Ride High Country: Mt Buller, Victoria

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nice part of the world. Can we stay longer?

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

Ride High Country: Yackandandah, Victoria

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

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

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

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

Video: Racing the Trans NZ with Team Shimano Australia


Meet the Shimano Australia team:

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

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

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


Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Day 4:

Day 5:

 

Five Rad Days in Rotorua, Part 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The winnings + the steed that took Rheeder to victory.

 

Five Rad Days in Rotorua, Part 4

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

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

Five Rad Days in Rotorua, Part 3

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

We joined back up with Mountain Bike Rotorua today for a guided MTB ride in Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa forest. Hire bikes galore, get ’em dirty.
Our rad ride guide Wade, apart from chosing trails to ride based on what style of riding we wanted to tackle, also gave some really interesting insight into the commercial logging forest that has been adapted into such a huge MTB destination in NZ. This place just goes to show mountain bikers and commercial logging can co-exist.
A friend from the States joined us today, riding through some prime climate and perfect light. It was hard to keep the camera in the bag.
Wade, our guide, leading the way down.
Our photographer / media squid Do-Mini-Chook sending it with a full camera pack.
One of the best parts of Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa Forrest is the diversity of trails, which is something we were reminded of today. There is such a huge range of routes to take, weaving in and out of the 80+ trails through the forest, with options for the most gnarly pros, all the way through to beginners and little shredders. It was awesome to see so many kids out there today!
Perfect loam chutes walled by green.
The little pockets of light that shine through the Redwood’s canopy make for some amazing looking gems of nature.
Wade our guide shredding down the trail network he has enjoyed riding for over 15 years. He’s been ripping around this place since the very first track in the Redwoods, ‘Old BMX Track’.
Being on a guided ride is a great way to have a perfect day on the bike, without stressing over trail maps and worrying if you’ll make it back to homebase. Alongside this, it’s great to be shown lesser known spots that you might not hear abut, like this winding grade 3 trail that follows a natural cold water creek, that rises out of the ground chrystal clear and flows through the forest.
The upside of this particualr trail is a super chilly & refreshing drink top up and maybe even a quick dip if it’s really hot.
A traditional carving, created by a wrong-doer completing community service, a great initiative to put people who have done minor wrongs to good use, creating new trails for the community to enjoy.
Yet another great spot to stop and take in the beautiful surrounds
Did we mention the cool light on interesting artifacts, EVERYWHERE?!?!
Our American vistor officially approves of the Redwoods as well as our guided ride with Mountain Bike Rotorua.
From the trails, we headed trackside, to the perfect berms and booters of the Dual Speed and Style. This event is a funny beast – the name says it all – pretty much a head to race, with bonuses for tricks. That makes it just as awesome to watch as you’d expect. Barry Nobles head to head with Kiwi rider Joe Simpson, who advanced to the next round over the American rider.
Crowds flood the gnarly, dusty flat corners that lead into the final feature
Nothing better then heading to Crankworx on a Friday night in Rotorua for the Mons Royale Dual Speed & Style.
R-Dog bringing the style points.
Kaos Seagrave seemed like an easy winner in a lot of eyes, but ended up his Dual Speed & Style campaign in the 1/8 final.
Martin Soderstrom. So much style! Busting some rad 360 tables over the heads of the crowds and Lake Rotorua.
Races were won and lost in this technical flat turn component of the course.

Crowds weren’t just huddled down the finish straight, but spread all the way up the hill to the start gates
The local crowds favourite came super close to the top step, but unfortunately due to a fall in the first run of the finals, he wasn’t able to make up the time. However, he was still pretty stoked with 2nd and gave the crowd something to cheer about!
Martin Soderstrom 1st, Joe Simpson 2nd, smiles all round.
Joe Simpson. Thanking the home crowd and having a blast!

Soak it up boy!

What a day for Joe Simpson!
With Speed and Style in the bag, the crowds massed around the whopping Whip Off booter. Adrian Loron spending some time with fans before joining in on the Whip Offs.
The groms are out in force. Stoked!
The scene is set for some big, nasty whips.
Straight from his win on the Dual Speed & Style, Soderstrom pulled out some incredible whips alongside a plethora of riding steez.
No shuttles for the whip off! Riders scramble back up to the drop in to get as many whips in as possible, as the Whip Off is a jam format competition.
Media swamp the MASSIVE Whip Off jump.
To be honest, the wooden drop to gain the right amount of speed looks just as gnarly as the actual whip jump!

 

Friday done right, whipping into the weekend with your mates!
Dave McMillan looked unreal all night with his super lazy, steezy whips.
Some familiar faces on this year’s Whip Off podium, alongside some new additions including Kiwi female shredder Vinny Armstrong.
The usual culprits took out the top spot in an event they excel in. Casey Brown and Ryan Howard do it again.
Rain poked its head in the door, but left immediately after being so intimidated by the phat whips being thrown down.

Dave McMillan x Kaos Seagrave. Bloody brilliant!

Five Rad Days in Rotorua, Part 2

Bloody fantastic morning light yet again! This is place is special, no doubt.
Beautiful scenes with huge flocks of birds travelling in packs over the edge of Lake Rotorua.
This is what mountain bikers around the world do when they hear Crankworx, Rotorua is on again… Migrate in huge packs to come see all the action!
Before heading to the Crankworx venue, it was time for a dip in the Kaituna River, one of New Zealand’s most famous rafting destinations. Throwing ourselves off a six-metre waterfall in a raft only moments after breakfast felt like a very Kiwi way to start the day. 
Directly opposite Skyline and across Lake Rotorua you’ll find Kaitiaki Adventures where you start and finish the rafting experience.
Getting suited up by our friendly guide Henry for the suprisingly warm waters of the Kaituna river
We arrived at Skyline just in time to catch the Dual Speed & Style Qualifiers. Even though it was just qualifiers, riders were still throwing it down in a big way,  crazy tricks with some serious speed.
Ryan R-Dog Howard with a steezy 360 on the final hit on the course against the Rotorua Lake backdrop.

R-Dog on the back wheel.
The dusty flat turns in the slalom portion of the track are just as crucial to nail as the rest of the course.
Kidsworx is such a great part of the event, fostering then next generation of shredders.
Knee down and tipping ‘er in at Kidsworx.
Last light falls across Rotorua before the Pumptrack kicks off.
Barry Nobles looked strong early on, but was knocked out of contention. The fast, technical new pumptrack built by Empire Of Dirt NZ was definitely challenging riders once the pace cranked up.
The new track took out many of the top riders with its gnarly g-forces in the tight fast, first turns.
Brett Tippie and the crowds getting into the party vibes. This event has such a good feel!

They may look like stars, but all those bright white things in the sky are actually moths! Hey.. It’s not just humans who dig mountain bikes.
Kyle Strait (looking sick in his fresh DHaRCO kit!) alongside the local crowds favourite, Michael Bias, battling it out for 3rd place, which the Kiwi took from Strait with much joy from proud New Zealanders
Jill Kitner rolling through with another win under her belt, in for a good shot at this year’s Queen of Crankworx.
Thomas Lemoine was looking quick all night, even when he threw a cheeky bar spin in at the end of a run!
The new track location and layout for the Rockshox Pumptrack Challenge, presented by Torpedo 7 was a major success, enabling a lot more people to get a good view of the track and providing some high intensity riding with the new, super fast pumptrack.
After practicing slopestyle during the day, Lemoine transitioned seemlesly into race mode, taking the win over Chaney Guennet.
After a mammoth evening, the crowds head home, and so do we. Bring on Day 3 of the Five Rad Days in Roto.

Five Rad Days in Rotorua, Part 1

Early mornings aren’t so bad when you have epic views like this. Rotorua’s famous geothermal activity is never far from the surface.
A must-visit for mountain bikers in Rotorua, Zippy Central cafe! Great food and even greater coffee! This is the best place to start your day.
And they stock you up with M&M’s too. Perfect.
Getting my bike setup for the week ahead. Cheers to the team at Mountain Bike Rotorua!
Mountain Bike Rotorua is the place to go for bike hire, guided MTB rides and all other things bikes in this rad little town.
On the way up at the Redwoods thanks to Southstar Shuttles. It’s always a great vibe on the bus.
Throughout Crankworx the shuttles are running overtime to keep up. They run seven days a week during school holidays and most days throughout the  rest of the year too. Check out the schedule here.
Local Kiwi, James Carley, leading the way. The only way is down.
Lachie McKillop heading down the legendary Taniwha downhill track.
Jackson Davis tipping it in in perfect Rotorua loam.
Turn bar Tuesday, on a Wednesday?
The boys lost in the greenery on the way to find some jumps.
Unreal views are everywhere you turn on these trails.
Jackson Davis and Dave McMillan provide the sweet timing, Rotorua provides the stunning backdrop.
Dave sending it in the green.
Dave sending it pt.2
Snakes on a train.
Something you can’t tell from these photos is how nice the climate is in these forrest, on a 22 degree day like today, the forest was absolute perfect temperature for a day of riding.

How good are the ferns here too?
Dave McMillan, all angles in the loam.

For a different look at the forest, we spent the afternoon at Rotorua Canopy Tours, who specialise in awesome zip lining tours amongst the trees.
The guided zip-line tour is heaps of fun, but also a great way to learn more about the forests of New Zealand and some of the conservation projects that the tourism company are also tackling.
More epic views, this time from above trail level.
The three- hour course takes you on a variety of zip-lines, the longest of which is more than 200m.
The nature around here is seriously something that needs to be experienced in the flesh. Everything is growing. Unreal.
If you don’t know what the geothermal nature of Rotorua smells like… Well dirty riding socks don’t come close. But you forget about it quickly, and everytime we come back it brings a big smile to our faces, knowing how much shredding there is to come!
We finished off the day with an MTB trivia night, all for charity. Anyone know who won the 1992 XC World Champs?
Points being doubled checked from the nights fun.
The all important points tally. Quiz On Your Face…. great team name.
Local councillor and long time mountain bike advocate, Dave Donaldson supporting the Trails Trust charity event
Congrats, don’t drink it all at once.
And the winner is…???

Ride High Country: Falls Creek, Victoria

All of Falls Creek’s trails start and finish from the mountainside village which attracts cyclists of all persuasions through summer and features a surprisingly buzzing vibe. Beginner and intermediate trails loop close to the village making Falls a perfect family-friendly destination.

Since the opening of Flow Town trail, you can easily flow a perfect 20-minute descent from the summit, all the way down to the Blue Dirt shuttle waiting at the resort gates.

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

Hot tub and a Bridge Road Beechworth Pale Ale – relaxing after a big day on the mountain

For more information about riding in Falls Creek, and across the whole region, head to www.ridehighcountry.com.au

Escaped Convict: Why the Convict 100 is our favourite marathon race

Every mountain biker has an event that’s special to them, one that sticks out as a highlight amongst the years of bunting, finish lines and training rides. Perhaps it’s an event you do every year, maybe it’s an event you’ve just ridden once. It could be special because it’s a rare chance to ride with old friends, an annual reunion, maybe it was a race where you pushed yourself harder ever before, or it’s a yearly yardstick, a chance to compete with your previous best, maybe it’s special because the location is somewhere mind blowing.

Battle stories in the Settler’s Arms beer garden.

For me, that special race is the Convict 100. This brilliant, long-established marathon race loops out of St Albans, a tiny village that’s one of the hidden gems of NSW. Sydney’s sprawl hasn’t conquered the divide of the Hawkesbury River yet, and this place hasn’t lost its charm.

It feels like a trip back through the ages; even though each bike on the small ferry across the Hawkesbury River has $5000 worth of mountain bike hanging off it.

The journey to and from the Convict is a tremendous part of our own sentimentality for this race. It feels like a trip back through the ages; even though each bike on the small ferry across the Hawkesbury River has $5000 worth of mountain bike hanging off it, the very act of piling onto a punt to cross the water still feels like an undertaking from a different time. With the setting sun making the sandstone ridges glow, you can easily imagine what it was like 150 years ago, when Wiseman’s Ferry was a far-flung commercial outpost of the Sydney colony, and the ferry was transporting wheat and salt meats, not carbon and lycra.

There’s always an autumn chill in the air on the start line.

Even though the race itself is going to be hard – a furious effort to hold a wheel, a tough grind up sandy climbs – the journey out there into the stunning landscape of the Hawkesbury puts you in a different frame of mind. You cross the river, Sydney is now 100 years away, suddenly it’s tranquil, and any nerves about your race performance start to abate.

Eventually, excuses are made, tents are assembled in the dewy campground, last minute bike adjustments are done under a headlamp’s glow, and quiet falls on St Albans.

In deep Autumn, when the race is run, the Friday night before the Convict is invariably chilly. But the fire in the Settler’s Arms Tavern is always roaring, and the tiny pub, its stone imbued with 150 years of drinkers’ sweat, heaves with riders lifting beers and joking about carbo-loading for the race tomorrow, carefully counting their drinks, so as to not undo a couple of months’ training. The stories and bullshit flow, adding themselves to the encyclopaedia of tall tales these walls have already heard. Eventually, excuses are made, tents are assembled in the dewy campground, last minute bike adjustments are done under a headlamp’s glow, and quiet falls on St Albans.

Some of the descents along the course see you drop like a stone down fast, water bar covered fire roads, drifting on the sand and dodging loose rocks.

A fog greets you in the morning. The warmth of the river meeting the cool night air creates a blanket of mist and gives the village a fairytale quality before the stillness soon gives way to frantic action; riders queue to piss, scramble to find shoes or helmets, peer skyward into the soup hoping to get a GPS signal, or fret about how many or few layers to wear against the morning cold. Horses watch on from the paddocks. I wonder what the locals make of it.

The picturesque valley floor.

There’s no singletrack, none at all, but that’s not a negative, the weathered rocky fire roads are way more engaging than any ribbon of buff singletrack could ever be. Loose rocks pepper the edges of the trail, ruts and ledges give a natural rhythm, sandy water bars launch you into next Wednesday. The terrain is uniquely Sydney too, chunky sandstone under your wheels and rising up all around you in big cliff faces, long patches of sand that send tired riders careering across the trail. You drop from the ridge lines to the valley floor, descending like mad, then claw your way back up to the top again on brutalising, long climbs. You curse each one, but affectionately.

The canoe bridge is possibly the race’s most notorious feature, the mere mention of it sends some riders into convulsions!

Much of the race follows the old convict road; racing on something so established, with so much history, feels somehow more consequential than simply riding loops in the bush on a purpose-built bermed racetrack. It’s one of those intangibles of this race makes it special, makes it stick in your mind.

Back in St Albans, 100km later, the presentation takes place under the branches of stout fig trees in the beer garden, a flock of chickens clucking off to one side. Riders lie with swollen legs extended in the shade, reluctant to join the procession back to the ferry queue and onwards to the bustle of Sydney. It’d be nice to stay, just for another night or two, wouldn’t it?


The Convict 100 is on again this year, Saturday 5 May, 2018. Entries are open now. See you there?

All photos by outerimage.com.au

Bike Development, Racing and The Universe with Fabien Barel and Joe Barnes

If we had to pick someone to head to a mountain biking mecca with, and that place just happened to be a tiny island in the Atlantic Ocean, riders like Fabien Barel and Joe Barnes would be at the top of our list.

If you’re planning a mountain biking holiday, Madeira should be a contender.

Well, luckily for us this obscure hypothetical was our reality when we attended the launch of the new Canyon Spectral and Torque models in Madeira, Portugal.

Madeira is home to some unique landscapes and amazing trails.

Before Joe headed back home for some blood lactate testing (EWS racing is serious business!) and Fabien went on his way to continue his never-ending product development schedule, we sat down with them to have a yarn about the new bikes and much more.


Fabien Barel:

F (Flow) – G’day Fabien! With your role at Canyon, you’re pretty important to the development of new bikes. Tell us a bit about your involvement with the new Torque and Spectral?

FB (Fabien Barel) – I’ve been with Canyon for six years now, and a huge part of our collaboration is the development of the new bikes, where I bring the racing background and the ‘feeling’ of the bikes. Canyon provides the technical know-how and plenty of technological resources.

Where I’m based I can also ride all year around, so I’m able to spend many hours on the bike to test the reliability and the actual ride feel as we develop the prototypes.

F – How long has the development cycle been for the Spectral and Torque since the first prototype?

FB – The Spectral and Torque projects have been going for a year and a half now.

Fabien floating aboard the new Torque.

F – Tell us a bit about the ‘family’ concept with regards to the Spectral, Torque and Sender?

FB –

When we developed the Sender, what we realised was that the three-stage suspension platform gave us what we were after not only for downhill riding, but it was also a platform that could work effectively for trail riding.

Some riders want progressivity throughout the entirety of their travel these days, but they don’t realise if this is the case they may be fighting the bike more than the terrain at times.

The stable mid stroke of our suspension really allows you to get the correct steering feedback when riding a corner, or pumping the bike through a compression, and the progressivity is saved solely for what I call ‘saver mode’, or when you really need it (laughs).

Fabien was integral in the development of Canyon’s Triple Phase Suspension.

F – This week we’ve seen the Torque make a comeback – and it’s a beast of a bike. Tell us in your mind who the ideal rider for this bike is?

FB – Whilst the Torque and the Spectral share the same kinematics, they’re part of the same ‘family’, we wanted to develop a big bike that we could do everything with.

For our testing, we used all of our professional riders, from freeriders like Thomas Genon, enduro racers like Joe (Barnes) who took the bike on long climbs to ensure it could pedal, and downhillers like Troy (Brosnan) who really pushed the bike to the limits.

What we achieved from this was essentially an ultra-capable bike for the rider who is truly focussed on the descents.

Troy Brosnan spent a week in Whistler aboard the new Torque.

F – So there really was a lot of involvement from Canyon’s professional riders when developing the Torque, how much of their feedback do you rely on when altering and advancing prototypes towards production?

FB – Being in a team like ours is like being in a family. We need to be able to take on board everything that our pro riders say and then consider how this helps us make not only the fastest bikes for racing, but also dynamic bikes for the average consumer, bikes that are fun and playful. Their feedback is invaluable, but it is only one part of the puzzle.

Unfortunately, not everybody can ride like this.

F – Do you personally spend much time on the more budget friendly bikes that the average consumer is more likely to purchase?

FB – To be honest no. Typically the only difference is the componentry, as when we release a carbon bike, we usually develop an aluminium model, and also models that mix the two materials.

I will always ride the aluminium prototype to find the right amount of rigidity, and ensure the performance of the aluminium is as close to the carbon as possible.

Even at the budget end of the Canyon range, you can be confident many, many hours have been put into frame development.

F – Do you think many riders could actually discern the different properties of an aluminium frame versus a carbon one?

FB – There is a difference in terms of performance, for sure. In terms of weight, in terms of rigidity you’re able to optimise the general chassis better with carbon than you are with aluminium.

I’ll be honest though, ninety to ninety five percent of people wouldn’t be able to pick up the difference, unless they really, really push the bike to the limits.

Thomas Genon making sure the new Torque is up to the task.

F – Moving onto next year, what’s coming up for yourself and Canyon?

FB – Next year will be exciting! This is a time for the brand where we are continuing to develop this new family of bikes that the Spectral and Torque are a part of, and we have exciting things planned for next year and beyond.

Spend five minutes with Fabien, and his passion for bike and product development will become evident.

F – Some Torque models feature your new ‘G5’ cockpit componentry, do you see not only Canyon, but also other brands internalising componentry development and specifications in the future?

FB – In the last five to seven years we’ve seen many brands try this, developing their own wheels, bars and stems mainly for cost purposes, but for us there is an interest to work on these components for other reasons.

Security is one of these reasons, for example if you get a cockpit from a third party you don’t have complete control over the product, but by working closely with brands, and now developing our own components, we have more control.

More control gives us more possibilities to spec the bike as we want, and look into other exciting areas such as integration in the future.

Canyon’s new G5 componentry range consists of premium products, not cost cutting measures.

F – Canyon’s mountain biking sector seems to be expanding at a rapid rate, with new bikes, professional racing teams and the company expanding into new markets, how is the mountain bike side of the brand tracking?

FB – I have to say firstly that I work with a great bunch of people. As much as Canyon is very much a brand that employs high level German efficiency and engineering, we’re also a very human brand.

The real relationships are what I feel drives our success, and today I don’t want to talk about numbers, but mountain biking is a big, big part of Canyon as a brand, and our investment into the mountain biking sector, be it marketing, engineering or servicing to the customer is growing every year.

Canyon certainly took this launch very seriously, renting possibly the biggest house in Madeira for their many staff.

F – Lastly Fabien, you’re a big fan of Australian reds (wine), but if you had to choose between an Australian red and a Madeiran Poncha, what would it be?

FB – Ha! The Australian red, not a doubt, not a doubt!

Steer clear of too much Poncha if you’re keen on riding the next day.

F – Cheers Fabien!


Joe Barnes:

F – G’day Joe! You’ve been working closely with Canyon to develop the new Spectral, tell us a bit about your involvement?

JB – I was always a huge fan of the old Spectral, as it really suited the riding I have back home, so when it came to the next step I actually worked last year with Canyon to develop a new linkage to achieve the feel the new bike has, which was not so much creating a supportive mid stroke as we already had that, but having a more sensitive initial stroke whilst retaining the mid-stroke support that makes the bike so playful.

It was pretty cool that I had the old chassis with the custom linkage that gave me a fairly similar leverage curve as the new bike, but it had nowhere near the same anti-squat and anti-rise, which are real features of the new bike.

Joe is one of the most switched on guys around when it comes to feeling how a bike is working.

F – Why is it that you prefer the Spectral for your home trails and surrounds?

JB – I find the Spectral to be a very poppy bike, and where I’m from a lighter, more agile bike suits the trails better for sure, as well as the fact that I’m pedalling everywhere with no uplifts.

Joe’s riding style is very flowy and precise, making him a joy to watch.

F – Will you be riding the Spectral on the EWS circuit next year?

JB – I’m in the lucky position where I can keep my options open when it comes to EWS racing with a few bikes to select from, so it’ll depend on the race really.

At the Scottish Enduro Series though, which is my secondary focus after the EWS I’ll race the Spectral, it’s very suited to the regional style of enduro racing that’s typically raced on less demanding tracks than the EWS.

Joe certainly looks at home aboard the new Spectral.

F – We know that you’re a bit of a of wizard when it comes to bike setup, be it contact points, brakes, suspension, you name it really – what do you see as the key elements of setting up a bike?

JB – I guess it’s a personal thing, but I do like to play around with the bike and just make sure I’m on top of everything. I always check my sag, just in case the temperature has changed, my bar height is also really important.

I do a fair bit of work with my mechanic Craig also, particularly on the suspension, which is pretty useful feedback for Canyon when developing the bikes.

I don’t like my brakes to bitey, or high performance, I actually like them a bit consistently mushy (laughs).

Joe likes his brakes and trails the same way, mushy.

F – With the new linkage providing a more progressive feel at the end of the travel, should riders expect to be running less volume spacers?

JB – I’d expect so. I went down from two spacers to one spacer on the new bike, but I’d almost say the supportive mid stroke is more important in being able to do this, as it takes quite a strong force to reach the point where you’re bottoming the suspension out.

F – Is the supportive mid stroke the key element that you think creates the ‘playful feel’ you’ve used to describe the new bike?

JB – For sure. There’s no wallow in the bike at all, you can feel the ground beneath you and you’re able to react to it, and I really like this as it allows you to make quick decisions out on the trail.

F – People often bump up the fork travel on bikes in this travel bracket, have you experimented with longer forks on the new Spectral?

JB – Yeah, I put a 160mm fork on when I first built the bike up as it was lying around the shed, and that felt pretty spot on. I certainly wouldn’t go more than 160, the bike’s angles would be effected too much then.

Joe shoots the breeze as we wait for another lift up the hill courtesy of Freeride Madeira.

F – Onto a slightly different track, tell us a bit about the Dudes of Hazzard?

JB – Yeah (laughs), it’s just a video blog we started eight years or so ago.

It’s essentially a video blog highlighting what me and my friends get up to with a pretty low production value.

F – You seem to go on some pretty amazing trips, what’s been the best trip you’ve been on?

JB –  There’s been a few, but this one trip we went on we ended up in Sweden and Norway, proper winging it, it was good fun!

There was three of us in the van and the van was pretty beat up, but we decided with no planning to head to Sweden and Norway after finishing a World Cup at Val Di Sole. The drive took a solid four days and the van sounded like it was going to break any minute, but it turned out to be pretty incredible.

F – So have you got any hot tips for people wanting to load up a van and head on an adventure?

JB – I did a really good job kitting out my van, I made myself a comfy armchair, a folding bed and heaps of nooks and crannies to put things in.

I’m not a joiner, not at all, but it’s only screwing bits of wood onto other bits of wood, right?

It turned out to be pretty luxury for an old Transit van really, with some nice lights for ambience.

The magnificent Landship III, Joe’s current home away from home.

F – Did you have a shower, or was washing optional?

JB – Nah, that was part of the fun really, the old where can you get your wash every day (laughs). Normally it was an ice-cold river in the alps, the bike wash shower is a classic also. Don’t know how that would go in Australia, you might get bitten by a Crocodile or something?

F – Have you got any plans to come to Australia in the future?

JB – Yeah for sure! I’ve not been to mainland Australia but I went to Tasmania this year for the EWS and loved every minute of it, so I’d love to go back there and cruise around.

Watch out Australian corners.

F – Speaking of the EWS, in an ideal world where are you hoping to be next year?

JB – It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been consistently in the top ten, and next year I want to be back up there. There’s a few races where I’ll push for a top five, La Thuile is certainly one of those. If I can achieve the consistency I’m after then a series result will look after itself.

F – Why does somewhere like La Thuile suit you?

JB – I just find places where the dirt is a bit looser a bit easier, perhaps because of what I ride back home I don’t really like the hardpack, I like to float around a wee bit more.

I’ve done two EWS races there before (in La Thuile) and done well, so I think I can do well again.

There was certainly a ‘wee bit’ of floating around in Madeira.

F – Do you think it’s just the lack of familiarity that makes hardpack a bit more difficult for you?

JB – For sure. I’ve grown up with no hardpack whatsoever, and while I’ve obviously ridden lots of hardpack in places like the French Alps, I just find myself in the zone when it gets loose.

Joe’s happy place is in the slop.

F – Thanks Joe, and good luck next year!

The Canyon Maydena Dream Weekend

Remember the Canyon Maydena Dream Weekend comp from a few months back? Been wondering who was the lucky bugger chosen by Canyon to head to Maydena Bike Park for a weekend of riding? Meet said lucky bugger, Jacob Schellen, and enjoy a few shots from a spectacular weekend of frothing and ripping.


Lucky winner Jacob Schellen (second from right) was joined by his dad (far right). Joining them were, from left to right: new Canyon Enduro signing Sam Walsh; Aaron Pelttari (Troy’s mechanic); Canyon Australia head man Darryl ‘Razzle’ Moliere; and the one and only Troy Brosnan.

Mate, you’re the envy of the Australian MTB public. Who are you? 

My name is Jacob Schellen, I’m a 19 year old from a small town called Heyfield in Victoria.

What are your home trails?

I’m pretty lucky to live just a few minutes from Blores Hill MTB Park. It doesn’t have the biggest elevation out there but it’s just had a few track updates from Dirt Art and it’s super fun.”

How did it feel to find yourself at the top of Maydena, on a kick arse Canyon, with one of the world’s best riders?

I’m still trying to get my head around that! Awesome people, awesome place and awesome bikes, it doesn’t get much better.

Jacob getting loose in the grease on board a Canyon Torque.

What bike did you ride at Maydena, and how did it compare to your usual bike?

Between the two of us we rode a Torque and Strive although I didn’t really get off the torque. As expected it was a lot more aggressive than my Kona Process and just felt perfect for the types of tracks at Maydena. What really surprised me was how easy it was to pedal up the steep hill back to our accommodation considering its descending capabilities.

What did you learn from riding with Troy?

I think I was having way too much fun to be trying to learn from Troy! But I did probably get better at taking sketchy inside lines in the greasy conditions on the second day of riding.

Do you reckon Troy learnt a few things riding with you too?

I’m not sure I’d have too much to offer Troy but I hope so! Haha.

Jacob launches into the loam.
Going down with the ship.
Brosnan, embracing some time on flat pedals in Maydena, with a classic inside line.

Tell us about riding the Maydena trails – how did you find them?

Riding the trails at Maydena would have to be the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike. We had great weather the first day then the rain came down that night which made for super slippery and loose riding on the Sunday. The trails themselves were incredible and need to be ridden to understand just how good they are. The guys who have built them have done an amazing job – big ups to those fellas!

Anyone you’d like to thank?

I can’t thank Darryl enough for the whole weekend, also to Sam, Troy, Aaron, Luke, and Jasper for the best riding crew ever. Finally thanks to the whole Maydena team, you guys have done something amazing and I’ll definitely be back soon!

Who doesn’t love a celebratory bar hump?

Ride High Country: Mt Beauty, Victoria

These trails have been cranking for over 30 years, and there’s more singletrack appearing every year. We always get a buzz out of this spot, and we hope you do too!

Mt Beauty is one of Australia’s original mountain bike towns, the trails have been here since the 1980s… which is why team Flow donned some genuinely vintage mountain bike jerseys for the occasion.

Mt Beauty’s very own World Champ, Paul Van Der Ploeg, was on hand to lead us into the wild trails of Beauty.

The trails of Beauty are the anti-flow-trail; 100% tech! These are old school, hand built single tracks, and you need to be committed and alert to ride them well. You can see why this place breeds some exceptional riders.
Mt Beauty, like most of these great High Country towns, has its own brewery – the Sweetwater Brewing Company is right in town, about 500m from the trails. Drop on in for a tasting.

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

Maydena Bike Park – It’s OPEN, Get To It!

