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South West Victoria by Day

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' started by voyager, Mar 15, 2006.

  1. South West Victoria By Day
    One Day Riding on Melbourne's Doorstep

    Welcome Reader, to my journal. Collected in here will be the complete works of... no, thats not true. It won't be some great literary masterpiece. It won't be some learned insight into much either. What it WILL be is a series of articles and records of my attempts to travel around the greater part of the lower South West of Victoria in the company of like-minded (read: crazy) people in single days at a time.

    I'll be including a lot of support articles in here as well, like what I take into consideration when I plan these trips, how I determine where to go, what support we'll need - stuff like that. Once I'm done, hopefully you'll have the resources to try some of these trips yourself.

    With or without my company.

    Hopefully I'll be able to add in some great photographs of the region as well, to inspire you. In reality, you'll probably just get poorly exposed holiday snaps, but thems the breaks. Guess taking better pictures could be an excuse to go ride these roads again. Not that I needed one.

    Anyway, this is the start of the journal. I hope you enjoy the read.

    Quick Menu
    Route 1: Corio - Williamstown Learner Ride
    Route 2: Meredith Learner Loop
    Route 3: Golden Spa Ride (Bacchus Marsh - Daylesford Loop)
    Route 4: Spa Country Cruise (Bacchus Marsh - Heathcote Loop)
    Route 5: Magical Mystery Tour (TBA)

    DISCLAIMER: I'm no expert or professional route planner, and definately not a highly experienced or skilled rider. I take no responsibility for anything you read in here and your interpretations therein, likewise if you go on one of these routes and something is inaccurate, its not my problem. Photographs, bad as they are, are MINE, reference them sure, but don't go thieving.
  2. Route Planning & Considerations

    This will be the first of my series of articles about how I go about planning a route. In this article, I'll cover the basics of how I select a route, plan the stops, etc. Please note there is no example given here - the following articles will include actual routes which you can apply this process to.

    ((pictures, where appropriate, will be added in later.))

    Prelude: The Idea Forms

    A route starts usually as an idea of a ride somewhere. I'll stare out of the window and dream of wide open roads, big sweepers and the roar of the engine. Whilst off in my little dream world, I'll recall places I've been to, pictures I've seen, that sort of thing... the seed of the idea is born. A little 5 minute session on Google, nowwhereroute and visitvictoria will typically see me confirm or deny the presence of what I was daydreaming about. Once I've gotten to this stage, planning begins in earnest.

    Stage 1: Pick a Destination & Purpose

    All routes have a destination, even if that point is simply the furthest point from home, or where I plan to stop for food. It is often pretty fluid at this point, but I have to select somewhere at this point. Without a destination, I've found that I can't figure out a decent route to travel, as it ends up just being a boring loop. A "purpose" is simply any special event that is taking place before, during or after the ride - ie: a BBQ, party at HQ, or simply "twisties". Doesn't need to have anything, but if it does, identify it NOW as it affects the entire ride.

    Example - Ride to Ballarat (no purpose)

    Stage 2: Pick General Direction

    At this stage, I know where I'm headed to, so its time to work out roughly where I intend to go, and how long I want the ride to be. I usually look at trying to head out West in the morning, East in the evening to cut down on sun glare. I also try to run a loop rather than a there-and-back-again route - I like the sense of touring as opposed to just hammering up and down a single road.

    Example - Head West through Anakie, then up through Ballan. Return via Macedon.

    Stage 3: Select a Preliminary Route

    At this point I'll use a map of the region (VicRoads Country Directory is a great tool for this job), and roughly sketch out a route. I'm not even looking up road names at this point - just the general skeleton. Gives me an idea of distance and a more definative view of the terrain in the area. I also make a rough calculation of the distance here, to about the closest 25km.

    Example - looking at the map, I can see a couple of older A roads through the region. Pencil them in. I can also see the highway is about the only way in and out of Ballarat without taking a side-step. Pencil that in. The road over to Macedon runs through Lancefield, would make a good waypoint. Finally down the freeway back to Melbourne.

    Stage 4: Logistics

    Now its time to consider the logistics of the route, and in no particular order of importance, they are: waypoints, amenitites, fuel, special needs, prevailing conditions & marshalls. Each one is discussed below:

    Waypoints: I work on a route needing one waypoint for each 70-80km, to allow for people to stretch legs, talk up the roads, get a drink, fuel up, take a leak, etc. This assumes roughly "ideal" conditions. In more extreme weather, you need more stops to eliminate heatstroke, fatigue, chills, etc. For an approximately 250km ride, 3 waypoints is generally sufficient.

