Sydney’s New Dirt Nirvana | Bare Creek Bike Park

In November 2019, eye-boggling photos of a new bike park in Sydney’s Northern Beaches began to trickle out over social media, and what we saw was like nothing constructed in the Harbour City before now.

Built on the remediated Belrose tip site, photos of humongous red clay tabletops and perfectly manicured berms began to ooze out of the Dirt Art Instagram, met with the inevitable questions of where this magical playground is, and when can it be ridden.

What is this magical place? Dirt Art’s head builder Tom Mallett surveys their craft at the end of the day.

Interestingly though, Northern Beaches mountain bikers have been fighting for this project for over a decade. After hundreds of council meetings, multiple design applications, access issues and an unprecedented tonnage of dirt moved onto the site, the Bare Creek Bike Park is now almost complete.

What is Bare Creek Bike Park?

Once completed, the Bare Creek Bike Park will be an all-new free-to-ride open to the public, purpose-built facility constructed on an old tip site. It essentially jumps and freeride lines of all shapes and sizes, for riders of all ages, and specifically built to accommodate for a wide range of skill level. It’s also very kid-friendly and very e-MTB ready.

With around 150m of elevation, the park can be ridden without uplift transport. Laps all day long!


In a nutshell, the team has built:

  • Gravity jump trails – Ideal for mountain bikes.
  • Dirt jumps –  Jump pad with four lines, beginner to pro suitable for BMX and dirt jump bikes.
  • Drop zone – Drop Zone – A gravity-fed line that offers three progressive timber drops of varying size: Small, Medium, and Large.
  • Flow trail – Flow trail – A series of ten interlinked shoulder to head-high berms.
  • Pump track – The unique design is designed for all ages and abilities, a place to start jumping and progress onto other features in the park. The options are endless; the design allows the rider to interpret their line with massive head-high berms, a spine and gap-feature doubles.
  • Kids track – For strider bikes, and little wheels. The park was always intended to cater to a broad spectrum of users, including the younger generation.

The fascinating story.

Back in 2008, the only legal single track in Sydney was Manly Dam. The Manly Warringah Mountain Bike Club and TrailCare were invited onto a Community Advisory Committee which was exploring possible uses for the Belrose Waste and Recycling Centre when it was set to cease operations in 2014.

“For every tonne of waste that went into the tip, two-dollars went into an enhancement fund to be spent on the site afterwards — not for maintenance or work, but beautification or a future project,” says Brett Butler, who was the Secretary of the Manly Warringah Mountain bike club at the time and is also involved with Sydney based advocacy group Trail Care. “That amounted to about $3.5-million when the tip closed.”

The progress of the bike park has been remarkable to watch, teased by epic photos over many months.

Working with the Community Advisory Committee, the Waste Asset Management Corporation, which was looking after operations of the dump, put together a draft future use plan with three possible options and released it to the public.

The community had spoken, and Northern Beaches mountain bikers would be getting a new trail network. Suart Planners were commissioned to put together a development plan and what they came up with would be the most significant injection of legal singletrack on the Northern Beaches to date, complete with XC and gravity trails spread over the entire 35-hectare site. But, the council grabbed a handful of brakes and sent the project over the handlebars.

Before.

“The project hit the first big hurdle when Warringah Council decided they weren’t prepared to take on the management,” says Matt Ward who is also involved with Trail Care, and at this stage had taken over the reins of the project.

“Initially the council had suggested putting together a group that might be able to manage the bike park as a private entity, instead of the council. That fell through because the State Government wasn’t overly confident in the idea, so we spent the next couple of years working with the Waste Asset Management Corporation (who still managed the site), to try and find ways to get the project back on track.”

Little did the team who had been lobbying for the bike park know they would be dealt a pair of political aces. The first was the amalgamation of the Manly, Pittwater and Warringah Councils. Ward says a lot of the initial resistance to the project was because the Warringah Council didn’t want to be responsible for what they saw as a regional facility; whereas the new Northern Beaches Council see themselves as a regional council, and feel it’s their role to take on such facilities.

This was also around the time the iconic trails at Oxford Falls were bulldozed, to the great dismay of the mountain bike community.

“Once those trails were removed there was a real political impetus to make sure we got this back on track, and Jonathan O’Dea, the Local Member for Davidson, was really helpful at that stage getting all the parties together to make sure there was a plan where we can make it happen,” Ward says.

The ‘Bare’ comes out of hibernation.

When a garbage dump is put out of commission, the rubbish is sealed in with a clay cap to prevent contamination of the topsoil. For many years after the landfill is sealed, the rubbish underneath still decaying, not only causing the ground to settle a bit but releases methane gas as it decomposes. Gas wells are utilised throughout decommissioned dumps to manage and collect the noxious fumes. With the initial design for the network spanning across most of the site, this meant each gas well would need to be fenced.

Dirt Art’s Tim Hughes (Left) and Tom Mallett (Right) standing atop the mounds soil about to be shaped into dirt jump lines.

“The sheer amount of fencing that would have been needed to go around each gas well was cost-prohibitive — there are hundreds of them, and each would have required fencing,” explains James Hall who was contracted through Trail Care to audit the build process.

The original concept utilised every inch of the former tip site taking full advantage of the roughly 100m of vertical drop, transforming the site into a mountain bike playground. So Ward and the Trail Care team took matters into their own hands and put together a design concept which drastically reduced the overall footprint of the bike park, and slightly shifted its focus.

“I remember going up on the site one morning to have a look around, and it was really a case of walking up and looking into the valley, where all the trails have ended up being, and it was immediately apparent that this is where everything goes.

The original concept utilised every inch of the former tip site taking full advantage of the roughly 100m of vertical drop, transforming the site into a mountain bike playground.

The other benefit is that it’s (where the bike park ended up) one of the oldest parts of the site, so it’s done most of its landfill settling, and there is not a lot of complex infrastructures. There was no longer the need to fence up gas infrastructure, and now we could just put up one big fence around the edge; which cut about 1.5-million dollars out of the budget, which could go to council to maintain the site for the next ten to 20-years.” Ward says.

Building on a decommissioned dump – send in The Slug

With this new design concept, Ward and Hall began to put new trail alignments down on paper. They worked with a new Project Manager from the Waste Assets Management Corporation, now part of the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, who brought a ‘nothing is too hard’ attitude to the table. The team began to gather the documents for a Development Approval to then send the project out for tender, which was eventually awarded to trail building outfit, Dirt Art.

“At this stage, we were just pinching ourselves that it is actually happening,” Hall said.

You’d think that building on a decommissioned dump would be an ideal scenario from a trail builders perspective, with plenty of freedom, as it’s far from a pristine and sensitive wilderness environment, but there are still challenges to navigate. To preserve the clay cap on top of the landfill, Dirt Art was unable to bench the trails into the hillside and had to build the bench essentially.

James Hall on the epic pump track.

“We could dig down a tiny bit, but not much,” says Jason Lam, the Project Manager from Dirt Art. “So all of those big gravity lines you see, all of that was dumped out by a 30-tonne dump truck. We spent months just moving dirt up onto the hill before we could even start building the trails.”

Lam tells Flow it took three layers of fill to create enough depth to build and sculpt on top of.

“We called it the slug because it was this massive slug of dirt that went across the full alignment of all of these trails before we could start sculpting the trail,” he says. “Before arriving there were 30,000-tonnes of clean fill stockpile on the site, and within the first month we’d already burned through all of that.”

We spent months just moving dirt up onto the hill before we could even start building the trails

Built for beginners, pros, and everyone in between

The Bare Creek Bike Park you see today looks like nothing else in Australia. Once opened, it will offer a riding experience that has not previously been readily available to mountain bikers in Metro Sydney. In the teaser imagery, we’ve seen of the Bare Creek Bike Park, the jumps and gravity lines cut an imposing silhouette; however, these massive features are only one aspect of the park.

Andrew Byrnes beta testing.
Mandy Davis testing and providing valuable input to the team.
Josh Muncke was progressing up the levels, working up to hitting big lines on his enduro bike.

“When we went about designing and building this bike park there was a conscious effort to ensure there was a defined progression from the very beginner level, right through the advanced proline,” Lam explains.

“Along with that opportunity for progression, we were aware that we needed to cater for the upper-end level of the rider because it’s not something you can do elsewhere. National parks are never going to formalise the upper-end difficult trails like a double black or proline features because they are high risk,’ he continues. “Nor is it the right setting for it, you should not be building massive trails which have a three or four-meter corridor through sensitive land; Belrose gave us an opportunity for a clean slate because it was ex-landfill.”

Get used to images like this; it’s a mighty photogenic location! Sam Stockwell lay’s it flat during a test session.
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. This place is heaven in the suburbs!

To achieve this, Dirt Art worked backwards, building the largest features first. Lam explains doing it this way gave them the endpoint when it allowed the progression between the features as riders skills grow to be seamless, without any gaps — both literal and figurative — between them.

The price of entry

The Bare Creek Bike Park will be a council-run facility, meaning that there will be no cost of entry and it will be entirely open for the community to use and enjoy. Given the size and consequence of many features throughout the park, the quality and consistency of the jumps, drops and berms is key to making sure the park is built safely, and this comes down to speed. Lam tells us every feature, regardless of whether it’s the beginner jumps or the proline can be rolled into and safely cleared without the need to pedal or brake mid-line.

Regardless of whether it’s the beginner jumps or the proline can be rolled into and safely cleared without the need to pedal or brake mid-line.

“It’s imperative for a public facility that you take the guesswork out of it, and make it as safe as possible. People are still going to get hurt because mountain biking is an inherently dangerous sport — we can’t stop that. We can only build things as safe as possible and ensure the signage reflects that and make people aware of the risks,” says Lam.

A bunch of industry folks visiting the park pre-opening, minds were blown, and the excitement grows.
The aim was to build lines, features and jumps for all bikes, from BMX to downhill, and everything in between. Hugh Balcomb (Left), Mathieu Taris going large.
Dirt Art’s Tim Hughes with the iconic satellite dish in the background.
The Northern Beaches has a strong riding community, with a strong freeride ad dirt jump scene going back many years. James Hall, during an exclusive test session jam.

When you have bike park features that satisfy the needs of the upper end of the spectrum, ultimately that is what prevents people from going out into the woods and building a janky jump line that will inevitably be torn down by the council.

“I think it’s fair to say that the most harmful form of illegal trail building is when people go out and try to build great big jumps and features out in natural bushland,” Ward says. “With what we have at Belrose, there is no reason for anyone to go and build jumps anymore.”

While the Bare Creek Bike Park we have today is a little bit different to the one which was proposed many moons ago, it’s a world-class trail facility that the public can use and enjoy. It will add to the riding culture in Sydney, and get more people on bikes — which is a good thing any way you slice it.

“Even if these people are just coming into the sport to ride jumps, inevitably they’re also going to want to ride mountain bikes out on single track in the bush. I suspect that we are going to see an increase in demand for a wider range of mountain bike facilities, and ultimately lead to a more formalised trail” says Ward.

Dirt Art’s Tom Mallett is enjoying the fruits of his labour.

Butler also tells us that from the start, some of the local schools have shown interest in utilising the facility as part of their curriculum as well.

As it stands, the Bare Creek Bike Park is slated to be open to the public this spring. A specific opening date has yet to be set because there is still some work to be done on the infrastructure side of the park, like water tanks, shelters and signage, but the trail work is complete.

It’s happening, people!


Where – Watch this space!

When – Watch this space!

How – The council facility is free to ride and open to the public.

Follow for progress updates and opening information – https://www.facebook.com/BareCreekBikePark


Words – Colin Levitch, Flow Mountain Bike

Images – Matt Staggs, Wesley Lonergan, Mark Watson/Incite Images, Dirt Art

Mountain Bike Events in The Age of COVID

In mid-June, the Northern Territory Government announced that it would be reopening its borders to interstate visitors on July 17. With the health guidelines permitting gatherings of up to 500 people, it looked like The Red Back stage race would be back for its 12th edition. 

“We’d been following the Northern Territory (guidelines) very closely, and that’s why we were so positive about being able to run our Alice Springs-based events,” says John Jacoby, the Race Director at Rapid Ascent Events. “Most of the rules were for events over 500 people, and none of our events there (in Alice Springs) were going to be over 500, so we thought ‘oh, we’re in the clear there, and everything is looking good.'”

The Red in Alice Springs was so close to running their event, but state border changes put an end to it for now.

So Rapid Ascent put the call out for riders. In order to run the event, they needed 100 entries for all six stages to run the race, and things were ploughing on, full steam ahead. And then cases started to spike in Victoria.

“When the Melbourne outbreak got bad there, and they started closing the borders to Melbournians. And then (all) Victorians — we also knew it would probably be an issue for Western Australians because they wouldn’t be able to get back in (to their state) — so it (the race) was no longer feasible.”

The world has changed, mountain bike events have changed along with everything else.

Seven months ago, we had an events calendar brimming with races locally and abroad, and racers primed to duke it out on singletrack around the country. Plane tickets were booked, bike bags packed, and training plans were being followed to the TSS. And then the world changed. 

Tumbling From the Calendar

The Red Back is far from the only event to have fallen victim to the COVID 19 pandemic. One of the first events to pull the plug was The Dragon Trail, a brand new race set to run at the end of March, which over three days would guide riders through some of the most iconic singletrack Northeastern Tasmania has to offer — including the new Bay of Fires Trail. 

“It was all looking great for an event in the first year. We had managed to attract about 300 riders; over 80-per cent were from interstate, and about 15-per cent were coming from overseas,” explains Dragon Trail Race Director Louise Foulkes.

In the weeks before the race was set to kick off, Foulkes and her team watched what was transpiring in South Africa as the Absa Cape Epic was cancelled two days before the first stage, with riders already on the ground having travelled in from around the world. Cases were beginning to spike locally, and Foulkes and her team made the difficult decision to cancel the race on March 16. Two days later, Tasmania closed its borders to mainland Australia. 

“We were looking at the situation (in South Africa) and going, ‘oh my God; we are going to be in Tasmania doing the exact same thing, we have to call it,'” she said. 

“If you run events, you have to cancel them early. You never cancel them a week out, as we did. Normally you would think it would be reputation and financial suicide, but then they closed the borders two days later anyway — it’s not like we would have had a choice.”

Local artist Ruth Lindsell (centre) made a magnificent trophy for the inaugural Dragon Tail event, hopefully someone can be presented with it in March 2021.

While all of this was happening, Australia’s best DH and XC racers were in Bright racing the 2020 MTBA National Championships from March 11-15. Little did those riders know it would be the last time they would don a number plate for some time. 

“As an event, it was the highest participation numbers we recorded for the last seven years,” says Shane Coppin, the CEO of MTBA. 

“We spent the whole weekend and the lead up in constant contact with Sport and Rec(reation) in Victoria. We had taken as many provisions as possible; we’d pre-ordered sanitisers, and implemented warnings and measures as best we could and were on alert that we might need to cancel at any point.

The 2020 MTBA National Champs was one of the last events to run, in mid-March.

And then on Monday (March 16), they shut down Victoria and put the cap on gatherings — we were one of the last events to get through,” he continues.

On March 23, seven days after the last green and gold jumper was awarded in Bright, MTBA sent out the announcement that all racing should be postponed until further notice. 

“A lot of the decisions we’ve made weren’t really decisions; they were just necessitated outcomes to resolve what (regulation) was imposed.”

And that was it, everyone battened down the hatches and did their part to flatten the curve. One by one we saw races big and small, postpone until spring, and then cancel their 2020 editions altogether. 

“At the beginning, we were all just struggling to come to grips with how long this was going to last for, and the regulatory environment around this virus that we were going to have to be working within,” explains David Beeche Senior Vice President and Managing Director of the IRONMAN Group Oceania, who looks after Port to Port, Reef to Reef, Cape to Cape and The Pioneer, among others.

The biggest events in Australia, run by Ironman – Cape to Cape, Port to Port and Reef to Reef.

With the restrictions on the number of people that are allowed to be in a group, event promoters are essentially unable to do their work, forcing them to pivot and refocus where possible. But, the moratorium on gatherings has meant hard times for organisers. 

“Every moment, you sort of think, ‘oh, well we should be able to run this event’ and get your hopes up, and then all of the sudden things change again,” says Jacoby. “It’s definitely had a big impact on the business, and certainly the Job Keeper has helped keep the business afloat, and some of the employees engaged and working, but it’s tough.”

With this, a few of the big players like IRONMAN, Spartan Racing AU/NZ and Pont3 which runs the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival and Marathon, banded together. Along with 400 other event companies, they would form the Australian Mass Participation Sporting Event Alliance (AMPSEA) with the aim of more support and clear guidance to help them weather the pandemic. 

The creation of AMPSEA is hopefully able to help the event industry sustain itself.

“We were one of the first to go, and we will probably be the last back,” explains Beeche. “It’s an industry typified by thousands and thousands of smaller operators, and it’s challenging for small operators to knock on the door of Government and ask for help,” says Beeche. “We are hopeful that we can champion the cause for all operators in the industry to get some relief and help the industry sustain itself.”

AMPSEA is using its collective bargaining power to lobby not only to be included in the next stimulus and relief package but also to develop a road map. This can help organisers wade through the guidelines and to determine which regulations apply to them so events can run safely. 

Ever-changing conditions

In a few places around the country, we have seen select local events run successfully within the guidelines, but as we saw in Victoria, things can change in an instant. And when your business relies on bringing groups of people together to ride and be merry, you are at the mercy of ordinance that seems to change daily. 

“For the last few events we were going to have in New South Wales, I had to watch the Premier’s press conference on Thursday, to find out if our event on Saturday was going to happen,” says Martin Wisata, the Managing Director of Rocky Trail Entertainment.

Martin watching the Premier’s press conference before communicating with the riders.

Even since we conducted these interviews, the rules and regulations have changed half a dozen times, and will probably change half a dozen more from the time this is published to when you’re reading it. But, event promoters like Wisata aren’t totally alone in trying to navigate the rules and regulations, MTBA has put together a tool kit to help event promoters and clubs try to navigate the ever-changing restrictions.

“It has been an enormous job to keep up with all the restrictions. Because there is no real coordination from state to state, it’s different in every jurisdiction,” says Coppin.

Mountain bike events are too small and too big at the same time, which presents challenges for official guidelines.

Complicating things further, mountain bike racing falls into somewhat of a no man’s land, and the regulations surrounding sports are not catered towards trail networks and event villages. 

“We are relatively far down the food chain when it comes to rules and regulations, which totally makes sense. First and foremost, they need to worry about hospitals, and there are millions of pubs and restaurants which are trying to reopen, and they have all got pretty precise rules. Then at some point, we needed to analyse which rules applied to us,” says Martin Wisata.

“That was our biggest challenge because, for lack of a better word, we were too big for community sport (guidelines) because we are a private operator, but too small for the big cricket, and NRL guidelines that the government was working on,” explains Juliane Wisata, the Marketing Director for Rocky Trail Entertainment.

Event promoters are gaining clarity in what they do, but it’s not without a lot of research from their part.

Jacoby, Foulkes, and Wisata have said they are utilising every tool available to them, whether it be documents released by trail running organisers or tourism bodies to figure out which rules apply to them, and what they need to do to run the event safely. This is also something that AMPSEA is pushing for, so there is clarity for the smaller promoters.

Craving connection

With the events that have run since the beginning of the pandemic, things look a little bit different and are likely going to stay that way for some time. Every promoter we spoke with believed that the events that will be able to run would be run by local promoters. They will be at your home trail network because interstate travel is not feasible for most people. This is evidenced by MTBA’s announcement of the cancellation of the 2020 National Cup and launch of the new State Cup and will work a bit like a National Cup, but within each state.

MTBA cancelled the 2020 National Cup and launched the new State Cup. Like the National Cup, but within each state.

“A national completion where riders where racers from one state or another weren’t able to participate because of a closed border, isn’t really a national competition,” Coppin says.

Coppin also points out that this focus on local racing also allows community and club racing to regain its footing before nationals are thrown into the mix.

Events are set to experience a boom on their return.

Where events can happen; however, there is a definite hunger for it.

“The energy that is created at an event, when you come together with like-minded people, is an escape from everyday life. For our customer base, that just wasn’t happening during the lockdown, and so we worked hard to give that back to our racers as best we could, within the rules.”

Rocky Trail has run a handful of events now in Queensland, and New South Wales, both its Superflow Enduro and MTB GP events. Martian and Juliane Wisata say running these events required trust, both from them as the organiser, but also the racers. 

“Running an event, we have to put part of the responsibility onto the riders. It’s your responsibility to keep social distancing at the event, but more so it’s your responsibility to decide whether you want to come to such an event. 

We can put on a race that is within the law, and we will put on a race where all the protocols are in place, but at the end of the day, only the rider can make the decision about if they should come,” says Juliane Wisata.

Beyond just the COVID safe plan, one such protocol that Rocky Trail has changed is its refund policy — now you can pull out of the race at any time in the lead-up and get your money back-no questions asked. Juliane says they made this decision to remove as much stress as possible when entering an event, knowing that you’re not going to be out $90 if you start to feel unwell, or feel uncomfortable with the situation the night before the race.

Even as we return to racing, things are going to look a little bit different. Organisers are taking advantage of the digital tools at their disposal, running video rider orientations and award ceremonies, riders and spectators will need to be signed in for contact tracing purposes, and specific aspects of the race itself are going to change as well. 

“The idea of throwing your grimy hand into a big bag full of snakes is probably a thing of the past these days,” Jacoby said, speaking about how aid stations will be managed in the age of COVID. “We were looking at having a food’ hander outer, and probably doing more self packaged foods like a whole mandarin or banana is pretty safe to handle because it has a wrapper built-in.”

Mountain bike festivals, like Derby Fest in Tassie and Ignition MTB Festival in Falls Creek, face the same challenges as the racing fraternity.

“People come to an event for the physical challenge and the adventure of doing the race, but what they actually walk away with is the people that they meet and the interactions they have with the staff and volunteers and so we always try and create environments that support those interactions, and this virus is going to fly right in the face of it,” Beeche. “It will be interesting to see if people still get that same sense of satisfaction as they usually would from these events. 

As much as we’d all like our lives to go back to pre-COVID 19, including mountain bike racing, for the time being, this is the new normal. Event organisers are working day and night to put on the races and rides we know and love, and while it seems large destination events are off the table until next year, local racing can still flourish. But Martin Wisata said it best when he mused, “nobody knows what’s going to happen.”


Words – Colin Levith

Photography – Supplied, Flow MTB


Mo’ Flow Please!

Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow!

Getting Dirty Indoors – A Mountain Biker’s Guide To Zwift

It’s cold and rainy, the trails are too wet to ride. You’ve watched Connor Fearon’s latest edit at least a dozen times already, your bike is clean, fork serviced and you’re not sure what else to do with yourself. You always hear your roadie friends talking about riding inside, watts per kilo and how much fun they had cutting laps of Repack Ridge last weekend.

There’s a trainer in the shed, but last time you rode the sucker it was about as much fun as a sharp stick in the eye.

In the past five years indoor training has evolved from one of the most universally hated things to one of the cycling industry’s fastest growing sectors thanks to the advent of smart trainers, and training apps like Zwift. Not only will riding inside leave you stronger and faster on the trail, but it’s actually (and we can’t believe we are saying this) fun.

zwift wil saris trainer
Zwift is helping to bring the singletrack to the indoor cycling experience.
zwift
It’s not quite Downhill Domination, but it will actually make you faster on the trail.

What is Zwift?

Zwift is essentially a video game, and your bike is the controller. You ride through a virtual world on a turbo trainer, and when used with a smart trainer, it will adjust the resistance when you go up hills or enter the slipstream of another rider.

For the time being there are six worlds: Watopia, Innsbruck, Richmond, New York, London and Yorkshire which you can ride on a rotating basis, with Crit City and Bologna reserved just for racing. And in anticipation of the first-ever virtual Tour de France, Zwift has also just opened up a whole slew of iconic stages from the infamous French bicycle race for users to ride from the comfort of their own home.

But isn’t Zwift just for those bikes with skinny tyres and curly bars?

