Category Archives: Bike riding

7 Peaks rides – tick!

That’s one less item on the bucket list. The 7 Peaks rides are set-your-own pace climbs to the top of Victoria’s seven alpine resorts over the warmer months. They’re a great reason to get out of the city for a day or long weekend to breathe some country air and see a bit more of regional Victoria. And of course great exercise. Plus they’ve fired my enthusiasm for the next physical challenge – The Peaks Challenge.

Lake Mountain – I think this was the easiest ride. Starts at Marysville. Only about two hours drive from Melbourne. Starts off steeply out of town but not for too far. Then a steady climb through regenerating forest with open views across to adjacent hills. At the top is a shelter with a café. Nice views. The road isn’t too twisty which means heading back down you can build up some great speed. Lots of fun.

Mt Buller – This is the nicest ride I reckon. Starts at the mountain entry gates at the base, near a very nice café. Pretty river alongside. Steady climb through forest, past streams and small waterfalls until just before the summit where there’s a sharp, steep pinch that gets you out of the saddle. On the way up keep an eye out for the gnomes’ tree house. Very cute. Typical ski resort at the top. Couple of cafes. Nice views from the main visitor centre and at the end of the road near the top of the resort.

Falls Creek – Bit of an undulating ride to begin with, starting from Mt Beauty. Fantastic views to Mt Bogong, Victoria’s highest mountain. Road initially follows a valley with hydroelectric transmission lines overhead. Then seems to get a bit steeper on approaching the resort. Not much in the way of cafes open when I was there, other than a mountain biker café in a converted shipping container in a car park. Nice views.

Mt Hotham – Long, mostly pleasant ride from Harrietville. Steady climb to start with views to the resort, which seems to be an impossibly long way away on the other side of a wide valley. Near the top are a couple of steep downhills which have to be climbed back up on the other side. Bit disheartening. Amazing views though as you’re above the tree line. No café open at the top. The nearest was another couple of kilometres down the road. Descent back to Harrietville was brilliant, with the road not too twisting. It was raining when I came back down though so was careful with my speed.

Mt Buffalo – Very pleasant, steady climb through beautiful forest with occasional views of smooth granite cliffs and rocks that are a feature of the mountain. Started at the base, at a creek, near Bright. Finished at the old Mt Buffalo Chalet, which is not open. No café at the top. Fantastic views though. I didn’t attempt the descent as I was a bit worried about my brakes. Drove back down with my support crew. Washing off in the cold, clear creek back at the bottom was a highlight.

Mt Baw Baw – Hard hard hard! Lung buster. I parked the car and started at Tanjil Bren. Nice downhill and then some steady uphill until you reach the official start point where it’s steep steep steep until the top. Nice forest to pedal through but you won’t be looking at much of it because all you’ll be thinking about is your breathing and looking down at the road. Near the top it levels out a bit and then you roll into the main car park. The relief at reaching the top is amazing. Some views but not spectacular. Nice café at the top. The steep descent is a bit scary.

Dinner Plain – The longest of the rides, starting at Omeo, a 4-5 hour drive from Melbourne. The road out of town was steeper than I was expecting. Then a long fast descent to the Cobungra Station plains. Nice undulating riding, although made a bit harder by a headwind. The ascent to Dinner Plain was steady and not too taxing, which was a nice surprise. Nice riding through eucalypt forest and then snow gums. The village is nice. Didn’t think much of the pub but the Blizzard craft brewery was fun. Nice stout too. I didn’t get to the top until late arvo and was losing the light so I drove back down to Omeo with my support crew.

All in all the 7 Peaks is a great challenge. Bit of an effort to get to the alpine regions in northern Victoria from Melbourne so I’d recommend having four or five days off to do those ones. Baw Baw and Lake Mountain are only a couple of hours drive from Melbourne so can be done easily in a day. Buller can be done in a day, but it’s a long one.

 

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The 7 Peaks Rides

I’m having a crack at Victoria’s 7 Peaks Rides.

The rides take you to the top of Victoria’s alpine destinations – Falls Creek, Mt Hotham, Dinner Plain, Mt Buffalo, Lake Mountain, Mt Buller and Mt Baw Baw.

So far I’ve done five of the seven and have until the end of April to tick off the last two – Dinner Plain and Mt Baw Baw.

It’s a fantastic, ride at your own pace and time, challenge that gets you out of the city and into some of Victoria’s beautiful countryside.

I recently did Falls, Hotham and Buffalo over two days, camping overnight at The Park, a riverside caravan park at Mt Beauty, a small town about a four hour drive from Melbourne. (Highly recommended, with a craft brewery across the road.)

