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The Crescent (Sassafras)

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Length: 3.3 km
Height gain: 167 metres
Average gradient: 5%
Surface: Rough
Terrain: Forest/Residential
Traffic: Light

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

The Crescent has always been one of my favourite climbs in the Dandenong’s.  There’s something special about this climb that makes it such a pleasure to climb.  Its a climb that can easily lull you into a false sense of security.  The first 2.6 km offers a fairly easy climb through some of the Dandenong Ranges National most stunning Rain forest.  This climb has a nice surprise with the last 700 meters ramping up, and one final pinch which is quite nasty!

The Crescent (Sassafras)

The climb begins at the intersection of Perrins Creek Road, and this climb which has two parts.  The first section of the climb is 2.6 km in length with an average gradient of 5%.  The road surface is quite course.  Even though the average gradient is quite an easy gradient to climb, you have to work for it.  It’s easy to be caught up in the serenity and tranquility that this climb has to offer.

Be mindful that part two has a real bite to it!

The Crescent (Sassafras)
What I like most about this climb is the finish.  The last 1.4 km just gets steeper & steeper.  With 700 meters to go the road seriously ramps up as you enter the residential part of the Crescent.  This is where the road gets skyward until it hits you in the face with the final 200 meters of the climb averaging well in excess of 10%.  After 3 km of climbing your legs might not like you at this point.  You will need your granny gear to get up this one and if you’ve cooked yourself before you’ve hit this one, good luck!

The Crescent (Sassafras)
The final pinch

History of Sassafras

Sassafras was originally called Sassafras Gully.  After the damp, hilly terrain and trees that grew in the area.  Sassafras Gully was open for small scale farming in 1893 where 500 ten-acre farms were put up for sale.  Little in the way of a township was established.  With only a Post Office (established in 1894), store, school (open in 1894) and a Mechanics hall.  In the early 1900’s tourism began to grow which helped the town to develop.  Around 1918 thirteen guest houses were built attracting a number of weekenders.  This made Sassafras one of the leading resorts in the Dandenong Ranges.  Around this time two churches & additional shops were built around the township.

The Crescent (Sassafras)
Image courtesy of State Library Victoria

Today Sassafras is one of the Dandenong’s oldest and most popular towns.  Featuring a diverse collection of Cafes, Antique and craft shops.  It is very popular amongst cyclists who may stop to catch their breath after climbing one of the Dandenong’s most iconic climbs the 1 in 20.

The Crescent (Sassafras)
The Crescent (Sassafras)

Return from injury

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After riding for five hours, baking in the hot sun it was no surprise that I was very much out of shape.  I hadn’t ridden in over three months.  My legs had given up on me over 40 km ago, and I was riding just on fumes.  The return trip hadn’t gone so well, and I tried to work out how many bonks I had gone through.  Or was it just one continuous bonk?  It was slow going but I managed to get home in one piece.  It has been 104 days since I had a head on collision on the Eatlink trail.  Months of pain & frustration which have taken their toll.

Return from injury
Dandenong Creek Trail

I rode 104 km’s.  One kilometer for every day that I lost as a result of injury.

I caught up with Brad Lyell recently and mentioned to him that I had this crazy idea of a 100 km recovery ride.  You can pretty much guess what his reply was, but he said that he would come along.  I committed to riding in the MS Melbourne cycle ride next weekend, and my only hope to get in shape would be to do a ride like this.

Return from injury
The giant gnome

I’m still in rehab trying to rebuild the strength in my shoulder.  It’s only at about 80% strength.  Thankfully it seems ok to ride on flats without too much discomfort.

There was a big question mark over how I could get through this ride.  Pacing myself isn’t one of my strong points and I needed someone to keep me in check.  Brad was great and said “you can turn around at any time and head home.  It’s far better to get home feeling good than absolutely knackered!

It was great to get back on the bike.  Over the past three months I have been unable to train.  I haven’t been able to use my shoulder and the worst part of this injury was the fact I couldn’t even lift my son.  Kids grow up so fast and that’s time that I have lost forever

Return from injury
Brad Lyell

The ride

We headed down the Dandenong Creek Trail, and then down to the Peninsula Trail to Mount Eliza.  The ride was going really well until we hit Two Bays Road.  In hindsight I shouldn’t have tried to climb.  It’s not a big climb at 2 km @ 5%, but hard enough to destroy me.

