Canberra – Captains Flat – Michelago – Burra – Googong – Canberra
Tinderry Road has been a gravel road I’ve been really keen to explore for a while. That big mountain range to the east as you travel down the Monaro Highway always looks impressive – and this is the way to find out what it is like at the top and over behind. But unless you really want a steep climb, the best way does seemed to be to travel west to east. This proved fun, although the climb from the east was what might better be described as a track….
Heading out via Captains Flat
Depending on when you are cycling, Captains Flat Road can be busy. On this weekend day there was little traffic and even some unexpected gravel due to road work! This was the first time I’d ridden the whole route – I’m normally exiting (or entering) at Briars Sharrow Road to head to Bungendore (see, for example, Circumnavigating Lake George) or to head to Braidwood or Majors Creek (see, for example, Braidwood Gravel). Whilst it is true that the road does have traffic I’ve never found this troublesome, and if this trip is a guide it does reduce after the Briars Sharrow Road turnoff – after this point properties which people commute from seem to thin-out. If you are really keen, one way to get ‘off road’ a little more is to take the Briars Sharrow exit and head through Hoskinstown (see Braidwood gravel via Captains Flat).
After a stop for the view and water refill in Captains Flat (I can’t wait for the pub to reopen), a brief but very steep climb out of town on Jerangle Road starts the remaining journey to Tinderry Road. Lightly travelled, the road continues on tarmac for a while before converting to well maintained gravel. Make sure you don’t miss the turnoff – Tinderry Road is signposted but otherwise looks like a lot of other tracks leaving Jerangle Road.
The first part of Tinderry Road – the descent to Queanbeyan River – was not in great condition. It was the roughest part of the trip – by a long way – so don’t be too discouraged by the start. The picture above is an anomaly – in some parts there is significant wash away and mud. I was very glad I had decided to travel on a mountain bike as opposed to gravel bike as whilst it would have been navigable, there would have been some short hike-a-bike. At the river there was a lot of water and it was running quite fast. I recommend you carefully consider this as it was deceptive and I was very glad I chose to wade. On reaching the other side, a local farmer stopped and offered to take me across (no longer needed!) and mentioned that the road hadn’t been in great condition for a long time. Whilst the climbing that follows was on what might be better described as forest trail than gravel road, it actually was in reasonable condition for cycling.
After the river crossing, there are two distinct major climbs. The first is up to farmland and grazing country – and this can also be seen from the road as you ascend. At the top of the first climb there are a number of cattle grids and the route passes through paddocks that are in active use – both sheep and cattle were on the road when I passed through. This part of the route is very beautiful – this is where the photo at the top of the article was taken.
After passing through farmland, the road gradually approaches the forested range for a second climb. This includes some steep pinches that would be pretty tough if wet. The first descent photo below is indicative of the landscape. At the top, however, is where it is clear that there is more traffic to local properties and the road is well maintained. The descent is super fun with great views across the valley where the Monaro Highway runs, and in parts it is even sealed to assist with traction. After the stepper parts of the descent there is final 6.5m stretch between farmland to Burra Road and the short hop into Michelago.
Michelago to Canberra via Burra & Googong
Of course, the perfect return would be via the Monaro Rail Trail. Can’t wait.
Details of this ride
Travel guidance and suggestions
- Bike choice for rides like this is definitely a personal thing. When there is an opportunity to really send it down some major descents off-road, I prefer my mountain bike. I also find mountain bike cycling to be more relaxing on gravel tracks (vs roads) as you just don’t have to pay as much attention to mud, loose gravel and rutting. There is, however, a cost: the reduced pace. I enjoyed this route on my mountain bike and would choose that again, but it is absolutely possible on a gravel bike.
- There are currently few stop options on the route other than the excellent Michelago General Store. As flagged, I look forward the pub reopening in Captains Flat.