The Convict Trails Rock! (and roll)…

It is a privilege to experience the historic Convict Trail on a bicycle. The range of distances and terrain that a mountain bicycle can cover extremely efficiently, means that you get to see much more of this fascinating trail than on foot.

Wisemans Ferry is easily accessible from any suburb North West of Galston Gorge- either via Old Northern Road, or the slow, narrow and winding River Road which hugs the course of the Hawkesbury River. Either route is a lovely drive.

On negotiating the very steep descent into the village, drive down to the river past the golf course and get ready to ride from the park next to the ferries. In 1826, Soloman Wiseman was granted the rights to operate a punt for travellers and goods travelling via Castle Hill to St. Albans, Hunter Valley and Newcastle. In 2018 it is no different- the need is the same, but the conveyances have morphed into to a weekend parade of shiny motorcars, fabulous motor bikes, and marvellous mountain bikes! So an integral part of walking or cycling this trail, is the journey to arrive the trail head, namely the foot of Devine’s Hill. You turn left along Settler’s Road, and it’s just 600m away, on the right.

DEVINES HILL: (1.8km) Cycling visitors have not been considered in the design of this gate, so you have to dismount, hoist the bike up above your head and wrangle your way through the pedestrian access point walls. Devine’s Hill is a 1.8km ‘warm up’ climb, on a wide, hardpack dirt road with exquisite views over the MacDonald River. You are now cycling on the actual road that the Convicts built from 1826-36. All along this road there are remnants of their endeavours, with modern sculptures and information plaques to take one’s attention away from burning legs and lungs. A temporary reprieve at the top of the hill (where Shepherd’s Gully merges with Devine’s Hill) comes with yet another cycle unfriendly National Parks Gate to hoist your bicycle over.

SHEPHERD’S GULLY TO FERRY: (11km) If you are new to offroad cycling, or riding here with children of 12 and under, at the top of Devine’s Hill turn left down the 2km Shepherd’s Gully descent. Take time to admire the verdant, fern-lined gulley and some little-known Convict era-culverts and a small bridge. At Settlers’ Road, turn sharp left and ride the 9km dirt and tarred road, back to the ferry.

DEVINES HILL TO W. COMMISSION TRACK: (10km) If you are an experienced mountain biker, you are in for 10km of rocky, very technical riding, when you turn right at the top of Devine’s Hill. Bear left past the Finch’s Line turn off. This section of the trail is notorious amongst all those who brave the annual Convict 100 Mtb Marathon, but riding it recreationally is an absolute pleasure! Expect to ride up and down a series of rock steps, with intermittent sections of ridgeline singletrack. 5% of this trail is so technical, that you will have to carry your bike up or down it. 95% is rideableparticularly if you have a dual suspension bike with 27.5” or 29” wheels attached and, of course, mtb skills and fitness that are on point! Just when you are starting to wonder how long this hammering will go on for, the trail mercifully levels out and intersects with Western Commission Trail.

WESTERN COMMISSION TRACK TO FERRY: (16km) The intersection is a good point to stop and recover. Commissioners’ may be a nice dirt road, but it packs a mean punch to tired legs with six pinch climbs that you must ride before the final downhill to Wiseman’s Ferry Road. It’s not difficult to reach speeds of up to 70km/h, but please remember there is the occasional car coming up to the Buddhist Retreat near Ten Mile Hollow! Watch out for the third, and final bike-unfriendly gate. It is difficult to see, being at the end of a long, steep and shady section of downhill, making it a formidable hazard to the gung-ho. Rather take your time and savour the panoramic views of the Hawkesbury River Valley stretching out into blue horizons on either side of your handlebars.