A: Around the Bay
On one day each year thousands take on the epic challenge of cycling around Port Phillip Bay en masse. If 210km, 250km or 300km seems too far, riders can sign up for the 20km, 50km and 100km events – but they’ll miss out on the free ferry ride, which is really a non-negotiable rest break. The 2020 United Energy Around the Bay sets off Sunday, October 11.
Checked out the bike rack at a primary school lately? It’s likely to be a temporary home to dozens of Byk bikes. Melburnian Warren Key was born into Melbourne’s bike business, but after his young son was diagnosed with a rare bone problem bikes became his business. “My son went from being very sporty to not being able to do anything,” he explains. “The only thing doctors said he could do was cycle”. Warren bought his son a racing BMX, “but he couldn’t ride it because the dynamics were poor. I pulled it apart and created a new, lighter one”. After input from ergonomics experts, the Byk was born: light, ergonomic, kid-specific bikes. They’ve become a rite of passage for Melbourne kids, and you’re unlikely to see a Byk in hard rubbish: they get ridden, handed down, swapped and resold. As for Warren’s son? He’s 19 now, lives in Finland and is the junior world orienteering champion.
Fancy racing road bikes? No, me neither, until I tried. Many of Melbourne’s cycling clubs offer criterium racing on various circuits around the place: Hawthorn uses the hilly and car-free “teardrop” off the Boulie (aka Yarra Boulevard), Footscray an industrial estate in Altona, and St Kilda, well, see S. Cyclists are placed in different grades and zoom around the short circuit for a certain amount of time (from around 20 minutes) until a bell warns there’s three laps to go. Crazy fun.
D: Durt, Melburn
One of the women-specific grassroots cycling initiatives: Melburn Durt will get CX (see X) and mountain bike riders shredding Yarra Trails on a Thursday night, while Melburn Hurt is all about track racing, and holds Wednesday skills sessions at Brunswick Velodrome (see V). Over 1500 Melbourne women have also joined Facebook group Girlride Melbourne! and SheRace helps women find out about ongoing and upcoming races (see C).
Imagine cycling up a mountain, cycling down again (“whee!”) then repeating until you’ve reached the equivalent height of Mount Everest (8848m). Well, 4200 cyclists in 95 counties have, and it all started when Melburnian Andy van Bergen noticed that George Mallory – grandson of Everest-climbing George Mallory – was doing cross training to prepare for his own Everest climb. “He worked out that nine reps of Donna Buang (see W) were the same as cycling up Everest,” says Andy. “I came up with the concept of replicating George’s ride, and plugging it into any hill, anywhere in the world. Simple.” Melbourne-based ultra-endurance athlete Sarah Hammond was the first woman to Everest, in 2014. You can do it on any hill (even Anderson Street, South Yarra, has been Everested), you just need to work out how many repeats you’ll need to hit Everest’s height.
Five years ago Melbourne cyclists Emma Grella, Kate Palethorpe and Anna Thomson noticed the cycling industry had a serious lack of great cycling clothes for women. They did something about it by designing women-specific kit featuring unique designs. Fondo has since gained quite a following, partly by supporting women’s cycling events and hosting free rides for women, but mostly for creating comfy kit.
G: Great Vic
AKA the Great Victorian Bike Ride, this Bicycle Network event is where school groups, solo cyclists, friends and families come together to ride for five or nine days, discovering Victoria by bike, complete with a mobile village for thousands. This year’s 600km ride was a Limestone Coast/Great Ocean Road adventure, while 2020 is set for an arts focus, sending cyclists swirling their way around the Silo Art Trail after starting at the Grampians.
H: Hell Ride
If you don’t know what this is, then you don’t live along Beach Road anywhere between the city and Mount Eliza. Or cycle. You may have discovered it after deciding to take a casual ride down Beach Road on a Saturday morning only to find yourself being overtaken by very, very fast cyclists who may not have even noticed you were there.
#fondobutts (see F)
#notbeachroad (see H)
#localloops (see P)
Love cycling but don’t like cycling solo? See if your local shop offers “shop rides”. Want something super inclusive? Join a Jetnikoff shop ride. William Jetnikoff runs rides, including the Wednesday “Wonder-cross” (see X) that “help people feel more comfortable trying something that they felt was too far out of their reach or skill level.” As he explains: “It started as a ride to get more people out enjoying nature and exploring their local area.” They’re ‘no drop’, meaning slower cyclists don’t get left behind. “We’re about the people, not the pace,” says Will.
Melbourne designer Hugo Davidson and engineer Mal McKechnie started Knog in 2002, and its much-loved, global success story-making silicone Frog bike light launched in 2005. It’s sold 6.5 million units globally since. Richmond-based Knog continues to be innovative: their Oi bike bell doesn’t look like a bell and they’ve just invented the Cobber light which creates a 330° arc of light around the rider.
L: Lysterfield MTB
Mountain bike riding is back, with plenty of folk shredding MTB trails at Lysterfield, 45 minutes from Melbourne. Lysterfield District Trail Riders looks after the place, and offers women-specific events (Lystychicks), social rides for Kids (Lysty Kids – the next one is December 15) and days when you can get stuck into trail-making yourself. Closer to the CBD, try the newly opened MTB trails and Skills Park at Quarry Park.
