14 Jan 2012
Article featured in The Australian: Meals n Wheels 14th January, 2012
YOU see us out in force every weekend: the “weekend warriors”. That’s right, the Lycra-clad mob floating between St Kilda and Frankston in all shapes and sizes, and many of whom don’t leave much to the imagination. We hail from all walks of life and are drawn to the pursuit of cycling for many different reasons. It delivers so much to so many and is very much part of the Melbourne landscape these days.
People tell me life, like a lot of things, is all about balance. So, what is balance? How much of a good thing is too much? All cyclists have to balance something: work, relationships, kids, yet we all manage to find some good time to spend in the saddle.
I am one of them – a wine professional, food lover and a cycling tragic, although not always in that order. And after much practice, I can share some tips on getting the most out of biking around our city’s bayside.
The balancing act starts early in the week for me with a few texts from some cycling buddies: “Let’s hit the road early Sunday morning for a spin down to Frankston.” Or, if they’re feeling a bit keener, “Let’s have a hit-out down at the ‘Crit’ in St Kilda.” So, while we are trying to keep the balance, we’re also planning the weekend’s riding early in the week, while also still carrying secret hopes to get out for a few sneaky rides before work during the week.
But if all goes to plan and some self-restraint is exerted after service on Saturday (the ever-tempting knock-off session can often get in the way of a good ride) the scene is set for a perfect Sunday of bikes, beers and Beach Road.
There is a definite hit list of cycling and culinary must-dos on a Sunday in bayside Melbourne. But remember, it’s all about balance … apparently! So I have split the day into two sections.
Rather simply, start the day with a great ride and progress into some great feasting, then wrap up with some great booze – how much riding, feasting and sipping you do is up to you.
Beach Road: Yes, it’s crowded, but hell, it’s fun! There is something for everyone, and everyone is out and about – and if you’re new, you will see some sights that no one can prepare you for. There are a number of rides you can do from the city: a short ride to Black Rock (25km) or Mordialloc (40km); a nice ride to Frankston (85km); or you can go the “hard man” rides down the peninsula over challenging climbs such as the scenic Arthurs Seat (160km); some even go the double-ton down to Sorrento and back (200km). This really is one of the great areas to ride in Australia.
Tip: Get out there early! There can be literally thousands of riders out, particularly when the weather is good.
Pin on a number and join the “Crit”: Melbourne has some of the best racing in the country, and it’s grassroots. From October to April there is a criterium race almost each day of the week, with Sunday being prime time. St Kilda and Carnegie/Caulfield provide two of the best meets in town. Graded racing is in place for riders of all levels, from novice through to damn-near pro, and everyone in between. Even overweight wine guys can lard around in C grade.
Get down and have a crack against the other weekend warriors because this will provide them with much-needed material for later in the day. There will be endless amounts of “if only”, “maybe” and “should’ve” over a few beers, not to mention the gold standard “I nearly rolled a pro who was back from Belgium” kind of talk. You might even just like to head down and watch from the sidelines – who knows, you may just see the next Baden Cooke or Mitch Docker.
Hit the Stoke: On a good summer day, St Kilda is the place to be and there is no better spot to chew the fat and watch the world go by after a big day in the saddle than The Stokehouse (30 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda, phone 03 9525 5555). Just remember to go home and shed the Lycra for some civilian apparel. You don’t want to be part of the growing Lycra set sitting in cafes and scaring passers-by with way too much on display.
The Stokehouse beach bar is perfect for a few cold beers and some King George whiting and chips out the front on the promenade. For a bit more of an occasion, go for a few glasses of champagne and oysters on the upstairs balcony.
Tip: Sunglasses will serve you well.There’s no escaping that sunset.
WHEN IT’S DARK AND WINTRY
Head to France-Soir (11 Toorak Rd, South Yarra, phone 03 9866 8569), just like the French brasserie you went to when you were in Paris, only better. A Melbourne institution of classic rather than flashy French dishes, complemented by an epic French-focused wine list compiled by owner Jean-Paul Prunetti.
The perfect spot to take that special someone in your life and spend the afternoon planning your trip to next year’s Paris-Roubaix.
Tip: Must-have dishes includesteak tartare and creme brulee.
SUMMER, WINTER, WHENEVER
The George Wine Room (125 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, phone 03 9525 5599) is a great spot to debrief – a favourite of wine guys and cyclists alike. Prop yourself up at the bar and let the notable “ifs”, “maybes” and “almost” stories from the morning Crit or Beach Road ride flow. Over the summer keep an eye out for some of our favourite pros, as you could be fortunate enough to share a beer with a few of the local lads, such as Simon Gerrans or Matt Wilson.
Tip: Ice-cold Trumer Pils off tap is dangerously tasty after a 150km ride.
This is an extract from Matthew Hurst’s The Casual Cyclist’s Guide to Melbourne
Source: The Australian: Meals n Wheels
Image: Sommelier, winemaker and self-confessed ‘cycling tragic’ Lincoln Riley. Picture: Aaron Francis Source: News Limited