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

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!

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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 Heaton Forest.

Getting lost, but nobody cares.
Robbie slaying a turn on Creek Track, one of the old XC race tracks in Killingworth.

During these years, the racing scene was pumping! The tracks were raw, the organisation so very relaxed, and the community was great for a frothing bike geek like myself. The club hosted dozens of club races, a few NSW State Rounds, and even the MTBA National Series stopped off in the Hunter. It was a good time, and between the Hunter Club and the Central Coast club at Ourimbah, there was plenty of racing to be had and talent to be nurtured.

Aside from the fast and wild tracks, one thing stuck in my mind about this place – the long turnaround for shuttles. For some of the races, one run down and back up could take you nearly one hour, by the time you loaded up, drove out of the forest, over the freeway and back up the hill. But that was all we knew, and Thredbo was so far away.

Levo locked and loaded on the Thule rack which carries e-MTBs with no struggle. Just a quick drive out of Newcastle city, the trails around Mt Sugarloaf call for adventure.
Epic trails, it’s a labyrinth out there, so easy to get lost, which isn’t always a bad thing, unless it’s a Monday morning.

Where am I going with this story? Well, I had to find these tracks again. Many years after the racing moved to the Awaba MTB Park, would the old runs of Killingworth and Heaton still be there, unless they had grown over completely, never to be ridden again…?

Attempt one – Frustratingly unsatisfying…

After the 2018 Port to Port MTB Stage Race, I downloaded the Strava map file of the stage, uploaded it to my phone and set out to retrace my steps at my own pace in an attempt if I could remember anything. It all started well, but after a gruelling climb up the horrifically steep tarmac of Mt Sugarloaf climb, I descended into a complete labyrinth of trails and swiftly lost my way.

Without the course markings of the Port to Port, I was staring with despair at the squiggly line on my phone, as it constantly beeped at me for going the wrong way whenever I got up to speed. So, I turned it off, and just rode around blindly, only to find messy four-wheel-drive tracks and burnt-out cars. I was defeated and overcome by the sheer amount of trails out there.

Joel tipping it in, so much lean.

The four-wheel-drives have hammered that place, digging huge holes, creating massive erosion, but no matter how the landowners try to keep them out, they just barge their way In again. It may not necessarily be the prettiest areas at times, passing through large areas of carnage that is a paradise for their tractor-like wheels.

Attempt two – find a local, find the gold!

Who else to seek help in finding the best trails than Captain Hunter Valley MTB Club himself, Mr Robbie McNaughton. During those mid-nineties races, there was a strong contingent of Newcastle riders who cut their teeth on these trails, often taking their racing to the world stage. Robbie and his sister Emma were big players in the scene, racing on the World Championship teams for Australia. And there were highly successful pros keeping the competition fierce – Tai Lee Muxlow, Brad Kelley, Adam Smithson, to name a few – many had great success in their racing heyday. And it was all so well documented by the Black Phoenix Films crew of Josh Stephenson and Robbie, producing the best MTB films on VHS, keeping us entertained with bike culture antics and crazy riding on film to watch in the safety of our homes.

Robbie always beat me at his home tracks; I never had a chance; he ruled that place. He has impressive bike handling skills, with a light and precise way of shifting his bike to exactly where he wants it to be, nailing the smooth lines and hopping the bike around as if it weighs nothing.

Allegedly Killingworth is the only place Robbie beat Nathan Rennie, quite an achievement! Fast forward to now, Robbie part-owns Newcastle’s biggest bike shop, Drift Bikes, and remains heavily engaged in the scene that defines him.

Upon discussing my previously fruitless solo attempt, Robbie suggested that we combine forces, and threw me a bone. “Join us for a Mega Levo ride this Monday morning!”, he said.

Robbie and his merry band of brothers often gather early on a Monday morning and go blasting about the very trails I had failed to find flow. How? E-bikes, the Specialized Levo was their choice of adventure mobile which could turn a frustrating ride into an absolute cracker experience covering massive ground in less time.

The Merry Band of Brothers.

Joel – The ex-freestyle moto pro rider, wheelies for days, and spends more time on his Levo than the moto nowadays. With a fluid style, his long arms leaning the bike down, so the bars look like they’re going to drag the dirt, he steers his mountain bike like a moto. He’s also notorious around town for leading the e-bike segments on Strava. Joel knows how to keep the power on, making his Levo work hard to keep the speed up, but at the same time can conserve battery power well on long rides, despite thinking he ran his bike in Turbo mode 100% of the time.

Joel blasting through the tall lilies on the classic old Killingworth DH Track.

Woffa – Super-busy business owner, lives near the trails, loves the Levo. Rides with his headphones in taking work calls, hard to know when he’s talking on the phone or to the voices in his head… Woffa is a total lunatic, unmistakable with an old $30 grey skate helmet riding his S-Works Levo in King Gee shorts. He appears to have minimal regard for what’s on the other side of blind obstacles, hitting send and launching down the trail when I’d be brake-checking and inspecting for a safe landing.

Woffa chucks a leg out, on a piece of the trail we’d look forward to each time – Nevegal Corner.

With a background steeped in motorbike racing, the pair of Joel and Woffa had a radically different technique to how Robbie and I would ride that grew up on push-bikes. With impressive control over the power of the bike, paired with a sturdy handle on the steering, they would fly through the chundering trails with a fast-yet-unorthodox style. Riding flat pedals and foot-out through nearly every turn, they would lean back and follow the bike through anything that lay ahead.

The common theme here? A random bunch of guys with similar bikes and an appetite for trails. So, not too much more than that, really!

Fuelling the exploration.

Over a few months, I joined in on a few of these rides, and no doubt they have been some of the most fun I’ve had on a mountain bike in yonks. It was fast, loose, highly entertaining and each one never the same as the last. You could hear the shrieks of laughter and banter all around us; the sounds would have been amusing if heard by a passer-by.

The irresistible urge to make a pass on the inside of the turn, or attempt an overtaking manoeuvre on a harder line with irresponsible levels of commitment was the recurring theme.

Riding the Levo’s meant we kept together the whole time, there was no waiting for the slower riders to catch up on the climbs, and the entire ride was a challenge, not just the descents. The irresistible urge to make a pass on the inside of the turn, or attempt an overtaking manoeuvre on a harder line with irresponsible levels of commitment was the recurring theme.

Like most times when you talk about e-bikes to people, it is hard to explain, so we decided to bring a cameraman and film it. Cheers to our pal, Oli Smith for constructing this edit out of a random bunch of banter and chaotic riding.

Three DH tracks, before lunch.

The aim was to head out and conquer three old DH tracks before lunch, three tracks not exactly next to each other, either. So the challenge of getting to them was one part, the other was finding them.

Up we went, into the foothills of Mt Sugarloaf, clambering up the weathered old tracks, elbows out trying to pass each other as many times as possible. If it weren’t for Robbie’s local knowledge, we’d have been lost in minutes, but we kept on charging ahead towards the summit, sinking our tyres into fresh moto singletrack and sliding around on bare sandstone.

You go first, no, you go, go on…

The traditional order of riders heading into a descent is not to be trusted, whoever goes first is likely to be undercut, chopped off and ran wide into a turn. So it was wise to choose your position amongst the lunatics or simply keep your wits about you.

The descents were so wild; it was a deadly cocktail of deep ruts, hidden lines, overhanging vegetation, and someone behind you yelling to go faster. The Levo’s plough through the chaos about five times better than the downhill bikes we used to ride on the same trails! It’s a hoot.

Classic Killingworth, running up and down wither sides of deep gullies.
It’s pretty amazing what these things are capable of, they obviously climb well, but the descents are also a blast with what seems like unlimited stability.

Done!

Whoa, that was a big day out with some four hours spent exploring and discovering old trails that somehow feel new. We roamed all over the place and finished at lunchtime with seriously weary bodies. It’s the type of ride you just wouldn’t consider riding a regular pedal-powered bike, even with a shuttle vehicle available.

After riding these trails over twenty years, we’ve just unlocked a new way to do it, the best yet. Yiew!

Tor Bikes | Handbuilt In Beechworth

Tucked away in a small and unassuming shed on the outskirts of Beechworth in Victoria, a chap by the name of Shane Flint is busy working on some curvy steel tubes that are soon to become the seatstays of a new hardtail frame. Time is of the essence. The new owner is due to pick up the bike in the near future, and Shane needs to get a completed raw frame up to Albury to have its special chrome-plated finish applied, before he’s able to assemble the complete bike as per his customer’s specifications. With a pair of Ray Bans shielding his eyes and a long, thin wire of bronze filler rod in hand, Shane fires up the gas torch to start bringing together this tailor-made, one-of-a-kind mountain bike.


Tor Bikes – Building Frames & A Name

tor bikes hardtail
Shane Flint, the owner and founder of Tor Bikes, out the front of his workshop with his personal hardcore hardtail.

Shane Flint is the founder, owner and one-man-band behind Tor Bikes – an emerging Beechworth-based bike brand that is focussed on producing custom mountain bikes. For those wondering, the name ‘Tor’ comes from the word to describe a rocky outcrop perched on top of the summit of a rounded hill. It’s a more commonly used term in the UK, but for anyone who’s ridden the trails around Beechworth, you’ll know just how apt this name is.

I’m here in his workshop, camera in hand, to take a closer look at the design and construction process behind Shane’s fillet brazed frames, and to get some insight into why he’s doing what he does. After all, while there’s a modest number of custom frame builders in Australia, there are still very few who are committing entirely to the mountain bike cause. And that makes Tor Bikes a little different from the rest.

Having driven a couple of hours over from Bendigo, I had a bit of an idea of what to expect as I rolled up the long dirt road driveway of Shane’s house. I’d seen some impressive examples of his work from the Australian Handmade Bicycle Shows in Melbourne, including an intriguing steel full suspension prototype that wowed onlookers with its impossibly slender swingarm, resplendent in a dazzling British Racing Green paint job.

steel frame workshop
A collection of tubes steadily being brought together in the Tor Bikes workshop.
tube workshop jig
Pre-curved tubes are arranged in a homemade jig in preparation for mitring. These tubes will be cut in order to mate up cleanly with a BB shell.

Following a brief look at the Tor Bikes website and Instagram feed, I’d gathered that his operation was more of the small backyard variety, rather than being a bigger company like a Baum or a Bastion. Then again, when you’re an engineer who’s handling everything from design, testing and fabrication, through to assembly and customer service, things like websites and social media marketing tend to sit further down the priority list.

Indeed Tor is still very much in its infancy. Shane only built his first frame in 2015 – a trail hardtail made from 4130 chromoly steel.

Hardtail No.1

The idea for this original creation came about due to a need to save his Specialized Epic, which was slowly being ground down from winter riding. During my visit to the Tor workshop, I discover that Shane rides a lot. Whether it’s trail riding at the Beechworth MTB Park, getting in some bitumen time on the roadie, gravel grinding around the region’s extensive fireroad network, racing enduro, XC or marathon events, or being away on the annual week-long riding trip with his group of riding mates, Shane is outside on two wheels as much as possible. He’s also a longstanding member of Beechworth’s infamous Wednesday night crew, which is known within the local community (and at the Bridge Rd Brewery) for its stoic perpetuity. “Only tornados and earthquakes stop the Wednesday night ride!” Shane informs me when I inquire about joining the crew on a future ride.

tor bikes hardtail beechworth
Shane walks the talk. Well, he rides bikes, a lot.

Certainly the terrain and soil composition surrounding Beechworth lends itself well to year-round mountain biking. That, and a four-year stint living in the UK’s Grim North, means Shane isn’t one to shy away from foul weather. However, that same decomposed granite-based soil that helps the local singletrack to drain so well, also turns into a nasty abrasive once winter rain is thrown into the mix. And that’s the sort of recipe that’ll devour suspension pivot bearings, brake pads and drivetrains in an alarmingly short amount of time.

Shane’s first homemade frame turned out to be more than just a hardy mud plugger though. He built his frame with geometry that was slacker, lower and a bit longer than his Epic, so he could ride it more aggressively at speed. He loved the handling and its springy ride quality, so much so that he ended up riding it all-year round, while the Epic sat dormant in the shed gathering dust. His hardtail was simpler and more durable than his full susser, but more importantly, it was more fun.

tor bikes steel singlespeed
Tor is primarily focussed on building custom hardcore hardtails, including singlespeeds.

The Engineer

Of course it takes a particular type of person who decides to build their own bike. I feel like I’ve tested enough bikes over the years to know what ingredients I’d need to build something I’d really love to ride. But taking that next step to actually building your own frame? That requires a leap in commitment along with a very specialised skillset. It requires accuracy, material knowledge, an eye for detail, and above all, patience. After all, there’s no rushing when you’re assembling nine metal tubes into a structure that you’re expecting to trust your life with while hammering down a technical black diamond trail at 40+ km/h.

tor bikes steel workshop
Shane loves a challenge, so he set out to build a full suspension frame. This one here is the first generation Erode that he built just in time to take on a Tassie riding trip.

Shane’s technical nous and unwavering eye for perfection comes from his professional background in fabrication and engineering. “I did an apprenticeship as a Metal Fabricator (Boilermaker) straight out of year 12 and then after a couple of years I studied Mechanical Engineering” he tells me. Shane has since worked full time as a Mechanical Designer, which includes his current gig up the road in Albury-Wodonga. As well as providing him with the knowledge and attention-to-detail that suits frame building, his twelve-year career has also provided him with useful industry contacts, particularly with those who own big machines.

Bikes Of Steel

Up until now (and for the foreseeable future), Shane has chosen to work exclusively with steel, and specifically Colombus steel. His Australian supplier can access a wide range of tube sizes, diameters and profiles, depending on the job at hand. He then looks to Paragon Machine Works for small items like dropouts, cable stops and disc brake mounts.

fillet braze steel frame
Fillet brazed shock mount on the Erode full suspension frame.
fillet braze steel frame prototype
Check out the reinforcing plate on the underside of the downtube, which helps to strengthen the main pivot junction.
fillet braze steel frame
Shane uses Colombus steel tubes and small parts from Paragon Machine Works, like the dropouts and brake mounts.
fillet braze steel frame hanger dropouts
Lovely cowled dropouts where the seat and chainstay tubes come together.

Why steel when most mass production mountain bikes are made from alloy or carbon? For a start, steel is hardy and tough. It’s durable and repairable. And if it’s built properly, a steel frame can absolutely sing when ridden on tight and twisty singletrack in a way that no other frame material can quite achieve.

It’s also a material that Shane is familiar with and is confident working on. Though he can purchase pre-curved tubes from Columbus, he also possesses a mighty tube-bender in his workshop for custom tube bending. He’s also created his own unique cutting jigs, which are used to align tubes to ensure a perfect mitre when cutting the ends of say, a top tube or a chainstay. With the ability to cut tubes to length, he can offer a custom build that is tailor-made to the customer with the right fit and geometry suited to their proportions and riding style, without need for compromise. Being a little outside the bell curve at a height of 185cm, compromising fit is something that Shane has experienced himself in the past, but is able to navigate around with his custom-built approach.

tor bikes workshop drill tool
Shane has devised his own cutting jigs and guides for ensuring every mitre is bob-on.
mitre tool cut tube steel
Cut and ready to meet its neighbour.

The Cheese That Holds The Pizza

To bring all of those shapely steel tubes together, Shane chooses to fillet braze his frames, rather than TIG weld them like some other brands do. He says there are a few reasons why he uses the fillet brazing technique to build his frames.

