Southern Dirt Long Weekend Tour Write-Up
Posted on October 04 2018
We've been running a ride from the Blue Mountains to the Southern Highlands on the October long weekend for a few years now. The route has changed a bit over the years - starting at Katoomba instead of Lithgow in 2017 due to trackwork, and continuing on to Albion Park instead of stopping at Mittagong so we could fit more bikes on the train home. We made a few more changes to the 2018 route, cutting out some boring sealed roads through pine forest and diverting onto rough-as-guts fire trails across the Kowmung River. I reckon this route is now 100% baked!
After a quick rider briefing, we started in the brisk morning in Blackheath, rolling out of town and quickly down through the forested pass into the Megalong Valley. Before we knew it we were turning onto the Six Foot Track fire trail, and then the proper fun began.
The Six Foot Track is nominally a hiking track, but there is a large section in the middle that can be ridden (or at least you can take your bike on it - how much riding you do depends on your mountain biking skills).
After a fun time bumping along the singletrack, we reached the Coxs River and crossed (some more shallowly than others). Then it was time for the looooong climb up the other side.
It's 1100 vertical metres of climbing rom the Cox's River to the Jenolan Caves Road. Fortunately there's a little dip (both in elevation and into the water) in the middle... before more climbing.
What do you do when you get to the top? Ride straight back down a hill of course! It feels cruel to lose all that elevation so quickly, but at least the Jenolan Caves kiosk is well stocked.
The hill coming out of Jenolan Caves is fairly steep.
We then bumbled along the Kanangra Walls Road, taking in the smooth dirt roads and thick bushland.
Out first night's camp was at Boyd River with all the 4WDers. We were amazed as cyclists kept trickling into camp after dark - in the end only 1 person pulled out, which was a huge improvement on the 50% loss rate of last year's ride!
Someone's bike computer said it got down to -3 degrees overnight, and in the morning all we could see of Ollie was his nose.
Sunday morning's riding was on the new section that we hadn't tested yet (despite our best efforts to get out there beforehand). It started with some extremely pretty and smooth fire trails.
Then all of a sudden it got really steep as we headed down towards the Kowmung River. So steep that I wasn't sure John would make it down on his 35mm slick tyres. I nervously waited for him at the bottom of the hills, but he didn't bin it! Not once!
Then it was across the mighty Kowmung and up the other side.
And up, and up. Sometimes the 4WDs had churned the hills into vertical sandpits, and even the lowest of gears couldn't compensate for a total loss of traction. So we pushed.
And pushed some more....
Then followed a short interlude of flatness along the Colong-Oberon Stock Route, past the Mt Werong Hut (and it's resident wallaby).
Then there was some downhill! Glorious, hundred-miles-an-hour, almost-losing-it downhill.
A few uphills, a few downhills, are you sensing a pattern here? And then magically we were barrelling down into Wombeyan Caves, raiding the kiosk, and lazing in the sun under a tree.
Ollie produced marshmallows from some magic pocket, and we toasted them around the campfire.
The next morning we enjoyed (after a short up) one of the finest dirt descents around Sydney, from the top of the Wombeyan Caves Rd (north) to the Wollondilly River. Oh, you haven't ridden it? You simply must.
At the Wollondilly River we (mostly) regrouped, and took some happy snaps.
Ollie implemented Chris' brilliant plan of tightening a 10mm crank bolt with two 5mm allen keys.
Q: What's the collective noun for Surly Karate Monkeys? A: A barrel.
At some point we got to the top. Well, a top. What is the top really anyway? You just go down afterwards. And back up. And so on. But... this was a top.
We savoured the tunnel.
And then we gunned it back to Mittagong, chugged some junk food, pace-lined it through the Southern Highlands, tailgated the cars down Macquarie Pass, and time trialled into Albion Park to make the train with 10 minutes to spare.
Did I mention we saw an echidna?
You too can ride this route! If you want to and feel like you're up to the challenge. It's 5500 vertical metres of climbing in 275km (it's brutal). Find the route online here.
Photo Credit: Chris Moore and a few corker snaps from Andrew Burridge