Group ride: The Dirty Dozen (all welcome)

UPDATE: The weather for Sunday isn’t looking fantastic but, at this stage, the ride will still go ahead. Any further updates will be posted to Twitter and Facebook. Please note, too, that the course route has been updated below, to remove the descents of Mast Gully Road and the Serpentine. An updated GPS file is available below, to download from RidewithGPS.

Back in 1983 in the US city of Pittsburgh, three intrepid cyclists put together a ride showcasing the toughest and steepest cycling climbs their city had to offer. The Dirty Dozen, which is still running, features 13 nasty climbs within a 10-mile radius of the Pittsburgh city centre, including Canton Avenue which has a gradient of 37% at its steepest.

Now, nearly 20 years after the first Dirty Dozen was held in Pittsburgh, the concept has made its way to Melbourne.

Terrys Avenue
The dirtiest of the dozen: Terrys Avenue.

Date: Sunday May 27
Time: 10.00am
Location: Mobil petrol station , 7 Eleven, cnr Burwood Hwy and Hughes St, Upwey
Ride length: 30km
Total ascent: 1,326m

Dirty Dozen, Down Under

While Melbourne doesn’t have as many sizeable climbs as Pittsburgh within 10 miles of its CBD, it does have the magnificent Dandenong Ranges, roughly 40km east of town. Working together over the past few weeks, David Blom and I have put together a truly epic challenge ride on the lower slopes of Mt. Dandenong.

We’ve assembled 12 of the steepest, most challenging climbs in the Dandenongs and strung them back-to-back over a 30km course. We’ll be heading out to Upwey on May 27 to ride the inaugural Melbourne Dirty Dozen and we’d love you to join us.

Full disclosure: this will be a very challenging ride. It’s not a long course, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in leg-smashing gradients. More on that in a moment …


While this is a casual group ride, a couple of guidelines should help make the ride safer, more enjoyable and hopefully more memorable:

  • We’ll be regrouping at the top of each climb before continuing on. This will keep the group together, it will give the faster riders a chance to encourage slower riders, and it will ensure no-one gets lost!
  • This isn’t a race. By all means, attack the climbs, but remember: we’ll be regrouping before moving on. If you’ve danced your way up a climb and left the rest of us behind, be prepared to wait at the top!
  • Be very careful on the steep descents. Falling off your bike going up an impossibly steep gradient at 4km/h is funny, crashing at 104 km/h isn’t. We’ve made sure to exclude the descent of Terrys Avenue from the course due to safety concerns but we will still be descending some steep roads. Please make sure your brakes are working and take it easy!
  • Obey the road rules. This one should go without saying. Be aware that this is a casual group ride with no road closures in place.
  • Have fun! Sure, it’s a tough ride, but the satisfaction at the end of any ride is directly proportional to the difficulty of that ride. Treat this as a social ride; encourage one other over each of the climbs and relish the opportunity to ride in such a beautiful part of the world.

Ride route

Here’s a turn-by-turn guide to the Dirty Dozen course.

