During the last school holidays I took Ash up on his exceptionally generous offer of accommodation and a lengthy MTB ride in the Blue Mountains. Despite a disastrous family journey with a seemingly faulty sat-nav, we arrived mid evening on Wednesday ready for the adventure the next day.
The house was amazing. Beautiful architects dream from the 70’s with equal parts wood and simple construction. It was a delightfully warm and welcoming place to base ourselves for a couple of days with kids in both families stoked for the extra company. Many thanks to Ash and his family for their generous hospitality.
The next day, we garnered our strength from a hearty porridge breakfast and hit the road towards Bilpin. This included a very bumpy long descent and offered the chance to test out the Fu 29er on some new terrain at speed – cos Ash wasn’t holding back. Sadly, it was at this point that I found out that hydraulic fluid had been leaking out of the hydraulically operated lockout and the fork was, essentially, permanently locked out. Not good for me or the forks, but soldier on.
Plenty of mud greeted us with a few points where passing large puddles entailed coming closer to steep ravines than my experience felt comfortable with. In Bilpin, we cleaned drivetrain and continued on along the 15 odd kms of bitumen before arriving at the National Park and its smooth, wide dirt roads. The next 20kms or so were mainly downhill, which struck me, periodically, as slightly daunting as this was the return route as well, and was, in no uncertain terms, a very long climb. We arrived in Colo a few kms short of our required 50 km leg and needed to find some extra mileage to make it a neat 100km return so we headed up the Colo river in search of a nice spot by the river to relax. A few kms and a couple of gates later, we gave up and headed back towards Colo where we stopped, at the church, for some lunch.
The return leg was tough. An initial steep climb of a few kilometres yielded some spectacular hairpin bends only otherwise seen on viewing the TdF, as well as some incredible views over the steep valley. I was nursing a cold and was unsure how hard to push to leave me some juice in the tank for the final assault from Bilpin to Mt Irvine. Some of the fire trail was up to about 20% and unrelenting, with not even a decent flat or downhill to rest the legs. We arrived at Bilpin sore and in need of fuel and stopped at the service station to replenish.
The final leg was, for me, most memorable. Once we left Bells Line of Road (finally), we encountered an increasingly bumpy and harsh descent littered with ruts and pools, and large rock outcrops, leaving finding a line challenging at speed. Then the final ascent. Much the same, as the descent, but with fantastic hairpins and steep sections surrounded by gorgeous scenery. Thankfully, my conservative approach to the mid section afforded me the opportunity to let loose coming home.
Shortly after, Ash and I came through the bottom gate and headed up, victorious and tired, to our slightly frustrated, but endlessly patient and generous families in time to prepare dinner and relax. If you ever get the opportunity, join up with Ash. This is a great odyssey worthy of fighting with sat-nav for hours for.