Maydena Bike Park’s opening weekend went off; we were there with bells on, we rode the trails, tested out the whole operation (including the bike patrol and medics). We rode their bikes, drank their beer, swam in the river, and got a proper feel for what this place is all about.
Oh, Tasmania, you’re spoiling us, it’s all just too good!


Watch our full road trip video below!


What, where, how?

In a nutshell, Maydena Bike Park is a brand new privately run gravity mountain bike park with some massive amount of elevation for trail builders Dirt Art to carve out a vast network from scratch. Think Australia’s own version of Queenstown or Whistler with uplift services running all-year long.

It’s one hour drive from Hobart in Tasmania, and it is now open with all systems go. It’s more than just trails though, Maydena Bike Park is a pretty sweet place to hang out!

SO MUCH VERT, 820m of it!

We’ve been harping on about this place for a while now so that we won’t repeat ourselves on the known facts, all the details are right here – Tell me all about Maydena!


Flow loves a road trip, so, how was the road trip?

Getting to Maydena has all the right ingredients of a cracking road trip, for the mainlanders a flight to Hobart or taking the car on the ferry to Tasmania is a fabulous travel experience and a great escape from the major cities. Travelling about or to Tasmania is terrific, its natural beauty, fascinating and well-preserved history, and healthy tourism industry make it worthwhile over an overseas trip any day.

Those who’ve travelled around the Apple Isle would know how much fun can be had, it’s a kooky place with its free-and-easy flavour, it’s another world.

Beautiful Hobart, there’s so much to do in this city, we love wandering the old town of Battery Point, the historical port area and the majestic Mount Wellington.

For residents of Tasmania, and especially lucky locals of Hobart, Maydena is a worthy day-trip or weekender to fill your boots with loads of time descending great trails. We expect a fast new generation of gravity racers to come out of this place; it’s going to foster talent into big names, for sure.

Jumping in the car from Hobart the drive to Maydena is a beautiful one, while it’s around 1-1.25 hour journey, we’d suggest slowing it down a little, take in the surrounds. Check out the old town of Hobart, swim in the River Derwent on the way, explore the historical sights like Australia’s first asylum – Willow Court – in the historical and unique town of New Norfolk. The drive takes you through some seriously epic scenery too, past rows of hop farms that smell like the best beer ever, and along picture-perfect rivers begging for a swim.

En-route to Gordon Dam.
Eye-boggling sights of the South West Tassie region.

For the ultimate South-West-Tassie experience, take an afternoon and drive past Maydena to Gordon’s Dam which holds back Lake Gordon which at full capacity is the largest lake in the country, the spectacle of the dam and the incredible story behind its history and application makes it one of the most iconic developments in the country.

Just 15 minutes short of Maydena is one of Tasmania’s most popular day-trip tourist spot – Russell Falls – a postcard-perfect waterfall in the National Park with many walks and sights amongst classic Tasmanian Wilderness.

A 20-minute drive from the bike park is sights like these – Russell Falls.

See, there’s plenty to do!


Anything happening in the town of Maydena?

Hmmm, well, yes, sort of. Maydena is a tiny town that time forgot, a stop for fuel and a sandwich on the way into the deep south-west, en-route to Strathgordon and Gordon Dam. There’s a pub up the road at National Park which looks pretty authentic when we passed by, and there’s a small milk bar that provides an essential service and a service station that makes a good lunch, breaky and coffee too.

The road to Maydena is a pretty one.
A dip in the River Derwent is hard to pass up.

But don’t get caught out with no dinner plans, it’s pretty quiet around town when the riding is done, for now.


A bike park with a restaurant and bar next to a pumptrack…?

Part of the Bike Park’s appeal is that not only will the town benefit from hoards of hungry mountain bikers coming from all over the place, with no doubt more food and accommodation sprouting up, but they have also launched a new cafe and bar at the bottom that is set to expand.

So, right now you can roll out from the trails, rack your bike and take just five paces to the bar to order pizza, burgers, rolls, beer, cider, drinks and coffee.

Pizza in the bike park!
The re-purposed school is a perfect place for a bike park, the undercover beer garden and bike rack area was cranking with good vibes all day long.

Take a seat in the beer garden, watch the pump track and fuel the stoke for more runs. Pretty bloody sweet!

Yeooo, pump track!

The repurposed school now hosts the Maydena Bike Park HQ.

Bike hire, test ride a Canyon, bike school, complete workshop and retail store, the whole lot.

It’s the complete package of this place that impresses us, like the way you can go to Thredbo with no gear and hire everything you need Maydena also has you covered. There are currently ten Canyon Senders, and ten Canyon Strives in the hire fleet. A full complement of Canyon Torques and Spectrals are on their way soon, too. We rode a Strive on the first day and scored a lucky first ride on the Torque (oh, yes, it’s perfect for Maydena).

Maydena has partnered with Canyon for their hire fleet, this in itself is appealing to a potential Canyon customer as they are sold only online, a demo or test ride is not as simple as regular retail brands. Maydena will provide that opportunity to hire one to test out properly.

Canyons for hire, the best place to actually try one out on legit trails!

The workshop is manned by a fulltime mechanic operating like a proper bike shop with spares and loads of trick stock from the likes of Deity, Maxxis, FOX, Dharco, SRAM, Rockshox, 100%, FIST, Krush and much more.


What’s at the summit?

It’s pretty hard to tear your eyes away from the view of the summit and get riding; it’s a massive view that lies below you, stretching as far as the eye can see. The Eagle Eyrie building is a striking structure and currently hosts a cafe and plans are to lift the capabilities of the building to host sunset functions, as well as more food and drink options for everyone, not just mountain bikers.

Sunset summit beers with trail builder and absolute shredder, Brad Segda.
A meal with one of the best views in Tasmania?
Breathtaking stuff, this view won’t ever grow old.

What did we think of the trails?

Yes, it’s nice to drive there, there are pizza and beer, but that’s not what you’re there for, how are the trails!??

We’re not going to beat around the bush; we were pretty blown away by the trails, everyone was. Partly due to the amount of trail that was finished and ready to ride for the open day, the flow and feel of them, the variety on offer, and the fact we can’t remember going to a destination in Australia and having our asses handed to us like we did that day, Maydena is legit!

Spot the human. This is the final jump on Maydena Hits, the big jump line that scared the daylights out of us but was amazing to watch riders soaring overhead.
Shelly Flood going large.
Trail builder – Jai Motherwell – brings his wild riding skills to the build crew.

Mark our words, this is a gravity park, and the trails are fast, steep and very long. While there are plenty of blue-grade trails they err on the darker side of blue, it’s the daunting gradients and how you need to manage your speed well to avoid exploding on a simple piece of track that turns a trail with simple features into something more tricky. The jumps are epic, from small-ish to enormous they are the biggest jumps we’ve seen in this country! The jumps are safe though, well designed and never a nasty surprise as you rip down the descents, visibility is excellent and it makes you push your comfort zone. Spend some time here, and you’ll come away a better rider and jumping bigger than before, guaranteed.

There’s a real mixture too, one run you could take in insanely fast bike-park style runs with superbly constructed berms that catch you and send you hurtling into the next one if you’re committed and hundreds of jumps. Then on another lap down, you could be sinking your tyres into a lush and loamy wonderland on one of the natural hand-built trails that dart and weave through the dense and ever-changing bush.

You think you’ve seen steep trails…? We walked away from this one, it was practically vertical!

Diving into ‘Zen Garden’ one of our favourites, a natural hand-built run with some seriously lush loam and natural technical sections.
Connor Fearon in deep.

We could have ridden on that dirt for weeks; it’s so nice to shred hand-built trails that are designed to drift and roost soil everywhere.

Because the whole project is privately run, there are billions of benefits over a public facility most notable is that trail builders are freed of any ‘sanitising’ influences – steeper, wilder trails, with more challenging lines than you’ll find on public lands are in abundance in Maydena.


How many runs can you do in one day?

Bike park laps, yesssss!

The uplift is around 20 minutes long with a new more direct route up the mountain and in the new turbo diesel bus fleet (unfortunately red tape got in the way of us experiencing the turbo vans this weekend) will provide a rapid and comfortable uplift.

On average five runs (totalling about 5km of vertical descent) in one day would be comfortable, it takes a long time to get down! Though if you are mad keen and quick seven-eight runs (a whopping 6.5km of vert earnt) in one day is also achievable.


How many runs to do them all?

There are currently 34 trails open, totalling a mighty 32km, it would take you 14 runs to do each track right now. The challenge is set!


Shred hard in safe hands.

As Tasmania doesn’t have significant ski resorts like NSW or VIC, the safety program is second to none, and they have had to write their own state code practically. The fees to uplift and use the park go toward a full-time bike patrol medical team. They have already put in the time to work on a comprehensive safety and extraction system that covers the whole park.

Trust us on this one, we personally tested this out, though an unfortunate accident, we were indeed in safe hands.


What bike to bring?

We started on a Canyon Strive, their burly enduro race bike with 160mm travel forks and found it to be quite ample. The park is varied, but a long-travel (150mm and up) bike is highly recommended. Make sure you have plenty of meat on your tyres and have brakes that bite and are not prone to fading on longer descents, if there was a place to test out brakes, Maydena would be on our list.

After the Strive we stepped it up a notch to the new Canyon Torque, their recently released 180mm travel ‘park bike’ which gave us a lot more confidence to let the speeds trickle up and commit harder to the turns and let it hang out on the natural tech lines.

Team builder and phenomenal rider, Baxter Maiwald on the new Canyon Torque.

Even a downhill bike would be great there, we’d just recommend that whatever you bring, make sure you can control it on long and steep descents!


The bike park is big, the riding level is advanced, so what is next?

We expect a lot of experienced riders to rock up to Maydena and find the trails a bit daunting, but that was the plan from the outset, Maydena is its own place, setting it apart from other hot spots in Tassie like Derby. Right now the park will appeal to the more experienced riders, but the next six months will see the place exploding with variety as they embark on construction and continue to introduce more trails to maintain interest. We won’t get bored!

  • A climbing trail is under construction which will take riders up to Midline Trail, (not to the top, that’d be too brutal to climb) where you’ll have 13 trails to choose from to descend back down.
  • ‘Flow’ and ‘technical’ intermediate level tracks are in the works, designed to provide a stepping stone for riders, an introduction to more blue grade trails.
  • An intermediate jump line will be under construction soon, a contouring track with multiple table top jumps, like B-line or Crank it Up in Whistler.
  • Green/beginner 15km Flow Trail, early summer season 2018/19.
  • A 25km wilderness trail, like Blue Tier Derby with twice the vertical. Contouring, short climbs, a proper wilderness adventure. Taking you to beautiful rivers and viewpoints. Completion early 2019.

Oh, and there are events!

Yep, alternating fortnightly there will be a Fat Friday social, for $20 the crew will provide an evening uplift with a beer after, with a new track to be raced selected before the day.

And alternating each Sunday, a Turn Earner event, $5 with a beer a 10km trail ride/race up the climbing trail and down again, a social affair, and sounds pretty good fun to us.


Maydena Gravity Fest!

But the big news is this coming April 2018 is the inaugural Maydena Gravity Fest! 

  • Ultimate Flow Challenge

Race to find your flow down 820m vertical of incredible flow trails! We’ve pieced together the ultimate combination of trails to find Maydena’s Queen and King of flow!

  • Air DH

Australia’s first ever full-scale Air DH Event! This event will test riders ability to rail corners, scrub jumps and maintain momentum through the absolute best selection of the park’s jumps trails.

  • Tech Assault

Rocks, roots, loam and hand-built trail goodness, the Tech Assault is a top-to-bottom race through some of the park’s most technical trails.

  • Pump Track Challenge

Race a series of laps around the park’s mega pump track, or simply spectate from our trackside beer garden!

  • Dual Slalom

Dual slalom is back! And we’re not sure why it ever left. Side by side racing down our ‘old school’ dual slalom course, with a mix of flat turns and built features.

  • Whip off (invite only)

A collection of jump legends sessioning our whip off jump for the battle of who can get most sideways!


See, it’s big!

Visit the Maydena Bike Park site or their Facebook page for more.

Or want to see really good riders riding Maydena? Click here.


Photos supplied by Flow, Jasper da Seymour and Ryan Finlay/Maydena Bike Park.

Troy Brosnan: Under The Hood

We’ve looked up to Troy Brosnan and his commitment to the craft for many years now. From an irrepressible junior, bouncing around on a bike that seemed far too big for him, he’s grown into one of the sport’s most talented riders. We’re in awe of his incredible precision, that famous light touch, barely seeming to buzz the earth.

When the racing’s done for the year, Troy Brosnan returns home to Adelaide, South Australia. We spent the week with Troy, to get a unique and honest insight into his life during his downtime in the off-season. Though to call it an off-season is a real misnomer – his commitment to training is unbelievable. Whether it be on the road bike, the BMX track or rock climbing, Troy’s approach to each training block is to get as much from it as possible. It all translates – those fractions of a second that might separate him from being first or second on the podium when he gets back on the track.

We also learnt a lot about the man himself. How he values spending as much time as possible with close friends and family too; under the full-face you’ll find a down-to-earth, genuine Aussie bloke. Just one that happens to be extremely fast on a bike.

This is Troy Brosnan: Under the Hood.

Fast Heads #4: Josh Carlson

In this interview, I talked with Josh Carlson about his psychological strategies as one of the world’s best EWS riders. After a brilliant 2016 experience, Josh had a disappointing 2017 season – so I was really keen to learn what he’s been doing to overcome these challenges as the 2018 season approaches.

Does fast happen in the legs or the head – which is more important in racing?

Josh Carlson (JC): It’s a bit of both really. The legs have to be there – EWS racing is hard, and you have to be able to rely on your body (so training is really important), but in the top 20 pretty much everyone has the same skills and fitness, so those top 20 places are decided by who has their head in the game that day.

EWS is very different form DH-racing. Downhillers can have a very specific physical and mental warmup routine. They already know the track intimately, they know what’s coming. They can time their meals perfectly, make sure that the caffeine hit kicks in at exactly the right time, listen to their perfect playlist while they spin on a warmup bike, and then they perform for three to five minutes. EWS riders are out for seven hours, in all conditions, and we have to concentrate on tracks not that different from DH courses, which we might have only ridden once or twice before if we’re lucky, when we’re tired, hungry, and cold, over and over again.

No one can concentrate for seven-hours flat, but being able to bring yourself back into the here and now when you need to is everything.

To be able to focus when it matters is the real key. No one can concentrate for seven-hours flat, but being able to bring yourself back into the here and now when you need to is everything. I can’t afford to be picky about how I get my head in the game. For example, in Ireland this year, I was getting ready when a local kid asked me for an autograph – he was so excited, was telling me his stories, and a big part of what I do for my team is be an ambassador, so I can’t just say “piss of kid”, I had to give him my attention, and then I had to bring my attention back to the ride ahead of me. What I’m saying is, because I have no control over what’s going to happen, I’ve had to learn how to choose when and where to focus, and when to be distracted.

Tell us about the toughest mental challenge you’ve faced in your career, and how you overcame it.

JC: It was actually this last season. It was really hard, and I wasn’t properly prepared, physically or mentally. The most frustrating thing was that once the season starts you can only maintain, there’s no room for development – that’s all got to happen in training off-season. So, all I could do was to try to hang on, and not make things worse.

The most frustrating thing was that once the season starts you can only maintain, there’s no room for development – that’s all got to happen in training off-season.

Probably the hardest challenge this year was in France at Millau – the weather was pretty crap, and there were a whole load of marshalling and timing errors. The marshals didn’t speak English, so I’m at the top of a stage and it’s raining, and I’m under a shelter and trying to get ready, and the guy translating for me tells me I’ve got three minutes, so I start to get my jacket off and my goggles out of their case. Then, like a minute later, the timing marshal says “20 seconds” and I can’t argue, so I had to shove my goggles on and take-off. It was wet and slippery and technical, and it needed all of my attention – there was no room to be pissed off about what had just happened.

Do you have a routine, either practically or mentally, pre-race and what importance does this have for your preparation? 

JC: Like I said earlier, I can’t really do a specific routine. But being consistent is important. I need to do the same things during my season, trusting in my training, my technical ability, and my team. Going over to Giant was a big deal – all of a sudden there were all these people whose job was to help me go faster. I had to get used to that and to learn to delegate stuff to other people.

My mechanic has been amazing for this. He is as committed to doing his job well as I am to mine. Back in Chile, I think in 2015, he’d dialled the bike pre-race, and then noticed that a bearing was damaged. So, he stripped the whole bike and rebuilt it to be perfect – he stayed up until 2.30 in the morning to get it right. I trust him to do his part really well (which he does), so I can relax and get on with riding my bike fast, not having to worry about the other stuff.

On the other hand, I’ve had to learn to be a bit more selfish. I’m usually a pretty chatty guy and nearly all of the EWS riders get on really well – it’s like going for a ride with your mates. Except that it isn’t really, because it’s also my job. So, I have to be a bit less chatty, to give a bit less away to other riders, because I have to be focused on what I need to do. That’s been a challenge.

Do you have to deal with fear? How do you handle it? 

JC: Fear isn’t really a problem for me. I mean, I’m frightened of not performing, and of letting down my team, but not of the riding itself. The EWS tracks are hard, and you really need the skills properly dialled down, from lots of practice and training, to be able to compete effectively, so I can’t be second guessing features on the trail – I just have to trust in my training.

You’ve also got to remember that I’m paid to take risks. If you’re not OK with those risks, you really don’t have any place doing what we do.

Is confidence more important than form?

JC: Neither. Form is a given in what we do – you get it from lots of practice, and you have to trust it. That’s competence, and it’s more important than confidence. Confidence is unreliable, but competence comes from proper preparation. Also, confidence is variable – you certainly can’t rely on it when you’re wet and cold and exhausted. That’s where the repetition and practice comes in. It’s all about being able to come back when you need to, and to focus on the job at hand without getting distracted by all of the other crap.

I’ve been working heavily with Lululemon to dial in some good meditation techniques that help me to regain focus. I’ve also worked with a sport psychologist this year on how to be present and focused under pressure. In my opinion, being able to perform consistently under pressure is everything and, thanks to the work I’ve been doing and the help I’ve been getting, my ability to choose when to focus is getting easier.

Is mental training part of your regime? If so, what do you do

JC: As I mentioned, mental training has become a huge part of my approach. Physical fitness, endurance, and skills are essential, but in EWS the difference between 5th and 20th is focus. So, again, it’s all down to choosing when to focus; balancing everything so that you’re able to do what you need to do when you need to do it. Chat on way up, or play with your phone and Instagram at the top. But then it’s goggles on and leave it behind.

How do you handle situations when it all hits the fan? Do you prepare for this?

JC: The day we brought our daughter home from hospital she started choking, and going blue. I had to stay focused and calm while I worked on getting her to breathe. I amazed myself being able to focus on the (very important) job at hand, even though it was unbelievably scary. In comparison to that, anything that happens during a race is pretty small! I learnt that even with extreme emotional pressure, it is possible to choose to focus on what’s important, and to function effectively. But to do that, you can’t struggle with the emotions, you just have to accept what’s going on and redirect your attention to what matters then and there.

The other thing I’ve learnt over the last few years is to take time coming back from injury. Obviously, if you injure during the season, you just have to hang on and try not to make it worse (because you don’t really have a chance to recover properly) – but as soon as you get the chance, applying yourself to recovery at a slow pace is important. That way you get to rebuild properly physically, but also reintroduce yourself mentally to challenge, so that you don’t just freak out and damage your competence base.

If I was going to summarise what’s important, I’d say that it’s is about being able to notice the distractions and then come back to the moment despite those distractions – because theyre not going away, so the only thing you get to actually control is your actions.


Jeremy’s Observations

Josh has a very different take on his approach compared with the other riders I’ve interviewed. For starters, Josh has worked extensively with a sport psychologist, and between them, they’ve nailed down what it’s important for him to focus on, and have come up with good ways to make this work. Although the others I’ve talked with have great mental strategies, they’ve also had to spend a long time figuring these out by themselves, and then improving them through trial and error. Instead, Josh identified a deficit in his ability, and sought out ways to fix that deficit as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Josh’s strategies can be summarised in three main themes:

 

1) Adaptability and flexibility. Josh has been specifically working on improving his overall adaptability: recognising that things outside of his control will change (like the weather, or marshalling errors), so rather than trying to keep things the same and controllable, he’s learning to work with variability in environments where there are only a small number of things that he can control. The easier and faster it is for him to adapt, the better his chances of performing well.

Read more about being flexible on the trails here: https://flowmountainbike.com/features/how-expecting-to-fail-can-improve-your-performance/

 

2) Being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Josh has realised that to succeed in the EWS, he has to accept that it’s going to be really uncomfortable. If you watched any of the 2017 EWS season, you’ll know what I mean: wet, cold, long, and muddy were the norm for nearly all of the races, and if you’re not prepared to accept that sort of discomfort, you’re wasting precious resources. Josh has been working hard to improve his ability to process discomfort as information – and to be better at functioning in the presence of that information – no matter how unpleasant it might be. He knows that, compared to real challenges, like dealing with a life or death moment with his daughter, pretty much anything he experiences on the trails is both smaller and temporary.

I’ve written a bit about pain before here: https://flowmountainbike.com/features/the-soap-box-about-pain-using-pain-to-be-a-better-mountain-biker/

 

3) Choosing to focus, focus, focus. An important addition to Josh’s work on being more adaptable, is his ability to choose when to focus. I keep using the word “choose” for a reason: focus is a conscious action and, by definition, requires conscious choice. Josh is learning to be much better at choosing to focus on what matters to him, in the presence of everything else. He doesn’t block things out or force himself to ignore distractions, he notices them, accepts them, and then focuses his attention on what he needs to. The faster he can do this the better; bringing himself back as rapidly as possible when he’s been distracted can be the difference between a good race and a disaster.

In my opinion, the areas Josh has been working on are extremely important – so important, in fact, that I’ll dedicate a Flow article (in the near future) on how to cultivate and improve adaptability, comfort with discomfort, and focus under pressure. In the meantime, read here for some info on focus and attention: https://flowmountainbike.com/features/the-soapbox-riding-in-the-here-and-now/


 About the author:

 Dr. Jeremy Adams has a PhD in sport psychology, is a registered psychologist, and director of Eclectic Consulting Ltd. He divides his time between mountain biking, working with athletes and other performers, executive coaching, and private practice.

In past lives, Jeremy has been a principal lecturer in sport and performance psychology at a university in London, a senior manager in a large consulting firm in Melbourne, a personal trainer in Paris, and a scuba instructor in Byron Bay. He’s also the author of a textbook on performance in organisational management, a large range of professional and popular articles, and a regular blog about the joys and perils of being human (www.eclectic-moose.com).

Jeremy lives and works in Hobart and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com) or on (03) 9016 0306.

Gravel Bikes: Once Were Roadies

Once we were roadies

VitaminG, Groading, Gnar-road, Gravel Grinding, Adventure Bicycling, Graventure; whatever hashtag you subscribe to, riding drop-bar bikes on dirt is almost as popular as long travel 29ers right now. Welcome to the world of gravel bikes.

This kind of stuff becomes nice and gnarly on a gravel bike, whereas you’d barely blink at it on your mountain bike.

We’ve been closet roadies for a long time. The fitness gains from riding the road, plus the ease of shooting the breeze while riding or during the post-ride coffee park up are just some of the reasons we’ve always liked to throw a bit of road into our riding. 

But the passion for road riding has tempered a little lately, both amongst us here at Flow and across the bike industry more broadly. Maybe it’s the number of cars on the road or the fact that half the drivers seem to be flicking at the phones, but the road bike has been gathering dust.

The Cannondale Super X SE is one gravel bike we’ve been riding a lot lately.

Yes, often that means we add to the traffic as we drive to the trailhead and get out on the mountain bike more.  But we’ve also found ourselves seeking out the roads less travelled to get our drop-bar fix in the past year or two. We’ve gone gravel.


So it’s a road bike, on the dirt. What a dumb idea.

That’s what we thought at first. Except it’s not.

Firstly, it’s amazing where you end up on gravel bikes. Planning routes through parts of your backyard that you never knew existed is a big part of the experience. There’s some beautiful countryside out there, places you wouldn’t bother to take your mountain bike, and couldn’t take your roadie. And let’s not even mention the possibilities of bike packing for multi-day gravel adventures. 

Single ring drivetrains on road bikes, now you have our attention!
BEER. Gravel essentials. Frame bags let you carry more gear.

It’s a very social way to ride too. You’re not stuck single file like you tend to be on the mountain bike, nor are you stressing about traffic like you would on the roadie. We’ve churned out 170km+ rides on the gravel that have been banter from go to woah, it’s a bloody good catch up. 

This descent wasn’t part of the plan, but following your nose is part of what riding gravel bikes is all about.

The new Specialized Diverge borrows from the mountain bike world, with a suspension stem/steerer setup.

Plus there’s the challenge of it all. Fire roads and gravel roads that would be dull on a full suspension mountain bike suddenly become white-knuckled, rim-pinging insanity when you ditch the suspension with 40mm tyres and your seat at full height. It’s scary as hell sometimes, in a mad cackling kind of way. 

Gravel bikes are far more capable than you’d expect

Gravel bikes as we know them now really didn’t exist a few years ago. You were limited to either scraping the paint off your road bike with too-big tyres or perhaps buying a cyclocross bike, which had room for bigger rubber but still ran cantilever deathtrap brakes.

Tubeless tyres for dedicated gravel use have really changed the game in this segement. This kind of riding with tubes is a nightmare.

But the modern gravel bike is a different kettle of kippers; disc brakes, single-ring drivetrains, proper tubeless tyres with 40mm+ tyres, thru axles, some even run dropper posts. They may look a lot like road bikes, but they share plenty of DNA with your mountain bike and you can certainly get pretty wild on them.

Compared to a mountain bike, they’re both versatile and relatively affordable too. Around $1500 is the starting point for a gravel bike that’s well and truly up to speed.

So what are you trying to tell us? 

Basically, we’re saying don’t be surprised if you start to see the odd gravel bike in the mix here on Flow – it’s part of the way we enjoy riding on dirt. And don’t be surprised if you find one of these kinds of bikes in your garage one day soon. We thought it was a hoax until we gave it a go too.


We’ve already featured a few gravel-ish bikes on Flow over the past couple of years. Check out our review of the funky Cannondale Slate, and the Cell Brunswick.  


 

Local Video: Shredding the Vic Alps, with Blue Dirt and Specialized

Late November in the Victorian High Country; the snow has almost all melted and the mountain bike trails have been primed for the summer season. Riders David McMillan, Ryan De La Rue & Tom Anderson hit the highway with Blue Dirt Mountain Biking and Specialized Bicycles on a road trip to three of the best mountain biking destinations in Victoria: Falls Creek, Bright & Mt Buller.

These three destinations should be on every mountain bikers hit list. On board the latest 2018 Specialized Enduro and Stumpjumpers with the help from Blue Dirt’s shuttle service, see what all the fuss is about!


Join Specialized Australia riders Dave MacMillan, Ryan De La Rue and Tom Anderson for some loose riding at Falls Creek, Bright and Mt Buller, three of the primo destinations where Blue Dirt offer their uplift services.

Heading to the top of Mt Mackay above Falls Creek, the highest public road in Australia.
Falls Creek chills.
Diving into the pines of Bright.
Morning light on Falls Creek.
Mt Mystic, Bright.
Should’ve zigged when I zagged.
The Victorian Alps are just a stunning place to be.
Buller summit sunsets.
Top of the world.


Fast Heads #3 – Interviewing Rachel Atherton

In this interview, I asked Rachel Atherton, the most successful female downhiller of all time, about her strategies for dealing with challenges when racing and training. Given Rachel’s challenging 2017 season, I was excited to hear how she uses her head to go fast.

During the 2017 UCI MTB World Championships in Cairns Australia.

Does fast happen in the legs or the head – which is more important in racing?

Rachel Atherton (RA): Really it is a combination of both. Obviously, you have to be physically strong enough, fit enough with the ability to process the lactic acid, have the ability to take the forces in your body that hurtling down a mountain at 40kmph requires. But if ultimately, your mind isn’t in the right place, you won’t be able to deliver, no matter how strong you are. So, really, racing is probably slightly more in your head, when you are fired up, confident in yourself, your bike and your line choice, and you are just generally strong mentally then you can put it all down in those five minutes. You can commit and race faster and easier, but that confidence comes from having trained right, and knowing you are strong and fit enough to deal with the race speed, so really you HAVE to have both, without both you don’t get on the top step!

If ultimately, your mind isn’t in the right place, you won’t be able to deliver, no matter how strong you are.

What’s the toughest mental challenge you’ve faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?

RA: Injury is definitely the biggest mental challenge and I’ve had my fair share of injuries! I think the worst thing about being injured is the fear of hurting yourself again, you can’t imagine ever being strong enough or confident enough to go that fast again, you totally lose it. But as with everything in life you start small, with small realistic goals each day and before you know it you’re back racing! I used to have an “injury loop” that I would ride each time I was recovering from injury, the same loop, the same climb and descent and I knew if I could get to point A, then I could get to point B next time, and point C the time after, and so on until I’d completed the loop. When that happened, I knew I was ready to ride properly. You just have to do whatever it is that makes you FEEL confident.

In 2009 I had to have a whole year out when I got hit by a truck on my road bike and dislocated my shoulder. I severed the nerves and had to have nerve grafts and operations all year long, it was a tough injury because the year before I had won the World Championships and World Cup overall – in 2008 – so I went from being on top of the world to not even racing! But the hardest bit of all was that after training for the next season all winter I shattered my little finger two days before the first World Cup! I was so gutted but I couldn’t think about not racing, it was so painful bending my broken finger around my handlebars each day, and to get through it and toughen myself mentally, between every practice run I watched the movie 300 on my laptop – I choose clips that made me feel like ROARING, I AM SPARTA, it worked, I won! But I won by being smart – I went around some big road gaps because I couldn’t take the hit on landing, so I made sure I went faster everywhere else, I did what was right for me at that time.

