Visiting : Toolangi State Forest, Cathedral Ranges, Mt Margaret Gap
Distance : 155km
When : Sunday 24th July, ~7:00am @ Toolangi
Where : Click here for route map
Another long one with lots of dirt and lots of climbing. This will also be the first TWBD that I’ll ride on a geared bike.
We’ll start from Toolangi and dive straight into the awesome Toolangi/Black Range State Forest and head north to Taggerty before ducking around behind the stunning Cathedral Ranges for a good solid climb up to Mt Margaret Gap (1100-ish metres). Then it’s down to Buxton for a refuel before heading back into the State Forest to go up and over the Black Range again back to Toolangi where we started.
There’ll be about 2750m of climbing (nearly all on dirt) and there’s a very good chance we’ll encounter snow on Mt Margaret so gear up accordingly. There are no easy bailout points once we get on the other side of Black Range and there are only two places to get water and food (Taggerty at 68km and Buxton at 111km. There are NO shops at Toolangi) so be self-sufficient or be prepared to hitchhike home. Make sure you’re equipped to carry enough water and food to get to the next town - there are no other servos or shops or anything to pull into halfway. Mobile phone coverage might be very patchy. A space blanket and emergency rations might not be a bad idea.
I’ll ride to/from the start at Toolangi and treat it as a “transport stage”. Feel free to join me for all or part of that if you like. Because I’m riding to the start, I ask that you contact me so we can swap phone numbers so we can coordinate on the day. I won’t wait around at Toolangi unless you’ve contacted me beforehand to confirm that you’ll be there.
This is going to be an amazing ride. So much dirt... so much climbing...
The full story
Cold and wet. That was a real winter ride.
rolled out from my place in Macleod about 4am and headed straight up to
Kinglake via Eltham/Smiths Gully. First time I’ve done Kinglake from
the Hurstbridge side on the main road. It was raining and pitch black
but the views back to the lights of the city were nice. Quick water
refill in Kinglake and then I cut across to Toolangi to the official
start of the ride.
was in the tennis court carpark getting geared up when I rolled in. A
couple of text messages later and we realised that no-one else was
coming. I blame Cadel! So, Campbell and I rolled out about 7:30 and
headed into the Toolangi State Forest.
was raining on and off and, the deeper we got into the forest, the more
insistent the rain seemed to get. The first climb around Mt Tanglefoot
seemed a lot shorter than the last time I’d ridden it - maybe it was the
company - we were talking non-stop until the first descent. Awesome,
awesome forest. Huge trees, big ferns and muddy slick roads. The
descents were fast and fun but the rain was pretty solid now and we were
both covered in gritty mud.
started heading north on Black Range Rd which is a relatively major
logging road that runs along the top of Black Range. Lots of short sharp
ups and downs. It averages about 800m so we were well up in the clouds
and visibility was poor. We didn’t really get any nice views of the
surrounding area - the whole place was thick with cloud and rain and we
stopped chatting and went within ourselves for a while. Everything feels
close up there. You get tunnel vision - just the muddy, rocky road,
thick trees on either side and grey cloud smothering everything. Every
now and then we’d come to a section that was being logged and there’d be
a big empty clearing of smashed stumps and roots and torn up earth with
heavy metal logging machines sitting there like armour plated
sentinels, dripping cold water in the mist.
It was a lonely place.
think we were both happy when we finally saw the turnoff that would
take us down the other side of Black Range to our first stop at
Taggerty. I really wanted to get somewhere warm. Campbell said he was so
cold he’d stopped shivering, which didn’t sound good. I was shivering
pretty badly and hadn’t been able to feel my feet for ages.
was eager to bomb down there fast so we could get warm but my brakes
seemed to be working really badly so I was taking it easy, not knowing
what was around the next slippery corner. We regrouped about halfway
down and Campbell said, “I’ve got no brakes whatsoever!” Our brake pads
were absolutely smashed! The rain and grit had just torn them up on the
descents and left us with nothing.
levers were pretty much hitting our handlebars and having no effect.
Campbell adjusted his cable tension to get some more life out of the
wasted pads. I went to do the same but I was running Shorty Ultimates -
great brakes, work well, easy to setup, look awesome, but they need
about 17 different allen keys of slightly different sizes in order to
adjust them. So, I had to leave them as is, levers almost touching the
bars, and hope that there was enough pad left to make it home.
rolled on to Taggerty General Store and got warm and dripped muddy
water everywhere. The guy in the shop looked like a Harry Potter wizard
with a long grey beard and hair and curled-up eyebrows. We chatted with
him about where we’d been and where we were going and and he got out
some maps and showed us a few (dirt road) shortcuts back over Black
Range. It became pretty obvious we weren’t going to continue with the
rest of the ride as planned. If we did continue then we’d end up coming
down even more steep, muddy descents from Mt Margaret Gap which is even
higher up than Black Range. Neither of us had the brakes for it - we’d
fly off the side of the road for sure.
option was to ride back to Toolangi on the main roads via Healesville.
