Canberra All-Suburbs-Super-Cruise

Time for a blast from the past and a post from Seb

Bit of an oldie now, but still a goodie! We’re always looking for new ways to explore our home town and came up with a challenge to see if we could ride through every suburb in one day. Beth was keen to be my partner in crime and we decided just before Chrissy would be a good time for a day out on the bike with long daylight hours, warm weather, work winding up for the year and hopefully people leaving town.

Ground rules were important. This is what we came up with:

  • Ride was to cover all residential suburbs of Canberra proper (mainly to exclude Hume which is way out the way!)
  • New suburbs (of which there seems to be one a week round here these days) are included only if there are publicly accessible sealed roads in them.  Proposed suburbs would have to wait for another time!
  • Boundary roads DON’T count! The route had to follow a road going INTO the suburb.
  • Coffee stops mandatory (think we had 6 the end)

Route planning would be the key. Spent many hours fine tuning the final route, ensuring all suburbs were accounted for and trying to minimise distance (was going to be long enough already!) and following logical roads so we didn’t get too dizzy! Ended up with a 230-240km with about 26,000 turns.

All I can say is thank goodness for GPS because navigating this beast old school with printed maps while riding a pushie would’ve been a struggle.

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I thought I knew Canberra pretty well but this ride made me realise its easy to get overly comfortable in our day-to-day sphere of existence.  Definitely saw some new places to check out in the future.

Highlights include:

  • Surviving it out of Charnwood alive (bit of a local joke!) :)
  • Riding through developed suburbs in Gunghalin following a line on a blank map on the GPS despite the map being supposedly the most up to date…….things change quickly
  • Coffee breaks!
  • Sweet dirt section over Tuggeranong Hill on our roadies
  • Icecreams at Banks IGA for some respite from temps in the mid 30s
  • Only getting bottles thrown at us once by some good teenage folk in Isabella Plains.
  • Spending from sunrise to sunset exploring with lovely wifey and finishing with that warm, fuzzy sense of achievement (or perhaps that was just the sunburn!?)
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Coffee stop number 1, looking fresh!

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Stop number two: getting warm now! Swapped to iced coffee and Powerade!

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Quick dip at the parent’s pool

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Great views of The Seb / the Brindabella Ranges

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Last stop in the deep South of Canberra for ice cream. Not looking so fresh now.

Unfortunately this ride is already out of date but not to worry, plans are already in the making for the next local mission but suggestions are most welcome!

Reckon you could do a similar thing in your neck of the woods? I’m sure you’ll discover plenty of spots you’ve never been!

A Path Through the Forest – Part 2

The morning of day four of our adventure I was in struggle town a bit. It was taking me ages to get going, I was super sleepy and my diesel engine just wouldn’t warm up. Poor Seb was doing well to keep his cool while I plodded along half-asleep, even taking some of my gear in an effort to speed things up. I hadn’t slept again, three nights in a row now, due to crazy heavy smoke from nearby burning off and a nightmare about being caught at the hut in the middle of a bushfire. I need to get myself some sleeping tablets I think! We cruised along through beautiful forest with more oranges, blacks, greens and reds. The grass trees were magnificent, I wish we could grow them like that back home! Seb tried to make friends with some too.

P1030171The rest of the morning was very pleasant with wide rolling fire trail and some pretty bush sections including a rickety, long old bridge. Kilometers ticked over nice and easy to Pemberton. There is a section of pretty wicked switchbacks up to the famous Gloucester tree. Seb raced ahead to see if he could get the strava segment while I hung back and took some photos of the mind-bogglingly huge trees. I got a bit wrapped up in the serenity of the trees and bell birds and by the time I found Seb he was considering making an ascent of the Gloucester tree in his cleats but I talked him out of it with the promise of a cafe lunch in Pemberton. The Gloucester tree is a giant karri tree which is 72 m tall and was used as a fire-lookout tree. It had metal rods driven in all the way to the top platform and a measly cage which wouldn’t stop you from really hurting yourself. Not a chance I was going up there thanks!

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Later that afternoon it was pouring with rain and I was feeling the effects of having so little sleep. We pulled into a caravan park in Quinninup and got a cheap little cabin ($25) with a non operational shower and ancient single beds. We ordered take-away fish and chips, had a beer and that night I had the best sleep ever!!!!

