Visiting : Healesville, Black Range, Molesworth, Mt St Leonard
Distance : 167km
When : Saturday 8th April 2017, 5:00am @ Healesville
Another ride with a simple concept: Ride the full length of Black Range, from Healesville all the way to Molesworth. This was a good solid day through some of my favourite country and a ride that I’d recommend to others.
I had the idea for this ride after seeing the full length of Black Range from a distance on a previous adventure. Here’s what it looked like :
I vowed to put together an open-invite ride that traveled the length of Black Range. I did in fact do that and a bunch of good folk joined me. Unfortunately I took zero photos and, due to time pressure on my part, the ride fragmented and we didn’t do the route as planned. I haven’t written up that aborted ride because, well, there wasn’t much of a story to it really, specially with no photos to look at. I had a great time catching up with some old riding buddies, met a few new faces and had a solid day on the bike so it was a win, but I still wanted to do the ride properly – the full length of Black Range.
So, here we are. I adjusted the route a tad and drove out to Healesville for a pre-dawn start straight up Maroondah Highway onto Black Spur.
For me, Black Spur is a climb best done before dawn and before the dickheads and tourists wake up. It’s a beautiful stretch of road through magnificent old growth forest. A nice steady climb that winds its way up and up through the hills. It also has no shoulder on either side. Like, none. It is narrow and it feels narrow. What’s more, it gets crazy busy on the weekends when every hoon with a motorbike or fancy car comes to race up and down it while dodging tourists crawling along gingerly, busses and caravans taking up the full lane (and more) and, not to be left out, the water-hoons dragging their jet-skis and speedboats out to Bonnie Doon on their super-wide trailers. The combination of narrow, winding road and the huge differential in vehicle size and speed makes this road a circus and firmly cements its reputation as an accident blackspot. For me, I’ll only ride it when it’s empty.
So, I cleared the climb before dawn. Filled up water at St. Ronans Well which will appear on your left soon after you start descending down to Narbethong.
It was still dark as I started climbing up Plantation Road and morning had broken by the time I reached Black Range Road.
Really wasn’t into photos on this day so you’ll have to get out there if you want to see what it looks like. It’s worth it.
There’s no hike-a-bike or bush-bashing on this one, it was all ridable and very civilised dirt roads. Black Range Road just keeps rolling along, up and down, never too pinchy, just real nice riding. It does follow the ridgeline though so that means no creeks, no rivers, no water. Fill your bidons before you get up there.
I was happy rolling along with myself, just enjoying the serenity, when I found something weird on the side of the road and stopped to have a look.
Looks like a balloon? Big bunch of party balloons?
Oh, hang on…
Yeah, must be a weather balloon! String going way up into the trees.
That’s not a spider by the way, just some leaves. So, what’s on the other end of the string?
I pulled it. Yanked it. Started following it into the bushes. Traced its path up into the trees, down again, it was all wrapped around everywhere, until, yep, there it is hiding on the ground.
And that was my first introduction to the fascinating world of radiosondes and the various techniques and devices used in meteorological data collection.
There ya go.
I took the radiosonde to show Max but I left the balloon. Felt bad leaving it there but I had no place to carry it. I dunno, I guess I could have tied it around my neck or stretched the balloon over my head or something.
As it was, I kept rolling. Black Range Road continued to be a total gem of a ride and it was with mixed feelings that I started the descent down to Molesworth. I didn’t want Black Range Road to end but, man, the descent was a real ripper.
I was going to stop at Molesworth to resupply at the little shop there but I didn’t like the look of it and kept on rolling.
The next 20km was fast and flat so I just spun away and covered good ground. Oh, and I got to see Cheviot Tunnel for the first time.
Ginter Road took me back into the state forest. It’s a nice little climb. I was happy and in the zone.
These powerlines go up and over the Black Range – I’d been riding along Black Range Road up there just a few hours ago.
Took a little breather on Murrindindi Road just past all the campgrounds. It’s a nice, cruisy climb but watch out for motorbikes and four wheel drives. Plenty of dirt-hoons around Murrindindi.
At the top of Murrindindi Road, I headed over to Hardy Creek Road which is another fantastic climb. I was feeling the effort now but when I got to the carpark at the top of Monda Road I tossed up whether or not to take the little detour up to the tower at the top of Mt St Leonard. It’s only, like, 1km from the Monda Road carpark but a lot of it is hike-a-bike for me (too steep). Gah, so close, it’d be rude not to…
Nice view as usual, and it’s always worth the hike to get there.
I took a moment to remember Mike.
And then down, down, down Monda Road. Even faster down Myers Creek Road which is paved. All the way back to Healesville.
This wasn’t much of a photo-story I’m afraid, but it was certainly a great ride that I’d recommend to anyone. Challenging, scenic, not too remote, do-able on a CX-er. What more can I say?
Do yourself a favour.