Might be worth joining the Essendon cyclery ride one Saturday or Wednesday evening (if you can) and talking to the people on it. They obviously enjoy bunch rides, and presumably are locals. Maybe some of them ride midweek mornings? Or would like to?
18/1000 sec from winning lemon tart - but was allowed to have one anyway!!
I head out towards Oaklands from time to time mid-week to escape the hoards on Beach Rd, especially in summer, but I've never seen a bunch on my way out or back in the early mornings mid-week. They might be out there somewhere, but the roads up that way are good for solo work on dead surfaces that are open to the wind.