Yarralumla is famous for many things; power, diplomacy, history, dragon boats, kebabs.
But I’m here to say the real oxygen flowing through Yarralumla’s veins is cycling. Yarralumla is not only the epicentre of cycling in Canberra, but it’s also one of the world’s holiest places for cyclists.
Gracie Elvin is an expert. She’s a two-time Australian Road Cycling Champion, Olympian and two-time Commonwealth Games Representative. Canberra born and raised, she is a lifetime lover of two wheels.
I asked Gracie, currently based in Northern Italy during the European racing season, what she thought of my claim:
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate to grow up and live in Yarralumla for most of my life. I’ve been a cyclist for much of that time and there couldn’t have been a better place for me to start my day on two wheels. I learned to ride a bike on my street and in Weston Park, and I still love to ride along the path down there to enjoy the beautiful views or be humbled by the Siev X memorial.”
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Sometimes there’s a light in the tunnel before the end… ? . It’s only two weeks to go before the end of my season, and while there have been many challenges along the way, I’m savoring every day. Mindset is everything. Sometimes I don’t get it right, but I try my best and am so grateful for every day I get to ride my bike. ? . Thanks to @velofocus for capturing my happiness in the middle of a dark tunnel, halfway up the uphill time trial in the #Giro. I wasn’t riding to win, only to make time cut. I’d ridden my ass off for our leaders for days beforehand and was enjoying time to myself on my bike in a beautiful place. I waved to the cheering spectators. I hummed nice songs in my head. Then my team mates and I cheered for the top 20 riders going as hard as they could. What a good day ??
Canberra cyclist Gracie Elvin. Source: Instagram @gracieelvin
Here are just a few reasons Yarralumla is a paradise for cyclists:
- It hosted three rounds of the women’s road cycling world cup in 1999, 2000 and 2001. The course was a lap winding through the embassies, along the lake and featuring the deceptively tough Fitzgerald Street climb.
- The Tour de Femme, founded by Anne Irons in the 80s has become an iconic and beloved women’s cycling event focused on community, rather than competition and gained popularity while based for many years out of the Yarralumla Yacht Club carpark and parklands.
- Yarralumla’s roads are also the route of choice for Canberra’s best, hardest, and oldest weekly group training rides or “bunches”. If you’re up at dawn every day you might see the ‘Hour of Power’, the ‘Hour of Terra’, the ‘bakery bunch’, the ‘Semi-Pro’ and the FIT (Females-in-Training), just to name a few.
If you know where to look you will also find single-track mountain biking routes off-road in the reserves and parks along the lake.
But, you don’t need to be a cycling enthusiast to experience Yarralumla’s cycling beauty. Any trip through its streets is a tour through a curated exhibition of architecture, with embassies, homes, public buildings and even iconic bus shelters, that all demonstrate some of the most interesting architecture of Canberra and the world.
I asked Gracie for some ride recommendations:
” My favourite sections are from Weston Park towards Governor General’s House where the forest is thick and magical at any time of the year; and the archway of trees from Commonwealth Bridge that lead to Commonwealth Place. I never get sick of those locations, or even the whole “lakie” lake loop when I can start and finish in Yarralumla. I’ve also done a lot of mountain biking over the years and Yarralumla is in the perfect location to ride to any of the fantastic MTB parks in Canberra.”
We also can’t ignore that one of the most important aspects of cycling, and one you can consider me an expert in – is not just sitting on your bike, but sitting near it, to enjoy a coffee, cake, or any other fuel or vice necessary.
In this respect Yarralumla’s local shops obliges like no other. You can ride straight to the door of Farmer’s Daughter Cafe, the Bentham Street Pizza Bar, or Canberra’s most iconic Kebab shop.
And for our four-legged riding companions, The most dog-friendly stop in Canberra might be the Gallery and Oaks Brasserie just near the dog park.
If you’re more into relaxing on a picnic blanket with a cold drink and some hot fish and chips, you can finish your ride at Canberra’s Yacht Club and Snapper Cafe. The scene there in the late afternoon light of autumn is an absolute showstopper.
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Farewell summer but excited to see Autumn again. Wondering around Canberra at this time of year is magical? . . . . . #visitcanberra #thiscanberranlife #ourANU #seeaustralia #exploringaustralia #ig_australia #takemetoaustralia #ig_discover_australia #wow_australia2019 #mynikonlife #tree_brilliance #tree_magic #tree_captures #ig_shotz_trees #bns_trees #raw_alltrees #pocket_trees #splendid_woodlands #nature_brilliance #fiftyshades_of_nature #ig_color #colors_of_day #picturetokeep_nature #riyets #bns_earth #ig_myshots #worldprime #ig_colorshot #igworld_global
One of the great cycling spots in Yarralumla, captured by local photographer Carol Elvin. Source: Instagram @carolelvin
When I asked Gracie how Yarralumla stacks up against the world’s traditional cycling hotspots, she wrapped up my argument perfectly, saying:
“I’ve been lucky to travel all over the world as a professional cyclist and it has made me appreciate Yarralumla, and Canberra, even more as being such a unique and stunning place to live and cycle. It always tops my list!”
Tom Palmer is a Real Estate Agent at Belle Property Kingston serving the Yarralumla market together with his mum and real estate mentor Leanne Palmer. He entered real estate after years in the cycling world, first as a professional athlete, and then as general manager, heading up the Drapac-Cannondale team, an international program for developing student cyclists.