Orange, in New South Wales’ Central West region, is going mad for cycling. Local enthusiast and advocate David Waddell takes us on a tour of what’s on offer.
Heaving myself out of the saddle to climb the last 50m stretch of the Pinnacle on a midday ride with mates I couldn’t help but reflect how lucky I was to be able to go for lunchtime sessions in such a beautiful place just ten minutes out of town.
The Pinnacle ride is a 29km loop from town, rising to 1,132m (out of town’s 862m) with grades up to 14%. It takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete. For a Saturday morning ride, there’s a bunch that screams around a 60km Tallwood loop at a pace you’d never achieve in the city. You might see ten cars along the way which is an added plus if you’re used to jostling for space. Road quality isn’t amazing but potholes are part of country life.
I’ve faced Peaks Challenge Falls Creek, and while it is beautiful country in northeast Victoria, it is a long way away for Sydney people to travel. In Orange, we are spoilt with hills, long flats, a strong cycling culture, mountain biking tracks galore, a velodrome and an old volcano called Mt Canobolas. What’s more, it’s within striking distance of Canberra and Sydney.
Located in the central west of NSW, the town of Orange is roughly 3–4 hours from Sydney depending how you feel like driving. Most people make a nice drive of it and stop in the Blue Mountains or Bathurst along the way.
The local council is very supportive of cycling and has a variety of material online. The Cycle Orange Guide, available from the Visitor Centre on Byng Street (near the library), provides a detailed guide to the variety of riding on offer.
For instance, there are four signposted loops to ride in town, ranging from 4.5 to 8 kilometres. These are mostly onroad and they take in Orange’s historic sites, playgrounds and green spaces. Then there are ten outoftown loops ranging from 9.5km to 75km, accessing wineries, farm gates and the open road.
For mountain biking action, the guide details access to two areas of singletrack: over 30km worth in Kinross Forest, 6km out of town; and a mountain bike park on land recently gifted by Orange Council near Lake Canobolas. These trails provide some great short circuits for all levels. The fire trails of Mt Canobolas are also top notch.
Out of the rides on offer, a few stand out for special mention—for instance, the lowkey riding out to Lake Canobolas, with the Lake Kiosk providing a great base in the district. Ben Crawley runs a lovely operation at the Lake with breakfast, lunch and dinner available.
The Mt Canobolas summit, rising to a lofty 1,395m, provides an adventurous ride. From The Mountain Tea House it’s 6km to the top. Even though there is a 2km dirt stretch, it is suitable for road bikes, as the clay soils are packed down. Allow for half an hour at the top to enjoy the panorama from the highest point in the Central West. Take care on the ride down as the bends are quite hairy. Fuel up at The Mountain Tea House then ride back to town via Lake Canobolas or lunch at the Lake Kiosk.
Great road riding abounds in Orange, and the roads are packed on Saturday and Sunday mornings with riders of every level heading out. Nearby Millthorpe is a historic town with a couple of great cafes. A 30km ride to Millthorpe followed by coffee or lunch and a return via Tallwood is a great way to spend a casual day. There’s also plenty of scope for other shorter rides including the Pinnacle (29km), Lucknow loop (35km), Tallwood loop (60km) and Panuara “Back of Mine” loop (75km).
The Tallwood bunch ride leaves in waves from about 6.40am with the main group leaving just before the hour. It’s a great game of fox and hounds. Being more style than substance, I tend to leave earlier in order to not get dropped on the ‘dippers’—a couple of minor bumps on Huntley Road. That way I’m warmed up by the time the medium group catches me 10km into the ride.
It’s flat for a long while and if you trot along at 35–40km/h you can even get to the turn at Tallwood before, inevitably, the fast group overtakes screaming along. Some days they’re nice and let you tag along for a while before the next series of hills approaches near Spring Terrace and you get dropped into the void.
I’ve never made it to Spring Terrace with the fast group. I reform with a bunch of leftovers and slide into Bill’s Beans coffee shop in time to maybe, just maybe, have a couple of minutes of shared latte with the legends. There’s a local barrister, vignerons, an exworld champion cyclist, a 62 year old headmaster who’s a world triathlon age champion, a dentist, tradies, you name it. Come try your luck—they like to smash city riders.
If you’re after a long ride, the local gang runs the Ronde Van De Nob every year – a 176 km anticlockwise loop ride around the Mt Canobolas with a total of 2,200m climbing. It’s hard work and requires solid legs, particularly the Piggery Hill rise up into Forest Reefs at the 140 km mark. It’s a long grinder and it is common for local riders to add the loop to training programs. If you’re in town and looking for company, contact a local club.
The Ronde runs around March every year and now offers a 70km shorter run to Cudal with a bus back to Orange or the longer version, which shouldn’t be taken lightly. There’s many a rider who’s been swept off at Canowindra or Mandurama. Unlike Peaks Challenge Falls Creek with its killer hill finish, it finishes with a flat 25km run into town after the Forest Reefs pub where ‘one beer in gear’ is not compulsory, but encouraged.
Orange has a velodrome on Anson Street, which the council has recently refurbished. If you’re looking to join in with the local club racing scene, the Orange Cycling Club holds regular races and skills sessions for juniors and there’s a crit race every month at the old trotting track. Contact them at occ.org.au for details. The Spring Racing series is also top quality and riders regularly do well in larger competitions around the state.
Orange has two bike shops—‘Rocket’ Rod Farrell’s DG Cycles and Ron Bolton’s (run by Pete Bolton) shop—both on Lord’s Place. Head to one of them as you get to town and one of the guys will point you in the right direction.
Adding to its charm, Orange is renowned for its wineries and local produce, with cafes and restaurants offering plenty of places to indulge your thirst and appetite after a solid ride. There’s also an everexpanding range of accommodation options in and around town in the stunning Towac Valley.
For a drink and a great meal go to the Canobolas Hotel, run by Phil Tudor, a cycling stalwart of Orange. Check out the various Big Ride jerseys and ask for Phil. There are also several wineries on the Pinnacle loop so there’s another option.
You could come up on a Friday night, ride the ‘Nob’ on the Saturday and relax in Orange, with perhaps a Pinnacle on the Sunday.
See you on the road.
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