All hail the bicycle!
The outdoor playground that is North East Victoria is launching a three-week, region-wide collection of events for bike riders. Jon Miller previewed a sample of the events on offer.
Whether you’re a riding family, a foodie that cycles, a roadie or a mountain biker you probably already know that North East Victoria is a fabulous holiday venue. This October the region has decided to showcase its love of life on a bike. Cycle Salute is a three-week celebration of all things cycling. Running from late October to early November, there are over 50 bike-focussed events on offer all over the region catering for people of all abilities. You can race your mates on or off-road or you can sedately meander along rail trails and back roads sampling the gourmet produce and wines of the region. You can improve your bike skills with road, MTB and unicycle clinics, there are even traffic safety programs for the kids. The full program has the details.
Toby and Jasmine at Fernleigh Farm Stay just outside Mansfield have hand built a mountain bike progression course aimed primarily at children from two years old up to teenagers. They think this is the only mountain bike course in Australia for kids. The big opening will be the Bike Park Family Fun Day. There are berms, rock gardens, obstacle track, see saw, jumps and more—all designed to be safe and child-friendly. Non-riding activities include face-painting, sausage-sizzle, bike safety checks and a rubber duck race. All proceeds will go to support the local primary school.
The Thule B24 in Bright is a little different to other 24-hour mountain bike enduros you may have done. It’s based in a town, not in a bush paddock somewhere. This means you don’t have to camp on site but can use any of the myriad accommodation options that Bright has to offer, so you might actually get some sleep at night. As well as the traditional relay format, you can enter the esprit de corps. New timing software allows you to ride together as a team if you choose. As long as your team rides for a total of at least 24 hours, your results will count. If you’ve never done a 24 hour event, these unique features should be enough to try one.
Alongside the B24 is the Bright Bike Rodeo. There will be bicycle skills sessions and bicycle themed games for kids aged 6 and over. Challenges include the Postie Drop, Rock Dodge and Go Slow Race. Bike Ed trained volunteers and local police will be on hand to offer tips and advice. The following weekend is the Porepunkah Bike Rodeo and Traffic Safety Program. This will have a similar theme to the Bright event with the addition of a traffic skills program using road signs. Funds raised from both Rodeo events go to Porepunkah Primary School.
A weekend of bike-themed entertainment is planned at the ski resort of Dinner Plain culminating in the Dinner Plain MTB Funduro. This is a three hour event similar to the Bright 24 hour enduro. It’s a family friendly event with the emphasis on fun. There is an easy course of a little over a kilometre, suitable for children up to 14 and a 5.5 km course for adults. Ride as many or as few laps as you like. The organisers have packed a lot into a small loop showcasing the best of the Dinner Plain Village. It’s entry level riding, catering for those new to mountain biking.
Navigate the Vines is a treasure hunt on bikes. You get given a map and 90 minutes to find as many checkpoints as you can scattered throughout the Indigo Vineyard. The vineyard sits on 400 hectares about 12km SW of Beechworth. Only 46 of these 400 hectares are planted with vines, the rest are beautiful rolling hills. Cattle and sheep graze peacefully amongst the redgums. See if you can spot the brick kilns which are all that remain of Big Hill Village. The village was built to house workers building the Beechworth railway line in the 1850s. The village lives on in spirit; Indigo have named their Secret Village range of wines after it. After your ride, you can taste these wines along with a gourmet lunch at the winery.
If you don’t fancy finding your own way, you could try The Vineyard Backroad Tour, an escorted ride mostly on the rail trail and private roads through several vineyards including Indigo. These roads aren’t normally open to the public so this is a chance to ride somewhere different. Wines are available for tasting as you go, finishing with lunch at the last winery and bus transfer back to the start.
The only hard thing about Riding Tips and Local Quips is choosing what ride you want to do. There’s a road ride, rail trail ride and mountain bike ride all leaving from outside All Terrain Cycles in Mansfield. All rides are led by volunteers from the club. The ride leaders will show you some of their favourite routes, offer tips to improve your riding along the way as well as pointing out landmarks and other interesting features that you would probably miss on your own.
The Strava Smackdown runs for the entire time of Cycle Salute. First you need to download the Strava app for your smart phone. Then go into Bridge Road Brewery to have a look at all the rides on offer. Pick one that you like then go out and ride it. There is a large selection of road and mountain bike rides available so you should be able to find something that suits you. After your ride, take your phone into the brewery and have your time recorded on the blackboard there. Will you be able to knock the leader off?
If you want to experience some of the excellent food and wine in the region, Tour de Gourmet in a Day is for you. Starting in Beechworth, ride mainly downhill to Milawa. Along the way, you get to stop off at Pennyweight, Woodpark and Brown Brothers wineries for tastings and talks by the winemakers. But it’s not all about wine, there is plenty of food on offer as well. Other stops include tastings of cheese, olives and mustards as well as a gourmet lunch thrown in. Finish the day with a leisurely bus trip back to Beechworth.
A shorter ride but still with the food theme is the Bread and Butter Bicycle Tour based in Myrtleford. Start the day with a bread making lesson, getting your hands sticky as you knead the dough. As the dough is proving, get on your bike for a short ride of about 15km to some of the wonderful producers near Myrtleford. There’s the Myrtleford Butter Factory, find out how butter used to be made and taste the difference. The Australian Pumpkin Seed Factory, producer of such delights as chocolate coated pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, dukkah and much more. And Michelini Wines, producer of fine, Italian style wines. By the time you return to town, your bread will be ready to eat.
The Flat Chat Challenge is two events in one. The first is a 250 metre drag race sprint along Jones Road and finishing outside Jones Winery in Rutherglen. Jones Road is dead straight and slightly downhill so you should be able to get a lot of speed up. You can compete for the title of Flat Chat Champion or just race against your friends. There are various categories including kids and mountain bikes. Snacks and wine tasting is available at Jones’ afterwards.
Then in the evening there is a night ride through the Chiltern – Mt Pilot National Park. It’s a little eerie riding through the forest with just your headlight to show the way. Local volunteers will talk about the history of the area and its ghosts—you may even see one!
While in Rutherglen, you might like to pick up a map from the tourist office and ride around the Recycling Sculpture Touring Trail. The sculptors have created works from recycled materials which are on display at wineries in the region.
The Benalla Lake Loop is a short ride in the heart of Benalla, suitable for those with young children. There’s a lot to see and do on this 4.7km loop as the bike path circles the lake. The vegetation changes from formal gardens to native bush as the trail circumnavigates the lake. Look out for the fishway and the analemmatic clock, an unusual variant on a sundial where you stand in the middle and your own shadow points to the correct time. The Art Gallery Cafe half way around is a good place to stop for a break and also to admire the small but impressive collection.
People come from all over to sample the home-style cooking and old-world charm of the Tatong Tavern. The Benalla Beer and Cheer Ride allows you to experience this delightful Tudor style pub and burn off some of the calories you consume. Ride with the locals on scenic back roads over gently undulating hills relax over lunch in the shady beer-garden then take a different route back to Benalla. Or catch the sag wagon if you over-imbibe.
Jon Miller travelled around NE Victoria with the assistance of Tourism North East and its partners.
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