O'Hea Street: the steepest climb in Melbourne?

It’s no secret that I enjoy climbing the odd hill, particularly if there’s a great view waiting for me at the top. I also don’t mind testing my legs on shorter, steeper rises from time to time which is why I was more than happy to check out a video I was sent via Twitter today (thanks Rob!)

According to the video’s description on YouTube it’s all about:

One man’s battle with gravity, age and stupidity as he cycles “The Gaffney Four” which includes one of the steepest suburban streets in the whole wide world.

As mentioned in the video, the four climbs can be found in the Melbourne suburb of Pascoe Vale, a little more than 10km north-north-west of the CBD. And as mentioned in the video, the four streets are very close together, running parallel up the same hill.

I took a look at the elevation data for the four streets using Google Earth and calculated the following average gradients:

  1. Gaffney Street: 300m at 9%
  2. Bolingbroke Street: 200m at 13.5%
  3. Pardy Street: 200m at 14.5%
  4. O’Hea Street: 200m at 13%

As high as those average gradients are, it’s the maximum gradients you have to worry about:

  1. Gaffney Street: 16%
  2. Bolingbroke Street: 20%
  3. Pardy Street: 25%
  4. O’Hea Street: 30%

A gradient of 30% is going to hurt regardless of the gearing you’re running, let alone with the ridiculous 42×23 combination the bloke in the video is running. On that note, here’s the video:

When I first read the video description and saw O’Hea Street described as “one of the steepest suburban streets in the whole wide world”, I was a little sceptical. But, as it turns out, with a maximum gradient of 30% it’s not far off.

Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand is often considered the steepest residential street in the world (and the folks at the Guinness World Records agree), with a reported maximum grade of 35%. Fargo Street in Los Angeles supposedly peaks at 33%, several streets in San Francisco have grades in excess of 30% and Canton Avenue, one of the Pittsburgh Dirty Dozen climbs, is possibly even steeper with a maximum slope of 37%. Yep, ridiculously steep.

It got me wondering: what is the steepest residential street in Melbourne? Is it O’Hea Street? I can think of several streets that are well over 20% — Glenvale Road in Donvale for one — but I haven’t heard of any that touch 30%. Until now.

So, is O’Hea Street the steepest residential street in Melbourne? Or do you know of one that’s steeper? And come to think of it, why limit it to Melbourne? Do you know of any other streets in Australia that touch 30%? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

101 Replies to “O'Hea Street: the steepest climb in Melbourne?”

  1. Heard avenue Plenty north of Melbourne is legendary in the area. A straight road 2-3 kms long has ripper sets of long dippers. I believe the road is made right though now

    1. I got caught out on this one during a bike ride exploring the area. Still shutter at the thought of trying it again.

  2. Heart rate only 127bpm on the first hill (Gaffney)??? Somehow find that very hard to believe the accuracy of the video given his gearing and perceived effort level.

    Nice set of short climbs. Perhaps steepest in town but certainly not the hardest. Thanks for the write up.

  3. Did the “Four” today. Passed an Asian tourist dragging her suitcase and backpack up Bolingbroke! She did make it to the top. I can just see the advert for her accommodation… “Only a short walk from the train station!”

  4. Finally got around to tackling these four little monsters this morning. I’ll admit to a small amount of delivering the post on Pardy but I was solid on the others. We added a few Melburn Roobaix sectors on the way back to the city.

    Worth doing – maybe just once – so you can tell everyone what a 30% pitch feels like

  5. The State Government provide survey data on line. So, all the contour plots of Melbourne are available. Handy for setting your home elevation point for the Garmin too.

    http://services.land.vic.gov.au/maps/interactive.jsp

    Zoom in, click build map, turn on contours 1-5m, refresh. There is also a ruler that allows measurement between the contours.

    Just picking the really steep bits,
    O’Hea rises 10m in 41m. 24% and change.
    Glenvale Rd rises 10m in 36.6m. 27% and change.

