The Soapbox: Is Australian Racing Dying – A Promoter's Personal View

Is Australian racing dying? Entrants numbers at some of our country’s best events are on the decline, while the sport overall is going from strength to strength. To an outsider it doesn’t stack up, so we asked an insider for their perspective instead. Huw Kingston of Wild Horizons is a well known, long standing event promoter, whose events have been (and still are) some of the country’s biggest. Here’s his perspective on the changing events scene.


Earlier this week, Flow published a bloody excellent article by Rodney Farrell. For the last year or more I’ve been surprised the MTB media hadn’t picked up on this, so good on Flow and on Rodney for doing so. I returned home to Australia a couple of months ago from a long ‘road trip’ lasting more than a year and, whilst away, often pondered the question that Rodney has gone some way to answering (I certainly hadn’t considered the impact of Strava though – perhaps I’m too much of a Strava avoider to have been blind).

Is the clock ticking for some of Australia's longest running events?
Is the clock ticking for some of Australia’s longest running events?

I too, like Rodney am an event organiser and I think it’s fair to say Wild Horizons is amongst the longest established organisers of mass participation MTB events in Australia. Back in the mists of time, in 1997, we set off down a long trail of MTB events with our Polaris Challenge. Then – and some still now – the Urban Polaris, Highland Fling, Mountains To Beach, 3 Ring Circus, Rock&Road…..

Back in those early years we could pick any weekend we liked without having to even consider what else was going on. Now perhaps it has come full circle and you almost don’t need to consider other events as it’s almost a given there will be plenty to conflict with whatever you do.

The entertainment, the trepidation, the pain, the pleasure, the laughter, the tears, the food, the beer, the mateship, the prizes, the contribution to regional communities.

For 11 years with the Polaris Challenge we’d drag 600-700 people off to a new destination for 2 days. We didn’t even tell riders until 2 weeks beforehand where we were going! We’d take over a small village and a whole area of forest and farm, seeking out tracks and trails. We’d camp, dress up as cows or Dr Frankenfurter or worse. It opened up eyes as to places to ride; destinations.

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Are stage races the new growth area of Australian racing? Maybe, maybe not. If so, then it would buck the notion that cost is driving people away from racing, as stage races are generally not a cheap exercise.

I’ve loved witnessing the growth of the sport, the growth in events, the growth of trail networks and those MTB destinations. I’ve competed (and I use that term loosely) in hundreds here and overseas and still get a buzz from the whole event experience. As an organiser I get that same buzz from seeing riders and their families enjoying and enduring the event experience – the entertainment, the trepidation, the pain, the pleasure, the laughter, the tears, the food, the beer, the mateship, the prizes, the contribution to regional communities…….

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The market, like all markets, has and should refresh its produce. 12+ years ago it was all about 12/24 Hour racing, then 6+ years ago came the turn of the Marathons, then a flourish of Stage Races (which many media pundits said was the next ‘big thing’ but in reality, given the commitments of time and money, could never really be so). Now I have come home to Gravity Enduro in the news. This is, I think, another result of now having excellent trail networks on which to entertain ourselves.

Event entries probably peaked in 2011-2012… Since that time entries have been on a steady decline.

Event entries probably peaked in 2011-2012. How good was it to sell out a marathon in a day, stick the money in the bank, do nothing for 4 months then bang in a few signs, grab a mic and warble for a day with a town full of people? Since that time entries have been on a steady decline. Hardly a major event has bucked the trend (with few notable exceptions like the Cape to Cape). Even some of those quoted in the comments to Rodney’s articles as ‘growing’ have actually fallen markedly. Our Highland Fling had over 2200 riders in 2011 and last year was down to about 1300. Our 3 Ring Circus had over 800 in 2011 and next week will be something like 350 when we run it for the 7th and final time. As much as I love the event, eventually it becomes more sane to spend the same money on a new bike and bugger off on a road trip…….

There's  little doubt there has been tremendous growth in the social side of mountain biking. Could that be a reason for declining race numbers?
Mates going for trail ride or a road trip. Bloody good fun. But could the increase in the informal mountain bike scene be a reason for declining race numbers?

Certainly, as Rodney alluded to, there are now a vast array of destinations for people to head to; to load up the car, ride great trails, drink local beers and wines and fuel up on excellent food. But it may be worth remembering that many of these destinations came about by event promoters and clubs developing trails with a primary function of putting on events; whether local club events or bigger ones. Purely as examples the Flow Trail at Thredbo was developed in part after we showed that it was possible to create an XC line down from the Top Station of the chairlift which we did each year for our Mountains To Beach stage race. Similarly the impetus for better trails at Lake Crackenback Resort was the same event. The great trails in Wingello Forest were originally developed with the impetus of events and are of course now there for all to enjoy. This is mirrored across the country.

Of course this, in itself, is no reason for sticking with the events.

Mont 24 2014
Yes, event promoters can make good money out of a well-run event. But there are also enormous expenses and risks. Last year’s last-minute washout of the Mont 24 should highlight this pretty clearly.

Cost is absolutely a consideration in everything we do to entertain ourselves and we, as race organisers, must understand that we compete against a thousand other demands for dollars not just against some dozens of other MTB events. No-one I know has made a fortune running MTB events and I am sometimes surprised at the occasional criticism made of so called private promoters as if it is OK for big brands, big (or small) shops to sell bikes/bike bling and make a living but not for someone to offer an entertainment product where you can use that bling. And of course the more the numbers fall the harder it is to maintain the entry price – things are much cheaper in bulk and sponsors understandably start to question their contributions if numbers are decreasing. So we have just put up the entry price for the 2015 Fling for the first time since 2011, a risky strategy perhaps, but I am not interested in putting on ‘cost and corner cutting’ events. But like all businesses if we don’t give the customer want then ultimately we close the doors (and bugger off on another road trip…..)

Are riders looking for new styles of events? Perhaps with less of a racing focus, like the Melrose Fat Tyre Festival.
Are riders looking for new styles of events? Perhaps with less of a racing focus, like the Melrose Fat Tyre Festival.

Like all entertainment, we have to keep it fresh; bring in new aspects and events. Sure the way we approach our events – themes, course modifications etc hopefully does this but it has not stopped the slide. This year at the Fling we are introducing the Some Fling, a shorter distance aimed primarily at junior (13-16) racers; a gap I’d happily to admit we’ve always had between our U-12 Kids Fling, non competitive Casual Fling and minimum 16 Half Fling. This year we are also introducing The Bundy Run, a Trail Running event on the Saturday. Whilst we’re not expecting many to run Saturday and ride Sunday we do recognise that MTB events are still an 80/20 M/F split. Trail running is something approaching 50/50. So The Bundy Run gives families a better chance of something for everyone. One parent does the Trail Run on Saturday; the other the Fling on Sunday and there’s always someone to look after the kids.

I had to chuckle recently when I received an email from the local council informing me that ‘A recent economic development summit has identified the Shire as having an opportunity market itself as a cycle tourism destination.’

Rodney is right about many local regions not quite ‘getting’ the impact of MTB tourism or events. Some absolutely do; increasingly so. As a case in point, in my home shire which is also home to the Fling, the 3 Ring Circus as well as the Willo and assorted other cycling events, we have had close to zero support from our local Council or Tourism over the past decade. This when, conservatively, the events have put some ten million dollars into the local area and up towards half a million dollars have been raised by local community groups and charities. And this does not include the flow on effect of people coming to ride/stay all year round. I had to chuckle recently when I received an email from the local council informing me that ‘A recent economic development summit has identified the Shire as having an opportunity market itself as a cycle tourism destination.’ I wonder what they think has been going on this past decade? And many of my grey hairs have come from hard won battles with bureaucracies where, particularly in NSW, it is easier to say ‘No, it’s too much work for me or might adversely affect my risks’ than to say ‘Yes, what a great idea for tourism and health. Now how do we make it happen within the bounds of public safety and risk management?

The Cannonball MTB Festival in Thredbo has adopted the same approach as the Bike Buller Festival, with multiple events over one weekend.
The Cannonball MTB Festival in Thredbo has adopted the same approach as the Bike Buller Festival, with multiple events over one weekend.

  What also seems apparent is that it is not just mountain bike events that are suffering but music festivals, village shows and other outdoor activities are too.

Since coming home I’ve been talking with other event organisers, bike industry figures, riders and others like food vendors. Absolutely without doubt per event numbers are falling (your evidence was certainly not anecdotal Rodney) but it is hard to know whether it is the same number of people spread across a larger number of events. Personally I think not. What also seems apparent is that it is not just mountain bike events that are suffering but music festivals, village shows and other outdoor activities are too. Again, so much choice, so much competition for the dollar, so few weekends. Perhaps we should all be campaigning for a shorter working week with a ‘short weekend’ every Wednesday? 104 weekends a year………

It has been very interesting to see the increasing crossover of road and MTB in the last 3-4 years. It is a key reason why we introduced our Rock&Road event this year. But what I have very much noticed since I’ve been back is the number of committed mountain bikers who used to ride occasionally on the road who are now committed roadies who ride occasionally on the dirt. Why is this? Is it the profile of road cycling? Is it the reduction in the amount of maintenance, cleaning, laundry? As someone who loves the sounds and smells of the bush, loves the relative safety of mountain biking and loves being dirty, I find this surprising. And yes I do ride a roadie too.

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Giveaways/Goodie Bags are an interesting area. We try (try being the operative word) to have a strong element of sustainability in what we do. So when it comes to giving away things we really do think about the usefulness and quality of the items and the need or otherwise for a bag to put them in. So, using the Fling as an example, we have given away $20 bottles of local wine, $15 CamelBak water bottles, hydration packs, bladders, firestarter flints (well it was the Flingstones theme….), bananas (when they were $18/kilo after Cyclone Larry).

 The number of committed mountain bikers who used to ride occasionally on the road who are now committed roadies who ride occasionally on the dirt.

We have never done cheap water bottles and in 20 years have never given away T-shirts. It is a difficult balancing act and I accept that this is potentially fraught as, whilst we might lay out our sustainability credentials not everyone will support that and may avoid the event in the belief we are cheapskates. None of these giveaways are free though. It is rare these days for a sponsor to say ‘here’s 1500 widgets’ particularly if you are chasing 1500 quality widgets.

So thanks again Rodney for writing on the topic and time will continue to tell what happens to the event scene. As mountain bikers we’re lucky to have an ever increasing canvas across Australia and NZ on which to entertain ourselves – destinations, events, tours – and the bike bling to decorate them. That’s healthy.

The Soapbox: Is Australian Racing Dying?

So I thought, ‘why not get some feedback?’ Maybe it might lead to better events, in whatever format. Or maybe I’ll just be ostracised after publishing what may well be the thoughts of an idiot.

Some background: In the past I raced a lot, and I was an event organiser for two events in the Central West of New South Wales (the Ginja Ninja and the Back Yamma Bigfoot). For various reasons I don’t race a lot now and I’ve hit event organising on the head after the Ginja Ninja earlier this year. I admit, this clearly makes me a contributor to the (alleged) mass exodus from racing myself, but I’m keen to understand other people’s perspectives on why racing is on the decline.

Rodney Farrell. Ex event organiser and now infrequent racer.
Rodney Farrell. Ex event organiser and now infrequent racer.

I should add that I haven’t contacted Mountain Biking Australia (MTBA) or any other event promoters for actual figures that substantiate the claim that there has been a decline in racing numbers. But you only need to look at the anecdotal evidence to get a pretty good picture. Events that used to sell out in hours often don’t sell out at all. 24hr races that you had to scramble to get into have dropped right off. And now I see event organisers on social media almost pleading for entries, in New South Wales and further afield.

I have a few hunches on why racing numbers are down. Let’s start with the easy one: the expense.

Did events get too expensive? Were they always too expensive? Or didn’t they change with the times? Perhaps all three?

I don’t have an issue with professional event organisers making a good living or clubs making a healthy amount from an event. Having organised several events (hopefully good events) I understand the costs involved and the potential for making money and making a loss. But… has anyone else noticed the increasingly empty competitor pack? A few years ago when you signed on to an event you got the t-shirt, socks, the water bottle; I would think – that’s great, even though I didn’t really need them, it was just more to add to the collection but it served as a nice little memento from the event. Then I would come back another year and now the t-shirt wasn’t in the competitor pack. No biggie. But then when they took away the water bottle or socks, I started to think ‘what’s going on here?’ The entry fees certainly weren’t getting any cheaper.

24hr events have definitely declined in popularity. Why?
24hr events have definitely declined in popularity. Why?

Not so long ago I did a popular 100/50km marathon, I went and signed on, received a nice glossy goodie bag from a nutrition company, grabbed my number plate and wandered away. The race was fun, well-organised, great trails and I got the chocolate spoon award – 4th place. But my lingering memory is in the empty space of that goodie bag. The empty space that used to hold a drink bottle, maybe t-shirt or a pair of socks, some nutrition products, and the obligatory ‘gumpf’. This bag was now empty except for some flyers promoting the organiser’s own upcoming events. This got me thinking… I didn’t need to use a port a loo (the event set up meant that not many riders would have), I didn’t stop at the feed station (I did the 50km option) and my competitor pack didn’t have anything in it. I reckon that’s a pretty poor return on my investment!

Sure I race for fun, but I still want substance from an event. I still want to feel there’s value.

Another thought on what may be contributing to the decline is the effect of Strava. Surely I’m not the only one who thinks that it has had a huge effect on the numbers racing?

I should make my position clear, I use Strava, it collates my rides and I use it in moments of reflection. Do I ride for KOMs? Hell no, I ride for fun. That’s another article and argument I don’t want to get involved in. Of course I feel all the reasons that I have identified have their part to play and I am not sure on their apportioning, but for sure riders are Strava’ing rides, rather than racing.

My reasoning is, when the big marathons had 1500 riders there were a lot of mates there, racing each other, not the rest of the field. At the end they had their result amongst their group; their newly established pecking order, plus they could see how they stacked up against the broader community of riders. I see these same groups of mates are still riding, but now Strava’ing their rides.

They can still get their group pecking order and they can see where they stand in the grand scheme of things on Strava now, just as they once did by attending an event.

On the theme of technology, a number of handy little devices are now making it easier to find and ride trails that would have previously only been accessible during an event. Plus there are simply more great trails out there now, and they’re easier to find than ever. Events used to be a way to discover new places to ride, but that’s not such an issue any more.

What about the number of events? Could the decline in racing be contributed to by an oversupply of events? Did the calendar get suffocated? Or were there not enough events, or perhaps not enough diversity?

Gravity Enduro racing has definitely attracted new riders to racing, and probably drawn racers from other types of racing too.
Gravity Enduro racing has definitely attracted new riders to racing, and probably drawn racers from other types of racing too.

Moving forward, it looks like the racing landscape is changing. There is an influx of Gravity Enduro events which are increasingly well attended. But the number of people racing these doesn’t come close to balancing out the decline in racer numbers from the peak of marathon and 24hr racing 6-8 years ago.

It’s clear that there will be less events moving forward. Sadly from the perspective of an (ex) event organiser the dwindling numbers, coupled with a lack of support from other stakeholders (for example local council, tourism authorities) plus the red tape in regards to traffic management and the like now tips the balance against event organisation.

It’s a no-brainer than an influx of 300-400 riders and their support family/friends coming to a town for an event is hugely beneficial to the community. It’s unfortunate that local stakeholders haven’t given the events the attention or resource deserved, or fostered an environment that was conducive to running an event with minimal administrative angst.

Local councils could surely subsidise some expenses, like promotion costs or forestry fees. Then the events would have been cheaper to run, entries could have been more affordable, organisers could have offered more, the event may have been more enticing to riders.

Another option: Can we attribute the decline in racing to mountain bike tourism? I mean, who hasn’t ridden at Rotorua? (If you haven’t, do yourself a favour and ride Rotorua.) There are Aussies flying all around the world to ride now. Domestically, mountain bike tourism is going nuts – there are bunches of mates taking a week, or long weekends away, just to ride, not to race. This never used to happen.

With the proliferation of new trails and trail centres, riders have more options for travelling just to ride, rather than race, on great trails, like here in Derby.
With the proliferation of new trail centres, riders have more options for travelling just to ride, rather than race, on great trails, like here in Derby.

A few weeks ago I came across a group of five middle-aged (probably 44-55 year old) men who came through town from Queensland. Initially they drove to Thredbo, then up to Orange and on to Newcastle. They were on a drive-one-day-ride-the-next ‘Wild Hogs’ week. They all had trail bikes and whilst I’m sure they might have occasionally raced, their focus for this trip was purely fun.

In terms of the sport’s administration, perhaps they’re to blame too? It would be great to see MTBA supporting the clubs/private promoters more. Surely there’s a role for them there in streamlining the paperwork involved with event organising, liaising with the Police or Forestry on event promoters’ behalves? The last event my small crew and I organised we encountered several paper work road blocks that stalled us badly. Consequently entries opened much later than anticipated. It seems that each year the risk management bar is raised higher and unforeseen issues are raised. This is surely having an impact on event promoters’ motivation to push through the red tape.

So, party people, I ask you: why aren’t you racing?

Is it too expensive, was racing over crowded, not enough fun? Have you shifted your riding focus, or has Strava consumed you? And if you have stopped, what would make you get back into it? What do you want from racing that is not currently being offered?

 

Evolving Fatness: Why Scott Bikes went with 27.5+

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Name please! And where you’re from.

Nat Campbell, I’m the export sales manager for Scott Sports. I’m based in Switzerland, but I’m from the inner mountain region of the US – Colorado, Idaho, moved around the Rockies a bunch.

What do you miss most about that place?

