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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?