For a start, it was a traditional frame building process that he hadn’t tried before and simply wanted to learn. “A brazed joint can be be finished smooth which creates a seamless look“, Shane goes on to explain. “From a technical point of view, brazing is performed at a lower temperature which generally creates less distortion“. This means the whole frame is less likely to spring out of alignment when you pull it off the jig, since metal tubes have a habit of expanding and contracting considerably when they’ve been hit with the welding torch. While fillet brazing results in less distortion to begin with, Shane has developed a specific building sequence for joining together his frame tubes, which helps mitigate the problem further.

steel frame workshop
Preparing the bottle bosses for fillet brazing.
steel frame workshop
In goes one boss.
steel frame workshop
Fillet brazing is less aggressive than TIG welding, which is surely part of the appeal for frame builders like Shane.

The downside of brazing compared to TIG welding? It’s highly time consuming – specifically the process of hand-filing down every single braze to get those seamless junctions. As things progress over time, Shane might look into offering a TIG welded option to speed up the process for both him and the customer.

Once the frame is together, it heads up the road to Albury to be powder coated. Compared to painting, Shane says a powder coat is more hard wearing, making it particularly suitable for mountain biking applications. Nowadays there’s a load of choice for powder coating colour options, including metallic finishes. Still, Shane says custom painting (or even chrome-plating) is on offer for those who want a particularly wild colour scheme.

steel frame fillet braze workshop
Each braze needs a lot of cleaning up after it’s been hit with the torch.
steel frame fillet braze workshop
It looks messy, but underneath are some seriously tight joins that will be filed back to a beautifully smooth finish.
steel damage frame fillet braze
Yes, a fillet brazed joint is strong enough for mountain biking. Shane attacked this top tube with a hammer to prove a point.

Tor Abrade Hardtail

While every frame is custom, Shane has mostly specialised in building a hardcore hardtail called the ‘Abrade’. The advent of contemporary geometry, bigger wheels, high-volume tyres, and dropper posts all lend very well to a hardtail, offering a smoother and more confidence-inspiring ride quality compared to the skinny race bikes that often come to mind when the H-word is uttered. With the right geometry and build package, a modern hardtail will often ride with far more pace than what many full-suss riders would expect. And as Shane proves when we hit the local Beechworth trails later in the afternoon, they can also be ludicrously fun too.

tor abrade steel hardtail
Shane’s personal Abrade hardtail is a superb example of the contemporary hardcore hardtail.
tor abrade steel hardtail fox 34 kashima fork plus
His build currently features a 140mm travel fork and 27.5+ wheels.
tor abrade steel hardtail xt cassette 1x11
The tidy dropouts feature a neat bolt-in replaceable mech hanger, while the brake calliper is tucked in out of harms way.

Shane’s personal Abrade is an ideal example of this new-school hardcore hardtail, with its 140mm travel fork and 27.5+ compatibility. It’s adaptable though – he’ll put on 29in wheels and a shorter 120mm fork to set it up for XC racing.

One aspect of its geometry that Shane has been particularly keen on exploring with his custom frames is the theory of a ‘front centre to rear centre ratio’, which identifies chainstay (rear centre) length as a varying metric relative to the bike’s front centre. Simply put; as the reach increases, so too does the rear centre length. The goal? To maintain weight distribution between the front and rear wheels to provide similar handling whether you’re 160cm, or 190cm tall.

tor abrade steel hardtail chris king
The frame is powder coated, which offers a durable and luscious finish.
tor abrade steel hardtail
Curvy steel seatsay tubes offer a little more ‘spring’ through the back end.

This is one of the key advantages over 99% of mass-produced frames on the market, which use the same chainstays throughout the size range in order to reduce manufacturing costs. With so much focus on head angles and reach measurements these days, chainstay length remains as one of the the last aspects of modern frame geometry to be truly exploited to its full potential. Unlike all those big brands though, Shane can easily alter the rear centre length to suit the rest of the frame.

As for Shane’s personal Abrade hardtail, here are the specs he’s running to suit his proportions and riding style. He loosely defines this geometry as a ‘Large’, though all measurements are up for interpretation, depending on what you’re after. Frame pricing for one of these starts at $3,200, and goes up from there depending on the level of customisation.

  • 29/27.5+ hardtail
  • Fillet brazed Colombus steel tubing
  • Designed for a 140mm travel fork
  • Head angle: 66°
  • Seat angle: 74°
  • Reach: 462mm
  • Stack: 628mm
  • Rear centre length: 440mm
  • Front centre/rear centre ratio: 1.766
  • Wheelbase: 1217mm
tor abrade steel hardtail
Modern geometry, high-volume rubber and dropper posts have helped to take the humble hardtail to the next performance level.

Tor Erode Full Suspension Prototype

Though Shane is specialising in hardtails, he’s also got something else cooking in the background – a full suspension enduro bike that he’s been testing for nearly a full year. He’s actually up to his second frame, which has a few modifications over the first prototype.

Using 29in wheels and a single pivot suspension design, the Erode delivers 150mm of rear travel via a Fox Float X2 shock. Shane has loaded the air can with additional volume spacers, which gives the mostly linear shock rate more progression to ramp-up at the end of the travel, while giving the bike more pop. It might be a ludicrously simple system alongside more complex multi-pivot bikes, but with modern dampers and the right kinematics, a single pivot bike can outride designs with many more pivots.

tor erode steel full suspension
The Erode is a prototype full suspension frame that Shane is using as his personal enduro bike.
tor erode steel full suspension
This is prototype number two, and Shane feels he’s getting close to the final product.
tor erode steel full suspension fox float x2 shock
The single pivot design offers elegant simplicity compared to more complicated multi-link bikes.

Up front is a chunky 170mm travel Fox 36 that’s plugged into a stout 44mm head tube. The frame is still made with fillet-brazed steel tubes, with a burly and slack front end. The rear swingarm cuts a much more anaemic profile, with slender seat and chainstay tubes meeting together at the cowled thru-axle dropouts. From the side, the vertical uprights on the swingarm (I call them the ‘boomerangs’) look significantly larger in profile. Move your viewpoint though, and you’ll see that they’re actually the thinnest part of the entire frame. Made from 4130 chromoly steel, these swingarm plates are braced above the BB junction with a laser-cut gusset that Shane says adds considerable stiffness to the back end.

tor erode steel full suspension
The ‘boomerang’ vertical uprights on the swingarm are made from solid 4130 steel plate.
tor erode steel full suspension
A laser-cut gusset braces the swingarm plates to minimise twisting around the main pivot.

The swingarm plates then connect to the main pivot, which pierces the downtube forward and above the BB. A 15mm alloy axle rolls on dual needle roller bearings on the inside, which is complemented by a needle roller thrust bearing on each side of the main pivot. This is a unique arrangement, as needle roller thrust bearings aren’t commonly found on bikes. While it does bring masses of stiffness to the main pivot, Shane is still evaluating bearing contamination and real-world durability.

As with the rest of the bike, he wants to ensure it’s proven before he decides to offer it up as an option for people to purchase. Expected pricing is likely to be around $4,200 for the Erode frame, though that’s still to be confirmed. While we wait to hear on the full suspension front, here’s a closer look at the specs of Shane’s current prototype.

  • 29in full suspension enduro bike
  • Designed for a 170mm travel fork
  • Head angle: 64.5°
  • Seat angle: 75°
  • Reach: 470mm
  • Stack: 635mm
  • Rear centre length: 440mm
  • Front centre/rear centre ratio: 1.86
  • Wheelbase: 1257mm
tor erode steel full suspension
Shane has paired the 150mm travel Erode to a 170mm travel fork and 29in wheels. It’s a proper steamroller this one!
tor erode steel full suspension fox float x2 shock
With modern shock dampers and tuneable air chambers, there’s a lot you can achieve with a simple single pivot design.
tor erode steel full suspension
Inside the main pivot you’ll find a 15mm diameter alloy axle, dual needle roller bearings, and needle roller thrust bearings on either side. It’s all about creating a solid and wiggle-free pivot point.

From Part-Time Hobby To Full-Time Gig

As of right now, frame building and the TOR Bikes brand currently fits around Shane’s day job, as well as a young family. That means he’s regularly in the shed mitring tubes late on a mid-week evening, or toiling away with the gas torch on a weekend to meet a deadline arranged with a customer. The frames don’t take a huge amount of time to produce – Shane reckons if all the components are available, he can have a complete bike ready to go in a fortnight.

The current challenge however, is building up enough names in the order book to be able to commit to ditching the day job to go full-time with frame building. Making the intimidating jump from part-time side-hobby to a legitimate business is a conundrum that many other Shanes have come up against, but it’s one that he feels he his nearing.

tor erode steel full suspension shed
Shane standing out the front of the modest Tor Bikes workshop with his Erode prototype.

In addition to his own personal creations and test projects, Shane has so far produced and sold about 10 bikes for his mostly local customers. Given the small volume that he’s been operating within, the decision to exhibit at the Handmade Bicycle Show seemed like an ambitious one. “I had been building on my own for a few years and saw the show as an opportunity to learn more about the industry and meet fellow builders” he explains. “I also wanted to challenge myself and see if I could build a frame to the same standard as experienced builders.

The decision turned out to be a good one. As well as getting to know other frame builders who have either made, or are making, the same leap that Shane is contemplating, he also garnered some vital recognition for his personal trail hardtails and that full suspension prototype. As a result, inquiries are starting to come in from further afield, and that’s helping to build confidence.

tor bikes head tube
The current Tor head tube logo is modelled on the rocky outcrop its named after.

To make a go of it as a viable full time business, Shane reckons he’d need to be building around 25 frames per year. He readily admits that he could achieve a lot of that by expanding into the road and gravel market, which is where 99% of the demand for custom bikes lies. But while he has nothing against road and gravel, and indeed he rides both disciplines himself, Shane is a mountain biker first and foremost. And that’s where his passion, knowledge and creativity lies, and it’s where the focus of TOR Bikes will be for the foreseeable future – whether it steps up to the next level or continues on in its current capacity.

As to whether the Australian mountain bike market is ready to support independent frame builders like Shane, we’ll just have to wait and see.

If you want more information about Shane’s work, you can head to the Tor Bikes website.

tor bikes beechworth hardtail steel
Shane has let TOR Bikes evolve slowly and organically, though he’s very much on the cusp of taking things to the next level. We wish him the best of luck!

Riding the Red Hill mountain bike trails with the Canyon Oz Crew

We sent our News & Tech Editor, Wil Barrett, down to the Mornington Peninsula to check out the Red Hill mountain bike trails for the very first time, while being joined by the crew from Canyon Australia. 


Check out the video of Wil’s trip to the Red Hill MTB Trails here!


It started as a simple enough premise. I’d just finished up with a Spectral AL 6.0 test bike, which was due to be returned back to Canyon HQ in Melbourne. It’s only a two-and-a-bit hour drive for me from my hometown of Bendigo, and I needed to go to the Big Smoke anyway, so I figured I’d go drop the bike off to save packing it into a box and having it shipped. Plus, there was also a 2020 test bike for me to pick up. It’s a bike that we can’t talk about just yet, but you’ll find out about it soon enough…

Having contacted Mr Razzle Dazzle (also known as Darryl Moliere, the head honcho of Canyon Australia), the idea was floated to go check out the trails at Red Hill while I was there dropping off the Spectral. I’d never been to Red Hill before, and I’d only heard good things about the riding and terrain in that region, particularly from the more radical and handsome half of Flow Mountain Bike, the Marvellous Mick Ross.

canyon australia darryl moliere
Mr Razzle Dazzle delivering some inspiration for the troops at Canyon Australia HQ.

Daz had been at me before about getting out for a ride, since the trail network is local to the Canyon Australia office. And once the promise of post-ride craft ale was introduced into the conversation, there was really very little further arm-twisting required. Deciding to make the most of the opportunity, I cleared the diary for a Thursday afternoon to head down to the Mornington Peninsula and see what these trails are all about.

Canyon Australia’s “work” vehicle.
canyon strive red hill arthurs seat trail map
🎶One of these things, is not like the other ones 🎶

The Red Hill Mountain Bike Trails

Located down the Mornington Peninsula, a little over an hour’s drive from the centre of Melbourne, the Red Hill trails are officially known as the ‘Arthurs Seat MTB Trail Network’. The terrain through the Arthurs Seat State Park encompasses vast and steep valleys, with the highest point standing over 300 metres above sea level. On a clear day you’ll be treated to lovely views over the Peninsula, and all the way back to Melbourne city, with the You Yangs off in the distance.

red hill canyon strive
The sandy and rocky trail surface can get a little dusty in summer, but is otherwise mint for most of the year-round. Here JJ, Canyon’s Customer Service Manager, speeds down a sweet trail called ‘Rock Salt’.

There are 14 legit trails within the network, which includes Green, Blue and Black Diamond-level singletrack. Dirt fireroads and forest management tracks connect everything together, providing the opportunity to create some decent loops for a solid day out. Every trail is signposted, and with a large map board at the trail head, it’s an easy spot for first-time visitors to find their way around.

During our afternoon out at Red Hill, the five of us combined both pedal power and shuttle-vehicle assistance to access a few different styles of trails within the park. Particular favourites of mine were ‘Rock Salt’, ‘Fall Line’, and ‘Sawtooth’. Most of the trail surface is pretty dry and sand-based, which means it holds up extremely well in wet conditions. There’s plenty of granite rock worked into the singletrack too, along with human-made features including table-tops, berms and tasty doubles.

canyon strive red hill
Micko, one of Canyon’s Customer Service Reps, is more typically seen aboard a Lux cross-country bike. Turns out the lad can post a stamp though!
canyon strive red hill trails
“If you ain’t first, you’re last” – Ricky Bobby.

Canyon HQ

Before setting off on our afternoon trail mission, I dropped into Canyon Australia’s HQ, which sits inside a big ol’ warehouse in Keysborough. Contrary to what some people expect, Canyon doesn’t actually ship bikes from here. Being a direct-to-consumer brand, the bikes are instead shipped straight from Germany to the customer’s door.

Instead of warehousing stock, Canyon Australia is predominantly in place to provide local customer service, which includes over-the-phone sales assistance, as well as warranty and backup service support. There’s a fully-stocked workshop within, with all manner of spare parts (like derailleur hangers and headset bearings) filling various shelves and draws.

Additionally, Canyon Oz has its own fleet of in-house demo bikes, which are there for media use and for taking to supported events like the Ignition Mountain Bike Festival at Falls Creek.

canyon bike rack
Canyon Oz keeps a load of demo bikes on hand for various events and media use.

Riding The Strive

Having returned the Spectral AL test bike, I was kindly setup on a Canyon Strive demo bike, which I was told would be ‘ideal’ for the trails we’d be riding in the afternoon. This was the Strive CFR 9.0 Team, and funnily enough, was exactly the same bike that Mick had finished testing not long ago – it even still had the Flow sticker on the top tube! I expected it to be rusty, creaky and falling apart at the seams, but Tommo – one of the talented mechanics at Canyon Oz – had already given it some serious love, and it was absolutely humming.

canyon strive workshop mechanic
Tommo getting the Strive’s gears singing in the Canyon Oz workshop.

This was my first time on the new generation Strive, and I was keen to see how it compared to the Spectral I’d just come off of. Turns out that despite having the same amount of rear travel (150mm), the Strive affords a very different experience courtesy of its 29in wheels and Shapeshifter technology. This 2-position suspension/geometry adjustment gives the Strive two different modes – one for climbing and riding along mellower singletrack, and one for flat-out descending. If you want to learn more about how it works, check out Mick’s Q&A story on the Shapeshifter technology here.

To sum up the Strive vs Spectral, I’d say that the Strive climbs and pedals better thanks to its steeper seat angle and the Shapeshifter’s climbing mode. It rolls along swiftly, and while it isn’t as slicey through the turns as the 27.5in Spectral, I had few issues dumping it through steep, rutted-out switchback corners on Sawtooth. The suspension feels absolutely superb, and the slightly longer travel 170mm fork on the Team model gives it a little more oomph when things get faster and gnarlier.

canyon strive cfr 9.0 team wil red hill
The Strive has some serious speed potential – I can see exactly why it’s been such a successful enduro bike.

