Great Victoria Bike Ride (GVBR) has been around for many years! Thousands of cyclists gather for at least a week-long of cycling around the state of Victoria, Australia every year. The destination would be rotated each year. This is my first time experiencing GVBR and it was very unique! GVBR 2019 had around 5000 cyclists participating in the rides! I am an introvert so you can imagine how anxious and nervous I was the whole time! I was very happy with myself for riding 662km with a total elevation gain of ~4500m in 8 days! I had a wonderful experience overall despite a fall on my left knee on day 4, causing cuts and bruises. I love all the riding but not the crowds.
Day 1 – Arrival Day in Robe, South Australia
I was sick for a few days and my body was still not feeling 100%. I decided to join the GVBR after careful consideration since I have spent a significant amount of money for it. I was glad I took up the accomodation package provided by All Trails. Otherwise, I would have to set up and sleep at the camping site (like the majority of participants did). I did not have any energy left to set up camp after arriving in Robe and the following nights after full day of cycling!
Day 2 – Robe to Millicent
A great start to the GVBR with a relatively easy ride from Robe to Millicent covering a total of 85km with a slight elevation gain of only ~100m. Today’s weather included everything there is: started with a cloudy morning, then a bit of sun but a little windy, then pissing rain that lasted for only a few minutes. Thankfully I was in a cafe for lunch break and able to evade the rain. After the rain, the sun pierced through, giving way to a very nice sunny and lovely afternoon.
Very thankful that I caught Steph from St. Kilda Cycling Club (SKCC – I joined this club for their group rides) and her dad en route. They very kindly let me tag along. Riding with someone else made the whole journey more enjoyable, doable and less scary especially when there are thousands of cyclists on the road! Steph’s dad is such an inspiration too! He is 72 years old and still keeping active! He rode much faster than me! Seeing him riding encourages me to keep going! He is Steph’s life goals and mine too!
The highlight for me was actually seeing how proud, joyful and grateful the locals are that we came by, cycled through and stayed at the town. Some of the locals were up really early to send us off, wishing us luck for the rest of the ride. It is very joyful and heartfelt to see their dedication and love for their town. All in all it was a great first day on the bike! The only minus is the sore bum.
Day 3 – Millicent to Mt. Gambier
Day 3 of GVBR was a relatively easy ride from Millicent to Mt. Gambier covering a total of 93km with a slight elevation gain of 317m. Weather today was good. Just a bit of chill in the morning but sunny in the afternoon. The last part of the ride was more scenic with a sightseeing stop at the Little Blue Lake and a ride around Mt. Gambier impressive Blue Lake. I also caught up to some of the ladies from SKCC before lunch (Yay)! I was experiencing hay fever. Never had hay fever for the last 12 years of my life in Melbourne – why now of all time?!
Day 4 – Mt. Gambier to Portland
Today we completed our longest ride for the GVBR, 112km (officially is 109km but I rode to and from the accommodation), 557m of elevation gain from Mt. Gambier to Portland! It was tough riding conditions today – drizzled in the morning and cold then rain then drizzle then rain on/off for the rest of the afternoon.
I caught up to some of the ladies from SKCC (YAY)! There were lots of undulation today. Legs were spent, body was tired. I was all wet – not sure from the rain or sweat. Furthermore, I FELL off my bike (*cry*)!! There was a very very sneaky hill that came out of nowhere. My bike was on the big gear approaching the hill, I kept pedalling until almost at the top but ran out of power! Nowhere to go with the crowds and off I fell to my left. Scratches and bruises and my left knee was extremely sore!!
Day 5 – Portland to Port Fairy
Day 5 of GVBR we rode from Portland to Port Fairy, with a distance of 85km and 661m of elevation gain (but according to Bicycle Network, “it is a cruisy ride with elevation gain of around 200m”, hmm?). One thing for sure, it was definitely not cruisy!