Shortly after we started to head back I bonked, and went a bit fuzzy.  I distracted myself and remembered all of the well wishes that I received over the past three months.  It meant a lot to get so much encouragement to get back on the bike.

I recovered for a brief moment then bonked and bonked and bonked.  Eventually my body told me to get stuffed and the pace really slowed down on the last stretch.

Return from injury

The good Samaritans

On Patterson Lakes we came across a mountain biker rider who had a puncture and didn’t carry any spare tubes.  Our spare tubes wouldn’t fit his bike, and Brad used a puncture repair kit to get him going again.  I found it a good excuse for a 20 minute break, however the day was heating up, and we got baked, sapping what little energy I had left.

I managed to get home in one piece.  Majorly exhausted mind you, but hopeful that I will pull up ok tomorrow.

Doing such a long ride after three months off may not be the smartest course of action.  I just had bottled up so much frustration, and anger, but tried to remain as positive as I could given the situation.

Things have not been good, but at least I’m back on the bike.  That’s the real important thing.

Here is a link to my Strava segment here.

Yowamushi Pedal

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Yowamushi Pedal translates to “weakling pedal“, and is an Anime series about road racing.

The series centres around Sakamichi Onoda.  He’s pretty much the stereotypical nerd (pictured below).  A student at Otaku at Sōhoku High School who is obsessed with Anime and games.  Since his parents bought him a “mummy bike” in grade 4.  He would ride his bicycle to and from Tokyo’s Akihabara shopping district.  This is a 90 kilometer round trip over some super steep slopes.  Onoda didn’t ride for fitness.  He rode just to get his precious Anime.  Somehow along the way became learned to ride.

Yowamushi Pedal review

Yowamushi Pedal review

The series Yowamushi Pedal, is a family show which has a variety of characters.  Who contrast with each other in terms of personality and their approach to competitive cycling.  Not only can you can relate with the excitement and passion that these characters have for cycling.  It’s quite refreshing to watch a t.v series about characters who are obsessed with cycling.  Sound familiar?

The characters in this show a ultra competitive.  Instead of portraying bitter rivalries like in real life.  Yowamushi Pedal is all about bringing out your best.  Your competitor isn’t someone who is necessarily standing in your way. Your competitor is someone who sets high.  And is a driving force for where you want to be.  Your fiercest rival can also become your best friend.  You both want the same after all.

This series is directed more for the teenage market, breaking down the simplicity of cycling to the bare basics.  Even so, the drama and excitement about the bike  will appeal to a seasoned rider.

Language: Japanese (subtitled in English); cycling is universal and it is easy to follow and enjoy this show.

Stream the season 1 & 2 for free at Animelabs

You can stream the Yowamushi Pedal Movie on Youtube

  • Season 1, 38 episodes
  • Season 2, 24 episodes
  • Yowamushi Pedal the Movie; 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Season 3; 2017 release

This series wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea.  But you never know unless you give it a go.

Canton Avenue (Pittsburgh, USA)

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Distance: 200 metres
Average Gradient: 13%
Maximum Gradient: 37%
Surface: Cobblestone
Terrain: Residential

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

If you have a bucket list to take on some of the world’s steepest climbs.  Then Canton Avenue should be right up the list. Located in Pittsburgh, USA Canton Avenue is considered the steepest street in the United States.  With a maximum gradient of 37 %. Not only is it super steep, but it is paved with cobblestones. It’s only a short climb, but merciless and will spit out the weak and the stupid. Without a doubt it is a bitch of a climb under the best of circumstances.

Canton Avenue
Image by Dan Buczynski; courtesy of Flickr

Canton Avenue climb

Canton Avenue is most famous for being featured in Pittsburgh’s annual Dirty Dozen bike race.  Which was started by brothers Danny and Tom Chew back in 1983. Each year climbing enthusiasts take on the 80 km ride through a city not known for being particularly flat. This event challenges cyclists to take on thirteen of Pittsburgh’s steepest and nastiest hills.

