What is the attraction to climbing the Victorian Alps on a bicycle?
Rohan Symons, who has completed the 7 Peaks twice already this season answers….
Well that’s a question with many answers. I started commuting on bicycle paths and lanes to work in
order to loose weight and save money. Later longer flat rides on the weekend were included and this
progressed to climbing hills like Mt. Dandenong and Mt. Donna Buang. Climbing is a time efficient
way to maintain fitness, and in my opinion, much better than riding on the spot or chasing your tail.
In the pursuit of meeting challenges of ever increasing difficulty, this has evolved into climbing the
closest and highest alpine peaks, and then, as the weight dropped, to climbing these peaks as quickly
as I can.
Each Victorian Alp has its own demands on the cyclist. Mt Baw Baw for example is short but has
two distinct stages of high gradient requiring a great deal of effort to ride up. Consequently, braking
too heavily down the steep descents can result in your carbon rims overheating! Compare this
to the longest; Omeo to Dinner plain climb, which has two easier ascents. One just out of Omeo
and the other on the approach to Dinner Plain. At halfway up the second climb, passing the Mt.
Hotham airport. In the middle, an undulating typical country road. The variation in sealed road
types and surfaces also makes for some variation in speed, comfort and effort. Note: some Alps also
have a non sealed climbing twin of similar elevation ie Mt. Stirling. Mt. Buller is probably the most
manageable because it is relatively short, the roads are in good condition and there aren’t any very
steep sections like Mt. Baw Baw. Mt. Hotham is arguably the most difficult due to the length and
the demands put on the rider right from the start in Harrietville. This ride is similar in length to Falls
Creek but has three sections of significant steepness. The repair work done after the 2012 bushfires
is excellent and a credit to our road builders.
What also attracts me to the alps is the fresh air and country aromas, the wildlife and the flora.
As you climb you may also see changing vegetation from grasslands to Gums to Snow Gums to no
vegetation at all! In Spring, the native animals like blue tongue lizards are out in numbers, also very
enthusiastic Magpies defending their nests, and Autumn with the varied colours of the tree foliage.
Having descended the last kilometres of Falls Creek into Mt. Beauty by moonlight once, hearing the
cries of scurrying lyrebirds, my preference is to ride in the longer daylight and warmer temperatures
of Summer. However the alpine conditions can deteriorate quickly in any season, so you need to
be prepared. In the afternoon sun, you can occasionally catch a glimpse of a [Brown] snake sunning
itself on the shoulder of the road or even crossing the road as I encountered with another cyclist I
met riding up Mt. Buffalo in October. All through the year you can get refreshment at the bottom
(and the top) and your passport stamped at the top of each climb during business hours. I find it’s a
good idea to at least carry drinking water at all times.
The best part about climbing the 7 peaks? It depends, for some it’s all about the journey, for others
its participating in a group ride, for some, it’s the feeling of achievement and spectacular views when
reaching the top, but for me, it’s the thrill of a high speed descent!
Lake Mountain Super Session Road Closures for 7 Peaks Cyclists
Every second Saturday of the month until May, Lake Mountain will close the road from the Lake Mountain ticket box from 8am to 11am for your riding pleasure. Enjoy some safe, scenic cycling up Lake Mountain this season.
Super Session Road Closure dates – 2014
7 Peaks is now on Strava!
One of the things that came out from our 2012/13 survey, was that overwhelmingly 7 Peakers would like to clock their ride on Strava. We’re excited to announce that we’ve teamed up with Strava… so now you can track your progress and challenge your friends.
Gerro’s Training tips
Simon Gerrans has prepared some great tips on preparing for the 7 Peaks Alpine Ascent Challenge. Learn more here >>
The 7 Peaks 2013/14 Riding season
Don’t forget that the ending date for competition entries is March 31st, 2014. Organise and plan your rides now so you can complete the 7 Peaks challenge.
Entries need to be received by 5pm on April 11, 2014 to be eligible for the prize draws.
Interview with Andrew, winner of our 2013 ‘Ride with Gerro’ Competition. Andrew and 3 friends rode up Hotham with Simon Gerrans in November 2013.
Is this your first year attempting the 7 Peaks Alpine Ascent Challenge?
Yes it was. I actually only started cycling as a hobby at the end of winter 2011. I would have never thought that in just over a year later, I would be conquering the alpine peaks of Victoria as well as being able to ride with a pro tour rider!
Have you climbed any other of the 7 Peaks?
My friend and I followed Gerro’s recommendation in the passport and climbed Lake Mountain first. We actually started climbing just as a large group of cyclists were descending and finishing up their descent. We were shocked by the sheer number of cyclists that were climbing Lake Mountain on a regular Sunday, it was only a week later that I found out that it was a part of the Hells 500 7 Peaks Domestique Series group. We have also conquered Mt Buller early in November. It’s been a blast!
Have you visited the Victorian Alps in summer time before?
Not in the summer time, I’m a snowboarder so I’ve been to Mt Buller and Falls Creek during the winter time. I’ve really enjoyed visiting the Alps during the off season for the first time; it’s really interesting to see the contrasting scenery between seasons and walking up slopes where I would have once boarded down.
In the 7 Peaks Passport, Gerro says Hotham is one of the toughest climbs of the 7 Peaks. Did he let you in on any tips while you were riding together?
Gerro actually said Hotham was the hardest of them all! One of the first things he asked us was what gearing we were using as the last third of the climb was particular steep. He recommended looking into a 34/27 compact chain ring for Mt Baw Baw or any other climbs with sharp ascents. Another tip was to carry more water/fluids and food for Mt Hotham as it’s a long climb and taxing on the body. Oh and also, to keep warm if it’s cold!
Do you have any other tips for others attempting Hotham?
A compact chain ring just as Gerro recommended. I did find myself grinding through those hills in the last 11 kilometres due to using a standard chain ring and really wished at the time to have a couple more gears to play with. Bring two filled water bottles if possible. I only brought one and ran out of water about 6 kilometres from the summit.
What was the most challenging part of the climb?
Definitely the last third of the climb after the ticket box. From then on, it was simply the hardest climb on a bike I’ve ever done, the gradients became steeper and the hills never seemed to end. However, you are rewarded with amazing views of the Great Dividing Ranges.
What was the most rewarding part of the climb?
Well apart from being able to ride with one of Australia’s best cyclists, it was rewarding to reach the top of the last ramp called “the Diamantina”; from then on it was a nice descent into Hotham Village. The feeling after realising that you’ve just conquered one of the hardest climbs in Australia was amazing and unforgettable!
How long did it take you to climb Hotham?
Just under two hours.
What did you discover about Hotham that you didn’t know before (either about the ride or the alpine village)?
I had a friend explain to me that Hotham was different from the other peaks in Victoria, in that most of the buildings are at the summit and you ski or board down from them, only after seeing it in person did I understand what she meant.
The Hotham climb is part of the SCODY 3 Peaks Challenge (250km: Tawonga Gap-Hotham-backside of Falls Creek) and Audax Hotham Ride (200km: Hotham – Buffalo and back) in March. Now that you’ve taken on Hotham, do you think your legs would now be capable of one of these events?
Well I would think I would be able to finish these events having conquered Hotham, Buller, Lake Mountain and BUPA around the bay, however if you’re asking to finish these event in a reasonable time, I’ll think much more training is needed!
Thanks again for a ride of a lifetime!