full moon over Redwire - tony fathers

The Oaks - Woodford to Glenbrook - by Night

This is an excellent night ride, suitable for the night newbie as well as more experienced riders, as most of it is open firetrail, and there are several bail points on the singletrack if you find it too hard.  More experienced riders can just ride harder, and will enjoy the technical sections of singletrack.

To get there, follow the directions for the normal Oaks ride. The track looks completely different at night, so I reckon night riding gives me two Oaks rides for the price of one! There was a time when if it was Friday night, I was out on the Oaks track. Nowadays I ride a bit more variety, but still rate the Oaks at night very highly.

You do need good lights - I recommend at least 10w if you still run halogen.  Although I've had as much as 60W of homemade halogen goodness, I now use commercial Ayup LED lights - almost as much light, for much less weight. On a good full moon you might be able to ride stealth (no lights) for part of the trip, especially along the ridgetops, but the singletrack doesn't get enough light. I bear a permanent scar from stealth riding - didn't see the fallen branch until after I saw stars and lots of blood.

I reckon winter is the best time of all for a night ride - the air is crisp and clear, the wind often blows the pollution away so the city lights look spectacular (take binoculars for an amazing view), and the stars are always better in winter! The biggest benefit of all is that you don't need to do summer's "Spider Dance".

The Spider Dance is a dance of passion and excitement that requires no music to perform professionally.  Similar in initial appearance to those (German??) knee slapping dances, the energy of the dancers is almost visible as the dancer spins,  writhes and contorts in eXtreeem poses, all the time uttering the characteristic  "AAIIEE, AAIIEE" chant.  If the dancer has reached that peak of fervour that all keen Spider Dancers aim for, he or she will almost certainly begin what appears to be uncontrolled slapping at the body - do not be alarmed, this is a normal part of the experienced dancer's repertoire - the dancer is fully in control and aware of their performance, so a little support in the form of cheers, laughter and jeering, is very much appreciated.  The truly professional Spider Dancer completes their performance collapsed in a heap on the ground, murmuring "is it off me?", over and over.

Performances such as this should be cherished, and the dancer should be elected to lead the rest of the singletrack in honour of their performance.

Copyright Tony Fathers, 1999

Although the air is cold and you are less likely to overheat, you do still need to dress warmly enough for the night. It's best to dress in layers, so you can remove or add clothes to regulate your temperature. On cold nights I carry a warm vest to wear when we stop (as well as the usual toolbox), so I don't get too cold.

Summer is good too, but the sound of those spiders hitting your helmet in the singletrack can give you the heebie-jeebies and prompt a sudden rendition of the Spider Dance. Or perhaps you'll get to ride in a rain of cicada piss... On a hot and stormy summer's night, you can often get spectacular lightning shows while staying dry yourself - or you might get really lucky, and get drenched... I haven't seen huge amounts of wildlife on the night ride - I think we make too much noise, but I have seen swamp wallabies, lots of tawny frogmouths/owls, other birds, frogs and the occasional possum (usually at The Oaks picnic ground itself) and kangaroo. We often hear wallabies thumping about in the darkness nearby, but only see them occasionally.

Some nights I have stopped by one of the little dams on the side of the track and been almost deafened by the noise of the frogs - they really get croaking! The lights of Sydney can be seen in quite a few places on the ride - especially since the fires - the track runs south along the ridge for quite a distance and there are often views of the city to your left (east) as you run up and down the ridgetops. Just before Redwire Saddle there are some big rock shelves on the left of the track at the top of the ridge which give spectacular city views. On a clear night, you can make out Centrepoint Tower and planes circling over Mascot. With binoculars the view gets even better, and you can pick out other landmarks such as the aviation light on the Harbour Bridge.

Trains back up to Woodford from Glenbrook usually run every hour, but there is often trackwork that disrupts the timetable.

From the distant past - night ride report:

We intended to make this trip with the full moon as a backup for our batteries, however the moon wasn't to rise till 10:30 pm, so we missed it.  No matter, this is still an excellent,  fast night ride. Hodgie and I both had our home made lights giving an amazing 40 watts of bright light as we rode side by side along the trail - it was just like being in a four wheel drive. [You should have seen us now with up to 100 watts glaring!! :TF] Good lights are fantastic! We had one minor incident - that could have been major.  I knew there was a sharp left turn after a fast straight at top of the Redwire Saddle downhill, just after the sign warning of the hump, unfortunately, I was going too fast - way too fast, and ran straight ahead.  Fortunately, I was able to stop before riding off the edge. Hodgie was busy following my lights before he too realised he had missed the turn and skidded to a halt beside me. Watch out for the left turn... Despite that fright, the Redwire Saddle downhill was our peak speed for the dirt - I managed 62 kmh.  Hodgie did 57 - I think we were both mad! [When Redwire was in excellent condition, we both managed a screaming 67!! These days, such speeds would be an impossiblity:TF] Hodgie's battery gave out soon after, so we switched to his spare for the long downhill stretch, which was a real blast in the dark. 

After the gate,  we switched to the single track, which was really exciting as the track dives and weaves between trees, logs and stumps.  I buggered up though, and we left the single track too early - make certain you stay on it till the end for maximum thrills.  Don't take the first cross track back to the main trail... The final belt downhill was followed by the long slog up from the causeway and then we cruised to the station for the train back up the Mountains.  They were running hourly that Saturday night - 7.02, 8.02 and the one we caught - the 9.02 pm. My actual ride time from the gate to Glenbrook station was 1 hr 24 minutes and Hodgie's 1 hr 30 mins.  My max speed on the dirt was 62 kmh(!) and on the tar hill into the causeway I hit 68 kmh (where I nearly ran on again instead of crossing the creek - I've twice ended up 10 metres up the creek). The ride proved a real high speed test for our lights, which they both passed with flying colours - we were amazed to see we weren't much slower than in the daytime. In fact, my time was less than several of my day trips.

hodgie takes the dropoff - tony fathers

From the distant past - night ride report 2:

We did it again by the light of the full moon - which stayed hidden behind clouds...  This time we found all the singletrack, including the Little Moab track, which heads off left shortly after you hit the tar.  Our ride time increased by around 20 minutes, presumably because we did five km more singletrack this time.  I managed to hit 64 kmh this time down Redwire Saddle hill, but was slower into the causeway (and up out of it).  Because there was supposed to be a good full moon, it was a popular ride.  As I waited for my mate to cross the saddle, I watched a line of lights snaking their way down the hill to the sounds of assorted whoops and hollers - must have been 10 to 15 bikes with lights, as well as some without.  Looked pretty cool I reckon. Night really adds an extra element of excitemet and adrenaline to this ride - try it and see!

An Oaks night ride deserves a solid 4.5 fat hippies

one fat hippyone fat hippyone fat hippyone fat hippyhalf a fat hippy
All rides are now rated in Fat Hippies - one means grab a slice of pizza and stay on the couch, two means not bad, three means well worth a ride, four means a great ride and five means stop looking at your computer, go ride it!


Distance ~28 km station to station
Difficulty Medium/Hard - may need to walk some uphills, especially that last climb from the causeway. Surface may be loose.
Time Varies - around 1 hr 30 minutes upwards
Trains Woodford, Glenbrook
See also... Anderson's fire trail, Murphy's Glen, Ingar, try it in daylight!
Interest Red Hands Cave, swimming holes, bushwalks, other tracks, picnic areas, Aboriginal Engravings, the Wheel, Euroka, Oaks Classic Race

fAt  hIpPy productions
another fAt hIpPy production