Three Gaps

Mount Castle
There are three rugged mountain passes south of Laidley that are quite close to each other. Today we tried to conquer all of them, and get back in time for lunch.

We started our adventure at Mulgowie and headed south through the Laidley Valley.

Red Gap Road
On larger rides like this, I am never quite sure how many people will turn up, so I was pleasantly surprised when 34 excited mountain bikers rolled down the road towards Red Gap.

Caution. Keep Right
Red Gap is a rough track which leads over the Little Liverpool Range. It’s part of the “Epic” mountain bike race held each September at Old Hidden Vale. Some parts of it are steep, and a few of us had to walk it.

Red Gap (Photo: Andrew Macdonald)
(Photo: Andrew Macdonald)

Thankfully, today wasn’t a race. We waited at the top of each hill to give everyone time to catch up.

The roll down the other side of Red Gap was intense. We plummeted down the bumpy track at different speeds, trees rushing past in a blur on either side

Riding Buddies
Resting after Red GapResting after Red Gap

As the one responsible for convincing all these wonderful people to show up, I hoped that everyone enjoyed themselves. Everyone was smiling and chatting happily. I felt relieved.

Hodges Road
With one rugged Gap behind us, we pointed the bikes up Hodges Road towards the second climb of the day: Edwards Gap.


The summit of this climb was about the same height as the first climb, but the approach was longer, which mean the gradient was a bit kinder. I had assured everyone at the start that if they made it up the first climb, they’d find the second one a bit easier.

Edwards Gap

It was still hard work in places, and we were glad to reach the top.

BNT Marker
Friendly yellow triangular markers informed us we were on the Bicentennial National Trail. A few of us let our minds wonder at the idea of riding this long trail end-to-end: over 5,300 km.

Edwards Gap
The descent from Edwards Gap starts rather gently.

As we approached the bottom, it grew steeper and bumpier.

This was a challenge for some riders who had rigid forks. With no suspension there was little protection if they took the wrong line…

SamEdwards Gap
… others took the “sensible” option and walked the tricky bits.

CaitlinEdwards Gap
WendyEdwards Gap

Others bit the bullet, committed to the descent and hung on. I was mesmerised watching the concentration on everyone’s faces.

Psychologists talk about “being in the moment”. I think the intense concentration involved with steering a bike safely to the bottom of a treacherous descent is one of those “in the moment” times.

Edwards Gap

It was a relief to reach the bottom.

Edwards Gap
The Edwards Gap descent spat us out into a grassy paddock beside Mulgowie Road. We’d finished two gaps – it was time for the third.

Mulgowie Road
The final climb of the day was the biggest.

The Liverpool Range reaches over 850 metres high in some places. We were riding to a low point in that ridge, Laidley Gap, which (only) reached 525 metres.

Laidley Creek
We crossed Laidley Creek and followed some quiet gravel roads towards Thornton at the base of the final climb.

Mount Castle
As I looked at the imposing citadel-like mountain at the end of the valley, the penny finally dropped about how “Mount Castle” got its name. I’m a slow learner about some things.

The Mistake Range
Robert had borrowed one of my old bikes. Unfortunately the bike let us down – the front wheel buckled in what cyclists affectionately call a “Taco”. Even slow-learners like me can figure that one out. Robert heroically pushed his wobbly steed up the road without complaint. I later learned that a local farmer took pity on him and drove him back to the pub where he waited for the rest of us to return.

“How long did you have to wait, Robert?” I asked.

“Oh only a couple of beers”, he replied.

I like this new time-keeping system.

Sam was riding my other bike – the carbon dual-suspension Anthem 29er. He loved it.

Main Camp Creek Road
I missed my Anthem – because I was riding my friend Wayne’s Surly Moonlander fatbike. It was a wonderful bike, but I was not used to its extra weight. I looked enviously at the riders on lighter bikes as I slowly ground the pedals up the hill.

We left Main Camp Creek Road to follow the trail up the hill. It grew steeper.

"It's a long way to the top..."
Some of us walked up the steep bits.

Darb rides up Laidley Gap 900
(Photo: Jason Reed)

Others stubbornly refused to stop pedalling.

Neil at Laidley Gap (Photo: Tony Ryan)
(Photo: Tony Ryan)

Towards the top, I decided to stop making pathetic grunting noises, and started singing “It’s a long way to the top”. I’m sure Bon Scott could have done a better job, but I felt better singing.

Riders at the Summit
And then we were at the top. We’d made it!

Resting at the Top
We all relaxed and enjoyed the view.

Resting at the Top
On the other side of the gate, the track led downhill towards Tenthill Creek and Mount Sylvia. But that was for another day.

Resting at the TopResting at the Top

It’s a great feeling to beat three big hills in one day.


Everyone was happy. It was contagious.

Lee and PaulJulie Susie and JennyKate and Wendy

No one seemed to mind me sticking a camera in their face ๐Ÿ™‚

Women at the Top
I was also glad that so many women were able to join us on the ride. They all beat me to the top of the hill. Awesome.

Main Camp Creek Road
Then it was time for the blistering ride back to the bottom of the hill.

Without suspension, and with huge wheels, I struggled to keep my bike on the track. But I did.

Sam later told me he hit a bump and found himself floating in the air, feet off the pedals, bum of the seat, and clinging on to the handlebars. Somehow he recovered without crashing. How did you manage that?

Peters Road
With no more obstacles in front of us, we made our way back to the wonderul Mulga Pub at our own pace.

The Mulga PubThe Mulga PubThe Mulga Pub

More smiling faces. What a perfect day ๐Ÿ™‚


We rode a total of 49km in four and a half hours, climbing a total of almost 900 metres in vertical ascent.

I burned 2,300 kcal.

I’ll rate this one 7.5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.

Thanks everyone for making this a memorable day.

I feel privileged to have such a great group of friends.

Let’s do this again soon!

UPDATE: Here’s Darb’s video of the day. I love it ๐Ÿ™‚

Total distance: 49.35 km
Max elevation: 531 m
Min elevation: 116 m
Total climbing: 1095 m
Total descent: -1080 m
Average speed: 18.51 km/h
Total time: 04:34:00
More data

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