Short answer, no. You can even ride mountain bikes in the game. As a part of its FutureWorks program, Zwift rolled out 3km of single track to test out its steering functionality on a course called Repack Ridge, giving us a glimpse of what’s to come.

But, don’t take our word for it; Samara Sheppard is a three-time New Zealand XCO MTB National Champion, two-time Oceana XCO MTB champ, and was a finalist in the 2019 Zwift Academy, just missing out on a pro contract with the Canyon/SRAM women’s team.

Sheppard started Zwifting when she sustained a severe injury after being hit by a car, and hasn’t stopped since.

With my injury, I wasn’t allowed to ride outside because there was too much risk, so all I could do was ride the indoor trainer. I started Zwifting, and got addicted; I ended up doing like six weeks, 20-hours a week on Zwift,” she says. “When I was able to ride outside again, I jumped back into racing pretty much straight away, and I couldn’t believe how much stronger I was.

It’s not just the roadies and XC racers on Zwift, EWS pros like Iago Garay Tamayo, Rae Morrison, Christian Textor, and even friend of Flow, Josh Carlson, have collectively ridden thousands of virtual kilometres through Watopia and burned hundreds of slices of pizza along the way.

zwift saris h3 trainer
Thanks to the advent of smart trainers, which adjust the resistance automatically for you, the indoor cycling experience has gotten a whole lot more lifelike.

Ok, so what is there for specifically mountain bikers?

Like a slightly less-violent and pedal-powered version of Grand Theft Auto, you can choose your ride in the game – take a Specialized Epic, Canyon Lux or Scott Spark for a spin. There are off-road routes like the Jungle Loop which take you on a guided tour past Mayan ruins, over an impossibly long rope bridge and through an old mine, and the aforementioned Repack Ridge section, which incorporates steering, and rewards you for choosing the right lines.

In collaboration with Wahoo, Zwift also just ran the Shred Sessions, where riders like Troy Brosnan, Sam Hill and Richie Rude led group rides, and the app has launched mountain bike specific training plans. But they aren’t stopping there.

James Lalonde, Zwift’s Director of Growth Marketing for Cycling tells us, “We do have events upcoming with Scott (bikes) that will feature MTB, and longer-term, we should expect to see even more content tailored towards the off-road community, including organised rides and races. As for racing, we’re always looking to new formats. However, we also have to stay true to our strengths. For the time being, we have focused on training plans as that’s an area where we know we can help improve people’s (mountain bikers) riding experience.

zwift
“Don’t look at the trap, don’t look at the trap, don’t look at……ahh nuts!”

Shock! Horror! It’s actually fun

The real genius behind Zwift is that it is gamified training. They have incorporated experience points, levels, achievements, unlockable gear, powerups and even currency, in the form of drops, which can be used towards bikes and wheels in the drop shop. There are rewards for completing challenges and routes, and you can compete against your own personal records as well other Zwifters for KOM/QOM’s for sprints and climbs in every world.

zwift
Zwift is rolling out more MTB-specific features as part of the game, making it a whole lot more engaging for us knobbly-tyre folk.

The community

Where Zwift excelled from the start is the social aspect. You can meet up with friends and strangers from around the world, and go for a ride at any time on any day. With the Zwift companion app on your phone, or a Bluetooth keyboard you can text with riders around you, or send ‘Ride ons’ as encouragement.

It’s got a pretty cool community. There’s lot of great group rides you can join and the convenience of not having to worry about the weather or having daylight, and just being able to fit in a good solid session and have a bit of fun as well”, says Sheppard.

Rides and racing are going on literally 24-hours a day, 365-days a year, so you’ll never have to ride alone if you don’t want to. A couple of good ones to look out for are the AHDR rides: they host a Bacon Roll every morning at 5:50am and then the infamous Hump Day ride every Wednesday at 7 pm. We’re also fans of the Hell Ride at 8am on Saturday mornings, which is three laps around the Wattopia’s Waistband route, the first two at ~3W/Kg, and the third is a full bore race. Being a proud New Zealander, Sheppard also suggested the Kiwi Crew Ride, on Thursday’s at 4:30 pm.

In times of social isolation, getting together with mates for a ride on Zwift is an absolute godsend.

You can get your competition fix

With events pretty much off the table at the moment, everybody is itching to test their legs and get those competitive juices flowing. Zwift runs a race seemingly every hour on a range of courses to give you the fix you’ve been jonesing for — just be ready, because Zwift racing is serious business.

The most important thing for Zwift racing is to make sure you sign up for the right category. If your FTP (Functional Threshold Power) is within the range for an A race, sign up for the A race; don’t be that person sandbagging the B’s. The second most important thing is to make sure when the starting gun fires you are already pedalling like you’re vying for the hole shot.

If you’re going to do a race, you literally need to be sprinting on zero, and be at your peak power pretty much coming out of the gun because you don’t want to miss the bunch,” Sheppard laughs.

The pace does calm down as the bunch forms, but just like in the real world you’ll need to think about tactics, drafting and not getting dropped on the climbs.

zwift
If you’ve not raced in Zwift before, get ready for a flat-out experience. Shit can get real wild!

Zwift will make you stronger

The beauty about the indoor trainer is it makes you do the work, removing variables that may prevent you from getting a good workout — there is no hiding, coasting or soft pedalling.

Better still, smart trainers like the Saris H3 pictured here have ERG mode; a technology borrowed from rowing machines, which allows your workout to define a power, and the trainer will tailor the resistance to make you do that wattage regardless of your cadence. So if an interval calls for 300-watts, you will be doing 300-watts whether your cadence in 65RPM or 120RPM — all you have to do is pedal, no changing gears required.

From the fitness and strength side it’s (riding Zwift) just good value for time; being able to go on and do a hard race or a hard training session, they have a whole library of workouts you can pick from. If you do those (workouts) and do them consistently, you’ll see your strength improve. You have to work for every pedal stroke; you don’t get the recovery of going down a hill, stopping at traffic lights, or stopping to chat to your friends at the end of the trail,” says Sheppard.

zwift saris trainer wil
Some focussed indoor training can pay huge dividends on the trail. Sure you’ll be quicker up the climbs, but it’s the increased focus and mental concentration on the descents and techy bits that is the biggest benefit for mountain bikers.

And you’ll be able to descend better

Fitness is temporary. It only takes a few weekends of over-saturated trails; or deciding that a wintery afternoon on the couch, with a hot toddy in hand, watching Too Hot to Handle on Netflix (don’t lie, we know you watched it, because we did too), sounds more enticing than heading out for a ride, and you’ll be struggling your way through an easy session. Worse, your descending skills begin to suffer because you burned too many matches on the climb.

On the mountain bike as you start to get tired, your skills get a little bit sloppy, and you can’t really ride a trail as well as you could when you were feeling stronger and fresher. Zwift and indoor training helps you develop your base strength and fitness, so when you do get onto a trail, you’re already in good shape — you can ride harder and longer and faster really,” Sheppard says.

zwift saris h3 trainer
Plug in, turn on, game on!

Anything else I should know?

We are going to talk a lot about watts, power, and watts per kilo (W/Kg) after the break. But before we go any further, let’s chat FTP or ‘Functional Threshold Power’, and why it’s crucial.

FTP is the power, in watts, which you can theoretically hold for an hour based on your current fitness. It is arguably the most important figure for indoor training, because intervals are set as a percentage of your FTP, and know your threshold will help you figure out the right category for group rides and races.

Zwift will give you an FTP estimate by taking 95% of your 20min average power from any ride. If you’re racing or doing a hard group ride, this figure may not be too far off, but if you’re just riding along, it’s worth exactly what you pay for it. To get an accurate number — especially when you’re just starting out in the game — you’re going to need to do an FTP test.

zwift trainer laptop
Understanding your own body’s power output becomes an invaluable tool for both training indoors and out on the trail.

To put it plainly, FTP tests suck and you’re going to have to go to a deep dark place to peg the right number down, but you’ll be better off if you do — not just for Zwifting, but also for establishing where your fitness is currently at, and where you want it to go.

Zwift has two types of threshold tests which can be found using the workout menu; either the FTP test/FTP (shorter) or Ramp Test/Ramp Test Lite — we’d recommend the latter.

The FTP test/FTP (shorter) both extrapolate your threshold based upon a 20-min effort within the workout. These extended high intensity efforts are extremely difficult to pace properly and even riders who are well versed with interval training get it wrong — which can skew the results. A ramp test, on the other hand, uses 1-min stair step intervals, which get progressively harder. It’s basically a cycling version of that horrible ‘beep test’ that you were forced to do at school. There is no pacing; instead, you just try to hit the power targets until you reach exhaustion — simple right?

zwift
Unfortunately ‘weight doping’ is a thing in Zwift. The question you have to ask yourself is; what would your mother think of you cheating?

Your weight matters

The basis of Zwift is power; the algorithm in the game takes how many watts you’re pushing and translates that into speed based on your bike and wheel combo, the surface you’re riding over, and most importantly your weight. Zwift runs on the honour system as far as riders inputting their correct weight, and ‘weight doping’ is a problem in the game — our pals over at CyclingTips put together an in-depth feature on the topic.

Zwift converts your power into watts per kilo (W/KG) which directly correlates to your speed in the game. Pulling on our mud-splattered lab coats for a moment, as you may recall from your high school physics class, it requires more force to move an object with larger mass, than an object with a smaller mass.

So if two riders are in a group riding at 250-watts, and one weighs 70kg, and the other weighs 80kg, this equates to 3.5W/Kg and 3.1W/Kg respectively. Riding over flat ground, both these riders would go about the same speed. However, just like in the real world, nary a route in Zwift is pancake flat, and because it takes more force to move a heavier object, the heavier rider will need more watts to go the same speed as the lighter rider when the road goes up. Dropping your weight a few kilos can make you ride faster in the game, but you’re only cheating yourself if you do so.

Zwift categorises group rides and races based on watts/kilo. Having an understanding of this ‘watts per kilo’ thing is crucial so that you don’t sign up for a 3.5-4.0W/kg group ride, and find yourself getting dropped like a hot pie.

zwift saris trainer wil
Smart trainers do make it harder to cheat – you’ll feel the smallest change in resistance as the software tells the trainer how much power you need to be putting in.

Workouts and Training plans

Group rides and races on Zwift are fun, and your fitness will improve if you do them frequently. But, the fastest way to get quicker is structured interval workouts, and Zwift has a library bursting at the seams with leg and lung burning sessions. If you’re anything like us, scrolling through a workout library is a bit like trying to find something to watch on Netflix. You can scroll, and scroll, and scroll, and scroll, and still be absolutely no closer to figuring out how you will spend the next hour. Lucky for you Zwift also has inbuilt training plans that will pull specific sessions and give you a schedule to follow.

There are currently four off-road specific training plans; Dirt Destroyer, Gravel Grinder, Pebble Pounder and Singletrack Slayer as well as workout a series built by 4-time Cape Epic champion Annika Lanvgard.

saris h3 trainer
We’ve been using the Saris H3 – it’s the Rolls Royce of Saris’ indoor trainers.

These cater to a variety of different riding types, with the Pebble Pounder being our entry-level plan. Singletrack Slyer is our plan targeted at more experienced riders looking to maximize their training. In addition to these training plans, we also have a number of workouts in the main library developed through our partnership with the Absa Cape Epic. This library contains an additional 16 workouts that can be treated as stand-alone workouts, or can be followed in sequence,” Lalonde explains.

In addition to these existing workouts, we also run a number of stand-alone group workouts in-game. We’ve had rides led by the likes of Nino Schurter and Kate Courtney in recent months for example,” Lalonde continues.

saris h3 trainer
This is a direct drive trainer, so you remove your rear wheel and plonk the dropouts onto the axle of the trainer. Some will come with the cassette, others are a BYO affair.

What do you need to get started?

At this point, you’re probably wondering how to join the fun. First, you’ll need a trainer. Ideally, it would be a direct drive smart trainer – we’ve got a Saris H3, which at $1,499 AUD, is about as fancy as trainers get. These have built-in power meters and a regular freehub to fit on a cassette, so you connect your bike directly to the trainer — hence ‘direct drive’. Not only do they offer more accurate power readings, but also automatically adjust the resistance based on instructions from Zwift or any other compatible training app. Unfortunately, wheel off smart trainers don’t come cheap.

If you’re offended by the price of a direct drive smart trainer, their wheel-on cousins have the same technology inside, albeit with a bit less accurate power measurement and less resistance on tap. They still offer all the interactivity and are a great option if you’re just getting into indoor training. If you do opt for one of these, make sure to pick up a slick, or trainer specific tyre.

Dumb trainers have no electronics whatsoever, but you can still enjoy Zwift if you have either a powermeter or speed and cadence sensor. Zwift needs a power source to make your avatar ride in the game, so if you have a powermeter, pair it to the app and you’re ready to ride — though the resistance won’t react to what’s happening on screen.

If you don’t have a power meter there is no need to fret; every trainer has a known power curve and taking into account your speed and cadence, the app can calculate ‘virtual power’ to get you started.

saris h3 trainer
Inside the H3 is a big, heavy flywheel to make the riding experience as natural as possible. Wide fold-out legs help to stabilise the trainer when you’re giving it the absolute beans.

Is that all I need?

Not quite. As Sheppard so eloquently put it, “if you don’t have a fan, you need a fan.

You will also want something to keep your phone/tablet/laptop handy to use the companion app, whether that be a table, some kind of a mount like a Quadock, or several logs stacked together.

Regardless of the trainer you’re riding, you’ll need to double-check that it has provisions for your rear axle. High-end direct drive trainers come with end caps to suit pretty much every axle and hub standard, bar Superboost; however, some mid-range units like the Tacx Flux models, don’t come with said adaptors, but they are available for purchase.

saris h3 trainer
Our H3 trainer comes with adaptable end caps for swapping between quick release (135mm), bolt-up (142x12mm) and Boost (148x12mm) axles.

Depending on your setup you may also need to purchase a cassette and or freehub body for your direct drive trainer. Every direct drive trainer comes with an 11-speed HG freehub body installed, so if your bike uses an HG cassette, you’re golden. But if you’re on SRAM’s XD driver, you have two options, either buy an XD driver compatible with your new trainer (every brand makes these) or go for an HG compatible 12-speed cassette like the Sunrace MZ90.

Wheel-on trainers were designed when quick release was still the primary standard for attaching wheels to bikes, and their basic form hasn’t evolved all that much over the years. However, just about every trainer brand makes a thru-axle adapter, and there are options from third-party manufacturers like the Robert Axle Project.

One more thing you WILL need is a good set of bib shorts. You’ll be sitting in a mostly stationary position for an extended period of time, and it will take a toll on your undercarriage. Limit your saddle soreness and wear a proper set of bib shorts.

Then, of course, you will need a phone, tablet, computer or Apple TV to run the app.

If you have all of the above, you’re ready to roll. Get yourself logged in and we’ll see you on a Repack Ride – yiew!

zwift saris trainer wil
While nothing beats the singletrack, we love mixing up our riding with a bit of indoor training thrown in to help improve fitness and the overall experience for when we do get back onto dirt. And thanks to Zwift, the whole experience is vastly more fun and engaging than it has been in the past.

Mo’ Flow Please!

Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow!

Riding in Isolation, With Your Mate

Intent on not sitting on his hands, Baxter has spent the Victorian lockdown putting his skills and energy to use in his very own backyard. There are certainly worse places to be stuck during a lockdown than a lush and loamy fern-covered hillside. Lucky for some!


Watch The Video


After recovering from a broken ankle Baxter was eager to get back on his bike with mates and hit the road. But of course, CoVid19.

He had his dirt jumps to focus his energies, though the winter weather would render them a little muddy. So, he wanted more, he yearned for flowing turns down the hillside, styled like those sweet trampoline challenges on the Ninja Warrior courses on TV, so he built some, of course!

Baxter’s backyard dirt jumps are sensational!

Who’d ride with him? Baxter didn’t even think to question it, somebody was already there, quietly hanging around his place, ready to ride with him. When Baxter asked this character if they were ever going riding, of course, the response was a resounding “yeah!”

At the time Baxter didn’t think much of the fact this guy is pretty darn fast and somehow knew the trails almost better than him already. He simply enjoyed the company of this very familiar new friend.

This is the moment where we lift the veil on this mystical and exciting freak of nature and let you know that in actual fact Baxter’s just gone a little loopy in his isolation days and has just spent a day riding with his imaginary counterpart Ben (who’s usually the guy ordering takeaway over the phone ‘cos Baxter can be a little tricky sometimes).

Imaginary or not, with some basic tools and a little creative thinking Baxter has been able to stay well and truly occupied with plenty of time smiling throughout the first and now the second lockdown here in Victoria, so the chin’s are up!


By Dominic Hook  and Baxter Maiwald

Rejuvenation: Restoring Krushkas With The Derby Trail Crew

This is a story about rejuvenation, how to breathe new life into a classic piece of trail. When completed correctly, trail building has no less value than any other delicate part of the design. The people who build them are craftsmen of no less skill than any other dedicated craft.

‘Trail Pete’ on the tools.

To be defined as an antique, a piece of furniture has more than likely been lovingly hand-built and has seen time and use leaving its mark. Antiques have an intrinsic and extrinsic value. By this definition, a trail, when designed with care, could be considered a precious antique.

Cleaning, Stripping, Refinishing With The Blue Derby Trails Crew

Derby, in North East Tasmania, has been home to a world-class network of mountain bike trails for the past five years. Five years may seem younger than any antique. Still, in this time the trail network has seen many tyres roll over its hallowed dirt, creating intrinsic sentimental value for those who ride there and an extrinsic livelihood for the little town they have rejuvenated.

Smiles all round. Local lads Josh and Travis are pretty stoked with their handy work.
The main man ‘Trail Pete” giving instruction and guidance. Pete has been with the Blue Derby Trail Crew since day one and has a knack of repairing worn trails and increasing their safety.
Travis has been lucky enough to grow up in Derby and it definitely shows in his riding.

The trails are kept in great shape by a dedicated maintenance crew, employed by Blue Derby, working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that this world-class trail network is nurtured and cared for. They are craftsmen in their own right, with some of the team cutting their teeth building the trails alongside its original designers; World Trail.

Krushka’s is one of the oldest, longest and most iconic trails in the Derby network. A true work of art that deserves all the respect and care of a priceless antique. Named after the Krushka brothers tin mining pioneers, it is a ‘blue flow trail’ with an equal mix of climbing and descending, taking riders up onto the high granite ridge tops overlooking Derby, before spitting them on to a bermed descent below.

Restoring with the utmost care

The first consideration with a piece of trail as with an antique is whether the restoration will affect the value. The word value is not merely an estimate of monetary worth, it is the regard that something is held to deserve, its importance and usefulness. What will the work enhance and what could it harm?

Trail maintenance then just like the restoration of an antique while building a new trail is akin to the production of objects that will, with use, become antiques. Like any craft, there is a set of skills that have to learned, honed and applied.

Safety First

Krushkas has received five years of constant use, and the way is rides today is a testament to the design and skill applied during this trail’s original build. Though like a well-loved piece of furniture, eventually, signs of wear begin to show. The wear on occasion can result in a previously safe section of the trail becoming potentially unsafe.

For this not only do you need the skills and craft of the trail maintainer but also a rider’s eye to identify sections that have the potential to present a safety risk based on experience.

Josh is not only handy on the tools, he’s pretty damn handy on the bike as well.

Cleaning

Often restoring old furniture can be as easy as giving a piece a good clean or in the case of a mountain bike trail a good going over with a rake. This again is not a simple task because if you clean back too much you will lose the character created by the time that is its developed character.

A standard quality control session.

For the Krushkas restoration, the whole project was lovingly performed with hand tools. A digger would not have provided that same sense of craft that has resulted in this project.

The dirt was only moved when needed moving, retaining element such a mossy batter that had become part of the trail’s patina over time” Alan Miller – Derby Trail Crew

Stripping

Fast is smooth and smooth is fast. Ruts, braking bumps and erosion are the enemy. When refinishing is in order, the first step in antique furniture restoration is stripping the old finish to make room for new stain; when rejuvenating a trail, stripping back or cutting is required to allow for resurfacing.

Travis, in his element, scrub’n his way down a freshly refurbished Krushkas.

Refinishing

Applying a new coat of stain and finish or a good layer of fresh loam to roost. Filling in cracks, stacking berms, adding that little piece of rock armour and or scraping back to expose that legendary Derby granite.

Job done, now time to enjoy the ride.

The Finished Piece

The restoration work done to Krushkas trail is not just a rebuild in the same way a restoration of a priceless antique is not just fixing a bit of furniture. Riding this refurbished trail evokes my fondest memories of Derby realised once again.

After a few years of absence from Mountain Biking, it was riding this trail that rekindled my love for the sport. I went home after the ride and concluded that I was finally ready for that new bike.

Life Before and After Cape to Cape MTB – Here's Our Pick of Things To Do.

Stunning beaches, world-renowned wineries, a thriving gourmet food scene, and an abundance of natural attractions are just some of what makes Margaret River special. Whether you’re staying a few extra days before or after the race or bringing your partner and family along, there’s plenty to see and do in this beautiful part of Western Australia. Here are some of our top picks.

Swim and surf at Gnarabup Beach

A short 10-minute drive out of town you’ll find the pristine white sands and deep blue waters of Gnarabup Beach. Enjoy a walk, swim, paddleboard, canoe, surf or snorkel at this beautiful beach. You can also take a boat out or go fishing on the jetty. Grab a coffee from popular beachfront cafe White Elephant and wander to Surfers Point to watch surfers take on huge waves at this reputed surf spot, which hosts the Margaret River Pro Surf Championships each year.

Margaret River locals are absolute chargers, we’ve seen huge surf and massive waves ridden during our visits to Gnarabup Beach and Surfers Point.

Start a ride at The Hairy Marron

Want to hire a bike, find out the best local trails, grab a pre-ride coffee or get your bike serviced? The good folk at bike-cafe The Hairy Marron have you covered. Park your bike out front, grab a seat and a light feed on the front deck and plan your day. It’s an easy ride through the forest to the Ten Mile Brook Trail, The Creek Trails and a network of others from The Hairy Marron’s location on the banks of the Margaret River.

Breaky, brew and a mud map to the trails at their doorstep. The Hairy Marron is a beaut place to start or finish a walk or ride.

Cup ‘o muddy heart starter to get the legs turning, and fresh gingerbread to keep them pumping.


Can’t beat a map with greasy fingerprints fresh out of the workshop, this is local advice as good as it gets.


69 Bussell Highway, Margaret River
www.thehairymarron.com

Taste world-class wine

A trip to Margaret River wouldn’t be complete without a visit to some of its world-class wineries. The region, which is home to more than 95 cellar doors, produces a whopping 25 per cent of Australia’s premium wines. If you’re short on time, it’s hard to go past Leeuwin Estate, whose sprawling grounds riders pass through as part of the Cape to Cape circuit. One of Margaret River’s founding wineries, Leeuwin Estate’s history dates back to 1972. Today, the family-owned business is known for its premium wines and award-winning restaurant, cellar door and art gallery.

Leeuwin Estate is one of the oldest in the region, and the grounds are beautiful. The wine, also very good. 😉 Oh, there’s art, too! Aren’t we fancy mountain bikers.


Stevens Road, Margaret River
https://leeuwinestate.com.au

Visit Sugarloaf Rock

Take a drive north of Margaret River along this spectacular part of the wild west coast to Sugarloaf Rock. This dramatic granite rock formation has been shaped by the sea and sits just off the coast near Cape Naturaliste in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. Visit Sugarloaf Rock for an out-of-this-world sunrise or sunset and the most Instagram-worthy of shots.

The west has a wild coastline, catching the sight of places like this is stunning.


Sugarloaf Road, Dunsborough
https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/site/sugarloaf-rock

Ride, wine and dine

What better way to take in the wine and gourmet produce that Margaret River is famous for than by bike? Margaret River Mountain Bike Tours offers visitors just that. Their Ultimate Ride to Wine and Dine tour is one of their most popular and is a leisurely way to spend a day. These small group, six-hour tours takes visitors through the scenic Boranup Forest before arriving at local winery Leeuwin Estate, where you’ll be taken on a behind-the-scenes tour and enjoy wine tasting and delicious lunch.

