May 6, 2013

O'Hea Street: the steepest climb in Melbourne?

Gaffney

It’s no secret that I enjoy climbing the odd hill, particularly if there’s a great view waiting for me at the top. I also don’t mind testing my legs on shorter, steeper rises from time to time which is why I was more than happy to check out a video I was sent via Twitter today (thanks Rob!)

According to the video’s description on YouTube it’s all about:

One man’s battle with gravity, age and stupidity as he cycles “The Gaffney Four” which includes one of the steepest suburban streets in the whole wide world.

As mentioned in the video, the four climbs can be found in the Melbourne suburb of Pascoe Vale, a little more than 10km north-north-west of the CBD. And as mentioned in the video, the four streets are very close together, running parallel up the same hill.

I took a look at the elevation data for the four streets using Google Earth and calculated the following average gradients:

  1. Gaffney Street: 300m at 9%
  2. Bolingbroke Street: 200m at 13.5%
  3. Pardy Street: 200m at 14.5%
  4. O’Hea Street: 200m at 13%

As high as those average gradients are, it’s the maximum gradients you have to worry about:

  1. Gaffney Street: 16%
  2. Bolingbroke Street: 20%
  3. Pardy Street: 25%
  4. O’Hea Street: 30%

A gradient of 30% is going to hurt regardless of the gearing you’re running, let alone with the ridiculous 42×23 combination the bloke in the video is running. On that note, here’s the video:

When I first read the video description and saw O’Hea Street described as “one of the steepest suburban streets in the whole wide world”, I was a little sceptical. But, as it turns out, with a maximum gradient of 30% it’s not far off.

Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand is often considered the steepest residential street in the world (and the folks at the Guinness World Records agree), with a reported maximum grade of 35%. Fargo Street in Los Angeles supposedly peaks at 33%, several streets in San Francisco have grades in excess of 30% and Canton Avenue, one of the Pittsburgh Dirty Dozen climbs, is possibly even steeper with a maximum slope of 37%. Yep, ridiculously steep.

It got me wondering: what is the steepest residential street in Melbourne? Is it O’Hea Street? I can think of several streets that are well over 20% — Glenvale Road in Donvale for one — but I haven’t heard of any that touch 30%. Until now.

So, is O’Hea Street the steepest residential street in Melbourne? Or do you know of one that’s steeper? And come to think of it, why limit it to Melbourne? Do you know of any other streets in Australia that touch 30%? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

93 Comments

leave a comment
  1. Michael / Apr 17 2017

    Heart rate only 127bpm on the first hill (Gaffney)??? Somehow find that very hard to believe the accuracy of the video given his gearing and perceived effort level.

    Nice set of short climbs. Perhaps steepest in town but certainly not the hardest. Thanks for the write up.

  2. Chris / Feb 21 2017

    Did the “Four” today. Passed an Asian tourist dragging her suitcase and backpack up Bolingbroke! She did make it to the top. I can just see the advert for her accommodation… “Only a short walk from the train station!”

  3. Nick Orloff / Apr 11 2015

    Finally got around to tackling these four little monsters this morning. I’ll admit to a small amount of delivering the post on Pardy but I was solid on the others. We added a few Melburn Roobaix sectors on the way back to the city.

    Worth doing – maybe just once – so you can tell everyone what a 30% pitch feels like

  4. DT / Nov 20 2014

    The State Government provide survey data on line. So, all the contour plots of Melbourne are available. Handy for setting your home elevation point for the Garmin too.

    http://services.land.vic.gov.au/maps/interactive.jsp

    Zoom in, click build map, turn on contours 1-5m, refresh. There is also a ruler that allows measurement between the contours.

    Just picking the really steep bits,
    O’Hea rises 10m in 41m. 24% and change.
    Glenvale Rd rises 10m in 36.6m. 27% and change.

  5. Higstar / Jul 6 2014

    Eltham has a nice array of steep streets, with the steepest at 44.4%, Nathan Road : http://app.strava.com/segments/1341096

    Some others are Renolds Road again is short but steep: http://app.strava.com/segments/650217
    And my personal fav, Homestead road (strava well and truely understates the gradient): http://app.strava.com/segments/1191983

    • Alejandro / Apr 10 2015

      Not far from Reynolds Rd is Gum Tree rd. There is a steep drop down into the creek there (still sealed), and according to my legs was noticeably steeper than reynolds rd. If anyone is game enough to check it out on their garmin or something I’d love to find out how steep that one is

  6. Tracey / May 31 2014

    Thanks for the video – we cracked up with laughter.
    Live in Railway Parade (round the corner) . Have done Gaffney but not since I had a bike like the rider’s. Have never ridden up the others because – it’s bad enough on foot or in the car – but husband is keen to try them now! Will report on his progress!

