One of the recurring themes of this blog centres around the idea of local rides that require (preferably) no car usage, start and end right at your front door and aim at the discovery of hidden gemstones of adventure that may be sitting right under your nose. Indeed, adventure may be found in suburbia or even in the heart of your CBD by way of simply jumping on a bicycle and thus adopting a new perspective on familiar ground or discovering new routes by which to traverse your environment. If you’re really lucky though (as large numbers of us are in this sense here in Brisbane and, I dare say, in Australia more generally), you will also have some kind of relatively untouched natural area nearby in which to pursue an even deeper sense of adventure and escape. It’s the kind of thing that fits especially well into the situation we find ourselves in this year so that’s exactly what I did recently on a daylong adventure (nanoadventure?) over Camp Mountain and through the Brisbane Forest Park.
But before going into the details of my ride, I want to touch on the other recurring theme around here which is the idea of slowing down and immersing yourself in the ride and your surroundings rather than riding to “win” or “achieve” something. Having been guilty of greatly overdoing that kind of riding, I can say first hand that riding the same loops, circuits and climbs continuously to try and beat your previous times, racing (formally or informally amongst your peers), gaining KOMs and seeing how far you can push yourself does get old after a while. The fun of it starts to become questionable and your body starts to pay for it. Moreover, riding at the peak of your performance is simply not sustainable. Perhaps most importantly, though, is that if you only ride for training, for high performance, to race, to “do a workout” – if riding a bicycle is just sport for you, then you haven’t yet tapped into the full potential of these wonderfully simple machines. You’re simply riding around the tip of the iceberg. And so I think at some point, as cyclists (newcomers to bikes also take note here), we should all ask ourselves why we actually ride these simple tubular formations on gossamer wheels. Because whilst for sport, bicycles are great, it’s in adventure seeking, slow paced recreation, transportation and utility that they become truly transformational – a vital and refreshing expansion of your mindset, world view and physical body.
So how do you begin to change directions and try something a bit different in this regard? Well, I don’t have all the answers and I suspect that the answers will be different for different people anyway but there are a few things that have allowed me to enjoy bikes as more of a lifestyle and sustainable set of experiences rather than just sport. Firstly and perhaps most importantly, I’ve just stopped caring about how to do bicycles “correctly”. I’ve dropped most of the specialised bike clothes except for what is functional and comfortable for my ride. I’ve thrown out sticking to any rules (however explicit or implied) around what the purpose of any given ride should be and what should and should not happen on that ride or what I bring with me. I also don’t note or record any statistics, plan fitness goals or eat specific foods to suit my riding. I just eat before I’m hungry, drink before I’m thirsty and slow down for a while if I start to feel tired. I stop when I see something interesting or meet someone who just want to have a chat. I attach a handlebar bag or wear a bum bag to enable me to carry stuff that will make my day more comfortable even if it means adding weight and reducing performance in some way.
And with that in mind, I did my best to adhere to those principles as I started my recent jaunt through Brisbane’s western fringes which took me firstly through Bunyaville Conservation Park, linking up to Ironbark Gully and onward through the Ferny Grove Rail Trail where I would veer off to start climbing up Camp Mountain.
At the entrance to the fire trail that snakes up the eastern side of Camp Mountain, I crossed paths with a group of mountain bikers who were going the other way. Stopping to chat, I made offers for anyone willing to tag along through to Gap Creek Road where I would ultimately end up but had no takers. Oh well, maybe next time.
The journey up the Camp Mountain fire trails starts off innocently enough with the tall trees of the D’Aguilar National Park enveloping you along hairpin corners overlooking steep dropoffs above a picturesque, thickly vegetated bush creek. It’s not long though before the gradient starts to kick up and you find yourself looking for the largest cog in your rear cluster. Most of it is rideable but you have to expect a little bit of hike-a-bike along the way as well which is not really a problem because slowing down to admire the view by that stage is well worth it.
A few more steep sections and I found myself at the lookout and picnic area at the top where Brisbane’s CBD highrise buildings are visible on the distant horizon and the temperature drops noticeably. It was here that I decided to stop for some photos, snacks and to fire up my GPS to guide the next part of my little jaunt.
I rolled for a short distance down Camp Mountain Road and then a few hundred metres down Mt Nebo Road before the GPS pointed me down a small trail entrance into Hellhole Break. I could see that Hellhole Break would earn it’s name if I was travelling in the opposite direction but going this way it was just a matter of leaning back and working the brakes appropriately. I rode through creek beds, gullies and tunnels of thick vegetation that made it seem like something straight out of Narnia.
Eventually the descent ended and the trail emptied out at the crossing of the upper reaches of Enoggera Creek. I decided that there would be no better place on the trip than here for a morning coffee stop and I was right. Having packed a small thermos of coffee and some snacks, I was all set to sit back for a while and enjoy this truly serene little spot. Who would have though that such a pristine, flowing bush creek in such picturesque surrounds could be so close to home and be reachable without the use of a car? The place was also devoid of other people except for a couple of hikers who briefly stopped to chat and rest.
Eventually, though, it was time to move on so I packed up and made my way up the trail on the other side of the creek. What goes down must come back up eventually and this would be the last section of hike-a-bike on the journey – a short but very steep section of less than a kilometre which brought me onto South Boundary Road. I was now deep in the Brisbane Forest Park but well on my way to Gap Creek Road which would mark the last leg of the journey. I soon passed the hikers who had gone ahead of me at the creek crossing earlier and greeted them once again.
The rest of the way back to Gap Creek Road was on relatively smooth fire trails and I made good progress getting there. The landscape had also now changed from dense rainforest vegetation to a more sparse sclerophyll forest though the scenery was no less spectacular with views of the rolling hills and frequent sightings of cockatoos. Aside from the great, white birds and the crunching gravel under my tyres, the place was largely devoid of sound.
After several kilometres of fire trail, the surroundings began to look increasingly familiar as I approached Jones Break and the Highwood Road entrance of the Brisbane Forest Park which would take me onto Gap Creek Road.
The off road part of my ride was complete and I would now follow a short section of sealed road and then bikeways through to the Gap Village and Brumby’s Bakery where I would grab lunch and take another break. I enjoyed my vegetable pastie and cinnamon scroll in the park opposite the bakery overlooking a wider downstream section of Enoggera Creek that I had crossed several kilometers earlier upstream.
Bikeways and backstreets took me the rest of the way home as I meandered through parks, past golf courses and along suburban creeks bringing to an end a great day.
Before wrapping up, though, I think it’s worth mentioning another concept or idea. It’s that of the microadventure. It’s not my idea and it’s original definition includes staying somewhere in the outdoors overnight which obviously differs to what I have done today but I think it’s worth noting the spirit of trips like mine in relation to the microadventure especially in the sense of being low cost, local and low commitment while simultaneously providing fun, relaxation, rejuvenation and a connection to nature. Riding your bike in this mindset, like microadventures, is in many ways like extending your home into your local outdoor surroundings and thus beginning to negate or crush out many of the downsides of modern life like being sedentary, isolated, disconnected from nature and (knowingly or not) being trapped inside one or another corporate hamster wheel. And all this whilst not requiring to be supremely athletic or committed to the lifestyle of a hardcore adventurer. I guess, in this mindset, you’re freeing yourself to flip between everyday life and something that resembles a planned vacation but without all the expense, planning and commitment. And that’s really the point of any bicycle-heavy lifestyle (besides being supremely great for the environment and various other benefits) – it’s that bikes allow you to break out of the ruts and dictated status quos and allow you to go your own way; to create your own journey for yourself and of your own imagination.
Finally, I probably should mention that while this was a pretty slow paced ride as advertised at the beginning of the article and the difficulty of these sorts of rides is largely governed by the pace you set for yourself, there are still several long, steep sections and mobile phone coverage is not always available. So, while you don’t need to be super fit, at the same time, it’s probably not one to try straight off the couch either.
As always, ride safe and see you out there sometime.