In November of 2015 I received my custom built babe from Boston, a titanium road bike I named ‘Herb.’ I think it took me longer to decide on the bike’s accent colour than any decision to date. As a lighting and product designer I wanted something timeless and beautiful to ride. This ride proved the perfect test for that beauty.
My friend Pikey suggested I ride the ‘Gippy Gold’— a 200km and 3250m route of mixed terrain Randonnée in Victoria’s Gippsland region. The area is known for its rolling hills, expansive farms and lush greenery, while the ride is known for its unmarked and unsealed roads carefully mapped over 10 years by Gareth Evans. Pikey emailed me the map along with a few details a few months before the ride (his tip on Rubino Pro Vittoria tyres proved handy), and as the weekend got closer we fine-tuned our plan.
We decided to base ourselves in Dumbalk, centrally located in the Tarwin Valley and surrounded by the lush green pastures and rolling hills characteristic of the area. We mapped a northern loop on day one of 130km and a southern loop on day 2 of 50-70km.
As we started the two-hour drive from Melbourne on Friday night it was pouring with rain. I grew up on sheep and wheat property in Western Australia so I chose the ride thinking of country and gravel. We all know sand and water make mud, so we just hoped for the weather to clear up.
We awoke early to a magnificent view from our cottage and set the mood for the day with our first 20km climb of rolling hills and drizzle as we headed to Mirboo North. Fortunately the drizzling had stopped by the time we got to Mirboo as we set our Garmins, prepared to say goodbye to bitumen and road signs and took off in the 5 degree morning air.
We took off towards Leongatha on the Strzelecki Highway, and after 2km we turned into Grand Ridge Road. From here, we would be relying on the ‘mud map of cue points’ I had made to keep us on track, without much signage.
It took concentration to hold a line along the rough logging tracks, as we passed beautiful rainforests and pine plantations. The climbing trend was about 6 -13 percent as cows were quietly eating grass in the ‘back country’.
Every now and again there was a break in the trees so you could see the whole valley below. A highlight was definitely the gravel road sections to the top of the ranges, the stones were about 60cm in diameter and I thought for a second, ‘where on Earth am I?’ Herb was handling all the gravel grinding really well and I was very comfortable.
After a quick stop, dirt out of my cleats and some pictures we started towards Yarragon. The 6.5km descent will go down as my most enjoyable descent to date—before the Firefly I was a rubbish descender, but now I am definitely getting more confident as the bike feels solid and safe. The amazing views over the LaTrobe valley didn’t hurt either.
It had taken us a lot longer than anticipated to cover the first 50km of unsealed road, so it was a relief when we finally got to Yarragon and found coffee and wifi. Had I known it was going to be our last stop of the day, I would have definitely eaten more.
Part two coming soon...