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E-Bikes made it possible to explore over 500 kms in ten rides

Last month 25 Illawarra Ramblers took a sixteen day trip through Victoria's rail trails. Electric bikes were a popular choice as the pedal assist allowed riders to take on much longer and, more interesting rides.

Ride leaders are a crucial part of any successful trip. One of the members Jill Hawkes, did an outstanding job organising and leading the trip.  It made it very easy for the rest of the group !

'Move camp days' were reduced by frequent direction changes

Local caravan parks provided comfortable accommodation and great access to the trails. Members usually stayed at the caravan park, near a rail trail and rode out along the trail, then back to the camp in the afternoon.  Riding in opposite directions on alternate days created efficiency, reducing the number of  “move camp days.”

Riders traversed along a huge loop to south east Victoria.  Starting on the Great Victorian rail, then on to the Warburton trail, down to Bass Coast and the Great Southern rail trail.  Finally, up to the East Gippsland rail trail.  Altogether, a total of over 500km, in 10 rides.

Out of the mist - Mansfield (Credit: Denise Aubourg)

Five different rail trails

Exploring five different rail trails meant that the group could experience the pleasure of riding through a great variety of landscapes from high country to rain forest to coastal scrub, almost always, well away from any roads.

"To me, this is like bush walking through beautiful countryside, but with the advantage of gliding along on a bike.  Glorious!," Peter Aubourg, member, Illawarra Ramblers.

Cheviot Tunnel - Great Victorian RT (Credit: Sam Garrett-Jones)

Unexpected sight

Starting in the high country at the northern end of the Great Victorian Rail Trail and moving slowly as the cold weather advanced, Peter described an unexpected sight,

"Near Mansfield, the cyclist some distance in front of me, had stopped his bike and was frantically waving us down to stop.   Just a few meters past his spectacular full depth skid mark, was a tiger snake.  It eyed us off, but did not move.  After a full minute or so, it slowly slithered off into the grass. Even coming across a sleepy tiger snake is still a bit exciting."

 O'Shannassy Aquaduct Trail Warburton (Credit: Denise Aubourg)

Yea, Cheviot Tunnel, Alexandra, Warburton and Seville!

Next was the track to Yea, including the Cheviot Tunnel.  "Many of the bike lights were not bright enough but most people did remember to take off their sunglasses! " said Peter.  At Yea, vans had been organised to take the group back to their campground at Alexandra.

Then, on to Warburton where they did a flattish ride along the Yarra valley ending up at Seville.  A great lunch was enjoyed at the Carriage Café’ Seville before retracing the tracks back to camp.

Fish Creek Teapots (Credit: Martin Whitcher)

O’Shannassy’s Aqueduct Trail, Phillip Island and Great Southern Rail Trail

"The next day was definitely one of the highlights," according to Peter.

Along O’Shannassy’s Aqueduct Trail which wound around the hillside next to the aqueduct that used to be part of Melbourne’s water supply back from the early 1900’s right up to the 1996.  A fantastic ride through beautiful lush forest in the mist.  Later that day cyclists went down the hill to a redwood forest planted in the 1930’s.  "They are BIG trees!" exclaimed Aubourg.

On to the coast, where the group stayed on Phillip Island.  A great place to launch off along the Bass Coast rail trail, winding along the sea side.  Another big change in scenery.

Next day a ride along a new extension to the Great Southern Rail Trail from Loch, winding around some hilly country.

On the trail (Credit: Denise Aubourg)

The manual bikes were slip streaming the ebikes just to make headway

Peter described the mood and sequence of events after moving camp to Foster and as riders set out the next day along the Port Welshpool Pathway.

"Now up until this point we had not had rain, but today some rain and strong wind was forecast.  We were not deterred.

On the way out we had just a few spits of rain and a strong tail wind, which made us feel very strong.  We are talking Tour de France powerful.

After cycling out along an amazing 800m curved jetty at Port Welshpool, we turned back into the wind, which had become stronger.  Our bravado rapidly dissipated.  Half way back the rain started…. horizontal rain!  The manual bikes were slip streaming the ebikes just to make headway.  Twenty minutes later the rain stopped.  Hot showers back at the camp ground were very welcome that day!"

A warm place out of the wind at Port Welshpool (Credit: Denise Aubourg)

A great finale to a fantastic biking holiday

Thankfully the next day, the weather was fine with only a gentle wind, as participants went the other way on the trail.  Described by many as a beautiful ride and great views down across the dairy country to Bass Strait with a fantastic bakery at Meeniyan for lunch.

The next ride was from Bruthen to Bairnsdale along the East Gippsland Rail Trail.  A cruisy ride and pushing to near 70km the round trip.  However, there was a long section that was paved.  A rare treat.

The final ride was to Nowa Nowa where a huge trestle bridge from the railway was still standing.  A great finale to a fantastic holiday, riding in such a variety of places.

2024 Vic Rail Trails Route Map

Ridewithgps Access links to the 10 rides

For those interested in the actual routes that Illawarra Ramblers took, they have put links to the 10 rides below.  Ctrl-Click on the links, will open ridewithgps files.  Only one direction of the rides was recorded for clarity.

Mansfield to Bonnie Doon

Alexandra to Yea

Warburton to Seville

O’Shannassy Aqueduct Trail

Phillip Island to Wonthaggi

Loch to Leongatha

Foster to Port Welshpool

Foster to Meeniyan

Bruthren to Bairnsdale

Bruthren to Nowa Nowa


How many people does it take to change a tube (Credit: Peter Aubourg)

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