Latest Event Updates

Billy Goat Bluff trail

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Distance: 7.3 km
Average Gradient: 15%
Elevation Gained: 1,123 meters
Surface: Hard packed dirt, rocks, stones and gravel

Click here for link to the Strava segment.

Billy Goat Bluff trail is a 4WD road which is located in the Alpine National Park, near Dargo. This road may well be Australia’s toughest road climb.  To survive to the top you have to ascend 1,200 very rocky and bumpy meters in little over 7 kilometres.

Given how hard this climb is, very few have ever braved to climb to the summit.

Billy Goat Bluff trail
Image taken by balaji shankar venkatachari

Billy Goat Bluff track begins at the intersection of Wonnangatta Road and Billy Goat Bluff track.

This steep track edged with cliff faces has a reputation as one of the tougher 4WD climbs in the high country. If a 4WD struggles up it, can you imagine how your poor little legs will go?  The track can be quite narrow in places and it’s a very long climb with rocks to dodge almost the whole way. The lower section has a couple of sharp corners during steep sections that are guaranteed to test every fibre of your body.  Given the climb averages 15%, I’ll leave it to your imagination  how steep this climb gets.

Warning: This climb should only be attempted by riders with a very, very, very high level of fitness.

Image by Felix Dance

This is a 4WD track and if you hear a vehicle coming along I would strongly advise to pull safely off the road and give them right of way.  The last thing they would expect to see is a crazy cyclist trying to get up this monster of a climb.

This climb takes you up to the Pinnacles lookout, which sits at 1,450 meters above sea level.  The views from this lookout are absolutely breathtaking.

Warnings

  • DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS CLIMB IN BAD WEATHER!
  • Mountain bike or CX only
  • Be prepared to get off and walk
  • Some sections will become slippery when wet
  • Visibility may be impaired when there is a low hanging mist
  • This climb is very isolated.  You will need to bring adequate provisions with you
  • There is no mechanical assistance. If your bike breaks down, envision a long walk back
  • The road is quite narrow and the last thing a 4WD’s will be looking out for is a cyclist. If you hear a 4WD coming either way then best to get safely off the track to let them pass
  • This area is very isolated. Please let someone know where you are
  • The climb is heavily littered with rocks. Bring lots of spare inner tubes with you
  • ONLY ATTEMPT THIS CLIMB IF YOU ARE CONFIDENT THAT YOUR DESCENDING SKILLS WILL SAFELY GET YOU DOWN AND USE EXTREME CAUTION
  • The track is closed over winter
Image by chook1964

This climb is a popular 4WD track and there are quite a number of websites which have reviews of this climb.  I would highly recommend that if you wanted to consider doing a climb like this you search through these sites for further information .

If you can arrange for someone to meet you at the top of the climb with a 4WD to safely transport you down would be the best option.

Image taken by 70_mud

How to get there

Billy Goat Bluff track is located approximately 339 km north east of Melbourne, and you can get there either heading north from Bairnsdale or south from Mount Hotham.  Billy Goat Bluff track is situated near Dargo in the High Country.  The track itself is only accessible by 4WD, and any cyclist mad enough to ride up it…..

The Dargo Hotel

If you get a chance you should visit the historic Dargo Hotel which was built in 1898.  Mention that your headed for Billy Goat Bluff Track and the locals will proceed to tell you that your crazy but still wish you good luck. After finishing such a challenging climb I’m sure you’ll need a cold pot of beer….

Billy Goat Bluff track
Image taken by Royston Rascals

2017 Dirty Dozen

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The Dirty Dozen is one of Melbourne’s most iconic recreational bike event’s which is now in its 6th year. The concept of the ride was originally conceived in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, USA way back in 1983. Riders were challenged to climb hills so steep that they wouldn’t normally dare to ride up! The Melbourne version began on a wet day in May 2012. The Climbing Cyclist, Matt de Neef and David Blom put together their own version of the Dirty Dozen based around Upwey in the Dandenong Ranges.