  7. Andrew / May 29 2014

    What about Pleasant and Essex St just around the corner?
    Maybe it should become the Gaffney 6!

  8. Jeff / Mar 21 2014

    Try waverly road ,from Jells Park to the police academy at the top..It feels like you are climbing straight up….

    • Ben / Sep 6 2014

      I cracked 86km going down that =D

  9. Cc / Mar 7 2014

    Coogee bay road in Coogee , Sydney is way steeper than these streets

    • PP / Sep 11 2015

      Seriously? Sure you’re not misreading the gradient?

  10. cruiser / Nov 3 2013

    gower street in brisbane, QLD at toowong has a 31% steepness and is a real killer

  11. Greg / Jul 31 2013

    Rode the Gaffney four today after a 20 odd km warm up. Wow, let me just say I really underestimated how hard this would be. Individually I don’t think the hills would be very challenging. I did them in order from Gaffney to o’Hea, that last climb was Brutal. My legs were like Jelly half way up O’Hea and I was struggling to Pedal in my lowest gear. I made it though and will definitely try this again some time.

  12. Billy Bob / Jun 14 2013

    I just got back from a visit to the Gaffney Four incorporating a 60km loop. I’ve riden my share of mountains around vic and can say without a doubt you don’t appreciate just how hard these are until you actually do them… Wow! I thought I was actually start rolling backwards at best and at worst that my lungs might actually burst.

  13. Henrique Alves / Jun 1 2013

    Hi! Great Post! Here in Porto (Portugal) we also have our fun bits. My favourite (Strava dixit) climbs from the river Douro to the high area of the city (80m drop) in just 600m (‘just’) clocking an average slope of 13,4% with ‘walls’ spread across the hill hitting 27% several times.

    Good hurting old pain! :-)

    Still number 3 on Strava ranking, you’re all invited to brake the record 😉
    http://app.strava.com/segments/4070090

  14. Gags / May 27 2013

    I am pretty sure that the steepest bit of sealed road that you will find is the old hill climb course in Templestowe. It is only about 100 m or so long but I am pretty sure that it hits 40%. I used to go out there and do repeats in the granny gear on the mountain bike (24/32 gearing) and it is like doing alternate track stands while feathering your weight between holding the front wheel down and maintaining traction on the rear.

    If you want to find it, go to the corner of The Parkway and Sanctuary Place in Templestowe. From there, follow the path to the North and this will get you to the start of the hill climb. The road will head West initially and then goes around a hairpin and back to the steep bit…..it is pretty daunting the first time you see it. My advice is to start on the RHS of the road as the camber is to the left and the first couple of times that I tried it I ended up going off the LHS of the road as I lost momentum. I haven’t ridden it in a couple of years but it ends up at Arlunya Place.

    I actually just found the segment on Strava: http://app.strava.com/segments/850629 and it looks like a few people have done it!!

    Cheers,

    Gags

  15. Frosty R / May 16 2013

    made a beeline for the Gaffney 4 yesterday – handy access from Moonee Ponds Creek – amazing hidden gems ! Great video – whats next ?

  16. Thomas / May 15 2013

    I always thought Barker St in Sydney was pretty steep when I went to UNSW. Not sure how it compares to the gradients listed here though!

  17. Ade / May 12 2013

    Thanks for this post. The Gaffney 4 is a great option for some climb training for someone like me that lives in Brunswick (it takes an hour to get to the Dandenongs in a car). The Moonee Ponds bike path has an exit right at the bottom of Gaffney, so it is nice little warmup to get there, and an easy enough limp home. Having just done the climbs in a 27, I can’t believe the bloke in the vid did Pardy and OHea in a 23!

  18. Xanthoptica / May 12 2013

    I bet he’d be quite a bit faster if he weren’t carrying so many GoPros…

  19. Sean / May 9 2013

    For a short pinch, my money goes to Pigeon Bank Lane (from the north) in Kangaroo Ground, and for a more sustained effort, Mast Gully Rd is harder than Terry’s Ave. I also remember vividly the first time I tried Glenmore Rd (Cut Hill) where I thought my chest was going to implode. Very keen to have a go at O’Hea and the Gaffney Four. Also agree that Strava peak gradients over short distances tend to be off the mark. Pigeon Bank Ln showed a section @ 41% the other day!!! Great posts.

