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.

20160703 1 Fernvale start IMG_2629

Bus, removalist’s van and barista waiting as everyone arrives at Fernvale.

20160703 3 Esk start GOPR1913

Getting ready to start at the old Esk railway station.

20160703 4 Trail GnJ GOPR1921

Settling in to the ride.

20160703 5 over gates IMG_2158

Barricades to prevent livestock crossing – have to pick up bike and carry over.

20160703 6 old rail bridge IMG_2165

The old railway bridges are closed for safety.

20160703 7 gully climb IMG_2155

Like these riders, I felt safer to dismount and walk the steeper gullies.

20160703 9 gate GOPR1937

There are gates along the way to open and close.

20160703 11 arriving bellevue homestead IMG_2183

Arriving Bellevue Homestead for morning tea and those pancakes!

20160703 12 flat tyre IMG_2194

…caught with a flat …well how ’bout that.

20160703 Strava

Map of the ride from my Strava app.

20160703 13 last group IMG_2207

What a great ride!

For more photos and stories of life on two wheels, visit my Facebook page @abike4allseasons – click here for the link.

20 Comments on “Brisbane Valley Rail Trail

  1. Gosh Gail, what an adventure! If anyone had doubts about tackling the rail trail they’d be convinced of its worth upon reading your lovely descriptions. I’d be there for the pancakes especially!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, I loved those pancakes heehee! 😀 The whole ride was really well managed and being a women’s ride was an encouragement for some riders I’m sure.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s hard to believe but away from the coast, it can get quite cold in southern Queensland. The sunshine though and the cycling warmed me up but I didn’t peel too many layers off that day 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Gail Great to hear about the BVRT and that you enjoyed it so much. Also helpful information for those of us who plan to ride the trail – might have to beg or borrow a mountain bike though…. Jen PS love your caption for the ‘flat’ photo 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was wondering if there were any Rocky Horror Picture Show fans out there 🙂 How ’bout that 😀
      I think you and Noel will really enjoy the rail trail but definitely on mountain bikes not on your Bromptons 🙂

      Speaking of Bromptons, thought you’d like to know that Dayna from the Melbourne Brompton Club is riding in the World Brompton Championships in London today (30/7). How about that!


      • Gail…. How about that indeed! I tried to find some footage on this year’s event, but it appears there is nothing posted as yet. I’ll keep looking… and of course check Dayna’s blog. Thanks for the tip.


        Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like good fun Gail, thanks for the post. We’ve been meaning to get out there and try the trail, and your words and pictures are helping us inch closer to the reality! Cheers, Paula

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s great to know Paula. The trail is going to get even better over time as more people use it and services to support it develop. It’s so good that the rail trail is so easy to access from Brisbane. And next week Spencer Howson from 612ABC is riding a part of the trail and broadcasting his ride.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the countryside around Esk and Fernvale and have wondered what the conditions are like on the trail. It sounds like my skinny tyred road bike wouldn’t be suitable! I’m still in the process of looking at other bikes. This looks like heaps of fun though, Gail, and I can’t wait to try it one day. Thanks for introducing us to the ride. Nice angles on the shots! I love your enthusiasm! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jane 🙂 Yes definitely buy or borrow a mountain bike for the trail Jane. I had heaps of fun and I’m keen to ride some more of the BVRT. It’s a wonderful asset to have on our doorstep and great for the small towns along it. Potentially very invigorating for their communities. We had a really enjoyable stay in Esk. The Glen Rock monolith sits there like a beautiful guardian for the town.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, the tourer rolls beautifully… but not so on this rail trail. I’ll be on a mountain bike next time I venture out there. Glad you enjoyed the ride Clare 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Gail, finally got around to having a read of your site, enjoyed your stories. We’re off on the night ride at Esk next month, should be different but fun!


    • Hi Kay, thanks for visiting my blog 🙂 That’s great news … Jane and I are heading out for that ride too! And looking forward to it. We’ll have mountain bikes this time with front suspension so our ride will be a bit more comfortable. See you there! 🙂


  6. Pingback: BVRT: Wulkuraka to Esk | a bike for all seasons

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