Cycling abroad: Nederlands!

The interest in cycling in the Netherlands has exploded in recent times and it is no wonder why…

In 2013 The Netherlands was voted as the most bike friendly country in Europe according to the European Cyclists Federation (ECF) and only just being pipped by Denmark in 20151. The ECF appraises EU countries through their cycling barometer - a scoring system which seeks to evaluate the countries commitment to cycling on 5 fronts;

1.       Modal share – how many people use bicycles as their main mode of transport,

2.       Safety - how safe it is to cycle within the country

3.       Market share – how many bicycles are being sold each year

4.       Cycling tourism – how many cycling trips tourists take

5.       Cycling advocacy- the scale of cycling advocacy groups within the country

Suffice it to say it’s a fairly in depth analysis, but the stats and facts on cycling in the Netherlands are astonishing;

·         There are more bicycles than residents in the Netherlands

·         In major cities such as Amsterdam with a population of 847,176 it’s estimated that around 70% of daily journeys are on a bicycle. It’s estimated that there are 800,000 bikes in Amsterdam and around 260,000 cars.

·         Cyclists have right of way at roundabouts, further where you say come across a one Way Street without much space, again the cyclist has right of way.

·          The university city of Groningen has a central train station has underground parking for 10,000 bikes. The parking also works in much the same way as an underground car park at one of Victoria’s larger malls – electronically showing how many spaces are available. In Amsterdam there are 250,000 bike racks.

·         It is quite common for bikes to not be locked up and in fact if they are locked up in the wrong place you could find your bike impounded and required to pay a fee to get it back.

·         You are not required to wear a helmet – the safety infrastructure is considered to be safe enough to forego what we here in Victoria would consider a necessity given our current infrastructure and cyclist awareness.

Seeing as cycling is so popular and supported it’s not hard to see why the Netherlands are high on the bucket list for avid cyclists. The commitment to cycling doesn’t end at infrastructure either, if you decide to go to the Netherlands and want to get some riding in whilst there, the resources available are amazing. There is the national long distance cycle network (LF routes) which is a series of routes designed for those who wish to undertake a cycling holiday in the Netherlands. The routes on the network are designed to take you all across Holland – fully signposted and there is an online platform available. Pursuant to this, the online route planner also offers information on points of interest, down to picnic bench locations. And it doesn’t stop there – it also lists places that are Fietsers Welkom! (Cyclists Welcome) – cycle friendly places to eat, drink and even stay.

There are 32 main LF routes varying from the 20km Thorn to Roermond route to the 1300km Tour of Holland route, so you most probably won’t have the time to get across all of them, in which case you could opt to follow one of the themed routes such as the Nederland’s Kustroute route (the coastal route) which at 570kms follows the North Sea and Waddenzee coast. If you’re a bit more adventurous you might take on the Ronde van Nederland route (Tour of the Netherlands) and if you survive expect to receive a certificate from Nederland Fietsland2 (you need to register and take a photo of yourself at 6 locations).

1European Cyclists Federation, 2016,            

2Nederland Fietsland 2016,

Life Cycle 55+'s Top 5 Historic rides: Merri Creek trail.

So finally, we arrive at the top historic ride of Victoria!

The Nagambie ride was certainly close to taking out top honours and we hope you liked the submission and are able to ride it soon as it’s an absolute gem of a ride. However a decision must be made - the number one historic ride we at Cycling Victoria couldn’t go past is; The Merri Creek Trail…!

Surprised? We bet you are! If you’ve ever had the chance to ride the trail you might be scratching your head – a seemingly unassuming choice given the lack of discernible manmade historical sites adorning the ride. However, Merri Creek holds a special place in Victoria’s history and we hope after reading this article you will appreciate why we went with the trail.

The trail is approximately 21kms and follows Merri Creek (commencing at Dight Falls), winding through Clifton Hill and passing gorgeous reserves on its way through North Fitzroy and up past Brunswick’s Velodrome and Ceres (Centre for Educations and Research in Environmental Strategies) before hitting Coburg where you will ride over a cable suspension bridge which just so happened to open in 1985 to celebrate Victoria’s 150th Anniversary. The trail then passes through Coburg Lake and finishes in Reservoir where you will get to enjoy the beautiful Jukes Rd Grasslands which is a great place to spend some time given only one thousandth of Victoria’s original grasslands exist today.