  20. Brad / May 9 2013

    Anyone ridden in San Francisco lol.
    There are some nice hills around Melbourne and outer suburbs, definitely many that sure feel steep. Queens road Wandin East, Wiseman rd Silvan and a few around Macclesfield come to mind.

  21. DK / May 8 2013

    The top of Mast Gully Road at Mt Dandenong gets well over 30%, from memory very close to 40% in the steepest section near the top of the climb

    • Matt / May 8 2013

      Nah, I don’t think that’s right. I think it peaks at closer to 20%…

      • bon morgan. / May 8 2013

        i rode mast gully yesterday, and 36% is the highest percent i got on that road…. according to strava.

        • Goonie / May 9 2013

          I wouldn’t take Strava too seriously for peak gradients over very short distances. The topographical data it’s working with simply isn’t that accurate.

  22. bon morgan. / May 8 2013

    oh, forgot to mention.. i did talaskia yesterday {in my profile pic}
    talk about nasty!!!

  23. bon morgan. / May 8 2013

    looks like i’ll QOM it just by riding it hahhaha!

  24. Dylan Nicholson / May 8 2013

    Hmm, according to Strava (http://app.strava.com/segments/641064) the #2 rider up O’Hea generated a somewhat unbelievable 1023W!
    But great video, I’ll definitely have to give it a try.

    • Goonie / May 9 2013

      Not that unbelievable. Shannon J. is Shannon Johnson, who rides for the Charter Mason Drapac team and is a blisteringly fast sprinter. For a top-line sprinter, 1000 watts for ~30 seconds is believable.

      Interesting backstory – he used to be one of Australia’s top motorcycle racers before he ditched the engine. I’ve not ridden with him myself, but apparently he has scary good cornering skills.

      Nice bloke, too.

  25. Victor / May 8 2013

    My Garmin 705 measured Mast Gully Rd in the Dandenongs as peaking at about 30% near the top of the road.

  26. Jamie Green / May 7 2013

    What a great looking steel framed bike – absolutley fantastic. Somehow it would not have had the same appeal if the rider was on a carbon bike. Not sure why?

  27. Paul / May 7 2013

    According to my ride data, a road called Blackwood Rise out the back of Moe rises 27m in 35m. It’s quite steep. Assuming I can calculate percentage grades correctly, that’s over 70%.

    • David / May 7 2013

      Don’t think Blackwood Rise is anywhere near that steep. The steepest road near to you would be Koala Drive in Jeeralung Junction. 600m of pure insanity!

  28. woody / May 7 2013

    tassie has some beauties, here is a strava link for the steepest one I have had a crack at lately. http://app.strava.com/activities/50233629#890684053

  29. Jason / May 7 2013

    Not Melbourne, but I once rode my hardtail up Constitution Hill in Swansea (UK), with a friend of mine racing me on foot.

    According to some posts on the internets, CH approaches 33% in places (Strava says it maxes at 25%), and it’s on cobbles.

    My friend won. By some margin.

    http://luddo.freehostia.com/Climbs/Climbs4.htm
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BswlXBX6SRA
    http://app.strava.com/segments/902295

  30. David de Pedro / May 7 2013

    Martyr Rd, Warburton. Short and Sweet 27% Av 20%
    Brett Rd, Warbuton ?%

  31. David / May 7 2013

    We can also add Bracken Ridge in Dromana – A lot fo steep goodness in that one after the gate: http://app.strava.com/segments/3340643

  32. Jonathan / May 7 2013

    This is great, looks like great fun if you can call it that!
    I might have to head down and give Nathan Rd a shot.

    With 171BPM being right in the middle of my E3 band, hopefully having the few more bpm’s up my sleeve helps me out a little!!

  33. Josh / May 7 2013

    protip: If you pop a wheelie at the top then the effective gradient will look higher.

    • Matt / May 7 2013

      Just at the top? You mean you don’t wheelie the whole climb? 😉

      • David / May 7 2013

        I heard rumours of Peter Sagan doing wheelies up the whole length of Mast Gully road…

  34. Hamish / May 7 2013

    The apps are only reading the sensors in the device, so all apps will have the same accuracy. On my Android phone there is a calibrate (zero) function in all of the inclinometer/spirit level apps so the reading you get it only as good as your calibration..

  35. Lex / May 7 2013

    GPS isn’t great at elevation and barometers have their issues as well, so instantaneous gradient measurements are not accurate on either phone apps or Garmins 500s & 800s (which include barometers). I think Strava measurements are typically the result of rider who created the segment, so are only as good as the device used on that first ride. Front wheel lift is perhaps a more accurate measurement, at least for separating steep from ridiculous steep.

