Part 1 - Andy's Cycling Journey

Great Victorian Bike Ride 2014 blog

RACV RoyalAuto magazine

Cyclists climb a hill along a road

Cycling for me has always been about adventure. There is something simple and pure about leaving the city and getting out for a ride. It’s our chance to escape – to forget about spreadsheets and budgets, and instead focus on the click of gear changes and the purr of rubber on bitumen.

Every ride is an opportunity to see the world from a different perspective – to experience an area with all the senses, and deep lungfuls of fresh air, at a slower pace. It’s about finding new paths, new routes, new directions and new destinations.

My name is Andy, and I just love to ride bikes.

Cycling was always a purely functional thing for me – it was less about the bike and more about a convenient way to get from point A to point B. I could never understand what would motivate someone to set the alarm for 6am in the middle of winter and then ride for hours on end each weekend.

My sister had recently taken part in a large relay ride through regional Victoria, and her passion was infectious. I replaced my neglected, saggy tyred and rusting bike – and for the first time discovered that cycling doesn’t have to be an ordeal. Something clicked. This cycling caper suddenly opened up a whole new world. I could access places I couldn’t before. It gave me the freedom and flexibility to go where I wanted when I wanted, under the satisfying steam of my own power.

I was hooked.

An entry in the 50km version of Around the Bay in a Day sparked an interest in cycling events, and challenging myself. As I crested the West Gate Bridge for the first time I could see the route around the entire bay, shimmering and distant, and I knew I’d be back one day.

Around the Bay in a Day quickly became the must-do ride on the calendar. After attending for the fourth year in a row I set up a work team. Organising, motivating and occasionally arm-twisting a growing work group each year. Within a few years we had a team of more than 70 riders of all abilities. We would mix up their training, taking the riders to new locations each time. In 2011 I was asked to be the official Around the Bay corporate ambassador. It was a great introduction to Bicycle Network, and the start of a long relationship with this fantastic organisation.

The challenge of events struck a chord. I liked the idea of seeking bigger and bigger challenges. With a growing group of like-minded cyclists we rode our way through longer and larger events. Eventually there came a point where we crafted challenges of our own design lazily dreamed up during long rides in the hills, and diligently completed, with no small amount of suffering.

The dreaming got larger, and the self-administered challenges bigger – eventually leading to the formation of the Hells 500 crew – a group of road cyclists with a passion for hill-climbing in the High Country of Victoria. The core group of 20 riders set the benchmark for recreational hill climbing in Victoria, and currently hold the record for the fastest completion of the 7 Peaks Alpine Ascent Challenge.

Through a range of cycling apparel, events, campaigning, and community involvement the core group connects with a much wider audience. The goal of Hells 500 is a simple one: to share our love and passion for hill climbing with other cyclists.

Through this love of hill-climbing, we have assisted riders of all abilities to tackle the biggest mountains in Victoria. As much as we are about challenge, we are also about breaking down barriers that prevent cyclists from getting out and exploring new areas.

Over the next few weeks I look forward to sharing my experience and advice on how to approach a challenge such as the RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride. I’m excited about the prospect of visiting new towns, finding new roads, meeting new friends and sucking in some of that incredible sea air.

Stay tuned as I guide you through what to expect from a multi-day ride, how to best prepare both mentally and physically, and practical advice on setting up your bike and body to make the experience a positive and enjoyable one.

I look forward to seeing you out on the road! What are you looking forward to the most with the RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride.

Written by Andy
October 23, 2014