With the lure of good food and wine, we started our gravel ride on Sunday around Heathcote… after coffee @fodder, we unanimously decided to go for the bigger loop.
Darryl was on the e-bike and made us work for our adventure!
We ended up stopping at Tellurian Wines … a showcase of great wine, friendly staff and yummy food!
The desent down chinaman’s hill was awesome!
Very quiet back roads and gravel tracks made for a sublime day out.
The South Westerly on the way home wasn’t our friend, but my jelly legs got us back to Heathcote where we were treated with a nice meal under a big oak tree in the courtyard… yes, I slept well that night.
In January 2023 most of the River parks and reserves were still closed in the aftermath of the floods. Undeterred, Phil rode a 2-day, 240km U-shaped tour of the GABCY Network linking up many small towns with a particular focus on their bakeries. This is his account.
This was my first trip to the northern country in decades, and never with a bike. With it came the normal trepidations- how far can I expect to get per hour; do I have enough water capacity; will I have phone reception if something goes wrong?
Day 1 – Murchison to Echuca, 116km.
I caught the 5:55 am train from Southern Cross Melbourne to Murchison East. I had a plan to utilise the prevailing wind.
A week earlier I had rolled out from Seymour train station assisted by a ripping southerly that blew me along. A mechanical meant I had to pull the pin and go home. But I learnt a few things. The second time around I changed the route to bring my first re-supply stop (water) closer, and the wind now favoured an arc-shaped parcour. Just on the wind… I highly recommend targeting the best wind for your route. If time doesn’t allow that, then plan your route around the wind.
Changing my route was easy. I was already well versed with the GABCY network and playing on rwgps has become a hobby.
At 8:10am I arrived at Murchison East station and excitedly clipped-in. Away we go! You pass an impressive two-storey old hotel before crossing a fortified bridge over the Goulburn River and into Murchison central.
The bakery has automatic doors like a bank! By now the trip was taking shape in my head. It’d be a bakery tour of the Northern Country. You can town-hop easily enough here. It’s 30k from town to town on gravel backroads. Less than 10 cars passed me in 2 days (250k).
I love custard scrolls and figured I’d eat 4 each day and rate them. Sadly, custard scrolls don’t exist in this part of the state. I know, crazy. I settled on a custard tart. Then I asked the friendly staff for their most popular item under $5. She gave me a vanilla slice. This would be the new game plan. That idea lasted 2 bakeries; I was offered a vanilla slice every time and there is a limit to how many vanilla slices I can eat in a day!
Breakfast done. Off we go. I ride with a Garmin etrex mounted on the stem as my navigation device and utilise rwgps to configure the pre-trip gpx file. Two years ago I would have had no idea what that meant.
Kia and Heath rode part of Yellowbelly Track between McCoys Bridge and Shepparton during the Easter break 2021.
This was part of a 4 day, 30o km, mostly dirt and gravel, bikepacking loop that went from Shepparton to Cobram, then along the Murray and Gouburn Rivers back to Shepparton. You can read Kia’s account of the full trip on Commuter Cycles website – Kia and Heath’s Murray Meander.
Kia wrote the following section about their ride along part of the Yellowbelly Track/Goulburn River. At that time the Yellowbelly Track wasn’t well known as it had only been published a month earlier.
Day 4: McCoy’s Bridge to Shepparton
The final day of our trip was lovely. Only 52 km long, we really took our time, stopping to admire some of the interesting river infrastructure along the way. It was here that we met the only other cyclists of the whole trip, who told us that they were following the newly published Yellowbelly route, which I am very excited to go back and have a look at. As we approached Shepparton, we decided it would be only fitting to finish our route with one final swim. We poked around a few places, trying to find the sweet spot of clear access with a little bit of shade. When we found it, I waded out to the middle of the river for what was one of the best swims of my life.
For those who don’t know Commuter Cycles is a Melbourne bike shop that specialises in bikepacking and adventure riding bikes, bags and accessories. You can also order from their website if you can’t get to the shop.
