This month for our CFMOTO update, Nick rides the St Albans Loop on the BikeReview 800MT! Check out this guide he put together for this spectacular adventure loop. Photos: Nick Ware
After an eternity of uninterrupted freeway riding on the CFMOTO 800MT, I was finally able to exchange asphalt for dirt on one of my favourite solo rides, The St Albans Loop. With a spur-of-the-moment resolve, I braved thunderstorm warnings and bloody cold weather.
Stay up to date with all of our long-termer 800MT updates here…
The St Albans Loop, a personal favourite, promised an exciting test for our long-termer. The route has a perfect mix of nasty terrain and endless stretches of smooth gravel and sandy fire trails. The best part? It’s usually deserted, allowing you to let loose without worry.
St Albans Loop Map
Since my last off-road experience on the 800MT, I’ve added bar risers, a front radiator guard, and a complete set of rear luggage. I’m super eager to test them out, especially after recent rain! I load up the bike and venture into the bush. Ourimbah State Forest has a reputation for being pretty tough, but I’m confident the 800MT can handle it.
Your journey may start at the entrance to Ourimbah State Forest, off Red Hill Road, depending on your point of origin. This gravel path takes you through the mountain biking park and up to what appears to be one of the highest peaks in the State Forest. Red Hill can get rough, as was the case during my ride. If you prefer smoother paths, head to the main road through Yarramalong and up Bumble Hill.
On the route I set out on, the 800MT was to be pushed to its absolute limit, it’s not really the path you’d take a fully loaded adventure machine. I already knew the forks would struggle with large ruts that litter the path, proceed carefully to avoid damaging them or your back if you’re keen on giving it a go. If you decide to brave Red Hill, remember to keep taking right turns after losing mobile reception (common in the State Forest), so you can pass the old Red Hill quarry (do avoid stopping due to fire ants).
The State Forest journey takes me about 25 minutes, but it could be less for more experienced riders or longer for those who prefer a leisurely pace. Emerging from the quarry road, you’ll transition from sandy clay to tarmac, at the top of Bumble Hill’s sweeping right turn is the perfect meeting point if you’re intending on going for a ride with some friends.
After this rendezvous, your journey takes you past Jerry’s Café (a great coffee stop) and towards the currently closed Mangrove Dam. From Jerry’s, the Great North Road is a 20km stretch of tarmac leading to Bucketty. Be cautious, as it’s a common spot for emergency vehicles with lights and sirens.
The left turn onto Great North Road is easy to miss, leading you almost immediately onto gravel. The road is well signposted further up for the tourist drive, with distance markers for Wiseman’s Ferry and St Albans. On dirt, it’s approximately 35-40km. If you’re riding solo like me, you have the luxury of setting your own pace. If you’re with friends, it’s best to wait at the entry to avoid missing each other.
The initial kilometres of Great North Road can be tricky due to frequent 4WD and caravan traffic from the nearby Mogo camping ground. Stick to a moderate speed here, as blind corners and vehicles hogging the road can pose a risk. Plus, you wouldn’t want to veer off the road – it’s quite a drop.
For the first 15 minutes, I’m alone and cruising at about 85km/h. I catch up to one Hilux, who was nice enough to hang to the side while I rode past. 85 is about as fast as I’m comfortable with, especially on the heavier bike and road-oriented tyres. The rear ABS is in full swing for the majority of the gravel sections. When I notice it starting to fail, the rear end would swing out and I knew I was coming in a little too hot into the corner. “Relax,” I keep telling myself. Who knows how long it would take someone to find me if I crashed out here.
Great North Road soon turns into Wollombi Road, and you know you’re on the right track to St Albans. As you descend into the valley, signs of life start to appear. From what I can gather, the trail along Mogo Creek is part of the Yengo National Park, and it’s a seriously picturesque location. The track along the creek is incredibly isolated, and you’d be unlucky to come across anyone during the entire ride. You’ll see the destruction caused by our recent flooding, and you’ll be surrounded by cattle and various livestock freely roaming around the valley floor.
The Cemetery on your left will be the first landmark you see, and from there it’s only a few minutes into St Albans. It’s only a tiny town originally founded way back in 1794 and now aptly referred to as “The Forgotten Valley,” with no more than 300 permanent residents. The Settlers Arms Inn is probably the highlight and offers a decent meal and a cold beer. If you wanted to, spending a night there and enjoying a few more beers would be a worthwhile experience.
Check out the Settlers Arms Inn here and plan a ride out there…
While I do refer to this ride as a “loop,” more often than not, I simply turn around and head back the same way that I came. Due to the looming storm clouds and my distinct lack of knobbed tyres, this was no exception. However, usually, I’d cross the ferry and head up through Maroota, Forest Glen, and eventually back into Berowra. From there, I could either cruise back on the freeway or take the old Pacific Highway back into Gosford. I’m loving the gravel on this ride, I’m starting to get better and better at handling the big 800MT in the loose stuff with each corner.
In total, the complete run from my place to St Albans is about 180km round trip. It’s a fantastic ride, so close to the city, but it feels like you are really in the middle of nowhere. If you’re reading this and are close enough to St Albans, I definitely recommend setting aside a couple of hours and heading out. Take a cold drink and a decent meal; it’s worth spending some time out there. Maybe I’ll even see you there… I’ll check back in next month after a few more adventures!
2022 CFMOTO BikeReview 800MT Specifications
Price: $12,990 ($13,990 for touring)
Colours: Twilight Blue (Touring), Nebula Black (Sport)
Claimed power: 70kW@8000rpm
Claimed torque: 88Nm@6600rpm
Wet weight: 225kg (no panniers)
Fuel capacity: 19L
Engine: Liquid cooled, DOHC, parallel twin, 799cc, 88 x 65.7mm bore x stroke, Bosch electronic fuel-injection with ride-by-wire throttle, 12.7:1 compression ratio.
Chassis: Steel tubular frame
Suspension: 43mm USD KYB Fully Adjustable, 160mm travel (f) KYB Monoshock, fully adjustable, 150mm travel (r)
Brakes: 320mm discs, J.Juan 4-piston radial calipers, ABS (f), 260mm disc, J.Juan 2-piston caliper, ABS (r) Bosch ABS,
Wheels & Tyres: Maxxis Tubeless, 110/80–19in (f), 150/70–17in (r) Spoked wheel with Touring model, Cast-alloy with Sport model.
Seat height: 825mm
Ground clearance: 190mm
Instruments & Electronics: 7in TFT Dash, two riding modes, ride-by-wire throttle, cruise control, Bosch ABS, LED lighting.
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