Victoria doesn’t have a L’Eroica style event – that is a retro steel ride over an epic route more than half of which is unsealed. Northern Victoria also doesn’t have a long gravel ride event that is suitable for traditional road frame bikes. Being from the country and naive I’ve decided to plan a ride for myself to cater for both needs. Any other experienced riders who wish to join me are welcome to do so – and you can ride whatever bike you want.
I am excited about this route. I think it could be one of the best one-day touring rides in Australia. I doubt the route has ever been ridden before as one ride. There is only one chance to do a first edition.
The road less travelled is often more gravelled. Free your wheels, your mind will follow.
- Preliminary ride information and profile
- Meet the Strathbogie Ranges
- Reclaim the ride
- Photos of route – a virtual ride through
- Route options
- Further advice
- Train link information
- Doing the Transfer
- Post ride activities
- Reports after the rides
- Inspiration – L’Eroica and gravel riding
- Register, Water and Detailed Route Information
Preliminary ride information and profile
Dates: 2 ride days Saturday 14 March 2015 and Sunday 22 March 2015. This allows riders to have a choice depending on the weather; or riders could ride different bikes or different route options on each day.
Cost: zero entry fee, but lots of time and energy. Spend your money in a rural Victorian community instead.
Ride: This is not a race or sponsored event; there are no timings, rankings or prizes. Your individual experience will make you a winner.
Route: The proposed 113km ride is in central Victoria. The route is A to B, not a loop. The proposed start (Seymour) and finish (Violet Town) are about 70 km apart so riders will have to organise a transfer linkup. See map below with approximate route shown as yellow line. More information on making transfer below
EDIT/UPDATE: This article was written in 2015. The gpx file for this ride is available here – Strathbogie Slider 2015
Train link: The start and finish are on a train line; it is possible to get riders and bikes shuttled to the start location (pre-start and post finish). More train information below
Self-Supported: The ride is self-supported and passing through remote areas. There will not be any sag-wagons, refreshment tents or mechanical or first-aid support vehicles or personnel. Shops for food and drink are likely to be more than 2 hours apart. Riders will need to carry their own food, drink and mechanical and first-aid supplies.
Difficulty Level and Risk: This is not a ride for inexperienced riders and I doubt it has been ridden before in one day. Hence no person can vouch for the route’s safety or what is required to ride it. Riders who choose to ride all or part of this route do so entirely at their own risk and are responsible for their own investigation and preparation before the ride, and their own support during the ride. This ride is not an organised formal ‘event’ and does not have sponsorship or public liability insurance. This is a ride I am planning for myself and I invite others to participate at their own risk if they wish.
Profile and Gradients: The profile is shown below (click on image to make it bigger).
- The brown line is elevation, measured by numbers on the left hand axis (in metres).
- The blue line is gradient, measured by numbers on the right hand axis (in percentages).
- The yellow blocks at the bottom show where the gravel sectors are.
The Strathbogie Ranges are two elevated plateaus on the northern edge of the great dividing range in central Victoria. The table like plateaus are linked to the flat plains below by steep 300-400 metre escarpments on all sides. The plateaus were developed for agriculture from the 1850s and that remains the main industry, although in some places traditional dairy and sheep farms have been replaced with vineyards and more exotic animals. The topography limited further development – there was never a railway, modern trucks couldn’t go on the small local bridges and there is no drinkable municipal water supply. As a result the region has a low population and it has decreased over the last 80 years.
For a cyclist this is all good news – the strathbogies provide a large variety of riding experiences, continually changing outlooks and unsealed roads in good condition, together with a low level of traffic and very little urban development.
My proposed ride goes north east from Seymour to Violet Town – the approximate route is shown as the yellow line drawn on the map below (click on the map to make it bigger).
The major highways in the area are the black lines which go around the strathbogie escarpments, taking modern development with them.
My ride goes through the only towns on the strathbogies – Ruffy and Strathbogie – that’s one very small town on each plateau. Once I decided to climb and cross both plateaus in one ride there aren’t many route options. The climbs can’t be avoided, and the route would be a lot longer if I only included sealed roads. I don’t know of anyone who has done a ride like this in this area. It is a challenging ride.