Canton Avenue
Image taken by Dobie

Take caution as this is a residential street and Canton Avenue simply defeats most.  On a bad day this road can be a death trap. Due to its steep gradient.  This road is not be well maintained as it is difficult for service vehicles to make the ascent. Over the winter time when it snows.  It’s impossible to plow and residents may be forced to park at the base of the road.  Then walk up to their homes.

If you’re willing to give this one a go be warned that this climb has made many grown men cry.

My ride for MS Melbourne Cycle

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I have committed to ride the 50 km 2017 MS Melbourne Cycle challenge which will be held on Sunday 26th of March 2017.  This event is all about showing your support for people living with multiple sclerosis, by doing what we all love best.  Getting out to ride your bike with your families and friends.  The event showcases some of Melbourne’s most iconic sites and offers you the chance to see the magnificent views of Melbourne from the West Gate Bridge.

My ride for MS Melbourne Cycle
Map courteous of MS Melbourne Cycle

It was a difficult decision for me to sign-up in this event.  I have been injured over 3 months, and my shoulder still hasn’t recovered enough to be able to ride a bike.  I may not be able to touch a bike until just before this event begins.

Why I’m riding the MS Melbourne Cycle ride

There’s no guarantee that I will be able to get my shoulder strong enough to do this event.  But I will give it everything I’ve got to make it to the starting line.  You can really take yourself to the next level when you’ve got motivation to do an event like this.  Supporting people living with multiple sclerosis is very important.

My ride for MS Melbourne Cycle
Map courteous of MS Melbourne Cycle

This injury has impacted heavily on my life.  I have a 16 month old child and for months I haven’t been able to lift or play with him.  Kids grow up so quickly, and I’ll never get that time back.

Just to add salt to the wounds, Melbourne had to have one of the best summers in decades.  Spending day after day looing out your window at a glorious weather.  Not able to do anything, or go anywhere is torture.

I want to ride!

If you’re interested in joining the ride head to the MS Melbourne Cycle website:

If you can help by making a small donation to MS please click on this link here:

About multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is a disease which effects the central nervous system.  It affects more young adult Australians than any other neurological condition.

Researchers are still looking for a cure, and sadly at the moment, multiple sclerosis is a lifelong disease.  MS Australia helps people who are living with multiple sclerosis to access services, support.  Treatments, and provide information they need to live full and happy lives.

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary from person to person, but can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain and numbness
  • Pins and needles
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Intolerance to heat
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Continence problems
  • Blurred vision
  • Tremors
  • In severe cases, paralysis

Click here to Learn more about Multiple Sclerosis.

Sherpa on the Serpentine

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I had met Gary Beazley once at the Domestique Mount Buller ride on the 22nd February 2014. At that stage he was preparing to do his first Everest on Mount Alexander. He not only finished it, but kept on riding, and knocked off well over 10,000 vertical. I kept in contact with him, and late one afternoon in April of ’14 I got a message from him on Facebook;

“I’m Everesting the Serpentine now”.

WTF! I was staggered that anyone would consider doing the Serpentine. I talked with the missus & begged for a leave pass to go & to ride a few laps with him after dinner.

Sherpa on the Serpentine
The Serpentine

It was a nice night, and when I showed up Gary had John Van Seters riding with him. I asked how much he had left to do & he said 20 laps. I could see that he had it in the bag.  There was no way I wouldn’t miss the end of this, & and had to call home to get permission to stay out a bit later than what I originally planned. I asked Gary how he came to choose the Serpentine.  He said that he wanted the shortest ever Everest, and asked how many times he had climbed it before and laughed when he said once.

Sherpa on the Serpentine

The Serpentine is on a really narrow goat track of a road that zig zag’s through a quite back street. The descent is a shocker.  Which would have been the main reason most wouldn’t have considered it.  But Gary managed to find a smooth line, and I was surprised at how easily he was doing it.

There was a family at one of the houses that were watching us the whole time.  They must have thought that we were crazy.  They stayed up until after 10:00 pm, watching the crazy people’s go up & down their street.

Lots & lots of times.