Margaret River MTB Tours put on a fabulous experience, ride from the winery around the forest and back again. Hire an e-bike too, yehoo!

Wine to dine, bike style.


Leeuwin Estate at its best, fine local produce and delicious wines to match.


www.margaretrivermountainbiketours.com.au

Go on an Aboriginal cultural tour

Learn about the rich Aboriginal history of the Margaret River region with a cultural tour or experience led by Wadandi man Josh Whiteland of Koomal Dreaming.
www.koomaldreaming.com.au 

Brunch beachside at White Elephant Cafe

Perched on the shores of beautiful Gnarabup Beach, White Elephant is one of our favourite cafes to fuel up pre-or-post race during Cape to Cape. The vibe here is casual and friendly with wholesome food, great coffee and smoothies with a view. Dogs are welcome here too.

Brew with a view!


Gnarabup Road, Gnarabup
www.whiteelephantcafe.com.au 

Explore ancient limestone caves

Looking for something a little different to do? Margaret River is home to amazing limestone caves thought to date back a million years. Four of the caves are open to the public to visit. Explore the crystal-encrusted Jewel Cave, the state’s largest show cave. See ancient animal fossils at Mammoth Cave. Learn the Aboriginal stories and history of Ngilgi Cave and head deep underground to see the sunken forest and lake of the stunning Lake Cave.

We had a fantastic time underground at the Ngilgi Caves, truly marvellous to look at and fascinating to hear the explanations behind the formations.


No wonder the region is famous for its caves, we were blown away with the size and beauty of them once we headed down the stairs.

Jewel Cave,  Jewel Caves Road, Deepdene
Mammoth Cave, Caves Road, Forest Grove
Ngilgi Cave, 76 Yallingup Caves Road, Yallingup 
Lake Cave, Caves Road and Conto Road, Forest Grove

Sink beers at Colonial Brewing Co.

Colonial Brewing Co. was one of the first breweries to open in the Margaret River region back in 2004. Enjoy a few craft brews in the sun at the brewery’s outdoor beer garden, catch up with fellow riders, and grab some tasty beers to go from their bottle shop.

Great beers, top atmosphere, brilliant.


29 Osmington Road, Bramley
www.colonialbrewingco.com.au

Get lost at Amaze’n

Amaze’n is the place to head for some family fun. Just south of town, it features a giant hedge maze, an 18-hole mini-golf course, giant puzzles and games, a playground and five hectares of botanical gardens. Grab some lunch from the cafe on-site or pack a picnic to share in the gardens.

Get lost, and found again. Or lost forever…

9978 Bussell Highway, Margaret River
www.amazenmargaretriver.com.au

Learn how to paddleboard

Love the water and want a fun way to explore the region? Suitable for all skill levels, try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding on a guided tour. Margaret River Stand Up Paddle offer two-hour tours that include a lesson in the picturesque surrounds of the Blackwood River National Park. Already a seasoned paddleboarder? You can also hire paddleboards for a DIY adventure.

The sheltered waters of Gnarabup Beach are popular with the SUP crowds, and the local company can provide you with all the gear and guidance you’ll need to stand on water like a pro.

Idyllic!


www.margaretriversup.com.au

Sip spirits at Margaret River Distilling Co.

Taste some locally crafted spirits at the Margaret River Distilling Co., the makers of Ginversity Gin and Limeburners, Dugite and Tiger Snake Whiskies. Grab a table out on the distillery deck among the trees and enjoy a few drinks and a feed. If you’re a gin lover, book into one of their distilling or blending classes to make your very own gin.

A refreshing break from beer and wine (do we talk about beer and wine too much?), a locally distilled gin and tonic is right in town.


Maxwell Street and Carters Road, Margaret River
www.distillery.com.au/margaret-river

Take in the view from Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse

Built in 1895, the historic Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is set on the most south-westerly tip of Australia where the Southern and Indian Oceans meet. Do a tour or grab a coffee from the lighthouse cafe and take in the stunning view.

Dramatic, tall and full of stories, the lighthouse is hard to ignore and worth learning more about.


Leeuwin Rd, Augusta


Produced in partnership with Cape to Cape and Western Australia #ExperienceExtraOrdinary
www.capetocapemtb.com
Cape to Cape, Australia’s largest, longest-running and most popular four-day MTB stage race held from 22nd – 25th October 2020. Based in Margaret River Western Australia, this iconic riding experience includes access to stunning private trails, vineyard visits, brewery finishes and some of the warmest hospitality the region has to offer.
Starting at Cape Leeuwin lighthouse and finishing four days later at the fabulous Margaret River Distillery, the course makes its way through a network of trails along the coast, through National Parks, forest, farmlands, mountain bike parks, and bush before finishing back at Margaret River.
Roughly 205km and 2,500m of climbing in total, each day’s riding is between 37km and 72km and has its own special terrain and environment to keep things interesting with a mix of fast flowing single trail, farm tracks, groomed downhill trails and fire trails – many through private land that can only be ridden while racing the Cape to Cape.
There’s nothing too technical and it’s ridable for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness and MTB skills. Check out the course overview.

The Curious Case of The Warburton Mountain Bike Project

About 12-months ago, we gave you a teaser of a massive trail network slated for Warburton. Nestled deep in the Yarra Valley, this quaint little mountain town is situated just an hour and a half from Melbourne airport.
With 186km of trail, proposed to be built across three hillsides surrounding the town, World Trail not only helped finalise the masterplan for the project but also has been contracted to dig the trails.
“That part of the countryside is a spectacular area of Australia. There are amazing landscapes all over Australia and the world, but that area, from a mountain bike perspective, is fantastic,” says Glen Jacobs, the Director of World Trail which was contracted to construct the network last year. There is going to be something for everyone, and it will really tick the boxes for everybody at all different skill levels.”

The potential for a mountain bike mecca in Warburton is huge, it really ticks all the boxes.

Now is usually the point where we would dive into colourful descriptions of the trail network, the topography, the surroundings and our favourite parts to ride. Unfortunately, we can’t do that; the trail network at Warburton is no closer to completion than it was 12-months ago, and the project managers have been attempting to navigate their way through the sea of red tape that has been dropped in their laps. 

Rough trails ahead

When Matt Harrington, the Senior Project Manager of the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination, came to the project from Parks Victoria about two years ago, all of the pieces were beginning to fall in place. With the impact assessments well underway, a draft Master Plan, and the funding for the project was allocated. 
“From the start, this project was designed to provide world-class outcomes. We wanted to set a new benchmark with everything we did with this project,” says Harrington. “We’ve had ecologists and specialists out on every single meter, of every trail assessing those trail corridors. The intent has always been to put in mountain bike trails, but to do it in a way that’s environmentally responsible and which creates the least amount of impact.”


Following an extensive period of community consultation, the Yarra Ranges began meeting with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) Impact Assessment team to get the final approvals needed to turn dirt.
When trail projects are presented to the powers at be, in most cases as long as the project managers have done their homework, and ticked the necessary boxes they will receive the green light and construction can begin. If the Ministers tasked with reviewing the project feel they need more information, they will ask for what’s known as a ‘referral.’ If there are still concerns, a referral can be pushed higher to require an Environmental Effects Statement. 
“I spent 20-years with Parks Victoria, and no Parks Victoria Project has ever been assessed under an Environmental Effects Statement,” Harrington tells Flow. 
Environmental Effects Statements are usually reserved for major infrastructure projects like mines, roads and pipelines — projects that have permanent, and potentially detrimental effects on the environment. According to publically available DELWP records, which go back to 2007, up to this point only 29-projects in all of Victoria have been required to undergo a full EES.
Jacobs and World Trail have been building trails in Australia and around the world for over 30-years, and he has never seen a trail network receive the level of scrutiny the Warburton project has undergone. 
“We’ve built trails in Falls Creek and Mount Buller, and that’s probably the strictest environment in Australia; you’ve got Alpine Sphagnum Bogs,and there is this rare Alpine Peet and all kinds of fragile stuff going on up there,” he says. “The terrain up there (around Warburton) is beautiful, but it has been logged, and there are logging roads, so it’s not pristine; there is nothing that really jumps out as far as red flags.”

Murky waters ahead

One of the areas that has drawn the attention of DELWP is the ~60km of trail that falls inside the borders of the national park which includes the Drop A K trail. Harrington points out this area contains sections of cool temperate rainforest, and two protected species, the leadbeaters possum and the Mt Donna Buang wingless stonefly; but all of this was taken into account with the council’s Environmental Risk Assessment and mitigation strategies.

Mt Donna Buang is home to protected flora and fauna and sections of cool temperate rainforest.

“We’ve realigned the trail to avoid the wingless stonefly. We’ve conducted genetic testing for wingless stonefly all around the area to make sure we are not in wingless stonefly habitat. We’ve also worked with experts in both leadbeaters, and cool temperate rainforest to make sure risks and any potential impacts are addressed,” Harrington says.  
When you go to the Ride Yarra Ranges website, there are quite literally thousands of pages of reports covering everything from air quality and biodiversity impact, to hydrogeological and geotechnical risk assessments to social impact and traffic impact assessments. When an EES is requested, there are three possible outcomes; a full EES, no EES, or an EES with conditions. 
“Harcourt is the only other mountain bike trail project to have submitted an EES referral. They had an outcome of no EES with conditions, which were around environmental management. What we’ve tried to do with the studies we have done up until now, is answer all of those questions up front in the referral. We believe, and all of our ecologists and specialists believe, we have responded to every question that could reasonably be asked of us,” Harrington. “For this project type, I have never seen the depth and scale of the investigations undertaken to address the potential risks.”
Once an EES referral is submitted, there is a statutory 20-day turn around period for the Minister of Planning to decide whether the project will require an EES. Harrington and his team presented its EES referral on December 20, 2019. The Warburton team did not hear back from the Minister’s office until May 22, 2020, confirming that the Warburton Mountain Bike Project would be subject to an EES.
Flow reached out to the Victorian Minister for Planning Richard Wynne’s office to find out why the project has been flagged for an EES review.
“This project has great potential for the Warburton and Yarra Ranges community but it’s vitally important we get a clear picture of any environmental impacts so they can be mitigated,” a Government Spokesperson said. “The EES will tell us exactly where we stand and how we can move forward.”
With the bush fire crisis at the beginning of the year followed by Covid19, some delays could be expected; however when pressed to clarify why there has been a five-month delay on the outcome of the referral, Minister Wynne’s office declined the opportunity to comment. When pressed to clarify why there has been a five-month delay on the outcome of the referral, Minister Wynne’s office declined the opportunity to comment.

Does it pass the smell test?

Mountain bike trail networks take a lot of planning. There are a lot of approvals that need to be undertaken to ensure the hillside the trail is cut into isn’t going to wash away the first time it rains, among many other things. But, a mountain bike trail project, on course to undertake an evaluation usually reserved for mines and pipelines seems out of the ordinary, especially when you consider some of the other projects that are not being subjected to the same level of scrutiny.


The Grampians Peak Hiking Trail is 144km of trail to be cut through Grampians National Park, including 17 hiker camps along the route that need to be cleared during construction. There is also the 12 Apostles Pipeline, and 11km pipeline (22km of pipe will be laid) that will transport sewage out and freshwater into the National Park. Neither of these projects has been required to submit even an EES referral. 
Flow reached out to Parks Victoria, DELWP and the Planning Minister’s office to gain some clarity as to why these projects are being treated so differently. 
Parks Victoria, which sits on the Project Reference Group for the Warburton Trail Project, directed Flow towards DELWP with questions regarding the EES process, and said in an email, “The project is a Yarra Ranges project, so you should contact the Council if you have any questions about the project – P(arks) V(ictoria) is not involved.”
DELWP and the Planning Minister’s office declined the opportunity to comment. 
Even with the delay in the decision and the outcome not being what the council had hoped for, Harrington tells us they are relieved to have a decision because it means they can move the project forward. 
The Yarra Ranges Council is yet to be advised as to the scope of the EES and some of the work already undertaken will be applicable, but it is likely to add considerable cost to the project, and it may still be a few years before trail crews can break ground.
“The studies that we have undertaken are incredibly comprehensive. If those are not sufficient, then the next level of detail could be incredibly costly and time-consuming. At the extreme end of what could be required you are talking about is multi-season surveys for threatened species or rare orchids around the entire network,” Harrington says. 
“Over the next month or so we should be able to develop the study program and confirm the scope of the EES. Once this is done we will have a much better understanding of timings and cost. Our initial estimates are in the range of 12-24 months and between $0.8M and $1.2M,” he says.
We’re not sure why certain projects are being subjected to different levels of scrutiny. However, if we widen our field of view and take a look at recreation throughout Victoria, there does appear to be a developing pattern of certain types of recreation drawing the ire of the government.

In May 2018, when the Lysterfield District Trail Riders sought to expand their trail network, Parks Victoria only approved seven of the 24 proposed trails. A few months later in a subsequent draft update to the management zones and overlays, the Special Protection Area Overlay increased from 39.7ha (2.4-per cent of the park) to 926.6ha (54.3-per cent of the park), making any further expansion of the network and constriction of some of the previously approved trails all but impossible. We have also heard rumblings about Parks Victoria even going as far as closing some of the existing network.
The Bendigo Mountain Bike Club was forced to cancel their Golden Triangle Epic because Parks Victoria made it a condition of the event permit that sections of the trails used for the course be “remediated” after the race. Some of the trails used are unsanctioned, but the race has run on them since 2005 with no issues, and the Bendigo Mountain Bike Club has worked closely with Parks Victoria in the past to manage these trails. A representative from the Bendigo Mountain Bike Club also told Flow Parks Victoria won’t support formalising the trail network.
Looking beyond the scope of just mountain biking brings us to the rock climbing bans in Grampians National Park. This blanket ban was initially said to be the result of rock climbers damaging cultural sites in the park. Reporting by John Ferguson published in The Australian Newspaper outlined incidents where Parks Victoria employees provided inaccurate and misleading information to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate change.  
We can’t definitively say that these incidents are in any way related, and there may be a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why these decisions are being made. But, there does appear to be a pattern of behaviour.

Delays hurt Warburton

During the development heyday in the 1960s and 70s, the Victorian government introduced a program called decentralisation, which moved manufacturing out of the CBD area. Through this program, funding was put behind community areas, one of which was Warburton. Over the last 30 years, all of that industry that came to Warburton through this program has shut down. 
If this story sounds familiar, that’s because it’s nearly the same as countless country towns in Tasmania. One must only look as far as Derby, St Helens or Maydena to see the positive effects mountain biking can bring to a community and the local economy. But, Warburton has something Tasmania doesn’t.

Warburton is so close to Melbourne, it would draw on a huge catchment of potential users.

“Warburton has about 5-million people in the catchment area, so even without the ride tourism, it’s going to be extremely successful,” says Jacobs. “When you do take into account the ride tourism; you fly into Melbourne Airport, and you’re there in Warburton in an hour and a half. With the amount of trail planned, similar to Derby, you’ll need to stay for a week to ride all of the trails.”
“The economic gains of the area are immeasurable,” says Andrew Swan, the owner of Yarra Valley Bike Hire. “It’s projected to bring, and economic gain of about 23-million dollars and generate 188 full-time jobs, and the numbers that we’ve used are conservative.” 
Swan, who also a member of the Warburton Community Economic Development Association tells us the council commissioned a company called TRC, which specialises in projecting the economic impact of large scale outdoor recreation projects, to estimate the net effect of the proposed network. Essentially they feed a whole bunch of information into an algorithm TRC has developed, and it generates a weighted number.


“Usually, if you score one, the project has a positive gain. If you score a 1.5, they jump through flaming hoops, and it means the project is brilliant. If you score anything over two, they literally just write you a check,” Swan says.
“When they put all the details in the first time, it came out 3.4.”
According to Swan, TRC had never seen a project score a 3.4. They re-ran the numbers based on a worst-case scenario, and still generated a rating of 2.8.
“We’ve got restaurants opening up on the strength of the project going ahead. We’ve had companies come over, like Hacketts (of Queenstown, New Zealand) come over to look at what the opportunities are to develop adventure sports in the region, all on the strength of this mountain bike project,” Swan continues.

It’s (not) all about the money, money

It’s easy to focus solely on the financial impact projects like the Warburton trail network will have on the local community; the project benefit isn’t just in a monetary sense. 
“They got a hold of some figures through the census, which indicated Warburton had some of the worst health outcomes for teenagers under 15 of any community in Australia. We know the trail network will bring in a significant boost,” Swan says. 
We know a lot of people are really looking forward to what’s proposed at Warburton, and we’d love to say it will be ready to ride by X, Y and Z. But, at this particular, all we can say is it’s still going to be a while. Worse, despite quite a bit of digging, we are also unable to articulate a legitimate reason for the delays.

So, when will the trails be built and when can we ride them? We don’t actually know, yet, but stay tuned.

In speaking with the council and members of the community, they are taking each obstacle that arises on the chin, and believe that good things will come out of this process. 
“There are some great benefits and opportunities that will also arise from going through this process. There are a number of technical challenges with trail building in ecologically sensitive areas,” says Harrington. “These challenges are faced by the Warburton project, but also by many other trails projects across the country.  The EES process will allow us to rigorously develop, test and have an endorsed government position on managing these challenges.  In this way, hopefully, we will be able to leave a legacy for the trail building industry”
Unfortunately, it means that a substantial amount of money and time will still need to be devoted to the Warburton Trail Project before the local community and mountain bikers in Australia can reap the benefits mountain biking can bring. 
“At the end of the day, I know that when we do get trails on the ground when riders are out there experiencing what we’ve created, and when the community is benefitting from the jobs and economic stimulus, we will have done it in a manner that is beyond reproach.  We will have created a world class destination, in a world leading way.”
We’ll keep a close eye on the Warburton Mountain Bike Project as this story continues to develop.


Words – Colin Levitch/Flow MTB
Images – Josh Stephenson/Ready Aim Media, Chris Southwood/Flow MTB

George Town aiming to be Tasmania's next mountain biking town

The new gateway to Derby

When most people fly into Launceston, they load their bike bags into a rental car and set sail for Derby. Soon, however, there may be a pretty darn good reason to point your car north, and make a pitstop in the coastal settlement of George Town on your way towards the east coast.
Like a lot of Tasmania, George Town is a municipality built on industry, and similar to so many others the local council is looking to boost and diversify its economic and tourist opportunities.

Where is George Town, and why build trails there?

“We’re only 35 minutes north of Launceston, and we’ve got excellent beaches, as good as they get in Tassie for swimming and surfing. But George Town isn’t really on anyone’s radar as a place to visit on weekends or as a holiday destination,” says Peter Rickards, Projects Manager at the George Town Council. “The mountain bike project is a way of slingshotting us back into the tourism limelight, as a destination people can visit on day trips up from Launceston, or tag onto longer trips as well.”

Low Head is a suburb of George Town, Tasmania, on a peninsula at the mouth of the Tamar River, 5 kilometres north-west of the town centre. It is a popular snorkel and scuba diving area during much of the year.

Still in the early phases, the proposed network, well actually, networks plural, will be located at Mount George near town and the Tippogoree Hills about five kilometres south.
The philosophy behind the project is to create heavily featured trails that cater to a diverse range of skill levels; with everything from green to black trails (and maybe a double-black or two), offering the opportunity for skills progression. And most importantly – shuttle-able!
“Mount George lends itself to shorter, faster runs with a quick shuttle to the top,” says Rickards. “We only have about 120m of available altitude, but what it does allow is speedy shuttle turnarounds. You can get 10-shuttle runs in a day, and you’re looking at 1200m of descending, which is a pretty compelling option.
Rickards says the gravity network will be heavily featured air-flow or jump trails or as he puts it, “as much fun as you can pack into a small area as possible.”
On the south side of Bridport Road, the proposed network will meander up into the Tippogoree Hills. The planned trails will be mostly longer format trail riding, with one or more ascending trails, a few extended gravity trails, and some longer wilderness style trails, and if a new purpose-built road is considered feasible, will mean the trails can be shuttled.
“The Tippogoree hills have the opportunity for interesting longer descents, but also backcountry style riding through rugged terrain and some exciting big slabby rock features. There are also these nice wide open forest areas which feed into these dense gullies which will make for great longer wilderness style,” says Rickards
What’s the plan?
The project was initially championed by the George Town Chamber of Commerce, who saw the strength and opportunity mountain biking destinations were having on boosting the local visitor economy. Dirt Art were engaged in conducting a feasibility study and preparing a design draft which was used to secure funding from the Australian Government to the value of $4.4 million. As part of their Community Development Grants Program to support needed infrastructure and promote stable, secure and viable local and regional economies.
Dirt Art Managing Director Simon French points out that their design was only a starting point; He believes the George Town network has the potential to fill the holes in areas other networks, like Derby and Maydena, are currently lacking.
“It’s close enough to Launceston that you could duck up for an after-work ride, or come up for half a day on the weekend — you’re not making the whole day commitment like you have to when you go to Derby,” French continues. “The other thing is it actually promotes a new way of driving to Derby, and it’s really not that much of a detour. I think there is a huge opportunity for George Town to become a new gateway into Derby.”

Cr Greg Kieser, the Mayor of George Town Council, stated, “As a keen mountain bike enthusiast, I am very excited about what a world-class mountain bike trail development will have on our visitor economy, particularly from interstate and overseas. Council will be working with our local business community to ensure the whole community will be trail ready for the launch in October 2021.”
The Mayor added “I am expecting we’ll see a lot of local traffic from Launceston and surrounding areas. I believe Launceston has a high number of MTB’ers and our trail networks will be close enough to come up after work, or for a half or full-day with the family on the weekends”.
The foothills of the Tippogoree Hills provide a snippet of the rugged wilderness trails that awaits.

“We presently don’t have a huge MTB scene. However, the local community are really excited to have mountain biking trails in George Town. It’s extremely important to have both local business and community members on board with the development as we believe our community will be our biggest advocates!” said the Mayor.
Long-standing manufacturer and local employer Bell Bay Aluminium, part of the Rio Tinto Group, have been a key driver of the development since the conception. The smelter has been incredibly supportive of the project with a significant portion of the trail network to be developed on their land.
Shona Markham, Bell Bay Aluminium’s General Manager, is excited about the development and what it can do for the region. “With the growth in mountain biking participation in Northern Tasmania, along with the obvious natural attractions of the Tamar Valley region, we are eager to partner with the council, community and region to explore the huge potential of the mountain bike tourism. This is a great example of where an industry like ours and tourism can work hand in hand.”

Gaining support.

With big community projects like a trail network, gaining support from the wider community is paramount to its success. Despite not having much of a cycling scene, to begin with, the locals are on board with bringing mountain biking to George Town.
“We did a community meeting up there, and we had a packed hall of a little over 100 community members, most of whom weren’t bike riders, and they were overwhelmingly supportive of the project. Some didn’t understand what the project was, but by the end of the meeting, there was unanimous support from the community,” says French.
Rickards continues, “Without the local business support and the local community support, then why are you doing it? It’s there to benefit the community – it’s an asset the community will own.”

World Trail to undertake trail construction.

George Town Council recently went to tender for the re-design and construction of the trail networks, with World Trail being awarded the tender.
“We’re super excited to have World Trail on board. Their ability and experience speaks for itself, and we can’t wait to see and ride the end product” said Rickards.
World Trail stated, “We are extremely honoured to be given the task of helping deliver such an amazing project. The drive and vision for this project by George Town Council have been very refreshing and professional, to say the least. North East Tasmania is fast becoming the epicentre for Mountain biking.”
World Trail added, “With the addition of another high quality, premium destination, George Town will have the ability not only to sit up there with the other two world-class venues of Derby & St Helens, but will embrace & support the strong & proud local ride culture of Launceston and surrounding regions.”
“There will be something for everyone, says Glen Jacobs of World Trail. “Launceston locals will be able to ride these trails of an afternoon, as it’s so close to town.”
“We’re now planning to introduce five-to-six ‘air-flow’ trails, like what we did with the immensely popular track Air-Ya-Garn in Derby, taking the design of a flow track and adding jumps aimed at the skill level of 70% of mountain bikers out there. It’s the type of flow track where you can leave the ground on your own terms, a way to build up to jump for fun, though with less risk.”
Jacobs continues, “The terrain is completely different to St Helens and Derby. There’s a lot of rock with huge views over the ocean. It’s a little like Stromlo in the ACT with red dirt, loads of little valleys, gullies and undulating elevation. We’re keen to engage with the town and the coast with the trail network.”
With construction scheduled to commence towards the end of this year, the complete network will be operational by late 2021.
Definitely a project worth keeping an eye on.


