The Oaks Track runs between Woodford and Glenbrook in the Lower Blue Mountains, along around 25km of fire trail. It's an extremely popular mountain bike trail, and tends to be very busy at weekends.
The Speedfox at the Woodford sign
I rode it on the morning of 25/2/2012, in both directions, and found it to be a damn good half-day out.
Most people seem to ride it downhill from Woodford to Glenbrook, doing the trusty car relay or catching the train to avoid the uphill, which is over 500m in elevation change, still the uphill is very much worthwhile. My GPS (MapMyRide) marked the first 13km or so after the Causeway as a UCI category 2 climb of a bit under 3.5% gradient, but it's smooth all the way, so really doesn't feel all that tough.
Starting from the National Park Entrance at Glenbrook (well signposted, $7 vehicle entry fee if you pass the gate), you first follow the blacktop downhill to the causeway, where you cross the river. A lot of riders will balance along the top of the weir here, to avoid the deeper main ford, as I did on the way outwards. There's a steep climb up the other side of the valley to the carpark
where the Oaks Singletrack ends. Following the Firetrail from here (do NOT go uphill on the singletrack), further climbing takes you past the Euroka and Riley's Trails, on to the Ironbarks picnic area. Continuing on the Oaks trail from here, you'll eventually reach the Oaks covered picnic area, and a little further there's a barrier where the firetrail meets the singletrack. MapMyRide classifies the first 13km from the causeway as a UCI Category 2 climb.
There's a map and signage here marking out the local trails and the cycling regulations, as well as some interesting info about the area, and it's a sensible spot for a short break. If you're pushed for time or here just for the Singletrack, this is where you turn round back towards Glenbrook on the obvious singletrail to the right of the signpost (detail below).
If you're on the full ride, continue uphill, on gradually rockier trails, and the next landmark you'll hit is the Oaks Helipad. There's a foursquare checkin here, if you're a connected rider. You then get some downhill before the even more uphill and two very nasty steep climbs (with lots of side trails) to the trailhead at a locked gate on Taylor Road in Woodford. There's another sign just downhill from the gate. At this point, you'll have done around 25-28kms of uphill riding, maybe a touch more depending on where you started, so you deserve another break. I usually take the time to check up on the news, make sure my MP3 player is cued up right, munch a fruit bar and chat with other riders prepping to go the downhill route.
From here, what remains, if you're not doing Oaks-Ingar-Anderson's-Oaks
, is to head back down, and you'll be going a lot quicker than on the way up. Take care on the big hills, there are a few with sharp bends midway. They're quite capable enough of putting a shine on your disc rotors without also ditching you off the side of the trail and straight to the scene of the tragedy. They also tend to shake water bottles out of cages and can cause a bit of bike damage with thrown rocks. Finally, beware a couple of sandtraps mid-corner, and there's a nasty bit of clay on the big downhill which can start you into a slide.
There are a few climbs in the first half of the downhill route, but nothing as steep as on the way up. The helipad signals the end of the up-down and the start of the very fast downhill section, where you can hit 60km/h or more without trying too hard. The Oaks Classic race from Woodford to Euroka Clearing sees race times as low as 45 mins. It's pretty fast.
When you get back to the barrier at the signpost, veer off to the left (right of the sign) and hit the singletrack. The top section is fantastic, sweeping downhill bends. It's mostly non-technical, but there are quite a few rocks and tree roots that will take out an innertube given the chance. I got one puncture here after hitting a rocky section very
fast. My GPS reported sections where I was approaching 40kp/h, and no doubt it's possible to go faster, though the curves just keep coming.
Mostly, you'll be able to hop the rocks and roots and get a good rhythm together for the corners. The singletrack then moves back towards the road with a km or so to go, and some rocky dropoffs emerge. It's possible to get back on the firetrail here and avoid the tricky stuff, or you can keep going downhill via some moderately hairy dropoffs and rockgardens to meet the car park, then swoop down to the causeway and cool yourself off by riding straight through the middle. Then it's a steep tarmac climb out to the car and a total of around 50 or so kms, with an average on my first trip of not-bad-for-a-fat-guy
14km/h. Subsequent trips have gone quicker, with my most recent two-way clocking in at 16.7km/h with a hangover.
One last note: it was a hot day on my first try, and I ran out of water just after the causeway. That was a three litre
camelbak. Take enough, and refill at the top gate, where there's a tap.
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- Up-down first time out - 26 Feb 2012 - MapMyRide - 3:38:28 (Nat park kiosk start/finish)
- Up-down second time out - unrecorded due to battery failure
- Up-down third time out - 27 May 2012 - BikeBrain - 3:08:35 (station car park start/finish)
- Down only - 9 Jun 2012 - 50:13 to Oaks Gate, 1:25:44 to Bush Place in Glenbrook - forgot to stop the timer at the Nat Park booth
- Careflight Oaks Classic 2012 - ridden with a respiratory infection and secondary fungal infection - 1:05:32
- Up-Down fourth time out - 30 Jun 2012 - 3:46:31 (Glenbrook Railway carpark start/finish). Appallingly slow, but mitigating factors: still recovering from the aforementioned illness, and crashed hard in the Singletrack section. Very hard, actually. I currently can't walk properly.
- When heading uphill, take care of where you place your bike on corners, as riders heading downhill are often doing so at a rapid rate.
- When heading downhill, consider notifying uphillers of how many people are in your party, so they can judge when it's properly safe to continue.
- Punctures are common on this trail - get off to the side of the track to effect repairs, in case other riders career into you. Take a spare tube, and run as high a pressure as you're comfortable with, to combat pinch flats.
- Actually, take two spare tubes
- When riding downhill, consider that there are other riders on the trail and don't go so fast as to endanger them as well as yourself.
- Don't ride up the singletrack, whatever you do. For one thing, it's less fun, for another you WILL have someone crash into you.
- Tip-toe over the causeway on the way up. Wet shoes = blistered feet if you're not careful
- Riding the final tarmac hills all the way out is a matter of pride. Lockout your suspension and get on with it.
- After wet weather, the trail has more loose rocks and is harder riding, generally speaking
- On the big climb in the upper half, there's a patch of nasty clay in the middle. Take care both ways.
- A big downhill on the upper half (heading down) ends in a sandtrap, which can catch riders unawares
- If your bottle cage isn't a good tight fit, you might lose your bottle. The trail has a reputation for stealing bottles and never giving them back. Camelbak it, or make sure your cage is snug.
- It's possible to go across the GWH to Knapsack park and continue heading down until you reach Emu Plains. In fact, Katoomba to Penrith is quite doable, linking Anderson's Firetrail, Oaks and Knapsack into a long day of downwards riding.
- Do the singletrack. It adds quite a bit of time compared to the firetrail, but it's the best way to finish up.