It’s not often in life that we are transported back to the whimsical days of our childhood. Cycling however, is an activity that immediately makes you feel like a kid again – the wind in your hair and a sense of exploration long forgotten. And if that’s not enough to make you jump on a bike, maybe this will….
Australians now buy more bikes than cars… about 1.5 million each year and up to four million Aussies cycle regularly.
As well as helping the planet and giving you quality time with family and friends, cycling is a great “equaliser”. It’s one of the few activities friends and family can enjoy together, regardless of different ages, sizes and fitness levels.
There’s evidence that moderate exercise like cycling releases endorphins to lift your mood, burns calories, is easy on your joints, fights cancer, keeps you regular, boosts your immune system, your heart fitness, brain power and skin for youthful looks while improving your sleep habits.
Murray Johnston of Real Melbourne Bike Tours shares his top five off-road rides from Federation Square.
St Kilda and back along the beach:
An easy 18km loop takes you past the iconic MCG, Rod Laver Arena then a walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens and on to the War Memorial, Albert Park Lake and Grand Prix Track to Acland St.
Enjoy lunch at The Vineyard café overlooking Luna Park and the world’s oldest roller coaster, or grab fish and chips or my favourite – a DIY pita pocket at Falafel Xtra in groovy Acland St and enjoy it on nearby St Kilda Beach. Stop for a coffee and cakes in the cool café at the end of St Kilda Pier, then ride back to the city along the beach. From Station Pier in Port Melbourne follow the 109 tramline back to Crown Casino, passing South Wharf on your way.
Abbotsford Convent & Children’s Farm
This is a fun 24km return trip along the Yarra River. From Federation Square stick to the north side of the river. Part of the path floats on the Yarra itself, on pontoons. You’ll wind through beautiful bushland past private school boathouses and secluded riverside mansions, crossing a couple of suspension bridges to the gorgeous Sisters of the Good Shepherd Convent, established in 1863. These days it’s home to a wood fired bakery, bars, cafes, weekend markets and the famous “Lentil as anything” – a vegetarian buffet where you help yourself and pay whatever you can afford and whatever you think it’s worth. You can also dine or enjoy coffee and cakes at the popular Collingwood Children’s Farm nearby where kids can experience farm animals right in the heart of the city.
Capital City Trail
For a more serious outing tackle the 30km Capital City Trail. Ride to the Convent and keep trucking to Dight’s Falls, maybe hit some balls or play mini golf at the Yarra Bend Golf Club, driving range and adventure golf course. Visit nearby Fairfield or Studley Park boat houses for meals and/or a rowboat ride. Next stop is the Melbourne Zoo, or keep riding under the Tullamarine Freeway overpasses beside the Maribyrnong River to Docklands with its national ice skating arena and giant observation wheel, shops and restaurants. Yum cha at the Gold Leaf Chinese restaurant or maybe a beer at the James Squire Brew House with water views. Continue past Docklands Stadium over the beautiful and award-winning Webb Bridge inspired by an Aboriginal fish trap, past South Wharf and back into the city.
To get out of the Big Smoke… ride via Docklands past Scienceworks interactive museum to the picturesque shipbuilding village of Williamstown on “Hobson’s Bay”.
Continue along the edge of the bay with great views to Williamstown Beach. Beyond the beach are scenic wetlands full of birdlife on the way to Altona and another of Melbourne’s most under-rated beaches. Try the famous spanakopita cheese and spinach Greek pastries at Melissa in Pier St Altona… then take your bike on a train from Altona right back to Flinders St Station and Federation Square. Just a couple of dollars with a Myki card.
Warburton Rail Trail
My favourite ride of all is from Lilydale to Warburton. Take your bike on a train from Flinders St Station to Lilydale then ride to “Warby” … about 40km through some of the most beautiful countryside in Victoria. There are cool cafes along the way… most notably the Carriage Cafe in an old train car at Seville and the Cog Café and bike shop when you reach Warburton. There are also some great wineries around Seville, like Wild Cattle Creek just a couple of kms from the trail. It’s open 11am to 5pm daily for food and wine tastings. Lilydale to Warburton is an 80km round trip or you can call Jenny on 0413 263 558 at “Pedal Pickups” in advance and she’ll drive you and your bikes from Warburton back to the Lilydale train station for the return to Flinders St.
For more information or bike hire, visit www.rentabike.net.au.