This event challenges riders to get out of their comfort zone and climb 13 hills that are so steep that even a car would struggle to get up them. The first three editions of the Melbourne Dirty Dozen were held in the Dandenong’s. The last two were held out at Warburton. This year ride will be held in Dromana, which is a town on the Mornington Peninsula. Approximately an hour south of the Melbourne CBD.

2017 Dirty Dozen

I’ve always loved this event. The vision that Matt de Neef and David Blom have brought to cycling community has helped many riders believe that they can climb, and has brought awareness to a number of climbs that most riders would never have known about.

Or dared attempt!

The course they put together is without a doubt the most scenic of all of the Dirty Dozen coures.  Which is good for me, as I was here to snap some pics and catch up with mates. Honestly I was gutted not to be able to do the ride this year. I’ve made the starting line-up since 2013. Nothing I can do though, due to a near fatal crash late June I’m off the bike indefinitely. Thankfully, my love of cycling hasn’t waned, and whilst I couldn’t ride I really looked forward to getting down to the Peninsula to discover a whole new world of climbs.

The course

The course was roughly 65 km long with about 1,600 meters of climbing. There are 13 designated ascents predominately up narrow back streets. Plus one easier transitional climb along the way. The ascents are clustered around three main areas:

  1. Mount Martha (climbs 1 to 5)
  2. McCrae (climbs 6 and 7)
  3. Dromana (climbs 8 to 13).

The toughest climbs of course are left for last.

Riders are given a course map, and hope that they don’t get lost.

Journey to the centre of the storm

On the drive up, I went through a storm of biblical proportions.  Visibility was so poor I could barely make out the hail and thunder that was crashing down everywhere. I had to wonder whether the event would be going ahead?  Sure there are those that would ride in anything. But there is a fine line between being a ‘cycling nut’ and just a plain ‘nut’. Guess the weather was there to test peoples resolve.  Many sat it out in their cars wondering whether it would end.

DD17

YouTube clip provided by Martin Emptage

Given Melbourne’s reputation for crazy weather it was no surprise that the weather did a 360 and by the time I reached Dromana we were surrounded with clear blue skies and a stiff tailwind to push the riders up most of the climbs

I was joined in the photographers car by Jeff Servaas, who has had a similar misfortune as me injuring himself quite badly. Whilst we can’t ride, there is still that love to get involved with grass roots cycling and we were super pumped to be at the 2017 Dirty Dozen.

Image by Jeff Servaas

We had no idea what to expect of the course, and as soon as we headed into the foothills of Mount Martha we were salivating. The climbs were super extreme and every street had a pinch that looked like it went in excess of 20%. The road was either straight up or down.  I wanted to climb!

The roads looked just as fun to descend as they were to climb.

The event attracted riders of all ability. Many stepping well and truly out of their comfort zone to pit themselves against the super steep slopes. We were a bit surprised to only see one rider get off to walk. And there was no postman delivering the mail (whilst we were around).

David Blom; co-founder of the Dirty Dozen

We moved from climb to climb. Each climb had a stunning panoramic view of the ocean below, whilst we had an unbelievable view looking past the riders.  They were going in the opposite direction, and all they could see was these incredibly steep climbs that looked ultra painful. Especially as most would often have a long dead straight sections which no matter how good a climber you are, does your head in.

Riders were fortunate that there was a schweet tailwind coming off the ocean and it was giving the riders a much needed invisible push.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if a number of KOM’s were to fall on the day.

There were a number of riders I knew and had a chance to say g’day. Though often the only reply I’d get was;

huff, huff, huff, huff, huff!”.

The climbs were pretty extreme.

There were plenty of smiles all throughout the day, but started to notice towards the later part of the course a really deep seated look of concentration.  Usually associated with being in the Pain cave.  A place that I am all too familiar with.  Guess that’s par for the course of doing an event like this, and the only way to get through it is to have a spoonful of HTFU!

An event like this certainly attracts riders who are tough as nails.