Day 4 stats: 126km, 1827m vert. (Strava Day 4)

Day 5 for us was a bit shorter than the rest. It was easy to keep thinking ‘more-of-the-same’ but then you had to pinch yourself and remember that you were riding through these spectacular and unique old growth forests. Occasionally we stopped for a bit of tree hugging and to fill up the food bag with goodies. But that afternoon when we reached the Karta Burnu campsite at 68km, there was nobody else around and the views from the hut were glorious. So what the hell, we stopped at about 3pm! We enjoyed the afternoon eating chocolate, going for a walk, playing cards and drying out wet clothes from the day before. It was a welcome break.

One thing we hadn’t really though of in our planning was that the sun was rising just before 7am and setting before 6pm. That means nearly 12 hours of darkness which we didn’t really factor in. Usually when we are bikepacking we would put in much longer days and collapse into bed but unfortunately on this trip we only had 2 x 6hr  batteries between us.

P1030194  P1030201P1030205Day 5 stats: 68km, 1029m vert. (Strava Day 5)

Eager to make a move after being idle for so many hours, we headed out in the rain on Day 6. The ground was pretty sodden and there was a section of fresh red-dirt track that had just been cut or cleared. It was very hard going and not many words were spoken. We emerged from the red goop only to find a long detour rerouted around a forestry bridge which had been removed years before, so we hoped for a nice coffee spot when we got into the township of Donnelly River. Instead we found shoeless children chasing emus and kangaroos around with a bit of a sketchy ‘forgotten forestry community’ feeling. We were pleasantly surprised to get a fantastic fresh cup of coffee and gluten-free chocolate cake at the (only) local store. We relaxed on the veranda and spent some quality time with the emus and roos.

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The next section took us on some nice forestry roads to Nannup. We stopped at the Blackwood Cafe (opposite the supermarket on the main road) for AMAZING burgers. Go there, you won’t regret it, then headed out of town on the rail trial to Jarrahwood. The rail trail was fantastic! We zoomed along at what felt like warp speed compared to earlier that day. There is a Munda Biddi hut at Jarrahwood and the plan was to stay there that night. However, if you blink you miss Jarrahwood and the population of about 100 people. The place was a dust bowl and the hut was set up kind of between two backyards. Broken down cars and barking dogs gave the place a really bad feel and it wasn’t more than 10 minutes before we were back on our bikes and riding on to find our own camping. It was a totally random spot considering there was forest less than 100m away and compared to the spectacular huts of previous camps which were not accessible by car. Far different from the “picturesque, historic town” that the maps and website describe.

Jarrahdale is a picturesque, historic townWe rode along until we felt we were far enough away from the bogans to not be disturbed that night.

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 Day 6 stats: 103km, 1326m vert. (Strava Day 6)

We had already decided that it would take at least two really big, hard days to get back to Perth to pick up our hire car on time and so instead we opted to ride off the trail out to Bunbury and catch the train back to Perth. It could have gone either way but I guess labeling it as a honeymoon ride, and the simple fact that I wasn’t riding as well as Seb, made it an easy choice. The road to Donneybrook was not great and there was one section of corrugations that rattled me inside out. I knew Seb was up the road thinking ‘oh Beth won’t be liking this’ and it made me grin and keep at it. We didn’t even take any photos except some of my blurry stream of attempts to capture black cockatoos (of which I seem to be obsessed with).

The road was quite up and down and the gravel was getting a bit more hardcore now. Pea gravel, ball-bearing gravel. Whatever you want to call it, it all rides the same: sketchy as! Just about every downhill I’d be literally gliding across these balls thinking, uoh, it’s crash time. We made it to Donneybrook, the apple capital of the south west, to find we had missed the apple festival by one day and so grabbed a coffee and continued on. We said goodbye to our last Munda Biddi trail marker at Boyanup and headed towards Bunbury on a terribly busy and dangerous road congested with Easter holiday traffic. Hanging out at the Bunbury train station was not the best end to our adventure, but that is what it was, so we embraced it and celebrated with lunch at Maccy D’s. Now it was time for some R&R, wine and cheese in Margaret River. I love WA!

Day 7 stats: 74km, 497m vert. (Strava Day 7)

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Touring the route from start to end is a solid ride for anyone. We set a reasonable pace considering the terrain although we had planned for some much longer days. I wasn’t expecting the riding to be as physical as it was and were slowed considerably by sand, leaf litter and debris covered old trails and then gravel. I would not recommend doing this ride on anything except a mountain bike (we had rigid forks which were fine). I am dubious about the ‘family friendly’ promotion of the trail, some bits were really tough going! I can’t talk for the northern part as we didn’t ride it, but the southern part was spectacular, magical and something I will never forget. Exploring this region by bike is something that you must do, so get that bucket list ready for another adventure!