    1. Not far from Reynolds Rd is Gum Tree rd. There is a steep drop down into the creek there (still sealed), and according to my legs was noticeably steeper than reynolds rd. If anyone is game enough to check it out on their garmin or something I’d love to find out how steep that one is

  6. Thanks for the video – we cracked up with laughter.
    Live in Railway Parade (round the corner) . Have done Gaffney but not since I had a bike like the rider’s. Have never ridden up the others because – it’s bad enough on foot or in the car – but husband is keen to try them now! Will report on his progress!

  7. Try waverly road ,from Jells Park to the police academy at the top..It feels like you are climbing straight up….

    1. I’ve tried Gower Street. Horrendous. Had an old steel bike at one stage, and decided I try Gower street on it. Promptly fell off…. wasn’t pretty….

  8. Rode the Gaffney four today after a 20 odd km warm up. Wow, let me just say I really underestimated how hard this would be. Individually I don’t think the hills would be very challenging. I did them in order from Gaffney to o’Hea, that last climb was Brutal. My legs were like Jelly half way up O’Hea and I was struggling to Pedal in my lowest gear. I made it though and will definitely try this again some time.

  9. I just got back from a visit to the Gaffney Four incorporating a 60km loop. I’ve riden my share of mountains around vic and can say without a doubt you don’t appreciate just how hard these are until you actually do them… Wow! I thought I was actually start rolling backwards at best and at worst that my lungs might actually burst.

  10. Hi! Great Post! Here in Porto (Portugal) we also have our fun bits. My favourite (Strava dixit) climbs from the river Douro to the high area of the city (80m drop) in just 600m (‘just’) clocking an average slope of 13,4% with ‘walls’ spread across the hill hitting 27% several times.

    Good hurting old pain! 🙂

    Still number 3 on Strava ranking, you’re all invited to brake the record 😉
    http://app.strava.com/segments/4070090

  11. I am pretty sure that the steepest bit of sealed road that you will find is the old hill climb course in Templestowe. It is only about 100 m or so long but I am pretty sure that it hits 40%. I used to go out there and do repeats in the granny gear on the mountain bike (24/32 gearing) and it is like doing alternate track stands while feathering your weight between holding the front wheel down and maintaining traction on the rear.

    If you want to find it, go to the corner of The Parkway and Sanctuary Place in Templestowe. From there, follow the path to the North and this will get you to the start of the hill climb. The road will head West initially and then goes around a hairpin and back to the steep bit…..it is pretty daunting the first time you see it. My advice is to start on the RHS of the road as the camber is to the left and the first couple of times that I tried it I ended up going off the LHS of the road as I lost momentum. I haven’t ridden it in a couple of years but it ends up at Arlunya Place.

    I actually just found the segment on Strava: http://app.strava.com/segments/850629 and it looks like a few people have done it!!

    Cheers,

    Gags

  12. made a beeline for the Gaffney 4 yesterday – handy access from Moonee Ponds Creek – amazing hidden gems ! Great video – whats next ?

  13. I always thought Barker St in Sydney was pretty steep when I went to UNSW. Not sure how it compares to the gradients listed here though!

  14. Thanks for this post. The Gaffney 4 is a great option for some climb training for someone like me that lives in Brunswick (it takes an hour to get to the Dandenongs in a car). The Moonee Ponds bike path has an exit right at the bottom of Gaffney, so it is nice little warmup to get there, and an easy enough limp home. Having just done the climbs in a 27, I can’t believe the bloke in the vid did Pardy and OHea in a 23!

  15. For a short pinch, my money goes to Pigeon Bank Lane (from the north) in Kangaroo Ground, and for a more sustained effort, Mast Gully Rd is harder than Terry’s Ave. I also remember vividly the first time I tried Glenmore Rd (Cut Hill) where I thought my chest was going to implode. Very keen to have a go at O’Hea and the Gaffney Four. Also agree that Strava peak gradients over short distances tend to be off the mark. Pigeon Bank Ln showed a section @ 41% the other day!!! Great posts.

  16. Anyone ridden in San Francisco lol.
    There are some nice hills around Melbourne and outer suburbs, definitely many that sure feel steep. Queens road Wandin East, Wiseman rd Silvan and a few around Macclesfield come to mind.

