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Hubert Oppermans Transcontinental ride 1937

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In the late 19th century there was much respect for “the Overlander”. These were riders who rode across the Australian continent well before there were roads and motorised vehicles were invented.

In 1937 Hubert “Oppy” Opperman set-out to make the Transcontinental ride between Freemantle to Sydney.  Arthur Richardson was the first rider to ever make the crossing, and whilst Oppy wouldn’t be the first. He was determined to make sure that he was the fastest.  Planning to beat the record that had been held by Bill Read who had covered the distance in just under 19 days.

Hubert Opperman is one of Australia’s most decorated cylists who was sponsored by the Malvern Star bicycle company.  At the time Malvern Star was Australia’s leading manufacturer of bicyles, and who’s name was associated with long distance speed records all throughout the late 1920’s and 1930’s.  Largely in part to the great man Hubert Opperman himself.

He took down a large number of records during his cycling career.  Oppy’s opinion was; “when you set-out to beat a record you’re not racing the other man. You’re racing the fella who’s going to come after you!” – Hubert Opperman

Hubert Oppermans Transcontinental ride
Image courtesy of National Archives of Australia

This was to be a very treacherous journey.  In 1937 there was over 1,600 km of unmade road along the route. Some of the roads they took were barely goat tracks and predominately used by Camel and bullock teams.  There were also long stretches of rutted tracks and soft sand where he was forced to carry his bike in some pretty intense heat.

The support crew

The ride was sponsored by Malvern Star bicycles, and led by Bruce Small, the owner of Malvern Star bicycles. Opperman came with a crew of five, including a mechanic Aubrey Melrose who’ experience with the Nullarbor was invaluable in helping the team navigate their way safely across the desert.  This was to be Aubrey’s 8th Nullarbor crossings.

The party of five followed in two cars. One towing a special Romany Road caravan which had been fitted with sleeping berths and modern cooking facilities.  Oppy planned to ride night and day.  Looking at minimising sleeping to three an a half hours a day.  This meant his support crew would have to drive through the night.  Using the headlights from the cars to light the way.

Bruce Small promoted the ride.  Telegraphing ahead to notify towns when they were likely to arrive.  Arranging interviews with newspapers and radio presenters alike. The ride received great press coverage, and people throughout the nation followed his progress eagerly.  Lining the route through country towns and massive crowds came out in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney to catch a glimpse of the great man.

Crowds were so overwhelming that warnings needed to be wired ahead in the capitol cities in order to protect Oppy;

Opperman is badly sunburned and is in a highly nervous condition. Well-wishers are therefore requested not to pat him on the back or insist upon shaking hands with him”.

The ride

Hubert Opperman set-off from the G.P.O in Forest Place, Freemantle on 5 November 1937 at 10:40 am, riding a modifified 1937 Opy Cyclo Model.  This was equipped with the English made Cyclo standard six-speed derailleur and balloon tires.  A ceremony had been held by the Mayor of Fremantle Frank Gibson.  Who had lowered the rear wheel of Hubert Opperman’s bicycle into the Indian Ocean, and presented Hubert with a letter to deliver to the Premiere of Sydney. The goal of the ride was to cover the distance in less than 18 days.

Oppy said “this would be the longest and toughest ride of my career. Harder than the Tour de France with its Alps and descents”.

The ride was marred by incidents right from the start.  In Doodlakine, W.A he narrowly missed crashing into a stationery goods train at a crossing as he swept around a corner into the darkness. You can imagine the choice words he would have said after this incident.

An interview given at Kalgoorlie in W.A will give you an impression of some of the hardshipes he went through. “I have had a hard day. Rough roads, corrugations and sand have made my progress slow. After leaving Bulla Bulling I got on the wrong side of the line and had to hump my bicycle across country to find the right track”.

Hubert Oppermans Transcontinental ride

This was but the start of a number of incidents that would have derailed the strongest of riders. Rainstorms, hail, heavy and unfavourable winds greeted Oppy all the way from Freemantle to Adelaide, and after surviving the crossing over the Nullarbor, in particular the dreaded Madura Gorge’.  This was the most dangerous section of the Nullarbor Plains.  It went from the Nullarbor Plateau to sea level and composed of rocks at least a meter high & not suited for a bike, let alone the two cars that a modern day 4WD would struggle to get through.

the desert was something I do not want to go through again!” – Hubert Opperman.