After doing 100 repeats of the Serpentine, he definitely deserves mega Kudos for doing this one.  His pace was really consistent & only started to slow down a little on the last 5 laps. We finished close to 11:45 pm. I suggested that he was going so well that he should go for the 10,000.  “I think 8,848 metres is good enough for me thank you very much!”. Gary played a victory song by NWA, which I found a novel way to finish off an Everest. I had a great night, and you get so much experience and appreciation for a climb doing so many repeats. I spent the night chatting with Gazza & JVS and was one of the more enjoyable rides that I’ve ever done.

Sherpa on the Serpentine

 

Here’s what the great man had to say:

Thanks King George, and everyone else. Those last two thousand vertical were certainly tough, and huge thanks to JVS and Brendan for their support, I don’t know how I would have gone without it. Gained some added respect for Pierre’s ride, which is virtually identical to mine anyway…some serious climbing ability there! It’s probably taken 4 days to recover. On Monday, even climbing the stairs hurt, and the legs were still very sore on Tuesday. I felt pretty good today though, but I still think I went into it under prepared because I did little riding during the rainy week prior

I didn’t get home till well after midnight, and was a tired boy at work the next day, but it was certainly worth it.

Here is a link to Gary’s Everest.

Gary’s reward for Everesting the Serpentine

Sherpa on the Serpentine

Here is a link to my Strava Activity here:

Geoffrey Heintz

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In 1935, aged 10 years of age.  Geoffrey Heintz became the youngest ever rider to ride from Sydney to Melbourne.  Completing this epic journey in 4 days 9 hours and 50 minutes.  Geoffrey had been inspired by emulating Billie Samuel’s record breaking ride which she did in 1934.

Geoffrey rode daily in and around the Strzelecki Ranges near his hometown of Korromburra in Victoria.  He had amazing strength and stamina for someone so young, and asked his parents if he could ride from Sydney to Melbourne.  He was inspired to do this ride to emulate a hero of his.  “Billie Samuel”.  Who in 1934 set the record for the fastest time by a women to ride from Sydney to Melbourne.

The Plan

The family approached an ex-professional rider; R.W “Fatty” Lamb.  Who was one of the few Australian’s at that stage to have ridden in the Tour de France.  Fatty was a mentor and coach to Geoff and put together the schedule and the plan for making this ride a successful one.  Fatty was instrumental in getting sponsorship for the ride.  He turned to Bruce Small.  The owner of Malvern Star bicycles, who’s contribution to Australian cycling at the time was immense.  Malvern Star sponsored a number of riders who went onto international fame.  Bruce Small would have been highly dubious that a 10 year old boy could make such an epic journey.  If one could he wanted to be part of it and put the money forward to make this ride possible.  Sponsoring young Geoffery Heintz.

The ride

Geoffrey Heintz set out from Sydney at 8:20 am on January 1, 1935 (New Years Day).  His parents accompanying him in a motor car.

The first leg of his journey he was accompanied by Arthur Gray.  An ex-professional cyclist who rode with him out to Goulburn.  Riding was tough with a number of dusty roads to contend with.  Geoffrey wanted to continue riding, but was told to rest.  ”Dad says I must stop here for the night. If I wasn’t so sleepy I wouldn’t be tired at all” – GH

Between Goulburn to Gundagain, Geoffrey rode on little sleep.  Copped a fair amount of rain, and did it tough.  Least of all having to ride through a swarm of grasshoppers at one point.  “The grasshoppers were thick yesterday. Some children said they do not sting but they do. They hurt when they hit you on the face when you are riding hard. One made my eye sore so I put on my goggles.  But they still stung my legs” – GH.

Geoffrey didn’t mind.  He just wanted to visit the place where the dog sat on the tucker box.

Geoffrey Heintz
Image taken by Sacha Fernandez courtesy of Flickr

The mini celebrity

Geoffrey Heintz was treated like a mini-celebrity in Albury, greeted by the deputy mayor (Alderman W Colley).  Geoffrey was rapt that a number of boys and girls came out to ride with him and presented him with a silver cup.

That is my first cup.  If I show mum and dad I can ride like I do at Korumburra they promised I could be a racer and try to win other cups”. – GH

After leaving Albury Geoffrey was overcome by a violent storm which he bravely rode through.  All of his clothes were soaked to the skin.  Nearing Seymour he was forced to pull off the road.  Shaking like a leaf, his family needed to light a fire to dry his clothes and restore some form of circulation.