How to get there

George Town is roughly a 35-min drive from Launceston or a 45-min bus ride. If your trip to Tasmania sees you crossing the Bass Strait via the Spirit of Tasmania, it’s a little over an hour from Devonport via the Glengarry Hwy.
Where to stay
As a sleepy coastal town, there are some quirky places to stay in George Town proper, or if you’re looking for beachfront accommodation, check out Low Head and Bell Buoy Beach.
The York Cove Holiday Hotel offers self-serviced apartments right on the edge of the River Tamar; while the Low Head Pilot Station is the oldest Pilot and Signal Station in Australia and can sleep groups as small as two or as large as nine people. Low Head hosts two caravan parks, Low Head Tourist Park and East Beach Tourist Park offering camping and holiday cabins, in addition to a range of AirBNB’s.
Other things to do
With the beaches at Low Head there are calm coves for swimming, as well as surf breaks — just don’t forget your wetty. The River Tamar has a vibrant ecosystem with world-class diving opportunities, and there George Town even has its own colony of Fairy Penguins.


The nearby hamlet of Hillwood is home to one of Tasmania’s best rock-climbing crags, which although has been recently closed, the council is looking to re-open.
If you’re after some of the local culture – George Town is Australia’s third oldest settlement, there is no shortage of history. Make sure to check out the Bass and Flinders Centre maritime museum and see a replica of the Norfolk, the ship that discovered Tasmania.
If you’re hungry – check out George Town Sea Foods, Rickards says they have the best fish and chips he’s ever had.

Or for a more relaxing adventure – check out one of the many wineries in the area, like Jansz Wines, Dalrymple Vineyard or Bays of Fires Winery, or the Fanny’s Bay Whisky Distillery near Lulworth and Hillwood Whiskey near Hillwood.


For more information and updates on the George Town mountain bike project head over to the council’s website here.
Words: Colin Levitch/Flow Mountain Bike
Images: Chris Crerar, Rob Burnett Photography, Peter Rickards, Stuart Gibson, Chi Kueng Renault Wong.

Australia’s Most Iconic Mountain Bike Destination | Alice Springs

One of mountain biking’s charms is the places it takes us and what it allows us to see, and we promise you, you’ll never have seen mountain biking in quite that same way as Alice Springs delivers it.

Flying into towards Alice Springs is like watching some incredible abstract painting unfurling in front of your eyes; a canvas of swirling colours and ripples, like a pond with a rock lobbed in. As you near Alice itself the ripples consolidate into larger and larger peaks and cliff lines, eventually compressing into the impressive McDonnell Range that looms over the town.

The trails are fast, open and serpentine, whipping through gullies and over rocky crests. The weather, especially from April to October, is perfect with clear blue skies practically guaranteed. The social riding and club scene is tremendous, in that welcoming way that only regional towns seem to achieve. The landscape is a breathtaking, ancient collision of reds, oranges and yellows. And the sunsets and sunrises are simply mind-blowing. It’s seriously special.


Alice Springs in motion, 60 seconds of tyre crunching, sweet singletrack goodness. 

Or sit back and hit press play and binge on our Ride the Red Centre YouTube playlist with 22 epic videos!

Hit play, teleport to Alice Springs via this link here.


Visit the Alice Springs Mountain Bike website here.

It’s not extraordinary that mountain biking exists in Alice (desert towns the world over have healthy mountain bike scenes, just look at Moab in Utah, or Fruita in Colorado), but what is incredible is the quality and sheer quantity of trails around town. There must be literally hundreds of kilometres of riding out there.

Hobart local Jackie Shapel’s first-time experience of mountain biking in Alice Springs was extra special.

“Travelling from Hobart I couldn’t get much more of a contrast arriving in Alice, the traditional land of the Arrernte (pronounced Arunda) people. Mountains make way to sandy rolling flats; dense rain forests are replaced with a sky that never seems to end. The warmth of the sun and air hit as you step off the plane, which was only surpassed by the friendliness of the locals as you roll into town.”

Read Jackie Schapel’s first-time experience here.

Three main trail ‘centres’ cluster around Alice, like a cloverleaf, all within a short ride from the middle of town. And once you’re out there, you really out there, you can lose sight of town and civilisation in a heartbeat.

The ultimate mountain biking family, and their ultimate family holiday!

When the Tucknott family went to Alice Springs they had the most incredible time. When they weren’t riding the sweet trails they were riding quad bikes through the wild landscape, flying a glider above it all, swimming in pools and waterholes, camping under the stars, learning history, hiking for sunrises, and watching art light installations broadcast on the cliffs. And more riding…

The Tucknotts know how to holiday, this mountain biking family had an amazing week in Alice Springs.
Camping at the end of a long ride on beautiful singletrack, you beauty.

This is a must-watch, the ultimate trip indeed!


Riding in the desert throws up constantly changing terrain and surfaces too; the trails are an evolving, engaging mix of rock, quartz, sand, shale. Luckily the almost complete absence of scrub means you’ve got visibility for miles, so you can always let it run and you’re rarely caught out.
Swimming holes from postcards. Very Insta-worthy.

The accessibility of the riding around Alice is another key part of its appeal. The only transport you need to worry about is getting from the airport into town, after which it’s no more than a 10-minute ride to the trails in any direction. Accommodation providers get it too, and an increasing number of hotels and apartments are billing themselves as mountain bike-friendly.

Outback Cycling is Alice’s hub for all things cycling. You’ll find everything you need here, from local knowledge, trail maps, bike and equipment hire sales, hire and plenty of tough tyres if yours aren’t up to scratch for the terrain.

Outback Cycling, the one-stop-shop for all things cycling in Alice Springs.

Weather-wise, there are parts of the year when mountain biking is pretty much off the cards – you wouldn’t want to be on the trails much after sunrise in the peak of summer – but Alice is at its best when large parts of the country are at their worst.

Throughout winter you can bet the bank on 28-degree days, cloudless blue skies and the most spectacularly clear nights imaginable. Even though the middle of the day is prime for riding, you’d be mad not to get up early for at least one sunrise, it’s magical watching the ridgelines change from the cool grey of the pre-dawn to an absolute explosion of reds and oranges as the first sun rays hit.

“People will tell you that the sunsets here are some of the most spectacular in the world but from experience, it’s probably best to witness it with your own eyes, as photos will never do it justice,” said Jackie Schapel on her first visit to Alice. “It’s like every colour has been painted in the sky and the darkness is slowly consuming the light to keep it safe for the night.”

Time your trip right and you might even catch the desert in bloom. Seeing the wildflowers come to life in the desert is a pretty amazing experience.

If we had to put our finger on what makes Alice Springs riding so appealing to us, it’s that it offers an experience that is uniquely Australian. The baking desert is one of the elements that characterise Australia – it’s the yin to the yang of the surf and beaches – but it’s the last place many of us explore, especially not on our bikes. One of mountain biking’s charms is the places it takes us and what it allows us to see, and we promise you, you’ll never have seen mountain biking in quite that same way as Alice delivers it. Check it out.

If we had to put our finger on what makes Alice Springs riding so appealing to us, it’s that it offers an experience that is uniquely Australian.


Visit the Alice Springs Mountain Bike website here.

The new trail maps are excellent, sure beats getting lost in the Australian desert!


Five Reasons Mountain Biking in Alice Springs is Like Nowhere Else in Australia

Imogen Smith gives us her top five reasons the Alice Springs mountain bike experience is like no other.

I’ve visited Alice to race my bike seven times now, and I’m still drawn back. Australia’s centre is laced with trails that are flowing, sandy, rocky, steep and flat all at once and a host of natural elements combine to make the place a must-ride. Any given ride (or race stage) will see you turn your back on the town and set off into a moonscape, following a line of singletrack over ridges that leave the bleached rooftops of town terrifyingly far away, until they duck completely out of sight.

Visit the Alice Springs Mountain Bike website here.

Welcome to Australia’s most unique mountain bike destination, Alice Springs.

From that moment on, whether riding or racing, there’s nothing but you and the bike, in the elements.

The Alice terrain

The terrain itself is more varied than you’d expect of the desert. The eastern trails are more sinewy, curvy, flowing and tend to be a little sandier and smoother than the rougher western trails, which are some of my favourites. They take you further into an unknown, rocky wilderness. These trails are cut by hand – sometimes literally – and I’ve heard that in summer locals like to go out at night, with nothing more than a shovel and dingoes for company, to mark them out with glowing quartz.

Where in the world have you seen terrain like this?

The centre isn’t as flat as you’d expect either – there are plenty of ups to keep your legs sharp, and old-school descents that keep your mind sharp too.

The desert sky

I’ve raced in Alice in freezing sub-zero temperatures, in rare rain, but mostly under a deep yellow sun that bobs like a poached egg in the vastest of skies. There’s something wider, deeper, and bluer about the Alice sky than anywhere else I’ve travelled. It might be because of the crispy dry atmosphere, or it might be because of the contrast with the red earth and green-grey grass.

There’s something wider, deeper, and bluer about the Alice sky.

When you’re riding trails in Alice, the deep blue above you lifts you up. It brightens the trail and the whole world around you. No sky you see back home will ever really look like sky again.

Central Australia at Easter

If you come to Alice at Easter from the north, and you’ll appreciate an early arrival of cooler, calmer weather. If you’re from the south, it’s a last shot of sunshine before you bunker down for winter’s cold fronts.

Racing Easter in the Alice, each day’s timing usually works perfectly so you’re riding in crisp morning conditions but finishing as the sun revs up to the perfect temperature for some hydrotherapy (aka a dip in the pool) after the bikes are put away.



Outback Cycling Easter is a brilliant time to be in Alice Springs, a festival of mountain biking with a great atmosphere and a huge variety of events.

Alice’s attractions

Off the bike, the Red Centre has a bunch of tourist attractions and you can typically book them from any provider and get picked up from your hotel that morning, discover some amazing geological or cultural marvel, then dropped home as the sun goes down. Uluru is a day-trip away, as is Kings Canyon and Kata Tjuta. But if you want to stay close to town, there’s the Alice Springs Desert Park, a place to learn about desert plants, birds, mammals and reptiles and whose nocturnal animal enclosure is one of the best in the country.

Exploring water holes near town is a popular activity when your legs have had enough singletrack.
The temperatures, visibility and open terrain are the right ingredients for fun night riding.

Gaps in the MacDonnell ranges are some of the most special places close to town and if you pick the right one at the right time, you might just have the place all to yourself. Simpson’s Gap is a classic destination because it’s located conveniently at the end of a 20-kilometre bike path, while less-visited Jessie and Emily Gaps are great as the sun goes down and the MacDonnell ranges light up in a thousand different shades of orange, red, and gold. All are sacred sites for the Central Arrernte people.

The local scene

In Alice, the locals are as welcoming as I’ve ever met anywhere, and no matter how popular the Red Centre becomes as a trail destination, the grassroots feeling, that sense of being a part of a community-driven mountain bike scene is stronger than ever.

We hear the locals are friendly.

I always step off the plane completely overdressed and in a big-city hurry, and leave a few days later feeling completely at ease. The riding, the weather, the scenery, and the local scene all combine to make Alice a must-visit, must-race location for every mountain biker.

Tell me more!


Imogen Smith is one of Australia’s most well-travelled stage racers and has been taking off around the world to race and ride bikes for nearly 20 years. Follow her on Instagram @imogenjsmith


Bikes and Tech from Cannonball MTB Festival

Cannonballllll! Take a virtual stroll through the beating heart of Thredbo’s Cannonball MTB Festival with us, as we spot the bikes and tech that pique our interest. If you could have one bike as your own form this bunch, what would it be?


Thredbo is going off this summer! After a hot and dry start to the season, followed by closures due to bushfire threat, the place is buzzing again. 

Ta da! Queen of Cannonball, Sian A’Hern with her quiver of Norcos.
Norco’s Wild DH bike the Aurum HSP (High Single Pivot) counteracts the strong chain forces from the rearward axle path.
Another bike using an idler-pully is the Forbidden Druid. More commonly seen in longer-travel DH bikes, the 29″ wheel Druid uses 130mm of rear-wheel travel and is designed around a 140-150mm fork.
OMG, an Ironhorse Sunday! Are these considered retro, yet?
Jack Moir was one of the elite riders riding their custom painted World Champs bikes. Though with mismatched rear ends on both Jack and Gwin’s Intense M29, we speculate they never got completely comfortable with this frame design adapted to 29″ wheels. Anyhow, Jack’s onto a new team for the new season, stay tuned for that announcement soon.
Magura’s mighty MT7 four-piston brakes are gaining more spec from savvy riders, it seems. We are curious to try them out for ourselves.
Mitch Mckinlay stops at nothing in the quest to build the most high-end bikes in the universe.
How to make an expensive bike more expensive – add King hubs.
DMR Deathgrip grips are a popular option.
Australian National DH Team representative, Cooper Downey, and GT’s latest DH bike, the Fury. Another bike using an idler-pully for a rearward axle path suspension action without the negative pedal feedback.
Propain Factory Racing rider Luke Meier-Smith after pushing tyres past their limit.
Kye A’Hern’s sweet Canyon Sender from World Champs, the actual gold medal bike!
STFU chain silencer device fitted to a Commencal Furious, developed with input from Chris Kovarik. They sure make sense!
OMG, a 26″ Santa Cruz! Who remembers when they were the hottest carbon DH rig around?
The new 2020 Specialized Kenevo looking longingly at the chair lift, hoping it’s still ok to be friends after all the comments about uplifting.
Josh Carlson with his enduro-ready Giant Reign 29″. The fastest bike in both the Flow Motion Cup and All Mountain Assault.
Legit Barkbusters, in subtle orange. Handguards are becoming a regular sight amongst enduro riders, and for good reason.
Mini shredder with full-bouncers.
Mini-ish shredders with high-end bouncers.
Lobster on the SRAM tools.
Mobile beats, #10.
Mike Ross sinking his teeth into Cannonball. Crowds were loving his big whips and fluid style.
e-racing, all of the fun.
Bikes everywhere. Cannonball is so rad.
Open DH winner – again – Troy Brosnan and his Mont Sainte Anne World Champs bike, lavishly decorated with Australiana details in the paint. Though we believe there may be a new 29″ Canyon Sender announcing soon!
Mitch Ropelato in town! Bike skill master enjoying his time down under with his enduro-ready Santa Cruz Megatower.
More hand guards for less busted knuckles.
Wounded, send help.
Rising enduro star, Dan Booker’s new SRAM-equipped Megatower. Fresh!
Zipp Moto 3Zero wheels for the fast Tasmanian.
New bike, old pedals.
The pumptrack event was held without a chain within sight.
Connor Fearon with his Kona Operator and the Cannonball Festival Crown.
Of course.

Mo’ Flow Please!

Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow!

Bike Check | Hans Rey’s Custom GT Force & e-Force Mountain Bikes

Hans Rey is a rider who needs very little introduction. If you’re one of the three people reading this who aren’t familiar with the name though, perhaps ask one of the wiser mountain bikers amongst your riding crew, and get prepared for a proper history lesson! From bungy-jumping with his mountain bike, to riding across the highlands of Guatemala and along the Inca Trail in Machu Pichu, to bunny-hopping across cars on a busy Los Angeles freeway, staring in the cheesy American TV show Pacific Blue, and working alongside Mr Jiggs as part of the classic Monkey See Monkey Do video series, there is not a lot the German-born Californian hasn’t attempted on his mountain bike.

The ex-trials World Champion has been a mainstay of the mountain bike scene for, well, forever! Hans has perhaps one of the longest running sponsorships of any sport, having been sponsored by GT Bicycles for over 30 years. In this day and age, where professional athletes bounce from bike company to bike company, that’s an impressive amount of commitment, and speaks volumes of Hans’ professionalism and dedication to the sport.

hans rey gt
Hans Rey – the trials & mountain bike legend!
hans rey gt
Ooh – old school GT i-Drive! Bit different to Hans’ current bikes…

Having travelled all over the globe for both competition and to film his extreme riding videos, Hans’ first trip to Australia was way back in 1992, when he was invited to come out to Thredbo for the National Trails Championships. It was a while between drinks for Hans, who returned some 24 years later for a trip with GT Bicycles in 2016 to check out the opening of the Epic trail at Mt Buller, as well as the official opening of the Derby trail network in Tasmania.

Having gotten a taste for the incredible riding on offer in the rugged Tasmanian wilderness, Hans recently returned to Australia alongside his partner Carmen Rey. If you haven’t checked out the features yet, be sure to have a look at our story on Hans Rey riding the new Bay of Fires trail, as well as his return to Derby. For someone who’s been to some of the world’s best riding spots, Hans might have just found his favourite!

For his trip Down Under, Hans brought along two unique mountain bikes built especially for travelling duties. Flow’s gun photo/video man, Dominic Hook, took some cracking shots of Hans’ new GT Force and e-Force, and we caught up with Hans to get a little insight into his bike setup.

gt force hans rey derby
Hans’ GT Force uses a carbon fibre mainframe, and an alloy back end. He’s riding a size Large.

The first bike is Hans Rey’s GT Force – a relatively new model that was launched alongside the latest Sensor trail bike, both of which feature the return of the iconic LTS suspension platform. The Force is the bigger rig of the two – it’s a 150mm travel 27.5in enduro bike, which Hans has setup with a 170mm travel Fox 36 fork on the front. There’s a Shimano XTR 1×12 drivetrain, 4-piston brakes, a Stan’s NoTubes Flow MK3 wheelset, and 2.6in wide Vittoria tyres, making this a very robust, go-anywhere mountain bike for tackling technical trails all over the globe. Total bike weight? 14kg on the nose.

gt force hans rey shimano xtr 1x12
Shimano XTR M9100 drivetrain with the larger 10-51T cassette option for maximum range.
gt force hans rey shimano xtr
Hans runs an SQlab cockpit, including 780mm wide riser bars with a 12-degree backsweep, a 50mm long stem, and the ergonomic 7OX lock-on grips.
gt force hans rey sq labs saddle
There’s also a SQlab 6OX Ergowave Active saddle, which Hans uses in the 13cm width.
gt force hans rey crank brothers stamp flat pedals
Crank Brothers Stamp 3 flat pedals in the small size. As you’ll see further down though, Hans is running a pretty interesting pedal arrangement on his other bikes…
gt force hans rey
The Vittoria Martello uses an aggressive tread pattern with a high volume 2.6in wide casing. Hans runs these around 22psi.

gt e-force e-mtb hans rey

Hans was an early adopter of GT’s first e-MTB. Called the eVerb, it was a 27.5+ full suspension bike with 130/120mm of suspension travel. GT has since released a bigger and more aggressive model called the GT-e Force, which not only features a much sleeker frame with an integrated battery pack, also moves to 29in wheels and ups the travel to 150/150mm.

Hans’ GT-e Force features Fox Factory Series suspension front and rear, with a Float DPX2 shock and a slightly longer 160mm travel 36 fork. The parts are similar to his regular Force bike, with Crank Brothers pedals and Highline dropper post, an SQlab cockpit, Stan’s NoTubes wheels and Vittoria tyres. Hans clearly digs the big rubber, as he’s got 2.6in wide Martello tyres here too, though he tells us that he can run the pressures a lot lower (as low as 10-15psi) with the help of Vittoria’s Air-Liner tubeless inserts. Despite the robust parts spec, weight isn’t too bad at 23.1kg for the complete bike.

gt e-force e-mtb hans rey
The GT-e Force is built around a Shimano E8000 drive system, with a neat on/off button integrated into the top tube.
gt e-force e-mtb hans rey crank brothers highline
150mm travel Crank Brothers Highline dropper post.
gt e-force e-mtb hans rey shimano deore xt
Shimano 4-piston XT brakes, though Hans is running the previous M8000 master cylinder.
gt e-force e-mtb hans rey shimano di2
Shimano’s Di2 controls integrate with the E8000 e-MTB system to control power modes and shifting.
gt e-force e-mtb hans rey flat clip pedals
Not sure about using flats or clips? The HalfWayRey setup could be exactly what you’re looking for!

Yes, that is a flat pedal on the drive side, and a clip pedal on the non-drive side. Hans calls it the ‘HalfWayRey’ setup, and it’s not exactly common.

This is a set up I’ve I actually been riding on my regular bike as well as e-Bike“, Hans explains. “It’s the best of both worlds. I run the clip pedal on my leading foot and I ride flat pedals (with a flat pedal shoe) on my rear foot. In the past few years I have been riding flat pedals only, even for XC rides. But with e-Bikes I noticed that one can climb better and steeper when clipped in. So I tried the HalfWayRey setup and I really like it. I think it’s the best of both worlds if you like to ride technical and steep terrain. But I think it is also a great way to learn how to ride clipless“.

So there you go!

gt e-force e-mtb hans rey
Shimano 1×11 Di2 shifting on the back with an 11-46T cassette. Looks a little small compared to Shimano’s latest 12-speed cassettes doesn’t it?
gt e-force e-mtb hans rey
The GT-e Force uses the four-bar LTS suspension design, along with an integrated battery pack hidden inside the alloy downtube.

gt e-force e-mtb hans rey
Hans riding his GT-e Force along the new Bay of Fires trail from the Blue Tier, all the way down to St Helens on the coast. Yiew!

Mo’ Flow Please!

Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow!

Editor’s Reflections | Mick’s Marvellous Moments from 2019

Whoa, exhale, 2019, done, finito, 12 months in the bag. It has been an absolutely momentous year for the tiny powerhouse Flow Mountain Bike. Reflecting on what exactly made it so eventful by choosing key highlights is a pleasing way to remind us of how fortunate we are to work with talented people on amazing projects, to remain significant in a busy media space, within an ever-changing and exciting world of everything mountain biking.

We love what we do and sincerely hope Flow continues to inspire, inform and entertain whether that be through videos and stories from around Australia, new bike reviews, new tech stories, coverage of events, or news from new places to ride.

There’s been a stack of original content go up on Flow in 2019; we’ve created 68 videos for our YouTube channel, 413 pieces of Flow created content on flowmountainbike.com and 257 Instagram posts. It’s been a busy time for our small team.

Flow’s effervescent news and tech editor, Wil Barrett has given us his top-ten bikes and products from 2019, so now it’s my time to recount the events of 2019 that stood out to me.

A sad farewell to Chris Southwood, and a welcome to Wil Barrett.

Chris and I met at the downhill races while still in high school, worked in bike shops together and formed a wonderful friendship and working relationship in media that spanned 15 years. Freelancing as bike testers when the Kona Magic Link and Shimano Dual Control Shifters were cool, we somehow slipped into becoming the editorial team behind AMB Magazine, adding 28 printed copies to the long and still growing list.

Flow’s co-founder, and great friend of mine, Chris Southwood, farewell’s mountain bike media in search of new challenges.

Flow was born, out of digital dreams, briefly engaging in the print world and later focussing solely on online media. Seven years of Flow and making a significant impact in the mountain bike space in Australia and no doubt getting more bums on bikes, Chris made the call to move on and seek new career challenges and spend more time with his young family.

His trademark weirdness, random-energy, ingenious creativity, intensely competitive riding spirit, passion for the sport and utter dedication to quality media continues to live on in Flow. If you spot him on the trails, please ask him how much he misses riding e-bikes, and now loves paying for bike parts.

Bendigo’s walking mountain bike encyclopedia Wil Barrett return to Australia from the UK was splendid news to Chris and I. Wil has always been the rare type of talent we would love to have in the Flow team.