For more ride reports from the GABCY Network see – Ride Reports
We left Melbourne on the 9.16am Murchison East-bound train, keenly aware that with our arrival time of 11.40am we would need to ride harder than our usual meandering pace to make the 70-odd km loop planned before we ran out of light.
Quickly getting ourselves organised, we rolled out of Murchison – there were nice shared paths next to the main roads, so we were able to easily get to the back gravel roads without having to dodge traffic. Only a short ride in, we hit the dirt roads and the absolute quiet of farmland. It was flat as anything, and we were absolutely flying with very little effort.
The road quality was great, despite them being damp, and the small puddles were relatively easy to avoid. We shared our experience with cows and horses staring at us from paddocks, and multitudes of galahs and cockatoos screeching as they flitted from tree to tree in front of us.
Before we knew it, we hit Tatura, and hadn’t seen a single car until we were on the edge of it. It had just started to spit, and it was perfect timing for grabbing a warming cup of coffee and find somewhere dry to eat the leftover lunch we had brought with us.
Before heading out, we popped on our jackets and rain covers, and zig-zagged through the small town to see the water tower art on the main road.
After turning off the main road, we were quickly back on gravel roads and packed pink clay.
The surfaces were great, but the small hills were starting.
We raced down the downhill runups, and powered up the rises.
Our normally grippy tyres slipping in the piles of cow manure at driveway crossings.
Arriving at Waranga Shores was a good time to pause and eat the delicious chocolate chip cookie and creaming soda we picked up in Tatura while gazing out over the reservoir.
We arrived in Bendigo by train at 11.20am, and it was already hot and meant to get hotter. Earlier in the week, it had promised 22-23 degrees, but now it was saying 29, and similar for tomorrow. It was going to be a tough ride…
It was easy to navigate our way through the few small turns to the start of the O’Keefe Rail Trail, and we were quickly on our way, cruising along manicured bike paths similar to Melbourne. Pretty soon we were out onto beautifully graded gravel alongside the road, and watching a lot of cyclists coming the other way who had clearly been smart enough to start early in the morning.
Signs announcing the sites of the old railway stations rolled past quickly on the easy riding gravel, and we soon arrived in Axedale, taking well sign-posted streets to the Axedale Tavern for lunch.
The tavern has a beautiful big courtyard with lots of tables under umbrellas, and live music on a Sunday afternoon. The food was good and the portions were plentiful, leaving us actually a little too full to ride comfortably in the heat of the afternoon… be warned.
Leaving Axedale, and a quick steep hill later, we were quickly in the countryside proper – alternating patches of shady gum trees and blazing hot fields of flat yellow farmland. Heads down, we powered through the heat, cheered on by screeching sulphur-crested cockatoos, and suddenly popped out beside Lake Eppalock. A beautiful, but strange sight, coated in bright green plant matter and flooding bare, reaching trees.
In March 2022, Dan and a few mates rode about 330km over 3 days in a large horseshoe-shaped tour along the outer edge of the GABCY Network. They started at Bendigo and finished at Tallarook, with a train connection at each end. This is Dan’s recount.
Day 1 – Bendigo to Echuca – 121 km
Amazing roads out of Bendigo through the forest.
Was a bit of a slog from where it opened up, until we saw the Campaspe river for the first time.
Then onto the amazing long straight gravel roads, zig zagging our way north west.
Stopped for a very late lunch at Rochester bakery and then pushed on to Echuca.
The last 30kms along the rail lines were the worst of the day. Very corrugated, hard to find a good line.
The swim in the Murray and the cold beers were amazing.
John and Greg rode the Yellowbelly Track over 3 days in April 2022. This is their account …
We first heard about the Yellow Belly Track during 2021 and, having just finished a ride down the Murray River from Mildura to Goolwa, were quite interested in doing a more local ride, along one of the many rivers that run into the Murray.
