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Sipping and cycling

What could go wrong?

I confess, I didn’t put a lot of thought into booking the cycling tour other than wanting to do this type of trip for a long time, knowing it was only one day of cycling through the countryside of North East Victoria and it involved wine!

When booking online, I was so excited about the tour that I didn’t notice the option of an e-bike or hybrid road bike. Though lovely Liz who was in Beechworth to greet my riding buddy and I did try to accommodate my last-minute bike envy of another group doing the self-guided tour, we had a little banter with them and accepted our fate – sticking to the plan, riding the old-fashioned way… on a hot day. Better than a cold day, I suppose.

I was given a coffee on arrival at the meeting point in the morning – the tour company clearly know Melbourne people and our coffee! Or maybe it’s a cyclist thing. Because I’m now officially a cyclist, you see 😉

Liz introduced me to my bike – a hybrid that I could ride both on paved and dirt roads easily. Gears weren’t too complicated, and I could adjust the seat up and down easily. There was a saddle bag for any goodies I brought with me (OK, my phone for directions and photos) containing a bike pump and a handy spot for me to store a drink bottle I brought with me. I was provided a helmet, map, directions, itinerary for the day ahead (including stopovers and times of where I needed to be and when) and the all-important phone number of a driver who could pick up any wine purchases we make along the way. The phone number would also come in handy if anything went wrong along the way, like a tyre puncture or I suppose if it got all too much. The whole ride was approximately 35kms (over a 9-5pm period) with 15kms downhill and the rest completely flat, so I knew I’d be fine.

I’m not going to lie – I was a little wonky on take-off. This is the problem with being a little cocky about your fitness levels when a tour like has nothing to do with how hard and fast you can huff and puff. It does require a little preparation – or perhaps forethought. Like why did I wear all black on a hot day, wearing padded bike shorts would have been a good idea (though not necessary for a one-day ride) and thank goodness I fluked packing the sunscreen! Next time consider looking at the map beforehand and maybe wear a t-shirt or something that covers my shoulders from the sun. The only thing I had down pat from not over-thinking was my runners – yes, you can ride in normal runners.

The tour itself felt relatively easy and definitely safe. Most of it was on the paved Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, and as soon as I hit it, it felt like home. Exactly what I needed – fresh air, a beautiful breeze on my face and every local that passed wished me good morning. All the country feels!

The cycling was smooth, with only a few bumpy dirt road bits – usually when entering the wineries – and captured the big, open spaces up close, a vast difference to the suburbia I had been used to, particularly over the last year essentially being at home. My two wheels took me from Beechworth and Milawa gourmet region with stop overs at three cellar doors long the way – Pennyweight Winery, Redbank Wines and Brown Brothers Winery.

Despite forgetting to pack some snacks, I had enough energy top-ups with food stops breaking up the beautiful Alpine farm scenery. Honestly, I could have ridden forever until it got into the heat of the day, so some ice-cold water and sampling different locally made cheeses at the famous Milawa Cheese factory and a light lunch at one of the wineries were welcomed treats. And I’ll have you know, though I do love wine, I am a lightweight, so imagine my surprise when tipsy isn’t a descriptor I would use for this type of wine themed cycling tour! Handy to know – might have a glass with lunch next time 🙂

If you’d like to do a cycling trip like this, hit up Tour de Vines – though I opted for a self-guided tour, I only did so because it fit my schedule… and last-minute decision to ride. They also offer guided tours interstate and overseas in case you want to start planning ahead. And for a little bit of luxury (& privacy!), I stayed at StoneTryst Spa Villas which was a convenient 10 minute stroll into town and an easy drop off point for the Tour de Vines van to drop me off at after the tour.

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