    • Matt / May 7 2013

      What about iPhone apps, Lex? I’ve used this one and it seems to be pretty good…? http://www.mynabay.com/gradient-level

      • Lex / May 7 2013

        That app is targeted at static measurements, so would be using the iphone’s accelerometer (earlier models) or Gryro (later models) in which case it could be quite accurate. However, much would depend on how well mounted the iphone is to the bike and perhaps how rough the surface was e.g. if the bike is vibrating the signal from the accelerometers and perhaps a gyro would be very noisy and hence the results may be poor. While stationary I think the results could be very good.

  36. Jarrod / May 7 2013

    I think websters road is the one in Templestowe. Drove up it recently and would be a very nasty climb on the bike.

    • David / May 7 2013

      Websters is actually easier than you think as you get a nice downhill run into it and can get up some momentum before the grind hits you. Porter street has that level of fun too…

  37. Desbos / May 7 2013

    Pidegon Bank Lane in Warrandyte. Steep and sustained.

    • Jonathan / May 7 2013

      Drysdale Rd and Leber st in Warrandyte are also nice and steep, trying to climb them without a rolling start is always “fun” … Forbes st is another one which is in excess of mid 20%.

  38. Josh / May 7 2013

    There’s a vertical brick wall on the side of my building that I reckon goes for at least 100m.

  39. Robert Merkel / May 7 2013

    I found O’Hea Street a little while ago.

    It’s obviously very steep but wasn’t sure exactly how steep the peak was. But 30% at its steepest is believable.

    In terms of difficulty, though, it’s nowhere near as hard as the likes of Terrys Avenue. It hurts, but the main only lasts a minute or so.

    • Robert Merkel / May 7 2013

      whoops, meant to say *pain* only lasts a minute or so…

  40. Michael Schipp / May 7 2013

    Mileara Rd in Martin (Perth) has a gradient of about 30%. I have ridden it but without my Garmin — been told it was 30% and it sure felt like it. I was on an aluminium bike running a 39-25, going so slowly I could hardly stay upright.

  41. Daniel Wood / May 7 2013

    Matt you must have forgotten all the steep climbs in H10k
    Lipscombe + Nicholas 1.8ks at 11.2% (max 23%) http://app.strava.com/segments/1515841
    Red Chapel Ave -> Marlborough St 1.2ks at 12.8% (max 24%) http://app.strava.com/segments/648469
    (the worst) Mellifont -> Esk Ave Climb 700m at 15.4% (max 35% (in first 100ms)) http://app.strava.com/segments/665836

    This is but a few of the nasty hobart climbs 😉 (not to mention that little one you talked about above!)

    • Matt / May 7 2013

      Haha thanks Dan. Quite right. I thought Mellifont was “only” 30%? 😉

  42. bon morgan. / May 7 2013

    oh, interesting, after watching this i’m keen to give them a go..
    i was wondering how it would compare to terry’s ave..
    i finally conquered it the other day and thought i was going to die!! mind you eating 2 toasties as i was running out the door to ride it prob wasnt the greatest of ideas…
    terry’s is nasty, but looking forward to trying these 4 on sunday!

    • Stryder Tanjil Aris / May 7 2013

      In my opinion Terrys is much harder than these four, they are all short sharp and over and done with before you know it

      • Matt / May 7 2013

        For sure. Terrys’ length makes it super tough, even though it doesn’t get to 30% I don’t think.

  43. Daniel Robertson / May 7 2013

    Nathan Rd in Eltham averages 21.2% for 200m, but has spot gradient’s on strava of 39.1% and 44.4%.

    http://app.strava.com/segments/1341096

  44. Brendan canty / May 7 2013

    Apparently there’s a road near Templestowe that hits 40% (at least I think that’s where it is)…

  45. Steve Lightfoot / May 7 2013

    Thats Fantastic…Great production. Dramatic music, good shots, tongue in cheek enough to be outrageously funny. Or did i miss something…was he serious? Either way a great little clip.

  46. Darren / May 7 2013

    Great video!
    I love the drama he puts into ‘oh, and I’m wearing my heart rate monitor and if my heart rate goes over 171bpm, I could die!’

    I must admit, growing up not far from there, these are very steep and tough hills to climb. I used to do paper-rounds as a kid in the area.

  47. Alex / May 7 2013

    I don’t know how to check how step but sunnybrook drive heading up to lum road is tough! It’s part of the scotchmans creek trail I think it’s wheelers hill.

    • David / May 7 2013

      Sunnybrook is a consistant grind. Not too steep. The Pascoe Vale climbs are much steeper.