The final climb of the day was up Arthurs Seat. The Mornington Peninsula’s most iconic climb. Overall its steepness doesn’t compare to any of the other climbs of the day.  But at 3 km in length and some very steep pinches along the way, this was going to be tough for all of the riders to get up.

The day was really heating up, and you could see sweat pouring off a number of theriders. Many opted to wear their winter kit after the arctic start, which looked painful to see riders grinding up Arthurs still with arm warmers in the hot conditions.  One of the biggest challenges of the ride would have been to adapt to the spike in temperature from start to end.

Some seemed to cruise, others dug deep to survive to the summit.  Others popped wheelies whenever they saw an UP sign on the road.  Kudos to all that survived the 2017 Dirty Dozen.

The thing that I took from the Dirty Dozen 2017 was the amazing scenery, which was truly unbelievable. Everyone I spoke with thoroughly loved the course, and many are already looking towards DD18.

I have driven through this area a tonne of times before and had no idea how good it was to ride around the backstreets in and around Dromana.

Many thanks to the organisers; Matt de Neef and David Blom and to all the amazing volunteers for putting together yet another amazing event, and an event like this has done so much for the cycling community. It encourages riders to get out of their comfort zones and to believe they can climb.

Guess the big question now is where will DD18 be held?

The climbs for the ride included:

  1. Ellerina et al: 1.7 km at 7.8%
  2. Hearn Rd: 1.8 km at 7.9%
  3. Park Rd: 800m at 9.6%
  4. Stanley Cres: 1.1 km at 8.2%
  5. Bradford Rd: 1.7 km at 7.8%
  6. Three Laneways: 1 km at 9.4%
  7. Cairn/Somers/Cook: 1.4 km at 7.1%
  8. Mary/Manna: 1.4 km at 8.3%
  9. Scott St: 500m at 10.8%
  10. Hillside Ave: 600m at 11.3%
  11. Caldwell Rd: 700m at 12.9%
  12. Tower Hill/Bracken Ridge: 900m at 10%
  13. Arthurs Seat: 3 km at 8.1%

Please enjoy a selection of my favorite pics from the ride:

Image by Jeff Servaas

 

Smiles all round

 

 

 

The Climbing Cyclist; Matt de Neef

Image taken by the talented Jeff Servaas

Wilson Botanical Gardens (Berwick)

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The Wilson Botanical Gardens are situated at the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges.  The gardens offer 39 hectares of parkland.  Which was originally a quarry and produced some of Melbourne’s highest quality basalt.  The quarry was founded by William Wilson in 1859 and operated until 1976.  The family generously donated the land to the community.

Catwalk adjacent to Basalt Lake

Wilson Botanical Gardens

The Wilson Botanical Gardens have an amazing variety of flowers and gardens, with a number of spectacular views throughout the park.  You’ll find an abundance of wildlife and there’s many places to go bird watching.  Visit the Anniversary and Bassalt Lakes, or take a walk through the Rose gardens.  Relax and take a seat on one of the wooden sun lounges at the Marshes water’s edge, or go for a run or walk around the park. The Wilson Botanical Gardens is a place of beauty and serenity and has something for everyone to do.

Basalt Lake

What to do

  • Get a map and explore the numerous walking trails throughout the park.
  • The Rose Gardens are located next to the Visitor Centre.  They surround a lawn area with a center wishing well.  There is an arbor with a bench seating, a small pond, bush roses, standards and climbing roses.
  • The beauty of the Wilson Botanical Gardens attracts a number wedding goers, who have their wedding photography done onsite.
  • The Marsh is next to the main entrance and is home to a variety of wildlife.  Water fowl, ducks and turtles.  There are wooden sun lounges at water’s edge which you can use to chill-ax on.
  • The park has two lakes which were former quarries.  The larger lake is called “Anniversary Lake” and the smaller is known as “Basalt Lake”.  This has a sheer basalt rock face to the east of the lake and a boardwalk was constructed on its western edge.
  • There are two main lookouts in the park.  Hoo Hoo Lookout Tower offers impressive views over the surrounding suburbs.  The climb to the lookouts also offers a great workout.  There is a steep pathway leading up to the lookout.  There is another vantage point at Ben’s Lookout.
  • Go running.  The undulating and at times hilly paths offer the perfect environment for a high level workout.
  • Bring your camera.  You will be guaranteed of a good snap or three.
  • Bird watching.  The park is home to a wide variety of birds.  There is a bird watching area located at the edge of the Basalt Lake.
  • You can bring your dogs along to the park, however they must remain on a lead at all times.  Be prepared to clean up after your dog.

