I headed up to Castlemaine today with the 24 GUni to explore an area known to locals as ‘The Pineys’ – a large pine plantation that also happens to contain over 25km of MTB single track.
Castlemaine is to the north of the ranges – significantly lower, warmer and drier than the Wombat Forest around home. It’s also part of the Goldfields region which was heavily mined during the gold rush of the 1850’s. All together it makes for a rugged landscape.
The local MTB riders in Castlemaine have been creating trails for years in the hills that surround the town. The single track trail entries are intentionally discreet and took some finding but it wasn’t long before the ride was on.
I’ve never been a fan of pine plantations in Australia. While they clearly have a purpose, compared to the richness and diversity of native bush the mono culture of pine plantations seems devoid of life, silent and eerie. With the mass symmetrical planting of trees regardless of the terrain, plantations also lack a sense of place – where you’ve been, where you are, what’s ahead – at times it just all looks the same, lines and lines of pine trees converging in all directions, like a glitch in the Matrix. Anyway… that is my gripe for the day!
The upside is that where there is a pine plantation there are often trails, and the single track trails in The Pines are GREAT! LOTS of challenging terrain, often rocky and steep. LOTS of climbing and descending. LOTS of having no idea where you are, just descending into one of many deep gullies surrounded by pine trees.
In a completely foreign environment with no signage, no map and multiple track options I had to rely on the force to navigate the many trails and tracks in the plantation, and get back to the van in time to pick up our daughter from school 🙂
Hard to say whether the 24 GUni was the best choice for today’s ride. High gear didn’t get used once, and while the 24″ wheel/3.0 tire was great in the difficult rocky terrain a 29’er MUni could have been a more efficient choice, especially on the many climbs as well as its ability to roll through terrain. The extra pedal clearance would be handy too. Of course that could all be wrong, and with better knowledge of the plantation I’m sure high gear on the GUni would come in handy for blasting along connecting access tracks. I’ll take the 29’er along next time to find out.