Every October, thousands of cyclists congregate in Melbourne’s Docklands to embark on the Bay in a Day cycle extravaganza. Last year 14,000 wannabe Lance Armstrongs were there for the 6am rendezvous. Whether charity or sheer endurance is their motive, what awaits them is a gruelling 210km route around Port Phillip Bay.
However if, like myself, you consider cycling to be more of a recreational pastime as opposed to a chance to sport all-in-one lycra suits, there is another way. For those who have not had the opportunity to explore the bay, it spoils its visitors with “stop and get off your bike” views, secluded beaches and friendly little towns, whilst the freedom a bicycle affords ensures that you can set a very flexible itinerary. The peninsula is rich with affordable accommodation options, so you can make a weekend of it.
Despite these words of encouragement, as my housemate Richard would no doubt testify, it is not all plain sailing; this is a ride not to be underestimated and the captain’s log (with pain indicator) tells its own story.
Day 1. 10am. St. Kilda Pier: Agony rating 0. English breakfast tea (milk and two lumps of optimism). This is a great idea, why didn’t we think of this sooner?
12.15pm. Nepean Hwy. Agony rating 4.5. Leaving the coastal cycle track, we hit the main road. As the heat begins to intensify, so does the need to keep our wits about us. 12.30pm. 43km. Agony rating 4. Frankston isn’t much chop, but the beach elevates its status. 1.30pm. 53km. BP garage at top of Mount Eliza. Agony rating 8. Must. Have. Water.
Pull Your F*@#IN’ Head In
3pm. 70km. Agony rating 9. On a downhill approach to a place named Dromana, a “ute” driver took exception to my suggestion that he ought to drive with greater consideration for others. Screeching to a halt, jumping out of his “man-car”, he ran at me with fists flying and colourful language. If you’re reading this, sir, and I’m making certain assumptions about your literacy skills, but exactly how does one “pull one’s” *!#$!*! head in?”
4.15pm. 74km. McRae. Agony rating 5. Let’s have a cuppa. 5.30pm. 96km. Blairgowrie Sailing Club. Agony rating 8. A sense of triumph as we rolled into Blairgowrie to find our lodgings for the evening. Forget full board, half board or B&B; we actually boarded our accommodation. “The Commander”, a 40ft sailboat was to be our castle for the night.
Day 2. 9.30am. 100km. Agony rating 6. A sobering cycle from Blairgowrie to Sorrento to catch the ferry. The calm crossing offers a false sense of leisure.
11am. Agony rating 4. Queenscliff welcomed us with idyllic coffee shops and bakeries.
12.30pm. 125km. Geelong? Agony rating 9. How damn hot is it? Where is it!! We have been cycling uphill for 90 minutes!
1pm. 132km. Geelong pier for lunch. Agony rating 7. Panoramic views to savour. Then we join the freeway. Only 76km to go.
4pm. 172km. Werribee. Agony rating 9. A detour to pick up the Federation Trail, a more scenic cycle lane than the M1 hard shoulder, and disaster! Richard gets a puncture. Deflated wasn’t the word as he wheeled himself to the train station.
5pm. 190km. Agony rating 9.5. The Melbourne cityscape makes its appearance. But I appear to be going in the wrong direction…
6.30pm. 210km. Agony rating 10. Having negotiated my way through Footscray, I finally make it back to St Kilda. I am a ruin.
Despite the agony of the dismount, you cannot deny a sense of achievement when it is all over. This is a great weekend for anyone who does not know the area and has a sense of adventure.
Call it British eccentricity, or plain idiocy, but our lack of preparation meant we should’ve gone around the bay the other way. Not only is the terrain more forgiving, but I would have preferred to end the day with a beer and a ferry crossing as opposed to start one! And get road tyres fitted instead of the tractor tread mountain bike tyres we had