Episode 16: the magical Reefton Spur

Route: Warburton, Marysville, Lake Mountain loop
Distance: 140km
Duration: 5 hours 32 minutes

Terrific views from the Reefton Spur.

Over the past nine months it’s been inspiring to see the Donvale Demon rapidly improve as a cyclist. He’s gone from non-cyclist to Around the Bay in a Day finisher to having a fantastic chance of completing the 3 Peaks Challenge in a few weeks time. He’s looking really strong.

Having heard about the Demon’s epic Two Peaks ride from a few weekends ago, I was keen to head out to Warburton and have a crack myself. The Demon himself wasn’t available on Saturday morning so the crew consisted of Brendan, Matt ‘Fletch’ Fletcher and I. We drove out to Warburton and set off toward Reefton on what would be an epic ride through a truly gorgeous part of the world.

I’d heard bits and pieces about the road between Warburton and Lake Mountain and the amazing climb that takes you over the Reefton Spur, not least of all from the Demon himself. But until Saturday, I’d never ridden up that way, nor even driven over the Reefton Spur.

A profile of the Reefton Spur shows about 20km of almost-constant climbing, starting in Reefton and ending at Camberville. And while the road is definitely ‘up’, it’s not that difficult to find a comfortable rhythm and just take in the surroundings.

A combination of great company, stunning views, quiet roads and amazing scenery made the time (and the kilometres) fly by. I probably say this about most of the routes I cycle, but the Reefton Spur truly is an amazing piece of road. Get out there and give it a shot — you won’t regret it.

Reaching Cambarville we took a left turn and headed past the Lake Mountain Alpine Resort turn-off and descended toward Marysville. The plan was to retrace the Demon’s steps (or should that be tyre tracks?) into Marysville before heading back up to the Lake Mountain Alpine Resort. After a quick bite to eat in Marysville we got stuck into the Lake Mountain climb.

Climbing toward Lake Mountain from Camberville.

The first 4km of the climb are undeniably steep but once you get over that initial hurdle, the rest of the climb is pretty straightforward. Fletch, Brendan and I decided we’d all ride at our own pace and regroup at the resort. As I worked through the initial steep section I found myself with a bit of a gap over the others — a gap I expected to disappear once the road flattened off somewhat. As you might remember from a previous instalment, I have real trouble keeping up with Fletch when the road flattens out.

But the catch never came and I found myself riding alone for the next hour-and-a-bit. I didn’t feel as if I was pushing terribly hard, but when I arrived at the Lake Mountain Alpine Resort, I had taken 14 minutes off my previous best — a time of 1 hour 11 minutes.

This is probably more indicative of a slow previous best rather than any good turn of speed. That said, this is the strongest I’ve ever felt on the bike and it’s great to be seeing such results. Fletch and Brendan arrived a little while later, and the three of us headed up to the new resort centre to grab a bite to eat.

After a short break we got back on the road, all of us looking forward to the chance to spend some time descending. We’d ridden 80km by that point and climbed 2,300 vertical metres.

More climbing on the way toward Lake Mountain

This was my first long ride without Nurofen since my ITB flared up a few weeks ago and it felt good to be riding without needing drugs to get me through. Strangely though, the ITB is more painful on descents than it is on the climbs (higher cadence vs. lower cadence perhaps?) and the descent from Lake Mountain turned out to be a pretty painful experience.

That said, it was great to be heading downhill and after a short climb back toward Cambarville (the gloriously named ‘Deliverance climb!’ on Strava) it was back to descending. If I thought the climb up the Reefton Spur was great (which it was) then the descent was on a whole ‘nother level of awesome. There were a couple of times I thought to myself ‘this is the best descent I’ve ever done’. I don’t know if that was the adrenaline talking but it was certainly an amazing hour or so, heading back toward Warburton.

As we were getting toward the bottom of the Reefton Spur I had one of the stranger experiences I’ve ever had on a bike. We’d been followed for a couple of kilometres by a police car that was giving us plenty of space and as we rounded a corner a little while later we came up behind a slow-moving ambulance. For a couple of kilometres we enjoyed our own emergency services escort, sandwiched between an ambulance and police car.

After a while, the ambulance pulled over to the side of the road allowing us to pass, and the three of us led the ambulance and police car down the mountain.

Climbing Lake Mountain from the Marysville side.

After 120km of riding we stopped at one of the terrific vantage points to get some photos of the valleys and mountains in the distance. By this point my ITB had become really painful and I decided to take some Nurofen to get me through the final 20km.

For the whole day I’d been riding with the expectation that I’d need to save some energy for an ascent of Mt. Donna Buang. After all, the Donvale Demon had ridden the same route the previous week, solo, and had finished the day with a Donna climb. Surely the three of us, riding together, could drag ourselves up Donna?