Wide open trails with nobody on them! And I miss Mexican food. Though I look after the Latin-American market as well, so I get a chance to get my hit sometimes.

Do you like that raclette thing the Swiss do? 

Oh man, fondue? You’d starve in Switzerland if you weren’t into cheese. If you’re not used to it it’ll crush you. Blockagé fromage we call it.

Sheppards 2016 38
The Genius Plus is one of two plus-sized lines in the Scott range for 2016.

Now, tell us a little bit about the advent of 27.5+, from your perspective. 

Sure. A lot of people are calling it a new standard, but I see it as an evolution and an adaptation of the frames that we had yesterday for the direction that everyone was going. Everybody I ride with has been going wider with their tyres, wider with their rims for years, going as wide as the frame would accept. And now with Boost and everything else, we can continue that evolution, and allow the use of a 2.8 or 3.0 inch tyre. We can really maximise those traction benefits people have been looking for.

But in terms of all the elements coming together that were needed for us to really test the concept, that all happened quite quickly and not that long ago, back at the end of last year, when forks finally became available.

From a consumer perspective, and a media perspective too, 27.5+ seemed to come about very quickly. When did it become a serious consideration for you?

Yeah, well it takes a lot things to come together to make it work. Before you can really put the concept to the test you need the forks, the tyres, the rims. I mean there was a bit of a buzz around plus-sized bikes last year at Interbike, but they were mainly rigid bikes and obviously that’s not what where the market is. But in terms of all the elements coming together that were needed for us to really test the concept, that all happened quite quickly and not that long ago, back at the end of last year, when forks finally became available. We got a fork from FOX and then it was like, ‘now here we go!’ and we could really test the concept out and make a call.

Plus-sized forks were the final piece in the puzzle that enabled Scott to test 27.5+ and make the call to give it a run.
Plus-sized forks were the final piece in the puzzle that enabled Scott to test 27.5+ and make the call to give it a run.

In terms of your first experiences, did you come to concept with much scepticism? How did it go for you? 

I was really intrigued by the whole concept. I was thinking about it from the consumer standpoint too – would this allow a person to have a one-bike quiver? Could you run it with 27.5+ wheels for general trail riding, then have a set of lighter 29er wheels too? But then my first ride on it had a 30-minute climb in it, and what I found was that there really isn’t any extra rolling resistance compared to my usual bike, so the idea of having a second set of wheels blew out the window pretty quick. It’s just not necessary – there’s an imperceptible difference in rolling resistance. But then when you go downhill, there is just bowls of traction, huge amounts, lots of confidence.

 Stock to stock though, the Genius Plus is a few hundred grams heavier than an equivalent Genius 29, so there’s not much in it.

On my personal bike, I would normally run a heavier casing tyre, so the Genius Plus actually saved weight for me overall. If you’re someone who usually runs heavier tyres for flat prevention, you’re going to save weight and get better flat prevention with a Plus sized tyre. Stock to stock though, with the standard tyres, the Genius Plus is a few hundred grams heavier than an equivalent Genius 29, so there’s not much in it.

In terms of adapting, it took a few rides to really get the tyre pressure right too, and I think that’s something that people are going to have to get their heads around. Too much pressure and you don’t get all the benefits.

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And you have the additional bounciness of a big un-damped air spring! 

Yeah, that’s right. For me, went down as low as 1 BAR in my testing, that’s like 14psi, but ended up at around 19-20psi.

My wife was sold on the concept pretty quickly though too, which was interesting. On her first ride she was riding lines she’d never done before, just crushing it. She’d taken down a beast.

There’s definitely traction benefits, but then how light can you make the casing and still get away with it in downhill racing?There’s a lot of testing to go there.

Scott have two quite different 27.5+ bikes, with the Scale Plus hardtail and the Genius Plus. Do you see 27.5+ being adopted across the whole spectrum of bike categories, or just some areas?

On paper the Scale and Genius Plus are very different bikes, a hardtail and a 140mm trail bike. But the Scale Plus is definitely designed as a trail bike, even though it is a hardtail, it’s got a 120mm fork, it’s designed to be ridden aggressively. The way I see it, every bike, every tyre choice, every suspension choice – they all come with certain benefits and compromises. It’s about matching the options to your riding and your trails.

Can you see Plus-sized format going to downhill? 

I mean it’s definitely being talked about by a few people, though perhaps not broadly yet. There’s a lot to be explored; what are the limits of the tyre? There’s definitely traction benefits, but then how light can you make the casing and still get away with it in downhill racing? What will the tyre weights be if there is a need to go to heavier casings? There’s a lot of testing to go there.

We hear a lot of people telling us that we don’t need this in mountain biking. Obviously we hear this a lot – anything new, we don’t need it – but particularly with 27.5+ because it seems to have come about in a real hurry, suddenly it’s everywhere. What would you say to people who say ‘we don’t need this’?

Maybe they don’t! But I would encourage them to try it. I haven’t talked to anyone who has ridden it who really knew what it’d be like when they first got on. Maybe they’ll love it, maybe they’ll want to stay with where they’re at, but you should try it first.

 

 

 

 

 

Got Wildside in Your Sights?

The RACT Wildside MTB is a must-do event for Australian mountain bikers. Why? It’s all about the unforgettable journey, the unique Tasmanian landscape and the wild trails that you race over. There’s no other race out there that gives you access to these parts of Australia. Wildside feature 6

Day 1 begins high up in the grasslands of Cradle Mountain National Park. If the sometimes temperamental Tassie weather gods allow it, you’ll be able to see Cradle Mountain itself. The day’s second stage takes you to Que River, and through the remnants of the mining operations that once dominated the economy here.   Wildside feature 20 Day 2 is a wilder affair, beginning with an incredible up-and-over on the Stirling Valley stage. The rooty singletrack descent into Roseby is a real highlight – it’s definitely one of the faster, wilder bits of trail we’ve ever ridden in cross country race! The day’s second stage through Montezuma Falls, is perhaps the most iconic part of the race with its elevated swing bridge high above the falls and the valley below. The stage finishes with 10km of awesome, undulating descending along ancient tramways into Melba Flats before rolling into the pub at Zeehan.

Wildside feature 2
The famous Montezuma Falls swing bridge.

Day 3 is an awesome journey in its own right. The day kicks off with an paired 6km time trial around Zeehan, just to get your heart started, before a long neutral cruise stage towards the stunning, untamed coastline at Trial Harbour. This tiny little township is the starting point for the day’s second stage, our personal favourite of the whole race. The 22km run from Trial Harbour to Granville Harbour is amazing mountain biking – fast, rough, and with amazing natural rhythm. The setting is spectacular too, with the pounding surf off to your left and towering peaks to your right. An unforgettable day on the bike.

Wildside feature 11
Wildside feature 12 The Trial Harbour stage takes place mainly on stark white granite-based fireroads, which form incredible shapes to play with.

The fourth and final day of Wildside is a glorious finish. At 36km, it’s the shortest day of the race, which leaves plenty of time at the end of the racing to soak up the awesome vibes of Strahan with a few lagers and some fish and chips on the harbour dock. After some fast, sandy forest riding, you hit the iconic hammerfest down Ocean Beach, which is a seriously exciting way to cap it all off, swapping turns at high speed. Just pray for a friendly tide and a tail wind, as your legs will want all the help they can get with 200km already under your belt!

Recovery: How to Recharge During a Stage Race

We caught up with Dean after Stage 1 of this year’s Port to Port MTB and asked him all about the best strategies for recovery, so you can back up to race day after day.


You’ve just done your first stage, you’ve come out of the gates super hard, and now you’ve got another three days to go – what should you be doing to recover properly?

The thing is with stage racing, it ‘s not like one day race – the key to backing up each day is ensuring you get those carbohydrate stores built back up. Now there’s an optimal window of about 15 minutes to half an hour after you finish racing, before your body starts to go into what I call scavenger mode. That’s the time in which you need to be looking to get your carbohydrate stores topped up, so your body doesn’t go into scavenger mode. Because it’s not a huge time window, you should aim to have your food pre-made, ready to go as soon as you get back.

It’s an all-day thing, if you think ‘I won’t each too much so I feel lighter for the racing tomorrow’, you’re fooling yourself. The more you eat, the more carbs you’ll have for later in the race. If you starve yourself during the race, you need to get it back in. Don’t fool yourself – getting plenty of carbs in right after the stage is the key.

Dean Clark TORQ 3

And what kind of things people be eating, and how should they take it on? 

You’ve got two main options, either a specifically made recovery product or ‘regular’ food. Proper recovery products which are mixed with water, in a shake form, in which the serving size is based on your weight, are going to allow you to digest and absorb the carbs quicker. With regular food, it is harder to make sure you’re getting enough carbs and protein, which is were a formulated recovery drink helps.

If for instance, you don’t have the opportunity to eat straight away, what should you do?

Oh look, of course getting the carbs on board later is still much better than not eating at all. But really, you need to build these habits in training. It’s like drinking on the bike – if you’re not doing it in training or in your regular riding, you just forget about it. It has to become part of your routine. In some ways, making sure you eat for recovery is like preventative medicine – if you put in all that hard work and you don’t get recovery food on board, your body starts to strip from itself, your immune system suffers and you get sick.

What you need to stay away from is anything that has a high fat content – cheesey pizza, battered foods… it blocks your system.

What about the physical side? A lot of people talk about a cool down – is that important? 

Yes, absolutely. Once you’ve got your food in, you should try to have a roll around, let your heart rate come down, and get that lactic out of your legs. Don’t just have a sit on the floor and think ‘ I’ll feel better later’, because you won’t!

Dean Clark TORQ 4
“Love lifts us up where we belong…” Come on, Dean, join me for the chorus.

Obviously a lot of people will head to the pub for dinner, have a big meal and a beer or two. Is that ok? Should you be having a big meal?

Look, it is ok, it’s beneficial to have a big meal. But what you need to stay away from is anything that has a high fat content – cheesey pizza, battered foods – because what that fat does is actually slow down the carb delivery. So if you go out after a stage and have a massive pasta but drown it in cheese, then it doesn’t really matter what you eat tomorrow, because all that fat from the cheese has actually blocked your system, because your body is trying to process the fat. So the less fatty stuff you have, the quicker the carbs will be delivered to your working muscle. That’s the key with your evening meals.

Beer is ok, but it has quite a high fat content – you’re probably better off with wine actually.

Tasmin TORQ

So what will your team be eating tonight? 

A pasta dish, or some kind of stirf ry with rice and veggies. And then try and get the head down early.

How important is sleep? 

A lot of us like to think we’re invincible and we don’t need much sleep, but unfortunately we’re not. The more sleep you can get, the better, particularly in stage racing. Maybe not on the second day, but by the fourth day it’ll really take a toll.

And finally, is beer an effective way to take on carbs?

Ha, for me or you, yes! Beer is ok, but it has quite a high fat content – you’re probably better off with wine actually, it has hardly any fat and it has a lot of anti-oxidants that are good for you. Still, one or two is fine, we’re all here for fun at the end of the day.

 

 

The Soapbox: It’s OK to Take Winter Off

I spent a good deal of this morning arguing with myself over whether I should go for a ride. On the plus side, if I went out I’d get to ride my bike. On the down side, it’s cold, the trails are wet, and I’m just not feeling it. And I have to ask myself, why am I struggling so much? Why can’t I accept that I really just don’t want to go?

For most of us, mountain biking is more than a sport. It’s not like jogging or going to the gym. It’s a way of life, something that makes life more meaningful. It’s fun, it’s absorbing, and it’s something to fantasise about when you’re not doing it. But with all of that comes a sense of obligation. If we’re that into something, surely we should be devoting more of our time to it, surely we should be getting out there whenever we can, no matter what the weather, or how we’re feeling. If we’re not suffering for our riding, are we even real mountain bikers?

winter riding 1

 If we’re not suffering for our riding, are we even real mountain bikers?

And sure, there’s the “man (or woman)-up” argument. What’s a little cold or mud after all? But let’s face it – if mountain biking is about optimal experience, why should we accept a sub-par ride (or a whole season of them)? Psychologically, the major benefits of mountain biking come from the quality of the experience: the fun, the social interaction, the challenge, the skills development, the outdoor environment… And sure, some people love riding in adverse conditions, so they can still achieve all of these benefits over winter. But many don’t – for them wet, cold, and mud just isn’t what mountain biking’s about. And if you’re not getting the usual benefits that mountain biking offers you, if riding becomes stressful and unpleasant, if you have to battle with yourself to get out the door, then why are you doing it?

So I’m going to make a radical suggestion: if you’re not feeling it, why not take a break from mountain biking over the winter?

There are plenty of technical reasons to take a break over winter: it’s better for the trails (trail builders hate it when you trash their lovely trails by riding on them when they’re wet or muddy), it’s better for your bike (no more worn components), and you’ll spend a lot less time cleaning and maintaining your machine. Most importantly, though, you get to take a bit of time off your bike when it’s not as fun. It’s a chance to miss your riding, to appreciate your local trails, and to look forward to something. It’s a chance to not have to beat yourself up because you’re not a “real mountain biker”.

If you’re serious about your riding, winter doesn’t mean that you need to take a break from training. In fact, it’s the perfect chance to do something different.

If you’re serious about your riding, winter doesn’t mean that you need to take a break from training. In fact, it’s the perfect chance to do something different. Cold-weather running can be great (it’s even better with a dog). Training on a spin bike, turbo trainer, or rollers, or getting out on the road bike is different, and a great challenge (especially for your endurance). Likewise, working on your core-strength in the gym will really help once you get back on the trails. Psychologically, cross-training will give you a different perspective on your usual training, and taking a holiday from your mountain bike can help increase your performance by introducing some fresh challenges and perspectives.

winter riding

So instead of beating yourself up, and forcing yourself to do something that you’re just not loving, give yourself permission to take a break. Lighten up on yourself for not forcing yourself to suffer for your sport. You’ll feel better for it, and you might just enjoy your mountain biking more when you pick it up in the spring.

After all, isn’t loving it what mountain biking’s all about?

 

About the author:

Dr. Jeremy Adams 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 how to be human (www.eclectic-moose.com).

Jeremy is based in Melbourne and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com) or on (03) 9016 0306.

The Soapbox: It's OK to Take Winter Off

Seriously, it’s OK not to ride your bike over winter…

I spent a good deal of this morning arguing with myself over whether I should go for a ride. On the plus side, if I went out I’d get to ride my bike. On the down side, it’s cold, the trails are wet, and I’m just not feeling it. And I have to ask myself, why am I struggling so much? Why can’t I accept that I really just don’t want to go?

For most of us, mountain biking is more than a sport. It’s not like jogging or going to the gym. It’s a way of life, something that makes life more meaningful. It’s fun, it’s absorbing, and it’s something to fantasise about when you’re not doing it. But with all of that comes a sense of obligation. If we’re that into something, surely we should be devoting more of our time to it, surely we should be getting out there whenever we can, no matter what the weather, or how we’re feeling. If we’re not suffering for our riding, are we even real mountain bikers?

winter riding 1

 If we’re not suffering for our riding, are we even real mountain bikers?

And sure, there’s the “man (or woman)-up” argument. What’s a little cold or mud after all? But let’s face it – if mountain biking is about optimal experience, why should we accept a sub-par ride (or a whole season of them)? Psychologically, the major benefits of mountain biking come from the quality of the experience: the fun, the social interaction, the challenge, the skills development, the outdoor environment… And sure, some people love riding in adverse conditions, so they can still achieve all of these benefits over winter. But many don’t – for them wet, cold, and mud just isn’t what mountain biking’s about. And if you’re not getting the usual benefits that mountain biking offers you, if riding becomes stressful and unpleasant, if you have to battle with yourself to get out the door, then why are you doing it?

So I’m going to make a radical suggestion: if you’re not feeling it, why not take a break from mountain biking over the winter?

There are plenty of technical reasons to take a break over winter: it’s better for the trails (trail builders hate it when you trash their lovely trails by riding on them when they’re wet or muddy), it’s better for your bike (no more worn components), and you’ll spend a lot less time cleaning and maintaining your machine. Most importantly, though, you get to take a bit of time off your bike when it’s not as fun. It’s a chance to miss your riding, to appreciate your local trails, and to look forward to something. It’s a chance to not have to beat yourself up because you’re not a “real mountain biker”.

If you’re serious about your riding, winter doesn’t mean that you need to take a break from training. In fact, it’s the perfect chance to do something different.

If you’re serious about your riding, winter doesn’t mean that you need to take a break from training. In fact, it’s the perfect chance to do something different. Cold-weather running can be great (it’s even better with a dog). Training on a spin bike, turbo trainer, or rollers, or getting out on the road bike is different, and a great challenge (especially for your endurance). Likewise, working on your core-strength in the gym will really help once you get back on the trails. Psychologically, cross-training will give you a different perspective on your usual training, and taking a holiday from your mountain bike can help increase your performance by introducing some fresh challenges and perspectives.

winter riding

So instead of beating yourself up, and forcing yourself to do something that you’re just not loving, give yourself permission to take a break. Lighten up on yourself for not forcing yourself to suffer for your sport. You’ll feel better for it, and you might just enjoy your mountain biking more when you pick it up in the spring.

After all, isn’t loving it what mountain biking’s all about?

 

About the author:

Dr. Jeremy Adams 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 how to be human (www.eclectic-moose.com).

Jeremy is based in Melbourne and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com) or on (03) 9016 0306.

Rotorua’s Latest & Greatest – Kung Fu Walrus

Freshly cut in the glorious dirt by savvy locals, sculpted by hand only with a strong nod to the enduro race crowd, Kung Fu Walrus is a 1.4km wild descent with already a big reputation for challenging all levels of riders! It’s a tricky grade 4 track that requires very little pedalling, but a whole lot of skill to ride fast.

