Mountain Biking in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia.
First up – the Blue Mountains is a World Heritage classified wilderness. Remember that when planning a ride – get lost or injure yourself in off-the-beaten track areas and you could die long before anyone finds you.
What I always – well, most often – have on me.
Ice water mixed with powdered Gatorade or similar. Two bottles, one on the bike and one in the backpack wrapped in a small towel to help keep it cold. Get hydrated before leaving.
Sunscreen on all exposed skin and I mean by that face and back of your neck included. Renew every two hours. Levels of Ultra Violet radiation up here is more than at sea level.
Snacks. Usually a few muesli bars. They don’t weigh much and can give you that energy boast you sometimes need when faced with a long uphill. Type One diabetics should also carry high sugar snacks like jelly beans because highly likely to experience a hypo.
Repair kit for tyres and a few essential tools. Some plastic tape.
Cigarette lighter or box of matches. If you get lost and it gets cold you would want to light a fire and smoke is a good way to make your position visible to search teams. Just don’t set the whole place on fire.
If going for a long ride into the wilderness it’s a good idea to drop into the Katoomba or Springwood police stations and let them know your planned route and when you expect to return. Saves police and local volunteers days of searching for your carcass.
First Aid kit. I’ve got a small one that neatly straps to the bike’s handle bars and contains enough gear to deal with cuts, broken limbs and snake bites. Most of the world’s most venomous snakes and spiders are Australian. Our local Brown snake as just one example would have no problem dispatching you off to the next life and I’ve seen a few whilst out riding. A funnel web spider will do you the same service especially males on the hunt for females during breeding season. November to April.
Fully charged mobile (cell) phone and with First Aid app installed.
A medium priced hard tail (no rear suspension) is all you need. It’s what I’ve got and so far it has never left me stranded. But – make sure it’s in good condition and has good brakes! Some downhill tracks can get scary! Hydraulic disc brakes preferred.
Where to ride.
Depends on your gear and yourself of course. Fit young people with good bikes can take on just about any trail without problem but older and less fit riders need to know which trails are best suited to their abilities. Some just starting out after not having ridden a bike for forty years might want to do daily laps of their neighbourhood before attempting a trail ride. Below are my thoughts on some popular Blue Mountains trails.
Hanging Rock Starts from Blackheath.
Easy for beginners and the less fit, mostly flat but there are a few places where you will get off and push if not all that fit. It’s only about seven kilometres one way and worth doing because of the views and of course the Hanging Rock itself which you can’t see from the end of the trail but have to walk down a steep narrow and cliff edge path that is to your left when standing facing the valley below. Plenty of videos on Youtube of young persons doing stupid things such as swinging off the rock with long ropes.
Plenty more similar videos on youtube.
The Oaks Starts from Woodford.
Classified as medium difficulty it’s a good ride of just under thirty kilometres one way. It starts in Woodford and goes all the way down to Glenbrook. One advantage of this ride is that both Woodford and Glenbrook are train stops on the Blue Mountains line.
It’s a popular and fun ride that may tax your muscles in it’s first half, some steep and long hills, but in its second part is mostly a long down hill. At the end of that long and gradual down hill you will get to a gate blocking the track to disgusting petrol vehicles and from there you can either take the single track to your left which will lead you to a mountain bike track created by local council or continue on the gravel road. Both ways lead to Glenbrook creek where you can cool off before the climb up the cliff side road that takes you to Glenbrook.
Andersons Longish ride from Wentworth Falls station to the beginning of Andersons trail. Consult the map on the Parks and Wildlife website below.
Classified as difficult. Getting to the beginning of Andersons trail is a ride in itself. The first half ends with a wild down hill to the creek at the bottom of the valley and from there it’s a long and steep up hill that challenges all but the fittest riders. You can walk the hills of course. Honestly not recommended for beginners or riders who are less than fit.
Narrow Neck. From Katoomba.
Great views because it’s on the top of an elevated and narrow ridge between the Jamison and Megalong valleys. An easy ride were it not for a few very steep hills which exclude unfit riders. Walking them is enough to get your heart seriously pumping. Fun getting air between the wheels and track on the down hills.
OK – those few are the most popular and should get you going. There are plenty more when you get bored with them.
Finally, another word of warning – it’s a sad fact that Australian car drivers appear to have a hate of cyclists. Stay well away from them and expect to be given an exhaust shower when cranking up a steep hill – as in the car slows down next to you and then accelerates away leaving you in a cloud of toxic gas or pass horn blaring because you got in their way on a narrow section of road. LOL in one such instance the driver was unlucky when the next traffic light turned red and I can up alongside him. I think he pooped his pants.
Long distance riding in New South Wales. A few lessons learnt from my last excursion,
Water / distance. That’s the basic equation. Can you do at least 100 kilometres a day including steep hills carrying enough water, food, a tent, cooking gear and repair gear for the bike? In summer temperatures west of the Blue Mountains can easily reach 40 C plus. In winter the day time temperatures can be quiet pleasant but plummet to well below zero at night. Water can be difficult to find because even some remote petrol stations only sell bottled water – and at petrol station prices -and are reluctant to let you fill your water bottles from their rain water tanks. Tanks at rest stops by the side of highways are probably not maintained, as in could contain a dead possum, and so the water may not be suitable for drinking. A solution is water purification pills or boiling. Water in rivers and creeks is most often good to drink unless there are nearby towns or farms with cattle…
A Dutch dude called Albert I met out bush years ago and who had cycled all the way from Amsterdam told me that in desert conditions he needed ten litres of water a day. That’s doing an average of two hundred kilometres per day. He used water purification pills.
Roads and highways are in places very dangerous with no breakdown lane to ride on. Trucks passing each other on the many narrow and badly maintained ‘highways’ will leave you no room. A truck here in Australia can be a 60 ton plus combination of tractor pulling two trailers and at over 100 kph and if they don’t physically hit you, the pressure wave can be enough to sent you flying into the scenery. If you hear behind you the dirty roar of a diesel, turbos whining and driver on drugs and off his face, get out of the way – quick. There’s also what called ‘road trains’, same issues, just longer.