Ebenezer isn’t far from the Sydney metropolis (only 70kms). But 1.5 hours driving along fast motorways, past fields and fields of turf farms, Ebenezer feels a long way from anywhere. Nestled between Wilberforce, Sackville, and Maroota, it’s an historic town settled in the early 1800’s on the Hawkesbury River, making it perfect for gravel riding.
Kev & I had planned for a mid-week reconnaissance ride looking for the next suitable MC Velo gravel ride, and had eyes on this route involving two ferries. Thinking about something a little longer, Carlos referred us to this story and route in the same area which looked good, so we modified it a little for our purpose. We hadn’t ridden here before although broadly knew that the area was stunning from road roads along the Hawkesbury from Wisemans Ferry. We were intrigued to visit Ebenezer.
I called Kev the day before, to check he was "in" after travelling for work the last few days. "For sure!"
We left MC early and arrived at Tractor 828 by 07:30 ready for opening time and coffee. Tempted by the freshly-made sausage rolls, hot from the oven, we sat and enjoyed a coffee and bite, listening to the local customer banter in the background. We started rolling in what was still a fresh morning breeze at 08:00, expecting it to heat up quickly.
Conditions were perfect for riding though we didn’t get ahead of ourselves, knowing to expect climbing for the first 30kms. This route featured 50% gravel roads, which started after the first 13kms and continuing for the next 40kms. As we saw the gravel warning signs, it was all smiles, helping us forget about the gradual climbing already underway.
There are very few houses and farms to pass. It is remote bushland. For gravel riding, that means few cars, and we saw only two cars during the first 55kms. Without cars to worry too much about, dogs were the only thing keen to greet us. They all seemed a bit angrier than the normal Eastern Suburbs canine, and we were pleased to see the angriest of them locked up, some in cages!
We knew we were crossing the Colo River twice. Without thinking too much, when we saw the sign for the ferry crossing at Portland advising that the ferry didn’t operate between 09:00 and 11:00, we were a little spooked. “We had better hurry to make it!” We pushed on without delay to ensure we made it in time before 09:00. Arriving at the river by 09:00, we recalled Carlos mentioning bridges and realised we needed no ferry! This deserved a pause to catch our breath and take a picture. From here our riding (generally) became more relaxed.
Our modified route was to deliver 1300^m climbing over 75kms. What’s a gravel ride without some climbing? There was one uncategorised corrugated pinch that was a little less than relaxing, but all other climbs were steady and non-technical and suitable for most regular cyclists. Some climbs extended for 1-2kms, and would be a challenge to restart if you were to stop, but all of them steady if equipped with appropriate gravel gearing.
The route skirted the Wollemi National Park (home of the famous ancient Wollemi Pine) which if followed around, would put you at the back of Wolgan Valley and Lithgow. When seeing the park signs, thinking about how big Wollemi National Park actually is, I was reminded how remote we actually were, and why the scenery was so stunning - with something to enjoy at every turn.
The remoteness of this route is something to prepare for. There were no obvious water points on this route, and nowhere for food. There was a public toilet at a small water crossing at 50kms (in the middle of nowhere), but that was it. Carrying enough water, especially if it is a hot day, and nutrition, is a must! There were houses and two river crossings (both with robust bridges) in the case of emergencies, but not something you would rely upon. It makes this route a great safe taster for self-supported gravel riding.
At 52kms we found bitumen again, or at least more bitumen than gravel for some sections. This was also the section of the ride that became net downhill rather than up. The last 20kms were fast and brought our average speed for the ride above 20kmph. There were more and more houses as we tracked back to civilisation, and we enjoyed spotting the trend for old cars to be used as garden ornaments. While the dogs still barked at us as we rolled through, they were gentler breeds.
We made it back to Tractor 828 ready for some food and a cold drink. That was a great loop! A solid climbing ride, smooth-packed gravel, a wonderful 5km gravel descent through some cliff overhangs, with plenty of scenes, sounds and smells of the Australian bush. And not a disturbing car in sight.
The cafe was now quite full of people, all of whom seemed to have travelled here for lunch. We were told that the cafe sees many cyclists, and it is adorned with cycling memorabilia and old bikes, but our overheated state was a contrast to the other more civilised customers. We howled down our steak sandwiches and drinks, before putting our bikes back on the car and preparing for our drive back past all the turf farms to Sydney.
Reconnaissance done. Now ready for the next MC Velo Gravel Adventure here in Ebenezer.
We will save the Two Ferries ride for another time, and check the ferry schedules prior :)
- Ride time 3:32
- Elapsed time 3:49
- 76kms 1286^m