Oppy had a heavy fall whilst riding on slippery clay in the town of Wirulla, SA. This resulted in some abrasions, then experienced another fall at Yaninee.  This time injuring his knee which he sought treatment for in Adelaide.

Wildlife was also big problem, particularly at night where visibility was poor. Opperman recalled: “It was night and I was riding on a sinuos sand road in deep ruts with the caravan directly behind me lighting the way. In the lights I saw this coiled up snake with his head in the air. Tongue poking out. And his head darting all over the place. I had to make up my mind if I’d hit the brakes. I would have skidded to a stop and the car would have gone over the top of me. The alternative was to run over the snake…… I could feel snakes crawl up my legs for the next couple of hours after.

Opperman showed great tenacity, riding through the long stretches of ‘unsettled country’.  Without communications, suffering sunburn and blinding ‘clouds of swirling dust’. He got lost, overcame crashes, a knee injury, boils, cysts, and survive numerous encounters with wildlife.

“At Nanwarra Sands, I had to pick up the bike and carry it for 10 miles in the soft sand. We learned that I could gain time by sleeping for only 10 minutes at a time, something I have never forgotten.”

During this period Oppy managed to find the time to pause in the middle of the baking Nanwarra Sands to observe two minutes silence for the fallen on Armistice Day.

In remote sections Opperman had to carry his bicycle over sand dunes while the midday sun blistered his exposed skin and in the evenings he suffering from the numbing cold.

Oppy was not suffering alone.

His exhausted support crew struggled to keep up at times.  There was an incident where the car and caravan was driven over an embankment into a fence, costing much time.

Hubert Oppermans Transcontinental rideThere were also plenty of times when Opperman was seperated from his support vehicles.  The terrain was very difficult to negotiate by car, and many times Opperman would ride off on the cars.  With no way to communicate with one another, there were several instances where the team almost lost one another.

No matter what was thrown at him, Hubert Opperman kept peddaling.  ‘It has just been one succession of battles . . . and there have been times when I have felt like cracking up, but I have managed to keep on going’.

Oppy arrived in Melbourne almost four days ahead of schedule, was greeted by the Premiere, Mr Dunstan who told him

you have broken more world records in the cycling world than any other man and as a Victorian we are very proud of you”.
Parliament was suspended so that the dignitaries could welcome him.

Later into the ride, Oppy developed a nasty cyst on his thigh which caused much discomfort. He treated this with hot forments and a lot of HTFU!  Something he was expert at.

Between Wangaratta and Chittern he fell asleep yet again riding and fell off his bike. Thankfully only injuring his pride, and forcing some much needed rest.

Hubert Oppermans Transcontinental ride

To the victor goes the spoils

Opperman arrived exhausted and dust grimed and horribly sunburned into Sydney. Reaching the Post Office at Martin Place 10:51 pm. Even at that late hour, a crowd of several thousand greeted the great man after covering 4,402km in 13 days, 10 hours and 11 minutes. This beat the previous record by over five days.  Oppy concluded the Ocean to Ocean tradition of dipping the wheels of his bike in the ocean at Bondi Beach.  Paying tribute to Bruce Small, who was instrumental in encouraging him and supporting him throughout the ride.

Following the epic journey Opperman took some much needed rest and played a bit of Golf.

Physically this ride took a great toll.  When Hubert Opperman set-off on his epic journey, he weighed in at around 64 kg.  He lost over 6 kg during the course of the ride.

 

Hubert Oppermans Transcontinental ride
The Sunday Mail, November 28 1937

What was most remarkable aspect of this ride was that Oppy’s record was not broken until 1969.  Vic Browne covered the distance in 11 days, six hours and 47 minutes. Over very much improved roads.

Sources

Bowden Spur Road

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Distance: 3.9 km
Average Gradient: 9%
Elevation gained: 350 meters
Surface: Hard packed gravel with some loose gravel
Traffic: Minimal

Click here for link to the Strava segment.

Bowden Spur Road is a steep, unsealed climb which takes you up the south side of the Kinglake Ranges. This climb will take you through the Kinglake National Park and is quite brutal at times. This is a climb which would suit those that love gravel grinding, or love taking on the challenge of a very difficult climb. It also offers some of the best views you are likely to see by bike in the northern suburbs, and on a clear day you can see the Melbourne CBD.

Bowden Spur Road

Start of the climb: From Strathewen turn onto Bowden Spur Road. You have the option of either taking Bowden Spur or School Ridge Road to get to the climb.

