Regional

Pollie Pedal ride kicks off in Melbourne

By AAP Newswire

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has pulled on the lycra for the annual pollie pedal charity ride to raise money for veterans.

Speaking at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne he said he had taken a few longer rides to prepare to ensure he was fit enough.

"I am lucky to have a group of mates who I go riding with just about every weekend, and the Saturday riders become Saturday and Sunday. The 50km riders become 70km riders," he said at the Shrine of Remembrance.

"This is going to be a testing ride because we are riding the Diving Range twice."

Mr Abbott, politicians including Liberal MP Angus Taylor, and returned service personnel will make the 1000km trek to Canberra to raise money for Solider On, a charity that provides education, employment and mental health support to national service personnel and their families.

The charity was formed in 2012 after co-founder John Bale's mate was killed by an explosive in Afghanistan.

Riders will make the journey on Sunday from Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance to St Kilda Football Club, a major sponsor of the charity.

Mr Abbott told riders the cause was one close to his heart.

"We are are doing our best to honour those who have worn our uniform and to do what we can do what we can to to make sure their life is as good as it can be. It is very special to me here."

Lieutenant Colonel Neil Stratton, who has been deployed to Afghanistan five times, told AAP it was hard for military people to reintegrate back into the community.

"Unfortunately young veterans are over represented in the suicide statistics after their service when they lose that connectedness to a big organisation that was supporting them so well when they were serving," he said.

"A lot of my peers have suffered in silence," he said.

"Mental illness should be treated the same as a physical illness."

Rider Elyse Cripps, one-of-three woman riders, told AAP the ride would be trying but was "no comparison to what they (service men and women) go through".

The event will ensure there is plenty of attention focused on Mr Abbott as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull braces for an expected 30th consecutive negative Newspoll on Monday.

Mr Abbott told The Sunday Telegraph he wanted his colleagues to explain why he was booted from officer after having 30-consecutive negative Newspolls in 2015.

"Life is not fair. We know that," he said.