Downsides? The funky Shapeshifter remote works well, but it does put the Reverb 1X lever further away from your thumb – something that’s more of an issue for folks like me with shorter hobbit-like digits. I got used to it by the end of the ride, and it’s a relatively painless compromise given the twin-style riding it delivers.

If you’re keen to read more about the Strive, and our long term experience with it, check out Mick’s review of the CFR 9.0 Team here. And for a comparison with the Spectral, check out my review of the AL 6.0 here.

I Wanna Ride Red Hill – Tell Me More!

There are few ways of accessing the Arthurs Seat MTB Trail Network – you can either ride from the Dromana side, or from Arthurs Seat. This handy Parks Victoria PDF explains where all the carparks are, and also includes a trail map so you can pick out a route. For further information, the Red Hill Riders mountain bike club website also has plenty of hot tips and trail maps.

As well as some of the trails I mentioned above, I can also thoroughly recommend stopping in at the Pig & Whistle at Arthurs Seat at the end of your ride. This charming English-style pub has a superb beer garden and a glorious selection of beer, including one of my (and Razzle Dazzle’s) current favourites – Hop Nation’s The Chop. Delicious!

canyon mornington peninsula arthurs seat red hill view
Beautiful! And the views over Port Phillip Bay aren’t too bad either 🤭
beer
Cheers!

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!

Jon Odams Rides The BC Bike Race | 20 Best Moments

Campsite one – Cowichan was my first glimpse of the tent city that is the BCBR home for the next seven days. I’ll be honest, I don’t like camping (it is too in tents…), and the tent city was a little daunting to see at first. Tent mates were selected, and we all settled in for the race ahead.

This is the town of Cumberland, apparently the BC equivalent of our Derby. It’s a small town with a lot of riders and a vast amount of lush trails to ride. The race took us up a selection of local mountains. There were so many trails here that both day two and three started and finished here — a must-visit for any MTB tourist.

YES just about all of the singletrack looks like this. Dark loam dirt being held together with roots and rocks in sections. Even in the wet, the trails ride smooth, albeit very slick.

The wake-up chicken horn thing. The chicken thing is a wake-up call for all the races each morning at 6 am. The pack up /breakfast/race prep begins. I like to get the to the showers before everyone so I set the alarm a few minutes earlier.

The transfer from Cumberland to Powell river was a nice Ferry ride for an hour or so from Vancouver island. This town put on a fantastic welcome with a band and a massive amount of locals cheering all the racers on as they departed the ferry and walked a few blocks along to the next campsite. They are located on the beach, the sun was shining, and life was good!

Yoga anyone? Lululemon provided a daily yoga session after dinner for all the riders. It was interesting to see the numbers grow as the races went on. Young or old, fast or slow, it’s nice to see all the riders chilling out together and getting a gentle yoga stretch on. This shot shows yoga on the beach at Powell River.

Stage 4 started and finished on the beach right next to our camp. It was the shortest and also had the least amount of elevation of the race stages. I sat in the front bunch for the day, staying calm and ready to jump at the line. I got too relaxed and clipped a pedal. I got up after sampling the loam but couldn’t chase back on to the lead group. Right behind is Sam Schultz, US Olympian and legendary trail rider. I had a blast shredding the single trails with Sam.

A new section of the trail early in the Powell River stage. Race leader Felix and mountain bike legend Geoff are just behind; It was an exceptional experience riding the trails with such an all-time cast in the lead bunch. Ben Soontag from the Clif Pro tem leading it out here, enjoying some of the smoother less challenging trails.

Stage 5 start in Earls Cove. The bunch was big with the whole 600 riders starting altogether. The race included the US and Canadian national CX champions, who would use their mud skills at the end of the stage once the rain started dropping. This was the longest stage of the race at over 60km and the most elevation gain. I was thrilled to have this one completed and roll in 5th place on the stage — a real tough day for me towards the end with the challenging conditions and extremely wet trails. The last ten-kilometre descent to the finish was a real test.

Somewhere in stage five on the walking path linking two climbing sections together. The pace was hard, and the climbing was steep. My Shimano XTR 32 x 51 drive train got a solid work out with some parts over 25% gradient.

The final descent of day six was another epic descent of 8km to the finish line and ferry terminal. This shot was just after shows the slick conditions on a “drier” day on the BC trails. The casualties were pretty high on this stage was Ben from Clif breaking his wrist and several other riders heading to the medics post-stage to get re-assembled for the final stage in Squamish.

Felix Burke and I are talking about the inevitable attack that was going to come on the Squamish trails from local rider Geoff Kabush in a last attempt to regain the race lead. Sure enough on the first road section less than ten minutes into the race it began. Geoff and Felix duked it out with Felix getting away to extend his lead and win his first BC bike race ahead of the two-time winner.

Squamish singletrack. It doesn’t get much better in my opinion. A lush green mix of dark loamy dirt, slick rocks and roots and technically challenging trails under the pine forest canopy. THink Rotorua trails but rougher and more technical.

Brett Tippie MTB legend on the mic! Always a laugh was listening to the conversation coming out of this man. Just as much stoke at the finish line for the first rider as there is for the 400th. This guy kept everyone amped.

The backdrop of the race HQ in Squamish is hard to beat. Nestled halfway between Vancouver and Whistler, it’s easy to see why so many mountain bike and outdoor brands are based here. Watch out for the bears though. A couple of Aussie came face to face with a friendly trail bear towards the end of the final stage. Just strolling along the trail on the way back on through the forest. 

Feedzone does include maple bacon…. I got mine post-race, but you can’t visit Canada without trying out the local cuisine. Maple bacon is a must.

The final stage in Squamish had thousands of spectators lining the course. The local support is on a whole different level. The stoke for mountain biking is unbelievable. 

The race after-party included some Canadian icons, including a chainsaw skills competition. Not a sport I am likely to take up any time soon.

Canadian Mountie’s keeping the crowd in check post-race with all the riders indulging in a few ice creams, beers and all you can eat Tim Horton’s doughnuts. Serious calorie intake going on post-race!

Red Truck beer getting the party started. Stats provided showed that the 2019 event had the highest beer intake of any BC bike race on record. A coincidence, with the number of Aussie’s racing? It was great to be part of such a massive event and Australian contingent. Australia and New Zealand had fourteen riders in the top 100, and of the 519 finishers, 53 were antipodeans. 

See you on the start line next year?

Far From Winter | Flow Dives Deep Into Reef to Reef MTB, QLD

August sucks to be a bike rider in Australia unless you live way up north or you’re into those weird indoor things where you ride around going nowhere, through an artificial landscape in a fake hyper-coloured world with lots of numbers and computer-generated people that look like robotic mannequins from Alex The Kid. Everyone is different, and I know this online place exists because I tried it once.

Reef to Reef is a four-day stage race in lush and lovely Tropical North Queensland, and we were there to wave our cameras around. A part of the well-oiled events Port to Port, Cape to Cape and more recently under the umbrella of the Epic Series which comprises of The Pioneer in Queenstown, NZ, Swiss Epic and the mighty Cape Epic in South Africa. These events are gaining in size and prestige but manage to retain the chill vibes and laid-back atmosphere. From our perspective, as photographers and storytellers, we appreciate how these events are about the destination first, and the competition tends to come second.

Not bad at all…
Flow’s recruit, Wil Barrett, frothing to be in thongs and a t-shirt.

There’s a reason they are in iconic tourist destinations – Margaret River, Hunter Valley and Newcastle, Cairns and Port Douglas… It makes for an exciting place to travel to, ride your bike, they’re wonderfully photogenic, and when the day’s events are done, you’re able to soak in what the region has to offer — a nice balance.

We’ve seen a shift away from the traditional Olympic distance cross country races, fewer people at state and national level races and even the massive 24-hour races have seen their heyday. While the multi-day race format, in pairs, in epic locations are so hot right now.

Riding the battleground for the UCI Rainbow Stripes in iconic Cairns.

SMITHFIELD MTB PARK

The most renown trails in Cairns – Smithfield MTB Park – has played host to some of Australia’s biggest races. World Cups and World Champs in the mid-nineties, and two incredible World Cup rounds and the sensational World Champs in 2017. Rolling into the venue brought back strong memories of tramping around the spooky jungle, trapped in vines, searching for shoes in thick mud, star-struck interviews with superstars and long evenings in the media tent surrounded by international media.

Eventual winner Jon Odams alongside Brendan Johnston doing his thing very well.
Snaking down the famed Jacobs Ladder.
Jacobs Ladder from above. This place has seen so many international riders over many years.
Holly Harris in full flight wings out.
New jerseys presented in the foothills of the Smithfield MTB Park.
The first time we’d had karage chicken and rice at a mountain bike event, too. Nice!

The racing this place has seen is terrific, and to ride on the exact trails that World Champs have done is a bit of a treat. Prologue style, riders of the Reef to Reef went off in pairs into the dense jungle with snaking red singletrack and super-challenging technical features with multiple line options. This place is world-class.

Down Jacobs Ladder, whooping along Catterpillers, and up to an entirely new climb and down a thrilling descent called Pipeline – which was clearly blowing peoples minds – the riders would spread out and find their rhythm. The heat was pretty intense, and shade was sparse, but during the presentation, the sun would dip behind the mountain range behind us and riders would pull on the leader’s jerseys as temperatures cooled.


Paul and Neil van der Ploeg and Ready Aim Media bring the moving pictures to your screens right here:


Austere landscapes, giant anthills, river crossings, dust and ancient cycads.

DAVIES CREEK MTB PARK

Up high on the Atherton Tablelands west of Cairns is a unique part of the country, the lush and fertile tableland is bustling with fruit farms, cane fields, and classic QLD agricultural scenes. There are great trails, too!

Davies Creek MTB Park is a labyrinth of purpose-built singletrack that winds through an ever-changing landscape and vegetation types. It feels nothing like Cairns, often a few degrees cooler too but not on this day. The sparse canopy and baked dry trails would provide quite a challenge for the riders, with respite from a couple of water crossings to cool the feet.

Coffee and walkie talkies make the world go around!
Sal Hill, legend, with that unshakeable smile.
How much for your jersey, mate?
Sorry! 🙂
Fresh, clean water to wash away the sweat, and chain lube the Cycling Tips guys tackle Davies Creek…
Woohoo, berms, fast turns and warm sunshine.
Cheers to the friendly volunteers!
Great flow to be found at Davies Creek.
Whooping through the dry terrain of the Atherton Tablelands.

Slalom through the giant anthills, take A-lines up and over huge granite slabs, pump through dried creek crossings and watch riders snaking the singletrack below you on wonderfully flowing and fast turns. The Davies Creek stage was a good day on the bike for the singletrack fans, and for our cameras too, it was a treat to photograph riders in the unique and austere landscape.

As any photographer would do the same, we were poised for action at a flowing freshwater creek crossing ready to yell “ride it, it’s rideable, I promise” as the leaders came into view. Some rode it, some didn’t and washed most of their chain lube off, but the photos were great and worth it all!


Catch up on more from Stage 2 here:


Endless sugar cane fields, jungle mud bog surprises, and circling eagles overhead.

MOUNT MOLLOY

If you’re from one of the major cities like us, Mount Molloy feels like a movie set from an old Australian film where wide-eyed fruit-picking backpackers from the northern hemisphere find romance with farmers that drive tractors and they lose themselves in tropical heat hysteria and never leave. It’s quite a place to explore, where red dust clings to the work utes, fruit trees hang over the roads, and the old timber pubs are as Australian as they come.

The third day of Reef to Reef saw riders ride past cattle farms, cane fields and dive headfirst into the dense jungle. Before the start, we heard whisperings of sections of the track in the rainforest section that had retained a lot of water from wet weather a few weeks prior. Despite the searing blue skies and dry start location, it was going to be muddy in there!

Ripping about on an e-MTB we were able to scoot ahead of the race and lie in wait for riders to hit the first section of bog. Like spectators baying for blood in a tough segment of cobbles in the Paris Roubaix, we lay in wait for the swamp to swallow un unsuspecting mountain biker.

We would have to wait for carnage just a little longer, as disappointingly the yellow jersey wearers would come into view, spot the danger and swiftly scoot around it safely. Boring… Patience paid off, and boom, the bog of surprises took down an unsuspecting rider in spectacular fashion – landing safely on the soft mud of course – to a roar of laughter from his supportive comrades. Onwards they would go, deeper into the jungle, capturing glimpses of the coast far down below.

Gold.
Em and Karl, a long way from Canberra right now.
Don’t stop moving, or you’ll end up as lunch for the wild.
Weird noises in the rainforest as we waited for riders to arrive. Did anyone else hear anything spooky?
Flying through the open native bushland before diving into the dense rainforest.
In we go!
Lush green all around you.
Boom! Slosh!

This stage allowed riders to ride in packs, drafting each other along the fast and open roads through the farmland and spin the legs out from the tough day of winding endless singletrack the day before.

A bar set up at the finish would play host to many yarns and war stories, as riders readied for the final day ahead.


Reef to Reef with Paul on the microphone #3 here:


Rainforest, Rural, Reef. Down from the Tablelands to the beach, a spot of sunburnt tourist slalom, a finish medal and a beer!

MOUNT MOLLOY TO PORT DOUGLAS, THE TRIPLE-R CLASSIC

Woohoo, down we go! If you’re a mountain biker from the Cairns region, you’re most likely to have done the Triple-R at some stage in the impressively long 29-year history. It’s an icon, centred around the Bump Track and a dash along the sand to Port Douglas Surf Club.

The fourth and final stage of the Reef to Reef combines with the long-serving Triple-R that would leave after the Reef to Reefers. Swelling in size, the amount of riders on Sunday is epic! Following the familiar faces from the first three days on xc race bikes, are a total mixed bag of bikes and bodies, matching tropical outfits and often an apparent detachment from the actual race.

Cowabunga, down the Bump Track!
Josh Stephenson, the media man, is bringing you the brilliant videos from Seven 8 embedded into this post. Can ride with a 20kg monkey on his back, too!
The beach awaits.
Prime conditions.
Early morning dip from the many holidaymakers in Port Douglas.
The holiday vibes are strong here.
Many riders would take advantage of the shuttle service from Port Douglas to the start, maximum convenience!

 

From up on the tablelands, down to sea level, this is a fun way to finish a race.
Choose a mate – or ride solo – and settle in for four days of varied trails.

The strong Giant Cairns crew pushed the Odams and Johnston duo right to the finish.
From Queenstown to Queensland, this pair won their category and were always smiling.
“You crazy bikers, why not take a taxi?”
AB takes a well-earned dip while captain red shorts shoes concern about the long camera lens on the beach.
“What’s your bike worth?”

Cheers!

The Bump Track is not a world-class singletrack descent built by the best trail builders with lots of time and money. It is an age-old descent that plummets down from the escarpment to sea level. Originally an Aboriginal track to access the mountains, and also an access track during the mining and logging industry it has some history and more recently some wild moments as riders would hurtle down the graded fire-road descent over dozens of water bars dodging treacherous ‘wait-a-while’ vines on the sidelines. If you don’t go flying over the bars, you’ll make it to the beach for the 5km run to the line on the hardpacked sands of Four Mile Beach.

With a generous tailwind, the final 4km was easy! Finishing on the beach after dodging dozens of sunbathers, yoga classes, frisbees, bikinis and coconuts is pretty amazing, the feeling of elation and accomplishment was written across riders salty faces, and there was so much hugging and kissing from family and friends there to support.

Reef to Reef is complete for the year, as the big team of staff and volunteers packed away the big roadshow and riders lay on the grass to knock back a few celebratory beers we uploaded a few thousand epic photos from a great few days. Flicking back through the images, it was clear to see the diversity of places, people, and bulk backlit beer photos. Ah, yes.

Cheers to the crew, riders and QLD weather, we miss you!