That meant riding the Black Spur which is a beautiful piece of road that
is always full of tourists, is narrow and has literally no shoulder,
just a steep steep drop off down into nothing. I’ve seen enough
dangerous interactions on that road between cars and busses and wide
caravans and trailers and whatnot that I really was not interested in
riding it at all. Especially not in the rain with no brakes!
option was to go north on the main roads and skirt round the top of
Black Range where it peters out around Molesworth. Then we could stop in
at Yea and take Whittlesea Road back up to Kinglake and then shoot
across to Toolangi, That was a safer option but also much longer.
luck would have it, Campbell knew a guy who lived nearby so he gave him
a quick call just to see if it was a possibility to get a lift
somewhere if we did decide to bail out. We were still weighing our
options and talking to the wizard dude. What if we went north up to Yea?
Should we just ride the Spur? Maybe if we could just get to here...?
Why don’t we just...? And then Campbell’s mate barged into the shop,
“Right, let’s go! Who’s coming?”
had had enough of the cold and rain so he accepted the lift back over
Black Spur by car. I really wanted to keep riding so I headed north to
Yea. So we both took off out of Taggerty without even seeing Cathedral Range which was meant to be the centrepiece of the whole ride.
But hey, the mountain’s not going anywhere. There’s always next time.
There Will Be Main Roads
I rolled north on the main road towards Alexandra and then cut across
to Yea on nice flat paved roads, skirting right round the top of Black
Range. Quick water refill in Yea and then onto Whittlesea Road which is
familiar territory and made for an uneventful ride homeways. One
highlight was that I finally rode the steep side of Junction Hill
between Yea and Flowerdale - I’ve walked up it once or twice when riding
singlespeed but this time I had gears so there was no reason not to sit
was getting dark as I passed Hazeldene so, once again, I called in for a
pickup at Kinglake West so I could get home in time for dinner and put
Max to bed. Also, I didn’t fancy the descent down Humevale Road in the
dark and rain with next to no brakes.
Even though this ride was cut short I still learned a lot.
gears make a big difference to the work your body has to do. This was
the first one of these rides I’ve done on a geared bike and I was able
to spin up hills that would have previously had me out of the saddle,
mashing it with my heart rate through the roof. Redlining it like that
not only takes its toll on your body but also your mind - the sight of a
steep rocky hill in the distance can be soul-crushing when you’re 200km
in with only one gear. I found that, for me, gears really took the bite
out of hills. Even after 200km I was still ready to climb anything - no
big deal, just sit and spin. Of course it helped that my smallest gear
was 34:32. If I couldn’t get up a hill with that...
was a pretty wet and muddy ride. The only thing that did a decent job
of being waterproof was my Showers Pass jacket. Everything else got
pretty soaked. Radbot tail light - started malfunctioning (works now
that it’s dry). Revelate Designs “Tangle” frame bag - had a big pool of
water in the bottom of it. Topeak saddlebag - everything inside was wet.
Deuter Speed Light backpack - all wet inside but it’s an old bag that’s
seen a lot of use. Sealskinz gloves and socks - thoroughly soaked
inside and out, though they were still windproof and hey, socks are
really hard to keep water out of unless you ziptie them to your ankles
or wear long pants. I dunno, the only thing that really bothers me about
that list is the tail light - the rest is just an inconvenience but I
need my tail light to work 100% reliably. Even more so when it’s pissing
Peace of mind
gear thing that deserves a mention is my new Spot Satellite Tracker. I
turned it on in the morning and then didn’t touch it all day. It sat on
my shoulder sending position updates all day and allowed my wife to
track exactly where I was even when there was no mobile phone reception.
I got a message from her before I even got to Toolangi saying “I love this tracking device!”
For peace of mind, it is awesome. About 300 clams to get you up and
running but worth every cent if you tend to disappear into the bush by
yourself, leaving behind a worried wife and child who know you’re going
into remote places that have no mobile reception.
that’s that. Another one for the “unfinished business” list. Thanks
Campbell for the great company and for soldiering on in the face of
hypothermia. It would have been such a different ride if it wasn’t so
cold and wet! We'll have to do it again in the warmer months.