WA’s newest gravel event set to roll in emerging gravel mecca near Perth

WA’s fast-expanding gravel cycling scene has a major new event set among the blooming wildflowers in the rising gravel hotspot that is the Shire of Wongan-Ballidu, just two hours NE of Perth.

Hundreds of riders will hit the roads and trails around Ballidu on 23 September as Bike it to Ballidu Gravel slots into the calendar as a major gravel hit-out for 2023, alongside the likes of Seven in Margaret River and Backroads Gravel in Geraldton/Chapman Valley.

Bike it to Ballidu Gravel will feature four rides of 12km, 30km, 85km and 155km.

The democracy of gravel: From pros to first timers

Someone who has ridden some of the local gravel is ex-triathlete and road cycling pro Cassia Boglio, who will represent Australia at the Gravel World Championships in Italy in October after placing third in the Gravel Nationals in Tasmania in June, and second at Seven in May.

Cassia, 23, will ride the 155km Wongan Thrills loop which she says, “is going to be a really good hit out before I go overseas but also for everyone here in WA to do another big event – it’s pretty exciting!”

“I’ve reconned it and it’s different to anything that’s around Perth or down south – the terrain’s a bit different, the gravel variety they have there is not so common.”

On the rise of gravel and her own recent gravel conversion, Cassia adds: “Gravel is super inclusive – it’s pretty cool that everyone can race together from pro gravel racers to people doing it for the very first time and just giving it a go. And Ballidu is not too far from Perth – it’ll be a good day out for everybody involved.”

Bike it to Ballidu back story

Bike it to Ballidu Gravel has a unique twist in that it emerged out of the locally beloved Bike it to Ballidu asphalt ride that has run annually between Wongan Hills and Ballidu since 1999. It was under threat due to road safety concerns.

With the support of the Shire of Wongan-Ballidu, the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, the Ballidu Progress Group and WestCycle, Bike it to Ballidu Gravel was born, utilising some of the 1000 kilometres of excellent gravel roads, firebreaks, sand and clay tracks that exist in the Shire.

Retaining the fun and community-driven soul of its former self, Bike it to Ballidu Gravel features family-friendly shorter rides of 12km (Just Ballidu It) and 30km (Yes You Canola) with an accent on novelty sections, fancy dress and prizes.

Those seeking more serious, multi-hour gravel hit-outs are signing up for the 85km (The Ballidude) and 155km (Wongan Thrills), with the Wongan Thrills ride involving about 1500m of climbing, including the tough ascent of Mt O’Brien (424m).

With local farmers getting behind the event, much of the rides are taking place on private farm tracks and roads generously made available to the event on the day.

Chris Tallentire MP: “Gravel riding is booming”

WA State Parliament member for Thornlie and keen gravel cyclist, Chris Tallentire, celebrates the birth of Bike it to Ballidu Gravel.

“What a great concept – getting people out to our regions and at a time of year where you have canola and wildflowers blooming,” he enthuses.

“Gravel riding is booming and we have the Gravel World Championships coming to WA in 2026 and the investment in gravel is coming along to rival that of mountain biking. It’s all very exciting for cycling and for the State.”

More people riding gravel bikes more often

WestCycle CEO Wayne Bradshaw says Bike it to Ballidu Gravel represents the kind of inclusive cycling event that mirrored WestCycle’s core mission to grow cycling participation across all disciplines.

“We are excited to be onboard with an event that really does offer something for everyone on roads and trails they may have not ridden before. E-bikers are welcome too,” he says.

“As WA’s peak body for cycling, events like this deepens our involvement across the bike riding spectrum and we’re really looking forward to the weekend!”

Tackling gravel in tandem

Two others giving it a go are long time tandem cycling buddies Anthony Collier, 65, and 64-year-old Adriana Lepore – who will tackle the 85km ride on their trusty titanium steel steed, the Kerminator.

“All the wildflowers will be out – it’ll be fantastic,” says Anthony, who rides in pilot position as Adriana is vision-impaired. She relies on her other senses – plus Anthony’s verbal descriptions – to render the landscapes they pass through.

Adriana says: “We love these events – it’s great for the tandem community – it’s great for vision-impaired. It’s great to get out there and participate.”

“We reckon we might be the first and last tandem across the line!” quips Anthony.

Find out more about Bike it to Ballidu Gravel here and here.

Adriana Lepore and Anthony Collier will tackle the 85km loop on their trusty tandem steed 'the Kerminator' at Bike it to Ballidu Gravel

more news items

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 and 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!).