Yirra Kartta Campsite

A Path Through the Forest – Part 1

N.B Grab yourself a cuppa and settle in, these two posts are pretty long but mainly because we have so many awesome pictures to share!

For our honeymoon adventure back in April, Seb and I cycle toured the Munda Biddi trail in Western Australia. The Munda Biddi trail has been created to mirror the adventure of the famous 1000km hiking trail the Bibbulmun Track, but for mountain bikers. In Noongar Aboriginal language Munda Biddi means ‘path through the forest’. Although the trail is about 1000km in entirety, it is segmented up into very accessible sections each with its own map and a signposted route. A good breakdown is on the official site here, where you can also order the maps. It passes through a town every day and there are also custom built huts along the way which you can use if you aren’t staying in the towns. In all seriousness, in the right weather you could cycle tour this route with just a credit card and a toothbrush! We decided to take all our gear, giving us the option to camp where we wanted or stay in the huts.

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In terms of logistics, we chose to fly to the most southern point of the trail in Albany and ride north towards Perth. In the end, this was the best choice as the southern end is by far the most spectacular. We also had a time limit because we had a hire car booked in Perth the following week, so we would aim to see how far we could get in a week.

Being true to the trend-setting bikepacking style, we flew to Albany in our bike gear and traveling with only our bike boxes. We found a great spot on the lawn out the front of the airport to build our bikes up, found a big skip to chuck out our boxes and in just over an hour we were on the road into the seaside town of Albany. We dropped into a local bike shop who recommended the best burgers in town, Dylan’s on the Terrace. After great burgers and huge choccy milkshakes we headed off for a quick lap of the headland for some ocean views. It was really hot and the ocean was aqua blue so we talked about going for a swim at the beach. That idea was quickly shelved when we got to the beach as a bulldozer was putting a washed up dead whale into a truck. The whale had attracted large sharks in the area, the beach was closed and it even made the news!

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Swimming aborted we decided to get on our way for the day. We rode fun single and double track through very dry bush. The colours were just beautiful: orange gravel, green and black grass trees, red gum blossoms and a vivid blue sky. We didn’t really have a plan for the afternoon as we probably wouldn’t make the first huts or town before dark, so we just took it in and enjoyed the ride. Camping was meant to be nice at Cosy Corner, but we were riding well and totally overshot the turnoff. In the end we stopped around at a little spot on the edge of the Wilson Inlet. On dusk we were greeted, to our surprise, by a car full of guys who were fishing at the river mouth. Luckily they weren’t 30 minutes earlier to witness our nude bathing! We didn’t sleep well, the 1.5-man tent isn’t the best size for two of us tall people and when I get hot I tend to dream more. A restless night for us was made worse for me by a horrible nightmare, leaving me drenched in sweat. Eeww.

P1030063  P1030066 P1030067Day 1 stats: 89km, 575m vert. (Strava Day 1)

The next morning we packed up and rode the last hour of rail trail into Denmark for breakfast. There is something both pleasant and rewarding about riding before breakfast, but mainly I guess it is just the lessened guilt one gets when ordering food bikepacking style. We found a fantastic little cafe called Mrs Jones cafe at the Old Butter Factory Galleries with fresh yum food and free wifi – highly recommended!

Once we had restocked at the Super IGA with supplies, we we off towards the coast. This section of the trail was one of my most favourite parts of the trip. A winding iron ore gravel path had been hacked through the thick scrub and white sand that lined the southern coast. It is wider than singletrack but smooth and flowing and occasionally emerged above the scrub and treated us to views of the wild and windy coast. It reminded me very much of a place we rode to in Wildside stage race, Granville Harbour on the west coast of Tasmania.

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The next section of riding was not so great as there was a long detour (marked) on bitumen and the roads were a bit boring. Once back on the dirt we enjoyed some super fast firetrail and then some hilarious ‘track’ to get to our lunch spot at the fantastic Jinung Beigabup campsite. These purposely built campsites have camping spots, open bunk houses, tables, bike racks, pit toilets and the best bit is that they are off the road and only accessibly by foot or bike, not car! While eating lunch we discovered that the campsite log book would prove to be great entertainment each day: a few tales of woe but mainly stories of others thoroughly enjoying themselves.