There is quite a bit of very steep, undulating climbing to get to the base of the official start of the climb. Don’t be surprised if your legs are feeling it before you even get onto the climb.  The surface is quite hard-packed, with some loose gravel which is easy enough to ride around without too much difficulty.

You’ll come to a cyclist sign to the left hand side of the road. This is the official start to the climb, which you’ll probably figure it out for yourself as the road goes vertical from here.

Bowden Spur Road
Start of the climb

This area was cleared in order to build power lines, to prevent the risks of fires. These power lines follow the road. This has left the road exposed to the elements.

Please do not attempt this climb in extreme weather such as heavy winds & on hot days.

The power lines join onto the power station at the top of this climb.

The climb starts with a long, straight steep section of road. The area around it has been cleared to reduce the risk of fires and is quite exposed. It can be quite a daunting climb given how stark the terrain is.

At the top of the first straight there is right-handed switchback before the road flattens out and there are some impressive views of the valley bellow (minus the power lines of course). The gradient will get steep again and this is a climb that will be a grind. The road isn’t always maintained and expect the road to get rougher the higher you climb. With stretches of corrugated surface.

There are two very impressive and incredibly steep switchbacks. These offer some impressive views which you may need to distract yourself from the grind.

Bowden Spur Road

After the final switchback you will round a bend to the left before the road straightens on for the remainder of the climb. You will see a mobile phone tower to the right hand side of the road which you can use as a beacon to signify the end of the climb.

This ends at the intersection at Whittlesea-Kinglake Road.

Bowden Spur Road
End of the climb

At a glance

  • Two very impressive hairpins
  • Narrow road
  • Spectacular views
  • Notable for power lines that cross the road on their way up the hill
  • Keep an eye out for wildlife
  • You can see the Melbourne CBD on a clear day
  • The road surface becomes rougher the higher you climb with long corrugated sections
  • Tire selection is essential, and you will want to run a minimum of 28mm tires
  • You will want to be running a compact
  • Toilets available in the Mountain bike carpark at the top of the climb

How to get there:

Bowden Spur Road is located in the town of Strathewen which is located 50 km to the north east of Melbourne.

Mountain Biking

At the top of the climb is the Bowden Spur Mountain Bike park which was opened in 2012. It has a number of downhill mountain bike trails which offer a 233 metre descent. These trail have dirt jumps, rock gardens, bomb holes, flowing earth berms and has large sections of off-camber riding. . The tracks are extremely difficult and recommended for experts only.

There is a designated parking area for these tracks approximately 200 meters from the intersection of the Kinglake-Whittlesea Road.

Bowden Spur Road
Bowden Spur Road

During fire season

Bowden Spur Road is in a fire district. Anyone entering parks and forests during the bushfire season needs to stay aware of forecast weather conditions. Check the Fire Danger Rating and for days of Total Fire Ban at www.cfa.vic.gov.au or call the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226.

Deans Marsh Road (Lorne)

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Distance: 10 km
Average Gradient: 4%
Altitude gained: 416 meters
Surface: Sealed
Category: 2

Click here for the link to the Strava segment.

Deans Marsh Road is a stunning road which links the town of Lorne on the Great Ocean Road to the town of Deans Marsh.  This climb takes you through the majestic Otway State Forest.  This is renowned for its tall trees, ancient plant life and lush ferns and is quite a stunning rain forest.  This is a climb which if you haven’t done, you should add to your bucket list.

Deans Marsh Road
The Erskine River

Deans Marsh Road climb

The climb starts In Lorne just next to the Erskine River at the roundabout next to the Foodworks at Deans Marsh Road & the Great Ocean Road.

The climb up Deans Marsh Road is 10 km in distance and overall is offers a fairly consistent gradient and is considered a gentle climb. The road is well shaded and protected from the wind, and is a good climb to do all year round.  Deans Marsh Road winds its way through the Otway State Forest, which has lots of winding corners and stunning scenery to help break up your climb.  You’ll find a short false flat at 4 and 6.5 km into the climb.

Deans Marsh Road

This is a climb which you will want to find your sweet spot and sit on a nice steady tempo.  Its also a great climb to test yourself out on, and have a pissing contest with your mates.  This climb is also a favourite of Tour de France winner Cadel Evens who lives in Barwon Heads.

The climb ends at the intersection with Benwerrin-Mount Sabine Road.

This climb has been used in the Amy Gillet Gran Fondo.  A Gran Fondo is an age-old Italian cycling term, which means ‘great endurance’. The top 25% of finishers in the Age Group categories can qualify for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships.

