Because of an upcoming 300km charity adventure bike ride I will be part of in February 2015 called the 25000spins Great Ocean Road Adventure, I decided to try the toughest section of the High Country Rail Trail today as part of the training for that event. The High Country Rail Trail follows the formation of the old Wodonga – Cudgewa broad gauge railway line and traverses a mountain range which has (or had) the highest railway station in Victoria – Shelley railway station.
Trestle bridge between Shelley and Koetong.
Having not ridden any of that section of the trail before, I really didnt know what to expect, although I had seen a Victoria Railways Gradient Chart which showed some long and steep (1:30 or 3%) grades. I also read about about the Tall Trestle Treadlie, an annual event which rides down from Shelley to Darbyshire, and then some of the flatter sections of the trail from Old Tallangatta to the Sandy Creek bridge. And that ride is downhill from Shelley. But as I didnt know where to access the rail trail except at Shelley I decided to start at Shelley, and go down through Darbyshire and then ride back up to Shelley, a distance of about 43km in total.
View near Darbyshire station site.
I figured that as it was going to be a warm to hot day I would leave as early as possible (around 6:30am), so I could start the ride and hopefully finish it before the heat set in. I also figured that as the section I was going to ride was higher altitude than where I normally ride it would be cooler than elsewhere, which it was but only by about 4 degrees. There was also the added benefit of the body having to work harder (but not that much harder) in the higher altitude.
View of Koetong from Rail Trail
Although I wasnt specifically riding the trail for sight-seeing, I was glad I took my camera as there was some awesome vistas along the way, and some trestle bridges I had never seen before. The rail trail is not a road bike friendly surface, but is ok for hybrid bikes, and well suited to mountain bikes. My bike is a foldable bike with mountain bike rims and tyres so I didnt think there would be any problems with the bike travelling along the trail.
Long trestle bridge south of Darbyshire. The views from trains travelling over this bridge when the railway was open would have been amazing!
Hint of the view from the long bridge south of Darbyshire. The railway formation on both sides of this bridge has almost vertical drops at the side, and this bridge was very hight offering unobstructed views to the mountains over in the distance.
The whole ride took about 3 hours, including stops for taking pictures (more than I thought I would), and exploring some of the surrounds of the trestle bridges I encountered along the way. The whole ride had total ascents of 600 metres (1800 feet), 400 metres of that being on the return journey back UP to Shelley. So I am now looking for some other mountain climbs to try to help me get ready for the ride in February. The ascents in the 7peaks challenge offers some interesting possibilities for some pretty hard ascents up Victorian mountains, as does a mountain road between Tawonga and Mitta Mitta which gets near the highest mountain in Victoria.