Distance: 400 km
Elevation Gain: 4000 m
Gravel:70% of the route
Maintenance:2 tire repairs, 1 brake caliper repair
Total Duration: 21 hours
Start: 0630 at Wulkuraka Train Station. There was ample street parking near the small drop-off roundabout at the station, just a short, less than one-hour drive from Nundah.
True to his self described reputation, Mark K arrived with just enough time to put on his shoes and start right on schedule.
The morning weather was perfect for cycling, no need for a vest. The first 100 kilometers took us along the pristine Brisbane Valley Rail Trail in excellent condition. You could practically ride it with a road bike. The sun was rising, and the backdrop featured kookaburras’ laughter and kangaroos bounding around. I couldn’t help but ponder if a two-legged kangaroo hops or jumps. I reckon a one-legged kangaroo would hop – just a fleeting thought.
Here, we transitioned onto the D’Aguilar Highway, a 28-kilometer section that I found to be the least enjoyable part of the ride, thanks to the cattle road-trains. They were polite, and there was enough shoulder space for safe cycling.
Now, I’ve reached Kilcoy, bustling with domestic tourists by lunchtime. I faced a strategic choice: dine here and tackle the uphill ride to Jimna on a full stomach, or have a quick Coke and keep going. I opted for the Coke-and-ride strategy. (Coke-a-cola… tisk tisk)
Halfway up the hill, leaving town, I found a water tap behind a small church undergoing renovation. A road sign warned, “No fuel for the next 117 kilometers.”
The following 38 kilometers were beautiful, with minimal traffic, and those that did pass were considerate. It was at the end of this stretch that I encountered an 8-9 kilometer continuous climb to Jimna. My Wahoo read 41°C. As I ascended, the glimpses through the trees became more breathtaking.
Jimna has a unique layout. Be sure to visit the Jimna Tourist Information Centre, where you can grab some food, cold drinks, and, most importantly, water. Refilling your water here is essential. When facing the building, the water tap is on the left side, mounted on the retaining wall. After the sweltering ride to get there, I filled my belly and packed 3.5 liters of water on my bike. It was just enough because the next 105 kilometers had no water refill points or service stations.
The person at the tourist info center said, “It’s all downhill to Linville from here,” I immediatly thought “BS”. He made a revolting toasted sandwich that tasted like the sandwich press hadn’t been cleaned in years. And he sat down to chat while I stared down the week-old roadkill sandwich. It was so bad even the kookaburras flew away, and an ibis gave me a less-than-flattering gesture.
The next 40 kilometers from Jimna to Munumbar Road were brutal, with some severe uphill climbs. If you’re desperate for water after this amazing effore, in Elgin Vale, about 10 kilometers before turning onto Munumbar Road (about 220km), you might spot a CWA (Country Women’s Association) house on a fast downhill. I stopped and called out. No one lived there, so I helped myself to some clean and refreshing tank/rain water. I also had a quick wash and filled up on water because it would be another 70 kilometers until the next control point at Linville.
Western Branch Road featured more Brisbane River crossings than a season of training on the Brisbane River Loop. The ride was quite a challenge, and it was suggested that a mountain bike would be more appropriate. On this occasion though, it was a fast dirt road in great condition. Be cautious at the culvert crossings; the concrete has significant potholes.
One important note is that there is no phone coverage for 2-3 hours along this section.
By this time, it was dark, and the night sky was clear with stars stretching to the horizon. I still had my jersey completely unzipped and flapping in the wind. I stopped, turned off all my lights, and enjoyed the tranquility. It was pure bliss. There were no vehicles on this section of the road.
Next, I had about 20 kilometers of sealed road leading to Linville, a popular spot for camping and getting drinks at the nearby pub. There you’ll find water, toilets, and showers. I arrived at 20:40, so the convenience store was ‘not so convenient. This marked 280 kilometers out of the 400.
At Linville, I returned to the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, which I knew well, and I set off with my gravel bike for the final 120 kilometers into the night and early morning.
I hadn’t seen Mark since Esk at 67 kilometers, and I wasn’t sure if he was ahead or behind. I hoped he was having a safe and enjoyable ride. Fast forward to Esk the second time, at the 332-kilometer mark, unbeknownst to me, Mark had tried to get some rest in a picnic shelter but heard me coasting through town. He got up and soon caught up, smiling and full of enthusiasm. We started together and now got to finish together. Mark had also enjoyed a fantastic ride. We shared numerous stories, some similar, some unique. It was a perfect way to end our adventure.