Paul’s wrap from day four and more!


Cheers to the crew, riders and QLD weather, we miss you!

reeftoreefmtb.com

Bikes Of The 2019 Reef To Reef

Last weekend the second-ever Reef to Reef event took over Cairns in the heart of Tropical North Queensland for four days of brilliant mountain bike racing. As a sister event to the Cape to Cape and Port to Port, the Reef to Reef attracts a wide variety of riders and racers from all over the country, and beyond, who predominantly race in pairs. Starting at the classic Smithfield MTB Park just up the road from Cairns town centre, the Reef to Reef encompasses four separate stages that saw riders enjoy singletrack through Davies Creek and Mount Molloy, before riding down the historic Bump Track on the final day to finish on Four Mile Beach at Port Douglas. That fourth day also encompasses the iconic Triple R – the longest-running point-to-point race in Australia.

With hundreds of competitors signing up for the 2019 event, both in the pairs and solo categories, there was a huge variety in both riders and the bikes they were on. Here’s a look at some of the bikes and gear we spotted at this year’s Reef to Reef!

smithfield reef to reef
Stage 1 began at the Smithfield MTB Park just outside of Cairns.
reef to reef race
Each stage kicked off with a fast-paced sprint out of the start chute. Lockouts locked and top-gear engaged for the fast legs at the point end.
reef to reef
Izzy Flint is a young gun on the rise, having already been crowned National Enduro Champion in 2018, as well as achieving notable success in XC, road and track. Izzy paired up with Jacob Langham for the Reef to Reef, and unlike most of her competitors, chose to race a hardtail – a Merida Big Nine.
merida reef to reef
The hardtail didn’t seem to hold Izzy back – she was absolutely flying during the first two stages, but unfortunately had to pull out of the race having fallen ill before the start of Stage Three.
flat tyre
While the singletrack wasn’t too brutal on bikes, there were a few flat tyres rolling around.
flat tyre specialized epic reef to reef
This guy got a huge cheer as he crossed the finish line having spent a considerable amount of time running his bike through the jungles of Smithfield – what a legend!
flat tyre
The Van der Ploeg team of Neil & Paul were looking strong during Stage One, but a rear punny on Neil’s bike caused some dramas down one of the rockier descents.
paul van der ploeg reef to reef giant anthenm
Paul van der Ploeg was making his comeback at the 2019 Reef to Reef, having broken his leg earlier this year while in New Zealand. We’re stoked to see Big Paulie back with a race plate on and a massive grin on his dial!
pump tube
Most XC racers like to go as minimalist as possible. Paulie likes to run the I.C.E pump.
Spare chain links on the handlebar. Some of the routes at the Reef to Reef take riders well out in the sticks, so being able to perform a repair is crucial to being able to finish each stage.
shimano xtr crank chainring
Big legs call for a big(ish) 36t chainring on Paul’s Giant Anthem race bike.
Paul’s running a custom wheelset using Giant TRX 0 carbon rims, blue anodised alloy nipples and Shimano XTR hubs.
fox lockout
Just a single remote lockout for Paul’s race bike, which allows him to instantly firm up the Fox 32 Step-Cast fork at the flick of a lever.
cannondale scalpel reef to reef em viotto
Em Viotto of the Shimano Pushy’s Cannondale team was racing her Scalpel Si race bike. Along with the Specialized Epic and Canyon Lux, this is one of the few full sussers on the market that’ll take two water bottles inside the mainframe.
The Lefty Ocho fork is new for 2019, and uses a single-piece carbon fibre structure for both the crown and outer tube. It still looks absolutely bonkers though!
Em’s race bike is equipped with 12-speed Shimano XTR, and she’s elected to run the tighter 10-45t cassette instead of the bigger 10-51t option.
We spotted a load of Pro’s snub-nosed Stealth saddle, which is proving equally popular with male and female riders.
reverb axs dropper post
Being a SRAM-sponsored athlete, Holly Harris was one of the lucky few to receive some wireless AXS goodies, including this Reverb dropper post that had been put through a mud bath during Stage 3.
sram axs derailleur
No cables to worry about in the mud here with the SRAM XX1 AXS Eagle derailleur on Holly’s bike.
mud fork sid rockshox
Unlike a lot of XC racers, Holly prefers to leave her suspension unlocked for the entirety of the race.
jon odams reef to reef giant anthem smithfield
Jon Odams of the Giant Australia Off-Road Team, brought just a little pizazz to the Smithfield race course – how’s this booter!
john odams giant anthem
Odams was racing alongside Brendan Johnson, but had a very different setup on his Giant Anthem race bike.
fox 34 step-cast
Fresh off the back of the BC Bike Race, Odams had a 120mm travel Fox 34 Step-Cast fork to lift up the front end of his Anthem.
john odams giant anthem shimano xtr 1x12 m9100
Shimano XTR 12-speed groupset along with that smaller 10-45t cassette. Note the lockout cable for the rear shock – Odams prefers to leave the fork unlocked, but still have the option to disengage the rear suspension.
john odams giant anthem ks dropper post 27.2
Odams has fitted a party post to his Anthem – not an easy feat given the 27.2mm seat tube diameter. He chose a carbon fibre KS LEV Ci post, which has a 65mm stroke and a sub-400g claimed weight.
fox lockout dropper post
Odams has an unusual arrangement for his dropper and rear shock lockout levers, which is due to…
OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?
curve wheels carbon rim
Most of the top-level racers seem to be on custom wheels – Odams has gone for DT Swiss 240 hubs with sub-400g Curve carbon rims.
maxxis ikon 2.35
Another difference between Odams and Trekky’s bikes were the tyres – Odams has gone for higher volume 2.35in Maxxis Ikons front and rear. Heavier? Yes. More comfortable for a 4-day stage race? Absolutely.
norco revolver
XC bikes lifted with slightly longer travel forks seemed to be a popular choice amongst Reefer to Reefers – like this dashing Norco Revolver.
specialized epic smithfield reef to reef
Plenty of Specialized Epics – both young and old – were spotted throughout the field.
scott spark reef to reef
And Scott Sparks too. If you were wondering who’s still buying short travel XC duallies, go to a 4-day stage race – they’re everywhere!
trailer ute tailgate car
When the load is just a little more expensive than the vehicle. These fellas came all the way from Singapore to race the Reef to Reef, and may have brought all of the high-end mountain bikes with them!
santa cruz blur reef to reef
Santa Cruz’ latest Blur made numerous appearances at the Reef to Reef.
merida 96 reef to reef bump track dusty
Another Merida Ninety Six scooting down the very fast, and very dusty Bump Truck on the fourth and final day of the race.
fat bike lauf reef to reef bump track
This guy was well prepared for the Four Mile Beach section. Turns out it wasn’t the only bike he’d brought along…
yeti fat bike custom reef to reef
The paint job instantly grabbed our attention – what kind of mountain biker wouldn’t recognise that colour combo?
yeti fat bike custom reef to reef
Look a little closer though, and all isn’t quite what it seems…
s-works specialized epic xtr 1x12
Back to normal programming, and Briony Mattock’s gorgeous Specialized Epic race bike.
santa cruz blur reef to reef
And teammate Anna Beck’s stealthy Santa Cruz Blur. Schwing!
Custom fork decals to match.
santa cruz blur
Oil slick bottle cage? Yes please!
‘The Fox & Raccoon’ team had the best costumes of the whole field by a country mile.
Though this chap does win an award for impeccable matching skills. The question we want to know though is; did the bike or the shoes come first?
soma singlespeed
Steel singlespeeds weren’t exactly a common sight at the Reef to Reef. Our calves are quivering at the thought.
broken hanger damage derailleur
This guy probably wished he’d brought a singlespeed. Game over on day two. #sadface
scott genius reef to reef
‘His & Hers’ Scott Genii getting ready for the Bump Track. Couples who race together stay together. Right?
reef to reef smithfield tasman nankervis merida
Tasman Nankervis threading his way down Jacob’s Ladder as the leader in the Men’s Solo category. Tas only decided to race the 2019 Reef to Reef two days before the event, but it turned out to be a winning decision.
tasman nankervis merida 96 reef to reef
Here’s Tas with his race bike – a Merida Ninety Six Team, which unsurprisingly features 96mm of rear wheel travel. Note the single-position dropper post – old school!
acros hub
Tas’ bike is rolling on a set of custom wheels with Acros Nineteen XC hubs, which have a claimed weight of 104g for the front and 209g for the rear – wowsers!
duke carbon rim
Duke carbon rims aren’t exactly common Down Under, but you might have already seen them under several World Cup riders, including Julien Absalon. These ones are claimed to weigh just 360g per rim, making them an exceptionally light choice for Tas’ race bike.
Speedy Michelin race tyres for Tas. How he rides the technical stuff so fast with such minimalist tyre treads we have no idea!
rockshox x-loc remote ultimate level brake
The RockShox XLoc hydraulic lockout for the rear shock shares the same clamp as the Level Ultimate brake lever. Tidy.
liv reef to reef anthem
Jessica Simpson of the Giant Wollongong team raced to a top-5 finish in the Open Mixed category aboard a rather special race bike that features a paint job you probably haven’t seen before…
liv reef to reef anthem custom
That’s because she’s actually racing a Giant Anthem 29 that’s been custom painted in Liv colours. Why the custom paint job? Simpson is on the Anthem chassis purely because of frame and wheel sizing – the current Liv Pique is a 27.5in bike and she prefers to roll on 29in hoops.
ks dropper post 27.2 liv reef to reef anthem
Simpson has also chosen to plug in a dropper post into her race bike, again choosing the skinny KS LEV 27.2 dropper.
wolf tooth remote dropper
It’s linked up to this lovely Wolf Tooth ReMote that nestles in underneath the Shimano brake lever clamp for a very tidy setup.
liv reef to reef anthem custom fox ird electronic
More custom details on Simpson’s race bike, with a standard eye-to-eye Fox iRD shock sitting in place of the Anthem’s usual trunnion-mount rear shock.
liv reef to reef anthem fox ird electronic
The electronic lockout is used for the fork too.
custom shock electronic fox ird
Custom hardware has been used to make the standard shock fit where a trunnion eyelet would go. The setup is mirrored on Simpson’s teammates bike.
electronic lockout ird fox
The iRD lockout controller is super low profile and requires very little effort to switch on and off.
custom lightweight thru-axle
Ryan ‘Ryno’ Lennox has a few other neat details on his Anthem race bike, including these Extralite thru-axles.
custom lightweight thru-axle
They’re super low profile and help to save a few grams. As the weight weenies always say ‘grams make kilograms’!
reef to reef bump track trek slash
Not everyone at the Reef to Reef was worried about grams though – especially the Cairns locals who turned up for the Triple-R race on the fourth and final day of the event.
reef to reef bump track pole evolink
Can’t say we’ve seen many Pole Evolinks at Aussie races! This guy’s front wheel would have crossed the finish line minutes before his rear wheel did.
specialized epic reef to reef
Aaaand that’s a wrap from the 2019 Reef to Reef! A big thumb’s up to all the riders who completed the four days of racing, we had a blast!

Tasmania’s Next Big Thing – Blue Tier to Blue Seas, St Helens

You may not have heard of St Helens up until now, but surely the names Bay of Fires or Binalong Bay ring a bell. OR what if we showed you pictured of brightly coloured orange rocks clustered around the whitest sand and piercing blue water? These iconic beaches in Binalong Bay draw crowds of tourists from all over the world, it’s worth it too, we found it to be an awe-inspiring place and one of the most photogenic places we’ve been to. Lucky we weren’t shooting on film, we’d be broke already. This town is about to become the newest destination in the booming Tasmanian mountain bike scene.


Watch the full video preview of St Helens below!

 


With trail building elite at the helm, the trails are guaranteed to feel brilliant to ride, that’s a given. World Trail are masters at their craft from start to finish, their reputation is of high regard. Many of the trail builders digging are the same workers that sculpted the creative and crafty flowing trails in Derby, so you can expect to feel that buzz when you’re in the zone, shooting through the singletrack with confidence and flow.

Mountain biking comes to one of Australia’s most famous beaches.
OMG, LOOK AT THIS PLACE!
The big wilderness ride from The Blue Tier finishes in this very spot, on Swimcart Beach.

We visited the region just after the Enduro World Series in Derby in May (OMG, Party in the woods!) and the World Trail crew stopped just short of blindfolding us as we drove to the unfinished trails. We’ve been sworn to secrecy about their exact location for now.

As it was still under construction, the team was busy building (it’s still very early days, with stage one opening in November 2019) our plan was to check out just two sections of the trail; the final 8km descent to the beach, and another section up in the hills above.

In a nutshell.

The St Helens development has two main parts:

  • A 44km Wilderness ride (yet to be named) from Poimena high on the Blue Tier down to Swimcart Beach in Binalong Bay.
  • A 66km network of trails close to St Helens with multiple loops, and varying difficulty grades including shuttle accessed descending trails.

A 44km ride from The Blue Tier to the Beach! Crikey, that’s huge!

Oh yes, this is an amazing project. The 44km trail will be an epic wilderness ride, passing through three distinct zones of vegetation, it’ll be like travelling through a Tasmanian flora and fauna eco time warp on two wheels. From the Blue Tier’s lush and green wilderness, down to drier eucalypt forests with a bright white decomposed granite surface and towering boulders, there’s a lot to take in. Many areas that this track passes through are untouched by man, with no history of farming, mining or logging too.

It’s not a 44km descent, there will be climbing and traversing along the way, but with Poimena sitting around 750m above sea level, there’s plenty of elevation to drop. As all good rides do, this one finishes with a descent. The final 8km of the trail is a real hoot, snaking through super-dry terrain and granite outcrops that litter the landscape, it sounds amazing under your tyres and rolls fast.

The final 8km down to the beach is a fast and flowing trail across bright white decomposed granite soils.
Large granite outcrops make for great trail features for the build crew to play with.

We referred that section of trail as feeling like a cross between You Yangs, Stromlo and Beechworth. With World Trail’s team bringing their trademark flow, the trail holds its elevation as it winds towards the coast, flashing past breaks in the canopy where you can see the shimmering sea waiting for you.

Of the 44km total length, there is 34km of fresh singletrack, with 10km of existing gravel roads used. There are big berms and long swooping turns, and of course, plenty of sneaky features off the side of the trail to pop and jump off. The granite boulders make for great terrain to play with, and it feels fun to ride.

You can see and hear the beach as you get closer, a sensational place to finish an epic 44km ride.
Yeeeehaaaa!

To get another taste of what riders are to expect, we snuck under the construction barriers and into a completely different world of lush green forests, dripping in moss under a thick canopy of man ferns and tall eucalypts. We could see where the dig team have scooped up the fluffy brown loamy soils, sculpting flowing trails through the rainforest into a really enjoyable trail.

Up higher on the Poimena/Blue Tier to Swimcart Beach Track, a totally different scene.
Under a thick canopy of man ferns floating over delicious loamy soil, classic Tassie rainforest.

While we didn’t get up to the start of the trail this time, we know it well as it’s the same beginning point as the immensely popular 18km Blue Tier wilderness ride that descends to Welborough. The terrain up there is so unique, a rain forest at a high altitude, it is so pretty and vibrant, with perfect dirt to sink your tyres into. With an alignment designed specifically to give riders opportunities to see the view, the upper parts of the track should be pretty epic.

The iconic views from Poimena on the Blue Tier, 750m above the beach, 44km away.
Taken on a previous trip on the existing Blue Tier to Weldborough ride, the lush rainforest up high is breathtaking to ride through.

66km of multiple loops in town: Less commitment, more shredding and shuttle options.

The 66km of trails built on the south side of St Helens town will surely be a popular spot to ride shorter loops of fresh singletrack without the commitment of a 44km epic. The trails will have varying difficulty ratings, providing scope for the keen shredders of the family or group, with plenty of trails for the beginner and intermediate riders to explore. Loops vary in length from 0.5km to a massive 23km loop for those more adventurous.

