Great Ocean Road

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.

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.

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

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 Lorne

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Lorne is a breathtaking seaside town where the bush meets the beach.  It is situated in the Ottway Ranges on the Great Ocean 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 are very steep, and offers some of the state’s toughest climbs

Cycling Lorne is a must do and 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.  Visit Lorne to test yourself against some of the states toughest backstreet climbs:

Link to climb write-up Distance Gradient % Category
Great Ocean Road review
Francis Street 300 metres 21.6 3
Albert & Wallace Street 600 metres 17.3 4
Beal & John Street 500 metres 17 4
Falls Road 1.3 km 10 4
Erskine Falls Road 9.1 km 5 2
The Great Ocean Road

Visit Lorne

Whether you’re staying overnight or just passing through.  Take time out to wander down Lorne’s main shopping strip filled with boutique gift stores.  Cellars, eateries and galleries. Relax with a latte at a sidewalk cafe.  Picnic under the trees on the foreshore.  Or dine on freshly caught seafood at a local restaurant.  

Make sure that you visit the Lorne surf beach, the only patrolled beach in town. Cool off in the sparkling waters of Loutit Bay or take a stroll up to Shelley Beach to explore the rock pools.  The nearby Great Otway National Park is a nature lover’s playground with misty waterfalls, giant ferns and ancient forest. Discover the Erskine Falls cascading into a beautiful fern gully, one of ten waterfalls within ten minutes of town.

At sea.  For those keen on a bit of fishing during their holidays, the Lorne Pier is a great place to cast a line for trevally, barracuda and whiting. Keep an eye out for migrating whales between May and September. Lorne is one of the best spots along the Great Ocean Road to see these giants of the deep as they make their journey along the coast.

Cycling the Great Ocean Road

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The Great Ocean Road (GOR) is one of the best roads Australia has on offer. The road takes you through Rain forests. As well as beaches and spectacular cliffs and offers beautiful scenery & breath taking coastlines. You’ll feel like you’re riding on a race track as the road twists and winds its way around the coastline. It’s certainly a playground for cyclists and it’s a hell of a spot to ride your bike!

Image taken by CCdoh1; courtesy of Flickr

The GOR follows the coast along the south-eastern coast of Australia.  Its 243 kilometres in length windinng its way through varying terrain along the coast and provides access to several prominent landmarks.  Including one of Australia’s most iconic attractions; the Twelve Apostles.

Image taken by Jimmy Harris; courtesy of Flickr

The GOR attracts some of the best riders from around the world.  It is host to several internationally famous events including the Cadel Evans challenge & Amy Gillets Gran Fondo.

Image taken by Dawolf; courtesy of Flickr

The area is steeped in history & is known as the Shipwreck coast. There are approximately 638 known shipwrecks along Victoria’s coast, where gales, human error and, in some cases, foul play caused these vessels to be wrecked.

Explorer Matthew Flinders said of the Shipwreck Coast, “I have seldom seen a more fearful section of coastline.

History

It was envisaged that the road would connect isolated settlements along the coast & to become a vital transport link for the timber industry and tourism.

The road was originally built in-between 1919 to 1932 and 3,000 returned soldiers were hired to construct the road. The GOR was dedicated to soldiers killed during World War 1.

Construction was done by hand.  Workers used explosives, pick and shovels, wheel barrows, and some small machinery.  At times construction was dangerous, with several workers killed on the job.

The final sections along steep coastal mountains being the most difficult to work on. In its original state, the road was considered a formidable drive.  Given that it fitted only a single vehicle comfortably at any given time. Areas with sheer cliffs would be most hazardous.  With only few places for drivers to pull over to allow others to proceed in the opposite direction.

Verdict

Whether you head out to ride a small section of the GOR or attempt the full distance this is a bucket list ride.  It is arguably one of Australia’s best stretches of road to ride.

Erskine Falls Climb (Lorne)

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Distance: 9.1 km
Average Gradient: 5%
Elevation gain: 464 meters
Traffic: Light traffic
Surface: Sealed
Category: 2

Nestled deep in the sub-temperate rain forest of the Otway Ranges are Erskine Falls.  They are the highest single drop of all the Otway waterfalls with a 30 meter cascade.  The climb up to Erskine Falls is easily one of the Great Ocean Roads greatest climbs.  Offering stunning views, challenging climbing & incredible descents.