    Amenities: I try to ensure the basics are available at all waypoints along the ride. A typical service station contains them all. These days, this isn't the same sort of consideration it may have been even as recently as 10 years ago.

    Fuel: There's fuel and then there's fuel. Not all non-metro service stations carry high-octane unleaded fuel, so I try to find one or two that I KNOW do. This is as simple as looking them up in the phonebook - the larger convenience-store style ones always have premium (well, theoretically - it has a tendency to run out). A phonecall can confirm this - they won't give you prices over the phone, but will confirm presence/supply of it.

    Prevailing Conditions: this refers to extremes of temperature, winds and general road conditions (obviously we don't know these quite yet). Have a contingency plan if the day turns sour. I like to have a "cut-out" road planned that allows me to take around 30% of the ride distance off a ride if needed.

    Special Needs: This is a bit of a catch-all for items like "will people need to carry BBQ supplies" or "will people need to be fresh for a certain section of the route" and the like. Basically, this is to ensure that if there is a purpose to the ride above and beyond "ride", then its factored into the route plan.

    Marshalls: You need, as a minimum, Ride Leader, Tail End Charlie, and a roving marshall who can double as a corner marker. These are the "friends" you'll be annoying in Stage 6. I can't stress enough that good help is EXTREMELY hard to find - good Marshalls can really help a ride along.

    Example - Ride is 250km, but its autumn, so waypoints will do. Ballarat has all the usual facilities, as does Lancefield. Not sure on the way up yet. Weather should be clement, don't expect any road closures. BikerBob and Gorilla have "volunteered" to marshall. All good!

    Stage 5: Map the Route

    Time to actually select the roads (and any alternate roads) and work out the map. I like to do three things for this stage:

    1. Physically "draw" the map - either on a photocopy of a street directory, using whereis and nowwhereroute, etc. This map will become the final "route map" that I create for any ride. Another decent source is the PDF maps available from RACV (free to members) as these can be printed or modified with Photoshop electronically. This lets you see how the ride will run theoretically as well.

    2. Write out the stage markers, including distance, notes and any difficult turns or noted sections.

    3. For sections I haven't been on before, I write a version of "rally code" - a term for writing notational directions. Things like "|" is straight ahead, "O >" for right exit at roundabout, "8 <" for left at lights, and so on. Easier with a pencil, but can be done electronically without too many problems. This is something I can tape to my fuel tank or steering wheel when I get to Stage 8.

    Example - I've opened up the PDF in Photoshop and have painted the route onto the relevant roads. I've annotated the turns through Ballan, which I don't know, into note form for the tankbag. I've selected Anakie as the first waypoint, since Ballan is only about 30min out of Ballarat. I know that Todd Road - Anakie is about an hour and around 80km, Anakie - Ballarat is about the same, Ballarat - lancefield is only about 70km but its slower, and Lancefield to melbourne is about 70km and 110kph highway most of the way - ideal when people are beginning to tire. I've got a couple of printouts of the map, plus my VicRoads map handy.

    Stage 6: Check the Route with a Mate, Set the Date

    Take the map, directions and stage details to a mate's place (or the pub), and pour them a drink whilst they read over it. For the price of a pot, most mates will not only point out any and all issues, they'll highlight good ideas, and offer to ride it with you, suggesting a date as they go. Typically, whilst you ponder their feedback and revise the route plan in your head, they'll return the favour of a pot. After several, mates can usually be talked into being Ride Leader / TEC. Handy!

    Example - After discussion and a few ales, Gorilla has suggested a sidetrack down Granite Road on the way to Anakie - apparantly its a nice riding road. Sounds good, pencil it in and update the route. Doesn't add to the distance much, so don't worry about that. He also reckons the highway from ballan to ballarat will be boring, but doesn't have an alternative thats practical. Oh well. BikerBob is keen to divert through Daylesford, but it would add appreciably to the time and distance, and is overruled.

    Stage 7: Revise the Route

    Any suggestions have been applied or ignored, road options have been initially picked. Update the map and stage information, then find your keys.

    Stage 8: Test the Route

    Get out there and check it. I usually take the other half out in the car, but where possible get any Marshalls you have in mind to come along with you. If you're riding the roads, be prepared for map consulations, LOW speeds, backtracks, etc. Don't forget to test out food arrangements, if any. Look for hazards on the roads and plan for them, make mental (and map) notes of where difficult corners are (for marking). Identify the waypoints and fuel stations.

