August 31, 2012

Is there a “right way” to ride The Crucifix?

The number and variety of different climbs in the Dandenongs makes it the perfect place to string together a nice, long, hilly ride. And with so many climbs to choose from, there’s a vast array of possible combinations and ways to link them up.

But there’s one combination of climbs that’s often described as one of the most difficult routes in the Dandenongs. A collection of four different climbs that, when strung together, makes for a challenging yet rewarding few hours in the ‘Nongs. I’m referring, of course, to The Crucifix.

The Crucifix

There’s much debate about proper climb order but one thing’s clear: The Crucifix is a tough ride.

It’s unclear exactly who came up with the name for this ride (please comment if you know!) but the logic seems simple enough: the route map vaguely resembles a (squiggly and somewhat uneven) crucifix. There’s also the fact that, after completing this ride, you’ll feel like you’ve been hung out to dry on an ancient torture device.

The ride comprises four main climbs into the Dandenong Ranges — one from each direction:

While there seems to be general agreement about the four climbs that comprise The Crucifix, the order of those climbs, and the way you get between them, is still the subject of some debate.

Here are a couple of different route options I’ve seen or heard about:

Option #1

The ABOC cycling coaching website suggests the following order:

  1. Climb the 1 in 20 before continuing on to Sky High
  2. Climb Inverness Road and return to Sky High
  3. Climb The Devil’s Elbows
  4. Climb The Wall (after descending Sherbrooke Road)

Visiting Sky High twice makes this a very challenging option.

Option #2

On my first attempt at the Crucifix I followed a similar route to option #1, sans the second Sky High visit:

  1. Climb the 1 in 20 before continuing on to Sky High
  2. Climb Inverness Road
  3. Climb the Devil’s Elbows
  4. Climb the Wall (after descending Sherbrooke Road)

‘Only’ going to Sky High once makes this a slightly easier option than the one above.

Option #3

Cycle2Max and The Crucifix Strava segment have the climbs in a different order and with two visits to Sky High:

  1. Climb the 1 in 20
  2. Climb the Devil’s Elbows
  3. Climb the Wall and continue up to Sky High
  4. Climb Inverness Road and return to Sky High

Inverness Road to Sky High is a nasty way to finish the ride, not least because it’s the second visit to Sky High for the day.

Option #4

Or you could skip Sky High entirely:

  1. Climb the 1 in 20
  2. Climb the Devil’s Elbows
  3. Climb the Wall (after descending Sherbrooke Road)
  4. Climb Inverness Road

Even without a visit (or two) to Sky High this is a tough route.

Should The Crucifix include a climb to Sky High? If so, after which climb?

Should The Crucifix include a climb to Sky High? If so, after which climb?

As you can see, there are many different ways to approach The Crucifix and different people will tell you different things. Some people will also tell you that the descent to Monbulk (before climbing The Wall) should be done via Sherbrooke Road; others will suggest descending The Wall itself, before doing a U-turn at the bottom.

I’d be willing to argue, as I’ve done previously, that the order of the climbs and the way you approach them doesn’t matter so much: climbing The 1 in 20, The Wall, The Devil’s Elbows and Inverness Road in one session is a great effort whichever way you look at it. But this does leave us with the question of Sky High: should a proper attempt at The Crucifix include at least one visit to Sky High? If so, which climb should the Sky High visit follow? Or should there be two visits to Sky High? If so, after which climbs?

The point is clear: there are lots of options and whichever one you choose, it probably doesn’t matter a whole lot.

But, in an attempt to provide a solution to this quandary, I’d like to propose a separate route option for The Crucifix. In fact, given how epic this ride is, I’d like to propose a slight tweak to the name:

The Super Crucifix

The concept is quite simple: ride the four main climbs in order of difficulty (easiest to hardest, sorted by average gradient) with a visit to Sky High after each. That is:

  1. Climb the 1 in 20 and continue to Sky High
  2. Climb The Wall and continue to Sky High
  3. Climb The Devil’s Elbows and continue to Sky High
  4. Climb Inverness Road and continue to Sky High

If you start and finish at The Basin, the ride is 94.1km long with, according to RideWithGPS, more than 3,150m of climbing. That’s a seriously challenging day out, whichever you look at it, and having Inverness Road to Sky High (including the nasty pinch up Ridge Road) as the last climb is, well, a little bit mean.