Between every practice run I watched the movie 300 on my laptop – I choose clips that made me feel like ROARING, I AM SPARTA, it worked, I won!

Do you have a routine, either practically or mentally, pre-race and what importance does this have for your preparation?

RA: Yes, a routine is really super important, I would say it is the most simple and effective way to prepare for a race. most of the time I am so so nervous on race day, I can’t function with the nerves, I puke in the bin and lose my head, but I know that if I follow my routine, it will lead me to that start gate, and then I know what I’m doing, that’s what I live for. Routine lets you switch off your head and just DO. I have everything planned down to the minute, we even factor in time for me to sit around before I leave the race pits, a time to sit and think of nothing, or ask for some last minute reassurance, my routine plans my day, from breakfast to warm up, practice, time to watch my GoPro, time to eat and drink, time to sleep, time to wake up again and warm up for race run, time to sing (singing helps ease my nerves and takes up the space in my mind so I can just go on auto-pilot).

Routine lets you switch off your head and just DO.

I think a routine is super important because it’s one thing that’s the same wherever you go, whatever country you’re in, or whatever the weather is doing or however you feel, you complete your routine and you know it gets you to that start gate and then you get to do what you love – race!

Do you have to deal with fear? How do you handle it?

RA: Yes! Fear is a big part of what we do, sometimes it is fear of a certain obstacle on course, sometimes it is a general fear of crashing and getting hurt or fear of losing and not performing to your ability. The way I try to deal with it is by using evidence – past evidence, which has already happened and I can’t undo that fact, I HAVE done big jumps before, I have won races before, I have gotten hurt before and come back to racing, so you use the past evidence to reassure yourself that you can do it. I tell myself that ”thoughts are not truths” and that what I’m thinking might come true, or it might not come true, but thoughts are not truths so anything can happen and will happen. I don’t try and stop fear or anxiety, I just try to manage it, control it. If I’m scared I control my fear by making sure I know exactly where I am going into a section by watching GoPro and walking the track more; it is the preparation that can help.

I tell myself that ”thoughts are not truths” and that what I’m thinking might come true, or it might not come true, but thoughts are not truths so anything can happen and will happen.

I tell people, if you are really scared and really don’t think you can do it, have you done something similar before? Or are you making too big a step? You have to take every step to get to the end goal, you can’t miss steps or cheat because then you will come unstuck. But if you work up to a big jump by doing millions of small and medium-sized jumps until you are so confident on them, then doing a big jump will be much easier than doing nothing then suddenly trying a big jump.

I tell people, if you are really scared and really don’t think you can do it, have you done something similar before?

How do you handle situations when it all hits the fan? Do you prepare for this?

RA: Sometimes no matter what you do or how you prepare, it all goes totally wrong and you get hurt or you don’t win.

For me the shit hitting the fan can be a good thing: it forces you to evaluate what happened and why? Sometimes you can find answers easily to why, and so you fix it: you change things on your bike, you train harder. But sometimes there is no reason why you crashed, and that is the hard part to accept that there is nothing you can change, nothing you can fix, you just crashed because riding bikes is a bit dangerous,  or you just didn’t win because you weren’t fast enough; those are the hardest parts because you can’t change it. When there’s a problem to fix, something to focus on to get better it is easy and exciting, but when it’s just for no reason, you have to accept your fate and wait until your next chance to race again!

For me the shit hitting the fan can be a good thing: it forces you to evaluate what happened and why?

I do let myself get upset, and let myself get angry and sad because I believe that is part of the process, I am so competitive that I need to feel sorry for myself and let myself have a break then I can come back much more determined to try again!


Jeremy’s Observations

I was fascinated by Rachel’s responses, in part because they were so similar to those of the other riders I’ve interviewed so far. Like Bec Henderson, Dan O’Connell, and Tracey and Mick Hannah, Rachel hasn’t worked formally with a sport psychologist, but like these riders, she’s intuitively picked up on some very effective strategies for staying on form, despite substantial setbacks. As a sport psychologist, I often find that athletes who make it to the top usually figure out a lot of the important stuff by themselves through observation, and trial and error. There’s a lot for the rest of us to learn from their experience!


Rachel’s strategies can be summarised by four main themes:

1) Effective confidence is the result of competence which, in turn, is the result of lots of repetitive practice. This applies both to technique and form, as well as to psychological consistency. Rachel spends a lot of time training incrementally: rather than attempting major changes, or taking on large risks, she practises by stepping up both the challenge and the pressure in smaller, more achievable chunks. This gives Rachel not only the repetitive practice that builds skill, but it also provides her with an “evidence base” that shows her she has the competence to take on challenging obstacles, independently of how she might be feeling about it on a given day.

– Read more about building competence here: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/training-your-brain-part-2-skills-acquisition/

2) Injury is probably inevitable if youre going to ride, so accept it. Rachel has had her share of spectacular crashes and some very nasty injuries requiring long recovery times. Because she accepts that this is an inescapable part of mountain biking, post-accident she is able to focus on her recovery, and on reprogramming herself to be able to ride hard stuff again (through incremental progression and repetitive practice). Accepting the unpleasant stuff like fear, pain, and injury means that when it happens, it’s less likely to have a traumatising impact, which means we can come back faster.

– Read more about coming back after injury here: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/the-soapbox-getting-your-mojo-back/

During the 2017 UCI MTB World Championships in Cairns Australia.

3) We are not our thoughts and feelings. Rachel realises that although her thoughts feel true (especially the ones that tell her that she can’t, or that she’s going to fail) they usually aren’t. Getting past the assumption that our internal experiences are valid simply because they’re internal is one of that hardest things for most of us to process. Sure we all have thoughts and feelings, often extremely strong and, sometimes, quite distressing; but having a thought or feeling doesn’t mean that you are that experience, or even that it has merit. It’s important to remember that strong thoughts and feelings (especially fear) only get our attention (resulting in a negative impact on our ability to perform as desired) if we become distracted by them in the first place. Learning to “notice and name” our thoughts and feelings is a great start – it helps us understand that our internal experiences are only an aspect of what’s going on in any given moment and, therefore, that they don’t have to influence our actions. Rachel understands that she can’t turn off her mind or emotions, so rather than struggling to “overcome’ them, she’s learnt to identify and work with them.

– Read more about attending to what matters despite internal distractions here: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/the-soapbox-riding-in-the-here-and-now/

4) Its OK to get pissed off! Learning to manage our actions in the presence of distracting thoughts and feelings is important, but it’s also important to acknowledge that we’re human and that the things we think and feel will happen whether we want them or not. Rachel understands that being human means that it’s OK to feel the range of human emotions and that challenging experiences often present us with the full spectrum. Taking time to allow an emotional experience helps us to recognise that it’s not necessarily as bad as we might think, and allows us the opportunity to be kind to ourselves in the face of disappointment, pain, and distress. Allowing these experiences can also help us to focus on the riding ahead of us, rather than the mistakes behind us. Equally important is the knowledge that unpleasant emotions can help to highlight the reasons we mountain bike.

Love and pain are both sides of the same coin: if we didn’t care about mountain biking, we wouldn’t feel angry, sad, or disappointed when things don’t go our way. Taking the time to acknowledge what mountain biking means to us (especially in the face of problems) can help us be more passionate, but also more forgiving when things go wrong.

– Read more about being a self-compassionate rider here: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/the-power-of-purposeless-activity-aka-why-i-mountain-bike/


About the author:

Dr. Jeremy Adams has a PhD in sport psychology, is a registered psychologist, and director of Eclectic Consulting Ltd. He divides his time between mountain biking, working with athletes and other performers, executive coaching, and private practice.

In past lives, Jeremy has been a principal lecturer in sport and performance psychology at a university in London, a senior manager in a large consulting firm in Melbourne, a personal trainer in Paris, and a scuba instructor in Byron Bay. He’s also the author of a textbook on performance in organisational management, a large range of professional and popular articles, and a regular blog about the joys and perils of being human (www.eclectic-moose.com).

Jeremy lives and works in Hobart and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com) or on (03) 9016 0306.

Interview: MTBA gains Australian Sports Commission Recognition

Around a week ago, a rather innocuous looking email arrived in the Flow inbox, letting us know that Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA), the peak Australian MTB body, had gained official National Sporting Organisation status.


“So what?” you might ask. Well, there’s quite back story here! For a long time now, MTBA has operated in the shadow of Cycling Australia (CA) – all funding came via CA, and in a nutshell the situation has been rather complicated.

To shed a little more light on what gaining NSO status might mean for MTBA and Australian mountain bikers, we chatted with CEO of MTBA, Shane Coppin.


So Shane, for all of us out there who aren’t familiar with NSOs, the Australian Sports Commission or Cycling Australia, what does this all mean? 

Shane Coppin (SC): MTBA will now be able to officially promote the status that; “The Australian Government through the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) recognises Mountain Bike Australia to develop mountain biking in Australia”.

MTBA will now be able to deal directly with the ASC across all programs and initiatives conducted by the ASC, including being invited to attend applicable NSO forums, communications, workshops, initiatives and programs as offered by the ASC / AIS from time to time (this wasn’t offered to MTBA previously);

MTBA may be directly funded and supported by the ASC under investment plans or individual grant opportunities (previously any financial support had to be provided via CA);

MTBA can directly assist (sign-off) and support applications from our riders / members / clubs for any applicable ASC programs and grants (previously required lodgement / sign-off via CA);

MTBA can directly engage with the ASC for support/assistance with initiatives and/or innovation projects

The ASC may choose to work directly with MTBA for specific projects and offers the ASC a purely Unitarian National Sports model to work with in MTBA;

MTBA can directly coordinate coaching and officiating programs for MTB with the ASC (whilst, we currently were doing some of this, the process is now formalised)

MTBA will be recognised by State Governments, Agencies and other Forums as the recognised NSO for MTB, giving our organisation a new standing in these forums that may encompass funding, advocacy and program opportunities;

MTBA will be included in the “tent” with all other recognised NSO’s by the ASC

The ASC will undertake Annual Sport Performance reviews of MTBA focused on governance and organisation performance in relation to the ASC’s Mandatory Sports Governance Principles with feedback being provided. The first is being conducted in December 2017.

Will this change the way the way that MTBA is funded? Can you tell us how? 

SC: Initially no, MTBA has been recognised as a unfunded NSO. CA and BMXA are currently funded NSO’s. However, there are opportunities for improved funding for MTBA into the future.

MTBA is hopeful that in the future ASC participation funding across all sports and lifestyle/participation activities/sports may alter/increase and that MTBA may be receive some direct funding benefit. However, funding and grant opportunities for MTBA, MTBA Affiliated Clubs and individual members may improve now with MTBA recognised as an NSO. This has recently been highlighted with opportunities for riders between 12-18 years now able to apply for ASC Local Sporting Champion grants to help attend MTBA National Championships.


Road, track and BMX have been recognised as NSOs for some time – given that mountain biking has been an Olympic sport for 20 years, why it taken so long for mountain biking to gain that same recognition?

SC: There is a long history here and one that goes beyond my time. MTBA is quite unique as we operate under a unitarian governance structure rather than a federated model, that provided a new element for the ASC to consider.

The situation has involved unfortunately many challenges impacted through the politics of cycling governance in Australia and a desire at various times to have all cycling administered under one body for all disciplines.

Some sports are very clean in their nature; one sport (discipline) means they are the only form of the sport in the Country and easily recognised international. Whereas water sports, shooting and cycling face challenges in so far as; multiple and very different activities or disciplines operating under one international body, yet operating as individual sports and entities in their respective marketplaces. For example; in cycling BMX, MTB, Road & Track all operate under the UCI, the UCI recognises one National Federation per Country, in Australia that is Cycling Australia; yet BMX and Road & Track were recognised independently as NSO’s by the ASC. MTB has now be recognised equally by the ASC, placing us at parity with the other cycling disciplines in Australia.

What are your hopes that gaining NSO status all mean for Aussie mountain biking?

SC: Through this opportunity, numerous support from funding and resources will be available to MTBA and MTB groups to further develop opportunities for this great sport and lifestyle activity. In the past, MTBA was unable to be directly funded by pretty much most government groups or agencies. Historically, the few support grants the ASC provided in the past needed to be distributed to MTBA via CA. That has all now changed and MTBA can be funded directly. The new recognition will provide validity to our sport in future negotiations and elevates MTBA’s role as the recognised National Sporting Organisation for MTB in Australia.

Will recognition as an NSO give MTBA more leverage lobbying for trail access, and funding to our racers? 

SC: Recognition will provide numerous opportunities for MTBA across multiple areas of the organisation; including sport development, lobbying for funding, advocacy, coaching and officiating development, digital development, participation and innovation opportunities as well as access to a significant network of data (including AusPlay) and information workshops, forums and industry networking. There is assistance with sports governance and specific MTB projects. Hopefully, in time, funding opportunities for the sports development, pathways and riders will improve.

Under the current Australia’s Winning Edge (AWE) model only XCO is recognised and funding is provided against a relentless performance criteria aimed at podium achievements. This provides a very real challenge for MTB, given there are numerous disciplines some of which Australian’s perform exceptionally well at the highest level, yet under AWE they remain unrecognised and subsequently unlikely to receive funding under the current AIS model. NSO recognition will provide MTBA with improved recognition at State levels as the Nationally recognised sporting organisation.

Aussie Video: Fry and Flint, Enduro Champs at Blue Derby


Row Fry is a legend of the sport here in Australia, though you’d most likely associate her name with XC racing, rather than ripping it in Enduro on a bike like the Scott Genius. She’s former National XC Champion and marathon racing star, and it’s only recently that she turned her hand to Enduro (read our interview with Row Fry here) and has quickly risen to the top.

Isabella Flint is a young pinner on the ascension – at just 15 her performance at the Enduro National Champs would have placed her fourth in Elite Women. She has the EWS in her sights and will be one to watch closely.

We caught up with Row and Izzy at Blue Derby, just a hour or so from their hometown of Launceston, for an arvo of ripping the trails. Enjoy!

Learn more about the 2018 Scott Genius range.

And if you want to read more about the bikes they’re riding, make sure you check out our Genius First Ride Impressions here, or our First Bite pieces on the Genius 920 and Contessa 720.

Blue Derby on the 2018 Scott Genius

 

 

 

Fast Heads: Mick and Tracey Hannah

Tracey Hannah’s career has seen some huge setbacks through injury, but she’s risen back to the top of the game every time.

In this interview, I talked with Mick and Tracey Hannah, two of Australia’s top downhill riders. At the time, both riders were fresh off their successes at the 2017 World Championships in Cairns, their home track.

From your perspective, is riding about legs and body, or is it your head? Which is more important?

Mick Hannah (MH):

I was having this conversation with someone this morning: one of the aspects I love so much about downhill is that it takes a complete athlete in all of those aspects. The mental side is important, but the physical and technological sides are also hugely important. At different times, different parts of those things are the focus, but I don’t think that one’s more important than the other.

When you’re at the top of the start hill with a four-minute race ahead of you, you can’t get anything wrong.

Tracey Hannah (TH):

If you don’t have the physical fitness, you’ll lack confidence. If you lack confidence, your skills are going to be down. If your skills are down, if you’re not ticking every box, something’s going to go amiss. When you’re at the top of the start hill with a four-minute race ahead of you, you can’t get anything wrong.

On a high, Mick Hannah moments after laying down an incredible run and moving into the hot seat at the Cairns World Champs.

So is confidence more important than form?

TH: I think you can see the difference between the confident and the hesitant rider. A confident rider will get away with a lot more than a skilful rider that’s hesitating. I think you can get away with a lot (once you get to a certain skill level). At World Cup level, everyone’s a good rider, but the difference between confident and hesitant is huge. You can have the best form in the world but be hesitating, so the confident rider with less form is still going to be better. But really, confidence still comes from preparation!

You can fool others but not yourself. You can’t fool trees or rocks or the stop watch.

MH: Yeah, they say the harder you work the luckier you get. There are two different types of confidence. One isn’t earned or deserved, that kind of confidence (or arrogance) is a dangerous place to be. You think you can get away with it but you haven’t put the work in. I’ve seen some guys get away with it, but mostly if it’s false confidence (and they don’t put the preparation in) it’s going to blow up, it’s fickle and really easily shaken. The other type of confidence (real confidence) is fact, and it’s based on repetition. It’s about proving to yourself that you can actually do it over and over again.

Tracey Hannah on the gas into the finish at Cairns. Even with a huge crash she was just a few seconds away from the win.

TH: I think that the more preparation you do, the more concrete evidence you get that you can achieve. Confidence from nothing (without the preparation) is bluff. You can fool others but not yourself. You can’t fool trees or rocks or the stop watch. 

Is mental training a part of your preparation regime?

TH: It’s not necessarily a part of my training, but my coach focuses on helping me push when I’m most mentally down – which is usually in the gym or out on the road bike. In a way, technically, you are mentally training if you’re working hard when you’re having a hard day or a down week, and it really helps if your coach can notice when you’re down so they can help you to get through the hard times.

It’s definitely about being in the moment – how you feel in the moment can affect you, and it’s how you can get back quickly that makes the difference. Especially when you don’t know when you’re going to be down mentally. So, the better prepared you are and the more practice you get, the easier it is to bring yourself back when it matters.

A total champion. Tracey Hannah signs autographs through the disappointment of coming so close to a dream win in front of a home crowd.

MH: Mental training’s a funny thing: it’s not like you can just go and lift weights like you can for physical training. You never know, figuratively speaking, when something mentally heavy is going to be there when you have to lift. That’s when it’s important to go back to the people that we have around us, like our trainers and team, and for me and Tracey, our Dad. Having the right people around you at the right time is important.

It’s also important to use the chances you have to get better: the other day I was in the gym and doing these intervals, and I looked up at my trainer and my mind was dead, it was so hard to keep pushing, and those are the times you need to realise that this is a chance to train my mind. You never know when a challenge will come up in World Cup, so when those opportunities occur in day-to-day training or even life in general, it’s really important to take those opportunities to strengthen your mind and develop the routines to get you back quickly when things go wrong. 

So, when things go wrong, how do you handle it?

TH: I like it when the shit hits the fan! When I think back to the last season, I don’t think I had a race when something catastrophic didn’t happen… I remember, after I’d had a bad practice session, my team manager told me that he likes it when difficult things happen to me because it’s when I perform my best. If you take challenge the right way, it gives you a lot more energy, which is a big advantage. Some pressure and stress is a plus, it takes your mind off racing and puts your mind on “let’s get the job done and fight for this”. Some athletes handle it and some don’t, but I get fuel for my fire when shit hits the fan.

Some athletes handle it and some don’t, but I get fuel for my fire when shit hits the fan.

MH: It’s similar for me – when something goes wrong it takes the pressure off and gives me a problem to solve. Sort of the underdog feeling: I tell myself “if I’m able to perform in this situation I’ve really achieved something”. When everything’s going perfectly I’m more nervous, because my mind’s not as occupied which can let it get out of control. For me, when I’m sick, or there are mechanicals or crashes or weather, it gives me a problem to solve and a challenge to rise up to.

What could have been. The expressions says it all.

Do either of you have a routine pre-race to get you into a prepared headspace?

MH: I try to not make my race days much different from a regular training day. There’s obviously some routines we need to go through but I just get up and have my breakfast and get stuck into the routine of the race day and repeat things that work well in my training. Doing things repetitively helps when you’re under stress or when things go wrong – the things that you’ll do automatically when things are challenging are the things that you’ve done repetitively in training. To try and do something new on a race-day is a problem – because you haven’t practised it and your body won’t know what to do.

TH: It’s about keeping your race-day routine as normal as you can. Practise, practise, practise. No matter what comes your way – I try to keep exactly the same routine. That helps make you feel as prepared as possible; it’s routine that helps you feel most calm before a race.

 I don’t think it matters if you’re racing, or starting a business, or working, or interacting socially, it’s the same for everybody. It’s learning how to work with the fear that’s important.

Mick Hannah has long ago come to grips with his fears.

What’s the toughest mental challenge you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

TH: Injury has been the toughest for me – going through injury is hard. When you try to come back riding you have so much fear and anxiety. I think my toughest was coming back after breaking my leg. I guess, physically it didn’t take long, but mentally it took years. Each year would pass and I’d realise that I’d made progress until finally I got to the point where I stopped thinking about being injured and the fear went away.

After you’ve had your first big injury you go from Superman to fragile, injury reminds you that you’re fragile and getting over that is really important.

Looking at the young, fast riders, they’re so good, but they’ve got to get through their first big crash and then we’ll see how fast they are.

MH: Injuries are the obvious one – looking at the young, fast riders, they’re so good, but they’ve got to get through their first big crash and then we’ll see how fast they are. Confidence is built on consistency, and consistency is achieving things and riding well. But when you have a big injury or a string of small injuries, you think “what am I doing wrong?” so you start trying to be careful and you still get hurt no matter what you do. Then you start thinking “am I any good at this, should I be doing this?”.

Leaving nothing in the tank.

A different part of challenge for me, is that I’ve got two boys and another on the way, and I’ve wrestled with myself about “should I be growing up and getting a real job and staying at home with the kids more?”. I’ve had to figure out what I want to teach the kids and to get to a place of realising that riding bikes is who I am. I’ve realised that quitting my dream won’t teach the kids to stick with theirs – that was tough to come to terms with. People say “oh, you’re still playing with your bikes”, but playing with my bikes is my profession – I have to get past the stereotype of a traditional job. I’ve done plenty of manual labour and regular jobs, but racing is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I’ve realised that quitting my dream won’t teach the kids to stick with theirs – that was tough to come to terms with.

How do you deal with fear?

TH: I think fear is the biggest thing that stops a lot of riders (especially my female riding friends) from progressing. But you can’t really get past fear until you accept that mountain biking is a sport where you’re probably going to hurt yourself. Mountain biking is risky, and you have to be OK with taking on that risk. Crashing is part of my riding and until I accepted that pushing my limits was how I was going to get better, I wasn’t progressing. You have to teach yourself to overcome fear otherwise it’s a major limitation. It’s about accepting that this is what riding is about.

I think Jorge Lorenzo said, “if you can’t get over the fear, then you need to stop”, because that’s the most dangerous thing you can carry when you’re riding: fear is the biggest thing that’s going to stop you from riding and riding well.

MH: It’s basic psychology and physiology. It’s interesting to see that if you’re afraid of bad things happening, the biggest cause of those things happening is the fear! I don’t think it matters if you’re racing, or starting a business, or working, or interacting socially, it’s the same for everybody. It’s learning how to work with the fear that’s important.


Jeremy’s observations:

Like Bec Henderson and Dan McConnell (http://flowmountainbike.com/features/fast-heads-bec-henderson-and-dan-mcconnell/), Tracey and Mick haven’t worked formally with a sport psychologist. Nevertheless, like Bec and Dan, they’ve both developed some powerful ways of staying focused under pressure, and coming back quickly when things go wrong. Again, because they’ve had to figure this out for themselves, these methods have been advanced over time through a process of observation and practise.

From my perspective, there are five ways in which Tracey and Mick have learnt to excel from a sport-psychology outlook:

Preparation, practise, and repetition are the keys to consistent performance:When we’re under pressure we revert to our defaults. Because this is especially true on the mountain bike, it’s really important to train our defaults through consistent practice and repetition, so that we can trust that our bodies will do the right thing automatically when we’re stressed, distracted, or frightened. Both Tracey and Mick make daily, consistent practice the centre of their training, so that they can easily repeat those embedded skills when competing. They’ve also learnt that confidence is really about competence – the more you can trust in your ability (through repeated practise and hard work), the more confident you will be.

Read about the importance of graded exposure and repetition for effective skills acquisition here: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/training-your-brain-part-2-skills-acquisition/


Take every opportunity to train your focus, especially when things are difficult:You can’t prepare for things to go wrong by waiting for things to go wrong. Mick and Tracey both use opportunities in their regular training to practise regaining their focus, and dealing with the difficulty in front of them. This skill is much more useful than distracting yourself when you’re not really there. Rather than letting your mind wander as a way of escaping discomfort, learn to pay attention when things are difficult, painful, or upsetting; by making room for the discomfort, you are training your ability to be present and focused no matter what the challenge.Read about riding in the here and now here: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/the-soapbox-riding-in-the-here-and-now/


Reframe difficulty as challenge:Tracey and Mick have both dealt with some pretty big challenges, but both of them actually enjoy it when things go wrong. Being able to reframe an annoyance, difficulty, or disaster as a challenge that you can step up to, is a huge advantage. Instead of focusing on the things that go wrong, both Mick and Tracey have learnt to enjoy these opportunities to excel.

It’s important to remember that without the hard work to develop a strong skills base, it’s difficult to see difficulty as challenge. In psychology, we talk about the perception of control. When a person perceives that she is in control of a situation, stress is interpreted as challenge (we call this eustress), but when we don’t feel in control we feel helpless, and experience distress. We can increase our perception of control by practising consistently in increasingly difficult situations, and by expecting that things will go wrong. Read about how to do that here: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/how-expecting-to-fail-can-improve-your-performance/


Don’t get too hung up on what’s happened, and work with yourself to move forward:Both Mick and Tracey have had major challenges (including injuries) throughout their careers. A big plus for both of them, is focusing on improving and moving forward as riders, rather than getting hung up on what’s happened in the past. To do this, they’ve both accepted that risk is a part of riding and competition, and are better able to deal with the consequences of those risks when they occur.Read about getting your mojo back here: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/the-soapbox-getting-your-mojo-back/


Accepting fear and pain is integral to being an effective rider:Tracey and Mick both acknowledge that one of the biggest dangers in mountain biking is fear: it’s usually the fear of something going wrong that leads to that very thing happening. Accepting fear as a normal part of riding, and committing to effective action in its presence is a key to improvement. Nevertheless, they also understand that fear is reasonable up to a point. Without the skills to back you up, confidence (or arrogance in this instance) will get you in trouble. Learning to know the difference is paramount.

Read about working with fear here: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/dealing-with-real-fear/


About the author:

Dr. Jeremy Adams has a PhD in sport psychology, is a registered psychologist, and director of Eclectic Consulting Ltd. He divides his time between mountain biking, working with athletes and other performers, executive coaching, and private practice.

In past lives, Jeremy has been a principal lecturer in sport and performance psychology at a university in London, a senior manager in a large consulting firm in Melbourne, a personal trainer in Paris, and a scuba instructor in Byron Bay. He’s also the author of a textbook on performance in organisational management, a large range of professional and popular articles, and a regular blog about the joys and perils of being human (www.eclectic-moose.com).

Jeremy lives and works in Hobart and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com) or on (03) 9016 0306.

Elbows Out with Vandy and Carlson on the New Giant Anthem 29

New bike day! This year’s Cape to Cape coincided with a hotly anticipated new release from Giant, finally a 29er cross-country race bike that is made for events like this, the new Anthem 29. Lean, light, fast, short-travel and pretty damn sexy! So with a pair fresh bikes beneath them, these two threw themselves into the thick of it.

After four days of great racing had all wrapped up, it was number plates off, to revisit some of the guy’s favourite trails close to the town centre of Margaret River. From The Pines to Compartment Ten, it’s an absolute playground of goodness to sink your tyres into, and after nearly 2000 riders had gone through one day earlier, they were buffed to perfection!

It was gloves off, elbows out as they ripped into each other for a good old blast on great trails.

Woohoo!





Got that new bike feeling!
PVDP on the gas.
Giant Factory Off Road Team’s Josh Carlson back to his roots on a cross country race bike.

After wrapping the 2018 Enduro World Series season in Finale Ligure, Italy, it was time to turn an Australian summer of racing and downtime. For Josh, it was back home to Vancouver to pack up and relocate his family back to Australia only days before jetting over to Western Australia for to the C2C.

JC: Racing the Cape to Cape in 2017 was a little different experience for me! Being the 10th anniversary I was super excited to be apart of it and experience the new format of every stage being based out of Margaret River. Only two days prior I landed in Sydney after moving back from Vancouver to permanently base myself out of Wollongong. And to have the Cape to Cape as my first event back and also to catch up with so many people that I have seen in years was excellent, I have so many great memories of racing this event in the past and this year added much more to that list.

I also came out to ride the new Giant Anthem 29er thanks to the Giant Australia crew and was blown away by how awesome and capable it is.

The new Anthem 29er is so wild! No one could have prepared me it was going to be this good, it’s just so rad to get on a bike so  fast and capable of racing hard! – Paul Van Der Ploeg

Flying up the singletrack climbs of Compartment 10, Margaret River.

While we can recall only a few years ago seeing a Josh and Paul fully committed to cross country racing they made the switch to enduro and have found their groove. Spending a year racing the long-travel Reign and the Trance, the Anthem was like a live rocket underneath them.

Every year the trails around Margaret River get better and better and more trails appear out of nowhere! All of the new singletrack in Compartment 10 is so much fun and flows really well through the native forest, ahhhh, so good! – Paul Van Der Ploeg

JC: The trails in Margaret River are phenomenal! Each day got better and better and more and more single track which left you wanting more. Day 3 and 4 of the Cape to Cape were by far my favourite days of the week. The endless flow single track felt awesome on the new bike, and I couldn’t help myself but to open it up and shred that thing as hard as I could…and it handled it with ease!

The Pines, Middle Earth, Compartment 10 and every other zone we rode left everyone with a smile from ear to ear. Massive congrats go out to all those who put their sweat and handwork into all of the trail areas to create some phenomenal riding for everyone to enjoy.

The vibe of the town and people in the area make the Cape to Cape a fantastic event for a massive range of people. 
Yeahh, the flow lines of Compartment 10 are so sweet to ride. Jumps, transfer lines, huge berms, pumping and rolling goodness!