“When I started I thought if a girl like Billie Samuel did not get tired, I wouldn’t.” – GH

Leaving Seymour Geoffrey set into a strong head wind.  At times he could only manage 10 km/h.  So fierce was the wind that on one occasion it blew him off his bicycle.  Taking skin off his knees and elbows.

Homecoming

Malvern Star arranged for Australia’s number#1 cyclist Hubert Opperman and Billie Samuel to ride out and meet Geoffrey.  They met him eight kilometres out of the city.  They led the boy wonder into the heart of Melbourne.

Geoffrey Heintz
Hubert Opperman and Bruce Small

Geoffrey Heintz arrived at the Elizabeth street Post Office at 6.10 pm on Saturday.  One of his knee’s stiff from the cold, and most likely hurting from his crash near Seymour.

In 1935 this was an unbelievable feat.  Geoffrey went from being a country boy, who was the son of a farmer to a hero.   Geoffrey touched the hearts of those that met him throughout his travels.  “I wonder if the people who wave to me know how far I am going. I mustn’t stop to tell everyone”. – GH

What did success taste like to Geoffrey?

I had some Ice cream and cakes and tea from a flask.  That’s why I like riding so well.  Gee, no wonder Fatty and Oppy. Like breaking records. It’s great being fed on fruit, ice cream, chocolates, and all that other boys don’t get when they’re not breaking records”. – GH

Final thoughts 

Yesterday I saw a swagman and he asked me where I thought I was going. I said to him I was riding to Melbourne. He said I was mad to think I could ride there. I told him I have more chance than he had. I bet he will still be walking when ‘Fatty’ meets me in Melbourne”. – GH

Sources

I was able to discover about this amazing ride from newspaper cuttings, and a diary.  Which thankfully Geoffrey kept to document his epic ride.  This is where I found the quotes for this piece.

Mount Hotham

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Length:  30.8km
Altitude:
1740m
Height Gain:
1322m
Average Gradient:
4.2%
Maximum gradient:
18%

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

Mount Hotham is one of Australia’s most epic climbs and is known for its unforgettable moon-like summit.  The climb provides spectacular views of Mount Buffalo, Mount Feathertop as well as the high plains.  Mount Hotham is a climb which essentially is broken up into 3 distinct sections.  The opening 11 km are steep followed by a 9 km false-flat.  The last 10 km from the Buckland Gate has made many grown men cry.  It is a roller-coaster of super steep uphill & downhill.  The super steep pinches on Mount Hotham are so formidable they have their own names! “The Meg” and “CRB  Hill” which will be indelibly etched into your memory forever. Many have succumbed and walked these beasts.

Mount Hotham

Start: Harrietville General Store, Great Alpine Road.

This challenging ride commences in the gateway town of Harrietville.  The first part of this climb is flanked by a tall forest, which was effected by bush fires in 2013.  Fires raged uncontrollably around the Alpine National Park which destroyed much of the vegetation around the area. On the lower slopes of Mount Hotham, there has been much regrowth.  The higher you climb.  You will see more extensive damage.  Hopefully one day this area can return to its former beauty.

The Meg

After 5.6 km of tough climbing.   You will come upon a corner with a road sign letting you know that you have reached the Meg.  Whenever you take on any Mountain ascent, you may find that it seems to have a life of its own.  There are sections which will be etched into cyclists memories forever.  As a rule of thumb.  If you come upon a section of a Mountain ascent which has its own name.  It will hurt!

Mount Hotham
Nearing the Meg

No matter how much climbing experience you have, rounding that bend to the Meg is a cyclists worst nightmare.  Whilst the Meg is only 300 meters long, the road goes skywards.  With an average gradient of 11.8% and peaking at 14%.  If you have to get off and walk your bike up this pinch we won’t think any less of you.  The Meg is truly brutal.

The Buckland Gate

With 9 km of false flat ahead of you.  This is time to sit back and do whatever necessary to pace yourself to get to the top.  When you reach the Buckland gate, this is where your climb to the summit of Mount Hotham begins.  The closer you get to the summit, the more the road opens up. The climb offers amazing views to both sides of the road.  The scenery is simply stunning!  You will be tempted to pull over a number of times to take photos.  If you look over your shoulder, you can see much of the climb below.  You’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come.  When you turn around you can also see how far you’ve still got to go.  Ouch!

