The beauty of the one-way ride

If you’re anything like me then the vast majority of your rides start and finish at the same place. Probably at home. And that’s to be expected — it’s much easier to finish a ride where you started — especially if that place is your house — than it is to get to the end of your ride and realise you’re 100km+ from home with no way of getting back.

But I realised something yesterday as I was riding from Reservoir to Trentham for lunch: one-way rides feel very different to your regular out-and-back-style rides and they can be a lot of fun. Before I explain why, let me clarify by saying that I’m talking about training/recreational/social rides here, not races (many of which are one-way, particularly at higher levels of the sport).

So why are one-way rides so great? For a start, they dramatically increase your “reach”: the distance from home (or the start of your ride) you’re able to get on your bike. This is true regardless of whether you’d normally head out for a 50km pootle or a 200km epic. Using something in between as an example, if you normally ride 100km from Fitzroy, you might ride to Kinglake and back, but if you ride in only one direction, Mt. Donna Buang suddenly becomes accessible from home.

This probably sounds quite obvious, and it is, but the benefit is that you’re able to explore parts of the world, by bike, that you normally wouldn’t get to (I’m excluding drive-to-the-start rides here).

Reservoir to Trentham ride (29.03.13) 065
View from the quiet country roads around Sunbury.

Another benefit of the one-way ride is that riding to a final destination (A to B) creates greater motivation (for me at least) than riding somewhere before heading home (A-B-A). There are mornings where I feel unenthused about riding the same roads as I normally do, knowing that I have to slog through the suburbs to get back home. When I wake up knowing I’m riding to somewhere, it seems to help my motivation levels somewhat.

This is particularly the case when that somewhere is well outside the reach of Melbourne’s urban sprawl, as it was for me yesterday. It’s very satisfying to work your way through the outer suburbs, with the housing density and road traffic thinning as you go, and reaching the first of the rural roads.

That feeling of getting out of the city is one of the things I love most about cycling and it’s even better knowing I don’t have to turn around and ride back through the suburbs to get home. And there’s another thing I like about one-way rides. Every time I’ve done one of these rides it’s been with the knowledge that someone is there waiting for me at the end, either at a designated time or just, well, waiting until I get there.

When this is the case, it places a time limit on your ride (either explicitly or implicitly via guilt) that you mightn’t otherwise have. This can be slightly stressful — it’s no fun having to check the clock every kilometre — but it can be a great motivator to push hard and get in some solid training.

Approaching Mt. Macedon.
Approaching Mt. Macedon.

If you are going to embark on a one-way ride you’ll obviously need to find a way to get home … assuming you’re not on a multi-day one-way ride. A supportive and understanding significant other is a great option when you need to get home from your one-way adventure but here’s a hot tip: organise the lift home in advance. You’ll likely get a less-than-positive reaction if you call your partner and ask to be picked up from Seymour.

A better option than a supportive and understanding partner is a supportive and understanding partner who happens to be heading to your destination anyway. I’ve been lucky enough to have this happen on a couple of occasions — yesterday with Trentham,  a few months ago with Ballarat, a few months before that with Inverloch, and a few years ago with the New Zealand town of Wanaka (I didn’t ride from Melbourne to Wanaka, in case you’re wondering).

If you don’t have someone to pick you up, the train can be a good alternative. Again, it’s best to organise this one ahead of time — you don’t want to find out the train home is fully booked and that you’ll be stuck in some quiet country town for the night. Or maybe you do. Either way, be sure to check out the V-Line website (or equivalent depending on where you live) to see what the rules are when it comes to taking bikes on trains.

The view from Straws Lane, Mt. Macedon.
The view from Straws Lane, Mt. Macedon.

And, of course, there’s always the reverse option: take the train to the start of your ride and head home. I know of a bunch of people that have done this to great effect, including Dougie Hunt — who rode home from Mt. Gambier in one day last year (436km) — and the Bike Gallery lads — who did an epic 200km day last year (and just the other week), starting at Moe station, riding up Mt. Baw Baw then heading for home.

In closing, I should say that I enjoy an out-and-back or loop ride as much as the next cyclist, but yesterday’s ride to Trentham made me realise that there are other options out there to. Any ride that gets me out into the countryside and riding on roads I haven’t seen before is a win in my book.

Have you done a memorable one-way ride? Where did you ride from and to and how did you get back? 

30 Replies to “The beauty of the one-way ride”

  1. Great story mate. I’m a huge fan of the ‘credit card ride’. I’ve done many over the years but the most memorable was the ride I did after leaving my ex-wife 5 years ago. It hit me a few days after leaving that I was suddenly on my own after 18 years of marriage and 2 kids. I was tempted to open the fridge and just start drinking to numb my mind. But since discovering cycling years earlier I’ve been using cycling to process and escape life’s stresses. So I decided to jump on my bike and ride north for a few days.