The network will be made up of 10 individual loops (50km) of IMBA grade green and blue grades of difficulty. For the more advanced, there will be more difficult trails, incorporating three descents (12km) rated from blue to black diamond grade with a shuttle drop-off that gives 360-degree views of the region.

To join the trailhead to the town of St Helens is a 4km town link trail. This will be a two-directional, multi-use (walking and riding) trail enabling people to ride from town to the trails off road.

St Helens and surrounds: So much to do when your legs are cooked.

After walking into a full-size supermarket and purchasing a fresh pokè bowl with extra wasabi, we laughed, ‘we’re not in Derby anymore’! St Helens is a very established region on Tasmania’s popular Great Eastern Drive with all of the creature comforts. It’s a place full of holiday things, laid back coastal vibes and a healthy lifestyle. Grab tasty fish and chips or fresh local oysters by the wharf, walk to waterfalls in the forest, surf great breaks, fish off the beach, eat good food, sleep, repeat.

On the drive between Derby and St Helens you’ll find this beaut spot, Halls Falls.
A beautiful moss-lined river with towering ferns and raging fresh water. You know you’re in Tasmania when you see places like this.
Surfers on a beautiful point break just south of St Helens on the picture-perfect Great Eastern Drive.
Great coffee at Swims, in Scamander. Phew!
Who wouldn’t dive on fish and chips on the St Helens Wharf after a ride…?
Fish from famous rocks.

We stayed in the Bay of Fires Bush Retreat, beautiful accommodation set back from the beach surrounded by the bush, cozy glamping style accommodation with high-quality food run by mountain bikers. In a canvas tent with two electric heaters and a powerpoint, staying there was super comfortable and the communal dining area allowed us to mingle with tourists from all over the world visiting the beaches.

We get the feeling the standard of accommodation is a lot higher than many mountain bike destinations out of the major cities in Tasmania, due to the tourism drawn to the beaches alone.

Glamping, Bay of Fires style. Perfect!
Under the water surface, the colours and clarity pop.
Late in the day over the water.

Exciting stuff!

There’s a lot to be excited about with the St Helens project, it will add another world classs destination to sit alongside the major developments of Maydena and Blue Tier, and the terrain on the east coast is a lot drier, so it’ll probably be more appealing for all-year around riding. And in summer, it’s going to be an amazing place to ride and relax. As it’s only a one-hour drive to Derby, it’ll be a great option for families and groups to base out of too.

You’ll need to be well-prepared for the 44km epic, it’ll take about three or four hours to ride at a leisurely pace, with only one point around the halfway mark for refreshments and the option to scoot back to town via a short cut. We also see this trail being really appealing on an e-bike, due to the length.

The first stage of trails are due to open late this year, we can’t wait to get back there and give them a proper ride, in the meantime, put this place on your radar, it’s about to go off!

Stay tuned for official opening dates later this year, trail names and more! We’ll be there.
Ok, one last photo of the beach. Wow.

Our time in Tasmania was made possible with support from Tourism Tasmania.

www.discovertasmania.com.au

The Ultimate MTB Family Holiday: Alice Springs


Meet the Tucknotts: Jenny, Sarah, Reece and Tony. This family have raced and ridden all over the globe, but somehow never made it to Alice before.
Tony wastes exactly no time, getting stuck Into building his bike right after checking in.
You can ride straight from your hotel to the trails in Alice, you’re never more than a few minutes’ pedal from a trailhead.
Jenny and Tony get a taste of Alice’s golden light on their first afternoon in town.
Reece tips it in as the sun dips behind the range.
Straight to the gram for this sunset.
Historic Telegraph Station is a remarkable place. Originally a lone telegraph repeater station, a thousand kilometres from the nearest town, it’s now the hub for the mountain bike trails and a lot of community activity too.
Sarah finds some flow through the Telegraph Station trails.
Kicking uo some dusty and floating around Telegraph Station.
Outback Cycling run a cafe and bike shop out of Telegraph Station, making it the perfect place for brekky after a sunrise ride.
Clarke Petrick from Outback Cycling rolls a rocky slab.
All set for a night under the stars.
Tired legs and a glass of red. Life is good.
Can almost smell the mulga burning.
Very settled in.
Up before dawn, Sarah tackles the steep scramble to the top of Mt Gillen.
The hike up is tough, but definitely worth it.
Back to camp for a bacon and egg brekky.
There are some pretty chunky and challenging trails in Alice if you want them. The new Black Slabbath is one to seek out.
Tony on the slabs.
Some late arvo singletrack .
Reece sends it into the sunset.
You really do not need a car in Alice – even some of the region’s best sights, like Simpson Gap, are all an easy ride away.
Drwarfed by the red walls of Simpsons Gap.
Al fresco dining, with local legend Bob Taylor.
Tony the Tong Commander.
The local drop.
Still time for a post-dinner pint.
The Finke River is thought to be the oldest in the world. You can explore it and the surrounding region on four wheels, on board a Can-Am.
Red Leader, this is Blue Leader, do you copy?
The Parrtjima Light Festival just happened to coincide with the Tucknott’s trip. Seeing the MacDonnell Ranges illuminated is a pretty special experience.

One final Alice Springs sunrise.
Another bright, golden day on the way.
Sarah rips towards the rising sun.
The final stop for the Tucknotts was the aerodrome, for some gliding.
The final stop for the Tucknotts was the aerodrome, for some gliding.
The stable conditions and warm earth make for perfect gliding conditions in Alice.
Believe it or not, this is old truck, with a Chevy engine mounted out back, is what launches the gliders into the air!
No engine, no worries.
The red dirt strip. You want to end up back there, ideally.

Five Days on the Bike in Alice Springs: Part 5


After a day on the trails, you could head to the pub for a feed. Or, like the Tucknott crew, you could dine on gourmet local fare, in the dramatic red sands of an ancient river bed, surrounded by the clear night sky and a million stars. On their final night in Alice, the Tucknotts were treated to a very special evening with Bob Taylor from RT Tours Australia.

Tony commandeers the tongs.
The soft early evening light of the desert is truly beautiful.
Amazing surrounds for a spot of dinner.
Read the menu and try not to be jealous.

Bob Taylor. A true character and amazing host.
Ever tried emu before?
Jenny Tucknott, happy to pull up stumps for the day and enjoy a wonderful evening.
Cooking over a mulga fire.
Quondong puddings.

 

Five Days on the Bike in Alice Springs – Part 4


Just outside Alice Springs you’ll find one of Alice Spring’s most popular and dramatic spots – Simpson’s Gap. Jagged, searingly red walls rise either side of a billabong, in a surreal display. It’s hard to believe, but water sometimes pours through this chasm when the rains do come.

For the travelling mountain biker, it’s especially appealing, being easily accessed by bike. You can pedal out to Simpson’s Gap on a cycleway, all the way from town, making it the ideal late afternoon spin after a morning on the trails.

Five Days on the Bike in Alice Springs: Part 3


After two days of riding in and around Alice Springs, the Tucknott family got to experience one of the truly special outback experiences – a night under the stars. Out in the desert, away from the glow of the town’s lights, you’ll find a night sky of the kind that city-folk cannot even imagine.

As the afternoon mellowed, the Tucknott’s rode west from town, out past Simpson’s Gap, to their campsite.
The ragged red tear in the rocks of Simpson’s Gap, a popular spot just a few kays from town.

“Welcome to your thousand-star hotel,” quips Clarke Petrick, of Outback Cycling, as the Tucknott family arrive at their campsite on their bikes, having ridden the 15km or so from town predominantly on trails. It’s that kind of place – head into the singletrack and in half an hour you can be in complete isolation if you want to be.

Bikes, swags, campfire, a few drinks and a million stars. Suits us.

Clarke’s crew had laid out the swags, got the fire crackling, and even uncorked a bottle of red for the Tucknotts. Tony’s smile said it all really. Once night descended, one of the desert’s traits became clear; total silence, no distractions, just you and a sky full of stars.

Tony Tucknott, in his element. If that’s not a happy man, we don’t know what is.

 

Five Days on the Bike in Alice Springs: Part 2


Every which way you head out of Alice Springs, you’ll soon run into singletrack. But it’s the trails to the north of town, at the historic Telegraph Station, that are the heart of the network. Telegraph Station is a remarkable place; you can only imagine the isolation back in 1872, when this tiny outpost in the vast surrounding desert came into being as a repeater station for a telegraph cable from Adelaide to Darwin.

Sarah Tucknott, always happy to be on the trails, even at 5:45am.

Many of the original buildings still stand, surrounded by rustic cattleyards; the preserved history makes it one of the most intriguing spots in Alice Springs and the green lawns that run alongside the Todd River are a popular oasis for Alice locals on a weekend arvo. It’s also the busiest trailhead for mountain bikers too, and with coffee on offer at the Outback Cycling cafe on the station, it’s a perfect place for a morning ride.

Reece lofts it against the morning sky.
When you look at how rocky the Alice Springs terrain is, the flow and fun the trail builders have managed to create is impressive.

With the promise of a post-ride brew and the allure of a spectacular Alice Springs sunrise, the Tucknott family were up before dawn, lights on the bikes, seeking out a prime position to welcome a new day. After the world turned golden, the trails called. Telegraph Station is home to the only ‘formal’ trails in Alice, all mapped, with recommended loops marked out for different abilities. You can happily spend a day here on the Station trails alone, flowing along the ridge lines, or branching out into the broader network that plugs into Telegraph Station’s trails at many points.

Unlike some of the other riding zones in town, the trails are marked and the loops easy to follow. Plus with a bike shop and bike hire, plus food and coffee at the Outback Cycling store, you’ve got it all laid on for the travelling rider.

Tony Tucknott, following a perfect contour of singletrack through Telegraph Station.
Reece Tucknott – getting a taste for it. Trying to stop this guy riding is your biggest challenge.
Back to the Outback Cycling cafe to refuel.

That Was Epic! Ride High Country – A Tip Top Road Trip.

Nowhere else in Australia can you get the same depth of trail quality within short drives of each other. There are seven satisfying towns with their own unique flavour, completely terrain, trail style and communities. Mt Beauty, Falls Creek, Dinner Plain, Beechworth, Mt Buller, Yackandandah and Bright.



From buff and fresh flow trails in Bright, to fast shuttle access descents in Falls, old-school tech in Beauty, classic back-country adventures in Buller, twisty singletrack in Yack, Dinner Plain’s fresh alpine scenes, the crunchy granite of Beechworth all linked by wonderful roads to drive, it’s a cycling wonderland.

In November last year, we embarked on the road south from NSW to the High Country, definitely not our first time, but we never expected our journey back up on the Hume Highway to be full of laughs, recounting dozens of fun memories to keep, epic adventures in the books and new friends made.

What type of rider are you? What trails are your type? Meet your match below, or do your bike a favour and tick them all off.


Mt Beauty

Keen to take a ride back in time, but bring your 29″ wheels with you? Riding in this little mountain town gives you that experience, the trails in Mt Beauty are as old as they get and we love the place for it. Though this time we noticed something we never thought we would see, new machine built trails! Join us for a classic High Country ride in a truly iconic destination.

https://flowmountainbike.com/features/high-country-motion-mt-beauty/


Bright

Bright has so much going for it, and not only just as a mountain biking destination, this little alpine town is so liveable we often picture ourselves basing ourselves here and living the ultimate mountain bike lifestyle.
This vibrant little alpine town has a beautiful river, an amazing brewery, loads of restaurants, and is completely dwarfed by massive mountains around it.
And in those mountains are epic trails, here is what we found this time around.

https://flowmountainbike.com/features/high-country-motion-bright/


Yackandandah

Yackandandah is a High Country hidden gem, flanked by recognisable big-name destinations Yack does its own thing, it can’t help being different and we love it. The quirky, crafty, artistic and eclectic town has a great mountain biking community and loads of sweet trails.

https://flowmountainbike.com/features/high-country-motion-yackandandah/


Falls Creek

Riding Falls Creek is both beautiful and thrilling. One moment you’re rolling through ultra-high alpine plains with endless space around you, and next thing you’re blasting through tunnels of singletrack roosting turns and jumping gaps at crazy speeds.

https://flowmountainbike.com/features/high-country-motion-falls-creek/


Dinner Plain

Way up in the Victorian High Country you’ll find a pretty little playground nestled deep in the alpine bush, Dinner Plain. Amongst beautiful gums, through historic cattle grazing land in the crisp and clean clear air is a modest network of freshly constructed singletrack that flows directly from the village centre.

https://flowmountainbike.com/features/high-country-motion-dinner-plain/


Mt Buller

The big one, the epic one. Mt Buller needs little introduction to us mountain bikers, this magnificent place is one of the original destinations and remains the place for big back-country singletrack adventures. Keen for big days with unforgettable memories? Head this way.

https://flowmountainbike.com/features/high-country-motion-mt-buller/


Beechworth

There’s something special about the little historic gold rush town of Beechworth, and we love coming back to weave amongst its grippy granite boulders and swoop through the open forested singletrack. The well-signed and mapped MTB Park is a quick spin from town and winds itself hysterically through the unique terrain that gives Beechworth its distinct flavour. Join us for a visual tour as we fly in and out of this little mountain biking haven.

https://flowmountainbike.com/features/high-country-motion-beechworth/


For more information, trail maps and everything else you need, head to Ride High Country’s website.

www.ridehighcountry.com.au

Mission Impassable – Blue Mountains


Planning and riding these Mission Impassable adventures has been a lot of fun! An eMTB opens riding that just wouldn’t be there possible on a conventional bike (well, not with our legs, anyhow). From the rough, loose moto singletrack high above the Hunter Valley, to all-day explorations in wilds north of Dungog, it has been unreal to discover both new terrain and realise the possibilities for the exploration you can do on these bikes.

The spectacular Narrow Neck.
Burritos all round!

To round things out, we wanted an adventure that had a little bit of everything, somewhere spectacular. And so we headed to the beautiful Blue Mountains, on a misty early Autumn day, to tackle two completely different rides, both of which played to the strengths of an eMTB in different ways. First up was a classic old ride, Narrow Neck. This fireroad has to be one of the most scenic in NSW, with sheer sandstone bluffs dropping away on either side. Sure, it’s just a fireroad and so don’t expect to be technically challenged, but what a place to ride!

The catering truck has arrived.

Then up next, Mt York, which features one of the most fun descents we’ve discovered in this part of the world – a mix of rubble-covered fire roads, prime sandy singletrack and steep chutes. The downside is usually a horrible climb out, but on the e-bikes, it barely rates a mention.

We’ve never night ridden with a belly this full.
The motel of dreams. We’ve been running Thule racks for all our Mission Impassable adventures – when you’re carting big, heavy e-bikes about, you want something with plenty of room and stability.
Sneaking by some Blue Mountains sandstone on Mt York.
If you haven’t explored the Blue Mountains yet, don’t put it off.

 

Five Days on the Bike in Alice Springs: Part 1


Meet the Tucknotts.

This West Australian family have mountain biking in their bones. If you’re familiar with Australian cross-country racing, you’ll probably know all about youngsters Reece and Sarah, both of whom have worn the green and gold at the World Champs. And if you’ve ever taken part in any of the fantastic Port to Port or Cape to Cape stage races, then the indomitable Tony and Jenny Tucknott would be familiar too; Tony working the microphone, while Jenny gets amongst the action out on course.

Let’s send them to Alice!

While this family has ridden and raced all over Australia and the globe, Alice Springs was one hotspot they hadn’t visited. They knew the town’s reputation for great riding, of course, thanks to events like the Redback and the Easter in the Alice stage races. With a break in the racing calendar for a few weeks, it was time for a holiday. So we thought, let’s send them to Alice!

