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