This ride has a retro flavour which matches the area; there are not many structures under 50 years old. Many buildings are a lot older such as the premises of the Strathbogie Blacksmith – I believe this was still operating into the 1980s.
The Strathbogie Ranges have some similarities with the area of Tuscany that hosts the annual L’Eroica ride – they are both regions where topography limited development compared to their neighbours. Now that scenic topography and lack of development makes them an attractive destination for cyclists, particularly classic cycling groups.
As well as encouraging classic retro bikes and historic surfaces, this ride takes a retro attitude to the periphernalia and administrative processes that are common at current fondo-type events. This ride isn’t an organised ‘event’ and won’t have any fees, permits, signs, marshalls, sponsorship, support infrastructure or public liability insurance.
This is old school touring. Bikes have always been about liberation and seeking new experiences, and both the growth and risk that comes with that. It is still possible to just ‘go for a ride’ on public roads using existing amenities, and relying on your own skills and preparation. If public roads are truly being shared, and riders intend to obey current road rules, then no permissions or special conditions should be required. The feedback I have from Police, VicRoads and the local Council is that this type of ride does not require a permit.
However out of courtesy I am in discussions with the local police, shop-owners and the local shire about the ride and considering any suggestions from them to make the ride go more smoothly.
Photos of route, a virtual ride through
Start point: Car park on east side of Seymour Railway Station. Ride departure time – 9:30am. For those wanting pre-ride nutrition and stimulants the closest cafe is Toasties in the Mall off Station Street (exit on west side of station, cross road, go south 50m till you reach Mall). Unfortunately the retro cafe on the station platform is closed on weekends (platform cafe, photo taken through window as cafe was closed).
Some traffic on first road out of town
Left turn onto a low use sealed road, about 1 lane wide
First gravel sector – landscape unmistakenly Australian
Shady road follows creek valley upstream
Occasional stock grids present opportunities for riders to practice their CX carry
This old Hughes Creek Schoolhouse is on the left when you reach the first stock grid. It is relevant for 2 reasons, firstly as a sign of the larger population that was once in these ranges. Secondly, for the stone memorial cairn to Ellis Bankin on the left.
Ellis Bankin was a young schoolteacher at this school. He was also a keen cyclist, motorcyclist, naturalist and adventurer. From a previous one-room school near Mildura he organised annual cycling trips for his students to ride to Melbourne to visit the seaside. During his school holidays he explored remote parts of Australia on his 350cc Triumphe motorcycle. He died in January 1936 attempting to ride his Triumphe to Ayres Rock. It seems fitting for this ride to take some inspiration from his heroic spirit of adventure.
Creek provides lots of idyllic vistas
Bridge over creek as road turns northward. Caution here, the descent down the bank to the bridge is steep and the bridge has no side rails.
Continue northwards, always drifting upwards
Road is seen rolling over undulating terrain ahead
The toughest part of the first major climb is the end, but the final 600m is sealed
The Crest sign at end of this sealed section marks the end of first climb; from here an easy 1km warm-down roll to the first feed break. Yay!
EDIT / UPDATE: This article was written in 2015. Ruffy Produce Store is now closed. Riders have to carry more water and food now.
First feed break: Ruffy – hamlet with gourmet cafe (Ruffy Produce Store)
Restart – when leaving town take left fork onto gravel sector 2
Shady with good surface for a few kilometres
Turn right into the lane less travelled
Surroundings are a step back in time – perfect for a retro ride
This lane includes a couple of short uphill rocky sections about 20m long. The gradient itself is rideable, but it is possible to slip off a rock into a rut here and buckle a wheel. So I recommended for riders to dismount and push their bikes, or practice their CX carry, up these very short sections (this photo looks back down a rocky section).
However, the lane surface improves after these rocky sections. The further this lane goes, the better the surface.
This secluded lane is popular with crimson rosellas. Riders may see flashes of brilliant red and blue as groups of birds dart in and out of the trees ahead.
Turn right onto sealed road, proceed for 1 km. Then left turn at this intersection into gravel sector 3. Don’t miss this turn-off, this is the only linking road.