Can’t get that bike built fast enough! Tony turning his hotel room into workshop in a frenzy to get to the trails.

Now these guys holiday at full speed. As Tony put it to us, it’s not a holiday to them unless they all need a good rest once they get home. A plan was hatched, an itinerary was crafted that crammed in a huge array of Alice Springs experiences, and they were on a direct flight from Perth to the Red Centre.

You’re never far from the trails in Alice. Forget the car, you don’t need it here.

Why Alice Springs?

For a family like the Tucknotts, who crave action and non-stop riding, Alice Springs is a paradise. The mountain bike trails are excellent and endless, and they start right on the edge of town, so you can roll out of your hotel on your bike and be in the singletrack in moments. For the times you’re not riding, there’s huge array of action-packed off-the-bike activities, and the stable weather in the cooler months practically guarantees there won’t be any rain to mess up your plans.

Jenny cruises through a gorgeous golden Alice arvo.

A perfect first afternoon.

To give the Tucknotts a chance to stretch their travel legs, and deliver a first taste of what riding in Alice is all about, Clarke from Outback Cycling took the Tucknotts for a late afternoon spin. Up into the trails on the east of town they climbed, to one of the best vantage points in town to watch the sunset. With the world turning gold around them as the sun tracked down along the West MacDonnel Ranges, the fix was in – an Alice sunset is one you won’t forget, and the Tucknotts didn’t miss a single sunrise or sunset for the rest of their trip.

Sarah tips it in, with the range peaking into view out back.
Got it.
Night after perfect night, Alice serves up memorable sunsets.

We’ll be following the Tucknotts through their whole Alice Springs escape, join us for day 2 in the Red Centre soon.

 

Warburton: This is Going to be BIG

Warburton is a name that plenty of Melbournites will be familiar with. This little town is the endpoint of one of the country’s most popular rail trails, and its surreal riverside setting and cute Main Street make it an ideal weekend getaway for folk looking for that small-town feel without having to venture too far from the big smoke. But this quaint spot is about to become the biggest name in Australian mountain biking, thanks to a massive $11.3 million investment.



We had the chance to visit Warburton a couple of weeks ago; we’ve been itching to check it out since learning about the plans for Warby earlier this year at the Maydena MTB Destination Forum. It’s safe to say that what we saw completely blew our minds. Here’s why.

This is what we’re talking about! Big hills, bigger potential.

The setting:

Warburton is a little town, with big mountains all around it. With the Yarra River running right through town,  it’s a lot like Bright, which many readers will be familiar with. The way it’s tucked deep into the beautiful Yarra Valley makes it feel more like you’ve stumbled upon some Canadian riverside village in the Rocky Mountains. But in reality it’s less than an hour and a half’s drive from Melbourne airport, which means there’s a huge population right down the road, crying out for new trails.

Warburton is already accustomed to catering for cyclists, just mainly those who’ve trundled down the rail trail.
There’s a cool cycling culture in town already.

The town is already bike friendly:

Warburton has a healthy cycling scene, thanks to the Lilydale to Warburton rail trail, and it’s already popular with roadies who come out to have a crack at the 1000m vertical of Mt Donna Buang. Gravel riders a treated to some of the best backroads imaginable too.

The Yarra River runs right through the heart of town.

The plans are huge:

Warburton will receive a minimum of 110km of trails, spread across three separate mountain sides that envelope the town. You’ll come right out of the trails, into the thick of things (i.e. straight to the bakery or the pub). The jewel in the crown is a trail that’s been dubbed Drop A Kay, which takes you from the top of Mt Donna Buang, descending more than 1000m over 27km, right back into town.

This is the kind of vegetation that surround Warby; beautiful gums, lush ferns and perfect loam.

From a mountain bike perspective, this is a blank slate:

Much like Derby, the crew behind this development are dealing with a truly blank slate. There’s no legacy of illegal trail building to overcome, and the Yarra Ranges Council crew have seen firsthand, having visited numerous other destinations, what’s necessary, both in terms of the quality and quantity of trails, but also the supporting infrastructure and businesses and how to activate locals too. 

The terrain! The terrain!

This area has superb vegetation and topography for trails building. Massive hillsides, towering gums, loamy cold-climate rainforest soils, all centred around the Yarra River. It’s not hard to picture yourself rolling out of the trails straight to the banks of the river, beer in hand.

Mt Donna Buang is almost 1300m above sea level. We were up in clouds for this sunset!

You’re away from the bustle, but not away from civilisation:

Drawing a comparison with Derby once again, Warburton doesn’t face the hurdles of meagre accommodation, dining and drinking options that plagued Derby initially. The town itself has a decent offering of shops, there’s a lot of B’n’B accommodation in place, and the whole region is heaving with nice experiences like bush walks, wineries, rafting and more.

The region abounds with great wine and food.
Breweries? Check.

What about challenges?

The biggest challenge for Warby will be in living up to its potential. This place has the makings of a world class destination, the kind of joint people will fly internationally to ride, as long as they nail the mix of trails needed to cater for the whole mountain bike market. Things are off to a good start, with World Trail having been awarded the contract to build Stage 1, and the Council team are all super passionate about this project. Our fingers are crossed!  We’re sure we’ll be spending plenty of time here in the coming years.

The Yarra Yalley Cycles crew. We expect they’ll be very busy in the years ahead!

High Country in Motion – Mt Beauty

We drove our bike-laden car over Tawonga Pass from Bright, and there she was, laid out before us at the end of the vibrant green Kiewa Valley, Mt Beauty. Ahhhh, we love this place! So many memories have been dreamed up in these hills, and we’re sure many mountain bike racers will share them too, playing host to substantial national level races in the mid-late ’90s. Mt Beauty is steeped in heritage.



Mt Beauty is a charming little town, you drive in past plenty of cozy accommodation options, past Sweetwater Brewery and a bike shop across the road along the river and into the heart of the town. You don’t have to go far to the trails, only a couple blocks from the bakery is the trailhead car park with the vast map billboard.

Little old Mt Beauty, a longtime favourite of the mountain bike community.
Bikes ready for action!
The foothills of the MTB Park offer huge views up the Kiewa Valley.
Hooning off-camber goodness.
Dropping in!
Fast and hard-packed, the trails are worth a visit.

Staring at that map is enough to give the most mathematical puzzler a headache, there’s so much trail squiggled on there, the best way is to follow the coloured loops that Team Mt Beauty have plotted for easy access to what type of ride you’re after.

Meeting up with three locals, we had it sorted. Turi, Whips and Quinny form much of Team Mt Beauty club’s committee, so not only did we get local guides and dashingly good looking talent for the camera, we practically joined a committee meeting as they discussed trail developments, funding applications and grants, events and what neighbouring town charges the most council rates.

Into the labyrinth, we go, on a new machine built climb!

Wait, did you say ‘machine built’ and Mt Beauty in the same sentence? Looking back a couple of years, we quoted “Mt Beauty’s trail builders cling proudly to a gritty, raw and downright challenging style of construction, the polar opposite of the groomed predictability that typifies a lot of new trail development. These trails are scratched into the slopes with hand tools; you won’t find any 900mm-wide excavator shaped contours here!” Times have changed, but don’t worry any of you dedicated natural trail enthusiasts; it’s only a short access climb.

A new climbing trail build by machine gives easy access to the heart of the park.
Gully zoomies!
Quinny off the brakes up the other side.
Turi lets out a yelp through one of the big g-outs.
Letting it slide on a trail used in a recent gravity enduro race.

A new trail has been built to climb up into the heart of the good stuff, it’s nice and wide, super mellow and it’s great! It’ll help more riders of a variety of abilities and ages access the fun bits, no doubt about it.

Up the singletrack jank, through swooping gullies and beneath towering eucalypts.

The narrow, natural, handbuilt trails dart off in all sorts of directions, we follow one of our faves, full of fast gullies under massive eucalypts. Off the brakes, the narrow trails feel even narrower and really fast, through the g-outs and up the other side we turn onto a climb and head higher up for views over the Kiewa Valley.

Climbing up to the starting point of the downhill track, we reminisce of the nerves on race day in our teens. Putting those long-gone feelings aside, we calmy cruise along a ridge bathed in the golden afternoon sunlight and down a super-techy and steep singletrack section with corners so tight we wished for our old 26″ bikes again! The trails were running super-sweet, with a gravity enduro race held there only a couple weeks earlier, the lines are worn in and we had lots of confidence to let speeds trickle up and up.

Up high bathed in arvo light.
Whips on the gas.
Like your trails steep and tech? There’s an abundance here.

After a slow over-the-bars crash, Whips and Quinny push back up with determination to retry a steep and particularly tricky section again, and we made our way through fast old race tracks to the carpark safe and sound.

It’s a great place to ride, so different from the other seven stops on the Ride High Country road trip; it’s charm lies in its steadfast dedication to old school trails. But there’s a fresh feeling in the air, with new trails going in to open up the park’s accessibility to more riders. If you haven’t yet ridden the Mt Beauty Bike Park, do yourselves a favour and put it on your bucket list, it’s a proper mountain bike experience.


For more information, trail maps and everything else you need, head to Ride High Country website.

www.ridehighcountry.com.au

Flow’s Excellent Derby EWS Adventure

If you were in Derby for the EWS you’re probably still feeling quite weary, like we are. It was one hell of a week, and we were not even racing.

If there was one thing we learnt from the EWS in Derby, we want it to come back ASAP. The event is a wonderful mix of everything we love about the sport; there’s incredible racing, dreamy riding, friendly socialising, rowdy partying, cool bikes, kooky locals and an electric atmosphere. Racing it would be amazing, also spectating, but for us as an honorary media squid, we got front row seats into the heart of it.

We crashed the Shimano Australia Team’s party, staying at their place in little Derby which gave us a great insight into the inner workings of a great bunch of riders and how they approached the race of the year. We saw highs and lows, lots of coffee, GoPro footage and focussed race rituals.

Join Flow’s Mick Ross and his camera for a look back through the photos and good times. Enjoy!

Mixing the format up a little, Saturday arvo was the queen stage, points up for grabs on ‘Kumma Gutza and Air Ya Garn’. An obvious crowd favourite track for heavy heckling. The Vertigo crew were SO pumped.
Heckle band practice, quite LOUD, Barelli got carried away and bashed through an old frame with a handlebar, so excited for the racing to begin!

Stage one, a race for some, a party in the woods for the rest!

Everyone was so amped, we couldn’t get over the atmosphere and party vibes all weekend, it felt like everyone had been waiting a long time for this week.

Rae Morrison bursts through a tunnel of noise on Air Ya Garn.
Chris from local craft brewery Little Rivers, so engaged in the event, they even converted a rusty old mining relic into a massive ice bucket and sold beers on the side of the track with donations going to the trail upkeep, amazing!
Stage one set the tone for the next day; it was going to be busy spectating.
Catching up with Pole Bike enduro team manager Matti Lehikoinen, we got a closer look at their incredible CNC’d aluminium bike. Wow!
Friday night’s XTR’rivia trivia was a right laugh, with questions spanning many decades and genres of mountain biking, it was confusing and challenging!
Paul Van Der Ploeg recovering from a broken leg switched his duties from racing to commentating and cruised about on his sick e-bike. What a legend!
Race day was quite different to two years ago, sun all day long and primo dirt conditions made it a perfect day.
Ronning’s Giant Reign is a mighty rig, dialled to perfection for the cause, it was very EWS ready.
Panozzo’s Cannondale Jekyll draws a mean silhouette and is dripping in fine kit from Shimano and FOX.
Misty mornings to start the big day.
Launceston’s Rowena Fry won a stage and never left the top-five, ended up in third overall against a field of full-time pros, SO impressive!
Great racing, Row!
Pretty sure these guys were dressed as Mexicans last time?

Ben McIlroy won here two years ago; many eyes were on the talented youngster to see what he would do.
Dave McMillan dazzled spectators with displays of bike handling wizardry and backed it up with a result many were surprised by. Fit, fast and great to watch, more Dave, please!
Graeme Mudd tucks in his wings and punches through the iconic crack on Detonate, an amazing trail with a lot more rocks than last time it seems, or less dirt…?
James ‘Cannonball’ Hall through the first crack, watching this guy ride is quite entertaining, full power with great consideration to line choice.
Are you impressed by our early light internal rock pan shot with sun flare photo? Cool huh… Chris Panozzo readies for the tight plunge on race day.
Local support for the local shredder, Miles Smith. He seemed to have more fans than anyone out there!
Miles Smith shooting the breeze with Ed Masters after a long climb up from town.
Two legends right here, Michael Ronning and Nigel Page raced the hell out of the ’90s in downhill, the stories they’d have would entertain nerds like us for many long road trips.
SRAM’s resident lobster, Lachy McKillop bench presses over a big slab nice and smooth.
Allllllmost had it
Hands of granite riders.
Gentlemen of Launceston.
Thumbs up for Australian media! AMB’s Mike Blewitt and Tim Bardsley-Smith pumped out great content from their time in Tassie from a musky campervan, make sure you check it out on www.ambmag.com.au yiew!
World Champion DH’er Miranda Miller looked so confident on the big rock slabs.
Cannonball twists the throttle on a big granite slab, nearly causing an avalanche as he rumbled on past.
BeeMac laughs in the face of expensive tyre inserts with his pool-noodle inspired creation made from the heart. Well, it worked, didn’t it!
One of the sports greatest has become a brilliant all-rounder, turning her attention to EWS. Jill Kintner took home a silver medal, a sign of things to come, for sure.
Bryn Atkinson follows his number one up the Snig Track liaison to get racing underway. Great to see the fast and creative guy back in Australia for a visit.
The rocks bite, they say.
The spectators got wilder as the day progressed.
Believe it or not, Specialized actually painted Dave McMillan’s bike to match the trout on Trouty. Look at those layers, too good to be just a coincidence.
When two limbs are out of action, but your flights are already booked, you join the heckle instead. Dave Ludenia gives a focussed Kiwi an earful of colourful Australian language.
Packing in the instruments of abuse and noise.
When you heckle for long enough, your instrument of choice can look a little worse for wear. Bang on!
Maes hucks to flat without batting an eyelid despite the deafening crowds.
Isabeau Courdurier emerges straight as an arrow from the crack onto a commanding victory.
Sam didn’t have the energy this week to realise his full potential, 9th place keeps him very much in touch of the fight to retain his overall crown from last season. Watch this space!
Hats off to Rhys Atkinson for a stellar race, while he built most of the trails we can’t say he’s been training the house down in preparation, natural bike skills and a cool head would see this guy right up there with the best pros.
Life is too short not to HUCK the world. Kezza leaps the jank to keep it smooth.
Leonie Picton hammering the rocks and wafting past chainsaw smoke on 23 Stitches on the way to a very credible 15th place in Pro Women.
Travelling Tasmania is a great experience, many partners of racers were there to support too, it’s a great vibe, we wish it happened at least twice a year! Michael and Karla from QLD enjoying the week.
Shimano had full tech support available, Badger dials in Ben’s bike after the fateful crash.
Wyn trading wheelies for turn-down whips coming very close to our camera, well it felt like it anyhow!
If you’ve seen our video on local Miles Smith, you’ll know. https://flowmountainbike.com/features/mountain-biking-never-came-along-derbys-impact/
Josh Carlson is a hit with the crowds and locals, with his family in town to support, he was all smiles and great to watch.
Don’t stall!
Don’t pause!
Just dive right in. Germany’s Ines Thoma clean and calm despite her apparent fear of snakes on the track.
Florian Nicolai possesses some magical powers; he is so light and nimble on the bike and carries amazing speed. 2nd fastest for the Frenchman.
17 seconds behind Martin Maes. Florian is within striking distance for a big win this season.
Don’t ask us; we don’t know.
Four hands, one chip.
Ben’s sweet Rocky Mountain, goes quite fast!
Fresh race day rubber for Panozzo, no matter what, it’s a ritual.
A Firebird in the mist, Cannonball’s Pivot is a rock-solid rig; it’d have to be.

