Over the last couple of years most of my riding seems to have been on long day rides. Parenting and work pressures make riding opportunities sporadic, so when I get a free day I try to make the most of it. Coupled with being a bit burnt out on bike parks that are high on thrills but low on adventure, an aversion to riding with cars, and a love of routes and maps, the roads and trails less travelled on Canberra’s doorstep are a constant draw.
There’s plenty of variety for long day rides nearby, whether you want big mountain climbs in the Brindabellas, flat gravel to the north, and a whole lot in between. I’m always thinking and planning the ‘next ride’ though, wondering what can add to the ride to make a memorable day of it. At some point I had the idea of making some quality local food a feature of the day, stopping off somewhere for a proper sit down meal, and maybe even a glass of rejuvenating wine or two.
Talking about this with a regular co-rider Matt, an accomplished food professional, he told me about the Chris King Gourmet Century, a deliciously catered 100km ride that he did in Oregon years ago. I also remembered the Murrumbateman Moving Feast, where a number of the wineries put on a set menu and a glass of their wine for $25. You go around to as many or as few as you’d like. It’s a great day out, and sometimes a bus is required to get home..
The Tasty 90
Plans started to take shape for an organised ride from Canberra, around the Murrumbateman wineries on a set route of singletrack, gravel, and some unavoidable bitumen. There’d be a stop for food and beverage every 20 or 30km, and the food would be rider friendly – meaning ready to go to avoid cooling down, calorie friendly for riders, and above all else, tasty!
When we started reaching out to venues, it became pretty clear that Covid was having a larger impact than we realised. At that point Canberra had been in a bit of Covid free bubble without any restrictions, but NSW was a different story and we found that most of the wineries were closed to the public. We didn’t have a crystal ball, but there was a bit of a feeling that we should probably do a test ride while we still could.
Working with the venues that were open, we planned for the 7th of August, around a 90km loop with a stop for brunch and another for lunch. The Tasty 90.
Brunch & Lunch
There were 6 of us starting from Hall and we did 10km of the Northern Centenary Trail singletrack before jumping onto some primo gravel and working our way around to our first stop at Poachers Pantry for coffee and pastries. On arrival we were a little shocked and embarrassed not to have a mandatory mask, but they offered us some which we humbly accepted. Little did we realise how soon masks would be mandatory back home! Poachers is a special place no matter how you get there, and if we simply had their normal breakfast and then turned for home it would have been a great ride.
After lingering a little long warming up in the sun, we saddled back up and headed down Nanima road to the Barton Highway, which is one of my least favourite roads to ride along. Fortunately we only had about 50m of the highway before jumping onto Rolfe road, then working our way around on to Dog Trap road which was in excellent condition. I rode Dog Trap back in May and the road was terrible, so it was a welcome surprise and we could enjoy the rolling hills and vistas. It was excellent.
Leonie from Olleyville at Shaw Vineyard Estate was very welcoming and we had a great lunch. Truffle pizza and a glass or two of Merlot mid ride? Yes please! It was very tempting to stay a little longer, but bikes don’t pedal themselves.
There weren’t many options for getting back to Hall other than some bitumen, so we put up with a few cars and made some quick km’s before the wine buzz wore off. Eventually we got to Spring Range road and backtracked our route from the morning, finishing up on the Centenary trail again, with the long descent from One Tree Hill into Hall followed by a couple of beers. Hard to have a better finish to a ride.
I had a great day on the bike, and everyone else seemed to as well. Mixing up some riding with gourmet food certainly hit the spot for me, and I think it would for others as well. Unfortunately, a few days after the ride Canberra had it’s first Covid case, and into lockdown we went, and at this point remain. Not long after regional NSW followed, and the Murrumbateman Moving Feast cancelled the other day too, so there is little chance of organising another ride like this with multiple stops for the foreseeable future.
Lockdown won’t last forever though, but we’re glad we got our test ride in when we did!