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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Our time in Tasmania was made possible with support from Tourism Tasmania.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
We’ll be following the Tucknotts through their whole Alice Springs escape, join us for day 2 in the Red Centre soon.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Check out our in-depth reviews of the bikes we were riding:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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….
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.
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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more information, trail maps and everything else you need, head to Ride High Country’s website.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The trails we rode were predictable, mellow and fun, with a mixture of old and fresh loam to lay your tyres into.
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.
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?
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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!
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.
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.”
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).
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
5am – Early start for the transfer for the finish to the start at Wetherby Station up on top of the range.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
6pm – Port Douglas actually has North Queensland best Mexican. Winning.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
8am – A brief discussion on what needs to be done prior to race start and what will actually happen takes place. Then we aredown 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1pm – Bite of lunch and a course recon for tomorrow’s time trial 20km stage – talk about trails and conditions
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.
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.
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)
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.).
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.
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.
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).
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Atherton Women’s Enduro, woohoo!
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.
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…
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.
Every time you leave the village in Mt Buller it’s an epic adventure. The trails are tough but very rewarding.
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!
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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!