A shining member in the exclusive list of the world’s most excellent bike reviewers and writers, Wil has brought immense credibility and quality to Flow Land, and I have very much enjoyed the first six months working together.

Flow welcomed the effervescent Wil Barrett to the team this year. Such a legend!
Wil in the Flow zone, out testing bikes.

Wil’s passion and curiosity for new bike releases and technical details are amazing, and the dedication to creating quality content for the viewer is what makes him stand out from the pack.

Who else can produce a thorough 15-minute bike review video and keep you glued to the screen to the end, or concisely describe the concept behind short-offset forks? Wil can! Do yourself a favour and check out some recent bike reviews videos on our YouTube and you’ll see what I mean.

Flow’s Fantastic Freelancer Family.

I am grateful to have a fantastic team of freelancers around us that can carry out projects alongside Wil, myself or independently.

Josh Stephenson from Ready Aim Media, integral to many great projects we were involved in through 2019.
The super-talented Tasmanian oddball, Jasper Da Seymour in his element.

Huge shout outs to our long-serving hard-working and talented crew; Josh Stephenson, Jasper da Seymour, Oliver Smith, Dominic Hook, Fiona Dick, Reiner Shuster and Matt Staggs.

Thank you!

Attending two MTB Forums, the scene is thriving and more on the way.

Australian MTB Summit, Derby and Destination MTB, Maydena.

Flow was fortunate to attend both events and presented on mountain bike media in the destination space at the Maydena Summit. Hearing the talks, and meeting the attendees bolstered our confidence that mountain biking has a beautiful future, with constant investment from all levels into building and supporting mountain bike infrastructure.

New regions with mountain bike trail plans are popping up on the map. With ultimate success stories like Derby and Maydena to reference, it’s clear for those to see how mountain biking can engage tourism as well as engage local communities in cycling activities. 

Wil’s feature of the handbuilt bikes in Beechworth; TOR Bikes.

This project was extra nice to see unfold, coming from a place I have a real affinity for, and a fellow that I’ve followed about the trails there, Shane Flint and Beechworth, Victoria.

tor bikes workshop manufacture fillet brazing beechworth
Shane Flint from TOR Bikes, hand-built in Beechworth.

Wil jumped up to Beechworth from Bendigo to learn more about TOR Bikes, how they are made, how they ride, and the theories behind construction methods and frame geometry.

The images and stories are fascinating, and so well captured, it’s total editorial class. Bike geeks will love the detail, and anyone who would appreciate a custom bike should consider an Australian made masterpiece like this.

Port to Port to Reef to Reef to Cape to Cape.

I absolutely love being a part of these events, and as a photographer, it’s a wild week of high-paced camera slinging good times. The photogenic Port to Port was treated to magnificent conditions each day, and the riders were buzzing; hence the photos are so much fun to flick through.

Port to Port.
Cape to Cape.
Reef to Reef.

It was my first time shooting the Reef to Reef in Tropical North Queensland, a break from mid-winter at home, and the event was enjoyable to follow. Travelling around from Cairns to Port Douglas via the spectacular Atherton Tablelands is something we’re lucky to have witnessed from behind the camera.

It was a new experience for Wil, also, and with a foreign camera. He picked it up like a pro and captured so much great imagery.

Over to WA for the big one, Cape to Cape. I was feeling a little fatigued with the C2C, counting around eight visits, racing and photographing, it can feel challenging to photograph with enthusiasm and produce a fresh set of images. But this year was the best yet, I don’t know exactly what it was, but working with the clever Tim Bardsley-Smith, bouncing around in the ute tray like Skittles in a Pringles can, and the warm team atmosphere from the experienced crew who get s#$t done and party mighty hard. See you all again!

Riding trail bikes with XC tyres for s%$ts and giggles.

A standout riding experience this year was an unexpected one. To convert a trail bike into a capable XC race bike for the odd XC race, I messed with a Giant Trance by exchanging the wheels and tyres from 2.3” Maxxis Minions on 30mm rims to 2.3/2.35” Maxxis Rekon Race on lightweight 26mm rims. This was a huge change, and it turned a bike I knew well into a wild rodeo!

The Giant Singletrack Charmer, a marvellous trail bike that I enjoyed riding a lot.

Blasting into turns at full speed with limited braking bite to keep speeds under control, while focussing on line choice to stay upright and expecting nothing to go to plan was damn fun. I will plan to do it again on the next short-travel trail bike. Give it a try! 

Megatower-ing on the mighty trails in Nelson, NZ

Taking part in a small press launch for the new Santa Cruz Megatower held in Nelson, NZ I was thrown head-first into some genuinely challenging riding! The bike was up for it, but my weakling editors arms still recovering from that bone-breaking incident in Maydena’s Zen Garden were not.

Wow, Wairoa Gorge is quite a place! The remarkable story of its conception alone is mind-boggling, and the terrain and trail construction was unlike anything I’d ever ridden in all of my years. With the majority of the press and Santa Cruz staff riding super hard and fast, it was a few days of fury, attacking steep turns with commitment and keeping the momentum high to avoid falling off the side of the planet into the jaws of hungry cheese grater rocks.

Getting rowdy in Wairoa Gorge, Nelson, New Zealand. Hectic trails!

Nydia Bay is a pretty place, too. A part of the NZ Enduro, the trails and scenery around the Marlborough Sounds are stunning and stoked I got to sneak out for a sunrise shoot and solo peace and quiet before the savage riding resumed.

Also, how good are dual-direction, multiple-user trails in New Zealand? So good.

2019 EWS, World Cup season and World Champs! Rebecca McConnell, Sam Hill, Brosnan, Tracey Hannah, Bruni, Pierron, amazing!

Race fans were treated to a thrilling season of racing, with remarkable performances. I was pumped to watch Bec McConnell’s fast finish to the season which culminated with a bronze World Championship medal, fantastic stuff!

Sam Hill’s narrow EWS season win, the Bruni and Pierron fierce battle and Brosnan’s remarkable precision and consistency. And watching the relief on Tracey Hannah’s face when she sealed the 2019 overall World Cup, lots of fuzzy warms from where we sat watching on RedBull TV.

E-MTB adventures, some of the best feelings on a bike.

I’m a considerable enthusiast of e-bikes and have clocked up a tremendous amount of time on them since they landed in Australia to a mixed reception and fiercely polarised internet audience. Right now, I give very little attention to people who go out of their way to rage about e-bikes, I’m not fussed at all, sorry angry people of the internet!

My go-to e-MTB, the superb Specialized Levo, has been my bike of choice for all sorts of rides. Pushing the limit on extremely hard trails, adventuring with large groups or riders, carrying camera gear around the High Country on film shoots, riding entire stages of the Port to Port as a photographer, exploring potential new zones to ride close to home, spinning out km to recover the legs from hard days out, self-shuttling DH race tracks and for getting out in the bush when you don’t have all of your best energy. The list goes on, I’ve stopped thinking about it too much, and just focus on enjoying the completely different experience that they offer.

I’ve been riding for 25 years, so I tend to lean toward a new riding experience, none have come along with such significance as this.

Filming the Mission Impassable series, and the Sugarloaf Mega-Levo video on e-MTBs pretty much sums it up, I highly recommend watching.

Shrrallllp!

After about four years of riding and testing e-MTBs, I’ve developed an appreciation of how using the various power modes can impact on your ride. Don’t just sit back and boost your way, hit those buttons.

I have been riding to the trails in full-power mode to warm up and get to the juicy bits, then knock the power right down, so there’s still a lot of effort from the legs and body going into the ride. Power up the shuttle roads, or boost up a techy climb, then back the electricity down, pedal hard to feel the burn like we did before these wonder-machines graced our lives.

And you know what tops it off? The development and technological advancements are stimulating, and I feel that I’m often more excited about what’s yet to come in the e-MTB world than analogue bikes. The competition is hot and raging forwards, and it is exciting to watch. Imagine what we’re in for over the next few years! 

Riding endu-road in Italy, breaking all the etiquette.

At a Trek media launch this year, where Trek released the new 2020 Rail and Fuel EX, the Oceanic contingent of Alex Malone from Cyclist Magazine, Liam Friary from Cycling Journal NZ and I arrived one day earlier than official proceedings.

Alex Malone in the Italian zone.

With only road bikes available, it was rude not to borrow one and shake off the jetlag with a cycle around the quintessential Italian countryside. Though to the disdain of my slick roadie pals, I was dressed in full ‘enduro spec’ gear, big Giro Chamber shoes, helmet with a visor and large Camelbak. Oh, the horror!

Damn, it was a good ride, though! Disc brake road bikes are the greatest, does anyone want to buy my rim-brake roadie? 

The Canyon Strive, so clever, much enduro.

Canyon’s quiver-killing Strive (haha, I said it) is an impressive bike, and I enjoyed riding it in Maydena and also on trails that didn’t warrant such brawn, but it still outshone many in its category.

Competent suspension, modest numbers, low weight, high value and the effective Shapeshifter come together in a strikingly aesthetic package that would suit a considerable portion of hard-charging riders out there. It rates high on my ultimate bike list.

Pondering features.

Giant Trance 29, the singletrack charmer.

This bike came at a time when I was missing the super-technical trails in Sydney, faced with the flatter and calmer terrain of a newer home in Newcastle. Short on travel, big on character, the Trance 29 is a real winner. After reviewing and really enjoying the mid-range aluminium model, a top-level carbon model became available.

The DVO suspension never really resonated with me, the rear shock, in particular, wasn’t a great match to the frame and wondered how DVO would be a selling point for the flagship models, and hey, presto, all DVO has vanished from the 2020 line-up without a word. Hmmm.

First ride of many on the Trance 29er.

I fitted the new Shimano XTR to the Trance 29, and it felt amazing, that stuff is all-class. Though maybe not worth the dollars over SLX or XT, it feels delightful to the touch and the key to a lightweight build. The Trance managed to handle a wide variety of trails; it is lively, confident and ultra-quick.

The Trance 29 lit up the singletrack, ask Terry.

Shimano XTR and SRAM Eagle AXS drivetrains, experiencing the cream of the 12-speed crop. 

2019 was a kick-ass year for drivetrain nerds like me. New-ish 12-speed SRAM AXS and Shimano XTR were becoming more regularly available for upgrades and stock on high-end bikes, and I built a Giant Trance 29er and Focus Sam with the fancy stuff.

Smoothest shifting in the universe.

Marvelling at the performance, feeling subtle differences between the two, understanding their unique strengths and weaknesses and forcing myself to choose only one consumes so much thought and discussion when out testing.

Oh no, I put myself on the spot now, which drivetrain would I choose if I could only use one? Is this the place to do it?

Cleaner than a wireless whistle.

SRAM AXS gets my pick. SRAM AXS takes the cake by a whisker solely for the clean aesthetics that the wireless system brings, and the way robots make a perfectly consistent shift action each time. I dig it.

In my experiences this year, Shimano XTR has a superior shift action under load and does it so smoothly like some kind of mechanical sorcery. And the brakes also high-class, but now we’re getting over-complicated once again, and weren’t were talking about drivetrains?

I can only imagine what wireless XTR would bring to the high-end playing field. 

Crank Brothers Synthesis and Zipp 3 Zero Moto wheels. 

High-end carbon wheels add value in more ways than one. Put a set of these on your bike, and you’ll need to adjust your home and insurance policy, they cost a lot of dough. But in my experience of tinkering with bikes, they feel like the ultimate upgrade, especially if you are in-tune with your bike and know it’s every move, sound and reaction.

The single-wall carbon wheels are a new introduction to mainstream mountain biking, and they bring something to the table that I especially appreciate; compliance. When for years we were searching for the stiffest wheels and frames so we could ride them harder and feel confident, we’re now at the point where the frame geometry and suspension is so dialled that other things matter more. We’re able to even notice effects like compliance from individual components, wheels in this case.

Zipp 3Zero Moto Wheels. Solid, supple, expensive.
Crank Brothers Synthesis wheels. Quiet, smooth, expensive.

Fitting the Crank Brothers Syntheses wheels to my Norco Sight test bike with the same tyres, pressures, etc. was clear as day. The bike was so much quieter, smoother and tracked the ground with higher positivity.

Same goes for the Zipp Moto wheels, first onto the Levo the low-profile rims had a monumental impact on the ride. The weight of an e-bike can make some components feel pretty dull and lifeless. With the Moto wheels fitted, there was a considerable boost in traction and control, and no flat tyres despite expecting too.

Throw about $4K to make a massive improvement to your bike? Consider some extravagant carbon wheels like the Synthesis or Motos.

Retro nostalgia addictions. Send help, or elastomers.

For a frothing mountain biker that grew up in the 90s right amid the golden boom-time of the sport, reflecting on the events, personalities, bikes and media that captured the mind of a teenager with amaze and wonder is a real buzz. 2019 saw a few golden finds added to the collection.

A new addition to the Flow Garage of Dreams, an amazing Foes LTS 16, complete with the F1 fork, amazzzzzing. Does anyone know how to rebuild a Kuster rear shock?
GT’s iconic STS, so many stories…

I’ve always been a hoarder, keeping as much from the past as possible. However, more recently I somewhat regret joining retro ‘trading and appreciation’ groups on Facebook so I can make unjust purchases on old junk in poor condition that I’ll never ride, I wanted it so bad in 1996. The collection is epic, though private, maybe one day we could feature a few gems in the Flow HQ garage of dreams, I’ll think about it.

I am currently seeking a good RockShox Judy FSX, a Schwinn Straight Eight frame, a GT Lobo an Outland VPP or my stolen 1997 Intense M1 back, please. Or maybe just send elastomers, as they don’t age too well.

Gravel Grit Laguna, an event of all-sorts.

An event that stood out in 2019 was an unlikely one, a gravel ride organised by The Bicycle Network. Simply put, it was a 70km ride on roads and gravel roads around a beautiful part of the Hunter Valley, starting and finishing in a groovy old bar/café/pub/hangout place with no phone reception and an epic food menu, The Great Northern Trading Post.

Camping and long rides on bikes! Perfect.
Love the Trek Checkpoint, a solid, comfortable and versatile rig for days like this.

This year we camped, brought our cool dog and sweet 1970’s Viscount caravan, a Trek Checkpoint, and mingled with roadies, mountain bikers, bike-packers, bike riders and more bike riders. Gravel riding is a lot of why we love mountain biking, the outdoor experience is lovely, but it’s so social!

You can talk and ride at the same time, most of the time, not just when you meet at a junction or lose 20 minutes chatting before heading up a climb. It was a glorious day of fresh air, quiet roads and chats over the pleasant sound of crunchy gravel.

It wasn’t a race, it wasn’t too hard, I loved it, and so I will return. 

Tasmanian spectacular, Enduro World Series and discovering St Helens.

After the buzz and highs from the World Champs in Cairns, the Enduro World Series coming to Tasmania was a way for us to get a solid fix for international racing with our own eyes. Derby played host to a spectacular week of action, the town was buzzing with people from all over the world, and it felt like many riders, teams and media squids were happy to return to Australia’s quirky little mountain bike town.

AMB Flow sandwich. TBS, Flow and Mike from AMB representing Aussie media.

The trails were running mint, dry and dusty, and the photos were turning out great. The racing was tight, exciting and with Derby being a little town, it was normal to bump into a pro at the pub and pluck up enough courage to say hey.

From a photographers point of view, this was one of the greatest weeks of my life behind a camera!

Swapping over from action photographer to video story-teller, I made the drive to St Helens right after the EWS. St Helens is the newest buzzing location in the mountain bike landscape, with World Trail constructing loads of sweet trails from scratch.

I was lucky to score a sneak preview of the yet to open trails, catch up with the World Trail crew, shoot with Ryan de La Rue and Sean Doust on select sections of the trails and stay at the stunning Bay of Fires Bush Retreat, seriously memorable times indeed!

The Bay of Fires, just out of St Helens is so incredibly beautiful!
The trails are great, yet to properly ride them myself, soon I hope!

Rocky Trail GP, racing my local with Terry the Tyre Tearer.

Got to love it when a there’s a race on the calendar 10-minutes from home, there are no excuses. Rocky Trail put on excellent events, family-oriented and well-organised with a refreshing and distinct absence of stress.

I entered with my mate, Terry, into the 4-hour. Terry is an old friend of mine; he’s a life athlete with a big heart, a poorly maintained bike and dresses in my hand-me-down riding clothes. Though I think he dresses deliberately in clashing colours to induce feelings of anxiety in those that pair gloves with jersey colour. We raced many 24-hour races together back in the early days of open dropouts and multiple chainrings. He probably could have eventually raced pro, maybe.

Terry did the first lap, as he is fast like a hyper-coloured fox. As I waited in nervous anticipation to take the baton and valiantly head out for our second lap, hopped up on coffee and dance music, the sinking feeling that something had gone wrong with Terry washed over me as the riders filed past grew in age and decreased in the apparent effort.

Terry watch.
The podium for the unfinished and washed-up.

I spotted at a remarkable distance my old fluorescent lime Giro helmet, bobbing up and down, in some sort of jogging motion, not fluid like his peers that were still riding. Terry was running. A flat tyre reasonably early on in the lap was evidently a surprise to Terry, as one who never carries spares due to the miraculous Maxxis Minions compared to aged 26” Maxxis Crossmarks on his previous bike.

It’s ok, I was so excited, I was just glad to be there, so it was funny at that moment in time. Though Terry’s first lap didn’t exactly put us into a good position, and I filed in behind a long line of contentedly pedalling folk, the congestion sedating my twitching hairy pistons.

Working my way as swiftly and politely as possible through the field, I raced into transition only to find Terry walking around holding his bike, with no rear wheel, not even close to being ready. I went out for a second. I was warm; it was ok.

The shaky start set the tone for the rest of the day, so after Terry’s second catastrophic flat we laughed, looked around for anyone watching, and joined in spectating the kid’s races before quietly returning to the esky for leftover pizza and a mid-strength beer.

Ah, the glamour of racing, huh!

Ignition MTB Festival, dance with your knee pads on!

Another standout weekend in 2019 was in Falls Creek, way up in the Victorian High Country, the opening weekend festival for summer, Ignition MTB Festival. This event rules, it has all the ingredients for a great time, and we appreciate the care and passion from the Blue Dirt crew in creating such a vibe.

This year the trails were so dry, there were fires in the valley below, but the turnout was huge and the atmosphere was buzzing. The bands rocked SO hard, the food was delicious, and sampling local beers and gin became quite a journey.

Ignition MTB Festival, hold on tight!
Vanderham descends into a smokey valley.
The Orbea Occam high on air supply.
Toby washing down the dust with a Beechworth Pale Ale.

Keen for a new bike for 2020, so keen it was built in record time.

How exciting, an all-new bike is in the Flow Garage of Dreams. A Santa Cruz Tallboy 4 was high my list to replace the Giant Trance 29er as a test-sled for various testing and riding purposes.

santa cruz tallboy v4

Dressed in the best from SRAM with the Eagle AXS drivetrain, G2 brakes, Zipp Moto wheels, Deity cockpit and FOX suspension it is a super high end, and a delight to ride. I already have a lot to say about it, but I’ll bide my time for now

Stay tuned for more on this build, and what makes it tick.

Vanderham in Derby, sorry, who in Derby?

Yep, the gang at Shimano and Lazer Helmets brought Canadian mountain bike legend, Thomas Vanderham out to Derby and Falls Creek. I was fortunate to head up the content side of things and brought on the unbounded talent of Jasper da Seymour to shoot and edit the video.

Toby Shingleton from Shimano sharing beers with the tourist.
Thomas and Jasper in the Crack House, if you’ve been to Derby, you’ll understand, sort of…
Boosting out of the granite boulder field on Derby’s Kumma Gutza trail, voted EWS Trail of The Year 2019.

Things didn’t go to plan, however, with Thomas crashing his bike on a shoot one week before flying to Australia, stepping off the plane in Melbourne with a humungous haematoma on his thigh. Ouch!

Riding nowhere to his full potential, and ultimately calling the shoot early, Jasper and I did our best to produce a story, video and photo gallery of a mountain biking master riding trails we love. And hey, it turned out brilliantly!

Yew, 2019. Yikes, it’s 2020!

Wow, 2019 was epic. When do the highlights finish? I should mention shooting with Troy Brosnan for the Maxxis Dissector launch, riding Narrow neck in the Blue Mountains on a Focus/Shimano e-MTB and making a bonfire on a cliff, tramping around backcountry Beechworth searching for Ned Kelly’s cave, racing enduro at Awaba or testing the Orbea Occam…

2020 is shaping up to be a great year; we’re looking forward to all that goes along with the Olympics, the racing and new bikes from Scott, Cannondale, Specialized perhaps? The World Cup season can’t start soon enough, and what new tech will we see from the big movers, Shimano, SRAM, Specialized, FOX etc.? Oooooh.

We’re going to be racing the new three-day stage race in Tasmania, the Dragon Trail MTB. And we can’t wait to see the mammoth mountain bike development at Warburton begin and unfold. Whoa, let’s go.

Thanks for reading, and thank you for engaging in our content, now if we could please get some rain and some positive change to our climate crisis for our future, we can at least get 2020 started on a more positive note and make the most of it. I hope.

Cheers, Mick Ross.

Flow Mountain Bike.


Mo’ Flow Please!

Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow!

Hans Rey Returns to Derby | One of His Favourite Mountain Bike Towns in the World?

When you travel the world riding bikes, what makes a destination stand out? Hans Rey has been a professional mountain biker for long enough to see fads come and go but turns out he and his wife Carmen have a soft spot for Derby.


Watch Hans riding Derby, seeing new trails, heckling enduro races, meeting new talent and shredding like a boss!


Hans and Carmen Rey’s impressions on Derby:

You could probably travel the world over and never find anywhere quite like Derby; not Derby England, but rather Derby in northeast Tasmania. It is here that you will find a network of trails that are exquisite to look at, masterfully created and sensational to ride; this is Blue Derby.

Hans railing turns under ferns, Derby style.
Spot the Rey, across the other side of Lake Derby. One of the newer family-friendly green trails in the expansive network.

Multiple factors come together to create the perfect mountain biking destination. A picturesque town not too far from an airport, one with infrastructures such as bike shops, shuttles, restaurants, accommodation and public amenities, and of course, a pub. Easily accessible and all within a short riding distance from a choice of stunning trails, for all skill levels and set in a beautiful landscape.

Derby and its Blue Derby trails tick all the boxes. It is a town that in every sense is about mountain biking. Whether you are an absolute beginner feeling the dirt under your tires for the first time, an XC hard tailer or a jump junkie, you will find your inner spirit level soar as you experience some or all of the 123 km of purpose-built mountain bike trails.

But that is not all; there is another vital thing that makes Blue Derby extra special; the landscape and the dirt. Temperate rainforest thick with lush fauna framed by canopies of tree ferns, sunlight dappling through creating a filigree of shadows reflected on waterfalls and streams. Sticky dirt, smooth dirt, groomed dirt, perfect dirt almost all year round.

Diving through the iconic ‘crack’ on Detonate, one of the trickier trails, and a challenging stage at the Enduro World Series earlier in 2019.

Back in 2016, I visited Derby along with Hans and Tyler McCaul to experience, photograph and write about this gem of a town and the trails built by master constructors World Trail. Derby was little known outside of Australia then, it was a small sleepy place, abandoned by commerce and many of its residents, with hardly anywhere to eat, one bike rental and shuttle service and an empty pub.

The trails, however, were amazing and we knew that Derby would not stay quiet and empty for long.

Miles Smith, the town has nurtured his talent and passion for mountain biking.
A generation apart, Miles shows Hans some of his local and favourite trails.

Oh, how things have changed. The trail network has expanded, there is now a choice of bike shops, stocked with everything you need or desire, the accommodation has grown from a few beds to hundreds of beds, property that no one wanted to own has been snapped up, and the pub is full every night.

Word has spread, in a short time, Derby has gone from hibernating to thriving, and it is all down to MTB. In just a few days we met people from Colorado, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium and New Zealand, all super stoked with what they found there, Blue Derby is now on the map international map as a go-to destination to ride.


