Travelling to work from Prahran to Footscray during my first week took me across Melbourne on two trains. It’s not a terrible journey, but the first train is pretty crowded, and I really wanted to have a go at cycling to work a couple of times a week instead.
The total distance is about 13k, which according to Google would take me around 50 minutes. Melbourne is really bike-friendly so most of the route is along dedicated off-road cycle paths, with just a short ride on the road up Chapel Street, where there is also a decent cycle lane.
I sold my rather rusty old bike before leaving Manly, it was never very good for cycling up hills anyway, so I went to a couple of local bike shops to find a new one. The first one I saw was very pretty, with a pearlised white frame, but the second one was a really good offer on a similar bike for half the price! Feeling a bit daft, I asked if they had anything I could use to mount my iPhone on the handlebars – I wanted to use the map directions like a sat nav to find my way to work! Turns out this isn’t such a crazy request, they had at least three different options, and so far I haven’t got lost either
I got kitted out with a rack with a bag and basket, lights, a strong lock, and most importantly padded pants – I felt like I was wearing a giant nappy, but my backside would thank me later …
On Sunday night, despite the weather not looking too amazing on Monday, I got all my gear together and on Monday morning I stubbornly jumped on the bike and headed up the road. The wind was crazy, and in my face, at times I felt like I was trying to cycle uphill even on the flat … but I made it in one piece to work, and it was actually great just being outside.
I took the bike home on the train, which wasn’t too bad, a bit awkward on the busier train out of the city, but it made the short distance home from the station even faster too. It wasn’t until the second week that the weather and daylight savings were on my side so I could bike home, and wow, that was even better than the ride in. The sun actually came out, and it sits behind me all the way, since I head West in the morning and East to come home. I get a great view of the city and all along the river!
From the top of Chapel Street, my cycle route takes me along the capital city trail by the Yarra river to Richmond, then past a bunch of rowing clubs to Southbank. Along the river it’s beautiful, grass verges with these small white wildflowers that look like snowdrops, bridges, and lots of rowing teams practicing, while their coaches bike slowly alongside them on the riverbank with megaphones.
As I pass the rowing clubs, I have to watch out for the rowers, often carrying their long boats out to the river – on cold days, it makes me shiver to see them in their swimsuits and rash vests, while I’m usually biking in long sleeves and gloves!
Southbank is a bit hazardous, especially on sunny evenings, because the cycle path is shared with pedestrians, who often don’t seem to realise that. Some people freeze when they hear the bell, and trying to weave a path through when it’s busy is not easy. I learned to be slow and careful on my second morning, when I skidded on wet pavement to avoid somebody coming off of the bridge.
The rest of the journey takes me past the Docklands on a dedicated bike path, where the views are pretty nice when the sun’s out. For the rest of the journey, I’m usually the only person biking out of the city, although I pass loads of people cycling in the opposite direction! On the way home, I’m also almost alone in heading towards the city while other people are coming home.
The last part is along Footscray road, past the Melbourne wheel and the back of the loading docks, lined up with huge metal shipping containers. At the end of my ride, I cross the Maribyrnong River, from where I can see the Lonely Planet office, and I’m usually pretty ready to park the bike and head up for a hot shower.
So far, I’ve had a few sunny days but got rained on twice and fought against the wind several times, but it still beats the crap out of the train! I took my camera along on one of the good days to take some photos, the morning clouded over a bit but the afternoon was pretty