Deans Marsh Road
Deans Marsh Road

How to get there

Lorne is a breathtaking seaside town where the bush meets the beach.  It is situated in the Ottway Ranges on the Great Ocean Road.  Located approximately 142 km south west of Melbourne and is accessed either via the Great Ocean Road or Deans Marsh Road.

 

It is a stunning place to visit with its winding coast line, and mountain ranges.  All of the roads in the township of Lorne itself are very steep, and offers some of the state’s toughest climbs

Lorne has arguably the most challenging climbs in all of Victoria.  It is a playground for those that love extreme climbing.  The majority of backstreets all have gradients which peak at 20%.  And home to arguably Victoria’s hardest climb Francis Street.

During fire season

The Ottway Ranges are in a fire district. Anyone entering parks and forests during the bushfire season needs to stay aware of forecast weather conditions. Check the Fire Danger Rating and for days of Total Fire Ban at www.cfa.vic.gov.au or call the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226.

Cycling to Sky High

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Sky High is the highest point in the Dandenong Ranges and is nothing short of breathtaking.  First established as a survey point in 1861, Sky High is now one of the Dandenong Ranges premiere tourist attractions.  The lookout overlooks the Dandenong Ranges National Park and offers a number of attractions such as a hedge maze. Café, BBQ and picnic areas, hiking, formal gardens and a spectacular views across Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.

Enjoy a ride up to Sky High

Cycling to Sky High

Cycling to Sky High is quite popular amongst cyclists.  It is the highest point cyclists can climb in the Dandenong Ranges.  At 633 meters above sea level, no matter how hard your climb to the top was.  The views will always make it worthwhile.  Sky High offers cyclists a great place to stop for a rest, toilet break, or to enjoy a meal up at the Bistro.

Make sure you get your camera out.  A climb up to Sky High wouldn’t be complete without getting a selfie or a photo of your bike at the Sky High lookout.

Sky High is located off Ridge Road and you can climb it from either Olinda or Kallorama.  There is an entry fee to the car park.  Thankfully the toll operator usually turns a blind eye to cyclists.

Things to do @ Sky High

  • Enjoy the spectacular views day or night
  • Dine at Sky High Bistro & Restaurant.  Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week (see
    website for opening times)
  • The lawns overlooking the panoramic views offer picnic and BBQ facilities and provide an ideal spot
    for family picnics
  • Have a wander through the English Garden
  • Go for a hike through the Dandenong Ranges National Park
  • Make a wish at the wishing tree (next to the English garden)
  • Visit Percy Possum’s House, the Giant’s Chair and the Australia Tree
  • Explore the SkyHigh Maze (entry fees apply)

          Adults $6
Children (under 12) & Seniors $4
Family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) $16

Notes

  • Dogs must be on a leash
  • Public toilet facilities available
  • No ball games allowed
  • Do alcohol allowed to be brought into Sky High

Location

 26 Observatory Road
Mount Dandenong 3767, View Map

Contact: (03) 9751 0443

Open daily

 Entry Fee:

$5 per car

Link to Sky High Facebook

Click here for Sky High Website

If you’re looking for ways you can climb up to Sky High, click on the links below for suggested Strava segments:

The 1 in 20 to Sky High

Distance:  13.6 km @ 3%

The Wall to Sky High

Distance:  10.7 km @ 3%

Montrose to Sky High

Distance:  7.9 km @ 5%

The Full Monty (Inverness to Sky High)

Distance:  7.4 km @ 6.6%

Terry’s Avenue to Sky High

Distance:  13 km @ 3%

Going postal

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Last year I was attempting to climb Martyr Road in some truly horrible conditions. This is one of Australia’s steepest and toughest residential streets. Much of this climb is around 30% in gradient, and it felt like there was concrete weighing down my shoes. After just 50 metres of trying to climb this monster my lungs were on fire.  I was screaming in pain and every fibre of my body was telling me to get off and walk. Failure was not an option and in desperation I was forced to deliver the mail and Going postal.

Going postal
Image taken by Ewan Hilsdon; Martyr Road
Delivering the mail is a term relating to a cyclist who come across a hill so steep that they need to

“zig-zag from one side of a road or path to the other in order to attempt to reduce the gradient”

Delivering the mail really sucks.  Maybe its the speed you’re going at.  Or should I say lack of. When you come to changing directions.  You get that horrible feeling that you won’t be able to turn the wheel and drop the bike.  It’s hard enough just to climb. Avoiding potholes, debris or turning the bike is a bitch to do.  It’s something I never want to do again.  Its so much easier climbing in a straight line.  Anything else is just a waste of energy.  Why?