Iago a blur, mad style and finesse.
Eyes on the prize, and the step up to tight turn to the right and up over the slab to the step down to the left — Panozzo in the zone.
SRAM and just about everyone had a setup in the village.
This guy! Connor Fearon was so insanely fast, landing a third in his second ever EWS. The current National Enduro Champ could really do more damage to the EWS rankings if he wished to.
20-year-old Ella Conolly from Scotland unfazed by the massive rock gardens, taking the A-line like a boss.
Waiting for Ben to race past, this was not the sight we wanted to see. An unfortunate crash led to a race-ending mechanical for the reigning champ.

1st, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 2nd for Isabeau Courdurier a roller coaster ride that favoured her consistency for the win.
On behalf of Australian fans, we wholeheartedly apologise for the ‘shoey’ tradition.

Two from two, Courdurier is on a roll.
QLD’s Michelle Gane taking out the Master’s Women category and promptly showering all the camera lenses with podium beer.
Miles on the podium in front of a home crowd, this got a deafening reception from his supporters.
Martin is a good sport, drinking from his shoe. Sorry, Martin!
Humble, gentle, polite and pinned. Martin is a pleasure to be around, and he’s also not 100% sure what explains the domination streak he is on right now.
Event director, Ian Harwood in his tailor-made suit, congratulations on a very fine event indeed.

To the Crack House!

It might be hard to explain to those who were not there, but in summary; one of Derby’s most well-known locals bought a house on the main street and turned it into a party house. And it went OFF!

Derby locals were pretty pumped that the EWS was in their little town, and with everyone staying within walking distance, it was a rare opportunity for everyone to mingle in the kooky little Tasmanian town.

The man with the crazy plan, Jeffery. Showtime!

Contributions toward trail maintenance and you’re into the party!

Best week ever!

’till next time, cheers, Derby!


Get more Derby in your life here:

Our trip to Derby in December 2018 to check out the latest trails.

Air Ya Garn full GoPro run, strap yourself in, it’s jump madness!

A great tale of Derby and young local Miles, how mountain biking came to him.

Everything you need to know about Derby, right here!

 


Flow’s time in Tasmania supported by Tourism Tasmania.

Mission Impassable: Dungog


There are many times in life where careful planning is desirable; a moon landing or a jail break, for instance. When it comes to riding, a rough idea of the what the day ahead entails is helpful, but it’s good not to be too rigid. Throw an eMTB into the mix, however, and the need for a plan goes out the window.

Dungog, home to the oldest continuously operating cinema in Australia, and just generally a cool little town. We stayed at the lemon yellow pub, far right.

We’d come to Dungog off the back of a chance encounter with a local, whom we’d met out on a trail near Newcastle. We’ve always liked quirky little Dungog, and this fella reckoned there was some pretty great riding in the hills north of the town, including a lookout called The Knob. That was all we needed to hear.

A night’s accommodation at the pub was booked, the bikes were charged and loaded, and exactly 30-seconds was dedicated to working out a route. On the upside, our lack of planning led us to some real gems, including a swimming hole that saved us on a 36-degree day. On the downside, we got lost like you wouldn’t believe, resulting in a good hour’s worth of snake dodging and trespassing that got the heart pumping!

Loaded up! The big hills in the far distance were our target. That was about the extent of the plan.

Check out our in-depth reviews of the bikes we were riding:

Focus JAM2 – the lightest eMTB we’ve ever tested.

Norco Sight VLT2 – the impressive newcomer.

 

Our two steeds! We were super impressed by the battery life of both bikes. With over 62km ridden, we had a lot of juice left.

The fare at the Settler’s Arms was way better than your usual pub grub.
Push for adventure.
Late night tweaks.

The deeper we rode into the bush, the smaller the fire roads became, till we were literally carrying the bikes through the scrub.
Huck.
Splat.
We followed a sign that told us the bridge was out, and ended up at a perfect swimming hole.
Plenty of these fellas were out on the trails.
We made it! We found The Knob!
One of the many paddocks we had to ride through on our dash for civilisation after getting very, very lost.
Cooked! 1400m of climbing, 62km, 36 degrees and not a drop of water left. Now that was a good day out.

High Country in Motion – Bright

We’ve witnessed Bright grow from a sweet little town with an untamed labyrinth of pine forest singletrack, to hosting many national level races, formalisation of signed and mapped trails, to the construction of the impressive Hero Trail. Using much of the land beneath a working forest, the trails often have to shift their location to let the logging proceed, but with cooperation comes the opportunity to rebuild and expand.

With the Hero Trail under the chainsaw blade, a new beast has emerged, Shred Kelly’s Last Stand is an all-new descending trail that opened earlier this year, filling the gap in the network that the Hero Trail left. Freshly constructed by the savvy Trailscapes crew, it’s a beauty.


 


Classic Bright, there is so much of this to be had on Mount Mystic.

Our trip to Bright was not going to be much without serious talent, someone that would make this place look as good as it can be, so we got in touch with a local shredder, Aaron Gungl. Aaron at only 18 years of age has deep experience in going fast, he’s represented Australia at World Champs and his racing palmares are aplenty, watching him push his bike through the turns was hard to believe.

Catching up with Aaron we wandered deep into the forest to find the new trail. Like someone had taken a giant ice cream scoop and carved out a long line of delicious jumps and lines through the dark red dirt, the new is sweet to ride.

With quite a different feel entirely different to the Hero Track, it is less rocky, and it appears excellent attention has been spent to speed management, the jumps flow well with the speed you approach them.

Scoops of red dirt under the pine canopy, Aaron floats over a mound and drops into a deep berm.

If you’re keen to improve your jumping game, Bright’s new trail would be a great one to lap a few times to build up to let it fly.

Boosting out into the open, a series of massive jumps that Aaron floated over easily on his trail bike.

After roosting down Shred Kelly, we cooled off with a spin along the creek, meandering and weaving through the green riverbank, one of the seemingly endless amounts of trails accessible from the town centre.

It’s an easy place to ride flowing singletrack from town, or shuttle up to the higher trails for more of a thrill, Bright has a vast spread of trails on offer. Damn, it’s easy to fall in love with Bright!


For more information, trail maps and everything else you need, head to Ride High Country’s website.

www.ridehighcountry.com.au

High Country in Motion – Yackandandah

Perhaps during the gold rush, those dedicated folks were searching too hard for gold, and the answer was always right in front of their noses, golden terrain for mountain bike singletrack, of course!

Yackandandah is home to classic, old-school singletrack. It is janky, twisty, narrow, fun and in just one lap of the extensive network, you’ll be riding at all sorts of speeds from tight and slow right up to a brakeless breakneck pace swooping through fast gullies.



Of the seven destinations in the Ride High Country road trip, riding the Yack Tracks feels organic and natural, and the bushland scenes would make a lovely oil painting. Don’t expect machine-built bike park style trails here, this place is all-natural, and uniquely Yack.

The quirky little town is part of what makes visiting the town so special, it has an arty vibe, the leafy main drag is an eclectic mix of art studios, bakeries, antique stores and a newsagent with healthy shelf space dedicated to cycling magazines. We’re not locals, but we still manage to bump into a bike rider or two in the main street, it feels warm and welcome.

The trail network isn’t far from town either so that you can ride into the singletrack after a coffee and an almond croissant, brilliant! Down at the main trailhead, the map board is an exciting scribble of trails, if you take the time to digest the information you’ll have a clear idea of what is out there in no time. The well-thought-out map has trail distances, gradients and technical levels listed; it’ll make sure you’re heading in the right direction.

Leafy Yackandandah, hidden by a dense canopy and surrounded by lush rolling pastures.
The steely white gums spring out of the rich red earth.

We met up with Albury locals, Briony and Matt, a really sweet couple that loves their cycling. Taking mountain bike holidays to the best spots in NZ and Tasmania, the pair are reported to rarely miss a social ride or club race in the Yackandandah and Beechworth region. That dedication and passion for riding showed as they pedalled with effortless style through the singletrack smoothly as if they built it themselves.

Pausing at a trail junction, Matt is clearly on the high side of the trail; he’s not THAT tall.
Briony about to drop into a sweet descent, yiew!

The region was once a gold mining hotspot, and when you make your way into the trail network, it’s easy to see signs of mining heritage. So easy that if you walk off the trail, you might stumble across an old mineshaft or water race. We can only imagine what else is out there that just the history books and locals know of.

Scooting around one of the many areas of mining evidence.
Deep in the flow zone, surrounded by austere Australian bush.

When you can see the trail in front of you snaking away, down a gully and up the other side, it triggers something within you – or maybe just your index fingers – and you can’t help but let the brakes off and let out a loud whoooooooop as you hoon down and back up the other side. There are so many moments like this, the rolling terrain and open woodland really let the trails flow along nicely.

A lot of the challenge to some of the tricker trails is staying smooth, and light through the older sections that appear to have been built when 26″ hardtails were en-vogue and dropper posts were still a far off dream. Some of the corners on these trails aren’t as easy to lay into, but that’s what makes this place what it is.

Yack’s famous ‘Carcass Canyon’ a relic from the mining era, and a total blast to ride through!
Boosting out the end of Carcass Canyon.

The gold rush shaped a lot of the landscape into gullies, with age-old eroded creek beds spicing up the flow with a few cool surprises here and there, Carcass Canyon is a favourite, dropping below the earth’s surface racing down and under a large skull suspended on a wire above you, it’s a hoot!

Gully runs, yiew!

It’d be rude not to sample some local grub in addition to the sweet trials in Yack!

Yack is definitely worth a stop, the trails could easily be covered off in one day, the town has plenty of great food, and the pub has great local beer. Maybe Yack is the place to pick up something artistic to hang on your wall back home, a souvenir to add to the memories of hooting through gullies and winding through the bush.


For more information, trail maps and everything else you need, head to Ride High Country’s website.

www.ridehighcountry.com.au

What’s New in Derby?

Derby is the place on everyone’s minds when it comes to travelling to ride, of course, it is it’s amazing. The super-sweet trails don’t need any introduction, but it has always tended to be a little vague when it comes to ‘other things’ to do. Now the little Tasmanian town of Derby seems to have overcome its inherent lack of after-hours options and a decent pub. There is also a lot more nice accommodation, shuttle providers, e-bikes, great cafes, catering, babysitting/childminding, yoga classes and most importantly, family friendly trails.

What’s new in town? So much, if you’ve not visited in a year or so, it’s a totally different place.


Watch it all here:


Family-friendly trails, Lake Derby and Briseis Beach.

Derby was crying out for a place to ride if you’re brand new to mountain biking, too young for the trails in the forest, or simply after a laid-back cruise after a day full of blasting trails.

There’s a lake in Derby? We’d not even set eyes on this mythical lake with an interesting origin steeped in mining history? Surrounded by trees, just a stone’s throw from the ‘bustling Derby CBD’ is a deep lake, now with a 2km beautiful trail running around the water’s edge.

Along the edge of the lake, the new trail is graded for beginners but enjoyable for anyone, really!

Crossing the new suspension bridge from town.
The new bridge with Crank It Cafe and the great public amenities in the background.
Lake Derby is a multi-use track too, a great place to walk.

Warm up for a long day in the forest, or wind down after one.
The view of the lake trail from the World Trail Lookout.

Take the cool suspension bridge from town, cruise along to the water’s edge and let the trail take you on a circumnavigation of a lovely part of Derby.

This green grade trail is very mellow – an EWS racer could ride in their sleep – but for a beginner or family, it’s perfect. The gradient is flat, corners are calm, and the trail surface has been graded for ease of access.

The Briseis Beach fire pit peninsular, Derby’s latest suitably idyllic Instagrammable spot.

Get a high fix above the lake.

From the Derby Lake Trial, there’s another new track called Wocha Upta, a series of switchbacks climbing to a high point above the lake. Hang your bike on the conveniently placed rack at World Trail View and pause for a moment to admire the tiny little town from a birds-eye view.

Climbing Wocha Upta.
Derby CBD at peak hour on a weekday.
How does swimming in a lake after a ride sound?
The dramatic signs of tin mining past can be seen if you stop and observe.
Early morning on the Derby Lake trail.


Pump Track, hell yeah!

Hands up who loves a pump track! This clever addition to the town draws the masses, that’s for sure! We never saw it empty, even when the sprinklers were on bikes were lapping around it with young and old having a good time.

A pump track is a remarkably handy place to hone in your bike skills, what you gain from pumping the bike on the asphalt track translates perfectly to the trail. Riding smoothly working the bike below you, pumping the rollers for speed and ripping around the corners off the brakes, it’s great bike practice. Let alone how tiring it can be, a few laps and your heart rate will be through the roof, and your arms and legs complete jelly. Well, ours were, anyhow…


More trails above Black Stump shuttle drop-off spot.

Standing at Black Stump staring at the map board, it’s tough to make a call of which trail to ride because there are so many of them. Our advice? Do them all at least twice…

Climb up from Black Stump on the new Snig Track – a beautifully lush climb with SO MUCH MOSS – and you’ll reach a junction with three amazing new options, Kingswall, Kumma-Gutza or Roxanne. Three very unique trails with their own flavour.

SO MUCH MOSS!
Tasmania giving us the warm and fuzzies.
Climbing Snig Track is a real pleasure, the thick canopy of ferns above and green colours are beautiful.

Kingswall is going to be a favourite, for sure. The way Return To Sender has so many features and creativity, Kingswall adds to that vibe with the lower portion following the Briseis Mine race, completed in 1902 to carry water from the Ringarooma River to Derby for tin mining practices, it’s been hidden until now. The forest has reclaimed the wall’s construction, and it makes for a fascinating experience to ride along, over and around it on a fun descent back to town.

Roxanne is a rocky run full of rocks, and more rocks. It’s a challenge to ride fast, and if you’re moving at speed you’ll see how the crafty crew at World Trail intended it to be ridden. Gaps are everywhere, A-lines aplenty, but it’s still safe to roll at a mellow pace. Don’t forget to pause at Murrays Lookout, climb the timber steps and break out of the forest canopy for a sense of space in the Tassie Wilderness.

Kumma Gutza is a wild run down, 2km in length and loaded with features. It feels like a downhill race track at times, and will surely be a hit for future enduro races. From the green trails in the valley floor to ones like this, the scope and variety in Derby is huge.

Dropping through giant boulders covered in ferns on Roxanne.
One of the major rock gardens on Roxanne, pretty wild if you give it some beans!
Steps up to Murrays Lookout made from an old tree trunk, so clever!

Air-Ya-Garn, dizzying new jump track.

How many jumps? This dizzying run down from the Black Stump shuttle drop-off point is so much fun.

Loads of jumps, hips, step-ups, step-downs and the now famous ‘dirt wave’ will undoubtedly be the most lapped trail on the hill in no time.

Let the images and GoPro video below do the talking…

Air Ya Garn!

The dirt wave, EWS heckle zone for sure!

More accommodation offerings.

Derby is tiny, it’s always going to be tight to find a bed during busy periods, but we’ve heard about many new mountain bike-specific places popping up to host riders in town. From old cottages converted into fresh pads to renovated a post office for accommodation, it’s good to see the offerings diversifying and growing.

We’ve stayed in a bunch of places in Derby over the years, but this time was a little special. In the forest over the back of the MTB Park is a hidden gem, the Mutual Valley.

Derby Forest Cabins is the place to stay if you want ultimate peace and quiet – not like Derby is anything but – with a sky full of stars and an aspect with beautiful morning light and a communal area for cooking, coffee, tweaking bikes or chilling by an open fire.

In the middle of the forest in the valley adjacent to the trails is Derby Forest Cabins, a beautiful place to stay.
Nice pad!


