MEGALONGMANIA – Blue Mountains cycling

Beautiful rainforest, excellent road surface, shame about the gradient.

My occasional cycling partner Steven is a mountain man. Since we last rode together he’s acquired a smart new Specialized Roubaix carbon fibre roadbike and has clearly been putting in many hours testing it out.

My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to ride in his wake into the Megalong Valley in the lovely Blue Mountains outside Sydney. It’s a long way down, which experienced, thinking riders will realise means it’s also a long way up again.

The Megalong Valley, viewed from above.

To get to the top of the valley, just out of Blackheath, requires Steven to make a death-defying 10km ride along the highway from Katoomba. I have to make a death-defying early start to catch the train up to the mountains.

A heart-starting flat white at the Wattle Cafe is an essential tool of trade.

Then I follow Steven out along the road to Shipley Plateau – ‘a nice little warm-up’, he calls it. 5km or so of gentle undulations, and beautiful country.

I'm only able to take this shot of the front of Steven because he turned around here and rode back towards me. All future shots will feature his back.

From this road it’s a sweeping downhill run of 7.5km to the bottom of the Megalong Valley, nearly 700m below us. Average gradient…well, you do the maths. The gradient coming up, incidentally, is exactly the same as the gradient going down. Gradients are oddly consistent in that respect.

Check your brakes before starting descent.

The valley floor - flat, beautiful and with a rusty shed to improve the photo.

Blue Mountains riders speak in hushed tones of the climb out of the valley. They’ve even painted a little symbol on the road to tell the gung-ho where to start.

The record for the ascent is 22 minutes. Steven’s personal best is 35 minutes. I’ll be happy just to get up there in time to catch my train back home. It leaves in two and a half hours.

Gentlemen, start your engines. Your time trial begins here.

Kangaroos ahead, please slow down. What sort of cruel joke is that?

Normally I don't stop to take photos in the middle of a time trial (I notice Cadel has the same approach), but the scenery deserves it, and I need a drink, and a rest and there'll be another train this evening, and tomorrow, and...where's that Steven got to?

Well done, Steven! 32 minutes is his new time to beat. I’ll have to take his word for it. I wasn’t there to witness his arrival at the top.

And I make it back to Blackheath with time for a leisurely lunch before the train leaves. That’s good enough for me.

Victory Theatre, Blackheath. Coffee and a bike rack, the perfect combination. I see that they also deal in antiques. I'm feeling rather antique myself by this stage.

Thanks for a brilliant ride, Steven – surely one of the very best reasonably close to Sydney (just under 2.5 hours by train).

Cycling the Great Western Highway, the major road through the mountains, looks like a dreadful ordeal – narrow, with numerous sections of roadworks and heavy traffic. It’s great to discover (well, be shown) routes like this one with few cars and gorgeous views.

Are there other mountain road-cycling routes people can recommend?

The route, and...

...the route profile, the only stats that matter. (Note that at the 34km mark my computer and my legs hit the wall, but somehow made it to the top again.)


Filed under Cycle touring, Cycling

11 responses to “MEGALONGMANIA – Blue Mountains cycling

  1. Hi Richard,
    thanks for the ride, yesterday. Lovely photos and article. The ride is even better when the sun shines (this occurs only twice a year in the mountains, usually in February!)

  2. Michael O'

    Great yarn! Might have to get up there some day soon.

  3. Nigel

    Great ride report, I have always thought about riding the Jenolan Caves Road from Hartley to the caves and back as I have done many times on my various motorcycles because it’s such a beautifal road and view but I’m just not game with the cars, tourist buses etc.

    • Not to mention a very tough climb back out from Jenolan Caves, Nigel – and no public transport that will take a bike. But I agree it’s a lovely stretch of road. Maybe one to do after petrol runs out – can’t be long now.

  4. On your course profile it looks like the descent was more than 7.5km. Thought it was more like 12km. I drove down it yesterday and instantly thought it would make for a genius ride.

  5. Great part of the world to go riding in. I was there yesterday. Question – is it only 7.5km to the bottom. Felt more like 10-12km all up to the Tea Rooms. Your course profile also says it’s closer to 12kms. Or am I reading it wrong?

    • Yes it could well be 12 kms from the bottom to the tea rooms. I’m in Spain at the moment, so it’s tricky to go back and check this week. It’s a great ride anyway, and thanks for the response.

  6. Bill O'Meara

    I’m hoping to do this ride in early July on my first visit to Australia. Two questions;
    – Is it insanity to do this in the dead of Winter? (As a year round London cycle commuter and sportive rider, I like to consider myself as pretty hardy!)
    – Do you descend from Blackheath to the valley floor and then turn around and climb the road you’ve just descended?

    The map route picture above seems to indicate that but the elevation graph doesn’t seem like a uniform descent/ascent.

    • Aussie winters are a bit like English summers, Bill. Snow may fall in the Blue Mountains on one or two days a year, and it makes Tv news when it does. So no problem riding there any time, you hardy Pom!

      Yes, it’s down from Blackheath and out the same way. Beautiful forest all the way, though harder to admire it on the way back up. It’s a heart-challenging little climb with steep sections, but if I can do it anyone can.
      Enjoy your ride!

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