  1. It increases the distance you have to climb which invariably;
  2. Takes you longer to get to the peak of the climb which will;
  3. Friggin hurt (welcome to the pain cave). And there’s a possibility that;
  4. You may have to get off to walk. Which is truly embarrassing,but worse still;
  5. You fall over (then the ill fated question; is the bike ok?)
Going Postal
Please don’t try this at home. This was a trained professional

Sure there may be times when its necessary.  But trust me.  You don’t want to be Going postal

Tikalara Park climb Melbournes toughest climb

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Distance: 200 meters
Average Gradient: 9%
Maximum Gradient:  close to 40%+
Difficulty: Extreme
Surface: Horrible
This climb is also known as “The Wall”

Click here for link to the Strava segment.

 Heads up that this is arguably Melbourne’s toughest climb.  It should only be attempted if you have a very high fitness level and don’t mind walking your bike.

This climb was once the steepest bitumen road in Australia, and part of the hill climb circuit. They first raced cars here on 12 March 1951.  The circuit consisted of a 967 meter loop featuring an insane climb half-way through.  The last race was held there on 6 December 1987. If you truly consider yourself a hill climber you will want to give this one a go.  The climb is part of the Tikalara Park, which is a large area of preserved land in the Yarra Valley parklands. The park consists of wetlands and bushland, and is just off the main Yarra Trail.  Which is one of Melbourne’s most popular shared bike paths.

The park has a variety of paths including paved footpaths, gravel tracks and wooden boardwalks.

Tikalara Park climb

Start of the climb is just off the Parkway (Templestowe).  After you cross the bridge there’s a sign on the left hand side of the road for the hill circuit climb.  Follow the trail and its only a short ride to the base of the climb.

The Tikalara Park climb

The climb to the base is over loose gravel, with a couple of bumpy sections.  You’ll find a sign indicating the start of the climb, and the surface changes.  The climb itself is on bitumen, which has significantly deteriorated over the years.  You may have to work your way left to right to find a decent riding line.  The first 100 meters gradually gets steeper and steeper as you round the bend.

Tikalara Park climb

When you round the bend I will guarantee you will shit yourself.  There’s scary, and there’s scary.  The Tikalara Park climb is something on a whole new level.  It just gets steeper and steeper, and its hard to tell how steep it gets as the segment is too short, & there’s no way you will take your eyes off the path to look at your Garmin.  I would guestimate that it peaks over 40%.

This is a climb that if you go too hard, you will end up cooking yourself and have to get off and walk. If you go too slow. You won’t have the ascendancy to climb and you will have to jump off and walk.  A word of advice that if either of these situations occur.  Try not to fall over……

Tikalara Park climb

Please don’t try this one if getting off and walking your bike humiliates you!

This climb is nicknamed ‘the Wall’.  You’ll work out for yourself pretty quickly.

2/3 of the way up is winch corner, and you will see a rusted winch just off to the side of the path.  Its tempting to go and tie a rope to the winch to pull yourself up.  For many, that’s the only hope you will have of getting up to the top.

Tikalara Park climb

You may not be able to get up this one but how would you know if you never give it a go…..

End of the climb. Hopefully before you fall over.

What to expect

• This is a shared path. Please be courteous to walkers
• Keep an eye out for wildlife in particular Kangaroos
• Rough uneven surface
• An incredibly high level of fitness is required to even attempt a climb of this difficulty
• Toilet, Café & Picnic areas available nearby

How to get there

Access is off The Parkway or Arlunya Place (Templestowe), or the main Yarra Trail if you felt like taking the bike track.

Tour de Pharmacy preview

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The HBO special by Andy Samberg and Murray Miller is a cycling classic.  Boasting an all star-studded cast taking a swing at cycling’s doping past.

The Tour de Pharmacy is a sports comedy which doesn’t hold back.  Right from the outset you see Orlando Bloom.  Clad in Lycra and sporting some pretty impressive 80’s facial hair hurtling down a mountain.  No one realises that he has died from a drug-induced heart attack whilst his penis dangles all over the place until he flies off a cliff.

Tour de Pharmacy preview
Image courtesy of HBO

The film follows a fictitious 1982 Tour de France which claimed to be one of the most outrageous in the tours history.  Early on a mass pile-up of riders led to a massive punch on.  In the aftermath of the fight a doping needle is discovered in a water bottle, which leads to an investigation into who in the Peleton is doping.  165 riders were subsequently disqualified for doping.

