What’s the High Country Brewery Grind?
Our soon-to-be-released full High Country Brewery Grind route links all 9 High Country breweries together into a 7+ day bikepacking route. The breweries are Mitta Mitta Brewing Co, Rutherglen Brewery, Crank Handle Brewery, Black Dog Brewery, Bridge Road Brewers, Blizzard Brewing Company, Billson’s and the Bright Brewery.
The full route will be an epic, 700km+ bikepacking route through Victoria’s High Country with some solid 100km+ days and over 10,000m of elevation gain. We’ve set the route up along some basic guiding principles:
- Each day ends at or near one of the breweries (because all good rides end with a sports drink).
- Gravel or singletrack where possible, but quiet sealed roads are OK too (especially when they’re the spectacular Hotham climb or Glen Wills descent).
- The surfaces and riding must be manageable on a cross/gravel bike (ie not MTB goat tracks).
- Each night should have a variety of accommodation options, as close to the brewery as possible (so you can walk back to camp).
We will be releasing the full route via our website (and also bikepacking.com) as soon as we’re happy with the last couple of sections.
What’s the (mini) High Country Brewery Grind?
The (mini) High Country Brewery Grind is a 250km mini version of the full route. It’s a self-supported, 3-day, 2-night bikepacking adventure that takes in four of the High Country breweries: Bridge Road Brewers (Beechworth), King River Brewing (King Valley), Billson’s Brewery (Beechworth) and the Bright Brewery (Bright).
This Melbourne Cup weekend (Sat-Mon Oct 31 – Nov 2) Gravelmob and some Beechworth friends will be loading up their bikes and riding the mini route. We thought it’d be cool if others rode too, together if coronavirus restrictions allow that or at an acceptable distance if not. So we’ve booked 40 unpowered campsites in Beechworth, the King Valley and Bright (not an easy task on Cup weekend btw) and are putting it out there to see who else is keen.
Although we’ve published this as “a ride”, it’s not an event. It doesn’t have an entry fee or insurance and all riders will be riding at their own risk and supporting themselves. There is a cost to cover the campsite fees and that’s it.
What’s the route?
The mini Grind includes everything that’s great about gravel riding in the High Country. Quiet farm lanes, car-free backroads, fresh air, picturesque vineyards, shortcuts on tracks and plenty of the famous mountainous backdrops that the Beechworth/Bright region is famous for. There are hills to climb (including some big ones), descents to negotiate and a healthy dose of cruisy flat riding so you can catch your breath. And a brewery at the end of every day.
Distance 250km, elevation gain +3900m.
- Fri 30 Oct: Arrive Beechworth. Breweries: Billson’s Brewery and Bridge Road Brewers.
- Sat 31 Oct: Beechworth to Whitfield, 85km. Brewery: King River Brewing.
- Sun 1 Nov: Whitfield to Bright, 85km. Brewery: Bright Brewery.
- Mon 2 Nov: Bright to Beechworth, 80km. Breweries: Billson’s Brewery and Bridge Road Brewers.
- Tue 3 Nov (Cup Day): Kick back, head home.
Note: the route may change slightly between now and October.
This is a bikepacking ride, so most riders will be carrying their own accommodation on their bikes. If you want to free-camp somewhere, organise your own support vehicle or live it up in an AirBnB that’s cool. Otherwise, we’ve made arrangements for 40 riders at the Beechworth, Whitfield and Bright campgrounds.
Fri 30: Beechworth. Unpowered sites for up to 40 riders at Beechworth Lake Sambell Caravan Park, 1.5km from town.
Sat 31: Beechworth-Whitfield: Unpowered sites for up to 40 riders at Gentle Annie campground, 2km north of the Whitfield pub and 4km south of King River Brewing.
Sun 1: Whitfield-Bright. Unpowered sites for up to 40 riders at Camp Crusty, 1.5km from town and the brewery.
Mon 2: Bright-Beechworth. Some riders will be driving home after finishing the ride, so we haven’t arranged anything for Monday night. But day 3 will be a big day, so we recommend you book yourself something for that night and celebrate your achievement (ahem) that afternoon.
To reserve one of the 40 Gravelmob-arranged rider sites on Fri+Sat+Sun night you must book a ticket for each rider via our online booking system. You can add multiple riders per booking. The tickets are $60 per person (each night is $20pp). Please note – this isn’t a ride entry fee (there isn’t one of those), this is just to reserve your spot at the campgrounds.
Here’s what you should consider before you decide to be part of the ride. Also please note the Mandatory Equipment list further down the page.
- Endurance. Each day covers 80-90km and there are some sizeable climbs, especially on days 2 and 3. There’s no sag wagon or sweep vehicle. Are you fit enough to go the distance?
- Gear. You’ll be carrying your accommodation, food and water. The weight adds up quickly. Have you practiced carrying all that gear? How will you carry it all on your bike?
- Bike. The route is mostly off road on gravel. That doesn’t mean you need a gravel bike, but your tyres should be wide enough to handle lumpy changeable terrain. Is your bike in a good state of repair? Will your bike’s gearing be low enough to cope with the hills?
- Food and water. You’ll pass the occasional general store and cafe where you can restock snacks and fill water bottles, but they’re few and far between (see Food & Water below). Do you know how to stay fuelled and hydrated when you have 3-4 hours’ riding in front of you?
- Navigation. The route will have no signage arrows or other markings, and you might find yourself riding on your own at times. Are you experienced at navigating and following a GPX route?