Kung Fu Walrus descends from Bush Road to Tikitapu Road, and with plans for an extension to take the trail a little further to the shores of Lake Rotokakahi, incorporating this fun descent into a loop with other trails will be super.

The narrow, root-riddled and off camber run sets apart from the predictable and buff trails that dominate the Rotorua trail network, so it has quickly become a favourite with the speedy crew in town.

Flow met up with one of Rotorua’s fastest enduro guns, Mathew Hunt on his tricked out Yeti SB6 for a guided tour. Fresh off the back of winning the amateur category at the Giant Toa Enduro, round 2 of the Enduro World Series, Mathew’s local knowledge paired with raw power and speed looked to have paid off for him that day.


Be sure not to miss the other two wonderful trails in this series. Rotorua’s Latest & Greatest: Eagle vs Shark and Rainbow Mountain.

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I ride it because it’s fast and fun. It has a very different feel and character to most of the other tracks in the forest. Quite a challenging trail to go fast on due to its off-camber nature, so you are constantly fighting to stay on a high line.

With killer views over Rotorua’s spectacular Lake Rotokakahi (Green Lake), it’s worth taking the quick detour to the lookout. Grab your bearings, see the lie of the land and point out where you want to wash the mud off at the placid lake below.

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I like how it uses a different part of the forest to the other trails, and if you are wanting to do a longer ride there is a fairly decent climb out from the end! The trail finishes on the opposite side of the forest so it requires a certain level of commitment and motivation to do, it doesn’t get ridden as frequently as many of the other trails, keeping it in good condition.

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It differs to the more popular trails in the Redwoods because it’s built by hand, giving it a tight and more natural feel. Situated on a south facing hill it doesn’t get much sunshine, so it can often be damp and greasy, so watch out for the amazingly slippery tree roots!

It is a bit tighter, rougher than the machine-built trails, requiring the rider to pump the ground and carry speed as much as you can, there aren’t too many opportunities to pedal.

There are several high speed jumps and drops, with pretty technical corners thrown into the mix. It’s always challenging and it never gets boring.

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Mathew ruled the trail, like only a local could. His unique style would blur the lines of finesse and brawn, making light work of the slippery conditions.

Racing ‘Kung Fu’ in the EWS was tricky! You had to stay very focussed, even though it was one of the shortest stages of the day it is still quite exhausting.

There aren’t really any sections where you get to relax at all. You’re always fighting not to slip down the side of the track because of the off camber line, and because it’s damp and greasy you are having to stay as light as possible on the bike to avoid wiping out on the roots.

Finishing up by the gorgeous lakes, it’d be rude not to take a look around. Or ride over to Blue Lake (yes, it’s blue), these old collapsed volcano craters are absolutely beautiful.

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Directions to Kung Fu Walrus: I want to shred.

For all mountain bike trail maps and info, all you need is here: www.riderotorua.com

Bike Check: Three Fast 29ers from Port to Port MTB

Andy Blair’s Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper 29 World Cup.

Coming into Port to Port MTB as the defending champion, and a veteran of countless marathons, Andy Blair’s setup is a well-dialled XCM muncher.

P2P Bikes Checks 16

Position: Given how long this man has been racing cross country, it’s no surprise that Blair’s setup is of the traditional XC mould, with an aggressively dumped front end putting putting loads of weight over the front for steep climbs, hooking singletrack and aero performance. “I’m a bit old school I guess, I like a big drop,” says Blair. “I actually prefer it on the descents too, it’s not a big compromise for me.” A veritable praying mantis of a man, Blair’s bike looks even more aggressive thanks to the epic amounts of seatpost (the exact same height as his road bike), which also adds a bit of compliance.

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Blair likes the look, performance and knee-friendly nature of Gripshift.

His bars are 660mm wide. “Wider feels nice, but at a big race, especially like a World Cup, narrow bars really help you navigate through a big field.” He also feels that a narrow bar requires less focus in tight trees, which can make a difference in terms of fatigue over a marathon.

Drivetrain: Blair’s SRAM XX1 drivetrain is operated by a Gripshift shifter, which puts him at odds with the majority of the field. Gripshift has dropped in popularity lately, especially with the advent of single-ring drivetrains, but Blair’s a fan. It’s not just the performance he likes, but also the fact a Gripshift shifter won’t pulverise your knee if you happen to slam it with your knee! “Even if you only slip a gear and smash your knee once a year, I think it’s worth running Gripshift just so you can avoid it,” says Blair. It’s got to be said, it looks super clean too, especially with the Rockshox SID/Brain fork which doesn’t need a handlebar mounted lockout.

Fork: Blair’s SID has been modified to give him 100mm of travel, rather than the stock 90mm, with a new air spring. He also makes sure his preferred air pressure is marked on the side of the fork too, so if he has to get the fork serviced between race stages, it’s simple to get it setup correctly again. Blair always runs his fork’s ‘Brain’ damper fully on, and rarely adjusts the sensitivity. “That’s the good thing about it, you never need to switch it on or off,” say Blair, “because even though it’s firm when you’re out of the saddle, it blows through as soon as it hits a bump.”

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Everything you need to keep rolling, all in one place (except for a sandwich).

SWAT’s in the box: “I’m totally sold on it,” says Blair of the SWAT box. “I never need to think about moving my spares from jersey to jersey, they’re always with the bike.” In his SWAT box, Blair keeps a tube, a hanger, tyre lever, C02 and plugs for his Sahmurai Sword tyre plugs.

Sahmurai Sword plugs: A little something that Blair picked up while racing the Cape Epic, the Sahmurai Sword (named after their inventor, Stefan Sahm) tubeless tyre plugs will repair a hole in a tubeless tyre that might otherwise require require a tube to be installed. First you ream out the hole, then you insert the plug, hopefully before too much pressure has escaped.


 

Dylan Cooper’s Trek Superfly 100

We’ve always liked Dylan Cooper’s style on a bike. He may be ‘trad’ XC kind of guy, but he attacks the descents like a mad man.

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The Trek team paint jobs are pretty slick.

Normally a hardtail rider by choice, he’s recently switched to Trek’s 100mm-travel Superfly 100 for much of his racing. “She’s a fair weapon of a bike,” he says of his XTR Di2 equipped machine. “I’m a full hardtail, It’s the first dual suspension bike I’ve had that feels as efficient as a hardtail,” he explains of his decision to ride a dually, “it’s really active and smooth, but I don’t feel like I’m giving away any power. It’s the best of both worlds.”

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Plenty of room on that outrigger to put your Garmin!

Position: Like Blair, Cooper is happy to admit that he’s old school. Narrow bars and a slammed, long stem are the order of the day. “It’s the length of the stem more than the drop that probably makes it look unusual,” says Cooper, of his 120mm stem. Whereas with Blair, the drop from saddle to bar is pronounced, because of the Trek’s longer head tube and Cooper’s shorter build, the position isn’t quite as extreme as found on Blairy’s bike. Nonetheless, it’s a pretty front heavy riding position.

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Cooper has configured his Di2 drivetrain just how he likes it. That’s the beauty of this system – it’s totally customisable.

Drivetrain: Cooper is running Shimano new XTR Di2 drivetrain in a 2×11 configuration, and he’s taken advantage of the system’s Synchro Shift mode to run one shifter for both front and rear shifting. “I swapped the shift paddles around from the standard configuration,” Cooper says, “and I also customised the shift patterns too.” Cooper has configured his shifting patterns so the front derailleur shifts the chain to the small ring earlier, to maintain a better chain line and avoid the ‘big/big’ combo. Cooper runs the shift speed on its maximum speed.

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The stock paddle arrangement has been reversed, so the top paddle up-shifts, the bottom downshifts.

Suspension: We probably wouldn’t advise it (we’re big believers in having the recommended amount of suspension sag) but Cooper runs his suspension super firm. “It’s pretty hard, I have about 220psi in the rear shock and 110psi front,” says Cooper, “but it feels good to me. Most of the time I run it in the middle Trail setting. Even though it’s a duallie, I still like to ride the forks more, even on a steep descent, which is why the firm pressure in the forks works.”


 

Mark Tupalski’s Merida Big Nine Team

Tupac, as he’s known, is a real diesel engine of a rider. Unstoppable, reliable and built to go the distance. He’s not a flashy rider, and his bike is similarly purposeful.

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Slurping on a recovery drink after winning stage one of Port to Port.

Setup: Compared to the super aggressive position of Cooper or Blair, there’s comparatively little drop between saddle and bar on Tupac’s bike. “I’m a sausage dog,” he laughs, “my legs are really pretty short for my torso.” Not being low over the front doesn’t seem to inhibit his climbing of course; being comfortable will ultimately be advantageous for most riders, especially in a marathon or multi-day scenario. For a more in-depth discussion of comfort vs performance, take a look at our interview here.

Drivetrain: Tupac’s another SRAM XX1 user. He runs a 34 tooth chain ring, and having spent some time following the lead bunch in a media car during the Port to Port race, we saw that other riders running a 32-tooth chain ring were often on the point of spinning out.

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Four Bottomless tokens let Tupac run the pressure quite low for a smoother small bump response. As you can see, he still gets full travel.

Suspension: Tupac runs RockShox’s RS-1 inverted, carbon bodied fork. He’s tweaked the setup too, to get a more supple ride. “I found that at first with the recommended pressures I didn’t feel how I wanted it,” says Tupac, “so I’ve installed four Bottomless Tokens and dropped the pressure.” This gives the fork a more supple beginning stroke, but with much more ramp-up deep in the stroke to avoid bottom out.

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Pioneer sound system. And power meter.
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Cheapskate’s saddle bag!

Extras: Power meters are becoming a bigger and bigger part of mountain biking racing, they’re no longer just a tool for the road. Tupac uses a Pioneer system which we’ve never seen before, but apparently is gaining a bit of traction on the road. The homemade looking contraption hanging beneath the saddle is literally that, homemade. “I’m too much of a tight arse to buy a saddle bag!” laughs Tupac. “So I made this one out of old headset spacers and Velcro from Bunnings.”

 

The Josh Carlson Experience: EWS, Round 3, Scotland

Throughout the 2015 Enduro World Series we’ll be bringing you an insider’s perspective of Josh’s performance. For this unique series, we’ve teamed up with Today’s Plan, an Australian training tools provider, who work with Josh to analyse his training and monitor his performance. (Check out our first impressions of Today’s Plan here).


, during the Tweedlove Enduro, Peebles Scotland. EWS#3
The fans came out in droves to line the muddy trails. Josh in lightweight mode on the second day of racing.

Congratulations! You’re racking up good results like a mad man!

Thanks, it was good. Yeah, there’s always stuff to improve on. I definitely put together more good stages than in the last race, but when I look back at the GoPro footage all I can see is me bleeding seconds! Wrong gear here, or where I stuffed up a corner here, I was a bit disappointed. But to come away with ninth is great, and it’s good be competitive, it’s good to be consistent.

And those are bad habits that I’ve got, bad habits that have cost me a lot more in the past than just a few thorns in my arse.

I guess hindsight is a miserable bitch. When you see how tight the times are and you look at the little mistakes, you just realise what your result could have been. Especially if I look back to Ireland – the stupid little things cost you so much time. I mean, there was no reason in Ireland for me to have that first crash, I didn’t need to go 67km/h down that goat track, I could have wiped off two seconds on that straight and made up 15 seconds on the whole stage. And those are bad habits that I’ve got, bad habits that have cost me a lot more in the past than just a few thorns in my arse.

But at least now I feel like I know the speed it takes to be up there. And my plan this year isn’t to go out there and smoke everyone, it’s to be consistent and smooth, and be sustainably competitive.

Weather came into play in Scotland – what’s it like racing in those horrible conditions?

You’ve got to relax. You can’t get stressed about it because you can’t control it – all you can control is what you’re doing, your attitude. Being wet is definitely annoying, but focusing on it achieves nothing.

And man, there was shit flying everywhere! It was like raining from the ground up, it was hilarious.

Stage 5 in Scotland was absolutely diabolical. It was one of the gnarliest, wettest, most rutted riding I’ve ever done. Further down the stage the ruts were bottom bracket deep, you couldn’t take a foot out of your pedal, because as soon as your other foot dropped down it would jam into the rut and it was like a rodeo, like you’d slapped that bull on the arse and it was go time! Your wheels are stuck, your foot’s full of mud, you’re sliding down the hill… it was actually pretty funny, fishing the stage you’re like ‘what the hell just happened?’

, during the Tweedlove Enduro, Peebles Scotland. EWS#3

It was so muddy on that stage that we took off our mud guards. A few amateurs who’d been down ahead of us said ‘take that mud guard off or your wheels won’t turn in stage 5’, but usually the trails are vastly different when we ride them because another 200 riders have been down the track. But then when we saw Brosnan and Ropelato and Curtis Keene all saying the same thing, and it was like this weird panic going around the top 20 riders, everyone was ripping their fenders off! And man, there was shit flying everywhere! It was like raining from the ground up, it was hilarious.


Take a closer look at Josh’s performance, stage by stage, in Scotland. Use the menus on the right to switch between the various stages and to control playback speed. Keep an eye on his heart rate throughout – he might be primarily descending, but his efforts are through the roof. Powered by Today’s Plan


Now in most of the photos I see of you, you’re riding without a pack. What gear do you carry, and how do you stash it?

Yep, I try to get away without a pack if it’s at all possible. Normally I’ll wear a cross-country jersey under my race jersey, and just stash everything in the pockets. It all comes down to water; if you’re never more than an hour or two from a feed station, I can get by with one bottle and a few bars and stuff. And then I’ll take a tube, pump, two CO2 canisters, a multi-tool with a quick-link, a hanger, some tape and a cable attached to it. And for Scotland, because of the mud, I took a little pack of rags and a spare pair of gloves too.

Sometimes you’re in an open face, sometimes a full face. Are there rules, or is it up to you?

Unless the rules stipulate you have to wear a full face, I’ll make a call and commit to one helmet or the other for the whole day. The times that I have tried taking both, I’ve ended up getting my helmet caugh on trees. So as much of an annoyance as it is, if I’m running a full face, I’ll run it all day. I’ll take the cheek pads out on the climbs and even if it’s a bit annoying, I just deal with it. A full face definitely gives you more confidence to go fast.

In Scotland, the second day lent itself to a lighter setup, so I ran an open face helmet. I also changed my tyres to lighter casings (Snake Skins, not Super Gravity tyres), ran an air shock not the coil shock, and changed my shoes to a stiffer more XC style shoe. Pretty simple changes, but they made a big difference.

, during the Tweedlove Enduro, Peebles Scotland. EWS#3
If he can avoid it, Josh will ride without a pack, stashing all his spares in an XC jersey under his race jersey.

There are obviously a lot of different ways that Enduro races can be run, with plenty of different formats. Do you see any consolidation happening there, and do you have a preference? 

My preference is definitely for the Ireland and Scotland style format where you get to practice the tracks. If I can get a couple of runs in, I feel a lot more confident. I guess the blind racing is a skill I’ve never really encountered but I’m having to learn it! I don’t think they will consolidate to one particular format; I think one of things that makes the EWS so appealing is that it’s not just catered to one style of rider – racing those French races, the blind races, is so different because you have to be so sharp and aware.

Do you get at least some kind of look at the track?

Yes, you get one roll down, but it’s a once-over look at a 15-17 minute track, and then you literally have 20 minutes till you go up to race it. So the amount you’re going to remember of a 15 minute track with one roll down is not much. And you don’t even get a chance to really think about it or watch back your GoPro footage, because you normally have only 15 or 20 minutes till you’re heading back up, and if you’ve got a mechanical, or you’ve got to eat or something, that 20 minutes evaporates pretty fast.

As I said, my preference is for the races where you get a couple of days practice, and I like to try to get two runs on each stage, even though it does mean they’re very big days. In the two weeks that we raced over there, I had almost 40 hours of riding within 12 days, which is a lot to deal with. My team mate Yoann, he went for a different approach, he did only one practice run of each stage so he’d be fresher for race day, because he think he’s faster that way.

When you do hit a piece of singletrack it’s some skinny goat herder track littered with loose rock – it feels like you’re riding a tightrope.

But when we head to France, it’s a different world over there. A lot of time there aren’t even trails – it’s just a bunted section through the grass and shrubs and woods down a 2500 metre high alp. At the end of the weekend it’s the sickest track you’ll ever ride, but at the start of the weekend it’s just wild grass. And when you do hit a piece of singletrack it’s some skinny goat herder track littered with loose rock – it feels like you’re riding a tightrope. I mean, it’s nothing like we do in Australia, and the first time I rode in France like that, I went away in an ambulance.

How are you going to approach it then so you don’t overcook it? 

You just can’t go 100%. Every time you think, ‘it’s just a grassy slope, I’m not going to touch the brakes,’ you need to say ‘hold on a second – why do that?’. The two seconds you might possibly gain by taking that huge risk aren’t going to make the real difference over 15 minutes, what makes a difference is your raw skill, the tools in your tool box, the basics. You see the guys like Jared and Jerome, it’s all about the full skill set – Jared will win in Whistler, and he’ll win in France, Jerome’s the same, winning in Chile and then in Rotorua, completely different conditions.

Then you’ve got a guy like Nico Voullioz who has won 14 World Championships – I haven’t even done 14 international races yet, let alone win one!

_MG_2522

Enduro isn’t like downhill – lots of guys in their 30s, even their late 30s, are doing seriously well – that must give you a lot of confidence still being young that you can have a healthy, long career in the sport.

