A few weekends ago myself and 50 other foolish souls braved the cold to take on the inaugurual Melbourne Dirty Dozen. It was a ride that featured 12 short but very steep climbs in the Dandenongs Ranges and one that many of us won’t soon forget.
Now, the concept has spread to other capital cities. The inaugural Adelaide Dirty Dozen is planned for September 1 and planning for a Hobart version is also underway. In this guest post, Marc Durdin writes about his dry run of the Hobart Dirty Dozen and asks the question: are you willing to take on 12 of Hobart’s toughest climbs?
The day was cold but dry. For that I was profoundly grateful. In an attempt to emulate (and perhaps outdo!) Matt de Neef, the Climbing Cyclist, and the Melbourne Dirty Dozen ride (itself inspired by the Pittsburgh original), I had thrown together a 12-course banquet of some of the steepest road climbs in and around Hobart. A week or so ago, a couple of friends and I tried out the course just to see how feasible it would be.
When planning the route, I tried to select climbs with a combination of character, leg-shattering gradients and length. According to the wise estimations of Strava, all bar one of the dozen would be ranked as categorised climbs. It might have been a mistake to include so many tough climbs.
At 7:45am on the day, Dan, Iain and I rolled off to the base of the first climb in Sandy Bay; a little warm-up climb. We were slightly nervous: this would be the hardest ride Dan had ever done, and the hardest of the year for Iain. For myself, well, I just like doing mad rides.
We were all very clear on one decision: there was to be no silliness on the early climbs. If we still had some oomph in our legs by the time we reached the final climb, well, we’d think about it then. This is perhaps not in keeping with the original Dirty Dozen model, but if that bothers you, just call this a reconnaissance ride!
Climb #1: Lipscombe + Nicholas. 1.8km @ 11.3% inc. 2 ramps of >20%, 100m each (Cat 3)
As we dropped into our granny gears at the bottom of this climb, I guess we were all a little daunted. This was not a small climb, and it was so steep in a couple of places. But in the end the first climb of the day posed little difficulty and we all reached the top fresh enough and energised for the next climb. We rolled back down, slowly due to wet and slippery roads, and after just 100m of flat road we were at the base of the next climb.
Climb #2: Red Chapel + Marlborough. 1.2km @ 12.6% inc. 1 ramp of >20%, 300m (Cat 4)
Red Chapel Ave has a beautifully exponential gradient. After starting off gently, it tops out at over 20% before dropping to a false flat for the transition to Marlborough. The Marlborough ramp is mindnumbingly steep and as none of us had particularly low gearing, we resorted to rocking and straining our way up the climb. After 10 seconds rest it was time to head down and prepare for the next climb.
Climb #3: Waimea + Enterprise. 2.1km @ 10.1% (Cat 3)
This climb winds its way up the hill, with local knowledge required to assess the most appropriate turn at each intersection. But it has a relatively consistent gradient, and we all felt happy enough at the top.
Climb #4: Nelson Rd. 3.9km @ 6.0% (Cat 3)
At the base of the fourth climb, this ride was starting to look achievable. Sure, we’d only done three climbs but we all felt good. The next climb on our menu was a palate cleanser, allowing us to spin our legs on what was definitely the easiest and most relaxed climb of the day. I’d written about Nelson Rd before on my blog, and we had all ridden it before. A nice relaxed climb, and a great way to recover from the first three climbs.
Bonus climb: Lynton Ave. 200m @ 18%
Lynton Ave strikes fear into many riders. But after our first three climbs, it was merely a slow and steady climb. Of course, video of wobbly riders can be fun, so I include one here.
Climb #5: Waterworks + Chimney Pot. 4.4km @ 7.7%, max gradient 25% (Cat 2)
Waterworks is steep and rough. Chimney Pot is steep and even rougher. In between, the road skirts around a dam and as such the average gradient above really doesn’t reflect the difficulty of this climb. (This climb is also included in my Top Ten Hobart Climbs blog series).
By now, we were all starting to feel a little bit of weariness in our legs. Parts of the climb were mossy and slippery, and at times we all lost traction. We were starting to realise that we weren’t going to be able to achieve a 20km/hr average speed for the ride overall, much as we would have liked to. This ride was going to hurt for longer than originally anticipated.
