Conquer the Perth Hills in the 25th Anniversary Dams Challenge

The most prestigious and toughest event on WA’s cycling calendar is back in 2023 with a Silver Jubilee edition after a COVID-enforced hiatus.

The Dams Challenge was conceived on a whim by Fremantle-based cycling legend Lindsay O’Brien who one day in 1998 decided to see how many Perth dams he could ride to – five as it turned out. O’Brien’s challenge quickly spread organically among the Perth cycling community to evolve into today’s iconic Dams Challenge that over 1000 riders relish each year.

This year’s 25th anniversary edition will see riders tackle one of three routes: two dams (54km), three dams (132km) or five dams (204km).

“After the COVID hiccup it’s great to be back in the Perth Hills this year with this iconic cycling celebration that’s really been missed by the Perth riding community and beyond,” says WestCycle CEO Wayne Bradshaw.

“The stunning course through the Perth Hills plus the kudos that come from riding to all these dams in one day have put this event on the Australian and international map. The shorter two and three dam versions still offer something for riders with different aims and fitness levels.”

Those choosing the brutal suffer-fest that is the five dams iteration will climb more than 2500m in vertical gain with pitches up to 13%!

The Dams Challenge: Humble (and wet) beginnings

The Dams Challenge has come a long way since 1998 when Ian Pawley was among a select crew of about 10 riders who, inspired by O’Brien’s solo feat, departed from Canning Bridge on a rainy June morning to visit five dams.

The rain-lashed Royal South Beach Cycling Association riders returned to Fremantle some eight and a half hours later with 227km in their legs and five dams in the bag.

“We got home, and our wives weren’t the least impressed, but we’d had a good hard day on the bike,” said Pawley. “No one dropped out. We loved it and it became an annual thing after that.”

Pawley has ridden famous European one-day monument fondos like the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix (with a broken wrist!), Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Milan-San Remo and Australian events like Around the Bay in a Day and the 3 Peaks Challenge. He puts five dams in that leg-sapping, mind-steeling echelon.

“Five dams is a tough day’s riding – anything over 200km is – it’s not something you can do without preparation but it’s a day on the bike you’ll never forget.”

Five dams Legends

This year a ‘Legends’ category has been introduced to acknowledge those riders who have completed the five dams, five times. Only a handful of mountain goats can to date claim Legend status and don the commemorative jersey. Could you be one?

Riders will pass by or over Serpentine, Wungong, Churchman’s Brook, Bickley and Canning dams. Registrations remain open for teams and individuals until Thursday, April 13.

And if you want to soak up the atmosphere without having to turn a single pedal, volunteers are still required. We’ll feed you and give you some kit! More on that here.

See you in the Perth Hills!


For interviews and further information contact:

Shane Starling

Communications manager

Phone: 0492 897 199

Email: [email protected]

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Tim Roach

Elected Director | Off Road

Tim has been in senior leadership and strategic development roles for more than twenty years. He is currently Director of Executive Education in the School of Business and Law at Edith Cowan University and is a past Assistant Commissioner and General Manager in the public service. He is an Accountant (FCPA) and sits on the Divisional Council of CPA Australia.

Tim has been involved in racing mountain bikes, BMX and triathlon for many years, both as a father of two children who race and as a past and current bike racer. Tim is the current over-50 State Champion in downhill mountain biking. He is also a very regular and enthusiastic transport cyclist; frequently seen in a suit and tie riding to meetings in the city on a mountain bike.

Denise Sullivan

Chair | Governance & Risk Committee

Denise Sullivan has a career spanning over twenty years in senior management and executive roles in the state public and not-for-profit health sectors.

In her usual role of Director Chronic Disease Prevention with the Western Australian Department of Health, she leads the development of state chronic disease and injury prevention policy and planning frameworks and contributes to the shaping of the national preventive health policy agenda.

Her professional interests cover many aspects of chronic disease and injury prevention encompassing health communications, health promotion and research, public policy on health and workforce planning and development.

She has a particular interest in furthering collaborations with other sectors with a mutual interest in promoting a more active and healthier WA community, and creating and sustaining environments that support this. Denise is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Leadership WA Signature Program, and an Associate Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management and the Australian College of Health Service Managers.

Denise is a recreational cyclist and recent convert to mountain biking (although trainer wheels still on!).