It does make me feel good to see that the guys who are winning a lot now, like Graves, Leov and Clementz are a few years older. At the same time, compared to those guys, I still feel like I’m a 21 year old rookie! They’ve got so much experience. I remember taking a chairlift was Graves in Whistler last year and he was talking about winning his first National Championship when he turned to downhill after racing XC, and he was 19. That was like 12 or 13 years ago, and he was racing and winning National Champs! Then you’ve got a guy like Nico Voullioz who has won 14 World Championships – I haven’t even done 14 international races yet, let alone win one! 14 World Championships! So on one hand it forces me to realise where I am and what I’ve come to, and that’s a good feeling, but on the other hand it’s a little bit daunting. These guys are winning Enduros for a reason. But on the other hand you’ve got guys like Greg Callaghan who is killing it, first year pro getting podiums. But it does give me confidence to know that I’ve got time to make this happen, and the faith that I’ve got Giant behind me and that they believe in me too, that I can climb up onto that top step.

Do you have a particular rider on the circuit who you most look up to? 

Hmm, it’s kind of funny because I don’t know that much mountain bike history. But I do look at those really experienced riders and learn from what they do; the way Fabien Barel attacks a race track for instance, the work they put in, why they’re so skilful. I guess I look up to them all, because you can’t win one of these races as a fluke. You can’t pull together seven great stages over a whole day of racing by accident. So I definitely respect and admire them all.

 We’ll have to lend you a copy of Headliners 2, mate, so you can brush up on your history of downhill. I think we’ve still got one on VHS. Cheers once again. 

, during the Tweedlove Enduro, Peebles Scotland. EWS#3
Suits you.

 

 

 

 

Rotorua’s Latest and Greatest – Rainbow Mountain

A 26km drive from Rotorua on the road south towards Taupo is a lone mountain that pops out of the lush green rolling hills, smack bang on top of some very active geothermal ground. Rainbow Mountain is a wonderful experience, the trail is challenging and fun to ride, the native bushland is amazing and peculiar and finishing the ride with a swim in a natural hot spring is bliss. Flow and Enduro World Series racer Anka Martin explored the mystical place, here is what we found.

Rotorua, sitting on all these geothermal hotspots, is quite a special place, unlike anywhere else that I’ve ever ridden, but I’ve always been drawn to and fascinated by Rainbow Mountain and the trail that they built there. – Anka Martin, Ride House Martin/Team SRAM Juliana Racing


See part one of this series in the Whakawerawera Forest – Eagle v Shark here. 

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 9

The ride takes you up to the top on a multi-use shared trail, it’s a bit of a grovel to climb up, but with multiple rest spots along the way at many of the viewing platforms, the climb is broken up nicely. It’s worth it, and you’ll no doubt want to do it all again when you get back down.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 19

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 29

 

Feel the hot ground beneath your tyres, and the warm smoke drifting across your path.

You’ll come across little pockets of bubbling mud and boiling water and steam coming out of the rock gardens, creeping out all over the trails and hanging eerily in the forest.

Rainbow Mountain has a very sacred, very spiritual feeling to it, to me anyways and I find it very different to riding in the Whakarewarewa Forest, which is also stunningly beautiful, but Rainbow Mountain feels like this special mountain filled with otherworldly spirits and powers.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 55

After an eyeful of massive views, the singletrack takes you down the other side, the fun way!

Divided in two parts, the top half is a hand built trail. Narrow, tricky and exciting, it keeps you on your toes. And after crossing the fire road the descending trail takes on a very different flavour, with big machine built turns and more predictability letting the speeds get higher and higher.

Under stunning rimu trees, and past hot spots of thermal activity under your tyres, the descent is fun, beautiful and fascinating.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 66

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 83

I know this might sound pretty airy fairy, but this mountain is unlike any other mountain I’ve ever ridden my bike. It sticks with you and makes you wonder about nature and mother earth and how insignificant and small we are.

The 360 degree view from the top is magnificent, and the trail that they built is so much fun. A great mixture between natural and groomed, jungle & new growth, fast & flowy, guaranteed to make you grin, hooting and hollering all the way to Kerosene Creek – a hot river at the bottom of the trail and another baffling element that I’ve never experienced elsewhere.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 118

To cap off a brilliant ride, the trail ends at Kerosene Creek. A natural hot spring for swimming and relaxing, in true Kiwi style.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 127

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For more details and directions to Rainbow Mountain, visit Ride Rotorua.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest – Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain

A 26km drive from Rotorua on the road south towards Taupo is a lone mountain that pops out of the lush green rolling hills, smack bang on top of some very active geothermal ground. Rainbow Mountain is a wonderful experience, the trail is challenging and fun to ride, the native bushland is amazing and peculiar and finishing the ride with a swim in a natural hot spring is bliss. Flow and Enduro World Series racer Anka Martin explored the mystical place, here is what we found.

Rotorua, sitting on all these geothermal hotspots, is quite a special place, unlike anywhere else that I’ve ever ridden, but I’ve always been drawn to and fascinated by Rainbow Mountain and the trail that they built there. – Anka Martin, Ride House Martin/Team SRAM Juliana Racing


See part one of this series in the Whakawerawera Forest – Eagle v Shark here. 

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 9

The ride takes you up to the top on a multi-use shared trail, it’s a bit of a grovel to climb up, but with multiple rest spots along the way at many of the viewing platforms, the climb is broken up nicely. It’s worth it, and you’ll no doubt want to do it all again when you get back down.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 19

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 29

 

Feel the hot ground beneath your tyres, and the warm smoke drifting across your path.

You’ll come across little pockets of bubbling mud and boiling water and steam coming out of the rock gardens, creeping out all over the trails and hanging eerily in the forest.

Rainbow Mountain has a very sacred, very spiritual feeling to it, to me anyways and I find it very different to riding in the Whakarewarewa Forest, which is also stunningly beautiful, but Rainbow Mountain feels like this special mountain filled with otherworldly spirits and powers.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 55

After an eyeful of massive views, the singletrack takes you down the other side, the fun way!

Divided in two parts, the top half is a hand built trail. Narrow, tricky and exciting, it keeps you on your toes. And after crossing the fire road the descending trail takes on a very different flavour, with big machine built turns and more predictability letting the speeds get higher and higher.

Under stunning rimu trees, and past hot spots of thermal activity under your tyres, the descent is fun, beautiful and fascinating.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 66

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 83

I know this might sound pretty airy fairy, but this mountain is unlike any other mountain I’ve ever ridden my bike. It sticks with you and makes you wonder about nature and mother earth and how insignificant and small we are.

The 360 degree view from the top is magnificent, and the trail that they built is so much fun. A great mixture between natural and groomed, jungle & new growth, fast & flowy, guaranteed to make you grin, hooting and hollering all the way to Kerosene Creek – a hot river at the bottom of the trail and another baffling element that I’ve never experienced elsewhere.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 118

To cap off a brilliant ride, the trail ends at Kerosene Creek. A natural hot spring for swimming and relaxing, in true Kiwi style.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 127

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For more details and directions to Rainbow Mountain, visit Ride Rotorua.

Rotorua’s Latest and Greatest – Eagle vs Shark

Eagle vs Shark is the first ‘new’ trail to be made in Whakarewarewa Forest after a long quiet spell.

After the whirlwind of Crankworx, we met up with Gary Sullivan, Rotorua’s fastest silver fox for a razz down one of his favourite trails. Amongst many roles in the mountain bike community, Gaz is best known for being the owner of NZO riding gear, with his partner Glen they produce some super durable and well-designed riding threads. Glen is a textile whiz and her quality control skills are tack sharp, whilst Gaz’s favourite role at NZO is ‘product testing’, hence the reason he knows his way around the trails like the back of his gloves.

Gaz has been busier than a three-legged man in a two-legged race with a one-legged woman recently with the opening of a new bike shop in town, the store has been loaded with all the NZO goodies you’ll ever see, so naturally our ride date ended up at Ride Central drooling over fancy stuff, trying on new season NZO kit and drinking really good coffee from next door.

We were lucky to grab Gaz for a ride, and up to the top of the shuttle road we went to see why Eagle vs Shark rates so high with a seasoned local.


 

Eagle v Shark 44

 

Trails have been revised, extended or reinstated, but fresh new trails through previously untravelled forest has been a rare commodity.

That has only changed lately, with a lot of new stuff on the agenda, and Eagle vs Shark was the first of the new stuff to get done.


Eagle v Shark 45

Permission was given by the land-owners for a couple of new lines, and this one was designed to be a Grade 3, built by Rotorua local Jeff Carter and his trail building outfit starring Casey King. It’s a trail for the folks who love the likes of Split Enz or Tokorangi.

Eagle v Shark 53

Eagle v Shark 51

Eagle v Shark 36

Eagle v Shark 25

Eagle v Shark 52

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The track is very fast, and very flowy, and the trees on either side feel very close as they blur by in your peripheral vision.

It is a simple trail with nothing tech about it, it is not difficult to ride but it is hard to do it without smiling or whooping out loud. Must be because its fun.


 

Have a gander at the sweet NZO clothing here: www.nzoactive.com

For all mountain bike trail maps and info, all you need is here: www.riderotorua.com

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest – Eagle vs Shark

Rotorua – Eagle vs Shark

Eagle vs Shark is the first ‘new’ trail to be made in Whakarewarewa Forest after a long quiet spell.

After the whirlwind of Crankworx, we met up with Gary Sullivan, Rotorua’s fastest silver fox for a razz down one of his favourite trails. Amongst many roles in the mountain bike community, Gaz is best known for being the owner of NZO riding gear, with his partner Glen they produce some super durable and well-designed riding threads. Glen is a textile whiz and her quality control skills are tack sharp, whilst Gaz’s favourite role at NZO is ‘product testing’, hence the reason he knows his way around the trails like the back of his gloves.

Gaz has been busier than a three-legged man in a two-legged race with a one-legged woman recently with the opening of a new bike shop in town, the store has been loaded with all the NZO goodies you’ll ever see, so naturally our ride date ended up at Ride Central drooling over fancy stuff, trying on new season NZO kit and drinking really good coffee from next door.

We were lucky to grab Gaz for a ride, and up to the top of the shuttle road we went to see why Eagle vs Shark rates so high with a seasoned local.


 

Eagle v Shark 44

 

Trails have been revised, extended or reinstated, but fresh new trails through previously untravelled forest has been a rare commodity.

That has only changed lately, with a lot of new stuff on the agenda, and Eagle vs Shark was the first of the new stuff to get done.


Eagle v Shark 45

Permission was given by the land-owners for a couple of new lines, and this one was designed to be a Grade 3, built by Rotorua local Jeff Carter and his trail building outfit starring Casey King. It’s a trail for the folks who love the likes of Split Enz or Tokorangi.

Eagle v Shark 53

Eagle v Shark 51

Eagle v Shark 36

Eagle v Shark 25

Eagle v Shark 52

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The track is very fast, and very flowy, and the trees on either side feel very close as they blur by in your peripheral vision.

It is a simple trail with nothing tech about it, it is not difficult to ride but it is hard to do it without smiling or whooping out loud. Must be because its fun.


 

Have a gander at the sweet NZO clothing here: www.nzoactive.com

For all mountain bike trail maps and info, all you need is here: www.riderotorua.com

Must-Ride: Majura Pines, ACT

This rabbit warren of singletrack in iconic Canberran pine forest has been a part of Australian mountain biking for decades; its twisty, rooty trails have given rise to champions of the sport, and seen countless legions of mountain bikers thread through the pines. There is a whole generation of Australian mountain bikers who grew up racing at Majura, or reading about the exploits of our champion riders at ‘Maj’ in the pages of magazines.

Flow Mountain Bike - Majura Pines 1

It was taken for granted that Majura would always be there for a blast before work, a club race, or as a destination for a weekend road trip. These trails were famous Australia over, and while they didn’t have any ‘official’ status, their future seemed safe.

And then, a couple of years ago, came the bombshell: Majura Pines was going to be shut down, a four-lane road thrust through the middle of it all.

Mountain bikers found their voice, and while the road still went in, the trails were saved. And not only saved, they’ve been given an overhaul that takes Majura Pines to a whole new level.

Flow Mountain Bike - Majura Pines 76Flow Mountain Bike - Majura Pines 46

Flow Mountain Bike - Majura Pines 86

The Majura Pines Trails Alliance, together with professional trail builders Jindabyne Landscaping, the ACT government and Anthony Burton and Associates, have worked together to ensure Majura Pines has a healthy future as a mountain bike park.

There’s now 15km of world class singletrack, a mix of new trails and older ones that have been brought up to speed with modern trail building techniques: beginner trails, to black diamond descents, rooty, tight lines, to massive machine-built berms, a pump track, a huge dirt jump park and all of it signposted and mapped.

Flow Mountain Bike - Majura Pines 40

It would have been a disaster to lose this seminal mountain bike destination, so to have such a brilliant outcome is a real dream come true. Majura Pines is back, it’s better than ever, and now it’s here to stay.

For more information about Majura Pines, or to view a trail map of the entire network, visit the Majura Pines Trail Alliance.

The Josh Carlson Experience: EWS, Round 2, Ireland

 Throughout the 2015 Enduro World Series we’ll be bringing you an insider’s perspective of Josh’s performance. For this unique series, we’ve teamed up with Today’s Plan, an Australian training tools provider, who work with Josh to analyse his training and monitor his performance. (Check out our first impressions of Today’s Plan here).


So Josh, a good weekend?

JC: Yep, although I’m a little disappointed and annoyed that I made some dumb mistakes, I’m stoked I managed to get back up there in the end. It was a pretty inconsistent day for me really – I was in 48th after stage 1 – so to end up with my best ever stage result (3rd in stage 7) and my second best placing overall was good.

, during the Emerald Enduro, Wicklow, Ireland. EWS#2

What made stage 7 such a good result for you?

JC: I don’t know really, other than that I just really tried to stay calm and collected. I didn’t have any crazy lines, other than one huck up the top, so I guess I just have to put it down to the fact I kept it calm, and that I had a really good picture of the track in my head. Stage 7 was one that I’d walked during the week, so I felt that I knew it pretty well.

, during the Emerald Enduro, Wicklow, Ireland. EWS#2
Track walks are time consuming and energy sapping but valuable nonetheless.

You don’t normally get a chance to walk the tracks, do you?

JC: It depends on when the course is marked and how early we get to town. It’s definitely an advantage if you do get a chance to walk them – by the time you get to practice, you already feel like you’ve done a handful of runs down it.  But it’s sort of a catch 22; walking the tracks might give you a good picture of the them, but it takes a long time and can be really draining too.

Overall, I think walking them definitely helps. Especially at this race, the racing was so close that ever the tiniest error made a huge difference. Honestly, the time differences were hundredths of a second, it was like a full-on downhill race, or seven downhill races really.

How did your preparation compare for this round, versus that of Rotorua? 

JC: I definitely came into this round feeling a lot better. Rotorua kept bringing up all kinds of flashbacks to last year, when I crashed out hard in round 1. I had a few crashes early in practice in Rotorua and it definitely was on my mind.

, during the Emerald Enduro, Wicklow, Ireland. EWS#2

Did you change your bike setup much this time around?

JC: Yes and no – I didn’t make any changes during the race except for my tyre pressure on one stage, but I did change a bit in the lead up, as the tracks dried up getting closer to race day I put a Rock Razor tyre on out back, but the main change I made was with my fork. I actually took a volume spacers out of my fork and increased the pressure, on the suggestion of our team mechanics. We went from four tokens and 75psi, to two tokens with 85psi, and then made some low-speed compression adjustments. The front end grip went up like 100%, so this will definitely be my baseline setting from now on. We’re super lucky to have those guys in our corner – we can throw all our dumb ideas at them, they can tell us we’re dickheads and point us in the right direction!

 The demands of the racing are pretty unique – it’s like an all-day ride, but with half an hour’s worth of full-on, race pace sprint efforts thrown in – so you’ve got make sure you’re getting enough solid fuel in.

One slightly more, I guess, technical thing I wanted to ask you about is nutrition and looking after yourself across the whole week of practice and racing. How do you handle it?

JC: It’s a good question, because I don’t think a lot of people really consider how much of a factor it can be. I mean, over a couple of days of practice, you’ll do 11 0r 12 hours of riding, and then another six on race day, so how you eat and hydrate is a big deal.

And it’s cumulative too, one day will affect the next. I came to practice on Saturday, and within about 20 minutes of heading up the first climb I knew I was in calorie deficit from the day before, so I had to make sure I kept my intake up throughout the whole day. Because come race day, if you’re bonking, there’s no way you can focus. The demands of the racing are pretty unique – it’s like an all-day ride, but with half an hour’s worth of full-on, race pace sprint efforts thrown in – so you’ve got make sure you’re getting enough solid fuel in. I’ll try to have a few larger items, things like pizza even, and then gels and bars too. I make sure I avoid things that are going to send me way up, and then crashing back down again, you don’t want your energy levels to yo-yo. Ok, right at the end of the day before the final stage a sugar hit might get you across the line, but you don’t want that throughout the bulk of the day.

We read a lot about the great atmosphere out on track there. What was it like?

JC: The Irish were unreal, on some stages the track was lined from top to bottom. There was one wooded section that I came into and I thought the air was full of dust, but then I realised it was smoke from all the chainsaws that people were revving! Another section the crowd was so loud you heard them ages before you saw them – they were so loud for each rider you could use them to gauge how close you were to the rider in front or how close the rider behind was to you. And they were all dressed up, crocodile suits, oompa loompas, bananas, it was classic. It really felt like a World Cup race.

ews_emeraldenduro_day2-6398

And was it a surprise to see Greg Callaghan take the win? Any home ground advantage here?

