So I’ve been wanting to ride the Sterling Valley Track ever since I saw a video of it on Vertigo Mountain Biking’s website.
Only problem was, I didn’t know where it was.
When Kim and I were over here last time we came out this way to see if I could find the start of the track (Kim may not have been aware of the reason for our little detour), but turns out I was looking on the wrong side of the road and it was only after I pieced together a few pieces of information from pedalbite.com and the Wildside event website that I realised that the track started on the left hand side of the road (when driving south) not the right … and that it was part of the Wildside Event route.
Armed with these snippets of information, this time I easily pinged what I figured was the start of the track and then spent the mandatory half an hour it takes me to find everything I’ve thrown randomly into the car so I was ready to ride (GPS, spare GPS, spot tracker, mobile phone … now where did I throw my car keys … what ever happened to just riding?)
Eventually I got onto the track, not that I really had much idea, beyond what was on pedalbite, where to go but it turned out that it was pretty easy to find the ‘hidden’ single track based on what was on pedalbite. Feeling pretty good, I plunged on into the forest, rode over the first set of slippery roots, lifted my wheel over the last root and then as it touched down I promptly went flying over my handlebars and into the tree in front of me as my wheel proceeded to sink, no disappear, into what looked like an innocuous patch of white sand. Ouchy.
Oh, how I wish I could write about flowing single trail from this point on, but the truth is after that little confidence shaker and a few other slips and slides I ended up pushing my bike down much of the first section of the
stream, track, well I assume there was a track beneath the ankle deep water I found myself pushing down. This was not fun.
Fortunately, after what seemed like a long section of alternating mud pits and steep rocky descents (but in reality must have been pretty short) the track flattened out a bit and I found myself back on and riding. woop, woop.
Sorry there must be someone randomly entering words into my blog as I never ‘woop’ especially on a ride like this where I found myself stopping every 50 metres to remove yet another tree that had fallen over the track at knee to neck height (ie. too high to jump and too low to duck).
The good news is that if you want to ride this track, now’s a good time as I felt like I spent about 30 minutes just clearing the track for you.
OK, maybe I didn’t clear it all.
I eventually dropped out onto the promised gravel road and glancing at my GPS saw that I’d only been riding for about 40 minutes and covered just 3.3kms from my car … maybe I overestimated my 30 minutes of track maintenance work … slightly.
Now according to Pedalbite, the Singletrack :
“… will take you to the bottom of the hill and onto another gravel track which you will turn right on and that brings you out at a water pump shed.“
Now read that again (cause I know you skim read it) and tell me what would you do when you got onto the gravel track? Turn right? that’s what I did … WRONG. If you turn right, you will head back up a steep, steep hill thinking to yourself “this is great, my cars parked up this way and this is saving me stacks of road riding”. Then the road will stop. No ifs, no buts, it just stops. Don’t believe me, check out my GPS route. I had to turn around and give up all the hard gotten altitude gain.
I think what that it should say is something like:
“… will take you to the bottom of the hill where you turn left onto another gravel track which you will follow as it turns right in the middle of a creek and then you’ll probably get randomly lost but will eventually find your way out onto the highway anyway because pretty much all tracks lead that way … unless you take the next right after the creek”
Now isn’t that much easier to understand?
After finding my way out onto the highway, I did go looking for alternative routes, but concluded that there’s no ideal way out of this track, just a combination of fun ways, hard ways and easy ways … just so long as you go left, not right to start with you will eventually get out … somehow.
After my escape to the highway, I found it a surprisingly enjoyable (and warming) ride back up to my car. Traffic was very light.
All up, I was out for about two hours, though probably half of that was track clearing, exploring and generally being lost. My thoughts on it are that I think it wold be awesome to ride this track during Wildside (I will get around to entering one year) or maybe if you have the time and inclination to ride it once (to clear it) and then a second time to actually enjoy it … but all up I think I had very high expectations, and this track didn’t meet them.
I actually enjoyed myself more riding up the highway and playing in the deep creeks. But that’s just me.