  1. Meet at the corner of Burwood Highway and Hughes Street.
  2. Climb Hughes Street all the way to the Mt. Dandenong Tourist Road. (climb #1).
  3. Turn left on to the Mt. Dandenong Tourist Road and descent until Janiesleigh Road.
  4. Climb Janiesleigh Road in to Jones Avenue and Olivette Avenue before reaching Hughes Road (climb #2).
  5. Descend Hughes Road to Burwood Highway. Follow Burwood Highway toward Belgrave until you reach Chosen Avenue.
  6. Turn left at Chosen Avenue and follow it around the right-hand side of the footy oval to the corner of Alexander Avenue and Austral Avenue.
  7. Climb Alexander Avenue to Mast Gully Road (climb #3).
  8. Descend Alexander Avenue, turn left on to Oakland Avenue, follow it around to the right, then around to the left then right again. Turn left on to Blackwood Street and follow to the corner of Gordon Avenue.
  9. Climb Gordon Avenue until the road ends (climb #4).
  10. Descend Gordon Avenue, turn left on to Blackwood Street, right on to Sandells Road, right on to Olive Grove and follow to the intersection of Brenda Grove and Sophia Grove.
  11. Climb Brendan Grove, into Pauline Avenue, turn right into Tinto Grove and follow up Acacia Avenue to the corner of Alexander Avenue. (climb #5).
  12. Follow Alexander Avenue into The Avenue and continue to the corner of Mast Gully Road. Turn left then right immediately on to Wright Avenue.
  13. Climb Wright Avenue all the way to the top, noting a right turn toward the end. (climb #6).
  14. Descend Wright Avenue and turn left on to Mast Gully Road.
  15. Climb Mast Gully Road all the way to the Mt. Dandenong Tourist Road, noting a right turn and left turn half-way up. (climb #7).
  16. Turn left on to the Mt. Dandenong Tourist Road and follow to Olivette Avenue (at the Devil’s Elbow hairpin).
  17. Turn left on to Olivette Avenue and follow to Hughes Street. Descend Hughes Street to Burwood Highway.
  18. Turn left on to Burwood Highway and follow to Sandells Road.
  19. Turn left on to Sandells Road and follow until Frame Avenue on the right.
  20. Climb Frame Avenue until the T-intersection (climb #8).
  21. Descend Kitchener Road to Francis Street.
  22. Climb Kitchener Road all the way to the top (climb #9).
  23. Descend Kitchener Road briefly before turning right on to Frame Road. Descend Frame Road to Sandells Road, turn right on to Sandells Road and follow to Olive Grove.
  24. Climb Sandells Road all the way to Terrys Avenue (climb #10).
  25. Descend Sandells Road to the Serpentine.
  26. Climb The Serpentine all the way to Terrys Avenue (climb #11).
  27. Turn left on to Terrys Avenue and follow to Sandells Road.
  28. Turn right on to Sandells Road and descend to Burwood Highway.
  29. Turn left on to Burwood Highway and follow through Belgrave to the Wattle Avenue/Terrys Avenue roundabout.
  30. Climb  Terrys Avenue all the way to the Mt. Dandenong Tourist Road. (climb #12)
  31. Rejoice.

Course profile

You’ll notice that the three hardest climbs of the day are spread throughout the ride. The final climb, Terrys Avenue, is split into two parts by a short downhill but, for the sake of the ride, we’ve counted it as one (horrible) climb.

Dirty Dozen profile

Climb statistics

Many of these climbs are only short — more than half are under 1km long — but short certainly doesn’t mean easy. Here’s a breakdown of each of the climbs, in order, showing the length of each climb, the elevation gained and the average gradient. All distance measurements (climb length, base and summit altitude and total ascent are in metres:

# Climb name Length
Summit Ascent
Ave. grade
1 Hughes Street 1,900 221 386 165 8.68%
2 Janiesleigh Road 1,500 171 298 127 8.47%
3 Alexander Avenue 1,400 207 295 88 6.29%
4 Gordon Avenue 400 254 292 38 9.50%
5 Acacia Avenue 550 222 263 41 7.45%
6 Wright Avenue 550 214 278 64 11.64%
7 Mast Gully Road 1,900 215 453 238 12.53%
8 Frame Road 300 219 273 54 18.00%
9 Kitchener Road 300 242 289 47 15.67%
10 Sandells Road 1,000 219 322 103 10.30%
11 The Serpentine 700 257 344 87 12.43%
12a Terrys Avenue A 700 246 345 99 14.14%
12b Terrys Avenue B 1,600 318 493 175 10.94%


Course overview video

Here’s a video with some more detailed information about each of the 12 climbs:

Important information


As with any ride at this time of year, the weather will be a big factor in this ride. Descending some of these roads in the wet with a group won’t be all that safe and if the forecast is looking particularly grim, we’ll call the ride off. Check The Climbing Cyclist Facebook page, Twitter stream (using the hashtag #dirtydozen) or the comments below for updates.

Be sure to bring a rain jacket even if the weather’s looking fine — things can turn ugly in the Dandenongs very quickly.

Public transport

The ride starts directly opposite Upwey train station — the third-to-last station on the Belgrave line.

Photos and video

It would be great to get as many people taking photos and video as possible. I’ll be putting together a video and an image gallery after the ride and the more content I’ve got to work with the better. I’ll credit you appropriately, of course!