The Tour de Pharmacy follows the exploits of the five remaining riders on their quest to ride one of the world’s most famous races.  The Tour de France.

This is a film which never takes itself too seriously, and takes on the taboo subject of doping in professional cycling and turns it into a good hearted fun comedy.

This film has an all-star cast of celebrity actors, sports stars, directors and a number of celebrities that I’m sure you’d recognize.
Tour de Pharmacy preview

If you’re a passionate cyclist would you enjoy watching a film which takes the mickey out of the world of cycling?  Guess there’s only one way that you can find out…………..

Running time: 43 minutes

Director

  • Jake zymanksi

Writer

  • Murray Miller

Just some of the All-star cast

  • Orlando Bloom
  • Dolph Lundgren
  • Kevin Bacon
  • Danny Glover
  • Adewale Akinnuove-Agbaje
  • J.J Abrams
  • Mike Tyson
  • Chris Webber
  • John Hamm

 

Australias first bike safety program 1977 – 1982

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it is clear that the transport future will include far more ways of moving people around cities that exists today.  Not everyone will ride a bike but a great many will do so.  Geelong Bikeplan is planning for those changes.  It is appropriate now to place greater emphasis in encouraging more people to use bicycles and make the general public more aware of the rights of cyclists” – Geelong Bike Plan

On Friday 8th July 1977 Geelong launched an audacious plan to improve safety on its roads, in what was to become Australia’s very first bike safety campain.  The aim was to encourage more people to ride their bikes.  Its motto was;

every street is a cycling street

 

Australias first bike safety program 1977 – 1982
Image courtesy of Bicycle Users Geelong

A number of safety initiatives that we appreciate today we can attribute to the city of Geelong.  This bike plan was introduced to help improve road behavior of car drivers and cyclist and for its time implemented a number of radical changes.

These included:

  • Trialing reduced speed limits in residential streets down to 40 km/h
  • Building segregated bike lanes on some roads.  In total there were 14 km of bike lanes introduced
  • Signage was put all around Corio to help educate motorists and cyclists
  • Detailed bike maps were produced for local residents
  • Investing in bicycle infrastructure such as warning signs and bike racks for public use to encourage people to get out and ride more
  • Introducing a publication on cycling safety to be introduced to the curriculum of local schools
  • Opening their first bike path.  This connected the Norlane area north of Cowies Creek to North Geelong High School and Bell Park Technical School.  This path was primarily set-up to provide a safe way for children to get too and from school
  • Using law enforcement to improve the safety of cyclists.  Two full-time Police officers were appointed for a four month period.  These officers reviewed alternative approaches to bicycle enforcement and to observe the road behaviour of motorists and cyclists. During this period over 2,000 warnings were issued to motorists and cyclists.  120 motorists were fined as well
  • During 1980 a 12 minute film was produced for the Geelong Bikeplan
  • This campaign was marketed in newspaper, T.V, and safety fliers were developed to help educate everyone
Australias first bike safety program 1977 – 1982
Image courtesy of Bicycle Users Geelong

The government enlisted the help of one of Australia’s most famous cyclists Hubert Opperman to join the fight.  Opperman had served 17 years in parliament representing the city of Corio from 1949 to 1967 before retiring from politics.  Opperman was a widely respected member of the community.

He added a major presence to the campaign.

This trial was a huge success and was widely recognised at the time as a model for bicycle planning around the country.  We can be thankful that the bike infrastructure that sometimes we take for granted today.  This may not have been possible without the hard work of the Geelong Bikeplan some 40 years ago.

Australias first bike safety program 1977 – 1982
Image courtesy of Bicycle Users Geelong

Sources:

Images courtesy of the Geelong Heritage Centre

View the Geelong Bike Plan 1979-80 brochure (PDF).

http://www.bicycleusersgeelong.org.au/geelong-bike-plan-1977-82/

Red Rock Reserve climb

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The Red Rock Reserve is located 17 km north-west of Colac.  It is a major Volcano site which has seen many violent volcanic eruptions that have resulted in the craters and lakes found in the area.  Around 40 ‘eruption centres’ have been identified in and around the township of Alvie, near Colac.  Some of these eruptions helped to form some of the biggest lakes in the area such as Lake Purdiguluc, Lake Werowrap and Lake Coragulac.  Red Rock Reserve itself is made up of several large Maar craters, and a very popular tourist attraction.

