The Greatest Victorian Bike Ride
A year prior I’d ridden to Adelaide by myself with the world’s biggest backpack strapped to me. Part sail, part sack I rolled into Adelaide three days later to see Lance Armstrong ride up Willunga Hill.
That ride had its challenges, but I wanted a ride that was harder and definitely more scenic. From the comfort of my desk I squiggled a series of lines on a screen for a planned route and put the word out for anyone willing to join me to leave Melbourne for a loop around Greater Victoria.
Melbourne – Bendigo / 220km – 2100m
Chris, Jason and Justin were the only souls brave enough to roll out of Fed Square on what would prove to be one of the windiest days in memory. The stretch north to Craigieburn all but cracked Chris and Justin completely, hindered as much by the bulk of their bags as much as the weather and by Daylesford they were done – taking the train back. Jason kept me company until the days end in Bendigo but felt it was beyond him to ride like this repeatedly.
I dropped him at the station and searched for supplied for tomorrows ride. Regrettably, La Porchetta was the only feed I could find that night and left me wanting.
Bendigo – Wangaratta / 240km – 65om
Fresh as a daisy wasn’t exactly how I was feeling, but at least my kit was clean thanks to a hand wash in the shower. The forecast was for some spectacularly messy weather and coming into Rochester it delivered. Fierce cross winds, lightning, thunder. I punctured early and sought cover from the worst of it behind a gum tree. It became apparent waiting would not get me to Wangaratta so I jumped back on, got battered and as I neared Shepparton the rains cleared and the sun scorched.
Another downpour later in the day was as good as personal laundromat – all I needed was the washing powder to be squeaky clean.
I rolled into Wang, got food for tomorrow and found a place to stay for the night, eat, shower, sleep and repeat.
Wangaratta – Mt Beauty / 150km – 1700m
The ‘easy’ day was a lot harder on the road as it was on paper. It was stinking hot which made the dip in the Kiewa River mid way very refreshing. I remember thinking in the ‘planning’ stages it’d be nice to have a half day ride given the following day to Bairnsdale was a beast.
The day included the rail trail to Beechworth and beyond, then some serious pinches out of Yackandandah.
I arrived in the early afternoon to Mt Beauty, got supplies and food to cook for the evening. Just as I unlocked the apartment door the clouds opened again and dumped a huge amount of rain sending the temperature back down again. What would tomorrow bring?
Mt Beauty – Bairnsdale / 230km – 3500m
I didn’t know it yet – but today might have been one of the single greatest one day rides I’ve ever done.
From the exhausting and damp slog to the top of Falls Creek, to the eerie and foggy plateau of that peak, the rough and bumpy descent to the Omeo river, the absolutely glorious meandering section along the Tambo which included a pitstop for a swim in an elbow of the river, the brute distance covered, the altitude ascended.
Sections of the highway I was drafting logging trucks at 80kph hoping to hell that they held their line through the bends.
If you can work out a way to throw this leg into any multi day trip, I highly recommend it. Or maybe I was just seeing things at this point – delirious after 3 hard rides leading up to it, exhausted and exhilarated in the same breath.
Nope – I’m certain it was awesome.
Bairnsdale – Morwell / 215km – 1500m
Another wet start was in order, and McDonalds breakfast was the only option. Along the long straight stretch to Rosedale the mount for my GPS broke sending it skittling along the ride. Carla Swart’s death was still fresh in my mind so I waited till it came to a stop and made sure it was clear to collect. I stashed it inside the leg of my bibs and headed for Yarram for the planned lunch stop.
The pub was shut – and I had a huge ride ahead of me up Grand Ridge road. The publican said you can get food from the Petrol station. My heart sank.
I walked in, and what was revealed was a true fuel stop. Petrol for the car, and a full fish and chip shop. Hamburger with the lot, chips and drink and boy – even better than Andrew’s Burgers. I’ll put it out there that they could well be the BEST Hamburgers in Victoria. At the very least, they are the best in Yarram, complete with a slice of beetroot.
Warm, fed and happy I rolled out into the rain for Tarra Bulga NP. I was not disappointed. Great unsealed roads, lush ferns, huge gums and a gnarly descent into Loy Yang.
The brief respite from the rain was over and I felt the rear tyre getting squishier by the minute. Sure enough – flat tyre. There was no way I was stopping in an exposed downpour to change it, so put it in the big ring and muscled it Museeuw style all the way to Morwell.
I took the first Motel I could find, with it’s own Chinese restaurant next door. I was set for the night. Wash, eat, sleep and repeat.
Morwell – South Morang / 190km – 3200m
As tired as I was, I was equally sad that this adventure would be over by days end.
The highlight would have to be the Old Don Rd from Yarra Junction to Healesville. One of many unsealed gems in the Yarra Ranges.
Had a great long lunch in Healesville and made my way for the final stretch to South Morang. Rain of epic proportions came down and the road turned into a river. Ducks ran for cover. Passing cars threw up sheets of spray like the surf break at Bells. By Diamond Creek it finally died down and it was with a touch of irony, that it was within minutes of home I had the first bark of ‘getofffftheroadyabloodyidioott!’
Any one of these days would be solid in itself – string them together and you’ve got a great holiday on wheels under your own steam. Other than the towns I planned to stop in, everything else I winged it – and it worked out well.
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