I brought my new MTB Steed – the VTT – with us on our recent camping trip to Patonga to let it rip properly for the first time. I was very much looking forward to seeing how it would handle and to get it properly dirty. The first long ride I had on it was on the road, and I realised that I had the seat up too high, almost the same position as what I had for my Road Steed. So I made a few minor adjustments to the bike before setting out. To get to Patonga we had to drive through the Brisbane Water National Park. Coming in on the road from Umina Beach and rounding the corner of Broken Bay we went steeply up to the ridge line in the national park. I could tell just from the gearing in the car that I would be climbing – a lot. I marked the area that I was to explore for the first time on the park map below.
Day One of Riding
The first day I set out after pitching up our tent. I didn’t realise how late it was when I set out, but it was after 17:30 and we were in the last week of daylight savings for the South Eastern coast of Australia. This would prove to be a daylight miscalculation on my part. I decided to pack my trusty new Canon Powershot G15 in the back pocket and chuck on the front and rear mud guards too. I knew it was going to be steep before I reached the trail, but not 1.6km at over 8% gradient – with some parts hitting over 14%. That was with less than 2km of warmup in the legs and lungs. I suppose this was the test for how well the new MTB Steed would climb. It performed impressively up the climbs, and the Shimano XT shifters did their job very well. It’s no mountain goat going up inclines (it definitely felt it heavier than my former hardtail XC bike), but with its short wheelbase for a dual suspension bike it is was at least a mountain lion. Once again, the bike is better than the engine (me) – for the moment! By the time I had hit the entrance to the trail, the sun was descending rapidly towards the horizon.
It had rained most of that first day and the trails were puddled and damp. There was running water across every one of the firetrail water breaks, which meant getting dirty at every crossing. The mud guards would come into their own and did their job well, but it was still fun hitting the water at speed with the spray going everywhere. What I wasn’t so sure of was how well the new Maxxis Ikon tyres would hold, particularly in the loose but wet conditions. But the wheels and tyres have turned out to be quite solid, quickly regripping after my back wheel slid out and very sure footed.
I realised from the GPS that I would run out of light before hitting Pearl Beach. So with the light fading I decided to take in the beauty of the National Park and capture a few shots of the surroundings. The views from this trail are beautiful and there are many natural features of large sandstone blocks, waterfalls, and running streams through the bush shrub.
Even with a bit of mud, my new velo looks cool!
Daylight very quickly disappeared as I turned around to head back to the campsite, and what greeted me at dusk were some of the locals. I saw two wallabies go across the trail, both in front and behind me. There was a superb lyrebird running around strutting its stuff when I got to the valley. And finally a couple of hundred metres into my return journey a grey kangaroo bounded across the trail and disappeared into the native shrub before I could get my eyes on it again. There was absolutely no chance of me snapping these animals in what was very near darkness.
The scariest part of the ride though was not the return on the trail, but the descent back to the campsite down that incline that I rode up at the start. The miscalculation was that I forgot to chuck on a set of lights, thinking I would be riding in daylight. I was bombing it down the descent in pitch black darkness on a slippery road – and it was exhilirating (if not entirely stupid)! I decided immediately after I hit camp that I would return for a second run the next day.
Day Two of Riding
The next day was much brighter and drier. I set out a good hour and a bit earlier for this run, determined to reach Pearl Beach. I did a couple of warmup laps of Patonga village before hitting the climb out, which proved to be a good idea. The view from the ridge line on the trail was awesome as I was able to get my eyes off the path this time with it not being so wet.
I was determined to get to Pearl Beach for this trip, and was duly rewarded with some spectacular rock and waterfall features.
Finishing up at Pearl Beach was when I found the Crommelin Native Arboretum. I also got the chance to get some views in of the Northern Head of the Hawkesbury River from the Paul Landa Reserve, where you can also see across to Barrenjoey Head and the back end of Palm Beach.
Descending down to Pearl Beach meant a trail climb back up to the ridge line for the same Patonga descent that I rode in darkness the day before. But at least this time it was dry and I could gather up a bit of speed to enjoy the drop in.
I mapped out the trails I rode below on the map in solid lines, with the first day getting only halfway to Pearl Beach. Next time I ride here, and there will be a next time because camping at Patonga is fun, I want to explore the trails on the Northern side of Patonga Drive (marked out as dotted lines). These look like a bit more climbing to get to the trail, but a longer trail as the reward. Next time I will also bring a few riding buddies with me to get dirty.
I want to thank my wife for letting me hit the trails on the second day – which also happened to be our 5th wedding anniversary. What can I say, she is awesome and I love her to bits.