A day in double denim at the 2023 Melburn Roobaix

What do you get when you combine thousands of people from all of cycling’s various sub-cultures, a bunch of Melbourne’s iconic cobblestone laneways, every type of bike and costume imaginable, and cram it all into a wintery Sunday morning in late June? You get Fyxo’s Melburn Roobaix of course, almost certainly the coolest cycling event our fine city has to offer.

In the lead-up to my third Roobaix, I was fortunate enough to be added to a riding group my old mate Andy van Bergen was pulling together. The talk soon turned to outfits for the day.

“I’m keen for something that links us together (maybe not physically, but I’m not 100% opposed to that), but is equally fashun-able at the post-Roobaix pub stop,” Andy wrote. “Double denim has a nice ring to it.”

And that was that. A quick trip to the local thrift store later and I was all kitted out, ready to tackle the ‘Hell of the Northcote’ in denim jeans and jacket. Just normal attire for a normal bike ride.

Gathering in Royal Park to begin the ride. Note the different outfits and the bloke on a tall bike.

The wind was icy at Royal Park as the double denim crew came together, collected rego packs, and admired each other’s outfits and those of everyone around us.

I think I’ve said it every time I’ve done this event, but it’s pretty remarkable and inspiring the way Melburn Roobaix brings the cycling community together. Looking around the park we could see people on race bikes wearing pristine lycra, families on hybrid bikes, folks on tandems, people on tall bikes, penny farthings, gravel bikes, mountain bikes – the works. Just thousands of people riding whatever they felt like, wearing whatever they felt like.

Our double denim, normally a courageous choice of outfit on the bike (or otherwise, really), barely raised an eyebrow compared to some of the costumes on show.

They’re probably glad it didn’t rain.

Sadly, after pulling the crew together to begin with, Andy couldn’t make it on the day due to illness. When the rest of us rolled out though, there was no shortage of double denim wherever I looked. We set off, following the crowd – and the ride’s Strava route on my phone – and headed towards the first cobblestone sector.

At last year’s Roobaix I rode my Cannondale Synapse road bike with 28 mm tyres and it made for an anxious visit to each cobblestone laneway. With heavy rain in the lead-up and on the day, the cobbles were often underwater, meaning you had to just hope that the line you picked wasn’t going to blow your tyre out.

Last year was sogggggy.

This year, I opted for something a little more hardy – my Trek Fuel EX 5 dual-suspension MTB. On each cobbled sector I barely had to worry about my line – I could just bash over whatever stones were thrown at me. And with it being much drier than last year, the cobbles were far less stressful than they had been in 2022.

Less stressful but maybe less interesting, too. I almost missed the challenge of having to pick the best line; the tense moment where I’d wait to see whether the next puddle would be the one that ended my ride. I think next time I do Roobaix I’ll be tempted to go back to the Synapse, maybe with some wider tyres as a bit of a compromise.

Fat tyres and dry cobbles made things considerably easier this year.

While riding the cobbles was definitely easier than last year, I found other ways to make it challenging. Not having to worry about my line as much meant I could hit the cobbles pretty hard at times, putting in short, sharp efforts whenever we turned down those little alleyways. The uphill cobbled laneways were particularly fun, and much of the crew seemed to enjoy the little surges we had when the road tilted up.

When the congestion eased, it was fun to ride the cobbles fast, particularly uphill.

The course that Fyxo founder Andy White pulled together was a cracker. After starting at Royal Park, the bulk of the route saw us trace out a big loop through Melbourne’s inner-west.

The route. Note Royal Park near the centre, the western loop at the start, then the north-eastern section ending at Brunswick Velodrome.

The inner west is not a part of the city I’m all that familiar with so almost every street felt like somewhere new, and for most of the ride I had no real clue where I was.

Where’s this? Couldn’t tell you. The outfits look great though.

There were a bunch of highlights throughout the route. Riding along the Moonee Ponds Creek aqueduct, underneath the Citylink Freeway, was a lot of fun. It also brought back bad memories of Andy van Bergen crashing on a slick patch there back in 2012, breaking his elbow. Not ideal.

No broken bones this time, thankfully.

Reaching Jacks Way Reserve in Footscray and seeing the views over the city was pretty magical. And then doing some laps on the pump track below that was a super addition … and made me very glad I had my MTB!

Nice view that.

The various cobblestone laneways were a highlight in themselves. I couldn’t tell you how many we did, or differentiate between them in my mind, but there was always a thrill when we’d follow a yellow sign and turn off the street into some narrow laneway, not knowing what to expect.

Those laneways are such a fascinating part of Melbourne’s history and I’m both glad that they’ve been preserved, and that Andy White has found a way to honour them with this amazing event.

It was super fun rolling around with the crew that Andy had assembled for the day, even if he couldn’t be there. Some of the guys I knew, some I didn’t, but it was a great little squad that all embraced the double denim theme and seemed to have a great time.

Surprisingly, the double denim wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as I was expecting. The jeans I chose were nice and stretchy, and the jacket kept me nice and warm. It’s probably just a good thing it didn’t rain ….

That’s me, fourth from the right.

So thanks to all of the double denim crew for a super day out. Thanks to Andy van Bergen for pulling that crew together even if he couldn’t be there, and thanks to Andy White for organising yet another amazing event. I know first-hand how much time and energy is involved in organising events like this – not of this size, admittedly – so I’m very grateful for all the effort involved.

The route was a belter and I really appreciated the effort Andy put in to make the course available in paper map form, online (in multiple formats), and via on-street signage. Putting all those arrows out would have taken Andy forever, but it made navigating a breeze. Thanks for that, and for all that you do, Andy!

To close things out, here’s a whole stack of photos from the day. Thanks for reading!

Follow the link to see my Strava file from the 2023 Melburn Roobaix.


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