      I think a plumb line and a protractor could be in order…

      • Matt / May 7 2013

        Check out the Gradient Level app for iPhone. It costs 99c and works a charm. Mt. William steepest corner touched 28% from memory…

        • David / May 7 2013

          There is an android version too – just downloaded it. Damn sweet. Perhaps we could get everyone out there to do the experiement. Highest number wins!

    • Brendan Edwards / May 7 2013

      Sunnybrook peaks at 15%, but is only around 8% Gradient:
      http://app.strava.com/segments/654899
      & is similar gradient to another climb in the area – Grandview Road, Wheelers Hill
      http://app.strava.com/segments/2649269

  48. David / May 6 2013

    Leslie st Belgrave home of the 32% sign. Roma pde, Upwey and the Templestowe race track… I suggest that we get a bit scientific. Anyone care to go out a do the measurement? One can get a good approximation with a plastic coke bottle half filled with water. Make a mark of a flat surface on it, the lie it flat on your favourite road. Photo it and see how far you have to rotate the picture in any photo editing program…

    • Andrew Christensen / May 7 2013

      Nice idea,,,thanks for that

    • Brendan Edwards / May 7 2013

      Agree that Roma Parade is frekin hard as you have to start at tje base of the climb on a 20% section without a run-up & literaly have to ride sideways to get started:
      http://app.strava.com/segments/2776859

  49. Robin / May 6 2013

    What an awesome topic. I would of said Terry’s ave but happy to be proven wrong. When you think steep Pascoe Vale isn’t front of mind. Any idea what the worlds in Geelong hit? I think that was only 18%

    • Simon / May 7 2013

      Robin – you’re right. The top of Challambra/Westbury that the worlds used tops out at 18% (or sometimes 19% on the garmin depending how it feels on the day).

  50. Matt / May 6 2013

    A few of the roads around Belgrave would match this. Theres a sign marked 23% on one road and Terry’s avenue averages 20% for 600m and gets above 30% at times

  51. Chris OConnor / May 6 2013

    How about the climb up Waverley Rd – from Jells Park up to the Police Academy ?? Not sure on gradient – but that’s a tough one !

    • Matt / May 6 2013

      Is this the one you’re thinking of? http://app.strava.com/segments/620570

    • Hamish / May 6 2013

      According to my Garmin, Waverley Rd doesn’t even hit 20%.

      I’ve walked up Baldwin St in Dunedin – it’s insane. They have steps in the footpath to make it manageable.

    • Brendan Edwards / May 7 2013

      Waverley Road peaks at 16%

      • Hamish / May 7 2013

        Though it’s longer than some of the others being mentioned.

  52. Andy / May 6 2013

    There is good old Talaskia behind the FTG hospital that hits 30% (and keeps going as a steep footpath.. But that doesn’t count)

    • Matt / May 6 2013

      I still need to try that climb. There’s a climb we did as a “bonus climb” in the Hobart Dirty Dozen last year that’s more or less up a footpath and which hits 30% I believe. That freaking hurt.

      • Anthony / May 7 2013

        Mellifont st in Hobart gets to about 30% I think.

        • Matt / May 7 2013

          Oh boy. I remember Mellifont. It hurt. A lot.

    • Brendan Edwards / May 7 2013

      Talaskia peaks @ 33% according to Strava:
      http://app.strava.com/segments/875635
      & apparantly theres a pretty good rider who holds the KOM.
      Jean Road in Ferntree Gully peaks at 27%, but only has an average gradient of around 14%
      http://app.strava.com/segments/3419180
      Next to it is this monster are:
      http://app.strava.com/segments/3559640
      http://app.strava.com/segments/3414815
      But would agree with Dave that the steepest climb around Melbourne is Leslie Street, Belgrave.
      This baby in Lorne would be the steepest in Victoria though. Couldn’t get any higher as got too steep:
      http://app.strava.com/segments/3321949

      • Ross / May 7 2013

        William St Lorne is pretty steep I thought but Strava says it is only an average of 13%.
        http://app.strava.com/segments/632323
        Also down in Lorne there is Waverly Ave which Strava says is average of 18.7%
        http://app.strava.com/segments/762614

      • David / May 7 2013

        Francis St Lorne is probably the hardest road to haul yourself and your bike up. I’ve calculated that it is 400m and 24% average. There is also no run up for it.

        Again we are going by Strava (not always accurate) and bikeroutetoaster and ridewith gps aren’t very accurate over short pinches. I want to see Inclinometer readings!

Leave a Comment