Cycle Melbourne, Mountain Bike Ride, Castlemaine To Daylesford
This is an epic ride, a journey through history, an adventure, always a good challenge and a lot of fun. The riding is a fantastic mix of experiences – with great slabs of singletrack, short climbs and descents, rocky sections, narrow passages, as you traverse historic ruins and native bush. This is not an easy jaunt in a park; it requires fitness, some technical skills and good preparation.
Soon after the start you ride along the top of old water race walls, sometimes only slightly wider than your tyres. With confidence and a little speed this section is great fun. A short fire trail section then leads you to a fast flowing ride to Spring Gully with its amazing ruins from the gold era. Throughout much of the ride you will see remains of old diggings, and plenty of mine shaft ruins.
Further into the ride there are short climbs and descents, rocky sections and narrow passages between trees. There is a short diversion around Vaughan Springs due to flood damage and some fragile areas off limits to bikes.
Closer to Daylesford the views open up as you emerge from the forest and Mount Franklin is quite a sight. There is a faster fire track run before you drop down to Hepburn Spa for some mineral water prior to the final uphill to Daylesford.
This has traditionally been a walking track and established by the local community. Please stop/give way if you meet a walker, have a chat and share the experience. The ride passes through some significant historical ruins that need to be treated with care.
You will need to prepare well for this journey. Start early and allow plenty of time as even without stopping to explore, you will need between 4 - 5 hours, or even longer as trail conditions vary. You must be self sufficient with food and water. Make sure you have a good range of basic bike tools and know how to use them. A chain breaker is especially important in case you experience derailleur damage.
Mobile phone cover is limited and the likelihood of meeting someone on the isolated parts of the trail is unlikely. Having ridden this ten times, I have never met anyone along the way until reaching Hepburn Spa.
There are a couple of ways to plan this trip. Ride to Daylesford and stay overnight then do the ride back to Castlemaine the next day. You can organise a car lift back, or ride the 37km to Castlemaine on the road. If you want the big challenge you can always do the return trip on the same day on the Goldfields Track. I have done this once and it is a big day!
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 and finish. 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 Comma Hotel is known for good food and local bands. Free mineral water at Vaughan Springs and Hepburn Spa along the way. You need to be self-reliant in between.
Explore Vaughan Springs, Hepburn Spa or numerous historical sites from the gold era along the ride. Allow plenty of time to explore the historic towns of Castlemaine and Daylesford. Drop into the information centre for a wealth of fascinating historical and tourist information, staffed by generous locals happy to share their knowledge. It has interesting displays and is well worth a visit.
The start of this ride is at the edge of the car park in Forest Street, at the rear of the information centre. Set your bike computer to zero at the edge of the car park, near the footpath.
46.437 km / 28.855 mi
1,037 m / 3,403 ft
594 m / 1,948 ft