What exactly is a gravel bike? It doesn’t take much effort to discover that there is a broad range of bikes that are called “gravel” – from road bike geometries with slightly more tyre clearance to quasi mountain bikes with full suspension. I’m of the school of thought that thinks a gravel bike can be any bike within reason. Particularly on a well maintained gravel road. So, to prove the point, I present Gundaroo Gravel – a route I travelled on my roadie. With the outer parts of Gungahlin reaching the NSW border, it is not even a 20km ride from Canberra’s outskirts to Gundaroo. So what is the fun or point in travelling 20km via tarmac when you can go for a longer ride via the gravel? Even on a roadie….
Leaving the ACT on Mulligans Flat Road, the descent into farmland marks a rapid change from the Canberra suburbs. This road is a favourite of those cycling the Sutton Bakery route, and the traffic is limited and generally very accommodating of cyclists despite the lack of verge.
Heading left into Tallagandra Lane, it is not too long before the road becomes gravel. I’ve previously mentioned this road in the article Murrumbidgee & Murrumbateman loop. Having now ridden this road quite a bit, it is pretty consistently in good condition – I’ve passed other cyclists on it (mostly on road bikes!). The road’s condition definitely benefits from the road’s hard-packed base. Turning into Murrumbateman Road the sealed road returns, as does the traffic. This isn’t a brilliant road for cycling as there is limited verge and parts with limited visibility for cars seeking to pass. I’ve never felt particularly unsafe, other than when impatient drivers decide to pass despite oncoming traffic. Notwithstanding this, the road does provide some flowing hills and gentle descents with nice scenery.
Dicks Creek Road
Dicks Creek Road starts sealed, heading past farms and also the surprising Majestic Mushrooms. I was interested to learn that they produce 20 tonnes of the fungus per week! I’m sure it is not a coincidence that shortly after the MM operation the road becomes a gravel one.
This road is not as smooth as Tallagandra Lane, but the pictures above show it is still pretty good. This is explained in part by the information in Yass Valley Council’s helpfully published road hierarchy: Dicks Creek Road is a category 3 road (twice yearly grading) vs category 2 (Yass River Road, 3 times a year) vs category 1 (Tallagandra Lane, 4 times a year). Having said that, there is no reason not to ride a road bike here. Don’t get me wrong: a gravel bike makes better work of the fast descents where on a roadie caution (against pinch flats in particular) is advised. It is also a bit more comfortable. But really, ride here. It is just fun. The road has some great variety – farmland, bush, some short and steep climbs and fun descents. And the eponymous Dicks Creek.
Yass River Road
Dicks Creek Road ends at the intersection with Yass River Road, which is in slightly better condition. It also provides stunning scenery. The one surprise was the Booths Crossing on the Yass River: there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, but it is quite low. I imagine that after a decent amount of rain it may be a challenge – worth checking out if it has been really wet before your ride (and also whether Back Creek Road is a viable alternative). Yass River Road returns to tarmac when getting close to Gundaroo Road, and from here it is an easy ride into Gundaroo.
Gundaroo does make for a great break on this ride. There are a few choices here, but I chose to stop at the Cork Street Café. This is an excellent stop, with a pizza menu to put almost everywhere to shame: I can recommend the Sicilian, the coffee and also the selection of sweet treats. If you have your heart set on eating here I strongly recommend a booking, or be prepared to get takeaway and eat in the adjacent Yass River picnic area on Lot Street.
Return via Sutton and Majura Lane
From Gundaroo, the Sutton Road is a lovely undulating piece of tarmac. There is some occasional high speed traffic, but compared to Murrumbateman Road there is generally better verge as well as greater visibility for traffic. I enjoy riding this road.
Once at Sutton, the typical route to return is via the Federal Highway Service Road through to Eagle Hawk, and then briefly onto the highway to re-enter the ACT. A final piece of gravel is available via Majura Lane – enjoy!
Details of this ride
- The ride captured here travels from the ACT border in Gungahlin (Mulligans Flat) to the ACT border on the Federal Highway. If you are not familiar with the ACT and are considering ways to get to and from these points, I can recommend the Majura Parkway and Horse Park Drive as having great parallel cycle paths as well as well-travelled on-road cycling.
- I ride 25-26mm tyres on my road bike, which are narrower than the 28mm that most new roadies come with out of the box! Finding durable foldable tyres that last well in Australian conditions is a challenge, but you don’t need hard-core off-roaders for this route. I found The Climbing Cyclist’s article to be quite useful when first starting to ride off-tarmac on my roadie.