As many know already, where the bitumen ends is where the real fun begins. Forget the stress of dealing with unsympathetic traffic, exhaust fumes and noise, and discover the roads less travelled—and there are some beaut roads really close to Melbourne.

In February we're offering three great mixed-terrain rides around Melbourne, all of which can be reached on the urban train network. Ride all three, and in one dirty weekend you'll qualify for the rare and elusive Audax Australia Dirt Series Award.

Friday 8 Feb: Ride on a Goat

Slip away early on Friday afternoon and meet at Darebin Station for an evening trundle around sealed and unsealed bike paths, with the odd dirt road thrown in for good measure. Then whip back down the Yarra Trail for a refreshing cold one at the Goat Bar.

Easy riding, the route includes nothing technical with the dirt component consisting of well-made gravel bike paths and a couple of short bursts on unsealed roads. If you're happy taking your bike on a gravel path, you'll be fine. And this is the only ride on the calendar with the final checkpoint inside a brewery.

Audax lighting rules apply to this ride.

Start: Darebin Railway Station, 6pm.
Check the route map.
To join the ride, please contact the ride organiser at least three days before.
Entry: $6 (members), $16 (non-members)

Saturday 9 Feb: Searching for the Bunyip

The Bunyip is a strange and curious beast. Legends portrait it a large creature that inhabits swamps and billabongs. Perhaps this is why Paul Keating used it describe members of the Liberal Party. But if the grumpy Bunyip could ride a bike it would surely do Audax.

The route is along quiet low traffic roads with plenty of hills and scenery. The road surface is a mix of sealed and unsealed roads. The unsealed roads are generally in good condition except for the occasional corrugations. The second half of the ride travels through the Bunyip state park.

Start: Toomuc Valley Road, Pakenham, 8am.
Check the route map.
To join the ride, please register online.
You can also contact the ride organiser.
Entry: $7.50 (members), $17.50 (non-members)

Sunday 10 Feb: Not the 1-in-20

RideWithGPS.com says that this ride has 200m more climbing than Saturday, in 70% of the distance. So this must be the hilly one of the set. The serious climbing is over in the first half, but don't underestimate the undulating second act! Gravel roads and fire trails make up the dirt here. Nothing overly technical on the route but be ready to climb and descend on unsealed surfaces (there are a couple of steep-ish drops).

What's the point of going to the Dandenongs if you don't go all the way to the top? So we will (but not by the 1-in-20) and we'll throw in One Tree Hill for good measure. Then we'll head cross-country by path and fire trail to Lysterfield for a lap of the Lake, before hammering it back to the start via a few kays of bike path.

Probably not a good idea to bring your best bike on this one. You may struggle on a road bike, you should be OK on a hybrid, and you'll cruise it on a MTB.

Start: Bayswater Park, 9am.
Check the route map.
To join the ride, please contact the ride organiser at least three days before.
Entry: $6 (members), $16 (non-members)

All of the above rides are unsupported Audax brevet rides. A completed ride entry form and ride fees are required for each ride (member fees apply to Audax and Cycling Australia members).