Central West Cycle Trail in the Autumn
– Wiradjiru Country –
We were lucky really. In the weeks before, roads were cut or damaged, and towns were flooding or recovering. The wet season had stretched deep into March. Autumn hadn’t been all sunshine and soft temperatures. More like damp, grey and foreboding of change. On the night before our ride, the rain hammered the tin roof of our Mudgee motel. Thoughts of raincoats, mud and soggy shoes ran amok. Come morning, we open the curtains to a red-sky sunrise. It’s going to be a fine day.
Our ride on the Central West Cycle Trail (CWCT) arrived after five months of planning. We were five riders travelling from three regions in Queensland – Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Bundaberg – with one goal: Enjoy seven days of cycling together on the CWCT. Ours was a through-ride without any support vehicle. This meant carrying everything that we needed (or thought we might need) for the seven days.
Our week on the Central West Cycle Trail brought us fine days every day. And not only because of the sunshine. The trail saw me get close to country that I’d never ridden before. Inland and west of the Great Dividing range. Different terrain. And different every day. The expansiveness. The space.
Gum tree sentinels watching us ride; Quartz crystal roadside, Granite boulders standing strong; Cockatoos, magpies, rosellas, in full song, Wind-swept clouds, endless sky; Red soil, brown soil, native grasses high, Pastures waving, cattle grazing, Creeks flowing, rainbows dancing, Old growth, new growth. Windmills turning. Our wheels rolling.
And, there are the small towns settling into the idea of people arriving by bicycle. People tired but invigorated by the day’s riding, with appetites to eat, drink, yarn, sleep and do it again the next day. Old towns creating new stories and finding new life.
What bikes did we ride?
We had a range of bikes in our group of five. The surfaces were mixed: some asphalt, some gravel, some sand, some mud. Each bike style handled the terrain well. There were two Vivente touring bikes each with two rear panniers. Two hardtail MTBs with small carry bags attached to handlebars and seat posts, with the riders wearing backpacks. And a Specialized gravel bike with the in-frame, seat post and handlebar luggage bags.
Our itinerary saw us riding anti-clockwise around the CWCT. Starting in Mudgee, riding to Gulgong, Dunedoo, Mendooran, Ballimore, Wellington, Goolma, and back to Gulgong to finish in Mudgee. The complete CWCT includes Dubbo, however, work commitments didn’t allow time to extend our ride any further. Here’s how we rolled across our 412 kilometre circuit:
- Day 1 – Mudgee to Gulgong – 32kms
- Day 2 – Gulgong to Dunedoo – 59kms
- Day 3 – Dunedoo to Mendooran – 71kms
- Day 4 – Mendooran to Ballimore – 63kms
- Day 5 – Ballimore to Wellington – 73kms
- Day 6 – Wellington to Goolma – 49kms
- Day 7 – Goolma to Mudgee – 65kms
The slideshow below presents a photo with Strava stats for each of the seven days. Notice the changing landscape. (Swipe the image to move to the next)
We chose an anti-clockwise direction so that we could navigate using the RideWithGPS maps available on the CWCT website. Each day the interactive maps were excellent for our pre-ride planning giving elevation and distances, and also for guiding and reassuring us along the way. To use the maps without relying on mobile reception, I paid for a one-year subscription to RideWithGPS. This allowed me to download the maps from RideWithGPS onto my mobile phone and see the directions onscreen and hear them from the voice navigator. We also had a paper copy of the turn-by-turn instructions (available on the CWCT website) just in case our tech failed us :-).
The CWCT is signposted with neat, visible yellow markers that signal changes of direction or continuation. These were also helpful guides and a credit to the CWCT volunteers.
Tips and ideas
There are plenty of tips and ideas available. The CWCT website has lots of current details about what’s on offer. Here are a handful of things that we enjoyed on our ride during autumn 2022:
- When riding between Gulgong and Dunedoo, enjoy morning or afternoon tea at Mayfield Homestead (must be booked in advance) and a perfect halfway stop.
- We experienced wonderful hospitality at Anna’s Mendooran Bed and Breakfast. The verandah is a great place to gather after you’ve enjoyed your post-ride shower. We were able to store our bikes overnight in a secure lock-up.
- French Press Cafe at Geurie is worth riding really fast for. The food and coffee were fabulous.
- The CWCT Facebook page is an excellent source of up-to-date information and advice on the trail conditions; and we referred to it daily.
- Mudgee was a wonderful location for us to start and finish. We enjoyed the Mudgee Brewery for before and after celebrations, plus some vineyard visits in the days afterwards.
If you’d like to have a go at riding the CWCT but you’re not sure if carrying your luggage is right for you or how to organise the trip or perhaps you want an experience of cycle touring in a supportive environment, then check out the Australian Cycle Tours website for options. They have two women’s cycling trips scheduled for 2023. In May, a CWCT tour will be escorted by Linda Cash (A Girl and Her e-Bike) and in September, I’m escorting a tour on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.
sounds great! ________________________________
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Really worth travelling to Hugh. It was the highlight of my 2022 cycling calendar.
Thanks for all the valuable information, Gail. Love your poem 🙂 and I look forward to cycling the trail one day.
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Thanks Jen 🙂 I’m glad to know it was useful and enjoyable. I think you would really enjoy this trail. It’s a great adventure and a wonderful part of Australia.
One day 🤞☺
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