Visiting : Gisborne, Blackwood, Wombat State Forest
Distance : 105km
When : Sunday 25th September 2011, ~7:00am @ Gisborne

This ride will start in Gisborne and dive straight into the Wombat State Forest where we’ll spend all day on dirt roads and maybe some singletrack. We’ll travel the length of the forest, from east to west and then back again via a different route. Not a great deal of climbing but a lot of dirt and a lot of trees. Should be awesome.

I’ll be riding to/from the start/finish and I encourage others to do the same. Meet at the roundabout at the corner of Robertson Rd and Aitken St. Contact me if you want me to wait.

It was a beautiful day for it, that’s for sure.

I left my shack at about 4:15am and rolled out west on the ring road bike path with my new dyno lights blazing. It was still almost full dark when I got to Gellibrand Hill Park just behind the airport. I could hear possums and bandicoots chasing each other in the bushes and I rode right through the middle of the huge mob of roos that live there. Nice.

Reuben was running a couple minutes late so I hung out at the plane viewing area on Sunbury Road and took some photos of the planes coming in to land. So low! Also watched in equal parts amusement and horror as a number of roos attempted to cross Sunbury Road with absolutely no regard for the bleary-eyed early morning traffic. Almost jumped on my bike and went to shepherd them across but, somehow, they worked it out.

Reuben turned up and we caned it up to Gisborne where we met John and Karl. We had a quick coffee and John told us how he hung out with Tinker in Timor which led on to chatting about ultra-endurance riding, Shermers Neck and deadly jellyfish attacks. Then we rolled up to Carrolls Lane and the entrance to Wombat State Forest and pretty soon we were deep in the bush flying down fast rocky dirt roads.

Fast fast descents followed by correspondingly slow climbs. It was rewarding terrain – every climb had an awesome descent – some of which seemed to go on for ages – and we just rolled as fast as we liked.

The road went up and down all the way to our first stop at Blackwood at about 40km. We parked up at a cafe for coffee and a stretch.

Friendly locals in Blackwood – it was an old gold mining town back in the day – now it’s a little tourist town with quaint little shops, cafes, and a pub servicing day trippers, 4wd’ers, trail bikers and campers alike. A place to stock up on supplies before heading back out into the surrounding bush. As we rolled out one of the locals said “Hills! Doesn’t matter which way you go. Hills!” Hehe, he was not wrong.

The next leg of the ride took us on a loop out to Blakeville and then back to Blackwood. After a little navigational uncertainty at The Garden of St Erth, we hit the long climb up to Blackwood Range Rd. The rocky road kept going up and up and we strung out along it, usually with Karl leading the way on his pink Surly 1×1. The rest of us had gears and were happy to use them. The long climb was made more than worth it by the awesome descent down to Blakeville. We did come across a few convoys of 4wd’ers though. One group came flying up behind us like a chase scene out of Mad Max. Five or six big 4wd’s roaring past, churning up the dust with four or so trail bikes flanking them on the cleared area beside the road, hammering along the verge at full tilt, taking up the whole road and then some. Big boys, big toys. Give me a bicycle any day – I’d rather ride through the bush than all over it.

We hit Blakeville and turned back along the aptly named Paradise Road. Another awesome descent. We had a good mix of bikes between us and they all seemed to be handling the terrain well. My Grand Bois Hetres (650B, 42mm slicks) were coping just fine with the rough rocky, loose surface. Reuben was running a stiff 35mm CX tire, John was rolling large on a 29er hardtail and Karl was keeping us all humble on his 26″ singlespeed. None of us had any mechanicals all day. This was the first decent ride on my Rawland rSogn and it couldn’t have gone better. Felt comfortable all day, Brooks B17 must be broken in by now because it felt great, my homebrew light mounts didn’t rattle loose and my homebrew handlebar bag attachment was rock solid.

Side note on the bag. I used a Velo Orange Campagne handlebar bag on a Nitto M-12 rack. I’d tried to get that bag to work on my old Crosscheck but it disappointed me in so many ways that I was ready to throw it in the bin. Fortunately the longer head tube on my new Rawland rSogn fixed a few of the problems and inspired me to mod the Campagne until it worked. I threw away the flimsy plastic stiffeners that it came with and made a proper stiff internal coroplast shell – this transformed it from a floppy sack into a good solid box. Then I threw away all the external leather straps and the decaleur I was trying to use with it and hacked out some metal strips from some scrap I had lying around. Two strips sit crossways inside the base of the bag – one at the front, one at the back – then a couple of bolts go through the metal strip, through the coroplast shell, through the fabric of the bag, and then into two corresponding metal strips that sit outside of the bag and underneath the M-12 rack. So, basically, the coroplast shell (and the bag that wraps it) is clamped solidly to the rack with metal and bolts. It’s not going anywhere. There’s no quick-release mechanism but I don’t care – I’ve got a rock solid attachment, no decaleur to foul up my cable routing, and a stiff, waterproof box to put my stuff in. The Campagne itself is just cosmetic now, apart from the lid and external pouches. But then, I could make a lid for the internal coroplast shell in like, ten minutes. In fact, I may end up doing that – I could make it much more waterproof that way.

We got back to Blackwood again and went to the pub this time for some lunch and a beer. There was a huge crew of trail bikers getting ready to roll out. So much noise and exhaust! Must have been about fifty of them and a couple of support vehicles. When they finally rolled out we heard banjo music coming from the porch across the road. It was nice sitting outside in front of the pub – I could have stayed there all day. But, we had more riding to do.

The last leg took us from Blackwood back to Gisborne via a different route – Obrien’s Road this time. Another long fast descent took us down to Obrien’s Crossing, a popular camping spot, and then we started the long slow climb back up to the forest entrance. This was the longest climb of the day and we all just sat down and got it done. Except Karl who was out of the saddle for a lot of it. John’s garmin reported 18% on one section – I don’t know how accurate that was but I do know it was a long grind. Halfway up the climb we passed a white Commodore that had obviously come flying down the hill too fast and lost control. It was hanging off the edge of the road, front wheels hanging down the steep embankment, teetering precariously. Lucky we weren’t around when it happened.

Eventually we emerged from the forest and hit the main road down to Gisborne. After so much long slow climbing on rough rocky roads it was good to shift into the big ring and hammer it all the way down to Gisborne on the blacktop.

We regrouped in the car park, ate some recovery food like good boys, and reflected on what an awesome ride it’d been. John’s garmin said 2349m climbing instead of the 1214m that mapmyride reported – only out by a kilometre! Reuben was under time constraints so he opted for a lift back to Melbourne with John. I was lazy so I opted for a lift back with Karl. And that was that.

A good solid ride through some beautiful and rewarding terrain. Good crew, great weather, couldn’t ask for much more.

Thanks John, Karl and Reuben for the company!

Next time I think we’ll make it a train-friendly ride out of Hurstbridge probably starting around 9:30am. Currently investigating routes out to Mt Despair in the Toolangi State Forest.

See ya there!

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