Third gravel sector – good surface for riding
Winding across the rolling plateau, a lot of rabbits along this sector
Nice view, complete with …. er llamas. This view looks across to the second plateau. However, there is a valley in between; riders have to descend and climb back up the other side.
The descent is a series of tight downward sloping turns
Eventually reaching the valley floor
Road rolls through valley farms. The halfway point for the ride is along this road.
Gravel gives way to a narrow sealed road
Briefly onto a more major road for 2 kms. Expect more cars and faster moving traffic on this road. Note that the shoulder isn’t sealed.
Left turn onto narrow sealed road. Start preparing for climb up to second plateau.
This climb is steep in parts, but it is not long and it is sealed all the way
Onto the rolling plateau again
Livestock watch … this time horses
“Dairy and sheep replaced by more exotic animals!? … You lycra dudes, callin’ us exotic?”
Passes local swimming hole for any rider who wants a refreshing break
Continue on sealed roads, turn left into small town for second feed break
Second feed break: Strathbogie – the only shop in town claims claims to have “best coffee in town”.
Rolling again. After 200m, turn right, then after 1km turn right into the fourth gravel sector. Very sedate at first.
Then it becomes a bit more rambling
Turn left onto quiet sealed road. Passes a paddock with les vaches.
Can’t have a tour without les vaches
After stopping and giving way, ride straight across to start gravel sector 5
Silver trees and road surface – the fifth gravel sector is the shamal sector.
Chicane over bridge for cornering practice
After turning left, a section of sealed road flanked by vineyard
After a right turn riders are onto the final gravel sector (no. 6) for the descent. Caution, sign indicates there are bikes about :).
The first 5km of this sector are relatively flat with a slight uphill drift.
When the descent starts it is steep in parts and riders should be cautious. The road surface has loose gravel, with occasional white rocks poking through. Runoff options are scarce for any rider who loses control because the road edge is bordered by large trees.
If roads are wet and the gravel descent is unsafe, or if some riders are tiring and don’t wish to tackle the steep gravel descent, it is possible to bypass sector 6 and continue on the sealed road. Then veer right after a few kilometers and there is a more shallow roll down the valley on a sealed road to the finish point. Both options are about the same length.
Finish point: Ellen Frances Hotel, Violet Town. You won’t miss it – continue on the main road you ride in on, after you cross the railway line, the hotel is on the left (16 Cowslip Road, Violet Town).
This region is one of few places where the endangered grey-crowned babbler is found in family groups. So if you see any grey-crowned babblers, either in trees or on bikes :), treat them with respect.
There may be some minor adjustments as the exact route is still being finalised.
My aims in planning this ride were:
- Ride based in the Strathbogie Ranges and to climb and cross both plateaus,
- A total ride length over 100km and to include over 50% unsealed road,
- The condition of unsealed roads chosen, when dry, is adequate for classic steel frame bikes or 2 wheel drive cars.
- Avoid higher traffic roads where possible.
- Other than above conditions pick easier options when there was a choice.
Other riders may have different objectives. Any rider who wants to start the ride and then do some variation is welcome to do so. Again this is your own responsibility and I will not be providing any formal alternative route information (that would make this look like an event that requires a permit).
The following locations are where my route intersects other roads that may make a suitable exit point onto an alternative route. These locations are marked on the map above. The distances provided are along my ride from the start in Seymour, so these distances are what riders will have already ridden up to that potential exit point.
- Ruffy – 42 km
- Gooram – 62 km
- Strathbogie – 77 km
- Boho South – 92 km
If you don’t know how to plan rides google maps is a good place to start. Click on the directions button, enter your start and finish destinations, select cycling as your mode of travel, press enter if required. Voila – you will see possible routes for cyclists, usually avoiding freeways, it will even provide an approximate elevation profile for the route.
EDIT/UPDATE: This article was written in 2015. Bike Route Toaster no longer exists. The gpx file for this ride is available here – Strathbogie Slider 2015
Then for more detailed planning I use Bike Route Toaster – this provides more detailed route maps and profiles. It also creates printable direction cue sheets and downloadable .gpx files that you can upload to a GPS unit on your bike.
- The ride is self-supported. There will be no sag-wagon, refreshment tents or mechanical or first-aid support people or vehicles. Shops for food and drink are likely to be more than 2 hours apart. Riders will need to carry their own supplies.