    Example - after riding the road, its proven Gorilla is right, the highway stretch is boring. Whilst in the area, a series of B roads from Ballan to Ballarat are located and checked, adding 20km but a great deal more interest to the ride. Excellent.

    Stage 9: Finalize the Route

    Make the last updates to the route plans that you found on the test run. Figure out your times, distances, etc now you know for sure. Write it all down so its ready to go. Make copies of the map (I usually run off a dozen A4 and 2 A3 copies - not EVERYONE needs/wants a map, the A3 copies go to the Ride Leader and Tail End Charlie). Confirm the date for the run and your Marshalls.

    Example - The route plan and maps are updated with the revised section. This required the Ballan section to be reworked, but now you've been there, its easy enough to navigate.

    Stage 10: RIDE!!!

    You're ready, you're planned. Get to the meeting point and look forwards to a relatively stress-free ride, knowing that you have done everything possible to make it as good as it can be.

    Post-Ride: Dissection

    ALWAYS do a debrief with the Marshalls and any riders who care to participate. Get peoples feedback on what worked and what didn't, things that could be done differently, suggestions for next time, etc. Motorcyclists are notorious "monday experts", but will generally offer you a lot of input. Listen to it carefully. If you realize something just didn't work, you can go back to Stage 7 before you "put the route to bed", so to speak.

    Example - Justin & Sally, both on hypersports bike, reckoned the route was boring. Fiona, on a 250, found it slightly too long and quite exhausting. Craig seemed to think it was a good ride, the marshalls were efficient but corner marking needed an extra body. Everyone else was generally positive and enjoyed the day out. Its noted on the route plan that its not suitable for raw learners and hypersports riders.

    Final Step: Shelve the Route Plan for another day

    Routes are good more than once - you can recycle them and/or modify them as you see fit. Once the hard work is done the first time, it takes barely 30min to pull it out again, recopy the maps and be ready to run the route again. NEVER throw one away. The computer is a great place to save such rides - scan in the maps and type up the route plans. I haven't.

    I guess I should note here that these are the route considerations - it doesn't factor in about posting the ride on Netrider, how to ignore the barrage of "can't make it" posts, and why you should never change the date. Nor does it go over whether to leave promptly on time, or to "wait 5 minutes" for people. This is stuff you need to figure out on your own.

    IN THE NEXT EDITION: I'll cover what I think about BEFORE I head out on a ride, the items I may pack, etc. Little things, but most will tell you I am fairly well prepared for a ride, so bear with me.
  3. Pre-Ride Checklist


    Before I ride out on a day tour I always make sure I'm carrying specific equipment with me. Most of it is basic, common-sense stuff, but many people forget such basics. The attitude that "I'll get it at the waypoint/destination" works great until you break down and get stuck on the side of the road for hours at a time. Anyway, here's the list.

    Bottle of water / Camelbak
    Spare shirt
    Clear visor (tinted one on helmet already)
    Map & Route Plan - be it a route map, touring atlas or big state map
    Mobile Phone (charged up the night before, ensure Marshalls phone numbers are in the memory)
    Small towel
    Disc Lock (if appropriate)
    Bike Toolkit (under the seat)
    Spare Map and Route Plan (leave this one with someone NOT going on the ride as an emergency contact)

    I pack most of these items into plastic bags to give them some extra protection from any moisture. For anyone who says "why so much, where do you put it?", you can put all of this stuff into a small, unexpanded tank bag, or easily into a single saddlebag/topbox if you need to. I used to pack it all into a small Dririder tankbag on my XV250 and had room to spare.

    Bike Checks

    I always give the bike a once-over the night before, and whilst I am the world's WORST mechanic, I manage the basics well enough. This is the usual checklist and operations.

    Check Oil (and water, if you don't have an air-cooled engine)
    Check Tyre pressure & wear
    Lube the Chain & check "tension" (if you have a chain to lube)
    Empty out panniers/bags of any junk
    Fuel up with your preferred choice of fuel
    Clean headlight & mirrors (you can go further if you want to show off the bike)
    Test Battery (can you start the bike up?)
    Check & Assemble Riding Gear.
    Clean Helmet visors (if any)

    I should note that "chain tension", to my non-mechanical brain, meant "chain still attached". I'm sure you can do better.

    This gives me a reasonable amount of confidance that in the morning, all I need do is pick up my kit, pack the bike and ride to the starting point. I'm also not suggesting you should only do these things when you're prepping for a decent ride, again, you can figure that out for yourself.

