at Ourimbah Station. So 20 strong we rolled an easy 15kms to set up in the dark and rain at Stringy Bark Point Bush Camping area. The best we could manage on the sodden ground was a brief tin can fire, but still it cheered the spirits before an early bed.
Day two saw us start almost straight away with a rather extended slippery climb from the campsite. We would be lying if we said that anybody came even close to riding it and most people needed help at some point, pushing heavily laden bikes up the narrow steep path. It was at this point that we also coined the term "hike-a-trike" with the collective experience of hiking and lifting a fully laden cargo trike up the hillside.
After this the riding got much easier and we hummed along the fire roads.
We arrived at the planned second night campsite by 2pm. In the light rain and cold the prospect of setting up tents mid-afternoon seemed unappealing and a mention of the St Albans Pub got people awfully excited about pushing on. So we rode another 30kms to arrive at the lovely town of St Albans. The land across from the pub is a free public campground and the pub itself is a gorgeous historical sandstone building with a raging fire, hot food and beer on tap.
The next morning we took advantage of the dry conditions to do some bike maintenance, aided by nearby trees.
We checked in and some people decided to head back to Windsor that day, rather than camp out another night.
Boy did they miss out! The ride along the Wheelbarrow Ridge Road was a fun diversion up away from the river, on roads of various qualities. The splendid downhill led us down to the wooden bridge at Upper Colo.
There's an abandoned orange orchard just after the bridge, and Chris took full advantage.
We had James and his brand new Wolverine on the ride, which we finished building just in the nick of time for the ride. It's a beautiful bike, and a lot of fun! James has lots of other touring planned so this was a great introduction.
That night's campsite at Colo Meroo was a real treat. It was a short walk to the tranquil Colo River, and the campsite featured a huge picnic shelter that we took full advantage of (including the two fireplaces!).
In order to get to the campsite we had to pass through private property. We were walking our bikes until one of the landowners told us we should ride through their paddock, which featured some... modifications.
At this point there were only six of us riding the original route: Chris, Ollie, Jacqui, Lizanne, Pat and Dale. The others were heading along the River Road back to Windsor. It was short ride along the river before we began the climb up Comleroy Road and then onto Mountain Lagoon Road. It's a 1000m climb and we felt it! The scenery was lush and we were grateful for the cool weather.
We stopped for snacks at the service station at Bilpin, and then continued down the part of the ride we'd most been looking forward to: the road between Bells Line of Road and Mount Irvine. This road is closed to cars, as it's a fire trail that has deteriorated into singletrack.
There was another big climb up from Bowens Creek, and then we regained the tarmac.
We enjoyed the ride through Mt Wilson's autumn colours, and then suffered along the Bells Line of Road for 10km until we reached Bell Station (this road is in need of serious improvement so that cyclists have a shoulder to cycle on). We had a bit of time before the train and enjoyed a photoshoot in some precast concrete.
If you want to ride this route, you can find the GPS track here.
If you feel like joining us on a future ride, you can see the rest of our 2018 ride calendar here.