- The route area has a low population and there will be little traffic on the roads. Riders should try to stay in groups and assist each other in case of any mishaps.
- The route will not be sign-posted beyond existing limited road signs. A gpx file and route document will be available for download prior to the rides. Riders should plan to ride with a mobile phone and a trip odometer to help keep track of where they are and to decide which way to go using the route document. A GPS device will be very helpful, particularly if it can upload the route gpx file. How to get detailed route information
- If you have a Australian standard UHF walkie talkie this may be handy to bring along to keep in touch with other riders. I will nominate the channel to use at some time in future before the ride.
- Plan for the ride to take most of the day; savour the experience. Rushing ahead will increase the likelihood of riders missing turn-offs and getting lost.
- The unsealed roads have some loose gravel on the surface, but the underlying support is firm earth and crushed rock rather than soft sand. Corrugation is rare and only in very short patches; even then it is usually only on one side of the road. All roads are suitable for 2WD vehicles when dry; I’ve tried to avoid 4WD type tracks with long sections of ruts, rocks and tree roots to bounce over.
- If roads are wet the situation changes dramatically. Some roads may become unrideable and riders should take adequate precautions and change the route as needed for their own safety.
- The course will not be pre-checked on the days of the rides. It is possible that obstacles may be across the road, for example animals or branches fallen from trees. There are also other permanent obstacles along the route such as ditches, stock-grids, protruding rocks and narrow, open-sided bridges. Riders should progress at a speed that is slow enough to make sure the road ahead is safe, and the riders are able to stop before any obstacles.
- Riders should be aware of riders coming behind them. Do not stop suddenly in the middle of the road. If you plan to slow down or stop, tell riders around you first, and then move to the side of the road before stopping. If you fall, move yourself and your bike off the road as quickly as possible. Make sure the road is clear ahead and behind before remounting and moving back onto the road.
- On steep gravel descents riders should separate from each other by at least 5 seconds rather than ride down together. If you fall, move yourself and your bike off the road as quickly as possible. Make sure the road is clear ahead and behind before remounting and moving back onto the road.
- Riders can ride whatever bike they want, and wear whatever clothes they want, as long as they can complete the course safely and support themselves in the remote environment.
- The ride is an homage to classic Australian touring riding; we are not pretending we are racing in Tuscany.
- This is not an easy ride, nor a ride for inexperienced riders. If you are not confident you can complete this route, and support yourself, do not start.
- There are some steep uphill sections although these are short. Riders may see these as opportunities to stop and confer about route documents or take photos of the view and other riders. Number 2 gear may be engaged at any time. I expect to take my time and walk parts of route myself. Other riders concerned about steepness of parts of route should wear shoes that make it easy to walk if required.
- There are no closed roads for this ride. Riders should obey normal traffic rules and be courteous to locals and other road users.
- Livestock have right of way on country roads. If riders meet a herd of stock being moved along the road, riders should slow or stop; move to the road edge and remain quiet and still. Eventually the drovers and their dogs will drive the stock to one side of the road and around riders and create a clear path for you to proceed.
- Although the roads are public, part of the route passes through un-fenced grazing land. Dismount to cross stock grids and ride calmly and slowly around sheep or cattle on or near the road. Also ride calmly and slowly around any kangaroos you encounter. If you spook animals they are more likely to panic, race around erratically, damage themselves or charge into you or other riders.
- Snakes, lizards, echidnas or other native animals might be on the road. These are all protected animals. If you see a snake or any other native animal near the road, slow down, stop, wait and pass with as much distance between you and the animals as possible. Riders are a long way from any first-aid or medical support; avoid any risk of being injured in an encounter with a native animal.
- This region has been effected by fires in the past. Riders should have the Victorian FireReady app on their mobile phone to stay aware of any fire situation that develops during the day.
- The strathbogies do not have a potable municipal water supply. This means the locals drink water from rain water tanks or buy bottled water. If there is a tap in a toilet or outside area it is likely to be coming straight out of a creek – it is not safe to drink. So do not refill your water bottles from any tap you happen to see. Riders should only get drinking water from the shops at the two feed stops.
