We are finally getting some spring weather; the Mt Camel range grape vines are bursting into a new cloak of bright green leaves.
Firstly, I’ve driven or ridden all of this route this month to check the condition after recent rain and surface flooding events. It is all rideable!
Summary pics for a ride-through guide
—————- Original pre-ride post ——————-
- Date and Time: Saturday 26th November 2022. Start at 9:00am.
- Distance and Duration: Around 70 to 95km depending on how many wineries you visit. Personally, I’m planning a relaxed all-day ride, stopping for a while at some of the 12 Cellar Doors and along the way. More detail on route options is provided below.
- Start and Finish Location: Palling Bros Brewery, 168 High Street, Heathcote. Assemble in Chauncey Street on the corner of High Street.
- Amenities: Heathcote at start and finish. Up to 12 Cellar Doors and a brewery along the way. Be aware that while wine tastings are often free at cellar doors, food is usually relatively expensive. There are more details and maps of how to get to all 12 wineries and the brewery below.
- Accommodation: There are accommodation options at both the north and south ends of the loop. So it is easy to do this ride as an overnighter with 2 days riding, which will also allow more time at winery stops. At the south end, Heathcote has more accommodation options (and a central booking service). At the north end, Heathcote II and Shiraz Republic offer accommodation, although these are relatively expensive and rooms may only be available for 2 nights minimum. Nearby Toolleen Hotel is more suitable for bikepackers; this has basic rooms although they are not listed anywhere, you have to contact the hotel directly. There is also a free campsite opposite the Toolleen Hotel and general store. This campsite has toilet facilities, but it may also have some noise from the main road nearby.
- Terrain: There is one significant climb – Chinamans Bend (about 1.5km at 8%). The remainder of the route is rolling. Expect 600 to 900 vertical metres depending on how many side trips to wineries you make. See profiles below for more detail.
- Less capable riders should not be deterred by the Chinamans Bend climb. It is short enough to hike-your-bike on the steepest sections if necessary, and most riders will stop at the hairpin bend half-way up to take pics looking out over the scenic vineyards, so you will get a rest.
- There are also some short, steep climbs of only a few hundred metres on the western side of the route, and on driveways spurs into wineries.
- Roads and Ride Surfaces: Irrespective of route choice the surface information is the same. About 75% gravel, mostly in good condition although there are occasional gouges and potholes. Watch out for a few full-width transverse ditches across the road caused by recent heavy rain runoff. These ditches are only about 30-40 cm wide and 15-30 cm deep, but you don’t want to hit them at speed. I’m planning to stop and lift over these ditches. The remaining 25% of the route is sealed road. The only clay / dry weather road is the short-cut road option (about 4 km on Hagans Lane) and this was rideable when I checked it earlier this month.
- Heavy Traffic Sections: Three sections of sealed road are busier and more risky than I’d like but there are no other options. These are 4 km on C347 (Heathcote-Rochester Rd), 3 km on Chinamans Bend climb where drivers could be distracted by the hairpins and views, and probably 3 km on B75 (Northern Highway) near the end of the day. These locations are marked on the map below. Please do your own research and make sure you are prepared to ride on these roads. Lights and high-visibility clothing are recommended.
- Bike and Tyres: No need for suspension as most of the surfaces are fairly smooth. But riders will probably find the jarring and vibration from the gravel roads uncomfortable on tyres less than 30 mm wide. To be comfortable you should have tyres wider than 40 mm if possible.
- Navigation and Communication: There will not be any signs or marshalls. Parts of the ride are on very quiet forest tracks and un-signed back roads. Riders are unlikely to stay in large groups. Every rider should be able to navigate by themselves using gpx files and appropriate devices. Adventure riders should always carry personal locator beacons for emergency situations.
- GPX Files: GPX files are below and available to download. I expect riders will need to use more than one gpx file. I suggest using a mobile phone app that allows multiple gpx files to be loaded at the same time in different colours to distinguish between the through-loop, and out-and-back spur rides to cellar doors. I use GPX Viewer which can load and track against multiple differently coloured gpx lines at the same time in its free version.
