Visiting : Mt Dandenong, Mt Donna Buang, Toolangi, Kinglake
Distance : ~210km
When : Sunday 12th September 2010, 7am @ Fed Square

This is a big ride – I want to cram as much as possible into one day. We’ll see Basin-Olinda Rd climb, Silvan Road descent to the dam, Don Rd and then Donna Buang climb (weather permitting), Long Gully up to Toolangi, on up to Kinglake and then Bald Spur, Hildebrand, Mine Rd before cutting down to Hurstbridge and then ‘burbs all the way back into the city.

A lot of distance and a lot of climbing – we’ll be racing against nightfall from the very start and it’s highly likely we won’t finish it all in time. It’ll be kinda like a naughty dog trying to scoff a whole birthday cake from the kitchen counter when you go out of the room for two minutes.

Except the dog has wheels, the cake is made of dirt and two minutes is more like twelve hours.

Just me at Fed Square – I rolled out about ten past seven, picked up Tom around Canterbury and we got the boring suburban part out of the way quick. Quick dunny break at the Basin roundabout (why are the dunnies locked there now? geez!) and then up Basin-Olinda Road for the first dirt of the day.

Up to Olinda

The road surface was awesome – it looked like all the gravel had been washed away by the rain and there was only slick, hard-packed grey mud in its place. It sucked at the tires a little in places but overall it was smoother and faster than the nearby 1:20 and a lot less crowded. Having said that though, we did pass a couple of small groups on mountain bikes spinning their way up and chatting. Tom was loving the climb and when we regrouped at the top we both agreed that 2:1 is the money gear for these sort of rides. A beautiful climb to start the day and a great warmup before the real climb to come.

Olinda was still waking up when we rolled through and pretty soon we were at Woolrich Lookout, erm, looking out over the hills to Mt Donna Buang. Beautiful clear day – could see for miles – I love that place. From there it was down Silvan Road through the arboretum and state forest to the dam – all dirt, all downhill, all rad. Road was in good nick apart from a few badly corrugated corners. No big deal though, just hang on, stay loose, let your arms and legs absorb the bumps and bunny hop anything that looks too gnarly.

A top ride

I’ve gotta say, the combination of Basin-Olinda Road up and then Silvan Road down the other side is a dead set winner of a ride. The old-growth bush is just awesome – the roads are dirt but in great condition for going fast – you’ll only ever see a handful of cars and rarely any other cyclists – it’s just a beautiful, beautiful part of the world. Do yourself a favour and check it out – it’s easy to link to train stations (boronia, lilydale) if you don’t fancy a long one too.

Right, enough preaching.

War Burton Trail

We hit rolling roads up to the Warby trail next. Nice riding but watch out for Inspector Rex on the corner of McKillop and Hunter in Wandin. I think he must have smelled the bagels in Tom’s jersey pocket – he came bolting after us, teeth gnashing, and almost took Tom’s leg off. Lucky we were heading down the hill away from him and not up it towards him.

Warby trail was uneventful and peopled by the usual punters out exercising on their bikecycles, including one oldster who came straight at us on the wrong side of the track and didn’t flinch until Tom stopped dead right in front of him. That part of the trail is dead straight and dead flat – apparently the old codger had engaged the cruise control on his velocimocycle and thought that it would automatically give way to oncoming traffic for him. Nice.

Quick stop at Woori Yallock bakery for a feed and then it was onto Don Road for about 26km of nonstop climbing. Woo!

Dong Road

Ok, it wasn’t totally nonstop climbing but that was the gist of it. Don Road goes pretty steadily up for about 11km before you reach the turnoff to Mt Donna Buang Road which is the start of the real climb. Tom was off the front for most of Don Road – except for when he dropped back to keep on asking “How far to the turnoff?” I didn’t know how far but I did know that the low point in the treeline way up ahead was Panton Gap which is where the turnoff is. So, we just kept cranking and putting more and more metres below us until we were in the gap. Once again, 2:1 is the money melon – I was doing it mostly seated, just standing up on the pedals every now and then to stretch the legs. It was a lot easier than the last time I did that climb on about 70 inches.

The good stuff

We stopped at the gate for a breather before starting the real climb – Mt Donna Buang Road.

The road’s closed over the snow season so no cars have been up there for months. The first part of it is wide and paved – it had leaves and twigs and whatnot all over it but I thought it didn’t look as bad as last year. Pretty soon the paved section ended and it was dirt from then on and, yeah, it probably was as bad as last year.

There were some freaking huge trees down over the road. In one place a couple of trees had all come down together and we had to climb and scramble and manhandle our bikes through about 15 metres of slippery trunks and branches and leaves. Fortunately that was the worst of it – mostly it was just single trunks over the road – good excuse for a breather while you lift the bike over and then resume the climb.

I found it a lot easier going than last year (2:1, money melon etc.) and got a good rhythm going despite the branches and puddles and random wheel-sucking soft sections.

Tom was probably doing it harder on his slicks – at least I had knobbies to help keep the power going where it should. We leapfrogged each other all the way up to Ben Cairn which is where the climb levels off somewhat. Each going at our own pace – having little breaks to climb over tree trunks and stretch out the back – sitting, standing, sitting, standing – looking down on Mount Dandenong, across Don Valley, across the suburbs and all the way to the city. Fark, there’s no way my camera could capture it but the view from up there back to the city is just awesome. And the sounds – wind, waterfalls, scurrying things in the bushes, so many birds, strange birds that I had no idea of what they looked like – in both sight and sound it truly feels like a place that has yet to feel the slap of the human hand. We cuffed its ear, to be sure, but gently, gently.

On top of the world

And then the flowery prose ended as we hit the main road again and did the last brutal kilometre up to the summit. Ugh. It’s all paved, a huge highway of a road but bloody steep. And that was that – summit summited.

Very cold and windy up there – clouds were rolling in so the view from the top of the tower was very limited. No real snow to be seen – just a few chunks of icy sludge on the side of the road. The rain and warm temperatures must have made short work of it. There was still a steady stream of tourists coming and going though, including a big family who were having a barbecue up there. Dudes! It’s freezing, take the kids to Warby or something instead!

We hung around for a bit at the top – ate some food – stretched our legs – got ready for the descent. Going down was more fun than I thought it would be. We went down the same way we came up and it’s surprising how the gnarly, puddly, tree-ridden obstacle course of a road seems so much clearer when you’re fanging down it at 40km/h with your eyes like saucers watching for sticks and holes and your shoulders screaming from the bumps and the death-grip you’ve got on the brakes which you’re feathering the whole way down. Dangerous fun.


No dramas on the way down to Panton Gap and then it was Don Road down to Healesville. Now that was fun – it was normal paved road so it felt great to let go of the brakes after that sketchy dirt road descent and just let it go as fast as it wanted to. Yeah!

We stopped in at Healesville for a feed. Apparently the brewery doesn’t do food any more so Tom went to the bakery next door and I settled for liquid food – White Rabbit dark ale – nice.

And here’s where we did the maths and decided to bail out on the rest of the ride. Bummer. We were way behind schedule if we wanted to to do the whole ride before dark and, to be honest, my legs were feeling it and it would have been slow going if we continued up to Kinglake. I guess I based my calculations on flat kilometres, not heinously hilly ones – the two climbs brought our average speed waaaay down. So anyway, we hit Maroondah Highway and rolled it into Lilydale just in time to jump on a waiting train.

And that was that.

Was it a good ride? Yeah, it was alright.

Bullshit, it was a bloody ripper!

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