South Australia: The Gorge Road - Head for the Hills
What makes the Adelaide Hills a motorcycling nirvana? Quite simply, its accessibility to South Australia's capital, Adelaide.
The most well-known motorcycle road to the Hills is the Gorge Road. It's been on riders' radar since the late 1950s, when a 19th century bullock track was finally completely sealed with tarmac.
From the centre of Adelaide it's just 20 minutes to the start of this great ride – can you name another capital city with a rider's road this close to a population centre of a million people?
Turn off Lower North East Road at the suburb of Campbelltown and in less than 10 minutes you have shrugged off the urban sprawl and arGorgee in a rocky valley following the Torrens River up to Kangaroo Creek Reservoir. On an early-morning ride, often you will find that you are the only one on the road.
It's easy to get into a good riding groove but the tight, narrow road demands total respect and concentration. It may have an 80km/h speed limit but many of the corners are blind and are sign-posted at 30km/h. They often tighten up after the apex too.
Also be aware that several international sporting events, such as the cycling Tour Down Under, the Bay to Birdwood vintage motorcycle and car rally, and the Classic Adelaide sports car rally have put a new focus on the Gorge Road. This means that there are cyclists and a cross-section of vehicles using this route, inspired by watching these major events.
As you climb up through small rock canyons, the long-distance view is across a series of gum-tree-studded ranges. Nestled in the valleys are exquisite stone settler's cottages and the occasional rich landowner's mansion from the late 19th century.
The road surface is very grippy tarmac, with well-banked turns. The route climbs gently out of the valley floor, a reminder of how it was originally built for horse-drawn transport.
One of the great attractions of the Gorge Road is that you always have water flowing beside you, even if it is the middle of a long, hot summer. The Torrens River is Adelaide's major water course, and is dammed halfway along your ride at the Kangaroo Creek tributary.
After around 20 minutes of twisties, you enter the quaintly-named village of Cudlee Creek. If you are packing a pillion passenger who loves the bush and its inhabitants you can make their day with a visit to the Gorge Wildlife Park on the outskirts of Cudlee Creek. There visitors can cuddle a koala or walk among the free-ranging kangaroos and wallabies.
After Cudlee Creek, you head for the township of Gumeracha, past the oval with, perhaps, a Saturday morning children's cricket game in progress. Then simply press on to Birdwood, which is where you want to be if you love the history of motorised transport.
Now the road is slowly opening out into more expansive grazing land.Gorge You travel under centuries-old river red gums, past stone barns and soon you are at the outskirts of Birdwood.
A hint that this is revhead heaven is the 1920s truck hanging up outside the Blumberg Hotel in the main street. Opposite is the National Motor Museum, a government-funded and sophisticated, display of cars and motorcycles. You could easily spend a couple of hours viewing the exhibits and enjoying an ever-changing selection of interactive multi-media presentations.
Just across the road is Bill's Bits and Bikes, a motorcycle shop and museum. Step inside and you are transported back to the good old days of motorcycling in the 1950s and 1960s. Bikes, parts and memorabilia hang from the rafters, line the walls and spill out into a large workshop.
Fancy yourself in an old leather jacket, with aviation goggles, astride a classic British or Japanese motorcycle. You can achieve your dream here, or buy the parts to help make that dream a reality.
If you are really lucky, you will catch the owner teaching his grandsons how to tune a speedway bike. If Bill is in a really good mood, he will show you how his 1959 Triumph Tiger 100 can start from cold with one kick. Magic. After this sensory overload, it's time to head back to Adelaide – just 35 minutes of brisk, blissful riding away.
Know Before you Go
Once you've reached Birdwood, you are spoilt for choice with the number of riding options available. You can head farther inland to Mount Torrens, eventually following the signs to Mannum and the Murray River. Or you can turn left and head towards the world-famous wine district of the Barossa Valley. Turning right, he can head towards the apple-growing area of Lenswood and Basket Range, before hitting the freeway and returning to Adelaide in less than an hour.
The Hills are dotted with delightful bed-and-breakfast cottages. Surprise your pillion by secretly booking one in advance. Check out www.shorts.com.au for a guide to what's available.
Exercise EXTREME caution while riding the Gorge Road. This narrow route has Armco on one side and rock walls on the other in many sections. If you are riding up early in the morning, be aware that you will be heading east, into the rising sun, and most of the corners are blind.
If it's sunny on the Adelaide Plains, there is still a chance that the Hills will be foggy in the early morning in spring and autumn. The temperature will be at least 5 degrees C cooler, all year round.
Be warned. The Gorge Road speed limit is 80km/h, with sudden changes to 70km/h, 60km/h or 50km/h. It is heavily policed, especially on weekends.
For more information:
Visit the South Australian Tourism Commission at www.southaustralia.com
The National Motor Museum, Shannon St, Birdwood, tel: (08) 8568 4000 or visit: http://www.history.sa.gov.au/motor/motor.htm
Bill's Bits and Bikes shop and museum, Shannon St, Birdwood, tel (08) 8568 5756 .
The Gorge Wildlife Park, Redden Drive, Cudlee Creek, tel: (08) 8389 2206 or visit: http://www.gorgewildlifepark.com.au/
Type Gorge Road South Australia into the Google Earth website for a sneak preview of a great ride.