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.
Thanks for the writeup, sounds like a nice weekend (apart from sleeping on the train)
In the photo the path is sealed. Is it sealed all the way? If not, what tyres are needed?
Or you could look here for lots more detail, not only about MTTM, but with others that you could link up with.
This trail is sealed all the way. It is tar with aggregate in it. We rode on 700x32. Thinner tyres would be OK.
The rail trail is fantastic. The only problem is it takes longer to get there than it does to ride it. Still awaiting the opening of the Northern Rivers rail trail from Casino to Murwillumbah!
Yep, by the time you have ridden down to Wangaratta it’s just about time to ride back again.
Well, maybe not riding! Driving or catching the train to Wangaratta!
The kids went too?
Casino to Murwillumbah would be a fantastic ride.
Regarding that bike bag, do u know how much it weighs? THX!
Ground Effect site says 1.24kg