Ultimate guide to cycling in Melbourne
Discover the best rolling roads and challenging climbs in Australia’s cycling capital
Online Production Editor
Endless stretches of smooth tarmac snaking along picture-postcard coastlines, brilliant cycling infrastructure, and a vibrant cafe culture: it’s no surprise that Melbourne has become Australia's de facto cycling capital.
For those unfamiliar, Melbourne may appear to be just another bustling metropolis; another maze of main roads. Sure, it has the benefit of favourable weather - enough to make those of us in milder climes shiver with envy - but what does it offer that other cities can’t? Scratch the surface, though, and you’ll uncover a cycling paradise packed with routes worthy of a place on any bucket list.
Want to find out more? Read on for our guide to riding in Melbourne. And if you want to dig into the cycling culture of Melbourne, have a look at our documentary Cycling Heartlands: Melbourne on GCN+. We were treated to a guided tour from ex-pro triathlete and road racer, Matilda Raynolds.
When to visit
There’s one huge draw to riding in Melbourne: the weather. Basking in sunshine for much of the year, the city is the perfect location for those wanting short-sleeve riding.
It’s best to visit during the Australian summer between December to February when the temperatures are routinely above 25°C. There’s also less rainfall than the rest of the year with February winning the award for the driest month.
It’s not all suncream and shorts, though, with the Australian winter between May and June packing more of a shiver than many expect. OK, it’s not that cold but certainly not hot either with daily highs averaging between 14°C and 16°C. These months also experience slightly more rainfall.
Spring and autumn offer a happy in-between in terms of temperature but you can expect more rainfall than the summer, specifically in early spring which averages the most of the year.
While Melbourne may be more renowned for its smooth coastal roads, it also boasts a surprising number of climbs. Here are a few of our favourites.
‘1 in 20’
Average gradient: 4.1%
Head inland to the Dandenong Ranges and you’ll find an area packed with leg-sapping climbs, including the scarily-nicknamed ‘1 in 20’ and the Wall.
We don’t know about you, but we think they’re pretty ominous names for climbs. And they don’t disappoint when it comes to tackling them. The ‘1 in 20’ is the easier of the two, climbing up, as the name suggests, at a reasonable average gradient of a little less than 5% for 6.7km. Steady enough, which is why it’s become the most popular climb in the Melbourne area, perfect for setting PRs.
Average gradient: 4.9%
The Wall is a similar length but less forgiving with stretches above 10%. Combine the two and you’ve got a climbing challenge on your hands. It’ll be worth it, too, as the Dandenong Ranges are nothing short of spectacular, a mix of rolling hills, gullies and temperate rainforest.
Average gradient: 4.2%
This one may come as a surprise as it’s a long climb up to a ski station. That’s right: a ski station…in Australia.
Most people don’t associate Australia with skiing, but the country is home to a surprising number of mountain ranges including the Victorian Alps. This is where we find Mount Hotham, a climb that wouldn’t be out of place in the European Alps. Stretching for a whopping 30km with an average gradient of 4.2%, this is one brute of a climb. Unsurprisingly, it’s regarded by many as the hardest climb in Australia.
Be warned, the climb is located nearly 100 miles away from Melbourne. But Australia is huge and you won’t find many more climbs like this, so we had to include it.
Best cycling routes
Those visiting Melbourne are probably searching for more than just climbs…what about stunning coastal routes? Don’t worry! We’ve pulled together a selection of other routes in and around Melbourne, including arguably the greatest stretch of tarmac in the world.
Great Ocean Road
We’re coming in hot with one of the best known roads in the world - the Great Ocean Road. Sure, it’s a little bit outside of Melbourne, but it’s well worth the short journey along the coast to experience arguably the greatest stretch of tarmac you can lay your tyres on.
Meandering for nearly 250km between the small towns of Torquay (close to Melbourne) and Allansford, the road passes through the popular surfing town of Lorne, Apollo Bay and the Great Otway National Park. The centrepiece of the route, though, has to be the Twelve Apostles. Large limestone stacks that litter the coastline, towering out of the Indian Ocean, defying gravity. They’re just one of the many stunning sights that are seemingly around every bend.
Be warned. These breathtaking landscapes don’t come easily on what is a tough, undulating road, with lots of ups and downs. Not to mention the length, which would be a major challenge for the most hardy of cyclists. That’s why, if you ever get the chance to visit this route, we’d recommend breaking it down into bite-size chunks.
Lots of large cities are nightmares to ride in. Not Melbourne. With plenty of cycle paths and quiet streets, there are many bike-friendly routes within the city itself.
The best of all has to be Beach Road, Melbourne’s worst-kept secret amongst the cycling community. Head down there on most days and you’re sure to find a horde of riders snaking along this coastal route that hugs Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay.
What makes it so popular? Smooth and relatively flat, it’s perfect for every type of cyclist, from those looking for a high-intensity hit out to a more casual cruise. Or maybe it’s the selection of cafes that frequent the route? Not to mention the amazing views. All the ingredients needed for an unforgettable ride.
Yarra Boulevard and the Yarra Trail
When looking for cycling routes in Melbourne, you don’t even have to venture further than the confines of the city. We’ve already covered the city’s most popular route, Beach Road, but Yarra Boulevard and the main Yarra Trail follow closely behind in popularity.
Lining the Yarra river - no guesses where they get their names from - the combined trail and road extends from central Melbourne all the way to the outskirts. Surprisingly undulating, there are plenty of little kickers hidden along the way, including some sneaky double-digit gradients.
Visit the MAAP store
Despite only being founded in 2014, MAAP has quickly established itself as one of the best cycling clothing brands. The business and its owners are Melbourne natives and their flagship store can be found in Collingwood in the north of the city. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Online Production Editor
Tom is our Online Production Editor who creates tech content for the GCN website