United energy around the bay
An ambitious start
In 1993, Bicycle Victoria (as Bicycle Network was then known) decided to test out the demand for an ambitious new event that would hopefully attract about 500 riders. The route would take the Westgate Bridge from Port Melbourne, continue through Geelong to Queenscliff, cross the water by ferry to Sorrento, and then back up to Melbourne again via Beach Road.
The date was set for Sunday 17 October 1993. The interest from riders was immediate and immense, with thousands wanting to take part. A change in plans was necessary, as there were not enough ferries to cater for all entrants. Organisers decided to split riders up, with one half doing the route as originally proposed, the other starting in the opposite direction and heading for Sorrento first, crossing by ferry to Queenscliff, then riding back up to Melbourne.
There were eventually 2,700 riders entered, with another 1,000 knocked back due to lack of ferry capacity. With 100 volunteers lending vital support, the first Around the Bay in a Day got underway at 5.30am from JL Murphy Reserve in Port Melbourne, and despite the long distance and hard riding involved, with many riders finishing in the dark, it was deemed an overwhelming success.
Melbourne was amazed at the success of the event and The Age newspaper ran a front page photo the following morning highlighting the positive response.
Numbers begin to grow
A classic Melbourne cycling event is born
Knowing what to expect in 1994, Bicycle Victoria entered a partnership with The Smith Family charity. With the addition of a new ferry, the Peninsula Princess, capacity increased to 3,000 riders. The event quickly sold out again, and hundreds were turned away. Training seminars to help riders began, and were immediately popular, and teams signed on to compete for the inaugural The Smith Family Corporate Trophy.
For 1995, extra ferries were lined up, and more than 4,000 riders signed up to take part. With 140 volunteers forming the backbone of the event, a report at the time praised their efforts, saying, “their unbridled enthusiasm enabled them to sustain their energies throughout the day.”
Known as Operation Dunkirk, there was a big squeeze on some of the smaller ferries, where pedals had to be removed to make room for all the bikes. One distracted rider reportedly popped his pedals into his helmet, and subsequently when swinging his lid about, accidentally flung the pedals into the sea.
By 2001 the ride had grown even further, and a record 5,000 riders took part. After securing another ferry in 2002, that number increased to 7,000 participants. The event start and finish location was relocated from Port Melbourne to Catani Gardens in St Kilda that year, and 272 teams participated. The ride even became an international event, a 43-strong Irish team came over especially, as did others from Singapore, New Zealand and the USA.
But spirits aren't dampened
Wet weather pushes riders to the limit
The weather increased the challenge for the 2003 running. Riders were caught out by a very warm morning start, broken at 7am by a torrential downpour and a drastic drop in temperature. Riders sheltered under bridges before continuing sodden to the ferries to wait shivering for a reprieve from the rain and cold wind. By 3pm the sun had returned and riders were warmed and mostly dried out, but this year remains the most dramatic for the weather.
By 2005, Around the Bay jerseys of different vintages were a common sight on riders around Melbourne. It seemed that every bike rider was either an Around the Bay veteran or training for their first circuit. This year the ride hosted over 10,000 riders for the first time.
For 2006, the event offered four ride distances for the first time: 42km, 100km, 210km and 250km. More than 14,000 riders rolled out, helped on their way by over 400 volunteers. The 250km distance was named The Legend, and it proved a hit with the riders.
United Energy Around the Bay Legends
There are ten riders who have ridden every single Around the Bay since the event began. This year they’ll be saddling up for the 26th time and will have special jerseys – give them a wave if you see them on the road!
Melbourne Cycling Festival
A new site and record rider numbers
From 2007, a partnership with the City of Melbourne began, with the event start–finish site moving to Alexandra Gardens. Joining forces with the GO Bike Expo, Around the Bay in a Day became part of the Melbourne Cycling Festival, involving a whole weekend’s activities at the Gardens Precinct in Melbourne. This year’s ride was also the hottest on record, with temperatures reaching 38 degrees and hot northerly winds making for some very unpleasant conditions.
In 2009, as part of the Melbourne Cycling Festival, 15,609 riders took part with a record 525 volunteers assisting. In this year $1,000,000 was raised for The Smith Family for the first time.
For 2010 the day was wet and one of the ferries was cancelled the night before, but this didn’t deter over 16,000 riders from taking part, which was a new record for participation.
2012 was the ride’s 20th edition and since then has consistently catered for more than 10,000 riders every year, including 2016 when strong winds pushed riders and challenged 2003 as the most difficult ride to date.
25 years and counting
Silver anniversary and another new beginning
2017 was the 25th edition of Around the Bay and a large bike riding party marked the occasion.
Every rider was also given a commemorative ‘confetti’ jersey, a change from previous years when different jerseys were designed for longer and shorter routes. Having 10,000 riders set off all in the same jersey was a magnificent sight.
This year, in 2018, the event has new name, a new start site and a new distance. Energy provider United Energy have come on board in a major event partnership and the ride will start at Albert Park, an are synonymous with Melbourne and more comfortable for riders.
A 300km route has also been planned, which will be the longest and toughest ride in the event’s history. Originally capped at 300 riders, high demand has caused a second batch of entries to be released.
Join the rite of passage
The ride that unites riders
Over the 25 years of this great ride one thing has become clear – it is a rite of passage that brings every kind of bike rider together.
It is a fun challenge for everyone, whether you’re a beginner rider or seasoned cyclist, and while sometimes the weather is a factor, it’s never a detractor.
If you’re never ridden the event or even think you’ve outgrown it, this is the year to take on United Energy Around the Bay.
There are now 10 ride options ranging from 20 kilometres to 300 kilometres, making it easy to ride your way around the bay.