Want more Derby and St Helens?

Hans Rey rides the new trail; Bay of Fires, from The Blue Tier to Swimcart Beach – Hans rides Bay of Fires.

Watch our entire video library from Tasmania on YouTube here – Tassie Trails!

Thomas Vanderham in Derby – Mountain bike royalty rules the trails.

Our trip to Derby in late 2018 was a hoot! – What’s new in Derby?

What if mountain biking never came along? A little more with Miles Smith, Derby’s talented local grommet – Zero to hero.

Full GoPro run of Ai Ya Garn, Derby’s new jump trail – Jumps and more jumps.

Check out our story on visiting St Helens region before the opening – St Helens Trails.

Mick’s epic gallery from the Enduro World Series, the most incredible weekend! – EWS of the year.


Mo’ Flow Please!

Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up to our Facebook page and the Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow!

The New Bay of Fires Trail, Blue Tier to St Helens | With Hans Rey

St Helens is gorgeous. Famous for its eye-bleedingly beautiful beaches, now mountain bikers can appreciate her charm as the newly constructed trail networks are now open. Mountain bike luminary Hans Rey and partner Carmen returned to Tasmania from California for a week of riding and exploring, from Derby to St Helens.

Travelling the world riding bikes, long since before the days of suspension, Hans and Carmen describe their experience on the new trail.


Watch Hans and Cassie take on The Bay of Fires Trail


The start point of the Bay of Fires Trail, right next to the start of The Blue Tier.
Classic North East Tasmania vistas.
Skills for days, years, even.

Hans and Carmen Rey rides The Bay of Fires

In Tasmania’s northeast, on the coast is a town called St. Helens. A quaint place, with a retro vibe, nestled between aquamarine sea, white soft sandy beaches and forest preserve. It can now also lay claim to 84 km of mountain bike trails within its trail centre close to the town, with an added 42 km connecting the Bay of Fires to the now legendary Blue Tier near Weldborough.

Just as with Blue Derby, there is something for everyone here, for all levels and all ages and it is growing.

Early on a misty morning with the sun teasing us in the distance, we set off, along with with Cassie an avid rider from Cairns, to experience the new Bay Of Fires trail.

How’s the view up there! The trail winds around the summit of the Blue Tier to give riders a chance to take in views like this.
Into the lushness of the Tasmanian wilderness.
Vegetation variety overload!

Hans’s bike of choice for this ride, the GT-E Force. Full bike check coming to Flow soon.

Considering the distance and that there would be a fair amount of pedalling, Hans decided that this would be the perfect time to ride his e-MTB. It is another plus about Blue Derby and St. Helens that e-MTB’s are welcome – although not required – thanks to the topography, they are fun too and make it easier to ride for longer and farther. With so many options to ride, e-MTB’s can be a positive addition to enhance the whoop factor.

As it turned out, it was the right decision, 42 km on dirt is a fair distance, and you feel it.

Spot the Rey! On the lower sections of the 42km trail, the terrain switches to a vastly different style. Drier, more sparse vegetation with colossal granite outcrops to play on.
It’s not all downhill but is built well to ease the strain on the long climbs with plenty of breaks.
There is only one Hans Rey!
The finish of the 42 km trail is right here, on Swimcart Beach, a fitting finale to a memorable ride.

What was it like? One of the most fun trails we have ever ridden. World Trail has done it again, created a playground for mountain bikers carved out of the natural terrain, with integrity and appreciation of the landscape.

The landscape is marvellous, forever changing as the kilometres rolled us away from Derby and closer to St. Helens. The lush tree ferns gave way to Ironbarks, the gigantic granite boulders burst forth, and the fresh waterfalls were exchanged for an ocean view as we neared the end. This trail epitomises ‘Flow’, never too hard, too steep or too dangerous. Smaller boulders create perfect natural rollers scattered along the long ribbon of dirt with perfect berms railing you into the next line.

This was like flying, like being a kid again, being in the moment and feeling absolute joy. 


Want to know more?

Watch our entire video library from Tasmania on YouTube here – Tassie Trails!

Official St Helens Trails website has all the details you need to plan a trip there – www.sthelensmtbtrails.com.au

Check out our story on visiting St Helens region before the opening – St Helens Trails.


Mo’ Flow Please!

Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up to our Facebook page and the Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow!

VIDEO | Thredbo Has a Brand New Trail Called ‘Ricochet’

Thredbo is a magnificent place to ride. Known well for its chairlift accessed descending trails, high-alpine scenes, tremendous festivals, races and events, it has been a large part of Australian mountain biking for yonks.

In the shadows of Australia’s highest point, Thredbo’s trails weave their way down the colossal mountain-side fed by plenty of elevation, and in the last few years mountain bikers have witnessed a steady growth of new trails, but more than just more of the same. The variety of grades and styles expanding across the place are enough to overwhelm any rider on their first day.


Watch the DHaRCO crew, Kellie Weinert, Jackson Frew and Dave Ludenia ride Ricochet.

 


What and Where is Ricochet?

Opening December 26, 2019, Thredbo’s new trail – Ricochet – will provide riders with another trail to ride off the top of the Gunbarrel Chairlift. As the whole bike park expands, the goal is to spread riders across the entire mountain, easing the pressure off the classic Kosciusko Chairlift.

There’s a lot of space for the trail builders to work with, and as this track demonstrates some pretty cool terrain to play with, too.

Kellie Weinert floats through a turn up on Ricochet, with the valley below.
Jackson, Kellie and Dave with all of the descending ahead.

Trail builders getting creative with the alpine terrain, this big boulder had multiple line options around it, over it and off it.
Jackson Frew takes the higher A-line.
Spot the new trail! Hint – it’s in the centre.
Ahhh, Thredbo, your chairlifts are so kind.

Where is it?

To get to the new trail simply jump off the Gunbarrel Chairlift, turn left into Easy Street, and presto. It then follows the fall line of the High Noon ski run staying mostly in the tree sections, witching back and forth to maintain elevation.

Crow’s eye view of the snaking turns on Ricochet.
Dave turns two rollers into a gap.
Some heavily banked turns!
Sneaking around a few tonnes of granite.

Is it black, green, blue, red, white, or a shade of grey?

Ricochet is an intermediate trail, a flow trail. It’s graded as a green trail but has a slightly sinister side with blue line (and darker blue if you notice a few sneaky gaps) options throughout. The trail is generally pretty mellow, with A-line options that may take some courage to tackle.

Elevation Starts at 1791m and has a 350m elevation drop and is designed as an alternative to riding the entire All-Mountain Trail. Ricochet is aimed to give riders a progressive step up from Easy Street, adding more variety to the whole park.

Up high in the crisp mountain air.

The new Merrits Gondola, currently under construction, mountain bikers will use this to access more of the mountain.
So crisp!

So, who’s going to have the chance to ride Thredbo’s new trail this summer?


More Thredbo?

Want more high-alpine, chairlift-accessed content?

Don’t miss our feature from the All-Mountain trail opening a couple of years back – Thredbo’s All-Mountain.

And hit play on our Thredbo MTB playlist on YouTube here – All of Flow’s Thredbo videos.


Mo’ Flow Please!

Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and the Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow!

Vanderham Rides Van Diemen’s Land | Derby On Another Level

Straight outta The North Shore, the famed and acclaimed Canadian mountain biking legend Thomas Vanderham made a quick stop in humble little Derby, Tasmania, and then a flying visit to Falls Creek for Ignition Festival at the start of summer.

We were there, primarily to tow him into all of the big A-lines. Well, no, that’s not entirely true. But we were definitely there, and with cameras in hand.

We’ve watched Thomas in countless big-time movie segments, poured over epic magazine features, and generally watched him spend more time stylishly dangling sideways in the air than we would spend firmly attached the ground with our brakes squeezed. He’s well known for his unmistakable style, raw speed through hectic terrain and for doing gargantuan jumps.

We were deadly curious to see how a rider with such worldly shredding experience and natural talent would approach the unique terrain and wonderfully constructed trails of the Blue Derby Mountain Bike Park.

So, hailing from the heart of one of the MTB world most hallowed zones, what did he think of Tasmania’s quirky little mountain bike town?


Watch Thomas Vanderham interpret the trails of Derby!


Vanderham Rides Van Diemen’s Land

No, you’re not meant to jump from there, to… oh.

“The rock features are a highlight of the Derby experience. We have a lot of big granite rocks in BC, but there were some truly unique features like The Crack on the trail Detonate that really stood out. Pair that with lush foliage and the Man Ferns, and it made for a new riding experience that I haven’t come across anywhere else in the world.” – Thomas Vanderham.

Bad-ass riding aside, Thomas is a lovely fellow, a real gentleman, full of interesting stories and presents in an articulate and humble manner.
Boosting out of the granite boulder field on Derby’s Kumma Gutza trail, voted EWS Trail of The Year, 2019. A total playground!
Boom!
Selling granite slabs to a Canadian is like pushing ice on an Eskimo, it was always going to be a tall task. But we did our best, with ‘Detonate’.
Breathe in, look up, and don’t touch the sides. Thomas cleans the granite crack like it’s nothing.

Derby is an absolute pleasure to ride, it’s impossible to ignore when debating the best place for a mountain biking trip in Australia, and it shows. In the short time we had, we took Thomas to a few of the more iconic trails like Kumma Gutza and Detonate and cracked out the cameras.

“The trail builders know what they’re doing. I have been lucky enough to travel to a lot of places and ride a lot of trails, so from the first run in Derby, it was obvious to me that the trail builders have a riders eye.

The trails flow effortlessly and have a variety of features that can keep riders of varying abilities entertained. That’s a special characteristic that you don’t see everywhere, trails that can be enjoyed by beginners and pros.”

The new Rocky Mountain Slayer was the bike of choice, stay tuned for a full bike check right here on Flow. It sure has racked up many high-altitude air-miles but lands again with some weird magical composure.
Vanderham treats his Slayer like he posts letters.

A large part of the whole Derby experience is hearing tidbits of the town’s history, its small-town Tasmanian charm, and intrinsic peculiarities. After dinner at the pub and traditional chicken parmigiana, the history lessons began. How mountain biking came here, how it once held one of the world’s richest tin mines, then the mining disaster. It’s a fascinating yarn.

“From everything I hear Derby might currently be the best example of a town rebuilt solely around mountain biking. It was amazing to hear the history of the town, how recently it was nearly uninhabited, and how quickly the addition of some bike trails has changed things. I love hearing about local governments getting involved and really promoting mountain biking as viable tourism.

It was such an interesting time to be there, in the middle of a big shift from old to new. It looked like about half the homes were still original but with a brand new modern one built right beside it. It’ll be cool to see what it looks like in another three-five years and what has changed.”

Man fern pan.

When In Derby

Shuttles!
Vander-Fans from near and far out for a couple of laps with the esteemed Canadian guest.
Late arvo spins up to Sawtooth Lookout before a BBQ back at the new Sidetracked Bar. Too good!
Troy from the local Rocky Mountain dealer in Launceston, Sprung, always bringing the stoke to the max!

Frothing grommets and Vander-Fans at Sprung bike shop, Launceston.

Next stop, Falls Creek in Victoria’s High Country.

Leaving the funky little town of Derby behind, we hopped over to the mainland and road-tripped up into the High Country for the mountain bike party of the year, Ignition MTB, Falls Creek.

If you’re yet to go, put it in the diary. Coinciding with the opening of the mountain bike season, the alpine village hosts a jam-packed weekend of riding, music, food and drinks and the vibes are great. There’s not a racing clock within sight.

Even Thomas who’s probably been to a billion events around the world loved it, and after shuttling for hours in the hot and dusty trails it was time to dive head-first into the party. The bands were rowdy, plates of brisket were mouth-watering and the variety of local craft beer and gin seemed endless.

With valley full of bushfire smoke, the skies put on a spooky light show as we toasted to an epic trip, cheers, Thomas!

Dropping into the Kiewa Valley above Falls Creek, full of bushfire smoke, a very dramatic scene for a first-timer tourist.
High altitude Falls Creek, dry, dusty and hot in an unseasonally early start to summer.
Breathtaking Falls, from up here the run down to the bottom shuttle pickup is a big descent.
Blasting dusty turns.
Damn, the Ignition MTB Festival is the place to be!
Ignition MTB Festival is a proper party!
The sun sets in a smokey valley.
Homeward bound, Mt Buffalo in the distance. Wow, that was a week to remember!

Mo’ Flow Please!

Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up to our Facebook page and the Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow!

Flow’s Top 10 | Wil Gives Us His Best Mountain Bikes & Gear From 2019

2019 has been an absolutely mahoosif year, and in more ways than one. Having relocated back to Australia right at the end of 2018, the first few months of the year for my wife and I were spent settling back into our hometown of Bendigo. It didn’t take long though, and we’ve been absolutely loving it. Those cold, dark and wet winters in the Grim North of the UK seem a little bit like a weird dream now.

As well as changing hemispheres, I also changed jobs. I finished up as the Tech Editor of Singletrack back in June, and shortly afterwards I began my role as Flow’s News & Tech Editor. To say I’m still frothing on the new position would be a gross understatement. I’ve been a big fan of Flow since the start back in 2012, and I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work alongside the very talented (and very dashing) Mick Ross as the lesser half of the team. It’s been an awesome six months so far, and I am stoked to see what 2020 brings!

My riding has also changed considerably, with the fast, dusty and very rocky trails surrounding Bendigo requiring a different style of bike (and tyres) to what I’d gotten used to from living in the UK. No more Maxxis Shortys and waterproof trousers required thankyouverymuch.

I’ve been getting back into XC racing, at least on a social level, largely thanks to the regular Tuesday night summer races hosted by the Bendigo MTB Club. Consequently, as you’ll see below, I’ve developed a real appetite for lightweight full-suss XC race bikes and short-travel trail rippers.

However, I also see this as being down to a maturing XC market.

2020 canyon lux cf sl 8.0 wil bendigo race
I’ve gotten back into XC racing for 2019, and it’s been terrific fun!

Many of the new bikes that have come out over the past year are really quite impressive, and vastly more capable than what we’ve been used to seeing from short-travel bikes in the past. More XC bikes are coming with dropper posts and decent-width handlebars, and stems over 100mm are thankfully becoming a distant memory. Suspension continues to get smoother and more responsive, as riders and bike designers come to the realisation that it is in fact, actually A Good Thing™.

If you’ve found your riding experience has been somewhat ‘sanitised’ by modern trail and enduro bikes, then an XC or short-travel trail bike could be exactly what you need  to inject a bit more excitement back into your riding. You might be surprised at how good they’ve gotten.

So without further ado, allow me to get stuck into my Top 10 highlights reel. In no particular order, here are some of the best bikes and gear I’ve ridden this year.

1. Pivot Mach 4 SL

pivot mach 4 sl
Riding the new Pivot Mach 4 SL on some of the most ripping trails around Grand Junction in Colorado. This place is the real deal. I wanna go back!

2019 saw Arizona-based brand Pivot Cycles roll out its brand new flagship XC race bike – the Mach 4 SL. Featuring a totally new carbon fibre chassis, the Mach 4 SL saw Pivot return to a less swoopy (and more visually-appealing) frame design, along with a vertically-mounted shock and a compact dw-link suspension design. Rolling exclusively on 29in wheels with clearance for a water bottle in the front triangle (even the XS size), the Mach 4 SL produces 100mm of rear wheel travel and can run a 100-120mm travel fork, depending on your flavour.

During a trip over to the US back in May, I had the pleasure of visiting Fruita and Grand Junction in Colorado for the Pivot Mach 4 SL launch. We had two days of solid riding aboard the new bike, before joining a few hundred other riders in the Grand Junction Off-Road race for the third day of the launch. I entered the 40-mile category, and ended up having one of the most epic days out on a mountain bike I can remember. The event was long and tough physically, but the trails and scenery were insane. An experience I’ll never forget and a big highlight of the year for me.

 

And the Mach 4 SL is a beaut of a bike. It’s got that dw-link zip and stability to it, but it also manages its 100mm of travel exceptionally well. The geometry with the 120mm Fox 34 Step-Cast fork is absolutely spot on for hair-raising XC action too, and Pivot have complemented the bike well with a nice low-rise handlebar and dropper posts on most models. Along with the irresistibly effective Fox Live Valve suspension system, this is one seriously refined XC bike.

Wanna know more? Take a look at Chris’ review of the Pivot Mach 4 SL after he raced it at the 2019 Port to Port.

2. Merida One-Twenty

merida one-twenty
The Merida One-Twenty is a perfect example of just how versatile and how much fun a short-travel trail bike can be.

Another bike that stood out to me this year was the Merida One-Twenty; the brand’s speedy 130/120mm travel trail bike. Alongside the Yetis’s and Santa Cruz’ of the world, Merida isn’t exactly an attention-seeking name, but it is producing some red-hot mountain bikes at the moment, particularly of the full suspension variety. The One-Twenty is one such bike.

Why is it so good? It seems to do a lot of things really well. It’s got a stiff, responsive frameset that features tidy internal cable routing and well-finished pivot hardware. The Float Link suspension design really does float over the chatter, though it has that addictive single-pivot-sling out of the corners when you step on the gas. Geometry is spot-on too, contemporary without being outrageously long. ‘Balanced’ is how I’d describe the overall ride quality.

On the carbon fibre One-Twenty 8000 model shown here, Merida has paid attention to the needs of modern trail riders by spec’ing a stout 130mm travel Pike, a burly Maxxis Minion DHR II front tyre, SRAM Code RSC brakes and a 150mm stroke dropper post. It’s got just the right amount of muscle without being over-equipped. As a result, it’s still speedy and perky, while also being a load of fun to let rip on the descents.

Check out the full review here.

3. Specialized Epic S-Works Hardtail

specialized sworks epic hardtail
Specialized’s new S-Works Epic HT isn’t just insanely light, it’s also surprisingly steady when the going gets rough.

The hardtail XC market doesn’t dominate these days like it once did, but there are some cracker bikes coming out lately that are showing just how advanced carbon fibre production has gotten of late. Improvements to geometry and compatibility with dropper posts are also bolstering their descending ability, with less life-fearing implications for the pilot.

The S-Works Epic is one superb example of the new-school race hardtail. For a start, it is bonkers light. With renowned carbon wizard Peter Denk at the helm of the engineering team, the new Epic HT blew minds when it was released to the public with its jaw-dropping frame weight of just 775g. Hooly-dooly! It isn’t all about the weight though. It moves to a dropper-ready 30.9mm diameter seat tube, a welcome move for a hardtail. Specialized has also modernised the Epic’s geometry, with the new frame growing considerably longer and slacker than the bike before it, which makes the weight reduction all the more impressive.

Earlier this year I was invited out to Lake Tahoe in the US for a Specialized press launch, where we were introduced to the new 2020 Kenevo, Enduro and Epic models.

I spent a day riding around on the flagship S-Works Epic HT, which at just 8.94kg (confirmed) is of course insanely lightweight and also insanely fast up the hills. What I was most impressed with though, was just how un-skitterish it was on the descents. Specialized has moved to a reduced offset fork and a 68.5° head angle, and that’s made the front of the Epic a gazillion times more stable. With the slender seatstays and curved seat tube, plus the 2.3in tyres front and rear, it proved to be a surprisingly comfortable and composed experience.

If I was chasing the absolute lightest race bike possible without giving up too much in the comfort and capability stakes, a new Epic with a dropper post fitted would be at the top of the list. Check out the full story on the 2020 Specialized Epic HT here.

4. Canyon Lux

2020 canyon lux cf sl 8.0 wil lysterfield
Canyon’s Lux looks pretty conservative on paper, but the ride quality here is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Back to home turf, and I’ve been loving the Canyon Lux we received a couple of months ago for testing. The bike I’ve been razzing about on is the Goldilocks model, the Lux CF SL 8.0, which features a full carbon fibre frameset, a RockShox SID fork, SRAM X01 drivetrain and carbon Reynolds wheels. It’s a belter of a package for the money.

Being the ‘SL’ model, its frame is about 200g heavier than the flagship SLX frame, and it also comes with a 110mm travel fork, which kicks back the angles a touch. Not much though, this is still pretty classical when it comes to geometry.

Much like the Merida One-Twenty, the Canyon Lux impressed with its ability to do a lot of things really well. At 11.37kg, it’s quite light for a dropper post-equipped bike at this price point. It’s got a firm, efficient feel to its pedalling performance, and the handling is sharp and direct. The frame will take two water bottles inside the front triangle, and there’s a distinct lack of proprietary bits, which will please privateer riders who need a low-fuss XC race rig for high-mileage riding.

It isn’t the plushest bike though, and there were also a couple of gripes I had with the spec. Check out the full review of the 2020 Canyon Lux here.

5. Santa Cruz Blur CC

santa cruz blur cc
As a long term test bike, my Santa Cruz Blur has evolved quite a bit through 2019.

With test bikes flowing in and out over the past year, the one loyal companion who has stuck with me throughout has been this Santa Cruz Blur. Originally sent out by Santa Cruz as a standalone frameset, the Blur has been built up as a platform for testing numerous components. I also used it to conduct a huge fork offset feature that I wrote earlier this year for Singletrack, which ended up being quite an enlightening (if very nerdy) experience.

To begin with, I had it setup as a lightweight trail pocket rocket with a 120mm travel Fox 34 Step-Cast fork, 2.3in tyres, wide bars, a short stem and a 150mm stroke dropper post. It was an absolute riot to ride, and I was consistently blown away as to how much I could get away with given it only has 100mm of rear travel. That tiny 38mm stroke shock has worked mighty hard!

I’ve steadily moved the Blur back towards its XC racing roots, with a reduction in fork travel and a lighter weight build kit that’s seen it drop down to just 10.41kg. Build highlights include the ultra-trick Syncros Fraser iC SL cockpit (that I just finished testing here), the beautifully machined BikeYoke Divine SL dropper post, and a Specialized S-Works Power saddle. I’ve also been testing a Pirelli Scorpion tyre combo on the Blur (see the detail-rich first look story on these here), and so far I’ve been really impressed with their versatility and well-damped ride quality.

As racy as it may now look, it’s still a barrel-load of laughs to ride, with the smooth VPP2 suspension design scrubbing away chatter very effectively. It’s decently efficient, certainly enough for me to have ditched the remote lockout on the shock, which means I can run a dropper post remote more easily under the bar. Along with the one-piece bar & stem, the cockpit is also a lot cleaner without the extra lockout cables. The geometry is killer too, with the reduced-offset fork and the roomy front centre giving it good stability on the descents. Indeed upon reflection, I don’t reckon I’ve ridden an XC bike that’s been as much of a hoot as this.

6. 2020 Fox 32 Step-Cast Fork

2020 canyon lux cf sl 8.0 fox 32 step-cast sc fork
Fox brought out its 2nd generation 32 Step-Cast fork for 2020, and it’s been given a significant boost in chassis stiffness.

Weighing in at just 1406g (cut steerer tube, starnut installed), the 32 Step-Cast fork is Fox’ premium lightweight XC fork. Unlike the regular 32 Float, the chassis on the 32 SC fork is optimised around 100mm of travel, and everything from the magnesium Step-Cast lowers, to the Kashima-coated 32mm alloy stanchions, to the EVOL air spring and FIT4 damper has been trimmed of every excess gram possible.

Interestingly, it is actually heavier than last year’s version by about 40 grams. This weight difference is entirely located within the crown, which has been beefed up considerably to help reduce the flex and twang that the 32 SC fork can exhibit when being pushed hard.

I’ll have a detailed long term review coming soon on the 32 SC, but I can confirm that it is indeed stiffer than the pre-2020 version. It’s also supremely supple, which was particularly noticeable when I fitted it to the front of the Canyon Lux test bike in place of the stock RockShox SID fork.

The model I’ve been testing is the top-banger Factory Series version, which comes fitted with the FIT4 damper and Kashima-coated stanchions. Fox also offers this fork in an all-black Performance Series version, which is a good few hundred dollars cheaper thanks to its more basic GRIP damper, and there are also remote lockout options available too.

