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 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:
- Mount Martha (climbs 1 to 5)
- McCrae (climbs 6 and 7)
- 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.
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.
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).
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:
- Ellerina et al: 1.7 km at 7.8%
- Hearn Rd: 1.8 km at 7.9%
- Park Rd: 800m at 9.6%
- Stanley Cres: 1.1 km at 8.2%
- Bradford Rd: 1.7 km at 7.8%
- Three Laneways: 1 km at 9.4%
- Cairn/Somers/Cook: 1.4 km at 7.1%
- Mary/Manna: 1.4 km at 8.3%
- Scott St: 500m at 10.8%
- Hillside Ave: 600m at 11.3%
- Caldwell Rd: 700m at 12.9%
- Tower Hill/Bracken Ridge: 900m at 10%
- Arthurs Seat: 3 km at 8.1%
Please enjoy a selection of my favorite pics from the ride:
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.
One thing is for sure. Many would already be queuing up for tickets to 2018 Ol’ Dirty.
Sherbrooke Road is one of the most stunning roads in the Dandenong Ranges. It’s a very popular tourist destination with places such as Grant’s picnic ground, the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens & George Tindale Memorial Gardens. With some of the Dandenong Ranges most popular wedding venues such as Poets lane and Marybrooke Manor, this road attracts a large number of tourist traffic.
No one has been crazy enough to Everest this road up until now due to the traffic.
Four riders, led by Adam Dawson organised to Everest Sherbrooke Road in the early hours of the morning on Saturday 29 April. Adam convinced his mates David Louis, Andrew Coveney and Fabian Ariano to come and do their first Everest. This was Adam’s second Everest after he Eversted one of the Dandenong’s steepest climbs “Kia Ora Parade” last Haloween.
This narrow climb up Sherbrooke Road is quite steep. The first km twists and winds its way up to the township of Sherbrooke, averaging around 9%. Boasting one of the finest hairpins in the Dandenong Ranges. This climb takes you through the Sherbrooke Forest, and is simply stunning. Its only downside is that you always expect to see water which trickles onto the road. This can be treacherous on the descent.
This turned out to be quite a challenging Everest. It rained relentlessly throughout the morning, soaking everyone to the skin. This caused the descent to be quite slippery, and everyone had their hands on their brakes on a road which never fully dried out. This cost time and energy spent braking extra hard into the corners. Adam said “A very wet day out on the bike. Unbelievable physical strength and mental fortitude on display from everyone.” When the rain eased up, the traffic set in, and there are only several points where cars could safely pass. More often than not cars would cut across the middle lane, regardless of whether a blind corner was up ahead.
Andrew commented that “between sunset to when I finished at 1:20 am there was only 2 laps when I wasn’t passed by a car”.
Fabian had Garmin issues, and Adam somehow copped four punctures. This cost him a tone of time. No matter what was thrown everyone stood tall. No one appeared to struggle on what is a tough little climb. There was strength amongst the group, and everyone pulled out the ride of their lives.
The ride of the day easily went to Andrew. Not only did he have to battle the traffic, and the wet and cold miserable conditions. Andrew had a horrendous run of bad luck. After two major mechanicals his wheel bearing went. There was an O-ring missing from his front assembly which he thought let water get into the bearing killing it. Given its only 2,000 km old I won’t voice some of the colorful language used. This almost derailed his Everesting attempt, and at one point Andrew was forced to change over to a Mountain bike, whilst desperate repairs were being done to his bike. Through grit and determination he pushed through this and Andrew finished hours after everyone else finished at 1:20 am in the wee hours of the morning.
Sherbrooke Road is one of the last icons of the Dandenong Ranges to be Everested. Their story is one of legend and each of the four riders can be very proud of what they ahieved. All up there have been over 1,600 Eversts completed, with the Dandenong Ranges still holding the record for the most concentrated amount of Everests in the one area. There have been over 30 separate climbs Everested in and around the Dandenong Ranges, proving its popularity.
Congratulations to all the riders and support crew that came along for the ride. I hope you can find the time to give them all Kudos as they all deserved it for such an incredible ride.
- Distance: 221 km
- Elevation: 9,052 vertical
- Riding time: 15 hours 13 minutes
- Overall time: 18 hours 5 minutes
- Noel Eastwood You can wear that grey strip proudly now. Congratulations
- Clint Woodward Always knew you’d knock one of these out one day, congratulations David 🎉
- Mr. T. Mighty impressive lads!! I think the decent would’ve been just as exhausting. Not an easy task on that road with the moss and traffic playing havoc. Congrats to all you blokes; David, Andrew, Fabian and Adam.
- Distance: 244 km
- Elevation: 10,039 vertical
- Riding time: 17 hours 17 mins
- Overall time: 20 hours 49 mins
- Clint Woodward Nice combo to hit 10000m on and another Nongs icon ticked off. Great work!
- Adrian Dickinson Well done Adam. Great achievement. ..way better you than me 🙂
- Paula McGovern Any excuse Adam not to change nappies!!!!
- Distance: 213 km
- Elevation: 8,848 vertical
- Riding time: 16 hours 40 mins
- Overall time: 22 hours 59 mins
- Adam Dawson Unstoppable. I would have chucked it in at halfway with the luck you were having.
- John Van Seters Now that’s one heck of an effort after all the mechanicalls thrown at you, well done Andrew, that’d some grit and determination!
- Martin English Maaaaaate!! This is amazing!! Well done you mad determined bastard!!