Merri Creek itself flows for 70kms starting in Wallan and joining the Yarra River at Dights Falls. This spot where the creek meets the river was one of the traditional locations for the Wurundjeri-willam people to hold gatherings and is Merri Creek is believed to be where the only land treaty between Indigenous Australians and European settlers was established. The Wurundjeri-willam clan were the original occupants of the northern suburbs of Melbourne and their territory extended from the northern bank of the Yarra River through to Merri Creek. The Treaty was signed in 1835 between John Batman (Batman Avenue was indeed named after John) and prominent members of the clan including elder Billbellary who was a highly respected elder of the clan. Unfortunately the altruism of John Batman was quashed by Sir Richard Bourke (Bourke St in the city is named after him) the Governor of NSW who refused to ratify the Treaty to allow the Wurundjeri-willam clan the right to use and control the land as they saw fit as he implemented the doctrine of terra nullius which proclaimed that Indigenous Australians could not sell or assign land, nor could an individual person acquire it – other than through distribution by the Crown.

One can only imagine the heartache the Wurundjeri people would have felt seeing their prized Merri Creek being taken from them. The Wurundjeri people held Merri Creek in such high regard as it supplied the clan with an abundance of fish, eels, ducks and shellfish. The rock falls would have been ideal for the clan to trap fish and as a meeting place where many clan would trade and exchange brides and settle disputes. In fact the largest ever recorded meeting of Aboriginal people in Victoria was held in January 1844 at Merri Creek where clans from all over Victoria witnessed important judicial proceedings carried out to the traditions of Aboriginal Law.

If you get the chance to take a stop on the ride - about 250m to the East of Dights Falls is a historic obelisk which commemorates the “first white men to discover the river Yarra reaching Yarra Falls on the 8th of February, 1803. Also to make the crossing near here with cattle by the first overlanders John Gardiner, Joseph Hawdon and Captain John Hepburn in December 1836”. Whilst the accomplishments of the “first white men” is certainly of historic reference, one can only feel for the disposed Wurundjeri clan uprooted from their home to make way for European settlers.

In the 1840’s the artificial weir of Dights Falls was built on the natural bar of basalt to provide water to the Ceres flour mill – one of the first in Victoria. ‘Dights Mill’ which is located by the Yarra River in Collingwood is one of Melbourne oldest and most significant industrial sites. John Dight used the artificial weir to power Melbourne’s first water powered flour mill1.

On a side note you may notice quite a few magpies on the ride and you might find it interesting to note that it’s said that the Collingwood Football Club’s use of the magpie as their mascot was inspired by the magpies at Dights Falls2. Not much more needs to be made of this one we would suggest! Apologies to any pies supporters out there, we couldn’t help ourselves..!

Whilst we have focused on the rich history of Dights Falls, there are a thousand stories that we could have espoused following the trail to Reservoir. We hope that the article has been somewhat of an eye opener and that possibly when you ride the trail you will have an appreciation and possibly some sense of profoundness of what the Merri Creek stands for in Victoria’s history.

So there we have it! The 5 top historic rides of Victoria – we can’t wait to hear your thoughts on our selections!

1 Dights Mill Site, Victorian Heritage Register, Victorian Heritage Database. Heritage Victoria.

2 Main, Jim (2008), Aussie Rules For Dummies

Fueling your bodies

What part does nutrition play in riding?

When we go for a ride we burn energy and deplete our bodies of necessary fuel stores. This especially holds true on strenuous / enduring rides and certainly if we have had a busy riding schedule, then our intake of food will probably need to be comprised of more than the standard three square meals a day. Look no further than an endurance cyclist on Le Tour De France who is frequently consuming carbohydrates on the ride to ensure he doesn’t end up with ‘heavy legs’ which is a depletion of glycogen of the quads or ‘hunger flatting’ due to low blood sugar levels.

Ok, so we aren’t about to hit Le Tour, but nevertheless nutrition plays an integral part in riding - ensuring our bodies don’t become unnecessarily fatigued or worse – damaged. Either way, if we don’t take nutrition seriously we may find it’s only a matter of time before we put long rides in the ‘too hard’ basket or give riding away altogether.

Being prepared and planning our carbohydrate intake is key and is a relatively straightforward process. Generally speaking, we would only consider consuming additional carbohydrates on rides that are over 1 hour in duration with a balanced meal plan on either side of the ride. We would also need to ensure we have plenty of snacks on hand, not to mention plenty of fluids – either in the form of water or say a sports drink.