The Red Rock Reserve was named after the distinctive outcrop of volcanic ash, and this reserve offers the choice of two very scenic climbs.  Both offer impressive views of the surrounding areas, volcanic craters and lakes that the region is renowned for.

Start of the climb: corner of Red Rock Road Reserve and Corangamite Lake Road (Alvie).

Both climbs are the same distance and start from the same spot.  Given they’re so short you should try to drop down and do both climbs in the one ride.    Whichever climb you choose, they both have gradients which hit double-figures and are a lot harder than the average gradient suggests.  Both climbs offer amazing views, including Lake Coragnamite which is the largest permanent salt water lake in Australia with a surface area of 25,160 hectares and lake Colac which is just as impressive with a surface area of 2,778 hectares and a circumference of 33 km.  The views of the surrounding areas are just as impressive.

This is a climb which is perfect to go and watch either a sunrise or sunset.

Climb 1 (Western lookout)

Distance: 1.1 km
Average gradient: 3%

Click here for link to the Strava segment.

This is the most popular and easiest of the two lookouts.  There is a short and sharp pinch leading up to the turn-off for the Soldier memorial.  Followed by a 400 meter flattened out section.  The last 300 meters is quite brutal leading up to the lookout car park.   There are impressive views from the car park, and a set of stairs leads to a secondary lookout where you can take in 360 degree views of the surrounding area.

Red Rock Reserve climb

Climb 2 (Soldier memorial)

Distance: 1.1 km
Average gradient: 4%

Click here for link to the Strava segment.

This is the harder of the two climbs with the steepest gradients and little respite in-between.  The turnoff for the soldier memorial is 850 meters to the left of the climb where you will find the gradient going well into the double figures and a real grind.  This climb offers much more spectacular 360 degree views of the surrounding areas.  The Soldier’s memorial signifies the end of the climb.  As you can see in the photo above the road continues onto a second lookout.  There is less than 50 meters of climbing to get up to that lookout and you will feel every single meter of it.  That last pinch is brutal.

Red Rock Reserve climb

Red Rock Reserve climb

  • Offers incredible views (photos are a must)
  • Last erupted 8,000 years ago
  • Use extreme caution if climbing on a windy day
  • Soldiers memorial (south lookout)
  • For the wine lovers, Red Rock Winery is located at the base of the climb

 

The Dirty Dandys ride

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There’s something special about bringing together a group of strangers and introducing them to new roads.  I put together this little event which included some of the Dandenong Ranges finest gravel climbs.  I invited a small number of riders to join me for a Dirty Dandys ride.  We had rain forecasted overnight.  It was supposed to dry up by the time the ride was due to start.  On the drive up it was raining quite heavily and just kept on raining.

I was really excited about this ride.  There were a number of riders who were travelling quite a distance just to eperience this ride.  All the way from the western suburbs, & one of the riders ventured all the way from the beach to join us.  There was going to be two groups with the second group due to meet us in the Basin car park at around 8:00 am.

The Dirty Dandys ride
Basin Olinda Road

The first group consisting of Adam, Geert & Fabian headed out to Old Coach Road.  This is a climb which I found so hard that I’ve only ever done it once.  Old Coach Road is a dead-end road, which then turns into a walking track.  Most riders are turned off venturing up it due to the dead-end sign (plus the fact its ridiculously steep).  Very few have done this climb.  When you get to the gate which leads onto the National Park, this is super steep and littered with really wet rocks and debris all over the path.  There was very little in the way in traction, and was really hard work to get up today.

The guys worked out pretty quickly that this wasn’t going to be an easy ride.

Climb no# 2 was up Basin Olinda Road which is easily the Dandenong’s most popular dirt climb.  Its a stunning road to climb which is easy to access and located right next to the start of the 1 in 20.  The road was wet and slightly muddy and everyone had to work overtime to climb.  It was great conditions to ride though.  We were treated to a low hanging mist on the second half of the climb. Things were going well until the skies really opened up on us.  I love riding when it rains, but these were conditions where the last place you wanted to be was on a bike.  As everyone crested the climb, we weren’t giving each other high fives.  Everyone went and huddled under the shelter next to the shops to hide from the rain.

Many were wondering whether to pull the plug and head home.

 

The Dirty Dandys ride
Not night time. 8:30 in the morning.

