Want to cycle the Sydney to Wollongong Ride 2020?
Tips and tricks for beginners considering the Gong Ride
The Sydney to Wollongong ride is the biggest cycling event in Australia, held annually during November. It courses through the southern suburbs of Sydney, traverses through the Royal National Park, then runs along the coast to end up at the regional city of Wollongong.
I have ridden the “Gong Ride” (as it is locally called) twice. It has its good and bad points.
If you are planning on join the Gong ride, Australia’s largest cycling event, I hope this article will provide you tips and tricks to prepare and what to expect.
Tip 1: Training needed for the hills
In any long ride there are bound to be some hills. Make sure you have performed some form of training for the hills. If not, you may find yourself cramping after the hill climbs.
Now the hills on the Sydney to Wollongong ride aren’t easy, but they aren’t super hard either. You will encounter the hills towards the back end of riding through the national park. If you are familiar with Heart break Hill in the City to Surf fun run, you can be assured it is no where near as steep as that. But it’s not too far off that gradient / incline.
You will need at least three or four hill rides before the race to feel comfortable tackling the Sydney to Wollongong. Try a few Bobbin Head rides or a few steep hills near your home. You don’t need to do a lot, just a few to build up strength in your climbing muscles.
Tip 2: When raining you WILL get wet
There is no avoiding it. Unless you are riding in a plastic bubble, you will get wet. In fact, you will get soaked and your arse will be as “dirty as” from the rear wheel spray. So, if you melt in water like the wicked witch in the West, don’t ride in the rain. You WILL get wet.
Is running in the rain more comfortable than riding in the rain? Hard to say, both are uncomfortable, but when you get started and moving you become accustomed and the rain fades away into the background of the moment.
When I rode the Sydney to Gong 2017 ride, it was belting rain. I had a thin water proof jacket. Others had shoe covers to protect the feet. But no amount of water proof preparation would have kept you dry on that day.
So be prepared to ride in the rain for the Gong ride.
Tip 3: Don’t waste money on lunch
Some organised long rides offer lunch in the middle. Forget it. You won’t need lunch, because you are there to ride. Carry a few bananas and gels for the long rides.
Having “lunch” soaks up too much time and it will cost you dollars as well.
The Sydney to Wollongong ride offers the option of having lunch provided. The lunch stop is tucked away in a little valley in the national park.
On my first Sydney to Wollongong ride I purchased the lunch, and was looking for the lunch area in the national park, but there were no obvious signs so I missed it!
Needless to say, there must have been many uneaten lunches that day.
Tip 4: Make sure bike fits
On short rides, you can get away with an ill fitting bike. But on the long rides, you will feel the pain, if not gradually during the ride then on the following day. Make sure the bike fits and it is comfortable for the long ride.
The Sydney to Wollongong ride is a long ride. At least 4 hours for the average rider. Sitting on a saddle for that long with an ill fitting bike will result in neck, back or arse pain. So make sure you are comfortable with a proper fitting bike.
Tip 5: Stop for refreshments and toilet break
Maybe you are super hard core and want to skip all stops. But for us human beings, we need to take a toilet break, drink water and have some sustenance. Now, this doesn’t mean open up the picnic basket and sit down and have lunch. It means have a stop for 5mins, do your business, fill up your petrol tank and off you go.
The Sydney to Wollongong ride has two major stop points. One near the entrance of the Royal National Park and one near the exit at Bald Hill. These stops are perfectly positioned in the route. They are just when you need refuelling. At the first major stop they provide muffins, tea and coffee, water, juice and bicycle maintenance gear.
Tip 6: Send down change of clothes
The MS Sydney to Wollongong ride is a long ride! It does not loop back to Sydney, so you will need to organise transport from Wollongong to Sydney (unless you intend on riding back, which some riders do). I recommend sending down a change of clothes.
Especially if the weather is raining hard! You will be wet wet wet when the ride is finished and you will need to change clothes, unless you want to catch pneumonia.
The Sydney to Wollongong ride is one long ride going down south of Sydney. Make sure you send a change of clothes down, so that you can get changed in and be comfortable after the ride.
Tip 7: Don’t ride your best bike
You could ride your best bike, but why risk it. For the serious riders, riding the Sydney to Wollongong ride is not your typical weekend ride. You are riding in a BIG group, with various levels of experience. You will find that some riders will not always hold their line and suddenly veer left or right. Some riders are even riding bikes which are the most road worthy. So keep alert of other riders and ride with caution.
Typically, you are also riding a route that you are not quite familiar with. So, the risk is higher for damage to the bike. If you have a choice, then don’t ride your best bike.
Tip 8: Fund Raising
What is absolutely confusing, is that it isn’t clear that fund raising is not mandatory to participate in this event. I was under the impression that I needed to fund raise when I first rode in the Sydney to Wollongong ride, but then realised that it wasn’t necessary. Now, don’t get me wrong, I fund raise for many activities, but I felt it was misleading with their messaging. It almost was if fund raising was mandatory.
On top of that, the emails and other notifications to fund raise can be a little overwhelming. The Sydney to Wollongong ride supports and donates fund for MS, which is a great cause. Many participants, however, may feel that they are obligated to raise the minimum threshold in order to race on the day. Which is not true.
I really enjoyed riding the Sydney to Wollongong ride for the first two rides but feel that there is a lot of effort to return to Sydney after riding. It therefore, takes up nearly a whole day. It great to experience this event at least once. But for the hard core rider, you will find riding the long weekend rides just as rewarding and challenging.