I race the Cape to Cape every year because it’s a chance to ride and catch up with all of my cycling mates. It’s a more relaxed event that allows plenty of time to chill out enjoy the area. Paul Van Der Ploeg

JC: The 2018 Giant Anthem 29er was a fantastic machine to race on over the week, I haven’t ridden a full blown cross country bike in many years and have not ridden a bike without a dropper seat post since 2013!
So to jump back on a full seat post, 100mm XC racing weapon that is so capable was a blast, it ate up the Margaret River trails, and I enjoyed riding it.
Cross-country racing is far from my speciality these days, but the new bike made it loads of fun and added to my excitement of the week.
I only had minutes to get used to it too, I was adjusting my handlebars and seat on the start line of day one and as I took off, was immediately comfortable. The bikes geometry and handling were standouts along with its pedalling efficiency and lightweight racer feel. It was awesome to ride on all types of terrain throughout the week and enjoy myself.
“Nice pants”
“What you say?”

Race you to the sunset!

West coast sunsets are THE BEST!


Dive in more in-depth with the new Giant Anthem 29 with our first impressions piece here: OOOOH, new Anthem!

Interview: 2017 Enduro National Champs, Brosnan and Fry

Take one World Cup downhiller and one cross-country National Champion, mix them with a little Fox Creek grit, and then stick them in the Adelaide oven for two days… Voila! They emerge as Enduro National Champs!


Rowena Fry adds another National Champion title to her collection, this time in Enduro.
Troy Brosnan proved that it doesn’t matter what travel bike you put him on, he’s damn quick.

Troy Brosnan and Rowena Fry harken from completely opposite ends of the mountain bike spectrum, and given their niche backgrounds in mountain biking, you might have thought them a pretty unlikely pair to be donning the Enduro National Champs jersey for 2017. But that’s what’s great about this discipline; it allows riders to bring to bear experience from all areas of mountain biking, rewarding those with the full basket of skills and fitness.

We caught up with Troy and Rowena to chat with them about taking the win over two great days of racing in Fox Creek, Adelaide.


Troy Brosnan, hometown hero, had a close battle with fellow World Cup racer and Adelaide lad Connor Fearon at Fox Creek. Fearon had the edge on day 1, but Troy edged ahead on the final four stages. 

Flow: Firstly, congrats on a great season – second overall in the World Cup, and now a National Enduro Champs jersey too. 

TB: Yep, I’m super proud of how the season went. Obviously it worked well for me in terms of the team and the bike, it was my best season ever, and I’m super excited to have been the first rider to take a Canyon to the top step of a World Cup.

Flow: And then to come out in the off season and win the Enduro Champs too. Was that a focus for you at all?

TB: It certainly wasn’t something I’d planned to do or was training for, in fact I only entered a week or so before because it’s right in my backyard and the trails out there are pretty fun. I actually thought it was a one day race, so I when I found out it was two I thought about pulling out. Even though it was pretty painful, I’m glad I did it in the end!

Flow: It looked like a great battle with Connor, another hometown rider. Do you guys ride together very much?

TB: Yeah it was good racing him. We don’t actually ride together very much in the off season – I mean, if we both end up riding at the same place we do, but it’s not something we plan. We have talked about it a bit in the past, but with our training both being on different schedules it hasn’t worked out.

Flow: So what bike did you decide to ride for the Champs? 

Just my usual trail bike, it’s a Canyon Spectral (read our review here). I prefer it to the Strive, it seems to stay planted a little better, and I prefer less travel on a trail bike. It’s completely stock other than the Rockshox and shock, but otherwise it’s the very same bike you can buy off the website. It’s pretty cool, you can buy a stock bike and then race it to a National Championship!

Flow: So, National Champ, we’re not going to see you stepping into the ranks of the EWS any time soon? 

TB: No, EWS rounds are off the cards for me, it’s a bit too hectic with the World Cup too, and it’s not something I really enjoy doing. I love riding my trail bike, but when it comes to the EWS it’s a bit of semi shit show I feel, and it doesn’t really excite me. Maybe when I’m all washed up like all the other old downhillers I’ll think about it!

Flow: Haha! Are you calling Sam Hill washed up.

TB: I’d better not! He almost beat me at the World Champs!


Rowena Fry is a name you’ve probably seen at the top of cross-country, marathon and stage race results sheets a lot over the past decade. The Launceston local has shifted her focus to Enduro this year, and after a good result in Derby stoked the fire, she’s stepped up to beat some impressive names to win the Champs.

Row Fry nabbed the very first Scott Genius 900 Tuned to arrive in Australia, and put it to good use straight away!

Flow: Congratulations on the win. There are a lot of fast bike riders from Tassie.

Rowena: Yeah, we probably punch above our weight for that. We’ve got heaps of good roads and forests to ride in; and we don’t need to spend lots of time travelling in traffic anywhere!

Flow: Which local trails do you ride the most?

Rowena: We go out in Derby a fair bit; it’s only an hour from our place. The local Lonnie trails are more XC focused so we ride up Kate Reed and Trevallyn but they’re getting more gravity trails in now.

Flow: We see people coming to enduro from downhill backgrounds as well as cross country. Having been one of Australia’s top cross country racers, what brought you to enduro?

Rowena: Ummm, you don’t have to train as much! Enduro’s sort of just the best bits of cross country without as much of the not-so-nice bits – having to train for the hill climbs. I was probably one of the better cross country riders on technical trails. I’m trying to teach myself to jump at the ripe old age of 34, whereas the liaison and uphill or pedally stages come a lot more naturally to me than a lot of the downhillers.

Flow: You had a close battle with Philippa and Shelly. How did you feel coming to this race against these local women, both with quite a lot of downhill and enduro experience?

Rowena: I was feeling pretty good and then I saw the trails, and realised there was a fair old advantage if you know them. They were really hard trails to race on because they were so loose, so they were pretty demanding. I actually would’ve liked a few extra days practice, so will remember that for next time! Only practicing stages once or twice each was really hard work from my side of things. You also had to be conservative too because the trails were fairly unpredictable, if you were pinning it you could easily crash and loose massive chunks of time as well, so it was quite a tactical event in those regards.

We’re hoping to see Row at all the major Aussie enduro events next year, even if she’s not likely to head overseas to contest the EWS.

Flow: Can you tell us about the bike you were racing?

Rowena: I was lucky enough to have the first new Scott Genius Tuned 900 to arrive in Australia. Scott didn’t really have a true enduro trail bike before this. It’s bang on; super light, 65.6 degree head angle. I run it mostly stock. I use the integrated bar and stem which is only 760mm wide, which is what I was running anyway. The new SRAM Eagle is so good; the get out of gaol gear at the top is really amazing. I swapped out the tyres to a Maxxis Minion on the front and Aggressor on the rear which I’m running at about 17/21 PSI without any rim protection.

Flow: Earlier in the year we saw you race at the Derby EWS and finish 10th. How was that race for you?

Rowena: I loved it. That was my first enduro race so I really didn’t know what to expect. Obviously, training was super dry and dusty and then it pissed down in the race. That was actually the most fun I’ve ever had in a thunder storm for seven hours, completely saturated, I’ve never had so much fun! I was actually a bit disappointed with my result. I hadn’t done the first round in Rotorua so I didn’t have a ranking which meant I had a lot of issues with traffic and because of the riding conditions it was just so hard to pass the girls I was catching. To be honest, I was actually trying to plug for a top 5 down there. I was obviously still stoked to get 10th but it made me a bit hungry to do a couple more.

Yeah, I think I’ll do more enduro races. I haven’t raced national level cross country for a number of years because the enjoyment wasn’t quite there for me after racing it for so long.

Flow: So what are your plans for next year? Will we see you take on more enduro national series races?

Rowena: Yeah, I think I’ll do more enduro races. I haven’t raced national level cross country for a number of years because the enjoyment wasn’t quite there for me after racing it for so long. But this is like a new sport; it makes me want to get out there and push my skills, learn to jump and go bigger and further. If they fit in with what I’m doing in life then I’ll certainly try and do a few more.

Flow: What does fill up the rest of your life?

Rowena: My husband, Ben, and I own the Avanti Plus bike shop in Lonnie, but I’m a physio as well so work as a physio full time. We’re into fishing as well.

Flow: Despite being awarded the best EWS trail of 2017, Tassie doesn’t have a round of the EWS next year. Australia and NZ completely miss out. Are we likely to see you venture further abroad to race any EWS rounds?

Rowena: I’d love to but it’s probably going to be too expensive, I think. I’d love to race Whistler, but it is so hard for Australians, if you are self-funded, to get across to those events. Especially after doing it for so long with XC; I’d love to, but I don’t think it’s realistic. That said, there are some good races in New Zealand that look fun to go and do as well.

 

 

Local Video: Home Turf, with Chris Panozzo and Ben McIlroy

The international race season is over, the pressure’s off. With a week of downtime before the National Enduro Championships, defending champ Chris Panozzo and his protege Ben McIlroy head to their home turf for an arvo of roosting dusty Mt Beauty berms.


We’ll be following this pair, along with the rest of the Shimano Australia supported Enduro crew as they head to Adelaide for the Enduro National Champs too, so keep an eye out for all the coverage soon. 


Mt Beauty is one of the original Aussie mountain bike towns, and it has probably produced more top quality riders per capita than anywhere else in the country. The trails play a big part in this – raw, loose, technical, and challenging to ride fast – if you can rip here, you can ride fast anywhere.

Looking for more from Mt Beauty? Check out our Ride High Country road trip videos below:


 

 

DIY Paradise: Trailshare Cabins, Kulnura

What it’s all about.

That’s the dream, but making it happen is another story. In reality, building your own trails is a lot of hard work. Walking the land, planning alignments, buying machinery, years of digging, tweaking, clearing, maintaining – it’s a labour of love, and it takes an especially motivated person to see the vision through to completion.

Flowing through the massive gums. Parts of the Trailshare loop feel a lot like riding in Mt Buller.

So we packed a couple of test bikes, and headed north, off the freeway, down a dirt road a few kay, and into paradise.

Neil Soderlund and his dog George at Trailshare Cabins.

Neil Soderlund is one of those people. An eccentric, inquisitive, unstoppable fellow, Neil had the same dream for us all, but then he worked like mad make it happen. When he recently invited us to come stay with him at his creation, Trailshare Cabins, located in Kulnura about an hour out of Sydney. So we packed a couple of test bikes, and headed north, off the freeway, down a dirt road a few kay, and into paradise.

The accommodation is all solar powered and uses tank water – it’s all built with sustainability in mind.
Neil took advantage of this fallen tree to use it as the basis for a suspended deck.
Looking north out towards the Watagans.

Sometimes the stars just align. Neil was looking for somewhere to build his trail network just as a 400-acre lot of rugged, undeveloped land came onto the market as part of a foreclosure sale, just out of Sydney. It was perfect: steep, rocky, with deep gullies, a few old logging benches cut through the bush, and useless to just about anyone except mountain bikers and bushwalkers. He snapped it up.

These aren’t your usual DIY trails!

Neil’s plans weren’t halfhearted; these weren’t going be few squiggles scratched into the hills. Inspired by the professionals, he set about getting the machinery to do it properly – Bobcats, dozers, quad bikes, and a whole arsenal of tools soon filled the new sheds and shelters built to house them.

Neil and his wife Karen, who also live on the property most weekends.
Just some of the trail building arsenal.

Learning as he goes is just part of Neil’s life – by the age of 14 he’d taught himself how to smith knives, and he’d begun selling them to hunters in South Africa. Over the years he’s learnt how to build bike frames out of carbon fibre, designed and built his own e-bikes, created new systems of couplings for collapsible travel bikes and then ridden them around the globe, designed houses, started new businesses and much more. For him, learning how to build trails (and how to operate and maintain the machines to do it) was just another challenge.

Over the past two years, he and his co-builder Laszlo Varga (an Austrian ski instructor who turned trail builder after discovering there was wasn’t a lot of snow in Oz!) have spent their weekends carving in more than 20km of trail through some beautiful countryside, full of massive sandstone outcrops and caves, with huge Turpentine trees and rainforest gullies.

This suspension bridge was built by Neil to cross a deep gully, using methods first pioneered to build low-cost, safe bridges in African communities.
Another angle of Neil’s hand-built bridge.

What started out as a personal playground has become something that Neil wants to share with other riders, and so he hatched plans for putting some accommodation on the property. Once again, it was Neil’s creative brain that went into overdrive; he had four shipping containers converted into neat cabins of his own design, assembled around an open-air dining area, complete with a cool suspended deck that looks out into the valley below.

The best bit? The trails start literally from the edge of the fire pit, so once you’ve had your morning coffee, it’s about a five metre roll into the first berm.

The accommodation is all built with fireproof materials too. Hydraulic rams lift up the side panels of the shipping containers to seal them off if the property needs to be abandoned in the instance of bush fire.

There’s accommodation for seven guests, with bathrooms in each cabin, and a communal kitchen. Outside there are wood burning heaters alongside a very cool outdoor lounge area. The best bit? The trails start literally from the edge of the fire pit, so once you’ve had your morning coffee, it’s about a five metre roll into the first berm. We’re going to be back here in the future; we can promise you that. It’s hard to believe how perfect the set up really is.

The trails literally begin at the accommodation.

If you’re interested in checking out Trailshare Cabins, get in touch with Neil ([email protected]). The trails are only available to members – with two options to join – one that includes a week’s free accommodation and a trail access-only membership.  Details and prices are on their website . You’re welcome to try before you buy – just send an email to let them know you’re coming. If membership doesn’t appeal, but you’d like to book a stay this can be done directly through Air BnB.


Hammering down one of the longest descents.
The terrain is steep! There’s almost 400m of vertical drop on the property, that’s a lot.

Where is it?

Trailshare Cabins and the trails aren’t open to the public without booking in for a stay, so don’t rock up expecting to ride unless you’ve got your name down for a cabin, which you can do via their website or Air BnB.

Bike Check: Nino Schurter’s Scott Spark RC 900

Nino’s Scott Spark RC 900 is a real beauty, with amazing finishing touches and attention to detail everywhere you look.

We’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Medium frame Scott Spark RC 900, the ultra-light 29er XC race bike with 100mm of travel controlled by the Twinloc remote lever.
Nino in the rocks of Nove Mesto. Photo – Armin Kuestenbrueck/Red Bull.
The Champion alright…
Nino doing his thing in the final World Cup of the 2018 season, Val di Sole, Italy. Photo – Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull.
A 38 tooth SRAM Eagle chainring would be too hard to push for you, or I.
A neat touch, the little Nino character tucked away behind the seat tube.
That is right, only 9.38kg as seen here.
Nino swapped to a 29″ wheel Spark and Scale mid last year ahead of the Rio Olympics, which he won. He’s never raced a 27.5″ Spark since. A 90mm stem with massive negative rise helps the position he needs.
Slammed enough?
The move from DT Swiss to a complete SRAM bike meant RockShox for the champ.

The Twinloc lever toggles the rear shock travel amount, lock and also the fork compression adjustment with one lever.
A de-stickered FOX Nude shock is not an ideal scenario for the SRAM rider, though RockShox would surely be developing a shock to suit the bike.
DT Swiss carbon wheels with gold spoke nipples, so trick.

Gold SRAM XX1 drivetrain, of course.
2.1″ Maxxis Aspen tyres.

Racing Downhill in China’s GuiDe National Geopark

Bart Moore and Dennis Beare on a steep section of the DH course.

On the 13th of August 2017, GuiDe National Geopark partnered with the Qinghai Sports Association to hold the second TDRY GuiDe Geopark International Downhill Race. With over 110 participants from more than 12 different countries around the world invited, this event is setting a solid foundation for the future of gravity-based mountain biking in the Qinghai Province.

Reece Potter on his way to victory.
A local rider on a steep part of the track.

The GuiDe National Geo park sits at 2,260m above sea level and is listed in the Top 100 enterprises of China Tourism. It covers a huge 554 square kilometres of breathtaking scenery. To put the scale of this into perspective, that’s less than 100sqkm smaller than the USA’s famous Grand Canyon National Park. GuiDe National Geopark will become a World-Class centre of cultural tourism within 5 years, according to their future plans.

Elliot Smith and François Pedemanaud on the 2X course.

This year’s race had 4 different groups of DH riding (International elite, Domestic elite, Domestic open and Female Elite) and 2 groups (International Elite and Domestic) to battle it out on the new and improved 2X course. With a prize pool adding up to 236,000RMB – that’s over $35,000 USD!!- it was a race not to be missed!

Elliot Smith, foot out through deep dust.

For its second year, the Downhill course was extended in length by around 100 metres making it just over 1km. This extension was on top of dramatic changes to improve the flow of the trail and the addition of technical features. Don’t let the fastest times of around 1.15 fool you; the track was exhausting with back to back features, steep chutes and the natural dusty terrain.  With only one day of practice, the track continued to surprise riders throughout the weekend. With varying conditions over the event including short bursts of pouring rain, strong winds and blistering sun in between, riders were certainly kept on their toes. Luckily Sunday, race day, brought beautiful sunny weather and light winds for all racers to come down the mountain smoothly.

Epic battle between Aiden Varley and Elliot Smith.

The International Elite race was won by Reece Potter from New Zealand, followed dangerously close by Matej Chavat from the Czech Republic, Elliot Smith from Australia, Taha Ghabeli from Iran and Takuya Aoki from Japan. Some very competitive times were posted by the Domestic Elite group with Sihan Jiang on top, followed by Cong Xiao and Mengqi Tang. Bella Chen from Germany took the win in the Women’s Elite field, with Jiling Cai and Zhishuai Zhang from China in 2nd and 3rd position.

Reece Potter and Matej Charvat.

The 2X race was such an entertaining event! Having 2 riders at a time battling head-to-head over 6 jumps, berms and 2 sets of stairs provided constant jaw-dropping entertainment. This year, both groups rode the same course where the jumps had been beefed up jumps which were widened significantly and rode with effortless flow, allowing for some intense side-by-side riding, constant overtaking and close finishes. Matej Charvat dominated the event and shared the podium with Aiden Varley and Elliot Smith.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Our company, TrailScapes was contracted to improve and extend the courses from the previous year as well as to invite riders from all over the world to compete in this amazing setting. Being an international company based in Australia and specialising in MTB trail design and construction, we travel constantly around Australia and Asia but we can honestly say that this experience was one-of-a-kind! We would like to thank all the riders who participated in this well-run, professional event.

For info and updates on next year’s race and other races in Asia that we’re involved in, you can follow us on Facebook or Instagram.


Lunch with a view.
Raking and baking in China.
Friendly locals.

Tropical Trails: Tully and The Cassowary Coast

Looking up the valley into Tully Gorge as the sun dips over the bananas. #queensland

Tully lies just a couple of hours south of Cairns, but it’s a world apart. The only nightclub here is the monthly gathering of the bridge club. Surrounded by an incoming tide of green, the town chomps back at the cane fields, feeding the bustling refinery that in turns feeds the blood sugar levels of Australia. It’s also the gateway to the incredible Tully Gorge and its impenetrable, stunning rainforest, which is what we’d come to experience.

Cassowaries: elusive and vaguely terrifying.

This whole region is often called the Cassowary Coast in honour of the slightly terrifying, prehistoric looking flightless bird that roams the rainforests of the region. Despite bumper stickers and roadside warnings galore telling me to Look Out, Cassowaries About, I’ve never seen one, but it’s a nice name for the place all the same.

Not the sunrise we were hoping for!

We decided to kick off our time here with a sunrise pedal on the hard-packed, majestic sweep of Mission Beach, hoping for one of Queensland’s trademark killer sunrises. But Tully’s weather was blowing eastward today, clouds and drizzle scuttling along the coast. With the sun refusing to honour its part of the get-up-early-get-good-photos bargain, we headed inland to Tully and the gorge beyond.

Mission Beach is totally hard-packed, meaning it’s actually perfect for a waters’ edge cruise.

Our trip to Tully was all about finding a different kind of riding experience – we’d had the flow trail of Smithfield, the vintage downhill of Kuranda and the classic Bump Track – but the wilderness around here serves up slight rawer kind of mountain biking.

There’s not a lot of information about the riding around here; the purpose built mountain bike trails of Atherton, Smithfield and Davies Creek tend to get the limelight, and so searching out some solid intel on where to mountain bike in the Tully region took a bit of investigating. After a couple of emails and phone calls, some Strava sleuthing and a bit of time on Google, I’d settled on a ride; Ryan and I would take the H-Road to Elizabeth-Grant Falls, which we’d been promised were a spectacular and underrated sight.

Driving into the gorge, the banana plantations and cattle paddocks are slowly squeezed by the narrowing walls of green, until the road is soon running right along the river’s edge. It was here we pulled off into the dirt and unloaded the bikes; we knew we had about a 10km pedal in each direction to reach the falls, but beyond that we were in the dark.

Just another ridiculously cool tree in the rainforest.

The greasy clay fireroad seemed to have had little recent traffic, which made it all the more surprising when the road came to a stop in a campground, currently attended only by two fellas wearing blue singlets and footy shorts, harbouring four cases of beer between them. “Mate, we come here every year for a weekend,” one of them croaked, “enjoy the peace and quiet, a bit of a reunion.” And to get super drunk too, by the looks of it. Apparently another couple of mates would soon be arriving to give them a hand with the grog.

After crossing the river, the trail becomes wilder.

From here on, across the river, the ride began take on a different tone. The jungle came in closer, and any sign of traffic, either foot, bike or 4WD, totally disappeared. Thick strands of Wait-a-While vine kept you looking ahead, and the gloop of the red clay began to build up on our tyres till the tread disappeared entirely. Around us, the jungle continued to press in thicker and thicker, thousands of textures and shades of green, so alive you could almost feel it breathing.

Jungle textures.

Apparently, somewhere up ahead, lay the falls, but at the moment any sight or sound of them was swallowed up by the rainforest, leaving us alone with the noise of a grinding drivetrain and the occasional ‘too-whip’ bird call in the trees. Every so often a particularly incredible tree would catch our eye, and we’d stop to take a photo of it, before noticing another even more stunning specimen right next to it, and then another, and then another. Every step off the track into the forest brought something new and incredible to look at, you could spend a lifetime here, seeking out the secrets of the jungle.

The trail narrowed again, slippery roots coming to the surface, demanding attention be given to the patch of dirt just a couple of metres ahead, which is what made it all the more incredible when we popped out suddenly into a tiny clearing. “Oh shit!” laughed Ryan, and that was just about the only way to put it; somehow we’d made it right to the edge of steep gorge, and we were now looking across the expanse to the 300m cascade of the Elizabeth Grant Falls. The contrast between the green tunnel vision of the past hour and the sudden expansive movement and noise of the falls was a seriously dramatic.

Out of the green tunnel. Elizabeth Grant Falls, from across the gorge.

This was the pay-off, and I’ve got to say it was easily as rewarding as railing a perfect corner, or blasting a descent after grinding up a long climb. Once again, I was reminded that it’s these kind of experiences that are really at the heart of what mountain biking is all about – your bike is a doorway to places and things that just wouldn’t be on the radar otherwise.  And up here in the Tropical North, the potential is endless. Embrace the jungle, get off the beaten track, you’ll never regret it.


For more info on the mountain biking in Tropical North Queensland, check out the Ride Cairns site right here.


Fast Heads: Bec Henderson and Dan McConnell

In the first of the series, I caught up with two of Australia’s top XC racers, Bec Henderson and Dan McConnell. Both have represented Australia at two Olympics and multiple World Cup and Championship events. At the time of the interview, Bec and Dan were training in Colorado prior to the World Cup XC event at Mont Sainte Anne. They took time out of their busy training schedule to tell me a little bit about how they prepare mentally for the gruelling demands of XC racing.


Let’s start with a general question: from your perspective, where does “fast” happen, in the legs, in the head, or a combination of both?

Dan McConnell (DM): For me, the legs are a pretty important part, but the head has to definitely be in the game. So, for me, five days into a race, I keep everything exactly the same: my food, my training, massage, morning routine, everything’s the same. It’s the way to mentally get my head around that there is a race happening, no matter how good your legs are it’s going to hurt, you definitely need to get your head around that it’s not going to be an easy day out. No race is just you out the front with everything easy, every race is challenging, it hurts a lot, and you’ve got to be mentally prepared to push through that.

 No matter how good your legs are it’s going to hurt – Dan McConnell

Bec Henderson (RH): For me it’s pretty similar, obviously you have to have the confidence to know that all the hard work’s been done, but that confidence doesn’t come without having done the hard work! You have to be physically 100% ready, but when you get on the World Cup start line, everyone’s 100% physically ready, so it comes down to who’s ready to suffer more, and who’s ready to put in the hard work when things don’t always go to plan.

During the week I have to get the right balance of excited and nervous. I’m not usually overly nervous, but I need to keep myself focused, but relaxed without being too relaxed! It’s good to be a bit nervous before the race; some of the best races I’ve had I’ve got on the rollers to warm up and felt awful, it helps me to feel alive.

DM: Yeah, it’s really rare in a mountain bike race for everything to run smoothly, so you need to be able to go with the flow and ride the waves that is racing.

Bec Henderson

So what’s the toughest mental challenge you’ve faced in your racing career and how did you overcome it?

RH: There have been a lot – last year at the Olympics I had a pretty bad back injury. To put all of that time and effort and work into being on your best form for that day, then you fall short, it’s hard. The worst is not having the answers about why you couldn’t put it together on that day. It’s easier when there’s an obvious reason, but when you did everything right but it didn’t come together, and you’re searching for answers after putting months and years of hard work in, that’s when it’s the hardest to come back from…


So how do you come back?

RH: We’re both in that phase at the moment: we both had pretty bad races in the last two World Cups, and we didn’t really have any answers for that, so we’re just keeping our heads down and believing in what we’re doing, believing in our plan, and working the plan instead of stressing about what we should have done differently. I guess we’ll find out in two-weeks’ time if that’s working!

For us, we’re lucky to have each other to keep us grounded. We train together, so when one of us thinks we haven’t trained hard enough, the other one can be the voice of reality. Having someone close to you to remind you that you’re doing the right work, that helps a lot!

 It’s intimidating if you’ve been practising in the dry all week and then have to go down a crazy, slippery descent, but our skill level’s pretty high, so we know that we’re not the ones struggling the most. That helps.

DM: The hardest one for me was two seasons ago, just before World Champs in South Africa, everything was going really well, and I was really looking for a result, then maybe three days before the race I was riding back to the apartment after training and

D-Mac on the rocks of Mt Sainte Anne.

a monkey took me out at about 60 km/h! That was pretty much me done. That, for me, was really mentally hard to get past because I put so much into getting ready and to have something completely out of my control take that away was really difficult.


How did you get past that?

DM: We’re lucky that we do everything together, so we’ve done enough races and been put in those situations so many times that we can talk about what’s happen in the few days afterwards, and realise that there’s nothing that can be done to change it, and the only thing to do is to look forward. There’s always another race, and at the end of the day you need to mentally accept what’s happened, think about it but not dwell on it, and move on.


 

How about fear? XC races are getting more technical, is fear a factor when you’re racing?

DM: Some courses are fairly challenging, but it’s good to go into a race knowing you’re comfortable with everything. We get to a venue early in the week, and prepare, so we know all the lines in advance, with two or three different options. As long as you’re fairly well prepared and technically OK, and spend a few days finding better ways rather than just getting down, then you have the confidence in what you’ve done and there’s nothing to fear – it comes back to the excitement and focus before the race.

It comes down to who’s ready to suffer more, and who’s ready to put in the hard work when things don’t always go to plan.

RH: The biggest factor is if the weather changes, that plays a big element in decisions on tyres and lines you haven’t practised. But then it’s the same for everyone, so it comes back to having confidence in your decisions – whether you choose to go out on limb and take dry tyres, or go conservative and take mud tyres. It’s intimidating if you’ve been practising in the dry all week and then have to go down a crazy, slippery descent, but our skill level’s pretty high, so we know that we’re not the ones struggling the most. That helps.


It seems to me that for you guys, confidence and form are sort of the same thing – that is, it’s the preparation that matters, and trusting in knowing you’ve done the work forms the basis of your confidence?

DM: Yes, for us we train hard, and we know we’ve done the training over our Summer, so we can be going well for the whole season. It gives us a boost.

RH: We’re not always oozing confidence though – it might look like it on social media, but what doesn’t show is when we’re suffering or putting the hard work in without getting the results. Confidence is easy to say but hard to have.


That must be a challenge. Do you have a mental training program to help you sustain yourselves with all that pressure going on?

RH: There’s a lot of things that you do that you don’t realise – we’ve developed a lot of coping techniques over the years between us – we don’t necessarily know what we do, but it seems to work! We’ve only met with a sport psychologist once, just before this trip, and it’s something we want to do more of in the future. We tend to counsel each other…

We’ve kind of just had to learn as we go. At the beginning, we thought we were doing everything right, but looking back we were just having a holiday. We’re getting a lot better at accepting help from each other and from others though.

We’ve developed a lot of coping techniques over the years between us – we don’t necessarily know what we do, but it seems to work!

DM: Having each other is really important – because we have to travel so much and not be in the one spot for more than three weeks, it’s a challenge to keep going, missing out on a lot of things back home, so it’s crucial that we have each other and that’s what makes it possible for us to actually do this.


One more question: how do you handle things when things go catastrophically wrong?

RH: It comes back to leaning on each other. The Olympics were a challenge – normally we race on the same day, but then I had a disaster and Dan wasn’t riding until the next day, so I couldn’t intrude on him, and had to give him his space for his race. It’s hard when you need support but have to be there for the other. It’s the same when one goes well and the other goes bad. But afterwards we’re able to sit down and talk it through. Because we’ve both had big wins we’re proud of, and we know how hard they are to come by. They’re worth so much more than a loss, and for me, any win for Dan is a win for me, so we can focus on each other’s wins.