To circumvent issues such as a hunger flat – the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) provides a fantastic resource to draw upon. The AIS website asserts that before embarking on a strenuous ride or a race we should be looking to have our carbohydrate and fluid stores well stocked. To do so we could incorporate the following;

  • Consuming a normal sized meal 4 hours before we embark and getting in a snack 1 or 2 hours before set off.
  • Where the ride is early in the morning we can consume a high carbohydrate meal the night before with just a snack 1 or 2 hours before we set off.
  • High carbohydrate, low fat foods are ideal as the support easy digestion and are a good way to top up fuel supplies.
  • All meals and pre ride meals and snacks should be accompanied by adequate fluids to assist digestion.

Some nutritious pre-ride meals include;

  • Breakfast cereal (no sugar) with skim milk and fruit
  •  Wholemeal muffins with fruit and low fat yoghurt
  • Baked potatoes with a low fat yoghurt filling
  • Pasta with low fat sauce
  • Wholemeal sandwiches with fruit
  • Homemade smoothies

Some pre-ride snack ideas include;

  • Cereal bars
  • ·Fruit
  • Yogurt
  • Sports drinks
  • Sports bars

1-The Australian Institute of Sport, written by AIS Sports Nutrition, 2009.                  

Of course any dietary advice should be discussed with your physician as you may require further assistance with regulating your diet when it comes to sports training. For instance some of us may need additional supplements such as iron - so it is always good to get professional advice before diving headfirst into any dietary programme. Also it’s always a good idea to experiment a little by trying different meals and the timing of meals and snacks on the ride to see whether your body responds to certain plans more effectively.  

So c’mon - let’s make those long rides unforgettable by ensuring our bodies get what they need!  

Life Cycle 55+'s Top 5 Historic Rides in Victoria: The Mitchelton Winery Ride

We hoped you liked our third selection Mount Beauty to Falls but it’s now getting down to serious business (well ok, it’s probably not that serious!). Coming in at number two we have selected the Mitchelton Winery Ride in Nagambie. But wait… Before you accuse us of being somewhat swayed by the advent of wine on this ride and not keeping in line with strictly historical rides, you may be somewhat surprised at how enriching an experience this ride can be. The stories of the wineries in Nagambie region are fascinating and we anticipate that you’ll be thanking yourself for embarking on this sensational ride.

#2 The Mitchelton Winery Ride

The ride starts and finishes at Mitchelton Winery and is approximately 50-60kms. Most of us have come across a bottle (or possibly a couple more) from this gem of a winery but you may be interested to learn that Mitchelton was originally intended to be known as Mitchellstown dating back to 1836 when Major Thomas Mitchell and his family crossed the Goulburn River on his 900 kilometre journey from Sydney to Melbourne. Ross Shelmerdine commissioned Colin Preece to find the best site for wine grape growing and the story goes that Preece chose the Nagambie district due to its climate, soil and proximity to water1. The winery has changed hands a few times since its first vintage in 1973, but what hasn’t changed is its ability to produce world class wines, not to mention its beautiful setting – a spectacular cellar door complex that boasts a 55 metre tower.                       

Ah, yes this is certainly the place to start and finish the ride (but of course leaving in the first place may be a challenge…!)

Another great feature of this ride is the way the Goulburn River interacts with other great sights such as Lake Nagambie which surprisingly, is a manmade lake developed in 1891 to facilitate rowing regattas and water-skiing tournaments which continue to this day in the form of the Australian Rowing Championships. The sights and wildlife that riding along the river opens up is fantastic. The Goulburn River was first encountered by Hamilton Hume and William Hovell way back in 1824. Hume named the river after Colonial Secretary Frederick Goulburn. In 1854, alluvial gold was discovered and shortly thereafter goldfields were established at Jamieson and Woods Point, Enochs Point. The Goulburn is Victoria’s biggest river, starting in the mountains near Woods Point and extending over 550kms to the Murray at Echuca. Billions of dollars of agriculture is supported by the Goulburn River and its waters are in great demand – the Goulburn Murray irrigation system was developed in the 1920’s and its channel system extends thousands of kilometres. The Goulburn Weir was completed in 1891 and was revered considerably and found its way on the reverse of half sovereign and ten shilling banknotes from 1913 until 1933.

