I’ve been flat out at work lately. Long hours and committing to them 6 days a week hasn’t allowed for much bicycle time so I’ve been riding the 35km journey home a bit more often and even getting in early on the weekend to ride the Gardeners Creek Trail (trail review coming soon, hopefully), all in a desperate attempt to stay sane, fit and healthy. It’s been fantastic but was feeling rather uninspired by the massive blocks of concrete and so this morning, I did something about it. I ventured out to ride the famous Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail.
With my wife and daughter firmly relaxing on the couch, the sun breaking through the clouds in an array of golden hues, and my energy levels peaking, I packed the car and headed out to Lilydale. It’s been years since I’ve ridden this trail, probably ten or more so I was well overdue. Before my time, maybe even before yours, and definitely before the internet’s,way back in the early 1900’s, the Rail was used to transport mostly timber from the Yarra Valley into Melbourne but in 1969, the tracks were removed and it’s now utilised as one of Melbourne’s most popular Rail Trails. I’m happy with the results.
I set off from Anderson St, Lilydale, right near the BMX track. There’s a small place to park a car or four and is easy to find the trail from there. Navigating around the bottom perimeter of the high school, a short, sharp climb brings you out to the bridge over Maroondah Hwy, a bridge that wasn’t there last time I rode the trail, and then onto an easy but steady climb up to Mount Evelyn. The sound of the crushed rock under your tyres is a reminder you’re far from the urban jungle and the absence of road noise, the roar of cars and trucks that isn’t there and the silence that ensues really starts to sooth your soul. It is an unmistakeable dust, that Lilydale topping, but it’s the perfect surface for almost all types of bikes. My choice today; the trusty commuter, loaded with panniers filled with cameras and rolling on road tyres. I had no dramas with grip and found coasting along to be smooth enough although I’m sure cushy mountain bike tyres may have been more comfortable but probably slower, which wouldn’t have been a bad thing in this setting.
I found myself at peace. Excited, ecstatic, elated but calm at the same time. Every passer-by felt the full force of my cheer with a friendly ‘hello’ or ‘how-ya-garn’ accompanied by the ear to ear grin I was wearing as a result of being so fully immersed in nature. This is home. One day, when I’ve gone completely off the wall, I will move out into the jungle but until then, I will just ride through it, camp out in it and dream. Riding along at a casual pace, it’s easy to see why in all the movies, when there’s a scene about someone going out to ‘find themselves’, they head out into nature.
Anyway, I’m getting off track, maybe. The ride itself is simple, well signed and even though there’s a few hills, easy for all skills and fitness levels. The hills are not too steep, an old train needed to climb them so you know they’re going to be fairly relaxed and they’re really few and far between. Breaking up the gravel, along the trail you’ll find plenty of timber bridges. The timber bridge treads run cross ways so thin tyres aren’t an issue but you may want to slow down as there are some imperfections that could cause a pinch flat if you’re not careful. A few quiet road crossings break up the ride, slow you down and give you more time to take in the surrounds and in recent years a lot of the main road junctions have been upgraded with proper crossings and traffic lights. Really makes for a bike ride suited to the whole family.
The full ride to Warburton from Lilydale is about 40 kilometres (one way) but as my time (& legs) were limited, I cut the ride short and rode the 21 odd K’s to Woori Yallock then returned. Along the way, there’s plenty of points of interest to stop at. A lot of the old station platforms remain and often have tables and seats to rest on and maybe even set up a picnic. Often you’ll find places to fill up your water bottles and plenty of shade on a hot day. It seems that since the last time I rode this trail, a heck of a lot of work has gone into maintaining and improving the whole experience. What a treat!
All in all, the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail is awesome, well suited to all riding levels and with plenty of stops along the way with loads of parking, you can choose what section you want to ride. Pack a picnic, grab the bikes and head off for a casual family bike ride next weekend.