Another day of tough riding conditions. It started with a bit of sun but very windy then rain came in at 10am then hail then heavy rain + strong wind (24km/h with gusts of 35km/h at 9am then increasing to 33km/h with gusts of 44km/h at 12.30pm)! It was so cold – my fingers were frozen. This weather condition brought back memories of the Canadian Rockies Cycling Tour. It was raining heavily (heavier than today) while riding from Bow Pass to Lake Louise but even then it was not this windy!
I really dislike the conditions today! I think I have grown to ride in the rain pretty okay now but it was the wind that bummed me out. When the gusts of wind came, I felt like falling off the bike! I am pretty sure I was riding slanted to the right as the wind was pushing me to my left. Trucks and cars passing by made the gusts of wind much much worse! I was not feeling the love at all so I just push all the way till the finish line. I stopped briefly at the lunch spot just for drinks and to keep my bag from the rain. Arrived at Port Fairy around 12pm and had seafood pasta at The Wharf. Food has never tasted so good before!
I am thankful that my left knee is still working well after the fall yesterday. I am amazed that I could keep pedalling and did 85km in 4 hours plus stop times. Funny thing is I did not feel the stiffness and soreness on the knee when I was pedalling but as soon as I stopped and walked my bike, it felt more painful. It was sore and stiff at the end of the day…time to rest the knee.
Day 6 – Rest Day!
So glad to have a rest day today after 4 days of being on the saddle. Taking it easy today by wondering the town of Port Fairy and ate a lot! The injury on my left knee was stiff and sore if I walked too much. I also pampered myself with an one hour of massage 😀
Another 4 more days of riding tomorrow onwards! The second half of GVBR is said to be more challenging than the first half! Are my legs ready for it?
Day 7 – Port Fairy to Peterborough (then Port Campbell for accommodation)
Another challenging day for me as we rode from Port Fairy to Peterborough. Then another 10km to my accommodation for the night at Port Campbell, which was on tomorrow’s route, making today’s total distance covered of 107km with an elevation gain of 504m!
Today’s ride took the toll on me. I was struggling on the last 20kms to Peterborough – my bum, legs and knees were extremely sore with each pedal. They wanted to give up but I kept pushing! Had a milkshake when I got to Peterborough’s campsite and the last 10km to accommodation was more doable…just sore bum!
Road conditions were not great in today’s trails. Roads are hard packed so they are really bumpy for the bum! The weather was still not great though was milder compared to day 5. Drizzle, clouds, rain, more clouds, more rain, ended the ride with an overcast. Tomorrow was said to be the hardest of all as we ride from Peterborough to Beech Forest with long steep climbs of the infamous Lavers Hill. I hope the soreness on my legs would heal overnight and that I can get through the climbs okay.
Day 8 – Port Campbell to Beech Forest
Yay! I did it!!! Today we tackled the most challenging day of GVBR 2019. I had a headstart at Port Campbell covering a distance of 65km with an elevation gain of 1083m to Beech Forest!!! It was exhausting!
This is the first time I ever climbed over 1000m of elevation gain!!! When my Wahoo tracker reached 1000m elevation gain, I felt such a great sense of achievement! It was a very challenging day for me! I am getting quite good at doing undulations (meaning rolling hills) but my power dropped significantly when I am doing sustained ascent. We were climbing for 20km ish today!!! I was at my lowest gear possible, doing only 7-9km/h. My mind kept thinking that I could not pedal anymore and I was gonna fall because I might not be able to clip off my shoes in time. I was trying to distract myself from these thoughts by looking at the views or just recounting in my head “right, left, right, left, one pedal at a time, you can do this!!!”. I was beyond glad for finishing the ride today with no injury. Some of the descents could be quite dangerous too as the road snakes around especially with incoming traffic.
The bruises on my left knee was swollen and very sore due to constant pedalling today. Today’s weather was the calmest of all! Cloudy day but no wind! NO WIND – Imagine that! Thank God. I definitely would not be able to do the climbs today if there was a gust of 40km/h wind like in day 5. There was a surprising shower in the afternoon but only lasted for 1-2 mins.
