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.
Date: Sunday May 27
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.
Here’s a turn-by-turn guide to the Dirty Dozen course.
- Meet at the corner of Burwood Highway and Hughes Street.
- Climb Hughes Street all the way to the Mt. Dandenong Tourist Road. (climb #1).
- Turn left on to the Mt. Dandenong Tourist Road and descent until Janiesleigh Road.
- Climb Janiesleigh Road in to Jones Avenue and Olivette Avenue before reaching Hughes Road (climb #2).
- Descend Hughes Road to Burwood Highway. Follow Burwood Highway toward Belgrave until you reach Chosen Avenue.
- 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.
- Climb Alexander Avenue to Mast Gully Road (climb #3).
- 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.
- Climb Gordon Avenue until the road ends (climb #4).
- 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.
- Climb Brendan Grove, into Pauline Avenue, turn right into Tinto Grove and follow up Acacia Avenue to the corner of Alexander Avenue. (climb #5).
- Follow Alexander Avenue into The Avenue and continue to the corner of Mast Gully Road. Turn left then right immediately on to Wright Avenue.
- Climb Wright Avenue all the way to the top, noting a right turn toward the end. (climb #6).
- Descend Wright Avenue and turn left on to Mast Gully Road.
- 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).
- Turn left on to the Mt. Dandenong Tourist Road and follow to Olivette Avenue (at the Devil’s Elbow hairpin).
- Turn left on to Olivette Avenue and follow to Hughes Street. Descend Hughes Street to Burwood Highway.
- Turn left on to Burwood Highway and follow to Sandells Road.
- Turn left on to Sandells Road and follow until Frame Avenue on the right.
- Climb Frame Avenue until the T-intersection (climb #8).
- Descend Kitchener Road to Francis Street.
- Climb Kitchener Road all the way to the top (climb #9).
- 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.
- Climb Sandells Road all the way to Terrys Avenue (climb #10).
- Descend Sandells Road to the Serpentine.
- Climb The Serpentine all the way to Terrys Avenue (climb #11).
- Turn left on to Terrys Avenue and follow to Sandells Road.
- Turn right on to Sandells Road and descend to Burwood Highway.
- Turn left on to Burwood Highway and follow through Belgrave to the Wattle Avenue/Terrys Avenue roundabout.
- Climb Terrys Avenue all the way to the Mt. Dandenong Tourist Road. (climb #12)
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.
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:
|7||Mast Gully Road||1,900||215||453||238||12.53%|
|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:
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.
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.
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!