Hang out in Canberra for long enough and eventually someone will suggest a weekend roll out to the coast. The route is so popular that there are even a few organised and supported rides each year (Bigfoot Adventures – Ride the Divide). Asking around, I devised a three-day CX option, with overnight stops in Araluen (outbound), and Majors Creek (return).
Having arrived home from a work trip at midnight the night before, it was a slow start. Even then, we were greeted by thick fog and freezing temperatures, and needed the ascent out of Queanbeyan to warm up the legs. Turning off the Kings Highway, it’s a pleasant roll up and down Captains Flat Road until the turn off on to Briar’s Sharrow Road. Then on to Plains Road before reaching the dirt just out of Hoskinstown. There are some leg crunching climbs through to Rossi, but the sun was out by this point and there was little traffic to disturb us as we gradually climbed into the Tallaganda State Forest. After a recent plunge in temperatures there was plenty of snow around, making for slushy descending in a few spots. Once on to Harolds Cross Road, there’s a nice descent back down to the main sealed road. Crossing the Shoalhaven River, we swing off on to the dirt road over Wallace Gap. It’s nothing to trouble the legs much, and then it’s an easy roll into Majors Creek where we were warmly welcomed by an elderly pooch. From here we got to plummet off the edge of the Great Dividing Range, dropping rapidly into the Araluen Valley. There are fantastic views out over the valley as you descend, although it’s hard to look up from the narrow twisty track as gravity rockets you downwards. No problem though, there will be plenty of time to look around on the return ascent (gulp). There’s a cafe at the peach growers once down the hill – only open Sundays through winter though. Otherwise the only food option is the Araluen Pub. From Canberra, it was around 105km to Araluen, where we stayed at the pub. Friendly people, good meals, torrents of steaming hot water in the shower & no issues with bike storage – all good.
On the second day we headed off for the ride out to the coast at Moruya, returning via the same route, and finishing back up the hill at Majors Creek. Total distance of about 130km, with a decent amount of climbing (over 2500m). I had a sore knee early on, not ideal given the lack of any flat terrain, but got through by adding anti-inflammatories to my diet. It’s a beautiful ride, winding, climbing and descending alongside the Deua River. It’s a little rough in places, meaning that you need to watch your line descending on a CX bike, but otherwise fine. There are a couple of inviting campsites along the river in the National Park, making us think about possibilities for multi-day camping and cycling trips in this area. It’s a route that doesn’t get old – I’ve ridden it again since this trip and enjoyed it just as much. Once you reach the turn off to Larry’s Mountain it’s an easy roll into Moruya, with just one final 1km ‘sting in the tail’ climb before you hit bitumen and the descent into town. The General Store is on the right about 500m before the roundabout – a good spot for coffee and food. Luckily we also took the opportunity to restock the jersey pockets with snacks for the road.
After refuelling we set off on the return leg. The afternoon rapidly drained away as we wound our way up and down back to Araluen. No stopping here as we were racing against the fast disappearing light to make it back up the hill. It was almost a relief to reach the base of the climb. Find the gear, commit 100% and keep grinding away. CX granny gear + my legs were somewhat inadequate for the 18%+ sections, and standing out of the saddle just meant the rear wheel slipping. It was a relief to reach the switchback where the gradient eases and you know you’ve got it nailed. Not long after, we popped out on top, with the pub just a couple of hundred metres away. It was nice to be expected, and anticipating hungry cyclists, they had kept huge plates of melt-in-the-mouth lamb shanks for us – which we demolished in record time. Then a few beverages with the locals is all it took and we were done.
The ride home is technically the easiest, only 90km, with about half on sealed roads. It wasn’t to be for us, as the morning breeze quickly escalated into a ripping headwind. With tired legs we had to fight our way home, pathetically grateful for the forested sections where we got some brief respite, before being shoved backwards when we emerged into the full force of the wind. We no doubt looked pretty tragic collapsed on the verge along Briar’s Sharrow Road, shovelling down handfuls of biscuits in an attempt to regain sufficient energy to propel ourselves the last 35km or so. Although, once home, fed, watered and clean, the wind is forgotten and we relax and savour the satisfaction of a ridiculously fun weekend ride.