And now I want to hear from you. Which route to you normally take when attempting The Crucifix? Is there a ‘right way’ to do it? And would you be interested in trying out The Super Crucifix at some point? I know I would.

Please leave your thoughts below.

21 Comments

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  1. Colin / Aug 19 2015

    Hi folks, I had a go at the Super Crucifix on Sunday. I did it a little differently than shown above.
    Started at the 1000 steps car park, up the Devils elbows and up to sky high.
    Then inverness road to sky high
    Then the wall to sky high
    Then the 1 in 20 to sky high.
    I missed the first turn off for sky high after Inverness road so ended up carrying on and went back up from Olinda, which added a few ks.
    All up 98.3km. I did an extra couple on the flat just to push it over the ton. I’m no athlete it took me 5 hours. Started at 5am and was back at the car for 10am. No other riders up there at that time , never seen a soul until around 7. Perfect morning for it, awesome view of sun coming up from the Kalorama lookout.
    Will be doing it again soon so will record it on strava if I remember. It’s definitely worth doing so have a go!
    Cheers
    Colin

  2. Leigh Murrant / Feb 27 2015

    Rode the 4 climbs yesterday. Great day out. Started from Berwick, went up O’neil Rd (Mt Misery) in Beaconsfield, then up through Upper Beaconsfield to Emerald- across to Monbulk via David Hill Rd. First climb was up The Wall, then Inverness, then the Devils’ Elbow – down to the Patch – food & drink stop)- then up the 1:20. Descended down to Sherbrooke Rd- Kalista – Belgrave to Narre Warren. All up 132km, 5hrs55mins ride time and about 3233m elevation.

  3. Steve D / Nov 7 2012

    Just did Version #3 (Cycle2Max/Strava) yesterday morning.
    First time I’ve ridden Inverness Road and far out that is hard! Especially when you already have ~50 kms in the legs. The Garmin was saying around 17% gradient.
    Glorious morning for it yesterday.

  4. Daniel / Nov 3 2012

    Hi there,

    Great website! I have been getting serious in my riding over the last 6 months and I use this website a lot. Today I am off to ride the crucifix for the first time!

    I have ridden all the climbs but only ever done 2-3 in one ride.

    I will post back my thoughts when I get home and can’t walk!

    • Daniel / Nov 3 2012

      done! 84km’s later!

      I went:

      Inverness – Devils Elbow – (down Sherbrooke Road) The Wall – 1 in 20.

      Total riding time: 4 hours 10 minutes (inc to and back from home)

      Best fun I have had yet on the Dandenongs!

      • Matt / Nov 6 2012

        Congrats Daniel. Well done!

  5. Kym / Sep 1 2012

    I think anyone prepared to do these four climbs in one ride can do them in whatever order they feel like. I have probably done it 10 – 12 times over the past 5 years, and we always do Devils Elbow Summit Inverness Summit Wall and 1 in 20, ie leave the easiest for last. Easier on the mind that way.

    On the summit, if you are in the vicinity, you might as well make a little more effort and go right to the top. I did a 3 summit version once, and several guys I ride with have done all 4. One last point – don’t forget Monash Ave on the way back from the summit to Olinda. Best (short) climb of the day. Enjoy the ride.

    • Matt / Sep 1 2012

      I hadn’t heard of Monash Avenue Kym, thanks! I’ll have to check it out.

  6. Paul D / Aug 31 2012

    Hi Matt,
    I like your option: The Super Crucifix.

  7. Timo / Aug 31 2012

    I tend to start with the Devil’s Elbow since there is parking with toilets/cafe at the base(1000 steps).