    1. Used to be a bike courier in San Francisco and these four hills definitely rate! Albei they’re only a single block long. I once rode of Hyde Street going south from the cable car turntable and when I reached the top of the hill I was being filmed by someone with a camera and I received an applause from the half a dozen or so folks there!

  17. The top of Mast Gully Road at Mt Dandenong gets well over 30%, from memory very close to 40% in the steepest section near the top of the climb

      1. i rode mast gully yesterday, and 36% is the highest percent i got on that road…. according to strava.

        1. I wouldn’t take Strava too seriously for peak gradients over very short distances. The topographical data it’s working with simply isn’t that accurate.

    1. Not that unbelievable. Shannon J. is Shannon Johnson, who rides for the Charter Mason Drapac team and is a blisteringly fast sprinter. For a top-line sprinter, 1000 watts for ~30 seconds is believable.

      Interesting backstory – he used to be one of Australia’s top motorcycle racers before he ditched the engine. I’ve not ridden with him myself, but apparently he has scary good cornering skills.

      Nice bloke, too.

  18. My Garmin 705 measured Mast Gully Rd in the Dandenongs as peaking at about 30% near the top of the road.

  19. What a great looking steel framed bike – absolutley fantastic. Somehow it would not have had the same appeal if the rider was on a carbon bike. Not sure why?

  20. According to my ride data, a road called Blackwood Rise out the back of Moe rises 27m in 35m. It’s quite steep. Assuming I can calculate percentage grades correctly, that’s over 70%.

    1. Don’t think Blackwood Rise is anywhere near that steep. The steepest road near to you would be Koala Drive in Jeeralung Junction. 600m of pure insanity!

  21. This is great, looks like great fun if you can call it that!
    I might have to head down and give Nathan Rd a shot.

    With 171BPM being right in the middle of my E3 band, hopefully having the few more bpm’s up my sleeve helps me out a little!!

  22. The apps are only reading the sensors in the device, so all apps will have the same accuracy. On my Android phone there is a calibrate (zero) function in all of the inclinometer/spirit level apps so the reading you get it only as good as your calibration..

  23. GPS isn’t great at elevation and barometers have their issues as well, so instantaneous gradient measurements are not accurate on either phone apps or Garmins 500s & 800s (which include barometers). I think Strava measurements are typically the result of rider who created the segment, so are only as good as the device used on that first ride. Front wheel lift is perhaps a more accurate measurement, at least for separating steep from ridiculous steep.

      1. That app is targeted at static measurements, so would be using the iphone’s accelerometer (earlier models) or Gryro (later models) in which case it could be quite accurate. However, much would depend on how well mounted the iphone is to the bike and perhaps how rough the surface was e.g. if the bike is vibrating the signal from the accelerometers and perhaps a gyro would be very noisy and hence the results may be poor. While stationary I think the results could be very good.

  24. I think websters road is the one in Templestowe. Drove up it recently and would be a very nasty climb on the bike.

    1. Websters is actually easier than you think as you get a nice downhill run into it and can get up some momentum before the grind hits you. Porter street has that level of fun too…

    1. Drysdale Rd and Leber st in Warrandyte are also nice and steep, trying to climb them without a rolling start is always “fun” … Forbes st is another one which is in excess of mid 20%.

  25. I found O’Hea Street a little while ago.

    It’s obviously very steep but wasn’t sure exactly how steep the peak was. But 30% at its steepest is believable.

    In terms of difficulty, though, it’s nowhere near as hard as the likes of Terrys Avenue. It hurts, but the main only lasts a minute or so.

  26. Mileara Rd in Martin (Perth) has a gradient of about 30%. I have ridden it but without my Garmin — been told it was 30% and it sure felt like it. I was on an aluminium bike running a 39-25, going so slowly I could hardly stay upright.

  27. Matt you must have forgotten all the steep climbs in H10k
    Lipscombe + Nicholas 1.8ks at 11.2% (max 23%) http://app.strava.com/segments/1515841
    Red Chapel Ave -> Marlborough St 1.2ks at 12.8% (max 24%) http://app.strava.com/segments/648469
    (the worst) Mellifont -> Esk Ave Climb 700m at 15.4% (max 35% (in first 100ms)) http://app.strava.com/segments/665836

    This is but a few of the nasty hobart climbs 😉 (not to mention that little one you talked about above!)

