Escaping Sydney: a microadventure

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Text: Dan Bonello | Photography: Tim Bardsley-Smith

Sydney can be an unforgiving place for everybody.

The Irish tourists get hammered by the sun, the taxi drivers get shafted by Uber and the party animals have been locked out of their favourite venues and left with a casino as entertainment.

However, even with all of this hardship, you could still make a convincing argument that it’s cyclists that have it the worst in Sydney. If a bike path is not getting torn up, ‘Operation Pedro’ is in effect and you feel like you are dodging a $700 fine for not having a bell on your ten speed. By the time you add traffic that feels like it could rival the world’s busiest cities, you soon enough have an environment that makes it feel like you are playing with fire every time you roll out of the driveway.

It is this daily exposure to Sydney’s mayhem that has forced me to open Google Maps and Bookings.com and plan ‘micro adventures’ to take in some truly enjoyable riding, on a shoe-string budget and without needing a huge amount of planning.

If you have a gravel bike, then that is fantastic: the options and locations are numerous. However, if you are wanting to stay on your road bike, things can be a little more limited. To the south, we have the Royal National Park and beyond. Some spectacular riding can be enjoyed in this area and will no doubt feature in the 2022 UCI Road World Championships, but you are always riding roads that connect towns of significant populations, so it’s never dead quiet. To the west and into the Blue Mountains, this pattern is repeated. You can too easily find yourself linking sublime sectors with country roads where the limit is 80km/h and the shoulder of the road looks hand-drawn at best.

Then we come around to the north and north-west of the city’s limits. It is in this area that you will find a geography and population density similar to that of the north-eastern reaches of Melbourne. Small towns are connected with scarcely used back roads. The terrain is rugged, so the farms in the area are small and the speed limits are low(er). For our overnight adventure we chose to add Sydney’s train system into the equation. An express train from Central Station soon delivered us to Berowra Station and onto the doorstep of 360km of champagne cycling, over two days.

We chose to break our journey in a small town called Broke. Broke is situated at the western end of the Hunter Valley, but bears little resemblance to the manicured green of New South Wales’ most prolific wine growing region. It is a modest little town with the exact right amount of options for both food and accomodation – one.

Even if you don’t face the daily struggles that a Sydney cyclist must face, I encourage you to crack open your laptop, spend some time on Google Maps and plan your next adventure. Your home roads are not going anywhere.

Unless your home roads are a bike path in Sydney.

To check out Dan and Nick’s route, see here.

Dan Bonello

Nick Norden

It is hard to avoid the water in Sydney. Most rides either in the suburbs or outer reaches will include numerous bridges or a ferry.

No looking back. Forty minutes on a train and it is straight onto quiet roads.

The haze of controlled back burning – so much a part of life in Australia.

With hardly a breath of wind on the first day of our trip, there was second-hand smoke on offer all day.

Gravel on a road bike?! Stay calm – Mat Hayman won Paris-Roubaix on a Scott Foil.

It’s been a while since this old windmill quenched the thirst of any livestock.

St Albans pub: looking a little tired, but still a hit with locals and tourists. St Albans has also played host to the Convict 100 MTB race for ten or so years now.

It is hard to believe how close this part of the ride is to Sydney.

L: There seems to be an endless display of sandstone formations as you leave the northern reaches of Sydney and head towards the Hunter Valley. R: Single file? There must be a car approaching.

If you have a night out of town planned, Left is the only option. There is so much good riding to be enjoyed out here.

If you pass through Wollombi, make sure you visit Myrtle House Cafe. They love cyclists and motorcycle riders.

We had read about the confrontational Alpacas before booking our accomodation at Starline Alpaca Farm, but encountered no hostility during our time on their territory.

The Scott Foil Disc: as versatile as you tell it to be. 

That’s a lot of patchwork!

The smoke from day one turned into rain on day two.

Slightly less quaint than we were hoping for, but after being belted with rain for two hours it did the job.

Coastal weather: as erratic as Donald Trump on Twitter.

Transition zone.

The Hunter Valley, iconic NSW wine country.

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