Cafe Racing the Scenic Rim on the Gold Coast is an emerging sport for bikers. This new sport occurs outside the built-up areas and popular golden beaches of the Gold Coast. It’s a long way away from the overcrowded boutiques and shopping malls the coast is known for. The sport flourishes in the mountains and rural areas, areas not often seen by tourists. It provides an opportunity for the rider to enjoy motorcycle riding and to explore the “road less travelled”.

Now, I’m not talking about pure racing here, because racing involves speed which might be frowned upon by local law enforcement. What I’m talking about is more of a refined sport for those of us who just like to ride bikes. More of an exhilarating day or weekend out on your bike, than a death-defying crusade for speed and glory. Cruising cafes, pubs and art galleries, all while riding steep mountain passes, sharp hairpin corners and long straight rural roads.

Cafe racing is back

In Queensland, there is a growing market for classic, cafe racers and retro bikes. Riders such as myself and others in their 50s are buying classic bikes as a nostalgic link to the past. For me, I love the rock and roll era of the 1950s and 60s. When Bill Haley and Comets, Cliff Richard, Johnny Cash and a young Elvis Presley hit the top of the music charts. My father was one of the original cafe racers in London after World War II. And I grew up regaled by stories of leaving one cafe when the music started to arrive at another before it finished. In those days there weren’t specific bikes, all they had were standard bikes they modified to make them faster. 

I bought a cafe racer to compliment my existing adventure bike, because I enjoy the freedom motorcycling provides and the simplicity of a naked bike. I also like to meet similar people, with similar interests who also like coffee. The bikes are great mechanical things that as a retired engineer I understand, and if necessary I can fix or modify to suit my own riding style.

I had just completed a ride behind the Sunshine Coast with my brother and was taking the opportunity while in South East Queensland to check out the Scenic Rim. If you want to read about Cafe Racing behind the Sunshine Coast check out my blog post.

Journey to the Hinterland

The mountains behind the Gold Coast are colloquially known as the “Hinterland”, these hills frame the Scenic Rim. The first hills are the Springbrook National Park followed by the Beechmont Range. These ranges are the gateway to a number of national parks, hidden valleys, quirky pubs and stunning art galleries. If you want to know more about the history of this region check out the following link Tourist Guide to the Scenic Rim

A new adventure

It was early in the morning when I pulled Speedy my Royal Enfeild Continental GT 650 from her overnight storage in my Aunt and Uncles’ garage in Oxenford. Today, my cousin Vicki on her red 883 Harley Sportster and I were going to ride across Mount Tamborine to Canungra and then make our way up the southern part of the range to Beechmont. After a coffee at Beechmont we would ride down the eastern side of the range to Oxenford before parking Emu for the night back in the garage.

The problem with a Harley in a suburban neighbourhood early in the morning is that it tends to wake everybody in the immediate vacinity. Which is usually a couple of square kilometres. While I like the look and sound of the dual slash cut pipes, I’m not sure there are actually any baffles in them, needless to say our quiet exit was anything but.

Stopping for fuel

Our first stop was Upper Coomera for fuel, after which we rode past semi rural house blocks before turning up hill. The next ten kilometres is a steep up hill climb to the top of the range. At the top is a place called Eagles Heights and then a little further on a place known as Gallery Walk. The views from Eagles Heights are spectacular. On a good day you can see the whole north western section of the Scenic Rim, just past the hang glider launch site is the area known as the Gallery Walk. This place has more coffee shops than the average shopping mall, combined with resturants and small art galleries you could spend a whole day just walking backwards and forwards down this street all while eating and drinking.

Naturally, our presence riding down the street didn’t go unnoticed. Vicki is only five foot six so the big Harley looks monstrous with her on it and the sound has people turning their heads wondering where the biker gang is. Unfortunately, if you were cafe racing in this part of the mountain your journey would be more like taking the kids to school than riding the TT Isle of Man. The road drops down to Curtis Falls, at which point you can turn left at the tee intersection to go up to Mount Tamborine North or right to follow the rain forest until it levels out into a rural valley.

Climbing the ridge to Mount Tamborine

We turned left and climbed up the small escarpment to the village. From here you wind along the top of the ridge, until you get to Mount Tamborine (Central). There’s a sign on the right directing you down hill to Canungra. From Mount Tamborine you follow the steep decending road down the range until you come out just above Canungra. The road is steep and the corners cut into the side of the hill, I found myself pulling Speedy from side to side as I leant into each corner, its a road you have to be vigilant on as cars are coming up the other way and if you’re not careful you can get out of synch and over the middle line.

