The Kangaroo Valley Epic

Stupidly long winter rides have the potential to be spectacular, something you’ll be talking about with your mates for years to come. They can also be a wet, cold, and a generally miserable experience. Finding yourself 50km away from home absolutely freezing, knowing you’ve got to ignore the near frost bite pain in your hands and feet, and ride home, can be a nightmare. This is pretty much what happened the first time we attempted this ride (Macquarie Pass, freezing and wet).

Almost a month later, it was time to try again. This time there was no sign of rain at all, fantastic. All we had to contend with this time was the wind, easy right? Just a few gusts, nothing to worry about.

Check out all the ride data on Strava Kangaroo Valley Epic

We set out from Wollongong, and it was instantly apparent, the wind was going to be an issue. Heading towards Macquarie Pass we were going straight into it. A stretch of road that we’d normally be cruising at over 30kph, was transformed to the site of a cyclone, making it close to impossible just to maintain about 20kph. Riding out to the Pass a pattern was emerging. Almost like clockwork, every few minutes an Integral Energy cherry picker would drive past. A worry sign.

Typically there’s very little traffic on the pass this early in the morning. Was a bit of a surprise when this thing cruised pass on this narrow section of road!

Thankfully the Pass itself was sheltered from the wind, but the winding road looked like a warzone. There were branches and leaves everywhere. Only a day ago the road has been completely closed to all traffic due to fallen trees.

The view from half way up the pass looking back to the coast.

The first stop was, as the sign says, the famous Robertson Pie Shop. The sun was out, but it seemed to make little difference to how cold it felt. With the wind still strong and the temp up in the highlands floating between 4-5 degrees it was cold!

This was to be the first of two famous pie shops we ride on past.

Refueled and still warm(ish) from the main climb of the day, we set off into the highlands heading towards Fitzroy Falls. Taking the less traveled tourist road meant we had the road almost all to ourselves whilst enjoying the picturesque scenery the highlands is known for.

Getting back down to sea level from the highlands means a big decent which ever way you go. For us it meant going down Barrengarry Mountain, a descent none of us were particularly familiar with. At the beginning of the descent you’re greeted by a huge red sign saying “STEEP DESCENT FOR THE NEXT 6km” – that pretty much explains why we don’t have any pictures of it! It was a fantastic decent, a lot of really wide sweeping switchbacks, but definitely both hands on the bars stuff, it took a lot of concentration.

Now heading towards the town of Kangaroo Valley, were were in unknown territory, and it felt great – everyone was still buzzing from the decent.

The second pie shop! It might not look like much, but as the sign says, “The world’s best!”

The iconic old bridge in Kangaroo Valley, harder to ride across and take photos than it looks! Lots of gaps in the planks of wood perfectly sized for road bike tyres!

By now having been in the saddle for just on 4 hours, we were all thinking about lunch. There was one problem with that, we planned to have lunch at Berry, and between Kangaroo Valley and Berry, is Berry Mountain, a climb none of us had done before.

It was a quiet country road, thankfully sheltered from the ever present wind. Like a lot of old country roads it got quite steep at parts – more so than we’d expected, suffer we did! (One Ironman more than others it would seem!)

Towards the top of the climb.. “Self Service, sales here! Fudge & Toffee!”. On the right now over the climb you can see the coast

Over the top of the mountain there were small glimpses of the coast. Looking south you could actually see as far as 7 mile beach, heading towards Jervis Bay.

The descent down in to Berry was dodgy. The road surface, which had been great for most of the ride had deteriorated badly, and coupled with super steep hairpins, it was often more worrying than fun. Similar to Jamberoo Mountain Rd in a way.

Berry as always on the weekends, was incredibly busy. We pulled up a table at the only bakery with one spare and ate like kings. The pies were sensational!

It’s always hard to get back on the bike after a stop like that, and this time was no exception. After taking 5 minutes just waiting for a break in the Berry traffic, we headed off in the direction of the coast, Gerroa specifically via Beach Rd.

Travelling in style with Rapha. Grab a bargain on Beach Rd!

Up and over the steep pinch past the famous Gerroa Fishermans Club, tired legs rolled into Gerringong. The day was starting to drag on, and the wind just would not go away.

The stretch of road between Gerringong to Kiama was painfully slow as we yet again went into the wind. Motivated simply by getting home we pushed on past Kiama into more familiar territory.

Heading down around the back of Kiama on the relatively new by-pass

Skip forward a slow and painful 30km and the finish was finally in sight. Time wise we’d blown out our estimates fairly significantly, but that was mainly because we hadn’t anticipated the wind being such a big factor. That aside it was a great day out, well worth withstanding the 4 degree temps in Robertson and the wind in almost every section of the ride.

Back to sunny Wollongong, amazingly 8hrs since we set off

Looking forward to some nicer summer or spring epics – this winter sure has some bite to it, and its getting too expensive buying more and more winter layers to keep warm! Until next time, ride safe.

Weekend rides
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