For the family

  • The Wilson Botanic Park is an ideal location to host a picnic.  Not only is there plenty of lawns where you could lay a picnic blanket.  There are also 3 BBQ areas (between the Marsh and Anniversary Lake.  Near the Children’s Playground and on the Outer Loop to the west of the Marsh.
  • An amphitheater is located next to the Anniversary Lake.  The amphitheater is used for a number of events throughout the summer.  This includes the popular Jazz and Swing evenings.
  • There is a Children’s Playground (located behind the Marsh).  The playground offers slides, ladders, walkways, tunnels, a fireman’s pole, a see-saw, swings, a flying fox and ramps.
  • For the bigger kids there is a designated Ball Game Area.  Which is a large grassed area near Ben’s Lookout.
Anniversary Lake

Wilson Botanical Gardens

Location:

668 Princes Highway
Berwick, Vic 3806

Opening Hours:

7:00 am – 6:00 pm
7:00 am – 9:00 pm (during daylight savings)
Visitor Center open 10.00 am – 4.00 pm daily

Wilson Botanic Park Berwick is open every day except Christmas day and Good Friday, and will be closed on Code Red fire danger days.

Contact:

Telephone: (03) 9707 5818

History of the park

Wilson Botanical Gardens was originally a quarry.  Which produced some of Melbourne’s highest quality basalt.  The quarry was founded by William Wilson in 1859 and operated until 1976.  The Wilson family then donated the land to the community.  The City of Casey started redevelopment of the site into a Botanic gardens in 1988.  And was open four years later in 1992.

Whilst the quarry was operational.  Many fossils were found onsite.  Some were more than 22 million years old. They include fossilized wood, leaves and pollens of flowering plants and conifers.  These fossil sites boast both tropical and temperate species.  It is rare to find these varieties in one place. And indicates that the site was tropical rain forest many, many, many years ago.

Click here to visit the Botanical Gardens Website

West Gate Bridge climb

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The Westgate Bridge is considered a bucket list climb as cyclists only have two opportunities to climb this iconic bridge each year.  The Westgate Bridge is part of the M1 Freeway, and usually cyclists are prohibited from using the bridge.  MS Australia (MS Melbourne cycle) and Bicycle Network (Around the bay in a day) have special permission to close off two lanes of the bridge for their events, which are amongst Australia’s biggest recreation rides.  Attracting riders from all around the country.

The irony of this climb is that both events are quite flat and tend to attract non-climbers, and those that love a bit of vertical may not know what they’re missing out on.  These events, you are always guaranteed to see carnage as riders drop off left right and center.  Whilst only a short climb, you need to pay it respect as it’s quite a tough climb.  The winds out on the bridge can be ferocious.  Hate to break it to you but if the wind isn’t behind you this can be one extremely difficult climb.

Image taken by Steve Burns

The Westgate Bridge once offered some of the best views of the city and surrounding suburbs.  Since anti-suicide fencing was erected to both sides of the bridge, there isn’t much of a view to be seen.

West Gate Bridge climb

  • The climb to either side of the bridge is quite steep
  • Try to get a good run-up leading up to the climb
  • Do your homework before the event to determine which way the winds are blowing
  • The road surface is usually in good shape, but keep an eye on the road just in case
  • Both events attract thousands of riders.  If you don’t want to get caught stuck behind slow climbers, you will need to try to position yourself at the front of the group leading up to the climb
  • What goes up must come down, and you’re guaranteed a fast and furious descent down the far side of the bridge.  Keep an eye on your speedo as you can get booked for speeding.
Image by Claudio Jofré Larenas

City side

Distance:  1.5 km
Average Gradient:  4%
Maximum Gradient:  7%

Click here for the link to the Strava segment.