  28. oh, interesting, after watching this i’m keen to give them a go..
    i was wondering how it would compare to terry’s ave..
    i finally conquered it the other day and thought i was going to die!! mind you eating 2 toasties as i was running out the door to ride it prob wasnt the greatest of ideas…
    terry’s is nasty, but looking forward to trying these 4 on sunday!

    1. In my opinion Terrys is much harder than these four, they are all short sharp and over and done with before you know it

  29. Apparently there’s a road near Templestowe that hits 40% (at least I think that’s where it is)…

  30. Thats Fantastic…Great production. Dramatic music, good shots, tongue in cheek enough to be outrageously funny. Or did i miss something…was he serious? Either way a great little clip.

  31. Great video!
    I love the drama he puts into ‘oh, and I’m wearing my heart rate monitor and if my heart rate goes over 171bpm, I could die!’

    I must admit, growing up not far from there, these are very steep and tough hills to climb. I used to do paper-rounds as a kid in the area.

  32. I don’t know how to check how step but sunnybrook drive heading up to lum road is tough! It’s part of the scotchmans creek trail I think it’s wheelers hill.

    1. Sunnybrook is a consistant grind. Not too steep. The Pascoe Vale climbs are much steeper.

      I think a plumb line and a protractor could be in order…

      1. Check out the Gradient Level app for iPhone. It costs 99c and works a charm. Mt. William steepest corner touched 28% from memory…

        1. There is an android version too – just downloaded it. Damn sweet. Perhaps we could get everyone out there to do the experiement. Highest number wins!

  33. Leslie st Belgrave home of the 32% sign. Roma pde, Upwey and the Templestowe race track… I suggest that we get a bit scientific. Anyone care to go out a do the measurement? One can get a good approximation with a plastic coke bottle half filled with water. Make a mark of a flat surface on it, the lie it flat on your favourite road. Photo it and see how far you have to rotate the picture in any photo editing program…

  34. What an awesome topic. I would of said Terry’s ave but happy to be proven wrong. When you think steep Pascoe Vale isn’t front of mind. Any idea what the worlds in Geelong hit? I think that was only 18%

    1. Robin – you’re right. The top of Challambra/Westbury that the worlds used tops out at 18% (or sometimes 19% on the garmin depending how it feels on the day).

  35. A few of the roads around Belgrave would match this. Theres a sign marked 23% on one road and Terry’s avenue averages 20% for 600m and gets above 30% at times

    1. According to my Garmin, Waverley Rd doesn’t even hit 20%.

      I’ve walked up Baldwin St in Dunedin – it’s insane. They have steps in the footpath to make it manageable.

  36. There is good old Talaskia behind the FTG hospital that hits 30% (and keeps going as a steep footpath.. But that doesn’t count)

    1. I still need to try that climb. There’s a climb we did as a “bonus climb” in the Hobart Dirty Dozen last year that’s more or less up a footpath and which hits 30% I believe. That freaking hurt.

    2. Talaskia peaks @ 33% according to Strava:
      http://app.strava.com/segments/875635
      & apparantly theres a pretty good rider who holds the KOM.
      Jean Road in Ferntree Gully peaks at 27%, but only has an average gradient of around 14%
      http://app.strava.com/segments/3419180
      Next to it is this monster are:
      http://app.strava.com/segments/3559640
      http://app.strava.com/segments/3414815
      But would agree with Dave that the steepest climb around Melbourne is Leslie Street, Belgrave.
      This baby in Lorne would be the steepest in Victoria though. Couldn’t get any higher as got too steep:
      http://app.strava.com/segments/3321949

      1. Francis St Lorne is probably the hardest road to haul yourself and your bike up. I’ve calculated that it is 400m and 24% average. There is also no run up for it.

        Again we are going by Strava (not always accurate) and bikeroutetoaster and ridewith gps aren’t very accurate over short pinches. I want to see Inclinometer readings!

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