Curve’s first flashpacking adventure for 2023 kicked off last weekend. This time we gathered 15 riders for a mini adventure to a part of the Victorian High Country, Beechworth. This was our first time running this trip, making this route more accessible for those new to bikepacking. A beginner format by distance and less climbing than the regular weekends.
It was not an easy weekend; the route still served up plenty of challenges, from steep climbs to sandy trails and hot conditions to be riding in.
Beechworth is about 3 hours from Melbourne and part of the Victorian High Country, popular with road and gravel cyclists. Beechworth was a famous gold mining town from the 1950s. It is also well known for its local produce and one of Australia’s best-known brewers, Bridge Road.
Riders gathered at Southern Cross station to start their day with a train ride to Wangaratta. Right away, the carriage was loaded with excited and nervous chatter, as riders had three hours to get to know each other more.
Once in Wangaratta, we took advantage of a quick coffee hit and started towards Beechworth, with temperatures already soaring past 30 degrees at ten in the morning.
The first 45 km of day one is along well-established rail trails. The first is Murray to the Mountains, a gradual incline towards Everton. The trail is sealed and nothing difficult in the way of riding. Early on, some of the riders were battling the heat. Water was disappearing fast, and the occasional shady spot was needed to rest. The rail trail soon veered onto the Myrtleford Everton Rail Trail. It was here some riders took a shortcut on Beechworth Everton Rail Trail to beat the heat and go directly into Beechworth, avoiding the day's main climb.
The remainder of our group worked together and made their way to the base of Flagstaff Road. Right away riders were changing into their easiest gear, some laughing about this and that it was time to 'settle in'. The main climb is just shy of 10 km and is made up of a series of steep gravel ramps with small sections of reprieve. The surface can be really soft in parts, making the gradient feel steeper again. It averages 6.5%, with spikes up to 18%. The group battled the heat with slight relief from a cool breeze the higher they climbed. The highlight through here is the views of the rocky top of Mount Buffalo, and surrounding ranges. One rider Matt, visiting from South Africa was lucky to see an enormous monitor lizard charging up a tree.
We often regrouped as we made our way to the top. After the highest point, riders still have a solid 5 km of rollers across the top before a descent into Stanley. Here the riders searched for a tap, replenished bottles, drowned heads, and cooled off. Water never tasted so good.
The final section into Beechworth was a cruisey gravel descent on Old Mt Stanley road. Riders stayed in town at Beechworth Cabins, a short walk from the main strip.
While some riders relaxed after the days riding, others went straight to Bridge Road Brewers for a cold beer and salty snacks. The full group gathered eventually here for dinner, sharing pizzas and multiple bags of salted chips to replenish a days heavy sweating. Plenty of laughter, and how quickly the difficulty of the days riding and conditions was forgotten.
An early night came quickly for many, while a handful settled in for the night.
The day started with breakfast at Beechworth Bakery, greeted with cooler temperatures, welcomed by all. After a good nights sleep for most we rolled out, starting down the Beechworth Everton rail trail, enjoying a 5 km gradual descent. Conversation flowed faster this morning, with riders having relaxed more after day one. We continued along lovely country back roads, enjoying the clear morning and all the bird sounds.
We were stopped as we arrived at a gated section of the route. A stretch of farmland, open for public access. Just always make sure you close these gates, farmers rely on this so their stock doesn't escape. This section offered up extensive views of the Alpine region, as we waved goodbye to Beechworth behind us.
Through another gate, and the main section for today’s ride, Chiltern - Mount Pilot National Park. Riders were treated to shady forest surrounds as we descended quickly on winding gravel roads. The sandy patches and washouts tested some riders, but thankfully everyone’s sense of humour remained attached. For some it was the first time riding sand, and our Curve crew did our best to help offer tips and advice.
We still had some shorter climbs throughout but nothing too difficult after Saturday’s climb up Flagstaff Road.
The resupply stop was shortly after in the small town of Eldorado. We gathered at the local store, purchasing all the cold things as the heat was starting to settle in, and another hours riding yet to go. Eldorado features Victoria’s smallest pub, McEvoy Tavern, and is home to the enormous Eldorado Dredge used in gold mine times to excavate gold and tin over a forty year period. Worth having a look if you ever pass through.
Departing Eldorado, the group rejoined the Murray to Mountains rail trail back into Wangaratta, and once again we enjoyed a train ride home, some laughing about the weekends adventure, whilst others enjoyed a lengthy nap.
If you would like to ride this yourself, the ride files are below. Let us know how your mini adventure goes!
Day One: 72 km | 1200 vm https://ridewithgps.com/routes/41704090
Day Two: 59 km | 500 vm https://ridewithgps.com/routes/41942643
Jesse and Sarah were both riding our Big Kev paired with our carbon 29r Dirt Hoops. Ryan was riding his ti GXR, and 650b Dirt Hoops. Liege was riding the new colourway Kevin of Steel with our G4T wheelset.
A big thankyou to our Curve crew for all their hard work - Jesse, Ryan, Liege, April and Carly. And to our wonderful flashpacking crew - Amon, Lorena, Marc, Greg, Poppy, Kerry, Ian, Nikki, Matt, Allie, and Nicole.