- Communication. You’re in regional Victoria with patchy mobile phone coverage – even with Telstra. Your phone’s GPS will be unreliable and making calls or sending messages won’t be possible in some areas. How will you follow the route? (Relying on your phone to navigate isn’t recommended anyway – better to invest in a proper GPS unit.)
- Batteries. Daily time in the saddle will be 5-6 hours. Will your GPS device’s battery run out if you’re using it for that long? How will you charge it overnight ready for the next day?
- Support. Gravelmob isn’t providing mechanical or first aid support, and there’s no sag wagon or sweep vehicle. Do you have enough skill and knowledge to fix your bike if you have a mechanical issue such as a broken derailleur, broken spokes, or even just a flat tyre? What if you crash and injure yourself? Other riders may pass you and will certainly help if they can, but you can’t rely on that.
- Insurance. Gravelmob isn’t providing any insurance. You’ll be riding completely at your own risk and will sign a risk waiver before you begin. Do you have rider insurance (MTBA and CA are your friends here) and ambulance cover?
Some riders will have plenty of experience with this sort of ride, others will look at that list and think it sounds a little daunting. That’s good! That’s what makes it an adventure. We’re really hoping that some of you who’ve never done anything like this before see this weekend as an opportunity to learn new things, equip yourself and get organised! We’re very happy to offer our advice and knowledge in the lead-up if you get in touch with us.
To help us all stay safe and located, we’re implementing mandatory checkpoints at the departure and finish points each day. There’ll be a simple sheet to sign on/off at each checkpoint.
- Day 1: Depart Old Beechworth Gaol, finish Gentle Annie Campground.
- Day 2: Depart Gentle Annie, finish Bright Campground.
- Day 3: Depart Bright Campground, finish Bridge Road Brewers in Beechworth.
It sounds a little Big Brother, but this list of mandatory equipment helps to ensure everyone’s safety. You should carry this stuff on all your adventure rides anyway, so this is good practice regardless. We will be checking you have this gear before you set off on day 1.
- A PLB/EPIRB/Spot Tracker/Garmin InReach or similar device. If you regularly set out on adventures then you probably already have one of these. If you don’t, then you’ll have to buy, rent or borrow one.
- This is a fundamental part of your personal safety – be sure to familiarise yourself with how it works and when it is (and is not) appropriate to hit the SOS button.
- We may set up a Maprogress page for the ride (for the dot watchers), but there would be a participant cost to this. We’ll let you know what we decide.
- Front and rear lights. We’re riding during daylight hours, but if you’re delayed (mechanical, flat tyre, too much lunch) then you’ll be riding to camp in the dark. And it gets pretty dark out here in regional VIC…
- First aid kit. You can choose what to carry, but we suggest you follow the advice on this page as a start. Snake bandages and knowledge of how to use them effectively are a must. Sunscreen and hydrating powder are a no-brainer.
- Spares kit. Again, you can choose what to carry, but at a minimum you should have (and know how to use) a multi-tool, spare tubes (even if you’re running tubeless), chain breaker and quick link (correct speed for your chain), bike pump and tyre levers.
It should go without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that you’ll also need an Australian Standards-approved helmet and appropriate clothing. And some cool sunnies.
Food & water
The route was set to make breakfast, lunch and dinner relatively easy if you want to eat out:
- Breakfast: Beechworth (day 1), Whitfield/Cheshunt (day 2) and Bright (day 3).
- Lunch: Moyhu (day 1). Days 2 and 3 have no lunch option unless you detour through Myrtleford, so you’ll have to buy lunch before you leave Whitfield/Bright and carry it with you, or pack a dehydrated meal.
- Dinner: Whitfield (day 1), Bright (day 2) and Beechworth (day 3).
Water and snack restocking:
- Day 1: Whorouly, Moyhu
- Day 2: Whitfield, Goldie Spur start (Gravelmob water point), Porepunkah
- Day 3: Bright, Rosewhite (Gravelmob water point), Stanley.
There’s no obligation for us to all eat together and at this stage no pub bookings or group arrangements have been made. You can BYO food and cook en route, in the camp kitchens, on your mini-stove, or whatever you like. But it’d be cool to get together and share stories at the pub/brewery each night…
We support the “ride what you have” philosophy as the best way to approach bikepacking. Just strap stuff to your bike and have fun.
That said, things will be a little easier (and arguably more enjoyable) on this ride with:
- A gravel bike or hardtail MTB with 38mm+ tyres.
- A lightweight tent/bivy and sleeping gear that’ll keep you comfortable and warm at 0-5 degrees. It’ll probably be warmer but you never know.
- Ride clothing suitable for weather that could be anything from sunny and hot to raining and 10 degrees.
- A good attitude towards the local black and white feathered friends who haven’t yet learned that we don’t want to harm their babies…
- Bikepacking bags or touring panniers (maybe you could borrow some if you don’t have any – it can be uncomfortable to ride long distances with a backpack).
- Some thought around your packing and how to carry what you need on your bike. If you’re new to it all then bikepacking.com and cyclingabout.com are good places to start, or you can call us and we’ll share what we know. And you could have a go at a few loaded test rides over winter as part of your preparation.
Are you keen?
If you’re interested in being part of this ride please let us know by booking your camping accommodation (below) or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you think you’d like to ride it on one of our Bombtrack hire bikes or hire a set of our bikepacking bags, book early!
This ride could either be a highlight of your year or a complete disaster. Either way, you’ll have something to talk about…