After you crest the first of the steep climbs, you will come across the first of the steep downhills.  Gear yourself up as they are all followed by big kickers.

CRB Hill

If you were hitting CRB on fresh legs it would be hard.  Hitting it with 23 km of climbing in your legs is pure evil.  CRB Hill is a 700 metre stretch with gradients in excess of 10%.  What does CRB stand for?  Climbing is ridiculous brutal.  Climbing is really brutal.  You may think up a few variations of your own as you attempt to ascend this beast.  Maybe it should be renamed to CBF’d hill

Over the top you will be thankful of a brief respite down a fast technical descent.  Save something in reserve as there’s still one last pinch to get up, and it is guaranteed to hurt.

Finish: Hotham Corral Day Car park, Great Alpine Road, Hotham (next to Hotham RMB building, opposite Hotham Central).

Heading under the bridge you’re now going downhill into the Hotham Heights village.  No matter your fitness level, you will feel a sense of accomplishment making the ascent up to Mount Hotham.

Mount Hotham

Mount Hotham

Tips

Mount Hotham starts steep and it finishes steep, and is quite a formidable climb.  Here are some tips on how to survive:

  • There are three distinct sections to this climb.  Focus on breaking your climb into these three sections
  • Mount Hotham can be exposed to the elements. There can be considerably different conditions from the base to the summit.  Check weather conditions and plan your ride appropriately
  • Avoid climbing Mount Hotham on a really windy day.  The descents can be quite dangerous
  • During the summer months, there may not be anything open at the top.  Bring adequate supplies to get you through your ride

The Great Victorian Rail Trail

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Start/end: Tallarook to Mansfield (extension to Alexandra)
Distance: 134km
Surface: Fine gravel
Suitable for: Hybrids, touring bikes and mountain bikes
Maps: Great Victorian Rail Trail

The Great Victorian Rail Trail  officially opened in June 2012 and is the longest rail trail in Australia. It stretches 121 km from Mansfield, and along the Great Dividing Range past Yea to Tallarook.  The trail follows the route of the former railway line, and includes a 13 km extension  into Alexandra.

Great Victorian Rail Trail
Bonnie Doon

Escape to the great outdoors and explore central Victoria in the best possible fashion.  The trail offer a safe and enjoyable way to experience the great outdoors and can be ridden by riders of all abilities.  Its a journey which will not only take you back to nature.  But will take you to a world where you will remember the simple pleasure of riding your bike.  Away from the hustle & bustle from traffic, it is a pleasure to go cycling acriss the quiet open stretches of rail trail.

If you want to do the rail trail on a day trip, you will have to choose a small stretch of this trail.  If you want to do the whole trail you will most likely have to stay overnight.  At one of the many towns along the trail.  It will most likely take several days to make the return journey from Mansfield to Tallarook (or even vice versa).  This trail has been an important boost to tourism to the area, and its refreshing to travel to distant towns that welcome cyclists with open arms.

Great Victorian Rail Trail

History

The original railway line which was used to transport passengers and cargo between 1882 to the 1970’s.
Apart from the Bonnie-Doon bridge.  Which opened in 2000, the  first major stage of the rail trail opened in August 2010.  The entire trail was opened by Autumn 2012. In January 2014, branding as the Great Victorian Rail Trail was completed.

The Great Victorian Rail Trail (at a glance)

  • Australia’s longest rail trail
  • Features the only tunnel on a rail trail in Victoria
  • The long bridge crossing across Lake Eildon is a truly amazing experience
  • There are several crossings of major rural highways (take extreme caution)
  • The surface is either a bitumised granite, and compacted gravel
  • Public transport options  via V-Line stops at Tallarook Station.
Great Victorian Rail Trail
Section near Mansfield

Major access points are:

  • Tallarook
  • Trawool
  • Homewoood
  • Yea
  • Molesworth
  • Cathkin
  • Merton
  • Bonnie Doon
  • Mansfield – Visitor Information Centre
  • Alexandra – Old railway station
Great Victorian Rail Trail
Start of the rail trail in Mansfield

Please note that this rail trail was previously known as the Goulburn River High Country Rail Trail.

