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Rushworth, Victoria – Handcycling exploration: Gold-rush style!

After a weekend of National Wheelchair Basketball in Kilsyth (East of Melbourne), it was time to change the flat court with some rugged Victorian terrain.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

My good friend and volunteer PR/Media guy, Cameron, picked me up from Melbourne airport after the basketball team made their way onto a flight. My next 7 days would be spent riding in the old town of Rushworth and preparing for the first National Adaptive MTB Conference in Melbourne.

Cam also does some freelance car reviews, so with his nifty contacts managed to rustle up a long chassey Citroen Berlingo van. I’ll keep it brief, but this van was made for a trike and light travelers such as myself! The handcycle slipped in nice and snug with plenty of room for my wheelchair and luggage! Best part is that I could load and unload the trike without assistance!

We arrived at Cam’s to a warm fire place and a welcome-party of fur-babies. Cats and dogs of all sizes and ages went bonkers over my presence and couldn’t keep their curious paws off me – something I don’t mind as long as the slobber is kept to a minimum.

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A snug little house with some interesting history! Base camp for the next week of riding and adventure!

Cam’s partner worked at the local veterinary and occasionally got to bring home unwanted animals or ones destined for the needle. Made me wonder why people spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on baby animals when there’s plenty of lovable ones being wasted away at shelters and vets.

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My temporary fur-baby. I bet she misses my leg!

After a warm home-made burger from the local burger place (everything is pretty much home-made quality), we wrapped up our hype about the week of handcycling ahead and retired to our beds (one of the cats that normally slept on my bed wasn’t too impressed).

Monday, 13 June 2016

Two weeks prior to my arrival there was plenty of heavy rain in and around Melbourne – it was now clear but freezing (double-jumper kind of weather). We got up and made our slow and ‘work-free’ getaway to the nearest cafeteria (20 minutes away) for a late breakfast at Murchison Bakery and Tearoom. I had some amazing egg breakfast and all I can say is: “YUM!”. Recently under new management who seem to be doing a fantastic job at giving the place some new spice.

Rushworth is an old retired gold mining town which once boomed during the 1800’s gold-rush period. Now it’s down in numbers to the 700-something locals who bask in either the farming life or the laid-back vibes that come with a small country town.

With our bellies satisfied we took off to my base-camp accommodation at Rushworth Budget Motel. A 4 star motel with a small handful of rooms, it provided what I needed for sleep and showering. There’s a small concrete ramp from the carpark to the patio which was bit of a struggle, but otherwise the room itself was fairly accessible for a small manual wheelchair. The shower has a sliding door with just enough room to transfer onto an outdoor chair in the shower.

After a bit of rest, we jumped onto our mountain bike rides and took off into the northern end of Rushworth’s bushland (just on the outskirts of the town).

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Beautiful scenery with the greenest of green grass stretching to the horizon.
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Cam next to some old rustic sheep stations.

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The ride was short and sweet but I took a lot in. The wide fire trails and unsealed roads were perfect for handcycling! Plenty of space either side. There were a few tough climbs which I used as an opportunity to test my new ‘Bomber’ handcycle and it’s lowest gears. I managed to hit the climbs with a consistent pace and without losing too much traction – unassisted.

One of the more enjoyable parts of the Victorian dirt was the lack of pea-gravel! A refreshing blast from the slipper red dirt commonly found in Western Australia.

After some rough climbs and fun descents, we headed back to the accommodation before the clouds produced any rain. A quick shower and rest then back to Cam’s for some dinner and furry cuddles with the pets.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Another day, another opportunity to hit the dirt. This time we got out a little earlier (if you consider midday early for riding) and dropped into the local Coghlan’s IGA on the main street for some quick supplies before heading off. The weather looked promising, with clearing clouds and only pockets of light drizzle.

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Quick stop off to buy some traveling snacks.

This time we were set to go for a longer ride to venture out South of Rushy and into areas that were heavily mined during the Gold Rush era. There area is scattered with old mining establishments that where purposely built to accommodate the miners and to provide processing of minerals.

With these former sites (now mostly dismantled and long gone) there was a network of walking and transporting trails, used to transport supplies and minerals. The history is a bit vauge as to who established these trails and which ones were based on the original trails (or added post-Gold-Rush), but what I can say is that they are bloody awesome for mountain biking (and trail walking/running)!

The widths are a mix of tighter single trail with enough shoulder to get a trike through and wider fire roads. The terrain starts of with some red rocks (fist-sized) and gradually turns into finer gravel before hitting brown dirt.

On the return trip there was one thing that really made itself known to us – mud! Thick, black, deep and smelly mud – lots of it. Seemed like the rain (and the ocasional 4WD bogan) had undone the recent resurfacing of the dirt and turned it into another challange for my handcycle.

