Whether you are looking for a fun way to get around town, a trip to the beach, or an Outback adventure, biking in Victoria has everything you’re looking for. Getting all hot and sweaty in Melbourne doesn’t have to earn you a trip to the clinic. How about jumping on a bike and sweating some of that booze out of your system to explore the city and surrounding countryside. Riding a bike is an easy and fun way to get around and puts you in the same circle as locals, instead of walking around with “I’m a tourist” stamped on your head. Melbourne is making a huge attempt to get more people cycling. With the advent of dedicated bike lanes throughout the CBD, cycling in Melbourne has become a respectable and easy way to get around. The bike lanes make riding fun and safe, there’s even a bike lane all the way from downtown to the beach at St Kilda, and then you can ride as far as you want on paths next to the sand. If it’s just a little cycling around the CBD you want, then Melbourne Bike Share, a new service in the city, is an easy way to just turn up, pay a small fee and jump on a bike. For something amazingly scenic and just a couple of kilometres out of the city, follow the Yarra River trail right out of the CBD. You can go as far as you want on easy-to-ride dirt and paved trails, with great views over the Yarra and historic Studley Park Boathouse, in Kew, which is the oldest operating boat house in Australia, where you can also hire row boats, canoes and kayaks. If you’re looking for more adventure than just a poodle around town, you can take your bike on a train to a number of really great dirt bike cycling areas in and around the city. Trains are accommodating to bikes, with storage areas in the carriage. If you are looking for real adventure and all that beer hasn’t left you looking like Buddha, then get yourself over to one of the many bike shops in the CBD and rent a mountain bike. Bike rentals run around $25 for the day and include helmet and lock. From there you can jump on a train and be on any of these top mountain bike trails in an hour. Here are a few top cycling locations less than 60km out of the city.
Lysterfield Park: The mountain bike host of the 2006 Commonwealth Games has everything from easy riding trails through established plantations, to heart-pumping, fast-flowing single tracks with steep and technical sections of trail through rocky landscapes. All trails are clearly signposted with directional information and gradings. You can spot kangaroos and might even come across a snake or two. With 20km of trails you can stay busy all day.
To get you and your bike to Lysterfield by public transport you can take the train to Tacoma Station on the Belgrave line, then ride down McNicol Rd. On the right will be Bird Park which is the start of Dargon track. Follow this and it puts you in Lysterfield Park. In the park is Trailmix, an information booth, bike shop and café where you can rent a bike, pick up a park map, or stop in for a breather between trails.www.trailmix.com.au
You Yangs: Funny name, but great place to ride. The name “You Yang” comes from the Aboriginal words Wurdi Youang or Ude Youang meaning “big mountain in the middle of a plain”. The spectacular 352m high granite outcrop lays 55km south-west of Melbourne, just off the Princes Freeway at the Lara or Little River exits. Take the Geelong line train from Melbourne Southern Cross Station to Little River Station. The train takes about an hour and then it’s another 30-minute ride.
The outcrop of You Yangs can be seen from miles around and conversely the view from the top is equally impressive. The park has around 50km of tracks spread over two routes that will suit all ages and abilities. There’s a rangers station with area maps. A good idea is to take your camera and take a picture of the map so you have an idea of where you are on route.
There’s an easier track in the Kurrajong Plantation which features some 20km of great bush trails through established eucalypt plantations with sweeping berms and jumps. The Kurrajong Plantation is perfect for those wanting to experience mountain biking for the first time right through to experienced riders wanting to hammer it.
The tougher more testing Stockyards area in the north of the park has a range of flowing single trails and steep technical sections through rocky landscapes totaling just under 40 kilometres. This area contains two down hill tracks, and a range of cross country tracks that will really put you through your paces. Both areas are signposted with the stockyard tracks being technically graded black diamond and double black!
Dandenong Ranges: More of a road ride, but do-able on a mountain bike, The Dandenong Ranges on the east of Melbourne are accessible by train from Belgrave, Upper Ferntree Gully, or Lilydale stations. Two main roads, the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road and Monbulk Road, will take you to the national park. It’s a good puff of a ride from the train stations and then a long climb up through the park, but some great scenery and historic villages where you can shop and relax at chic boutiques and street side cafés await you, followed by a speedy descent all the way back to the train station.
Arthur’s Seat: Again this is more of a road ride and it’s a long busy road to the park, but the view from the top is worth it. The park is only 40 minutes drive, some 80km south of the city, and is open every day of the year. Dromana is the nearest town nestled on the coast at the base of road up to the top of Arthur’s Seat. Take the train to Frankston, and then catch the bus to Mount Martha. Each journey takes an hour, then it’s another one hour cycle to the park. So bring plenty of water and expect a full day out.
There is one road over Arthur’s Seat, but you really want to head around the back and take the longer winding road, as the one overlooking the bay is really steep, although it does make for a crazy white-knuckle decent.
Melbourne Bike Share
In a bid to get more people on bikes across the city, Melbourne has recently introduced its very awesome bike share scheme, making it extremely cheap to see the Victorian capital on two wheels.
The bikes, stored at 50 terminals around the city, can be hired from just $2.50 (for the first half hour, after a $300 deposit).
If you’re around for longer, you can even sign up for $8 weekly subscriptions or $50 annual subscriptions. Check out www.melbournebikeshare.com.au for all the details. As well as the cheap bikes, you can also get your hands on a super-cheap helmet by heading to a 7-Eleven. The convenience stores have jumped into the saddle with the bike share scheme to offer helmets for just $5, with a $3 refund if you return it undamaged after your ride. The deal is available at 30 of the shops, each near bike share stations.