- There is a pub at the end of the ride to replenish any carbohydrates misplaced along the route.
- Don’t be a dick; respect and engage with other riders, the environment and the local community.
- Have fun. The few locals you encounter will think you are crazy; smile and wave maniacally to remove any doubt.
The train timetable is attached here – Train Albury to Seymour
Booking is required on these shuttle trains. The cost isn’t much about $5, depending on where you get on. Bikes are stored in the mail van – there isn’t any extra charge for a bike. I am told the mail van is always at the Melbourne end of the train; so wait at the end of the platform that is closer to Melbourne when you load or unload your bike.
I’ve received a few questions about how to do the finish-start transfer. Here are a few suggestions.
- Do the transfer pre-ride. Put your car near the finish and catch the train back to the start. This is what I intend to do. I’ve made the start time 9:30am so there is enough time for a transfer prior to the ride and a convenient southbound train arriving at Seymour at 9am. It seems easier to do the transfer first thing when I’m still clean and fresh, rather than at the end when I’m tired, dirty and possibly wet if it is raining. The other advantage of arranging the transfer pre-start is I know the exact time, whereas if I want to arrange it at the end I need to estimate my finish time which is a lot harder. The train also has a cafe area so riders have the opportunity to meet each other and do some pre-ride feeding and other prep such as putting on sunscreen.
- Ride back. If you don’t want to do a transfer at all, plan a route variation for yourself that takes you back to wherever you want to finish. There are local roads parallel to the Hume Freeway most of the way so you should be able to avoid the Freeway.
- Accommodation closer to the finish. If you intend to stay overnight, find accommodation closer to the finish than the start, so you have the option to ride back to your accommodation from the finish, and do the main transfer at the start.
- Bike on the Train. If you are coming by yourself you don’t have much option other than to use the train to carry your bike. I am doing this myself to see if it is viable. I also feel I shouldn’t suggest it to anyone else as an option for this ride if I am not prepared to do it myself. More information about bikes on the train
- Work in with other riders. If riders work in together they can avoid having to put their bikes on the train. For example if there are two riders in one car, one rider can stop at Seymour with both bikes, and the other travels to Violet Town with the car and racks, leaves it there and catches the train back to Seymour. This approach can be scaled up for any number of bikes, cars and riders.
The towns along the train line to the west of the ride route – Seymour (start town), Euroa and Violet Town (finish town) – have a range of commercial overnight accommodation options. The train stops at these towns (check timetable as some trains are express). There isn’t any accommodation available along my ride route though.
For those interested in post ride activities:
- Finish at Violet Town pub. The pub has a verandah and outside table area that is well placed to watch other riders come in to the finish. I expect that some riders will wait for other riders to finish and have a bit of a get together to talk about how awesome they are.
- Dinner in Euroa. I will be having dinner in Euroa after both rides. If any other riders wish to join me they are welcome to do so. More details circulated to those who give me their email address.
Both ride days have now happened. There are ride reports for anyone who is interested.
See this link for a report on ride day 1, Saturday 14th March 2015.
See this link for a report on ride day 2, Sunday 22nd March 2015.
Inspiration – L’Eroica and gravel riding
If this ride seems very strange and you wonder why anyone would want to do this sort of ride. The following links may help.
- L’Eroica – is an Italian phrase meaning “the heroes” or “the heroic ones”. It is pronounced similarly to the english word ‘heroic’ except it starts with an ‘l’ sound instead of an ‘h’ and finishes with an added ‘a’ sound which makes it plural. The term is an homage to the cyclists of history who rode in much more adverse conditions than we have today. It is an annual ride event held in Italy largely on strade bianche (translation “white roads”, meaning unsealed roads). The event is described well in this cycling tips article. There are also L’Eroica events starting up in UK, Japan and America. This event is the inspiration for the Strade Bianche world cycling pro-tour race event on the same roads in March – described by some as the most beautiful race in the world (see image below).
- Gravel riding. At the same time gravel or adventure riding events have sprung up in the US. These articles from Off the Beaten Path and The (Re)birth of Gravel provide some insight into what is going on there. The most well known gravel ride event in US is the Almanzo 100 (100 miles long, much of which is gravel, it even includes fording a river).
