Just over two hours by car or three hours by train from Sydney, NSW, Lithgow is a cyclists’ paradise containing rolling hills, steep climbs, lonely country roads and friendly pubs.
Nestling between the Blue Mountains on one side, Bathurst on another and the Mudgee road to the northwest, Lithgow is the perfect place for a day trip, cycling holiday or training camp. A population of just under 20 000 ensures that there are numerous places to stay and to eat making Lithgow a perfect base for any form of cycling trip. The following two rides head west and take in some beautiful countryside. The routes in this guide begin at Lithgow railway station. The station has a car park and is close to shops for food and supplies. Lithgow Tourist Information Centre (Ph. 1300 76 02 76) is on the western edge of town, easily identifiable by the large miner’s lamp set into the building. They can help with any questions you may have.
Caves Road, Rydal Loop.
This ride has enough hills to make riding it a good effort but is not too daunting in length for most riders. It can easily be extended into the Kanimbla Valley by turning left at Lowther Siding, marked by a bus shelter, or again later on by adding the Portland and Cullen Bullen rides shown below.
From the station car park, cross to the other side of the rail line and head west along Main St until you come to the Great Western Hwy where you will turn left. Follow this until you are past the hospital and out of town, where you will see a sign indicating McKanes Falls Rd to the right. This is where the real riding begins. From here the road heads exhilaratingly down through granite hills to the Cox’s River after which it climbs quite steeply up to Jenolan Caves Road. This is one of those roads that just gradually goes up, levels out for a bit and then goes up again. It’s more of a sit back and grind rather than out of the saddle and is a handy little workout.
In fact the ride all the way to Jenolan Caves is a good one in its own right giving about 30 kilometres of gradual uphill. However for our purposes you should follow it as far as Hampton where you turn right into the Rydal Rd near the wind farm. This could be one of the quietest roads you’ve ever ridden on. I have never seen more than two cars on this road, which really are perfect riding conditions. There are fine views to the west towards Bathurst and the prevailing winds are usually at your back. Follow it past the wind farm all the way to the Fourways intersection where the right turn provides a short cut back to Lithgow for anyone who may need it. Normally however you would follow it straight on to Rydal which has a nicely run down pub with a beer garden out the back. Rydal has a daffodil festival every September which makes it a very pleasant place to ride through.
Continuing along this road will bring you to the Great Western Highway where you will then turn right. This section can be a bit busy so take care as the verge disappears for a short period. Remember not to take the first turning to Wallerawang but rather Forest Ridge Rd a bit later on. From there, follow the road into town via Commens St on the left and then the delightfully named Tweedle St over the railway line. Ride through Main St, turn right into the Mudgee Rd and follow this for the 11km back to Lithgow.
Wallerawang, Portland and Cullen Bullen
This would be the busiest of the loops as far as traffic is concerned so would really only be suitable if you are an experienced cyclist as the cycle lane is not continuous. Still, it is a pleasant ride with some good scenery and a couple of challenging hills. From the station head west and follow the zigzag of roads that passes between the rail line and the sports fields. This area is a piece of cycling history as you are now riding on the old Lithgow Criterium Circuit. Ride over the railway at the level crossing past the Information Centre and take the back road known as Coowerwull Rd. This will join up with the Highway further along where you will cross the dual carriage way and head west. Turn left at the Mudgee turnoff where you will see a garden centre that does very good coffee and follow the road past the power station after which you will turn left into Wallerawang.
The bakery at the end of town is a useful place for refueling. From here follow the signs to Portland approximately 10km to the west. The road here is an excellent place to practice your time trialing skills although on some days there will be a stiff headwind to fight against. At Portland you can wonder why there are so many houses and where all the people living in them work before following the signs to Mudgee leading to Cullen Bullen on the Mudgee Rd. Cullen Bullen boasts an OK pub and not much else so turn right here and head back towards Lithgow. The cycle lane can disappear at times on this part of the road so take care.
The climb over the range here is a good one to test your legs on and impress passing motorists. The RTA has built a new section which by passes the town of Lidsdale which is very smooth and fast. Follow the road back past the power station and up the hill to the Great Western Highway. From here it is a simple matter of following your nose back to Lithgow and a well earned lunch.