Cycling in Sydney Australia
Unlike NSW, Victoria now has quite a few extensive off-road rail trails making good use of disused railways. In mid-October 2018 my brother and I spent a long weekend on the aptly named Murray to the Mountains Trail in northeastern Victoria. People have a picture of the ideal bicycle ride. Well this was it - no traffic, riding on gentle pathways through farmlands, the occasional vineyard or craft brewery for diversion and good eating to be found.
Rail tails are perfect for people who might want to give bicycle touring a try. They are off-road, not too long between towns, usually easy to ride because of the railway grades involved; and provided you stay at accommodation could be ridden on most bicycles. Seasoned tourers can enjoy them as well.
The tour started at Wangaratta, which we reached from Sydney on the XPT. This was a bit of an experiment for us having previously had a bad experience getting our bicycle on the XPT using their boxes. This time we chose to use Ground Effect Body Bags that worked well. There was no hassle from the staff and the guard easily loaded them onto and off the XPT. Winner!
Packed bicycles at Wangaratta Station on the way home
The bicycles took about 15 minutes to break down and pack. We needed to remove the front wheels, remove the pedals, take off the saddles/seat posts and drop and turn the handlebars. Then everything fitted nicely into the bags. It took slightly longer to reassemble the bikes at the other end.
Day 1. Wangaratta - Myrtleford (54km)
We left Sydney on Friday night, sleeping in our seats overnight. The train deposited us at Wangaratta station at 5am in the morning and we reassemble our bicycle on the platform under a feeble light and a light rain. It took us a little while to get orientated to get out of "Wang" but we were on our way in the early morning light.
You leave on bike paths and back roads, cross the Ovens River and in North Wangaratta you pick up the dedicated rail trail itself. The trail here is through farmland. It is a gentle climb up the Ovens River valley, nothing hard or strenuous, but you do notice it.
One of the great things about the Murray to the Mountains Trail is that a number of old station stops have been converted into rest areas. These have toilets, tank water and a covered picnic area. Fantastic facilities.
Facilities at Everton Station
The Mytleford area grew tobacco from the 1930s to around 2000. One of the distinctive features is the now disused tobacco drying kilns. These are 2 stories high and usually covered in corrugated iron.
Old tobacco kiln, Mytleford
Myrtleford is a lovely little country town with plenty of cafes to eat at. We booked in for 2 nights at the caravan park.
Day 2. Myrtleford - Bright - Myrtleford (68km)
Temperatures by mid-day on every day were in the mid 20s. But it was below 10C when we left in the mornings. We just needed to wear our jackets for a while when we started off. Overall it was ideal cycling weather, a little rain on the first day and then two days of blue skies. We had warmed up by the time we pulled into Porepunkah for a late breakfast.
Aptly named cafe at Porepunkah
The ride from Myrtleford to Bright was lovely. The scenery becomes sub-alpine here and is just beautiful. Bright is a gateway to the Victorian snowfields and so is very tourist orientated. In Bright there were many bicycles. There are several mountain bike trails in the area and alpine peak "challenges" for road bike riders. After lunch it was back downhill to Myrtleford. On the way we stopped at a winery for a tasting and I was able to order a few bottles to be shipped home as a reminder of the trip.
Day 3. Myrtleford - (Diffey Rd) - Beechworth - Wangaratta (92km)
The last day was quite a bit longer riding but as we were on the night train out of Wangarata we had plenty of time. We rode down from Myrtleford to Everton. The Murray to the Mountains Trail splits at the Everton Station, one arm going to Mytleford and Bright and the other to Beechworth. Rather than going all the way to the junction when we reached Diffey Rd at Everton we turned right onto the road itself. After 2 kilometers on the road crossed the trail to Beechworth. Here we were able to have a brief chat to some people riding down from Beechworth. Overall we didn't encounter too many cyclists on the trails but enough to say hello to and chat. I'm not sure if there is a peak season.
Unlike the ride to Bright the ride up to Beechworth is quite steep. I was in the lower gears on my touring bicycle for the last 10 kilometers.
Beechworth is a gold rush town and has many fine building from the mid-nineteenth century including the goal that held Ned Kelly after his capture. It's well worth walking around Beechworth to look at both the historical and commercial attractions. We had a easy afternoon trying a few ales at the craft brewery over lunch. (Remember Tony say "pot" not "middy".) After lunch it was a 43km to ride back to Wangaratta. We had climbed up into Beechworth at about 10 kph but freewheeled back down to Everton at 35 kph.
