Crazy, dangerous and stupid; or fun, fast and challenging? Everyone who owns a bike in Australia has heard of The Hell Ride, its origins trace as far back to the early 1980's when a number of VFL footballers would ride the Black Rock to Mt Eliza return route and finish with a sprint into Black Rock.
The ride has become embedded into Melbourne's cycling scene and is now the most infamous and largest bunch ride in Melbourne.
Report: The Bunch Cyclist - www.thebunchcyclist.com
When: 7:00am Saturday, The Black Rock Clock Tower, rain, hail or shine.
Finish: 8:30am to 8:40am in Black Rock
Average Rolling Speed: 39km/h - 42km/h
Bunch Size: 100 to 300
The ride begins at 7:00am sharp leaving from The Black Rock Clock Tower. The riders generally gets on gas from the get go riding through the undulations to Mordialloc at 45km/h to 50km/h. The bunch generally settles in the first couple of kilometres; however, on a nice summer day when there can be in excess of 200 riders the start of the ride can be quite hairy, especially if you are in the back half, where the speed fluctuates as riders ride three, four and even five abreast.
From Mordialloc to Frankston the ride is flat and fast with most of the bunch riding safely at two abreast and the early ride jitters ceasing. The best position to be here is in the front 20-30 riders where you can sit back and watch some of Melbourne's best A graders tow the some 200m long bunch along.
Hit Oliver's Hill and the challenging section of the ride begins. Here the bunch will split from the weaker riders at the back as the group charges towards the Mt Eliza turning point. The ride back to Black Rock is much better organised with the bunch having now shrunk significantly. But by now The Hell Ride has to complete for road space against the thousands of cyclists enjoying their regular Saturday morning Beach Road ride.
About 1km out from Black Rock some of more experienced (or maybe just fearless) riders jostle for position at the front end of the ride to take part in the final sprint to the Black Rock. I wouldn't recommend taking part in the sprint. The sprint is the most dangerous part of the ride and there's serious potential for accidents as you have some twenty to thirty men sprinting on open roads competing for space with cars and recreational cyclists. If you aren't an experienced racer definitely do not take part in the final sprint, and if you are an experienced racer, think twice about taking part as it is one of the reasons why The Hell Ride gathers so much bad press.
This route travels on what is most likely the most ridden road in Melbourne. The popularity of Beach Road - especially among those new to cycling - has led many to seek out roads less ridden. Paradoxically, the popularity of Beach Road has increased the popularity of not riding Beach Road (confusing I know), so much so that it has inspired a popular instagram hashtag #notbeachroad where users capture many of Melbourne's lesser known riding spots.
With so many cyclist venturing out on Beach Road each week there are some of the most prestigious Strava Segments up for grabs for those playing along. The first being the segment for The Hell Ride in its entirety, appropriately named "The Hell Ride". If you are out on a day where the conditions are perfect and the lights are always green you may be able to steal this one and be hailed as a cycling god for the rest of eternity. At the time of writing this the Oliver's Hill segment was approaching 10,000 unique riders, this short 600m rise out of Frankston will have you wondering why you decided to come along on The Hell Ride for "fun".
If you are catching a coffee in Black Rock before or after the ride the best coffee is done at Omara Cycles right from where the ride starts, so hang up your bike out the front and salivate over the latest range of Trek bikes as you wait for your latte. If you are looking for something a little more hardy head to Uncle Bart at 607 Balcombe Road, which is just a sharp right at the roundabout, they open at 6 and welcome riders. I recommend the breakfast burrito.