Group ride: The Demon’s Double (and some hell in between)

Are you up for a challenge? Want to get in some terrific training for the Audax Alpine Classic or 3 Peaks? Reckon you can ride 175km and climb 3,500m in a day?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is ‘yes’ you should join myself and the Donvale Demon on Saturday November 10 as we take on the Reefton Spur, Lake Mountain and Mt. Donna Buang all in one day. Here’s the Demon with a teaser …

Climbing toward Lake Mountain.
Climbing toward Lake Mountain.

NOTE: If you’re interested in coming on this ride, please let us know by ‘joining’ the event on Facebook, just so we’ve got an idea of numbers. 

There’s something a bit sick (and not in a good way) about me lending my name to an event with ~3,500 metres of climbing – especially less than a year since my first climb, Mt. Donna Buang, nearly ended me.

Looking back, naivety was the only thing I had going for me. I didn’t understand the barrier to entry for cycling uphill was made of pain. Within a few hundred metres I got to know that barrier intimately, before falling through it to the next one, on which I impaled myself before hurtling into a vat of lactic soup.

I came out the other side only to tumble headfirst into my pain cave – a place of rudimentary Neandertal drawings, animal bones and scary noises. (I’ve been back in the cave since, and added some decent furnishings).

It’s worth pointing out the Demon’s Double route isn’t mine. I was told about it by Josh Goodall on this very website, who suggested I try it as preparation for 3 Peaks, which I attempted – and completed – for the first time in March. ‘Be warned’, said Josh, ‘it’s nearly as difficult as 3 Peaks itself’.

Due to various logistics, I knew in the days leading up to it I was going to do the ride solo. That didn’t disappoint me in the least. As a slow climber (ed. at the time!) there’s a certain relief knowing you won’t spend your day worrying that everyone up ahead has had to stop and wait for you; and that as soon as you arrive they’ll start riding again, giving you no chance to catch your breath.

As per Josh’s instructions I started at Warburton, heading out towards Marysville. Getting there involved crossing the Reefton Spur, which – I realised for the first time while doing it – is a decent challenge in itself. It goes up. It goes on. You’ll hear people saying it’s beautiful. And it is. But it hurts.

At Marysville I had a break before turning round and climbing Lake Mountain. Then it was back down, and back over the Reefton Spur, much (but not all of which) is a magnificent descent – albeit with some stubborn little pinches and rollers. I felt tired and full of bizarre mind chatter. Nonsense mostly.

One of the great views on the way up the Reefton Spur.
One of the great views on the way up the Reefton Spur.

It was a relief some time later to be back in Warburton, where the car was waiting, my change of clothes and … no wait, before that, there was still the ascent of Mt. Donna Buang, the second of the day’s peaks and the last of its challenges.

At the turn-off for the start of the climb I checked my iPhone and realised the battery was about to die. In my woeful pre-Garmin incarnation, this meant the Strava app would shut down at any minute. It’s hard to believe anyone cycled before Strava. What was the point?

I realised I’d have to switch the phone off to preserve the data from the ride so far. And so I found myself exhausted, alone, watching the sun begin to set, with no phone, no means to record my final climb, the car just a kilometre or so away (with at least one Chupa Chup under the driver’s seat) and no pressure from anyone – except myself – to keep going.

The opening section of Mt. Donna Buang is tough ... particular after 140km.
The opening section of Mt. Donna Buang is tough … particular after 140km.

The decider for me was that I’d done so much work already and would regret not seeing the ride through. Even then, I rode into the encroaching darkness convinced I would turn around at any second and roll back down the mountain to the car.

Making it to Cement Creek – the end of Donna’s steepest section – would be enough, I thought, until I got there and decided to push ahead for the final 10km. There was nothing spectacular about those final kilometres: I rarely got above 10km/h, it was dark, I was miserable. But predictably enough I felt happy to reach the top – and pleased to rack up 17 rolling kilometres of descent.

Was it almost as hard as 3 Peaks? Meh! I’m not sure, to be honest. But it’s a decent day in the saddle.

The Demon’s Double will be held on Saturday November 10, and will start in Warburton at 8am. Further details will be available on The Climbing Cyclist and on the Demon’s Double Facebook page in the coming weeks.

14 Replies to “Group ride: The Demon’s Double (and some hell in between)”

  1. Hi Gags, thanks for the advice – I’ll definitely give it a try in summer, wasn’t keen on going down it after a couple of days rain though. I’ve done the ascent up to Donna from Healesville up the dirt in summer before and that’s a beaut one as well.

    1. We actually rode the ride that I described above (Warburton, Reefton Spur, Lake Mountain, Marysville, Acheron Way, Warburton) on Sunday – 126 km or so with 2,500 m of climbing with 5h20m of ride time (once we got to the switchback on Donna Buang we went straight back down to Warburton). It was a fantastic day out and much more fun than Around the Bay in a Day!! The unsealed section of Acheron Way had a few potholes filled with water after we crested the climb but this was only for the last 3 km or so and they were easily dodgeable and still very doable on the 23 mm road tyres.

  2. A small group of lads are riding from Warburton Sunday 7th Oct 7am, up Donna B halfway to Acheron way, over to Marysville, up Lake Mountain, then to Reefton and back to Warburton with a full Donna B ascent for those with willing legs and minds left. All welcome.

    1. ooh crap just been reading that acheron way is 12km of dirt…might have to just do the demons double on Sunday instead! And then hopefully back it up again on Nov 10th!

      1. Matt, FYI while at Marysville Bakery yesterday the owners were asking who/what were the 300ish cyclists coming into town on the weekend of 13/14th October, to which we didn’t know anything about it. They seemed a little worried that they hadn’t heard about such a large group coming into the town, obviously wanting to ensure they had enough supplies/staff to cope with the influx.
        So if you haven’t already, it might be worthwhile letting them or a local business know about the Demon’s Double and rough numbers so they can plan for it and welcome the group with open arms.
        Also, Reefton Spur is an absolute cracker of a road, even in yesterday’s frigid weather!

        1. Marc, great idea! Thanks for the tip. I’ll let the Demon know. It might be worth doing something similar for the Warburton Bakery and at Lake Mountain…thanks!

      2. Marc – that 12 km of dirt is a pretty good surface and is easily done on a road bike running 23 mm tyres. We have done a similar ride a few times except we go up Lake Mountain on the way to Marysville and then head back up Donna Buang via the Acheron Way. I reckon that the Acheron Way is one of the best climbs in the area and don’t let the 12 km of dirt put you off as it is pretty tame. I have said to a few people that if I ever had a friend visit from overseas who wanted to go for a ride then this would be the climb that I would take them on – it is a gradual climb with virtually no traffic and some beautiful scenery……do yourself a favour and ride it some day!!

  3. This looks like a truly great ride – a bit like the Alpine Classic in that the final climb can be skipped if you are shattered after the first two climbs. I’m in if the weather is good on the day.

  4. Timo, the Lake Mountain surface is fine these days, it was pretty bad after some resurfacing, but fortunately that seems to have all brushed off.

  5. Has anyone seen the Lake Mountain surface recently? Last time i was there it was course and rough with lots of tiny loose stones that got stuck in my forks forcing me to stop and remove them every few minutes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *