The Con­vict Trails Rock! (and roll)…

Galston, Glenorie and Hills Rural News - - Cycling Series - By Su­sanna Mills

It is a priv­i­lege to ex­pe­ri­ence the his­toric Con­vict Trail on a bi­cy­cle. The range of dis­tances and ter­rain that a moun­tain bi­cy­cle can cover ex­tremely ef­fi­ciently, means that you get to see much more of this fas­ci­nat­ing trail than on foot. Wise­mans Ferry is eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble from any sub­urb North West of Gal­ston Gorge- ei­ther via Old North­ern Road, or the slow, nar­row and wind­ing River Road which hugs the course of the Hawkes­bury River. Ei­ther route is a lovely drive.

On ne­go­ti­at­ing the very steep de­scent into the vil­lage, drive down to the river past the golf course and get ready to ride from the park next to the fer­ries. In 1826, Solo­man Wise­man was granted the rights to op­er­ate a punt for trav­ellers and goods trav­el­ling via Cas­tle Hill to St. Al­bans, Hunter Val­ley and New­cas­tle. In 2018 it is no dif­fer­ent- the need is the same, but the con­veyances have mor­phed into to a week­end pa­rade of shiny mo­tor­cars, fab­u­lous mo­tor bikes, and mar­vel­lous moun­tain bikes! So an in­te­gral part of walk­ing or cycling this trail, is the jour­ney to ar­rive the trail head, namely the foot of Devine’s Hill. You turn left along Set­tler’s Road, and it’s just 600m away, on the right.

DEVINES HILL: (1.8km) Cycling vis­i­tors have not been con­sid­ered in the de­sign of this gate, so you have to dis­mount, hoist the bike up above your head and wran­gle your way through the pedes­trian ac­cess point walls. Devine’s Hill is a 1.8km ‘warm up’ climb, on a wide, hard­pack dirt road with ex­quis­ite views over the MacDon­ald River. You are now cycling on the ac­tual road that the Con­victs built from 1826-36. All along this road there are rem­nants of their en­deav­ours, with mod­ern sculp­tures and in­for­ma­tion plaques to take one’s at­ten­tion away from burn­ing legs and lungs. A tem­po­rary re­prieve at the top of the hill (where Shep­herd’s Gully merges with Devine’s Hill) comes with yet an­other cy­cle un­friendly Na­tional Parks Gate to hoist your bi­cy­cle over.

SHEP­HERD’S GULLY TO FERRY: (11km) If you are new to of­froad cycling, or rid­ing here with chil­dren of 12 and un­der, at the top of Devine’s Hill turn left down the 2km Shep­herd’s Gully de­scent. Take time to ad­mire the ver­dant, fern-lined gul­ley and some lit­tle-known Con­vict era-cul­verts and a small bridge. At Set­tlers’ Road, turn sharp left and ride the 9km dirt and tarred road, back to the ferry.

DEVINES HILL TO W. COM­MIS­SION TRACK: (10km) If you are an ex­pe­ri­enced moun­tain biker, you are in for 10km of rocky, very tech­ni­cal rid­ing, when you turn right at the top of Devine’s Hill. Bear left past the Finch’s Line turn off. This sec­tion of the trail is no­to­ri­ous amongst all those who brave the an­nual Con­vict 100 Mtb Marathon, but rid­ing it recre­ation­ally is an ab­so­lute plea­sure! Ex­pect to ride up and down a series of rock steps, with in­ter­mit­tent sec­tions of ridge­line sin­gle­track. 5% of this trail is so tech­ni­cal, that you will have to carry your bike up or down it. 95% is ride­ablepar­tic­u­larly if you have a dual sus­pen­sion bike with 27.5” or 29” wheels at­tached and, of course, mtb skills and fit­ness that are on

point! Just when you are start­ing to won­der how long this ham­mer­ing will go on for, the trail mer­ci­fully lev­els out and in­ter­sects with West­ern Com­mis­sion Trail.

WEST­ERN COM­MIS­SION TRACK TO FERRY: (16km) The in­ter­sec­tion is a good point to stop and re­cover. Com­mis­sion­ers’ may be a nice dirt road, but it packs a mean punch to tired legs with six pinch climbs that you must ride be­fore the fi­nal down­hill to Wise­man’s Ferry Road. It’s not dif­fi­cult to reach speeds of up to 70km/h, but please re­mem­ber there is the oc­ca­sional car com­ing up to the Bud­dhist Re­treat near Ten Mile Hol­low! Watch out for the third, and fi­nal bike-un­friendly gate. It is dif­fi­cult to see, be­ing at the end of a long, steep and shady sec­tion of down­hill, mak­ing it a for­mi­da­ble haz­ard to the gung-ho. Rather take your time and savour the panoramic views of the Hawkes­bury River Val­ley stretch­ing out into blue hori­zons on ei­ther side of your han­dle­bars.

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