Monday 4 July 2022

Melburn Roobaix report: sewed it, rode it

You know this is my favourite time of the year, right? better than Christmas or birthdays... 

It's Melburn Roobaix 

Photo credit: Peter Bongiorno

What's that?

First you need to know about the Paris Roubaix: a gruelling one day stage race with a 120 year history. Racing from northern France into Belgium the riders cover around 240km and race across up to 30 sectors of cobbled pathways through forests. Each sector has a name, a star rating and a ravenous appetite for tyres, bicycle frames and blood. Staying upright is essential to a win, staying clean is not.

And then you need to know about the Alleycat: An alleycat race is (was?) a unsanctioned race where bicycle couriers* raced around town reaching checkpoints while proving their knowledge of the city and their skills in dodging traffic. Staying upright was essential to a win, staying sober probably wasn't.

*if your only experience of bicycle couriers is the hapless electric powered food delivery guy then I'm afraid I've lost you.

Now, imagine the love child of an alleycat and the Paris-Roubaix....

Born in 2006 the Melburn Roobaix combines the best of both. You get the bumpy cobbled laneways of Melbourne standing in for the Belgian forests, and the unpredictability of Melbourne's winter weather matching a northern european spring day, and then you get the wonderful silliness of this city's bicycle culture

And you finish on a velodrome with beer and frites! 

Initially Melburn Roobaix was a race. My first (the year after my husband's first) was the third iteration in 2008 and by this time everyday folk like me knew about it. Still, there was no map and you did need to know your inner urban back streets. Mobile phones and online maps had been invented but it was a matter of pride not to resort to that.

However at 7 months pregnant and on my front porch bike I wasn't above accepting a push up the notorious Col d'Ugly


So, the bike part is fun, but for me it's a costume party too. For some people the bike IS the costume, and they get weird and downright terrifying to ride: this year's case in point

In 2020 we were all ready for our first family-of-four Roobaix. The Goldilocks costume was made and the metres and metres of bear fur purchased and then, well, you know what happened.

This year we were treated to real Roubaix weather - it RAINED!

Due to the rain and my phone being tucked away in a jersey pocket under my bear suit, sadly I didn't get that many photos during the ride. Check out all the images in the #melburnroobaix on instragram

Having looked at the weather forecast and anticipating possibly binning all the costume work I'd done, I did insist on a family photoshoot on Saturday afternoon (which was a lovely day weather-wise, btw)

We knew all along that the day's enjoyment hinged on keeping Goldilocks happy and on side. We pushed her up any bigger hills while baby bear popped wheelies and jumped on and off kerbs at every opportunity.

Our fleet of early 2000's 26" wheel mountain bikes proved to be the perfect vehicles for the day given the mud, puddles and very slippery conditions. - for the bike nerds: A 2003 Trek Fuel, a 2004 Seven Sola, a 2008 Scott Spark10 and a 2008 Scott Scale10 with basket added!

our bear suits were, of course, SPD compatible

We did our "usual" get-away trick of parking the car near Brunswick velodrome (the finish) and then riding the 20mins or so to the start. We picked up our musettes packed with manifest, map, sharpie, other essential goodies and bear snack (protein bar). Goldilocks had the jelly snakes in her basket (but not the rain jacket I'd told her to pack) and off we went.

After a lovely commute to the start and about an hour of pleasant riding it began to rain. It wasn't windy, nor was it pelting down, but it was just enough to get one's fur quite soggy and heavy. By this time my running gag line of not too ... not too little ... but juuuust right, which had been applied to steepness of hills, amounts of rain etc was wearing a bit thin.

But every time we thought it was time for a coffee break we'd find ourselves at the start of another sector of pave. Too much fun to stop now, we'll just do this bit...We rolled past Moondog brewery, giving up on the chance to win our weight in beer - how much does a wet bear weigh? 

At the rear of the group with an increasingly wet and despondent Goldilocks I called it as we approached Nicholson st. We were stopping, and we were going to stop indoors. Up to this point the silliness of riding in a dress with a bow on her helmet and in the company of three bears had only been tolerable due to the number of other similarly oddly dressed riders around us (four tacos, a recumbent goose, the Beastie Boys...). Leaving the route seemed impossible. But we'd hit that sweet spot where embarrassment was being being neutralised by the cold, wet and hungries.

