Cycle Melbourne, Mountain Bike Ride, The Old Puffers

A non-technical MTB ride beside the historic Castlemaine–Maldon steam train line. Easy gradients, with a couple of track choices: smoother dirt dual track plus sections of optional narrow track. This is an ideal ride if you are new to mountain biking because it is not technical. A more challenging singletrack option runs parallel most of the way. You can also shorten the ride by starting beside the rail line at 2.5km. Maldon is a fascinating location where history comes alive.

This is a real hoot! Ride one way and enjoy the steam train for the return trip. Bikes are welcome on board, the train ride is great fun and the bike ride can be enjoyed by riders of all ability levels. If you are keen you can race the steam train as it puffs and wheezes. The train drivers love to see cyclists giving them a challenge and will probably give you a loud whistle.

You will need a mountain bike for this ride to handle the track conditions, because it is not a smooth surfaced rail trail. There are a few gullies and small hills for riders which the train avoids as it steams over beautiful old timber bridges. If you are racing the train, this is where it has an advantage but when it comes to a small uphill section you hear the rhythm slow to “I think I can...” and you speed ahead.

Maldon, your destination, is a fascinating town, well worth an extended visit. It is the best preserved town from the gold mining era in Victoria with many historical buildings and a charming streetscape. If you ride back to Castlemaine, the route is the same as the outbound ride so navigation is easy.

Train details: Victorian Goldfields Railway runs every Wednesday and Sunday.

Access

By car: Castlemaine is an easy one and a half hours or 120 kilometres northwest of Melbourne via the Calder Freeway. (Melway X909 D6.) Take the Castlemaine turn off and when you reach town go to the car park in Forest Street, at the rear of the information centre. This is the start for most of our rides in Castlemaine. Set your bike computer to zero at the edge of the car park, near the footpath.

Parking here is limited, however, there is plenty of free parking nearby, beside the tennis courts in Wheeler Street (turn right at the closest roundabout).

By train: A fast and comfortable train service from Melbourne takes around an hour and a half from Southern Cross station. Bikes can be taken on the train but if travelling in a group you will need to confirm space is available by ringing V/Line on 136 196 or (03) 8608 5011.

Food and Drink

Plenty of options at the start. The car park services the local supermarket; green-grocer with deli-goods and fresh bread also near the info centre. A great cycle- friendly café is the Theatre Royal, next door to bike shop, in Hargraves Street, one block from the start. At Maldon there are many choices for refreshments also.

Side Trip

Allow plenty of time to explore the historic towns of Castlemaine and Maldon. The Castlemaine information centre has a wealth of fascinating historical and tourist information, staffed by generous locals happy to share their knowledge.

Ride Log

  • 0.0 Leave car park and turn right onto Forest St, cross the intersection and proceed straight ahead uphill.
  • 0.7 Turn left at Bowden St.
  • 1.1 Turn right at Farnsworth St, then veer left onto Brown St and continue to the end.
  • 2.5 At the end of Brown St (Nolan St) turn right onto the track beside the rail line.
  • 3.1 Turn left under the bridge and continue straight ahead on the singletrack beside the rail line , or use the smoother double track further to the left.
  • 4.5 Turn right onto the gravel road.
  • 5.2 Cross the rail line and keep going a short distance.
  • 5.4 Turn left opposite the train sign, then pass under the bridge and keep going ahead.
  • 5.9 Veer right and follow the track beside the rail line.
  • 6.5 Ignore side tracks.
  • 9.3 Cross the sealed road and continue straight ahead, passing Muckleford station on your right.
  • 10.1 Cross the rail track and continue on the right hand side of the line. At the next rail crossing, go to the left hand side if you want the smoothest track. Staying on the right after this point takes you past a very large mullock heap and some old mines. The track is marginally rougher before you eventually cross to the other side.
  • 11.6 Cross to the left hand side of the track and continue. The track ends at a sealed road, Hornsby St. Continue straight ahead and follow as it becomes gravel.
  • 17.6 Maldon station. The town is a short distance ahead to the left.
  • 18.3 Maldon township.
  • Trail map

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    18.081 km / 11.235 mi

    Total Distance

    372 m / 1,222 ft

    Total Ascent

    299 m / 982 ft

    Total Descent

    365 m / 1,198 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Difficulty: Beginner (Green)
    Ride Duration: <1 hr
    Fitness Level: Low
    MTB Segment: flow
    Terrain:
    Shared Bike Path - Paved
    Shared Bike Path - Dirt
    On-Road Bike Lane
    On-Road
    Off-Road - Fire Trail
    Off-Road - Rail Trail
    Off-Road - Single Track
    Off-Road - Downhill
    Mobile Coverage: Limited
    Estimated Distance: 18.2
    Elevation Gain: 247
    Services:
    Water
    Food
    First Aid
    Toilets
    Bike hire facilities
    Carparking
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle / uber
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