Earlier this year (2022), we decided that the first week of April would be a good week to try the track (not too cold yet; winds generally not a problem; out of school holidays) so we made plans.
One of the hardest things to work out was how long to take to do the ride. We were unsure of how far we would be able to travel each day, particularly on the river tracks. Thanks to the NixTrader website, we were able to look at the distances between major stops and a suggested itinerary based on the planned number of nights on the track. We thought we would probably allow for 5 days on the track, with overnight stops in the two major towns along the way, Murchison and Shepparton.
Things actually went a lot better than we had planned!
We seized the moment of stupidly hot weather to hit the gravel in central Victoria over three days last weekend, credit card camping with Duncan Parkinson. Train to Murchison, rode to Heathcote (which wasn’t the picturesque wine-town I was expecting from all the Shiraz I’ve had from there) via the Whroo cemetery (poor bastards). The empathy for those diggers turned inwards as we baked in high 30s riding up and down dale, running low on water to get to our first night’s accommodation. Thankfully the thunderstorms hit after we got there which then drenched what we’d left outside. We saw countless wallabies, plenty of roos and the odd Wedgetail. From Heathcote we rode to Rushworth via Colbinnabin for silo art and pub lunch. Last day to Nagambie via the ghost town of Whroo and the Balaclava mine and crossing the treacherous (for bikes) Kirwan Bridge. Duncan had more in the tank and so rode on to Seymour.
We have to thank ‘Nick’ from the GABCY Network who has pulled together amazing routes and ride planning resources to grow gravel riding in central Vic. It includes accommodation/camping options, sights to see, hazards to watch for. Of course, we ignored the advice to ride in Spring/Autumn. Amazing work. https://nixtrader.wordpress.com/…/12/16/the-gabcy-network/
Another interesting and different report. This one shows:
How various legs from GABCY Network routes can be combined to make longer routes. Including using different train stations as start and finish points.
Impact of weather. From 30+ degree days riding through bush where carrying enough water is a major issue. Then 20 mm overnight rain means having to adjust route next day to avoid some planned earth / clay tracks.
Impact of seasons on landscape. The same routes that are bright primary colours in spring and autumn, become a beige-out in high summer. Streeton was more poetic about Australian summers declaring “gold and blue” as “nature’s scheme of colour in Australia”, as evidenced in Golden Summer – Eaglemont (1889)
Importance of getting different perspectives. I’ve been to Rushworth many times, but I don’t recall seeing any of the things in pics posted by Alister and Duncan 😂. Also seems the new cafe that had newspaper over its windows all last year has opened, so I’ll have to go and check it out!
First bikepacking trip on the wondercross and first time staying in bush camps alone. I was at times really aware that I’m a woman, especially with the solo camping and sometimes not knowing if the situation was safe!
I’m doing the Golden Black Track. It’s fantastic.
First day rode from Murchison to Dargile state forest and stayed just a little way off from Dargile camp ground and was completely alone. Rode 65kms. Was harder than I anticipated as the elevation was near the end of my ride. The campground had no water. Would need to bring in enough.
Second night visited my folks in heathcote so a very short ride. Third night rode to Rushworth and then stayed at Greens campground. Free. Had a drop toilet but no water or fire wood.
Rode back to Murchison- just a short one and went home.
Really went party pace as I’ve definitely lost my riding legs during lockdown and had been sick the week before. The constant up and down was tiring but there is warning of this of Nicks website. It’s a beautiful ride.
My biggest issue is not sleeping. Just can’t seem to sleep in the tent! Will have to practice in the yard 🙂
It was definitely type 2 fun but it’s always a humbling experience. Went to plenty of bakeries in the towns and had a really good dehydrated meal from radix nutrition- would purchase again! The bird song and the quiet was just what I needed.
Saw a fox, 2 echidnas, lots of Roos and 2 rabbits.
Harry’s article is a good one for starter bikepackers to read to get an understanding of what is in store for them. It also confirms that when bikepacking you will get a deeper understanding and appreciation of your riding companions, even if riding alone.