  8. Hitcherelli / Aug 31 2012

    Legend has it (given you asked) that the crucifix was first completed, and named, by an Englishman. So good looking was this Englishman that angels sang on high as he climbed the last pinch. So good looking was he that even the Bogans of Croydon parted and averted their eyes from his glory as he cycled home. And they protested not when he took one of their womenfolk and made her his wife, thus completing his conquest of the far east.

    And given he came from Croydon, And returned unto there, the on true route starts from Montrose.

    • Matt / Sep 1 2012

      Love this Hitcharelli.

  9. Craig / Aug 31 2012

    I’d recommend Option 3:

    Climb the 1 in 20
    Climb the Devil’s Elbows
    Climb the Wall and continue up to Sky High
    Climb Inverness Road and return to Sky High

    This way we sweep only side and then complete the other – and it includes two Sky Highs.

    With other suggestions like Perrins Ck, The Crescent and Sherbrooke Rd another theme on the Dirty Dozen could be designed.

  10. chris / Aug 31 2012

    On another EPIC Crucifix : Old Forest Road + 1/20 – Hughes St + Churchill – Invermay + Wall – Inverness + Sky High

  11. David / Aug 31 2012

    Matt,

    I challenge you to a Dirt v Bitumen Race (in 4 parts):

    1. 1 in 20 to Sky High v Basin – Olinda Rd to Sky High
    2. From the Keith Hume Fraser Reserve to Kalorama lookout (Inverness Rd v Old Coach Rd)
    3. Silvan Recreational Ground to the Olinda Swimming pool (Silvan Rd v The Wall)
    4. From Olinda – Bituman goes down and does the Devils Elbows. Dirt descends Perrins Creek Rd, goes Upper Coonara-Mernda Rd and then Silvan Rd and Olinda Creek Rd and Barbers Rd to Kalorama. First to Sky High wins.

    The dirt route is a little shorter, but it is on dirt which is slower, it is also steeper and I think the mountain bike would have to come out to play for this one…

    • Matt / Sep 1 2012

      Love this Blommy. Let’s get it on the go.

  12. Josh / Aug 31 2012

    My name for the “super crucifix” is The Iron Cross and I consider it the only true edition of the ride, all the others are dilute versions :-)

    Note: RideWithGPS’s elevation estimates are way off, I’m sure it’ll be more like 2000m total climbing. Similarly, they think the Three Peaks route is >8000m! Of all the route planning sites I’ve found “mapmyride” to have the most likely accurate-ish elevation and gradient estimation.

    Sadly I won’t be along tomorrow, already committed to racing Broadford.

    • David / Aug 31 2012

      Love it! Great name for the 4*Sky High version.

      I have ridden option 4 and it is a long day in the saddle. Amazing how the final pinch coming into Olinda hurts after coming up from Inverness Rd.

      I think to truly reach epic status you have to do “The Iron Cross” (that is a keeper). Order doesn’t matter but to keep it clean you should ascend and descend the same route (makes Strava look cleaner), the little detour to One Tree Hill hurts my eyes.

    • Matt / Sep 1 2012

      Nice one Josh. I think you’re right about RideWithGPS – it’s a bit off!

  13. Dave Coultas / Aug 31 2012

    Can’t wait for your ride report Matt. Will only attain EPIC status if you ride out and back from home as well.

    Why not add Perrins Ck, The Crescent, Sherbrooke Rd and Terrys? Double Crucifix? But if you did that you could probably leave out the Sky High obsession.

  14. Andy / Aug 31 2012

    We like the Cycle2Max version – the climbs on this site were the original unit of measurement prior to Strava, and are often considered the ‘official’ start and finish points for climbs.

    Stacking the climbs easiest to hardest adds an additional element to this ride.. Nothing like that final brutal climb out of Inverness and up the Ridge! Also the reason for descending the wall is to keep that neat ‘cross’ happening on the map…!

    The four ascents sounds awesome!

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