Brisbane Valley Rail Trail
This post begins a series of stories from my road trip in South East Queensland. With campervan packed and bikes loaded on the back, we went travelling old roads with new eyes.
One degree Celsius. Mostly sunny. Fernvale. 7am Sunday 3rd July. I stood in the car park wearing leg warmers, cycling shorts, three layers of merino wool under a shell jacket, a woollen skull cap and gloves. Shivering. Partly from the cold but also with excitement. I was about to ride the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT) for the very first time.
Fernvale is a small town about 61kms west of Brisbane and 130kms north west from my home on the southern Gold Coast. Midwinter meant a pre-dawn start for our 90 minute drive but with motorways most of the way, the journey was easy. Plus we had people to meet.
Cars trickled into the car park at the Fernvale Futures Centre, driven by women in cycling kit and carrying bicycles. A large bus, a coffee cart and an empty removalist’s van waited to swing into action for the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail’s Women’s Ride.
After signing in for the ride, sipping coffees brewed by the Somerset Coffee barista, and loading bikes into the removalist’s van, our group of 55 riders boarded the bus and filled it with a pleasant blend of chatter and laughter for the thirty minute drive to Esk.
The BVRT Users Association holds regular events to introduce bicycle riders to the rail trail. The Women’s Ride would see us ride the BVRT from Esk to Fernvale.
I felt a little anxious about the ride.
I felt a little anxious about the ride. At 44kms, it would be a long ride for me. It was also on terrain where a mountain bike – which I didn’t have – is strongly recommended. However, my Vivente is a touring bike made for tough terrain so I felt reassured that it should be okay to handle the trail.
After unloading all the bikes, the group gathered at the old Esk railway station and rolled out of Esk along the rail trail. My apprehension was quickly replaced with the enjoyment of pedalling along. At first, everyone seemed to be moving along at a quick tempo but soon riders found their own pedalling pace and the group spread out. Some were keen to reach the destinations ahead. Others, like me were soaking up the scenery on the journey.
Between between Esk and Fernvale, the BVRT crosses a variety of landscapes.
Between between Esk and Fernvale, the BVRT crosses a variety of landscapes. There are open paddocks with cattle grazing, fields carrying crops, native bushland and creek gullies to cross. Rail trail terrain is ideal for bicycle riding. Old railways followed the contours of the land where gradients were most gentle. This means rail trails traverse mostly flat land. The exception is where the trail has to diverge from the original railway line.
Between Esk and Fernvale, the trail diverges at the creek crossings. The historic railway bridges spanning the creek gullies are closed for safety. So the trail takes riders down into each gully to the creek and up again. Some riders navigate these gullies on their bikes. For me, I felt safer dismounting and walking.
Ride Marshals gave helpful information
We were given helpful information about the gullies by the ‘ride marshals’ who are members of the BVRT Users Association volunteering their cycling skills and knowledge about the trail. The Ride Marshals were spread throughout the group ride, maintained contact with each other via walkie-talkie and ensured no one was left behind. They are also very pleasant people to have a chat with along the way. And very helpful when my rear tyre punctured – only my second in four years!
Halfway through the ride, we arrived at Coominya and took a slight detour to visit the Bellevue Homestead where the cooks in the kitchen were expecting us. It was morning tea time and after riding 24kms, I’ve never tasted pancakes so good!
The rail trail’s surface varies considerably between Esk and Fernvale – compacted clay, loose gravel (some fine, some quite chunky and sharp) and luxurious bitumen around each township. Although my tough tourer took me across the rough surfaces, a bike with suspension and fatter tyres would make it more enjoyable for sure.
We finished the ride feeling exhilarated. Cycling through Sunday morning with no cars to navigate, under broad blue skies, where the landscape stretches your eyes to each horizon, really was a great way to start our road trip.
It was an excellent introduction to the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail and set us up well to ride another sector of the trail the following day.
For more information about the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, visit their website.
For more photos and stories of life on two wheels, visit my Facebook page @abike4allseasons – click here for the link.