Sydney Roadbook: guide to cycling Bobbin Head West

Road on Bobbin Head West with left hairpin road sign approaching building

Bobbin Head West is a great little test for Sydney’s cyclists. The gradient remains constant at around 6% for most of the climb, allowing you to get into a rhythm and really put the power down for around ten minutes. This side of Bobbin Head is shorter than the eastern side, but steeper and more challenging.

The Climb

Distance: 2.93km
Average gradient: 6%
Elevation gain: 163m
Strava: Bobbin Head West

Flying start

There are two Strava segments for this climb, but the preferred one (linked to above) with correct elevation data starts at the entrance to the National Parks Information Centre. If you’re approaching from Bobbin Head East, carry your descending speed over the bridge to give yourself a flying start.

Cycling Bobbin Head West starts just outside the National Parks Information Centre.
Bobbin Head West starts just outside the front door of the information centre.

Straight away, you’ll be met by a fast, sweeping right-hand hairpin turn. Get your right knee down and your hands in the drops: the steep banking allows you to carry momentum through the turn and attack the hill at speed. Be careful, though: watch out for vehicles and cyclists travelling downhill in the opposite direction.

The first real climbing section starts out at 6%, which can sting the legs if you’ve just been freewheeling down the other side of Bobbin Head.  However, if you’re riding for a personal best time, don’t think too much about conserving energy.  The short length of the climb means you must start flat-out and try to hold your speed all the way to the top.

Bicycle road sign before a right hand hairpin to start the Bobbin Head West climb
A sweeping right hand hairpin introduces you to the climb

Kilometre one to hairpin

You’ll climb away from the water for the first kilometre, hugging the rock wall on the left while enjoying pretty glimpses of Cowan Creek to your right. The road surface here is smooth, with fresh tarmac laid in many places.

If you miss the faded “1km” marker on the left hand side of the road, it’s followed shortly by a wide left-hand hairpin around a wooden building, as pictured in this post’s feature image. This signifies that you’re already over one-third of the way up the climb. The width of the lane through the hairpin allows you to save one or two seconds by hugging the inside line. It’s slightly steeper than the outside of the curve, but it’s worth putting in a bit of a kick, especially since  it’s followed by 100 metres of false flat, where you can recover briefly even as you shift to a harder gear to keep the pace high.

2 cyclists turning left around a wide hairpin after 1km of the Bobbin Head West climb.
The inside line is steeper but more efficient than the long way round this hairpin.

Kilometre two

With that first section of the climb now behind you, the road reverts to a 5% gradient for about 200 metres as you curve to the right and back to the left in the first of several gentle S-bends. It then flattens out briefly for another 100 metres before tilting back up to a fairly constant 5- 7% for the next kilometre.

The road in this middle section of the climb follows the gentle curves of the terrain. On left hand bends, be sure to hug the rock wall for the shortest path up the climb. Conversely, if safe to do so, stick to the centre line whenever the road curves to the right.

Your legs will start to feel the lactic acid at the 2km mark. On a couple of occasions, it will appear as though you’re about to crest a hill as the road disappears up and around a bend, but don’t be deceived – there is still a little climbing to go.

Cyclists approaching a false crest as the road seems to disappear ahead of them on Bobbin Head West.
Don’t be fooled, that’s not the top of the climb ahead. There’s still almost a kilometre to go from this point.

Kilometre three to the top

It’s not until about 2.5 kilometres into the climb that you’ll reach the final S-bend: a right-hand bend (identified by a wide dirt run-off area on the left-hand side of the road), followed by a left-hand bend with nothing but a rock wall on the left, and sky on the right. Dig deep now, you’re inside the last few hundred metres.

The road curves in an S shape before the end of Bobbin Head Climb.
The final S-bend before the finish.

After you get around the rock wall, it’s time to empty the tank. The next sign you see will be for the Kalkari Discovery Centre, which signals 100 metres to go. If you’re not sprinting by now, get out of the saddle and give it all you’ve got.

Kalkari Discovery Centre sign beside the road before the finish of Bobbin Head West.
The Kalkari Discovery Centre sign, just 100 metres from the top of the climb.

The finish of the Strava segment is unmarked on the road. It’s about 50 metres before the entrance to the Kalkari Centre carpark. Just to make sure, it’s recommended that you push all the way until the carpark entrance.

Finish of Bobbin Head West climb; a featureless road with a carpark entrance on the left hand side.
From this viewpoint, the finish is probably under the soles of your feet, but just go hard all the way until the carpark entrance.

Strava

The current Strava record is just over 6 minutes 30 seconds. 9:30 would be a good, challenging target for a B-Grader.

Descent

Bobbo West is a fast, flowing, and fun descent. The gradient is shallow enough that you’ll benefit from pedalling out of the bends. The wide roads and gentle curves mean you barely have to touch the brakes until the hairpin around the wooden house, or perhaps the chicane before that. The camber around that hairpin is nice and positive, allowing you to stick your tyres down and lean confidently through the turn.

After that, be particularly wary of oncoming traffic in the bottom 1km, where the road narrows and there’s no centre line. Finally, take care around the left-hand hairpin at the very bottom – it’s a blind corner that you’ll be tempted to hit with speed.

Cyclists from Lidcombe Auburn Cycling Club descending Bobbin Head West in a line.
Bobbo West is a fun, fast descent.

Traffic

Since Bobbin Head is part of Ku-ring-gai National Park, there is an entry fee for motor vehicles. This generally keeps traffic volumes down. Bobbo is dominated by cyclists on weekends in the early morning. You’ll see dozens of groups climbing up either side before 9:00am. Motor traffic at this time is low.

Later in the day, watch out for motorcycles, boat-towing 4WDs and families heading into the park for picnics. When travelling uphill, most drivers will wait patiently before choosing a safe moment to pass. The road is wide enough to pass, but sometimes the motorist must wait for a clear line of sight. When travelling downhill,  for the most part cyclists can descend quicker than motor vehicles. Beware of oncoming cars crossing over onto your side of the road when they overtake cyclists climbing uphill.

Lidcombe Auburn Cycling Club junior cyclists riding uphill on Bobbin Head West.
Bobbin Head is a popular training ground for local cyclists.

Nearby

Bobbo West is the gateway to the beautiful climbs of northern Sydney.  If you continue past Kalkari on 3.5km of undulating roads, you’ll reach the western National Park tollbooth. Past that, you’ll cross a bridge over the Pacific Motorway and arrive at the Pacific Highway, where you can turn left for Galston Gorge or turn right for Berowra Waters or Brooklyn – a veritable smorgasbord for Sydney’s climbers.

Alternatively, descend back down Bobbin Head West to climb up the eastern side of Bobbin Head. If you then continue cycling over the top of Bobbin Head East, you’ll reach North Turramurra. The cafes here make for a popular coffee stop for cyclists.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *