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!
Jonah slapping the most slappable turn on the hill on the recently completed Big Fella descending track.
You can see the village from many of the trails, it gives you a sense of achievement and accomplishment when riding the whole network.

Flat out down Big Fella we rolled right into a heaving mass of stoked mountain bikers, and local craft beers were poured before we could say “holy High Country!”.

Bidding Ben and Jonah farewell we saw the long day out by an open fire, planning our dawn photo shoot on a region we hadn’t visited in many years, Pretty Valley. An aptly named area that we knew it worth getting up early for, so we farewelled the festival as the lasers and smoke machines were starting to ramp up on the dance floor and got our gear, bikes and bodies ready for sunrise.

Sunrise like no other, a day to remember!

Sunrise shoots are always a challenge, aside from the early wakeup, you never know if it’s going to be worth it. Was the sun going to do its thing, or would clouds ruin the show? Well, didn’t we get lucky this time around!

BOOM! The sunshine burst off the horizon like a poorly converted tubeless wheel, and we were awash with glorious golden light on our faces. High above Falls Creek and Rocky Valley Lake, the sight took our breath away.

BOOM! There it is!
Absolutely sensational scenes above the Rocky Valley Lake.

With mist swirling on the water surface and layers of fog and cloud huddled in the landscape, we quickly darted about the rocks and snowdrift above Ruined Castle to get the shot, but with a sunrise this good, we wanted more! Jasper was shooting off frames like mad, and I was boosting around on the Specialized Levo (yay for e-bikes!) to give him as many options as possible.

After banging off a few frames at one more spot amongst the skeletal snow gums before jumping in the rally car down to Pretty Valley Pondage for what we hoped would be a beautiful scene.

Ruined Castle is a cluster of rock columns in cool shapes.
Colour overload amongst the gums.

BOOM! Again the light, fog and colours were incredible! We were like contestants in a cash grab show; we wanted to shoot every spot in such little time. Jasper beavered away like a camera ninja juggling the stills camera and drone simultaneously while the Levo carried me into a dozen more positions for breathtaking images.

Pretty Valley Pondage in a blanket of mist, breathtaking stuff indeed.

The grass was still frozen, but we were buzzing so hard we hardly noticed the cold.
Dozens of small lakes like mirrors lay out before us.
Mick was practically crying at this point it was so beautiful.
Jasper with Mt McKay in the background.
Spot the Jasper.

As the sun lifted and the air warmed the mist melted away and the colours faded, it was time for the two of us to regroup and clarify to each other that that was one of the most beautiful mornings we’ve ever seen.

Time to go further into the backcountry.

Falls Creek has loads of backcountry trails, used by horse riders, hikers, walkers and riders the network of dirt roads might not satisfy a rider seeking flowing singletrack, but it makes up for that tenfold with a sense of adventure and mind-boggling scenery.

En route to Tawonga Huts.

From Pretty Valley Pondage to Tawonga Huts is a short-ish (we had e-bikes which made it a lot easier with our heavy equipment and weary legs) ride up and over another massive ridgeline and down to a clearing with a few old huts and cattle holding yards (cold animals they must have been!). It has to be one of the most iconic scenes in the High Country, the old huts, weathered timber fences and bubbling streams through fields of buttercup flowers and brilliant green grass.

With time on our side, we got creative with the surroundings. Playing around on the features and terrain we were fascinated by the shapes of the trees and crystal clear water.

Jasper the high-plain man.
Yiew!

Splash through it, drink it.
Those trees!

We couldn’t stay at the huts forever – there was no WiFi – so we made the trip back to reality and planned to drive to our next destination in the ultimate road trip in the Victorian High Country.

Riding on soft snow is a remarkably unpredictable experience.
Locked and loaded, two e-bikes on the Thule rack, and a massive winding road ahead! Ciao, Falls Creek!

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

www.ridehighcountry.com.au

Maydena, One Year On – What’s New?

We were in Maydena attending the Mountain Bike Destination Forum, which was brilliant event bringing all kinds of people connected to mountain bike destination development together in one room for two days. But either side of the forum, we managed to cram in a bit of riding. Here’s what we gleaned.



With more trails catering to the Enduro crowd now, and a blossoming of intermediate level trails too, we think Maydena is going to be very popular in 2019.
Beef Chief is a recent intermediate trail addition. It was a lot of fun after some rain, but we’re itching to give it a red hot go in the dry too!

More trails. Lots more trails.

When the Maydena crew hit the launch button on the bike park back in January 2018, they did so with 35km of gravity trails under their belts. That was already a lot of riding, but over the course of the year that figure has swelled to a massive 70km, with another 30km due to open soon. 100km of gravity trails is insanely impressive, especially in under two years of building.

At present, the Maydena crew reckon you’ll need four days of solid riding (logging six or seven runs down the hill each day) in order to cover off all the trails and possible ways you can link them up to get down the hill. And let us tell you, if you’re punching out six or seven runs of this hill a day, you’re a bit of an animal.

The Maydena trail map is a lot to take in, and the network is growing. We welcome the addition of some recommended routes and labelling of different Enduro zones to help make sense of it all at a glance.
Zen Garden is one of the more challenging lines on the hill. When it says Pro Line, don’t assume it’s just bluster – this is a tough trail.

Watch our video from our last trip to Maydena for the park’s opening weekend! 


We love the way the trails are laid out.

When you look at the Maydena trail map, it’s like a dropped bowl of ramen. Once you begin riding the trails, the layout starts to make sense. Every trail finishes at a junction, often presenting you with three or four options to continue your descent. And more often than not, those options are really diverse. For instance, pop out of Pandani, and you’ve got everything from the cruisy Green Room trail through to the Pro Line of Zen Garden. It means you’ve got the chance to make every single run down the hill a completely different experience; you can mishmash difficultly levels and trail styles from top to bottom.

Maydena are currently working on some ‘recommended’ routes, which will show you how to string together certain trail styles. For instance, there will be a ‘black diamond tech’ route that will all be handbuilt, tricky trails, and a ‘blue flow’ route that’s mainly intermediate flow and jump trails… you get the picture.

It’s not all downhill. Some of the new green level traversing trails take you to some spectacular spots.
Rolling through Pandani, home to dozens of great berms like this.

More mellow trails.

If Maydena was too tricky for you to ride in the past, you’ll find plenty more mellow trail options now.

When Maydena opened, it quickly developed a rap for being a challenging place to ride – and it was, with some seriously steep, wild terrain, and very, very big jumps. We think it’s fair to say that a lot of people were shocked. When a trail has a black diamond difficult rating in Maydena, they mean it. And when it has a double black diamond sign, well you sure as hell better bring your A-game.

Compared to Derby, Maydena’s natural counterpoint, the difficulty level is higher; a blue-level trail at Maydena is notably harder than a blue trail at Derby. As such, we think a lot of people misjudged their abilities, bit off more trail than they could chew and got scared or hurt in the early days of Maydena. Australia has never had a gravity park catering for this level of riding before, so people are still adapting.

More from the Wilderness Trail, which works its way past some absolutely monstrous old trees.

This decision to position itself at the top of the market in terms of skill level was deliberate. Maydena didn’t want to be (and couldn’t be) just another version of Derby. But the reality is the bulk of the market is after a slightly less extreme experience, and so Maydena is responding with a whole swathe of new blue and green level trails in the coming months. This includes the top half of the Wilderness Trail that we’ve outlined below.

We believe it’s a great thing for this country to have a facility like this, somewhere our very best gravity riders can go to train in a legal, supportive environment (with bike patrol close at hand in case of an accident), rather than having to jump on a plane to North America or New Zealand.

Magic.

The Wilderness Trail is excellent.

During our stay, we spent a good chunk of time riding and shooting on the new Wilderness Trail. We were only able to ride the lower section (the upper half will be open in March 2019), but what we did sample was brilliant. This new blue level trail takes a more meandering route through the forest, heading into previously untouched areas of the hillside. It has a very different flavour to most of the park, with longer, pumping traverses, and once the top half is open it will be a mammoth descent. We’d imagine most people will take at least 45 minutes to get down from top to bottom on this trail alone.

Dark and rooty! Parts of this trail felt just like riding in Rotorua or Wellington.
The new surface of the Wilderness Trail was hilarious fun in the damp. After a few more weeks, we’re sure it’ll settle down into a faster run, but it made for sensational drifts!

More shuttle and ride pass options

In addition to the regular uplift pass, Maydena have introduced two new options.

First, there’s the Enduro Pass, which gets you a single uplift to the top of the mountain.  You’ve then got all day to make your way back down, riding different loops along the way. Maydena are presently putting in more climbing and linking trails in select areas across the hill, opening up what are essentially nice little Enduro ‘zones’, where you’ll be able to descend on any number of trails to a junction, and then follow a climbing or traversing trail back up to the top of the next zone. It’s a smart idea, and maps outlining how to best string together these zones will be available soon.

Then there’s the Trail Rider Pass, which doesn’t give you an uplift but allows you to use the new Turn Earner climbing trail to ride up to the mid-point under your own steam. That’s a 400m climb, in case you’re wondering.

The new Enduro Pass option makes sense, if you’re looking to combine some climbing into your ride but still want to access the maximum elevation to begin with.
Or you can pedal the whole way up to the midpoint on Turn Earner.

So I still pay, even if I pedal up?

That’s right, you still need to pay a fee of $15. This is a private facility, the trails are professionally built and maintained, there’s a bike patrol service, First Aid and other facilities you won’t find in a public park. We think it’s pretty bloody fair that you should pay.

Two fresh rigs, awaiting their very first shuttle.
Spirit Quest is one of a new crop of new green trails.

Would you recommend using the shuttle?

Of course! Do you go to a nice hotel and sleep in the carpark? Do you book a table at Momofuku and then just have a glass of water? No, you pay the money and enjoy the experience fully. This place is all about descending really, and the best way to enjoy it is with the uplift service. Your bike is probably worth $6000, so hand over some buckeroos and forget about climbing for the day.

We opted for the Pivot Firebird 29 and….
The Canyon Strive CF8.0.
We got a bit excited on this corner and went for a lie down.

Don’t take an XC bike.

Yes, you’ll be able to get down the hill fine. But the majority of the trails are best enjoyed on the new crop of long-travel trail bikes or Enduro bikes. Something with 140mm-travel and up, and with good tyres and powerful brakes is the best bet. We were riding a Canyon Strive and a Pivot Firebird (both 160mm 29ers, so solid bikes).

This bike has clearly had a good day out.

Would we recommend a beginner go there?

At this stage, no. But we think that is all about to change. One of the big next steps for Maydena is a genuine top to bottom beginner trail, for complete newbies. It’ll be a guided ride only, at least to start off with, aimed at the larger tourism market.

One of favourite zones on the hill, one Styx and Stones.

We’re frothing.

We’ve come away from Maydena this time with a real sense of excitement and positivity (as opposed to last time, when we came away in an ambulance… that’s another story). The way this place has evolved in such a short time is staggering; it’s hard to believe this bike park didn’t even exist 14 months ago! We cannot wait to get back here.

Ronnie and Ash. These two women from NZ were clearly loving Maydena, you could hear them hooting for miles!
Late light, Tassie styles.

 

 

 

High Country in Motion – Dinner Plain

The journey up to Dinner Plain is worth a mention, it’s remarkably scenic, especially the way we drove. From Falls Creek, over the back through Omeo and up to Dinner Plain. The drive was incredibly varied, like passing through four countries in one day. We only wish we had an extra day to explore more of the places we moved through.



A modular pump track is smack bang in the centre of the village.

Fresh ribbons of lovely dirt, a nice welcome to Dinner Plain for us!
Cruising trails with ease, the trials are mellow and easy to ride it all on the first pass.

We were greeted by a beaming Teagan Atherstone and her father Julian, we’d not officially met Teagan yet, but her reputation preceded her. A talented and successful cross-country racer and bubbly character, she lives cycling and works in the local bike shop of her home town, Bright. Riding looked too easy for her, showing a strong connection between her and her machine, she floated swiftly through the trails quickly and easily, smiling and laughing the whole time.

The vegetation looks to have weathered many winters; it’s nice to stop and look around, too.

Teagan and Julian’s journey from Bright to Dinner Plain is equally as impressive, one of the most photogenic roads you’ll see, and revered as a must-climb road for our narrower tyred cousins.

After a couple of warm-up laps on the cool modular pump track in the village square, we hit the trails and quickly found one of the new pieces of trail that we’d heard about. Ribbons of rich brown dirt scooped into the hillside, the trail ducked and dove around weathered gum trees covered in lichen moss.

Old grazing lands upon the plains.

The trails we rode were predictable, mellow and fun, with a mixture of old and fresh loam to lay your tyres into.

Nice and open to let the brakes off.
Whoa, look at that paint job!
The sunsets and view from Hotham, up the road from Dinner Plain, is massive!

Teagan and Julian cruised through with ease, popping off natural jumps here and there, and racing to the start of the singletrack for pole position. Pausing under magnificent trees, Julian shared his knowledge of local flora and fauna, while we admired Teagan’s lustrously painted race, custom painted in Liv livery, a Giant Anthem in a size she needed with for her height.

Staying in the region, there are many options, either in Dinner Plain or up the road in Hotham. We’d stay up in Hotham for the epic sunset views, or Dinner Plain for more food options.

So if you’re in the region, passing through or it’s too damn hot in Bright, head up to Dinner Plain for a fresh trail experience, you’ll dig it.


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

www.ridehighcountry.com.au

Josh Carlson: An eMTB for Enduro Training?


An e-bike may seem like the last thing a professional Enduro rider needs – after all, Josh Carlson has a level of fitness and stamina that makes most of us just shake our heads. Surely he doesn’t need any help getting up the hills?

Carlson’s Trance E+ is built around a size XL frame, which is the closest possible match to the dimensions of his Giant Reign race bike.

Well, no. But that’s not what inspired Josh Carlson to build up a custom team spec Trance E+ recently. As Josh explained when we caught up with him on his home trails in Wollongong, this project was all about allowing him to cram more descending time into his training rides.

“Originally, my coach and I thought that an e-bike might be a good way to do some huge training days, you know, 4000 metres of descending” explains Carlso. “But that’s not what really transpired. It turned out, the real training benefits of this bike have come on those shorter, more intense training days.”