    I had rung my boss and asked for a week off to deal with everything so I had a few days. I had no plan in mind apart from riding north. I left Hampton early on the Tues morning and arrived in Albury, 334k’s later, found a hotel, got some food, showered, washed my kit in the sink and collapsed in bed.

    The next morning I decided to keep heading north and ended up in Gundagai and found a hotel with a bath, got some ice and had an ice bath before doing the same as the night before. It was then that I realised I had 2 options. Turn around and ride home or keep heading north for Sydney, go to a bike shop and grab a bike box, buy a pair of shorts, T-Shirt and thongs, head to the airport and fly home. But as you say there’s nothing better than the one way ride so I decided to keep heading north.

    I arrived in Goulburn at the end of day 3 and was once again lucky enough to find a hotel with a bath. A quick ride to the servo to grab some ice bags on my handle bars I enjoyed another ice bath. Great for recovery!

    I rang my Uncle on day 4 and asked him if he was going to be home that night and he asked what time I was flying in. I told him I was on my bike and I’d explain why when I arrived. So on day 4 I rolled into Sydney and stayed with my Uncle for the night. The following day he gave me his car so I could go and pick up a bike box and some clothes. He was then kind enough to drop me to the airport so I could fly home.

    I look back on that ride now and realise it was the best thing I could have done at the time. Rather than drowning my sorrows in alcohol I was able to jump on my bike and ride to deal with what I was going through.

    I’ve done heaps of rides like this and would highly recommend the one way ride. Especially the multi day ‘credit card rides’.

  2. Me and a few mates did a great variation on this concept last year – a three dayer. We started by catching the morning V-line train to Wangaratta, just us, our road-bikes, wind-shells, toothbrushes, phones and wallets. Once at Wang, we jumped onto the rail-trail to Bright (sealed virtually the whole way), and from there onto the road for well-earned pizzas, beer and a cheap nights accommodation opposite the pub in Harrietville. Next day, we climbed Hotham for a lazy lunch up top, and then descended to Omeo for more beer, pub-meals and a peaceful evening sitting on the verandah of the hotel (watching the lashing rain that we just beat into town). The last day was a ripper. We back-tracked up the Hotham Road a bit, and headed south on the Cassilis-Swifts Creek Road; a ripper mornings riding to Swifts Creek (via a home-brewer for yet more refreshments). After lunch it was the Swifts Creek East Road and the Ensay-Doctors Flat roads, a quick dip to cool off in the Tambo River, before jumping back onto the Great Alpine Road and smashing the big-ring to Bruthen and then Bairnsdale. Got back in time for a last ale before the late-afternoon V-Line service to Melbourne. A train – bike – train circuit, with great company, and a couple of the best cycling roads thrown in for good measure. Highly recommended.

  3. I did a rather memorable one way ride a few years back from Northern Sydney up to Branxton in the Hunter Valley via Bumble Hill and Wollombi; around 180km all up. It was a really nice ride, at least up to Wollombi, but the reason it was really memorable was that it hit 43 degrees that day! I left at 4 am, so the first bit of the ride was reasonably cool, and riding at night is always nice, but later in the day it was unbearable, particularly going through the vineyards where there is really no shade at all.
    My wife met me in Branxton, and we then spent a couple of days relaxing in the Hunter (and drinking wine of course).

  4. A few times each year we have a family function at my sister in law’s place near Shepparton. Once this meant it was a weekend where I missed my weekend ride. Now I now rise early and get a 180km epic ride along the super quiet back roads that parallel the Hume Hwy. If all goes according to plan, I arrive just when the wife and kids arrive in the car. The only downside is that I’m a bit of a zombie at the lunch table for a few hours while the body recovers !

  5. Nice write up Matt. Will be doing Endeavour Hills to Bacchus Marsh next weekend, and was interesting to put into perspective the benefits of this type of ride.

  6. Last year I rode Wangaratta to Bairnsdale, the full length of the Great Alpine Road, ie over Mt Hotham (an Audax club event). Great day. You can take a train from Melbourne Friday night to Wang then a train back from Bairnsdale on Sunday morning. Unfortunately the ride had to be cancelled this year due to the Hotham fire.

    Audax is running Sydney to Melbourne (1200km) in November. for details!

    1. That sounds a like a helluva ride, over 300 km…where did you stay the night? I was pretty disappointed this year not to be able to do the Hotham Challenge, but definitely going to get back up that way later this year.