- On Bike or in Day Bags: As well as navigation and emergency communication devices, riders should plan to support themselves for a full day on the road in changing road and weather conditions. Some suggestions – food, water, sunscreen, insect protection, lights, puncture management, bike tools and spare parts, first aid including a snake bite kit, and clothing options for hot, cold, wet and low-visibility conditions.
- Highlights: Gravel roads in mostly good condition with low traffic. Scenic views of vines in new season’s leaf. A wide variety of winery cellar doors with relaxed ambience, a range of food choices and some live music. Conviviality – everyone I met was relaxed, friendly and happy to chat. And great wines!
- Costs and Support: It costs nothing. For that you get to ride completely self-supported, self-navigating and at your own risk. There will be no marshalls, no route markings and no physical or mechanical support people or vehicles. Please do your own research and risk assessment to determine if this is a suitable ride for you.
- Alcohol: Drinking too much alcohol will impair your ability to ride safely and also cause dehydration which increases health risks further. Please drink in moderation and drink lots of water during the ride.
- Seasonal Ride Series: This route is part of the GABCY Seasonal Ride Series – a set of monthly rides that are in harmony with local weather patterns and natural environments. The aim is to showcase the most suitable and scenic time to ride in each location, as well as show the wide variety of rides available across the GABCY Network.
- Route also connects with: If you want to incorporate this ride into a longer multi-day ride trip, this route has connections with O’Keefe Rail Trail, Leen Down the Dale, Camel Cornella and Golden Black Track. See – the GABCY Network.
Please refer to the map below to understand the various route options.
- Blue line – this is the basic loop. It is 69 km without visiting any cellar doors. The loop is rolling with one significant climb (1.5 km at 8% on sealed road), and approx 600 vertical metres total.
- Green line – a shorter route using a short-cut across the loop to avoid doing the northern section. Riding this loop is 57 km without visiting any cellar doors. This loop is rolling with a longer, shallower climb (2.8km at 3 to 5% on clay and gravel road), and approx 470 vertical metres total.
- Red spur lines – these are connecting roads or driveways to all the cellar doors. These are all out-and-back extensions; they add distance to the ride. If you decide to ride all the red spur lines to every cellar door shown, as well as the blue route, you will ride 95 km in total. This ride option is rolling with one significant climb (1.5% at 8% on sealed road), and approx 880 vertical metres total.
This route setup allows individual riders or small groups to tailor their ride to their own interests and capabilities. Riders can choose which cellar doors they wish to visit and how far off the base loops they want to venture. This will determine the total distance each person rides.
The GPX files for various options are below
- Base loop (marked blue in map above) – 69 km.
- Shortcut loop (marked green at crossover in map above) – 57 km.
- Base loop + All the side trips to wineries (blue + red on map above) – 95 km.
The screenshot to right shows all three gpx files loaded onto the GPX Viewer app on my mobile phone.
This app also tracks and records progress along the routes. A moving blue dot shows your current location.
Loading all three routes in different colours makes it easy to adjust plans during the ride.
This app also allows you to zoom in if you need to know road names or more exact information.
The scale at the bottom now shows 100 metres and you can zoom in further if necessary.
This is a free app. Everyone has access to a mobile phone that will support apps like this.
This app even works offline, on a mobile phone that can’t connect to the mobile or internet networks.
There isn’t any justification for cyclists and community groups to continue to demand scarce public money be spent on signs to mark routes for cyclists.
Vineyards and Wineries
The weekend of this ride – 26th and 27th of November – is a special promotional weekend for the Heathcote Winegrowers Association to launch the summer season. More wineries are open than usual and some will have added music or food options. For more information see – Summer of Cellar Doors.
There are many more wineries in the Heathcote region than are on this map or list. However, as this ride is intended to be a permanent weekend cycling route option, I’m only including information for cellar doors that are close to the route and normally open on weekends without an appointment. Also, a dozen seems an appropriate number for a list of wineries!