Be sure to check your brakes before coming on this ride. We’ll be descending some very steep roads!

In terms of gearing, I’d strongly suggest riding a 27-tooth gear (or bigger!) at the back if at all possible. Some of these climbs have pinches in excess of 20% which won’t be any fun at all with a 39×25. A compact crankset would be even better — I know I’ll be using every tooth on my 34×28 compact setup!


One of the advantages of riding the lower slopes of Mt. Dandenong is that you’re never far from civilisation should you decide you’ve had enough. For most of the ride we’ll be close to Burwood Highway (a good route back into the city) and within a few kilometres of a train station (Upwey, Tecoma or Belgrave).

Food and drink

Once the ride is completed I’m sure we’ll all be in need of something to eat. With the ride ending at Ferny Creek, there are many nearby options for post-ride food including the townships of Belgrave, Upwey, Upper Ferntree Gully, Tecoma, Sassafras and even Olinda.

GPS file

If you’ve got a Garmin GPS unit and you’d like to download a route file for the course (in .gpx or .tpx format), head to RidewithGPS, click Export and download the appropriate file.

Questions or concerns

If you’ve got a question or concern about this ride, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can leave a comment below, send me a tweet, leave me a message on Facebook or send me an email. I’ll endeavour to get back to you ASAP.

One last thing

And before you go, check out this stunning video from the 2010 Pittsburgh Dirty Dozen. Truly brutal (and inspiring!). Thanks Albert for the link!

49 Replies to “Group ride: The Dirty Dozen (all welcome)”

  1. Now that it is all done and dusted, I thought I might just take a look at Strava to see what the hell we just did to ourselves. If your one of the riders (much like myself) that walked some of the way up Terry’s then don’t feel too bad. Strava shows that this beast of a hill headed for the heavens at a staggering maximum gradient of 34.4%. I think I actually remember that bit. Its where my legs had a panic attack and went into coma. Anyway, awesome event and good to be part of the first one. Hope there’s more events to come. Thanks to the guys that put it together and keen to see the photo’s/vids.

    Cheers, Vincent.

  2. Hi all. We are a GO for the Dirty Dozen tomorrow morning. A couple of notes:

    – The Mobil petrol station we’ve been flagging as the start is apparently now a 7-Eleven. Sorry for the confusion!

    – The Donvale Demon and I will be riding to the start of the Dirty Dozen from the city – please feel free to join us. We’re leaving the corner of Chandler Hwy and Yarra Boulevard at 8.15am, heading down the bike track.

    Hope to see you there!

  3. I wish I could be part of these enthusiastic climbing group, share the painfull experience on the way up up, celebrate the achievement on the top of the each climb. But I don’t think I have ability to handle any gradient over 13%, I might be there just cheer you guys up, hope the weather is good, great and safe ride!!

    1. Heidi, the nature of the ride means you can skip the likes of mast gully rd. Hope you can still make it

    2. That’s why it’s a challenge Heidi. I have doubts over my ability to get up most of these climbs, but I’m keen to give it a crack. By the sounds of things there will be a fair few riders there to help the strugglers (ie me) along.

      Remember, it’s a friendly ride and from a lot of the comments on here, strava and facebook, Matt has come up with a pretty good group following.

  4. I will be in attendance with a friend of mine (both of us lurkers on the site);just in case you need to know numbers wise. Will the ride go ahead regardless of the weather? How do some of the climbs compare with Arthur’s Seat?
    ps – thanks for the brilliant site.

    1. Ha, nice one Sean – thanks. I’ll add your names to the list.

      At this stage the forecast is for a few showers and if that holds, we’ll go ahead. I’ll post an announcement on here, Facebook and Twitter, either way.

      As for comparisons with Arthurs Seat: none of the climbs are as long as Arthurs seat (3km), unless you count Terrys Avenue as one climb. Arthurs Seat climbs at 8% – most of the climbs we’re doing on Sunday are steeper than that, but shorter …

      See you Sunday!

      1. Matt, do you have a rough guide as to when the ride might finish? I know it’s hard to estimate given that it’s a group ride, however I have other commitments later in the day which I may have to reschedule (bump)!

