How about the weather lately? Pretty average, eh. It’s this time of year I start to change the focus of my cycling. Fenders go on, I start planning building a dynamo lighting wheel (three years with my touring bike – still hasn’t happened), and I begin to look for opportunities to get outdoors, in spite of a bit of rain or more frequent overcast days. One thing I’ve learned is it’s far easier to brave the elements with some mates. Specially, packing light, jumping on a bike and heading off to somewhere less urban (think Treadly’s #LazyWednesday rides). My favourite of these social rides is a tradition that has now come to be known amongst my mates as “beer rides”. These anti-epics involve throwing a few cold ones into a backpack or saddlebag (if you’re a real pro you stash some at the location beforehand) and heading up to the hills to talk shit and watch the sunset. Now I’m in no way claiming that we invented the tradition of riding up hills to catch sunsets, but we have been doing it for a couple of years before #TeamDreamSunsetChasingTeam was a thing on the instas. Make of that what you will. What’s more, people tend to be inherently contemplative and communal when watching a sunset, particularly when removed from an urban landscape, so I feel we’re satisfying something innate when we do this. The drinking isn’t even that important in-and-of-itself, all you really need is a destination, a means of getting there (bikes are pretty good for this), something to sit on (if you like) and something to keep warm in when the sun goes down (if you like). Hell, you can even do it on your own, though it is far more fun with mates.
In terms of destination, there are few spots better than Mt Osmond. Mt Osmond lies within the City of Burnside, and is a comparatively lightly settled area. Originally used for grazing and mining, it is now sparsely residential, but gets enough bike traffic that the locals tend to know how to pass you safely. Its summit is enclosed by the Mt Osmond Golf Club and is 384 metres above sea level. Wildlife found within the area include ‘roos, deer, sheep, and I saw a couple of Black Cockatoos once. It is accessible by bicycle via 4 main routes, detailed below (5 if you count going via Waterfall Gully Road, though being a bit out of my way, I’ve never gone up that particular route). Despite undeniably being uphill, geographically speaking, it remains an unintimidating ride, what with it being only 11-odd kilometres from the city and not at all too high. One needn’t be put off by the thought of having the ‘wrong bike’ for the ride either. A super-lightweight race-rocket or vials of hyper-oxygenated blood are not required here. A man stronger and more handsome than me has done the Hayward Drive climb on a single-speed cyclocross bike, and there’s a fixed.org.au sticker on a fence at the top which is evidence enough for me that it has been climbed on a fixie. Point being that you and your Tokyo Bike will have a whale of a time getting up there. As such, Mt Osmond makes for a great location for one to get acquainted with some casual mountaineering, particularly of the kind that takes you off the beaten path a bit.
These are four of my most frequently travelled ways of summiting Mt Osmond. They all come out at the same place – a finger of clear land north-west of the summit with commanding views of the city and Gulf St Vincent.
Perhaps the most obvious way to the summit (or as close as you can get to the summit without crashing the golf club) is straight up the guts via Hayward Drive. It may also work out to be the shortest way, at only a couple of kms from Sunnyside Road. It is a bit steep however – with an average gradient of 9.8% and occasionally kicking up to at least 12%, if that means anything to you (It really shouldn’t unless you’re an engineer). That said, it can be a very enjoyable ride, if nothing else as a demonstration of how much elevation one can gain in a short distance, and the sense of achievement one justifiably feels afterwards. There is a strip of singletrack that runs next to the road proper and comes out at the top of the climb. However, for the most part the trail is pretty narrow, rather rocky, and slick if it’s at all damp - better suited for walking, unless you want a slightly sketchy challenge (the best kind).
Via Bike Path.
A moderately easier alternative to Hayward Drive is to ride part-way of the bike path that runs alongside the freeway and joins up with Mt Osmond Road at the first bridge. There is another short, punchy climb here, however it isn’t as steep as Hayward Drive and you’re rewarded with some heaps nice rolling terrain and heaps nicer views at the top. There is also some singletrack that serves as a de facto footpath along the top (infrequently trafficked) that is a fun ride itself. One thing to bear in mind is that isn’t as much of a shoulder on the climb up Mt Osmond Road, and at certain times seems busier than Hayward Drive, so you would be more exposed if you have to hike-a-bike.
Old Bullock Track
Were you to continue up the bike path from the turnoff to Mt Osmond Road, past the cattery and up to Eagle on the Hill Hotel (remember that?), you would meet the trailhead of Old Bullock Track. Primarily a 4WD path for the Forestry Department (or some such. Never seen a car up there though), it provides the unique option of descending onto Mt Osmond. It consists of surprisingly frequently graded gravel roads and none-too-technical hardpack, and can also be a fun spot to catch some of the aforementioned wildlife. There are a couple of gates across the track but don’t worry, you’re allowed to go that way and they have stiles to climb through. It is a moderate downhill run but is well sighted and pretty wide. I’d say make sure your brakes work, but you’re already periodically checking them anyway, aren’t you. Don’t go too hard on your brakes on the gravel and you’ll kick arse. The last part of the track takes you behind the golf club. Always remember to shout ‘fore’ as you go past – they love it.
Pioneer Women’s Trail
Saving the best till last (atmo), PWT is a gently undulating ribbon of #SexySexySingletrack, and some of the best off-road riding (up or down) on the CBD side of the hills. It’s signposted as a walking trail, but is frequented by enough cyclists that it might as well not matter. I’ve never seen anybody actually police that sort of thing (does anybody do that?), so don’t worry too much about it, be courteous to other trail users and you’ll be fine. It gently eases in gradient as you ride up, and is plenty wide enough to hike-a-bike if you feel like it. There is even a bench halfway up. How’s that for infrastructure! Getting to the trailhead is easy too – ride up Dashwood Road heading towards the intersection with Glynburn Road. About halfway up is a small park called Brock Reserve – it’s in there. There’s a bridge too, which is cool. As a descent, it’s still very rideable on a wide variety of bikes, and is in stiff competition with Hayward drive for the most fun ride down while you’re curating a neat 3 beer buzz.
Cycling up hills is hardly the herculean feat many make it out to be - I manage to make it up Mt Osmond which should be proof enough that anyone can do it. It’s close to town, but still undeveloped enough to provide a real change of scene. It’s also one of the closest places to grab some proper #TreadlyAdventureClub vibes, even in the cooler months. In short, it’s one of the things that makes Adelaide a pretty great place to ride bikes, or just be outside in general. The couch is not your friend, and humans aren’t typically water soluble, so why not head outdoors, jump on your bike and go somewhere interesting.
About the author.
Henry Veitch is a slightly overweight self-described “bicycle derelict”, and he’s curious why everyone seems to be getting around on 3-speed conversions all of a sudden.
Photos by Henry Veitch and Tannon Kew.