Great Vic Bike Ride

Doing the Great Vic with a toddler and little training!

Hannah and Jakob Kapelj decided to ride the 2019 Great Vic from Robe to Torquay with their toddler in tow.

Read Hannah’s story that starts off with apprehension and finishes with a great feeling of accomplishment – and a commitment to do it again!

I never could have imagined that a 680km long, 10-day cycle tour with an 18-month-old could have ended up feeling like an actual holiday! Like most holidays the planning leading up to the ride felt a little stressful and overwhelming.

How on earth are we going to get two bikes, a bike trailer and a really energetic toddler from Canberra to Robe? Are we fit enough? Did we pack enough nappies? Will Alia tolerate extended time in the bus/SAG wagon? But we figured it out and it was the most consistently enjoyable holiday we’ve had since having a kid!

I was hesitant to have to wrap up our bikes and then fly us all down to Adelaide and then have to sit through a three hour bus ride with a toddler, so instead I extended the holiday a little and started off with a relaxing road trip from Canberra to Robe with Alia, two bikes, a bike trailer, a few bags of luggage and my Mum who was going to shadow us for the first few days of the ride! Hubby/Daddy snuck in a few extra days of work and met us in Robe.

Hannah and Alia getting ready for a happy day of riding.

Most days we woke up around 6:00am as the sun rose, took our time to get out of bed and eat breakfast and were on the road by about 8:0oam.

I had expected that we would be one of the last into camp every day and that we may even need to catch the SAG wagon to get in by dinner, but actually we ended up getting across the finish line each day between 2:00 and 4:00pm, and on our pretty standard Giant commuter style bikes. I was stoked!

It was so motivating seeing so many different people on the route! This really helped me when I was feeling a bit tired or when my knees were hurting.

There were bunches of school kids zooming down the roads yelling “BIKE BACK” with music blaring, elderly couples riding fancy looking road bikes, packs of efficient looking cyclists from different towns, primary school kids cycling with their teachers, parents or all alone. There were other parents too – one towing a trailer with an electric bike, another pedal powering a huge cargo bike, some with kids in tandem and others literally pushing their kids up hills.

There were fast bikes, slow bikes, squeaky bikes, mountain bikes, touring bikes and tandems with disabled riders. Any “type” of bike rider you can think of, they were there! And they all waved as they passed us and joyfully told us when Alia was asleep!

Each of the riding days we cycled between 66kms and 108kms and stopped every 1-1.5 hours to refill water bottles, have snacks or coffee in the small country towns or change a nappy.

Some days were ridiculously windy, some a bit rainy, some steep uphill, others steep downhill and some roads were flat and straight and went forever! We rode on lovely farm roads, the odd highway shoulder, a few closed roads on the most beautiful tourist routes through towering forests and did a few stretches of the Great Ocean Road. All three of us loved it! We felt entertained, safe and supported the whole time, and it was really nice to know that if we got to sore or tired or grumpy we could just call the SAG wagon or Mum to pick us up.

We had many funny and wonderful moments on the ride. I can’t help but giggle as I recall jumping a fence to get some shelter from the rain to do a quick nappy change under a paddock tree with a mob of sheep looking on and cyclists waving as they rode past, or at other people complimenting our parenting style as we plonked Alia down in the dirt to play with rocks at a rest stop whilst I stood nearby in the coffee line.

Hannah, Jakob and Alia somewhere between Robe and Torquay on the Great Vic.

Having a toddler on the trip made us ride slower and stop more often, but this definitely wasn’t a bad thing. We had to pack extra snacks and carried a full pannier of spare clothes/wet weather gear and nappies. We didn’t travel fast and light like some cyclists, but we travelled in comfort and with a consistently happy toddler.

How could you not be happy travelling in a comfy Thule trailer with books and teddies and snacks and people waving at your constantly? It was a bit of struggle to figure out how to navigate meal times at camp, but we worked out a system: one parent lined up carefully balanced plates/bowls of food, whilst the other parent found somewhere mostly dry to sit and eat with the toddler. And for the camping – Alia loved being in the tent, but the late sunset made it hard to get her to sleep before 9:00pm, but this seemed to not to worry us or other campers much and she just made up the extra sleep with extra naps on the road.

Hannah, Jakob and Alia after crossing the 600km mark.

We got to have an occasional break from parenting as Mum took Alia for the odd half day or night and total strangers frequently helped entertain our energetic toddler at rest stops and whilst we set up camp. It actually felt like the most relaxing holiday we’ve had … mostly I just loved how few decisions had to be made once we started the journey and that Alia had so much free time to explore outdoors … oh and on the trip I remembered that I actually do love cycling! 

The Great Vic Bike Ride was an absolute blast! Jakob and I cycled 650km out of the total 680km of the route and towed Alia for all bar maybe 200km of the way!

We only got SAG’d the very final leg of the journey because Jakob’s knee finally gave in and I thought I should be a good wife and help him entertain Alia for the long bus trip rather than cycle on my own – it had nothing to do with the rain, wind and cold on the last day I swear!

If you’re wondering how we got home, we convinced our housemate to drive down to meet us at the finish line in Torquay so we could just throw everything in our van and drive back, ready to start back at work the next day!

We’re talking about getting a tandem to tow the trailer with next time so we both have to work hard the whole time … there will definitely be a next time! Maybe I’ll even do it just as mother and 3-year-old daughter and leave hubby at home.

The 2020 Great Vic bike ride will travel from Rainbow to Great Western, visiting the famous Art Silos and the Grampians between 28 November and 6 December. Register your interest now and we’ll let you know when tickets go on sale.

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