Gravel

GREAT OCEAN ROAD

GRAVEL TOUR

26th – 30th November 2024

  • LOCATION: Lorne – Port Campbell VIC (Return)
  • DURATION: 5 days
  • GROUP: 8-20 Riders
  • DISTANCE: 60-110 km per day
  • ELEVATION: 800 m – 2600 m per day
  • FITNESS: 🌶🌶🌶 (Intermediate – Advanced)
  • SKILLS: Confident on Gravel Roads
  • ACCOMODATION: 4-star

All Inclusive: $3,395*

*Pricing is for twin share. Limited single rooms available for an additional single supplement of $500.
PLEASE NOTE: This trip requires a minimum of 8 guests to book before it is guaranteed to run. In the highly unlikely case that we do not have 8 confirmed guests 35 days prior to departure, we will refund any payments made by guests booked onto this trip and cancel or postpone the journey.

Your Journey Day-by-Day

Lorne to Sugarloaf

via Mount Cowley

67 km 1,615 m

Our first ride is a relatively cruisy 67 km – and there’s no better place for a leg opener! After coffee and meet and greet in the picturesque coastal town of Lorne, we’ll warm up the lungs on one of the region’s most famous and scenic road climbs – Benwerrin (or “Benny” as the locals know it). The climb is 10 km at an average gradient of only 4.3%, and with very few cars and speccy rainforest setting, the vertical metres pass by almost effortlessly (it’s almost like being teleported to the top of the Otways!). Before we know it, we’ll be at ~440 m and we’ll turn off the bitumen and into the wild. The first bit of gravel undulates across the top of the range with a mix of farmland, thick forests and sneaky vistas through the trees. At the 34km mark we “top out” for the day before descending back to the turquoise waters of Bass Strait. Finally, we hug the coastline on the famous Great Ocean Road, through the quaint township of Wye River (great coffee!), and over Cape Patton (spectacular!) all the way to our night’s accommodation – a refurbished monastery complete with private, panoramic ocean views. It’s the perfect location for a well earned beer and some sustenance with new friends!

Sugarloaf to Forrest rtn

via the rain forest

60-110 km 2,400 m

Day 2 is “Queen’s Stage” of the trip! 110 km of magic gravel with a solid dose of climbing (don’t worry, there are plenty of shortcuts and bailouts). From Kennett River, you’ll enjoy a steady climb past the resident koalas as the ocean recedes into the background and the clean forest air fills your working lungs. You’ll zip underneath towering Eucalyptus, Giant Beech and Blackwoods as the climbing continues. Then, after “topping out” at a high-point of 630m, it’s time to release the brakes and let out a “wahoooo” as you float your way passed the still waters of Lake Elizabeth and into the township of Forrest – time for a refuel at the local brewery. (There’s also a shorter, ~58 KM option that bypasses Forrest.) After lunch it’s back over the main range (via a new, Western route this time) before a thrilling, flowy descent down to the charming seaside town of Apollo Bay – famous for its succulent seafood (we ride so we can eat more, right?).

Sugarloaf to Johanna

via Cape Otway

70-100 km 2,000 m

If you’ve seen Lord of the Rings, Day 3 is a bit like riding through the rolling green hills of The Shire – if only The Shire was surrounded by white beaches and crystal clear sapphire water! Weaving our way through the hinterland, we’ll get off the beaten path and see sites that most regular-travellers never see like the expansive fern trees on Turtons Track and the winding catchment of the Aire River. We’ll then emerge from the rainforest at the Cape Otway Lighthouse (the most Southern point of the park) and soak up the awe-inspiring views of Bass Strait, before heading back into the little-known network of gravel roads that meander towards our accommodation in Johanna – a ruggedly-beautiful hamlet surrounded by wild beaches and fertile lands.

Johanna to Port Campbell

via 12 Apostles

55 km 730 m

After 3 big days of riding, we ease the feet off the pedals on Day 4 with a flat-ish 55 km. And what a place it is for a recovery cruise! We’ll ride some beautiful gravel roads beside the Gellibrand River before passing all the major Victorian coastal icons like The 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge & The Grotto on the way to the quaint coastal town of Port Campbell for a feed with a view over the bay.Then it’s into the bus for a short shuttle back along the Great Ocean Road to Johanna, so we can rest the legs and take in the sweeping views from a different angle. 