Far from holding him back, the extra weight of the eMTB carries even more speed on the descents, so when he’s back on his regular bike, his brain is one step ahead.

We head to one his regular training zones. It’s full of short, intense 3-4 minute downhill runs, with a horribly steep fireroad slog back up. “Normally, in a two hour session, I might get in six laps on my Reign. But on the Trance E+, I can easily get in 10 or sometimes 12 laps,” says Carlso. “I’m not getting fatigued from grinding back up the hills, I’m getting fatigued from doing so many downhill runs. Rather than getting to the top and then needing to recover before dropping in, I just roll straight into the next downhill run. And for me, that kind of training is ideal.”

Will other Enduro pros embrace eMTBs? We hope so. It’s good for their training and good for the sport too.
Carlson is a tall lad, and he likes his bikes to feel big a room too, hence the 60mm stem and 30mm of spacers.
The 140mm of rear travel is handled by DVO, who have been using Carlson to test some eMTB specific prototype products.

With his Trance E+ weighing in around 10kg heavier than his Enduro race bike, there are obvious strength and handling training benefits too. “The heavier bike forces my body to adapt, I need to brake earlier too, because the bike carries more speed, so my mind is having to get used to coming into sections faster.” explains Carlson. “When I jump back on my normal bike, I’m stronger and it’s lighter, so I feel like a super hero.”

Deep in one of Carlson’s regular training zones, in Wollongong.

Carlson’s bike is not an off-the-shelf machine obviously. It’s been built up with parts from the team’s sponsors, including Shimano and DVO suspension. “I wanted it to emulate my race bike as much as possible, so I went for an X-large frame, which is pretty similar in dimensions to my Reign. Suspension travel is 140mm out back and 160mm up front, so a little less than my Reign.”

Big brakes front and rear. Carlson says the bike has been helping him learn to brake earlier, then carrying more speed through the corners.
Double Down casings, front and back. No point in running light tyres on a bike like this.
Carlson is actually going to be racing a round of the E-EWS this year, in France.

Will we see other Enduro racers following suit. “I think so. I think these bikes are going to become a training tool for Enduro that’s more important than a road bike. I just hope my competitors don’t work it out too soon.” 

What If Mountain Biking Never Came Along? Derby’s Impact.

It’s hard to miss this young fella’s unmistakable blonde dreadlocked hair, cheeky attitude and likeable demeanour. We assumed Miles was just a local ratbag washing hire bikes for pocket money, but when photos and videos surfaced of this kid shredding the Derby trails with killer skill and speed, we took note.


Watch Miles and Gus ride the new jump trail in Derby, Air-Ya-GArn.


15-year-old Miles from Derby, the stoke is high with this one.

Turns out that Miles Smith is a third generation Derby-Ite, and he didn’t choose mountain biking as such, it came knocking right on his front door. We often say that Derby is the number one success story in Australian mountain biking, but we’re probably referring to the great trails we get to ride, the economic benefit to the region etc, but what about the opportunities it creates for the locals and in particular the younger generation? This is a big success story in its own right.

Yiew, let’s ride!
Pop, after living in Derby for 76 years, he thinks it is “bloody perfect now”.

Only a few short years ago Miles was bashing about the fresh new trails on a clapped out Giant hardtail with Manitou forks that didn’t move much. Fast forward to today, Miles has started college in Launceston and might only be able to ride Derby on the weekends, but as Wyn Masters put it; “He’s well on his way to being Derby’s first pro rider!”

It was Buck at Vertigo that picked up on the potential, the keenness, curiosity. He quickly offered the kid a job at the bike shop one day that his Nan brought him in to buy a Derby t-shirt.

Working at the bike shop in the main street of Derby was where it all started to ramp up, as he washed bikes and fixed stuff, he listened, learnt, and soaked it all up like a sponge. “He’s very easily distracted, and we had to crack the whip to keep him focussed,” Buck says. Though when good riders came to town Miles was all ears and eyes.

Derby was now on the world stage, with people like Wyn Masters, Martin Maes, Nigel Page and Sam Hill in town, it paid to be a frothing grommet, it’s a supportive community that way, it’s natural to lend a hand, and take a junior under your wing.

Only been into mountain biking for two or three years? Do this then, go on…
Whipping down Air-Ya-Garn, the new jump trail is a total playground!
A quick spot of tobogganing after school.
You probably think it’s time to get back to Tassie and ride this new jump trail, right…?
You can bet that Air-Ya-Garn will be one of the tracks used in the EWS this year, so imagine this spot for spectating!

With the World Trail crew working and living in town, Miles was exposed to some very fine characters and role models, guys like Max Connor, Ryan De La Rue and Rhys Atkinson would have the local grommet join their rides.

I got to know Miles around the start of 2017, when building the EWS trails in Derby. He was hanging around Vertigo, washing bikes after school. He’d join our rides, (more likely try and keep up with us) on his old clapped out Giant Stance. One ride I took him down Detonate the first time, in hindsight, probably a trail that was too advanced for him at the time, his facial expression was ecstatic with the fear, but he showed determination to one day ride it fully.

Fast forward to the Asia Pacific Enduro in November 2018, I watched him smoothly navigate the Big Crack on Detonate with no fear. He’s one stoked kid, willing to try new lines, to throw different shapes of jumps, just wanting to drive and push himself. I just wish I had this opportunity when I grew up” – Max Connor, World Trail Crew.

From a clapped out hardtail, to an aluminium Enduro, right up to this sweet carbon Enduro that took him to first place in the Asia Pacific Enduro.

It’d be intimidating having pro riders walk into your bike shop, Wyn Masters needs little introduction, this man noticed Miles right away.

“I first travelled to Derby in early 2017 to produce a video promoting the upcoming EWS race, and whilst at the Vertigo shop Buck, the unofficial president of Derby introduced me to a young Miles; probably the most stoked kid in town and wheelie’n up and down the Main Street every day living and breathing mountain bikes.

It was rad to go back in November 2018 and see how much Miles had progressed, and then to see him win his category at the Asia Pacific Enduro. He’s well on his way to being Derby’s first pro rider!” – Wyn Masters, GT Factory Racing.

When your tiny Tasmanian town turns into a mountain bike Mecca, many opportunities are laid out in front of you, in this case, a young superstar is fostered and who knows what path it will take him on, certainly a different one to what could have been.

Good story, right?

High Country in Motion – Mt Buller

We’ve been making the journey up to Mt Buller for many years. Since 1998 to be precise when the steep and rocky mountain played host to one of the terrifying DH race a diminutive and unprepared junior would encounter. More recently, Buller was leading the charge and building premium mountain bike trails like mad with World Trail at the helm and what appeared to be more funding than anywhere else in Australia, it was pumping, and the trails were the greatest.



While things may have gone a little quiet up there over the last couple of summers and the appeal of new trail openings might not have lured in the crowds, the Bike Buller crew still host premium events with the big event companies (Bike Buller, Enduro World Series, VIC State Rounds etc) and the trails certainly haven’t gone anywhere. On the flipside, they have worn in nicely, into what could be the perfect balance of raw, flow, fun and challenge.

We spent two fabulous days up there and got a solid dose of what we love about Mt Buller; this is how it all went down.

The local bike shop – All Terrain Cycles – put us in touch with Ness and Andrew, they know these hills like the back of their gloves, so it was up to us and our cameras to find sections of the vast mountain bike park to shoot that we think are distinctly Buller. We love the beautiful and spectacular Misty Twist and the raging river under the mammoth bridges on the Delatite River Trail, and it’d be rude not to catch a sunset, so with those three zones in the plan, off we set!

Ness and Andrew swoop under the ghostly white gums on Misty Twist.

Misty Twist is a flowing combination of lush and loamy dirt, spooky white gum trees and vibrant green grass. Built many years ago by machine, you’d never know as the riding line has worn into a narrow winding singletrack delight. We caught the afternoon light on Misty Twist as Ness and Andrew did their thing, swooping through the open turns and jumping off the natural kickers into the next corner, over and over again.

The gum trees take their shape and colour from the 2006 bushfires that tore through the mountain, boiling the undergrowth to the point that the skeletal trees died but stood their ground, it’s quite a sight.

Iconic textures of Buller, very photogenic and distinctive.
Andrew, he smiles in his sleep, for sure. Must be the balanced diet of great singletrack, fresh air and his Kenevo.

Descending the Delatite River Trail could be the fastest you’ll ever travel on a mountain bike, with open and straight sections of the fire trail so fast you feel like something out of Star Wars. It slows when it joins the river, crisscrossing over its raging torrent on large bridges made from gum trees.

Sometimes you want to race down, while another time it’s nice to slow it down and take it in. Keep a keen eye out for trout in the river, admire the massive ferns, gargantuan gum trees and note how the temperature lifts the further down you go.

There is over a dozen of these river crossings, amazing!
Icons of Buller.
On one of the flatter sections of Delatite River Trail, check out the gum trees!
Delicious!

Popping out at Mirimbah there are facilities for a BBQ, camp, food and coffee and the best part – uplift. Check out the Bike Buller site for details on how to get back up to Buller; we’d not recommend pedalling up on the same bike you rode down on, that’s for sure.

Up at the Mt Buller Summit, you’ll see forever, and while bike riding isn’t allowed up at the peak, anywhere up that way, you’ll be treated to a light show if the clouds and sun are playing nicely. The layers of mountains below you form distinct lines and different shades of blue for eternity. We’ve had many soulful moments up there and after a big day of riding it’s the ultimate spot to feel high up.

Always worth a visit to the summit, those lines in the distance!


Our second day was a very different one. With the weather coming in, the forecast was ominous as the alps can be so we knew we didn’t have long. And we had e-bikes, that is so exciting! We’ve said it many times, Buller has the potential to become the ultimate e-bike destination, it’s tough there wherever you go, but with the added power it’s a whole lot more enjoyable.

What comes with good sunsets? Great sunrises, of course! Up early we waited patiently for the sun to rare its head over the east, and when it finally popped it set Buller on fire, in a good way of course. For a moment in time, our cameras were in heaven, snapping wildly at the golden-lit trails and backlit leg hair on the Copperhead Trail, right next to the village.

Ka-pow, sunrise show yourself!
Light turns from gold to warm quickly up there.

Down trails named Gang Gangs, Woolly Butt and bursting through Howqwa Gap we passed a large group of school kids on a camping expedition having breakfast with worried looks on their faces, the weather headed their way was indeed not in their favour, but hey, character building, right?

Woolly Butt, a photographers dream.
Is the ascent better than the descent on Stonefly? Yes, we know, we’re going backwards for this photo…

We wanted to ride Stonefly, Jasper hadn’t been to Buller before, and that experience had to happen for him. Stonefly was long regarded as the best trail in Australia; we wrote it on the cover of AMB once, it’s true! Stonefly is a masterpiece in trail alignment and construction; a 10km loop up near the summit of Mount Stirling and back down. It’s incredible, and worth the trip to Buller alone, just to do this great ride.

We could have photographed the Stonefly climb all day long.
Jasper under a big snow gum, near the summit of Stirling.

Stonefly forms a part of the Buller Epic, too, if you’re game, it’s a memorable experience. The Epic is a 50km ride from Mt Buller to Mirimbah, taking in many of the best parts and then heading way out along a spur deep into the high country. It’s tough, and it’s had its share of criticism from riders who may have hoped for more descending in their day, but it’s a great adventure. Keen? Do it.

Almost to the top!
Looking from Stirling to Buller. It’s a long way there, with plenty to look forward to on the way back.
Horsing around on One Tree Hill, so dramatic up there, the vegetation must withstand the most challenging weather.
Down we go! Put the oven on; it’s lunchtime!

We didn’t do the Epic this time around, it was up to the summit of Mt Stirling for some shots, before plummeting back down. Stirling gives you a view of where you’ve come from, a great sense of achievement. Buller seems so far away, but we know that between us and lunch is a whole lot of great singletrack, there’s SO much of it.

Buller will always be a great place to visit; it’s hard, it’s rewarding, pretty, fresh, and epic. Don’t count it out, put it on your list.


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 – Beechworth


Local shredder, Mason tames one of the A-line rock gardens that bites.

Rolling into town, we had a plan to capture what makes this town tick; the friendly social scene, young talent, the distinctive terrain, and the place where most rides finish, that famous brewery.

Ben Kraus, founder of Bridge Road Brewery, lined up a couple of fresh young talents, Kane and Mason, to ride the trails the way we all wish we could, these two shredders blew the doors off as they sprinted through the trails at ridiculous speeds.

The Beechworth MTB Park is easy to navigate and splits into A and B-line options all over the place, we let the fearless youth loose onto the A-lines with bigger jumps and rowdy rocks and opted to follow Ben through the classic singletrack the place is famous for.

B-line Ben from the brewery, and A-line groms Mason and Kane.
Leading the groms into the network.
Plenty of features and alternate lines to play with in this place.

Ben scoots underneath one of Beechworth’s more iconic trail features, always fun to muck around on this rock. So much grip!
A-lines for the groms.

After watching Kane and Mason tear the place apart, we moved on to join the regular Wednesday night social ride, though we didn’t expect such a mad turnout! The social riding scene in Beechworth brings in riders from neighbouring towns, from all walks of life.

With night-riding lights ready, the mob heads out to the trails and takes in the setting sun upon Ingram’s Rock, an iconic landmark where a lot of the town’s granite building materials were sourced in earlier times.

The local crew!
Are all Wednesday nights like this in Beechworth? Maybe…
Banter before a dash through the trails at dusk.
Sweet evening light in the High Country.
Chris from The Woolshed Cabins accommodation bringing the cheer.

Picturesque Beechworth is well preserved, turning the corner to town is like taking a step back in time, and offers plenty to do when you’re not riding the trails. If you’re a fan of that iconic architectural country Victorian style sandstone buildings or the austere agricultural landscape, swimming under fresh waterfalls, eating really well, drinking the best beer or even wandering the retail stores down the main street, you won’t have a shortage of things to do when your legs have had enough riding.

Shane on his locally made, steel hardtail frame, Tor.
Incoming thirst!
Great beer, no better place to sign off a good ride with the crew.
Small town, tight crew when the staff are pouring beers in their riding kit.

See what we mean? Visiting this town, and riding the trails is a must, maybe turn up on a Wednesday, too?


