Central West Grand Tour (?)

a note about the photos: The transparencies came out really well, but unfortunately we don't have access to a good 35mm scanner, so please excuse the image quality

Well, this is our excuse...

This was our first attempt at a "tour". We had previously done day rides from a base camp in the upper Hunter with an organised group but never attempted our own ride. Therefore we decided to do it in comfort and stay in motels (yes we're wimps) and the daily distances were such that carrying food and water was not a major problem. We each carried 2 litres of water and each day managed to find some biscuits or bread to take as a snack. A large plastic container full of almonds and dried apricots purchased in Sydney before the ride also added to the snacks at loo and photo stops.

We are painfully aware that many riders could do this trip in two days or even one day, but we decided to take it easy.

Well unfortunately Fran had no choice because her Greenspeed Trike had not yet been completed (due in a few more weeks) so she used her trusty MTB. I however had had my trike for a while and made good use of it on this trip. At the end of each day I had no sore wrists or shoulders and felt reluctant to leave the comfort of my seat. I also had much the best time on the few downhills we encountered. Alas this also meant I had to carry the two panniers full of clothing etc while Fran had the "top box" with the snacks and camera gear.

Because we had prepared and taken a small but complete tool kit, spare inner tubes etc we had not a single mechanical problem. Nor did we succumb to the cyclists' enemy number one - the catheads which if run over can render a tyre useless in seconds! It is for this reason very wise to ride only on roads or gravel and avoid anything which looks like vegetation.

cathead - green

green cathead plant

one advantage of the trike

Cowra to Young

Well, Cowra is famous mainly for the Japanese war cemetry, the Japanese gardens and the huge vineyards, but for Fran it is her birthplace and still home to much of her family.

We started out at around 8:30 and were pleased to be away from traffic and able to ride at our own pace and enjoy the scenery and the fine, though partly cloudy day. The trip to Young is quite pleasantly undulating with no hills to speak of until about 10 km before reaching Young. At this point the hills are quite respectable, but then we knew there was a good reward on the big downhill into town! The country was all in drought, naturally, and looked quite poor as we drew closer to Young.

Judging a town on Good Friday is perhaps unfair, but finding lunch and dinner was quite a problem. All the local cafes were closed and only a few milk bars and KFC seemed to be serving any food to the few locals prepared to be seen in town on this day. Well KFC was out of the question, so fish and chips and hamburgers it was for lunch.

After lunch we relaxed (you may interpret this to mean slept) for a while and then went for a walk to check out the dinner situation. It wasn't good. Luckily we found a pub which at least allowed us a few beers and some chips before closing at 6:00. Oh well, looks like we'll have to eat at the motel.

snack time

Now the motel owners had met us on arrival and spent considerable time discussing with us the pros and cons of my trike. When booking the room a few days earlier I had forewarned them of our unfortunately unorthodox mode of travel, so they seemed to be waiting in the garden to see such mad people arrive. The motel restaurant was shut, but they had a few other patrons that evening and decided to feed us. Best intentions aside the food was not exactly gourmet - but it was a huge meal and this was welcome.

Young proved to be a place we did not particularly care for - but perhaps under different conditions it would be better

Young to Grenfell

After a full breakfast (better quality than dinner) we rushed with great enthusiasm into the first hill of the day - quite a considerable climb out of town, but naturally with some great views from the high points. The weather was perfect and there was almost no traffic.

We knew that this would be our hilly day and this proved to be the case but to our delight it was all pretty easy going - the hills being undulations really and the road following a ridge for much of the way. This provided us with a very scenic trip and we would highly recommend this ride to anyone. The distance is not great either and Grenfell is a beautiful town with, wait for it...bike lanes in all the major streets!

This was a major surprise to us as Grenfell is quite a small town, but obviously enlightened! We arrived at around 11:00am which we guessed (wrongly) would be too early for the motel, but luckily our room had just been serviced and after a long discussion about my trike (how unusual) we packed the bikes and ourselves into the room, showered and raced out in search of food... Lunch at the pub was excellent (possibly assisted by the beers) and again induced a relaxing time during the early afternoon. This was followed by study time - Fran did some maths and I read a music text book (Ok, we're weird, but we like it that way).

In the late afternoon we strolled to the end of town (up the hill) to the old gold diggings and a park now filled with "endemic flora". According to an ex-local we met in the park it was created by a few locals (possibly to hide the electricity station from their view) and is indeed worth a visit. Luckily the old mine shafts nearby have been fenced off, so journeys to the centre of the Earth are less likely.