Register, Water and Detailed Route Files
I need to have a good idea of the number of riders for two major reasons.
- In case of emergency (a fire is the most obvious example) the Police and SES need to know how many riders to try to find and move into a safe area. This ride is unusual and emergency services are not going to expect a lot of cyclists to be on some of the roads we are riding on – so we need to tell them in advance.
- Drinking water. The strathbogies do not have a potable municipal water supply. This means the locals drink water from rain water tanks or buy bottled water. If there is a tap in a toilet or outside area it is likely to be coming straight out of a creek – it is not safe to drink. So do not expect to refill your water bottles from any tap you happen to you see. I plan to arrange for the shops at the two feed stops to have enough water available (probably in big plastic barrels) for all riders to refill their bottles. However, for this to work I need to know how many riders there will be.
Therefore riders have to provide me with an email address so I can keep a count.
I will only send the links for detailed route information files (i.e. road map, gpx file and printable cue sheet with distances and required actions) to those riders who provide an email address.
Email me with your email address, send to – nixtrader AT yahoo DOT com DOT au (you spambots should not email me unless you have a bike). If you do not have an email address, or are confused, make a comment below.
If you have any questions or comments, post below. Or contact me on twitter (@NixTrader), or by email (nixtrader AT yahoo DOT com DOT au)
13 thoughts on “Strathbogie Slider”
Sounds interesting. Is it only for steel frame bikes? As I ride enough with soulless plastic and having ridden L erotica this year I was spoilt with what was there
Thanks Paul, no it is not restricted to steel. But I expect it will be of most interest to people who don’t intend to ride a new carbon road bike on the route.
I’m intrigued! Sounds very interesting and would love to drag my mates along too.
Excellent. Especially if by dragging your mates along you mean you want to ride on front all day! 🙂
As a possible ‘contender’/ participant for the Sunday 22nd ride, I would love some feedback from the first edition (Sat. 14th). Is this ride mainly for the fast younger riders, or do you have a group of older, slower, ‘pootling’ riders taking part? What sort of riding time did you achieve on the first ride. I was following early progress on your site, but my wife had a fall two weeks ago, which put things on hold.
Hi Chris. Firstly sorry to hear about your wife’s fall hope she recovers soon. Well yesterday was more older pootling than boy racers. We took a lot longer than I expected (10 hours!). I’m going through my strava file now to see where all the time went – we did have a few lengthy breaks to eat and drink and enjoy the surroundings. Perhaps none of the sections allowed us to go 20km/hr+ so there were no faster bits to make up for the slower sections. It’s a bit of a puzzle now – I’ll know more after a day or so when I unravel the section numbers. All participants enjoyed it and agreed the route was quite rideable which was good – no stacks and not even a puncture among the group. No matter how fast you go it is a hard ride though with some steep climbs. I’ll post a ride report in a few days when I sort it out. And I’ll send info to those who have given me their emails for 22nd to expect it to take all day (and to pack lights!).
Thanks for organising a great day out. Really interesting to see a part of Victoria I’d never seen before.
Thanks Andrew, it was good to meet you and I’m glad you enjoyed the day.
words of advice from a local if you are to ride on some of these roads care should be taken with local drivers on some of these roads , we often encounter groups of riders all over the road in good and poor weather conditions rain fog low cloud etc etc , coming around a blind corner only to be confronted by a group of riders all over the road and in a low light foggy morning condition with no lights on bikes makes it very uneasy for drivers to react in time and forcing drivers to hit the dirt shoulders road makers embankments trees or other road users .
personally i have ruined two tyres and rims avioding such riders who think of themselves and not share the road or give a hoot for car drivers on quite country roads .
many old timers up this way with below average eyesight and vehicles to match along with local hoons racing up and the down moutain roads or riding motor bikes down dirt tracks .
you ask us car drivers to watch out for riders but when you dont take the thought to add a light front and rear or ride all over the road with no respect or regard to whats coming around the next bend , best of luck to you .
Thanks for posting this very detailed article. Your pioneering efforts are greatly appreciated.
Thanks for saying so. Also thanks for continuing to promote the area.