JC: Man, it was amazing to be part of it, having him win in front of a home crowd was incredible, the crowd just erupted! He had like 20 family members out on course, the atmosphere was insane! I don’t think saying it was a home ground advantage does him justice – even if you know the trails, it’ll only get you so far, you need to have all of the tools in the basket. And he sure as hell didn’t fluke the win – that’s the thing with Enduro, you cannot just have a freakish run or somehow fluke the win, you need to be consistent across an entire day of racing, not just a couple of minutes.

It’s great to see when a home town rider wins too, it does so much for the sport in the town, so many people will be pumped on mountain biking in Ireland now. Hopefully we get an EWS round in Australia one day too.


 Take a closer look at Josh’s performance, stage by stage, in Ireland. Use the menus on the right to switch between the various stages and to control playback speed. Keep an eye on his heart rate throughout – he might be primarily descending, but his efforts are through the roof.

The Soap Box: About Pain. Using Pain to be a Better Mountain Biker

Pain sucks. And it’s supposed to. Pain is there for a good reason – when it happens, as far as your body is concerned (or, more specifically, the part of your brain that monitors input from different parts of the body), something is wrong. And because we seldom doubt that this system is giving us anything but useful information, we usually listen to it.

And let’s face it: mountain biking is a painful sport. Climbs hurt, descents hurt, falling off hurts, getting back on hurts…

But here’s the thing. Whilst it’s true that pain can be a useful warning signal, it’s important for any athlete to be familiar with the different types and levels of warning. Many of us experience pain as one thing, sort of like an on/off switch. We interpret pain as either manageable or intolerable. But it can be a lot subtler. Some pain requires your immediate attention: injury pain says that something is damaged and ongoing activity will make that damage worse. Most high-level athletes know when damage has occurred and don’t try to “push through” – the consequences are usually a lot worse than losing a few competition points*.

Other types of pain can be extremely useful though. Muscle pain when we’re riding (assuming it’s not from an injury) alerts us to poor riding position, poor technique, inadequate fuelling, low hydration, or tension. Pain from riding hard above your anaerobic threshold means that you’re in oxygen debt and have an increasing lactic acid build-up in your muscles (meaning you’ve got a limited amount of time left before you need to stop). And for these types of pain it takes a lot more than we think to do damage. In other words, the only thing stopping you from continuing to perform alongside these types of pain is you.

Now, this is not the part where I tell you “no pain, no gain”, and advise you to “muscle through it”. First, that would be pointless. If it were easy to muscle through your pain, you’d already be doing it. Second, as powerful as we think willpower is, it has a definite time limit. Willpower only lasts so long (before needing to reset) so, if that’s all you have to rely on, once it’s gone, you’re done.

Nope, learning to ride with pain is not about increasing willpower, it’s about removing distraction. After all, that’s all that pain is: a large distraction. And we can overcome distraction in two ways: by increasing our tolerance, and by increasing our focus.

Increasing pain tolerance is not really what it sounds like. It’s not like training montages in martial-arts movies. It’s about listening to the pain, determining what’s actually going on, and acting differently. Most of us try and distract ourselves when we’re in pain, which is a really bad idea. If we’re distracted, we’re not paying attention, and if you’re not paying attention on your bike, things go wrong. So instead of distracting yourself by thinking of other things, you need to learn to think about what the pain is telling you. If you’re fatigued, for example, it means that your technique is likely to get sloppy (which can have nasty consequences on the bike). So back off a small amount, and focus consciously on your form: body position, head position, balance point, etc.

Training yourself to pay attention (increasing your focus) when you’re in pain, has a triple effect: (1) it helps to identify a problem; (2) it keeps you focused when you’re most likely to fail; and (3) it helps you train yourself to perform better when you’re fatigued. Let’s look at each of these areas in a little more depth.

1)   Learn to read what your pain is telling you. You can’t do anything about a problem if you’re not aware that it’s there. So learning to read your body and determine what a pain message means is paramount. As I’ve said, fatigue should mean paying greater attention to your technique. But cramping can mean “slow down and rehydrate”; loss of power even though you’re working hard can mean “you need fuel”; and back or neck pain can mean that “your body position needs attention”.
2)   When you’re in pain, practise focusing on whatever is getting sloppy. If pain is about getting your attention it’s also about focusing that attention on what’s important. One of the biggest things that pain can tell us is that there’s a higher risk of immanent failure. So bringing your conscious attention to what you need to do at that point becomes paramount.
3)   Train under fatigue. Training well when you’re physically, emotionally, and psychologically fatigued (states usually associated with pain) trains you to perform better when you actually need it. It’s all very well to perform well when you’re feeling great, but it’s the mistakes we make when we’re tired and distracted that result in injury or catastrophe. Notice when your focus is flagging, and pay even more attention to what you’re doing. Ensure your form stays good when you’re fatigued or in pain.

 

OK – if paying attention is the key, how do we pay more attention, especially when we’re distracted? First, we need to learn to notice when we’re distracted. Rather than cover old ground here, take a minute to read my article on ‘Riding in the Hear and Now’ (http://flowmountainbike.com/features/the-soapbox-riding-in-the-here-and-now/). Remember, whenever you notice that you’re distracted deliberately bring your attention back to what’s going on right now. Do this whenever you’re riding and you find yourself daydreaming, or distracting yourself because you’re in pain. Next, focus on what the pain is telling you and do something about it (see above).

Last, practise focusing on what’s actually important right now. Whether it’s about finishing a training set (well), making it through a technical section when you’re hurting, or getting to the top of a hill, there’s a good reason that you’re doing whatever you’re doing. As much as you might be hurting, you chose to be on your bike. Doing whatever you’ve chosen to do, to the best of your ability and in the here and now, is a lot more important than any uncomfortable feelings you might have^.

 

* Seriously, pushing through an injury is not a good idea – get off your bike (assuming you can still ride it) and get medical attention.

^ I’ve deliberately avoided talking about chronic pain in this article. It’s a different beast altogether, but also something we can do a lot about. If you’re having issues with chronic pain, get in touch and I’ll talk you though your options.


 

About the author:

Dr. Jeremy Adams 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 how to be human (www.eclectic-moose.com).

Jeremy is based in Melbourne and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com) or on (03) 9016 0306.

25 Years of the RRR, Tropical Queensland: Event Preview

In the scheme of mountain biking’s comparatively short existence, 25 years is a long time. At a pinch we can think of a handful of familiar names that can boast such a long history – Shimano’s XT and the Specialized Stumpjumer for example – but certainly no other events spring to mind.

RRR 1

Born in 1990, the RRR will celebrate 25 years of sweat, blood and smiles this June. So what does it take to create an event that can capture the imaginations of mountain bikers for such a long time? We ventured north to find out.

RRR 3

The RRR (Triple R) came into being after two legends of the sport – Messrs Glen Jacobs and Peter Blakey – set out to ride an old Cobb and Co coach road from Mt Molloy high on the tablelands, off the escarpment, down to Port Douglas. When they arrived on the coast 35km later, they knew what they’d just ridden simply had to become a race. Straight away they coined it the RRR; Rural, Rainforest and Reef, in recognition of the diversity of landscapes the route captured.

RRR 5

And it’s that diversity which makes this race continue to stand out in the crowded arena of mountain bike events. The RRR course takes you on a real journey, it has a sense of adventure that you just don’t get at many single-day mountain bike races.

RRR 2

It all kicks off at the historic Wetherby Station, which is a magnificent cattle property just outside the old copper mining township of Mt Molloy. Past billabongs teeming with Magpie Geese, through creek crossings inhabited by huge pythons, along high ridge lines with views to Black Mountain, the RRR course spends the better part of 30km in Wetherby Station, before you head north-east onto the old Bump Track.

RRR 6

The Bump Track itself served for many decades as the bullock route connecting the harbour of Port Douglas to the gold mines up in the hills. Now mountain bikers make up the bulk of the traffic, and you can see why. The track punches through the thick rainforest with a rhythmic rolling gradient, its sides lined with fangs of Wait-a-while vines, and over stunning creek crossings. Eventually it reaches the edge of the escarpment, at which point there’s only way it can go, and it puts you into free fall.DCIM100GOPROG0019446. RRR 13

Locals tell us that the Bump Track descent on RRR day is more like a downhill race than a cross country marathon, with people lining the sides of the steepest parts of the track, egging riders on while they do their best to tame high-speed waterbars with 55km of fatigue in the limbs! Eventually, with white knuckles and the smell of cooked brake pads in your nostrils, you shoot out into the coastal plain amongst the cane fields, before running four kilometres up the hardpacked sand of Four Mile Beach to finish right outside the Port Douglas surf club.

From iconic rural settings, to impenetrable rainforest, to the postcard beaches, Cairns and the Port Douglas region must offer some of the most spectacular scenery in Australia, and the RRR puts the very best of it on display in one big whack. In our opinion, it’s a sense of journey, the feeling of having gone somewhere and experienced different landscapes, which makes the difference between a good ride and a great ride. And that’s something which the RRR has in spades.

For more information on the RRR, or to enter in this special 25th year, head to the official website: RRR MTB Challenge 2015

RRR 10

Must-Ride: Stromlo’s Sweetest Six

There’s over 50km of trails for you to pick from; with a huge amount of quality singletrack on offer, it’s sometimes hard to decide which trails to hit up. So please, allow us to make some recommendations! Join us for a look at Stromlo’s Sweetest Six.


For location information, trail maps, events and more, take a look at the freshly re-vamped Stromlo Forest Park site. Click here.


1. Western Wedgetail into Skyline

Welcome to the peak of Stromlo! Now the question is, which trails do you take back down? For a lot of riders, there’s one standout route from the top of the mountain; Western Wedgetail into Skyline. These two trails are both rated as green descents, but they definitely aren’t dull! Linking these two trails together in one run is some of the fastest, flowiest riding you can do at Stromlo.

Stromlo's Sweetest Six 22
The iconic descent of Western Wedgetail has some of the best views of Canberra going.
Let 'er rip!
Let ‘er rip!

2. Luge

So you’ve just ridden Western Wedgetail and Skyline. What’s next? Luge! As the name implies, Luge is a snaking stack of perfect berms, with barely a moment in between them to compose yourself of wipe the grin off your face. This trail is often picked as a favourite and it’s easy to see why. If you love ripping round a berm, you’ll love Luge.

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A stack of berms on Luge.
Stromlo's Sweetest Six 37
Did we mention the perfect, bermed corners?

3. Pork Barrel and Double Dissolution

The slightly more technical route down from the saddle below Western Wedgetail is the linkup of Pork Barrel and Double Dissolution. These two blue-rated trails have all kinds of features, especially Pork Barrel, which combines berms, rocky sections, drop-offs and a few sneaky gap lines. Double Dissolution is a little flatter, but fast as hell, with a load of fun tabletops and an easy climb back out if you’re keen to hit it again.

Stromlo's Sweetest Six 7
Choices, choices, choices!
Stromlo's Sweetest Six 1
The fast, playful Double Dissolution.

4. Blood Rock and Black Snake Gully.

The western slopes of Mt Stromlo don’t get as much attention as the eastern side, but if you take the trouble to explore you’ll find two of the most rewarding trails in the whole park. Blood Rock and Black Snake Gully are two super technical, challenging trails, which climb, traverse and descend across the rocky western side of the mountain. They’re both rated a black diamond trails, not because of any major risk or features, but simply because the tight, rocky and pinchy climbs require good technique and bit of grunt. These two aren’t for everyone, but they are supremely rewarding to get right, and the recent extension to Black Snake Gully is some of the best technical descending in park too.

Stromlo's Sweetest Six 41
The technical, rocky climbs of Blood Rock might take a couple of cracks to get right, but cleaning them feels awesome.

5. Vapour

Vapour is another trail that too many people overlook. Tucked sneakily in alongside the downhill race track, it’s a short, fun run, full of jumps with multiple lip options, big berms and step-downs. Plans are afoot to extend this trail all the way down the mountain too, and if that happens, it’ll be the real jewel of Stromlo. Watch this space!

Stromlo's Sweetest Six 15
Vapour has the biggest, best jumps on Stromlo aside from the downhill track.
Stromlo's Sweetest Six 11
Dropping into a sweet Vapour fadeaway.
Stromlo's Sweetest Six 14
A neat side option of Vapour is the G20 Drop, which shoots you straight over to the start of Luge too.

6. Trunk Trail

A truly enjoyable climb is a rarity, but the Trunk Trail at Stromlo is definitely one of these gems, whisking you to the top of the mountain and it’s many, many awesome descents. With a perfect gradient, swooping switchbacks, heaps of line/difficulty options and great views, we had to include this one in the Stromlo’s Sweetest Six.

Stromlo's Sweetest Six 44
Trunk Trail is the kind of climb every ride should start with. Mellow enough to have a chat, with enough technical challenge to keep your mind occupied too.
The climb is broken up with short descents and some great corners.
The climb is broken up with short descents and some great corners.

 

The Josh Carlson Experience: EWS, Round 1, Rotorua

Josh Carlson 7
Tipped in on stage 5 of the Rotorua EWS.

We’ll be bringing you an insider’s perspective. So insider, in fact, that you’ll even be able to see what Josh’s heart is doing. For this unique series, we’ve teamed up with Today’s Plan, an Australian training tools provider, who work with Josh to analyse his training and monitor his performance. (Check out our first impressions of Today’s Plan here).

Through the year we’ll be bringing you a replay of Josh’s racing through rider telemetry; watch exactly what Josh puts his body through on each stage. Josh will also be providing us with some background about the racing, his bike setup, thoughts on his performance and more too.

Jump on board with Josh for stage 6 of the Rotorua EWS, straight down the Taniwha downhill track. Take a look at Josh’s ride data for this stage – it’s crazy to see how much time he spends in his VO2 and anaerobic heart rate zones. 


Take a closer look at Josh’s performance, stage by stage, in Rotorua. Use the menus on the right to switch between the various stages and to control playback speed. Keep an eye on his heart rate throughout – he might be primarily descending, but his efforts are through the roof.


Flow: So Josh, how was round 1?

JC: It was a pretty tough race, for sure. There were a lot of pieces of the puzzle to put together! Because a lot of the track was tight and rooty, you had to attack it, if you didn’t you were just bleeding time. There weren’t really any huge huck lines or areas where you could save a bunch of time, so it was all about attacking the entire course, and getting the little stuff right.

Flow: So did it lend itself to a particular style of racer?

JC: Yes and no. All the Frenchies with ninja skills did well, but then stages 6 and 7 were quite different. They were far more balls to the wall, they’re really downhill tracks – I mean, one stage was the previous National DH track, the other is the current National DH track. So it was no surprise to see World Cup downhillers take those stages out.

For me, this round really highlighted that a good Enduro racer has to be an real all-rounder, that your basic skills need to be solid. That’s what I kept coming back to, getting the basics right. That’s the thing with Enduro, you cannot be a one-dimensional rider. Look at Graves or Clementz – those guys are equally as good if it’s blasting down French walking tracks, open grass at full speed, or on the roots.

Flow: As an EWS round, was this race any more physically challenging than others?

JC: It wasn’t necessarily any more physically taxing, but it was still six and a half hours of ride time. Having said that, if stages 2 and 3 hadn’t been shortened it would have been really tight. The liaison stages were already pretty tight – I was getting to the start gate with about 10 minutes till my race run on each stage, which is really only just enough time to get focused, set your suspension or tyres pressures, get your goggles on, then it’s time to go.

But that’s really ideal, it’s what I aim for. If you’re there at the start for much longer than that, you can start to lose focus, get all distracted. That’s one of the real challenges of Enduro sometimes if you’re racing – it can feel too much like a ride with your mates, because you chat away on the climbs and then you have to be able to switch into race mode

Josh Carlson 5
Steep and slippery. Success in these conditions is all about focus, says Josh.

Flow: Is there anything you like to do to help focus?

JC: I guess I just try to take myself away from others a little, focus on my breathing, try to visualise the track. Don’t let myself get distracted by little things.

Flow: Talking about visualising the course, you’re running a GoPro. How much do you use the footage to help learn the trails?

JC: I use it flat out And you really need to – if you’re not running a helmet cam, you’re going to be off the back, big time. Because with the way practice is set up, you really only get maybe two, tops three, runs down each stage. I’m using the GoPro 4 now, with the LCD screen, and I’ll even review the track in between runs during practice. At Rotorua, you had 50 minutes of racing to try and recall, so with just a couple of runs, that’s just about impossible without watching the footage.
Unfortunately at Rotorua there was a bit too much local knowledge about what tracks were going to be raced ahead of time, so while most people had just a couple of runs on each stage, a lot of locals had been practicing the stages flat out. That made having footage even more important.
Flow: You started last year off with a massive, massive crash in Chile. Were you thinking about that this year?

JC: I definitely was aware of it, for sure. Especially since the first stage we practiced had the most potential for carnage, it was fastest, straight into the downhill track. It was very easy to get carried away – new bike, sick track, new kit, heaps of people watching. That’s what happened last year! I jumped on and was like ‘man, I am going to kill it!’, next thing you’re crashing into the rocks going at one thousand! We saw that this year too, they sent like 20 people away in ambulances on that first day.

Josh Carlson 3
A coil shock adds a little weight, but the traction is worth it for Carlso.

Flow: Did you toy with bike setup much for Rotorua?

JC: I changed tyre pressures quite a lot during the racing. On the rooty stages I was running 22psi up front, maybe 25 in the rear. Then for stages 6 and 7, where you’re really hitting stuff faster, I was back up to 25psi in the front and 28 rear. I also used a coil shock for this race too. I’ll be using a coil as my default setup this year, only running an air shock if the course doesn’t require as much traction or I need the lockout. The coil shock is just sick – the amount of traction is insane! A few other guys are running coils too. Cedric (Gracia) love his, so does my team mate Adam (Craig).

