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Five things you need to know before attempting Canberra’s toughest ride

By Anne Treasure - 14 September 2017 5

Image: Epsom Road Studios.

Fitz’s Challenge is known as one of the toughest bike events in Australia, and it takes place every October in the ACT. It’s renowned as a ride for only the most intrepid bike riders, and participants train for months before the event to make sure they are ready to take on the massive personal challenge of riding the Brindabellas.

What a lot of people don’t know is that you don’t have to ride the full 255km Fitz’s Extreme to take part. There are five rides that make up Fitz’s Challenge, with a distance that is suitable for most people who are capable of pedalling a push bike.

Here are some other little-known but important facts about Canberra’s toughest bike ride – read on and become an expert, then sign up and start training to earn Fitz’s bragging rights.

The first Fitz’s Challenge was part of Canberra’s Bike Week activities in October 1989.
It was sponsored by Canberra Cycles, and 37 riders participated in the inaugural event. Everyone who finished by 3 pm received a certificate “showing the distance successfully travelled”. The 150km riders could pay a $10 entry fee “to receive an appropriately printed ‘T’ shirt to commemorate their success.”

Image: Malcolm Parnell

Fitz’s has been called the toughest climbing event in Australia, with good reason.
The 255km ride has 5000m of climbing, which you need to complete in under 13.5 hours. At 50km, the Tidbinbilla Challenge is the shortest ride with 880m of climbing. The event takes place through the beautiful Brindabella Ranges, which lie across NSW and the ACT. Fitz’s Challenge takes place within the ACT border, which means riders miss the extraordinary Mount Lickhole in the NSW Brindabellas. You’ll still get to visit some of the most beautiful scenery our bush capital has to offer up close in a way that not many people get a chance to – from your saddle.

Fitz’s is catered – old-style.
Each checkpoint has traditional lollies, home-made cakes, slices and biscuits, healthy options like fruit, and those sorely-needed fat-and-carb-packed chips – so if you’re looking for gels or energy bars, bring them from home.

All the rides (except the 50km Tidbinbilla Challenge) go through Tharwa Village, where lunch is provided to riders.
Tharwa is the oldest settlement in the Australian Capital Territory. It was established in 1862, and currently has a population of 81.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of Pedal Power ACT events.
It’s these hard-working, selfless people who will get you through Fitz’s when you’re on the home stretch and digging deep to find that last reserve of energy. Take a break and have a chat while you refuel at the rest points.

Image: Epsom Road Studios

Anyone who can ride a bike can give Fitz’s a try. Fitz’s is a personal challenge, not a race.
The only person you’re competing with during Fitz’s Challenge is yourself. Your ride will be timed, and results are available after the event – but only those who are marked off at each check point and who finish the distance they are registered for will be recorded.

With five distances and a supported riding environment, there is a Fitz’s Challenge for every bike rider. From the elite cyclist doing 255km to the recreational rider trying the 50km ride, anyone can give Fitz’s a go.

Register now and start your hill-training today.

Have you attempted Fitz’s before? Which Fitz’s Challenge will you be attempting on October 29?

Anne Treasure is the Communications Manager for Pedal Power ACT. She writes on bike riding in the ACT from the perspective of someone who rides mainly for transport. 

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5 Responses to
Five things you need to know before attempting Canberra’s toughest ride
Rollersk8r 12:26 pm 14 Sep 17

Anne Treasure said :

Rollersk8r said :

I’ve done Fitz’s a few times solo; most recently last year on my cyclo-cross bike that was most definitely NOT suited to the hills. It’s the only ride I’ve ever done where I had to get off and walk up the steeper climbs. I had around 20km to go in the 165km classic event, it was blowing a gale, it was starting to rain and I just wanted to go home…. Great sense of accomplishment though! 🙂

Hero! So it’s the 205km on a suitable bike this year, right? In the supported environment of the event, anything is possible.

Undecided at this stage – although you do raise a good point. I’ve definitely made the mistake of carrying too much water. The Camelbak is just extra weight you don’t need!

Anne Treasure 11:59 am 14 Sep 17

tim_c said :

Fitz’s Challenge is for beginners – if you’re looking for a real challenge, try the Clyde Mountain, fully loaded with your own water, a few days supply of food, camping gear, etc.

As a beginner, I believe I’ll leave the Clyde Mountain trek to you. Thanks for the suggestion though!

Anne Treasure 11:58 am 14 Sep 17

Rollersk8r said :

I’ve done Fitz’s a few times solo; most recently last year on my cyclo-cross bike that was most definitely NOT suited to the hills. It’s the only ride I’ve ever done where I had to get off and walk up the steeper climbs. I had around 20km to go in the 165km classic event, it was blowing a gale, it was starting to rain and I just wanted to go home…. Great sense of accomplishment though! 🙂

Hero! So it’s the 205km on a suitable bike this year, right? In the supported environment of the event, anything is possible.

tim_c 9:48 am 14 Sep 17

Fitz’s Challenge is for beginners – if you’re looking for a real challenge, try the Clyde Mountain, fully loaded with your own water, a few days supply of food, camping gear, etc.

Rollersk8r 9:42 am 14 Sep 17

I’ve done Fitz’s a few times solo; most recently last year on my cyclo-cross bike that was most definitely NOT suited to the hills. It’s the only ride I’ve ever done where I had to get off and walk up the steeper climbs. I had around 20km to go in the 165km classic event, it was blowing a gale, it was starting to rain and I just wanted to go home…. Great sense of accomplishment though! 🙂

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