Words and photos: el_fighero
Around Australia, people ride bicycles for many different reasons but most will agree; the more people that discover the fun of riding a bike, whatever their persuasion, the better. And that my dear readers is what is so great about Melburn Roobaix; it brings all manner of foot-powered bicycle folk together. It’s like a critical mass ride but fun.
This year was the tenth edition of the ‘Hell of the Northcote’ and is a true testament to it’s creator Andy White, commonly known as Fyxo on the internets. As an added bonus, this year also featured the Handbuilt Bike Show and a special 10th year edition Bicycle Exhibition the day before (which was totally rad if you don’t mind me saying so).
Based loosely on the world tour spring classic, Paris Roubaix, the ride takes in a series of cobbled ‘sectors’ throughout the inner city suburbs of Melbourne. It is not a race but an exploration of the many sights, smells and sounds along the way, the very things we miss in the hustle of daily life. The manifesto the riders receive at the start point is about discovering the city. A correctly completed manifesto is your potential ticket to Paris Roubaix, the major prize of many for participating.
One of the main highlights each year is the costumes that people put together and this year was no different. My mate, Kyle and I wore matching ‘Italian-Love-God’ Cipollini kits for a laugh but we paled in comparison to some. Maverick and Goose from Top Gun showed up on a tandem dressed up as a jet and played ‘Highway to the Dangerzone’ all day. There was a foursome of Disco Pimps, funking their way along the parcours complete with disco ball helmets. A jacked Lance Armstrong made an appearance as did a cute but ‘metal’ father-son Spiderman duo. There were spacemen and spacewomen. There were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who had seen better days. There was even a Jurassic Park jeep being ridden by ‘Sam Neill’. I’m still trying to work out where my mate Ron got his amazing ‘man riding a bear’ costume and how he managed to get Stuey O’Grady to sign the nose.
The key to cobbles is generally to ride over them quickly, your momentum carrying you before your tyres have the chance to slip into the gaps. Most seem to choose wider mountain bike tyres for the occasion, leaving nothing to chance and gliding over with ease. The rest preferred to do so with panache, rocking thinner road tyres like the professional peleton; attempting to do their best Roger de Vlaeminck impression.
The ride was a staggered start from Hawthorn Velodrome at 9am Sunday morning. The route was much more manageable than last year’s slippery rain soaked madness. Awaiting the riders were sectors of different length and cobble quality, ‘Enfer de Hipster’, ‘Le secteur de Stuey’ and ‘Omnibus a’ l’enfer’ to name a few. The ‘Koppenburger’ was my favourite for its degree of difficulty. There were a few flats for some along the way but this a reality of life on the cobbles.
As always the route ends on the sloped banks of the Brunswick Velodrome, where you’re welcomed by (the long lost pink teletubby) Dave Morgan of Brunswick Cycling Club and where great food trucks, beer and coffee await you. With over 2,500 participants, it is now one of the biggest organised rides in Australia but more importantly it’s definitely the most fun and diverse. Be sure to put the Melburn pave on your to do list for next year.