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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.