The early season of XC racing isn’t all about full gas riding and lactate baths. The groundwork needs to be laid for the season ahead and that can mean there is time for the more adventurous rides of the season. Long rides out in the mountains or on the roads can be a welcome escape before the busy season gets started and of course they can also be epic smash fests to see if you can conquer the mountain! Read on to explore some of the long ride options from the Alpine playground of Bright and be taken to the tops of the Alpine National Park and beyond.
Goldie Spur Twins
East Goldie Spur – Buffalo Gap
Kicking things off is Goldie Spur and two of the toughest climbs you can do in the Alps. Although tough, the views are certainly worth it when you get to the top, or rather if you get to the top! The East side starts at the end of the sealed section of Buckland Valley Rd and at 11% for 7km it is a seriously tough test of climbing even with mountain bike gearing. As you ride up the Buckland valley you can see the climb snake it’s way up the mountain in front of you as it comes out from under the trees and switches back on itself. The climb’s difficulty depends a lot on how smooth the dirt is. If it’s loose and rocky, you may need to stay seated for the majority of the one hour climb. Which makes it an incredibly tough grind to reap your rewards. Although the climb averages ‘only’ 11% the majority of the climb is actually over that with the last three kilometres averaging over 13%!
West Goldie Spur
But that’s only one half of the twins and the other is just as unforgiving. Strava gives the West side a deceptively low 8% average gradient although the initial section will have you questioning that pretty quickly! The ‘low’ average comes from several false flats and a small downhill section as the majority of the climbs ‘climbing’ is done over 10%. The toughest section is an exposed 1.5km stretch in the second half of the climb. While the climb ‘only’ averages 11.5%, its super loose, rocky and rough ground makes it extremely slow, and after more than 30mins of climbing it’s a real test that makes you earn the summit! The views on the way up the climb are probably the best in the Alps with awesome views of the exposed rock formations of Mt Buffalo’s southern edge and long vistas out over Lake Buffalo towards Myrtleford. An add-on to the Goldie Spur twins is the Lake Buffalo loop that offers some great views across the lake and down along the Buffalo River.
Set in the mountain range between Bright and Mt Beauty lies many great climbs and loops with the climb up Pyramid Hill one of the best. The main climb up Pyramid Hill is a rather tame 9% compared to the Goldie Spur twins although its toughness comes from the fact you are essentially climbing from Bright all the way up to the 1300m peak some 27km later. The real climb doesn’t start though until you reach the last campground along Dungey Track. From there it climbs for roughly 10km before reaching a small plateau that takes you to the peak. The main climb has several steep sections with the first 1km at 10% the toughest. The best views are found before the peak as you can look along the ridge towards Mt Feathertop and out towards Harrietville and the Alpine National Park.
The Alpine National Park
The final route is the gateway to the Alpine National Park (ANP) and the many options that it provides. The 45km ride south along the Buckland Valley Rd is a tough, undulating ride but also very beautiful as the valley weaves along with the curves of the Buckland River. As you are in the valley, the vistas are not present but the views of towering gums and the small watering holes of the river are just as good. There are also many campgrounds that can become packed with tourists during peak times although most of the time they are deserted and you’ll only see the cows and a few farmers on your ride. At the end of the valley and the start of the ANP, you can turn around and head back or take one of the three options up to the top of the ridge. One option is the Selwyn Creek Rd climb at 7km and 7%. While it doesn’t have the epic views of the first two, it still is a great climb with a smooth surface and nice views of the valley you climb through.
Heading out on a long adventure usually means carrying supplies that you wouldn’t normally carry. A saddle bag with spares plus a hydration pack with water, food and any other essentials can mean you’re carrying a few kilograms more than you and your suspension are used to. If you leave your suspension as is, you could find yourself sitting at a lower sag and moving through your travel at a much faster rate. Increasing your air by a few PSI can make a world of difference. On my Fox suspension, I increase both front and back by about 5psi. The same can go for tyre pressure as too much weight on a low PSI tyre can make it feel ‘squirmey’ in the corners. I add a few extra psi to my Maxxis tyres which is enough to support the added weight.