        1. Hey Sean. I’d estimate it will take about 2 hours for us all to reach the top of Terry’s Avenue. I reckon we could be back in Upwey by 12.30.

          Hope that helps. I’m sure some of us will grab some food after too …

  5. So there is a comment about trying this on a track bike and about how it could be dangerous to others. I want to try it, would the majority be opposed to the idea?

    1. Hey Matthias. As Josh says, this is a cool idea and would certainly make for an interesting challenge. I’m all for trying things that are very tough (as the existence of this ride confirms!) but a track bike for this ride isn’t something I’d be keen for you to do. The fact the climbs are so steep is only part of the problem. As Josh says, riding in a group situation on a track bike, when we’ll be doing a fair bit of descending, on twisty roads, potentially in the wet, is a recipe for disaster.

      I’d strongly encourage you to bring a regular bike along and if you want to give the track bike a crack, maybe do that as a solo challenge. Cheers!

    2. I am sure that we could let any track bike rider have either the road behind or the road well ahead of our group to engage in the frivality of climbing a 24% gradient road on something designed for banked turns and flat straights. I would however encourage you to bring something a bit more akin to a regular road or mountain bike if you wish not to scare the group.

  6. The current weather forecast for Sunday is “a few showers”. Assuming this doesn’t get any worse, we’ll still be going ahead!

  7. Looks a good ride.Love Dandenongs,I ride out every weekend will incorporate those.Thanks for the info.Too bad Wheelers hill is too far away,always a great climb after the Dandenongs on the way home.

    1. Ahhh, a cute idea, but please don’t, transmission braking isn’t sufficient for coming down these grades, especially when fatigued. You would not only be risking your own neck but that of anyone around you.

  8. I had just discussed this with Briony and she suggested I have a crack with my commuter – it has 34 x 27. I was all excited, and then Leanne pointed out that I can’t come that day.

    Ripped off. 🙁

  9. I live right near the top of Mast Gully Rd, and the first time I rode it I only had a 39/25, and had to walk the last 100m home because it’s impossible to get going again on a 24% hill! The other times I’ve gone up on a 39/27 OK, but with 2 sections of 24% over the length of the climb, it’s pretty tough! Don’t think I’d want to try it on a. 42/16 SS – I’m tipping you’ll be doing a bit of walking. Wish I could join the ride, but nursing a fractured pelvis 🙁
    Good luck to you guys doing the ride!!

  10. old forrest road and the cnr wright street(the Basin) and follow old forrest road up and around until it turns into government road and turn right into mercia st, before turning around and descending, awesome both ways. give it a go some time.. And yes, it is a strava segment……

      1. Hi Jed, I’m with Josh on this one – not worth the risk to yourself and others. Please bring a geared bike! (preferably with a compact set-up 😉

        1. It’s not me considering a single speed. I was considering my TT bike, since my road bike got written off last week and I’m still waiting for a replacement. The reality is though that I’m probably not fit enough at the moment, regardless of what bike I ride.

        2. Not 100% sure I’ll come anyway, but any objections to me coming on a TT bike (still waiting for insurance to replace my road bike)?

  11. I hope we have struck a balance here of challenge and fun. There is the opportunity to sprint your way up the hill. Note also, that unlike Pittsburgh, walking your bike up the road is allowed…

    We have also tried to ensure that when designing the course, that the descents are as safe as possible.

    1. Hi Albert! That video is sooo extreme and scary at the end (was watching it in mute at Uni)… Would like to try it one day but don’t want to stop and fall of 🙁

  12. Awesome, Most of those climbs i’ve never ridden so i would be keen to check them out! If i’m free and it ‘fits in’ with training ok i’ll be there!

  13. Woah!

    Hrmmm do I bring my heavy commuter bike with compact 105, or the light nice bike with standard ultegra? decisions decisions!

  14. Hi Matt,
    Looks very exciting and hope to be there! Love the work put into this! The table of avg grades is scary though…

      1. We have our Club Championships in Darnum the day before so it’ll be interesting! Anything above 13% avg is gonna be hard but Terry’s Avenue B I struggle with and it feels like more than 10% avg – maybe cos it goes downhill near the top for a bit…

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