Cycle Victoria, Road Ridde, Chiltern Valley Loop
The ride links two interesting, historic towns via quiet back roads through a variety of farmland and forest. It can be a great training ride or a relaxing tour with a half way break to explore historic Chiltern. The combination of scenery, history, gourmet and vineyard outlets with an enjoyable ride experience make this ride broadly appealing. The choice of road or trail rides originating in Rutherglen would make it an ideal base for a holiday with a cycling component.
The original white settlement of Rutherglen was established to service the local squatters, but it was the discovery of gold in the 1850s that really caused rapid growth with a population of around 20, 000 in the 1860s and 21 hotels in the town (always a good indicator of the wealth of Australian towns in those early years). Vineyards were also planted during this time and by 1890 Rutherglen was producing a quarter of Australia’s wine. The vineyards and associated gourmet outlets now form the basis for the town’s burgeoning tourist industry.
As you ride down the Chiltern Valley Road away from Rutherglen you will see a rather plain cairn commemorating the passage of explorer Major Mitchell through the area on his 1835 – 1836 expedition. He went on to open up large areas of land for agriculture throughout Victoria.
The roads continue to be fairly flat until you reach Chiltern. Chiltern’s history is also based in the gold discoveries of the 1850s and the legacy is the number of fine old buildings in the town and a lake caused by mine subsidence which now provides a picnic area. Chiltern must have been a smaller town than Rutherglen as it only had about 12 hotels. Small beer! Gold continued to turn a profit until the early 1900s when the last mine was abandoned. When you leave Chiltern you ride through the rolling hills of the Chiltern Mt Pilot National Park which was set up to protect the box ironbark forest habitat. The National Park contains a network of unsealed roads some of which lend themselves to mountain bike riding. Details can be found on the Parks Victoria website.
After passing through the park you ride back into farmland and gradually leave the rolling hills behind. One point of interest about 14km past Chiltern is Mt Ophir homestead on a hill to the left. This is now a B&B and vineyard, but at its peak was the largest production vineyard in the southern hemisphere. Ride back into Rutherglen and feel that you have now earned the right to indulge in one or more of Parker’s gourmet pies. The visitors centre in the Rutherglen Wine Experience has information on local accommodation and attractions.
Rutherglen, where this loop begins, is on the Murray Valley Highway at RACV VicRoads State Directory map reference 34 J2. The ride starts at the Rutherglen Wine Experience on the main roundabout at the edge of the town centre.
Food and Drink
There is food and drink available at the start point and several options in Rutherglen main street, including award winning Parker’s Pies if you need extra ballast. Half way through the ride you travel through Chiltern where there are also several options including a bakery in the main street.
Ride the sealed trail to Wahgunyah (see Ride 3) or enquire at the information centre at the start point about other road loops from Rutherglen which range from a good hill workout to one that seems to be a winery equivalent of a pub crawl. Best put the training wheels on for this one.
39.566 km / 24.585 mi
288 m / 944 ft
266 m / 872 ft