The tourist road up to the Erskine Falls climb is via Ottway Street and is well signed.  Alternatively you can start this climb from either Grove Road or William Street.  No matter which street you decide to climb this from.  It is guaranteed to be steep.

Erskine Falls Climb

Erskine Falls climb

This is a truly stunning climb.  Which takes you through the Eucalypt forest of the Ottway Ranges.  The 5% average on this climb is quite deceptive as there are quite a few descents along the way. As you near the peak of the climb you will encounter several descents.  After climbing for such a long time, each descent may lull into a false sense of security that the climb is over.  You may be tempted to relax the legs. This is a climb that if you don’t pace yourself appropriately.  It will hurt you.

The climb finishes at the Erskine Falls sign.  If you continue down this road there is a 1.3km descent to Erskine Falls.  Its only a short walk to the upper viewing platform.  There is quite an impressive view of Erskine Falls.  Just be mindful that there’s a nice steep hill to climb back out of (click here for preview of this climb)

I rarely advocate descents, but with quiet roads and a stunning descent, this is one that is quite fun!

Erskine Falls lookouts

Erskine Falls have two viewing platforms.  The upper platform offers a top-down view of Erskine Falls and is easily accessible from the car park.

There is a second lookout at the base of the Falls.  You will have to descend several hundred steep stairs to walk down to this lookout.  It is a real lung buster.  There is a man-made viewing platform which offers front on views of the falls.  This platform was also built to stop people to walk in and amongst the rocks around the base of the falls.

Erskine Falls are located on the Erskine River.  This river is less than five metres across at its widest and barely a metre across at some points, and is known for its Trout fishing.  Photos don’t do justice to the beauty and serenity of this amazing place and is a must visit.

Visit Lorne

Whether you’re staying overnight or just passing through.  Take time out to wander down Lorne’s main shopping strip filled with boutique gift stores.  Cellars, eateries and galleries. Relax with a latte at a sidewalk cafe.  Picnic under the trees on the foreshore.  Or dine on freshly caught seafood at a local restaurant.

Make sure that you visit the Lorne surf beach, the only patrolled beach in town. Cool off in the sparkling waters of Loutit Bay or take a stroll up to Shelley Beach to explore the rock pools.  The nearby Great Otway National Park is a nature lover’s playground with misty waterfalls, giant ferns and ancient forest. Discover the Erskine Falls cascading into a beautiful fern gully, one of ten waterfalls within ten minutes of town.

At sea.  For those keen on a bit of fishing during their holidays, the Lorne Pier is a great place to cast a line for trevally, barracuda and whiting. Keep an eye out for migrating whales between May and September. Lorne is one of the best spots along the Great Ocean Road to see these giants of the deep as they make their journey along the coast.

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.

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.

Francis Street (Lorne)

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Francis Street
Location: Lorne
Distance: 300m
Average Gradient: 21.6%
Elevation gain: 84 meters
Traffic: Light traffic
Surface: Sealed
Category: 4

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

Lorne is a breathtaking seaside town where the bush meets the beach.  It is situated in the Ottway Ranges on the Great Ocean 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 are very steep, and offers some of the state’s toughest climbs

View from top of the climb

This is Victoria’s hardest climb. With gradients that push close to 40% this is one scary climb. What makes it extra difficult is the fact the road is little over a car length wide.  You don’t have much space to zig zag up. On the steepest section there are a couple of rough patches which make traction difficult.  Near where the climb peaks at 40% there is a technical corner.  This is very difficult to negotiate.  Often you will find loose gravel on the corner.  This can be very difficult to dodge when the gradient is sitting over 30%.  As well as the slow speeds I guarantee that you will be doing.

Is Francis Street climbable?

Francis Street is purely for the hill junkies. Virtually everyone who has attempted this climb has failed.  You would get major bragging rights to getting up this climb in one piece.  A climb like this should not be attempted unless you are comfortable with climbing gradients around 20%.

Francis Street (ouch)

Visit Lorne

Whether you’re staying overnight or just passing through.  Take time out to wander down Lorne’s main shopping strip filled with boutique gift stores.  Cellars, eateries and galleries. Relax with a latte at a sidewalk cafe.  Picnic under the trees on the foreshore.  Or dine on freshly caught seafood at a local restaurant.  