M: Melburn Roobaix
This is vastly different to the Paris one. Here, cyclists turn up on bikes including awkward handmade numbers and converted exercise bikes wearing even wilder costumes. Armed with maps (yes, paper ones) they head out on a 40km romp around the city, shuddering over cobblestone sections in back lanes in suburbs from South Yarra to North Fitzroy and Thornbury. FYXO started the event in 2006, and have announced June 28 as the next cobblestone cycle fest.
Rainforests, climbs, bakeries, and descents, just an hour from Melbourne. The almost 7km-long 1 in 20 is one of the popular challenges in the ‘Nongs, as cyclists rise up from The Basin, through rainforest to the cafes of Sassafras and beyond. Or just down again (see E, it takes 30 laps). The ‘Nongs are also home to The Wall, a 5.2km stretch outside Monbulk, and the similar-length Devil’s Elbows, which starts at the bottom of the 1000 steps.
The less said of the free dock-less bikes the better. Still spotted when Melbourne’s creeks and rivers flush them out. In November, Melbourne Bike Share’s 600 clunky blue bikes (with docking stations) were taken out of action, too.
Here’s another local cycling gear success story (see F, and also check out MAAP). Some 36k Insta followers keep a keen eye out for The Pedla’s latest kit releases (#newkitday) featuring their distinctive dots.
Q: Quad Lock
When industrial designer Chris Peters briefly moved from Melbourne to Sydney in 2007 he couldn’t find a good way to cycle around using the maps on his phone to navigate. So he invented Quad Lock. You secure the plastic four-tab mount to your handlebars, and twist the matching save-your-phone-from-smashing Quad Lock phone case onto it. A 2012 Kickstarter campaign raised double their target, and today, says Chris, “It’s got 12 mounts, for 20 different smart phones, shipped to over 150 countries with over a million happy customers!”
R: RACV Assist
This is one of the best initiatives for folk who, ahem, take two days and many YouTube videos to change a flat, but love cycling. Or people with kids, like me, who cycled Richmond to Spotswood via The Westgate Punt only to discover the trains were out and my 7-year-old kid was too tired to cycle 12km home. One call to RACV Assist and we, and our bikes, were in a maxi cab back to our starting point. For $55 a year RACV Assist either “fixes the problem, or gets you home if something goes wrong,” says spokesperson Peter Nugent. And yes, that includes being exhausted. If you want to carry on, no drama: “All RACV Bike Assist patrols receive training on how to change bike tubes and carry a range of spare tubes, which they’ll fit at no extra cost,” says Peter.
S: St Kilda Cycling Club (SKCC)
SKCC, the largest cycling club in Australia, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, though it’s a bit of a downer as they’ve just lost their South Melbourne crit racing circuit (see C). They’ve led the way with women’s cycling, says vice president Alison Raaymaker, with women forming 30 per cent of their membership. Head to White Street for one last “Super Crit” on the course on December 15, and watch everyone from beginners to pros race.
T: The Bike Shed
Is a broken bike in your garage getting you down (and not out)? Take it to Brunswick East’s CERES. Each weekend from 11am-5pm, volunteer mechanics can help you help your bike. Annual membership is $15, and if you don’t have a bike to begin with you can fix up one of theirs then buy it. You can also donate unwanted bikes.
We’re good at this (see E). Jesse Carlsson is another Melbourne-based ultra endurance cyclist and co-founder of bike company Curve Cycling. After winning the 6800km Trans Am Bike Race across America in 2015, he designed the 5500km Indian Pacific Wheel Race, and Race to the Rock (won by Sarah Hammond in 2016, 2017 and 2018), and Carlsson himself in 2019.
Velodromes dot our suburbs, including Brunswick, Packer Park in Carnegie, Coburg and Reservoir. Most have bicycle clubs attached, with come-and-try days, including indoor velodrome DISC in Thornbury. Melbourne Arena also houses a velodrome: the lower seating section is raised to the ceiling to expose it. Check it out on December 19 when it hosts the oldest track bicycle race in the world, The Austral Wheel Race, which was launched in Melbourne in 1887.
W: Warby Trail
Lilydale’s the starting point for the 38km Lilydale-Warburton rail trail. Warby, 70km from Melbourne, is heating up as a mammoth MTB destination (see L), with big plans afoot, but it’s also known in cycling circles for Donna Buang – a peak that gets snow in winter and cyclists puffing up it year-round (see E). The gravel rail trail is an easier affair, with few hills and cycling-friendly infrastructure. The new 40km Yarra Valley Trail will link Lilydale to Healesville via Yarra Glen.
Cyclo-cross/CX/cyclo-X … However you write it, it’s the same thing: winter racing over jumps, through dirt and snow on circuits dotted around Melbourne (Darebin Parklands and Caribbean Gardens are a couple). If you don’t want to get dirty, it’s a great spectator sport, with plenty of heckling and beer. See J and M for weekly CX offerings.
Y: Main Yarra Trail
We don’t ride kangaroos to school, but you can spot ’em grazing on a ride out Eltham way on this well-established sometimes-gravel trail. Stop at Eaglemont Dirt Jumps for some teen fun – you can always catch the train home from Eltham if it all gets too much.
In lounge rooms, bedrooms and home offices across Melbourne, cyclists are virtually racing against, or riding with, cyclists from around the world, or perhaps next door. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, which earns bonus points in Melbourne. Requires technology that measures your cadence as well as turbo trainer and rollers.