Jeremy’s observations:

Although neither Bec nor Dan have had much contact with sport psychology, they have developed some pretty sophisticated methods for managing under pressure and staying focused. This seems to have evolved over time, and has been based on trial and error. I think that they are in a privileged position in having each other both as a source of support, but also as reality checkers. This ability to check in with the other person helps both of them to identify what works, and to get past challenges.

From my perspective, there are seven key areas that Bec and Dan have learnt to excel at – all of which are ideal form a sport psych. perspective. They include:

Mutual support – even when things are difficult:

Bec and Dan have a rare thing for elite athletes: a supportive partnership. They’ve learnt to be there for each other even when things are really hard and they’re under stress. This is a really important factor for sustaining performance over time for athletes.

Choosing to focus on the gains rather than losses:

Getting stuck on “what ifs” and “should haves” is a big problem for athletes, and can be very distracting. Bec and Dan seem to have figured out that gains are more important than losses, and that “shit happens”. They’ve also learnt to accept the crappy stuff without dwelling on it, and to refocus on wheat needs doing. It also allows Bec and Dan to remind each other why they ride and to have some fun! Read about that here: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/the-power-of-purposeless-activity-aka-why-i-mountain-bike/

Having a plan and sticking to it:

Having an effective plan, and sticking to it even when things don’t go to plan is massively important. Bec and Dan have mastered this at two levels: overall (i.e., planning out their season, taking into account proper training and preparation), and around events (i.e., having a solid routine leading up to a race, and preparing really well – see next).

Preparing really well and relying on that preparation (competence over confidence):

In sport psychology, we favour competence over confidence. Confidence is easy to break, but competence only comes from consistent preparation. Bec and Dan have figured this out and spend a lot of time preparing properly (overall and for specific races), so that they can trust in that preparation. Knowing that they have done everything they can helps them to focus. It’s really important to be able to deal with the stuff that you have no control over (like crashes or equipment failures) at the time, and this is a lot easier if it’s not complicated by worries about “should haves”.

Preparation also helps Bec and Dan to not be distracted by fear. Fear only happens when we’re well outside our comfort zone, and both of them prepare to make sure that they are able to deal with problems in real time. Read about that here: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/dealing-with-real-fear/

Trusting in decisions and not second guessing:

Related to the previous point – trusting in decisions (like tyre choice, pre-race preparation, or line selection) allows for two important things: commitment without distraction, and staying focused when things go wrong. Trusting in your choices leaves room for being in the moment (see below) without losing focus to things that will decrease performance (like worrying and second guessing).

Expecting that things will be hard, and knowing that things will go wrong:

Both Bec and Dan know that XC racing hurts, a lot. They expect to be in pain, and they know that things go wrong. This frees them up to focus on the task at hand, rather than getting distracted by pain, or freaking out when something doesn’t go to plan. Have a read about that here: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/how-expecting-to-fail-can-improve-your-performance/

Staying focused during races:

Last, but probably most important: Bec and Dan are really good at staying focused during a race. This happens despite nervousness, pain, weather, crashes, or equipment failures. Because they expect that these things will happen, they’ve learnt to focus on what actually matters: being present and focused on the task at hand (the stuff they can control), rather than distracted by things they have no control over. Read about that here: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/the-soapbox-riding-in-the-here-and-now/


About the author:

Dr. Jeremy Adams has a PhD in sport psychology, is a registered psychologist, and director of Eclectic Consulting Ltd. He divides his time between mountain biking, working with athletes and other performers, executive coaching, and private practice.

In past lives, Jeremy has been a principal lecturer in sport and performance psychology at a university in London, a senior manager in a large consulting firm in Melbourne, a personal trainer in Paris, and a scuba instructor in Byron Bay. He’s also the author of a textbook on performance in organisational management, a large range of professional and popular articles, and a regular blog about the joys and perils of being human (www.eclectic-moose.com).

Jeremy lives and works in Hobart and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com) or on (03) 9016 0306.

 

Tropical Trails: Kuranda and the Bump Track, Cairns

Sunrise coffee before dropping into Kuranda.

In these raw, sweaty, bleeding old vids, shot by Glen Jacobs and associated lunatics, the resounding attitude seems to be “let’s see if we can ride down that.” And in Cairns, where the mountain range comes crashing down from the tablelands to meet the sea, there’s endless potential to find steep things to ride down. It’s the perfect petri dish for downhill; at various times there are said to have been up to thirty downhill tracks in the mountains around Cairns.

Today, it’s our mission to sample two of the true originals – a pair of absolutely classic, but entirely contrasting descents. The legendary Kuranda downhill, claimed as the first proper downhill track in Australia, and the Bump Track, an ancient bullock run that mountain bikers have been blasting for decades.

The plan is to get started early, but I wasn’t sure if Berend and Ryan might miss our 5:45 meeting. Cairns had been in full swing last night, after the Queensland rugby league team completed their annual demoralising of their southern rivals. There’s a lot of state pride at stake for Queensland, and I feared the boys may have gotten caught up in the celebrations, but they’re right on time. We load the bikes up in the dark, and begin the winding drive up Kuranda Range.

Kuranda delivers the dirt of your dreams.

In the front seats, the guys debate the origins of Kuranda downhill. Is it an old moto trail? Was it Jacobs who unearthed it and claimed it for mountain bikers? Regardless, the track has been there as long as they, or anyone, can remember. And now, after at least a couple of decades of riding, it’s more popular than ever.

Local operators have been running shuttles regularly, and there’s been a tonne of trail work done to improve, maintain and diversify the classic old track, so there are now variety of lines you can take from top to bottom. It’s cool to think that this track is becoming more relevant, not less, even as the sport evolves.  Berend provides some caffeine, and we take some time to appreciate another beautiful Cairns sunrise. This is winter in paradise; while much of the nation shivers, we’re in our summer kit, watching the sun bloom.

 It’s folk like this who keep the wheels of mountain biking turning.

After the rains last night, the dirt is in full hero configuration, the series of berms at the top of the track grip like Velcro, and the boys barrel into a run they’ve done dozens, if not hundreds, of times. Drops, roots, chutes, perfectly grippy linked turns matched with zero-traction off-camber sections, the track has huge diversity, and it’s improving all the time.

Berend floats into the upper section of Kuranda.
Perfect!

Near the bottom of the run, we come across Luke, one of the local builders, wielding a Macleod tool and tweaking a section that wasn’t 100%. It’s 8:00am, mid-week, and Luke’s out on his own, pouring his selfless passion into the dark dirt. It’s folk like this who keep the wheels of mountain biking turning. He’s a classic character, cracking me up with a tale of woe from a recent trip to Whistler (he goes over every year) that involved a deeply bruised manhood, banged up ankles and an anaphylactic shock from a wasp sting.

Ryan over the final hip jump.

After breakfast by Ellis Beach we head north, to Port Douglas. The road between Cairns and Port snakes beneath palm fronds, tracing the line between the mountains and the sea, it’s a stunning drive. As the coastal plains broaden just before you hit the five-star strip of Port Douglas, you’ve reached foot of the Bump.

Kuranda might be ancient in mountain bike terms, but the Bump Track stretches it out to another level. It’s certain that this path was originally trod pre-colonial times – the terrain around here is so steep and the jungle so dense, you’d imagine there are precious few feasible routes through. Settlers used the Bump as a stock route, and the thought of driving cattle and carts up some of the steeper parts of the Bump Track is brutal. It’s hard enough climbing up with 42-tooth cassette!

Robbins Creek, mid-way through the Bump Track.

For a lot of local Cairns riders, there’s a standing annual date with the Bump, during the RRR race (Rural, Rainforest and Reef). This event has been running for over 25 years now, and it brings out all kinds of folks to take on the unique course that finishes on the sands of Port Douglas. “It’s unreal,” says Berend, “people walk up the Bump and perch up on the cuttings above the trail to cheer.”

The Bump Track runs through some seriously dense jungle. Step two metres off the trail and you’re swallowed up.

The track itself is a bit of a journey through changing landscapes. Beginning in cattle country, it starts to get into a rhythm, a quick-rolling coaster of brown dirt, charging through incredibly dense jungle. “Watch out for Wait-a-while,” is the call from Ryan. Fat strands of the savagely hooked vine dangle on the fringes of the trail, ready to snag cloth and flesh, keeping you on your toes.

It’s old-school fun – eye shaking, braking burning, hysterical speed.

Better stopping power than any brake you’ve ever ridden.

On paper, you might wonder what the fuss is about. After all, the Bump is a wide fireroad in most parts. But the appeal for mountain bikers is simple. It’s wildly fast. After you pass through Robbins Creek, the trail starts to plummet, water bars coming up faster and faster. It’s old-school fun – eye shaking, braking burning, hysterical speed.

Hucking water bars never gets boring.
Berend sends it to next Tuesday.

Berend can’t resist the temptation to line up one of the final water bars for a spot of long jump, hitting it again and again, seeing how far he can send it. A group of distinctly European tourists hiking up the trail see the camera and hang about to watch, egging Berend on in French. It’s a classic scene as Berend launches for the cheering mob; I can’t help but wonder what the stockmen of the 1800s would’ve made of it.

With fatigue threatening to bring on the kind of crash that results in an Ambulance call out, we wrap it up for the day, stoked to have two completely different, but equally classic, descents under our belts. Two of the original trails in Cairns – Kuranda and the Bump Track – might be old-school, but as today proved, they never really get old.


For more info on the mountain biking in Tropical North Queensland, check out the Ride Cairns site right here.


Tropical Trails: Smithfield, Cairns

Minutes from the airport, you’re into the jungle. The Smithfield trail head had riders galore on a Wednesday afternoon. Ryan pulls his S-Works from the ute.

Know where to look for final approach, and you can see the trails, including the famous downhill start gate with its views out to the reef. The sun strikes the window. I’d left the concrete of Sydney in the dark, and now I’m about to touchdown in a paradise seemingly never touched by cold.

If there’s a better place in Australia to be in July, I’ve not found it.

Jeans off, shorts on. The quick car park change is liberating, it’s the middle of winter, but the temps are pushing high into the twenties. If there’s a better place in Australia to be in July, I’ve not found it. Smithfield is a just few minutes’ drive from the airport, and on the way I pass mangroves, palm trees, cane fields and sweating backpackers, lumping their lives about. It’s like a montage of tropical clichés, just missing the croc.

Pulling into the trailhead carpark, I recognise a familiar face. It takes a moment to place her – Jade is one of the crew from the Like a Local vid I’d watched recently, a cool film that followed some of the region’s awesome female riders. It turns out she’s coming for a pedal today too, and she chuckles at me when I tell her the forecast had been for four days of rain. “Never trust the weather forecasts in Cairns,” she laughs, “it’s completely random up here. You’ve just got to go with it.” That’s a pretty good mantra for life generally up in the tropical north I think.

Jade tips into a fast-rolling clay bowl.

Ryan and Berend soon pull up too. Berend is born and bred Cairns – a local ripper, his jersey announces he’s sponsored by The Woolshed, one of the town’s most notorious party spots. It doesn’t get more local than that. Ryan’s a Cairns convert, like so many folks around here. As one of the World Trail crew, he’s spent a good chunk of his years travelling Australia building trails. Earlier this year he decided to call Cairns home, buying a house literally three minute’s ride from Smithy. That’s quite the endorsement of Cairns if you ask me.

Smithfield isn’t stuck way out in the sticks – you’re only minutes from shops, the airport and snake anti-venom.

The two fellas met in Whistler, but you’d swear they’re related. Both tall and lanky, the similarities continue to the trails too, and watching them ride their styles are so well matched, you can tell they’ve spent plenty of time following each others’ wheels.

We’re soon into the jungle, the wild tangle of green a contrast to the perfectly manicured berms and jumps.

We’re soon into the jungle, the wild tangle of green contrast to the perfectly manicured berms and jumps. Bizarrely, strung up between the vines are a series of full-blown street lights. At first, I thought it must be a joke, but Ryan tells me they were installed for night time racing during Gravitate, an annual week-long festival/party celebrating the Cairns mountain bike lifestyle. It’s that kind of place; let’s string up some lights in the jungle so we can shred at night! Why the hell not?!

Black Snake, a serious piece of trail building genius was required to get a trail up here.

Next, we’re on to Black Snake, and I get a full appreciation of what a masterful display of trail building has been employed here. With the vegetation pushing in so hard, it’s sometimes tricky to actually get a feel for the terrain around you, but on Black Snake, it’s clear – this narrow, shale ridge, sandwiched between a waterfall and a deep gully is a trail builder’s nightmare. “They told Glen (Jacobs, of World Trail) he’d never get a trail up here,” says Ryan. That must’ve been like a red rag to a bull, and a series of painstakingly stacked switchbacks, all built by hand, were woven into the ridgeline, gaining elevation for one of the coolest descents in the park.

The red clay has been reworked into an insane, multi-line, slot-car racing kind of experience.

The freshly re-worked Caterpillars is like some kind of amazing computer game.

For more info on the mountain biking in Tropical North Queensland, check out the Ride Cairns site right here.


With the World Champs returning to Cairns for the first time in 20 years, there’s been a rash of building to freshen things up, and one of the trails that has benefitted most is Caterpillars. The red clay has been reworked into an insane, multi-line, slot-car racing kind of experience. There are berms and kickers all over the place, just begging you to get creative and find new lines. Berend is up for the challenge, hunting out new gaps to huck, as he looks “to unlock the secret level,” as he laughingly puts it. We session the trail again and again.

Getting creative. Berend, always on the look out for a new way to play with the trail.
Berend tries to “unlock the secret level.”

“Watch yourself,” cautions Jade, as Berend starts eyeing up new challenges – a nose bonk off a rock here, a transfer gap there – “I don’t want to be marrying man covered in scabs!” It turns out they’re getting married the following week! A big crew is flying in from interstate too, with a bunch of group rides planned in the lead up to the big day. These two totally embody what the Cairns mountain biker lifestyle is about – they’ve both started their own businesses, so they’ve got the flexibility to ride more – and it’s hard not to love the pair of them.

“I don’t want to be marrying a man covered in scabs.” Jade and Berend.

His tyres just barely kiss the dirt, leaving long sliding scrapes across the clay

As I clamber up into the vines to find an angle, Ryan warns me to “keep an eye out for a light green, heart-shaped leaf.” That’s the sign of the infamous stinging tree, a nettle so painful it’s said to burn for years. But it’s not me that’s in peril, it’s Ryan, who has decided he wants to set a land speed record over one of the rollers and tries to scrub it low. His tyres just barely kiss the dirt, leaving long sliding scrapes across the clay, and soon he’s travelling sideways down the trail, his eyes wide. Somehow he rides it out, and the jungle rings with the hoots of a man who has dodged a bullet.

How Ryan rode this out, we don’t think even he knows.
Fat, tropical drops.
In fading light, Ryan flies into the Pines.

As the jungle begins to darken, a few fat rain drops start to bounce their way through the canopy to the trails below. It’s tropical rain, pleasant, the water warm, not like the icy drizzle down south. Before long the red clay of the trail is splattered everywhere, and the surface gets a fun slickness to it. The trails are too dark for shooting now, so we head back to the carpark where the rain has flushed out a surprising number of riders for a weekday arvo, and the banter flows as people line up to give their bike a hose off.

A quick wash off. You don’t want this clay in your car!

Our plans to head to Trinity Beach for a sunset drink are washed away as the deluge starts to beat down more heavily, and we call it a day. As a notorious control freak and phone flicker, I go to check the radar, just in case a window of clear weather is on the way, but then realise I’m bringing the wrong attitude to the party here. We’re in the tropics now – stress less, all you can do is go with the flow!


Berend launches into a tricky piece of trail, in one of the lesser ridden corners of Smithfield.
Jungle pop.

Rumble in Rocky Enduro: Dust, Rock, Steak and Dust

A gang of three walk into a bar: one lightning fast kid from Mt Beauty, one ultimate cyclist from Sydney and an iconic veteran from the Gold Coast. They order a steak, ride a bull and swap tales of roosting their photographer in dusty turns, pounding rocks on bikes and what bike races they were winning in 1999. It turns out both Jon Odams and Michael Ronning won the legendary 1999 Big Hill Downhill Race in Mt Beauty, VIC, just up the street from the hospital where the kid – Ben McIlroy – was taking his first breaths and stepping into the world as a wide-eyed baby. Funny, coincidence, eh?

Downhill legend, Ultimate Cyclist and The Junior lined up and ready for action.
The anticipation of flying somewhere completely new to ride bikes, a great feeling.
Flat floodplains, large ranges, meandering rivers, and a strong QLD flavour all round.
Where are we again? Whoa, a looooong way from home.
Rockhampton after sunrise, a major city in South East Queensland with a population of 80,665 and allegedly has 300 days of sunshine each year. Sun!

We are in Rockhampton for the fourth round of the MTBA Gravity Enduro National Series, a place that none of us had visited prior, we’d heard rumours of an expanding network of trails where the weather is absolutely prime in July and as we’d also find out; it’s the steak capital of Australia. Joining us was Flow’s Mick Ross (Hi everyone, yes, that’s me), Toby Shingleton from Shimano HQ on his 765th domestic flight of the year and so eager to shred, and Ronning’s lovely partner Karla.

Our grand master plan was to race, test out the new Shimano shoes, Pearl Izumi threads, get Ben dialled in on his brand new Giant Reign and score some banger shots of the crew riding sweet trails.

So, we somehow fit into our deluxe low-speed rental mini-bus and let the spirit of enduro reign.


Ben McIlroy – The Kid.

Ben, he’ll drop you on the trail faster that you can say, “Hey, wait for me, I’m in my thirties!”
Ben, circa 1999.

Fresh off the press was Ben McIlroy’s new ride, trading in his trusty Trek of many years for a brand new Giant Reign, he enters a new era of support from the excellent folks at Giant and adding to his well-earned position as one of Shimano Australia’s investments as an up-and-coming talent in Enduro. Giant and Shimano have a knack for picking young talent to foster, it’s bound to do good things for Ben.

Under the shade of a mango tree, Ben cracks a grin, he’s wearing shorts in July.

Let’s just talk about Ben for a moment here, for those that may not know who he is. Ben is born and bred in Tawonga just around the bend from Mt Beauty in Victoria’s northeast, one of Australia’s most iconic mountain bike battlegrounds of the mid-to-late nineties. The place is steeped in MTB folklore, it’s played stage to many great races, and anyone from this era will be fairly nostalgic about the mountain town. In his last year in high school, he’s just 18 and as mellow as a fat cat at 4 am on a weekday, but get him up to speed on the trail, and he’ll blow the doors off his opponents. Why so fast? Just take a closer look at his mentor – Chris Panozzo – who has taken Ben under his wing from a young age, showing him the finer things in life like holding your phone in your hand at all times, ok, not necessarily that, but riding damn fast and attacking trails like mad.

Ben won the U21 Category Enduro World Series round #2 in Derby, Tasmania – yeah, he’s kind of hot right now. It’s far from easy to win an enduro race anywhere, let alone the EWS in Derby; a rain-drenched nightmare where the biggest names in the sport floundered, fell to bad luck, struggled in the conditions and failed to live up to the hype. Ben tells us that his performance came down to drawing confidence from the reaction from the crowds, when he rode sections of the race at his best to the delight and cheers of the crowds gave it him the confidence he was racing fast and competitive, so he kept pushing for an amazing result on the international stage. He’s also th reigning U19 National and National Series Champ, solid.

He’s a quiet kid, super quirky and witty, he communicates in the modern channels of Snapchat and Instagram (we’re old, we know) and dresses in random garb from op-shops around the place, he’s likeable, a wizard on the bike and his future is bright.

Ben’s new ride, a Giant Reign Advanced with Shimano XT and Pro Components all-round. Siiiiick!
We arrived in Rocky to find the dustiest, driest trails built ready for the race we’ve ever seen. The trail builders were so excited to see everyone roosting and loving the trails, that’s why they built them.

Michael Ronning – The Iconic Legend.

A magazine cutout of Ronning riding a prototype Gary Fisher downhill bike on the late 90’s was glued into my high school diary, yeah, I was a big fan. Though I’m surely not alone, right, c’mon someone save me…?

Ronning ‘was’ – err, sorry – ‘is’ a huge name in mountain biking around Australia. He was amongst the first Aussie pro riders in downhill racing on the international scene, a real pioneer, and continuing to this day he plays a prominent role in the sport. He was a part of the experimental and fascinating early days, ask him about prototype Shimano dual disc rotors, water cooled brakes, racing downhill in 1992, etc, etc.

Opening a tricked-out Giant bike store in Nerang, QLD (with an upstairs bar dripping in fabulous retro memorabilia!!!) was bound to happen, he’s the man about the place and has a strong role in mentoring and supporting juniors in the local community, we saw it first hand at this race in Rockhampton. He’s famous to anyone who’s been around a while, yet at the same time, he’s approachable and warm to anyone who’s not awkwardly star-struck.

Nothing to be taken too seriously, Ronning’s just happy to be riding and exercising his endless stream of witty banter on anyone within earshot.
So much speed, so much shred, Ronning is great to watch and ride with.
Ronning, circa 1999.

A wealth of knowledge from being deeply immersed in the mountain bike scene for so long is rare in Australia, and Ronning represents with heart and genuine love of the sport, he’s the one that kept dropping the term ‘spirit of enduro’. While he did vanish from the game for quite some time, it was inevitable that he’d come back to rekindle his love and passion for riding and racing bikes. A downhill pro from Cairns, the transition into enduro was natural, and he’s damn good at it, and this weekend would confirm that to all.

This guy, a legend of the sport, so stoked to be shredding trails with mates.
Young Ben Jenkinson under the wing of the master, Ronning.

Jon Odams – The Calm Assassin.

Jon has enough medals from all corners of the sport to fill a filthy big cabinet, add to it his retro late-nineties national titles on the downhill circuit and you’ll agree that Jon is deeply entrenched in Australian mountain biking folklore. He’s a cool character, chilled-out, a father of two, wise with his energy during a race. He loves to ride his bike hard and far; he enjoys travelling to a new place to race. With all this comes an inherent confidence to hold his own amongst the whole field when it comes to race. He’s so bloody relaxed it’s almost unfair; maybe it comes from being around so long in a variety of circles recently like; road, cyclocross, cross country, downhill and yeah – enduro.

During practice at an enduro race, he will not tire himself punching multiple runs like a downhill race; rather it’s about recognising factors that will play to his strength. This time he’d see that if you pushed too hard many would suffer a flat tyre, a crash or a mechanical. Jon aims to stay above it all and remain competitive in the way he knows best.

Jon, calm, racing travelling, reading news made from a paper thing.
“Rip this corner, Jon” ooooooooooh s#$t.
Jon, circa 1999.

We recall seeing him racing the Highland Fling on a cyclocross bike (crazy nutjob) with blisters all over his hands. He’ll be mixing it up with the elites at marathon stage races like the Port to Port and Cape to Cape, calling on his deep base of skills and base strength topped up with a dose of training to make up for sacrifices he makes from being a father of two in a nine-to-five job. He’s raced a Foes LTS in the late nineties, a GT Lobo, Intense M1, 6th place U19 World Champs in Sierra Nevada, Spain, 1999, and top-ten in a 24-hour World Champs. No way would you see many riders placing in the top ten at both Cross Country and Enduro in an MTBA National Round in one season either.

Odams chasing Ben down Lepers Leap, a steep rocky drop down into a quick left and right turn that saw Ben rolling his rear tyre off in practice.

Last year he raced the World Cup Cross Country in Cairns admittedly stating no matter how much he trained and was in the form of his life, the level of racing was out of this world. See what we mean, pretty solid cyclist, huh?


Rockhampton/Dusthampton.

By the colour of the place, it appears to have not rained for a wee while in South East Queensland, the Trailworx crew have been building trails like mad on the foothills of Mount Archer but it had not rained since, it was dry and dusty. Bad? Maybe, but damn it was nice to be riding somewhere so unique.

The moment we rolled out of the carpark and into the singletrack we knew these trails were going to be fun to ride. Coming from Sydney in early July, we were so stoked to be riding the warm trails in the dust. The terrain is quite varied, from tight jangly rocky sections, to open drift corners and massive berms it’s a real mixture of good stuff. The trails take you down steep chutes and along dry creek beds under thick canopies, and the descent from Mount Archer is a seriously mind-bending experience.

We arrived in Rocky to find the dustiest, driest trails we’ve ever seen.
Sussing out the trails during practice.
Riding the brand new descent Trailworx Black, huge berms, hip jumps and fast A-lines.
Ronning leading out the lads on stage two.
Spot the riders.
Training down Turkey.


One down, two remain.

Ben McIlroy took a massive slam in practice, smashing his right side into a rock with a suspected rib injury he made the call to sit out the remainder of practice which would make racing on unfamiliar trails not ideal. Frustratingly sidelined, Ben trundled out on course to support his teammates.

Bruised and battered, and long way from home, time to sit it out.


When in Rockhampton…

A pit-stop to Rockhampton Vinnes for an outfit for the evening’s antics, the crew wanted to do as locals would do and wear some appropriate kit.

Known for its beef industry, when in town, this had to be done.
What a stitch up, Toby from Shimano somehow had us lining up for a publicity stunt, Odams was to ride a bull at the rodeo.
Hahahaa, hahaaa.

“Yeah, nah, yeah, nah”


The Race.

Oh yeah, we are here for the racing, almost forgot that bit!

A round of the 2017 Shimano Queensland Enduro, this event was also a part of MTBA’s National Enduro Series. There was a lot of talk about the ‘MTBA thing’ at this event; it was hard to ignore, possibly responsible for the entry numbers nearly half of a the non-MTBA events in QLD. In June they had almost 300 entries at the Toowoomba round, (admittedly closer to larger population centres of Gold Coast and Brisbane) including around 70 for the women-only event the day before, a very impressive turnout! While here in Rockhampton there was less than 150. What value does the MTBA National Enduro Series bring to the scene? Or does it intimidate potential entrants? We’re just speculating, anyhow.

A handful of dedicated privateers put in the work to make it to all the rounds, from Falls Creek in VIC, Stromlo Forest Park in ACT, Linga Longa in WA, Rockhampton in QLD so far it’s been a very varied and nation-wide series!

With a great format, and a well-thought out stage plan, riders would climb to the top of Mount Archer for the first stage and tackle each stage from 1-6 in numerical order which created a straightforward and easy format for spectators and riders alike. It all went off without a hitch.

Race day! But no big deal… right?
The MTBA badge, legitimising the stature of the event, or an intimidating element?
Getting ready, take your maps out. The course was well thought out, with only two starting locations and a closely bunched finish area to heckle and spectate.
Jon’s Giant Reign Advanced with Maxxis rubber, Shimano XT and FOX suspension.
EMS, the crew behind the EWS event in Derby, are doing an excellent job all round.
Cairns shedder, Berend Boer heads out for a long day in the dust.
Ian Harwood points out the brutal climb from the base of the MTB park up to the summit of Mount Archer to begin stage #1.
Long way to the top under your own steam.

That first climb was way harder than I thought it would be, took nearly one hour. And then dropping into the hardest stage of the day was hard, you hadn’t done any real riding that morning yet, just pedalling on the road and all of a sudden you’re doing Red Bull Rampage… Ronning.

#1 plate holder Dave Ludenia and U19 winner Harrison Dobrowolski nearing the summit.
Aaron Cairns about to drop in.
Old mate loves it.
Mount Archer gives the riders tremendous perspective of the elevation drop to come, and mega views of the whole region.
Jon Odams on ‘The Dawg’, an insane run down from the top of Mount Archer. Soooo fast, so rocky, so much consequence.
Ronning on the hunt.
Wheels, brakes and tyres were destroyed on this day in July.
Riders were carrying chain lube for a regular refresh; it was that dry out there.
Yeooo, the locals!
Ruts from your worst nightmare.
Dobrowolski about to pin it.
Anywhere the brand new trails had a chance to set and pack down, and it was super fast.

The incredibly fast Angela Williams on the grind back to another stage start.
Lepers Leap a fast rock drop into a tight turn was a great point for spectators to gather and heckle.
Local support.


What could have been, Dave Ludenia won five out of six stages, messing up ‘The Dawg’ put him back into third overall. He’s in touch for a top podium place soon for sure.

Dobrowolski skimming.

Job done.

After slogging it out on the trails with only a bit of skin and one collarbone casualty, it was time to compare times and pack up. And it was smiles all round in our camp, with Ronning on top of his age category and Odams taking a very impressive second place in the elite category. Yeaaaah!

For full results, click right here.

Mel Hayes always frothing.
Yeoo, dusty hair product!

Medic!
Casualties.
The day’s fastest, Ryan Leutton from Brisbane. Placing second in all six stages was the key to the win overall.

I thought it was going to be super tight, I think it was consistency across the board that did it for me. It was tough, the old legs were feeling it towards the end. Coming from Brisbane I’ve been doing the South East QLD Series, and really loving it. Stage six would have to be my favourite, mainly because it was the last one…

I’m on the Santa Cruz Nomad, with NS Dynamics helping me with my setup, I use the Fast Suspension cartridge in the forks and a few special air spring mods, and they’ve got me on the Push ElevenSix coil rear shock which is a real standout after trying a few other coil shocks. I went from carbon wheels to aluminium at the last minute, too, it’s better to get down safe and sound especially on that first stage.

I don’t generally play with my suspension too much, I just let Aaron from NS Dynamics handle it, he knows what I need.

Elite Women’s podium from left to right – Mel Hayes, Angela Williams, Julia Boer, Jodi Newton and Caitlin Dore.
Men’s Elite podium from left to right – Adrian Dawson, Jon Odams, Ryan Leutton, David Ludenia, Daniel Hallam.

Yeah, old boy!
Ciao, Rocky.
Job done.

