Sunday, 12 May 2019

Bicycle QLD Y2W rail trail 2019

"Not all who wander are lost..." J.R.R. Tolkien
Bicycle QLD (BQ) run an annual event on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT), called the Yarraman to Wulkuraka (Y2W) 3 day ride. So many acronyms - BQ Y2W BVRT 2019! The event was brought forward to early May and the weather and conditions were stunning.

I was again invited to be lead marshall on course, great opportunity to domestique for BQ, get some k's in the legs and give back to our local cycling community - I don't need much prodding to go for a ride on the BVRT! I took a few days off and rode the long way to the start, explore a few back roads, hammock in interesting places and eat copious amounts of fresh fruit. Good recovery pedal after Iditarod too.

I caught the train from Brissy to Gympie - the 4:55pm service landed me in G-town at 7:30pm. Was raining, had no plan as to where I'd stop to hang for the night, but just headed for the hills. My mate Mike Zande hooked me up with a favoured long route of his over the range and through the forest. I've got the tech to follow a GPX plot, but on such a simple course I didn't want to just be following a mindless blue line and arrows on a small screen. I still like to route find with cue sheets, compass bearings and good ol' locational awareness. I like to get my head into the area I'm travelling through.


Serendipity revealed a bivvy spot in the middle of the Hoop pine forest, it was alive with animal calls, a trickling creek nearby and oscillating between light rain and bright stars. The haunting beauty was revealed as the morning glow illuminated the pines and made sense of the trail network around me.

A bit of pedalling and was over the first of the bergs in short time and down into the Glastonbury creek valley. I took a lot of time out on this section to soak in the views and just slow down. For so many months prior the focus had been on riding a bike from A to B in rapid time, it was so good to relax and allow myself to coast and absorb the surroundings. Back to my youthful grass roots of simply exploring by bike off the clock.

Through the forest I could hear the distinct resonance of cowbells on flighty bush cattle. The day rolled by on silent backcountry gravel roads and blacktop, through small towns and lush farmland, fat and happy cows were roaming paddocks overflowing with green feed for the winter.

My goal was Kilkivan, from here I'd be onto the KKRT for 89km - half is raw double trail, the other half is smooth blacktop.

There is a regular maintenance regime by the local council on the trail, but with warm temps still and plenty of rain about, expect some long grass in accordance with Murphys law. Snakes and ticks are still active, although the local Yowies have nearly been decimated by Dropbears. However, most Yowies are vegans, still keep an eye on your Kale and spinach edibles stored in your bikebags, they have learned to open zips...

Open top hanging with a light dew and a full sky of stars at night is what I love doing. The gate posts are just the right width to hammock between.

A cool westerly change had swung through overnight and flushed the sky of moisture with just the remnant high Cirrus and dewy trail as company for the early morning segment to Goomeri.

Once you hit Murgon though, the trail transforms from gravel and rail ballast double track, to smooth single lane hotmix. A few kays out of Murgon is a beaut spot to stop with a fresh water stream, plenty of birdlife and serenity without the powerlines. I unpacked some gear to dry in the sun.

Wondai is a great little town with a compact town centre and freecamp area right on the train line. I had a shower and washed clothes at the freecamp amenities block, then hit up the IGA for a well priced fruit feed. 

Onwards to Kingaroy and the environment morphs to open crop land - Kingaroy of course being famous for many kinds of nuts and pumpkin scones.  

Nature finds a way, with puffball mushrooms erupting through the black elastic trail.

 It was mid Friday arvo when I got to Kingaroy, I was keen to make fast distance and set up camp somewhere on the Old Stock Route before sunset, so I bombed down the highway to Nanango and followed the new signage along backroads, then became graded gravel, then double track through the forest. I picked a site, got setup and dinner done just before the mozzies got on the chew. Another open top night but had the tarp ready to deploy on the ridgerope should the wet stuff fall. It didn't.

Cows are so curious. 

I put a Bluto 100mm suspension fork on the fatbike for this trip and it glided over the rough 4wd trail - the Old Stock Route was the main section of the whole trip that I wanted to have as a loaded test phase of suspension on this bike. It simply excelled. Dialled the sag in perfectly and used 95% of travel, which is right in the butter zone. Broke camp early to complete this trail and get into Yarraman to meetup with the BQ crew.

 It was a damp looking morning and there was a nervous shuffle amongst a few of the riders, rain jackets going on, then off, then on again. Just under 200 riders made up the cohort of keen adventurers to hit the trail this year, eager to start after the riders brief. I was joined by my good friends Emma and Fiona as ride marshalls on course with another mate Bicycle Stu as the on course roving mechanic.

My role is purely as a domestique - riding for team BQ and the riders on course - which entailed leading out on course and riding around 80% of the days route, then turning around and riding against the flow to around the 80% mark, then turning around again, ride with the flow to the end, then turn around to half way and repeat or to meet the sweep riders. Bonus k's for me as I just loving riding my bike on the BVRT!

A looming cloud chased the riders down to Blackbutt, many of them taking shelter at the coffee shops and bakeries in town. Fair reason.

 MacNamaras Camp part way down the Benarkin range is a welcome spot to stop for a break on either ascent or descent.

Calun on the tagalong was the youngest rider on the Y2W ride, spinning behind his dad Richard.

