Dandenongs half-dozen: six of the best in a solid solo sesh

Route: Bunch of climbs in the Dandenongs
Distance: 153km
Duration: 6 hours 6 minutes

Quiet roads, lush scenery, not raining ... what more could you want from a winter's ride?
Quiet roads, lush scenery, not raining … what more could you want from a winter’s ride?

When my alarm went off at 7.30 on Sunday morning it took all my motivation not to roll over and go back to sleep. No-one had responded with any great enthusiasm to my tweets and Facebook messages about going for a ride — unsurprising given I sent them at 10pm the night before — so any ride I did was going to be a solo effort.

After reluctantly hauling myself out of bed, I headed down the Eastern Freeway bike track for the second time in two weeks  and made my way to the base of the Dandenongs. I took the Eastlink trail from Ringwood down to Burwood Highway and followed the road all the way out to Upwey. As usual, my plan was a rather nebulous one: do some climbing, get tired, get home. The only things I had locked in were the climbs of Sherbrooke Road, The Crescent and Perrins Creek Road. I’d done the last of the three the previous weekend with the Donvale Demon, and I was keen to cross the first two off my list.

Climbing Sherbrooke Road (I think ... can someone confirm?)
Climbing The Crescent.

But first I had to get to the Mt. Dandenong Tourist Road. Rather than heading straight up the Devil’s Elbow I decided to revisit the first climb from the Dirty Dozen: Hughes Street. It’s not really a sustained climb — rather it’s a series of ramps over 1.8km with several parts in excess of 10%. By the time I reached the Tourist Road at the top of Hughes Street I was well and truly warmed up and ready to go.

Hughes Road intersects the Tourist Road opposite Churchill Drive — the start of the second half of the Devil’s Elbows climb. I wasn’t going to head up there, but then I saw another rider starting the climb and so I crossed the Tourist Road and joined him. A bit of company, if only for a few minutes, would be a welcome distraction.

I passed him before too long and from there it was a nice little grind to the top. The Churchill Road/One Tree Hill Road combination is a gorgeous little climb and far more pleasant that the first part of the Tourist Road.

More Dandenongs greenery.
More Dandenongs greenery.

Sherbrooke Road is almost directly opposite One Tree Hill Road so I crossed the Tourist Road once more and bombed down toward Kallista. At the bottom I turned around and began the climb, enjoying the quiet road, the lush scenery and just being able to get in some climbing. A little under 12 minutes later climb #2 was done and I was back on the Tourist Road again (and not for the last time).

I took a right and headed toward Olinda knowing The Crescent wasn’t far away. The Demon and I had descended that particular road the previous week, but hadn’t climbed it. Much like Sherbrooke Road, The Crescent was nice and quiet and I was able to enjoy the scenery while the kilometres flew by. I’d tried to tell myself at the start of the day that I would take it easy up each of the climbs but invariably, when I started climbing, I couldn’t help myself. It wasn’t like I was giving it a max effort, but I certainly wasn’t sitting up and spinning away.

Roughly 12 minutes after beginning The Cresent climb I reached the top and took a right on to the Tourist Road once more. Next stop: Perrins Creek Road. After descending toward Kallista for the third time, I turned around and started up the 2.5km climb. I felt like I maintained a reasonable pace for the first kilometre or so, but after that my pace slowed and it turned into a bit of a grind. I managed the climb in 10 minutes 49 seconds — I wouldn’t mind hitting it fresh and trying to go under 10 minutes.

Another very clear day at Sky High
Another very clear day at Sky High.

From Perrins Creek Road it was up to Sky High for something to eat, and just in time — when I reached the summit I was starting to feel pretty flat and sluggish. But after grabbing something to eat and drink, I still had another 45 minutes before I had to turn around and head for home — just enough time to get to and climb The Wall. The descent (as always) was superb and as soon as I reached the bottom I turned around and headed back up. It was a slow grind to the top, particularly through the steeper sections, but I managed it faster than I thought I might have, given the amount of climbing to that point.

(In addition to the goals I set for myself last week I wouldn’t mind knocking off a sub-20-minute climb on The Wall. I’ve done 21 minutes 3 seconds before and I reckon sub 20 minutes is well within my grasp.)

From the top of The Wall in Olinda it was time to make the long trek back home. I followed the Tourist Road down to Montrose (probably one of my favourite descents in the Dandenongs, even with the traffic) and then Canterbury Road through Bayswater to Ringwood. From Ringwood it was back on to the pleasantly quiet bike track and back toward the city.

By the time I got home I’d managed 153km, six solid climbs and nearly 2,500m of climbing. A reasonable effort given I’d been reluctant to get out of bed and even more reluctant to get on the bike. But as I’ve said before, it’s almost always worth pushing those difficult moments and heading out. I’m certainly glad I did on Sunday.

Yours truly at Sky High.
Yours truly at Sky High.

Importantly, the long ride meant I was still on track for my weekly target of ~220km and ~2,500 vertical metres. Almost immediately after hitting ‘Publish’ on the ‘goals’ post last week, I started to doubt myself. What if I get sick? What if I feel like a weekend off? What if it just gets too hard? The rain on Saturday certainly didn’t help my morale and I thought briefly about taking the post down and pretending it never happened. I was genuinely worried about the challenge being over before it started.

But after Sunday’s long ride I’m feeling far more confident. Sure, I’m going to need a couple of big weekends to make sure I’ve got a buffer if something goes wrong, but I think that’s manageable. In fact, as I write this, I just want to head out for a ride now or, failing that, plan out my ride(s) for Saturday and/or Sunday.

So, who wants to go for a ride on the weekend?

4 Replies to “Dandenongs half-dozen: six of the best in a solid solo sesh”

  1. Hi Matt, I am not 100%, but where you have “Climbing Sherbrooke Road (I think … can someone confirm?)”, it looks more like part of “The Crescent” with the crappy road surface and the mud forming collecting the edges, if not perhaps Perrins Creek Rd. Great ride!

  2. Hi Matt,
    I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of weeks now but in that time have managed to retrospectively follow your run-up to the 2012 3 Peaks.
    Thanks for all the contributions it’s great reading and is certainly a good motivator for the rest of us to get out there!
    I like what you’ve done with your 2012 goals – I have something similar (but slightly lower km’s) in mind for the rest of the year.
    Although getting to the ‘nongs involves a drive for me from the Western Suburbs I want to get out there and do the Crucifix or similar on Sunday 2nd Sept…wondering if you would be interested in forming a group (so far it’s just me but I may post on BV). Although I’ve only ridden the 1:20 to compare, judging by your PB’s we would be similar pace.
    Let me know by email if you might be out that way. Hope to hear from you,

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