But before we turned around to head home, at about the 9km mark, my handcycle took a bad turn!

After some fast and rocky descents, the back wheel’s quick-release became lose, little to my knowledge. As we decided to check out an old Whroo cemetery and while I was turning at low speed, there was a massive crack, thud and scrapping noise all at once. I slammed the brakes on and called Cam over with haste.

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Having to jump off the trike next to a construction site access road isn’t overly welcoming.
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Quick test ride after some on-the-spot repairs.

I’m sure the look on my face said it all, but I knew something was wrong. At first inspection it looked like the rear quick release was bent and out of it’s swing arm. The wheel was lop-sided and appeared to be teetering on the edge of falling off completely. As Cam meticulously scoped out the damage, it was apparent that i needed to get off to try and do something. We were already thinking about options of getting back without the trike, but discovered that the axel had simply slipped out of place and the swing arm was resting on the disc brake rotor.

I hopped off and sat on the ground where near by construction trucks were screaming past a compact dirt road – each time blowing a ball of crap into my face.

We managed to slide the wheel back into place and counted our blessings that it wasn’t anything serious like a bent axle or smashed derailleur (Di2!). Feeling lucky I took it easy on the way back and decide to take the ‘easier’ way back to save time and reduce the likelihood of anything going wrong again.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

After having a wobbly end to yesterdays ride, we decided to spend the day doing some work next to the warm fireplace. Cam had some work to do while I plotted away at my preperation for the National Adaptive MTB Conference.

Rushworth is a small town and doesn’t have a bike shop. The nearest place was in Shepperton, about 20 minutes drive away. We took ourselves and the trike to Sheps’ for some breakfast.

We finished our coffees and dropped the trike of at Leigh Egan Cycles. A nice bike shop tucked away on a quiet road; we met Leigh, a world BMX champion in the mid 1980’s, and introduced them to my handcycle. I’m very cautious when handing my handcycle over to people I don’t know, but I felt confident that it was in good hands.

We took off back home to do some work and came back a few hours later to collect the repaired trike. A bent rotor disc brake was the only damage thankfully!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

No time to rest! After a day off with repairs and work, we prepped up and took off on another Rushy ride.

Similar to the first day of riding, we smashed out some trails north of Rushworth. We spent a lot of time talking about how amazing it would be to run a MTB race for everyone around the trails. Perfect for handcycles and bike riders with a lot of variation and alignments for trails. We even joked about making trophies out of the local rocks laying around. Lots of cool rocks that have been dug up during the mining boom now scattered the surface – I even grabbed a few small quartz rocks for souvenirs.

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A window of rain-free weather for some awesome Rushy riding with Cam.

Again, the rain gods were kind to us and we managed to head back before the wetness rolled in.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Like the day before we hit out another 8.8kms north of Rushy. This time with more sharp climbs and steep descents.

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You get to see all kinds of cool stuff while riding in the bush; kangaroos, wallabies, rusted out metal, animal skulls and odd land formations.

Back to base camp for a warm shower then to dinner at Murchison Bakery and Tearoom for a special gourmet burger dinner.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Conference day! An early 4am start for a 2 hour drive into Melbourne. Not my ideal way to start any day, let alone a conference, but it wasn’t as bad as it sounds.

We arrived with plenty of time to setup laptops, internet, presentations and equipment. The conference was live streamed and is now available online for viewing:

Part 1: https://youtu.be/nJv4wxASPjo
Part 2: https://youtu.be/ZTemfnJarKI
Part 3: https://youtu.be/3LphQTdh9nw

Sunday, 18 June 2016

With one day left in Rushworth, we decided to hit some different trails SW of Rushy.

This was probably the most enjoyable network of trails. A combination of wide fire trails, sketchy motor bike trails, smooth and hilly dirt driveways and cool mine shafts!

Two main climbs provided a nice decent with to speeds and amazing scenery overlooking surrounding farms and rural property.

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Handcycling up big hills to get a view of endless fields.

The final climb for the day was the toughest of the week and required some smart riding so that traction was maintained. A great way to finish an awesome week of riding!

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Long windy climbs with little traction at the top.
The End

Rushworth has a lot to offer for both bike riders and handcyclists. Plenty of options to make your own loops and provide hours of riding fun. No two rides would be the same. There was more we didn’t have time to explore but we could have easily spent another week exploring new trails within the areas we rode.

Hopefully little towns like Rushy get more attention and more riders spending more time driving to these secluded little gems.

I only scraped the surface of Victoria’s trails and I know there are more extreme trail networks available, but as a whole, Rushy gives a great dose of easy to moderate riding for beginners to the more experienced. Well worth the trip and if I could spend my days riding trails all the time, then I’d definitely pay Rushy another visit!

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