Flow: Thanks, Josh. Catch up with you after round 2 in Ireland!

Enduro Style Check: So Sideways in Rotorua

Stage one in the enduro was on a new trail in the Whakawerawera Forest, called Kataore. The locals call it ‘Cutties’, the unpredictable traction and loose off-camber nature of the track is seriously intense to ride. You need to race it, don’t try and just ‘ride’ down or it will throw you off your bike and into the dirt.

We checked out Kataore during the practice session, and saw rider after rider hit the deck attempting to get through through sections of trail riddled with slippery roots and steep turns at speed. So, naturally we bolted up to one of the wildest corners when it came to race day, and caught a handful of the final elite men trying their luck at making it through rubber side down.

Interpreted many ways, the riders approached the corner with varying technique, and outcomes. Here is how it unfolded.

EWS Style Check 66
Richie Rude.
EWS Style Check 61
Jamie Nicoll.
EWS Style Check 60
Greg Callaghan.
EWS Style Check 55
Bryan Regnier.
EWS Style Check 50
Remy Absalon.
EWS Style Check 48
Cedric Gracia.
EWS Style Check 41
Alexandre Cure.
EWS Style Check 36
Curtis Keene.
EWS Style Check 33
Martin Maes.
EWS Style Check 30
Yoann Barelli.
EWS Style Check 28
Francois Bailly-Maitre.
EWS Style Check 22
Joe Barnes.
EWS Style Check 18
Florian Nicolai.
EWS Style Check 15
Nico Lau.
EWS Style Check 11
Justin Leov.
EWS Style Check 4 (1)
Damien Oton.

The Soapbox: Getting Your Mojo Back

Except that, on the second day, my GoPro got caught on an overhanging branch while I was descending, which flipped my head back and threw me off the bike. I landed on my right hand. When I got up, my wrist was at a really weird angle – a major break of the radius. Holiday over, and no riding for six months.

But here’s the crappiest part – despite spending that whole six months fantasising about getting back on my bike, when I finally got the go-ahead I was next to useless. Even basic descents made my head freak out completely. I’d completely lost my mojo.

Mountain biking often puts us directly in the way of both real and imagined harm, and this ‘survival’ centre in the brain can get really upset when we push our limits.

As I talked about in my last article, our mountain biking passion can be fickle. But occasionally, due to injury, stress, other life demands, or a minor crash (without injury), we can simply lose our mojo – no matter what we do, we just can’t make ourselves ride the things we want to ride. Today we’ll look at getting your mojo back.

To understand mountain biking mojo, we need to remember that a lot of what we ask ourselves to do on a mountain bike is in complete opposition to the parts of our brain that evolved to keep us alive. I covered this in my articles on “Training your brain” (http://flowmountainbike.com/features/training-your-brain-part-1-reprogramming/) a while back, so probably a good idea to nip over there for a few minutes and re-read. Basically though, we’ve evolved really good survival systems that are excellent at keeping us out of harm’s way. Mountain biking often puts us directly in the way of both real and imagined harm, and this ‘survival’ centre in the brain can get really upset when we push our limits; even more so when we seriously scare ourselves with near misses, or actually hurt ourselves when we crash. Often, this equates to a loss of mojo: the survival system starts generating major levels of fear or, even worse, insists on taking over at exactly the wrong moment (like grabbing your brakes just before a drop…).

It’s really easy to get extremely frustrated when we find ourselves balking on things that we know are easy

Getting back to riding after a loss of mojo is hard, especially when we know that we’re fully capable of riding whatever it is our survival system isn’t letting us ride. It’s really easy to get extremely frustrated when we find ourselves balking on things that we know are easy. It’s also really easy to get hung up on our new limit, and spend a lot of time in our heads questioning and berating ourselves.

But understanding what the survival system is doing (so you can respond appropriately) will help. Here’s a guide on what to expect and how to get past it.

1)   After a crash or injury your survival systems will try to protect you by keeping you away from similar activities. This is what they’re supposed to do, so don’t freak out about it too much.

2)   A part of the protection mechanism will be a temptation to replay an accident or incident in your head, over and over. This is normal, but it doesn’t help. Instead of indulging the memory (and surrounding thoughts) “thank” your brain, take a deep breath, and focus your attention on your surroundings. Do this over and over, whenever you find yourself indulging the temptation to mull over what happened. By refocusing your attention you’re training yourself to attend to what’s important (the here and now) rather than a memory of something that has happened and that you can’t change.

Stop being so hard on yourself… Pick a series of fun rides without a lot of challenge and let yourself get used to riding for fun again.

3)   You are not your survival system. It’s just a part of your brain that evolved to try and keep you safe. That means that just because you feel it, doesn’t mean that you have to pay attention to it (even if it’s really loud).

4)   Give yourself a break. Instead of trying to get back to full pre-crash/injury level in a short period of time, recognise that it might be difficult, and stop being so hard on yourself. Rather, pick a series of fun rides without a lot of challenge and let yourself get used to riding for fun again. Once you feel a bit more relaxed, start upping the challenge slowly. If things don’t work the way you hoped, relax, take a breath and let it go (then go back to ‘2’ above).

5)   If you’re recovering from an injury, before you start riding again make sure you’re signed off by your surgeon, physio, or other health professional. But also remember that most injuries are fully healed by around six months. After that time, the chances of reinjury are the same as they were post injury. In other words, once you’ve healed, the only way you’re going to hurt yourself again is by having another accident, and the more you freak out about that happening the greater the chances that it will!

6)   If you’re really struggling to get your mojo back, and it’s just not working, don’t try to do it by yourself. Asking for help is not an admission of failure, it’s an indication of how important mountain biking is to you! I’d recommend looking for a psychologist who has experience in sport and performance psychology, especially around reengaging post accident or injury, and work with him or her to get you back to what you love.

 

About the author:

Dr. Jeremy Adams 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 how to be human (www.eclectic-moose.com).

Jeremy is based in Melbourne and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com) or on (03) 9016 0306.

 

Crankworx Rotorua: Going Down

The field for the Crankworx Rotorua downhill race wasn’t far shy of that you’d find at World Cup; the Athertons (Gee and Rachel), the Hannahs (Mick and Tracey), Hill, Bruni, Blenkinsop, MacDonald, and they weren’t hanging about either. In many ways, it was a good preview for the upcoming season, which gets kicked off in France in just two weeks.

The course was largely the same as was used for the World Champs back in 2006, and it was interesting to see how much the riders still loved it, it’s clearly aged well. Rain which was forecast failed to materialise, and conditions were about as perfect as you can imagine come race time. Rotorua’s famed dirt is some of the most magical stuff you can ride on, and it was at its most luscious this afternoon.

In the women’s racing, the battle was really between two riders; Rachel Atherton and Tracy Hannah, and they finished in that order. The huge gap back to third highlighted the fact these two women are in a different league, and we’re looking forward to seeing them battle it out throughout the year.

The men’s racing could have been won by a dozen different riders, and the hot money was on the Kiwis – Blenkinsop, Brannigan, MacDonald and the Masters brothers were all favourites. But the Frenchman, a young Loic Bruni, crashed the party in a big way. He smoked the field by two and a half seconds, ahead of an ecstatic Eliot Jackson, with Blenkinsop in third. Powerhouses Hill and Atherton were both well back, along with Mick Hannah (the last rider on the hill) who can’t get a break, picking up a front flat.

Today was also the last practice session ahead of the Giant Toa Enduro, which kicks off early tomorrow morning. Stages 4 and 5 treated riders to yet more incredibly slippery roots and greasy mud, but the field must be getting well accustomed to it by now, as there was a lot less crashing and fewer concerned faces than we’d seen in Stage 1 practice! A few course modifications announced yesterday also removed some of the tighter, slower trails as well, which was greeted with praise. We’re really excited to see how it all pans out tomorrow in the dark forests of Rotorua.

Practice also got underway for the slopestyle as well. Set amongst the massive pines, the word from the riders is that they’re loving the course, and while they were all really just feeling out the size and shape of the jumps today, the forgiving Rotorua dirt is likely to encourage some truly rowdy riding come Sunday.

As if the day wasn’t already jam-packed enough, things were capped off with the Pump Track Challenge, which was held under lights after being postponed yesterday afternoon. The head-to-head format is a winner, and while local favourite Keegan Wright was edged out by veteran racer Joost Wichman, it was a great way to cap off a huge Friday of racing.

I can see my hotel from here. Hey, get out of my minibar!
I can see my hotel from here. Hey, get out of my minibar!
Andrew Neethling had some of the smoothest lines of all, but a flat tyre ruined his final. Poor little fella.
Andrew Neethling had some of the smoothest lines of all, but a flat tyre ruined his final. Poor little fella.
Roto dirt is something else. With a bit of moisture in it, it's the grippiest stuff since a scared cat on Velcro.
Roto dirt is something else. With a bit of moisture in it, it’s the grippiest stuff since a scared cat on Velcro.
Bernard Kerr, on a charge out of the dark redwoods.
Bernard Kerr, on a charge out of the dark redwoods.
Brendog, just casually boosting into a VERY fast section of the course.
Brendog, just casually boosting into a VERY fast section of the course.
Connor Fearon, taking a moment to whip up some cheer on his way to fifth.
Connor Fearon, taking a moment to whip up some cheer on his way to fifth.
One of the course favourites, Brook MacDonald.
One of the course favourites, Brook MacDonald.
Loic dropping through the loudest part of the course.
Loic dropping through the loudest part of the course.
Sam Hill received a loud welcome to the finish, but lost too much time up there somewhere for the podium.
Sam Hill received a loud welcome to the finish, but lost too much time up there somewhere for the podium.
Brook MacDonald didn't spend a moment more than necessary in the air.
Brook MacDonald didn’t spend a moment more than necessary in the air.
Sam Blenkinsop's wild style would've won him the lunatic air-pedalling race, but it didn't get him the win in the downhill today. There is no more exciting rider to watch we feel.
Sam Blenkinsop’s wild style would’ve won him the lunatic air-pedalling race, but it didn’t get him the win in the downhill today. There is no more exciting rider to watch we feel.
Make some room up there, Gee. Rachel was the Atherton who shone today, taking the win over Tracey Hannah.
Make some room up there, Gee. Rachel was the Atherton who shone today, taking the win over Tracey Hannah.
Rachel Atherton's composure in the steep woods was streets ahead of all the other women, excluding Tracey Hannah.
Rachel Atherton’s composure in the steep woods was streets ahead of all the other women, excluding Tracey Hannah.
We're big fans of this affable and entertaining young French kid.
We’re big fans of this affable and entertaining young French kid.
Cash cash!
Cash cash!
Tracey, Rachel and Emelie.
Tracey, Rachel and Emelie.
Loic and Blenki are great mates, a pat on the back and a face full of bubbles from a mate.
Loic and Blenki are great mates. A pat on the back and a face full of bubbles from a friend.

 

Blenki in a sea of green.
Blenki in a sea of green.

Crankworx Day 2 15

Stage 4 of the EWS runs through one of our all-time Roto favourites, Te Tiwi o Tawa. A rooty, off-camber, but strangely rhythmic ride through the native bush.
Stage 4 of the EWS runs through one of our all-time Roto favourites, Te Tiwi o Tawa. A rooty, off-camber, but strangely rhythmic ride through the native bush.
The lower half of stage 4 spits riders onto Billy T where there's barely a root to be seen.
The lower half of stage 4 spits riders onto Billy T where there’s barely a root to be seen.
Josh Carlson pre-jumps into a Billy T fadeaway. He's loving the rooty conditions, telling us it's just like home. Whether he means Wollongong or adopted homeland of Canada, we don't know.
Josh Carlson pre-jumps into a Billy T fadeaway. He’s loving the rooty conditions, telling us it’s just like home. Whether he means Wollongong or adopted homeland of Canada, we don’t know.
All hail the king: Nico Voullioz. Hunting for lines out of the main rut, looking light, fast and very relaxed.
All hail the king: Nico Voullioz. Hunting for lines out of the main rut, looking light, fast and very relaxed.
Six weeks to build this course, probably needed a lot of dirt?
Six weeks to build this course, probably needed a lot of dirt?
Sam Pilgrim, no sleeves, no worries.
Sam Pilgrim, no sleeves, no worries.
Semenuk, seriously inverted on the final jump.
Semenuk, seriously inverted on the final jump.
Watching and learning.
Watching and learning.
Lofting through the Rotorua Redwoods.
Lofting through the Rotorua Redwoods.
There is a lot of time to trick, with that amount of air.
There is a lot of time to trick, with that amount of air.
Martin Soderström, casual barspin up the stepup in practice.
Martin Soderström, casual barspin up the stepup in practice.

Crankworx Day 3 Pump 13 Crankworx Day 3 Pump 12 Crankworx Day 3 Pump 8 Crankworx Day 3 Pump 11 Crankworx Day 3 Pump 10 Crankworx Day 3 Pump 9 Crankworx Day 3 Pump 6 Crankworx Day 3 Pump 5 Crankworx Day 3 2

With the pump track event held under lights, it was tough to get shots, so we went for something a little #arty.
With the pump track event held under lights, it was tough to get shots, so we went for something a little #arty.

Crankworx Day 3 Pump 1 Crankworx Day 3 Pump 2 Crankworx Day 3 Pump 3 Crankworx Day 3 Pump 7 Crankworx Day 3 Pump 4

Crankworx Rotorua: Tricks and Other Cunning Stunts

We tried to explain to a mate last night how the Speed and Style discipline worked, but we all ended up a little confused. Suffice to say, it’s a kind of race down a mixed terrain slalom-esque course, with two massive jumps thrown in. Riders get time bonuses for the tricks they pull, so you can actually lose the race, but win the heat if you impress the judges enough.

It mightn’t be the most straight forward of disciplines, but it’s great to watch, and there’s no doubt that the most impressive rider of the day won the event. Martin Söderström showed the slopestyle crowd that he’s back in action, after a horror run of injuries; all eyes will be on him come Sunday’s slopestyle finals. 

The speed and style was as much a test of a rider's willingness to tip, white-knuckled, into a berm as it was a show of their skills in the air.
The speed and style was as much a test of a rider’s willingness to tip, white-knuckled, into a berm as it was a show of their skills in the air.
Bernard Kerr backed up a podium in the whip-off with another one today. His racer-boy style didn't offer up much in the way of tricks, but he slayed them in the corners.
Bernard Kerr backed up a podium in the whip-off with another one today. His racer-boy style didn’t offer up much in the way of tricks, but he slayed them in the corners.

Crankworx Day 2 6

 

The lower half of the course had a few flat turns that were made exciting by semi-slick tyres and massive tyre pressures.
The lower half of the course had a few flat turns that were made exciting by semi-slick tyres and massive tyre pressures.
Not crashing. Tricking.
Not crashing. Tricking.
Söderström. Back (in black).
Söderström. Back (in black).
Crankworx Day 2 1 (1)
Before the rain ruined the show, pump track practice was getting warmed up nicely. Speed (Sik Mik) and Style (Soderstrom).
Crankworx Day 2 2 (1)
Ed Masters might look like he’s taking the piss, but he’s not mucking about out there.
Pumptrack 4
The best shirt at Crankworx.

Pumptrack 5

 

Crankworx Rotorua: Baptism of Gnar

With practice for the stages 1 and 7 of the Enduro World Series, downhill practice, and the Oceania Whip Off Championship, it was a real mixed bag of riding, with a common thread of ‘holy shit’ running through it. Let’s take a look at some of the day’s highlights.


 

Enduro World Series Practice, stages 1 and 7

“They told me we didn’t need a f#cking full face,” said old mate in the Emergency room of the Rotorua Hospital, “I needed a full face.” He certainly wasn’t the only mountain biker admitted to the Rotorua ER today, as countless riders learned just how tough racing at the top of EWS competition can be. Stages 1 and 7 took a lot of riders by surprise; rooty, slippery, steep and challenging.

Crankworx Rotorua - Day 1 24
Enduro legend Mark Weir rides the slide of Stage 1.
You're going to need that, buddy.
You’re going to need that, buddy.
Crankworx Rotorua - Day 1 15
Dan Atherton gingerly looks for a line. Somewhere, anywhere.
Well that one didn't work.
Affy again. Well that one didn’t work.
Michael Ronning has acquired a fair bit of EWS experience over the past 12 months, and he looked pretty comfy with the extremely tough conditions.
Michael Ronning has acquired a fair bit of EWS experience over the past 12 months, and he looked pretty comfy with the extremely tough conditions.
Holy rut, Crashman!
Holy rut, Crashman!
Crankworx Rotorua - Day 1 23
Jamie Nicoll. He’s a Kiwi, so he’s nuts. He also won the NZ Enduro.
Crankworx Rotorua - Day 1 30
So Barel. So France. So Speed.
Crankworx Rotorua - Day 1 36
A little ray of sunshine.
Crankworx Rotorua - Day 1 19
Cedric Gracia. So many absolute legends of mountain biking were on course today.
Don't worry, mate! We saw plenty of this action today!
Plenty of this going on today. #ballride

Downhill practice

Yesterday had already seen the first session of downhill practice, but with riders getting up to speed a little more today, and line starting to bed in, we got a good idea of who’s looking threatening for Friday’s racing.

