Ride Start Date: 2020-03-01
Author: John McMullan
I have been gearing up from my first Brisbane Valley Rail Trail ride since the start of the season and missed out on riding the Brassal Brekky Ride – a gentle introduction to the BVRT over 35km. Once I saw the 70km BD appear on the calendar I thought I would kick off the dirt series with the goldilocks distance. My last ride on a dirt pathway was 35 years ago on a motorcycle and I knew I would need to attend to a few creature comforts such as better tyres for the ride.
I contacted PJ for some advice regarding bike and tyre suitability and after a bit of two and fro with Justin Bennet, I had ordered a pair of Panaracer Gravelking limited edition tyres (the red ones) and PJ had donated a pair of Suntour Wheels. These were all assembled and I did a short test ride as I shadowed my grandson riding to school one morning. What I did find is that it was way more difficult to pedal than the road bike. The flat pedals may have had something to do with it as well.
Fast forward to ride day and I arrived at Lowood with my flat bar Giant CRX fitted with the new wheels and me resplendent in my national Audax kit. I was greeted with by a bunch of enthusiastic road and off road riders ready to tackle the ride. I finally figured out why the dirt and gravel rides start a little later – you don’t need lights to see by. What I did see is a lot of road riders on their first dirt ride with a variety of bikes as well.
We kicked off as smaller groups and I soon got into a slow rhythm making my way cautiously along the early stages of the trail, appreciating the generous gate tending by riders at the front of the group. I soon got to appreciate the trail as we made our way through the first 10km until we reached the slow climb towards Coominya wher I soon realised that Goldilocks had stolen the cushioning out of my seat combined with the bumpy surface took a little bit of shine off this bit of the morning.
Brisbane Valley Rail Trail gate ettiquette.
I had been warned about the bumpy section earlier and that it was only the one section (several km long) and I found that the newly created wheel tracks either side were much smooter and easier to ride on. For some reason, it felt slightly smoother riding on the right side of the trail as well.
Just before Coominya I was told about the upcoming creek crossings – to be very careful due to their steepness. I had already decided that my bicycle setup and I were not conducive to riding these just at the moment so gladly walked down and up. In this part of the BVRT, I had been playing leapfrog with a small group of riders from the first crossing onwards and the bumpy section was behind us so I was starting to feel more comfortable on the trail particularly as the climb dropped from the 2% incline which wasn’t normally a problem on the road but totally different for me on my first dirt ride. I was really happy when I made it to the top of the climb at Mt Hallen and whilst it isn’t the tallest hill around was certainly a good workout to get there.
The downhill (ish) section was a challenge not due to the speed but due to my unfamiliarity with dirt riding. Apparently I topped 24kmh somewhere on the ride and whilst I suspect it was a down hill section, it could also hae been the concrete part of the trail at Esk too.
I arrived at the Esk bakery in about 2 1/5 hours which was pretty much on my hopeful arrival time (I wanted to average 15kmh) and had a delightful corned beef sandwich whilst chatting to others.
The return trip saw a stop to wash the dirt off the legs and apply sunscreen before continuing, only to find Dean sitting at the Esk Railway station and cautioning him that the train may be a little while. The climb out of Esk was exactly as Dean told me – you don’t mind the climb so much because you are rested from the control. While I may not have been of service as a gate monitor on the way north, I made up for it by picking up some litter before Mt Hallen to help keep the trail clean.
Dean and I rode together from Mt Hallen back towards Lowood, discussing bike setup, riding companions and the creek crossings as we made our way down the trail. It was certainly a little easier riding south. Once we got to Coominya, Dean headed to the shop while I continued knowing he would catch up in a bit. Other than the heat hitting us as we neared Lowood, the ride was really pleasant and very relaxing.
I arrived back at Lowood earlier than I expected to (in about 5 hours) and was pleasantly surprised with my time. What I really found invigorating was the green everywhere on the route and the trade-off between no cars and opening gates put that extra bit of relaxation in the ride.
How did the bike go? Very well. The tyres are 38mm, I had the front at 35lb, the rear at 40lb and I think for the next ride I will drop both by 5lb. The stability on the trail was very good, only getting a little twitchy on the few sandy bits. Will I ride again on the BVRT – definitely. Will I complete the dirt series – you bet. How did the otehr dirt noobs go? They had fun as well – the BVRT makes a very welcome change to the typical riding we do.