Falls Creek – great ride with great views to Mt Bogong, Victoria’s highest mountain, at the start. It didn’t feel like a particularly remote ride as there were power transmission lines and towers for much of the way. The start and middle section is pretty undulating and not too steep until you pass over a bridge over a pretty creek about two thirds of the way. That’s when the climbing really starts. At the resort there were quite a few mountain bike riders around and a café in a shipping container set up in a car park where I had a coffee and pie. The ride back down was fast and exhilarating.

Mt Hotham – this was a testing ride. It was warm, humid and raining when I set off early in the morning from Harrietville, the small town at the start. The climb out of Harrietville was steep but the grade levelled out a bit after a few kilometres. This was a nicer ride in terms of scenery because there was little in the way of buildings or other infrastructure to see. Just forest, valleys and mountains. It got steep again towards the top and there were a couple of disheartening downhills – when you’re pedalling up and only want to get up, you really don’t want to lose any altitude! There was bugger all open at the resort when I reached it. The nearest café was another 1.5km down the road and by that point I couldn’t be bothered. The descent was fun but had to be careful as storms were approaching and there was a bit of rain. I also caught up to a couple of 4WDs towing horse floats that I couldn’t get past near the bottom so I coasted down with them.

Mt Buffalo – I thought I’d be stuffed by the time I got back to Harrietville but to my surprise I was pumped to go on and tackle Buffalo. Drove to the start point at the Eurobin Creek Picnic Area and set off. The weather had cleared and it was warm and humid again. This ride was a steady climb through beautiful forest with views of towering granite cliffs – not too steep, little undulation. I didn’t ride down this one as I was getting a bit nervous about my front brake so the friend who came with me drove the car to the top to meet me. Back at the bottom the creek was a lovely spot to stop, rest and have a wash before the long drive back to Melbourne.

With Lake Mountain and Mt Buller already done, next up are Baw Baw and Dinner Plain. I’ve done Baw Baw a couple of times and it’s HARD. Short but very steep. I know what to expect there. Dinner Plain is the longest ride and also the furthest to reach the start point – the town of Omeo, a five hour drive from Melbourne.

But all going well in terms of juggling family time and the car, it should be doable!

 

Riding up Mt Baw Baw

Just keep pedalling. That’s the main thing on my mind as I tackle what’s billed as one of the toughest bike climbs in Australia – Mt Baw Baw.

From the signposted start of the serious climbing – called The Gantry – to the Baw Baw village, it’s a steep, leg burning, lung busting six kilometre slog up a lightly trafficked road through magnificent tall gum tree forest.

There are helpful (some may say unhelpful) signs along the way counting down the distance to the top – and the gradient of the road.

It’s mostly in the teens. But there’s one section where it hits over 20 degrees. At that point my legs are almost too tired to get out of the saddle. At that point I just put my head down, breathed hard, and my toddler’s favourite song, The Wheels on The Bus, came into my head. It got me through.

This was the second time I’ve done this ride. A mate came along this time and I’m not sure he’s forgiven me yet.

But the relief at reaching the top makes all the pain worthwhile. Plus the café with its coffee and muffins to refuel and the big glass windows with the view down into Victoria’s Gippsland region.

The ride down is a challenge too. You’re hard on the brakes all the way as the bike feels like it wants to surge away and throw you off.

This climb is one of Victoria’s annual Seven Peaks cycling challenge. It’s something I’m very keen on tackling next year.

Baw Baw ride

Up and down Lake Mountain

I like climbing. All kinds – rock climbing, hiking up mountains and while riding road and mountain bikes.

With rock climbing it’s as much the mental challenge as physical one of getting to the top of a wall using the right holds and moves.

With hiking it’s the slow, methodical plodding of putting one foot in front of the other with a pack on. That and the desire to see what’s on the other side.

With riding, it’s the rhythmic grind of keeping the pedals turning.

Lately I’ve been on the road bike doing a few climbs out of Melbourne.

Mt Donna Buang is a favourite, as is Lake Mountain.

A friend and I recently did Lake Mountain, on the outskirts of Marysville, a town that was almost completely wiped out by bushfires in 2009.

While the town has been rebuilt, the landscape around it still bears the scars of the fire. The forest is slowly regenerating but the dead, charred trunks of trees stand like tall matchsticks across the hillsides. It’s a sad sight because the forest pre fires must have been spectacular.

It’s nice ride to the top of Lake Mountain, where there’s a café and other facilities for winter when it snows. The road is a steep climb out of Marysville before it levels off to a relatively gentle gradient.