Western side

Distance:  1 km
Average Gradient:  4%
Maximum Gradient:  7%

Click here for the link to the Strava segment.

About the bridge

The Westgate Bridge took 10 years to build (1968 – 1978), and drivers were charged a toll to pay off the cost of the bridge.  Overall 10 million dollars was raised through these tolls, until 1985 where it became free to drive across.

The Westgate Bridge spans over the Yarra River and is a vital link between the CBD and Melbourne’s western suburbs.  The bridge is 2.5 km in length and rises up to 58 meters above sea level.  The Westgate Bridge is Australia’s third longest bridge.

Tarra Bulga National Park climb

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Distance:  16.6 km
Average Gradient:  4%
Elevation gained:  585 meters
Category:  2
Surface: Sealed
Traffic: Light

Click here for the link to the Strava segment.

The Tarra Bulga National Park is a 1,522 hectare national park situated in the eastern part of the Strzelecki Ranges. The area was named after “Charlie Tarra” who was an Aborine guide who led Count Strezelecki and his party through Gippsland when they discovered the area in 1840.  The National Park itself was originally given the Aborininal name “Bulga”, which means “Mountain”.  It is very popular with hikers and those that love the feel of a rainforest. The cool moist conditions provide the perfect environment for a rain forest. The park is well known for its giant Mountain Ash trees and lush fern gullies and ancient myrtle beeches.

Tarra Bulga National Park climb

The Tarra Valley roads is quite narrow windy road with a number of blind corners. There are no line markings on the road and cars tend to drive in the middle of the road so keep an ear out and keep as far to the left as possible when a vehicle approaches. The road is covered in a rainforest canopy and to either side of the road are lush fern gullies, and tall giant trees.  Due to the road rarely seeing any sunlight, it is common for the road to be wet in sections.

The road follows the Tarra River, with the road running parallel to this river on the lower slopes.  There are four bridge road crossings over the Tarra River.  All are wooden bridges, which have gaps which will swallow your tires.  The safest way to cross a wooden bridge to avoid the cracks is to ride diagonally over it, however these bridges are often wet.  They can be quite slippery to ride across and dangerous even when dry.  It is highly recommended that you disembark and walk across these bridges.

The climb finishes in the town of Balook.

This is one of the most stunning climbs you will find in the state of Victoria, and one you should add to your bucket list.  There are several tourist spots on the climb which are worth stopping off for. The Tarra Valley Picnic grounds (pictured below) is a magical place to visit and offers some amazing hikes.  Nearby are the Tarra falls, which are only a very short walk from the road down some stairs to view the falls (take care on the steps in the wet).

Just make sure to get a photo or three.

Over on the far side of the climb to the north is Mount Tassie.  This offers some truly spectacular views of Gippsland from up top.

Heads up

  • Narrow windy roads with a number of blind corners
  • A number of undulation changes through the climb with several steep sections along the way
  • The National Park is home to a large number of wildlife
  • Bring adequate supplies as shops may not be open
  • This area receives a very high level of rainfall each year and temperatures are much colder than surrounding areas. Make sure you plan your ride
  • During summer this is a bushfire area
  • Dangerous descent

Grand Ridge Road

Tarra Valley Road joins onto Grand Ridge Road.  This is one of Victoria’s most spectacular tourist roads which follows the ridge of the Strzelecki Ranges and is a gravel road which is 135 km in length from Seaview to Carrajung.  If you’re in the area its a  bucket list ride.

How to get there

Tarra-Bulga National Park is situated approximately 190 kilometres east of Melbourne.  Take Princes Highway to Traralgon, then follow Traralgon Creek Road to Balook. The park can also be reached from Yarram via the Tarra Valley Road or Bulga Park Road.

During fire season

Tarra Bulga National Park 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.