    2. Wang to Bairnsdale is possibly a bit beyond me now, but I’d love to give it a crack next year. I’ve never done a 300 before and that sounds like the most interesting 300 going. Thanks for the Strava link and well done on completing such an epic ride.

  7. One way rides are great.
    I usually get to do some at the start of fooball season going to practice matches to watch my sons play.
    There has been a couple from Vermont to Packenham via Cockatoo and Gembrook on different roads through the Dandenongs with lunch, drinks, a change of clothes and a game of football to watch provided at the end of my ride.
    The best one was from Vermont to Geelong via Sorrento and Queenscliff on a perfect morning with a calm ferry crossing and the same luxuries provided at the end of my ride.
    Your article has got me thinking I must plan some more.

  8. I agree, what I have done numerous times is ride to the west coast beaches (Torquay, anglesea, etc) and then spend the day with the family who have driven down a few hours after me so that we arrive at the same time…it keeps the family involved and allows me to get in a 100k+ ride guilt free!!

  9. Coincidentally enough before I’d even read this post I’d done a one-way ride just a couple of days ago (took the train to Upper Ferntree Gully, road around and up the ‘Nongs for a while, then all the way back to Kensington), then another today from Bendigo down to Elphinstone via Mt Alexander, which is a climb definitely worth documenting here (the descent is great, though although brought me undone when my front wheel started wobbling out of control, suspect the quick-release wasn’t quite tight enough – how avoided coming off at 70 k/h I’m not sure!). And tomorrow I’m doing Winchelsea-Lorne-Torquay-Geelong…courtesy of V/Line (who I really wish would loosen up their policy with bikes on coaches).

  10. One of the advantages of living in a regional area is that you probably have friends living out of town. And one of the advantages of having a non-riding better half is that they’ll never be tempted to do something like ride to a social occasion at said out of town friends house. This provides a great opportunity to ride there and hitch a ride home. Some of the more memorable ones have been Albury to Harrietville (140km), Albury to Tatong (140km) and Albury to Bungowanah via what seemed to be every dirt road in the district.

    All great fun!

  11. I think my favourite one-way ride out of Melbourne is Kinglake-Healesville-Donna-Buang-Warburton (

    The first few kms out of Healesville hurt, but the rest of the climb up the back of Mt Donna Buang is just gorgeous. It also helps knowing there’s a nice big steak and a cold beer waiting for you in Warburton. 😉

    I’ve also done one way to Woodend/Tylden, which is far more brutal than you’d imagine ( The rollers from Wallan across through Romsey just never quit, and you’re basically going up hill, and likely into the prevailing wind, all the way. That said, I’d love to do it again some time with enough in the tank to tackle Mt Macedon on the way past.

  12. A one way day ride is like a short tour. Multi day tours offer even greater scope for exploration. Try a Great Vic Bike Ride or organise something off your own bat. I’ve done 5 GVBRs. A friend of mine recently took the train to Bairnsdale, cycled up through Omeo and over the back of Falls before meeting us in Bright. He arrived with a tiny backpack on his back. It would seem that touring doesn’t need to be a slow and heavy grind.

  13. Yup, ur so rightMatt! My most enjoyable ride ever was from Katoomba in the Blue Mountains to Bundanoon in the Southern Highlands, both in NSW. My friend and I were going to spend a few days in a health resort that I’d first been to when I decided to give up smoking about 10 years ago. So she drove down with the luggage and I decided to ride and turn up at the HR for lunch, just a total show off really but a great satisfaction. At that time it was my biggest ever ride, 184kms and the first time I’d ridden at nighttime. I set out at 1.50am, had breakfast on the motorway at 7am and arrived at 12.55 for lunch, such a buzz and it felt like such a big adventure riding through the night!

    1. Woah, that sounds epic Deb. You’re right about riding at night: it really does add another level of adventure to it doesn’t it?! Great effort!

    1. Yeah awesome. I actually had your PB as my goal time up there. Amazing stretch of road — I wouldn’t mind doing it again when my vision isn’t blurry so I can actually take it all in. 😉

  14. I’ve done a few rides to/from the 1-in-20 – but I did a one-way ride over to Pakenham.

    My kids were playing tennis in Cardinia, and I said I’d meet them there, and would put the bike in the car.

    So – I went 1-in-20, then Olinda, Monbulk, Emerald (as normal) – but turned left when I got to Emerald, instead of right – and through Avonsleigh – and over to Cockatoo – and then down to Pakenham. Same sort of ride distance (75km) – but a lot of roads I’d never ridden on – and I got a chauffeur driven ride home ! 🙂

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