12 Mar 2019

Orange is on a lot of peoples' radars at the moment. Sydney folk fleeing the property squeeze, weekend foodie types lusting after truffles, wine and cheese, and of course mountain bikers, who have long flocked to the extensive trail network of Kinross State Forest. But there's a wilder side to the trails of Orange, away from the groomed singletrack, and that's what we wanted to explore.


Our friend and Orange man-in-the-know, Rodney Farrell, has been in our ear for months. “Come on out, bring the e-bike, I’ll show you some trails that will put you and the bike to a real test,” Rodney said.  Finally we got our act together, nabbed a Bosch-equipped Trek Powerfly LT9, and headed out through the Blue Mountains for an unforgettable couple of days.

It all kicks off with a spectacular drive. Rather than hustling up the main drag, we opted for the Bells Line of Road, a two-lane sweeper that runs along the ridge lines from Western Sydney over the mountains. Along the way there are plenty of worthy side trips, and an impromptu detour to Mount Banks was well worth the effort, delivering staggering views across the valley towards Katoomba and Mount York. Putting it on the list to re-visit for a photo shoot, we pushed on into Orange, meeting up with Rodney at DG Cycles and then heading to Mt Canobolas.

Our rig for Orange! The Trek Powerfly LT9 taking in the view from Mt Banks.
The long ride to the peak of Canobolas under a flawless Autumn sky.

The ‘Nob, as it’s known to the local crew, looms in the background behind Orange. In the vast rolling plains it’s easy to lose perspective of just how big a hill it really is, when in fact it towers a good 500m above Orange with the western slope of the mountain offering almost 700m of vertical. Despite the incredible terrain, it’s not a spot that’s ridden all that often, the whopping climb tends to turn off those without access to a shuttle van. But on the e-bikes, it’s just a matter of spinning the legs over and half an hour later you’re up top.

Rod had promised us some chunky terrain and The Nob has plenty to choose from. We ripped into Jack’s Track first, full of meaty rock features, long off-camber straights and steep rock roll-overs. Climbing over the saddle it was on to Goat’s Gully, which starts out easy enough before pointing you into an extended cheese grater of a rock garden that laughs in the face of your puny 160mm-travel fork.

Rhythm through the rocks on Jack’s Track.

Sunset from the peak of Canobolas is too good to miss, and with a good 400m vertical to climb back to the peak and only 15 minutes to get it done, it was straight up the guts we went, taking a fireroad that would be beyond the rideable realm for a conventional bike. Watching the sun shoot its last rays over the central west was a magic end to the day. Back in the carpark half an hour later, the magic all dried up when we realised the car keys were lost somewhere out on the mountain, with all the camera gear, e-bike chargers and accommodation keys still locked inside. Ah, the joys of a road trip. Luckily we could still get a pizza at 11pm in Orange, after we’d abandoned our search for the keys….

We looked twice at this tricky roller! One of the more tech features you’ll find on The Nob.

Sunset from the peak of Canobolas is too good to miss, and with a good 400m vertical to climb back to the peak and only 15 minutes to get it done, it was straight up the guts we went, taking a fireroad that would be beyond the rideable realm for a conventional bike. Watching the sun shoot its last rays over the central west was a magic end to the day. Back in the carpark half an hour later, the magic all dried up when we realised the car keys were lost somewhere out on the mountain, with all the camera gear, e-bike chargers and accommodation keys still locked inside. Ah, the joys of a road trip. Luckily we could still get a pizza at 11pm in Orange, after we’d abandoned our search for the keys….

The upper half of Goat’s Gully is a rip through the pines….
While the lower half gets raw and rocky!
Dust trails and sunsets. Life is good.

Putting the previous night’s drama behind us we headed north out of Orange the next morning (in a car borrowed from Rod’s mother) towards Mullion Creek. Around us, the terrain looked practically flat. Where were the massive ridge lines and rock chutes Rod had been banging on about? We should never have doubted him, because Rodney delivered in a big way. Within minutes of rolling into the trails, we were sliding down a crazy chute of loose limestone and shale, surfing the surface with the rolling rocks clunking around us making sounds like breaking bottles. It was a hectic way to kick things off! These trails were about as raw and wild as it gets.

Rodney ‘Rocket’ Farrell showed us around. He’s Orange born and bred, you’ll find him at DG Cycles.
Never take your helmet off when Rod’s behind the wheel.
Squeezing through a crack at Mullion Creek.

After sliding to the bottom of the gully, we commenced a grind out that was hard work even on the Powerfly. Rodney has ridden his conventional mountain bike out here plenty of times, but he tells us that it means spending half the time walking up the loose, rubble-strewn climbs, whereas on the e-bike it’s all rideable if you’ve got the skills. Next on the descent menu was Spinal Tap, a solid three-kilometre ridge line descent that gets better and better, faster and faster, before suddenly shooting you straight down the fall line. The final few hundred metres are really all about survival – pick your line early, and do whatever you can to stop that front wheel from locking under brakes! By the time we reached the bottom we were falling about laughing in relief at surviving.

The trail surface of Original Ridge gives such an amazing controlled drift.

The whole area around Mullion Creek has been picked over by gold miners in the 1800s, and as you climb back to the top you weave past countless hand-dug mineshafts en route to the final run of the day, a trail named Original Ridge. What this last beauty of trail misses in sheer steepness, it makes up for in a feeling of weightless drifting, as you slide into each corner of a surface of granite marbles. It’s a wild feeling, but the big rubber of the Powerfly felt right at home on a surface more commonly ridden by motos.

Mullion Creek is a monster of a place, and we’ll definitely be coming back here, and to Canobolas too. Rodney was right,  this joint really is the ultimate playground for e-bikes. Once again we were left shaking our heads at how an eMTB can open up terrain that’s just no fun on a conventional mountain bike, how trails that would be a frustrating hike-a-bike are suddenly a challenge that can be conquered. Orange just got even more appealing… anyone for a tree-change?

Picture yourself here.