Buller. Forrest. Beauty. Beechworth. The Youies…Places I’ve long dreamed to experience by bike but never quite got there. It was clearly time for a good, long holiday – one that takes in all these places and then some. My partner and I therefore spent the first three weeks of January completely exhausting ourselves with a healthy dose of Victorian MTB tourism.
Week one was predominantly spent at locations that have names beginning with Mount – Beauty, Buller, Buffalo, McLeod. While ‘Mount’ places typically feature some super sweet descents, they also feature a heap of climbing, thin air and some stunning alpine plant life. Basing ourselves at the Lake Catani campground for a few days with some good mates from Canberra, we were also able to participate in an impromptu campsite triathlon. We tried hard not to look like we were taking it too seriously, but our team photographer proved otherwise.
Following a couple of days of apocalyptic looking Melbourne weather we headed south to Forrest. Arriving in time for Thursday’s weekly Brew Crew social ride we had our legs ripped off by a huge bunch of frighteningly fit locals before sampling some fine ales and excellent fish and chips at the Forrest Brewery. The following couple of days were spent riding every track we could find on the trail map. Some new friends we’d made on route from Wangaratta – or Wang if you speak Vic – joined us in Forrest to keep us honest and push our ‘must ride every trail’ enthusiasm to new highs – literally – turns out this place is fairly hilly. Another highlight of this week was a ride with the Wang boys through a collection of flowy trails in Anglesea that eventually dropped us at Bells Beach. After getting lost in the maze of singletrack on the way back the day got even better when a local rider showed us the ‘fun, downhill way back’. Score!
By the final week we’d pushed through fatigue for so long that slow was the new fast. We’d run out of time to take the coast route back home so spent a day recovering our legs and eating Frosty Fruits at the Australian Open tennis fest instead. Oddly, off all the sporting adventures we had, this one – spectating – was the most exhausting. Rides got shorter, swims in the river got longer, and we even camped by a billabong just like in the song. The beautifully built and well looked after trails at the You Yangs topped off the list of favourite rides for January. More singletracks in Beechworth and Bright meant the wheels kept turning even if our legs hardly were, while the local bakeries and ice creameries filled up hungry holiday stomachs.
It seems like every small town in Victoria has it’s own trail network and an enthusiastic crew of local riders to go with it. The number of riders on all types of bikes everywhere we went was quite astounding too – Rail Trail-ers looking forward to devonshire tea, roadies having Tour de France moments on long sustained climbs, commuters of all types on the road or path to work, and lots of parents getting into biking alongside their teenage kids. It’s such a thrill to see how big this sport is becoming in Australia and such a boost to meet so many people who enjoy riding beyond simply racing. At the same time, it’s exciting to return home to Sydney with a new appreciation for the range of trails we have here and the number of days on the calendar where scarves and beanies aren’t required. Meanwhile, if you ever get the chance to spend three weeks on your bike checking out this amazing country…do it! It’ll have you smiling for a long time after.
Thank you to Gayes and Pat for some great holiday images and to many, many others for fun rides and welcoming hospitality.