I had a few days off this week so like a completely normal person I decided to go for a long cycle ride! I have had the gravel ride up the back of Donna Buang on my hit-list for a while but hadn’t managed to fit in the time to do it so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. It was a lovely day and with the whole route being on trails and back roads there was no need to get up early so i got a bit of a lie in too.
The initial ride was just the normal Warburton Rail Trail from Lilydale which i have done many times before; this is just a very flat gravel trail that runs ~40km each way from Lilydale Train Station to Warburton. I turned off the trail at Don Road for a bit of a bitumen stint past the village of Don where the climbing starts for the next 20km or so. Don road changes to gravel for a few kms before the turning off on to Donna Buang road, the gravel wasn’t too bad – there were a few parts with a lot of pot holes but could be mostly avoided.
The turning from Don Road onto Donna Buang road sees a return to bitumen for another few kms until this changes into gravel. There was a fallen tree to climb over half way up the road which did mean there wouldn’t be any cars coming up! Overall the road was in good shape, the riding was very easy as the gradient never really got above 4%. It was lovely and cool shaded by the trees too especially when going past the odd stream.
The final part of the road does go back to bitumen again before the junction with the Donna Buang Summit road, this was the steepest part of the climb and felt like hard work on the low pressure gravel tyres compared to my road tyres that i have done it on before. I made it to the top in just under 1:30hrs from the start of the climbing on Don Rd and just over 1hr from the turning onto Donna Buang Rd. I only saw one other car to flag down that the road was blocked by a tree too and it happened to be someone who also rides from Croydon Cycle Works!
For the descent i headed back down the main road stopping at the spring to top up my water bottles on the way. The condition of the road can vary quite a bit and it was a bit sketchy in place with some gravel and water of the road of various corners, the advantage of riding up the same way is at least you get to see the dodgy bits unlike with a loop in this case. There were also some temporary traffic lights in the lower half where half the road had washed away on the inside of a corner – going to be a bit of to repair that.
Instead of heading all the way down Donna Buang Rd to Warby i decided to follow the O’Shannassy Aqueduct Trail upstream from the point where it crossed Donna Buang Rd. I have done the trail the other way a few times riding up from Warby so fancied exploring a bit more of it. Finding the start of the trail wasn’t too bad with the map on my gps but it was hidden a bit in a layby, the start of the trail from the road goes steeply uphill where i had to walk before dropping back down to run alongside the aqueduct again. You could tell this part of the trail with significantly less used that the other way but it was generally in good condition – I could have let a bit of air out of my tyres to get better grip but resisted as i had a fair bit of road and compact gravel to go.
The trail dropped into the Cement Creek Rd and the Redwood Forest car park down a mixed gravel and bitumen road before coming out on the Main Road into Warburton. Rather than riding all the way down the main road i rode headed down the parallel Riverside road into Warby straight to the bakery to get a pie and muffin for a much needed lunch.
The final part of the ride was just back down the Warby trail to Lilydale Lake and back home.
150km, 2100m climbing and 5500 kcal later i made it home and could have a beer on the balcony looking over the hills where i had ridden from! Overall the great fun ride through some lovely scenery which i will certainly do again. For once i also got my nutrition right and didn’t feel like i was struggling at any point or in desperate need of some food (by which point it is normally too late to be eating).