A couple of weeks ago I received a call from Big Kev (The real Kevin Matthews) mentioning to me that they were planning a gravel ride from Northam to Perth. He did not share much detail at the time, all he wanted to know was if I would be keen in joining them. As much as I like to run the other discipline, I really do enjoy is a decent gravel grind.
We met up at Steve’s home one Sunday evening for some snacks and Steve laid out his gravel master plan. He initially wanted us to travel up by train on the Friday afternoon and then cycle back the Saturday morning along the Kep track. Without knowing the dates yet I was interested in this little gravel mission. It has been ages since I have ridden on some decent gravel, I have been itching for a while now to experience some of the gravel tracks WA have on offer.
Unfortunately, our plans to travel up by train could not be met but we managed to get our wives to drive us up to Northam. We stayed Friday night in a lovely country hotel called the Farmers Home. The Hotel is a must for anyone if ever you find yourself in Northam. Great service, comfortable rooms and the décor is overall top notch.
T and I drove up early on Friday and made something of our little road trip and stopped over at Bakers Hill to test out their World-famous pies. If you are after an old school pie with nice flaky dough and filled with a filling that could feed a family of four Bakers Hill is the spot to visit.
Northam itself is only 20 km further to the east. On our way to Northam, I already noticed the Kep track markings intersecting with the tar road leading into town. Excitement was in the air, and I could not wait for Steve, Kev, and John to arrive allowing us to start our gravel grind. The Trio and Sandra arrived Friday after work. Once checked in we spend our Friday evening around a great meal, drinks and some bubbly adding to tons of laughter locking in our game plan for the following morning.
The forecast mentioned cool conditions up to midday, so we opted for a 07h30 start after breakfast at the Farmers Home. To be honest I was already up at 5 am and could not wait for our gravel ride to start. I went down just after 6 am and gave Kev a hand with the bikes which we stored in the Hotel storeroom. John and I rode on our gravel bikes while Steve and Kev rode their trusty mountain bikes.
As planned, we departed not a minute later than 07h30 crossing the Avon Footbridge and then turned left making our way for the Kep track. The initial ride out of Northam was a tarred section along Mitchell Avenue until we could turn onto the Kep track. The first bit of the track did not make for easy riding as the singletrack was a combination of sand, rocks and some washed out ruts.
This first section had me wondering if I had the correct bike for this trip as Steve and Kev moved easily across the terrain while John and I were navigating our gravel bikes through the rough terrain. Luckily after maybe 10 km’s we started to settle into a great gravel track, allowing us to glide along the Kep track.
We crossed through Clackline maybe 20 km into our ride allowing us to make our way towards Bakers’ hill. It’s worth noting that there are plenty of historical placards along the track sharing information and the history of the area we cycled through.
This section was so much fun it was a great combination of jeep and singletrack. All four of us were just rolling along the gravel track that had a perfect profile for gravel riding. Bakers’ Hill would be our first big stop. We all opted for one of their world-famous pies before we would take on the rest of the Kep track. Fuelled up on Bakers’ Hills pies we rejoined the Kep track just at the bottom end of this small country town.
The next section of gravel had us all settling into a comfortable pace and found us taking on the next 30 km without any major effort. The same rolling track persisted with the odd little climb thrown in between, each climb we were rewarded with some nice downhill sections. This off course is Kev’s favourite part and at each downhill section, he would disappear into the distance.
Our next planned stop would be at Chidlow where we opted for a quick pony, while Steve went for a caffeine fix at the Café next door.
After Chidlow we made our way towards Mount Helena and then we would drop South towards Sawyers Valley from here we would be heading West towards Mundaring. The Kep track was really in such a great state, we could really put down the hammer at certain parts allowing us to glide along the gravel track.
The Kep track finished shortly after Mundaring weir which saw us dropping back onto tar, unfortunately after Mundaring our little gravel mission came to an end, so we started to make our way along the streets of Midland and Guildford.
Once we made our way through Bayswater, we could feel the head wind picking up as we were cycling to the West towards North bridge and then ultimately Subiaco. Although we only had 20 km to go until Subi Hotel, it was a solid grind into the wind all the way. Each km was hard earned, and our gravel joy we experienced earlier during the day was quickly disappearing.
Our planned finishing point was at the Subiaco Hotel for an ice-cold beer to wash down the dust and thirst we managed to build up along our 108 km ride. It was a great day out and to be honest I would have loved to just keep on riding as it has been ages since my last gravel ride experience.
Steve thanks for putting together this epic ride along the Kep track, looking forward to seeing what the next gravel grind would be like. What about a 100-miler next Steve?
See below Kep track details – Kep Track – Northam GPS track, route, trail (gps-viewer.com)