Riders in South East Queensland and the Northern Rivers region of NSW have had a frustrating time over the past few years.
Heavy rain and floods since 2010 have ravaged the region and damaged many of the best bike routes.
With these roads taken off the menu, riders have been forced to find alternatives, but they can still expect to be frustrated by a series of roadworks.
Road such as Mt Mee were never fully closed, but have had a lot of roadworks and those annoying ubiquitous red lights. However it’s almost back to full operation with only one set of red lights still operating.
Meanwhile work on the spectacularly wiggly Palmwoods-Montville Rd keeps being interrupted by more landslips and it’s anyone’s guess when it will reopen.
Recent rains have also now closed the Head Rd over Queen Mary Falls in the Scenic Rim south of Boonah.
It seems everywhere you go in SEQ and northern NSW you will spend some time sitting at red lights or a stop/slow sign.
But there is some good news.
The last time I ventured up the Bellthorpe Range in December, the road was closed with a 2m wire fence. There had been a major landslip and a lot of work to do on the very twisty and steep road.
I considered it would be out of action for some time since it would be a low priority with another access road still open from the other side, few residences on the road and very light traffic.
I was wrong.
The road apparently opened earlier this year. So it was obviously time to go and inspect the damage and the reconstruction.
We approached from the Woodford end on Kilcoy-Beerwah Rd.
Bellthorpe Range Rd is a well-signposted left turn and the road is a bit bumpy at stages on the flat and when it starts to climb and wiggle up the range.
The start of the roadworks is marked by a sign saying “No entry 7.30am-8.45am school buses excepted”.
From here onwards the road has been substantially upgraded with a big wire fence to prevent people riding off the cliff-like edges and a smooth, gravel-free road surface.
One particularly hairy hairpin that had a steep inside gradient and had sent many a low-clearance cruiser across to the other side of the road has been remedied. It now has a more sensible gradient and plenty of room for bikes to negotiate the turn.
The road has been widened to two lanes most of the way, not 1.5 as it was before so there is not as much concern about running into traffic coming the other way around a blind corner. It’s still worth paying a lot of attention, but the road is almost a micro version of the famed Stelvio Pass with its steep hairpin ascent.
Congratulations to all the workers who reconstructed the road.
Now, get out and ride it as we did, including it in a loop out of Woodford.
At the T-intersection at the top of the Bellthorpe Range we turned left and rode about 7km to where the gravel starts, parked the bikes at the side of the road and had an impromptu picnic to admire the view and listen to the gentle call of birds and dairy cattle echoing up the valley.
We then continued along the rollercoaster road called Campbell Rd, then Gap Rd, then Mears Lane to where it rejoins the Maleny-Stanley River Rd toward Maleny.
Just a few hundred metres along, we turned off on Postmans Track, the first turn to the left. It’s a very steep road that has only been tarred in recent years.
Instead of regrading, it appears it just had tar sprayed over the dirt, so it still has several diagonal drainage channels across the road.
The deep dips are signposted but still difficult to see in the dappled shade, so take it easy. If you hit one hard, the front forks will compress violently and could send you over the bars.
It’s also narrow and you will have to move over for traffic coming the other way around blind corners.
If you go uphill, you can easily get airborne over the dips … that’s a warning not an invitation.
At the bottom of the short and steep ascent, the pretty valley road is called Aherns Rd and it winds delightfully through dairy farms to Maleny-Kenilworth Rd between Conondale township and Green Park motocross circuit. We turned right and headed up the road toward Maleny, a great stretch of twisty tar that still has a red light and roadworks halfway up. It’s easy to get caught behind traffic here with only one stretch of broken lines for overtaking. However, most motorists are happy to let bikers filter to the front of the queue at the lights.
To make a full circuit we continued through Maleny and did a little detour off the Landsborough-Maleny Rd on Hovard Rd at Bald Knob only to be turned back by more roadworks.
A little further down the road, we turned right on Bald Knob Rd which has also been upgraded. It’s a nice winding piece of tar that affords spectacular views of the Glasshouse Mountains but has only a couple of small areas where you can pull over to admire the scenery.
Where it joins Peachester Rd, we turned left and a few hundred metres up the road turned right on to Commissioners Flat Rd which has also had some work done in the early stages but needs pothole repairs on the western end just before it rejoins the Kilcoy-Beerwah Rd.
This is a great little circuit that bypasses a lot of the popular biker roads.
So that means you bypass a lot of the traffic, the wannabe racers and the police patrols.