Cycle Melbourne, Mountain Bike Ride, Dingo
Like most Castlemaine rides you start with a series of short steep hills, just to earn a great return ride! The outbound route of this loop ride is mainly dirt roads and narrow dual tracks. At 5.5km you pass the dingo farm before weaving through isolated trails and singletrack. Along the way you encounter a series of gullies with natural drop offs to play on. Further along, you see the brilliant coloured shale and rocky outcrops that are a distinctive feature of these goldfields.
Soon after the start we use Poverty Gully Reservoir Track to get to Dingo Park Road. This is quite hilly but not as technical as the adjacent track beside the water race so if you do not have great technical skills you will still be able to enjoy this terrific little ride. If you have the skills, use the water race and pick up the route from Dingo Park Road.
Nearly all the climbing is done early, then there’s a nice variety of tracks to enjoy. Narrow double tracks pass gold diggings and eroded gullies. Depending on the time of year, you can expect wildflowers, heaps of birdlife and brilliantly coloured shale.
You need to focus on directions the first time you do this ride as a couple of turns are indistinct. When you know the route you can enjoy the flow, especially along the final singletrack sections.
There is so much variety in this ride it can feel much longer than it is, and it works really well to ride in a group with different abilities. When I ran my MTB business we often used this course. If your companions have limited off-road experience, you can help them along the way and soon have them hooked on mountain biking!
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 cycle-friendly café is the Theatre Royal, next door to bike shop, in Hargraves Street just to the left of the roundabout.
The dingo farm is not open to the public but you can usually see them through the wire fence. They are very beautiful animals and look very placid in this environment. The enterprise was started by an enthusiast trying to maintain pure breeding stock.
22.996 km / 14.289 mi
351 m / 1,150 ft
419 m / 1,375 ft