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

www.ridehighcountry.com.au

Team Shimano Does Derby


Round two of the Shimano Enduro Tour saw the series head to Derby, and seven of Shimano’s best enduro racers piled in to get amongst it! The crew was a good one: Wyn Masters, Josh Carlson, Paul Van Der Ploeg, Chris Panozzo, James Cannonball Hall, Ben McIlroy, Jonny Odams and Shimano Australia athlete manager Toby Shingleton.

What followed was a bloody hilarious weekend of razzing, trash talking, burnouts, pizza, trivia, plank-offs, beer swilling, donuts and one podium finish. Watch the vid and peruse the pics below!


Derby has grown like mad. The new pump track, fresh green trails for beginners and the incredible new Air Ya Goin’ jump trail are just superb.
The riders all scored new XTR group sets for the weekend. The only catch, they had to fit them! Bike building in the dark is standard pre-race fare, and always makes for good banter.
The bike builds moved to the kitchen when it was time to deal with internal cable routing.
Kitchen table / work bench.
Pizza scavengers. Cheers!
Panozzo and McIlroy get Beemac’s sled dialled.
How many riders does it take to fit a chain guide?
We stayed in the recently (as in, just finished the afternoon we checked in!) refurbished Postmaster’s Lodge. Highly recommended!
Panozzo and his morning brew. Does like a strong coffee.
Jonny Odams contemplates freehub standards in the morning light.
This is how pros eat breakfast – surrounded by expensive bike parts.
You know you’re good when you have personalised tools.
Stunning bit of the world.
Friday morning’s practice and it was straight into the rocks of Detonate.
Odams chose to ride the short travel Giant Trance 29er. Detonate definitely tested its big hit capabilities.
James Cannonball Hall emerges from the rocks.
Eyeing up one of the heftiest rock gardens out there on Shearpin.
Wyn lets it run on the damp rocks.
Vandy couldn’t help himself with a quick huck down the new Air Ya Goin’ trail.
Little Rivers Brewery in Scottsdale was the pick for some post-ride ales.
Chris, the Little Rivers Brewer, was all too happy to talk us through the brew process.
Sampling the Sour Series.
Wyn and Cannonball through the chunky terrain of Shearpin.
Good mullets in Scottsdale.
Floating through the Air Ya Goin’ jump trail.
Donut talk to me.
Odams lays the big wheels into a big berm.
Cannonball goes a little deep (deep enough to land into the bank about 5m past the lander!).
Surfing perfect dirt.
The Derby Main Street crew. This town has a fantastic core crew making it happen.
The team that soft serves together, stays together.

The GT Ultimate Weekend: Two Bros, Two New Bikes, Too Much Froth


It’s hard to picture a better weekend really; you and your brother, reunited in Bright Victoria, with two brand new bikes, and a massive schedule of riding, dining, beering and bantering ahead of you. We’re stoked to have been able to give that opportunity to David and Michael Nye, the winners of our GT Ultimate Weekend competition!

These two brothers had the weekend of their lives, discovering what Bright is all about. Watch the vid and soak up the pics below for a taste of their experience!


Thanks to everyone who made this amazing prize come together:

GT Bicycles

Ride High Country

Bright River Rest

Blue Dirt Mountain Biking

Bright Brewery

Tomahawks

The Ginger Baker

Sixpence Coffee


Dave, our comp winner, with his new 2019 GT Sensor Carbon Elite.
And his brother, Micheal, with his fresh 2019 GT Force Comp.
The digs for the weekend, Bright River Rest.
Beers and bike setup. Getting things dialled in before a big day of shuttles.
All aboard the beast! Our winners had a full day of shuttles with Blue Dirt.
Top of Bright, top of the world.
Let’s get to it!

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Hucking amongst the pines.
A little bit of rain made for tacky perfection in the corners.
Navigating Bright’s tech steeps.
The face of a good day out.
Muddy, rooted, happy.
That’s how it should look.
Best burgers in town at Tomahawks.
The mountain bikers’ beer.
A few takeaways? Why not.
Fuel for another big day on the trails.
Sunday was spent exploring the twisty singletrack of the lower slopes of Mt Mystic.
Did we mention that David gets to keep this bike?
The weekend wrapped up with a session at Bright Brewery, with head brewer and owner, Scott.
Dark and story. Bright Brewery’s beers are delicious.
And that’s a wrap! Lock that weekend in the memory bank and enjoy the afterglow.

Mission Impassable: Hunter Valley

For years, we’ve ridden past entrances to mysterious singletracks in the Pokolbin State Forest, high above the Hunter Valley. Normally we’re here as part of the Port to Port MTB race, and so heading into the forest, chasing fresh trails, isn’t an option. Not to mention that we’re usually way too buckled after climbing all the way up to the escarpment from the valley floor to even consider exploring! So we’ve always been left wondering – where do those trails go? Are they even rideable?



Well, this time we came back to find out. Our mission was to follow those trails, wherever the hell they led us. So we charged up the STEPS powered e-MTBs, loaded up on bakery treats, and headed into the hills.

What we found out there left us grinning for days; raw and wild singletracks, dusty and loose, and some jaw-dropping views over the whole Hunter Valley. Watch the vid, and start planning your own Mission Impassable!


We never expected views like this! Finding gems is what exploring is all about. We’d never have made it here without the eMTBs – the climb and challenging singletrack would’ve been a back breaker on our conventional bikes.
Humming up the steady, 12km climb to the escarpment. Anyone who has ridden Port to Port will remember this one well!
Lunch break vibes. We brought the big backpacks, and loaded them up with food and water, for a full day on the trails.
Penny, the wonder dog, came out to say g’day.
Warm weather meant these fellas were out in force.
Roosting dusty moto ruts. These kinds of trails suddenly become not just rideable, but a lot of fun, with a STEPS motor behind you.
Bombing down rock-strewn ridge lines.
Banofee Pie Point. Snack time, with a view over the whole Hunter Valley.

 

Chris was on board a Merida eOne Sixty 900, with a Shimano STEPS e8000 motor.
Mick’s bike for this ride was a carbon Focus JAM 9.7, running the extra volume TEC battery to boost the bike’s range.
The Merida took a couple of tumbles, but kept on trucking!
With the second battery pack fitted, the Focus had power to burn – Boost mode, all day long!
Now THAT was a cracking day out.

What’s the deal with gender non-specific bikes?

In 1999, when Trek brought out their first Women’s Specific Design, gendered bikes that moved beyond a step-through frame became a thing. Other brands followed in the early 2000’s, momentum built and designs quickly improved. Then recently, some of the brands that had invested most heavily in gender-specific designs suddenly went ‘gender neutral’. So what’s the deal?

Having tested bikes for cycling media for the last ten years, this is a question I get asked a lot. The short answer: unisex designs are more informed than they’ve ever been. Thanks largely to research into what works for women. But there’s more to the story than that. This article talks through why early messaging was so confusing, and highlights some of the things we should be saying instead.

Kath Bicknell, author of this piece, rides a Specialized Epic. And while her bike is billed as a women’s model, the size small frame is identical to the men’s bike, it’s just a few components and the shock tune that are different.

The elephant in the room

Early marketing around bikes for women went something like: “Women have shorter upper bodies than men, and are less flexible. So we’ve made the bikes shorter and taller in the reach to accommodate for that.”

Drawing in broad strokes when it comes to body shape differences between men and women doesn’t always work. Earlier theories suggested men are more flexible than women, with longer torsos, but in this case, that’s clearly not true. Chris, left, has the flexibility of a 90 year-old removalist, while Kath can head butt her own shins.

According to these initial claims, if you look at the image above, you’ll see very clearly that Chris Southwood is female, and me, with my hypermobile joints and a longer torso, I’m clearly male.

It’s not surprising then that a whole lot of women dismissed these early female-specific bikes saying, ‘but I’m not like that at all.’

That said, designs have since improved. And there are a lot of women who do benefit from shorter-reach design philosophies. Canyon has reportedly suggested this is partly because women’s arms are 2cm shorter, on average, than dudes (read it here). Liv has said previously that their geometries are also responsive to differences in body weight distribution and more strength coming from the legs (read the article here).

Scott are another brand going down the route of having one frame for both men and women. The Contessa Genius frame is identical to the men’s version, it’s just components and suspension tune that changes.

Trek and Specialized have found that in bikes where men and women want the same ride experience – eg. high-performance bikes where snappy handling is paramount – person-specific contact points and suspension tunes are crucial, but removing gender from their fit data for a certain size frame didn’t have the impact people previously thought. Their performance-oriented cross-country and longer-travel trail bikes use unisex frames, with the smaller frame sizes benefiting from previous research into what works for women and what doesn’t.

‘It’s a woman’s bike if a woman is riding it,’ said Trek when I visited their Wisconsin headquarters in 2016. ‘It’s what women were asking for,’ said Specialized staff at the Stumpjumper launch in Spain this year. ‘If they were asking for a specific frame, we would have done that.’

Brands like Yeti and Santa Cruz/Juliana have stayed with a unisex frame design philosophy all along, designing small and extra-small models for riders demanding good handling, not smaller versions of bigger bikes, since before it was cool.

Liv are the largest women’s specific bike brand in the world, and you’ll find marked differences in the geometry between Liv models and the equivalent men’s bikes.

My take is that different women benefit from different designs, in the same way that different people of all shapes and sizes do. Ongoing research is important. Whatever side of the fence the major brands are sitting on, a constant drive to better understand bodies and fit can only be a good thing.

Like all good debates, including the best wheel size, tyre tread and gelato, we can be certain there will be more exciting and innovative options to come. In the meantime, there’s a lot more we should be saying about gender-(non-)specific bike designs, and why this research and marketing is really important.

 

  1. We’re getting better at fitting all types of bodies to bikes, including guys.

For some reason men’s-specific fit isn’t spoken about nearly as much as women’s-specific fit. Why is that?

  1. Solving design problems for body types that have been poorly catered to can have big impacts on products for the mass market.

To take an example from Specialized: the research and development process for the women’s Myth saddle led to the hugely popular unisex Power and Power Arc saddles. While women benefit from pressure relief sooner, live pressure mapping data shows that men benefit from this too. Bontrager found the same thing with the Women’s Ajna saddle.

 

The women’s specific Specialized Myth saddle, left, led to the development of the Specialized Power Arc, which is popular with both men and women.
  1. Most early critics of gender-specific designs weren’t the target market.

This includes women who weren’t deterred by modifying bikes to fit them better or entering a male-dominated sporting culture and a whole lot of men. But these bikes weren’t aimed at those riders. They were aimed at making the sport more accessible for riders who felt deterred from the sport by a lack of visibility and obvious options for people like them. Brands that have invested heavily in products for female riders have done a tremendous job of making women and girl riders feel like part of a community. Not just through designs catering for recreational through to high-performance goals, but through social rides, imagery, apparel, regular events and media.

Liv might be an outlier in terms of their truly women’s specific design approach, but it must be working for them – they’re one of the fastest growing bike brands in the world.
  1. The marketing is really, really important.

Let’s reverse the typical gender story here for a minute. First, imagine if you’re a guy (if you’re not already). Now imagine a high performance XC bike that is meant to be amazing for men. World Champion Kate Courtney, champion of almost everything you can do on an XC bike, Annika Langvad, and a whole bunch of local privateer ladies are racing it from one podium to the next. But there are no pro male riders on that bike. In fact, there are no images of men using that bike in media or on company websites or social platforms. Not. A. Single. Image. There are no informative reviews that consider male riders and your local shop staff don’t seem to understand how to set the bike up for your needs….Would you buy it? Would you even consider it?

Liv even have women’s specific e-bikes. Now that is niche.
  1. A broader range of bodies reviewing bikes will better address a broader range of riders.

See for example our review of the Specialized Epic, the bike from point 4, and an alternative avenue for addressing the gaps often seen in reviews of unisex bikes. Adding a women’s perspective to this article not only addressed a female audience but pointed out areas where the small size frame excels in comparison to other bikes on the market at the time.

Women’s bikes tend to be the ones coming with narrower bars, on the understanding that women’s shoulders are narrower. But a quick look at Chris’s shoulder width (right) will make you realise why he often takes a hacksaw to the big 800mm hangers that come on many ‘men’s’ bikes.
  1. Guys modify contact points too.

Selling popular model bikes with saddles, bars and suspension tunes specced for women makes sense and provides a better initial ride, or test ride, experience for people new to the sport, unaware of which personal mods to make. This is an important starting point, but there is no right answer for everyone.

  1. Unique women’s frames tend to be updated less frequently than unisex ones.

Moulds are expensive and the demand still isn’t as high. Even if some female-specific frames fit better, newer tech has its appeal too. Which leads me to point 8.

  1. The thing we should be most glad for is a great deal more choice.

Foregrounding the needs of female riders has led to important shifts in bike design, fit, visibility and variety. These are things that affect all types of riders. So whatever bike, or bikes, you look at next, be glad for options. Read up, keep an open mind, and choose the bike that is most right for you.

 

 

 

 

From Adelaide to Utah, Bouwmeester to Crankbrothers, the Synthesis Wheel is Born

Standing in the pouring rain deep in the lush forest of Derby, Tasmania, watching the Enduro World Series riders slog it out in horrendous conditions, we randomly bump into Mello Bouwmeester. Eagerly awaiting the appearance of his team rider from the darkness we vowed to catch up on a new wheel project he was working on. But that never happened, Mello’s engineering skills were noticed by Crankbrothers. Leaving his own brand behind in Adelaide, he packed up to move his life to Utah to be a part of SR56 the design and engineering centre for the Selle Royal Group.

Read our first ride impressions of the new Synthesis wheels here.

We knew very little about what was going on until now, with Crankbrothers releasing their extraordinarily unique wheel system, Synthesis. And guess who played a large part in the development? Mello.

Flow – Mello, long time no speak! So, this is what you’ve been up to, eh, a new wheel system. It’s a pretty big call to bring a new product into the wheel game, let’s hear about it.

MB – Yeah absolutely, it’s a very saturated market. What I’ll do is I’ll give you a bit of background how I got here. Because that part is, actually, ties into the Jason Schiers part of the story and certainly the dynamic of Jason and I in the overall story of how the wheels development. Jason is the general manager of SR56 and in a previous life the founder of ENVE. Obviously, ENVE very renowned for very stiff wheels through their M-series and unforgiving to ride. But, at the same time, quite responsive and stiff and supportive of lines out of corners, those sorts of things.

The new Synthesis wheels are set to shake up the game a bit, we expect.

I met Jason and Gaspare, the CEO of Crankbrothers, couple of years back now. I actually got introduced to them by Cedric Garcia, who had ridden my wheels and put me in contact with Jason and Gaspare. Jason and I obviously being from different schools of thought with wheels, he could see what I’d done with the Tammar wheel, a really compliant wheel.

MB – Jason and I argued what wheel was going to be better, and we had some really heated discussions on theories about wheels and what they should do. But that’s part of the process. So, it’s cool that the product’s done the talking for us now and the tests didn’t lie.

Yeah, Jason and I can’t argue anymore (laughs).

Flow – So how long, overall have you been working on this wheel.

MB – I signed on July 1, 2017.

Flow – When you came on to the group, what were the first tasks you’re working on?

MB – Well, myself and Jason, we were pretty lucky, in the sense that, Gaspare, the CEO and the Crankbrothers team just gave us an open slate. They just said make the best wheel you can.

We got a lot of freedom from a design perspective. Obviously, we had some constraints regarding budget and taking into account what the customer actually needs to enhance their riding experience.

But definitely Crankbrothers wanted to do something new and come up with something really unique. And as you pointed out, it’s still in a saturated market. So, it did have to be special and, luckily, we developed what we did.

Dampening the ride, maintaining tire-contact patch with the ground, those sorts of things are important to me, and together we could definitely see some of the benefits of a compliant wheel in a mountain bike scenario. So, the idea was to bring me on and work with him on a new wheel range. We didn’t really have any preconceived ideas of what we wanted to do.

This is the Synthesis E11, the top-level enduro/all-mountain wheelset with a big price tag – $3799 AUD.

In the early days, we relied heavily on rider testing and blind testing with some of the ideas we were working on. Then also, test a lot of competitors wheels and tie it all together with data from the lab. What we actually found, is there’s a big split in the marketplace, 50% tend to like stiff wheels, 50% tend to like compliant wheels that have more dampening.

Then, out of frustration, out of looking for something better, we started mismatching sets; A compliant front wheel matched with stiff rear, then, compliant rear, matched with a stiff front. And we started playing around with different combinations of different wheels that we had, and different moulds that we were using.

After we completed all the testing data, uniformly, regardless of a rider’s preference, whether it be compliant or stiff, everyone liked one particular combination. So, we settled on a wheel set that is compliant up front, which gives you more damping and holds the trail better. Then you’ve got the rear which is stiffer and it’s supporting peak loads.

So, for Jason who’s done so much already, with many more years in the industry than I have had. He remarked that, that was one of the only test sessions where he’s had a hundred percent of people give the same or similar feedback, that’s pretty impressive. So yeah, we thought we’re on a winner there. Then we started doing more and more testing and refining the product.

That is how we got to Synthesis; thesis is really stiff, and then the antithesis, which is me, is compliance. Then it’s the combination of those two ideas that is the Synthesis, which is compliant front and stiff rear.

Look closely, you’ll see the differences in the rim profile from front to back.

Flow – Who did you involve with the prototype testing process? 

MB – We were doing batches of testing locally in our team. But then, once we get to a certain point we started giving product out to some of our sponsored riders.

Flow – Any idea how many rims you may have experimented with during the time?

MB – Lots. Well the thing is in the R&D cycle you’ve not only got the goal of coming up with a really good wheel that handles well, but you’ve also got the design considerations of how it fails as well. And if you’ve got a wheel that handles a certain way, depending on your layup, you may not get the failure mode you want to achieve. So extensive testing is needed to balance all design considerations.

It was a really, really extensive testing program with the impact testing. So, what we’ve got is a failure mode that is safer than an explosion, or a catastrophic failure. And then that’s balanced out with the characteristics that we were trying to find in the rim.

Flow – Crikey, a lot of considerations, huh?

MB – Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

Flow – How does the Synthesis wheel relate to the Bouwmeester wheels you designed yourself in Australia?

MB – It’s a different product from the perspective that, obviously, it’s a hollow rim rather than a solid rim. We went to a hollow rim because it offered some other benefits that the solid rim had limitations with. And also changing the profile gave us more ability in tuning the layout as well.

Back in the day; one of Mello’s team riders on Australian made Bouwmeester Composites wheels. Kaine Cannan using the Tammar wheelset.

Flow – Tell us a bit about the differences between the hollow rim and a solid rim. Were there any other solid rims on the market at the time?

MB – No, they are very unique. The Bouwmeester wheels were only offered in 27.5” size. In the same design, moving up to a 29” it didn’t have the ride qualities and stiffness we were searching for at the time.

Going to a shallow hollow section also enabled weight savings compared to a solid rim. From a compliance perspective and stiffness wise, you still get a lot of damping because it is so shallow. We feel we are leading the market in that space.

The rims have a much smaller cavity than most.
Thinner and lower tension spokes on the front, compared to the rear.

Certainly, from a compliance perspective, being so shallow, we can still offer a lot of damping up front. Then the whole tuned wheel system (compliant front, stiff rear) we achieved that through a lot of very small, subtle changes.

Flow – How do the wheels differ?

MB – We use lower spoke count on front, high spoke count on the rear. In the 11 Series wheels we use Sapim CX Ray on the front. Then Sapim CX Sprint in the rear. We also play around with tensions as well, lower spoke tension on the front and higher spoke tensions on the rear. The rim on the front is also wider.

Flow – Different spokes, spoke tension, and rim width varies front to back?

MB – Yes, the front inner rim width measures to be 31.5mm, and then 29.5 on the rear. It’s just a subtle change but all these subtle changes that add up to what is a pretty amazing ride.

Flow – What’s the theory behind such a shallow rim profile?

MB – When you go to a really shallow rim you get to start to play with the fibres more. Fibres dictate more what the rim does, and that’s why going to the shallow rim, you have more design freedom to tune a ride characteristic.

Flow – That’s pretty interesting. How does the layup between the front and rear wheels differ?

MB – So, the main difference is in the profiles. The layup itself is part of our secret sauce I guess you could say, but are similar front to rear. Depending on model the front is also 15 – 20 grams lighter in the front.

Flow – If you could make a wheel that if it were to fail, it wouldn’t be catastrophic and potentially ending a race or ride, how different could things be?

MB – A good way to think about it is like a crumple zone on a car. Depending on how you design your laminate, it can dictate how it crumples.

So, certainly if you can design a rim that doesn’t fail at all, you’re set. But, everything’s destructible. Everything’s breakable.

Rims are really that first point of impact out on the trail. So, in some of our early laminates we made some slightly stronger and heavier. But, then the failure mode isn’t as good, so it’s better to control the failure mode, making sure it’s a safe rim.

Which is what you see a lot in cheap rims out of Asia and when they fail they just go boom. There just hasn’t been enough R&D and process control.

Flow – Tell us about the Unno Factory Race downhill team? Because that was the first time we saw the unique looking wheels.

MB – I knew Cesar Rojo or Cero Design prior to working with Crankbrothers. He was also quite good friends with Gaspare. So, he happened to get talking with Gaspare and asked Jason and I, “Can we do it?” and we said, “Yeah, we can do it.” So that’s how the 2018 World Cup kicked off with Unno.

The wheels had a baptism of fire, the World Cup in Losinj, Croatia.
Mello with Greg Williamson, Unno Factory DH Team rider.

We were definitely in a R&D cycle though. We were testing different laminates, making improvements and the wheels that Greg Williamson rode on at the World Cup at Mont Sainte Anne was completely different set to the first World Cup in Croatia.

We fared lot better than other teams at Croatia, we had one or two cracks. It’s just inevitable on a track like that. Greg didn’t break a single rim at MSA. So, that was pretty impressive.

Flow – Croatia was quite a testing ground for wheels!

MB – I was going over on the ferry to Losinj and I was so nervous because I’ve seen the photos and I was just like, “Okay, I’m on the world stage with these wheels, this is their first public outing.”

Testing at this level validates a lot of things and you also get to accelerate the failing process because you can learn from failures. Whereas, if you’re not racing at that level and competing at that level, you don’t get to put your wheels against the fastest riders, under the fastest riders or gnarliest tracks. And put them through their paces quickly. So, failing is good because you learn and then you can speed up your R&D process.

Riders are doing testing with the team and it is really valuable. Feedback from the riders has been crucial in the process.

Flow – There’s a large price to pay for a carbon wheel. But, in your mind, what occurs when going to carbon from an aluminium wheel?

MB – There are certain ride characteristics and qualities that you just can’t get out of aluminium. The ride dampening especially, particularly in the front is a large part. Even if you do a rim profile exactly the same in aluminium, it’s not going to handle the same as carbon. Aluminium is uniform structure, whereas carbon you get that ability to tune. So, you pay a premium for carbon. There’s no doubt about it, but that purely comes down to the R&D involved, manufacturing and the cost of premium materials.

Will the Synthesis wheels live up to the hype, and price tag, or will their legacy and looks be their selling point? Time will tell!
US made 321 hubs on the 11 series models, they come with a brilliant reputation and a clever magnetic pawl freehub system.

A good way to explain one of the benefits of carbon is that because it absorbs more of the vibrations and the trail chatter, you’re more at one with the trail, because there’s less interference and noise between you and trail. So especially, when you go back to an aluminium bike on aluminium wheels compared to a full carbon setup is just like it’s a vibrating tin can almost.

Whereas I think when you jump onto carbon, it’s like you’re actually at one with the trail. I think when you’re buying a riding experience, the better, the closer you can get to the trail, that and the performance gains are what you pay for.

Flow – Well, thanks for your time, we are going to fit these wheels and give them a run!

MB – Awesome, man. Good to chat again. I’m sure we’ll cross paths again one day.

Flow – Yeah, we hope so, any secret stuff you’re working on, just come and tell us all about it.

MB – Yeah, sure I will.

Video: Everything You Need to Know About Derby

Our inbox cops a lot of Derby love; excited tales from people who’ve just been there, frothing questions from people who are planning a trip, plus plenty of people just wanting to know if it really lives up to the hype. So we thought we’d outline a few of the basics that you really ought to know before you book your trip to Derby.



As we’ve long recommended, if you’re heading to Derby, make sure you get in touch with Vertigo MTB, Derby’s local experts – whether it be shuttles, guiding, ride advice or help with a group booking, they’ve got you covered. Check them out: www.vertigomtb.com.au

 

Reef to Reef MTB, Jonny Odams’ Rider Dairy – Day 4

5am – Early start for the transfer for the finish to the start at Wetherby Station up on top of the range.

We’d like to say this is how we arrived at the race start. But we actually caught the bus.

8am – Warm up completed and quick sighting of the first few kilometres and its intro the race chute to wait for the start. 

9am – The first outback loop of the day takes is through some dry and snakey red rock with some steep punches to sort everyone out. We get a small gap but it comes back together as we ride back through Wetherby Station. Our sighting run of the Bump Track pays off and we ride out our own pace to get a gap and shred down steeper section and towards port Douglas.

Boosting into the Bump Track.
Wet socks dry fast up here.
Blasting past bemused beach loungers.

945am – We are on the final stretch down Four Mile Beach and Trekky is gassing it. Time to sit on and enjoy the run along the sands and into the finish line. It’s an amazing spot to finish a mountain bike race. 

11am – Bikes are washed, shakes had and it’s time for a quick dip in the pool.

12pm – Lunch time and laughs with the Shimano crew. 

The race finish, just metres from the beer taps of the surf club.

130pm – Great time to catch up with some cairns legends and have a couple of well earned XXXX. 

230pm – Presentation time and there are certainly some relived faces in the crowd. Locals everywhere and great to catch up with some of the finest folks around.

Sizzling hot alright.

4pm – Airport bound with Tim Bardsley-Smith, Anthony Shippard and Moderate Mike. 

530pm – Checked in at Cairns airport and time to chill out and think about what the next adventure might be. 

Do we have to go back to the cold?

630pm – Time to have a nap on the flight back to Sydney and prepare for work tomorrow and spending some much needed time with my awesome wife Alyce and kids. They are awesome letting me escape on bike adventures.

Reef to Reef MTB Wrap Up, Day 4 – Port Douglas

The final day of Reef to Reef 2018 is upon us and the effects of three days of onerous racing are unequivocal as riders slowly pull themselves up the two steps on to the shuttle buses headed for Wetherby Station, up in the mountains west of Port Douglas. The coffee line is far reaching and the pre-race stretching seems more common compared to previous days – but with an amusing backdrop of “mooing” from some of the local cattle.

Golden pre-race light at historic Wetherby Station.
The race leading pair of Jon Adams and Brendan Johnston getting ready to crack the whip.

Cattle country is where riders start, negotiating farm tracks, stock runs, pinchy climbs and loose, off-camber single track that hugs some of the ridge lines. The tenderness in everyone’s legs seems to be put to one side as attacks are launched in all sorts of places, right across the field – put a foot out and be prepared to dig deep for five minutes in the hope of catching back on to the wheel.

Out of cattle country, and into the dense rainforest of the Bump Track.
Mid-way down the Bump, riders had a tricky crossing to deal with.
Flying down towards Port Douglas.

You know you have finished the first loop when the cows welcome you back to Wetherby with their distinctive and astonishingly loud moos.  Shortly after the farm roads end, the rainforest begins as you sweep through some of the trails used yesterday on your way out to the famous “Bump” track.

And they do mean steep!
Lots of concentration (ok, sometimes fear) down the Bump.
The King of Cairns and one of the most influential men in mountain biking, Mr Glen Jacobs.

I’m not quite sure why it is called the “Bump” track, other than the fact it does have a number of bumps in it – but riders lose a great deal of elevation in a very short amount of time as they fly down, down and down the old road used originally by Indigenous people and early pioneers to connect Port Douglas with the Hinterland.

Safety in numbers down the Bump.
Hard on the brakes down The Pinch.
Yiew!

From the base of the Bump Track the final 9km of Reef to Reef awaits you, which includes a stunning pedal along Four Mile Beach, where all you can contemplate is finish arch, the cold drinks and the salty water you are going to float in as soon as you can get your cycling shoes off.

And would you look at the bloody weather! Onto the beach at Port Douglas for the home stretch.
Perfection.
Hello, Tourism Queesland? Yes, we have your next bill board ready.