Having left something in the tank for Donna I was still feeling pretty fresh when we got back to Warburton. The combination of stretching at our photo stop and the Nurofen also meant I had no serious ITB pain to contend with.

In the end we decided it was probably best to leave Donna for another day, given it was already 5.30pm and a climb of Donna would see us back in Warburton at 7.30pm, at the earliest. We headed back to the car, stuck the bikes on the bike rack and drove back to Melbourne.

Even without the Donna climb to cap things off, it was a fantastic day on the bike. 140 solid kilometres with over 2,600 vertical metres.

Descending Lake Mountain; Fletch on the left, Brendan on the right.

So January and February have flown by and March is just about upon us. It’s less than three weeks until the Donvale Demon, Brendan, Fletch and I line up at Falls Creek and attempt the 3 Peaks Challenge. I know I’m a little apprehensive about the day, despite being the fittest I’ve ever been. I can imagine the others are a little nervous too.

There’s an official 3 Peaks training ride this Saturday morning that leaves from St. Kilda and goes to Sorrento via Arthurs Seat and back. It’s a 200km day and one that I’m keen to head along to. Hopefully the Demon, Fletch and Brendan will be there too. In the meantime I’ll be keeping up the stretches and strengthening exercises and hoping my ITB continues to improve.

As always, feel free to come and have a chat on Twitter, Facebook and/or Strava. And of course, comments are always welcome below.

Thanks for reading and be sure to stay safe on the roads.

17 days to go …

Previous instalments

13 Replies to “Episode 16: the magical Reefton Spur”

  1. Did the Reefton Spur this morning as my first ride into the New Year, made it to Marysville without seeing a car, on the ride home there were a few motor bikes and vintage cars but they were not a problemo, why people bother with Beach Road when they can ride this amazes me. Good fun ride, though not severe in gradients it seems the hills will never end, the ride home is brilliant.

  2. Logging trucks use the road regularly and a lot of campers/dirt bike riders use the road as well, many with trailers, and most straddle the lines at some point. Enjoy the ride but be very careful, it only takes one tight corner with a rev head coming the opposite way (or even the same way) and the day will end in tears.

  3. Hi Matt,

    thanks for your feedback about Mt Baw Baw. Am psyching up to tackle the beast sometime this yr.

    Sounds like you will smash 3 peaks in a few wks time. Am envious reading your blogs of all the fabulous rides you have been doing. Well done. Has been difficult for myself to get out with a family and an 18 month old toddler.

    I am hoping to do this ride you have done over Easter all being well. I just wanted to know what the traffic was like as I notice the roads along the reefton spur don’t have a shoulder. I know you mention the “Black Spur” can be quite dangerous unless done early in the morning. Would you consider the reefton spur ride to be safe? It looks truly amazing and can’t wait to have a crack at it.

    All the best for 3 peaks.


    1. Thanks Darren. The Reefton Spur is considerably quieter than the Black Spur. I would be very hesitant to ride the Black Spur on a weekend (unless it was early in the morning) but the Reefton Spur, even around lunchtime on Saturday, was virtually isolated.

      We only saw a handful of cars for the whole day. So yep, I’d consider it to be safe — I certainly felt comfortable riding along there but I don’t think I would feel the same way along the Black Spur.



  4. Another enjoyable read Matt, It’s kinda scary when I see 17 days until 3peaks. What’s your advice on how to tackle Hotham & Buffalo in the one day, would you do Hotham first, Buffalo second? This Saturday is my last hard workout before March 11.

    1. My opinion. How are you going to get from Hotham to Buffalo and where are you staying ? I’d do Hotham first as it far harder. Then start Buffalo and see how you fare. The weather can get foul on Hotham so you might want to get that out of the way earlier if a change is forcast. Buffalo isn’t that high so doesn’t get as feral.

  5. Matt, you can also ride this as a sensational loop if you don’t mind 12km of dirt on the Acheron Way (perfectly rideable with 23mm tyres on a roadie) – http://ridewithgps.com/routes/334501. If you throw in a half Donna at the end, you get the imperial 100 miles and 10 000ft!

    Riding the entire Two Peaks in a day (your ride plus a full Donna) really requires an early start. I’ve had a crack at it 3 times and always run out of time. I think you really need to overnight in Warburton to get the early start!

      1. It’s a procedure where they gave me a local anasthetic and then they partially cut the ITB. It loosens the ITB and releases the pressure. I was experiencing a lot of pain and discomfort but it cleared up completely after the procedure and recovery.

        It was performed in a doctors surgery. I walked out of the doctors office and was a bit ginger on the leg for a few days but recovery was pretty much painless. I think I was back on the bike about 3 weeks later, but it was a while ago and the exact timeline has faded a little.

        I had mine done by Peter Fuller at Ashwood Life Care (http://www.lifecare.com.au/main.php?page=content_profile&id=MTE5ODA0MDQ3Mw==)

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