The fun part is going down and hitting some pretty impressive, probably stupid, speeds, as this screen grab from my activity app shows – 79.8km/h.IMG_1541

Anyway, here’s to hill climbs, and the way back down.

Exploring Melbourne’s bike paths

With the recent birth of my wonderful, adorable daughter – our first child – there hasn’t been much time or opportunity for adventurous pursuits outside the city.

While neighbourhood pram walks have replaced hikes through the bush, I’ve discovered the planning for those short walks can be just as intense as organising a multi-day walk. Do we have spare nappies, changes of clothes, wipes? Does our route pass shops, toilets, parks? Are there shortcuts to get home in case of emergencies? What’s the weather going to do?

Anyway, every now and then my wonderful wife gives me a day off from parenting duty to indulge in some outdoorsy stuff with friends. I’ve been using that time to explore Melbourne’s extensive network of bike paths. And I’ve been wonderfully surprised with what I’ve found.

Long trails that twist and turn, up and down through bush-lined creeks and watercourses, snake through parks and past sports ovals and change from concrete to gravel to single track. The paths are long and can be linked up to create long circuit rides that take you to far flung parts of the city you may never normally see.

Below is a quick video of a big ride a friend and I did recently. Headed out on the Scotchman’s Creek trail to Jells Park and Eastlink, along the Dandenong Creek trail, out to Paterson Lakes, then back via Beach Road – 83km on mountain bikes. Good times.

Where we went.

Big ride

A Cyclist’s Lament

A very First World complaint today. Maybe even Seinfeld-esque.

What’s the deal with slow riders you’ve overtaken who creep up to the front of a group of cyclists stopped at a stop light and then need to be overtaken all over again when the light turns green?

I don’t get it.

I’m all for people riding bikes to work. The more the better. But surely there’s got to be some etiquette. I’m not approaching this in a “I’m a faster rider, I’m better, get out of my way” manner. If I’ve been passed and I catch up to my overtakers at some lights, I line up behind them. They’re faster, so let them go ahead.

I look at it from a safety perspective. Overtaking someone can involve risks – you have to swing out of the bike lane into the traffic lane; you have to look behind to see if any cars are coming up behind (and in the process take your eyes off what’s happening in front of you); if there are cars coming, judge their speed to check you’ve got time to overtake; maintain your patience to ensure you don’t make a stupid decision. So if you’ve already done all this overtaking a slower rider, it’s a pain to have to do it all over again after they’ve wriggled their way ahead of you while you’re stopped at red lights.

Sigh. Anyway, as I said, First World problem. But one that irks me as I see it as yet another example of  people failing to consider others and the increasing selfishness of society. Maybe I’m just getting old …

A Cyclist’s Lament

Bike riders ignoring red lights – I’ve whinged about this before. How can bike riders expect car drivers to respect our right to be on the road if they see cyclists ignoring red lights? Or breaking any road rule for that matter.

The red light running is annoying me so much now that I’ve taken to shouting out at cyclists who ride through them – puffing permitting. I’m getting grumpier in my old age.

How hard is it to stop at a red light? Will your day really be ruined by stopping for a minute or so? Is getting a head start or pedalling through really worth risking your life for? I just don’t understand the mentality.

It’s not hard. Look, here are some riders doing the right thing below.

Riders stopped at a traffic light on St Kilda Rd

Riders stopped at a traffic light on St Kilda Rd

I ride 13km to work every day into the city in Melbourne along St Kilda Rd – the main thoroughfare for riders heading into the CBD from the south with a dedicated lane – and am amazed by the red light runners. St Kilda Rd is also extremely busy with traffic.

The other day I was stopped at a red light at a pedestrian crossing and a woman on a road bike went racing past. The pedestrians had passed and the crossing was clear but it was still a red light. She obviously thought road rules didn’t apply to her.

I shouted after her “red light rider!” About a hundred metres further up the road she had to stop at another red light at an intersection. So she certainly didn’t save herself any time by not stopping at the pedestrian crossing. When I stopped beside her I turned and said “you know you went through a red light back there”. And her response was “it’s a great conversation starter”. I was dumbfounded. No “yeah I didn’t see it in time”, or “oops, thanks for letting me know”. She saw it was a red light and wilfully decided she was going to ride through it. Where’s a traffic cop when you need them?

Unfortunately I wasn’t quick witted enough to say something like “yeah, pretty stupid way to start a conversation”, or “yeah, pretty good way to get yourself hit by a car”, or “yeah, thanks for giving bike riders a bad reputation by breaking the road rules”. I just shook my head, looked at the road ahead and then pedalled on when the lights turned green.

Sigh.