I’m calling the inaugural Reef to Reef a great success – with four days of varied riding, it made for a great race at the pointy end as a great deal of fun across the rest of the field. It’s the ideal place to bring the family and escape the miserable winter conditions that grip the southern states. As with Port to Port and Cape to Cape, organisation is impeccable and event staff/volunteers make you feel most welcome with every interaction. This race will only grow in stature in further years.

Taking a breather on the Bump to soak it all up.
Gotta love that finish line feeling.
Marty, local legend and top bloke. 
See you in 2019!

 

Reef to Reef MTB, Jonny Odams’ Rider Diary – Day 3

6am – All too familiar alarms goes off. No mucking around, breakfast, coffee and race bag sorted and we are off on the rally road to Mount Molloy. Trekky pretends the Pajero is a go kart. We arrive early.

715am – Warm up done properly today and we briefly chat on what is likely to happen during today’s stage.

The historic Mt Molloy crematorium.

8am – Race starts and it’s flat out along open dirt roads and double tracks around cane fields and through some creeks. The loop is broken up with some fast rough singletrack which is a blast to ride (I snuck on the front for that bit).

1030am – 66km covered at an average of 29km/h or there abouts. It was a fast day and we swapped turns with Masters combo of Rohan and Brad. We roll over the line on their wheels. Smiles all round.

“I’m sorry sir, Queensland law forbids us from serving you till you shave that moustache and put on some sensible pants.”

11am – We visit Mt Molloy’s best and only cafe. Strawberry Milkshakes. We route plan the way to the Bump Track for the roll home.

12pm – Race presentation occurs and we roll off to for a cool down and reco spin. Decision is made to do a recon down the Bump Track which is the most part of tomorrow’s stage, I feel like we are doing this so I don’t kill both of us tomorrow in race mode. It was a good call.

At the top of the Bump Track, getting ready for some brake cooking action.

1pm – Post race adventure down the Bump Track takes us to a cane field. Where we use all our navigational skills (none) to make the ride home even longer. 20km from home and we had both had enough, but we tap it out in prompt fashion.

The classic look of a lost cyclist.

230pm – Riding done and make it back to the hotel. Straight to the pool for a cool down and get rehydrated.

530pm – It appears Mexican is the choice for dinner, shower up and we are off for some much needed carb refuelling for tomorrow’s final stage from Wetherby Station back to Port Douglas beach.

When you’re three days into a stage race, and you’ve just ridden 66km at full pace, getting lost and adding another 20km+ to your day is not ideal.

6pm – Port Douglas actually has North Queensland best Mexican. Winning.

A shot of tequila to end the day. Olé!

7pm – Dinner with a shot of Tequila was well earnt today. Quick stop by the supermarket and we get ready for a movie and some relaxation.

8pm – Lounge time.

Reef to Reef MTB Day Wrap Up – Mt Molloy

Stage three of the inaugural Reef to Reef kicked off today in the historic mining and timber town of Mt Molloy, which sits roughly 55km north west of Cairns. Billed as a 65km out-and-back course with a loop of single-track acting as a turnaround point, whispers and scandalous assumptions prior to the start had it pegged as a fast and furious course with a lot of pedalling. For many riders, the objective of the day would have been to attach themselves to sizable bunches that form on the open farm roads and hang the hell on!

Croc’ll get ya.
Today’s racing saw lots of fast bunches working together.

With adults in charge of the start noises today, there was no false start as riders rolled out of the local park at Mt Molloy at soon as the clock hit eight. A number of small bergs through the initial sections of grass and farm roads were enough to break up the race, with Rohin Adams/Brad Clarke (Masters) and Jon Odams/Brendan Johnson (Open) making a break early, with smaller bunches forming in the dust clouds – smattered with rays from the early morning sun – behind them.

You find some wild ones out there in the rainforest.
Wayne’o, just loving it.

Things suddenly became quite interesting when the field hit a long section of farm track wearing the scars of previous months of heavy rain and burdened with downed trees and ruts – some of them quite savage! You needed to either pick the right line or follow the right wheel, which left many riders scrambling as a result of some poor (or unlucky) decision making.

Jon Odams in a familiar position on the front.
Imogen Smith and Mike Blewitt from Marathon MTB sharing a little dust.

The farm and scrubland turned into tropical rainforest and before long we were sweeping in and out of gullies and through creeks in the shade of the natural canopy, home to all sorts of freakish Australian wildlife (I’m looking at you Mr Cassowary).

Focus fox.
Shaka brah! Riders were loving the high speeds of today’s racing.

The calm was interrupted by a two minute road climb, where stems were chewed in an attempt to be first into the next section – the single-track loop (HOORAY!). Rutted, rooty, twisty turny and full of fallen trees, this loop proved to be a stack of fun, especially if you were lucky enough to have a bit of space in front of you (which I did as my partner attacked at this point).

Yiew to you too, mate!
Reef to Reef medal soon to be added!

Back through the rainforest, back through the farm track and commence the grovel for the final five kilometres home. Honestly, looking at stage three on paper there didn’t look like it was worthy of the title “Queen” – however it proved to be a fantastic day on the mountain bike. Stunning, technical at times, fast and full of laughter as you spent time riding with (or clinging on for dear life to) plenty of different people and teams.

“Mate, so I poked the croc in the eye, like this.”
Recovery mochafrappecino?
Pass the soap, would you mate?

 

Reef to Reef MTB: Jonny Odams’ Rider Diary – Day 2

Car Tetris.

545am – Breakfast and packing the car straight up. The standard game of car Tetris gets in full swing. A cup of instant and we are on the way (a little behind schedule).

Race faces, but no warm up.

730am – We arrive at the race HQ for the day at Davies Mountain Bike park. Kit up and intend to do a warm up. Unfortunately we cut things a little too fine and we are straight into the start area.

8am – The start keg is banged and the race is on. Some smooth but undulating fire road  takes the race through the first half hour with a couple of creek crossings to cool off.

Briony Mattocks getting loosened up.

10am – We finish on some great singletrack sections through some ant hills. and get the stage win after riding smoothly and pacing well. This was a really enjoyable stage.

Port Douglas, here we come. Lock up your poppers.

11am – Post race interviews completed and warm down underway. Brendan goes for a long road spin and I opt for a short spin and a dip in the creek. I think all mountain bike parks should install a crystal clear watered creek for post ride relaxation. Good vibes.

12pm – Stage presentation. Car Tetris round 2.

Ah, that’s better.

1pm – The all important message to my lovely wife to let her know I am in one piece and we got the win. full tourist mode switched on at Kuranda. Burgers and thick shakes to make me feel human again. Amazing t-shirt selection I might add.

139pm – we are on the way to Port Douglas and tonight’s accomodation. Education session on electric ants after a road signs suggests we should not spread them around. They don’t like tortoises by the way.

Hello Port Douglas!

3pm – Arrive at port Douglas. Hotel score is a ten. Bike wash completed in prompt fashion to get into the pool.

5pm – Pool side review of the days stage complete aided by a few cc’s and a whole lot of laughs discussing training and other important topics.

This is racing?

6pm – dinner time with the race crew at Hemmingsway brewery Port Douglas. Good chat with team Shippy / Moderate and Team Fox and Raccoon.


730pm – Ice cream stop on the way home and it’s time to put the legs up and catch up with my wife Alyce about home life.

Reef to Reef MTB Day 2 Wrap Up: Davies Creek

The sounds of legendary Gang Gajang were humming on the breeze today – “Out on the patio we’d sit, and the humidity we’d breathe, we’d watch the lightning crack over canefields. Laugh and think, this is Australia”. Women’s Pairs leader Anna Beck was humming it for a good hour, but it was a more than adequate theme to the activities today at Reef to Reef up in Davies Creek.

The pack of leaders roll out onto superbly fast trails.

The day started briskly as riders grabbed early coffees and migrated inland to Davies Creek – a 45min twisty drive from Cairns – for the promise of 50km filled with fast and flowy single track, supported by ~1000m of climbing.  Yesterday was all about sweet, flowy, rainforesty single-track and grovelling up 30 percent inclines. Today would be a stark contrast with hard packed gravelly trails wrapping through endless scrubland and wide open bush sections – the real Australia.

Anna Beck, Aussie racing icon. Her pedals stayed attached to her bike. Her team mate’s did not.

The day started, and then started again as the first “start noise” was just a practice run – much to the bemusement of Jon Odams who led the charge of riders down the chute one minute early. After the “real” start, a lap of the event centre was enough to break up the field adequately so as to squeeze through a gate before some of the big boys and girls commenced dishing out watts along vast sections of open and undulating fire road.

Jon Odams and Brendan Johnston are working well as a team, riding to each other’s strengths.
Anthony Shippard, on the hunt.
Today’s stage was a complete contrast to day 1.

Sections of single-track followed, where most riders probably started a re-enactment of “Bambi on Ice” as they accustomed themselves with pea gravel cornering.  The advertised climb of the day came at 15km up a beautiful set of switch backs hugging a ridge line. The reward for tapping your way up was an amazing fast and flowy descent back into a valley with plenty of corners, kickers and berms. A few loose rear wheel moments just added to the fun!

Open trails, dry bush, make for quick racing.
Yip!

The second half of the stage featured some more firetail traverse and a few creeks to really get your feet wet, but all with plenty of energetic volunteers cheering you on (or laughing if you encountered an unplanned dismount into the cool, fresh water). The best was saved up for last, with over 5km of gullies and bushland smattered with simply wonderful trails built and maintained by the local club. They had a bit of everything, including “Grug” shaped bushes, a few sneaky A-Lines and plenty of opportunities to get your wheels in the air. Hold your speed and have plenty of fun, rewarding yourself and your team mate with a burger and beers at the end.

Yeeeeha!
Beers under brollies, it’s nice to be in the tropics.

 

Reef to Reef Day 1 Wrap Up: Smithfield

From the people who bring you the incredibly popular Port to Port (NSW) and Cape to Cape (WA), we now have the “Triple Crown” with the North Queenslanders getting in on the act.

Pairs racing. Building and wrecking relationships in equal measure since 1974. Kyle Ward and Samara Sheppard, partners in life and racing.

You can ride Reef to Reef as an individual or in a two person team. Pairs racing is such an energising dynamic – if you have chosen the right partner you will have an absolute ball as you follow each other down single-track descents, swap off on open road sections or grovel up climbs together in a little sweaty and dusty ball of cohesion.

Jon Odams leads out Brendan Johnston. The pair set the day’s fastest time.

The teams were the first let loose on to Stage One of Reef to Reef, racing 20km around Smithfield Mountain Bike Park. The course was essentially split into two sections – the first loop with a few little punchy climbs and dry creek crossings, rewarded with sweeping rainforest single-track, countless berms through a leafy pine plantation and a twisty red dirt section to test your cornering ability.

Classic Smithfield flow.

The second loop – a whole different ball game. Once you navigated out of a twisty, grassy maze (keeping an eye out for those 20 foot pythons North Queensland is famous for), you were set to face three savage climbs that can forever be known as the new Axis of Evil.

Your author, Briony Mattocks, smashing through a dry creek bed, hot on the heels of team mate Anna Beck.

The first, up and past a water tower, is sealed for the first three quarters, but requires a bit of pacing. It’s rewarded with a superb single-track descent with plenty of flow, large berms and the odd double for those who appreciate a bit of flight time. The second, an endless set of switchbacks that have freshly been cut in, which were quite enjoyable until the final 200m, which required going up a downhill track, that had many scrambling up on foot. The descent that followed was incredibly steep, covered in loose rock and rather unrewarding given the effort required to get there.

Mad Dog Marty on home turf. This man is a fixture in these P2P, C2C and now R2R stage races. Legend!
Shimano Boss Man, Matt Bazzano, cruising down the fast, buff Caterpillars trail.

The third prong of the Axis of Evil was nicknamed “The Driveway”, which was apt as it did seem to be someone’s actual driveway, even if the house at the top seemed somewhat unfinished and half abandoned. Riders struggled up in “granny gear”, zig zagging for the odd bit of relief. A short section of single-track was followed by more climbing until you and your team mate finally peaked over the summit and flew down a fast descent with scatterings of asphalt and the odd water bar.

The finish was exceptional, with a chance to shoot down the famous Jacob’s Ladder (A or B lines) from the World Cup track, followed by an awesome section of fast, jumpy single track with plenty of speed. 20km of racing with 800m of climbing in the bank, ready for Stage 2 tomorrow!

The famous Jacob’s Ladder, offering up A and B Line options.

Whatever you do, DON’T STOP.
“Hahaha, did you see what I put on Flow’s Instagram Stories?! Can’t believe they gave me the login…… Jeez I wish I’d ironed my shirt.”

 

Reef to Reef MTB: Jonny Odams’ Rider Day – Day 1

Trekky: ‘Gram game strong.

7am – Little bit of a sleep in today before a lunch time race start for the stage one time trail around Smithfield. Priorities in place with coffee quickly made and chilling time on the lounge as the body gets it self together. 

Super smooth instant coffee is a reasonable starting point for the day. 

Just so you know.

8am – A brief discussion on what needs to be done prior to race start and what will actually happen takes place. Then we are  down to breakfast for some of the accom’s finest cereals. 

9am – Bike prep time with a bike wash , bolt check, last minute adjustments and tyre pressure checks. Both of our Giant Anthem pro 29’s are running full Shimano XTR which keeps running smoothly wherever the trails goes. 

XTR Di2 for consistent shifting, no matter what the trail throws at you.

1030am – Kit up and get the race bags sorted before heading for a spin and to find a good brew. 

1130am – Spin over to the race start for plate collection. Lots crew frothing to get out on the trails. 

1200pm – Number plates are on and we squeeze in a quick spin to get the legs ready for the start. Brendan and I are feeling good and ready to get it done. 

Notice the aero plate curve? Like the wave breaker on a ship. Pro tip.

1230pm – Count down timer goes off. Watt bomb trigger is pulled and were off down the start straight and into the jungle. 

We ride together the full loop and pace each other well on the climbs and descents to scrap in under the hour for the 20km and 800m of vert. 

No crashes, I didn’t spew or lead Brendan into anything too dangerous on the descents.

130pm – Finished the stage and I’m pretty happy. No crashes, I didn’t spew or lead Brendan into anything too dangerous on the descents. A few interviews with local news and the event team done and we are rolling back to HQ. 

The traditional student accommodation post race fire hose bike clean.