Dinner was a huge improvement over Friday's effort as we found a small BYO restaurant (the only one in town) which served superb meals. Grenfell had quickly shot to the top of the list as a preferred destination - great roads (yes, a noticeable change occurred at the shire boundary), great food, historic buildings, lots of pubs, a good restaurant, Henry Lawson's birthplace, regular Guinea Pig races, and it seemed people who care about the environment, history and safe cycling!

Grenfell to Forbes

Grenfell Railway Station

We had been told that the two main choices of route were only 2 km different in length and that the longer one was a little more hilly. After seeking further advice the choice seemed to be of no consequence so we took the "main" road, Henry Lawson Way.

A few mild undulations and excellent weather made for a great start to the day. We had some hot cross buns from the Grenfell bakery in our supplies and all was well with the world except...the weather forecast was for rain. Well given the drought conditions we hoped that if it did rain as we arrived in tow we would be credited with breaking the drought!

At the change of shire, about half way to Forbes, the wind began to strengthen and within a few more minutes we were battling a strong head wind. Now the trike has a big advantage here, and even on an upright I have an advantage over Fran because my wind-resistance to weight ratio is much better (translate as - I am not light). Naturally this meant riding in single file with me attempting to provide some assistance to Fran by being in front. The trike, being low doesn't give too much of an advantage to a following upright, but never-the-less it helped. The terrain was dead flat but we felt like we were riding uphill constantly for 30 km! The clouds threatened rain but just couldn't manage it yet. Finally we reached Forbes and went straight to the motel, showered and went in search of lunch.

Being Easter Sunday we expected to have some difficulty in finding shops open, and indeed most were shut, but the pubs were all open, several milk bars and hasty tasties and a few other odd and sods. One pub however, one of the many in town but by far the most well restored, had a huge upstairs verandah where we consumed vast quantities of nachos, beer, potato wedges, beer and just could not manage to fit in dessert.

It rained on and off all afternoon, but nothing worth mentioning as far as the farmers were concerned.

From our vantage point on the pub verandah we worked out the local pastime, at least of the younger males. V8 cars, mostly holdens, often not at all new, lovingly revved up, painted up, noised up (especially noised up), pumped up and generally modified to impress at least the other guys with such vehicles, cruised up and down the main drag all afternoon, deliberately taking advantage of the newly dampened roads combined with the inevitable oil leaks from such cars. And don't roundabouts make just the best places to turn without having to suffer the ignominy of using a back street to effect a 180? Even the local cop managed quite a respectable slide around the corner.

Again we read and relaxed as the weather became colder and wetter during the afternoon. At around 8:00 pm the hunger pangs returned and we walked around to the Chinese restaurant we had checked out on an earlier reconaissance mission. Superb food again, and a reasonable bottle of white...

On returning to our room we found our favourite film was on - "Tous les matins du monde", so for the 5th time we watched and listened to the great viol music of the late C17th.

Forbes to Cowra

Our final day was to be our longest, and we had on a previous occasion travelled this route in the opposite direction and knew the distance. The route is almost totally flat, with only a few mild hills close to Cowra. For once our route passed through another town and at Gooloogong we enjoyed some food from the local shop. Gooloogong is basically a crossroads and sports a shop, a pub, a small museum, and a park with a couple of tennis courts amidships.

Today at least the wind was at our backs and our muscles had benefited from the hard work of yesterday's headwind so we sped along much better than any other day. In our last 25 km the sky darkened dramatically and even a spot of rain could be felt as the wind picked up and shifted more to the west. But we were on the home stretch, so stretch we did and arrived in town hours before the assembled family members expected us. Impressed with our quick trip they offered up sandwiches and drinks - there is such a thing as a free lunch after all!

This is an easy ride for any fit rider, only the end of day 1 and most of day 2 offered any hills at all, and the scenery was great for the entire trip.

Cycling allows the rider to take in much more of the countryside and we were conscious of the smell of the trees (and the dead roos - pongo!) the changes in vegetation and soil and the surrounding hills and valleys. We did not hurry at any time, preferring to stop to snap photos when the fancy took us, and to enjoy a drink and a light snack.

This should be compulsory treatment for anyone suffering from stress!

The table below may give intending riders a guide to travel conditions. The numbers in grey are Fran on the MTB and my stats for the trike are in white. The extra few kms in my stats for the final day were caused by a photo shoot where after I had bolted up a steep (but short) hill at 30 km/hr from the river Fran asked me to cross the bridge again so she could get a shot of me coming across the bridge!




From To


Time Av speed Max speed
Cowra Young 73.32
Young Grenfell 53.09
Grenfell Forbes 65.80
Forbes Cowra 100.50