You have choices in life. Choices during Winter include staying inside in Sydney, keeping warm while watching television; or heading to Mogo (4 hours by car south of Sydney) for 130kms of gravel riding goodness. We chose the latter.
Mogo is a small town on the South Coast of NSW, in the Eurobodalla Shire, south of Batemans Bay and north of Moruya. The area is home to several Aboriginal groups - the Walbanga, Murrinjari and Bergalia tribes - all part of the Yuin language group. Gold was first reported in 1851, when Mogo was first established, and the last gold mine in the area closed in 1984. Today Mogo is home to tourist stores, cafes, and galleries, and in the 2021 census Mogo had a population of 332.
The town and the surrounding area was severely damaged by bushfires in the summer of 2019-2020. It is events like goodnessgravel: Mogo help the local economy by bringing visitors and boosting spending in the area which helps local businesses and families. A great example of cycling tourism and what it means for regional areas.
We decided to stay in Batemans Bay overnight, and drive from Sydney on Friday. Our goal was to make it to ride registration at the Broulee Brewhouse Friday evening.
Carlos rode Mogo the year prior, and agreed with its description as the toughest ride in the goodnessgravel series. For that ride in 2022, he had also just recovered from sickness, so I wasn’t sure whether there was some exaggeration there (really tough or hard because not 100%). Be that as it may, the route was 132km off-road with 3100^m climbing which was not going to be our normal Saturday coffee ride. Fortunately it wasn’t hot, and weather and gravel conditions were forecast to be excellent.
Inspired by talk of the recently held (and full of controversy) UNBOUND GRAVEL event in Kansas, we were ready to tackle this little loop in the countryside of the Eurobodalla region.
We met Dan at the Brewhouse Friday night for a meal. Our last off-road ride with Dan was goodnessgravel: Gundy and our first questions related to what he had changed on his bike setup for this ride….we were hoping he decided on a proper gravel cassette. Dan was quick to identify his new gravel-ready cassette for climbing, and was proud of his mullet tyre setup with shiny tan walls.
It was then that Carlos revealed that he had already ‘set up’ his jersey. It required dedicated setup as he admitted to having a pantry in it for tomorrow’s ride. And here went the pantry ingredients: 5 gels (3 caffeine), Scratch bar, Maurten bar, 4 homemade rice bars with choc chips, a choc oats power cookie with cranberry), a banana, and Skraatch gummy bears.
Dan then also let out what he planned to carry on this one day ride in the forest… 6 gels, a peanut butter jelly sandwich (on thick white bread), skittles, a chocolate bar, and powder. Then ensued a discussion on how much powder to carry - Dan was adamant that he planned for 0.5kg powder.
It seemed that this ride was much more of a psychological test than a physical one. It was a one day ride after all! Carlos was determined to fuel strength and not to bonk this year. Dan was still reliving his nightmare of Gundy - “it was the last time I rode with you guys and it was tough.”
There are two food stops on this ride, but Dan had brought so much for the wild day out, he didn’t plan to use them. And no need for bag drops as he had it all on his back.
One thing we could rely on in this weather - it’s too cold for snakes. Our last few rides have come across an unexpected snake on the track which isn’t what you need to see on a 10+% climb travelling far too slowly to be near a snake.
The start was fresh but not as cold as we anticipated. Luscious rays of sunlight through the trees made for stunning scenes demanding some photos. Perfect conditions for riding and photography
Riders across the three distances (40km, 70km, 130km) started rolling at similar times. Our pace was moderate to start as we were already anticipating the course. The time limit for the day was set by the wagon, picking up anyone slower than 18kmph - “surely we won’t be seeing that.”
There was one descent early on that made me wish I had a mountain bike and not a gravel setup. But this was the only large rock section expected on the route, and Carlos foreshadowed champagne gravel ahead and a lovely ride back along the river in the second half.
The rest stop was welcomed at 40km (we would return here again at 100km) and this gave Dan a chance to balance some of his large powder supply into his bidons. Not since a kid would I indulge in freshly fried cinnamon doughnuts, but at these goodnessgravel rest stops, there is nothing better.
Soon after the rest, there were a few hot corners for Dan and Carlos. Dan needed some first aid on his knee, but it made him look the part with man-sized bandaids. And all we saw of Carlos leaving a blind corner was a great puff of sand, to find he had pulled back from an edge leaving his seat post damaged. As Dan quipped proudly of his own frame “steel is real Carlos”, Carlos only offered a wry look from the corner of his eye. I just stepped back a bit before things may have escalated.
There were very few cars on this route, as promised by organisers. The forest roads are pretty remote, without many farms nearby. The forest trails and fire roads are well maintained, perfect for riding. For most of the time, the route was through diverse forest vegetation and was incredibly peaceful making for a terrific and immersive gravel cycling experience.
One thing was for sure, the ride was tough work. We didn’t find the champagne gravel Carlos remembered, though the second half brought glimpses of the river we accompanied on the way home. There were no free kms - short steep descents followed by the next climb - and concentration all the way which made us work for our doughnuts. We certainly didn’t slouch, and after a few bandaid and mechanical stops, our average speed was below 20kmph. The wagon wasn’t too far behind us by the time we finished.
Dan’s second off-road outing with me and Carlos was another tough ride. It made for a long day and Dan wasn’t really ready to talk about tackling it again next year. “You guys stitched me up” was one of the things he mentioned as we enjoyed a fake beer on the grass as organisers packed things away.
Dan drove back to Sydney, and we went to enjoy one of the best fish and chips takeaways on the river we have ever had, and a good night's sleep.
The June winter meetup for goodnessgravel in Mogo was glorious. A ride start in 6 degrees in a cool forest may not initially entice you, but then you would miss out on 130kms of glorious gravel goodness, terrific riding, and spectacular scenery.
As we found once again, the active choice is always the better choice.
goodnessgravel: Mogo is worth the drive from Sydney!
PS. We did ride past a snake - an odd sighting in winter. It was huge but dead, as if filleted, in the middle of the road. Probably another reason for Dan to doubt us pre-ride.