Rumble in Rocky Enduro: Dust, Rock, Steak and Dust – Racing in QLD with Mates

Downhill legend, Ultimate Cyclist and The Junior lined up and ready for action.
The anticipation of flying somewhere completely new to ride bikes, a great feeling.
Flat floodplains, large ranges, meandering rivers, and a strong QLD flavour all round.
Where are we again? Whoa, a looooong way from home.
Rockhampton after sunrise, a major city in South East Queensland with a population of 80,665 and allegedly has 300 days of sunshine each year. Sun!

We are in Rockhampton for the fourth round of the MTBA Gravity Enduro National Series, a place that none of us had visited prior, we’d heard rumours of an expanding network of trails where the weather is absolutely prime in July and as we’d also find out; it’s the steak capital of Australia. Joining us was Flow’s Mick Ross (Hi everyone, yes, that’s me), Toby Shingleton from Shimano HQ on his 765th domestic flight of the year and so eager to shred, and Ronning’s lovely partner Karla.

Our grand master plan was to race, test out the new Shimano shoes, Pearl Izumi threads, get Ben dialled in on his brand new Giant Reign and score some banger shots of the crew riding sweet trails.

So, we somehow fit into our deluxe low-speed rental mini-bus and let the spirit of enduro reign.


Ben McIlroy – The Kid.

Ben, he’ll drop you on the trail faster that you can say, “Hey, wait for me, I’m in my thirties!”
Ben, circa 1999.

Fresh off the press was Ben McIlroy’s new ride, trading in his trusty Trek of many years for a brand new Giant Reign, he enters a new era of support from the excellent folks at Giant and adding to his well-earned position as one of Shimano Australia’s investments as an up-and-coming talent in Enduro. Giant and Shimano have a knack for picking young talent to foster, it’s bound to do good things for Ben.

Under the shade of a mango tree, Ben cracks a grin, he’s wearing shorts in July.

Let’s just talk about Ben for a moment here, for those that may not know who he is. Ben is born and bred in Tawonga just around the bend from Mt Beauty in Victoria’s northeast, one of Australia’s most iconic mountain bike battlegrounds of the mid-to-late nineties. The place is steeped in MTB folklore, it’s played stage to many great races, and anyone from this era will be fairly nostalgic about the mountain town. In his last year in high school, he’s just 18 and as mellow as a fat cat at 4 am on a weekday, but get him up to speed on the trail, and he’ll blow the doors off his opponents. Why so fast? Just take a closer look at his mentor – Chris Panozzo – who has taken Ben under his wing from a young age, showing him the finer things in life like holding your phone in your hand at all times, ok, not necessarily that, but riding damn fast and attacking trails like mad.

Ben won the U21 Category Enduro World Series round #2 in Derby, Tasmania – yeah, he’s kind of hot right now. It’s far from easy to win an enduro race anywhere, let alone the EWS in Derby; a rain-drenched nightmare where the biggest names in the sport floundered, fell to bad luck, struggled in the conditions and failed to live up to the hype. Ben tells us that his performance came down to drawing confidence from the reaction from the crowds, when he rode sections of the race at his best to the delight and cheers of the crowds gave it him the confidence he was racing fast and competitive, so he kept pushing for an amazing result on the international stage. He’s also th reigning U19 National and National Series Champ, solid.

He’s a quiet kid, super quirky and witty, he communicates in the modern channels of Snapchat and Instagram (we’re old, we know) and dresses in random garb from op-shops around the place, he’s likeable, a wizard on the bike and his future is bright.

Ben’s new ride, a Giant Reign Advanced with Shimano XT and Pro Components all-round. Siiiiick!
We arrived in Rocky to find the dustiest, driest trails built ready for the race we’ve ever seen. The trail builders were so excited to see everyone roosting and loving the trails, that’s why they built them.

Michael Ronning – The Iconic Legend.

A magazine cutout of Ronning riding a prototype Gary Fisher downhill bike on the late 90’s was glued into my high school diary, yeah, I was a big fan. Though I’m surely not alone, right, c’mon someone save me…?

Ronning ‘was’ – err, sorry – ‘is’ a huge name in mountain biking around Australia. He was amongst the first Aussie pro riders in downhill racing on the international scene, a real pioneer, and continuing to this day he plays a prominent role in the sport. He was a part of the experimental and fascinating early days, ask him about prototype Shimano dual disc rotors, water cooled brakes, racing downhill in 1992, etc, etc.

Opening a tricked-out Giant bike store in Nerang, QLD (with an upstairs bar dripping in fabulous retro memorabilia!!!) was bound to happen, he’s the man about the place and has a strong role in mentoring and supporting juniors in the local community, we saw it first hand at this race in Rockhampton. He’s famous to anyone who’s been around a while, yet at the same time, he’s approachable and warm to anyone who’s not awkwardly star-struck.

Nothing to be taken too seriously, Ronning’s just happy to be riding and exercising his endless stream of witty banter on anyone within earshot.
So much speed, so much shred, Ronning is great to watch and ride with.
Ronning, circa 1999.

A wealth of knowledge from being deeply immersed in the mountain bike scene for so long is rare in Australia, and Ronning represents with heart and genuine love of the sport, he’s the one that kept dropping the term ‘spirit of enduro’. While he did vanish from the game for quite some time, it was inevitable that he’d come back to rekindle his love and passion for riding and racing bikes. A downhill pro from Cairns, the transition into enduro was natural, and he’s damn good at it, and this weekend would confirm that to all.

This guy, a legend of the sport, so stoked to be shredding trails with mates.
Young Ben Jenkinson under the wing of the master, Ronning.

Jon Odams – The Calm Assassin.

Jon has enough medals from all corners of the sport to fill a filthy big cabinet, add to it his retro late-nineties national titles on the downhill circuit and you’ll agree that Jon is deeply entrenched in Australian mountain biking folklore. He’s a cool character, chilled-out, a father of two, wise with his energy during a race. He loves to ride his bike hard and far; he enjoys travelling to a new place to race. With all this comes an inherent confidence to hold his own amongst the whole field when it comes to race. He’s so bloody relaxed it’s almost unfair; maybe it comes from being around so long in a variety of circles recently like; road, cyclocross, cross country, downhill and yeah – enduro.

During practice at an enduro race, he will not tire himself punching multiple runs like a downhill race; rather it’s about recognising factors that will play to his strength. This time he’d see that if you pushed too hard many would suffer a flat tyre, a crash or a mechanical. Jon aims to stay above it all and remain competitive in the way he knows best.

Jon, calm, racing travelling, reading news made from a paper thing.
“Rip this corner, Jon” ooooooooooh s#$t.
Jon, circa 1999.

We recall seeing him racing the Highland Fling on a cyclocross bike (crazy nutjob) with blisters all over his hands. He’ll be mixing it up with the elites at marathon stage races like the Port to Port and Cape to Cape, calling on his deep base of skills and base strength topped up with a dose of training to make up for sacrifices he makes from being a father of two in a nine-to-five job. He’s raced a Foes LTS in the late nineties, a GT Lobo, Intense M1, 6th place U19 World Champs in Sierra Nevada, Spain, 1999, and top-ten in a 24-hour World Champs. No way would you see many riders placing in the top ten at both Cross Country and Enduro in an MTBA National Round in one season either.

Odams chasing Ben down Lepers Leap, a steep rocky drop down into a quick left and right turn that saw Ben rolling his rear tyre off in practice.

Last year he raced the World Cup Cross Country in Cairns admittedly stating no matter how much he trained and was in the form of his life, the level of racing was out of this world. See what we mean, pretty solid cyclist, huh?


Rockhampton/Dusthampton.

By the colour of the place, it appears to have not rained for a wee while in South East Queensland, the Trailworx crew have been building trails like mad on the foothills of Mount Archer but it had not rained since, it was dry and dusty. Bad? Maybe, but damn it was nice to be riding somewhere so unique.

The moment we rolled out of the carpark and into the singletrack we knew these trails were going to be fun to ride. Coming from Sydney in early July, we were so stoked to be riding the warm trails in the dust. The terrain is quite varied, from tight jangly rocky sections, to open drift corners and massive berms it’s a real mixture of good stuff. The trails take you down steep chutes and along dry creek beds under thick canopies, and the descent from Mount Archer is a seriously mind-bending experience.

We arrived in Rocky to find the dustiest, driest trails we’ve ever seen.
Sussing out the trails during practice.
Riding the brand new descent Trailworx Black, huge berms, hip jumps and fast A-lines.
Ronning leading out the lads on stage two.
Spot the riders.
Training down Turkey.


One down, two remain.

Ben McIlroy took a massive slam in practice, smashing his right side into a rock with a suspected rib injury he made the call to sit out the remainder of practice which would make racing on unfamiliar trails not ideal. Frustratingly sidelined, Ben trundled out on course to support his teammates.

Bruised and battered, and long way from home, time to sit it out.


When in Rockhampton…

A pit-stop to Rockhampton Vinnes for an outfit for the evening’s antics, the crew wanted to do as locals would do and wear some appropriate kit.

Known for its beef industry, when in town, this had to be done.
What a stitch up, Toby from Shimano somehow had us lining up for a publicity stunt, Odams was to ride a bull at the rodeo.
Hahahaa, hahaaa.

“Yeah, nah, yeah, nah”


The Race.

Oh yeah, we are here for the racing, almost forgot that bit!

A round of the 2017 Shimano Queensland Enduro, this event was also a part of MTBA’s National Enduro Series. There was a lot of talk about the ‘MTBA thing’ at this event; it was hard to ignore, possibly responsible for the entry numbers nearly half of a the non-MTBA events in QLD. In June they had almost 300 entries at the Toowoomba round, (admittedly closer to larger population centres of Gold Coast and Brisbane) including around 70 for the women-only event the day before, a very impressive turnout! While here in Rockhampton there was less than 150. What value does the MTBA National Enduro Series bring to the scene? Or does it intimidate potential entrants? We’re just speculating, anyhow.

A handful of dedicated privateers put in the work to make it to all the rounds, from Falls Creek in VIC, Stromlo Forest Park in ACT, Linga Longa in WA, Rockhampton in QLD so far it’s been a very varied and nation-wide series!

With a great format, and a well-thought out stage plan, riders would climb to the top of Mount Archer for the first stage and tackle each stage from 1-6 in numerical order which created a straightforward and easy format for spectators and riders alike. It all went off without a hitch.

Race day! But no big deal… right?
The MTBA badge, legitimising the stature of the event, or an intimidating element?
Getting ready, take your maps out. The course was well thought out, with only two starting locations and a closely bunched finish area to heckle and spectate.
Jon’s Giant Reign Advanced with Maxxis rubber, Shimano XT and FOX suspension.
EMS, the crew behind the EWS event in Derby, are doing an excellent job all round.
Cairns shedder, Berend Boer heads out for a long day in the dust.
Ian Harwood points out the brutal climb from the base of the MTB park up to the summit of Mount Archer to begin stage #1.
Long way to the top under your own steam.

That first climb was way harder than I thought it would be, took nearly one hour. And then dropping into the hardest stage of the day was hard, you hadn’t done any real riding that morning yet, just pedalling on the road and all of a sudden you’re doing Red Bull Rampage… Ronning.

#1 plate holder Dave Ludenia and U19 winner Harrison Dobrowolski nearing the summit.
Aaron Cairns about to drop in.
Old mate loves it.
Mount Archer gives the riders tremendous perspective of the elevation drop to come, and mega views of the whole region.
Jon Odams on ‘The Dawg’, an insane run down from the top of Mount Archer. Soooo fast, so rocky, so much consequence.
Ronning on the hunt.
Wheels, brakes and tyres were destroyed on this day in July.
Riders were carrying chain lube for a regular refresh; it was that dry out there.
Yeooo, the locals!
Ruts from your worst nightmare.
Dobrowolski about to pin it.
Anywhere the brand new trails had a chance to set and pack down, and it was super fast.

The incredibly fast Angela Williams on the grind back to another stage start.
Lepers Leap a fast rock drop into a tight turn was a great point for spectators to gather and heckle.
Local support.


What could have been, Dave Ludenia won five out of six stages, messing up ‘The Dawg’ put him back into third overall. He’s in touch for a top podium place soon for sure.

Dobrowolski skimming.

Job done.

After slogging it out on the trails with only a bit of skin and one collarbone casualty, it was time to compare times and pack up. And it was smiles all round in our camp, with Ronning on top of his age category and Odams taking a very impressive second place in the elite category. Yeaaaah!

For full results, click right here.

Mel Hayes always frothing.
Yeoo, dusty hair product!

Medic!
Casualties.
The day’s fastest, Ryan Leutton from Brisbane. Placing second in all six stages was the key to the win overall.

I thought it was going to be super tight, I think it was consistency across the board that did it for me. It was tough, the old legs were feeling it towards the end. Coming from Brisbane I’ve been doing the South East QLD Series, and really loving it. Stage six would have to be my favourite, mainly because it was the last one…

I’m on the Santa Cruz Nomad, with NS Dynamics helping me with my setup, I use the Fast Suspension cartridge in the forks and a few special air spring mods, and they’ve got me on the Push ElevenSix coil rear shock which is a real standout after trying a few other coil shocks. I went from carbon wheels to aluminium at the last minute, too, it’s better to get down safe and sound especially on that first stage.

I don’t generally play with my suspension too much, I just let Aaron from NS Dynamics handle it, he knows what I need.

Elite Women’s podium from left to right – Mel Hayes, Angela Williams, Julia Boer, Jodi Newton and Caitlin Dore.
Men’s Elite podium from left to right – Adrian Dawson, Jon Odams, Ryan Leutton, David Ludenia, Daniel Hallam.

Yeah, old boy!
Ciao, Rocky.
Job done.

Opinion: Women. Mountain Biking.

Working in this sector the challenge, for me, is to find ways to discuss women’s riding with integrity. Ways that reflect the sport as riders experience it, vaginas and all.

I often find mountain bike media that syphons women’s riding into its own special category somewhat artificial. To rephrase a gay marriage meme, I don’t put women’s petrol in my women’s car to women’s drive down the women’s freeway. And I don’t women’s mountain bike in this way either. Or do I?

When you get a group of female riders together for an extended period, something special happens.

When you get a group of female riders together for an extended period, something special happens. Defences come down, chattiness goes up, and conversations, rhythms and images appear that contrast to the sport as it’s often portrayed. I saw this again and again last month while spending four days filming ‘Like a Local: Tropical North Queensland’. I was working in a group where the women outnumbered the men.

Some of the things that stood out reminded me of things I value in any crew: people who look out for each other, a sense that we’re in it together, an attitude that a social ride is a social ride (not a competition), and that all good rides start or finish with good food. There was also a strong sense of femininity that came through in the way these women enjoyed cycling as part of an active lifestyle. This is a femininity that I don’t always see in mountain bike media or advertising material that tends to focus more on women who race and those who are getting into the sport for the first time.

 This is a femininity that I don’t always see in mountain bike media or advertising material that tends to focus more on women who race and those who are getting into the sport for the first time.

Take Cassie Abell for example: “It’s called a ‘vaginjury’,” she yelled at the top of her lungs in the middle of the forest, explaining what happens when you smash your groin. She didn’t just say it quietly to the trees or the person next to her, she yelled it. Part of me empathised with the region of bike inflicted, saddle munting pain she was talking about, as I think any female would. But as a writer I couldn’t help but love this word for its humour, its agency, its economical clarity, and its ability to make something awkward no longer awkward at all.

Take Jade Robinson: “I can’t get a good tan when I’m wearing kneepads riding a bike,” she explained to the camera on the way to the reef. It’s a comment that seems like a joke at first but one that a lot of other riders can relate to, even some dudes, and even if they don’t want to admit it.

When asked about her favourite trail, Mandy Michna’s perspective wasn’t so much about the trail itself as what it signified at a certain point in her life. “My favourite trail out at Smithfield is a trail called Blake Snake,” she said. “It was a personal challenge for me when I first started riding. Straight after I’d had my second baby – about two months after that – the fitness that I needed to achieve to get to the top without stopping…I got there. And that’s kind of memorable for me,” she added. “And then there’s a really great, fun, cut in descent on the way down,” a mountain biker through and through.

While it’s hard to pinpoint to a single moment, or event, or type of rider, this femininity came through in the multiple ways this crew, all at very different stages in their lives, talked about their reasons for mountain biking, the friendships they’ve made and their goals on certain trails. It came through in the clothes they wore while riding and at the bars we visited afterwards, the language they use to describe bike mods, whether and when they chose to wear makeup, and the comfort and ease with which they do these things and more.

These women don’t need to be one of the guys to have people to ride with. As the scene has developed there’s a much bigger space now to (quite happily) be one of the girls.

These women don’t need to be one of the guys to have people to ride with. As the scene has developed there’s a much bigger space now to (quite happily) be one of the girls.

“The girl gang is amazing. I couldn’t imagine my life without them anymore,” said Jacinta Pink listing off the endless number of activities everyone gets up to on a typical weekend.

“I’m a mum and I’ve got kids at school and I hang out with mums who don’t really do anything for themselves,” said Cass. “I really want to get them back into having fun and finding themselves and finding the ‘rah’ woman, you know, rather than just being mum and unappreciated.”

Audience comments have been interesting too. “I feel so good being able to be a girl now,” said a friend talking about the clothing options available for female mountain bikers that no longer make them look like blokes.

If there’s a group of people in your own riding community who enjoy the sport in different ways to the majority, take more notice of the things they say or share when given space and time to do so. My hunch is it will make the rest of us become better at talking about the myriad reasons all sorts of people enjoy this sport and better reflect on our own experiences while we’re at it.

Yes Day: Tropical North Queensland


Tokyo Swim Team made a film about making a film about it. In Tropical North Queensland. With Specialized Australia riders Fiona Dick and Ryan De La Rue.

Embrace the wild, red clay of Smithfield.

There’s mountain biking in Smithfield, there’s as many activities as a human can do on Fitzroy Island, there’s some sweet air at AJ Hackett, there’s rafting in the rainforest down the Tully River, and there’s a meal so good even the camera crew had to sit down. So much Yes!

With so much on offer in and around Cairns, which Yes-es make you want to get outside the most?

Huck your meat off a bungy.

The Club at the Heart of it All

Another standard Alice Springs morning on the trails.

Mountain biking has a long history in the Red Centre. Alice Springs might no be the biggest town but they boast a hugely passionate, dedicated rider base. Back in the early 2000s cycling disciplines were grouped together as part of the Alice Springs Cycling Club. As time went on each discipline forged its own way and mountain biking came to have its own dedicated organisation called the Alice Springs MTB Club. ASMTB were pivotal in building much of the trail as it is today and running the local races. Original members including Ken Napier, Tim Hill and Matt Gadsby were on the shovels from the start, shaping the sandy, rocky terrain west of town to create what would become a trail network of almost 200km of flowing, fast singletrack.

As you approach Alice from the air, you start to see the terrain features building. It’s a unique landscape in which to build trails, with little vegetation your imagination is the only real obstacle.

Jump to 2010 and the club took on the Central Australian Rough Riders title that morphed into the CARR-Alice Springs MTB Club as it is today. Boasting a membership of over 140 riders and working closely with the Northern Territory Government the club has driven the groundswell in popularity in mountain biking via trail development and events. Their website is also a wealth of information when searching for trail maps and loops to explore. Paul Darvodelsky is the current President of the club and a hugely passionate rider. He’s ridden bikes all over the world and still rates his home trails as the best by far.

Riders prepare to roll out for Stage 3 of the Easter in the Alice.

One of the largest races run by the club each year has to be Easter in the Alice. Held over the Easter weekend and taking in 140km of single track and trail its is a key draw card for elite athletes and avid recreational cyclists alike.

The race is based out of the historic Telegraph Station on the banks of the Todd River. Almost like a grassy oasis it’s a perfect spot to grab some shade under one of the huge gum trees and also a perfect place to roll off the start line to get those legs pumping.

Telegraph Station, on the north side of town, is the central hub of mountain biking in Alice Springs, with the majority of the formalised trail network.

Competitors spend three days covering varied distances and terrain; 75km, 24km and 37km for the three consecutive stages. The 2017 had Stage One double as a round for the National Marathon Series, demonstrating the caliber of trail there is to cover. The Second and Third stages dish up the contrast, ranging from technical, rough terrain back to the flowing, fast and sandy single track there was plenty of fun for everyone regardless of your riding preference.

In addition to this flagship event there are many others to come and try your hand at. The club is working very hard to offer a calendar of events that cater to all abilities and types of mountain biking to foster riders wanting to compete in a very social, fun atmosphere.

Northern Territory Minister for Tourism, Lauren Moss, discusses the importance of mountain biking to the local Alice Springs economy with media at Telegraph Station.

There’s a very strong commitment to the future here which is evident not only from the Government’s recent commitment to fund trail development, but also on a much smaller scale when you see young riders being shown the ropes on the grassy rollers by their elite counterparts.

The CARR Alice Springs MTB Club has a really healthy junior scene – there are loads of young riders coming up through the ranks.
It’s a long drive to Alice Springs from the east coast, but the locals will make you feel welcome.

If there’s one thing that these events and the club have been truly successful at is showing that Alice Springs is a place where you will be welcomed to ride. There’s an underling sense of acceptance of how far it is to travel here so everyone wants you to have a good time. Whether it’s their favourite trail to shred, the best way to avoid a flat tire or the one trail that looks the most spectacular at sunrise, everyone will offer up their advice.

So whether you like racing or just coming to a new destination to explore by bike, make sure that Alice Springs is on the list. It’s so unique that you would be hard pressed to find such quality riding in a more spectacular setting.

Like a Local: Tropical North Queensland


Beyond biking, these riders share their enjoyment of the food, leisure and lifestyle opportunities nearby. A quick swim at the top of a waterfall, a palm tree trunk climb challenge, a search for sea turtles and some time out to offer their thoughts on why they’re proud to call the region home. 

“You know when people travel and everyone tells them the tourist things to do? When mountain bikers travel, they want to know what the locals do. So we decided to make a film about that.” – Tokyo Swim Team

Alice Springs: A First Timer’s View

It was the first time Paul and Jac had visited Alice Springs, and like most first-timers, the reality and their expectations were two completely different things.
Ridgelines, rocks, and stunning views. Alice Springs isn’t the pancake flat dust bowl that many people seem to envisage!

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

Travelling from Hobart I couldn’t get much more of a contrast arriving in Alice

There’s 200km of trail around Alice Springs, with plenty of rock features to keep it technical.

I was here to catch up with Paul Van der Ploeg and the Flow crew to explore the vast network of singletrack that Alice Springs has to offer, and get amongst what has become a must do on the race calendar, the Lasseters ‘Easter in the Alice’. This three-day stage race weaves riders through a huge chunk of the 200km of single track that can be found less than 10 minutes from the centre of town.

The stunning rock of Ellery Creek Big Hole.

Before I got down to racing it was off to experience just a tiny snippet of what the Northern Territory is so famous for, so we bundled into our 4WD and headed to the West MacDonnell ranges.  Apparently, when these ranges were in their infancy they were taller than Mt Everest. Today they still create a dramatic scene climbing out of the flats, so distinct in their form from anywhere else in Australia. Our boxes to tick for the day were Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge. Both of these beautiful swimming holes are less than a couple of hours from town, a perfect way to wind down after a day on the bike or just as a great day trip for the family.

Sunset over Alice are pretty magical.

Both of these spots were just breathtaking, there is something about the outback that makes you somehow ‘feel’ just how old it is. The colours of the rock change with the sun, from a vibrant red to a blue as the evening creeps in. The calmness of the swimming holes with the wildlife just as relaxed was a great way for us to take stock of just how beautiful it was. To keep things nice and Australian I was also informed by a local that the crocodiles were ‘only small’, and would only bite ‘a bit’ – followed by the biggest grin you’ve seen. Classic.

Getting up early for the sunrise here is always worth it. The air is cool, and the colours are brilliant.

Making our way back to Alice we got to see the sky put on a show for us. People will tell you that the sunsets here are some of the most spectacular in the world but from experience, it’s probably best to witness it with your own eyes, as photos will never do it justice. It’s like every colour has been painted in the sky and the darkness is slowly consuming the light to keep it safe for the night.

People will tell you that the sunsets here are some of the most spectacular in the world but from experience it’s probably best to witness it with your own eyes, as photos will never do it justice.

Exploring the east-side trails with some Central Australian Rough Riders locals.

Even though it was getting towards winter, the midday sun still packed punch so morning and evenings were the best time to ride. It was hard to not get stoked on riding at sunrise, between shredding the awesome trails and watching the sky go through almost every colour in a pack of Derwent pencils it was just incredible. One evening we got to hang out with some of the local MTB club members, the Central Australian Rough Riders and scope out some more of the trails that were to be used in the race.

The club scene is strong, and there’s a big contingent of junior riders too, most of whom took part in all three stages of the racing during the Easter in the Alice.

The crew were so friendly and welcoming, Paul Darvodelsky the club president is a passionate rider with a wit dryer than the outback sand, and he was on hand to give us a bit of an idea of what to expect.

Telegraph Station is the main hub for all the riding in town.

Making our way out from the Telegraph Station, the rock slabs and technical features kept us on your toes, and it was easy to see how those with an affinity for holding power through rolling hills would do well in a place like this. Helmet, Kym’s and Hell Line were just some of the trails that were standouts, not just for how fun they were to ride but also the view of Alice and beyond they offered.

Stage 3 racers roll out through the old Telegraph Station.

The race itself is more of a slightly painful way to experience the trails and surrounding outback, but a great opportunity to compete in something quite unique. There was an opportunity to race the third stage of Easter in the Alice, and I use that term loosely but race I did. XC racing is more of a distant memory these days and whilst it’s common knowledge that the best Enduro riders are just as fit as XC athletes, my current fitness sits in neither of those categories. So sat astride my trusty Roubion I got swept up in the dusty peloton and ended having a nice chat to riders as we played leapfrog across the trails. As an added bonus I even got to see a Dingo trot past the trail, which was the icing on the cake.

The tough finish line sprint across the sandy bed of the Todd River.

True to form the race finished in what might be the most Alice Springs way ever, by riding through the sandy banks of the Todd River through the finish line and to a sausage sizzle. Huzzah! Success! And what a great way to spend a morning mountain biking!

As an added bonus I even got to see a Dingo trot past the trail, which was the icing on the cake.

Unfortunately for me, that was the end of my Alice Springs adventure. Time to pack my bike and put on all my clothes at once and start my travels back south to frosty Hobart.

Flying away from Alice Springs over the vastness of central Australia it was easy to know that I’d be coming back to ride more of the trails and travel further into the outback. One visit isn’t nearly enough, so see you again soon Alice Springs!

Alice Springs: A First Timer's View

There’s a bit of a funny saying in Alice Springs, that you’re as far away as you can possibly get from Australia’s beaches, but you’re equally close to every one of them. Well there might not be any waves to catch but you’ll be so captivated by the beauty of the outback you’d never notice.

It was the first time Paul and Jac had visited Alice Springs, and like most first-timers, the reality and their expectations were two completely different things.
Ridgelines, rocks, and stunning views. Alice Springs isn’t the pancake flat dust bowl that many people seem to envisage!

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

Travelling from Hobart I couldn’t get much more of a contrast arriving in Alice

There’s 200km of trail around Alice Springs, with plenty of rock features to keep it technical.

I was here to catch up with Paul Van der Ploeg and the Flow crew to explore the vast network of singletrack that Alice Springs has to offer, and get amongst what has become a must do on the race calendar, the Lasseters ‘Easter in the Alice’. This three-day stage race weaves riders through a huge chunk of the 200km of single track that can be found less than 10 minutes from the centre of town.

The stunning rock of Ellery Creek Big Hole.

Before I got down to racing it was off to experience just a tiny snippet of what the Northern Territory is so famous for, so we bundled into our 4WD and headed to the West MacDonnell ranges.  Apparently, when these ranges were in their infancy they were taller than Mt Everest. Today they still create a dramatic scene climbing out of the flats, so distinct in their form from anywhere else in Australia. Our boxes to tick for the day were Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge. Both of these beautiful swimming holes are less than a couple of hours from town, a perfect way to wind down after a day on the bike or just as a great day trip for the family.

Sunset over Alice are pretty magical.

Both of these spots were just breathtaking, there is something about the outback that makes you somehow ‘feel’ just how old it is. The colours of the rock change with the sun, from a vibrant red to a blue as the evening creeps in. The calmness of the swimming holes with the wildlife just as relaxed was a great way for us to take stock of just how beautiful it was. To keep things nice and Australian I was also informed by a local that the crocodiles were ‘only small’, and would only bite ‘a bit’ – followed by the biggest grin you’ve seen. Classic.

Getting up early for the sunrise here is always worth it. The air is cool, and the colours are brilliant.

Making our way back to Alice we got to see the sky put on a show for us. People will tell you that the sunsets here are some of the most spectacular in the world but from experience, it’s probably best to witness it with your own eyes, as photos will never do it justice. It’s like every colour has been painted in the sky and the darkness is slowly consuming the light to keep it safe for the night.

People will tell you that the sunsets here are some of the most spectacular in the world but from experience it’s probably best to witness it with your own eyes, as photos will never do it justice.

Exploring the east-side trails with some Central Australian Rough Riders locals.

Even though it was getting towards winter, the midday sun still packed punch so morning and evenings were the best time to ride. It was hard to not get stoked on riding at sunrise, between shredding the awesome trails and watching the sky go through almost every colour in a pack of Derwent pencils it was just incredible. One evening we got to hang out with some of the local MTB club members, the Central Australian Rough Riders and scope out some more of the trails that were to be used in the race.

The club scene is strong, and there’s a big contingent of junior riders too, most of whom took part in all three stages of the racing during the Easter in the Alice.

The crew were so friendly and welcoming, Paul Darvodelsky the club president is a passionate rider with a wit dryer than the outback sand, and he was on hand to give us a bit of an idea of what to expect.

