November 19, 2011

Episode 1: the Great Ocean Road ride

Route: Torquay to Morengo, via the Great Ocean Road
Distance:
94.4km
Duration:
3 hours 57 minutes

There are probably worse places to start training.

What better way to start training for the 3 Peaks Challenge than with a ride along one of the most stunning pieces of road this state has to offer — the Great Ocean Road.

My partner Sharon and I had taken some time off work and the plan was to camp our way from Barwon Heads, along the Great Ocean Road, up to the Grampians and back home. That plan didn’t really come to fruition, but more on that in a moment.

After a couple of lazy days in Barwon Heads to get into the swing of this whole “holidays” business, we packed the car and headed on toward Apollo Bay. I jumped out at Torquay, pulled the bike off the bike rack and set off. Sharon followed in the car, taking photos of the amazing scenery and of one less-than-amazing cyclist as he battled his way westward.

I had heard that it’s best to cycle the GOR during the week, to avoid the majority of the tourist traffic and that advice turned out to be golden. The traffic was far lighter than I’d ever seen it and the cars, 4WDs and caravans that did pass me all allowed more than enough room. I never felt unsafe on the narrow, twisting, cliff-top roads and ironically, the only moment of danger I had was when I rolled into Apollo Bay at the end of the ride.

(Rolling into town, I was cut off by two separate drivers in the space of 100 metres, both turning left into parking spots. The first driver had me skidding for several metres in an attempt to avoid a collision with the back-left of her car; a collision I only narrowly avoided.)

The many twists, turns and climbs of the Great Ocean Road. (Image: Sharon Ridgway)

One thing that’s not immediately obvious when you drive the GOR is that the road undulates quite significantly. There are no climbs of any considerable length in the 94km I rode (at 2.1km, Mt. Defiance is perhaps the longest) but the road is barely ever flat. No sooner would a short climb finish than I would be descending, before climbing once more.

Almost as variable as the road’s gradient was the weather on the day.

At times the weather was perfect — clear blue sky, roughly 28 degrees, the faintest hint of a coastal breeze. Couple this was some beautiful scenery and you’ve got some terrific riding conditions. But invariably, as soon as I got used to the nice weather, the clouds would come over, the rain would start pouring down and the wind would whip up something shocking.

In fact, it seemed as if I was riding into a strong headwind for most of the day, thanks to the westerly breeze. At one point, on a rare flat section of the road, I found myself riding into a block headwind, hitting my lactate threshold while only travelling at 16km/h. Not exactly great for the morale.

Suffering on one of the Great Ocean Road's "longer" climbs. (Image: Sharon Ridgway)

But just as quicky as the bad weather closed in, so too it would disappear. I remember one particular band of rain that ended so abruptly, there was a clear line on the road where the moisture ended, and the dry road began.

With the weather fluctuating so dramatically, so too did my mood. In those moments of wind-free sunshine, I was loving every minute and shaking my head at the opportunity to ride on such a legendary stretch of coastline. But when the wind picked up and I was soaked to the bone for the third or fourth time that day, things were far less enjoyable.

But of course I got through the ride eventually (terrible parking attempts nonwithstanding) and I was glad for the solid start to my training regime. After all, a hard day on the bike is better training than an easy cruise down Beach Road, right?

The weather seemed to turn bad in an instant. (Image: Sharon Ridgway)

Sadly, our plans to continue our camping/cycling trip beyond Apollo Bay and up to the Grampians were thwarted by a bout of illness to both Sharon and myself. After a couple of miserable days spent resting in the Marengo Holiday Park with flu-like symptoms, we decided it was probably time to call it a day. Feeling sick, sore and sorry for ourselves we packed up and headed back to Melbourne. Even now, a couple of days after getting home, we’re both still struggling.

Coming home early from our holiday means we’ve still got a couple days free before we have to be back at work. I’m hoping that I’m well enough by Monday to head out for another ride, (if not Tuesday as well) to make up for the missed opportunities. I guess we’ll see how things go.

Until next time, don’t forget to come and say “hi” on Twitter, Facebook and/or Strava. And remember: when you’re driving a car, remember to look for cyclists when you turn left!

113 days to go …

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3 Comments

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  1. Leonardo / Nov 10 2015

    Hello, i found your site very good. congrats.

    I am from Brazil and I will travel to Australia in December Until January and I would like to have some bike rides in Great Ocean Road. I am thinking ti make some multi-day rides such as St James Way (in Spain as I made two years ago).

    I am planning to buy/rent some bike in Melbourne and make this ride sleeping on the way.

    Could you give some advice where to buy/rent bike and accessories and also about good trails to do?

    PS: I don’t usually cycle although I bought I nike when I finish the St. James Way by bike.

    Thanks in advance
    Regards

  2. david / Dec 17 2011

    heading to Port Campbell for the holidays. Do you know anything about riding the roads out that way? Dangerous?

    Love the site by the way

    • Matt / Dec 17 2011

      I’ve only ridden the Great Ocean Road a couple of times and both times were fine. That said, if it’s tourist season, the roads are going to be very busy. It’s really a question of whether you’re happy riding along there with a constant stream of traffic, some of which — no doubt — will get too close to you. Your call. :)

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