Last weekend La Velocita’s Brendan Edwards headed out to ride the Hells 500 event “Ol’ Dirty”.
In its fifth year, Ol’ Dirty takes you down the ‘roads’ less travelled, is full of surprises and brings together riders for a day that guarantees good times.
Words and Images - Brendan Edwards
If you haven’t heard of the exploits of Hells 500 then just a quick Google search will result in amazement. They have been instrumental in helping riders worldwide believe that they can climb. On top of that are a great bunch of blokes.
This was my first year riding Ol’ Dirty and I was curious what all the ado was about… I soon discovered that I wasn’t along for a ride, but for an adventure. Success wasn’t determined by how far I rode on the day or how high I climbed but how much mud I was covered in at the end of the ride.
Ole Dirty is really about hills, dirt and fun. The event has grown from a few mates having a day out to a ‘sold out’ 300-rider event. Well over 90% of the course is dirt and gravel.
I spoke with Hells 500 founder, Andy Van Bergen before the event and asked him what it was about riding on dirt that really appeals to him: “I think it really changes up what would be a bit more of a pedestrian ride and the dirt makes it a bit more fun and challenging”.
Andy sure got the recipe right this year. Hundreds turned out to ride the 2015 Ol’ Dirty. Excitement was high, and riders were eager to head out onto the Lilydale-Warburton trail, one of Victoria’s most popular rail trails. With heavy rains before the ride, the track was muddy and a pre-qual for what was in store up ahead.
We continued onto the main climb of the day, Mount Bride. The climb is 13.7km long with an average gradient of 4%, given several descents make up the climb, it’s much harder than the 4% suggests. The rains made it hard going getting over sections that hit over 20%. In parts the muddy surfaces really sapped a lot of energy and made my legs feel like lead… but gave a great opportunity to test myself.
There wouldn’t have been many riders who didn’t get off to walk their bikes at one point or another on Mount Bride. It really felt a bit like we had been invited to a shotgun wedding, with ole man Andy having a Good Ol’ laugh along the way.
What goes up must come down. Riders were treated to a fast and furious 9km descent down the far side of Mount Bride. The road surface in excellent condition, with some nice tricky sections, I had to dodge debris, divots, and one corrugated section that almost ripped my arms out of their sockets! More smiles.
We moved onto what was arguably the favourite part of the day. Hells 500 in partnership with Redwoods put on a mighty feast. It had been a tough ride up to this point. No one seemed to want to leave this spot, and no matter how hard your ride had been, you could see the smiles all-round.
Our final journey took us up the O’Shannassy Trail that follows the old maintenance road of the O’Shannassy Aqueduct, built between 1911 and 1914. The trail stretches for 30km and offers spectacular views of the valley below.
This is a walking track, with nice volumes of mud. Riding on 23mm slicks wasn’t the smartest choice for the day and made for tricky riding. I was surprised that I managed to keep the bike upright but it was still great fun. It was hard going, but the scenery and sense of adventure was amazing, I just wanted to keep on riding forever.
There was a sense of jubilation when I made it to the end. Being Hells 500, there was of course one more surprise. To get back to the ‘Cog Café’ riders had the choice of going the “easy way” or the “hard way”.
The hard way involved climbing Martyr’s Road, one of Victorias steepest backstreet climbs which peaks at awesome 27% and is truly brutal. I’d climbed this monster before, but not on such tired legs. I made it about half way up before my legs turned to lead, and had to dig deep to get to the top.
A ride like this takes riders well outside of their comfort zones. Major Kudos for all that completed this event. Overall the day was a huge success, and many riders were introduced to the world of Hells 500.
As for getting muddy, I would say I was a 6/10.