The ride was held up today after lunch with camp not being ready. I was very disappointed because I actually pushed myself to be ahead of the crowds but was unable to continue riding and had to wait in the cold! I prefer to ride with lesser cyclists on the road as I can enjoy the ride itself more. Tomorrow will be a challenging day for me in terms of crowds as we need to shuttle from Apollo Bay to Beech Forest for the ride. Most of the All Trailers would be the last ones on the road, meaning encountering more cyclists.
Day 9 – Beech Forest to Deans Marsh
Day 9 involved riding from Beech Forest to Deans Marsh, covering a total distance of 64km with an elevation gain of 642m. It was a much easier ride compared to previous day, crusing along and enjoying the views! The descents are very thrilling and scary at the same time as there were some very sharp turns!
We ventured through one of my favourite sections of the GVBR – Turton’s Track. Surrounded by magnificent giant tree ferns, Turton’s Track meanders through the beautiful rainforests of the Otways and showcases some of the best scenery that the area has to offer. It was not all downhills though, rolling hills. I have grown to love rolling hills now, it made me work on the hills but descending down is incredibly nice! The views were absolutely beautiful! It might be the best part of the GVBR for me!
We finally had some great weather for riding! Sun came out! Woohoo! It was very very cold in the morning, probably the coldest morning we had but there’s sun! Yayy! Calm and no wind the whole morning…wind started to pick up from late morning onwards but it was mild. Lots of queuing were involved, queue to get through cyclists in break spot, queue for toilets (typical), queue to get into the finish line. The worst part is queuing to check in at Mantra Lorne for the accommodation– took us hours! I decided to change and head to a restaurant nearby to have a nice proper warm meal instead. Came back in the late afternoon and they were still swamped but not as bad. Apparently their cleaning staff walked out on them!
Day 10 – Lorne to Torquay. The D day!
Yayyyy! I did it GVBR 2019! Today was our FINAL DAY of GVBR 2019! Woohoo! I skipped the route from Deans Marsh to Lorne this morning as All Trailers were staying in Lorne overnight. Total distance covered today was 52km with an elevation gain of 468m.
Back to the usual rainy, gloomy and cold weather! The official instructions were that all cyclists had to wait for everyone to arrive in Lorne and road would be closed for certain distances (not all) before we were allowed to head out in waves…But many of us were waiting in the rain and it was freezing! So some including myself decided to just go ahead before road closure. It was either riding in the rain or waiting in the rain and getting frozen!
I rode in the rain for about the first 10km then it stopped then it rained again. I was soaking wet to my toes! Then for the last 10km, I was sprinting for the homestretch and thought it should be easy now as we were just circling the town of Torquay to get to the finish line. BUTTT the weather decided to throw in a final challenge, it was SH** WINDY especially for the last 5km. I was close to getting blown away.
For the last 20km, a cyclist passed by on the climb and said “you’re doing really well”. Then I saw him waiting at the top of the little hill and he just rode with me and started talking to me. I thought he was doing the GVBR but he was actually from Geelong and just doing his usual weekend ride. He was guiding me through the last 20km, giving me some tips on riding. He is incredibly strong! He was surprised I am so new at cycling and mentioned I am a good rider considering being a newbie. I also had a few compliments from other GVBRiders as well about being pretty good at going up the hills. I think I should start taking in all these compliments! I never consider myself as being sporty so it is nice to know I can do at least one good sport 😀
Summary of GVBR 2019:
- Rode 662km + combined elevation gain of ~4500m.
- Cuts + bruises from the fall. Left knee was swollen, sore, stiff, could barely walk.
- Sneezing fits, blocked nose and red teary eyes from hayfever.
- So very sore bum and legs.
- Windburnt + sunburnt.
- Did pretty well for first timer.
- Wonderful experience! Love all the riding but not the crowds! Would I do GVBR again? Hmm…the question remains to be answered.
All photos and most videos were taken using iPhoneX, except for two videos were taken using GoPro Hero6.
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