It has been part of the Melbourne cycling landscape since the dawn of time. For many of us, riding ‘around the bay in a day’ was a right of passage, for many it’s the first time they pass the 100km mark… I spoke riders to ask about their experience and what they think this iconic ride.
Personally, I had done plenty of riding before my first lap Port Phillip Bay, but I still remember it well…. it was long… very long, it was also the first time I had taken the ferry despite having lived in Melbourne for years and the first really big group ride I had done. I also completed the ride with a group of not so seasoned riders and watching them push through and dig deep to get to the end was a pretty amazing experience.
Since that ride, about 15 years ago, there has been an explosion in mass participation events, each promising more kilometres, more vertical, more gravel sections, free t-shirts, kit, prizes, timed sections and the list goes on. There’s so much so that it almost seems that riding around the bay has fallen to the side of the tracks, a ride that many riders now class as ‘entry level’. I promise that the long options are anything but.
I’ve also ridden the Sorento return (200k) option a few times as I think it’s an iconic stretch of road. It’s also a great distance to work through with mates and push the pedals harder and harder as Melbourne comes back into view more and more rapidly.
There’s no gravel…. there are no mountains (but Arthurs Seat will let your legs if you go for the 300k option), but there’s the ease of a start very close to Melbourne. You get the pleasure of riding a road that people travel internationally to see and is as smooth and fast as you can imagine, the ferry crossing and the general goodness that comes with stamping out lots of KM and pushing yourself.
The other often overlooked community bonus is that the event raises over $1million each year for the Smith Family, a charity that helps disadvantaged kids and in my opinion a worthy cause.
So, should you ride the United Energy Around the Bay 2019? Yes, you should.
I asked a few riders that were planning on getting on board what distance they were riding, what their experience level was and why they were riding.
RIDE - 300km | Expert - A grade, very strong | Km per week 250 to 400km
I get to meet loads of solid riders that are talented athletes. You know the ones that you know will be good at anything they do….? They can be pretty annoying sometimes, especially when they give you the ‘oh I have not been riding much’ and proceed to blow you out of the water… Well, one of my mates is just like that. He tells me that he’s riding the 300km to get some solid KMs in the tank at the end of winter, he’s ridden around the bay before but not as part of the event itself, but never done 300km in a single ride. He goes on talk to me about base K’s and being able to ride and a constant ‘easy’ effort for lots of hours…. sounds good but I’m not sure about the ‘easy’ bit.
The seasoned cyclist
RIDE 135km - Geelong - Melbourne | Very fit, used to race A/B grade | Km per week 100 to 200km
I’m having a coffee in St Kilda and see a few guys I know finishing up a ride, so join them…. I ask them about the event and one tells me he’s riding the 135km. After the initial pokes of fun about why is he not doing the 300, he tells us that it’s a good opportunity to see what sort of time he could put down for the ride from Sorrento to Melbourne, while using the Geelong side of the bay to roll the legs up to speed and try to get good timing for the ferry crossing. I still think he could have a crack at the 300!
RIDE - 20km or 50km | family, mum and dad are medium experienced riders that commute and ride once a week
I’m at a birthday party with the kids in Melbourne and I start talking about the bike (as usual) to a guy in a Shimano T-shirt. He tells me he and his wife used to ride a lot ‘before children’, but now they have started getting back into family rides - the kids are really getting the hang of riding. It’s still to be decided but the 50km is a potential distance but they may go for the 20km. Dad and mum have completed 100km versions 5+ years ago and now the kids are keen to get involved, plus it's free entry for kids under 15.
The Casual Rider
Ride - 210km Anti-Clockwise | Limited riding, 2 to 3 rides per fortnight
I chat to Dave, on one of my Melbourne loops that heads out to the airport, it’s a great ride that riders in the North and West love. It’s a punchy 50km that has lots of up and down and encourages power riding. My old mates that ride with NPR love it. Dave tells me how he did 'ATB' a few years ago… the ‘very windy year…. I bloody hated that last 50km and said I’d never do it again… but a couple of weeks after the ride I felt great’. He then tells me how he’s picked up the bike a couple of times a month for a solo or bike shop ride and rides a bit closer to the day…. ‘that gets me around, it’s not easy and I’m not going to break any records but I love the achievement’.
The 'United Energy Around the Bay' to give it its full name is still as epic as it has always been. I’m not quite 100% sure in why it has fallen out of favour with more experienced riders. It ticks all the boxes of rides that are hundreds of km from Melbourne, is well supported and has a bunch of different options to meet your level.
If you’re feeling keen head over to Bicycle Network HERE to check out all the nine different distances and routes ranging from 20km all the way through to the massive 300km option.