Catering that comes to you.

Here’s food with a twist, a crew have set up in Derby that provides catering of local produce that can come to you. Picture this; you’ve booked a house with a mob of riders, instead of shopping and arguing over who’s cooking and who’s cleaning bikes or repairing your dropper post after a long day on the trails you can book in the ultimate feast at your place.

Trailhead Food Co is a stoked couple that moved into town; they’re professional chefs, great riders and total legends, Mark and Jules make amazing meals with passion, check them out for sure.

Does this image make you hungry? Imagine it after a day of riding Derby.
Post-ride food to your place, or even on the trails or picnic spot somewhere!
You’ll catch Jules working at Evolution Derby too, the new e-bike store in town. Legends.

Learn to ride lessons.

A number of places in town offer lessons and Vertigo MTB, in particular, are setting themselves to offer lessons and skills sessions for beginners and intermediate riders. With a team of PMBI trained staff, you’re in good hands.

Beginner lessons from Vertigo MTB, now available.
Intermediate skills courses also, to build on finer aspects of riding.

Nice people bought the pub, and it’s back to life!

What mountain biker can say they walked into the Dorset Hotel before October 2017 and experienced warm hospitality? Yes, neither can we…

Brooke and Shaun from Mudgee were not looking to buy a pub, but when they fell in love with the town and the riding, the Dorset Hotel finally came up for sale. They appear to have been VERY busy bringing the pub back to life, with a new kitchen, signage without typos and with a large team of locally employed staff it has been well received by locals and mobs of mountain bikers. It’s buzzing again!

Brooke and Shaun from Mudgee, NSW have taken on the task of revitalising the Dorset Hotel. The atmosphere, food and drinks are a far cry from when we first stepped foot inside.
Shaun and their three  sons are mad mountain bikers, that’s the first important step in creating hospitality in a mountain bike town, right?
Chicken Parma-whoa!
Straight to the pool room! They clearly have great taste in photography; our photos adorn the walls of the pool room, it’s like a Flow photo exhibition, stoked!

We can vouch that the meals are sensational too, generous pub grub that might be familiar to some, that’s because Sharryn and Trish who used to cook at the Weldborough Pub are now in the kitchen at The Dorset. There’s also accommodation, affordable pub-style rooms with shared bathrooms for around $70-per night.


E-bikes in Derby!

When Ben and his family moved from Sydney to set up a shop catering for e-bikes in the main, there would have been many people kicking themselves for not doing it earlier, a brilliant idea! Evolution Biking is everything e-bikes, they rent regular bikes, too, and also retail all the nice goodies and accessories you might want or need.

Ben from Evolution Biking, the new e-bike store in the main street of town.
Hire an e-bike, battery, take a guided tour or browse the bling in store. More options in Derby.

Keen to hire an e-bike, take a guided tour or seek technical support for your own motor system? This is the place to go. They’re currently running a fleet of Trek Powerfly LT 9s, great for long adventures and fast rides. In the plan is implementing a system to hire a battery for your e-bike, making flying to Tasmania a whole lot easier, as the batteries can’t be carried on planes. Nifty stuff!


Easier logistics, airport transfers, uplift and chartered shuttle options galore.

With the demand for services in Derby increasing, the options for visitors also increase. In addition to Vertigo MTB and Mad MTB’s shuttle services for the Derby and Blue Tier trails, Premium MTB are a new business in town offering airport transfers and privately chartered shuttles of the trails.

Look up Premium MTB Transfers if you’re keen to operate on your own timetable, they can be fast flexible to get you to the dirt quick, and they have super-swish vans!

Airport transfers and chartered shuttles from Premium MTB crew, very handy!

Coffee, food, yoga, child minding and more!

There is excellent food and coffee at the new cafe Two Doors Down; you can even book in some childminding/babysitting while you ride from the lovely people at Mini Shredders Derby.

Great coffee and food at a new cafe, Two Doors Down.
Mini Shredders Derby offer babysitting and childminding services in Derby and Weldborough, handy for parents that shred!
Do a yoga class out the back of Crank-It-Cafe with Baba, a great experience from a real Guru.
Derby Tunnel is now open too, oooooh!

Watch out for falling trees! Kidding…

Derby App, handy!

Making life easy, the Blue Derby mobile app has maps, recommended routes and your location for emergency services, download it and check it out!

We could go on forever on about this magical place; it’s great to visit after over one year to see how much has evolved.


For more details on what we discovered in town, here are a few links to browse.

All trail maps, and everything Derby, the official site here: https://www.ridebluederby.com.au

Fantastic accommodation in Mutual Valley, Derby Forest Cabins, highly recommended: https://www.derbyforestcabins.com/

Trailhead Food Co, catering that comes to you, seriously delicious food and rad people: https://www.trailheadfood.com.au

Learn to ride with Vertigo MTB, skills and introductory courses for all: https://www.vertigomtb.com.au

The Dorset Hotel, under new management, since Oct ’17, phew! A great pub: http://dorsethotel.com.au/

Everything E-MTB’ing Derby, the Evolution Biking shop in town: https://www.ebiketasmania.com.au/

Premium MTB Transfers chartered private shuttles and airport transfers for maximum dirt time: https://www.premiummtbtransfers.com.au/

New coffee joint with great food and Derby merchandise, Two Doors Down: https://www.instagram.com/2doorsdowncafe_derby

Grab a shuttle or rent a Merida eMTB from Mountain Bike Adventure Derby (MAD MTB): http://madmtb.com.au

Childminding and babysitting in Derby and Weldborough, Mini Shredders Derby: https://www.facebook.com/minishredders/

Raw Orange: Riding the Wilder Trails of Orange, NSW


Our friend and Orange man-in-the-know, Rodney Farrell, has been in our ear for months. “Come on out, bring the e-bike, I’ll show you some trails that will put you and the bike to a real test,” Rodney said.  Finally we got our act together, nabbed a Bosch-equipped Trek Powerfly LT9, and headed out through the Blue Mountains for an unforgettable couple of days.

It all kicks off with a spectacular drive. Rather than hustling up the main drag, we opted for the Bells Line of Road, a two-lane sweeper that runs along the ridge lines from Western Sydney over the mountains. Along the way there are plenty of worthy side trips, and an impromptu detour to Mount Banks was well worth the effort, delivering staggering views across the valley towards Katoomba and Mount York. Putting it on the list to re-visit for a photo shoot, we pushed on into Orange, meeting up with Rodney at DG Cycles and then heading to Mt Canobolas.

Our rig for Orange! The Trek Powerfly LT9 taking in the view from Mt Banks.
The long ride to the peak of Canobolas under a flawless Autumn sky.

The ‘Nob, as it’s known to the local crew, looms in the background behind Orange. In the vast rolling plains it’s easy to lose perspective of just how big a hill it really is, when in fact it towers a good 500m above Orange with the western slope of the mountain offering almost 700m of vertical. Despite the incredible terrain, it’s not a spot that’s ridden all that often, the whopping climb tends to turn off those without access to a shuttle van. But on the e-bikes, it’s just a matter of spinning the legs over and half an hour later you’re up top.

Rod had promised us some chunky terrain and The Nob has plenty to choose from. We ripped into Jack’s Track first, full of meaty rock features, long off-camber straights and steep rock roll-overs. Climbing over the saddle it was on to Goat’s Gully, which starts out easy enough before pointing you into an extended cheese grater of a rock garden that laughs in the face of your puny 160mm-travel fork.

Rhythm through the rocks on Jack’s Track.

Sunset from the peak of Canobolas is too good to miss, and with a good 400m vertical to climb back to the peak and only 15 minutes to get it done, it was straight up the guts we went, taking a fireroad that would be beyond the rideable realm for a conventional bike. Watching the sun shoot its last rays over the central west was a magic end to the day. Back in the carpark half an hour later, the magic all dried up when we realised the car keys were lost somewhere out on the mountain, with all the camera gear, e-bike chargers and accommodation keys still locked inside. Ah, the joys of a road trip. Luckily we could still get a pizza at 11pm in Orange, after we’d abandoned our search for the keys….

We looked twice at this tricky roller! One of the more tech features you’ll find on The Nob.

Sunset from the peak of Canobolas is too good to miss, and with a good 400m vertical to climb back to the peak and only 15 minutes to get it done, it was straight up the guts we went, taking a fireroad that would be beyond the rideable realm for a conventional bike. Watching the sun shoot its last rays over the central west was a magic end to the day. Back in the carpark half an hour later, the magic all dried up when we realised the car keys were lost somewhere out on the mountain, with all the camera gear, e-bike chargers and accommodation keys still locked inside. Ah, the joys of a road trip. Luckily we could still get a pizza at 11pm in Orange, after we’d abandoned our search for the keys….

The upper half of Goat’s Gully is a rip through the pines….
While the lower half gets raw and rocky!
Dust trails and sunsets. Life is good.

Putting the previous night’s drama behind us we headed north out of Orange the next morning (in a car borrowed from Rod’s mother) towards Mullion Creek. Around us, the terrain looked practically flat. Where were the massive ridge lines and rock chutes Rod had been banging on about? We should never have doubted him, because Rodney delivered in a big way. Within minutes of rolling into the trails, we were sliding down a crazy chute of loose limestone and shale, surfing the surface with the rolling rocks clunking around us making sounds like breaking bottles. It was a hectic way to kick things off! These trails were about as raw and wild as it gets.

Rodney ‘Rocket’ Farrell showed us around. He’s Orange born and bred, you’ll find him at DG Cycles.
Never take your helmet off when Rod’s behind the wheel.
Squeezing through a crack at Mullion Creek.

After sliding to the bottom of the gully, we commenced a grind out that was hard work even on the Powerfly. Rodney has ridden his conventional mountain bike out here plenty of times, but he tells us that it means spending half the time walking up the loose, rubble-strewn climbs, whereas on the e-bike it’s all rideable if you’ve got the skills. Next on the descent menu was Spinal Tap, a solid three-kilometre ridge line descent that gets better and better, faster and faster, before suddenly shooting you straight down the fall line. The final few hundred metres are really all about survival – pick your line early, and do whatever you can to stop that front wheel from locking under brakes! By the time we reached the bottom we were falling about laughing in relief at surviving.

The trail surface of Original Ridge gives such an amazing controlled drift.

The whole area around Mullion Creek has been picked over by gold miners in the 1800s, and as you climb back to the top you weave past countless hand-dug mineshafts en route to the final run of the day, a trail named Original Ridge. What this last beauty of trail misses in sheer steepness, it makes up for in a feeling of weightless drifting, as you slide into each corner of a surface of granite marbles. It’s a wild feeling, but the big rubber of the Powerfly felt right at home on a surface more commonly ridden by motos.

Mullion Creek is a monster of a place, and we’ll definitely be coming back here, and to Canobolas too. Rodney was right,  this joint really is the ultimate playground for e-bikes. Once again we were left shaking our heads at how an eMTB can open up terrain that’s just no fun on a conventional mountain bike, how trails that would be a frustrating hike-a-bike are suddenly a challenge that can be conquered. Orange just got even more appealing… anyone for a tree-change?

Picture yourself here.

 

 

 

Easter in Alice 2019 – Event Preview


So, why all the fuss about Alice?

In part, it’s because the brilliance of the trails here is so completely unexpected. Alice sits in the literal middle of the country, an area that most perceive as pancake-flat, with unbearable heat, surrounded by desert. As you fly into Alice over the sands below, it seems impossible that a thriving mountain bike scene could exist out there. Once your wheels touch down, you can soon start to appreciate how diverse the landscape really is, and just how perfect the rolling ridgelines are for building flowing cross-country trail.

Alice Springs is perfect, rolling terrain. The climbs and descents aren’t huge, but way the landscape is folded into gullies and contours makes for amazing trails.

But it’s not until you pedal out of town on your bike, and within moment of leaving your hotel find yourself following endless ribbons on singletrack, that it all really clicks. This place is a riding paradise.

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.

Sunsets and sunrises in Alice are an almost spiritual experience.
Barreling out of Telegraph Station towards the singletrack.

What’s the Outback Cycling Easter in the Alice then?

What began as a little, local event has grown into a standout on the national mountain biking calendar, but the fun and fantastic community vibe has been retained. Easter in the Alice is three days of cross-country racing (20-22 April 2019), on the very best trails of Alice, interwoven with parties, movie nights and heaps of socialising – equal parts race and festival. Take a look at the event schedule here, and you’ll get the gist! They’re big on the apres race celebrations.

Warm sun dropping, beer in hand. The perfect Alice evening.

How far are we talking?

For those looking to go long, there’s the full distance event, which clocks in at around 120km of racing over three stages. Or if you’d like to wind it back a notch, there’s the ‘Midi’ option, which serves about 60km over the three days. Or you’ve got the option to race the final day as a single stage too.  If you’re planning on being at the pointy end, you’ll be happy to hear the event has Marquee status in the MTBA National Cup as well. Full course maps for all three days can be viewed right here.

Classic Alice Springs singletrack – a light coating of dust, a few bitey rocks and speed galore.

What are the trails like?

Fast! We love the way you can wind it up to full speed so often in Alice, with the singletrack arcing away from you through the open terrain, it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to see so far ahead down the trail. There are plenty of technical challenges too, mainly in the form of dramatic rock features that will keep even the best riders on their toes. It’s terrain that’s ideally suited to a dual suspension XC 29er, something light and efficient, but shod with tough tyres to deal with all the rocks that reach out to nip at your sidewalls.

It’s not all smooth! There are plenty of chunky rock sections too.
Telegraph Station is the hub for mountain biking in Alice, and it’s just short ride from the middle of town.

What about logistics?

Alice is a true ride-in, ride-out destination. Once you’re in town, you do not need a car. All the trails cloverleaf out from a variety of trail heads around town, none of which are more than 15 minutes ride from the centre of the Todd Mall, where you’ll find plenty of cafes and pubs to sate your thirst.

So, what’s holding you back?

The time for excuses has passed. Easter comes but once a year, so get your entry in, get your flights booked and come see what racing and riding in the Red Centre is all about. Click here to learn more.

High Country in Motion – Falls Creek

Our trip to Falls Creek coincided with Ignition Festival, a celebration of everything we love about riding bikes; trails, group rides, food, music, beer and great vibes. Join Ben and Jonah for a trip through some of Falls Creek’s trails, and you tell us if this doesn’t look like a good time!



Directions to Falls Creek? Head up; Ignition is on!

The High Country is a buzz of bikes, cars with bikes on them and people around town that look a lot like bike riders. But when Ignition Festival is on, it’s turned up a notch! On our journey up to Falls Creek with bikes ready for action we were not alone, this festival pulls the crowds, and it’s easy to see why. There’s no timing system or start list in sight; it’s all about getting together, riding together, eating and drinking together and staying in an epic place together.

Zip along Frying Pan Spur, but don’t forget to look around. You’re right up high here!

It was a tent city by the time we rolled into town, people everywhere! We didn’t delay and jumped on the Blue Dirt shuttle with our guys Ben and Jonah and went up the hill to capture some iconic Falls Creek goodness.

Up high.

Out of all the seven destinations we visited in the Ride High Country road trip, Falls Creek gives you the most epic feeling of being super high. The trails that run along the ridges above the resort feel like the highest place on earth, with masses of fresh air around you and views for days.

The bleached white snow gums and low scrub are iconic to the region, and make for great photos as the trail passes through their skeletal shapes. From up high three main options split into various trails as you continue down, from rowdy and fast to more flowing and fun. We took Ben and Jonah along Frying Pan Spur and back to descent down Big Fella, one of the newer trails with one of the most ‘slappable’ sections of corners we’ve seen.

Frying Span to the start of High Voltage, beautiful then rowdy!
Ribbons through the plains.
Enduro champ Ben and his younger protege, Jonah.
On a day like we had, we could see forever.
WhaBang!