7. Hunt Race XC Wide Wheels

hunt bike wheels race xc wide
Hunt proves that you don’t necessarily need carbon to produce a high quality set of mountain bike wheels.

Carbon wheelsets seem to get all the attention these days, but I’m not convinced that they’re always the best solution for every rider. While carbon rims are often lighter and stiffer than their alloy counterparts, I’ve ridden plenty of carbon wheels that have been too stiff, which results in more fatigue and a less forgiving ride quality when things get rough.

A few months ago, I got my hands on a lightweight alloy wheelset from UK brand Hunt Bike Wheels. Using high quality 6069-T6 alloy rims, straight-pull hubs and triple-butted Pillar PSR spokes, the Race XC Wide wheelset tips the scales at a lick over 1500g, which is mighty impressive given the all-metal construction.

Combined with a taut build, the low rotational weight makes them a fast-accelerating wheelset that is very easy to get up to speed. They aren’t as razor-sharp in their handling as a comparable carbon wheelset, which I discovered during back-to-back testing. However, they are noticeably smoother and more comfortable to ride, which was particularly appreciated on a firm XC bike.

The fact that these wheels come in at under a grand makes them terrific value for money, and almost without equal relative to the other big-name brands like Stan’s NoTubes, DT Swiss and Mavic. Check out the full review of the Hunt Race XC Wide wheels here.

8. Shimano SLX M7100

shimano slx m7100 10-51t cassette 12-speed
With this year’s arrival of 12-speed XT & SLX, Shimano has hit back in a big way.

Easily one of the biggest news stories of 2019 was the announcement of Shimano’s new second-tier mountain bike groupset; Deore XT M8100. Heralding the arrival of 12-speed technology to the XT level, this new groupset has packed in almost all of the same performance and functionality as XTR M9100, albeit for a lot less money.

At the same time as the launch of XT M8100, Shimano also introduced SLX M7100. It didn’t get nearly as much attention in the media though, which we think is a real shame. Because at 1/3rd of the price of XTR, the new SLX groupset is outstandingly good value for money, particularly given its super slick performance.

I went in-depth into the new SLX M7100 groupset a couple of months ago, and in that article you’ll find full pricing and confirmed weights for the 1×12 drivetrain and 4-piston enduro disc brake system. I’ve been riding the crap out of it since then, and quite frankly, have been blown away with just how little difference in shift quality there is between SLX and XTR. The 4-piston brakes are also very good, with noticeably more modulation and power than the 2-piston versions.

I recently published a feature evaluating the performance differences between Shimano SLX M7100 and SRAM GX Eagle. To see who won our reasonably-priced 1×12 drivetrain battle, check out the full feature here.

9. Ergon SM Pro Saddle

ergon sm pro saddle
Bicycle saddles aren’t sexy, but finding one that is comfortable and fits you properly is one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have.

Mountain bike saddles are honestly pretty boring, but, whether we like or not, they’re a pretty vital component. It’s also a component that can make-or-break the whole riding experience for even the most tolerant and experience of riders. For that reason, it’s worth spending the time to get the right saddle for you. Because if it’s comfortable, you’ll spend less time thinking about your sore arse and more time focussing on braaping down the trail instead.

Out of all the saddles I’ve ridden this year, the Ergon SM Pro has by far been the most comfortable. The first model from the German brand to feature a cutout, the SM Pro is a mountain bike specific saddle (the SR Pro is the road version). The cutout and central channel are designed to provide pressure relief on your sensitive bits, but the cutout isn’t so big as to cause excessive flex and distortion through the shell when loaded up.

 

The SM Pro has a fairly flat profile overall, which I really like in a bike saddle, and it has a gentle scoop at the tail that helps to support your sit bones during hard pedalling efforts. Comfort and stability are provided by Ergon’s own AirCell padding, which is complemented with specific OrthoCell inlays around the central seating area. As a lighter and more durable alternative to gel pads, OrthoCell gives good squish without deforming over time.

There are two widths available too: S/M (9-12cm sit bone width), and M/L (12-16cm sit bone width). To work out your sit bone width, plonk your behind on a piece of cardboard and then measure the distance between the two circular impressions left behind by your…behind. And et voila – your sit bone width!

I’ve been running the SM size all year, and it’s a saddle that has quickly replaced the overly narrow and slopey-shaped stock saddles that have come on various test bikes I’ve ridden throughout 2019. Highly recommended if you’re on the lookout for a comfy perch.

10. Bontrager XR4 Team Issue Tyres

2020 trek fuel ex 9.8 bontrager xr4 team issue 29x2.6in tyre tire
The XR4s have long been one of favourite go-to tyres for aggro trail riding. The newer 2.6in width takes the comfort and traction levels up a notch.

Bontrager’s mountain bike tyres tend to be a bit of a sleeper product alongside more popular brands such as Maxxis, Schwalbe and Continental. That’s a bummer, because the brand offers some really good rubber that has impressed us over a number of years now. The XR3 and XR4 tyres are particular favourites of ours, and relative to those aforementioned brands, they’re also priced favourably.

It wasn’t until this year that I’d had a go on the huge 2.6in wide version of the XR4 Team Issue tyre though. Using the same blocky tread pattern as the narrower XR4 and SE4 tyres that I’ve used previously, the 29×2.6in version blows things up a notch to produce a seriously beefy looking tyre that comes stock on the 2020 Trek Fuel EX we’ve currently got on test.

With all that extra meat, they aren’t the lightest tyres out there. Our test tyres weighed in at 916g and 924g, which to be fair, is actually pretty good given their voluminous size and aggressive tread design. The increased surface area does slow them down a bit, which is noticeable compared to the 2.4in wide versions. Get them rolling into the rough stuff though, and holy cow do these things grip!

The XR4 tread pattern is already well proven, and we’ve grown fond of its versatility across a wide range of riding conditions. Dry, loose, rocky, loamy, wet, muddy – the XR4 is well up for it all, save for the gloopiest of conditions. The extra width of these 2.6in versions takes that traction to the next level, and cornering bite is some of the best I’ve experienced. I’d still look at going to an XR5 on the front for really rough and loose enduro-type trails, but for everything else, the XR4 is a do-it-all specialist.

I’ve since fitted these tyres to our Curve Downrock test bike – a titanium trail hardtail that has benefitted well from these plump 2.6in wide tyres. Assuming your bike will take them, and you can live with the increased rolling resistance, then I can highly recommend the XR4s.


Mo’ Flow Please!

Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow!

Towing a Thule Chariot | Carrying Kids and Gear in Style

The Thule Chariot has long been known as the go-to option when it comes to kids bike trailers. Thule makes a variety of multi-sport trailers under the Chariot name, all of which are designed to bolt onto the back of your bike. Each can also convert into a simple stroller for everyday non-biking use. There are other hop-up kits available too, which allow you to convert your Chariot into a purpose-built carrier for jogging or even cross-country skiing. How very Swedish!

The Thule Chariot is a very well-designed and easy to use piece of gear.
Loads of storage space, and can be folded and wheels removed with a press of a button for minimal storage.

Each Thule Chariot model comes with a maximum weight capacity of 45kg. Chariot trailers will accommodate one or two kids inside, and they all feature a 5-point harness system for keeping your little people safe and secure, for getting rowdy on the trail!

For bikes with bolt-through rear axles (the majority of modern bikes), Thule provide a variety of additional options for 12x142mm configurations; Maxle, Shimano and Syntace for $109. Though Thule doesn’t currently have provisions for Boost spacing 148mm rear axles, this is where the bike shop comes in handy, hopefully able to overcome any incompatibility issues for individual bikes. A quick Google will show that there are a few options for Boost-spacing bikes available, and decent bike stores will also.

Check with a Thule dealer for Boost hub compatible bikes, Thule is yet to provide the 148mm axle standard.

The Chariot Cross is the second-from-the-top model, and it’s available in both a single ($1,499) and double ($1,699) version. Compared to the cheaper Chariot models, the Chariot Cross comes with more features, including adjustable leaf-spring suspension (we’re told there are no plans for a Fox Live Valve model just yet), and a 5-position adjustable handlebar for when you’ve got it set up in stroller mode. The Chariot Cross also has more padding for the seats inside, and you can even recline the seats for when your little’un decides it’s all too much and it’s time for a nap.

The Chariot Cross does miss out on the additional hand brakes and lock kit that comes on the top-of-the-range Chariot Sport, but you will save $800 in the process. That makes the Chariot Cross the preferred choice for those who are going to use their trailer for mountain biking mostly.

The Chariot Cross is claimed to weigh 14.5kg, and with compact 20in wheels, it’s designed to fold up easily for storage in the back of your car or at home. Thule includes a rain cover, adjustable vents and a flashing tail light for the Chariot Cross, making it a practical choice for childcare drop-offs. There’s also integrated storage for carrying spares or emergency jelly snakes in case of any unscheduled melt-downs.

In classic Thule style, the ease-of-use is very impressive, the way the buttons and levers indicate they haven’t engaged adequately by showing a red colour, and the additional safety straps will ensure the trailer doesn’t get left behind if anything comes undone.

If it’s not connected correctly, you’ll see red.
Adjustable suspension, for heavy or lighter loads.

We’ve spoken to loads of parents over the years who swear by the Chariot trailer as being one of the best pieces of kit they’ve ever bought for their family. But what’s it like to ride with? And is there anything you need to be aware of if you’re considering getting one?

We caught up with Robbie from Drift Bikes in Newcastle to get the lowdown on his experience of living with the Thule Chariot, predominantly towed by a Specialized Levo e-MTB.

Robbie with his six-year-old son in tow.

How long have you had your Thule Chariot?

About six months.

Why did you get it in the first place?

I wanted to do an e-MTB ride with my family in the Barringtons. There is a tonne of elevation to climb, and the Chariot was quite simply the logical choice to cart a 6-year-old up into the mountains. Plus the model I chose had suspension, which was a significant factor for me when descending with a 20kg child strapped into the back.

Woohoo!

I love the idea of efficiently transporting your child to somewhere they haven’t been before, and getting them out and watching them explore. Usually, places that are too far for them to ride on their own, and are non-accessible by car.

What age and size of a child are best suited to the Thule Chariot?

My son is six and weighs just under 20kg. I’d imagine it would still handle quite well with a 30plus kilo child. The Chariot with my son’s weight is super-stable. 

Where do you guys take your little bloke in the Chariot trailer?

The main times I use the Chariot is when we are going to the beach. That way we don’t have to find a park and when the kid is worn out they don’t have to pedal home and whinge the whole way. They can get in the back and fall to sleep.

Is there anything you need to take into account while riding with the Chariot in tow?

The main thing to be mindful of is when descending, to slow down when approaching water bars or when cornering. You also need to take significant obstacles straight on, ideally with both wheels doing the same thing at the same time. The Chariot is super-stable and isn’t that hard to slow down, but you can get into trouble if you want to try and ride your bike normally and forget that you are towing something along!

Easy on the turns!

Also, the single chariot is a breeze to get through the doorway and around corners as the width is quite easy to manage, the wider double-child Chariot would need a little more care when riding around other people or obstacles.

How does it compare to using a Kids Ride Shotgun or Wee Ride seat?

It’s merely more accommodating for the child and everything that you need to take with you when you have a kid in tow, the storage element is convenient. The Wee Ride and Kids Ride Shotgun are excellent items but each present difficulties.

For example, the Wee Ride forces you to ride bow-legged and has a pretty average looking bar system for mounting. The Kids Ride Shotgun is a killer bit of gear but doesn’t work when your child doesn’t want to hang on anymore and does present more safety concerns.

Cool rollings!

For stockists, pricing and models visit the Thule website here: www.thule.com


Mo’ Flow Please!

Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow!

Maydena Bike Park Adds Provisions For e-MTB Riders

Tasmania’s Maydena Bike Park hosted the 2019 Australian Gravity Enduro Champs back in November, which for the first time, included an e-MTB category. The event showcased the parks vast network of purpose-built climbing and descending trails and even included a special climbing stage just for the e-MTB cohort.

With Josh Carlson taking out the title of Australia’s first National Enduro e-MTB champ, who better to send down to Maydena to find out precisely what makes this place e-ready!


Watch Josh Carlson and the Maydena Bike Park crew in action here!

Taking an e-MTB to Maydena enhances the experience big time! Not only can you access the park without needing the shuttle, but you can also use the shuttle to maximise your vert, and then loop out the different zones with ease, making your way down the hill. The bang for you buck is insane! – Josh Carlson


What makes a mountain bike park ‘e-MTB ready’?

Maydena’s sprawling network of trails already possesses extensive linking and climbing trails throughout, which makes it ideal for e-MTB riders who can make their own way to the top. Furthermore, you can still shuttle with your e-MTB, opening up even more options for a massive day out on the bike.

For those who need a top-up after a busy morning on the trails, you’ll find a battery charging station at the bottom of the park at Maydena’s base building. And if you’ve been maxing out the Turbo mode, we’re also told that the park will have a fleet of battery hire options available soon. This will also be ideal for travelling e-MTB riders, as it can be tricky flying with an e-MTB due to battery restrictions. Soon you’ll be able to fly with your bike sans battery, and simply pick one up for hire at the park.

In the meantime, Maydena Bike Park offers a postal service, where you can post your bike’s battery pack to the park, and the crew will arrange to send it back to your home at the end of your trip. How good is that!

Spinning up Turn Earner, one of the purpose-built climbing trails. Hard work!
Maydena Bike Park head honcho, Simon French weaving through the fascinating Tasmanian wilderness.

Making the climbs fun, some of the uphill trails have been banked so you can rip up them with great speed.

What bike park pass is best with an e-MTB?

There are three separate passes available at the Maydena Bike Park, with varying levels of access and shuttle services, depending on how much you want to pack in;

Trail Pass – From $20

As the cheapest option, the Trail Pass gets you a full day’s access to the park’s lower mountain trail network. All trails below the Midline Trail are open to e-MTB and traditional climbers, offering over 30 descending options and two arterial climbing trails.

Enduro Pass – From $40

The Enduro Pass gets you access to the complete network of upper mountain trails, with a single morning uplift plonking you 820m above sea level. This is an option for e-MTB riders, as it allows you to explore more of the upper trail network, before working your way down into the lower mountain trail network.

Half & Full Day Gravity Passes – From $75

Wanna max out the vertical and explore every trail on the hill? This is the one for you! The Gravity Pass gets you unlimited access to the uplift service, which runs multiple buses on high rotation all day long (and yes, e-MTBs are welcome on the uplift, too!).

The Midline trail is the high-point for Trail Pass access, it runs along the middle of the hill and is the way to access a huge variety of tracks.
Rhys Ellis, the Maydena Bike Park manager, discovers how an e-MTB jump, not bad it seems!

Explore more, on your own time.

Riding an e-MTB in Maydena Bike Park is a totally different experience. Exploring the entire mountain can be a chore when pedalling a long-travel bike around, so riders can miss out on experiencing all of the trails on offer. With an e-MTB though, you can string together more of the arterial trails by taking on the steeper and more direct climbing tracks that you’d likely avoid on a regular bike.

The Wilderness Trail is also an ideal option for e-MTB riders. Starting at the top of the bike park, this colossal descent takes in the most stunning vistas of the park, with its short, punchy climbs and grin-inducing descents perfectly suited to an e-MTB.

Also exciting for power-assisted riders is the news that Maydena will soon begin development of a dedicated and purpose-built e-MTB trail, as part of a broader push to broaden the park’s appeal, somehting we’ve not heard of much in Australia at this stage. Stay tuned for more on that!

Thrill and challenge aside, Maydena Bike Park is also incredibly beautiful.

What e-MTB would we suggest for Maydena?

The trails are steep and long, so we’d recommend a longer-travel e-MTB that is set up well for descending with powerful brakes and grippy tyres. Bikes along the lines of the burly Giant Reign E+, Trek Rail, Specialized Kenevo, Merida eOne-Sixty or Norco Range VLT would all be up to the task.

If you’d rather not travel with a bike though, Maydena Bike Park has a fleet of Trek e-MTBs available for hire, which includes the burly Trek Rail – a 150/160mm travel 29er and the Trek Powerfly LT. Bike hire will set you back from $149 per day, and it includes a complimentary Trail Pass to gain you access to the trail network.

Maydena Bike Park will have a fleet of Trek Rail and Powerfly LT e-MTB’s for hire.
2019 Gravity Enduro National Champion – Josh Carlson’s enduro race-ready Giant Reign E+.

Whether it’s jump lines, steep and tech gnar or long flowy berm trails, the new Giant Reign E+ loved it and had me frothing all day! The ease of chucking my bike on charge while I chill out over some lunch makes the day go so quick and easy. Bulk riding, bulk descending and bulk good times were had in Maydena. – Josh Carlson

Ripping!

What do you think, does riding an e-MTB at a bike park appeal to you? Does the idea of not waiting in a shuttle line and paying for uplift, by pedalling up yourself make sense? Leave us a comment, and we’ll get right back to you.

Want to know more about Maydena?

Our first trip for the opening weekend here – https://flowmountainbike.com/features/maydena-bike-park-video/

One year on, the place has grown up! – https://flowmountainbike.com/features/maydena-bike-park-video/

Maydena Bike Park.


Mo’ Flow Please!

Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow!

Racing Enduro in Derby | The Shimano Enduro, Asia-Pacific EWS

Shimano Enduro Tour, Round 3 – Derby, TAS.

Event Management Solutions brought the third round of the Shimano Enduro Tour to Derby after stopping in WA and QLD.

Mick was there, camera in hand and rode around the course during practise and racing, to watch and capture the vibes.

We hope you enjoy the pics!

Zoe Cuthbert on the A-lines.
Josh Button rolls out.

Ooooh, Derby!
Into the Derby Tunnel, duck!

While the racing and practice were running, there were still plenty of crew riding and shuttling the trails. Evolution’s new Buggy Shuttle service can take riders from the Devil Wolf section up to Black Stump for zippy runs down some great tracks!
Launceston’s Izzy Flint looked so good during practice and took the win on Sunday with a gutsy display of smart race-craft and bike skills.
Dave Ludenia scoping faster ways to ride the technical sections.
Ben McIlroy flies past with epic pace.
Derby’s famous for its dirt, but at times, there just ain’t any within sight!
Former National Gravity Enduro Champ, Chris Panozzo took a 120mm travel Santa Cruz Tallboy to the podium with an impressive display of racing.
Don’t call him an XC rider, multiple National Champ Cam Ivory breaking the mould and blasting the rocks during practice.
Few riders negotiated the crack, on trail Detonate like 17 year-old Izzy. Very smooth and controlled.
Dropping Izzbombs.
Zoe Cuthbert rides with immense commitment, watching her drop off the large granite boulders and hold speed through the big turns was amazing.
Panozzo under a tall one in the lower parts of Roxanne, a solid track to negotiate at race pace.
Timmy Eaton not slowing down through the rocks.
We crashed Team Shimano’s team dinner, a good bunch of people indeed!

Pre-race parm and a pint. Well, for the photographer anyhow…
Paul and a golden Derby pint of Scottsdale brew.
Team manager Toby loves Derby more than most, it appears!

Race Day!

Pre-race prep.
Pre-race Instagram.
Paul van der Ploeg’s Giant Reign 29 dialled and ready.
Chris Panozzo’s Santa Cruz Tallboy, short travel, who cares.
Izzy Flint’s Merida One-Sixty gleaming all of the colours in the morning sunlight.
Race day, time for the first long pedal up.
Fresh soles for Sunday.
Handguards gaining in popularity, for good reason.
Ludenia aims up for the long session of rock-eating on Shearpin.
Crowds heckling their lungs out.
Connor Fearon was on a tear all weekend, and took a convincing win.
Rowena Fry stamped her authority once again on the trails of Derby, backing up her EWS podium with a win this weekend.
Yiew!
Fixing carnage.
Any moisture in the Derby dirt was drying quickly under the harsh Tassie sun.
Zoe on the long road to the top before more hard descending.
Chainsaws and two-stroke to fill your senses.
Rowena picking lines like a pro.
Plenty of stats to back up the tired body.
There was a bar at the finish line…
Shelly Flood always smiling, despite the obvious!
Hoppy pain relief.
The Kona crew on their Tasmanian trip, loving life, off to Maydena for the National Champs next.
Little Rivers had their new pop up bar Side-Tracked in full swing.
Distinctly Connor.
Cam Ivory, done!
Elite Women’s podium; Rowena Fry, Zoe Cuthbert and Leanna Curtis.
U21 Women – Izzy Flint, Fenella Harris, Emma Bateup.
Elite Men – Connor Fearon, Dan Booker, Chris Panozzo.
And that’s a wrap for the Shimano Enduro Tour! Row Fry, series champ!
And Jordan Prochyra takes overall, too.
We love you, Derby! Fingers crossed the EWS will return again one day soon.

For the full results, and more details head to the official site here – https://www.emsaustralia.net.au/events/2019shimanoendurotour/

Kids Ride Shotgun Gives Your Mini-Me The Best Seat In The House!

Up until recently, there haven’t been many suitable ways to bring your child along with you while mountain biking. Rear-mounted child seats have of course been around forever, but they’re typically designed for commuting, touring or bike-path riding. Most of them attach via a pannier rack system too, which means they’re only compatible with rigid bikes or hardtails.

Another option for taking a little tacker along for a ride is a rear-mounted kids trailer, though those tend to be pretty spendy. They’re also quite wide (not great for singletrack) and they stick out quite far from the back of your bike, which can present some logistical and handling issues. Well, unless you’re Danny MacAskill perhaps.

Ok. Maybe the trailer isn’t such a good idea.

kids ride shotgun mtb seat children
Jack & Lottie have quickly become frothers for mountain biking!

Why Not Let ‘Em Ride Shotgun?

Three years ago, a Kiwi bloke by the name of Dan Necklen decided there had to be a better way to bring along his 3-year old son while mountain biking in Rotorua. Dan wasn’t able to fit a rear-mounted seat on his full suspension bike, and the front-mounted options on the market were either incompatible with his stem or used a permanent fixture that posed a risk to the paintwork on his pride and joy.

Looking to create a solution that would be more suitable for use with high-end full suspension bikes, Dan collaborated with a fellow mountain biking Dad by the name of Tom Hayward, and they developed the original Shotgun seat prototype. Ten families jumped on board to help with early testing, and by mid-2017, Dan & Tom were taking pre-orders for the very first production models.

Fast-forward two years, and the Kids Ride Shotgun MTB Seat has grown in popularity to become one of the most in-demand kids seats on the market, with distributors in the UK, the US, and Australia. That’s pretty wild!

kids ride shotgun mtb seat children
The Kids Ride Shotgun MTB Seat is a Kiwi invention that’s grown to become one of the most in-demand kids seats on the market.

How’s It Different Then?

The Shotgun seat is a front-mounted seat that’s designed for children between two to five years old, with a stated max weight of 22kg. It allows your child to take the best seat in the house, with an uninterrupted view of the trail ahead.

Using textured metal footpegs and an adjustable saddle, the Shotgun seat plonks your child right in front of you, with their legs straddling the frame’s top tube, feet on the pegs, and their little digits holding onto the handlebars. For an extra $49, you can buy an additional bolt-on handlebar that comes with a set of rubber grips if you fancy. Either way, they’re able to easily stand up when needed, without being strapped in like they would with a traditional bucket seat.

kids ride shotgun mtb seat children
The seat uses two metal ‘legs’ that straddle the top and downtubes. All contact points are covered in a generous layer of rubber.

Installing The Shotgun Kids MTB Seat

A key aspect of the Shotgun seat’s design is its adaptability. Using two metal legs that clamp down on either side of your bike’s mainframe, the adjustable width allows it to fit a broad range of frame shapes and sizes. The top tube can be as wide as 68mm, and the downtube can be up to 100mm.

The metal legs are lined with thick rubber padding, and there’s also a big rubber block underneath the saddle support. As well as providing a bit of vibration damping for your little person’s derrière, the rubber is also there to protect your frame. And because the metal legs clamp across both the top and downtubes, the clamping force is actually a lot lower than you might first expect. According to Kids Ride Shotgun, that means the seat is compatible with carbon fibre frames, as well as alloy and steel bikes.

kids ride shotgun mtb seat children
There’s another block of solid rubber underneath the seat, which provides further protection.
kids ride shotgun mtb seat children
“LET’S GO RIDING!”

