Join us on this three-day, three-night and three-ride trip inspired by an amazing Big Ride in NSW.

There’s a cycling playground located less than two hours from Sydney or Canberra, running from the laid-back, rural charm of the Southern Highlands to the salty air of Shoalhaven. Cyclist and Soigneur bite in before the main course is served…

WORDS: ALEX MALONE
PHOTOGRAPHY: MARCUS ENNO (Beardy McBEARD)
TRAVEL PARTNER: Soigneur

Soigneur are spreading their wings with a stunning new trip in New South Wales and who better to show them some of the best roads on offer than the team at Cyclist. Here’s a sneak peak into what to expect from out full-length feature and the upcoming Soigneur HC – Southern Highlands trip.

Pick up a copy of Cyclist #19, on sale 11 February, to get the full scoop.

Or, simply join us for the real thing – with Soigneur

Big Ride snippet

A blood-orange glow is emitted from the nearby ridgeline. We stare out of our wooden cabin – creaking as the temperature drops – with anticipation. Down the hill and towards the cattle-proof gate stand a few pairs of anxious llama eyes reflecting in the falling light. We feel their concern. Like us, the llamas are yet to be fed, and the kitchen at Kangaroo Valley’s Friendly Inn closes shortly after dark.

Soigneur’s Daniel Strauss, Cyclist photographer Marcus Enno (Beardy McBeard) and I discuss tomorrow’s route along with others to be included in an upcoming three-day HC-ranked Soigneur trip. Strauss has made the trip from Melbourne to reccy the area and we’re keen to ensure he gets access to as much of the surroundings as possible.

We decide on a loop slicing through the cycling playgrounds of the Southern Highlands with a dip into the seaside towns of the Shoalhaven. There’s a lot to cover in a single day – which is why it’s good that we’re here for two. Mountain-classified climbs, technical descents not to be underestimated, coastal winds, blowholes, a famous bakery, dirt roads, a waterfall and a few rounds of milkshakes. It’s all drawn up and we should, with a bit of luck, cover most by nightfall. The area’s best milkshakes are another story – more on that later.

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We wait. Still no sign of our guide, a born-and-bred Southern Highlander. Dan Bonello is inspecting the condition of an off-piste section through Belmore Falls and should have arrived some time ago. The phone rings. Double puncture and a ruined tyre. Minutes later, we’re in the support car – a Jaguar XE no less – ‘racing’ up the twisting climb through and up from Barrengarry to his location. We’ll be coming down this wide-open mountain tomorrow.

A sharp right turn past Fitzroy Falls and we’ve reached our stranded guide. The reccy is complete. Bonello is given the opportunity to freshen up in the weir crossing at Belmore. But the kitchen back at Kangaroo Valley is now well and truly closed. We move dinner to the Robertson Inn for steaks and a few ales. Make note: late-night eateries are a rarity in these parts.

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…Fast-forward

This is the big dog of the day – a deep-breath, suck-it-up kind of climb that screams out of the grasslands towards the Southern Highlands. Of all the climbs along this ridgeline, this is the one to order. It doesn’t matter where you decide to mark the official start line, it’s well over 20 minutes of continual climbing for even the most seasoned of riders. The National Road Series’ top-ranked squad for the past three years often visits the area for its yearly training camps. Buckle up for the ride, use that 28-tooth we mentioned earlier and get going.

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From cattle-grazing pastures to the thick-aired lush forests of Jamberoo and onwards to what seems like the top of the world, the climb may push you to your peak, but the summit and nearby lookout are what trips like this are all about. While we’re flying high above the seaside towns below, Dan lets us in on a little secret about the “top” of the mountain. ‘The lookout is at the top, but we’ve got another 10-odd kilometres of climbing still to go,’ he advises.

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Sink or swim

The three of us dart from left to right, seeking the road’s crown, using smooth but firm pedal strokes. Faster – to a certain point – is generally the way to go. Take it too slow and you’ll be fishtailing along the graded road all the way down to the Falls. With Bonello and my off-road roots, and Strauss’s competitive edge thrown into the mix, we’re soon racing each other. A smoky dirt mist follows our path and provides Marcus with the perfect #lighbro…

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You’d be hard-pressed to find a loop that offers such diversity, at least within such close proximity to either Sydney or Canberra. In a little under 130km, we’ve petted llamas, ridden through the mist, eaten delicious doughnuts with over 60 years of frying history, been invigorated by the violent spray of the Tasman Sea, entered the dark and lush canopy of a mountain, stood on top of the world, ridden along a “don’t tell mum” stretch of off-piste road, crossed a river, stood sickeningly close to the edge of a waterfall, raced down one of the most throttle-open descents going around and, in a miraculous feat, managed to make it back before the kitchen closed. The best part? That’s just Day 1. Join us for three days of stunning exploration by bike and we’ll share a few more gems that we discovered along the way…

Do it with Cyclist and Soigneur

Inspired by our Big Ride (coming in Cyclist #19), Soigneur is excited to announce it will be expanding its wings to new grounds – with a little help from Cyclist. This all-new Hors Catégorie trip, set amidst the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven region of NSW, will provide guests with three days’ and three nights’ stay, along with three stunning rides.

On this trip we’ll celebrate the variety of the region, testing coast-to-plateau climbs, descents through lush rainforest, and rolling hills through charming rural townships. Guests can expect two big days of around six to seven hours each, and one shorter three- to four-hour ride. Each ride will be at a solid but sustainable tempo.

We’ll be based at a private estate near Berry, 90 minutes from Sydney. The estate is set amongst native bush with sweeping views of the coast. You’ll arrive Thursday evening, riding Friday, Saturday and Sunday before returning home on Sunday afternoon.

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Each day kicks off with a continental breakfast and a catered picnic or cafe stop mid-ride, followed by freshly prepared lunches and dinners. Washed down with local beer and wine, the seasonal menu will highlight the region’s finest produce and caters for any dietary requirements.

All rides will be fully supported by two experienced guides, follow car, mechanic, spares fleet and professional photographer. You’ll experience pro-style treatment –including remedial massage. You won’t have to lift a finger. It also comes with one Soigneur x Cyclist Rider Pack including limited-edition T-shirt, cap, bidons and musette.

The Details

Dates: Thursday, May 5 to Sunday, May 8
Maximum group size: 11
Cost: $1,600 per person group share; $1,800 per person twin share; $2,400 per person private room
– Book five spots together and receive $100 off each booking.

For more information or to book your place, email info@soigneur.cc.

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