Make sure that you visit the Lorne surf beach, the only patrolled beach in town. Cool off in the sparkling waters of Loutit Bay or take a stroll up to Shelley Beach to explore the rock pools.  The nearby Great Otway National Park is a nature lover’s playground with misty waterfalls, giant ferns and ancient forest. Discover the Erskine Falls cascading into a beautiful fern gully, one of ten waterfalls within ten minutes of town.

Francis Street

For those keen on a bit of fishing during their holidays, the Lorne Pier is a great place to cast a line for trevally, barracuda and whiting. Keep an eye out for migrating whales between May and September. Lorne is one of the best spots along the Great Ocean Road to see these giants of the deep as they make their journey along the coast.

Erskine Falls Climb

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Erskine Falls
Distance: 1.3 km
Average Gradient: 10%
Elevation gain: 138 meters
Traffic: Light traffic
Surface: Sealed
Category: 4

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

Erskine Falls is one of the best known waterfalls of the Otway Ranges.  They are also the highest single drop of all the Otway waterfalls with a 30metre cascade. Riders have the chance to see the falls which is a short 50 metre descent down steps which you can walk dwn on your cleats. The climb out of from the Falls is very steep & is a real lung burner.  It should only be attempted if you have a high level of fitness.

Erskine Falls

The climb starts at the Erskine Falls Carpark where the road immediately ramps up.

You’ll be in the granny gear right from the start and don’t be surprised if you have to deliver the mail to get up this one.

Whilst only short in length, you will be quite relieved when you get to the end of this climb which finishes at the Erskine Falls sign at the gates.  You will find this an amazing area to ride around and a climb that you should put onto your bucket list.

Visit Lorne

Whether you’re staying overnight or just passing through.  Take time out to wander down Lorne’s main shopping strip filled with boutique gift stores.  Cellars, eateries and galleries. Relax with a latte at a sidewalk cafe.  Picnic under the trees on the foreshore.  Or dine on freshly caught seafood at a local restaurant.

Make sure that you visit the Lorne surf beach, the only patrolled beach in town. Cool off in the sparkling waters of Loutit Bay or take a stroll up to Shelley Beach to explore the rock pools.  The nearby Great Otway National Park is a nature lover’s playground with misty waterfalls, giant ferns and ancient forest. Discover the Erskine Falls cascading into a beautiful fern gully, one of ten waterfalls within ten minutes of town.

At sea.  For those keen on a bit of fishing during their holidays, the Lorne Pier is a great place to cast a line for trevally, barracuda and whiting. Keep an eye out for migrating whales between May and September. Lorne is one of the best spots along the Great Ocean Road to see these giants of the deep as they make their journey along the coast.

Amys Gran Bonko

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Great Ocean Road

Amy’s Gran Fondo is easily one of the most popular recreational events in the Victorian calendar.  This year they were expecting close to 6,000 riders to participate. What sets this event apart is the fact that riders have the opportunity to qualify for the UCI Amateur Road Cycling Championships being held in Perth in 2016. This attracts riders of all abilities.  It’s the only cycling event in Australia which offers fully closed off roads.

I’ve wanted to do this event for a number of years.  It offers the only opportunity for a safe passage down the Great Ocean Road. I’ve only had limited opportunities to ride small sections of this amazing road in the past. Usually Lorne is well over a 2 hour drive for me.  With up to 6,000 cyclists merging on Lorne I had to leave extra early.  This week there were quite a few days in a row where I had to get up really early and was feeling it.  I also did a ride yesterday which left me a little worse for the wear.

When I woke up at 5:00 am I certainly had a bike hangover.

My legs ached & all I wanted to do was go back to bed.  It was a long drive down to Lorne & I made it with 5 minutes to spare.  We set-off & unfortunately emotions got the better of me & started to smash myself.  Everyone seemed to be climbing quickly so I had to just go that bit quicker.  Some of the climbs I was pushing upwards of 40 km/h & was overtaking riders left right & centre.  The Great Ocean Road sure is a playground.  Having access to both sides of the road you could freely dart all over the place to maximise your power.  After 10 km I was averaging close to 39 km/h & knew I couldn’t sustain that so dropped the pace down a little.