To see what it’s like to ride with one of these fun little contraptions, we caught up with ex-Aussie enduro champion, fireman, and father of two, Dan MacMunn, who’s been using a Kids Ride Shotgun MTB Seat with his two kids Lottie and Jack.

How long have you had your Shotgun Seat for?

We bought the seat a few years ago now. We originally got if for our daughter Lottie, who was about two and a half years old. I thought it would be a great way to introduce the kids to some singletrack, and another fun way to get out of the house and into the bush. It also gave us an alternative to using the car for the daycare drop-offs, which is great!

kids ride shotgun mtb seat children
Jack chose to be the responsible one.

Were there any alternative kids seats you looked at?

This was the only off-road style kids seat I knew of to be honest. Prior to getting the Shotgun seat, we did have a WeeRide set up on a commuter bike. That was great for when the kids were quite small, but it isn’t really really suitable for use off-road. It uses a bucket-style seat, which can make it uncomfortable when bouncing around on the trail.

What bikes have you fitted the Shotgun Kids MTB Seat to?

I attach it to my Specialized Epic Evo. It’s a pretty simple tool-free setup, which is good, and it takes about two minutes to fit and remove. I often have ride up to daycare with Jack, drop him off, take the seat off and leave it there, so then I can take the long singletrack route home. Then when it’s time for pickup, I can just re-fit the seat at the daycare centre, plonk Jack onto the bike, and ride home.

kids ride shotgun mtb seat children
Textured footpegs allow Jack to stand up when bouncing down the trail.

Does it add much weight to your bike?

I have no idea about the weight. It’s obviously more the weight of the child that makes the hills tough!

What sort of riding do you do with it?

We mostly either use it for transport or on pretty mellow trails. Lottie and I did have a great ride up in the Mt Beauty bike park when she was smaller though – we came down some pretty techy stuff too, which was great fun. Crashing with a kid on the front obviously would not end well though, so we don’t go too crazy!

kids ride shotgun mtb seat children bendigo
Scoping out the lines with Dad.
kids ride shotgun mtb seat children
The Shotgun MTB Seat is designed for little people between 2-5 years old and up to a weight of 22kg.
kids ride shotgun mtb seat children
Jack getting to grips with the pump track.

Any limitations to consider while you’re riding with it?

Your kid has to be the right size. Too small and their legs won’t reach the foot pegs, which is pretty crucial for the whole thing to work as intended. On the flip side, when they’re older they just get too heavy to push up the hills! Remember that because of the extra weight, you’ll want to add some pressure to your tyres and suspension to compensate.

What age and size do you think the seat works well for?

Jack is three and a half, and it’s about perfect at the moment, but at 13kgs he’s pretty small for his age. 

kids ride shotgun mtb seat children
Dan is able to take Jack to daycare via the off-road route.
kids ride shotgun mtb seat children
Yieeeww!

What does Jack think of riding with Dad?

Jack loves it! I think it’s great that he’s up the front with the best seat in the house. That’s a big difference compared to a rear-mounted child seat, where they’re a bit removed from the riding experience. The other good aspect of the Shotgun seat is that the design allows him to stand up on the foot pegs to absorb the bumps more readily. Hopefully that should get him more familiar with the right technique for when we get him onto his first proper mountain bike.

Do you think the secondary handlebars would be worthwhile?

I haven’t tried the handlebar attachment, and him holding onto the bars seems to work fine anyway.

kids ride shotgun mtb seat children
Not only does Dan get a good workout, he gets to spend more time with Jack out of the house and on the trails together. Nice!

Pretty cool eh? And as far as getting your young’uns into mountain biking from an early age, we’re not sure there’s a better way to do it than this! If you’re all inspired after reading Dan’s experience, here’s the basics of the Shotgun seat they’ve been using;

Kids Ride Shotgun MTB Seat Specs

  • Front mounted child seat for kids two to five years old
  • Max weight limit: 22kg (48lb)
  • Adjustable width and angle to fit all mountain bikes
  • Full rubber protection – compatible with both alloy and carbon frames
  • Quick release fitting for easy installation and removal
  • Additional handlebar add-on available (+$49)
  • RRP: $220 AUD

For more information on the Shotgun MTB seat, head to the Kids Ride Shotgun website, or get in touch with Jet Black Products to find your nearest dealer in Australia.


Mo’ Flow Please!

Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow!

Getting Our Gravel On | Gravel Grit Laguna, An Event For All Sorts

Presented by the Bicycle Network, the Victorian-based group responsible for getting a lot of people out riding bikes and hosting truly inclusive events, the Gravel Grit is a few days that brings quite a diverse bunch of cyclists together. It took place in late October 2019 looping out on a fine selection of 67km of roads with a huge variety of surfaces around the Onley State Forest, NSW.

Gravel riding is very on-trend, a somewhat new segment, with numerous brands releasing specific bikes for the demands of how you may interpret gravel riding. Some may argue that it’s simply what mountain biking was like in the early days, but whichever way you look at it, the specific bikes are super cool and any rides that don’t mix with cars and take us through nice scenes, we’re all about it.

This year Gravel Grit 2019 expanded from last year to include a social gathering on the Saturday, with a few ride options available, camping, and a dinner at the GNTP. We camped, did very little riding, ate great food and caught up with old pals. The vibes were mellow, and we felt full of food to fuel the day ahead.

With bushfire safety a real issue, the organisers made the call to remove the longer version of the day, leaving everyone to take on the 67km loop.

Enjoy the pics, and perhaps we’ll see you next year, too?

Dog, caravan, bike, sorted.
Some very fancy wheels on our Trek Checkpoint gravel bike, DT Swiss GRC 1400. Whoa!
Bike crew reunion, this event brought cyclists from all corners together. That’s what we liked about it the most.
Fuel up, tomorrow we crunch gravel.
Shimano had a couple of very nice bikes on display, showing off the new GRX components, built for the cause. The Grove R.A.D is a locally designed bike with a solid following, there were many about.

This titanium Baum was a real head-turner, maybe because the frame alone sells for over $12K! Yikes.

Mick, Chris and Dave before the start. Plus Asterix.
Heading out into the hills, through cattle farming land, olive groves, and hideaway retreats
Hold onto the fit guy! Chris half-wheeling his best.
A peculiar juxtaposition, old and new, same place at the same time.
Expired tubes and banana skins in the bin.
Some of the descents were ROUGH! Wishing for a mountain bike at times, until the surfaces changed to smooth again.
Where cars don’t go.

Pro roadies, even! Famous Brodie Chapman, before a massive crash over the bars.
Classic scenes from this part of the Hunter Valley, NSW.

All good rides finish with a beer.
Sore hands?
Spotted an amazing mid-nineties carbon Gary Fisher Procaliber converted into a very cool bike for any use.
Flow fans everywhere!
Six made it, one nearly didn’t. Fancy dress, optional.

Full-blown all-mountain mountain bike from Zerode with a purpose-built Cannondale gravel bike as a partner. An odd couple, but works just fine here.
Mick’s ride, the Trek Checkpoint, Shimano Ultegra RX rear mech, Ultegra double chainring, chunky bar tape and two water bottles.
The generous 24mm wide DT Swiss GRC 1400 wheels were a massive upgrade from the 17mm rims they replaced. A much smoother ride, with no flat tyres holding them back.
Maxxis Rambler tyres in 40mm width, pumped with plenty of Stans Sealant.
Back to the campsite!

We absolutely loved it, it felt like no event we’ve been to before and combines a delightful mix of social riding in a nice part of the world. See you next year!

For more information, head to Bicycle Network site here: Bicycle Network.

Photos: Mick Ross/Flow MTB, Tim Bardsley-Smith, Lisa Cugnetto, Dave Musgrove.

The Bikes & Tech Of The 2019 Cape To Cape

Mick called it “the event of the year!“. Certainly for the 1300 riders who saddled up at the start line at the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, the 2019 Cape to Cape proved to be one of the best yet in the event’s impressive 12-year history. With four days of racing packed into some of the best trails of south west Western Australia, competitors were treated to sublime singletrack, tough climbs, fast fireroad bunch trains, and exciting finish line sprints.

If you haven’t checked it out already, Mick’s Mega Gallery from this year’s event is an absolute belter, and tells a superb behind-the-scenes story of what it’s like not just to participate in the event, but everything that happens on either side of the race tape too.

Here we’re going to take a closer look at some of the bikes and kit from the Cape to Cape, to see what the pointy end (and the less-pointy end) chose to race in one of the country’s biggest multi-day mountain bike race. Grab yourself a cuppa, and sit back to enjoy a feast of carbon fibre, Kashima and electronic wizardry!

cape to cape xc racing
“Rider’s ready!” Epic scenery for the start of the 2019 Cape to Cape, with the stoic Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse looming above the race field.
trek top fuel team cape to cape race
The Trek Shimano Australia Team with smiles all-round! Most riders were aboard the previous iteration of the Top Fuel race bike, as the new Supercaliber wasn’t quite ready in time.
giant anthem fox live valve shimano xtr 1x12
Giant’s top-end Anthem was ready for some of its sponsored riders though, who were getting familiar with the Fox Live Valve automated suspension system.
tasman nankervis russel cape to cape
Bendigo Brotherly Love. Tasman & Russell Nankervis raced as a pair at the 2019 Cape to Cape, despite competing against each other regularly in national-level XCO and XCM events.
merida ninety six
Tas remains as a Merida-sponsored rider, though he’s recently jumped ship to Shimano. His new race bike was decked out with a full Shimano XTR 1×12 groupset, Fox dual-lockout Factory suspension, and Reynolds Black Label XC race wheels. Stealthy!
tasman nankervis jason lowndes
Jason Lowndes, a promising young cyclist from Bendigo, and a good friend of the Nankervis brothers, was tragically struck by a car and killed while on a training ride in 2017. You’ll see this sticker on the top tubes of many of the people who knew Jason well. RIP Lowndesy.
trek top fuel nankervis cape to cape
As a member of the Trek Shimano Australia team, Brother Russell is aboard the previous generation Top Fuel. How’s that epic saddle height!
trek top fuel race
An equally epic stem length to suit Russ’ epic arm length. Slammed too of course! Note the missing fork lockout cable – Russ is only running a rear lockout, since he found there to be a lot of resistance at the lever when setup with both cables. And after spending a lot of time riding his 130mm travel Fuel EX, he’s not so worried about not having a fork lockout on his race bike.
cape to cape anna beck briony mattock winery
Team Fox & Racoon were up for a tough fight at the 2019 Cape to Cape, with some seriously quick competitors in the women’s pairs category.
gels cape to cape shot blok clif
Doubles as crash protection in the event of knackering oneself.
cape to cape
Look at that singletrack! The colours were popping in the forest.
liv pique advanced fox live valve
Released in time for the 2020 model year, the new Liv Pique range is topped by this stunner; the Fox Live Valve-equipped Advanced Pro 29 0. There were many impressed new riders aboard the Live Valve system at the Cape to Cape.
pivot mach 4 sl cape to cape
Pivot’s Mach 4 SL is also a new release this year, and with the 120mm travel Fox 34 SC fork, it’s just about the perfect bike for the 4-day Cape to Cape event.
hunt hardtail steel
It wasn’t all carbon fibre and electronics though – check out this double butted Chromoly frame from Hunt Bikes. Capable of fitting 29+ wheels and tyres, it has a tidy chainstay yoke to achieve the necessary clearance for fat rubber.
cape to cape saddle funny weird
Old mate from Wolfpack Racing had a new prototype saddle that he wasn’t too keen on our camera lenses from papping. Not much gets past us though!
cape to cape saddle funny weird
Four. Whole. Days.
cannondale retro vintage hardtail
And how bloody nice is this Cannondale F3000? Such lust for these back in the day!
cannondale retro vintage hardtail headshok
Shimano XT V-brakes* complete with brake boosters. (*V-brakes are a sort of disc brake where the rim is like a really big disc rotor).
specialized epic fsr bottle
Double water bottles on this Specialized Epic FSR – a very useful feature for the long stages at the Cape to Cape. Check out the storage box below the downtube bottle, and the neat SWAT tool underneath the other bottle.
tasman nankervis cape to cape merida
Tas Nankervis rejuvenating his hub and bottom bracket bearings.
cape to cape cannondale scalpel lefty ocho em viotto
Em Viotto threading her Cannondale Scalpel through the singletrack.
cape to cape cannondale scalpel lefty ocho
Partner on and off the bike, Karl Michelin-Beard is also aboard a Scalpel race bike – one of the few on the circuit that’ll take that 2nd water bottle, and Karl made good use of it.
cape to cape paul van der ploeg
The Beast From The North East, Paul van der Ploeg, raced the Cape to Cape with brother Neil. Like his Giant Oz teammates, Paully has recently got his hands on the new Anthem Advanced Pro 29 0, which comes decked out with Fox Live Valve. No more lockout levers required!
johnny waddell cape to cape santa cruz tallboy
Another legend of the mountain bike scene, Johnny Waddell, was also racing the Cape to Cape on a new-ish, but decidedly much heavier duty mountain bike; the Santa Cruz Tallboy. Apparently Maxxis Minion DHR II is now the new XC race tyre of choice!
jarrod peta moroni cape to cape scott spark
Peta Mullens and Jarrod Moroni flew over from Bendigo to race in the mixed pairs category. Jarrod brought along this stupendously high-end Scott Spark RC, which had us doing a double-take!
scott spark rc
Jarrod’s race bike is running the very exotic, and very expensive Syncros Silverton SL wheelset, which is almost entirely made from carbon fibre – including the non-adjustable carbon spokes that are bonded to both the carbon rims and the carbon hubshells. Wow.
magura mt8 brake
Our eyes are twitching just looking at that orange warning sticker attached to that expensive XTR rotor attached to those very expensive Syncros wheels…
handcycle cape to cape
This trick XCR model from Sport-On is a full-blown Cross Country handcycle that this chap was having a marvellous time on. The Cape to Cape had a special course just for handcyclists who were competing in the 4-day stage race. So rad!
cape to cape specialized sworks epic fsr
The Specialized Duo, made up of elite road riders Lucy Bechtel and Ella Bloor, put in a powerful effort to take 2nd place in the Open Women’s Pairs category aboard their Epic FSR race bikes. Not bad for two road racers!
giant anthem custom cape to cape brendan trekky johnston
We’ve already taken a close look at Trekky’s custom Giant Anthem race bike, but it’s so darn special that we had to take another look at it!
giantx anthem custom cape to cape brendan trekky johnston
Alongside Giant-Shimano teammate Jon Odams, Trekky notched up another win at the 2019 Cape to Cape, albeit with barely a minute over 2nd place. That’s some close racing!

Mo’ Flow Please!

Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow!

Event Of The Year | The Marvellous Cape to Cape, WA

The Cape to Cape is now in its 12th year. For those who’ve been a part of it would know why it’s outlasted many mountain bike events in Australia, and for those that haven’t take a look below. Now the oldest and largest Australian round of the Epic Series events consisting of the Port to Port in Newcastle, Reef to Reef in Cairns, The Pioneer in New Zealand, Swiss Epic and the high-profile Cape Epic in South Africa.

C2C is a momentous event and never ceases to amaze us at how many people make the annual pilgrimage way down the south-west of Western Australia, to the remote region of Margaret River for four days of riding and good times.

Going in! The trails would often start with a bit of fire-road to warm you up, spread people out, and give you a chance to see some of the countryside – if you were looking.

We’ve lost count of how many Cape to Capes we’ve been to, we came away from this year’s event feeling damn good about this particular one. The perfect weather and trail conditions helped, but it was the vibe and atmosphere that made it for us this year, meeting new people, seeing more of the region and watching the great racing unfold.

It’s four days of racing on a wide variety of trails. One day may suit you in particular, or your partner or the rider that you beat the day before. It’s a chance to ride with your partner in the pairs category or take it on solo. It’s an event with plenty of support, the large event team with a great group of volunteers keep the show rolling, and it’s a very well-oiled machine.

Each day, the official proceedings wrap up around lunch – or before for the fast – and you’re left with hours to do whatever you want.

We spent our afternoons by the beach, swimming in the ocean, hanging at the brewery, chilling at the bike shop cafe, and riding the sweet trails close to town.

Below you’ll find a selection of our favourite images from the event, enjoy!

The iconic start line beacon, the tallest lighthouse on mainland Australia, Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse.

Where the Southern and Indian Oceans meet, and the Cape to Cape begins.

It feels like you’re dangling precariously off the edge of the continent down at Cape Leeuwin, it’s a highly dramatic place with the weather swirling around overhead and the oceans raging on either side of the narrow headland. If the weather is terrible, it’s double-terrible down at Cape Leeuwin, but on this particular day it was positively lovely!

From Alice Springs to Cape Leeuwin, this pair was on a mega-adventure.

Day one is a chance for the colossal field to stretch the legs and the order in which you finish will place you in the wave start groups for the second stage to spread the large field out nicely. It’s not hours of lush singletrack, that is coming up.

Clint and Josh from the course crew, before they got busy, keeping everyone going the correct way.
A birds-eye view of Cape Leeuwin, a seriously dramatic place sticking out into the ocean.
The big field of fresh legs!
That iconic shot of the main pack with Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and the start line behind.
A stark contrast to last year’s mud-fest. It was a dusty affair this year and made for some great images. Here Trekky leads Cam Ivory, asserting their intentions very early on.
A few rowdy descents were thrown in to keep riders on their toes.
Pushing hard up the rigorous and less-popular Sally Hill Climb, “thanks, Sally…”
Back to the lighthouse we go!
When you’ve worked hard out there, it’s impossible to hide the emotions when you cross the line.
When the sun came out and grew in warmth, the colours in the ocean popped.
No words, sorry Karl and Em, thanks for being such good sports for the camera again. 🙂
Sunsets are epic over there!

Vines, pea-gravel, giant trees and delicious loam.

Riders would start the second day in waves, five minutes apart. As they darted their way towards the singletrack, trains of riders kicked up plumes of red dust, and the action was on.

This day has some of Margaret River’s most scenic trails, through the Booranup Forest under towering Karri trees. Below the soil is a delicious ochre colour, a perfect match for mountain bike tyres, so the turns are grippy and fast.

Foxes and racoons, grapes and coffee beans. The ever-smiling duo Anna and Briony love these events, and they nailed it this year.
Support comes in all shapes and sizes. Chewbacca thought each bike rider was its owner, so it was extra busy this week!
This was the first mountain bike stage race for this duo, Lucy and Ella ride in a road racing team, but this week they tried their hands on something different, and clearly loved it!
Leaving Leeuwin Estate, and heading into lush farmland, the riders got to see a vibrant part of the region. Riders were really mooving on the fast roads…
Jonny Waddell settling into his own pace below a towering tunnel of trees.
Love this photo! Check out the Karri trees and dense undergrowth. The singletrack through Booranup Forest is a ribbon in a tunnel of loamy soil beneath giant native trees.
Jo Bennet floats through the forest, happily chatting with her peers.
Count the trees!

Bazinggaaaa! Threading the singletrack of the immensely popular Lord of The Rings section.
Brad dives into a creek crossing to cool off.
While Trekky plays it safe, smart move.
If you’re yet to ride the surfaces of C2C, you may find these slippery little buggers quite entertaining! Pea gravel requires a gentle steering technique, or you’re on your butt.
Done, halfway now!
“You’re so wet, Paul…”
Faces of C2C, Holly and a day two smile.
Pretty much sums it up, really!
Frothing!
Leeuwin Estate is one of the founding wineries in the iconic wine region, seriously lovely wines to taste, and their beautiful grounds are nice to explore.

Down to the Settlers Tavern in Margaret River main street to watch the day’s video highlights on the telly and tuck into some satisfying pub grub, they even had VIP bike parking for C2C riders, nice!
Trekky’s custom painted Giant Anthem, commemorating ten years of being cancer-free.

From the brewery to Middle Earth, and back.

Look, we’re big fans of breweries, we’re not going to lie. And Colonial Brewery is a particularly pleasant place to be, even without the beers. The lush grass, live music, fresh food and buzzing atmosphere makes it a hit for the riders and their support teams. Friday arvo, sorted!

From the brewery, riders flew through the farming roads out to Middle Earth, a singletrack haven built by locals, with a curiously unique landscape and wickedly fun trail features.

Thumbs up for Sally Hill, with all of her fans behind.
An udderly speedy start to spin the legs before a long day out under the sun.
The singletrack labyrinth of Middle Earth is unlike anywhere else we’ve ever ridden. The vegetation is wild!
Wildflowers of Cape to Cape.
Thump, thump, thump, thump.
Paul into orbit!
Andy Blair and the ice coffee milkshake section.
We witnessed race tactics being discussed, as the elite pack hurtled towards the finish.
Crowds gathering to welcome riders to the finish.
Pat and his stoked support team, spotted down at the beach later that afternoon.
Empire Cycles soigneur taking back to the team, like a good captain.
World Champion superstar Sam Hill taking part in the event where he could, despite not racing due to injury.
To the bar!
A hard-earned thirst!
Saturday arvo and the beach was buzzing with awkward tan lines, the locals certainly can’t miss it when Cape to Cape is in town!

Back to the Colonial Brewery for the Colonial Capers function, delicious food under the stars with like-minded folks.

Line up, one more time. Singletrack delights, and gin and tonics.

Only a hop-skip and a jump from the centre of town, the fourth and final day left off from the Margaret River Distillery and took in all of the juicy singletrack that the town is known for.

From classic pine-forest singletrack to the playful zone Compartment Ten, it’s a day for the singletrack savvy to let the brakes off, boost jumps, rail turns and spend any energy left after four days of pedalling.

WA represent, many mountain bike legends right here.
Handcycles had a fabulous course planned specifically for their needs.
Let’s roll out! Cortney from the Ironman media team, in full flight.
Just a wee scratch on the knee of Holly Harris, didn’t slow her down one bit.
Into the trails one last time.
Holly and her trademark grin, whizzing through the singletrack lined with vibrant wildflowers.
Pine forest roads and singletrack all over the place.
The iconic wall ride draws a crowd, as do the never-ending jumps and berms. Odams and Carson locked in battle.
Yiew!
With cameras in hands, we witnessed an absolutely gruelling display of spirit as the two leading teams drove themselves into the ground covering the final few km to the finish.
Two win the stage, two win the overall.

Medals for all finishers, a real achievement to accomplish.
The surprise on people faces when crossing the line and Sam Hill handed them their finish medals were priceless. Some took theirs off, and asked to do it all over again a second time.
Tony Tucknott was next level Tony on the microphone as the event MC this year. Love this man!
Sam Hill’s wife Bridget and F45 crew chuffed with their efforts. Let the gin flow!
Bubbles for the elites, hard-fought race this year.

Taking a break from the beer and wine, with a g&t.
That’s it from us (Mick), see you all again next year, if not earlier at Port to Port 2020. Yiew!

Riding Mt Sugarloaf on Specialized Levos – A Mad Labyrinth of Tech Trails

Mick joins three lunatics on a mighty adventure, to ride three iconic disused downhill racetracks before lunch, deep in the extensive trail network around Mt Sugarloaf in the Lower Hunter Valley, NSW.


Watch the mayhem unfold here.


Since moving to Newcastle from Sydney, each ride was a first experience in a new city. Newcastle has a great mountain bike scene, especially with Glenrock MTB Park being so close to the city centre, stacked with beautiful trails, superb coastal views and lovely bushland.

But leaving behind the particularly technical terrain and sandstone slabs of Sydney’s Northern Beaches, satisfying the need for tough and challenging trails, for the increasingly capable modern mountain bikes, was proving a little harder to find around the flatter and faster trails of Newcastle.

Casting my memory back to the mid-nineties, in the awkward teenage years, aboard an old 1997 model Intense M1 DH bike, I recalled many times travelling up the freeway to the hallowed grounds of the Hunter Mountain Bike Club. I remembered three particularly rowdy downhill racetracks; Killingworth, Sugarloaf and