Johanna to Lorne

via the Otway Fly

107 km 1,948 m

On Day 5, it’s a change of scenery as we head inland. The rugged beaches fade into the background as we spend a morning weaving through rolling dairy farmland. Then, the paddocks will give way to tall trees as we enter the heart of the old-growth forests as we climb to the sleepy hamlet of Beech Forest. Throughout the morning we’ll visit some more natural wonders like , Triplet Falls and the Redwoods. And if you’re feeling really adventurous there’s the option to climb into the treetops through the rainforest at the Otway Fly! After morning tea we’ll enjoy a hoot of a descent (20 km downhill) on a scenic rail trail. We’ll arrive in the quaint town of Gellibrand for lunch at the well-stocked local store before the final push up and over the main Otway range (again) and down to the coast at the cliff-lined, Cumberland River. Finally, it’s a 9km cruise back into Lorne on the Great Ocean Road – time for a celebratory beverage and high-five before a (hopefully not too teary) goodbye.

Sound good?

Inclusions

What’s Included

  • 4 nights accommodation (twin share).
  • 4 x breakfasts, 3 x lunches, 4 x dinners and 4 x appetisers (plus a small selection of beer & wine).
  • Full tour service, including Rapid Ascent guides.
  • On-the-bike nutrition and hydration stations (set up approx. every 20 km)
  • On-route mechanical support & nightly bike maintenance.
  • Support vehicle, for tired cyclists and luggage transfers.
  • Transfer on scheduled arrival day from Lorne or Geelong.
  • Transfer on scheduled departure day to Lorne or Geelong.
  • Secure storage of bike box and other equipment while on the tour.
  • Entrance fees to Otway Fly & Cape Otway Lighthouse.

What’s Not

  • Bike rental (we ask you to please BYO gravel bike or MTB).
  • Flights and charges for getting to and from pickup & drop-off points (Geelong & Lorne).
  • Single room (available at extra cost if required).
  • Travel insurance.
  • Meals not stated in the itinerary (Lunch @ Port Campbell & Gellibrand).
  • Personal clothing and equipment.
  • Personal expenditure (souvenirs, bar bills, hotel facilities etc).
  • Add on activities other than Otway Fly/Lighthouse eg zipline.
  • Transfers other than scheduled arrival/departure days.

What We’ll Eat

We’re big believers in providing food that:

  1. Fuels your cycling (repairs your muscles and leaves you feeling healthy and nourished)
  2. Tastes frickin’ amazing!

We use a variety of local caterers and venues along the route to ensure all meals are prepared with those two principles in mind. You’ll get bucket-loads of food that not only sustains you, but becomes a highlight of the trip!

You’ll also get a standard selection of beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages each evening (enough for approx 1-2 per person per day). We also normally do a “drinks run” on the first day if you’re keen to stock our eskies with additional drinks of your choosing.

Got a dietary? Let us know and we’ll make sure you’re looked after.

Where We’ll Stay

As you can see we do not move accommodation every night (don’t worry, each riding route is unique day-to-day. In fact, there’s very few times where you’ll ride the same stretch of road more than once!). The reason we stay multiple nights in Johanna and Sugarloaf is so you can soak up the landscapes and so you don’t have to pack up your gear each day (you can well and truly unwind into “holiday mode”). We find it’s a much more pleasant experience.

Mantra Lorne

Lorne, VIC

NIGHT 0 & 5 (OPTIONAL): The only beachfront property in Lorne, Mantra Lorne offers wonderful accommodation in one of Australia’s most spectacular coastal villages on the Great Ocean Road. Built around the oldest guesthouse in Victoria, Mantra Lorne is right in the centre of Lorne and the ideal launch pad for our Journey. This is an optional stay (not included in trip price) for night 0 and night 5 of the trip. (There are countless other places to stay in Lorne – choose one that suits you and your budget).

An Eclectic Seaside Monastery

Sugarloaf, VIC

NIGHT 1 & 2: This former monastery turned one-of-a-kind retreat centre is where the “true” Otways experience kicks off. Set on 25 acres overlooking the Great Ocean Road, The Sugarloaf Estate will form our private home-base for the first 2 nights of the trip. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another world with the cosy rooms, 180 degree ocean views, and eclectic mix of luxury and old-school charm. Only problem is, after a few drinks on the front lawn, you might not want to leave!

Coastal Cottages

Johanna, VIC

NIGHT 3 & 4: Nestled amongst the rolling green hills of Johanna, this place give you the perfect balance of lush farmland and rugged Victorian coastlines. The rooms are modern and spacious and the central living areas are perfect for sharing tales from the trails with new friends.
Time moves differently down here (it’s not uncommon to forget all your worries after just a few hours!). 

Meet Your Guides

John Jacoby

“The World Champ”

Age: 59, Lives: Jan Juc VIC

John is probably one of the most experienced & accomplished adventurers in the world – but he’s far too modest to tell you about it!

He was awarded the Keys to the City of Melbourne in 1987 after being crowned World Marathon Kayak Champion for the 3rd year in a row (he ultimately won the title 4 times)… he’s competed in over 30 international adventure races in 16 different countries… and he was the first Australian to win the coveted Coast to Coast “Multisport World Championship” title in NZ. To say he’s “capable” in the outdoors would be a massive understatement. 

Now he’s retired from racing, he still travels the world doing crazy things. In the past 5 years he’s summited Makalu in the Himalayas (27,838 ft!); Paddled around South Georgia Island; been skiing in the back country of Alaska and he’s a bit of a regular on the waves in Indonesia. In fact, it’s probably worth coming on this trip just to hear some of his stories!

Sam Maffett

“The Jack of All Trades”

Age: 49, Lives: Anglesea VIC

You know those annoying people that are good at EVERYTHING? Sam is one of those.

He’s run plenty of sub 3hr marathons (2:39 is his PB!), he’s won the prestigious “Alpine Challenge” ultra marathon in Victoria’s high country, he’s kayaked some of the worlds gnarliest white water rivers, skied plenty of steep sided mountains and he regularly disappears into the wilderness for epic 5hr+ gravel & MTB rides on his “days off”. Not to mention he’d easily challenge for “dad of the year” – spending 3 years as cub/scout leader and taking his 2 boys (Tom & Ollie) on as many adventures as he can. What a jerk.

Seriously though, Sam is a guy you want by your side on any adventure. He knows the entire Otways like the back of his hand, he’s reliable and great for a yarn. 

Jez Baker

“The Barista”

Age: 36, Lives: Anglesea VIC

What Jez lacks in sporting prowess, he certainly makes up for in “enthusiasm”…

He’s OBSESSED with cycling (his fiance, Sarah, has banned him from mentioning “watts” or “cycling podcast” at home). And he probably spends more time on his gravel, mountain and road bikes riding through the Otways than he does at work!

He’s also dabbled in his share of sea kayaking and multi-sport. He’s paddled the rugged coastline of South West of Tassie, fast-packed many of the great walks in Australia and participated in plenty of events like the Red Bull Defiance and Coast to Coast in NZ.

However, on these trips he’s more popular for his morning lattes than his passion for adventure. Get on his good side if you’re a coffee lover… he’ll keep you caffeinated to the eyeballs all week long.

Sarah Park

“The Carb Machine”

Age: 33, Lives: Anglesea VIC

We challenge you to catch Sarah without a smile on her face (she finishes most rides with bugs and mud smeared on her teeth thanks to her perpetual grin!). 

Sarah is another Anglesea local who lives for all things adventure. Whether it’s a bike packing trip squeezed into a long weekend, an impromptu “fell race” in the hills of the Lake District, or forcing her partner (Jez) to run the 42km Three Capes Track in a single morning with zero training – her zest for outdoors is rivalled only by her love of carbs. She’s usually has a frame bag full of baked goods and has been known to claim that “eating is my secret weapon”.

Bikes

We could write an entire novel on the topic of “best bikes for Otway gravel”. But, let’s be honest – you’ll be perfectly fine on a gravel bike, CX bike or even cross-country mountain bike (preferably hardtail) and/or E-bike. 

The big things to consider are: 

  1. Weight: There’s quite a bit of climbing in this course, so the lighter the better. 
  2. Tyres: We suggest running bigger tyres than you would on your roadie (38-45mm recommended). We also recommend tubeless (so you can run lower pressures for traction and comfort).
  3. Comfort: Long days on the bike mean you’re best suited on a bike that fits you well.  
  4. Brakes: What goes up must come down. There’s a lot of descending in the Otways so you’ll be best served with disc brakes (although we’ve seen plenty of people run rims brakes just fine).
  5. Your engine! This is an Grade 3 trip (see “Spice Scale” here). And while we’ll do our best to cater for all ability levels, you’ll have most fun if you ride 5-8hrs per week in preparation for this journey.  

It is pretty straight forward to fly with your bike – here is a little instructional video on how to pack your bike into a free bike box from your local bike shop. Get it to Lorne and then we’ll help you put it together and make sure it’s ready to ride.

Can I ride an e-Bike?

You betcha. If you feel more comfortable with an electronic boost, by all means bring it along. Just remember that you’ll want something capable of riding on dirt roads. Also, depending on your battery range, you might want to put a second (and maybe third!) battery in the support van so you can change it mid-ride.

Do you hire gravel bikes? 

YES! We have partnered with Serk Cycling and currently have 2x titanium adventure gravel bikes available to hire during the Tour. Specifications HERE:

1x size small: A21 titanium frame, AXS Rival 1x drivetrain, DT Swiss 700cc wheels and 42mm tyres.

1x size large: A21 titanium frame, GRX mechanical 1x drivetrain, DT Swiss 700cc wheels and 42mm tyres.

Collect / return to Anglesea (where the Journey starts) and rented for $600 for the tour’s duration. Contact us to discuss rental and we’ll help facilitate thinks with Serk Australia. If you need an alternative size then let us know and we’ll do our best to find you something.

What about Riding Ability?

The Great Ocean Road Gravel Tour is rated “Grade 3” on the “Gravel Spice Scale” (Read the full scale here.

SPICE LEVEL: 🌶🌶🌶

  • At-home training load: 5-8+ hrs per week 
  • Daily on-trip distance: 60-110km 
  • Daily on-trip elevation:  500 – 2500m
  • Daily on-trip hours on bike: 4-8 hrs

If you’ve got decent fitness, intermediate off-road skills, and a taste for (some) hardship, you’ll eat this trip up and go home grinning from ear to ear. The gravel trails come in all shapes and sizes, from wide hard packed “highways” to the occasional stretch of moderate double track. 

You’ll need to pick your line carefully, shifting left and right to find the smoothest route – so some tech skills are required. You’ll also need to be comfortable spending 4-8 hours in the saddle each day (with plenty of breaks for food and coffee, of course).  

Having said that, we can easily accommodate a wide range of levels and abilities, so we can give you more or less (speed, distance, elevation) to adapt the trip to your needs. If you’re in doubt about your ability, or worried you don’t have what it takes, please don’t hesitate to give us a call to discuss (03) 5261 5511.

Final note on fitness/ability: If you’re reading this and thinking “I wonder if I can make it”, chances are, you’ll be totally fine!! Back yourself. Booking a trip like this is a great way to goad yourself onto the bike for some training!

Nitty Gritty Details

Arrivals and shuttles

Whether you’re flying from interstate, traveling from Melbourne or staying on the Surf Coast the night prior to the trip, we will help you arrange transport to and from start point in Lorne. Once you book your spot, we’ll arrange a “meet and greet” phone call to discuss the trip and iron out all the details about how to get here.

Pre and post ride accommodation (Lorne)

We will be leaving Lorne quite early on Day 1 (26th Nov), and getting back mid-to-late afternoon on Day 5 (30th Nov), so we recommend booking local accommodation in Lorne on one or both of those nights (Night 0 and/or Night 5). 

The Mantra is our recommended place to stay in Lorne – but there are HEAPS of other places in Lorne so check out the listings here or give us a call to discuss ideas if easier.

Climate, packing & gear

Is this trip guaranteed to run?

This trip is very likely to go ahead, however, there’s a small chance that if we don’t get enough people (we only need 8!), we’ll have to pull the pin. In that very unlikely and unprecedented case, we will refund your entire deposit (OR you can elect to put it towards one of Rapid Ascent’s future Journeys or events). 

In any case, we will confirm the trip a minimum of 35 days prior to the the departure date

What happens if I have to cancel?

We know that plans change and life can throw unexpected curveballs, so if you need to cancel your booking, you can do so up until 35 days prior to the departure date and receive a refund of your deposit (less a 20% admin fee). 

Here’s How to Secure Your Spot…

If you’re still reading, and you’re excited to join the journey then we’d love to share it with you!

To secure your spot, all you need to do is click the button below, tell us a bit about yourself and pay a small deposit to lock it all in.

We ask for a $1,000 deposit to secure your spot. This is refundable (less a 20% admin fee) up until 35 days prior to the trip. The balance of $2,395 will be payable 35 days prior to the trip.

Once you’re confirmed, we’ll arrange a “meet and greet” phone call via Zoom. On this call, we’ll get to know you, answer any questions and help you make a plan to get all your “ducks in a row” prior to the trip (things like booking flights, additional accommodation, transfers to and from start point etc). Of course, if you’d prefer to chat to us before booking – that’s great too. Just hit the “Ask Us Any Questions” button below and we’ll be in touch.

So…

We can’t wait to show you our secret gravel wonders of our backyard!

Sam, John and the Rapid Ascent Team