“In its unbelievable 8th year, the cult classic ‘Hell of the Northcote’ is a fun ride across, through, over and under Melburn’s bumpiest cobbled alleyways concluding with a lap of the glorious Brunswick outdoor velodrome. This is a cycling event inspired by the grueling Queen of the Classics, the Paris-Roubaix ‘The Hell of the North’.
Armed with a map, musette and a pen riders plan their own route to find the cobbled sectors from East to West, and along the way get lost, stop for coffee, take photos, make friends, and discover a part of Melburn they never knew.
Old and new, young and old, ladies and gent, on bling bikes or beaters. Fixed or free, geared or singlespeed, one wheel or two, there is truly no other event which aligns all sects of the cycling religion for a ‘Sunday in Hell’ to explore this great city.
The route is different each year, less than 40km and a time of 6 hours is allowed to complete the course. Completing the course is not compulsory, no prizes are awarded for speed or athletic merit. This is not a race in any way, shape or form, just a hell of a lot of fun.” Fyxo
This was my first Roobaix. Apart from the obvious pleasure of riding around Melbourne, the Roobaix provides challenges in map reading, stamina, and a bit of risk-taking.
There’s also quite bit of crowd psychology involved. It’s not unusual to see quite large groups of riders suddenly wheeling around and retracing their steps as they have either missed a pave section or just gone the totally wrong way. Then other groups follow suit.
Of course you also get groups who “thought” they were going the wrong way, but in fact were going the right way. So you get these flocks of people going this way and that, that way and this. The best tactic is to read the map for yourself, but it does take a little while to get the hang of the symbology.
Of course this is all part of the fun – there’s no real “right or wrong” on this event.
For me one of the best aspects of this ride is being part of a 3,000 strong group of cyclists enlivening the streets with colour and conversation. It is common to see cyclists explaining the event to pedestrians along the way.
One lady asked me: “I have been out walking, and all day I have been seeing cyclists riding around the back lanes. What is this?”
I took some short cuts through areas with which I am familiar. Looking across to see a stream of cyclists riding parallel was almost like watching a migration in nature. If you’ve ever seen an animal migration in real life you will know how powerful this is. Watching on telly does not give you a sense of it at all.