And finally we can’t leave out the little winery located in the Tahbilk Wetland region – Tahbilk Winery… Truth be told it’s not all that little, quite prestigious and an important part of Victoria’s wine history - the vineyard has 200 hectares under vine which includes the rare French Rohne Valley whites of Marsanne, Viognier and Roussanne, Rhone Shiraz, Grenache and Mouverdre with a bit of space left over for your usual suspects in Cabernets, Sauvignon’s and the like. Tahbik Winery was established way back in 1860 following the gold rush when its founders dreamt of creating ‘liquid gold’ from the vine on the Goulburn River. With funds from the Bear Brothers, the first vintage was in 1861 and within 20 years Tahbilk was the largest, most modern and successful winery in the colony, exporting to Europe and winning international awards2.

Mitchelton Winery is located at 470 Mitchellstown Rd, Nagambie

Tahbilk Winery is located at 254 Oneils Road, Tabilk

Life Cycle 55+'s Top 5 Historic Rides in Victoria: The Falls Creek to Mount Beauty Trail

We hope you liked our 4th selection of top historic rides – the Hobsons Bay Coastal Trail. We now move east and again we think this one will surprise a lot of you out there – at number 3, it’s the Falls Creek to Mount Beauty Trail. There are a few main reasons why we chose this trail – not only has this trail drenched in history, this trail boasts some amazing scenery which we feel elevate it to # 3.

#3 The Falls Creek to Mount Beauty Trail

The Falls Creek to Mount Beauty trail at just under 31km winds its way through forest, passing valleys, lakes and creeks. Depending on the time of year you embark on this trail, wildflowers peak through January, or possibly during Spring when the wattle blossoms, it’s a stunning trail and whilst there isn’t many ‘tourist’ pit stops with information on the history, we hope this article alludes you to what the trail comprises so when you pass through you can appreciate the historic wonders the trail encompasses.

Again, we have done our best to select the main historic attractions of this trail.

·         The Bogong High Plains – part of the Victorian Alps of the Great Dividing Range, the traditional custodians of the land are the indigenous Australian Bidhawal, Dhudhuroa, Gunai-Kurnai and Nindi-Ngudjam Ngarigu Monero peoples. According to Eddie Kneebone, an indigenous historian, there is a rich history of Aboriginal peoples coming from all over (as far as the coast) to meet and exchange cultural objects, materials, tools, perform initiations, hold marriages, trade, settle disputes and renew alliances and hold festivities within the plains. They would feast on Bogong Moths and the cultural sites, ancestral stories and oral history passed down through the tribe’s generations forms an important part of indigenous Aboriginal heritage (Kneebone, E, Traditional culture, 2004).

European settlement destroyed the indigenous groups and re-settled survivors far from the plains.  Grazing became fairly widespread for cattle within the alpine region. In 1947 Miss Masie Fawcett investigated the impact of animal grazing on alpine and sub-alpine vegetation by setting up two grazing enclosures. These very plots have been monitored ever since and are the longest continuous series of ecological data of any site in Australia. Interestingly grazing above 5000 feet was excluded from the area by the Victorian Government in 2005 due to the evidence the experiment provided.

·         The Kiewa Valley - The Kiewa Valley was settled by Europeans way back in 1835. There is a plethora of information available and innumerable artefacts collected by the Kiewa Valley Historical Society located in Mount Beauty (31 Bogong High Plains Rd) which are certainly worth an extended pit stop. The Society aims to preserve and conserve the history and heritage of the valley and for a gold coin donation, you are going to get a great education on the how the pioneers worked, socialised and lived, not to mention the artefacts that show the relationship the first indigenous people had to the land. There is also a great story behind the Kiewa Hydro Scheme – the largest in Victoria that was originally constructed between 1938 and 1961.

Other notable places of interest;

·         ‘Cranky Charlie’ – a U bend at the top of a steep bend where Charles Richardson (known as Cranky Charlie) slammed a sign post into the ground and remarked on the beautiful view. The Cranky Charlie fire trail is 1.45kms if your looking to go off track somewhat.

·         High Country Huts – ok technically these aren’t all on the Falls Creek to Mount Beauty trail but they definitely are worth a mention and a visit if you can fit a little sightseeing in before or after your ride;

o   Kelly’s hut

o   Wallace’s hut

o   Cope Hut