    IN THE NEXT EDITION: The First Ride - Corio to Williamstown
  4. Corio - Williamstown

    This was the first ride I ever planned, and I'm not ashamed to say that I made a few mistakes on this ride. Oh well, live and learn. I'd not had my bike long at this point, so it was a short-distance, very learner-friendly ride that stayed off the main highways and ran the back streets. Some of the roads discovered during this route I still use for rides to this day.

    I will add in the usual Netrider Ride Classifications on these details, as well as the general plans for the route. If you were to hunt through the Ride Events section of Netrider, you'll find this one buried deep, deep down around October-November 2004. Photographs are absent here at present - I will go take a few over the next week or so as the roads and waypoints are all pretty close to my home.

    Ride: Corio - Williamstown
    Start Point: Subway shop, Princes Highway, Corio. Just as you enter Corio from Melbourne, its immediately on your right after the speedway.
    Start Time: 10:30am for 11am departure.
    Ride Class: Class 1 or Class 2

    Route Map: none

    Stage 1: Corio - Werribee
    Distance: 50km
    Waypoints: none
    Route: Head off up the Princes towards Melbourne, turnoff at first exit and follow through into Lara. Right at the roundabout (BP) and then right again at the next one (indy station) onto the Old Melbourne Road. Turn left at Little River just after the small bridge, then left at the pub. Take a right at Bulban Road and follow all the way into Werribee. Slight veer right at the roundabout, cross the railway and curve left to the 7-11.

    Destination: Werribee 7-11, Synnot Street (Princes Highway), Werribee.

    Stage 2: Werribee - Williamstown
    Distance: 40km
    Waypoints: none
    Route: Down Duncans Road, switchback at Aviation Road and follow down to Point Cook. Right onto Centre Road, then continue onto Queens Road. Follow the coast through the small service road onto Kororoit Creek Road. Veer right before the railway, and then left around the bay and onto Nelson Place. Finish at Commonwealth Reserve.

    Notes: its an easy run, and with the exception of the stint through Point Cook, few cars to deal with. The service road is properly surfaced, but does flood occasionally. If that happens, backtrack to Millers Road and use that.

    OK, so a quick dissection of this ride. Its short, easy and simple, which is good. It started from Corio, which was bad. I've since learnt that starting points need to be a tad closer, otherwise people who would otherwise enjoy the ride won't show up, and I'm as guilty of this as the next person. After this, I've ensured to keep start points closer in, such as Laverton, Werribee or Bacchus Marsh, or provided for hook-ups to get to the starting point. I also didn't factor in fuel requirements or the lack thereof, nor did I take into account that it might be wet & windy. Some lessons to be learned, but I think I have learned them now.

    IN THE NEXT EDITION: Meredith Learner Loop
  5. Meredith Learner Loop

    This was my second, and ultimately one of the most successful routes I've done to date. Not to say others were bad, but this one will always hold a special place in my catalog. Some thank yous have to go out here, particularly Chairman, who put in a great deal of effort to getting this one planned out and aiding in its execution on the various days. We've run this route several times now, and each time you finish up with a smile on your face from it. Strong recommended, even solo - if you don't make many stops it will only take about 3 hours.

    Ride: Learner's Loop to Meredith via Lara & Glenmore
    Start Point: Westside Taverner Hotel carpark, Laverton (MEL 53 F4, UBD 279 G9) - Kororoit Creek Road exit of the Princes Freeway. Its huge, you can't miss it.
    Departure Time: 10:30am for 11am departure.
    Ride Class: Sightseeing (Class 2) but DEFINATELY a great ride for learning on. Roads are good with a variety of conditions. Route knowledge is possessed by some of the riders, so hints for the conditions ahead are available at each stop. Ride to your own limits on this one, and no-one will get upset.

    Route Map: Route Map [800kb GIF]

    A couple of notes about the map - there is an extra section marked on it from the T-junction at the end of Bulban road. One way sends you left, through Little River and Lara, turning back north to pick up Pringles Road. This is the usual route. The alternate way is to go North from Bulban Road, immediately left before the gravel, and make your way over to Granite road for some more riding. Basically, its a trade-off - you skip the Lara waypoint for Anakie (fuel not recommended there - fuel up on Bulban road at the BP first) and the higher speed limits in order to capture Granite Road, or you follow the listed route through Lara and run Staceys Road over the foothills. Granite Road is a better riding road, however you then have use one of the highways to come back to Pringles Road. I'd say if you're going solo and have at least 200km range in your tank when you hit the end of Bulban road, then go North. if you have limited fuel range, or its a learner's ride, then go to Lara.

