Have done this ride
a few times now with LBUG, led by hill climbing legend Grant Rogers, as everyone needs a bit of downhill cruising now and again. It is not all downhill though, there are a couple of steep sections on the detours off the highway, where you lose a fair bit of height in the side valleys and have to climb back to the highway. But the ride through the bush away from the highway is very peaceful and worth the extra effort. On the highway section you can belt along at about 50 km/h and feel like Lance Armstrong. On a fine sunny day its one of the best rides around. On the highway the shoulder
is mainly good, although from Linden to Faulconbridge it narrows in places
or has a few rough spots. Sunday morning traffic is not heavy so you can occupy the left lane fairly comfortably through there.
We advertise the ride as a two day ride, up on Saturday from Penrith (or start from Springwood if you like) and down on Sunday, with a stop at the well fitted out Katoomba YHA overnight. Not too many chose the full two days, only four rode up on the Saturday, with 12 turning up for the downhill leg. Most came up by train on Sunday morning. Train leaves Central at 7.18 am, arriving in Katoomba at 9.20 am. There were a lot of cyclists on the train, mainly young mtb-ers obviously heading for the Oaks or Andersons Firetrails at Woodford. You would think City Rail could put on a special carriage for cyclists so they don't all have to cram in the vestibules.
The distance is 56km and the height lost is 1000m. The elevation profile on Bikely for the downhill route(see link above) shows a few shortish climbs and they all add up to 385m of climbing, so it is not all effortless, but plenty of downhill. Even on the highway, if you are in top gear and pushing hard downhill, you use up energy. I was hungry by the time we got to Springwood. The cafes and bakeries there did good business. The uphill crew on Saturday had several fuel stops, doing the trip in about 4.5 hours.
After Springwood we followed the side road on the right of the highway down past Valley Heights and Sun Valley, to an easy to miss sharp left under the highway just after Greens Rd. This is the secret to the whole route - miss that and you end up in the wilds of the National Park. Now on the left side of the highway, you cruise along to Blaxland and tthen ake the first left after the Old Bathurst Rd, to Mitchells Pass and Lennox Bridge. This road goes through some nice bush and then drops down to the Bridge, the oldest stone bridge on the mainland and worth a stop to walk down underneath and see the construction. After this the road becomes one way for some reason (maybe it is too narrow) and zooms down steeply to Emu Plains and then joins suburban roads (and suburban drivers) to Penrith.
Note the bridge across the Hawkesbury has a path on the right
, and its not easy to get onto from your side of the road unless you do it before the bridge. Maybe just take the lane across instead, but it is narrow.
All 12 made it down safely. Only one flat tyre, in Penrith! See you next year.