About 10 years ago I did my first Around the Bay bike ride…and having done the 210kms swore I would never do it again. But last weekend, in what can only be described as a brazen example of just how little my word is worth, I did it again. If nothing else, it showed me just how much I’ve learnt about cycling and nutrition…and perhaps more importantly, it showed me just how stupid I was 10 years ago. So Now I’m No Expert But, here’s my guide to doing Around the Bay.
What is the Around the Bay bike ride?
Ok, first and foremost all the cool kids call it ‘Round the Bay’…so I’m not going to argue with the cool kids, I’ll call it that for the rest of this post.
The Round the Bay ride is a 210km ride with 2 options, Melbourne-Sorrento-Queenscliff- Melbourne or Melbourne-Queenscliff-Sorrento-Melbourne. The main difference is that when you have done about 180kms and your are in a world of pain and just looking something..anything!…to distract you from just how sore your arse is, you can choose between looking at the seaside and breathing in the sea air…or you can choose Werribee. Not surprisingly the ride home along Beach Rd sells out a lot quicker than the industrial back blocks of Melbourne version. There is a ferry that takes you between Queenscliff and Sorrento, but if you’re really keen you can try to get a good run up and jump your bike over.
There is also a 250km version, but that is just basically the 210km ride with an additional 40kms thrown in to make the people who choose to do this think long and hard about the decisions they’ve made and where that’s left them.
And there are also a range of rides that cater for people of all abilities.
But I did the Melbourne – Queenscliff – Sorrento – Melbourne ride and here’s what I learnt.
It is about the bike
Ever notice the way very few formula 1 racing teams use station wagons for the Grand Prix? This is because a racing car is much better suited to driving at 300km/h, whereas the station wagon is much better suited to picking up the kids after school. Similarly, a long ride like the Round the Bay is best suited to a road bike, due to their light weight, their aero position and the fact that this is exactly what they are designed to do. This would appear to make perfect sense.
So why the Christ I did this ride on a Mountain Bike 10 years ago is beyond me! It was freaking horrible. The bike weighed a tonne, it had big tyres that meant more resistance, it had suspension which meant part of every pedal was absorbed by the suspension rather than making me go faster, little things like your gears and your hubs that only make a few % difference…make a big difference over the course of 10 hours.
In my defence, 10 years ago I’d never ridden a road bike and so had no idea what the differences were…but the fact that every other person was a) on a road bike and b) going past me, probably should have been a subtle hint that I was ‘doing it wrong’. For me the defining moment was when I was riding out of Geelong heading home and just well and truly in the ‘hurt locker’, but convincing myself that I was still looking strong. Two guys rode past me and I heard one say to the other ‘Gees, he’s doing it hard’.
Indeed I was…Indeed I was.
You are what you eat
Which means that the first time I did the ride, I was numerous packs of sugary lollies. My reasoning was sound. Sugar gives you energy, and I was going to need a lot of energy…so every time I got tired I would just eat some lollies. Genius! This of course meant I swung in sporadic bursts of energy and lethargy. I’ve you’ve ever learnt how to drive a manual car and spent an hour in a car park lurching forward and then stalling the car…you’ve pretty much got how I felt…for 12 hours!
This time around I made sure I had plenty of food that would provide longer term, slower release energy (aka the sesame bars from the Preston Market), as well as about 4 gels and some electrolyte drink…and plenty of water…and a hot dog in Geelong…and a coffee in Queenscliff…and…look, I’m not saying it was the perfect nutritional plan, but it worked a treat.
Ride with good people
No matter how good your nutrition is and no matter how much you’ve trained, there will be times when you feel flat or when you you can’t maintain the pace of the group you’re with. A good group can recognise this and make sure you are protected from the wind until your energy levels return. Similarly, there will be times when you feel really good and could travel a lot faster than the group…but surging off into the distance leaves the rest of the group either exhausting themselves by trying to maintain your pace, or dropping off and having one less person to work in the group. Instead, if you have a lot of energy, you can spend some additional time at the front where the wind resistance is the strongest. That way you get to use your surplus energy…and the rest of the group benefits.
The group I was with (and a big shout out to Lach, Regan, Marty and Sam) were sensational like this and made the ride all the more pleasant.
Ideally you would have spent a couple of months training at least once a week and have built up to a ride at least 75% of the total distance. But if you have small children then your sleep patterns are probably similar to that of a night shift nurse, and your ability to just ‘duck’ out for a 150km bike ride is slim at best. So if you have trainer at home, then I can’t recommend the Sufferfest videos highly enough. In the space of an hour you can get a really good workout…and you can train your kids to be domestiques by getting them to refill your water bottles.
On a sadder note, in the time between starting this post and finishing it…some unsavoury person has stolen my bike. So if you see or hear about someone selling an Argon 18 Plutonium with Mavic Aksium wheels and Speedplay pedals, Taser them in the genitals and let me know. Then I also will Taser them in the genitals…and then take back the bike that has got me through a half Ironman, the Alpine Classic, numerous triathlons, the Murray to Moyne and the ride to and from work for the last 6 years!