This is a good taster if you are somewhat new to riding gravel or don’t have a lot of hours in the legs. “Taster” is relative, of course.
Images: Kane Naaraat
If you are totally new to gravel but have some fitness, then this will still be a technical challenge. If you have some experience on gravel but are struggling in terms of fitness, then you’ll certainly earn your Daisy Burger and beverage by the end of it! This may be the short course but it ain’t no cake walk. It should be manageable for anyone who’s up for a bit of an adventure.
In general, this course is in pretty good condition and consists mostly of scenic rolling hills (a few big ones) and a couple of soft and/or technical sections. Things start off nice and easy for the opening 10km with well groomed, gently rolling roads before you hit the first somewhat technical section. The only thing that makes this a bit tricky is the sand rather than rocks, steep drops or anything a bit nastier.
If you rode the course last time, this section is probably a little softer than you remember. In general, remember to look ahead and keep an eye out for both soft and rough sections of road, but the secret to steady handling is to stay relaxed. With sand you need to have enough speed to not get bogged down (and not be in too large a gear), and let the bike steer itself while you keep the pedals turning. Things will still feel a bit squirrely but if you stay relaxed and keep even pressure on the pedals, you should be fine. Of course, a bit of speed is good, but hitting a soft patch of sand at 40km/h may not be the best idea. If things get a bit rough, slow down to a comfortable speed and as usual, you’re better off walking anything you are unsure of – no harm in that. If you do walk a technical section, do your best not to block the riding line for anyone behind who may still be riding. By the same token, do your best to avoid inserting yourself into the back of the person in front of you: i.e, leave a bit of room.
The 25km mark presents the first new section (if you rode the last one…) and offers amazing views and a great little descent, followed by the only bit of track (rather than road) in the course. Take this section at a slightly slower pace in order to navigate some rockier bits, more or less according to your tyre size and skill level. Only a few kms later you’ll find the first real climb of the day, which hasn’t gotten any less steep than the last time! Don’t be surprised to see a few walking here!
From here you will be treated to more wide-open views that don’t stop until you’re nearly back at the start, but there are still two more notable climbs to get through. From the 40km mark, both of the more technical sections from the previous time around have been addressed, one in the form of an improved road surface, and the other, Mt Beevor, by being removed. In its place are fabulous roads that wind their way through picturesque countryside, with the only thing in the way of you and your complimentary meal and beverage being 27kms and a few more climbs.
As noted, this year’s route officially bypasses Mt Beevor, taking the long way around but offers some beautiful roads. There are a few gates to navigate on this section. Some gates have little ladders/steps to the left or right to hop over them, but otherwise all will have an unlocked clasp that you’ll need to undo to pass through.
Remember to leave all gates as you found them (open or closed, but most likely closed), and help each other out with this, as well as passing bikes over where you choose to. If they are closed, it is because there is livestock on the property that the owners would appreciate not being let loose.
The traditional sting in the tail (for all courses) is still included, with a series of small steps just a few kms from the finish, before a cruisy ride back into Mount Torrens for tasty treats, bangin’ beats, and the exchange of stories with some tired peeps!
In summary, the short route will be a 3-5 hour ride with a few reasonable climbs, not very technical but with a tiny bit of challenging surface, lots of gravel, and a whole bunch of rad. We recommend tyres no smaller than 32c and the bigger the better. Go for easy gearing if you have the option, but this really isn’t as big a factor as for the two longer courses, and there will be two refreshment stops before the food is served back at the finish (from 1pm, so no need to rush!). This is a great little(ish) course if you don’t have all day or aren’t up for some really big distances. Whether you’ve had a taste before or this is your first serving of Gravelaide, you’ll definitely be back for more!
Date: 18 March 2018
Location: Mount Torrens
Start time: 9:00am
Elevation: ~1000m elevation (likely a bit conservative)
Time cuts: Just be back for dinner
Estimated riding time at:
24kph avg: 2 hours 50 minutes
20kph avg: 3 hours 20 minutes
16kph avg: 4 hours 10 minutes
+ approximately 30 minutes to include refuel stops at 38km and 48km.