Climb #6: Old Farm Rd. 1.2km @ 11.8% inc. 1 ramp of 20% for 150m (Cat 4)
After a welcome descent of several kilometres, we rode around behind the Cascade Brewery to a climb I have only recently discovered. This narrow little road, only one lane wide, evokes the feel of a European back-road. This time around, the ramp really hurt. It was a bit of a struggle for all three of us. But when we reached the top, it was with the realisation that we were halfway through the ride.
Clmb #7: Liverpool + Forest. 1.8km @ 8.6% inc. 1 ramp of 12% for 100m (Cat 4)
We headed into the city and from there into West Hobart. Number 7 was a smallish climb with the highlight being the switchbacks on Liverpool Street. As we entered Forest Rd, a tractor went past us up the hill, followed by several other vehicles. For the only time that day, I tried climbing at tempo to sit behind the tractor, for a few seconds, before I decided to be sensible once more.
Bonus climb: Knocklofty. 100m @ 20%
As we descended from Forest Road, I remembered a tiny little climb, only 100m long but averaging 20% and starting with 25%. Rough, windy, and classified as a No Through Road for cars, this little climb was a real challenge. Both Dan and Iain chose the wrong line in the climb and came to a dead stop. I triumphantly made it past them and survived!
Climb #8: Mellifont to Mt. Stuart Lookout. 1.1km @ 12.4%, max gradient of 28% (Cat 4)
This was the killer climb, the one I was dreading. Starting off with Mellifont St, which is so steep I’ve seen cars fail to get up it, the climb doesn’t really relent until you reach the lookout. For the first time, I had to work hard just to get up the climb with my 34×23 gearing.
At the lookout, a party of bushwalkers congratulated us on our ascent of the hill. I don’t know if they would have been congratulating us if they knew our entire ride plan!
Climb #9: Girrabong Rd. 900m @ 12.3% (Cat 4)
At this point I forgot to pull out my phone and snap photos of the other riders struggling their way up the hill. So no photos of Girrabong Rd. It is a suburban climb, steep but with a smooth surface, and I found myself riding comfortably up to the summit. Dan was starting to find each climb increasingly difficult, and I caught some determined looks on Iain’s face as well. Only three climbs to go! At this point, we’d already climbed over 2,000m.
Climb #10: Brent St. 200m @ 16.6%
This really should only have been a transitional climb, a cocktail to prepare us for the two-course dessert, but as I had included it in my original plan, it had to stay. The whole climb was a mere 16.6%, rising to 23% in the middle of the climb — enough to challenge the most natural climber, one would think. And so it proved, with Iain, our mountain goat, putting on a grim face to make it to the top.
Climb #11: Collinsvale Rd. 3.5km @ 8.1% (Cat 3)
And so we came to dessert. First course was presented as a light sampler of delectable gradients. Dan was a little the worse for wear, but pushed gamely on. A few dogs harassed us on the climb. But with courage, we prevailed, and reached the crest. This was one of my favourite climbs and it also features in my Top Ten list.
One climb to go, the ultimate test of the day! A quick roll through Collinsvale itself and we were starting to feel the cold air in the valley. Someone needs to find a way to take a race stage on this route: it’s got fantastic scenery and roads!
Climb #12: Collins Cap Rd. 4.3km @ 9.0% (Cat 2)
This was as far as we would get from Hobart. Out in the countryside, with fantastic vistas to enhance what was already a superb climb to finish the day, we plodded our way up the hill. Dan was determined to finish. Iain was tired but grimly marching on. I, well, I was playing silly buggers. The others very wisely ignored me. I’d never ridden this climb before, and so it was fun to explore, even if my legs were complaining somewhat!
And we made it. Over 3200m of climbing. 106km. I’ve done some other silly rides, but this one was nearly Giro-esque in the absurdity of its climbs. I’m chuffed that we all made it!
So far, we have not found any other takers for this insanity in Hobart. Will you come along, the next time we ride it, in spring?
Have you got a climbing story you’d like to share? Perhaps you’ve just conquered one of the legendary climbs in the French Alps. Or maybe you’ve finally finished that pesky local climb after three attempts. Or maybe you’ve just completed your very first climb. We’d like to hear from you. Send an email to Matt with all the details.