Jungle Warfare Training

You decend through Eucalypt forests and semi arid scrub until finally coming to a very busy tee intersection. From here you turn right onto the main street and it’s seconds before you come into Canungra. Originally known as Australia’s Army Jungle Warfare Training Centre it also houses many boutique cafes and resturants. It’s a haven for bikers on the Gold Coast as it has quirky pubs and sprawling rural landscape with a network of twisting climbing roads that make riding incredibly joyful.

Vicki and I fuelled up before parking our bikes at the apptley named “The Outpost Cafe”. There were bikes of all pursuasions from Hasley’s to Hayabusa’ and everything in between. The atmosphere was pumbing with Harley bikers clad in leather singlets with patches and ralley badges mixing and talking with sports bike enthusiasts in full leather racing gear. We ordered coffee and sat talking with other bikers. There was significant interest in Continental GT650 people wanting know all about the Royal Enfield brand. It just goes to prove it doesn’t matter what you ride as long as you ride.

Where Eagles and Crazy Hang Glider Pilots Go

It was mid morning and we still had some awesome riding to do. Our plan was to ride up the Beechmont Range, drop down towards Nerang and then take a steep climb back up to Mount Tamborine. We left our new friends and fired up the bikes. Both of us going through the routine that every biker goes through. Keys in the ignition, engine on, helmet on, jacket done up, gloves on and off we go.

The road east takes you to Nerang one of the outer lying townships of the Gold Coast and through the live fire practice range. But we made a right turn just out of town and headed up the Beechmont Road. The ride up is just as spectacular as the one to Canungra, except this was more open, as the majority of the vegitation had been cleared for cattle production.

The grass was spectacularly green and the soil a deep orce red. It was a different type of riding, there were steep long up jumps and tight twisting corners. At times you could see down the valley towards the Great Dividing Range, climbing up on the range you notice the temperature was significantly cooler. We rode for about 30 minutes before getting to a small village on the crest of the ridge. This was Beechmont and we were now on the Beechmont Range.

The volcanic valley

The wind had picked up as soon as we passed the last homestead, the view down the eastern side of the range opened up. From the road it was at least 400 metres to the valley floor. The crystal blue sky enabled uniterupted veiws all the way to Mount Warning in New South Wales. To the left the highest peak on the Beechmont Range at 667 metres above sea level, towered over a small green grassy knoll.

On the right side of the ridge the hill drops away sharply and reveils the lush green volcanic valley below rising again to the Springbrook Range on the other side. Past that is the Gold Coast urban flat land, golf courses and shopping malls and closer to the water looking small and insignificant are the high rises on the beach. We pulled up at a “The Flying Bean Cafe” over looking the grassy knoll. It is another example of the magnificent cafes that exist in this part of the world. On the edge of the knoll was a wind sock. Hang gliders and parasailers jump of this cliff , not caring about their life or limbs. Today it was quiet, just the rushing sound of the wind, but on a weekend this place would be pumping.

Time to head home

We sat looking down the valley and out towards New South Wales, a big black cloud was rolling across the Springbrook Range, the temperature had got significantly cooler. It was time to make our way back back down the range and up over Mount Tamborine once again to Oxenford. I was just zipping up my leather jacket when I heard the tell tail signs of high revving sports bikes. Within seconds four high powered machines flew past in a blur.

Cafe Racing the scenic rim is definitely a sport with a future in this part of the country. There are so many cafes and so many excellent and challenging roads to ride in the area. Now if you happen to wager a bet on who gets to the cafe first, then that’s up to you. Just remember if we were allowed to invest in government speed cameras instead of the Dow Jones we would all be millionaires. 

I don’t condone speeding on a motorcycle, especially on these tight roads where there is a lot of tourist traffic and an abnormal number of signs warning of imminent death to motorcyclists. I’m thinking of another sport where you have to get from cafe to cafe in a specific time, too early and you lose points to late and you put yourself out of contention. I’m thinking my Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 would be my steede of choice.

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Gary is a travel writer, educator, training specialist and part time adventurer. When not paddling rivers, diving on the Great Barrier Reef or riding down some dusty outback track on his trusted KLR650 "Emu" he likes to explore historical areas and look for the back story.

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