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:
Distance: 4.1 km
Average Gradient: 7%
Elevation gain: 287 metres
Road Surface: Good
Here is a link to the Strava segment here:
The windy tourist road up to Arthurs Seat was first built in 1929 and is a very popular climb amongst cyclists. Arthurs Seat rises 314 metres above sea level & dominates the local surroundings. Climbing Arthurs Seat is no easy feat & with some of the best views that you’ll get of Port Phillip Bay. This is considered one of The Mornington Peninsula’s most iconic climbs.
Generally you’ll find the gradient quite consistent & easy to get into a rhythm. There are many switcbacks along the way & these are where you’ll earn your money as they can be very, very steep.
Make sure you get a photo on Arthurs Seat at the top.
Not surprising that Arthurs Seats popularity has led to it being used in numerous recreational events throughout the year and is used as the Queen stage of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour which is Australia’s oldest stage race.
Arthurs Seat State Park
Arthurs Seat State Park is a prominent feature in the landscape of Port Philip Bay. The 314 metre summit provides spectacular views of the bay, which on a clear day can stretch as far as the city skyline, You Yangs and even Mount Macedon.
The park’s most popular attraction is the Arthurs Seat summit, where visitors can take in the stunning views. The park offers a wide variety of recreational activities which include hiking, photography, dining, picnicking and mountain biking. Take the pleasant circuit walk to Kings Falls or visit the delightful Seawinds Garden, featuring indigenous and exotic formal gardens among the sculptures by William Ricketts. Lose yourself in the Enchanted Maze Garden and wander through its 20 themed gardens. Then board a state-of-the-art gondola at the Arthurs Seat Eagle and fly over the state forest.
Please note that dogs are not permitted in the park.
Arthurs Seat State Park is located 60km south of Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula. Access to the park from Melbourne is via Mornington Peninsula Freeway and the Arthurs Scenic Road.
Distance: 600 metres
Average Gradient: 6%
Maximum Gradient: 11%
Elevation gain: 39 metres
Road Surface: Good
Here is a link to the Strava segment here:
Olivers Hill is considered the gateway to the Mornington Peninsula. It’s an immensely popular climb which is a favorite of Beach Road riders wishing to throw a little extra punishment at their legs. This hill was named after local fisherman by the name of James Oliver. Who built the first cottage atop the hill in the mid-19th century.
Olivers Hill climb
There’s a short descent as you make your way past the Frankston Pier on the Nepean Highway. The road flattens out until you pass a Caltex Service Station to the left hand side of the road. This is when you will be able to see the climb up Olivers Hill.
After you round the first bend this climb gets considerably steeper and whilst it’s only a short climb. It’s easy to cook yourself if you go in too hard too early. You’ll find the road quite narrow & traffic is busy and you will need to keep to the far left as far as possible.
I rarely advocate descents, but the way down Olivers Hill is one of the best short descents going around. It’s a fast & furious technical descent. What you’ll appreciate most are the views looking straight out onto Port Phillip Bay. A truly remarkable experience.
Olivers Hill Lookout
Olivers Hill offers one of Melbourne’s best lookouts which offers stunning views towards Melbourne across Port Phillip Bay. On a clear day you can see all around the bay. This is a great spot to chillax, take photos, or to eat some fish n’ chips. The best time to visit is just as the sun is setting.
At the base of Olivers Hill is a larger car park to the left of the Nepean Highway. This is also a great lookout, which you can walk around to the sea wall which was built in 1950. This wall was built in order to help stop the erosion of the hill.
On the left hand side of the Nepean Highway on the top of Olivers Hill
Short-term free parking available
What to expect
- Great photo opportunities
- Melbourne’s most stunning coastal views by bike
- A challenging climb
- Fantastic opportunity to have a pissing contest with your mates
How to get there
Olivers Hill is located on the Nepean Highway in Frankston and is approximately 56 km south-east of Melbourne.
Video by Jeremy Chen
A short ride from Olivers Hill is the Two Bays Road climb. Click here to find out more about this awesome climb.
Distance: 2 km
Elevation gain: 96 metres
Terrain: Mainly forest
Here is a link to the Strava segment here:
Two Bays Road is one of the Mornington Peninsula’s most popular climbs. It is commonly included as part of a Beach Road run. Whilst it isn’t overly long at 2 km in length. Two Bays Road has a fairly consistent gradient and is a really good climb to smash yourself on. Its also commonly used for interval training to do repeats on.
Two Bays Road climb
The first part of this climb takes you through the Mount Eliza regional park. This section offers some great scenery along the way. There are two very popular tourist destinations at the base of this climb. The Mornington Railway. This takes passengers on a heritage train ride between Moorooduc & Mornington. And adjoins the Moorooduc Quarry Flora and Fauna Reserve. Which covers approximately 27 hectares of land, and has some incredibly challenging walks.
Two Bays Road is quite narrow. There are very rarely long stretches of road in front as the road winds its way gently to the peak. This makes breaking up your climb into small sections quite easily. It is a narrow road and it’s important to keep as far left as possible, if a vehicles coming up from behind you. Many of the houses on this road you can’t see from the road. Even though its a residential road, most of the climb will feel like you’re climbing through a state park.
Two Bays Road has a Bakery at the top, called the French Bakehouse . I’m advocating that all climbs should have a Bakery at the top. It’s a lot easier to smash yourself when you know there is a reward at the end. The French Bakehouse is quite a popular bakery. Its only downside is that its too popular & has been known to have a considerable cue lining up for their munchies. Another reason to try Two Bays Road is there are a couple of short backstreet climbs. These adjoin Two Bays Road that make a great workout with Humphries Road & Mountain Avenue. There is also 24 km bike trail from Carrum Downs which links up to Two Bays Road via the Peninsula Link bike. This is an excellent way to get to this climb.
Bring the family
The Mornington Railway & the Moorooduc Quarry Flora & Fauna Reserves are great places to bring the family. If you sold it right. Your family could easily enjoy themselves and buy you time to do laps of Two Bays Road for an hour or two……
You never, never know.
Moorooduc Quarry Flora and Fauna Reserve
The Moorooduc quarry was established in 1887. It was primarily used to transport stone and ballast to facilitate the construction of a nearby railway line. The quarry was closed in 1961 due to severe flooding. The quarry and surrounding areas have since become popular with bush walkers and fitness fanatics. Who come to run up & down the steep steps leading to the top of the quarry.
The Mornington Railway is a heritage railway. They run Steam & Diesel engine trains and heritage passenger cars between Moorooduc and Mornington. This is run by the Mornington Railway Preservation Society, which is a non-profit organisation. They run on a regular distance with a round trip of approximately 11 km.
Mount Eliza was named in 1836 by Captain William Hobson after Elizabeth Callaghan. The wife of John Batman in 1836. It was originally established as a holiday destination. Which changed in the early 1900’s when many of the old, large estates started to be subdivided. In 1959 a Hollywood movie called “on the Beach” was filmed starring Fred Estaire, Gregory Peck & Ava Gardner.
This climb was Everested by Leeana James & Matt Borough. Click on this link to read about this ride here: