April's Adelaide Groadie Route, SA, Australia
170 km / 3500 m
Sealed and gravel
My favourite local loop starts in Adelaide’s leafy eastern suburbs and ventures northeast before looping back to take in the prettiest parts of Adelaide’s inner south. The route is synonymous with the sort of cycling that Adelaide offers more broadly; no epic extended climbs, but the vertical meters rack up, the terrain is varied and scenic, but you’re never too far from the city.
This route is inclusive, a strange observation to those who pay close attention to the verts but do let me explain further:
• A mix of (mostly) hard-pack gravel and bitumen makes this course accessible to almost all riders on any bike, especially if the bike is a Kevin or Belgie.
• The route is set up for well-timed intercepts- if you or your mates live north, south, or east of Adelaide, it’s easy to jump on or off this course/ mix and match it to suit.
• A few top-tier resupply points are directly on course and additional towns a short distance from the route. So there is no need for a packed lunch or loads of water on this route if hoping to travel light. There are no fences, gates, hike a bike sections, or stitch-ups.
• It’s a blank canvas. I don’t think I’ve ridden the course the same way more than once. However, there are options to extend - the route can be easily enhanced to take in more beautiful gravel around Hahndorf, mountain bike trails, and fire roads in Fox Creek and Belair National Park.
• It could easily be split into two or three days. With a few tweaks here and there, this course could make a super friendly, scenic flashpacking route, especially when combined with deviations for additional kms to the tourist sites and popular towns; who wouldn’t want to see the Big Rocking Horse!
The course starts and finishes in the eastern suburb of Norwood, approximately 5 km from the Adelaide CBD. The course rolls out of the city in classic Adelaide ‘roadie’ fashion, heading east along The Parade before turning towards Norton Summit. Rather than the traditional gradual climb up Norton Summit Road, the course continues to Norton Summit via a selection of backgrounds known collectively as Euro Norton, just shy of 5km long, with a couple of switchbacks and an average gradient of just under 7%. The following 30 km provides glimpses of iconic Adelaide road climbs and descents. This includes Marble Hill Road, Montacute Road, Corkscrew and Gorge Road punctuated by hard pack gravel back roads, Debneys Road and the short (if not a little loose at times) Corkscrew Deviation Road.
After a brief interlude on South Para Road comes a left-hand turn onto Adelaide Gully Road (just over the 40 km mark), at which point the gravel content of the course increases. Adelaide Gully Road is in itself slightly uphill. The route continues to Bagshaw Road, which runs alongside Mount Gawler Native Forest Reserve; this road, while scenic, also provides a short climb that peaks at a lazy 14% gradient. The combination of hard pack pinches and brief descents continues until you hit the black top between Forreston and Gumeracha. Gumeracha (approximately 60km into the course) offers resupply options. The following 12 km (between Gumeracha and Lobethal) is largely uphill hardpack gravel as you cover Retreat Valley Road, O’Dea Road, and Berry Hill Road. This little collection gives you the impression that you’re further away from it all than you are. You’ll roll into Lobethal (visit Emma and Ivy for coffee) at just over 70 km into the course and approximately halfway through the climbing. Unless you take the very slight diversions off course into Uraidla, Hahndorf or Mylor, Lobethal is the last town that you will see for a while.
The climb out of Lobethal begins with a little bitumen before the gravel climbing resumes in earnest and the course continues along a section of the Mawson Trail. This section ultimately borders Fox Creek Mountain Bike Park; this park was impacted by the bush fires of 2020. The devastating loss of vegetation has resulted in visibility of the surrounding hills from the road. The gravel ends for the time being at the intersection of Mawson Road and Lobethal Road. Lobethal Road is almost arterial for hill-loving cyclists in Adelaide. The 30 km stretch that follows is largely bitumen, with a bit of gravel gem on Gully Road, just to remind you that this is not your average road ride.
The route rolls on from the outskirts of Hahndorf through Bradbury to Mound Bold; you guessed it, more gravel, more up.
By the time you’re back on bitumen on Mount Bold Road, you’ll have earned a little descending. However, as the descent steepens, you’d be forgiven for being concerned at how much elevation you’re losing; you will, of course, have to climb on out of there on the other side. As Mount Bold Road borders the Mount Bold Reservoir Reserve, you will again have that ‘away from it all’ feeling that it’s hard to believe it is so easy to achieve so close to a capital city. I’ll admit I’m always a little tempted to hop the fence and ride the trail in the reserve that runs parallel to the road; sadly, no bikes allowed.
If you’re disappointed to not be feeling the impact of the climbing you’ve already managed to collect on this route, you’re in luck. The cumulative impact of Dorset Vale Road (tops out at 15%), Pole Road, and Saddle Hill provide more opportunities to enjoy sealed climbing. Complete with fun pinches before the gravel descent down Queen Jubilee Drive, of Belair National Park. However, for those who decide to ride this route on skinnies, beware that Queen Jubilee Drive represents the most variable road surface of the course; there are a few rocks, ruts and it can be particularly loose in dry weather. The course wraps up by descending Belair Road (via Windy Point Lookout) before taking the cycleway through backstreets, then Victoria Park to Norwood, where the loop commenced. You can be satisfied that you’ve had a solid session on the pedals as you’ll have collected over 3,500 vertical meters (according to Strava), and no doubt you’ll also be left with a cunning plan as to how you’ll edit the course for next time. Enjoy.
- April Drage
You can find the GPX file: HERE