Further information for the Tarra Bulga National Park (on Parks Victoria website)

The descent

Use extreme caution when descending Tarra Valley Road.  It is a very narrow road, which is often slippery due to the damp rainforest air.  There is poor visibility around corners and if a vehicle was coming the other way you will not see them until the last possible second.  You may encounter a significant amount of tree debris lying across the road, and the area is also home to an abundance of wildlife, which you will not want to see on your descent.

John Bange

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The image below of John Bange seemingly defying gravity is an iconic image of Australian cycling.  This image was taken in 1930 on his dirt track on his property in Aviadell which is near Clifton in Queensland.

Images courtese of the State Library of Queensland

Little is known about John Bange’s love of cycling except for this image. John was born in Clifton in Queensland and was a farmer who was best known as an aviator and the pilot of the “Azure Star“.  This was the first enclosed-fuselage glider to fly on the Darling Downs.  The glider was 19 feet long with a width span of 40 feet.  John lovingly built this glider with the help of the members of the Aviandell gliding club in Clifton.  This was one of the first gliders ever to be constructed in Queensland.

John Bange, who was 25 years old at the time first flew the Azure Star on the 13th of March 1932. Reaching heights of 60 feet, and very fast speeds.

John Bange at the controls of his handbuilt glider

John devoted his life to farming and flying and was affectionately known as the “flying farmer”.

Little is know of Bange up until 1982. Where he celebrated the 50th anniversary of his initial flight by taking Azure Star back to the air. Recreating his historic flight at the ripe old age of 75. Bange possibly became the oldest pilot to fly a glider in Australia. A testament to the design and quality of the craftsmanship of his glider to be able to fly 50 years after it was created.  His story made national coverage.

Channel 9 news story from 1982 on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary flight of the “AZURE STAR”

Sources

John Bange seated in the cockpit of his plane a Ryan STM Special VHRAE

Ol Dirty 2017

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Ol’ Dirty is an off-road bike event hosted by Andy Van Bergen who is the founder of Hells 500.  This event has been running since 2012, and this years event promise a mix of newly discovered tracks, killer lines, and deep grooves.  Andy promised “it wouldn’t be an Ol’Dirty production without beats, liquor, batchies, and chow. We’ll bring the party if you bring the party. We’re delivering a route this year that will blow your tiny minds.  Not to mention a mid-ride break and lunch stop the likes of which you’ve never seen before (probably with good reason).  All delivered under the wash of amazing beats, an incredible crew, and some of the gawdamn best peeps in this amazing little community.

The name Ol’ Dirty refers to the rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard. His tunes are always played at this event and riders are guaranteed some great quiet roads  A company of like-minded crazy riders, and always some super steep unsealed climbs.  You are guaranteed to see at least one, if not all riders getting off to walk.

This is the second year that this event was being held in Marysville, situated in the heavily forested areas of the Great Dividing Range.  This was once a gold mining area. Today Marysville is a popular tourist destination, and tourists are attracted to the areas beauty and serenity.  Cyclists, well we’re attracted to the hills.

The 2017 Ol’ Dirty is paying tribute to one of the last days of Ol’ Dirty Bastards life spent at Coney Island, by offering a carnival atmosphere.

2017 Ol’ Dirty

Due to suffering a number of broken bones late June I’m currently off the bike indefinitely.  Whilst pain is preventing me from riding, my love of cycling hasn’t waned and I offered to volunteer for this great event.  The alarm was set for 4:45 am, and coffee was my friend as I set-out in the dark of night.  Much of what I was going to be doing today was a mystery.  All I was told was this ride was to have a carnival theme and to expect hip-hop, popcorn, fairy floss, jumping castles, show bags & clowns. Psycho clowns.

My kinda scene.

There was a massive turnout and the course certainly didn’t disappoint.  There was a mixture of mud, single-trail, mud, super steep climbs, more mud, hip-hop, psycho clowns, mud and to top it off a carnival near the end of the ride.