The Great Ocean Road

After 20 km that had dropped to 38 km/h.  My legs were aching like hell but I kept on pushing.  All I wanted was to find a group to sit on but just kept overtaking.  I would find a group, which would help to slow me down a little.  As soon as we hit the next hill I was off like a rocket.  I was getting alarm bells when the closer to Apollo Bay we got the windier it became.  I knew we’d be pushing into a head wind onto Skenes Creek Road but had no idea what the climb was like.  We were descending this really sharp pinch of 12%.  Buffeted by such strong winds that I had to push really hard just to keep the bike moving at 30 km/h.

It was relentless & I was tiring.

When we turned onto Skenes Creek as mentioned I had no idea what the climb was like, just that it was long.  I expected the worse & really went slow.  The funny thing was I was passing groups easily.  The road was full & I had to keep to the far right side of the road to continuously pass people.  I passed hundreds on the way up & knew I was set for an excellent time for the day.

The wind made the climb quite hard & I wish I could have jumped onto someone’s wheel but couldn’t find one & kept on overtaking.  About 6 km later I noticed that I wasn’t passing riders as quickly.  Having to work a lot harder and had to take the foot off the accelerator.  Alarm bells were ringing, but I’m a pretty experienced climber & focused on my breathing & pedaling technique.  The headwind which I had pretty much ignored for much of the climb realised that it was strong & sapping a lot of energy.

So I went into damage control & every corner I was hoping was going to be the last but the climb just kept going & going.

It was such a welcome relief to get over the top.  I wanted to make up for lost time but just couldn’t seem to move.  Riders were flying by my with ease, & for awhile I felt the back wheel really heavy.  Wondering if it was still damaged from yesterday.  I pulled over & it was fine.  Figured I had just bonked.  Out of energy & thankfully there was a food stop a few km down the road.

I stuffed my face with food, but to no avail.  From here I rode solo & was in damage control.  All those hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of riders that I had passed before all started to pass me & big peleton’s wheeled on by me. There was 50 km left to drag myself back to Lorne.  I wanted to go into my pain cave & remembered the quote from Fight Club:

Tyler Durden:       This is your pain.  This is your burning hand.  It’s right there look at it.

Edward Norton:     I’m going to my cave.  I’m going to my cave

Tyler Durden:         No! Don’t deal with this the way those dead people do.  Deal with it the way a living person does

Over the past two days I had ridden 200 km & climbed 3,500 vertical.  I was clearly not in shape to do this as a warm-up to such an event like Amy’s.  You can imagine how much I was cursing myself.  I sucked it up & just kept on pushing.  It was getting hot, & my body was screaming but I ignored it & kept on riding.  That’s all I could do & watch as the k’s slowly ticked on by.  Stopping at the last rest stop which was 13 km from the end.  I collapsed on the ground, and was suffering dehydration.  My quads had completely seized up & I had no energy left.

I had to question how it was going to be possible for me to get back in one piece?

Not my greatest moment

I heard several riders make comment about how the last 8 km was all climbing.  Part of me groaned.  Did I have the strength?

The funny thing was I was exhausted.  But even exhausted I climb faster than most.  A tonne of riders that had passed me at my lowest ebb I was now cruising past on the climb.  I was exhausted but I got spirit from this & pushed myself harder.  The last 8 km was quite undulating.  When most of the riders reached the top of a climb would die & not push on the descent.

I was inspired to atone for my bad day & pushed upwards & downwards.  The k’s ticked down & the 1 km to go was a welcome relief to see.  I rounded the bend & then saw the 8% pinch & knew that the organisers had one last surprise in store for us.  The last km was nasty & I knew I could still do it and pushed quite hard.  More & more riders I passed & un-lapped myself.  With 200 metres to go there were about two dozen riders in front of me.

I got out of my seat & danced my way at close to 30 km/h as I slammed it past all of them.

It was over & I was spent.

I hung around for a few minutes before descending Deans Marsh Road.  Boy that was a delight.  I threw what little energy I had left into the descent & smashed my way down overtaking dozens of riders.  I’m world renown amongst my friends as being the slowest descender.  So to weave and glide around riders into corners felt special.

My last dance is coming soon.

I only have a little less before I have to pull back on the riding before my baby boy comes along.  Its a little bit of a shame that the two events I’ve done recently haven’t gone so well, but today clearly I was tired going into today & I’ve got no one to blame for that except for myself.

I bumped into a number of great people that I know & had a great chat with a few of them.  I’ve got the Dirty Dozen on next Sunday.  I do believe I’ll learn from today’s experience & come into it a bit fresher.

James Hu, Alice Springy & a very tired mwa