The inspiration to start riding a bike can come from all kinds of places. For some, it might be joining the gang on the way home from school, while for others it might come from the freeing feeling of a commute to work.
For Josie Casagranda, who had barely ridden a bike until the age of 62, inspiration came from the camaraderie, sense of achievement and the downright good time one can only find on the Great Vic Bike Ride.
There are reasons why taking on a multi-day bike trip through the countryside might not seem like the best way to ease into things. But there are also plenty of reasons why it is, as Josie found out on her adventure last year.
Crossing the finish of the 2022 Great Vic Bike Ride left Josie with such an appreciation for two-wheeled travel that she has since gifted her cheap old bike to her daughter and treated herself to a new ride.
"I brought a Trek gravel bike and it's got the drop bars, the cleats and everything," she says. "It is far superior to the old one."
If you're new to riding or thinking about hopping onboard, here are five reasons why the Great Vic may be the perfect place to get started.
You can ride in peace
Mixing with motor traffic can be stressful for even experienced riders, let alone those starting out. The opportunity to pedal along picturesque country roads closed to cars and trucks, and populated by like-minded bike riders instead, can be the perfect way to build confidence.
"The good thing about doing the Great Vic is that the roads are open only to riders as you pass through the route each day," says Josie. "You don't have those worries about traffic and you've got all these wonderful marshalls directing the way, so it's very safe."
You can go at your own pace
The Great Vic is a rolling bike festival rather than race, meaning that the event is geared towards good times rather than fast ones. While there is certainly room to challenge yourself, there's also plenty of room to take it easy.
"There are people who will want to get to the next campsite in record time, but it's perfectly OK to go as slow as you like," says Josie. "It's a very supportive environment, so you can just go at your own pace."
You can experience the camaraderie
There is a special sense of camaraderie, unique to bike riders. It's in the way they stop and help one another out. Anyone who has had a mechanical mishap has likely had a passing rider stop and offer to help get them back in action. The Great Vic captures this camaraderie and cranks it up to 11, with thousands of like-minded riders pedalling towards the same objective. A huge added bonus is the volunteer WARBY (We Are Right Behind You) support crew, who bring up the rear.
"You don't have to worry about flat tyres or anything. You can just turn your bike upside and wait for help," says Josie. "If people see you, they'll stop and ask whether you're OK, there's really nothing to worry about."
You can break it down
Whether it's the three-day option or the full nine-day Great Vic, there will be some distance to cover, but don't let that stop you. There are rest stops, lunch spots, food and drink stations and, of course, lovely regional towns to break things up. Thinking of the ride as a series of small, achievable (and fun!) chunks of pedalling will have you powering toward the finish line in Wonthaggi with plenty of pep in your step.
"You do need to be mentally prepared, but it's important to also take it one day at a time," says Josie. "On the ride I'd say, 'OK i'm going to ride to lunch, then I'm going to ride to the rest stop. Don't let the nine days overwhelm you."
You'll feel something special
The Great Vic is a one-of-a-kind bike holiday and while there'll be plenty of good times along the way, as Josie found out they don't stop once you cross the finish line. The sense of achievement and satisfaction that comes from completing the journey can linger for some time after.
"At the end of it I was on such a high for days," says Josie. "All the endorphins kicked in and I just couldn't get rid of them. I went to visit my mum and she said 'aren't you tired?' I said 'no mum, I'm buzzing'."
If you want to feel the buzz yourself, tickets are still on sale for the three, five and nine-day packages for the 2023 Great Vic Bike Ride, which sets off from Orbost on Saturday 25 November.
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