230pm – Bike wash completed and its time for a deserved shake. Room is still smelling pretty fresh, I might add. 

4pm – Made it to the beach for a quick dip and a beer at trinity beach. Recovery done right. Good to see some other competitors down the beach heading for a dip too.

Lube it. Bike maintenance is vital when you’re racing day after day.

530pm – Presentation and a Yellow jersey after the win on stage one. Added bonus to be the only team to break the hour mark. 

630 pm– Quick dash to the super market for snacking and tomorrow’s breakfast. Down to palm cove with the Shimano crew for dinner. Great way to end the day. Pizza and Peroni’s make mountain bikers happy. 

Never too old for a popper.

830pm – Time to pack and prepare for tomorrow’s stage at Davies creek. Some smoove lube on the chain and a protein shake and it’s time to get some rest.

Reef to Reef MTB: Jonny Odams’ Rider Diary – Day 0

4am – Alarm goes on and I’m out of bed and grabbing my things for the ride to the airport. Last minute double check of the essentials to make sure pedals, shoes, helmet are all packed. A quick bite to eat and I’m out the door.

6am – I scored a great seat on the plane and fall back asleep straight away to wake up again at 730. Winning. Coffee on board not so much of a win.

Can you feel the warmth? It’s nice to escape the southern cold. 

9am – Touch down in Cairns, car collected and I’m on the way to meet Brendan Johnston, my Giant – Shimano team mate for a pedal around Smithfield’s singletrack and some media shots once my bike is together.

11am – We are out on the famous Smithfield trails talking bike tech then moving onto some riding footage.

Media life.

1pm – Bite of lunch and a course recon for tomorrow’s time trial 20km stage – talk about trails and conditions

Fast, dry trails.

3:30pm – Riding for the day completed with an iced chocolate and some track talk. The time trial loop of 20km includes some truly steep climbing to the Alien Tree up high on the downhill track, and past the ruins of the German’s house on the north side of Smithfield. The loop finishes with the famous Jacobs ladder and caterpillar. Our favourite bit of trail is the singletrack through the first half of the course with plenty of jumps, berms and smiles to be had.

Can you imagine how this room will smell by tomorrow evening?

5:30pm – Media team chat about our riding, the Reef to Reef and how we are riding together for the first time as a pair. Lots of laughs and even a cheeky beer to round out the afternoon at the event welcome party.

7:30pm – Dinner time burgers and fries done right with mayo. Good catch up with the other riders and industry folk.

8:30pm – Drive home with an ice cream stop and supplies for the morning.

Day done.  Sleep in tomorrow morning before the stage 1 time trial kicks off for trekky and I on our Giant Anthem at 1230.

More Than A Race: What the WA 100 Means to the Community

A mountain bike race is much more than the sweat, dust and suffering that happens while the clock is ticking. In fact, a race can be an intrinsic part of the community, and its success and survival can have far-reaching impacts that most participants would never stop to consider. The cancellation (and subsequent re-birth) of WA’s famous Dwellingup 100 race earlier this month, highlighted to us again that a mountain bike race can be far more important than what happens on the racetrack. 


2018 was to be the tenth anniversary of the Dwellingup 100, an event that has become a highlight of the WA mountain bike calendar, and an important stop for the National XCM Series. Things were locked and loaded; entries taken, course set, accommodation booked – the stage was set for a huge event. And then, the phone call came through from TriEvents – their parent company was shutting them down. And not in a few weeks or months, like right now, immediately. The whole apparatus in place behind the Dwellingup 100 was being yanked away. 

Cutting the long, stressful story short, an insane amount of work from a few key people (in particular Tony Tucknott and family, plus John Carney of Single Track Minds) has saved the event from the brink of extinction. As Tony Tucknott put it, “There has been too much time, effort, and physical work invested in the Dwellingup 100 for it not to happen, especially for the tenth year.” With a new name, now the WA100, and perhaps a few less frills, the event is going ahead. This is a relief to those who had been looking forward to racing, but also the businesses and charities who rely upon the event to keep the doors open. We got in touch with some of these people to find out what the survival of the event means to them, including local businesses, the event’s charity partner, plus the Shire CEO to find out how the event has driven change in the town. 


The Local Business:

The Blue Wren Cafe, Amee Lyons.

“After nine years of building relationships and the expectation of a busy week for all aspects of town, it was concerning for businesses, community groups and the profile of Dwellingup to be losing this national event.  Businesses and community groups have come to rely on the income and fundraising opportunities that came with the event.  It has put Dwellingup on the map as a destination for mountain biking.

“Many friendships and professional relationships have been built over the last nine years.  Even the lead up to race day sees an increase in activity for businesses as organisers and riders descend on the area to prepare, practice and adjust to conditions.

“The event gives community groups the opportunity to fundraise from a different cohort, brings the community together with volunteering opportunities and the town is abuzz with new patrons for shops, cafes, and accommodation.

“We need to applaud John Carney from Single Track Minds and Tony Tucknott and Dave Budge for liaising and saving the event in difficult circumstances for the benefit of MTBing which in turn promotes and benefits out town.”


The Charity Partner:

Muscular Dystrophy WA, CEO Hayley Lethlean

The Dwellingup100 had forged a place in all of our hearts. It is an event which has raised over three quarters of a million dollars for MDWA. Long-term friendships have been formed between our community and committed mountain bikers who have trudged the beaten trails for the past 10 years, raising the profile of muscular dystrophy as a condition and, at the same time, a remarkable amount of money for our cause.

It has always been fantastic brining our community together and each year families, caregivers and those living this MD travel to Dwellingup to support the mountain bikers. It’s truly wonderful to see. 

And personally, I love this event. I have participated with my family for the last three years, with my two boys (11 and 12) and my hubby Matthew. We ride for an amazing young man, Ruben Cheuk. We raise funds, we ride to raise awareness and we have lots of fun as a family.  It’s just brilliant.

Had this event fallen away, it would have had a real impact upon MDWA. MDWA does not receive any government funding and we rely quite heavily on donations and fundraising to deliver our services and to support our community, donations from sources such as this event represents 70% of our income. The loss of this event would have left a massive gap.

We are certainly surrounded by good people who have recognised the hole that has been left by the closure of TriEvents, not just for the local Dwellingup community and avid WA mountain bikers, but most importantly for us as a charity and our awesome community. We’re so grateful for the work of Tony Tucknott, his family, committed friends, John Carney and their company Single Track Minds for saving this incredibly important event. 


The Shire Perspective:

Shire of Murray CEO, Dean Unsworth

The Dwellingup 100, now the WA100, has been instrumental in raising the prominence of Dwellingup as a trail destination and driving investment in trails infrastructure. 

Dwellingup is an iconic tourist town and the Shire is investing $4.5 million to transform Dwellingup into a Trails Town of national, and in the future international, significance.  The growth of this event was a significant trigger for the Shire to then work with the local community towards turning Dwellingup into a Trails Town and hence such significant capital expenditure.

Within 12 months there will be a Trails Hub building, pump track, skate park, RV facilities, playgrounds, bike hire, increased ablutions and hot showers, laundry, lockers, 272 additional parking bays, pathways and way finding, free wi-fi and much more.

The town is grateful for this event as it showcases the town to a broad audience and provides significant economic benefit.  The Shire and the broader community welcome the WA 100 with open arms and will work with the organisers to ensure it goes from strength to strength.


Entries are still open for the WA 100, with a special course that goes back to the roots of the event.

  • Loop 1 = 42 kms NW of town, 812 metres of climbing
  • Loop 2 = 26 kms South of town, 612 metres of climbing
  • Loop 3 = 35 kms NW of town, 610 metres of climbing

There are four race distances:

  • The Wallaby – 14 km separate loop
  • The Joey – 42 km = loop 1 only
  • The Buck – 68 km = loop 1 and loop 2
  • The Boomer – 104 km = loop 1, 2 and 3 (2034 metres of climbing)

Entries are still open, so head to wa100mtb.com.au.

Samara Sheppard – From Wellington to Wollongong, to World Cups and Tokyo 2020.

  • G’day Samara, tell us a little bit about where you are from, and where you currently call home?

I was born in Clyde (Central Otago, NZ) but Windy Wellington is home for me in NZ. After I finished school in Wellington, I joined a sports academy in Rotorua while I completed a Diploma in Communications.

From Wellington to Wollongong, the journey to Tokyo is a tough one.

From there I spent two seasons racing mountain bikes based out of Switzerland, another two seasons based out of Belgium and also one season racing on the road based out of Spain. In 2016 I moved to Wollongong, NSW to live with my partner, Kyle Ward.

The definition of a fitness couple, partner Kyle Ward is key to their success abroad.

The past two years Kyle and I have also been living the MTB life in Basel, Switzerland (on the outskirts of the Black Forrest in Germany).

  • So, you’re living between New Zealand and Australia?

My Aussie half, Kyle after we met at an event in Australia in 2015 (Hellfire Cup). Australia’s cycling community is also a massive drawcard with more events and social groups.

I love the people, trails and culture in Wellington, NZ, but I also love to ride in the warm and calm climate of Wollongong and have made some great friends here.

  • Are there any more opportunities for you as an athlete in Australia versus New Zealand?

I would say so. Most of the cycling brands for Australia and New Zealand are based in Australia, so it’s easier to make a connection with them.

I’m in a unique situation by being based in Australia while also representing New Zealand; this means that I can give my sponsors exposure in both countries.

Winning the 2017 Cape to Cape MTB, the four day stage race around Margaret River, Western Australia.

As far as the racing scene goes in Australia, the added depth of competition makes for closer racing and more of an opportunity to learn how to be faster.

  • What is your plan for this racing season?

The plan initially was to race the full 2018 World Cup Season, to build on the results I had last year and to improve my UCI World Ranking from the Top 30’s to Top 20’s.  However, after a rough start to the season, I have since decided to return to Australia.

Last year and the beginning of this year I was intensely focused around qualifying for the Commonwealth Games, which I am really proud to have achieved. This meant that I raced the 2016/17 domestic season, 2017 international season and domestic 2017/18 season all back-to-back. When most racers were taking their ‘off-season’ break to reset, I was chasing selection for the Commonwealth Games which I raced in April.

After the Commonwealth Games, Kyle and I flew straight to Europe for the international season. It was during the first block of racing abroad where the strain of back-to-back racing seasons caught up with me.

Around this time I also found out about the new Olympic selection policy, and I decided to take a different pathway towards my next big goal of qualifying for the 2020 Olympics.

  • Sounds like a significant shift of focus, mid-season for you then?

The rest of the 2018 season will see some new challenges thrown into the mix. But first, I will take a small break for “pleasure” riding, before attending to the weakness which Kyle and I have identified over the past few seasons of racing high-end XCO events.

At home on the trails with Kyle and Samara’s training buddy.

I’m excited to be returning to Cape to Cape in October where I hope to win this event for the third year in a row! Heading into the summer months, my primary focus will be to return to the National XCO Series in preparation for the 2019 National and Oceania Championships.

  • What type of events motivate you the most, you mention that the stage races vs XCO have you considering a change in direction?

Event’s where I can represent New Zealand and fight for a title motivate me – National Champs, Oceania Champs, World Cups, World Champs, Commonwealth Games and Olympics. It’s a special feeling to be racing in the silver fern (and Oceania stripes)!

I love XCO racing specifically because of the way it combines strength with skill. No two race tracks are the same which makes for diverse courses and keeps the sport fun. XCO is 1.5 hours of pure excitement.

Putting in the hard yards.
Holiday destination, or home training ground? Wollongong, NSW.

I do also enjoy racing my cross-country bike in other disciplines like marathons and stage races. When I first started mountain biking at school, on the weekend, I would join Dad and some friends on massive all-day adventure rides. It was such a great way to discover some remote parts of New Zealand – just some friends our bikes and plenty of snacks. These big rides at a young age mean that naturally, my endurance is pretty good now.

Someday when I ‘retire’ from XCO, you will see me at more marathon and stage race events.

  • How have you seen the sport change from your point of view, in particular, the impact Red Bull has had on the sport?

Red Bull has had a considerable impact on XCO racing, making the sport more entertaining and accessible for fans.

XCO courses have shortened in length (4-5km laps), with a target race time of 1.5 hours. Instead of a couple of technical features on each lap, now the majority of the lap is technically challenging.

Behind the scenes of a self-funded racer on the world circuit.

This means you need a high level of skill to navigate a course at race pace. Fitness is still essential, but it is only useful if you can steer a bike at the same time.

Once upon a time, everyone raced on hardtails, now it’s all about full suspension bikes, dropper posts and 2.3” tyres.

  • Tokyo 2020 is in your sights, can you tell us more about the selection process?

To represent NZ at Tokyo is the dream, absolutely. However, the selection criteria to qualify has recently changed making this dream more dreamlike than ever.

In past Australia and/or New Zealand, have been able to qualify one male and female Olympic spot by winning the Oceania Championships, but this is no longer a possibility.

The two ways for a country to qualify an Olympic spot for Tokyo are:

  • Being one of the Top 21 ranked nations (an accumulation of UCI points from the top 3 UCI point earning riders from each nation between May 2018 – May 2020) this is separate for men and women. New Zealand is currently ranked 26th women’s nation.
  • Being one of the Top 2 performing nations (outside the Top 21 ranked nations with a qualified Olympic spot) at the 2019 World Championships (again, this is an accumulation of UCI points from the top 3 UCI point earning riders).

Given the new selection criteria, it’s not likely for NZ to qualify a women’s Olympic spot via option one because it’s just too expensive to chase the amount of UCI points needed. This means that option 2 is the only option.

I will do a specific build up for the 2019 World Championship with the ambition to help qualify New Zealand a spot there. The good news is that this race will be held in Mont Sainte Anne, Canada where I have always raced well (I even won a U23 World Cup there in 2012).

All going well and New Zealand qualifies a spot; then the goal is to show excellent form at the earlier World Cups in 2020 to earn that spot.

  • Was the 2018 Commonwealth Games a satisfying journey?

The Commonwealth Games was a fantastic experience and journey. I’m really proud to have competed for New Zealand while in front of many family and friends.

The journey for selection began two years out by gaining the race experience and world ranking points I needed. The selection criteria was a bit grey in my eyes, so I set my high standards and essentially paved my path to get there. All of which was made possible with a lot of help from Kyle and the support from our families, our friends and my sponsors.

