Last month I attended a slide night at my favourite Melbourne bike shop Commuter Cycles. The subject was the Victoria Divide 550, a 557km bikepacking route through northern Victoria. As someone who’s eager to start bikepacking I was very much looking-forward to the night.
The slide night was packed, standing room only. And some of that was outside the door! There’s obviously a keen interest for bikepacking locally which is obviously great news. Lewis, the bloke who created the Vic Divide 550 route (pictured centre) was very open and honest about his experience finding and piecing the route together as well as riding (and racing!) it earlier this year with a group of ~40 people.
As the night progressed, I became more and more aware that a route like this is beyond my capabilities, at least in the near term. In particular, this route is more of a mountain biking route vs a touring-style gravel route, and probably not the best way for one to dip their toe into bikepacking. Despite this realisation, I enjoyed listening to the trials and tribulations of the three hosts1 which only increased my enthusiasm to travel and camp by bike. Just not up a 550km hill. Not yet.
It was inspiring to see how much effort and consideration went into to a route like this, particularly when the idea was always to show it to the public. For example, Lewis had planned this route around an ideal 4–6 day timeframe. This allows for riding into small towns in the middle of the day for food/water resupply, especially important during the summer when the ski towns have unpredictable open times (if they are open at all!)
By the end of the presentation I had also realised that as far as bikepacking routes go, I’m much more excited to ride existing routes than to make my own. Maybe this is akin to glamping but instead of avoiding the hassle of setting up a campsite, I’m avoiding the hassle of chancing my way through uncharted territory. If other riders have the exploratory spirit, more power to them; I’ll ride on the shoulders of those who’ve dared to ride before me :)
Kudos to Lewis for the multi-season effort to bike-blaze a unique and challenging route in Victoria! Hopefully I’ll be up to the challenge in a couple years.
Listen to Lewis talk about the Vic Divide 550 on 3CR local radio.
- Wil decided to try tackle this on a single speed :S