A heavy dew very early in the night was near blown dry by the cold front and westerly winds, had the tarp cover on for a short while, then open roof to admire the stars and meteor shower. A drawback of hammock camping is the need for trees, and these were just a touch too close to the toilets, however earplugs blocked out the majority of the door closure noise.

What the following 3 route plots don't show are the return legs of my marshalling duties, back and forth on the trail to cover as many riders as possible on course.

Brekky selfie with the elite crew! Many riders were saying this is one ride where they put on weight, with the quality of food and volume provided for brekky and din dins.

Out on course soon after, here in the classic Yimbun tunnel. Rumour has it that it's haunted. To me it's more of a time machine - you go through it and when you emerge out the other side, it's the future. Dad jokes can be haunting...

Only a few punctures to report along this section between Toogoolawah and Moore, mainly from thorns.

Toogoolawah was transformed as over a hundred hungry and thirsty bike riders descended to quench their thirst for coffee and satiate the urge for baked goodies.

There are two paths you can follow into Esk - the thin white line or the thin brown line...

A welcome sign indicating it's downhill from here.

A gentle laydown never hurt anybody

About 5km from Coominya on my return sweep I rode with my mate Ian. He was on his Norco Search gravel bike and picking a smooth and fast line through the ballast field. We chatted and then somewhere the throttle got twisted, before long we were feeding off the energy - that smell of camp was driving us on. Ian is a stalwart greeter at the airport each year when I return from Iditarod, was great to go for a pedal with him and share the joy of cycling with ears pinned back.

Coominya and the Bellevue Homestead was the destination tonight. Just a bugnet and was a dry night with barely any dew. Best thing - far away from noise.

Dinner was an outside affair,  few frothies enjoyed by many as the sun set over the vineyard. Bellevue Homestead has new owners, there were several tours of the homestead including a haunted house tour.

Fine and clear with no fog (contrast to 2018 with a solid pea souper through here).

The refurbished Lockyer Creek bridge.

At Fairney View.

Baz was very curious about how the fatbike rolled on the trail...the only way to find out was to go for a pedal, riding it from Fernvale to Wanora, I don't think he wanted his 29er back...

Completion of another year! From here it was a short pedal to the train station, with an abbreviated train ride to Corinda, as there were track works happening further up, short ride ride home from there.

Addendum of tech: I'll go through the hammock sleep system that I used and some bits and pieces on the bike.

The hammock itself is nothing special, a simple 'Ticket to the Moon' hammock I bought quite a few years back. I take it on a lot of day trips too, just to hang during the heat of the day or wait out a high tide on a beach ride. Neat way to camp in summer and shoulder season, catch the breeze and be up off the (sometimes) hot ground. Legs also get a bit of elevation which can be of recovery benefit, I tension the hammock so it's moderately flat (but not too tight to place too much load on it - angles play a part in static loading)

If you don't use some kind of insulation underneath your body, then you will lose a lot of heat and be cold at night. On this trip I kept my options open to tarp it on the ground, so I had my luxury Klymit Inertia XL pad with me, the extra width of this pad suits hammock use a bit better than my narrower bivvy pads.

Sleeping bag is a Mont Helium 450, a supreme bag that I've used in Alaska at -20C and in Colorado high country at 0C. It has a footbox that can be unzipped, so if need be for cooler temps I can thread the hammock through the bag so it can act like an underquilt. Pillow is a Sea to Summit Aeros UL large.


Buggy nights aren't an issue with a Sea to Summit single bug net, held up with a paracord ridgeline.

Clothes pegs close off the ends and then I just peg it closed underneath the hammock once I'm in it, to fully seal the system. It keeps the bugnet walls taut and you can move about freely during the night in the hammock, without worry of dislodging the pegs. The purpose made camping hammocks have bugnets and tarps that zip on and attach, but this modular system has worked well so far and I like the modular, open architecture.

Tarp is left ready to deploy on the ridgeline, or can be pegged out to ground before sleeping, entirely optional but I do like an open top for star gazing. 

I sourced a Bluto for the Iditarod LE, with remote cable lockout. It had the standard Pushloc remote (push button style - which always fail after a very short time). I knew it would give me trouble on the trip, so before I left home I grabbed a LH 2x shifter from my graveyard of spares and fitted it up in Wondai. Perfect operation now and I can even dial in a gated lockout. It's a 100mm travel fork and is the perfect match for the geo, for my weight and sag I ran 90psi, the butter zone and I used all but the top 6mm of travel, with just clothes in the Sweetroll on the bars. 

The Power Monkey system keeps chugging along, topping up during the day and charging my phone and Fenix 5x at night. The front of the panel is tethered on the underside to the drybag.


This insulated 'Bar Fridge' framebag kept 4L of water cool, using a 4L MSR Dromedary bladder. The cap is a Hydroflask flip sipper cap, allowing me to decant to a bidon, fill a Jetboil pot or chug straight from the flip cap. 

Amazing where riding a bike will take you! I really needed this soulride, following on from the hectic time before Iditarod and the race itself, was really good to bikepack at a relaxed pace, pause to enjoy the vistas and take pics. All up was just on 570km and around 18000 calories (totals include the commute to the city for the train).

Giving back to the greater Brisbane cycling community on this ride is something I really enjoy doing. Rail trails are a fantastic resource for riders of all ages to enjoy, I'm not alone in my wish to see more rail corridors converted to multi-use travel. Thanks to BQ and all of the riders for making the 2019 Y2W an enjoyable one!