Ten Years Of Melburn Roobaix

The Melburn Roobiax has become an iconic event over the last ten years.  This (non-race) event is all about fun and adventure.  Based on the 'other' event, the Paris-Roubaix, this version channels the essence of the European race and adds a distinct Melburn flavour.

We caught up with Andy White, the brains behind Melburn Roobaix and FYXO, to learn what makes the event so special. 

 

So Andy, how did all of this start?

Melburn Roobaix evolved from a number of experiences I had as a bike courier, through events such as Alley Cats.  Those events were more about thrills and racing around city streets.  That is where my enthusiasm was initially fostered.  

Back then, I was living and working in Canada, and when you won an Alley Cats race, the winner had to organise the next event.  So when I won a race, I had to organise the next one.  I really enjoyed the whole experience of shifting to being the event organiser.  

Around the same time, as a participant I was finding it harder to capture the thrill I got from my first races.  I found I was getting enjoyment from trying to create events that people enjoyed.  Seeing others smiling gave me a real buzz.  

When I returned to Melburn, I arranged another one or two Alley Cat-style events.  During a discussion with a lawyer friend, they asked 'what happens if someone gets hurt' or X happens? I'd never really contemplated the risks like they had.

 

We sat down and realised a lot of the risk and danger came from the racing element.  So we shifted to rewarding people for having fun and being silly.  

Since we made the changes, we've seen a huge shift in who is attending.  There has been significant growth with female participation and people that had previously been spectators on the day or outside observers.  

There must have been a few challenges during the first ten years?

I guess the biggest challenge we have is continually doing new things.  We might try something one year, then it takes off and works.  But then it becomes the norm and people start to expect something else.

For our events, its about making people feel welcome and that they have a great experience.  We are now trying to create that atmosphere with 2,000+ people.  That can be a challenge.  People keep coming back though, so its a sign things are working.

And some highlights?

That 100 people turned up on the first year!  Its been 10 years of highlights really.  

About eight years ago, a pair on a tandem came along dressed as a horse.  The person who was the rear of the horse was visually impaired.  That was a great moment for me as I realised that having a disability had no bearing on someones personal experience on the day.  They went on to win the event, but we had no idea of the visual impairment until afterwards.

Its those little things for me.  Being able to give away cool prizes because of our great sponsors is fun as well.....things like hot air balloon rides.  Through the prizes, we are extending the special and unique experiences.  

 

People make the event for me.  Each year someone goes above and beyond.  Last year we had some children selling candy on a corner and the money raised went to Bikes for Life.  That's cool!

Another special moment for me personally was when Ken Evans rode for the first time.  I've had lots of his bikes in the past and love and respect his craft.  Now Ken comes back every year with his family.

This year we have Stuart O'Grady.  My guess is he will come back each year.  Once he gets a taste for how special the event is.  And I reckon he will like the idea that we have stops for beer along the way.  That Stuey is coming is another awesome thing.  

 

I had Phil Anderson calling to ask if he could buy some tickets...Scott McGrory...we've got all these big guns coming along.  Actually, has-been's - you can call them has-been's because that's what they are (laughter).

You know, only three people have done every event.  That's brilliant as well.  We get to catch up and reminisce - 'remember when that happened' we'll say. 

It comes back to the fact that we are creating memories and experiences for people.  I thrive on that.

What about funny stories?  Or tell us about when someone went above and beyond.

About two or three years ago, we offered a signed Cadel Evans jersey for someone that turned up on the yellow bike share bike.  There's a bunch of guys that go by the name of 'Team Blue Edge'.  

This particular year they turned up in blue skinsuits, aero helmets - the works!  One of them was wearing a yellow outfit and of course, the yellow bike share bike.  As soon as I saw them, I cracked up laughing...

Again, people go above and beyond....we had Ned Kelly one year, the Ninja Turtles, Ghost Busters, ET with the Basket.  People go to a lot of effort for the costumes.

 

Why do you think its been such a success?

Its unlike any other event.  Its the bike event for non-bike people.  For people that don't race - its a great excuse to hang out in Melburn with their mates.  There aren't many events that allow that these days.  

I mean, a Gran Fondo isn't a race, but people race it.  This is a fun event.  We take fun very seriously.

You've also got the custom show on Saturday.  That was missing for a few years, its great to see it back.

Yeah, 2012 was first year.  After that we aimed to do Adelaide but we didn't get the response.  Melody, my partner, brought the idea to do it for the tenth year. 

Its inspired by Stalen Ros in Ghent.  We don't really have any bike shows anymore.  There's no Ausbike, no Bike Fest...and people love showing off their bikes.  Its also a great opportunity to exchange and meet with different brands - particularly custom brands.

What can people expect from Sunday?

The difference this year is the bike show the day before.  It will excite people about Sunday.  There's a huge number of people coming from Interstate and overseas.  Part of the reasoning for the bike show was to give more experiences in Melburn for them to enjoy.

 

 

One of the special things is that the event can almost go by without being noticed. There are no road closures.  We are largely on bike paths, which is kind of daggy for some people - but we've made it cool.  Throw in some cafe stops and its a great way to move people safely across the city.

The route is organic as well.  The experience that one group has can be completely different to others.  People will get lost on the day, but that's the cool thing as well - it becomes a talking point and a fun memory for those people.

Where to next for the event?

Bono from U2 said it best  - he said something along the lines of 'we'll just have to go away and see what we can dream up next.' 

For us, its six months of planning, design and hurdles.  So when its done, we need dettachment before we get excited again.  Next year will be different, not necessarily bigger - more won't make it better.

This year we re-introduced physical tickets to make it quicker for people; to make the event better.  We will go away to analyse and then go away and dream to make it better....

As I got off the phone with Andy, it was very clear why this event has been so successful - the passion, commitment and enthusiasm for creating a fun event is very clear.  Well done with the first ten years team FYXO.  We look forward to the next ten years.

Now...what the hell will I wear on Sunday?

All photos supplied by the sensational FYXO instagram account.