My cousin and her family live up on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. It is a pretty cool part of the East coast of Australia, with great beaches and natural beauty all around. We try and get up to visit at least once a year, but it has been a couple of years since the last time we came up and saw them (it might have something to do with a certain 2 year old in our house who is occupying our time and plans). Given it was a bank holiday long weekend in Sydney, we have taken the opportunity to come up and visit them – and of course my road steed has come up with me. When we arrived on the Saturday morning, rather than getting my cousin to come and pick all of us up, I reassembled the bike and rode down to their place for a quick 37km hit out. Winter in Queensland is surprisingly warm and I was riding in 25 degree temperatures. In fact I was parched by the time I got to her place having come up from a cold Sydney. But it was the next day’s ride that I was plotting and planning for.

A Ride into the Hinterland

I have been trying to get some climbing into my legs in preparation for the Amy Gillett Gran Fondo coming up next month. It is not easy on my local rides because the hills are short and sharp, but not enough for me to lock in for tens of minutes to put my head down and climb. I had mapped the ride out to upload to my Garmin, but this proved slightly more difficult than anticipated. I think the Garmin Connect route planner isn’t configured correctly for countries that drive on the “correct” side of the road (the left – where us Aussies, Kiwis, Brits, and Japanese all drive). The route basically plotted me riding out on the other side of the carriageway, and a couple of the stretches of road were on big highway sections with large roundabouts. Every time I hit a roundabout, the Garmin was beeping furiously telling me that I was off course only to resume when the road went back to being straight.

I headed away inland (West) from the Sunshine Coast and the Caloundra region. My cousin was warning me about the quality reception that I, as a cyclist, would receive from Queensland drivers. I was pleasantly surprised that I did not experience anything untoward. The thing is for me to understand that if I am a slower “driver” on a bicycle, why impede the cars that are going to overtake me anyway. A couple of times, even though technically I had right of way at an intersection, I chose to wave on the two or three cars that would speed off at 80kph. My destination was a place called Bald Knob which from what I could tell on the map would have a commanding view of the Sunshine Coast should I get up it. The route I mapped out on the Garmin website indicated that the climb would be an average 6.3% gradient – not a walk in the park, but I could manage easily for quite a distance at this incline (hours if I needed to). The reality of the climb turned out to be something different…

I think it was when I saw the sign that said “Caution Steep Ascent Next 2km”.

The road kicked up from 6% to 11-12% gradient and held that incline for… the next 2km. Did I say that I wanted to get some climbing in. It was at this point that I was wondering whether it would have been a good idea to get a 28-12 cassette on the rear wheel from my last service. There were plenty of other wanderings going through my head during this climb that also involved cussing the climb. So when it eased up after those 2km back to the 6% it was previously I was relieved with the respite. That was until there was another sign that read “Caution Steep Ascent Next 1km”. That 1km turned out to be 1.5km and it was back up to the nasty 11-12% gradient again. When I saw another rider bombing it back downhill on the other side of the road, my musings turned to throwing the towel in. But surrender was never going to happen, and I am sure that the cycling gods would have thrown me a flat tyre anyway if that was the path I chose.

I finally got to my turn that would bring me to my loop to come back. I finally decided to take in some food and the view – spectacular. Those are the Glass House Mountains that you can see in the distance.

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Here is another shot that is more towards the North-East, sans velo.

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The ride back was fun, with some gently undulating roads at speed. The best bit was on a super smooth bit of tarmac through a town named Peachester. 45kph through awesome winding roads covered over with dense eucalyptus trees. I wasn’t the only one out to enjoy the roads, there were a bunch of old couples who were out in proper vintage cars who decided that they would all meet up at Peachester for the breakfast.

The other thing I noticed were the funny place names. For non-Australians the traditional aboriginal place names must sound strange, but us Aussies are used to it. Better when you have places called Bald Knob, Sugarbag, Beerburrum, or Beerwah – everyone has to admit that these are just funny names.

I managed to pick up my pace again on the way back and for the 75km I rode, hit over 26kph – not bad for a solo ride and a grinding climb. There was just over 900m climbing in that ride too.

The Backup Ride

I would be lying if I said that my quads were not stinging a bit from the previous days climbing. But you have to back it up. This time I chose to hammer out a quick spin along the Sunshine Coast proper at speed. I only had an hour before I would take up the family stuff which was the real purpose of the trip. Winter in Queensland is awesome, and when in the middle of what is supposed to be the coldest season I get greeted with this – life is good.

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This was taken at a place called Currimundi Lake, which is right on the coast. I can imagine in Summer that this place would be packed with families enjoying themselves in the sand.

A lot of guys and girls ride triathlon around here, but even for a leisurely ride it would be enjoyable. If you want climbing, the Sunshine Coast and Hinterland has it. If you want flat all out speed, there is that too. Good times, and I can’t wait to come back up and explore more of this area on two wheels.