Riders are free to make their own inquiries about other wineries, make appointments and add other stops to their ride plans.
I am not making any comments or judgements about the range or quality of wine offered by various cellar doors because everyone has different taste preferences. Riders are free to make their own inquiries and do their own preliminary research to decide which cellar doors they wish to visit.
1 – Wren Estate
A surprising start. This standard shed-type exterior houses an interior with chandeliers and ornate period furniture. The menu features yum cha from 10:30 am.
For more information, including wine produced – www.wrenestate.com.au/cellar_door
2 – Vinea Marson
Vinea Marson is a family winery with Italian style wines and food. It features a big indoor / outdoor courtyard surrounded by olive trees in pots.
For more information, including wine produced – https://www.vineamarson.com/cellar-door
3 – Silver Spoon Estate
Perched halfway up the hill, the Silver Spoon Cellar door building is more like a restaurant with an extensive food menu and scenic views out over ornamental gardens and vines.
For more information, including wine produced – https://www.silverspoonestate.com.au/
4. Shiraz Republic
Shiraz Republic has a cellar door, brewery, pizza and live music on weekends. If all that makes you never want to leave, it also has accommodation.
For more information, including wine produced – https://shirazrepublic.com.au/cellar-door/
5 – Peregrine Ridge
At the crest of the Chinamans Bend climb, riders have the option to turn off to the south and visit the Peregrine Ridge Cellar Door to experience stunning 180-degree views out over the area. The owner requests that cyclists remove cleated and hard-soled cycling shoes to protect his polished timber floors.
Note: Peregrine Ridge emailed that they will be closed the weekend of the ride (26/11-27/11).
For more information, including wine produced – https://peregrineridge.com.au/
6 – Barnadown Run
Not far down the hill is Barnadown Run; a small winery where the winemaker is passionate about traditional methods.
For more information, including wine produced – http://www.barnadownrun.com.au/index.php
7 – Heathcote II
Heathcote II is a small batch winery, with dry-grown grapes made into wine using traditional French techniques.
They also provide accommodation in self-contained villas.
For more information, including wine produced – https://heathcote2.com/
8 – Tellurian Wines
Tellurian is a certified organic winery. It features a modern building at the end of a long drive and a few more food options than other wineries.
For more information, including wine produced – https://www.tellurianwines.com.au/
9 – Domaine Asmara
Domaine Asmara is a small winery close to the through route. It has a bistro with food from 12:00-3:00 pm (see menu below).
For more information, including wine produced – https://www.domaineasmara.com/
10 – Munari Wines
Munari Cellar Door is in an historic former stables and offers a mix of spaces depending on the weather – from a cosy indoor space beside the heater to a sunny outdoor courtyard.
For more information, including wine produced – https://www.munariwines.com/visit-us
11 – Sanguine Estate
Sanguine Estate looks like a winery from a movie – winding, scenic, gravel roads, sunny courtyard and tasting in a barrel room. They don’t have any food, although guests are welcome to bring their own.
For more information, including wine produced – https://sanguinewines.com.au/?v=6cc98ba2045f
12 – The Bridge
The entry to this small winery is a lane near the entrance to Sanguine Estate. They don’t have food.
For more information, including wine produced – https://thebridgevineyard.net.au/
Other Wineries and Cellar Doors, and Regional Information
For more information about the wineries above, and other wineries and cellar doors in the Heathcote area see – https://www.heathcotewinegrowers.com.au/
This is a very good article about the special geology and the development of wine-making in the Heathcote wine region – Heathcote a Viticultural Paradox.
On Tuscan Court near the end of the ride to Heathcote there is a cafe called Heathcote Harvest. It is currently closed since for renovations but I suggest checking their website before you ride to see if it is open again.
If you have any comments or questions about the ride, there are several ways to reach out:
- Please make comments below, and I will respond. You may need to click on the title of this post to open it as a separate page, and then you will see the comments area.
- Contact me directly by email (nixtrader AT yahoo DOT com DOT au).
- The ride is listed as an event on Gravel Grinders Victoria facebook page so you can also post there with questions.