CyclingGravel’s shorter “out of Canberra” rides

A lot of the rides on CyclingGravel are longer rides, particularly those that “get out of Canberra”. Whilst I would love to be riding these all the time, day-to-day I’m cycling much closer to home. One of the tremendous things about Canberra is that it is possible to cycle out of town easily and I love to do this on weekday morning rides before work. Over time I’ve adopted some regulars that you may also enjoy (if you aren’t already!). If you are new to town these make great ways to get to know the city.

All of these rides are predominantly “on road” with some use of shared path where it is a better option than the road. Some include gravel, but most don’t. The routes are best aligned with starting in Inner South / Woden but can be adjusted to other starting locations. Depending on your fitness, enthusiasm and exact route, these are designed to be done in 2-3 hours and can be done in either direction – the directions in komoot just happen to be the ones I prefer. They also can be enjoyed all year round – hopefully the photos help to show some of the differences across seasons!

Uriarra Cotter

Best bike: Roadie

This loop is a favourite amongst many Canberra cyclists, although it does appear that most ride Cotter->Uriarra, rather than my preferred Uriarra->Cotter. The route consists of four main parts:

  1. Uriarra Road – from Canberra to Uriarra Crossing. Ending with the descent of the “three sisters”, after leaving the northern edge of Stromlo this road provides undulating farmland scenery before the first crossing of the Murrumbidgee.
  2. The “back road” (Uriarra Road between Uriarra Crossing and Uriarra Village). After the climb out from the crossing, this part involves a 5km false flat that provides a challenging grind up, particularly if there is a head wind (rare in the morning, but does happen).
  3. Brindaballa Road (also known as Mount McDonald, named for the hill that the road curls around between Uriarra Village and the Cotter Bridge). This is mainly a twisty descent that is great fun. It also passes one of the newer Canberra MTB options – Cotter Pines.
  4. Cotter climb – the return to Canberra, passing Stromlo (which is a good diversion if you’d like to add some extra climb and view).

Which direction to choose? It really depends on your preferences and, to some extent, whether there is a breeze the day / time you are cycling. Both have pros and cons, but a major reason I stick with Uriarra first is that there is more time to warm up (and for sun to rise) on darker and colder days before the first major fast descent. From there I’m just a creature of habit!

Note: Uriarra Crossing is sometimes closed after significant rainfall. The ACT government road closures website is the best place to check to confirm if there is an issue.

Point Hut Tharwa

Best bike: Roadie

This ride involves some cycling through Canberra unless you are based in Tuggeranong. Having said that, it is possible to ride through some back roads, cycle lanes and shared paths before exiting the city via Point Hut Crossing.

Another route that is subject to disruption after heavy rain (this lower crossing is normally closed for longer than Uriarra Crossing), the 16.5km out of town section passes farmland and offers great views of the Brindabellas and Namadgi National Park. Some of these farms are quite historic – from 1830s European settlement of Lanyon to William Farrer’s wheat cultivation research at Lambrigg. I just enjoy the views, birdlife, and rolling undulations.

Speaking of birdlife, Canberra is blessed with a healthy magpie population. All of these routes have their magpie swooping challenges in Spring. Uriarra Cotter has two notorious ones – one towards the bottom of the three sisters, and another kamikazee-style operator on the back road. None compares to the extremely mean b**tard that hangs out approaching the Pockett Avenue intersection on this ride. It is sufficiently vicious and tenacious that I generally avoid this route during swooping season. You have been warned!

Doing the Dishes

Best bike: Roadie

Whilst pushing the envelope on what might be a pre-work ride, Doing the Dishes is a great escape if you can fit it in. The start of this ride matches Point Hut Tharwa, but instead of heading left to Tharwa at Tidbinbilla Road, you turn right. Similarly, towards the end, the ride finishes with the Uriarra Cotter climb up out of the Cotter.

The main part of the route follows Paddys River (Tidbinbilla Road becomes Paddys River Road at the turnoff to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve). Whilst this means that it generally follows the valley, it is not fair to say that the route is flat – 500m climbing between the two Murrumbidgee River crossings (at Point Hut and Cotter). But it is super fun, great for the fitness, and a mix of different views as you go.

Note that on the weekend there is a higher amount of traffic with people driving out to Corin and Tidbinbilla (as well as the Cotter), but it is occasional at worst. The highest volume of traffic you are likely to experience is on the weekend between Cotter and Canberra.

Mulligans Goorooyarroo

Best bike: Gravel

A slightly different morning ride is a trip out to the Mulligans Flat / Goorooyarroo Nature Reserves for a gravel escape. Starting from inner Canberra, a quick blast up Northbourne (or at least the back route) and then Flemington Road has the goal of getting to the suburb of Forde as quickly as possible. There are plenty of other options, including the C1 cycle route from the city and C7 at Yerrabi Pond. See the ACT government cycleway map for more details. Once there, you also have choices as to how to get to the entry to Mulligans Flat – a more traditional way than the one shown in the komoot would be off Amy Ackman Street / Old Gundaroo Road path near Quinane Avenue. Instead, a quick hop over a gate is slightly more direct – just off Eric Wright Street.

From here, other than the need to navigate the abundant wildlife that you can’t miss in the morning or late afternoon, there is a tremendous 9km-long escape from the city. The route is well maintained and pretty smooth although there are some patches of loose gravel to be careful around as well as some areas that get quite muddy after prolonged rain. This is probably the best single stretch of off-road gravel that is immediately connected to Canberra city. For more detail also see the Northern Canberra Centenary Trail.

A final part of this ride is the most enjoyable cycleway in Canberra – the C9 Paul Truebridge Path. Heading north to south the route is predominantly downhill making for a rapid return to inner Canberra.

Sutton Majura

Best bike: Roadie or Gravel (the limited gravel is totally ok on most roadies)

The Mulligans Flat / East Tallagandra / Sutton loop is one frequented by many northside cyclists, often incorporating the option of a mid-ride stop at Sutton Bakery. It is, however, also one of my favourite out of town trips at any time of the week – incorporating any number of northbound and southbound ways of getting there and back.

The route in the komoot shows my typical weekday escape – a quick blast up Gungahlin Drive on-road. This isn’t perfect by any means, but it is clearly marked cycle lane until just before the Sandford Street intersection: here the curse of Canberra’s mysterious disappearing and reappearing on-road cycle lanes strikes and it is worth jumping on the shared path to Gundaroo Road. After exiting Forde the route becomes great country road style cycling to Sutton. From Sutton the vast majority of cyclists head to the Federal Highway Service Road via Sutton Road (which is totally fine – I do this on my roadie), but the gravel option is Majura Lane. Well worth a detour.

An alternative to heading back to town via Majura is to head into Watson and Ainslie and wind your way to Braddon – for a coffee at one of many cafes or a beer at Bentspoke. See below.

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