The downhill track follows essentially the same alignment as the 2006 Worlds Course. The elevation isn't huge, but the terrain is super varied. Local Louis Hamilton on the open, upper grassy section.
The downhill track follows essentially the same alignment as the 2006 Worlds Course. The elevation isn’t huge, but the terrain is super varied. Local Louis Hamilton on the open, upper grassy section.
Fresh team-mates, Mick Hannah and Andrew Neethling rode together a lot today. We're hoping for a big year for Mick, and a fresh new team could be just the ticket for Needles too.
Fresh team-mates, Mick Hannah and Andrew Neethling rode together a lot today. We’re hoping for a big year for Mick, and a new team could be just the ticket for Needles too. Keeping it tidy over the big final step-up jump.
Fairclough is the perennial crowd favourite, never failing to keep it sufficiently sideways.
Fairclough is the perennial crowd favourite, never failing to leave it sufficiently sideways.
Crankworx Day 1.1  6
Remy Morton appears a lot in our photos today. Easy enough to see why.
The downhill track has three main areas; open grasslands up top, manmade features and jumps down the bottom, and steep, multi-lined woods in the middle (like these).
The downhill track has three main areas; open grasslands up top, manmade features and jumps down the bottom, and steep, multi-lined woods in the middle (like these).

Oceania Whip Off Championships

The first major event of Crankworx Rotorua was the Whip Off, held on the whopping final tabletop of the downhill course. The hour-long throw down saw Ryan Howard fling himself so sideways it seemed impossible that he could bring things back to the straight and narrow before touching down. Plenty of people didn’t, and there were some monster crashes. An awesome crowd turned up to check it all out, which bodes well for the rest of the week too.

Bernard Kerr can goof around on bike like nobody else, and that includes some burly whips.
Bernard Kerr can goof around on bike like nobody else, and that includes some burly whips.
Did he ride it out? You bet. Dave McMillan should rightfully have grabbed second place today (in our opinion anyhow!) but had to settle for fourth. The stylish Canberran can throw the most amazing, lazy, nosed in whips .
Did he ride it out? You bet. Dave McMillan should rightfully have grabbed second place today (in our opinion anyhow!) but had to settle for fourth. The stylish Canberran can throw the most amazing, lazy, nosed in whips .
Another angle of McMillan's super whip. Touching down.
Another angle of McMillan’s super whip. Touching down.
The crowd was great this arvo, and cracking weather helped too.
The crowd was great this arvo, and cracking weather helped too.
Brook MacDonald hucks into view. While other riders rolled into the lip, the burly Kiwi launched in. These kids were so stoked when Brook's wheel clipped their sign.
Brook MacDonald hucks into view. While other riders rolled into the lip, the burly Kiwi launched in. These kids were so stoked when Brook’s wheel clipped their sign.
MacDonald again.
MacDonald again.
Sam Blenkinsop was the most active rider of the day; EWS, downhill and Whip Off for Blenki.
Sam Blenkinsop was the most active rider of the day; EWS, downhill and Whip Off for Blenki.

 

The Soapbox: Riding in the Here and Now

Quite a few of you wrote in to ask how to enjoy your riding more. Lots of you reported that a lot of the time you just weren’t enjoying your rides: you’re just not feeling it on the bike.

Actually, this happens to us throughout our lives in lots of areas. After a while, things that used to be deeply engaging (and really fun) lose some of their shine. That great new job, the new relationship, the new car, all seem to be less exciting a few months or years down the track. So too, our feelings of satisfaction around mountain biking often wanes, and it can be really hard to motivate ourselves to get out for a ride. Worse, when do get out, many of us find it really hard to feel the love – we struggle through a ride, make mistakes, get more and more pissed off, and finish feeling crap. It’s enough to make you want to give up all together…

Do you really want to stop riding, or have you forgotten why you started in the first place? Maybe we need to ask ourselves a few important questions before we just go with our feelings?

Hang on though – do you really want to stop riding, or have you forgotten why you started in the first place? Maybe we need to ask ourselves a few important questions before we just go with our feelings?

A quick sidestep. Since when has listening to your feelings ever been a useful strategy? We all “feel” that our feelings are important, and that we should “go with our gut”, but most of the time your feelings just get you in trouble. In fact, most of us rely on our feelings to steer our actions, and a lot of the time those actions are definitely not in our best interests. Ever been angry and said or done something really hurtful/dumb/catastrophic that you’ve seriously regretted later? Ever “trusted your gut” only to have it lead you totally astray? Ever avoided things that were important because you felt anxious? It turns out that learning to distance your actions from your feelings can make the world of difference. It’s not like you’re going to stop having emotions – we can’t control our feelings even if we wanted to – but you can stop referring to them as the motivator for your actions.

Instead of simply acting on a feeling, try just noticing that you have a feeling (e.g., “I feel really annoyed”), and then direct your attention to something more worthwhile (like your breathing). Then try it again, and again. It’s hard, especially to begin with or when you’re really upset but, with practise, separating your feelings from your actions gives you a lot more freedom to make choices about how you live your life. When your actions are independent of your feelings, you can choose to do things that are in your best interests, even (or especially) when you don’t feel like it.

Why did you start in the first place? Was it the challenge, the exhilaration, the social interaction, being outdoors, having fun? Are these reasons still valid?

Coming back to mountain biking, why did you start in the first place? Was it the challenge, the exhilaration, the social interaction, being outdoors, having fun? Are these reasons still valid? Chances are that your reasons are probably just as relevant now as they always were, you’ve just been distracted. And if you’ve been distracted by your feelings (“I can’t be [email protected] going for a ride”), acknowledge the feeling and, instead of acting on it, remind yourself of why you ride, and get on your bike instead.

Our lives are full of distractions: work, stress, dissatisfaction, fatigue, hunger, worry… Many of these things take our attention away from the things that are good for us (like riding). The most important thing you can understand about distractions, is that they’re only able to distract you if they get your attention. If you choose to focus on the here and now, all of these things stop being distractions and become exactly what they are: just thoughts or feelings. On the bike we get distracted by a heap of things: our minds (worries, shopping lists, and other crap), our bodies (feelings of fatigue, hunger or pain), our expectations (the things you “should” be able to do, or your competitiveness), and external events (the weather, other people, etc.). None of these things actually require your attention, but when they do distract you, it’s pretty much a given that you’ll lose your focus and, therefore, your enjoyment.

Distraction means that your ride becomes about the distractions, instead of why you’re there in the first place.

So what’s actually worth paying attention to? For me, I ride because it forces me to pay attention to the present moment – it makes me mindful. If my head or my body distracts me, I’m riding badly, and that tends to end up in annoying feedback loop, one in which I ride worse and worse, and get grumpier and grumpier. Distraction means that your ride becomes about the distractions, instead of why you’re there in the first place, and if you’re not getting what you want out of a ride, there’s really not much point in being there.

But just because we start a ride distracted, because we’re tired, pissed off, stressed, or just absent, doesn’t mean we need to stay that way. The first step to getting back into the here and now, is to recognise that you’re distracted. That might sound dumb, but you can’t do anything about distraction if you haven’t noticed that your attention is elsewhere. So, once you’ve realised that your mind has drifted, try to pay more attention to what’s going on right now. That means that you need to focus on what you’re doing: your position on the bike, your breathing, where you’re looking, or reading the trail in front of you. As soon as you catch yourself losing focus (like going back to your nagging thoughts, or worrying about tomorrow) bring your attention back to your riding. Keep doing this (rinse and repeat) for as long as it takes to stay focused on the moment, even if you have to keep doing it for the whole ride. It will be extremely tempting to lose concentration, to be distracted by your thoughts or your feelings, but every time you successfully recognise that you’re distracted and bring yourself back, you’re doing what you’re there to do: riding your bike…

It takes concentration and a lot of practise, but it really is this simple to enjoy your rides a lot more. We enjoy riding when we’re actually focusing on riding, instead of spending our rides distracted, worried, or grumpy. All it takes is a regular reminder to pay attention.

 

About the author:

Dr. Jeremy Adams 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 how to be human (www.eclectic-moose.com).

Jeremy is based in Melbourne and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com) or on (03) 9016 0306.

Must-Ride: Derby, Tasmania


Slightly fearful that Derek might throw his glass at us, we assure him that he’s been correctly informed – the 21km of trails we’ve just spent the morning exploring in the beautiful wilds around Derby are absolutely world class.

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 44

Despite his volume control problem, Derek (a lifetime resident of Derby) is actually very enthusiastic about the new mountain bike trail development that’s about to put this place on the world mountain bike map. “The whole region’s been rooted,” says Derek, “it’ll be good to see people coming back to Derby.” And come they will, in their droves, because this tiny little town of 200 people is about to become the epicentre of the fastest developing mountain biking region in Australia.

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 11

Derby’s been pretty quiet for a little while now… once upon a time, it was the centre of a tin mining boom that saw its population swell to over 3000 people and brought wealth to the region in a huge way. But when the dam burst in 1929, flooding the mines and killing 12, the town never quite recovered. Mining operations limped on for another few decades, but when the rail line to the town was shut in 1992, Derby slipped into the sleepy state that’s defined its existence for the past 20 years.

But things are about to change. The entire north-east corner of Tasmania is undergoing a mountain bike renaissance, and for the past 12 months, some of Australia’s leading trail builders have been mining the rugged hillsides and valleys around Derby for the kind of gold we like.

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 59

We’d been given a run down of what to expect at Derby over the phone by Glen Jacobs of World Trail, but it wasn’t until we hit the ground that the scope and challenge of building trails in this area really hit us. This is a region that had been absolutely ravaged by mining before words like ‘sustainability’ even existed, but over the past 50 years the Tasmanian wilderness has fought back. What you’re left with is terrain that melds man-made and natural features; huge piles of rubble now swallowed by moss and ferns, deep gorges where rivers have been re-routed, tunnels, dams, massive pieces of abandoned mining equipment. It’s the kind of terrain that would have been near impossible to envisage laying a trail through, and Jacobs is the first to admit that it seemed that way at first. But the challenging terrain is what makes this place all the more special – it’s an area you’d never, ever expect to be able to see on your bike, and the trails take you on a real tour of the highlights, both natural and man-made.

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 53

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 19

The Blue Derby trail development is an ongoing project. Stage 1, opening 7 February 2015, is what we’ve been lucky enough to explore. At a little over 20km, it comprises just a quarter of the total trail that will eventually make up the Blue Derby network, including a mammoth all-day point-to-point ride from the Blue Tier back to Derby, via Weldborough. The trails are of the calibre that we’ve all come to expect from World Trail nowadays (holy hell, we’re a spoilt lot!) – bermed, ludicrously flowy, sneaky jump lines everywhere – with a great natural progression featuring easier trails close to town, getting faster and more involved as you get up into the wilds a bit further.

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 16

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 15One of the great things about the Blue Derby trails is that they are literally on Derby’s doorstep – the trailhead is a 200m ride from the Corner Store (yep, the same as you’ll find in Forrest and Mt Buller) which is a 20m ride from the bike wash which is a 10m walk from the pub! You get the idea – it’s all right there. And the whole place has the kind of character that mountain bikers will love too, an authenticity that you don’t get much in the city, and that’s a large part of this place’s appeal as a mountain bike destination.

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 25

With a lot more trail development in the pipeline, and the awesome riding of Hollybank and Launceston not far down the road already, we’re looking forward to spending a lot more time in this corner of Tassie in the coming years. If you’re in the region this weekend, get along for the first serving of an absolute trail feast that’s coming our way.

For more information about accommodation options, trail maps, bike hire and more visit http://www.ridebluederby.com.au/

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 13 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 7 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 6 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 28 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 27 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 24 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 31 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 51 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 49 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 35

 


 

Must Ride: The Australian Alpine Epic Trail, Mt Buller

This happened to us. The recently opened Australian Alpine Epic Trail is teeming with huge vistas, magical flow, effortless speed, massive trail variety and it’s all in a wide-eyed frothing ride that gives that feeling that only the most epic of epic rides can deliver. It’s a big day out, with plenty of climbing and hard effort to complete the whole 40km, but the best is saved for last with a rewarding final descent that is likely to change your life.

Flow loves a road trip to Buller, it’s a long drive down from Sydney but nothing beats that feeling of turning off the highway and heading up into the big mountains. Especially now that Mt Stirling/Mt Buller have lifted the bar once again with their latest masterpiece – the IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association) accredited Epic Trail. The Epic marks the final stage in their huge first phase of mountain bike trail development. With over 100km of premium trails in the region, and some that have been named ‘best trail in the Australia’ it’s only fitting that they sign off with a bang with The Epic, and with the trail builders themselves claiming it is their best work yet. Fear not, this is most definitely the end, we’ve been hearing rumours of the next phase of mountain bike trails at Buller to focus on downhill and beginner cross country trails near the village. Stay tuned for more.

The complete Epic Trail is a 40km journey that takes you from the Mt Buller village, through many of the original trails that lead up towards Howqua Gap and then you climb Stonefly. From the top of the incredible Stonefly you will descend (not the Stonefly singletrack descent) west towards Telephone Box Junction. Grab a bloody delicious coffee and food from the friendly crew at The Epicentre, then you climb up along Razorback Spur. The juiciest part of the new trail is the 7km descent.

The official opening of the trail was a real celebration, with the Bike Buller crew putting on a great show full of surprises for the riders who joined in on the inaugural ride. But once the crowds subsided (and unfortunately the rain arrived) Flow grabbed World Trail’s long serving trail builder and enduro shredder, Ryan De La Rue to show off their work for our camera, this is how it went down.

Directions of use: Watch the video, scroll the pictures, call your crew and plan a trip to ride The Epic as soon as possible.

Australian Alpine Epic Trail 2
Not taken from a plane, views like this from the Mt Buller village are very common. Not bad, eh?

 

It's a 43km ride, in the alps. So, you have to earn your descent.
It’s a 40km ride, in the alps. So, you have to earn your descent.
Follow the signs to bliss trails.
Follow the signs to blissful trails.
The Epic takes you a long way away from Mt Buller, but you spot it at times from some of the long ridge lines that carry you along.
The Epic takes you a long way away from Mt Buller, but you spot it at times from some of the long ridge lines that carry you along.
Let the brakes off, you can trust the trail builders to have built a predictable and safe trail to ride fast.
Let the brakes off, you can trust the trail builders to have built a predictable and safe trail to ride fast.
Australian Alpine Epic Trail 10
The trail rewards your bike handling skills, you’ll be pumping and flowing down the trail gaining speed at each turn.
Lush ferns line the singletrack, which turn into a blur of green as you hoot along.
Lush ferns line the singletrack, which turn into a blur of green as you hoot along.
The trail has been carefully crafted to maintain effortless speed. Less braking, supportive turns and plenty of visibility.
The trail has been carefully crafted to maintain effortless speed. Less braking, supportive turns and plenty of visibility.
Australian Alpine Epic Trail 18
Through forests of mountain ash and alpine snow gums, the trail takes in the best that the alpine region has to offer.
How's the terrain! This was not an easy section of trail to build through, but the team manage to join up spectacular features with beautiful flowing singletrack just fine.
How’s the terrain! This was not an easy section of trail to build through, but the experienced team manage to join up spectacular features with beautiful flowing singletrack just fine.
At the crest of one of the toughest climbs, a well-placed piece of furniture awaits you.
At the crest of one of the toughest climbs, a well-placed piece of furniture awaits your tired wheels.
Breaking up the dizzyingly blissful singletrack are numerous linkages to allow your brain to recharge it's froth depleting froth levels.
Breaking up the dizzyingly blissful singletrack are numerous linkages to allow your brain to recharge its depleting froth levels.
From this point on, prepare to lose your mind.
From this point on, prepare to lose your mind.
Left, right, left, right.
Left, right, left, right.
Every inch of trail is a good experience.
Every inch of trail is a good experience.
One of the many, many heavenly turns.
One of the many, many heavenly turns.
Australian Alpine Epic Trail 26
You’ll be faced with a real dilemma, slow down and take in the stunning surrounds? Or let it RIP!
Australian Alpine Epic Trail 28
Feature packed, it’s a real head explosion to take it all in.
Australian Alpine Epic Trail 29
Turns link up with a magical sense of flow.
Australian Alpine Epic Trail 30
From Lou’s Lookout you can see how much elevation you still have in the bank, plenty.

Australian Alpine Epic Traill (1)

Australian Alpine Epic Trail (10)

This particular section of trail towards the end had everyone stumped on how to negotiate the cliff-lined river. It took time, but World Trail managed. You'll probably spend about 1.5 seconds there...
This particular section of trail towards the end had the construction team stumped on how to negotiate the rocky cliff-lined river. It took time, but World Trail managed the task. You’ll probably spend about 1.5 seconds there though…
The final 3 km follows the Delatite river, roaring with fresh water from the mountains, teeming with fish and lined with lush ferns.
The final 3 km follows the Delatite river, roaring with fresh water from the mountains, teeming with fish and lined with lush ferns.
Australian Alpine Epic Trail 35
You’d be forgiven in mistaking this photo was taken in Rotorua, NZ. The ferns are massive!
Ryan ducks a green curtain along the Delatite River.
Ryan ducks a green curtain along the Delatite River.
Australian Alpine Epic Trail 36
No section is without flowing terrain to maintain momentum.
Australian Alpine Epic Trail 37
The final few metres of the epic journey take you through a forest with a thick fluorescent green canopy.
Congratulations everyone, it's bloody great.
Congratulations everyone, it’s bloody great.

Want more Buller? Click here. We visited the alpine singletrack haven last year to explore the whole spread of trails on offer. 