We arrived at Wangaratta with plenty of daylight to spare and had dinner in the cafe precinct overlooking the park and Ovens River. Then it was off to the train station to pack the bikes and pick up the 10.20pm XPT. Arrived back at Central at 7am the next morning.
For the trip we used a Fuji touring bicycle and a reconditioned/rebuilt 1982 Shogun touring bicycle. As I noted above, the trail especially the ride to Bright, would suit most bicycles provided you had some way of carrying a change of clothing, toiletries and some tools.
Magpies. We were swooped 10 or 12 times by magpies. A couple of these attacks were quite aggressive. People told us things were worse in September. Something to look out for if you ride in the swooping season.
Snakes. We didn't see any this time but snakes are known to sun themselves on the trail.
Enjoyed reading about your tour Tony. Brought back memories of my tour some years ago now, starting from Albury, and going to Beechworth via Yackandandah. Stayed in the Old Convent in Beechworth. I wonder if that still offers accommodation?
Don't know about the convent Bob but there are plans to extend the rail trail to Yackandandah
That would be great, Yack is a very well preserved town, or was when I visited, maybe a little touristy but that’s what we are, right! I’ve got itchy wheels, love to get down there again.
BTW, did you carry the Ground Effect bags with you?
Like Bob, your story brought back memories of a few of the trips that I've done along MTM - snakes and snoring in particular, as well as riding the tandem solo to collect my wife whose health was deteriorating, and it became our last tour before she died.
I'm interested in your thoughts on the bike bags. I've been using VirginAustralia/Qantas bike boxes for my trips where the bike needs to be knocked down, mainly because I can leave my rear pannier rack and front low rider rack attached to the bike, as well as being able to include tent, seat and other bits in the box. Do you think that the bag would be likely to accommodate my rack arrangement without needing to dismantle them? Do the bags just keep everything together and away from prying eyes, or do they offer some protection?
Hello Dabba. I've used Virgin bike boxes for the reasons you state. I'm not sure how well a Body Bag would work for plane travel and would be interested in hearing from anyone who has used one on a plane. If I went down that route I'd insert some sheets of cardboard on either side of the bike for extra protection.
The bag is made of a heavy duty Cordura so they provide protection. The bag has handles and a carrying strap so you are hauling the weight of the bike supported by the bag material only. felt fine.
There would be room for a rear rack no problem. I'm not sure if it would also fit a low rider front - first guess maybe no. I don't use a front rack these days when I need to transport the bike. I've also got a cut down front mudguard (you can see it in the picture above) to keep the pack down length short.
I think you might be able to get a bit of gear in the bag, maybe a tent but not much more. It has an internal pocket for holding the pedals. I put my saddle/seatpost in a plastic bag and it fitted in upside down under the front fork.
Also I rolled my bag up at the destination. But it comes with its own case which measures ~ 30cm x 23cm x 15cm which my brother used. He then kept the bag in a pannier.
Thanks Tony. When I box my bike, I turn the front fork around as far as it will go so that it is facing the rear. This allows the front rack to sit under the down tube and reduces the packing length.
I think that would work with the bag. I can't do that because I have a mudguard.
I have used those bags on planes - once to France and once to Czechia.
We had racks on the back and they went in fine. You want to protect the rear deraileur, and the front disc if you have one (placing the wheel in the bag with the disk towards the inside is fine). Easy way to protect the rear mech is to remove it from the frame and let it hang. It's the hanger that will tend to get bent if you don't.
We didn't use any padding or wrapping. Just put them in there and they were fine.
That's good to know and sound advice James. Thanks.
I also use a fork spacer on the front fork (free from LBS).
Might be time to replace the front rack, tent, camp stool, sleeping stuff, cooking stuff etc with a credit card, you could "tour" on the Sportive with a third of your usual load then. A lot of pubs have accommodation for not much more than an unpowered tent site in the caravan parks.
Most of my recent tours have had about a 50% hotel/motel component, mainly due to crap weather or health problems. I plan to ditch the kitchen for the next trip as I've not used it of late so that will mean freeing up one of the front panniers. That will allow an easier distribution of gear. I don't like travelling without front panniers as they make a lot of difference in the bike stability.