The elite road races at the 2022 UCI world championships in Wollongong (18-25 September) will take in a loop up and over Mount Keira before the finishing circuits closer to the city. In part two of the #Wollongong2022 route preview, we take a look at the climb that takes riders up the escarpment…


– A blog and video by Rob Arnold

Riding east from Flagstaff Hill at Wollongong Harbour you rise gradually as you make your way through the city centre, past the hospital and up to the right-hand turn onto Mt Keira Road. As you cross the Princes Motorway overpass, the road is flat again but it won’t be long before the gradient increases.

After around a kilometre in a westerly direction, the ramp begins. It’s quite gentle to start with, lifting to a gradient of around five percent as you near the edge of suburbia.

Once you begin to climb, however, it gets steeper quickly.


Click the link below to see more of the Mount Keira climb.



Near the sweeping left turn that delivers you into the forest at the base of the escarpment the gradient peaks at around 14 percent. For about a kilometre the average is around 10 percent and, just as you start to run out of breath, the effort required to maintain momentum eases.

The road narrows and suburban guttering switches roadside drains. The quarter-acre blocks and houses slip into the distance. Instead of lawn and parked cars, there are trees – glorious trees – that welcome the cyclist and urge you to venture further up the hill.

When you pass the Mount Keira Demonstration School grounds, your legs recover quickly because the gradient halves, lingering at around four or five percent for much of the last portion of the journey up towards the archery range, Scout Hall, and past bushwalking trails that offer visitors an easy chance for a closer at look at nature.

The early part of the climb is the most difficult with a gradient of around 10% for a kilometre as you ride away from suburbia.

The climb up Mount Keira is only difficult for that kilometre and a bit on the edge of town. When you’re in the forest, it’s easy to switch into tourist mode. While you are climbing most of the time, the gradient doesn’t insist on a huge effort and you can take a moment to look around and realise how quickly you got out of town and into The Bush.

Early in the 1990s, I lived in Wollongong. My bedsit was in Mangerton, the suburb just east of Mt Keira Road and on those long summer days after work I’d jump on the bike and set off for an hour of exercise. Up the hill and down again… sometimes straight home, sometimes with a deviation via the beach and a cool-down swim in the ocean.

This was long before we even knew the term ‘compact gears’. The smallest ratio on my steel-framed Daccordi was 39×21, not exactly ideal for the early ramp on Mt Keira Road. It wasn’t an easy ride but because I knew there was a reprieve once I got to the forest, it was easy to find the motivation to push on.

These days, with a 35×28, it’s a lot easier to get up the steep bit.

On Saturday, 43 days before the start of the 2022 UCI road world championships, I set off from Sydney with the aim of documenting the loop up Mount Keira, onwards to Kembla Heights and down to Cringila via Unanderra.

With perfect weather for cycling it was a glorious day to be on the bike, even if the pain of three rib fractures (sustained four weeks earlier) still lingered. Still, it’s possible to ride this climb (with an appropriate gearing) without getting out of the saddle too much.

I’ve been planning to film the routes for the worlds for months but, to date, every trip to Wollongong in 2022 has coincided with terrible weather. Rain has been a common theme in the region this year and the frequent downpours have added another layer of complications to the worlds organising committee. Still, it’s obvious that work is ongoing to ensure that Wollongong and surrounds are ready for the championships when they come to town in a little over a month.

There are fallen trees to manage and road slips that need to be repaired, and that comes before any fresh layer of bitumen is laid on the mountain roads.

Down at the site of the finish of the time trials and road races, on Marine Drive down near Win Stadium, there is freshly laid tarmac. It is a smooth as you could ever wish for and, when that road reopens once the current works are finished, it’s going to be a gloriously fast stretch to ride along.

If the bitumen that I saw on Marine Drive extends to the other roads that are to be used for the worlds, Wollongong residents will surely rejoice. There may be some complaints from locals around the pending disruptions but there will be significant legacy effects from the championships, and the quality of the road is just one of them.

Building a legacy from the championships

Wollongong is now one of 19 UCI Bike Cities, a label that “supports and reward cities and regions which not only host major UCI cycling events but also invest in developing community cycling and related infrastructure and programmes”.

The ’Gong, as it’s colloquially known, has been a centre for industry for years. The Port Kembla steel works kept many locals in a job and there remains a presence even as Wollongong and surrounds begins to flourish as a tourism hub.

The drive from Sydney takes around an hour, depending on traffic, and it’s quite an easy ride too. (Take the coast road if you’re going by bike – or for a day trip – and you can manage much of the journey without much fuss or bother from motorists.)

The worlds are coming soon and it’s going to be quite a party in Wollongong at the end of September. Once the races have been run and won, however, the region will continue to enjoy the spoils of a considerable investment by the NSW government. Smooth roads are one bonus, but a strong spend on a bike path network, a MTB park – and numerous trails in the hinterland – are all part of the worlds legacy.

Good exercise, great views!

My ride on Saturday was interrupted by road works. I wasn’t able to make it over to Kembla Heights as there was a road block at the motocross track on Harry Graham Drive. Trees were being cleared and only locals were being allowed through, so this point served as my turnaround.

Back up the hill I went, to the highpoint of the 34.2km loop that will be raced by the elite women on Saturday 24 September (164.3km with 2,433m of climbing, and six laps of the city circuit) and elite men on Sunday 25 September (266.9km, 3,945m of climbing, and 12 laps of the city circuit).

The Mount Keira loop is an obvious inclusion in what is a rather complicated itinerary for the final events of #Wollongong2022. It’s a little bit of a shame that it will only be utilised twice – once on the Saturday, once on the Sunday – but it will certainly help showcase the beauty of the region.

I’ve been up and down this stretch of road more times that I care to remember but it never gets old. Every ride up Mount Keira offers something different. It provides a great physical workout while also allowing the mind to wander as you take in some beautiful sights without too much fuss from traffic.

Even an interrupted ride in this part of NSW is a good one.

If you want to see more of the Mount Keira climb, click the link at the top of this page and have a look at the video I made while going up and down the mountain last weekend. This is part two of my course preview for the 2022 world championships… and although it features challenging terrain, I don’t expect it to be a decisive part of the road races.

The true test for the elite women and men will be on the laps up Mount Pleasant… and you’ll be able to find out more about that circuit after my next trip to The ’Gong, with my bike and my camera. Stay tuned, the worlds are coming soon to Wollongong. Are you ready for the ride of your life?



– By Rob Arnold


Subscribe to RIDE Media’s YouTube channel, click here.