The Dirt on Bright – Gravel Riding

Dec 19, 2023

Erin Ferguson

Mandy Lamont

“Do you know a nice easy gravel ride in Bright?” is a question I get all the time. The response is always the same – “there are none”. Bright is in a bowl and the cost of just about any gravel ride is at least 1000m of climbing. But we’re also incredibly lucky to have an abundance of roads twisting up the sides of the valley as a result of the large pine plantation operations. Everyone on two wheels (who likes adrenaline) knows Mystic MTB Park, but there are so many lesser known gravel roads all around town which are  perfect for a little adventure without straying too far from home. 

Gravel Riding Bright

Gravel riding seems to have become synonymous with epic, remote adventures – the crazier the better. Nothing beats chucking a few bags on the bike and shimmying off into the distance and that elusive sensation that, but for the track beneath your feet, there’s nothing man-made as far as the eye can see in any direction. It’s truly an amazing feeling but you don’t usually get much change from the entire day and if you’re a normal person with a job and a family and chores it’s not a feeling you can chase every day (or even every weekend!). 

Gravel Riding Bright

The plantations – and a bit beyond – are the perfect choose your own gravel adventure, with hundreds of kilometers of gravel and some of the best views of the Ovens Valley going round, whether you’re up for a whole day of exploring or you’ve only got an hour or two to spare. 

riding along a gravel road with Bright mountains in the background

Gravel Riding Bright

As with all gravel rides, gear choice is a big and personal question. The condition of the roads inside the plantation are variable depending on logging operations, and you really need a bike and tyres that can handle some at time pretty rough gravel. While we’re on that, keep an eye on the forestry operations at make sure to steer clear of closed roads. Back to the bike stuff. For the last 6 years I’ve been riding around on a gravel bike – most recently on a Curve GXR (‘Kevin’) with 50c tyres. It’s fabulous on the climbs and 70% of the time it’s fabulous on the descents but there have definitely been some moments where I’ve felt a bit under-biked. Earlier this year I started doing a lot of the familiar roads on my hardtail and although it’s slower on the up, it makes the descents SO good.

riding through the gums around Bright

Gravel Riding Bright

Because the roads are designed to service the plantation operations, they’ve been designed to be quite logical and once you get the hang of them it’s quite easy to navigate. You’re never truly lost – most roads head towards key junctions which help you on your way up the hill. If it all gets too hard (or you get a bit hungry) just jump on down road and cruise back into town – all roads lead to Bright! If you want a little digital reassurance, all the roads are on Google Maps and you can plan your ride beforehand using Strava or RidewithGPS. You’ll typically have pretty good reception up there too!

riding a gravel road in Bright with Mt Buffalo in the background

Gravel Riding Bright

Did I mention the views! Get enough elevation and you’ll get one of the most beautiful panoramic views of Mount Buffalo – on a clear day you can almost reach out and touch it. There are also stunning views of the Ovens Valley back into Bright, glimpses of the Buckland Valley and you’ll even spot Falls Creek and Hotham from Clearspot (probably the most popular gravel climb in town). I personally think Snake Ridge Road delivers some of the best views in the whole area – and it’s a reliably quiet escape on busy weekends in town.

Erin standing with her bike with Bright in the background

Gravel Riding Bright

While we are on snakes, it’s smart to carry a snake bandage as we head into summer. You’ll frequently see snakes up there – both in the pines and the native bush that surrounds them, and while you’re not far from town you need to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Also bring more food and water than you think you’ll need – sections are pretty exposed and it can get super hot and there are zero places to refill until you get back down the hill.  Prepare smart and you’ll have a fabulous time.

rider descending through the pine plantations in Bright

The local plantations are still a bit of a hidden gem, but they are a wonderful way to explore the local area and expand your gravel skills. There’s so much exploring, infinite loop combinations – it’s a different adventure every time. Once you’re feeling comfortable on the gravel around Bright, you’ll be a master everywhere else! Happy exploring!

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Gravelling Bright

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