Cycling Holiday - Day 2. Mansfield to Bright

Norm and I have a good 31 years of memories together.
Thirty of those are since we got married. The one year prior was a whirlwind interstate relationship whilst I finished year 12, and he was in the Navy, posted to HMAS Hobart, which was in refit at Woollamalloo Bay, in Sydney.

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It was very early on I told Norm of all my intentions or life visions.

As young lovers do, we talked about our future and then one day, about two months into our relationship, we realised that the best thing to do was get married at the end of the year.

I asked my inner compass a very simple question.  Could I imagine growing old with Norm and still being best friends at 80?  Yes.

In 1991, I finished year 12, and Norm spent many weekends travelling from Sydney to Geelong in his car.  We then got married on December 1st and moved in together the next day as we drove to Sydney to our home in Rose Bay.

In Sydney, I learnt how to put my P plates to good use. I was only 18, and learning how to drive in a large city was scary work.
However, the most exciting and scary road experience was learning how to ride my bike in and around Greater Sydney.  We rode everywhere on weekends and eventually planned an overnight trip to Woolongong via the Royal National Park.  

We carried everything in backpacks and stayed the night at a cabin in a caravan park on the beach on this trip.

The next day, we got to a train station just before the road turned upwards, caught the train back to Sutherland, and rode back home to Rose Bay.  

There is no denying that I was a relatively soft and lazy cyclist back then. Even though I loved riding, this concept of pedalling with a smooth constant cadence was.  I had an annoying habit of coasting on every slight down.

That was early 1992.  

Later that year, Norm succeeded in an honourable discharge from the Navy, I discontinued my University degree, and we moved to the Gold Coast for new and exciting opportunities.  Including some new cycling terrain to explore,  including mountain biking. We both got involved in racing both road and mountain bike.  

It is where we also chose to start our small family, having Saskia in January 1994.

I still cannot believe our first overnight trip together was in 1992, and the next time together was May 2021!


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Day 2 - Mansfield to Bright

142.45km

Temp: 12 degrees. Cloudy. Finishing in a massive downpour.

40% Gravel/dirt roads, 35% Bitumen, 20% Sealed Rail Trail, 5% ‘hectic’ 4wd track.(approx)

1494 VM gain.

Moving time & Speed: 7hrs and 2 mins / 20.3kmph

Total Time: 8hrs 55 mins.

Best Part: Christophers Rd in the Upper King Valley - Stunning gravel country road that proceeded the nasty extreme 4wd track. It was only 5km long with a net loss of 100mt vert but well worth entering the way we did.

Worst Part: The opposite of Best is Worst, but I would say the Mc Donalds Spur Tk was just damn intimidating. I reckon on an MTB; I would have been terrified. Just so steep, as we ticked off contour lines super aggressively. In 2km, we lost 315mt of vert. 

Most memorable part: Riding from Myrtleford to Bright in the afternoon, being hit by sheets of water, the kind of rain that has you so wet that staying dry is not even an option.  25km of riding as quick as we could in torrential rain was epic.

 

My STRAVA record of ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/5271833116

Norm’s Ride With GPS link to the ride: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/66971828

 

Breakfast (shouting Wally as well) $75

Lunch at Cheshunt $20

Snacks at Myrtleford $20

Accommodation at Velo Bright $99

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Total for Day 2   $214



How good is it being on holidays and knowing you are about to have an indulgent breakfast, delicious and robust coffee, and an excellent solid hour-long banter with an old friend whilst you are at it?  

Today we met with Wally, an icon of Mt Buller in summer and winter, who worked for us when we had a summer business on the mountain, and who we also knew from mountain bike shuttles over many years. Such a wonderful person. We couldn’t leave Mansfield without a good catch up.  The late start was so worth it. Thank you, Wally; we needed another 3 hours to find out what we had all been up to.

 

The region’s weather had a strong forecast for rain today. But the alpine region can be finicky, threatening to downpour, with dark heavy clouds surrounding the valleys with little or no action. Today was exactly like that. No sun. No rain. Not much wind. Yet dark looming clouds with the promise of rain.  

We set off at 8:30 am from Mansfield via Mt Battery Road, I had never ridden this road before, and it was a fantastic way to start the day, with views opening up to the high country and stunning farmland vistas.  The next bit was kind of fun; back on bitumen, we slowly made our way to the start of the Old Tolmie Road climb, signposted “Col du Tolmielet”, from memory it was about 6.5 km long, with an average of 7% gradient.  I am no mountain goat, but I love a longer climb to just get into a groove.

The top of the climb reached 870 Mts above sea level.  Today I felt the cold here, so I stopped and put on a jacket, knowing as soon as I climbed again, I would probably take it off it.

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I loved the gravel parts of today. Upon reaching Tolmie, we headed onto a gravel road and enjoyed zero traffic for quite some time.  A quick jaunt onto the main road again before finding our right-hand turn to Mc Donalds Spur Track. I could tell from the first visual of the track that we were in for a joy ride.  I also saw the contour lines were bloody close on the map, and we had only 2 km on this track. 
The 4wd track was a dark red ochre colour, solid clay base with quite a few slippery rocks. 

We were lucky we had not had any rain yet. 