P1030097P1030098For the past day and a bit we had been riding past some beautiful red flowers that were a kind of bottlebrush but not familiar to me. I kept asking if we could stop and get a photo but by the time I saw them they were gone before I could be bothered to get the camera out. The next section to Booner Mundak campsite however, proved to be too spectacular for me to resist, and stop I did. Many times!

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Eventually, the road into Booner Mundak campsite turned to crap and the last 4km were just sand. I found riding on the sand hard and walked a fair bit but Seb rode the whole stretch, except this tiny bit which I got a photo of and he says that isn’t fair! But with salami and cow cheese wraps in our tummies, we were ready for bed after a decent day of riding. We shared the camp with an older couple from Berowra NSW and another couple of very loud and grumpy men arriving after dark, with bob-trailers and swearing about sand, sand, sand. Again I hardly slept a wink, this time the fat men were rustling around, tossing and turning and all I wanted was to go sleep outside.

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Day 2 stats: 112km, 1226m vert. (Strava Day 2)

On a crisp and sunny morning, day three, we set off back to the sandy road for sand, sand and more sand. It was perfect weather for arm warmers… but I had left mine hanging over the bunk ladder back at camp. Afraid of getting scolded by an angry I-told-you-so Seb, I braved it with bare arms or rain jacket for the rest of the trip! Eventually we started to gain some height and climb into the Valley of the Giants. First stop was the Tree Top Walk near Walpole, which we thought might have opened at 8am but it turned out to be 9am. It was a great attraction and even by 9am there were plenty of people buzzing around. The highest point of the suspension bridge walk takes you 40 meters off the ground and there are still trees towering above you. I am very afraid of heights and I wasn’t super keen walking around in mtb cleats over a metal mesh, but it was totally worth it! And it was even possible to put Seb in a picture with something that dwarfed him in size for once!

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The ride into Walpole was also stunning. We continued on through towering Tingle, Jarrah and Karri forest, straining our necks to see the tree tops. It was pretty lumpy terrain with bark and leaf litter fire trails intermixed with some totally rad singletrack sections which eventually popped us out onto the  more sandy flat land around Walpole. We stopped for an early bakery lunch in the park, obligatory iced coffees and set off in soaring temperatures and sun.

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The afternoon was hot, dirty and hard work. By the time we had pushed through to Fernhook Falls we decided it was definitely time for a swim to get rid of three days of grub. It was a magic little spot but we decided to push on into the sunset and try and make Yirra Catta campsite just after dark. It was gorgeous riding into the sunset, the best we could do for our romantic honeymoon!

P1030164P1030163P1030170We arrived just after dark at Yirra Catta campsite, where we stayed with another cyclist who was touring the trail south by himself. He noted that the gravel started getting worse further north and hinted towards the most northern part of the trail being the part to miss if we bailed early. Good to get news about the trail in the other direction, so we kindly told him about the sand!

Day 3 stats: 124km, 2201m vert. (Strava Day 3)

End of day three and still happily married… good news. Time to top up your cuppa for Part 2.

Booner Mundak Campsite
Booner Mundak Campsite

Booner Mundak Campsite
Booner Mundak Campsite
which means path through the forest in the Noongar Aboriginal language – See more at: http://www.mundabiddi.org.au/explore-the-trail/about-the-trail.html#sthash.chJsaVVt.dpuf
which means path through the forest in the Noongar Aboriginal language – See more at: http://www.mundabiddi.org.au/explore-the-trail/about-the-trail.html#sthash.chJsaVVt.dpuf

Honeymooning the Munda Biddi

The bikes are all set and we are ready to head off: this is going to be the perfect honeymoon. 1000km of off-road cycling, pea-gravel and sand, lots of climbing, long days and carrying all our own camping gear.

OK, not really everybody’s cup of tea, but indeed we are maybe not your average couple!

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Over the next week we will be bikepacking the Munda Biddi Trail from Albany to Perth in Western Australia. Then, provided we have decided to stay married after this gruelling and testing adventure together, we will revert to a ‘normal people’ honeymoon and travel (by car) around the Margaret River B&B style.

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Updates and photos upon our return!

