Up and back again

How many different kinds of road are there?

I have to be brutally honest with you and admit that I just don’t know how many different kinds of road there are, but I can pretty much guarantee that you will encounter every (sealed) variety on this run…

By the way, we use this run as one of our standard test roads, which explains the intimate knowledge of good coffee stops and cafes.

Head north out of Sydney along the Pacific Highway or Pennant Hills Road. In Wahroonga, abandon the so-called “main roads” and take to the Newcastle freeway, sign-posted National Highway 1. If you’re lucky enough to not encounter a burning truck (this road attracts burning trucks like, err, like picnics attract ants) you will now have a few kilometres of what passes as “superslab” in New South Wales, a good opportunity to wiggle around on the seat until you’re comfortable and adjust anything on the bike that can be adjusted.

Take the Berowra turnoff, turn right at the highway and fill up at one of the service stations on the left, a little further up the road. This will be the last fuel for a while. Then, when the road divides, take the left-hand fork.

Those of you who know the area will be ready; anyone who doesn’t is now in for a very pleasant surprise indeed. The old Pacific Highway, better known as the Old Road, is a wonderful stretch of generally not-too-bad bitumen that parallels and occasionally crosses the freeway on the way north. The speed limit is ridiculously low, and we won’t go into the reasons for that at this stage, but on a cruiser it’s a lot of fun even at pretty much legal speed.

The first coffee stop comes up on your right after a great little set of corners beginning at Cowan; it’s the famous Pie in the Sky and apart from the Ulyssians infesting the place it’s a lot of fun. Coffee’s good, pies are OK, atmosphere is great. Be careful pulling back out onto the road because some people come up the hill from the river at a substantial rate of knots (mainly on bikes!) and don’t look at traffic turning in.

The corners down to the Hawkesbury River bridge are terrific and mainly predictable, although the left-hander after the freeway bridge does go on a bit longer than you’d probably expect and seems to tighten up a bit, too.

The little servo after the bridge has closed down, which is a shame, but the road is as good as ever. Beware mainly of bicycles and other motorcyclists who have run out of talent on some of the less-than-forgiving corners. Beware also of the Highway Patrol, who occasionally target this road and who have no sense of humour at all.

The new Road Warriors Café at Mount White is the next coffee stop, well worth patronising for its egg-and-bacon rolls as well as passable coffee. Continue to Calga, where you want the Peats Ridge Road running north. This is a strange stretch of very good and wide concrete and tar roadway with little traffic. The reason for the quality is that it used to be the main road north before the freeway was completed.

Turn left just past Peats Ridge onto a good, fast (watch out for entering traffic) country road. At Central Mangrove, turn left again onto the Wisemans Ferry Road. This has more or less the same kind of surface as the road you’ve just left, but it’s less used and a bit less predictable. There’s passable coffee just off the road on the right at a little shop in (I think) Mangrove Mountain. It’s well signposted.

The road now drops to river level by way of an excellent set of corners — mostly but not all long, sweeping ones, so beware — which should see you polishing the footboards before you reach Mangrove Creek. Yes, they do seem to have a thing about mangroves up here…

Then it’s a great run along the creek before the waterway opens up and becomes a reach of the Hawkesbury River. The little riverside town on Spencer is not far away now, with a very pleasant little café called the Spencer Village Store on the right, opposite the wharf. You could do worse than stop here for lunch. There’s plenty of parking between the road and the river.

More excitement is in store as you ride west along the river to the Wisemans Ferry ferry. This can be a tricky road; it is generally in pretty good condition but it is also narrow and, due to its route — dodging in and out of the little gullies that run down to the river and around the ridges — it has very poor sight lines. A truck or car coming the other way can show up most unexpectedly, and sometimes on your side of the road.

It’s a nice break crossing the river on the cable ferry. Please note that the ferry captain is actually entitled to ask you to get off your bike during the crossing. It’s not especially likely that he will, but he can. The reason for this odd regulation is … umm … well, we’ve never been able to figure it out.

Once on the other side, head up the hill towards the large building on your left that is the Wisemans Ferry Hotel. Originally built by Solomon Wiseman, it is a bit of a motorcyclists’ Mecca on weekends and offers large and filling counter lunches. We usually prefer to turn into the driveway just before the pub, which has at its end a restaurant with a quiet, sunny terrace overlooking the river. It’s another good lunch stop.

It’s tempting to say that it’s all downhill back to Sydney from here but, of course, before you can go downhill you must go up — and in this case the excellent Wisemans Ferry esses await you, including a spectacular left-hand hairpin. Beware on the road that runs south along the ridges from here; it is easy to get carried away and miss a corner.

Before long — much too soon, if truth be known — you need to decide whether you want to go home via Windsor, Galston Gorge (another story there!) or Dural and The Hills … and that’s the end of another Great Cruiser Ride.