If, as the result of some bizarre gypsy curse, I was only able to watch one bike race per year- it would be the Paris-Roubaix. For the non-cycling tragics reading this, the Paris-Roubaix is a one-day 250km bike race through the Northern part of France. What sets is apart from so many other bike races are the numerous cobblestones sections. These cobblestones destroy bikes, they jar every bone in the riders bodies, in the wet they are slippery and treacherous…in the dry, the dust makes them slippery and treacherous. It’s affectionately known as the ‘hell of the North’. To see what I’m talking about just type ‘Paris-Roubaix’ into YouTube…or look at the awesome photos from O’nev or Kristof Ramon
If, as a result of having 3 children and a complete lack of fitness, I could only do one bike ride per year- it would be the Melburn-Roobaix. The Melburn-Roobaix is the brain-child of the indefatigable Andy White. It’s a one day bike ride that varies from about 25kms to 40kms and meanders around Melbourne, taking in as many of cobblestone lane-ways as possible. At the end of each lane-way there is a question for you to answer. It’s sort of like the friendliest alley cat ever…but it’s not a race, it’s open to everyone…and it is the best fun you can have on a bike.
My initiation to the Melburn-Roobaix was 4 years ago when a friend invited me along. As a result of a technical issue, I completely missed the start and my friend headed off with the main group. So I was now doing a race that I had no idea about and no-one to talk to. I was about to just head home and chalk it up as a waste of a Sunday, when I recognised a guy who I had chatted to briefly on the ride to the start. We got chatting, and he introduced me to some other people and pretty soon I was racing around the streets of Nth. Melbourne with a variety of groups of people who clearly didn’t know where they were going…but were having a hell of a lot of fun getting there. We ran upstairs with our bikes, we rode alongside the drains, I watched a guy casually do a wheelie for about 4 minutes and I discovered numerous parts of Melbourne I had never seen before. Best of all I had the best fun I’d had in years.
I rode again the next year, and it was just as much fun. So the year after that I invited my best mate along and we hired some BikeShare bikes and did the ride on those. What the BikeShare bikes lacked in agility, handling, and lightweight materials…they more than made up for in overall indestructability. Yes it was like riding an armchair…but it was someone else’s armchair..and the wheels weren’t going cost you $500 if they were damaged.
This year, my 6 yr old son came with me. I was a little nervous about how he would find riding with so many people, riding such a long distance and of course riding on the cobblestones. But those fears were unfounded. While we didn’t do the full 38km (I’ll leave the Koppenberg for him to discover next year), we had an absolutely brilliant time…and I look forward to Josh repeating Stuey O’Grady’s heroics in the 2007 Paris-Roubaix sometime. But the best part of the whole day was how many people took the time to tell him how well he was doing, and what a great effort it was to be doing the ride. He spent the whole afternoon after the race feeling 10ft tall and bullet proof and perhaps more importantly he went to sleep early (tired but happy).
For him the idea of a group of people getting together to just have fun, probably isn’t that foreign…kids do it all the time. But as we get older, we tend to look for the competitive side of things instead of working together for no reward other than fun, we don’t want to spend a day chatting to random strangers because frankly that’s just weird, we don’t want to spend hours with people dressed as ninjas or riding unicycles…because…well…they’re dressed as ninjas or riding unicycles. Most importantly in a world where we can ride road bikes, mountain bikes, fixies, single speeds, BMXs and cruisers. And where we can spend as much money on a bike as we would on a small car…we can forget why we love riding in the first place…because IT’S FUN! The Melburn-Roobaix is my annual reminder of just how rewarding life can be if we get together with a group of people with the sole purpose of having fun. That’s why I hope to be doing it for many years to come.
I’d like to say a massive thanks to Andy for organising the ride. I shudder to think how much time and effort goes into putting it all together, but I hope he gets as much out of it as we all do.
If you’re interested in doing the ride next year then head to Fxyomatosis and entertain yourself with great stories and photos until registration for next year’s ride opens…and then hopefully I’ll see you for ‘the Hell of the Northcote’!
See a few of my photos from the day here