The entree of the course was a tough climb up to Mount Gordon.  From here it just got harder.  The highlight/low light of this years course was the super steep climb up to Dom Dom Saddle in the Black Spur.  This peaked well in excess of 30%, and covered in mud.  It would be nearly impossible to climb on a good day.  The climb and muddy conditions nearly finished off a number of riders.  Virtually every single rider was forced to get off and walk their bikes up this very, very, very, difficult climb.

I could feel their pain and could imagine their legs screaming trying to push their bikes up this hill.  Many colorful words were being thrown around, but at the top was a treat.  There was a rest stop and riders were handed out Bertie Beetle showbags.  Yes showbags!

The ‘Bertie Beetle Showbag’ is a true icon of Australia.

It was first produced in 1963 and has since become one of the most popular showbags ever made. The Bertie Beetle is a small chocolate bar manufactured by Nestlé. It’s a chocolate coated bar containing small pieces of honeycomb, shaped like an anthropomorphised beetle.

Not what any of the riders would have expected going into Ol’ Dirty.  This  gave them something to bring up their spirits as there was still a long way to go.

After many more challenging roads riders were treated to one final surprise.  A carnival in the middle of nowhere.  There was a jumping castle, prize machines, popcorn, fairy floss, Burritos and some much needed refreshments.  Waiting to welcome the tired riders.

Many looked shell shocked, but there was a good vibe that they had just experienced something wild.

I haven’t been able to do much since my injury, and was all a bit too much for me.  I was very exhauted towards the end, but very glad that I made the trek out to Marysville.  As a bonus I had the chance to catch up with a large number of friends.  My favorite part was the climb up to Dom Dom saddle.  It looked absolutely crazy.  Most likely I would have had to get off and walk up it, but I would certainly have given it a crack.

A big thank you to Andy and Tammy Van Bergen and all of the support crew for putting on such an amazing event.  The level of detail they put into an event like this is truly amazing.  Going so far as to getting custom made teddy bears of Ol’ Dirty Bastard (see image below).  My young son loved it when I brought it home.

Ol’ Dirty Bastard

One thing is for sure.  Many would already be queuing up for tickets to 2018 Ol’ Dirty.

No shame in walking

 

 

 

We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!

Myers Creek Road (Healesville)

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Length: 6.7 km
Average Gradient: 6.5%
Total Ascent: 437m
Climb Category: 2
Surface: Sealed

Click here for the link to the Strava segment.

The Myers Creek Road climb follows the Myers Creek valley, which the road is named after.  This is a stunning climb, which winds its way through Paul’s Range.  A temperate rain forest which is full of Mountain Ash, and fern gullies to either side of the road.

This is a challenging climb as the gradient continually fluctuates, and has one of those coarse road surfaces.  This gets you working that little bit harder.  The average gradient for this climb is highly deceptive as the road will hit sections in excess of 15%.  Myers Creek Road will feel a lot steeper than its average gradient suggests.

Start: Enger Myers Creek Road (Healesville) off the Maroondah Highway.  The climb begins approximately 3 km up the road.

You will want to pace yourself as this is an unforgiving climb that is not pleasant if you end up cooking yourself too early.

As you near the top of the climb, the road opens up and to your right you will see the peak of Mt St Leonard.  You will see a very distant phone tower, and if you are ever feeling adventurous.  There is an extremely steep climb up a gravel 4WD track up Monda Road to reach there.

Myers Creek Road is one of the best roads to climb in the Yarra Valley.  Offering stunning scenery and quite a challenging climb. This climb is located a short distance north of Healesville and can be combined with several of the areas other great climbs. Such as Chum Creek Road, Panton Gap or Badger Creek Road.

Finish: Corner Myers Creek Road and Monda Road (Toolangi)

At a glance

  • If you’re coming down from Melbourne, heads up that it is always considerably colder in & around Healesville. Best to check local forecasts
  • Narrow, windy roads
  • Stunning rainforest
  • Little traffic
  • Challenging climbing
  • Toolangi Pub situated at the end of Myers Creek Road

During fire season

Paul’s Range 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.

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

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”.

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.

There 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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.