Does a 70km public bike ride event sound appealing to you? Fully supported, lots of fun, rest stops, food – and of course you’d be raising money to support both Bicycle Network and Youth Support and Advocacy Services (YSAS).
Catch? The ride starts at midnight.
Undeterred, a few of our members registered to show there’s no city cycling challenge a Bromptoneer can’t tackle. There were three riders in our official team (Noel, Stephen and myself), but I know two other MBC-ers (Jane and Lan) had registered, and we met another Bromptoneer on the night, so it wasn’t a bad turnout.
This year there was a choice of two starting locations; either Albert Park (our pick) or a new option the year of Kevin Bartlett Reserve.
Not having participated in this ride previously, I wasn’t sure what to expect on the night prior to the start of the race. My only vaguely similar experience with these kind of mass events had been with community fun runs, and they always feel over crowded and chaotic. So we arrived early – despite having already collected our rider kits the previous day – only to find everything calm and organised. NOT having nearly all the participants arriving by car probably helped!
In fact, the only ‘dampener’ on the event was the storm that swept across Melbourne at about 11pm. Plenty of lightning, not so much thunder, but before too long Albert park was mud and the carpark was a wading pool. So much for my hope of taking plenty of photos!
The storm had been predicted so the three of us were prepared. Stephen had recently bought rain cloaks – he has a Brooks, and I have a Cleverhood – and I was mightily glad for them! Not only was I kept mostly dry (can’t do much about hands if you keep sticking them out the slots!) but my Brompton was reasonably sheltered too. Pity there wasn’t much shelter for the riders in general. People sought what little shelter there was, but mostly we just huddled in groups around trees to that blocked some of the wind, and hoped the lightning stayed far away…
The worst of the storm had passed by the time we lined up to set off, though it would continue raining for probably another half an hour (or so) yet. It was supposed to be a staggered start, but that idea seemed to be abandoned as soon as the front riders were let loose – we all got to go! It was fantastic to finally be riding!
We did a lap of Albert Park – some people may know it as the Melbourne Grand Prix circuit – then headed out to Port Phillip Bay and down to Luna Park (the original one) at St Kilda. It was fantastic to see all the tail lights swarming down Beaconsfield Parade. I couldn’t help but think that this should be a common sight (well, maybe not just after midnight, but you know what I mean).
Looping around Luna Park (the volunteers there did a fantastic job at directing the riders and traffic) we rode back up Beaconsfield Parade along the bike path to our first rest stop. We didn’t hand around long to check out what entertainment was on offer, but the photo booth did seem very popular.
From here we didn’t use the cycle path into the city as I had expected – I suppose due to rider numbers and lighting – keeping us on the streets was safer. Once we hit St Kilda Road, I was back on very familiar territory. And though the rain had stopped by now, we weren’t showing any inclination to stop for photo opportunities – oh, the number we rode by! I would have loved to stop at NGV, the Arts Centre, Hamer Hall, Princes Bridge… aargh! That settles it, we’ll just have to do it again next year.
At the end of Swanson Street we rode around the university colleges and headed north along Royal Parade, turned left to pass Melbourne Zoo, then joined up with Capital City Trail which took us past Velo Cycles‘ main shop and most of the way to our next rest stop in the Edinburgh Gardens, Fitzroy North. Here it was time to break out the snacks! I’d forgotten to pack the muesli bars I’d bought, but fortunately had taken wine gums and a small bit of Lindt orange chocolate to share. Mmmmm, yum!
Once again, we didn’t dally long. Up Napier Street then a slightly circuitous route past the MCG and Tennis Centre (being very careful on the wet wooden plank walkways) and we were soon head full steam up river to Kevin Bartlett Reserve – yes, another rest stop! And lots of mud here, probably because this was the other start/finish point.
This time I was determined to try to get one or two photos in while we were stopped – and since the rain was still holding off.
We left feeling that we were definitely on the final straight back to Albert Park – not that it was a particularly direct route back. We followed the north bank of the river back into town, which lead us straight up Exhibition Street. Oh joy! No PB (personal best) time on this occasion! Until this point my legs had been fine – it was just normal cycling, but they did feel – just a little – tired getting up this hill, if I’m completely honest.
Naturally we seemed to stop at every single traffic light through the city. Despite it being who-knows-what time in the morning (I’m going to guess 4:30am-ish; I didn’t wear a watch, and was deliberately not looking at the time on my phone when I tried taking a photo), getting a run of green lights really IS impossible! It was better once we turned onto Lonsdale Street where the blocks are longer.
Giving the rest stop at Docklands a complete miss, we crossed the Yarra River using the lovely Seafarers Bridge – again, not as direct as Webb Bridge, but safer if you have a large group of cyclists I suspect – and we still got to view (and even photograph!) Webb Bridge as we rode by on the south bank.
It was just along from here, where there is a metal cover over the join between the boardwalk and concrete path leading to Lorimer street that we were nearly caught in an accident. We all know wet boardwalk can be slippery so we were riding carefully – and we’d already seen two riders slip and fall on tram tracks earlier in the night – but a rider coming up beside us was not so cautious. He slipped and crashed on the metal cover, thankfully not injuring himself! His bike, on the other hand… the sound of a carbon fibre fork crunching as you confirm that yes, it’s broken, is a cringe-worthy sound, but better the bike then your own bones, I guess.
It was a long, if easy enough, ride down Lorimer Street, along Todd Road by Westgate Park (somewhere I’d like to revisit during daylight hours) and back to Port Melbourne. What had made most of the ride feel really quite easy so far had been familiarity with the roads and paths we’d been riding, and for that I have Melbourne Brompton Club to thank. A known route is always easier to ride, and this stretch down the far end of Lorimer and Todd Streets proved it once again. The old “are we there yet” thoughts creep into your mind, and of course, tiredness played some part. It was a with just a tinge of relief when we reached Port Philip Bay again. We really were on the downhill run now.
Everyone had long since strung out along the route. There weren’t big groups of riders, but people in small packs of half a dozen; forming at traffic lights, with those who rode faster moving on from group to group. The volunteers were smiling and cheerful throughout the ride, and as we crossed the line each rider received an applause – presumably from some of those same volunteers, possibly from other riders, because there was certainly no one there waiting for us at 5:30am or what ever time it was. It was only small, but greatly appreciated.
I can’t thank the volunteers enough for standing out all night in the storm, the rain, the cold wind, and all the while being cheerful as a whole pile of people whizzed by on bicycles. It wasn’t hard to keep awake while riding, but if you’d asked me to do the same while standing in the one place waving a glowing wand? I’m yawning at the very thought! So THANK YOU to each and every person that made the night a success.
Special thanks should also go to our corporate sponsors for this year’s event:
And also to each family member, friend and/or colleague who chipped in and donated to support two worthy causes (Bicycle Network and YSAS) and helped us see the ride though until the morning.