We descended down to Olinda Creek Road and made our way across to Silvan Road.  This is a climb which is 6.7 km in length with an average gradient of 5%.  I felt sorry for those sitting in the wheel of the rider in front of them.  The roads were wet and muddy and all they were doing was eating mud.  By now everyone was well and truly soaked to the skin.

Silvan Road is quite a hard one to climb.  The gradient is nice and easy down the bottom and steadily gets steeper until it hits you in the face at 13% in a number of places on the climb.  With rain adding to the misery there were a lot of riders in the pain cave on Silvan today.  Near the top is the R.J Hamer Arboretum Gardens and one of the finest lookouts in the Dandenong’s.  Today there wasn’t much in the way of a view, and there’s sill a bit of climbing to get to the top.  One of the riders spied a shelter, and the climb could wait.

Everyone agreed that it was a good time to shelter from the rain.

The Dirty Dandys ride
Image taken by Mesh Gammune

Everyone looked shell shocked. Soaked to the skin, yet somehow there were grins on the guys faces.  We had all traveled up some truly stunning roads, in conditions that most would not dare ride.  You want all your rides to be special, and sometimes it just happens.  There was 11 riders on the ride, and for most the course was completely new to them, and they didn’t quite know what to expect.

It was a bit daunting the fact that we weren’t even halfway through the ride.  There was still five climbs to go.

The Dirty Dandys ride
Brad Akers in his VeloOne kit

Warwick Farm Road was next.  I don’t know how it was possible but it started to rain harder.  A few of the riders were physically shaking.  One of the guys came up to me and said;

we’re having a great ride but the conditions are just too bad.  We’ll have to finish this up“.

Warwick Farm Road was now set to be the final climb of the day.  We weren’t even half way through the course, but I was relieved that we were going to be pulling the plug.  I would hate for any of the guys to get sick after a ride like this.  There was some very exhausted looking riders at the top of this climb.  Some were still able to smile.  Then my ears perked up when I heard my favorite words.

One more climb!

Down the base of Perrins Creek Road is a dirt climb up Coonara Road.  Its this great little 2 km climb with a fairly consistent gradient which joins onto one of the Dandenong Ranges most iconic climbs.  The Wall.  Earning itself the nickname of being “the Dirty Wall“.  I have climbed Coonara Road a number of times, but today it was at its most stunning.  The road is surrounded to either side by imposing Mountain Ash, and ancient ferns which can grow over 10 meters in height.

The mud was being thrown around thick & fast.

This was definately going to be the last climb for the day.  If any of the riders had energy left this climb was guaranteed to suck the life out of them.  At little over 5 km in length, this is a climb which many underestimate, and is quite a difficult climb to do.

The Dirty Dandys ride
Coonara Road

From here everyon headed back down to the Basin for a Coffee except for Geert Vercruysse “aka Geert the vert”.  He was loving the conditions and kept on riding.  Geert headed down Falls Road, past the National Rhododendrom Gardens and then up to climb Olinda Creek Road.

Overall this had been an incredibly hard ride.  But not all bad experiences are bad and a ride like this, even though it was hell may turn out to be one of the most memorable rides of the year.  The forecast had given everyone false hope that the ride would be dry.  Instead, it rained on us for 3 and a half hours straight.

Has the weatherman ever told you stories that just make you laugh?

-The Strangers, Always the Sun.

It was wet, cold and very muddy which was the story of the day.  A number of riders got back to the Basin and started to shake uncontrollably.  Everyone was soaked to the skin.  Covered in mud, and freezing cold.

Brad Akers commented: “How good was that ride!  Really didn’t want it to end

Sing Ling commented “Ain’t no sunshine in the hills, only rain and mud. Lots of mud“.

Mark Skinner said “S0 many great climbs and due to the cold we were praying for climbs ha ha

The Dirty Dandys ride

A big thankyou

A massive thank you to Mesh Gammune who drove as a support car & course photographer.  Taking some very incredible photos on the day.

A big thanks to everyone who helped out with this ride.  During the week my young son gave me the flu and I was knocked for six.  I was forced to pull out of this ride at the very last minute.  I witnessed a truly epic ride and gave Mesh some company in the support car.  Even though I didn’t get to ride I had an incredible day, and hope to put together another ride like this one at some point in the future.

The Dirty Dandys ride
The Dirty Dandys ride

If you want to learn more about the dirt roads of the Dandenong Ranges click here.  Some of the best roads out there are the one’s you are yet to ride on.

The Dirty Dandys ride
Image taken by Mesh Gammune