Adventure Local; Melbourne
Welcome to Adventure Local, a series of Apidura guides designed to help you get the most out of riding in various destinations around the world. In this edition we’re exploring Melbourne on Australia’s southeastern coast, with local rider Will Hartnett.
Cycling culture in Melbourne has a long and impressive history. Location of the world’s oldest track race still in existence – the Austral Wheel Race – and birthplace of Tour de France winner Cadel Evans, it’s a city with cycling in its blood. Some of the earliest long-distance bike travellers, the Australian overlanders of the 19th century, often used Melbourne as a base before launching themselves off into the unknown outback too. Today, whether it’s the thousands-strong recreational rides that cross town, the underground alley cat races that happen after dark, or those passing through on a pan-Australian epic, bike riding can be found here in all its guises.
Not only can you safely navigate the city using its hundreds of kilometres of bike paths, but away from the centre, Melbourne’s cycling potential really shines: “There are so many fantastic day rides and overnight adventures to be had in any direction out of town,” says Will Hartnett, a local adventure cyclist working at Commuter Cycles, and friend of Apidura. “Catching a train to the end of any of the metro lines sets you up for long days of riding in the mountains, or heading straight down to the coast affords breathtaking views. The opportunities are endless.”
Currency: Australian Dollar (AUD)
Neighbouring countries: Indonesia, New Zealand, East Timor
Nearest airport: Melbourne
Visas required: Find out here
Finding a Bike
For high-end road and MTB rentals, Will recommends Cycles Galleria. They have a huge fleet of models available for one-day, three-day or weekly hires, and handily operate out of a number of different locations across Melbourne. Plus, they organise a friendly shop ride every Saturday to help you get acquainted with the city.
“If you are looking for some good mountain biking, it’s best to head for the ski resorts of Mount Buller or Falls Creek and hire a dual suspension bike – providing you’re here in the summer or autumn,” says Will. “But if you want to get off the beaten path for a few days, it’s worth bringing your own bike suited to rough tracks and forestry roads.”
“The bikepacking scene in Melbourne is huge,” explains Will, “with 2018 Tour Divide winner Lewis Ciddor, 2015 Trans Am winner Jesse Carlsson, and three-time winner of the Race to The Rock, Sarah Hammond, all hailing from the city.” This extensive network of riders has created a community, with rides and events taking place almost every weekend, all catering to a wide range of skill levels. “Shops such as Commuter Cycles run regular overnight rides, and the crew from Curve Cycling also host regular multi-day rides,” adds Will.
Outdoor culture is a big part of life for many Melburnians, meaning that getting by in the outdoors is easy – if you do it right. “You can camp anywhere in local forestry land, but National Parks such as The Grampians require you to stay in the designated campsites, most of which have toilet and washing facilities. Having said that, rangers are very lenient if you are travelling by bike, so if you abide by the philosophy of leave no trace, then anywhere off the track is a good place to stay the night.”
Thank you: Cheers
Yes / No: Yes / No
Where to Ride
“While the riding in and around Melbourne is fairly tame, the routes out of town require a bit of planning and preparation,” warns Will. “Food stops are few and far between, and shop opening hours often change in the small towns that can often be key resupply points. Water can be scarce, too – and extreme temperatures make summertime adventures a juggling act of multiple bidons and bladders. But don’t let this put you off, the rewards are well worth it.”
For those visiting Melbourne on a short time frame, the Yarra River trails provide some excellent gravel riding. Despite cutting through a city of five million people, the Yarra offers up an oasis of calm and, if you head out past the Fairfield Park Boathouse and as far as Westerfolds Park around dawn or dusk, you might even spot a few wombats and kangaroos.
If you have the good fortune of a few days on your hands, head to the Grampians National Park for a real Australian outback experience – complete with some incredibly remote riding amongst ancient rocky crags, fern-lined gullies and tall eucalyptus forests. It’s an excellent chance to spot more wildlife, too.
West of the city, in the Central Highlands of Victoria, lies Ballarat – home to the start of the Goldfields Track. A 210 km trail linking Ballarat to Bendigo in the north, this route will take you through some of the region’s most interesting scenery on mostly remote single track and fire roads. “This route makes for a great three-day ride, with towns scattered evenly along its path,” says Will. “Train services can be utilised from both ends of the trailhead, and if you plan well, you can stay in a pub or homestay every night. The Track is best done on a mountain bike, but a cyclocross or gravel bike will suffice if it’s all you have.”
Melbourne Annual Temperature
Melbourne Annual Sunlight
Melbourne Annual Rainfall
Where to Hang Out
It’s rumoured that Melbourne’s reputation for fine coffee originates from the Italian migrants who settled here in the 1960s, bringing with them their high quality espresso machines. Today, the city is littered with quirky coffee bars on both sides of the Yarra River.
If you’re close to Hawthorn East, a stop at Bike Gallery is a must. Serving up the award-winning Axil coffee in a cycling friendly environment, you’ll share the space with their impressive custom bikes and could also have your own bike serviced while you enjoy the surroundings.
Further north in Brunswick, head to Will’s home of Commuter Cycles if you’re looking for the inside line: “We love travellers popping in, and are always ready to offer some tips and tricks or a bit of local knowledge for fellow cyclists.”