Telegraph Station is the main hub for all the riding in town.

Making our way out from the Telegraph Station, the rock slabs and technical features kept us on your toes, and it was easy to see how those with an affinity for holding power through rolling hills would do well in a place like this. Helmet, Kym’s and Hell Line were just some of the trails that were standouts, not just for how fun they were to ride but also the view of Alice and beyond they offered.

Stage 3 racers roll out through the old Telegraph Station.

The race itself is more of a slightly painful way to experience the trails and surrounding outback, but a great opportunity to compete in something quite unique. There was an opportunity to race the third stage of Easter in the Alice, and I use that term loosely but race I did. XC racing is more of a distant memory these days and whilst it’s common knowledge that the best Enduro riders are just as fit as XC athletes, my current fitness sits in neither of those categories. So sat astride my trusty Roubion I got swept up in the dusty peloton and ended having a nice chat to riders as we played leapfrog across the trails. As an added bonus I even got to see a Dingo trot past the trail, which was the icing on the cake.

The tough finish line sprint across the sandy bed of the Todd River.

True to form the race finished in what might be the most Alice Springs way ever, by riding through the sandy banks of the Todd River through the finish line and to a sausage sizzle. Huzzah! Success! And what a great way to spend a morning mountain biking!

As an added bonus I even got to see a Dingo trot past the trail, which was the icing on the cake.

Unfortunately for me, that was the end of my Alice Springs adventure. Time to pack my bike and put on all my clothes at once and start my travels back south to frosty Hobart.

Flying away from Alice Springs over the vastness of central Australia it was easy to know that I’d be coming back to ride more of the trails and travel further into the outback. One visit isn’t nearly enough, so see you again soon Alice Springs!

Maydena Bike Park, Tasmania – Site Visit and FAQs


So where is Maydena? 

You’ll find the town of Maydena about an hour west of Hobart. It’s a bloody beautiful drive too – passing through hops fields, hedge rows, following the pretty Derwent and Tyenna Rivers. It’s within day-trip distance from Hobart, but there’s already a bunch of accommodation options in town, and more to come, so staying on site and enjoying the vibe of this beautiful area is possible too.

Looking south-west from the summit of Maydena, into the wilderness. Just a few peaks piercing through the inversion on a beautiful Autumn morning.

Maydena is on the cusp on Tasmania’s impenetrable Southwest National Park – a quarter of the state that is as wild as it gets, accessible by only foot, boat or helicopter- and from the summit of the park, you’ve got views deep into the wilderness, not a sign of habitation, just dense forest folded into rolling valleys, stabbed through by occasionally craggy peaks. In short, it’s a magical part of the world.  It’s also just down the road from Mt Field National Park, one of Tassie’s most visited sites, home of the Russel Falls, and the Styx Valley which has some of the tallest trees in the state.

Russell Falls is just ten minutes down the road from Maydena, and is one of the most stunning waterfalls in Tassie.
The summit building will feature a cafe and bar, so you can relax or refuel up top before your next run.

What sets Maydena apart from existing developments? 

The elevation is one thing. The park has over 820m of vertical drop from the summit to Maydena way below. That’s about 200m more than Thredbo, and twice the elevation of Mt Mystic in Bright, to put things in perspective! According to Dirt Art, the average descent length from summit to base will be over 10km. That is MASSIVE.

The summit at sunrise is a stunning spot.

Maydena Bike Park is also a privately run park, just like Thredbo or other lift/shuttle accessed trails, you’ll pay to ride. Obviously one of the virtues of being a privately run operation, not a public facility, is that trail builders are freed of any ‘sanitising’ influences – steeper, wilder trails, with more challenging lines than you’ll find on public lands are definitely on the cards.

Mist clings to the hillsides above Maydena on a classic Tassie autumn morn.

There won’t be any climbing to the top here either – this will be a gravity park through and through. You’ll be shuttled to the top, with buses departing from the centre of town and taking you right to the summit building, where there’ll be a bar and cafe, so you can chill out soaking in the incredible views on the deck before dropping in.

Simon French points out some of the key trail corridors. You can just see Maydena way, way below.

So is this a downhill park? 

There’ll definitely be some more full-on downhill style trails and sections in Maydena Bike Park, but the bulk of the riding will be targeted at the Enduro style rider, on a 150-180mm travel bike.

In addition to the more gravity-focused trails, Dirt Art will also building a longer back-country epic descent, that will head out into some beautiful sub-alpine terrain. The intention is that this trail alone will be around 16km long.

An Aussie version of Whistler? 

There’s certainly that potential. Dirt Art are taking a very wholistic approach to this project, pulling in all their experience not just in trail building, but also in seeing how bike parks and successful mountain bike destinations operate all over the world.

This means in addition to the shuttles and trail building/maintenance, Dirt Art will be running bike hire and accommodation, as well as setting up a brewery and a cafe/restaurant that will use locally grown hops and other produce.

Simon French of Dirt Art. This project really represents the culmination of many years of trail building and mountain bike tourism experience.

So how much trail will there be? 

Dirt Art are planning to launch the park with close to 50km of descending trail, with plans to double this within a couple of years. They’ll be launching with a mix of trail styles too, from machine-built jump trails (in a similar style to the Hero Trail in Bright) through to hand-cut singletrack tech lines.

When is Maydena Bike Park opening?

The final opening date is yet to be confirmed, but early 2018 is the aim. In the coming months Maydena Bike Park will be releasing more information about bookings, pricing and the like. Visit the Maydena Bike Park site, or their Facebook page for more.

As an aside, it’s incredible to see what a positive impact this development is already having on the local economy. Trail building hasn’t even commenced here yet, but locals are reaping the benefits already with property prices doubling in the past few months. Read more about it here. 

Interview: Max Commencal – Keep on Surprising.

In the coming weeks, Commencal will be making a return to Australia, with local support and sales via Pushys, so we took the opportunity to chat with Max about his experiences and (strong) opinions of where mountain biking is headed.


Who is Max Commencal and where is he happiest?

I am French but I have lived in Andorra for almost 20 years. One can say that I had two lives, one in France with SUNN and a second in Andorra with COMMENCAL.

I love sports, travelling, accompanying riders through their careers, releasing new products and shaking up the rules a bit… I love photography, film, music, competition, creation and commerce. I love working with and building my team! I also love to be at home in Andorra very much.

Supporting some of the world’s best racers has always been part of Max’s mission. When we asked him why, his response was that the “just loves racing” – this is a man driven by passion, not strategy!

What was the most important moment in Commencal’s history?

It was when I started COMMENCAL. The brand was born at the end of 1998. When I was sacked by SUNN, I decided to start from scratch at 43 years old.

When I started SUNN, all alone in 1982, it was the beginning of MTB and everything had to be built up from nothing. It was almost easy. For COMMENCAL, 16 years later, we had solid competition and I admit to having had difficult times. For sure, no one would have put money on me to succeed.

Today is pretty good and I have one of the best staff teams in my business history. The average age is about 30 years old and therefore there is both maturity and experience.

 

Concentrating on the past is useless. We must always explore new avenues, take risks and if possible, keep on surprising.

 

You have had the opportunity to work with some amazing racers. Who impressed you most and why?

It has always been Anne Caroline Chausson. Her opinions are incredible, she has little or no prejudice and her insight is reliable.

For the other riders, let’s just say that winners have strong characters. That’s why they’re different and they win! They have the fire in them, the selfishness and an above all the will and motivation that sets them apart. They have confidence in themselves but that doesn’t stop them from needing attention and support.

To help them along is a privilege and I have always drawn from them the extra energy that made me push my own goals. These people are my role models!

I am also particularly fond of Remi Thirion, he deserves to be World Champion and he will be!

Thinking about this, I want to talk about all of them because I love them all!

There’s a lot of Max in Commencal. He’s a firm believer that suffering on the bike should not be a part of mountain biking – that’s for the road.

When you started, what was your vision for the brand?

I’ve never had a long-term vision. Every season, every year must challenge us completely, whether from a commercial, product or marketing point of view.

But in general, my course of action is to be a very qualitative, innovative brand and to have a presence worldwide, not just to be a generic brand.

 

 The majority of these stores are born through the road bike industry and therefore with limited MTB-specific industry knowledge, in particular with DH and enduro, our core disciplines within our range

 

What did you learn from your years at Sunn? Where do you want to go?

What I know is that you should never lose the majority share hold in your own company. Besides that, COMMENCAL is the continuity of what SUNN was. The state of mind is the same but without nostalgia and regrets! Concentrating on the past is useless. We must always explore new avenues, take risks and if possible, keep on surprising.

 

Tell me more about your choice to change your business from a traditional dealer model to a consumer direct model? 

Contrary to popular belief, there are few small bike shops. They are often grouped under an umbrella company or a larger corporation and working with these middle-men is hell. At the end of the day, I couldn’t stand them any longer. They always shoot you down, always ask you for more, always trying to extend the terms of payment and/or want to explain your trade. All that to be branded N° 3 or 4, to fill in the gaps of their more popular, generic brands. Another trigger, the majority of these stores are born through the road bike industry and therefore with limited MTB-specific industry knowledge, in particular with DH and enduro, our core disciplines within our range. So I decided four years ago to stop working with them and to get on ourselves by selling directly to the consumer. Well, we took it because the public immediately reacted very favourably!

It was possible to drop prices significantly and customers were happy to contact us directly, talk to our engineers, our salespeople and generally be in direct contact with after-sales service and know our stock levels because they are displayed on the site.

In a nutshell, the filters were broken down between the brand, our customers and everyone else involved in the business.

 

What are some of the challenges of being direct consumers?

There are not really any additional challenges compared to all the other means of distribution. You have to be serious, helpful and have the products to back it up which are top quality, reliable. It made us up our game because you have to be faultless. So listen, if you don’t do quality, don’t go direct.

Four years ago, Commencal stepped out of the traditional dealer network model and moved to direct sales. They haven’t looked back.

Explain how things will work here in Australia? Will bikes be warehoused here, and what about aftersales service / warranty support?

Australia is far away, particularly far from Andorra so we had to find a partner organisation on site that could accommodate stock, ship quickly and have a team of specialists. We chose to work with Pushys who are particularly well established and organised in this country. Together we chose an Australian brand manager who’s passionate about the brand and our bikes.

Although we are far away, the discussions with the Andorran office will be daily. The guys from Pushys will come to Andorra as much as possible and vice-versa. The Pushys team will participate in the R&D and it’s possible that we will make a limited series exclusive for Australia.

What makes the difference with the traditional distribution of other brands is that it will be our stock, it will be our website and we will apply the same rates as in Europe, Canada and the US. The customer price point advantage will be the same as elsewhere.

Since the bikes are produced in Taiwan, it is also likely that Australia will have the new products before Europe and the US!

As for the after-sales logistics, stock will be on site at Pushys in Brisbane and if necessary, we will also be able to ship parts from our other stocks. We will also stock parts for older models, which refer back to when we were working with distributors.

Customer satisfaction is our top priority.

 

Mountain biking should not be about suffering on the bike, there’s the road for that.

 

Which people or brands, either inside or outside the bike industry, are you most inspired by?

Very good question. Honestly, I liked the competition with other brands of bikes when they still belonged to their founders, when they still had their originality. There was inspiration and challenge when we met at races. I think for example at Cannondale, GT (during the BMX boom) or Santa Cruz. Today, big corporations own them and we feel that the soul of the adventurer who created them has disappeared.

Fortunately for us, component manufacturers have brilliant engineers and they are real creators and true enthusiasts. It is always a pleasure to meet them, to rub shoulders with them. At SRAM, RockShox, FOX, Shimano, Spank, E-thirteen and more, I forget… there are plenty of exciting and inspiring people.

Max Commencal believes carbon to be a poor choice of materials for building bikes – he feels it imposes too many costs which inhibits adaptability and responsiveness, and that it’s an unpleasant material to work with generally.

Do you think mountain biking has reached maturity yet?

No, not yet and far from it. Mountain biking should not be about suffering on the bike, there’s the road for that. Riding should be fun, being in the great outdoors, exploring, travelling, playing sports, riding with friends, family, kids… There is also the arrival of electric assistance which will make climbing less extreme and just more desirable.

On today’s bikes, it’s still too rough and bumpy and although we have made great progress so far, there is still a long way to go.

 

Carbon is disgusting and dangerous for the workers who produce it, it is not recyclable, it prevents acceptation of the new standards without reinvesting in all the moulds… in short, it’s just bad

 

What is the best thing you’ve ever created, and why?

Created, I do not know but I don’t regret the decision not to make carbon frames. Carbon is disgusting and dangerous for the workers who produce it, it is not recyclable, it prevents acceptation of the new standards without reinvesting in all the moulds… in short, it’s just bad. Not to mention that many riders who rode the two will tell you that if they have the choice between a very good aluminium frame and a top carbon frame, they will choose aluminium. It’s more comfortable, livelier and generally more pleasant to ride. The delusion is that often, one assimilates carbon as high-end and alu, low-end. This is stupid.

Anyway, I’m happy with my decision.

 

If you could go back to the very start of mountain biking and change one thing, what would it be?

I would not change anything. The path was magnificent and the evolution went in the right direction. It’s just a shame that MTB is too tied up in the world of cycling. This genre of environment is very conservative and has often slowed down developments.

City bikes and MTB do not have the same DNA.

 

Where will your next ride be?

In Andorra, very fast! With PEF (our rider of the Red Bull Rampage), we build trails and I push to make it also easy. I do not want it to be an extreme sport. I want to see lots of new faces, lots of kids, girls and beginners. All skiers are potential riders and the day we have as many riders in the mountains in summer as we do skiers in the winter, we will have won our challenge. Not before.

Since there are many more mountains and “rideable” countryside than “skiable”, we have not finished enjoying!

Bulk Air Time: Vapour Trail, Stromlo's New Jump Track

Think you know what Stromlo Forest Park is all about? Think again. This legendary destination, best known for its magnificent cross country trails, just had a change of pace with the opening of the new Vapour Trail, an incredible two-kilometre long jump track built to celebrate the venue’s tenth anniversary.

We headed to Canberra to meet up with some of the country’s best riders – Thomas Crimmins, Timmy Eaton and Ryan Walsch – for a day of bulk air time.


Watch the full video of Canberra pinners Thomas Crimmins, Tim Eaton and Ryan Walsch ripping it up on Vapour Trail below.


Stromlo Vapour Trail-05048
Ryan ‘Raymond’ Walsch flows into the lower sections of Vapour Trail.

The inspiration for this beast stems directly from the international reputation of some of the best-known trails on the planet, trails like Whistler’s A-Line and Dirt Merchant.

Vapour Trail is a big jump ahead for Stromlo, quite literally, with some pretty serious air time on offer if you’re hitting the big lines. The inspiration for this beast stems directly from the international reputation of some of the best-known trails on the planet, trails like Whistler’s A-Line and Dirt Merchant. After all, why should the Canadians get all the fun?

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9828
Jump trains with mates. Nothing better.

It’s a bit of an all-you-can-eat banquet of jumps

Darren Stewart of Makin Trax (who carry out all the maintenance and construction at Stromlo) has been a long-time believer in the importance of a trail like this to ensure Stromlo stays ahead of the curve and helps progress mountain biking in Canberra. “I’ve been personally agitating for this trail for many years. We made a start on the Vapour trail a couple of years ago with the help of Jared Rando, and recently the ACT Government funded the development of the newest sections you see here.”

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9866
Crimmins over the shark fin.

“It’s a bit of an all-you-can-eat banquet of jumps, this one,” says Darren. There are around 40 jumps on the trail, and while it’s classified as a black diamond trail, all of the jumps can be rolled, and there are loads of options for A and B-Lines too. It all makes Vapour Trail pretty ideal as a training ground to progress your riding, letting you gradually build into the bigger jumps, rather than committing you to launching straight away.

Stromlo Vapour Trail-05059
The lower jumps get some good size to them if you’re hitting the big lips – Eaton casual as you like over an 8 metre gap.

Getting the timing and speed right on a trail like this is a real art form – you want it to naturally flow, so each jump builds into the next, without a need to pedal too hard or hit the anchors. The construction team, led by Mike Long, also included Ben Cory. Additional feedback from riders like Timmy Eaton, Thomas Crimmins and Damian Breach all added to the huge pool of experience required to nail this trail perfectly.

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9933
Thomas Crimmins lofts its into a perfectly built series of booters.

From our perspective, we find it incredibly exciting that government is getting behind trail project like this. It definitely represents a new era for the sport in Australia when the highest levels are recognising that full-blown jump trails like this (or notably too, the new Hero Trail in Bright) can become real drawcards to bring travelling mountain bikers into a region. According to Darren Stewart, more trail like this are in the wings: “plans are already in place for some blue level jump trails too, that will complement what we’ve now got with Vapour Trail.” Looks like we’ll be making many trips to Canberra in the coming years then!

Stromlo Vapour Trail-04853
Up with the sun for a pretty unique shuttle to the top of Stromlo.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04860
The ultimate uplift? After all, it’s all about getting bulk air time, right?
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04885
Vapour Trail follows the first 100m or so of the downhill track, before peeling off to the right.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04957
Unmistakably Canberra.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04919
Hooking in on the upper turns.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05009
Raymond rhythms through the step-on-step-off.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05030
Getting this step-on-step-off right requires commitment, but the spacing is perfect if you’ve got the skills to carry good speed into this section.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05095
Crimmins sends his Trance into orbit.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05036
Incoming.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05109
Big wheels, big jumps, big tweak.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-9813
Rallying into classic Canberra fast, dry turns.

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9878
Stromlo Vapour Trail-9944

Bulk Air Time: Vapour Trail, Stromlo’s New Jump Track

We headed to Canberra to meet up with some of the country’s best riders – Thomas Crimmins, Timmy Eaton and Ryan Walsch – for a day of bulk air time.


Watch the full video of Canberra pinners Thomas Crimmins, Tim Eaton and Ryan Walsch ripping it up on Vapour Trail below.


Stromlo Vapour Trail-05048
Ryan ‘Raymond’ Walsch flows into the lower sections of Vapour Trail.

The inspiration for this beast stems directly from the international reputation of some of the best-known trails on the planet, trails like Whistler’s A-Line and Dirt Merchant.

Vapour Trail is a big jump ahead for Stromlo, quite literally, with some pretty serious air time on offer if you’re hitting the big lines. The inspiration for this beast stems directly from the international reputation of some of the best-known trails on the planet, trails like Whistler’s A-Line and Dirt Merchant. After all, why should the Canadians get all the fun?

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9828
Jump trains with mates. Nothing better.

It’s a bit of an all-you-can-eat banquet of jumps

Darren Stewart of Makin Trax (who carry out all the maintenance and construction at Stromlo) has been a long-time believer in the importance of a trail like this to ensure Stromlo stays ahead of the curve and helps progress mountain biking in Canberra. “I’ve been personally agitating for this trail for many years. We made a start on the Vapour trail a couple of years ago with the help of Jared Rando, and recently the ACT Government funded the development of the newest sections you see here.”

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9866
Crimmins over the shark fin.

“It’s a bit of an all-you-can-eat banquet of jumps, this one,” says Darren. There are around 40 jumps on the trail, and while it’s classified as a black diamond trail, all of the jumps can be rolled, and there are loads of options for A and B-Lines too. It all makes Vapour Trail pretty ideal as a training ground to progress your riding, letting you gradually build into the bigger jumps, rather than committing you to launching straight away.

Stromlo Vapour Trail-05059
The lower jumps get some good size to them if you’re hitting the big lips – Eaton casual as you like over an 8 metre gap.

Getting the timing and speed right on a trail like this is a real art form – you want it to naturally flow, so each jump builds into the next, without a need to pedal too hard or hit the anchors. The construction team, led by Mike Long, also included Ben Cory. Additional feedback from riders like Timmy Eaton, Thomas Crimmins and Damian Breach all added to the huge pool of experience required to nail this trail perfectly.

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9933
Thomas Crimmins lofts its into a perfectly built series of booters.

From our perspective, we find it incredibly exciting that government is getting behind trail project like this. It definitely represents a new era for the sport in Australia when the highest levels are recognising that full-blown jump trails like this (or notably too, the new Hero Trail in Bright) can become real drawcards to bring travelling mountain bikers into a region. According to Darren Stewart, more trail like this are in the wings: “plans are already in place for some blue level jump trails too, that will complement what we’ve now got with Vapour Trail.” Looks like we’ll be making many trips to Canberra in the coming years then!

Stromlo Vapour Trail-04853
Up with the sun for a pretty unique shuttle to the top of Stromlo.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04860
The ultimate uplift? After all, it’s all about getting bulk air time, right?
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04885
Vapour Trail follows the first 100m or so of the downhill track, before peeling off to the right.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04957
Unmistakably Canberra.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04919
Hooking in on the upper turns.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05009
Raymond rhythms through the step-on-step-off.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05030
Getting this step-on-step-off right requires commitment, but the spacing is perfect if you’ve got the skills to carry good speed into this section.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05095
Crimmins sends his Trance into orbit.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05036
Incoming.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05109
Big wheels, big jumps, big tweak.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-9813
Rallying into classic Canberra fast, dry turns.

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9878
Stromlo Vapour Trail-9944

Video Feature: Ride High Country, The Mountain Bike Road Trip

Grab a coffee, or perhaps an ale (as that’s certainly the theme here), and settle in to watch the full Ride High Country Road Trip


There’s a lot to explore in the Victorian High Country, and so we put our minds to pulling together the road trip to end all road trips. All killer, no filler – seven destinations, each worthy of a riding holiday in its own right, all packed into a week to remember. And so off we went.

The destinations we’d mapped out for our Ride High Country road trip all lie in a pretty tight little cluster in the north-east of Victoria, and our plan was to tackle it from east to west: Falls Creek, Mt Beauty, Bright, Dinner Plain, Beechworth, Yackandandah and finally Mt Buller to wrap it up.

Have a gander below for some of our favourite moments on the Ride High Country Road Trip, and make sure you click the links through to each destination’s own editorial piece to learn more.


Falls Creek

Click here for our full Falls Creek editorial and video. 


This is what Falls Creek does best: incredible vistas. You spend a lot of time riding above the tree line, giving you views forever.
This is what Falls Creek does best: incredible vistas. You spend a lot of time riding above the tree line, giving you views forever.
Hooking into the eerie snow gums on High Voltage, on of the star trails at Falls Creek.
Hooking into the eerie snow gums on High Voltage, one of the star trails at Falls Creek.
Flow Town is the newest addition to Falls Creek, and this trail alone makes it worth the trip. Blasting into the perfect lower berms. From the end of the trail, you can jump on board the shuttle right up to the peak of the mountain and do it all again.
Flow Town is the newest addition to Falls Creek, and this trail alone makes it worth the trip. Blasting into the perfect lower berms. From the end of the trail, you can jump on board the shuttle service run by Blue Dirt Mountain Biking right up to the peak of the mountain and do it all again.

DSC00405

When the rain came down too hard in Falls Creek, we retreated to the spa at QT.
When the rain came down too hard in Falls Creek, we retreated to the spa at QT.
A fine way to end the day on the trails at Falls.
A fine way to end the day on the trails at Falls.

Mt Beauty

Click here for our full Mt Beauty editorial and video

That iconic Mt Beauty view, looking north up the Kiewa Valley.
That iconic Mt Beauty view, looking north up the Kiewa Valley.
Mt Beauty's very own World Champ, Paul Van Der Ploeg, was on hand to lead us into the wild trails of Beauty.
Mt Beauty’s very own World Champ, Paul Van Der Ploeg, was on hand to lead us into the wild trails of Beauty.
The trails of Beauty are the anti-flow-trail; 100% tech! These are old school, hand built single tracks, and you need to be committed and alert to ride them well. You can see why this place breeds some exceptional riders.
The trails of Beauty are the anti-flow-trail; 100% tech! These are old school, hand built single tracks, and you need to be committed and alert to ride them well. You can see why this place breeds some exceptional riders.
Rocky, loose, unforgiving! If you're having a bad day on Mt Beauty's trails, you're going to have a lie down or two. But when you're riding well, these trails make you feel like a ninja!
Rocky, loose, unforgiving! If you’re having a bad day on Mt Beauty’s trails, you’re going to have a lie down or two. But when you’re riding well, these trails make you feel like a ninja!
Mt Beauty is one of Australia's original mountain bike towns, the trails have been here since the 1980s... which is why team Flow donned some genuinely vintage mountain bike jerseys for the occasion.
Mt Beauty is one of Australia’s original mountain bike towns, the trails have been here since the 1980s… which is why team Flow donned some genuinely vintage mountain bike jerseys for the occasion.
Dragon's Head is one of the Big Hill MTB Park's newest trails - you won't find it on the map, it's too fresh. It's one of the trickiest trails around, but such a buzz to ride.
Dragon’s Head is one of the Big Hill MTB Park’s newest trails – you won’t find it on the map, it’s too fresh. It’s one of the trickiest trails around, but such a buzz to ride.
Lots of body language here in Beauty!
Lots of body language here in Beauty!
Mt Beauty, like most of these great High Country towns, has its own brewery - the Sweetwater Brewing Company is right in town, about 500m from the trails. Drop on in for a tasting.
Mt Beauty, like most of these great High Country towns, has its own brewery – the Sweetwater Brewing Company is right in town, about 500m from the trails. Drop on in for a tasting.
And right across the road from the brewery, you'll find the Rocky Valley Bike Cafe. Good smoothies!
And right across the road from the brewery, you’ll find the Rocky Valley Bike Cafe. Good smoothies!

Bright

Click here for our full Bright editorial and video.

Hello Bright! This town is home to one of Australia's most progressive new trails, the aptly named Hero Trail. It's a monster, and you've got to come check it out.
Hello Bright! This town is home to one of Australia’s most progressive new trails, the aptly named Hero Trail. It’s a monster, and you’ve got to come check it out.
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Lofting into the opening straight of the Hero Trail.
It should be no surprise that Bright is producing some crazy talented riders. Kaia Ellis is one of them, definitely one of the next generation of Aussie mountain bike super stars. He lives at the base of Mt Mystic and rides here everyday.
It should be no surprise that Bright is producing some crazy talented riders. Kaia Ellis is one of them. This kid is definitely one of the next generation of Aussie mountain bike super stars. He lives at the base of Mt Mystic and rides here everyday, shuttled by his dedicated (and fast) dad, Pete.
You can shuttle Mt Mystic, or there are climbing tracks too, if you'd rather earn your turns.
You can shuttle Mt Mystic, or there are climbing tracks too, if you’d rather earn your turns.
Bright Brewery is a real focal point for the town, and they're all mountain bike mad too. With a huge beer garden on the river, it's the ultimate place to wind up your day.
Bright Brewery is a real focal point for the town, and they’re all mountain bike mad too. With a huge beer garden on the river, it’s the ultimate place to wind up your day.
Bright isn't all about the Hero Trail. There's a huge network to ride on the mountain's lower slopes too, with perfect corners like this.
Bright isn’t all about the Hero Trail. There’s a huge network to ride on the mountain’s lower slopes too, with perfect corners like this.
Kaia Ellis, Phil Roubichard and Aaron Gungal.
Kaia Ellis, Phil Roubichard and Aaron Gungal.
Phil from All Terrain Cycles. Always stoked.
Phil from All Terrain Cycles. Always stoked.

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Dinner Plain

Click here for our full Dinner Plain editorial and video.

Dinner Plain is on the cusp of a mountain bike explosion. The setting is superb, and the bones of a great trail network are already in place. Big things are coming here.
Dinner Plain is on the cusp of a mountain bike explosion. The setting is superb, and the bones of a great trail network are already in place. Big things are coming here.
Local guur Karl Gray, of the DP Riders, leads us down Kenny's.
Local guru Karl Gray, of the DP Riders, leads us down Kenny’s in some perfect alpine light.
Golden alpine meadows. Take us back!
Golden alpine meadows. Take us back!
A setting to die for. Dinner Plain is extraordinarily beautiful.
A setting to die for. Dinner Plain is extraordinarily beautiful.
The Blizzard Brewing Co calls Dinner Plain home. Yes, another mountain bike town with a brewery. You couldn't make this stuff up.
The Blizzard Brewing Co calls Dinner Plain home. Yes, another mountain bike town with a brewery. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
Dinner Plain's bike rack is heavy duty.
Dinner Plain’s bike rack is heavy duty. How cool is that?!
Another golden day in the bag.
Another golden day in the bag.
Good night, Dinner Plain. See you again soon, we hope.
Good night, Dinner Plain. See you again soon, we hope.

Beechworth

For our full Beechworth editorial and video click here.

Beechworth is classic Australiana at its best.
Beechworth is classic Australiana at its best. This is bush ranger country.
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Evening razzing in the Beechworth MTB Park, just a couple of minutes from town.
Blowing out the cobwebs, and some corners, in Beechworth.
Blowing out the cobwebs, and some corners, in Beechworth.
We love the unique, rocky terrain of Beechworth.
We love the unique, rocky terrain of Beechworth.
The Don't Be a Hero Trail is a new addition in Beechworth.
The Don’t Be a Hero Trail is a new addition in Beechworth.
Away from the mountain bike park, there are loads of other trails to discover. Grab a local to unearth some gold.
Away from the mountain bike park, there are loads of other trails to discover. Grab a local to unearth some gold.
Ben Kraus, head honch of the famous Bridge Rd Brewers.
Ben Kraus, head honch of the famous Bridge Rd Brewers.

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Lock him up.
Standard Beechworth first date.

Yackandandah

For our full Yackandandah editorial and video click here.

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Yackandandah is all smooth, perfect singletrack. The kind that makes you smile.
Dropping into Skull, one of the most unique tracks in Yack.
Dropping into Skull, one of the most unique tracks in Yack.

