Monday, May 31, 2010

Melburn Roobaix - The Hell of the Northcote!

Where would you see a woman wearing jeans, a fat bloke in a suit and a guy on a unicycle all in the same event? Only one place: the Melburn Roobaix. This is what I call an event for people riding bikes rather a bike event. It is certainly no race though there are lots of fast folks. It is like Woodstock on two wheels and takes in a selection of Melbourne's cobblestone laneways as it winds its way through the suburbs towards a finish at the Brunswick velodrome 30k or so later.

Because of increasing numbers the start of the fifth annual event was switched away from the middle of the city and with entries capped at 400 the actual location was not announced until two days before. Unfortunately the locals of Hawthorn had their peaceful daytime at the park interrupted for an hour or so by the gathering masses. Upon registering you are given a musette containing the event map and list of checkpoints. It is your job to navigate a route between the checkpoints gathering answers to the questions posed at each one - a kind of quiz on two wheels.

You can see from the map that it is a rather circuitous route although as the organisers say on the course details "You could ride straight to the pub and await the raffle if you choose. Wouldn't be much of a story to tell the grandkids though." Which kinda sums it up!

Progress through the first few checkpoints was chaotic to say the least as the "mob" was yet to disperse and traffic jams ensued. There was also a fair bit of dodging the Sunday afternoon traffic through some busy streets which added to the fun!

I took the unorthodox decision to ride with my camera draped around my neck which meant I took more pics but also lived in fear that one slip on some wet cobbles would send me and my camera to the hospital. (Thankfully we both survived intact!)

The course included not only "normal" roads and cobblestone lanes but also gravel tracks and unmade "goat tracks" through the scrub. It is this complete lack of formality and normal-ness that makes this ride so attractive.

Through halfway or so we stopped for a coffee before beginning the final sections of the course.

We recreated that great scene from Grease where they race down along the drains (only we didn't have any hot chicks in tight yellow pants waving us off at the start) before tackling the main climb of the day up the "Koppenburg" (or something just like it). At the top we were greeted by some nice Red Bull girls handing out cans of the stuff. (Maybe they should have been down by the drains?)

The event finishes with a lap of the Brunswick velodrome before retiring to the pub for a few beers and the sharing of tall stories.

My favourite quotes from the day included the guy to whom I had said "thanks" for letting us ride on his cobblestone lane. His response: "You can keep it if you like." And to the young woman who, when a phalanx of riders were waiting for a break in traffic, had the bright idea to ride up to some nearby pedestrian lights and activate them. Her comment "That's why girls come on these rides!" Touche!

See all my pics from the event on Flickr.


  1. Sounds like a great ride, if you are in the right frame of mind! I like the stop for coffee, and the food afterwards. I doubt there are any race like this in the Boston area. Everyone around here is very...'serious' about training!

  2. Sounds like a fun event Paul. I'd be digging out the mtn bike for that one! I think they need to rebaux it in January with the Red Bull girls in summer atire ;)

  3. nice to see an aussie blog.....can we swop links

  4. by the way how do you get mapmyrun onto your blogger


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