From humble beginnings of just 4 riders in 1988 or 1989, in the days before there was a café on every corner, the North Road Ride now often boasts around 200 riders.
The original bunch was made up of Stuart Cook (Cookie), Peter Homann, Graham Chittenden and Dennis Bowan-Day. They would meet at Cookie’s house at South Caulfield and head down to Frankston most mornings. And since everyone was still ‘enjoying’ International Roast and Nescafe Blend 43 as their morning cuppa, they’d end up back at Cookie’s for breakfast.
The only break to the routine was a Wednesday morning. On Wednesday mornings they’d ride to Sorrento or the Dandenongs. ‘That was a long day. We always went to at least Frankston, sometimes to Port Melbourne, Sorrento or the Dandenongs. They were hard rides. We started doing North Road about 10 years later,’ explained Dennis. Fridays were the only days they took it easy. ‘They were more of a leisurely ride but only because most of the guys were racing on a Saturday.’
These were hard core riders. ‘If it was pouring rain we’d put on plastic coats and still ride. We bred them tough in those days. It’s a different culture and attitude these days. We’d ride to Dandenongs and back and often not see another rider. And if we did it was always someone we knew.’
By the mid-90s they ended up at Greasy Joe’s for coffee and the numbers organically picked up. ‘When we started going there the place was packed with leather wearing bikkies but I just they didn’t like all the lycra and they moved on,’ Dennis joked. As the ride just busier and involved with more riders, the rides themselves got shorter (The current NRR ride finishing at the BP Server is 36kms).
After a few years the first four riders became a dozen as more and more riders gradually turned up. Once triathlons became more popular, the numbers built to around twenty and went on from there.
And the rides too changed, as Chris (aka Snake) explains, ‘Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays were a roll along, a coffee ride. But Tuesdays and Thursdays we’d leave at 6am and get into it. We kept up a pretty solid pace but religiously Monday, Wednesday and Friday were an easy, social ride.’
Now frequenting Soul Kitchen (Café Racer) the ride has developed its own system. Roll down to Mordialloc then work flat chat back to St Kilda. ‘When we got to about 100 riders things got a bit out of control. Everyone wanted to go flat chat, every day and it was too hard to police. So a few of us decided to leave at 5.45am but then we ended up with still having about half the riders leaving with us. Half of them with no lights – a nightmare.’
These days the North Road Ride can have over 100 riders in each bunch on the more popular days – the 5.45am and the 6am. For some, like Snake, (aka Chris Salisbury) it became too hard to control with so many riders and he gave it away about 10 years ago. But for many, many more the North Road Ride is still an integral part of their bunch riding and you can still them grabbing a coffee afterwards at Café Racer. Some traditions really do stand the test of time.
Not matter what the weather - the ride goes on
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