Sebbeth. x

Happy Snaps

Busy busy busy. Wedding, quit my job, full-time uni and a new cycling team. It would be fair to say that in the last month I haven’t had a spare second to scratch my bum let alone even think about writing a blog post. I have actually been riding a lot and even got a new road bike. I have been squeezing rides in at both ends of the day and have seen a lot of sunrises and sunsets lately! But today, with uni assignments breathing down my neck, I am again pressed for time. So, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

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Early morning ride through the Warrumbungle National Park

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Autumn sunrise in Canberra

Autumn sunrise in Canberra

New bike!!!

Sexy new bike!!!

Stromlo sunset cruise

Stromlo sunset cruise

 

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Training has been going well since we got back from the USA. Feeling good on the hills but struggling a bit with intensity.
I bought Seb a fantastic birthday hammock which has proved an excellent place for recovery!

Love at first ride

The other weekend I had a fantastic time discovering what I would happily classify as one of coolest cycling destinations I have ever been. I’ll let you in on a little secret, it’s called Bright: a small alpine town in the Victorian High Country. Cycling haven, mountains, coffee, chilly river for recovery, mountains, brewery and more mountains!

Wait, what? You’ve heard of it? You go there every year?! You go there for training weekends?? Doh…

So, as it turns out I have lived a sheltered cycling life. Apparently EVERYONE has been to Bright! I was ecstatic to discover climbs that were 30km long and each took hours to ride. And then you can join then all up in a big loop and climb all day long. Ohhhh! So good. How have I been deprived of my cycling fantasy wonderland for so long?

First ride: Mt Hotham 120km, 1984m climbing

I headed out for my first ride solo and had no idea what to expect. I knew it was a big hill and that it possibly had three sections and that the last bit was a bit steeper. So I plugged away for an hour and a bit, meanwhile the temperature kept dropping. I had never ridden a 30km hill and I totally forgot how high I was going to get! By the time I reached the last 10km it really ramped up. Then there were a few steep downhills followed by big kickers. It was really windy by this time and no matter how hard I seemed to work I couldn’t keep warm.

At the top I was shaking and visibly struggling with the cold, but grinning ear to ear. What a climb!  I grabbed a stranger to take a quick photo, shoved some food in my mouth and got the hell off the mountain. And oh what a descent it was! Laying it into the corners and having a wicked time, it was the coolest feeling watching 30km click over in the space of a few minutes. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

It was a great ride and, having never ridden anything like this before, I declared Mt Hotham my new favourite climb!

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Second ride: Falls Creek return via Tawonga Gap 125km, 2627m climbing

On the second day I headed out with the boys (Seb and Ezy) to see if I could tuck in and get through without feeling too much dead-Hotham-legs. Tawonga Gap was a nice warm up climb, gentle and pretty, however the steep descent reminded me that we were returning this way and it didn’t look as mild! We pushed on through the cute town of Mount Beauty and headed up to the Falls Creek climb. I was feeling pretty good and we started passing people left, right and centre. Spinning up the hill, I couldn’t count the number of people that scoffed and said “wow you are making that looks easy”… SO GET A COMPACT and stop complaining people!

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At the top it was great to see Aaron and Steve, who were taking part in the 250km Audax loop (the one we bailed on because we are not fit enough). We took a leisurely stop for coffee and food back in Mount Beauty and continued home over Tawonga Gap. It was a brilliant ride and so with a new day came a new favourite climb, Falls Creek!

Third ride: Mount Buffalo 68km, 1335m climbing

Monday was Seb’s birthday and we debated about sleeping in and just getting birthday pancakes. Instead we decided to beat the heat, get out early, and have Buffalo for breakfast. Mount Buffalo that is! I wish I had gone into this climb with an idea of it’s length. I actually thought it was pretty short, but corner after corner it kept going. Winding through lush forest and huge boulders. About halfway up I was smashed. Totally shagged. Nothing like a gel at 8am to perk you up a bit.

Buffalo was a very mild gradient the whole way up. I wish I had been fresh because it would have been a really good tempo climb. Nonetheless, I was going so slow I sang with the birds and enjoyed deep breathing lung fulls of clean forest air. I had some inside advice to head to the sneaky lookout on the left at the top and wow, it was worth it.

Best view ever. I was jealous of Seb, as I could not imagine a better birthday present than that climb and that view!

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And then to top of one of the best cycling weekend I have ever had, we went to the cafe for coffee, pancakes, coffee and then eggs. Rolling back to the motel to cool off in the pool, I couldn’t get the grin off my face. Even though it turns out that everybody already knows about this beautiful place, it was my first time here and it was indeed love at first ride.