Gravel Grinding

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We all experience a different sense of pleasure that riding brings.  Some ride for the thrill of speed, others need a hill or two to make their ride interesting. We are looking a the adventure rider.  The riders that get back to nature and couldn’t care less whether the road is hilly or flat.  They are in it for the dirt. They are the Gravel Grinders.

Gravel Grinding

SO WHAT IS GRAVEL GRINDING?

This is the riding for those that enjoy the adventure.  Who get a real pleasure from leaving the security of riding bitumen to travel off road.  Gravel grinding can be done on any type of bike, whether it be a Road Bike or CX. The choice of weapon is up to you.

Gravel Grinding

WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT?

The exciting thing about gravel grinding is that you can expect the unexpected.  Gravel roads aren’t maintained nearly as well as Bitumen Roads.  So the surface conditions can change over time.  Depending on weather conditions & general wear and tear.

‘Getting a dose of vitamin G’ requires a higher level of concentration.  There can be obstacles in the way that if you’re not careful will cause you some grief. Rutted tracks from cars driving in the rain, corrugations that shake you to the core.  Pot holes, cracks caused by water flow.  Sticks and very loose sections of gravel all mean that you have to concentrate on the road and find the smoothest line to ride.

‘live the dream’

It’s a little more complex than just putting your head down and pushing down on your pedals. Those that have ridden gravel will know it’s harder than riding bitumen.  You are guaranteed a much harder workout.

Gravel Grinding

To riders that don’t usually step outside of their comfort zones, these may all seem reasons to avoid riding off road, but how will you know if you never give it a go?

Gravel grinding is an escape and provides a great middle ground between Road and Mountain Biking.  Let’s face it, it can be bumpy, dusty and doesn’t do any favours to your bike, but that is all part of the fun and enjoyment that gravel brings.

THE EXPERIENCE

Riding on gravel takes you down the roads less travelled, and back to the grass roots of nature.  You are much less likely to see a car on your travels, which allows you to choose a better path to ride, it’s just you, your bike and the road!  They also don’t put gravel roads through the very centre of town anymore, so to ride on them, you are usually somewhere a little more remote. This means the views and scenery you experience are so much more likely to make the challenge worth while.

The ‘style’ of riding is different to that which you would be accustomed to on the road. Traction becomes a much bigger focus, so you may find that you need to stay seated on the climbs, and grind through the steeper sections, and there is always the risk that your rear wheel skid underneath you at the loss of grip.

Perhaps there are more dangers and difficulties to look out for, but trepidation and adventure go hand in hand.

You can come away with a real sense of satisfaction to have gotten through your rides on gravel, with a feeling that you’ve achieved something.

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PREPARATION

When you’re travelling down a long and dusty road the last thing you will see is, well pretty much everything.  You’re very unlikely to come across any shops, and less likely to see cars, so if you have a mechanical and have to get off and walk, it could be a very long walk.

Gravel grinding requires better preparation. How much food should I take? Should I fit a bigger cluster? What tyres should I run? Should I take a second tube, a chain breaker and a quick link?

Riders new to gravel should really route their rides through towns at regular intervals, and you’ll learn pretty quickly that just because there’s a town name on a map doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a shop or even anything there.

Be mindful that in some country areas you are less likely to get phone reception and it is always important to let someone know where you are going in the event of an emergency.

You should start small and perhaps ride on short, easy gravel rides before trying something big.  It is much better to discover that a particular set of tyres is unsuitable for gravel on a short ride rather than on a long one.

Safety is really important on gravel rides in remote areas.  Consider taking a PLB (personal locator beacon) if you are venturing off the grid.  Pack a small first aid kit (we love the pack from the guys at Road Rash Kit) and preferably ride with others.

Gravel Grinding

The great thing about gravel grinding is that it is a whole new challenge.  Whilst its not everyone’s cup of tea, its popularity is certainly on the rise, and the great thing about gravel riding is that it opens up whole new areas to ride, and the best thing is it’s a whole different experience.

This piece was originally published in La Velocita