Bella rides the Snowy Mountains
- by Bella Molloy
- Published: 16 February 2012
Tell people you ride in the Snowy Mountains and most people picture long climbs and steep gradients like the road to Charlotte Pass or Dead Horse Gap. My favourite rides follow gently rolling roads with the mountains being used as picturesque backdrops. The ride along Eucumbeneand Rocky Plains Road has been affectionately named (by me) the ‘home run’ and it can be tailored to be any sort of ride I like. For those occasions when I don’t have a lot of time, I can head out for a quick 30km jaunt, or if I’m feeling more adventurous I can tweak the route so it includes loads of challenging terrain.
The adaptability of my favourite ride has also been a great way for me to measure my fitness. There are many markers along the way, the school-house, the old church, the trout farm, ‘Horse-Dog Hill’ and even Eucumbene Dam. Each of these markers started out as landmark goals for me to reach when I first started riding in the area a few years ago. Steadily I’ve been able to ride and surpass each and every one.
I can still remember my first ride though and how chuffed I was at managing to ride a princely 16kms. That has gradually built up over time to riding distances upwards of 100kms and this, in a nutshell, is why I love riding my bike! You can see the progression you are making with each and every ride. Sure, I have my ‘off’ days where every turn of the pedal feels like I’m just not getting on top of my gears, but they are far outnumbered by the days I have where everything is running effortlessly.
The other thing I love about riding here in the Snowies is the traffic – or lack thereof. It really does feel like the whole road was purpose-built just for me to pedal my bike on. It’s very rare that you meet a car on this route, and when you do it’s generally old farmer Bob moving from one paddock to another and he always greets me with a friendly wave.
Of course there are other sorts of traffic that you are more likely to meet on the road rather than cars and that is wildlife. Sheep, cattle, kangaroos, echidnas, lizards and sometimes even the odd ‘Joe Blake’ (snake) in summer. Snakes aside there is always something inspiring about spotting a Wedgetail Eagle or two soaring along with you or listening to the bullfrogs which have called one of the numerous roadside creeks home, it gives you that feeling that you are alive!
The weather in the Snowies changes constantly, you might say it’s a bit like Melbourne; four seasons in one day. It’s amazing how many times I’ve headed out on a sunny still day only to return back home in sleeting rain and gale force winds. Let me tell you, when the wind blows in the mountains it blows and nothing is worse than going for a ride just to be buffeted by strong gale forced headwinds. Unfortunately on my home run I know this feeling all too well. But riding in headwinds only makes us stronger; there is nothing more exhilarating than hitting speeds of 60kms on the relative flat when you are being helped by a very strong tailwind!
As the season changes so does the scenery on my favourite ride. In summer, it’s hot and the burnt off paddocks are set off brilliantly with imposing storm clouds. Autumn brings a touch of colour to the trees and you can feel a brisk crispness in the air. In winter, it’s not uncommon for the creeks on the side of the road to be iced over and the landscape is magically transformed into a kingdom of frosty ice with views of the snow-capped mountain vistas in the distance.
Spring is my favourite time to ride. The grass is green, the temperature is that little bit warmer and you can hear and see the newborn calves and lambs in the paddocks. Riding through this countryside with the mountainous backdrop in the distance, there is nothing better.
Having this ‘home run’ so close to home did spoil me though. Daunted by the prospect of riding uphill for 7kms (with an altitude gain of 300metres) for years I would put the bike in the car and drive to the top before getting out and riding on this relatively flat terrain. Thankfully after some dedicated months of persistence I can now say I’ve conquered the beast of a climb which is Kalkite Hill.
Kalkite Hill… just the mention of it makes me shudder. For years it taunted me and for years I convinced myself I wasn’t fit enough to even dream of riding up there. I could see its steep terrain, winding slowly upwards from my house but I daren’t head that way on my bike. Hey I was too fat to climb and fat girls don’t ride up hills right? Pffft, I’ve blasted that attitude out of the water. It took me a few months, 12 kgs of weight loss, many wintery commutes and lots of indoor trainer sessions (thankyou The Sufferfest) but now this girl rides up steep hills!
It was a challenge the first time I rode up that steep terrain. It took me just a shade over 24 minutes and trust me I felt each and every pedal stroke. Seeing the gradient on my trip computer read 15% whilst I still had a fair few kms to climb wasn’t pleasant, but the feeling of elation once I got to the top was amazing! Yes, I even let out a little girly cheer! I’ve done some amazing things in 2011, I swore off potato crisps as a New Years resolution, lost 12kgs, heck I even got married on a Glacier in New Zealand and now I can also add cycling up Kalkite Hill to that list of achievements. That climb has been my nemesis for years but gladly no longer! The last time I rode it I even shaved off 2 whole minutes. Getting up there in 20 minutes flat would be a challenge indeed but I’m sure with time I’ll do that too.
If you ever venture down to the Snowies for some riding and see a girl grinning from ear to ear then it’s probably me. I may have just suffered like a dog getting up a beast of a climb or I might just be taking it easy on my home ride. Rest assured I’ll be smiling – even in a strong headwind – because at the end of the day I ride my bike because I absolutely love it, and there’s nothing I love more than riding my bike in The Snowies!
This article appeared on SheRides Cycling and we are kindly allowed to republish it on Bicycles Network Australia.