Image Credit: Tony Evans Photography
Keen to head to this great Destination Bike? Visit Ballarat direct here
A few months ago I was listening to ABC radio when a caller phoned in from Ballarat. The radio host asked him what the weather forecast was and the caller replied, “Sunny days and happy locals”. Once I heard that, I had a good feeling Destination Bike was going to be a lot of fun.
I wasn’t wrong.
If you think Ballarat, and then think gold rushes and Eureka Stockade, well you’re right.
But you’re also very, very wrong.
Because if you suspected that’s all there is to see and do here, then you’re missing out on one of Victoria’s best bike riding destinations, not to mention everything else you can do on the side.
For the Australian Road National Championships to be held here, there’s clearly got to be some good riding to be had. We tested this theory – sending a road and mountain bike team to explore the area over three days – and it came up trumps.
Welcome to the latest series of Destination Bike, and it’s a ripper ride.
Ballarat – Getting There
It’s a no-brainer. From Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport it’s an easy 75 minute drive on what is actually a pretty picturesque road indeed. Some of us might be scared from too many trips down the Hume Highway – this journey is way more forgiving on the eye.
As a major regional city Ballarat is also connected via multiple daily train and bus services to Melbourne and other Victorian destinations, so you can always book the bike as extra luggage and give the steering to someone else.
2016 will for the first time see a public Gran Fondo incorporated into the Australian Road Nationals weekend. If ever there was an opportunity to get a taste of the iconic ride when the mega buzz is happening, this is it. We check in with locals to find out more about the Nats and how to make the most of it whether you’re riding or spectating.
Stop the Press!
The inaugural Australian Gran Fondo Championships will launch on Saturday 9th January 2016! This gives us non-pros the chance to genuinely be a part of the iconic weekend of cycling. Tackle the fully closed roads of the Buninyong circuit and soak up the atmosphere normally reserved for pros. This is definitely a chance to make a weekend of exceptional riding but entries are capped so register here now. Then the following day head back as a spectator to watch 'Super Sunday', when the men and women battle it out for Green and Gold.
Check out what our road team has to say as they look at the Road National circuit in fine detail, but also explore options for extending the work-out to a 50km, 80km or 120km stretch.
They also rode a picturesque 90km loop that is a perfect option if you are presented with a stiff north easterly. Getting out of town only takes ten minutes, and from there the crew barely saw a car or had to stop for a traffic light. The ride heads out towards Mollongghip, then west to Creswick, before turning south, and riding back into Ballarat. The ride accumulates just under 1,000m of vertical gain, but given the stunning scenery, you’ll hardly notice.
Finally the crew takes you out on a gentle 25km that makes for a great small recovery ride. It’s perfect if you’re only just discovering the awesomeness of road riding, or you’re out with the family and looking for something a little less taxing on tiny legs. That said, you could well make this as edgy as you want – there are definitely some bites along the way that can challenge serious cyclists.
There’s a little something for everyone here. Our mountain bike team started with a cruisy intro to the area – a nice, easy roll along the Great Dividing Trail/ Goldfields Track. We caught up with a very tidy local MTBer to check out Canadian Forest and we gave some downhill tracks a crack. Plenty to keep you entertained here.
Whether it’s before a ride, after a ride, or both; we all want to know where to go for quality coffee. Those who take their top local cafes for granted (and dread leaving town in case the caffeine hit isn’t as good) won’t be disappointed – Ballarat’s got your back. We got the low-down from the locals and then we went and found out for ourselves just where to go for a premium pick-me-up.
Image Credit: Tony Evans Photography
From brekkies to lunches to dinners, we felt obliged to do the rounds for the sake of ensuring you just don’t put a foody-foot wrong whilst in B-Rat. You’re not going to be disappointed – whether you want chic cafes, down-to-Earth quality pub grub, restaurants showcasing the best regional produce and even those making the most of native flora in food – it’s all here.
Like any large regional city, you’ve got every kind of accommodation in Ballarat. From camping and caravanning, to budget hotels, top-of-the-range accommodation, guest houses and more. But we can’t go past Sovereign Park Hotel. This place scores consistently high on social media rankings, and we show you why – especially if you’re a cyclist.
Any opportunity to ride in a new destination is an opportunity to ride in new kit or with new gear. The great crew at Specialized was good enough to come on board – and send one of our favourites to do a little riding with us – so we share with you our thoughts on the Specialized experience.
Like we said, this has been a seriously fun adventure, and we’ve packed a lot in. As our beloved camera dude says, we hope you enjoy flippn’ what we’ve been fryn’. See you at the next equally wicked Destination.
A sincere thanks goes to the following for helping make this Destination series such a success:
Ballarat Regional Tourism – especially Lou and Gen for all their great advice
Ballarat-Sebastapol Cycling Club – especially Jenni, Liam, Nick and Tim and Karen for their local knowledge and good riding legs!
Will Geor – local Mountain Biker and the nose that knows
Rapha – for some sweet jerseys
Specialized – for some equally sweet kit and the opportunity to take the Specialized Roubaix out for many spins