- Distance: 223 km
- Elevation: 8,920 vertical
- Riding time: 16 hours 9 mins
- Overall time: 18 hours 27 mins
The Hitchikers guide to an Everest
If you choose to do an Everest, then prepare yourself to possibly undertake the hardest experience of your life! It’s a pretty simple concept. You go up the hill, then down the hill, up the hill, then down the hill……..
How successful you are can be determined by your preparation. You need to:
- Realistically work out how long you will need to complete your Everest
- Have more than enough food to last through the ride
- Put togeher a nutritional plan
- Have more than enough fluids to last through the ride
- Bring a charger to ensure that your Garmin lasts the distance
- Bring additional comforts to make the ride more enjoyable, i.e. change of kits, music etc.
- Have adequate lighting for any night stint
- Work out how many laps you will do in-between breaks
On the day time can really fly, particularly on your breaks. You find you don’t really rest much when you stop. You’re constantly doing something. Such as topping up water, eating, changing clothes, going to the toilet etc. It is important to set-up your car so that everything is nicely organised. The quicker you can get in & out of your pit stop. The more successful your ride will be. If everything’s cluttered, then you can also find yourself feeling cluttered.
What sort of hill should you look for?
Here are some things to look for when selecting your Everest:
- Is there a place you can go to a Toilet? You may know a great back street climb, but it’s no good to you unless you can take a dump in someone’s front yard
- How narrow is the road? (the closer cars need to be to pass you the more uncomfortable the day will be, and the higher the risk that one of them may hit you which will end your Everest pretty quickly)
- Is there any wildlife that you need to keep an eye out for?
- What is the road surface like?
- Does your climb experience fog? You should be mindful of fog when there is no wind, and this is where it is important to know your climb in all sorts of conditions
- What is the traffic like? If you can pick a climb with virtually no traffic, you will be doing yourself a major favour
- Is there a good place to park your car at either end of your climb? I personally prefer to park at the top, but it’s a personal choice
- Are there shops nearby?
- Do you get reception for your phone?
- How well shaded is the climb?
- Is the wind likely to affect your climb?
- Does your climb experience abnormal temperatures? i.e. does it get really cold overnight?
Tips for making your Everest easier:
- Know how long your Everest will realistically take. If you’re working out your average lap time, don’t use stats of when you are climbing fresh. You really need to know what pace you will ride on exhausted legs & go from there.
- Get a feeling for your climb. Go and do a lot of repeats before you Everest it. I can guarantee after doing an Everest you will know every bump in the road
- Don’t trust the weatherman! Pack extra clothing for any contingency
- Avoid social media. It may help improve your spirits getting support from others while you are riding, but this will cost you time, and anyone could easily spend hours texting, facebooking, Instagraming, commenting on Strava etc.
- If you have friends ride with you, don’t stop riding! When they say goodbye, you could easily spend 10 – 20 minutes reminiscing, and if you get to the stage where you’ve been on the bike for 20 hours, then every minute wasted will hurt more & more
- Change your kit at least once during your Everest. May cost you a couple of minutes, but in the later part of your ride when you’re exhausted, the extra comfort will be worth it
- Don’t stop riding. Sounds pretty straight forward, but later on, you will get really exhausted and may feel like taking more & more breaks. For every minute spent off the bike in the later part of your ride adds exhaustion so be smart and try & ride through it
- Make sure you keep eating & drinking though out the day
- Keep your car neat & tidy
- Most important is to stay positive throughout. You need to be as enthusiastic on lap 60 as you are on lap 6
Preparing for an Everest:
Originally I believed the best training for an Everest was to climb as many hills as I could. I was staggered to see a number of non-climbers. Who only would climb around 2,000 vertical per week complete an Everest. In hindsight I’ve found that the endurance & pre-preparation is key to an Everest. The choice of your climb is also paramount to your success. Obviously the steeper the hill. The shorter the distance. Then again you need to be able to climb really steep hills easily. Or you pick an easy climb,& then you’re looking at doing a ride of over 300 km’s, which is exhausting by itself.
The hardest part of an Everest is by getting your head around doing repeats. I came up with a training ride which I swear by. If you have to do say 60 repeats of a 6km hill it would be impossible to train for that specifically. Instead I would recommend to pick a short back street climb, around 300 – 500 metres of equal. Preferably a little steeper gradient & then go & knock out over 60 repeats of that short hill. The benefit of this will be to get your head around doing 60 repeats. This will also give you an idea of how much vertical you can push yourself to do before needing a break. As a bonus it will give you an idea of what sorts of foods your body will crave when knocking out repeats.
At the end of the day it’s only a ride
If you commit to doing an Everesting, it will be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done. There is no such thing as an easy Everest. There are dangers involved which could prevent you from finishing. You need to be aware that your safety is worth more than finishing an Everest. You should never be scared to pull the pin. It’s much better to fail at 8,000vm, than to go through to the end & screw up your knee. Then not being able to ride for the following 6 months. Not everyone will be able to complete an Everest. For those that do you will be seen as completely badass! Make sure you plan well, train appropriately & make the most of your Everest.
The Drive home
Most riders end up driving themselves to and from their elected Everest. No one can really foresee how they will feel after torturing themselves for 8,848 meters. Please be mindful of fatigue on the way home. If you’re too tired to drive, then pull over and have a power nap. Please try to get home safely!
Head to the Everesting Website to find out more: