Hell of the Northcote bike ride 2014
Pete and Dan on their Thomas the Tank Engine tandem bicycle as part of the Hell of the Northcote bike ride. Photo: Wayne Taylor
It was a story of the little engine that could.
Bucketing rain and icy winds could not deter Pete Trimble and Dan Gray from mounting their Thomas the Tank Engine tandem bicycle on Sunday morning for the 2014 Melbourne Roobaix, also known as the Hell of the Northcote
The pair took off from Hawthorn’s HA Smith reserve in a puff of smoke, joining about 2000 other cyclists on the 35-kilometre ride to Brunswick via a maze of cobbled alleyways, parks and bike tracks.
While strictly not a race, awards were up for grabs for the cutest couple, the most "heavy metal" participant and the dirtiest rider.
Pete and Dan, both 32, were among many who had glory on their minds.
“Last year we were rudely robbed of cutest couple by a pair of boys on a tandem, so we decided to beat them this year by going all out,” Pete, a primary school teacher said.
Their little blue train, a product of 20 hours of amateur engineering involving a smoke machine and over 200 cable ties, blasted the Thomas the Tank Engine theme song as they rode alongside unicorns, two American football teams, a dozen vikings and the “Sons of Apathy” bikie gang.
Elsewhere, a bunch of bananas brushed up next to Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner.
Janita Keating and 7-year-old daughter Sari donned matching bee outfits for the event and were riding a tandem bicycle.
“This is our first time in the Melbourne Roubaix...it’s something fun to do. We sewed the beehive together and we’re training up for the Great Victorian Bike Ride,” Ms Keating said, as they waited at the start line for a break in the rain.
Parents with young children shared the course with lycra-clad road warriors and mountain bike fanatics in what event founder Andy White called a coming together of the city’s many “bicycle tribes”.
The event, inspired by the Paris-Roubaix, has grown dramatically since 100 people took part in the first Melbourne Roobaix nine years ago, but White said the spirit of the event was unchanged.
“I’m trying to reclaim the spirit of being a kid and the sense of adventure of exploring a city maybe you’re already familiar with and discovering new parts of it,” he said.
Nearly six hours after they started the ride, Pete and Dan crossed the finish line at the Harrison Street Velodrome in Brunswick East.
Though they had to stop twice for emergency repairs, their efforts were not in vain.
An audience vote gave Pete and Dan the prize for cutest couple in an overwhelming majority.