Written by Rick
Disclaimer: The writer wishes to point out that he is compiling this blog from his memory of a ride that happened many months prior. Accordingly, the accounts of some of the events you are about to read about may not be entirely accurate. In fact, despite some pictorial evidence, there are no guarantees that any of this stuff happened at all. Probably best not to dwell on that, just sit back and enjoy the read.
Anyhoo, It all began one Saturday in April…
There we were, two intrepid Adventure Gangers, Simon and yours truly, about to embark on what was a to be an epic day of cycling and eating. After catching a train to Lilydale we mounted our trusty steeds and began the Warburton Rail Trail. The Lilydale to Warburton rail trail is a lazy 40km long meaning the return trip is a not-so-lazy 80km. The surface is pretty good, consisting mainly of hard packed fine gravel which poses no problems for hybrids, mountain bikes, and tourers. Experienced riders on roadies with tyres 28 or wider should also do alright when its dry. The O’Shannassey Aqueduct trail is an entirely different matter… more on that later.
On this day the rail trail was fine despite recent rain, and Simon and I smashed the climb out of Liydale in a fashion not unlike the top factory riders in the Tour de France. We were about 15-20kph slower but, without direct comparisons, onlookers would have been hard-pressed to tell the difference. After riding for about half an hour and covering a distance of 25-35km, give or take, we decided to stop and take some photos. As luck would have it, some chatty and very helpful locals agreed to take some photos of us for this blog. Lovely.
We also came across a friendly horse in a near by field who turned out to be most helpful.
Alas it was soon time for us to leave our new friends and continue on our quest for cycling immortality, or at the very least, make it to Warburton in time for lunch. The scenery was beautiful as always. Actually I can’t back that up as by this time we were so deeply immersed in our Tour de France fantasy that we didn’t have time to look around. We were on a mission plain and simple and before we knew it we were rolling into Warburton and the aptly named Cog Bike Café.
Now there are many places to find food in Warby but the Cog is not a bad choice. For starters they have ace muffins, coffee, and lots of good fare for omnivores and herbivores. Also, they are owned and run by cyclists who have a fully equipped workshop so you can have your bike repaired or even decked out with the latest Shimano Dura Ace Di2 group set for the ride home. Nice. You can also hire bikes from them.
Yes we ate hearty and sat around enjoying the autumn sunshine. We sipped warm beverages and swapped manly stories, blissfully ignorant of the unbridled hell that lay before us. But that was to come later. For now we ate and drank but, like famished hobbits, we craved for more. Fortunately, we had to pass a bakery on our travels. We stopped there and ate some more. I didn’t take any photos this time because by that stage I was kind of embarrassed.
About three hours and at least 15 kilos after arriving in Warburton we moved on to the next phase of our adventure, the O’Shannassy Aqueduct Trail. I’d only ever heard of this trail before, whispered in hushed tones by broken mountain bike riders staring at the bar room floor and crying into their red bull and vodka. It couldn’t be that bad I figured. After all, water does flow downhill right?
The climb to access the O’Shan out of Warby is steep. Hellishly steep. Really, really bloody steep. The good news is it’s on sealed tarmac and is short in distance. I can’t remember the name of the road we took (might have been Yuonga), but if you look on Google Maps the climb is only about 1km or so in length. Once at the top you are met with the shady splendour of the O’Shan Aqueduct Trail. The track surface was muddy after the recent rain but it was still do-able on hybrids. Mountain bikes would do it easy but roadies most definitely not recommended here.
For the most part, riding on the O’Shan is easy: The track surface is pretty smooth and the trail is mostly a gentle descent from Warby back towards Lilydale. Be careful in the winter though because the trail doesn’t drain all that well and we found it to be very muddy in places. Simon made the comment that there were a few potentially good camping spots and there are many large flat grassy areas that look suitable for a tent or two. There are also some good views to take in. Whereas the Warby trail exists in the low lands, the O’Shan takes the high road along the hills offering some stunning glimpses of the valley down below. We have since heard that the O’Shan is renowned for snakes in the summer though, so take it easy during those months!
Much of the original (no longer used) aqueduct is visible on the trail including some big rusty gate valves that must have been used to regulate the flow of water. Surprisingly though, we came upon a couple of very steep descents and climbs which seemed to defy all logic. Water can’t go up a dirty big hill like that can it? I was beginning to think this aqueduct was the work of some evil wizard. Months later a person with an engineering bent (you know who you are) suggested that the trail simply doesn’t follow the exact course of the aqueduct. Well I don’t know about that, I still think it’s the work of wizards. In any case these descents and climbs are pretty tough. These parts are few in number and they are short, but they are spitefully steep, and the surface varies from sharp rocks to smooth, muddy grass. There is no shame in walking your bike up or down these sections. Overall though, I like this trail. It is trickier than the Warby rail trail and definitely makes you work harder in places, but it is well worth it. As the sun lowered in the western sky we came to the end of the O’Shannassy Aqueduct Trail.
We celebrated hard at the end of the O’Shan. We were elated, we’d done it. We showed that trail who was boss! Unfortunately though, the reality that we were still nearly 30kms from Lilydale soon hit us hard. Double Shit!! I hate premature celebrations.
No time for sulking, we had to hustle for twilight was fast approaching. The chicken that was our 3+ hour lunch stop had come home to roost. There was nothing for it, time to go back into Tour de France mode. Fucking Yeah!!! We had a short (less than 10km ish) road section to get back to the Warby trail so away we went. We rode hard and before long we were back on the familiar gravel of the rail trail. We had one climb to go, Mount Evelyn. If you are cycling the return trip then this is the hardest part. Not really steep, but it’s long and you’ve already done 60 or more kms so you definitely notice the effort. Simon rode like a champ and before we knew it we had scaled the angry hill and were enjoying our prize: The glorious descent into Lilydale. Yeehaaaa, this bit of downhill is the icing on the cake. It never gets old. I love it.
And so ended our mighty Warburton/O’Shannassy cycling adventure. This time we had really finished. Having already expended our celebratory energy earlier in the day we didn’t say much. We quietly boarded our shiny metro liner at Lilydale station and headed for home, well satisfied after an epic day of cycling and eating. My thanks to Simon for an excellent day.
Ride on folks
Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail
Total Ascending: 320m
Total Descending: 270m
Total Distance: 40km