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The Yack Tracks have some of the best signing we've ever encountered, with all the loops mapped out perfectly.
The Yack Tracks have some of the best signing we’ve ever encountered, with all the loops mapped out perfectly.
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Getting comfy at the Star Hotel.

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We loved the crew we met in Yack. Some of the most diverse and friendly folk we've had the pleasure of riding with.
We loved the crew we met in Yack. Some of the most diverse and friendly folk we’ve had the pleasure of riding with.

Mt Buller

For our full Mt Buller editorial and video, click here.

Mt Buller, last stop for us.
Mt Buller, last stop for us.
Glorious Mt Buller.
Glorious Mt Buller evenings.
Shannon Rademaker of All Terrain Cycles. Solid bloke, and a very solid rider too.
Shannon Rademaker of All Terrain Cycles. Solid bloke, and a very solid rider too.
Shannon on the charge in perfect conditions on Misty Twist.
Shannon on the charge in perfect conditions on Misty Twist.
We couldn't quite believe how good we got it in Buller. Unreal!
We couldn’t quite believe how good we got it in Buller. Unreal!

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The iconic bridges of the Delatite River Trail.
The iconic bridges of the Delatite River Trail.

Ride High Country: Dinner Plain

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Above it all.

We knew little of Dinner Plain before making the snaking drive up from Bright, and what a drive it is too, this would have to be one of the best roads in Australia, with the valleys tumbling away either side and views that go forever. The village of Dinner Plain lies just beyond Hotham, and waiting for in town was Karl Gray, head of the Dinner Plain Riders, and a DP local.

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This road was good enough to make us consider coming back with our road bikes.
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Check out the work involved in the Dinner Plain bike rack!

Karl knows he lives in a good patch: the region around Dinner Plain is eye poppingly scenic, and he rolls about 10 metres from his front door into the trails. That’s the beauty of Dinner Plain – you don’t ride to the trails, you’re in them already, they encircle the village.

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Following Karl down Kenny’s.

As we pulled into a trail called Kenny’s, savouring that kind of spectacular afternoon light that bleeds through the snow gums in such an unmistakable way, we learnt more about what’s on the cards for Dinner Plain. There’s already a solid handful of quality trails here, many of which evolved from tracks used by the local cattlemen, but the masterplan for the village is far more ambitious, with over 20km of singletrack in the pipeline. The terrain is classic Alpine, a dreamy mix of grass meadows, gnarled gums and granite, the air so clean it seems to shine.

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Popping through the high alpine grasses.
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That alpine light! Love it.

All the other key ingredients are in place already too, accommodation, restaurants and, importantly, Australia’s highest altitude brewery, the Blizzard Brewing Company, where we headed for a post-ride ale. They say the water they use in their brewing comes from pristine snow melt aquifers; maybe it was just the fact that we’d wrapped up another perfect day on the trails in paradise, but it sure tasted good.

Mick was quite fond of Blizzard Brewing Co's work.
Mick was quite fond of Blizzard Brewing Co’s work.

We’re looking forward to following the journey of Dinner Plain over the next couple of years, as we’ve got no doubt this place can cement itself a reputation as a hidden gem of Australian mountain biking. Something tells us we’ll be spending a lot more time here before too long!

For more information of Dinner Plain, or the riding across the entire Victorian High Country, head to ridehighcountry.com.au.

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Pinching Yourself – The Canyon Dream Weekender, Derby

In conjunction with Canyon Bikes Australia, we ran a competition last year, we drew the winners, booked it all in and here is how it went down. Garth from Rockhampton, QLD, got real lucky and his name came out of the hat. His mate Joel was the lucky bugger that got the invite to come along, and joining us all the way from New Zealand was National Enduro Champion, Justin Leov from the Canyon Factory Racing Team.

Canyon Australia’s Darryll Moliere had to be there to supervise, of course, and pick up the bar tab. So we had a great crew, ready to descend on the tiny town of Derby in Tasmania’s North East for a dream weekend of riding sweet trails on sweet bikes.

They see us rollin, the stealth Canyon van dripping with Canyon carbon mountain bikes.
They see us rollin into Derby, the stealth Canyon van dripping with Canyon carbon mountain bikes.
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Froth levels beginning to get very high.
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Prize winner Garth, checking out the iconic Devil Wolf trail which crosses the bare rock canyon (get it…) created after the huge dam burst upstream in 1929 sending a raging torrent into town, wiping out anything in its path.
Joel, stoked he's mates with Garth right now, scoring the invite to Derby.
Joel, stoked he’s mates with Garth right now, scoring the invite to Derby.
Justin Leov, en-route from NZ to France for his pre-season team camp was keen to punch out loads of trails.
Justin Leov, en-route from NZ to France for his pre-season team camp was keen to punch out loads of trail time.
Turns out Joel and Garth are complete shredders, coming from Rockhampton their technical trail game is strong!
Turns out Joel and Garth are complete shredders, coming from Rockhampton their technical trail game is strong!
Boosting big kickers on the new trail - Return to Sender.
Boosting big kickers on the new trail – Return to Sender.
Back to town for a sundowner debrief from a great first day riding.
Back to town for a sundowner debrief from a great first day riding.

Fresh out of the box was a pair of new Canyon Strives for the guys to ride, these things are amazing to ride with excellent suspension and versatility. We have one on long term test.

And Darryll had his Canyon Spectral with him, the smaller 140mm travel brother of the Strive. We got along with that bike quite well too, take a look here.


Branxholm pub, the epitome of home cooked pub grub and hospitality.

There is no trip to Derby without a meal at one of the iconic small town pubs like the Weldborough Hotel or Branxholm Hotel, serving up a good dose of classic Tasmanian atmosphere and a chance to meet some locals over a Little Rivers beer or two.

Carbon bikes from Germany outside a classic Tassie pub, who would have thought this would happen?
Carbon bikes from Germany outside a classic Tassie pub, who would have thought this would happen?
No shirt, no shoes, no service, nobody's watching.
No shirt, no shoes, no service, nobody’s watching.
Now that is what you call a home cooked style meal!
Now that is what you call a home cooked style meal!

Blue Tier, Weldborough Pub, Atlas with shuttles. Best day eveeeeeeeerrrr!

One pro, two temporary.
One pro, two temporary.
Yeoooo, Jussoooo!
Yeoooo, Jussoooo!
Darryll had a moment in the blissful greenery of Blue Tier, almost saw a tier on his cheek (get it...) this place does that to anyone.
Darryll had a moment in the blissful greenery of Blue Tier, almost saw a tier on his cheek (get it…) this place does that to anyone.
Thinking tree. Look at this place!!
Thinking tree. Look at this place!!
Young Matt Staggs ride a bike damn well, here he makes us feel old with his casual care-free approach to the bigger jumps on Blue Tier descent.
Young Matt Staggs our video/photo freelancer squid ride a bike damn well, here he makes us feel old with his casual care-free approach to the bigger jumps on Blue Tier descent.
This is what it's all about. A complete mind explosion of green and lush Tassie wilderness.
This is what it’s all about. A complete mind explosion of green and lush Tassie wilderness.
Yes, this is real.
Yes, this is real.
Dreamy Tasmania.
Dreamy Tasmania.
There was big tree down on the Big Chook descent. Lucky nobody got squashed. We wondered what it sounded like?
There was big old tree down on the Big Chook descent covering a big chunk of trail. Lucky nobody got squashed. But we did wonder what noise it made when it fell?
No ride down the Blue Tier is complete without a beer at the Weldborough Pub, best beer garden in the world!
No ride down the Blue Tier is complete without a beer at the Weldborough Pub, best beer garden in the world!
It was particularly hard to find a park that day too.
It was particularly hard to find a park that day too.
Craft beer from all over Tasmania on tap, now you're talking!
Craft beer from all over Tasmania on tap, now you’re talking!
Friendly legends Sam and Siofra the new-ish managers at Weldborough Hotel are there for the thirst quenching good times.
Friendly legends Sam and Siofra the new-ish managers at Weldborough Hotel are there for the thirst quenching good times.
Joel at the top of Atlas Trail, the highest point in the Derby trail network. An AMAZING descent to come.
Joel at the top of Atlas Trail, the highest point in the Derby trail network. An AMAZING descent to come.
Atlas has trail features like nowhere else, amazing rock features and really flowing yet quite challenging descents.
Atlas has trail features like nowhere else, amazing rock features and really flowing yet quite challenging descents.
Darryll squeezes his Canyon Spectral through a big leafy boulder.
Darryll squeezes his Canyon Spectral through a big leafy boulder.
Garth on the hunt for speed on the lower section.
Garth on the hunt for speed on the lower section.

One last shred, please don’t send us home!

After a run down the Bule Tier, lunch at the pub and back up the other side to Atlas you’d think the guys would have had their fill, but no. With Justin foaming for more it was time to squeeze in another shuttle up to Black Stump for one more run down Return To Sender, the unanimous favourite of the local loops.

Miles, Vertigo MTB's bike washing elf keeping the Vertigo business running efficiently.
Miles, Vertigo MTB’s bike washing elf keeping the Vertigo business running efficiently.
Berms from your dreams.
Berms from your dreams.
Matt Staggs nose-tapping away.
Matt Staggs nose-tapping away.
Getting the jumps dialled, if only the trip was for a whole week.
Getting the jumps dialled, if only the trip was for a whole week.
Dusty drifts back to town.
Dusty drifts back to town.
Traffic watch in busy Derby.
Traffic watch in busy Derby.
The gang! Joel. Garth, Justin, Mick, Buck the Shuttle Commander, and Razzle Dazzle from Canyon.
The gang! Joel. Garth, Justin, Mick, Buck the Shuttle Commander, and Razzle Dazzle from Canyon.

Now if that is not a dream weekender, we don’t know what is. Cheers to Joel and Garth for being complete legends, awesome company and great riders too. Justin Leov for taking the time out his busy pre-season schedule to join us punters on the trails, Buck and Jude, Darren and Josh, Minnie Jessop and Reuben at Vertigo MTB for the laughs, riding itinerary, and uplift shuttles. And a huge cheers to Darryll at Canyon for pulling it all together like a guru, bringing great new bikes to ride, cold beers, a rad Canyon van to cruise about it, and keeping the stoke levels high.

It sure pays to enter in a prize competition, lucky buggers!


Want more Derby?

Blue Tier:

Blue Derby’s New Trails: The Blue Tier & Big Chook

Shear Pin & 23 Stitches:

Blue Derby’s New Trail: Shear Pin & 23 Stitches

Return To Sender:

Blue Derby’s New Trails: Return to Sender & Flickety Sticks Upper

Atlas:

Must-Ride: Blue Derby, Stage 3 – World Class Tassie Trails

More more more Derby!

Must-Ride: Derby, Tasmania

Blue Derby’s New Trails: The Blue Tier & Big Chook

We’re referring to the freshly built 20km singletrack descent through the lushest, greenest, mossiest Tasmanian Wilderness you’ll ever see. Though it’s not only the beauty of the place that will get your blood pumping, it’s that incredible feeling when you lose yourself in the fuzzy flow zone as you duck and weave through a trail that’s been built with utmost care and love.

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Walk to the top of the lookout above the trailhead to give you a perspective of how much forest surrounds you. From Binalong Bay to Mt Cameron, the views are mega.

Watch video here:


Starting way up high on the Blue Tier plateau, 600m above sea level on a magnificent sub-alpine clearing where the thriving mining town Poimena once stood, you’ll see a tall timber archway signalling a dramatic beginning of a pretty exceptional experience.

Through the archway and off you go.
Through the archway and off you go into the forest.
Plenty to be excited about right here.
Plenty to be excited about right here.

Where, what, how?

The Blue Tier is a 20km predominantly descending trail about half an hours drive out of Derby towards the coast. It’s graded as an intermediate (blue grade) trails, suitable for a reasonably competent mountain biker. But for those with a penchant to ride hard, hit gaps and carry loads of speed there is a myriad of alternate lines to try, some were way over our heads, we’ll save that for next time.

The trail stays out in the open for a little while, weaving along the plateau past remnants of old mining heritage.
The trail stays out in the open for a little while in the incredibly unique sub-alpine terrain up high, weaving along the plateau past remnants of old mining heritage.
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Across crystal clear streams, lined with greenery.
The moment you burst into the dense forest, is the moment you'll most likely lose your mind.
The moment you burst into the dense forest is the moment you’ll most likely lose your mind, we did.
Enormous myrtle beech trees are like their own mini ecosystems with so much plant life growing on them.
Enormous myrtle beech trees are like mini-ecosystems with so much plant life growing on them.
The higher sections are the greenest.
The higher sections are the greenest.
The thick canopy locks together above you to lock in the moisture of the forest.
The thick canopy locks together above you to lock in the moisture of the forest.
Spot the riders.
Spot the riders.
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It’s a fast and flowing trail; it feels great to ride.
Jumping through the green room, Rhys and Ryan boosting one of the optional lines off the side of the main line.
Jumping through the green room, Rhys and Ryan boosting one of the optional lines off the side of the main line.
Warp speed.
Warp speed.
Across this incredibly lush and fresh creek crossing, park your bikes and sit to soak in the surrounds.
Across this incredibly lush and fresh creek crossing, park your bikes and sit to soak in the surrounds.
Like some forest dream, the waters are so clear and the vegetation is vibrant and dense.
Like some forest dream, the waters are so clear, and the vegetation is vibrant and dense.
Under the covers of green.
Under the covers of green.
Spot the Rue.
Spot the Rue.

The Big Chook bit.

The trail within the trail, Big Chook makes up the second half of the Blue Tier Descent with a slightly different flavour. It’s more fast paced and can be ridden a lot harder with huge berms and swooping rollers to keep up the stoke.

So, it’s a shuttle to the top followed by finishing with a hard earned break at the pub, you’re kidding me, right?

It’s best to shuttle up to the top (or ride up if you’re completely insane) with a Derby tour operator – we recommend the legends at Vertigo MTB – and finish the Blue Tier/Big Chook descent with a hard-earned break at the Weldborough Pub under the pleasant shady outdoor beer garden. The coffee is great, craft beer a-plenty and the steak sandwich will satisfy a mighty hunger.

Up the other side to Atlas.

If you’re travelling to Derby to ride, the Blue Tier and Atlas double are an absolute must, the trails closer to town are amazing, but nothing matches the feeling of shuttling up so high, descending for so long and then shuttling up again to descend back to Derby town. It’s the ultimate day out, one you’ll always remember.

Atlas is an entirely different beast, it’s longer, rougher and a whole lot rockier. Built by the similar crew from World Trail, it has worn in and matured into a super-engaging trail with oodles of line choices, and also plenty of potential to eject you off your bike if you’re not careful.

See more on the Atlas trail here – Flow Mountain Bike, Blue Derby, Atlas Trail.

Getting the feet wet with pristine Tassie water.
Getting the feet wet with pristine Tassie water.
Through the massive man ferns on the Big Chook section.
Through the huge man ferns on the Big Chook section.
A brew and a break at the Weldborough Pub.
A brew and a break at the Weldborough Pub.

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Shuttles from Welborough Pub heading up the other side to Atlas, the wilder and faster of the descents.
Shuttles from Welborough Pub heading up the other side to Atlas, the wilder and faster of the descents.

For all the information you’ll need; maps, accommodation, shuttle bookings and upcoming events head to – www.ridebluederby.com.au

Blue Derby's New Trails: The Blue Tier & Big Chook

In only a few months, this has become one of the most hyped-up, talked-about and photographed trails in Australia. Rightly so, The Blue Tier is worth every piece of fuss.

We’re referring to the freshly built 20km singletrack descent through the lushest, greenest, mossiest Tasmanian Wilderness you’ll ever see. Though it’s not only the beauty of the place that will get your blood pumping, it’s that incredible feeling when you lose yourself in the fuzzy flow zone as you duck and weave through a trail that’s been built with utmost care and love.

_LOW2056-2
Walk to the top of the lookout above the trailhead to give you a perspective of how much forest surrounds you. From Binalong Bay to Mt Cameron, the views are mega.

Watch video here:


Starting way up high on the Blue Tier plateau, 600m above sea level on a magnificent sub-alpine clearing where the thriving mining town Poimena once stood, you’ll see a tall timber archway signalling a dramatic beginning of a pretty exceptional experience.

Through the archway and off you go.
Through the archway and off you go into the forest.
Plenty to be excited about right here.
Plenty to be excited about right here.

Where, what, how?

The Blue Tier is a 20km predominantly descending trail about half an hours drive out of Derby towards the coast. It’s graded as an intermediate (blue grade) trails, suitable for a reasonably competent mountain biker. But for those with a penchant to ride hard, hit gaps and carry loads of speed there is a myriad of alternate lines to try, some were way over our heads, we’ll save that for next time.

The trail stays out in the open for a little while, weaving along the plateau past remnants of old mining heritage.
The trail stays out in the open for a little while in the incredibly unique sub-alpine terrain up high, weaving along the plateau past remnants of old mining heritage.
_LOW2127
Across crystal clear streams, lined with greenery.
The moment you burst into the dense forest, is the moment you'll most likely lose your mind.
The moment you burst into the dense forest is the moment you’ll most likely lose your mind, we did.
Enormous myrtle beech trees are like their own mini ecosystems with so much plant life growing on them.
Enormous myrtle beech trees are like mini-ecosystems with so much plant life growing on them.
The higher sections are the greenest.
The higher sections are the greenest.
The thick canopy locks together above you to lock in the moisture of the forest.
The thick canopy locks together above you to lock in the moisture of the forest.
Spot the riders.
Spot the riders.
_LOW2180
It’s a fast and flowing trail; it feels great to ride.
Jumping through the green room, Rhys and Ryan boosting one of the optional lines off the side of the main line.
Jumping through the green room, Rhys and Ryan boosting one of the optional lines off the side of the main line.
Warp speed.
Warp speed.
Across this incredibly lush and fresh creek crossing, park your bikes and sit to soak in the surrounds.
Across this incredibly lush and fresh creek crossing, park your bikes and sit to soak in the surrounds.
Like some forest dream, the waters are so clear and the vegetation is vibrant and dense.
Like some forest dream, the waters are so clear, and the vegetation is vibrant and dense.
Under the covers of green.
Under the covers of green.
Spot the Rue.
Spot the Rue.

The Big Chook bit.

The trail within the trail, Big Chook makes up the second half of the Blue Tier Descent with a slightly different flavour. It’s more fast paced and can be ridden a lot harder with huge berms and swooping rollers to keep up the stoke.

So, it’s a shuttle to the top followed by finishing with a hard earned break at the pub, you’re kidding me, right?

It’s best to shuttle up to the top (or ride up if you’re completely insane) with a Derby tour operator – we recommend the legends at Vertigo MTB – and finish the Blue Tier/Big Chook descent with a hard-earned break at the Weldborough Pub under the pleasant shady outdoor beer garden. The coffee is great, craft beer a-plenty and the steak sandwich will satisfy a mighty hunger.

Up the other side to Atlas.

If you’re travelling to Derby to ride, the Blue Tier and Atlas double are an absolute must, the trails closer to town are amazing, but nothing matches the feeling of shuttling up so high, descending for so long and then shuttling up again to descend back to Derby town. It’s the ultimate day out, one you’ll always remember.

Atlas is an entirely different beast, it’s longer, rougher and a whole lot rockier. Built by the similar crew from World Trail, it has worn in and matured into a super-engaging trail with oodles of line choices, and also plenty of potential to eject you off your bike if you’re not careful.

See more on the Atlas trail here – Flow Mountain Bike, Blue Derby, Atlas Trail.

Getting the feet wet with pristine Tassie water.
Getting the feet wet with pristine Tassie water.
Through the massive man ferns on the Big Chook section.
Through the huge man ferns on the Big Chook section.
A brew and a break at the Weldborough Pub.
A brew and a break at the Weldborough Pub.

_LOW2480-2 _LOW2481-2

Shuttles from Welborough Pub heading up the other side to Atlas, the wilder and faster of the descents.
Shuttles from Welborough Pub heading up the other side to Atlas, the wilder and faster of the descents.

For all the information you’ll need; maps, accommodation, shuttle bookings and upcoming events head to – www.ridebluederby.com.au

Hero Dirt, Heavy Mist, and Hard Racing – The Inaugural Thredbo Super Enduro

Thredbo has been a leader in Australian mountain bike events for quite a few years now, hosting multiple different races during Summer. The Cannonball Festival has been run for the past 4 years, the National Downhill Series returns year after year, NSW State Downhill and Flow events, Interschools MTB Championships and Gravity Girls – a women-specific mountain bike clinic. The Super Enduro came about to fill the gap between the single disciplines, to combine all into one race and see who could be the fastest overall.

The mist gave the race a very distinct flavour, but it never really rained!
The mist gave the race a very distinct flavour, but it never really rained!

Watch the video below.


Race Format.

The unique part of the racing format saw two options; group, or single entries. In the groups, there were three riders who each had one dedicated track to put down their times, with all three adding up into the overall rank of the group category. For the singles, riders were restricted to one single bike for the various mix of the brutal Cannonball Downhill, Kosciuszko Flow, and Thredbo All-Mountain Trails. They had to choose the middle ground between ease of descent on the downhill trail and pedalling efficiency on the all-mountain.

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Duke Millington during the misty practice day, ended up in 5th place in Pro Men’s category on Sunday.
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Visibility low, but traction levels were unheard of!
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The new upper section of the All Mountain Track, big altitude!

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Practice took place on Saturday, where the weather didn’t seem ideal from the village, but once on the trail there was nothing but hero dirt. The foggy conditions stuck around for the whole day and kept the air nice and cool and the moisture in the dirt. Nothing but enormous smiles on rider’s faces as they passed by.

What Bikes?

The majority of the field competed on all-mountain/enduro bikes, between 140-160mm of travel. This allowed them to get on the pedals for the long all-mountain trail while also taking the big hits on the downhill. A few of the younger riders were on downhill bikes while others opted for short travel xc weapons.

Patti Butler roosting the final turns near the finish.
Pat Butler roosting the final turns near the finish.

Come Sunday, the fog hadn’t lifted until halfway through racing. Almost every rider chose to start off with the all-mountain trail, aiming to put the lung-busting stage out of the way straight up. The line for the start spanned 100m down the fire road at the top of Gunbarrel Chair. This left the Flow and Downhill trails basically empty, which was great for the guys who wanted a clear track so they wouldn’t get help up.

RAce day briefing from Thredbo MTB, they know how to put on a good event with years of experience.
Race day briefing from Thredbo MTB, they know how to put on a good event with years of experience.
Chris Panozzo was the hot favourite, but fell victim to a mechanical.
Chris Panozzo was the hot favourite but fell victim to a mechanical.
Sun came out for race day, a bluebird day in Thredbo is a nice place to be.
Sun came out for race day, a bluebird day in Thredbo is a nice place to be.

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Claire Whiteman wins Open Women's in style.
Claire Whiteman wins Open Women’s in style.
Thomas Crimmins wins Open Men with younger brother Andrew in third.
Thomas Crimmins wins Open Men with younger brother Andrew in third.

Winners!

The Crimmins brothers were on form as always, with Thomas taking first and Andrew third in Elite. Between them saw Brock Newling finishing the top 3 in second place. Thomas finished with a total time of 25 minutes 54.9 seconds. In the women, Claire Whiteman took the top spot, closely followed by local Tegan Molloy and Philippa Norton.Under 19’s were taken out by Harrison Dobrowolski and Ellie Smith, with Harrison pinching the fastest time recorded on the all mountain trail.

For full results – click here.

Ride High Country: Mt Buller


Of course, you’ve got to grind out a few metres in the other direction to earn all the descending, but thankfully the human brain is awfully good at quashing the hards times from memory and elevating the good. So all you’re left with is a head full of amazing downhills.

Maybe that’s why we always think of Mt Buller so joyfully. All we can remember is railing perfect turns on Misty Twist, screaming at full-speed down the Delatite River Trail, pumping the pure rhythm of Stonefly… It’s almost too good.

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Making the trip to Buller is pretty much an annual ritual for us, but this time our visit to Mt Buller was the final stop on our mammoth Ride High Country Road Trip, a week-long journey through the Victorian north-east’s best trails.

While the other destinations we visited on our road trip are all clustered tightly, Buller stands apart, about two hours’ drive from Beechworth or Bright. But coming to this part of world and not making the trip to Mt Buller would be like not eating dessert. And no one wants to miss out on sweet, sweet dessert.

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You need a big map board when you’ve got big mountains.

To our delight, we scored Mt Buller is absolutely prime conditions. Our guide, the resolute Shannon Rademaker of All Terrain Cycles, took us straight to the best dirt on the mountain, at the recently refreshed Misty Twist. This trail has always been a favourite – it’s close enough to the village that you can squeeze it in for a quick afternoon loop, and the trail is a perfect ribbon of loam, draped through atmospheric snow gums. It links back into the fast and furious Clancy’s Run too, which is another iconic Buller fave.

That afternoon, slapping through brown berms, following the trustworthy wheel of Shannon, we locked yet another magical Buller memory away in the vault.

 

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Misty Twist at its best.

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With only limited time up our sleeves before facing the run back up the Hume to the Real World, we headed to the Delatite River Trail. If you’re looking for a uniquely Buller experience, this is it: 1000m of vertical descending, at speeds you frankly have no right to be hitting on a mountain bike!

The trail tapers out with its famous log bridge river crossings, and the icing on the cake is literally cake, in this case a brownie from awesome Mirimbah Store at the end of the trail. A quick coffee to get the brain back in order after the fury of Delatite, and it’s back up the hill on the shuttle, right to the peak of the village. You can see why saying goodbye to this place is always a rough breakup.

For more information on Mt Buller, or riding right across the Victorian High Country, head to ridehighcountry.com.au.

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No, I never want to say goodbye…
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The final stretches of Delatite.

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The Tassie MTB Road Trip: Hobart


Powered by the sprawling colossus of Blue Derby, Tassie has stormed to the front of the Australian mountain bike scene. Save your Tasmanian jokes, folks, this spot on the map is putting the rest of Australia to shame. And with the world’s attention falling on Derby for the Enduro World Series, we thought it was time to delve a little deeper and see what we could find on a circumnavigation of the state; welcome to the Tassie MTB Road Trip.

Our journey begins in Hobart, a town that will stop you in your tracks with it’s natural beauty, and with the riding to match. Cut in half by the River Derwent, and lauded over by the hulking 1000m beast of Mt Wellington, it’s a dramatic setting for some incredible riding.

One thing that grabs us about Hobart riding is how close it all is to the CBD, no other Aussie capital city can boast so many distinct trail networks this close to town. We teamed up with adopted local ripper Jaclyn Schapel for a tour of three of the best.


Meehan Range

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Clarence MTB Park is the sunset spot of choice.

On the eastern side of the river runs the Meehan range, a lumpy caterpillar of rolling hills and steep cliff lines, that’s riven with trails. It’s a tremendous mix of organic volunteer built stuff, quirky, plentiful and varied, blended with professional machine-built flow. Our time on the Meehan was spent in Clarence MTB Park, the hub of this area, and the easiest region to navigate as a newbie. We barely scratched the surface, but at least we scored a magical sunset over Hobart, with the day’s final rays bending their golden way around the black of Mt Wellington. Magic!

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South Hobart Trails

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Pride of the south.
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Mt Wellington looms over it all.

If you know much about Tasmania, you may have caught wind of the north/south rivalry, embodied in the battle between the Cascade Brewery (Hobart) and Boags up north (Launceston). With that in mind, the trails of South Hobart might just be the most parochial of all, finishing as they do right on the doorstep of the Cascade Brewery!

This rabbit warren of trails is largely off-the-radar, so to get the most out of them you’re best served by rustling up a local to ride with, doing a bit of research, or just getting amongst it and following your nose!

These trails fall in the pitching, steep folds of Mt Wellington’s lower slopes, and you find yourself plunging into deep pockets where the sunlight rarely reaches, the terrain flipping from dry gums and chunky rock, to loam and mossy decay as you slide onto the southern side of a gully.

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On the south side of the gullies, it’s real rainforest stuff.
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But on the northern slopes, it’s all rock, dust and gums. Jaclyn Schapel knows the trails well.

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Explore away, you know you’re never more than few minute’s descent from a bakery or cafe, such is the beauty of riding in Hobart. If you’re keen to extend your ride a little (ok, a lot) further, then the South Hobart network is a perfect precursor to a run down the North South Track, Hobart’s best-known trail.

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North South Track

You’ve likely heard of this one before. The North South Track was a marvel at the time of its construction, and it still holds its own; a wide-eyed, tree-dodging, moss slipping, seemingly never-ending descent, you can’t leave Hobart without a ride here.

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Rainbows, good portents for a great ride ahead.
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Check out the trail craft here!

Tracking this trail down is easy: from the mid-point of the road up the mountain, you’ll see the signposts for the North South Track. Follow them into the forest, engage your senses, and let it run! As you pick up speed, the trees seem to tighten up, the rocks whistle past your bars, pedals and derailleur, the number of “I can’t believe I got away with that” moments accumulate. And it just keeps on giving, the brief climbs or traverses offer a chance to reset your brain, but don’t switch it off, as there’s much more to come.

When you hit the open rock scree slope, make sure you take a moment to appreciate where you are and what you’re rolling over. The craft in this trail building is exquisite! Quite how the builders envisioned and massaged a way through this cascade of rubble is remarkable.

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How a path was found across this, we just don’t know.

As the trees open up and you hit the lower regions, you find yourself at the top of the Glenorchy MTB Park, the site of many a National Series race, and a whole other zone to explore. You’ve got options here, so choose your adventure, they all end up funnelling you down to the trail head below. Enjoy the moment, you’ve tamed one hell of a trail!

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Hobart, from the North South track.
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High road, low road, slippery road.

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Dropping into the upper reaches of Glenorchy MTB Park.
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Take us back. Hobart is a hard place to leave behind. Shot from the peak of Mt Wellington, 1000m up.