    Stage 1: Laverton - Meredith
    Distance: 100km
    Route: First blat down the Princes Freeway simply out of convenience. Once in Werribee, annoy the populace by roaring down Synnot Street, then onto Bulban Road, out through Little River and into Lara on the Old Melbourne Road. Avoids the traffic and lets us ride our own pace.

    Waypoint: BP Station, cnr Station Lake Road & Forest Road (Melways 422 K5, UBD 609 B12). Time for a drink and fuel for those who need it. Last decent fuel available until Bacchus Marsh. If you're unsure of your tank capacity, fuel up here.

    From Lara, head NW into the foothills of the Brisbane Ranges, heading towards Anakie, then up Pringles Road to Steiglitz, Maude and finally Meredith. Roads through here get steep as they wind through the foothills. Mostly uphill, however, apart from a pair of valley descents, so very good for practicing cornering as there is little chance to overcook them.

    Destination: Meredith Pub. Straight across the intersection from where you ride in, park in the shade. Decent food, and pretty cheap. Recommended lunch stop here.

    Stage 2: Meredith - Laverton
    Distance: 100km
    Route: From Meredith, we'll go NE, across Slate Quarry Road and up higher - through Dirdidwarrah, Mt Wallace and Glenmore before passing through Rowsley, and finally into Bacchus Marsh. This is the (in)famous Yaloak Vale road. The turn-off is NOT the first one you'll see, its later on. The road is roughly sealed, and its a + intersection, not a T (although I don't know where the left-turn would take you). The road appears to run off into the horizon, but its an illusion. BACK OFF the throttle when you reach the left-hand bend, this next part is extremely steep, winding and narrow, and it goes down. The road from here is kinda one lane but two way - keep as far to the left as you feel confidant in doing for the blind rises, otherwise take what position you will. It doesn't see many cars.

    Waypoint: Bacchus Marsh. Full range of service stations, fast food chains and sources of caffiene for those suffering withdrawal symptoms. Stopping long enough for a quick drink (it could be pretty hot) and fuel for those who may need it, then we'll press on.

    We'll head East, before turning SE back towards suburbia. Down through Parwan, behind Mt Cottrell and then down Derrimut road to Sayers road, finally returning to the Westside Taverner Hotel to complete the ride.

    Anyone from the other side of town can leave the route in Bacchus Marsh if they want to get on the Western Highway and head for home, otherwise you'll end up right on the Princes Freeway, so its no too bad.

    Route Dissection - this is a suitable ride for even a very new rider, apart from the 500m descent into Yaloak Vale, if taken at an appropriate pace. The majority of the windier sections are either flat or uphill, nothing is really too tight, and the traffic is very light in the area. The Yaloak Vale descent CAN be avoided by taking the previous turn-off to Bacchus Marsh, but really that road is very worthwile, and the steep descent can be done simply by leaving the bike in first and riding the rear brake. It looks more intimidating than it actually is. Roads are generally in good condition, with only the few corners just out of Steiglitz that sometimes have a little gravel near the extreme edges. Lanes are mostly marked, the road is wide enough to limit the corner-cutters in 4WDs.

    Bike Types: ANY bike style and capacity should be fine. I ran it on my 250 a couple of times, and whilst I was limited to 80kph for a lot of it, I by no means was unable to participate fully. I've had people on hypersports bikes on this run enjoy the open sweepers, plus it was just MADE for cruisier types. In short, from Postie to Goldwing, Fireblade to Road King, this route will be worthwhile.

    Ride Types: You want to boost your speed past the posted limit and you'd find it enjoyable, I reckon (not that I've done such a thing). You want to run the posted limit and you'll have a fine day out. You want to watch the world go by and slow up further - the scenery isn't bad. If you want to do the touristy thing, then the Steiglitz Courthouse is open for a bit of history.

    Multimedia: We ran this for the first time on Labour Day 2004. Martyh, gimped at the time by a fractured wrist, came for a day out in Chairmans sidecar - he was handed all manner of cameras and had a photographic day. This link is to one of the videos he shot. Unfortunately the pictures he took are no longer appearing on his website, but if I keep bugging him, he'll eventually fix them.

    Steiglitz Descent and Bridge Crossing [950kb MPG]

    This is a great representation of the roads we're talking about here.

    IN THE NEXT EDITION: To Bacchus Marsh, Daylesford and Beyond (plus that wonderful B road)...
  6. Great work Steve!

    You have put some great thoughts and ideas into this and I have really enjoyed reading it.

    Certainly something that most will take something away from.

    Keep up the good work! :)