There were tough times on our journey, it was a massive investment in our lives, including lots of sacrifices, stress, a spell of sickness and an untimely injury that needed nursing. But it was worth it.

The journey rewarded us with genuinely awesome experiences; racing my heart out around the world, making friends with new people, exploring new places, learning about different cultures, as well as the satisfaction of working towards a goal.

Would I do it all again? Absolutely.

  • What are the benefits of being a self-funded privateer?

Being a privateer gives you freedom in the choice of direction, it allows you to build a race schedule around your own specific racing targets/goals. You also get to seek support and build relationships with brands and products you believe in and trust.

*Self-funded – I guess this gives extra determination benefits 😉

  • If you could have a place on a factory team, what would it be and what are the things you’d appreciate the most?

Specialized Factory Racing Team would be an obvious choice as I love the equipment and as a female, they also offer a vast range of Women’s specific parts and accessories.

Next to the equipment, I see a lot of value in being on a team with more accomplished racers. Having the opportunity to see and learn first-hand how the best go about their business would be awesome.

And obviously, the financial and manpower assistance to do what I want to do would be tip-top.

  • Do you have a bucket list for places or events to ride, that you wish to tick off?

I guess you could say the XCO track in Tokyo is on my bucket list!

I’ve been very fortunate to travel the world racing my bike over the years which has provided me with the opportunity the experience everything from the French Alps to the Belgium cobbles. It has however meant that some great trails and locations closer to home have been neglected and are definitely on the radar.

Places to go:
– Old Ghost Road, NZ

– Derby, Tasmania

Events to embrace:

– Cape Epic, SA

– BC Bike Race, Vancouver

  • Cheers for the insights, Samara, we wish you all the very best, see you again at Cape to Cape!

Fitness: Strength Training for Mountain Biking

With more and more pro riders posting their workouts on social media, you probably have noticed a lot of them aren’t only posting about their riding sessions, but also their strength training. A good example of this is Nino Schurter who constantly released training clips. But do we ‘normal‘ mountain bikers need this type of training? Isn’t just riding our bikes enough?

The benefits of strength training are varied, the most obvious one is developing a stronger body, which in turn will allow us to put more power onto the pedals, resist injuries better and essentially ride faster.

Other benefits from strength training are increasing our bone density (which tends to be lower for cyclists), improve joint health, correcting imbalances and poor posture, weight loss and prevent muscle loss from ageing.


Nino Schurter has posted many of his workouts online. Needless to say, strength training plays a big part in how the champ keeps in supreme shape. 


However it is important to note that these benefits can only come from a well executed strength program, that takes into account you particular goals and needs, but also limitations (knowledge, skills, equipment, injuries, mobility among others).

So in short – yes – the above benefits make it worth spending time in the gym or on a simple (but effective!) exercise routine. Below is an example of 5 simple exercises you can do with minimal equipment. Where possible I provided alternatives if you don’t have access to a gym.

These are included as they complement the muscles used when riding, but also to develop strength in areas more likely to be weaker (e.g. hamstrings), to prevent injuries, address imbalances and correct posture problems.


Contact Mathias Witt at www.orbiscoaching.com


Walking Lunges with twist

To develop individual leg strength, lunges are my go to exercise. Walking lunges challenge all muscles used in cycling, and adding the twist takes your body out of that ever forward facing position. The twist also helps better activate the glutes which tend to be under-active for most people.

How?

Walk forward bending the front and back knee to 90-degree almost touching the ground, but keeping the front shin vertical. Turn towards the same side as the front leg (right foot forward means tun right), turning your head together with your shoulders.

You can add weight is all sorts of ways, just make sure you can maintain good form with a straight back and not lose balance. Try to aim for 30 steps to begin with.


Ball pushup

Another simple but effective exercise, this time to develop upper body strength. Adding a ball under one hand creates a less stable position to push from, much like when you are rumbling down that downhill section, get thrown out of balance, and need to get yourself back into attack position.

How?

Simply alternate the ball under one hand and then the other while doing a pushup. Any other contraption to create an asymmetrical position helps too. Make sure you are holding a straight back and your hips don’t drop trough (pull your abs tight!). To make it easier, have your hands elevated against a table and progressively make it harder, starting at 10 reps.


Deadlifts (and single leg variation)

Probably my favorite exercise for raw strength, and an excellent option to develop strong hamstrings to counter those strong quads you (hopefully) already have.

How?

The key is to maintain good form, a straight back, hips behind the heels, lats (side of your torso and back) engaged and lifting from the hips until locking out (squeeze your butt!). If you feel that your back is in any way doing part of the lifting, review your technique until all you can feel is your hamstrings and glutes.

I also love the single leg variation with lighter weights, to develop individual leg strength, balance and increased glute engagement.


Renegade row or TRX row

To get a strong and healthy upper back, this is a key exercise for my athletes. All that pulling on the handlebars to bunnyhop, jump or just get over that bigger rock needs strong pulling muscles. Also a stromg upper back will counter the hunched over position we spend too much time in (riding and also sitting, driving, etc.).

How?

You can either do the plank based renegade row, pulling one weight up to your shoulder, or using a TRX pulling your bodyweight up.

For either variation, you must maintain a straight body, keeping the hips aligned with shoulders, knees and ankles, but also pull your shoulders back, squeezing your shoulder blades backwards (think of puffing your chest out).


Side plank drops (with reach)

This exercise will strengthen your core and shoulders. Your core is constantly being called into action while riding, positions where you are leaning sideways into a corner are a good example of engaging the side of your trunk, but also any really strong sprint needs a steady core, to allow the force from your legs to go into the pedals and not wobbling side to side losing energy, speed and control.

How?

On your elbow, with the shoulder stacked vertically put both feet on top of each other. Drop the hip to touch the floor and come back up to side plank. If this is easy, add a twist and reach towards the ceiling, for even greater stability challenge and core engagement.


Try to progress towards the harder options, increasing the weight or reps (or both) as you see fit. For more advanced exercises, find a good trainer and program, and always work prioritizing good form and technique over speed or higher weights.

Complete 3-4 rounds of the above exercises, give this a try for 4 weeks, aiming for 2 sessions a week like the above and let us know how you go!


Mathias Witt is a qualified Personal Trainer as well as a strength and nutrition coach. A former elite athlete and lifelong sports fanatic he is passionate about sharing his knowledge and expertise to create better performing and goal orientated athletes.

In his past life Mathias was part of the Chilean National MTB team as well as a Karate black belt and running enthusiast. He is an MBA qualified engineer who 4 years ago decided to change paths and share his unique approach towards sports performance and overall wellbeing by becoming a fitness and health coach.

Mathias lives and works in Sydney’s Northern beaches, CBD and offers remote training as well as online programs. You can get in touch with him on www.orbiscoaching.com and [email protected] or follow on instagram @orbis_coaching.

 

Ripping Derby, on the new Polygon Siskiu N Series

Join Greg and Tom, both total rippers, as they get their first ever taste of what Derby is all about, and get acquainted with the latest long-travel additions to the Polygon line up, the Siskiu N, in 27.5″ and 29er. Watch the vid below, and check out the bikes in more detail here.




The Derby Lodge, we never wanted to leave. If you’re Derby-bound, make sure you put them at the top of your accommodation list – a full workshop, bike wash, secure storage, superb deck for sunset beers…. it’s got the lot. Take a look here.


The Polygon Siskiu N series:

The Siskiu N is Polygon’s new, long-travel Enduro line up, building upon the success of the Siskiu T trail bike range (you can check out our video review of the Siskiu T here).

The Siskiu N9, in 27.5″ format – $3999

These bikes are going to have real appeal to the weekend Enduro ripper – full aluminium construction, with a reliable parts spec delivered in a truly obscene value-for-money package. We’re talking $3899 for the top tier Siskiu N9, and $3499 for the N8. The spec looks ace too: FOX DPX2 shocks on both bikes, a FOX 36 on the N9 and a Yari on the N8, SRAM 1x drivetrains, aggro Schwalbe rubber – nothing has been missed. All the details are up here.

The Siskiu N8, here in 29er format. $3499 is all it costs!

The bikes use Polygon’s Wheelfit System approach, which matches the wheel size to the frame size; a size small is 27.5″ only, a medium frame is available with either 27.5 or 29″ wheels, and the large and X-large are 29er only. The 29ers are 160mm-travel front and rear, while the 27.5″ bikes are 170mm. Rest assured, we’ll be getting one on test very soon!


 

Ride, Swim, Eat, Repeat: Day 3, Mountain Biking the Atherton Tablelands


See our day one and three adventures here:

Atherton EP:1

Atherton EP:2


It was time to turn it up a notch on our third day in Atherton.

We didn’t bring Dave McMillan all this way for just his good looks, we wanted some trails for him to let loose on and see what he’s capable of.

This photo of Dave McMillan sits alongside the definition of ‘steeze’ in the dictionary, we’re sure of it.

Casual gap boosting.
“Yeah, jump from here over this huge hole to that tiny landing space just before the hard right-hand corner, ok?”
Big turns, loads of speed.

On the trail map, there were a few black runs to explore, but the one we remember from a few years ago ‘Ricochet’ was reportedly running super-sweet with some fresh work done, especially on the big banked turns.

It sounded like our jam, so up we went, the long pedal to the top. It can be shuttled, perhaps not in our Kia people mover, but a 4WD with decent clearance would make life a little easier.

Looked like fun at first, just didn’t think ahead for a plan to return to land…

Ka Powww, Ricochet.

This track rips, with some of the biggest jumps, deepest turns and fastest lines on the hill. It was time to let Dave do his thing, entertain us, and make us all feel inadequate with his effortless style and carefree riding at the speed of lightning.

Keep it low, or…
Let it fly.

Corner after corner he pushed his Stumpjumper harder and harder, finding traction where we certainly wouldn’t, and gapping between sections of the trail that we don’t even know that the trail builders would have thought possible.

It’s the type of descent that is made for riders like Dave, with many years on the World Cup DH circuit his speed is unbounded but the way he does it is what makes it such a pleasure to watch.

Tools down, time to roam the Tablelands some more.

From the hair-raising descents to the valley floor we could feel a hunger coming on, a hunger that only one thing could satisfy. A classic pub-style parmigiana.

Banana picking Atherton style.

Gin, whisky, vodka and everything in between.

A distillery tour at Mt Uncle Distillery is a fun and enlightening way to sample a little more of what the Tablelands can offer, we gave it a good nudge and learnt quite a lot along the way.


http://www.athertontablelands.com.au/

https://www.ridecairns.com/

Where we stayed – Big 4 Caravan Park is a stone’s throw from the trails and is well set up for mountain bikes with a dedicated wash bay, work stand and tools.

Ride, Swim, Eat, Repeat: Day 1, Mountain Biking the Atherton Tablelands


See our day two and three adventures here:

Atherton EP:2

Atherton EP:3


Why does life feel like it is ending when summer draws to a close, how could it be considered ‘good news’ to hear that the mountains have received their first snowfalls for the season?

Why can’t we live some nomadic life and chase the sun? Ok, while that’s clearly not going to happen – it’d take too long to pack – we do have some fairly sensational options here in Australia. As mountain bikers, a typical holiday can be so much more than seeing the sights or lying on a towel, lucky us we get to ride.

Head north, soak in the warmth.

On a recent trip to Atherton in Tropical North Queensland, we rode the sun-drenched singletrack, swam in the crater lakes and under incredible waterfalls, ate our way through the delicious local produce, kicked back in historic old pubs and repeated it all again three days in a row.

It was awesome.

Warm singletrack, bliss!

Getting there is easy, with a very scenic 1.5-hour drive west from Cairns. Up on the Atherton Tablelands, the spaces are incredibly unique; it’s tropical, lush, vivid, and being at a higher altitude than Cairns it’s typically a few degrees cooler.

Atherton is a small town that received a huge government grant to build mountain bike trails by professional mountain bike trail companies, the network is extensive, varied and well signed. The green trails in the flatter areas are mellow and remarkably scenic, blue trails take you higher into the foothills of the range for a longer ride, and black runs pack a punch with a faster ride and options to boost jumps and tackle technical rock sections.

The trails start right in town, literally, from town you have hours of riding available to you, it’s pretty sweet. We arrived just after an unseasonably wet summer, which saw the mountain bike park closed for quite some time to preserve its state and minimise damage. 

But the trails in Atherton MTB Park is only half of the reason we love travelling there, the region is packed with things to do when your legs have had enough. We’re talking about feasting on all that the Atherton Tablelands offers, eat, swim, drink, relax, repeat.

Day One – Ride, eat, swim, drink, eat, repeat.

We bit off a big chunk of riding on our first day, taking on an epic loop of trails including Stairway to Heaven, a big climb that takes you right up high where the views over the whole region make up for the burning in your legs. 

What goes up must come down, and it was our first run down Drop Zone, aptly named this black grade trail gave our resident bike magician Dave McMillan the chance to let fly.

Yeoooo, A-line versus B-line.

As the speeds crept up, so did the technicality of the descent with dozens of sections of trail that kept us on our toes, negotiating loose corners and sharp embedded rocky bits. Drop Zone could be the training ground for a keen enduro racer it’s that wild.

Rack your bike, it’s time to submerge.

Grabbing a bowl of fruit and avocado for lunch we were recharged to relax the arvo away. Lake Eacham is a short drive from Atherton, and it’s a complete paradise! A lake formed from a volcanic crater and free from any powered craft, its clear water and the overhanging jungle is amazing.

Give your legs and bike a rest, time to get submerged in a clear freshwater lake.

Like some dream, the swimming is such a sweet way to wind away the day, and we were lucky to be there on a sunny afternoon to watch the sun go down. We were buzzing.

Pub timewarp.

Look, we aren’t going to hide the fact we love a good old pub, and the Tablelands do them so well. There are half-a-dozen great old pubs on the area worth checking out, well preserved and littered with historic photos and artefacts from the original farming and sawmilling days.

While the craft beer scene doesn’t seem to have migrated that far north yet, the food servings are generous and the mixture of locals and fruit picking backpackers from the UK is quite bizarre. It’s a really good time.


http://www.athertontablelands.com.au/

https://www.ridecairns.com/

Where we stayed – Big 4 Caravan Park is a stone’s throw from the trails and is well set up for mountain bikes with a dedicated wash bay, work stand and tools.

Ride, Swim, Eat, Repeat: Day 2, Mountain Biking the Atherton Tablelands


See our day one and three adventures here:

Atherton EP:1

Atherton EP:3


Flow’s in Atherton, in Tropical North Queensland for three fun days of riding, swimming, eating, drinking and everything in between.

Three days of this? Sounds terrible, let’s get to it.

After splitting our time on and off the bike on our first day, our legs were more than ready by the time the sun came up on our second. The morning light in the Atherton MTB Park is really special, the vibrant vegetation and lush pockets of forest glow green and it’s nice to cruise about the weaving singletrack in the valley floor.

Green grade trails at first light in the tropics? Yes, please.

Early morning lush fest, tropical awakening.
Someone said to us once that any spider in a web like this is harmless, mildly comforting.

Atherton Women’s Enduro, woohoo!

The Atherton Women’s Enduro, big day out on the trails with a few new tracks open ahead of schedule for the day.

By chance, we were in town when the Atherton Women’s Enduro was on, with a course laid out taking in some of the choices trails and a few fresh additions the day looked like a lot of fun to be involved in. The riding community shared between Cairns and the Atherton Tablelands is loaded with riders engrained in mountain bike folklore, new to the sport, and anywhere in between.

Rocks, creek crossing, cycad ferns and finding flow.

Ticking off the many blue graded trails is a great way to get a proper taste of the terrain in Atherton. The surfaces can be quite challenging on the steeper slopes of the mountains, and the sounds of the bike ripping by getting louder with the tyres tearing into the rock and rubble.

Catching up with Trina from Cairns, a rider who knows the trails well and makes the trip up to the Tablelands often for the ride.

It’s an actual waterfall, not a GIF.

Nothing compares to lying under a waterfall, looking up at the deep blue sky with the after riding all day, it’s an experience we’ve not had anywhere else in the world.

Atherton Tablelands is well-known for its swimming holes and waterfalls and there is a whole lot of them to explore. The most common one, Millaa Millaa Falls, is an exceptionally beautiful spot. We’ll let the pictures do the talking here…

Mermaids everywhere.
Pinch yourself.
Underwater, under a waterfall, utterly epic.

Yungaburra Hotel, no shortage of timber in the old days, eh?

Ah, the old style timber pubs. This old gem has stood the test of time and feels like a real step back in time, always pumping with patrons due to its hearty fare and rustic feel this place is a must visit spot for dinner after a long day. You could skulk around the halls for hours learning the history of the area and generations that have used the old joints as a place of community for many years.


http://www.athertontablelands.com.au/

https://www.ridecairns.com/

Where we stayed – Big 4 Caravan Park is a stone’s throw from the trails and is well set up for mountain bikes with a dedicated wash bay, work stand and tools.

Ride High Country: Mt Buller, Victoria

Every time you leave the village in Mt Buller it’s an epic adventure. The trails are tough but very rewarding.

The village of Mt Buller is atop the mountain so you start each ride amongst the snow gums.
You need a big map board when you’ve got big mountains.
Misty Twist at its best.

Shuttles from Mirimbah on the valley floor back up to the mountaintop village open up some of the tallest descents in Australia; the Australian Alpine Epic Trail boasts over 2000m of descending in 40km and the scarily high speed 1000m Delatite River Trail descent makes you rethink how awesome firetrails can be!

Straight ahead to single track heaven, or left to fly down the side of a mountain? Can’t go wrong either way.

The final stretches of Delatite.
Fuel up at Mirimbah Store after the Delatite descent.
With so much descending on offer, this is the best way to climb 1000 vertical metres!

Got a spare half hour to start planning a getaway? Watch our ultimate Victorian High Country MTB Road Trip video where we spend a week riding seven of Victoria’s best mountain biking destinations.

Nice part of the world. Can we stay longer?

For more information on riding at Buller, and across the whole Victorian north-east, head to ridehighcountry.com.au

Ride High Country: Yackandandah, Victoria

The riding in Yackandandah is gloriously simple; you don’t need a shuttle, you don’t need a map, you don’t need to psych yourself up, or even be that fit. These are trails built for the pure enjoyment of it all, not for scaring yourself or finding your limits. You can lose yourself (metaphorically -the signage is too good to get genuinely lost) for a few hours; just you and the bike in the bush, with seemingly never-ending, flowing cross-country singletrack. It’s really interesting terrain too, especially in the areas where mining has re-shaped the landscape, with deep gullies, old water races, and caves gouged into the clay.

Yack is a real feather in the cap of the Victorian High Country, and a spot that is going to play a big role in ensuring a stream of fresh riders find their feet in the sport.

Got a spare half hour to start planning a getaway? Watch our ultimate Victorian High Country MTB Road Trip video where we spend a week riding seven of Victoria’s best mountain biking destinations.

For more information about riding in Yackandandah, and across the Victorian High Country, head to ridehighcountry.com.au.

Video: Racing the Trans NZ with Team Shimano Australia


Meet the Shimano Australia team:

Vandy: Paul ‘Vandy’ Van Der Ploeg is a big presence both on the bike and off it. This large unit is a natural freak on the bike – he’s born to pedal hard – and he’s excelled at whatever discipline he’s pointed his tree-trunk quads at. He’s the man you want on an adventure like this, especially when the rain’s coming in sideways mid-way up a monster liaison stage and the spirits need a lift! This was Vandy’s second crack at the Trans NZ, after a podium in 2o17, and this year he came in fourth with some stage wins along the way.

RonRon: Michael Ronning’s name has been etched in Australian mountain bike folklore for more than a quarter of a century, and he’s still pinning it! The crafty old dog has more riding experience in his little finger than most of us do in our whole body, which is exactly why he’s so good at this kind of blind racing. RonRon held onto 1st in Masters Men for the first two days in Craigieburn, then continued to race consistently over the remaining three days to a second place overall.

Cannonball: EWS pinner but Trans NZ first-timer James Hall (aka ‘Cannonball) finished 5th in Elite, one spot behind Shimano team mate @paulvanderplow. For Cannonball, it was an event like nothing he’d ever done before. “The camaraderie was awesome. Everyone was in it together. We were riding such varied trails; for many of us completely blind. I had to back the pace off a bit but with that came consistency, less blowing out corners, and some decent stage results. It was great training for EWS and I’m looking forward to coming back again and definitely adding other international Trans-Races to the bucket list.”


Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Day 4:

Day 5:

 

Five Rad Days in Rotorua, Part 5

There’s always a silver lining. Even in the biggest, nastiest rain cloud, like the ones that dumped down on Rotorua yesterday. The upshot of the Slopestyle being postponed yesterday, was that it mean we had a MASSIVE final day here at Crankworx, with both the downhill and Slopestyle taking place. It couldn’t have been more prefect really; the mud made the downhill a thrilling battle to survive, and then the sun came out enough to leave the Slopestyle course in prime condition.

It has been an absolutely incredible few days here in Rotorua – our head spins when we think about how much we’ve crammed into the last five days! Check out what we’ve been up to in our four previous photo diaries: day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4. We’ll see you next time, Roto, it’s been real!

Bits and pieces of sunshine today helped dry up the track a little for the juniors and amateurs making their way down early this morning.
The gondola ride up this morning gave us nothing but bad signs weather wise… But how did the day turn out?
Finn Iles during practice in the bottom section of the Skyline downhill track.
Some radiant sunlight striking lake Rotorua early this morning gave us some hope for a slopestyle contest,
The rain and mud didn’t stop this shredder form taking a drop over the b-line option.
The mist clings to web high up on the Skyline downhill track, if you look closely in the background, you can see an out-of-focus Jill Kitner, unfortunately sliding off course on a super slick B-Line.
This track was seriously hard to walk, and this guy seemed onto something for some extra grip!
Taking the top spot for the women was Tahnee Seagrave, launching this gap even in the less then ideal conditions.
Muddy, rutty, greasy sickness! Today’s conditions put everyone to the test.
George Branningan was looking pinned, but this corner, like many others today, got the better of him!

It was amazing to see a loyal cheer squad out in force for the whole race, singing happy birthday, counting how many seconds riders weren’t on the bike as a nice way to remind them they’d come off and pumping Darude Sandstorm every third song!
Alex Fayole tripoding or fast planting over this root.
Loic couldn’t take the win today in tough conditions!
Matt Walker getting a little drifty with the crowds egging him on from all angles.
Talking out the top step of the podium for the men’s, Kiwi rider Sam Blenkinsop.
YIEWWWW!
Sam Blenkinsop happy to sign some jerseys for fans after his victory in the Crankworx downhill!
Some lucky pinners got to take home Sam’s goggles and cap…
Safe to say, they were pretty stoked!
Men
1st. Sam Blenkinsop
2nd. Mick Hannah
3rd. Finn Iles
Women
1st. Tahnee Seagrave
2nd. Emilie Siegenthaler
3rd. Miranda Miller
What a relief it was to start seeing all the riders getting comfy and ready to throw down some runs after so many rain delays!
Slopestyle has now become a very special, sacred part of Crankworx, Rotorua, with the event being run in the memory of our lost friend, Kelly McGarry.
A new adaption to the Crankworx Rotorua slopestyle this year with a right hand hip jump first up after the wooden drop in.
The starting feature, complete with New Zealand wood carving!
Warm up trains with the boys!
Defending champ Nicoli Rogatkin warming up with just a few tail-whips.
The redwoods, the town, the slopestyle!
Crowds flocked up the trails, running along the slopstyle course to get a good view of the athletes on course.
Up close and personal tail-whips are good tail-whips.
The highly photogenic SRAM wooden feature is always one to impress!

Old school BMX shredder Ryan Nyquist showing than an old dog can definitely learn new tricks… or at least do the same tricks on new bikes.
Thank you t McGazza for holding the weather at bay today and letting us all witness some incredible mountain biking.
Brett Rheeder in his winning first run, reclaiming the title. He was the winner here way back when Crankworx first came to Rotorua.
Nicoli Rogatkin put it all on the line in his second run and unfortunately came unstuck on his trademark trick, ‘the twister’ on the final jump

Logan Peat put together two great runs, but still hasn’t been able to crack the podium!
Crazy to think this is basically a straight air after not quite nailing the first feature.
Jumping into the weekend like.

Tomas Lemoine and his pretty, pastel, pink pushy!
Nicoli loading up his unreal triple tail-whip!
The memorial train for McGazza.
Your 2018 Crankworx, Rotorua Slopestyle Podium!
1st Brett Rheeder
2nd Thomas Genon
3rd Diago Cavezasi
A champagne shower well earnt.
It’s ya boy… Brett Rheeder!

The winnings + the steed that took Rheeder to victory.

 

Five Rad Days in Rotorua, Part 4

The fourth of our Five Rad Days in Rotorua got started with some serious off-bike adrenaline, as we jet-boated, bungee-swinged, sky dived (kinda) and got sent flying down a hill inside a massive, inflatable golf ball thingo! It was quite the way to start the day! We’d hoped the morning’s madness would just be warm up for an afternoon of action at the Slopestyle, but you can’t fight the weather, and rain has seen the main event pushed back to tomorrow.

Velocity Valley is where you head if you’re looking for a serious thrill off the bike. The misty morning tells the tale of a wet afternoon to come.
5ooo,000 horse power! (Well, lots anyhow). Feeling the mad g-forces in the Agrojet at Velocity Valley.
It’s crazy feeling taking on the faux sky dive.
This is the face of pure fear. Shitting bricks on the Swoop giant swing.
Just next door the Crankworx site is Ogo, Rotorua, the original downhill ball rolling crew.
There’s only one way in…
“What do you mean there’s rain coming… It’s Slopestyle day bru!”
Probably wouldn’t look this green if it was part of a downhill track amiright?!
Meanwhile, back at the Crankworx site. That moment when you realise you’re still not quite as good at jumps as Brett Rheeder…
Unfortunate scenes with racing coming in on and off all day at Skyline. The crowds huddle, waiting for gaps in the rain for the Slopestyle boys to drop in.
The feeling when you’re stoked on seeing pro riders and all, but the weather is kinda bumming you out!
While we all waited at least we could still checkout the downhill riders in practice.
Bit of Karate Kid for the trail crew. Tarp on, tarp off…Tarp on, tarp off…
If you can beat them, join em?
A tease of blu skies that never quite made it to us…
Certainly some interesting looks going around this Crankworx… Riders being good sports with the fans as always.
The rain stopped and tools were rushed to the course to fix up some muddy spots the rain had left.
Everybody getting into it, even Deputy Mayor Dave Donaldson!
Finally the patient fans got a chance to see some riders coming though.
Most riders were just getting used to the new course and conditions, but Brett Rheeder was stomping tricks on most features in his ‘warm ups’.
Even straight airs somehow look rad when these guys pull them off.
Thomas Lemoine pulling off a 360 on possibly the sickest looking Canyon frame we’ve seen.
Defending champ Nicoli Rogatkin getting comfy with some tailwhips before the rain came again and unfortunately postponed the event which now, weather depending, will be run Sunday arvo after the downhill!
The Deep Summer Photo Challenge has become a ket part of the Crankworx experience. Four photographers have three days to put together an inspiring montage of Rotorua mountain bike life. The crowds loved it, seeing their town through the lens of some incredible shooters.
Eat St, the main food strip in town, was flooded with riders and mountainbike fans watching the Deep Summer slideshow.
The well deserved winner for the night, Laurence Crossman-Emms alongside Rotorua local Connor Mahuika who feautred in Laurence’s presentation!
No better way to finish a day at Crankworx than heading to Eat St to have a few bevs and laughs with ya mates!

Five Rad Days in Rotorua, Part 3

Our third day in mountain bike paradise began with another trip to the Redwoods, this time with a guided ride from the team at Mountain Bike Rotorua, to make sure we didn’t miss any tasty bits. With a belly full of Roto loam, it was back out to Skyline, to join the frothing masses for the Dual Speed and Style finals, before the big wigs sent it sideways under lights in the Whip-Off Champs. Yiew!

We joined back up with Mountain Bike Rotorua today for a guided MTB ride in Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa forest. Hire bikes galore, get ’em dirty.
Our rad ride guide Wade, apart from chosing trails to ride based on what style of riding we wanted to tackle, also gave some really interesting insight into the commercial logging forest that has been adapted into such a huge MTB destination in NZ. This place just goes to show mountain bikers and commercial logging can co-exist.
A friend from the States joined us t