“We are heading to the Victorian High Country to ride this weekend. Want to come?”
“Mountain bike or road?”
That’s the big dilemma. Unless you have a bike trailer or a serious pro team roof rack system, you’re going to have to pick one over the other.
The Victorian High Country has way more Cat 1 and HC climbs than any other region in Australia. The famed Seven Peaks Ride is Australia’s ultimate alpine ascent cycling challenge.
Roadies can base themselves at Mt Beauty or Bright and tick off four big climbs over a weekend. Falls Creek, Dinner Plain, Mt Buffalo, and Mt Hotham offer great variety and amazing views. I prefer to stay at Bright for the coffee at Cafe Velo and the microbrews and big meals at Bright Brewery.
The town swimming hole in the Ovens River is also a great place to cool off and relieve aching muscles after a long day in the saddle.
Mansfield is also a great base. Cyclist can conquer Lake Mountain on the way up to Mansfield from Melbourne and then hit the 16km ascent of Mt Buller the following day.
The Produce Store in the main street of Mansfield has provided premium fuel for plenty of rides over the years, and there’s great country pubs to have a quiet post ride ale or two.
For the masochist roadies, Australia’s most brutal climb at Mt Baw Baw is also a must do. At 12.5km the climb is a piece of cake for the first half. At “The Gantry” the road turns skyward. The following 6.5 km at 12.5% (topping out at 20%) is brutal. Dribbling on your handlebars while looking at a gadget saying 8km/h is how most riders spend the next 50 minutes.
And then there’s the big daddy of them all: The Three Peaks Challenge. 235km with over 4000m of climbing. On March 12, 2017 riders will descend out of Falls Creek and then head up Tawonga Gap, the first major climb. Next up is the 30km ascent of Mt Hotham. The final climb starts after 200km of riding at WTF corner, with the first 8km at 10%.
Riders must finish the circuit before the Lanterne Rouge (red light) which is attached to a timed rider who finishes in 13 hours.
It’s a real test, and riders who have done the Three Peaks love to talk about it to those who haven’t.
Australia’s ski seasons are short, and our resorts have invested large sums of money developing mountain bike trails for the long summer season.
One of the most enjoyable ways to mountain bike the high country is by buying a yearly shuttle with Alpine Gravity. For those who are allergic to climbing, the “doctors” at Alpine Gravity have your cure.
The Mirimbah Store at the bottom of the Mt Buller Tourist Road offers a similar service. Daily shuttles take riders back up the 16km road after they have descended some seriously long single track from the top of the resort.
Mt Buller has really embraced mountain biking and there’s numerous races and bike events at that resort over the summer season. For the downhillers, there’s a round of the Victorian Downhill Mountain Bike Series on January 21-22, 2017 and the GT Bike Buller Festival is back again on March 11-13, 2017. Book online through Rapid Ascent.
There’s more race action with Alpine Gravity’s Enduro Tour Series in various locations over the summer.
Mountain bike clinics are becoming increasingly popular with All Terrain Cycles and Alpine Gravity offering a range of weekends for beginners, advanced riders, and women’s groups. All Terrain Cycles also has bike stores at Mansfield, Bright and Mt Buller.
While the roadies have the Seven Peaks Challenge, the dirt pigs have The Dirty Dozen. These 12 trails are regarded as the best of the best in the High Country. They are located in Falls Creek, Beechworth, Bright, Mt Beauty and Buller.
In a perfect world, riders would alternate between mountain and road bikes and tick off all 19 epic rides during the summer. Have fun in the saddle.
Feature image: Rapid Ascent
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