A weekend on the Central West Bike Trail

A weekend on the Central West Bike Trail

Time to dust off the gravel bikes, pack a sense of adventure, and head west for a quick weekend getaway into the heart of the New South Wales countryside.

Our good mate Merv from MC Velo spun us tales of the Central West trail from Mudgee - stories of cheap or free camping at local hotels, unmatched hospitality, and sprawling countryside vistas. “This is gravel country” he said.

A minor tweak to the official Central West Cycle Trail had us on a counter-clockwise loop from Mudgee, cutting out some of the optional and overlapping sections from the official route. We mapped out a short, but thrilling, 3-day journey from Mudgee to Mendooran to Guerie and back to Mudgee.

Unique in New South Wales, the Central West Cycle Trail is the only marked multi-day cycling trail, established by locals tired of waiting for a rail trail. It covers the quietest country roads, offering diverse landscapes, from woodlands and farms to conservation areas.


Day 1 - The Plains

We embarked early from Sydney, reaching Mudgee by 09:00. Jeff was keen, he drove 10 hours from Brisbane to meet us there to ride his bike! 

After a quick coffee and prepping our bikes, we hit the trail. Punctures were our first hurdle, courtesy of the infamous and fierce thorns that plague this area. Despite these setbacks, we pressed on to Dunedoo, hungry and running low on energy.

Dunedoo greeted us with nearly all food options closed - the Royal Hotel’s bistro having shut at 14:00. We consoled ourselves with a couple of beers, chatting with locals before heading to a 24/7 truck stop for sustenance.

When locals learned of our cycling route, their bemused head shakes told us vehicles were the preferred mode of travel around here. They mentioned that the Mendooran show was on, a lively event and our destination for the night.

As dusk settled, we arrived at the Mendooran pub, guided by the distant sounds of the show. We pitched our tents in the pub grounds, relishing the free grass and warm showers. This place, under new management, welcomed cyclists, fostering the cycling community - thirsty and hungry riders are good for business. 

A celebratory drink later, we watched Shane wrestle with his new $800 tent—a sight almost worth the trip itself. We met another group of riders from Sydney, the Easy Riders, who were on a shorter 4-day loop.

After a bar meal and a few drinks, we retired early, only to be awakened past midnight by eerie sounds. It felt more like Salem, Massachusetts, than Mendooran, NSW. We stayed put in our tents, curiosity yielding to caution.

Day 1: 143kms and 929^m elevation. https://www.strava.com/activities/11018826650

Day 2 - The Bush & Wildlife

We started the day at a bustling cafe, sharing breakfast and conversation with the Easy Riders. Sandwiches in tow as a safety net for lunch, we ventured into a day promising more gravel than road.

Navigating through soft sand, we followed train tracks until the route re-emerged. The morning was a spectacle of wildlife—emus, kangaroos, black cockatoos, galahs, and even a wild boar that Jeff swore was as big as a car. The land seemed alive, with ants, march flies, wild goats, and a snake adding to the adventure.

Corrugations challenged us until we reached the Ballimore pub, where the Easy Riders were already lamenting the rough and bumpy ride. We decided to bypass Dubbo, adding a small detour before heading to Guerie.

Shane, eager to set up his tent, led us to our night’s accommodation at the racecourse. For $20 total, we had grass for our tents and warm showers—a true bargain.

Dinner was at the Guerie bowling club, where Chinese food awaited. The extra hot sauce we sought steamed the club out but everything cooled when the restaurateur had to apologise for not having our deep-fried ice cream. A club official hinted at plans for cyclist facilities, marking us as a different breed in this quiet town.

Day 2: 108kms and 951^m elevation. https://www.strava.com/activities/11033785231

Day 3 - The Farmlands

The final day began cool and crisp. Breakfast and coffee at a local Guerie cafe set the tone for our journey back - ready to roll.

We aimed to finish strong, savouring the last leg of our adventure. Wellington was our first stop for a break and, hopefully, good coffee. Locals could tell us the pub opening time but couldn’t point to any food options at Goolma. We found solace in real meat sausage rolls from a real butcher to take-away and delightful coffee and cakes at Jespresso, served by Jes herself.

Our ride took us through farmlands, crossing cattle grids and quiet back roads, through charming villages and open plains. The final stretch to Mudgee brought breathtaking vineyard views and rolling hills, a fitting end to our adventure.

As we rolled back into Mudgee, we paused for celebratory beers and chips, savouring the end of a journey well-travelled. We got on the road to drive back to the city with plans for a meal stop in Rylestone, a completely random location for great quality dumplings thanks to a recommendation from our mate Vic. We were already late, and now ashamed that we swapped dumplings for Macca’s. 

Day 3: 139kms and 1371^m https://www.strava.com/activities/11033786263

The numbers:

  • 390kms and 2151^m 
  • 2 punctures
  • 1 lost tool kit on corrugations
  • 2 part-nights sleeping in car on drive to/from Brisbane
  • 0 dumplings enjoyed