Stop we did: A Taste of France on Nicholson St. The lovely proprietress apologised for not having porridge on the menu, and turned a blind eye to the little puddles we were leaving on chairs and floor.

While we filled up on cold drinks and toasties (a bear's favourite food it seems), we watched the rain getting heavier and heavier outside. During the second round order of hot drinks and cakes the water was pouring off the shop's awning and the road outside was completely awash. 

We hibernated over a long lunch and by the time we emerged, our 100% synthetic quick dry fur was not so bad and Goldilocks had dried off nicely too. And we timed that lunch stop juuuust right, cause the rain stopped.

Shortly after lunch we came upon the Melbourne Disc Golf crew set up in a park. I thought we were stopping for a few putts next to the bike path, but suddenly were were being walked around a quagmire of a park for a three round course. Turns out we live right near a nine hole disc golf course and were being treated to the full club sales pitch.

Does a bear look more ridiculous off his bike playing disc golf? you tell me?

Yes, he's a southpaw (boom tish)

Rolling around the last few sectors and the streets of Coburg we arrived at Brunswick velodrome with a good hour and a bit to spare. Beers, burgers and giant Jenga kept us amused until the official prize draw and day's end.

The kids had put their names in the disc golf raffle and Goldilocks walked away with a year's membership for her and a friend and a set of discs!

The washing machine worked hard all night and the bear suits came up perfectly (nasty synthetic fabrics for the win). Goldilock's dress and leggings didn't fare so well.

The dress is a vintage pattern scored for free from the lovely Lynne on Instagram, made in a cotton knit from RubyJam Fabric and some stashed piping. 

The leggings are from an Ottobre magazine and the lycra booties to try and make her mtb shoes look like mary-janes is my own cycle shoes pattern (still haven't got around to uploading for sharing)

Of course, to find a footed pyjama pattern that fits the whole family is has to be Jalie! Jalie 3244

All three suits were based around the one size with extra back length (for cycling) in all of them, crazy amounts of extra limb length for baby bear, equally crazy amounts of torso length for papa bear and just a bit of extra hip wiggle room for mama bear!

The only modification was to add a placket and snaps instead of a zipper and to add our bicycle compatible paw covers to go over our gloves. 

The helmet covers were free drafted and the ears borrowed from the Little Things to Sew cozy bear hood (flashback time!). My apron was made up from some suitably nasty stashed fabric and the local party shop was good for a propeller hat and tie

Now to clean all the fluff out of my overlocker... And start planning for next year!


  1. Just wow! What an impressive blog and a fantastic family endeavor! Thanks so much for the link from Pattern Review! Well done!

  2. Wow!!! Creative and artistic job! Not to mention the cycling fun. Brilliant!

    1. THank you. It's one of my favourite days of the year

  3. This was the most fun blog post I have read in years! Thanks for sharing. I love your family. Can't wait for next year's ride!

    1. What a lovely comment, thank you! I look forward to next year's event too. not sure what we'll do yet....

  4. Just so so great. Thanks for letting us in on what the Roobaix is!!!

    1. It's the perfect Melbourne event. Bikes, vibes, coffee...

  5. This looks like so much fun: bikes AND dress-ups! Can things get any better?!!
    Those bear costumes are going to be so handy - they can be adapted for many other fancy dress situations. I have one which has been worn a sheepdog (add ears and tail), a Wookie (add bandolier), reindeer (add headband with antlers), donkey/horse (add rubber head) and Robert Smith from the Cure ("Why can't I be you" video). Also great to wear in a cold house while studying for exams!

    1. That's an impressive list! haha. the reference to The Cure has got me thinking, maybe next year needs to be a band tribute....

  6. Thank you for the low down on the Roobiax it looks fun and challenging. Goldilocks and Little bear are me and hubby. Thank you for the morning giggle.

  7. You are amazing! I thought I was doing well with felt masks and tails, with owl wings for Nat and an additional steel trash can for Erich (going a a raccoon "trash panda") for our Halloween ride for Asheville On Bikes....


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