And a few hundred meters later, I felt the land slip away, and the road went down fast.  Scattered along the way were big steep imposing water bars that you had to ride up without seeing what was on the other side and then roll down the other side into the abyss of the steep descent.  Eventually, it got to a point where the steepness and the high concentration of rocks to trail ratio was too much for my brain to handle. I dismounted and walked down for about five minutes.  I felt good when I saw Norm having bailed into the bushes on the side of the track, claiming he could no longer stop his bike and had to find somewhere to make this happen safely.

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This hectic 2 km stretch took us deep into gravel heaven—a short stint of 5 or 6 km’s, winding through old tobacco farmland. Big old trees with autumn leaves turning all the colours of red, brown, orange and yellow and the road just sweetly winding around property boundaries in a deliciously enticing downhill flow. Ahhh, this is why I was here riding today!  If my time had come to leave this earth right now, I would die happy.

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Not soon after, we were rolling into Cheshunt. Usually, there is a larger hospitality establishment, but not open, so we ordered chips and potato cakes with a ginger beer at the general store.  We were in the Upper King Valley, 50 km in, but still 93 km to go.  However, in my mind, the hard stuff was done and dusted, we just needed to keep moving, eat and drink, enjoy the ride and make it to Bright and all the while hoping this rain didn’t appear.

 

We started climbing straight out of Cheshunt on Rose River Road, up and over a saddle that took forever to appear.  Eventually, this bitumen turned to gravel, and the descent on the other side was the kind you don’t need to pedal on nor brake and just flowed into each corner smoothly and in control.  Then the road starts following the river, and it’s just corner after corner after corner and slight ups and slight downs, perfectly mesmerising, allowing you to work harder than you might typically.

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The road ended abruptly onto the next valley, onto the Buffalo River Road, and now we were making progress, bitumen city into Myrtleford for the next 32 kilometres.  Sounds so easy, but it was rolling hills into our next rest stop.  It was around 3:30 pm when we decided to grab something to eat and drink at the supermarket in Myrtleford.  We had also been in contact with Deb, who lives in Wandiligong, offering to look after us, dinner, spa, washing etc. We knew whatever happened with the weather or our energy, and we had some help in town and a very short ride to Beechworth the next day. 

Just a short 30 km on the sealed rail trail to go, how hard could that be, right?

 

The weather Gods were listening in on us, and it started to rain, so I put on a jacket and got riding.  I took the front, Norm sat on, as he was fading, ever so slightly.  I am like a horse that knows when it’s time to go home, and the pace stays steady and strong. We pushed hard, knowing we would get wet, and the sun was about to set.

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And then it got heavy, the rain, it got very heavy, and then heavier, and then we were just soaked through. 

That’s the point where nothing matters anymore. There is no point trying to stay dry. The only thing to do is get from where you are to where you need to be quick.  

We couldn’t see anything, so it was good we were riding the rail trail away from traffic.  The path was being washed over with sheets of water, and Norm and I just rode as fast as we could.  I hoped that some of my things would be dry in my bags and that we would get there safely.  

It was one hell of a way to end the ride, and we arrived in Bright at 5:30 pm on the dot.

Checked into our room, showered, dressed, got the heaters on, drying gear, lubing chains and then off to have dinner with Deb and her family and get our gear washed as well as have a well-earnt spa.

 

It indeed was a great day, and we had a fantastic night with our host family, thank you so much.
In bed at 11:30 pm, mostly everything already dry. We had a late start in Bright the following morning, so we slept super well.

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Today’s ride had elements of toughness, including the steep 4wd track descent.
The climbs early on were also long and steep, but so long as you had the gears and a bit of grit, the challenge was possible.
In my opinion, it was purely the distance that made today deceivingly hard. Personally, I felt good all day long, and it was just a long day in the saddle.
Going to Bright was good but not essential. It would have made it a 110km day that certainly sounds and feels a lot nicer.

 

Watch our YouTube video from today here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crM2gQv5f1I&t=26s

 

The gravel shoes that Norm and I have earned their respect today.  They are touted to have Michelin rubber lugs on the sole, to help with grip. 
And yes, they did grip whilst walking down the steep terrain and I could feel them working underfoot.

To add to the gear list from yesterday, our bikes were as follows:

Me:
Norco Threshold Carbon, Size 48cm. SRAM Force 1 x 42T.  Rear cassette 11-42t
700 cc with Schwalbe G-One Allround in 40’s / Tubeless 
Total weight with bike, water and gear - approx 14kg
(The Threshold is a CX bike, and I can go no bigger than 40mm tyres unless I went 650b wheels)

Norm:
Norco Search AR S2 - Steel Size 53c. Shimano GRX 2 x 46/30T. Rear Cassette 11-36t. 
700 cc with WTB Resolutes in 42’s / Tubeless.
Total weight with the bike, water and gear - approx 16kg

 

Oh, and just to mention, our handlebar bags were not waterproof, but nothing mattered in there. Our saddlebags were mint. No drama, all good.  

I was super happy with the Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Dry Sacks (https://www.anacondastores.com/water-sports/boating-essentials/dry-bags/sea-to-summit-ultra-sil-dry-sack-20l/90035182002?gclsrc=aw.ds&gclsrc=aw.ds&gclid=Cj0KCQjwkZiFBhD9ARIsAGxFX8D1RWASXJpjG4fI3uW2WMk8PqXmXxHkpycAUDWQDROoFv2fJEhiKW0aAgQXEALw_wcB), both front and back stayed totally dry, and these were the areas that were totally smashed with the rainfall. So I have gone and bought more, and in ORANGE for visibility!




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