For everything you need to know about mountain biking in Mt Buller. From accommodation options, bike hire, retail opening hours, trail maps, uplift shuttle details and more: http://bike.mtbuller.com.au

[divider]The Australian Alpine Epic[/divider]

Grade: Intermediate / Advanced
Distance: 40km
Riding time: 4 – 7 hours (ability dependant)
Gradient: Long distance, includes singletrack, fire trail sections and moderately challenging slopes
Fitness: High endurance, medium technical skill
Description: This journey takes riders through a variety of environments, and trail experiences. It utililises familiar favourites including Soul Revival, One Tree Hill, Gang Gangs, Picnic Trail, Cornhill Trail, Woolybutt and Stonefly (ascent). The experience gets a little more wild, as the trail continues through Mt Stirling to Telephone Box Junction, Razorback Trail, No.3 Road, and will thrill with an endless descending flowing down section to Carter’s Road. From there, a scenic river-side stint will bring you back to leafy Mirimbah Park at the base of Mt Buller and Mt Stirling Resorts. Don’t Forget: Be prepared. Pack food, water, trail map and a repair kit. Limited phone reception. Respect the alpine environment. Conditions can change quickly so pack a spare layer of clothing.

[divider]The Epicentre, coffee and food break![/divider]

Located along the new Epic trail at Telephone Box Junction on Mt Stirling, the Epicentre offers servicing (including call-outs), funky bike retail, loads of local knowledge, advice, delicious meals and coffee.

Thur 9am-4pm
Fri 9am-6pm
Sat 8am-5pm
Sun 8am-4pm
Open daily from 17 December 2014 – 26 January 2015

T: 0407 730 809
E: [email protected]
Facebook: Bike Related Industries

[divider]Shuttle Services[/divider]

Mt Buller has two shuttle services that operate during the mountain bike season, a shuttle that runs from the base of the mountain to the top (servicing the Klingsporn and Delatite River Trails) and a shuttle that services the downhill trails after the chairlift season ends.

Mirimbah – Mt Buller Shuttle

There are two awesome trails, (Delatite River Trail & Klingsporn Bridle Track), that take you from the top of Mt Buller right down to Mirimbah at the base of the mountain. If you ride these trails you can take our bike shuttle service back up the hill – too easy! 

The mountain bike shuttle operates from Mirimbah (at the base of the mountain) to Mt Buller each weekend from Melbourne Cup Weekend (2 November) until the Easter long weekend in April. 
Available: Saturdays & Sundays 1 November 2014 – 26 April 2015
Times: 9am, 11:30am, 2.30pm and 4:30pm (extra shuttles can be operated on demand for groups)
Cost: $15 per run or $40 for four
Bookings & enquiries: 03 5777 5529 or email [email protected].

PLEASE NOTE BOOKINGS ARE ESSENTIAL

Mirimbah – Mt Stirling Shuttle

Ride the Australian Alpine Epic from the Mt Buller Village to Telephone Box Junction (TBJ), and catch the shuttle back to Mirimbah or start your ride 1/3 of the way in, at TBJ.

The mountain bike shuttle operates from Mirimbah (at the base of the mountain) to Mt Stirling each weekend from 6 December until the 26 April. 

Available: Saturdays & Sundays 6 December 2014 –  26 April 2015
Times: Departs Mirimbah 10:15am & 12:45pm (extra shuttles can be operated on demand for groups)
Cost: $15 per run 
Bookings & enquiries: 03 5777 5529 or email [email protected]

PLEASE NOTE BOOKINGS ARE ESSENTIAL

 

Queenstown and Wanaka: Top of the Pile


Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 58

This place is almost too easy to fall in love with; the setting is breathtaking, the town has a buzzing, outdoorsy vibe, it’s big enough to have all the facilities, small enough to get around without a car… And it has an absolute tonne of world class mountain biking right on its doorstep.

Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 8

We spent four days getting just a sniff of what this place has to offer. It’d be overstating things to claim we even scratched the surface of all the riding, but we did get enough of taste to make us wonder why the hell we, and other Australian mountain bikers, aren’t making this trip an annual journey.

Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 70

A gondola-lifted bike park, heli-biking galore, superb shuttled riding, endless backcountry epics, the best dirt jumps going, and it’s all just three hours flight from the east coast. So enjoy the vid, soak up the images, and begin making some plans to get your family, your mates, your crew across to Queenstown.


 

Skyline MTB Park is literally on top of town - the gondola runs from just 100m from the main street.
Skyline MTB Park is literally on top of town – the gondola runs from just 100m from the main street.
Another perfect corner. Get used to them!
Another perfect corner. Get used to them!

Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 54

There's a real variety of trails in the Skyline MTB Park, from the buff and groomed, to the steep and loose.
There’s a real variety of trails in the Skyline MTB Park, from the buff and groomed, to the steep and loose.

Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 53

Rude Rock is one of many killer shuttle-able trails that run from Coronet Peak, about 20-mins outside of Queenstown.
Rude Rock is one of many killer shuttle-able trails that run from Coronet Peak, about 20-mins outside of Queenstown.
Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 10
Oh god.
Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 20
Scenic much? Rude Rock is an incredible trail.

Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 15

 

Wanaka, about an hour from Queenstown, might be the prettiest town in existence.
Wanaka, about an hour from Queenstown, might be the prettiest town in existence.
The Millennium Track is a 30km out-and-back along the shores of Lake Wanaka, with views like this the entire time.
The Millennium Track is a 30km out-and-back along the shores of Lake Wanaka, with views like this the entire time.
More Millennium magic.
More Millennium magic.
No trip to Queenstown would be complete without flashing (and riding) the Shotover Jet maniac canyon boats.
No trip to Queenstown would be complete without flashing (and riding) the Shotover Jet maniac canyon boats.
Dropping in! The Shotover Canyon Swing is classic fun. Terrifyingly classic fun.
Dropping in! The Shotover Canyon Swing is classic fun. Terrifyingly classic fun.

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Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 95

Queenstown is also home to one the most famed dirt jump parks on the planet, the Gorge Rd Jump Park.
Queenstown is also home to one the most famed dirt jump parks on the planet, the Gorge Rd Jump Park.

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Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 125

No trip to Queenstown would be complete without some heli-biking. Greg from Fat Tyre Adventures guided us for a run down Crown Peak. Mammoth stuff!
No trip to Queenstown would be complete without some heli-biking. Greg from Fat Tyre Adventures guided us for a run down Crown Peak. Mammoth stuff!
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Greg’s done approximately 500,445,499 heli-biking trips, he’s your man.
This is the kind of elevation you get with a chopper. Save your energy for the descent.
This is the kind of elevation you get with a chopper. Save your energy for the descent.
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The lower reaches of the Crown Peak heli-drop take in some 100+ year old mining trails that cling to the canyon walls.

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Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 28

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Cheers, Queenstown! It’s been special, let’s do it again soon.

Keen to do this trip yourself? We recommend:

Air New Zealand for direct flights and staff who’ll look after your bike like they own it.

Skyline MTB Park for some kick-arse trails.

Vertigo Bikes for quality bike hire and excellent guiding.

Fat Tyre Adventures for a variety of incredible heli-biking trips.

Queenstown Bike Taxis for all your shuttle services.

Pinewood Lodge for the great bike-friendly rooms, right next to the Skyline gondola.

Edgewater Resort for the great rooms in Wanaka.

Shotover Jet, Shotover Canyon Swing and the Skyline Luge for a break from the bikes.

 

 

 

 

The Soapbox: Are You Addicted to Buying MTB Gear?

See if you recognise any of the following scenarios…

Scenario: I spend hours a week on bike sites, looking for bargains, reading reviews and scouring forums. I follow bike sites on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to more than one MTB magazine. I take at least two hours of reading and researching reviews before buying anything.

Scenario 2: I rationalise purchasing mountain biking gear based on price (for example, owning at least five bike jerseys because they were on special when you bought them). In other words, I convince myself that buying things that I don’t need (when they’re on special) is actually a really good idea because I’m actually saving money (and that’s how I justify it to myself, my girlfriend/wife, boyfriend/husband)!

Scenario 3: I spend hours talking about my purchases with my mountain biking mates. Mostly this just makes me feel worse because I end up second-guessing my decisions, but I make myself feel better by justifying my purchases.

Any or all of these: chances are you’re a tad addicted to buying mountain bike gear…

It’s only a disorder when it starts to impair your life substantially – for example, if you were to bankrupt yourself by buying a lot of expensive bikes, get fired from your job for spending all your time on review sites.

OK, let’s explore this a bit. First, it’s not really an addiction. Addiction implies a physiological dependency on a chemical, or on the chemicals released as the result of a behaviour (like gambling, eating, or sex). Technically, it is possible to become dependent on shopping/buying, but it’s only a disorder when it starts to impair your life substantially – for example, if you were to bankrupt yourself by buying a lot of expensive bikes, get fired from your job for spending all your time on review sites, or be dumped by your partner because all you do is talk about mountain biking gear.

That’s not to say it can’t be a problem at less than disorder levels. It really comes down to benefit versus cost. If you end up spending a large proportion of your time and money reading about, commenting on, and buying mountain biking gear, and that gets in the way of genuinely important things (like riding your bike, having a relationship, or working) then it’s most definitely a problem – in real terms (not in your head) in these sort of scenarios, the costs certainly outweigh the benefits. And when your girlfriend or wife, boyfriend or husband (not to mention your non-mountain biking friends and workmates) gets completely sick of hearing yet another in-depth analysis of the benefits of 29″ wheels over 650B, or why a 1×11 drivetrain is superior to 2×10, you’re probably not doing yourself any favours on the sustainable relationship front.

If mountain biking is your thing, you’re much better off cultivating the time to be able to get out and ride

And the benefits? Well, it’s certainly handy to have a good idea of what’s going on in the world of mountain biking and gear developments, it’s nice to be able to have up-to-date gear and, even more interestingly, it’s useful to learn how to service your own bike, and to purchase some good tools and materials to keep your bike running well. And yes, learning about and mastering each of these things will take a fair bit of your time. But sport-specific knowledge and workshop skills are only useful in the context of actually being able to ride. If mountain biking is your thing, you’re much better off cultivating the time to be able to get out and ride (or training when you can’t) rather than rationalising a lot of time and money wasting to satisfy an urge. At its very best, satisfaction of urges to buy stuff, read another review, or get involved in another online forum debate, is only a proxy for riding: the satisfaction you get from it simply won’t last.

So, by all means keep up to date, and buy yourself a treat from time to time – but remember: riding is about riding, not reading about it or buying bling*.

 

Do I have a problem?

Read through the following list and give yourself a score of 1 to 5 for each statement (1 for never, 2 for sometimes/maybe, 3 for usually, 4 for often, 5 for always). Add up your final score and then have a look at the scoring range below.

  • 1) I spend 2 or more hours a week on the internet researching or buying mountain biking gear.
  • 2) I spend 5 or more hours a week on the internet researching or buying gear.
  • 3) I spend more than $100 a month on gear.
  • 4) I spend more than $250 a month on gear.
  • 5) My girlfriend/wife, boyfriend/husband switches off as soon as I start talking about mountain biking gear.
  • 6) My friends or work colleagues have stopped talking to me because I’m always talking about mountain biking.
  • 7) I know everything about the latest mountain biking gear, trends, race formats, bikes, components, etc.
  • 8) I subscribe to two or more mountain bike magazines.
  • 9) I follow more than two mountain biking sites on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
  • 10) I check my favourite mountain biking websites (e.g., Chain Reaction) for specials at least two or more times a week.
  • 11) I subscribe to email notifications from more than one online mountain biking store, and always tend to click through on deals when they come through.
  • 12) My bike is heavily modified from when I bought it (e.g., carbon components, custom parts, bling parts).
  • 13) I own at least two or more of: bike shorts, bike gloves, riding jerseys.
  • 14) I own two or more bikes.
  • 15) I own five or more bikes.
  • 16) I own two or more of: helmets, headcams, goggles/sunglasses (MTB specific), hydration packs.
  • 17) My garage/workshop/spare room is full of bikes and, or bike gear.
  • 18) I’ve set up my own bike workshop and own enough tools to do at least my own basic maintenance (e.g., changing brake pads, bleeding brakes, changing chain, etc.)
  • 19) I own two or more of the following specialised workshop equipment: air compressor, workshop stand, wheel truing stand, dish stick, spoke tensioner, headset press, etc.
  • 20) I feel weird (e.g., grumpy, distracted, frustrated, anxious) when I can’t easily access bike gear info (e.g., when I’m on holiday or don’t have internet access).

Scores:

20-30: No problem, either I’m really chill about gear, or I just don’t care.

30-40: It’s OK, I can quit any time – I don’t have a problem.

40-50: OK, maybe I’m a little preoccupied, but it’s not causing any problems.

50-60: I’m really interested in bikes and gear but it’s a healthy obsession.

60-70: I’m more than a little obsessed, it’s starting to irritate the people around me, but I’ve no idea why!

70-80: Biking is my life, I know everything about what’s going on, have pretty much all the latest gear, but it’s under control – my partner hasn’t left me yet.

80-90: I would read this, but it would get in the way of abusing other people on Rotorburn.

90-100: I used to have a girlfriend/wife, boyfriend/husband, but she/he got in the way of my biking needs, and they had to go…

 

*Irony alert – yes I’m aware that I just wrote an entire article about getting out and riding when I could have been riding.

 

 

About the author:

Dr. Jeremy Adams 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 how to be human (www.eclectic-moose.com).

Jeremy is based in Melbourne and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com).

 

Must-Ride: Falls Creek, Victoria

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Flow Nation Mount Beauty-Falls Creek 12

This is just the second season that Falls Creek has been up and running with its new trail network, and already they’ve got more than enough quality trail in place to put themselves on the map in a region where mountain bikers are truly spoilt for choice. World Trail, the same team responsible for the magic of Mt Buller, have been handed the shovels at Falls Creek, so the calibre of the trails certainly aren’t in question. Think of the best bits of Buller, but closer to the village, and more easily accessed – because the Falls Creek resort has a ‘bowl’ layout, with the village at the bottom, a burger is never too far away.

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The trails are right above the village. A beer is always close at hand.
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World Trail have made the most of the natural features, like these big rock rollers.

They’ve already got four trails in place – two cross country trails which begin right in the village, and two descending trails that can either be ridden to, or shuttled with the help of the guys at Blue Dirt Mountain Biking. Between all four, there’s more than enough riding to keep you going for a full day, and once the whole lot is completed, taking on all the trails at Falls will be a multi-day affair.

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Cracking berms? Tick.

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But the bike park is only one feather in Falls’ cap, and the alpine trails across the Bogong High Plains are something pretty special too. The whole region is criss-crossed with aqueducts that feed water into the hydro-electricty plant, following the gradual contours terrain. Alongside each watercourse runs a fire trail, and there’s near endless exploring to be done, with huts along the way if you’re keen on an overnighter.

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Backcountry huts dot the plains.

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The Fainters Track is another must-do backcountry ride, descending from Falls all the way to the valley floor at Mt Beauty. This 40km ride is one of the best out going; it’s a tough half-day affair, real, raw mountain biking at its finest. Leg burning climbs, eye-popping views and brake cooking descents. You’d be mad to ride Falls Creek and not give this one a try while you’re there.

Already a must-ride destination, we’re looking forward to re-visiting Falls over the coming years as even more of the vision for this beautiful spot is rolled out.

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High on Fainters Track. Way in the distance is the Kiewa Valley, where the ride finishes up at Mt Beauty.
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Blue Dirt Mountain Biking are the crew to handle all your shuttling needs at Falls Creek.
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There’s a lot of hand-ravaging descending on the Fainters Track!

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Stay: 

Snow lands Apartments – Big, roomy apartments, right in the heart of the village. Just metres to the trails! http://www.snowlands.com.au

Eat:

Last Hoot Pizzeria – Generous and well-priced pizza, pasta and other suitably rider-fuelling food. http://www.fallscreek.com.au/LastHoot

Stingray, QT Hotel – The sunniest deck in the village, perfect for lunch or mid-morning coffee. http://www.qtfallscreek.com.au/food-drink/stingray/

Shuttles and guiding:

Blue Dirt Mountain Biking – these the only guys you need speak to for all your shuttling and guiding services in Falls Creek. Not only will the whisk you to the top, but they know all the backcountry trails like the back of their hands. Give them a bell to get the most out of this place. http://bluedirt.com.au/mtbriding/

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Flow's Holiday Must-Ride Video Playlist

Time for a mountain bike holiday? Looking for some inspiration? We’ve got over an hour and forty minutes of great destinations from across Australia and New Zealand right here for you! Travelling with your bike and exploring new places is, for us, one of the real joys of mountain biking. So settle in, grab a beer, and starting planning a trip for you and your mates to some of the amazing trails our region has to offer.

 















 

Must-Ride: Wanaka, New Zealand

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The surface of the lake is 300 metres above sea level, but the bottom is actually lower than sea level by a few metres. Visibility is incredible; the only thing blocking your view in the water is all the trout!

Wanaka makes an incredible first impression. The road into town presents you with an uninterrupted shoreline, offering you a view across the glass-topped surface of the lake to snow-capped peaks in the distance. It’s breathtaking, and this outlook sets the tone for much of the riding in Wanaka; your eyes are on the views, as much as they are on the trail.

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The Millennium Track is 15km each way. It’s quite a hilly ride, but one of the most spectacular you’ll ever find.

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Compared to the very gravity-oriented vibe of Queenstown, Wanaka has more appeal for the cross country or trail rider – the kind of person interested in an epic, scenic ride. The Millennium Track exemplifies this. Wrapping around the western shore of Lake Wanaka, this dual-purpose track is mesmerising in its beauty. Carving around bluffs that allow you to look straight down into crystal clear sapphire waters below, or dipping down to sandy beaches, this 15km point-to-point mightn’t be most technical trail going, but it’s a ride you’d be a fool to miss.

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There’s a tonne of dedicated mountain bike trail too, with both Sticky Forest and Deans Bank networks only a few minutes from the centre of town. Or if you’re looking for something more epic, the Pisa Range with its high-alpine descents and overnight huts awaits. Wanaka is increasingly expanding its appeal for gravity riders too, with more and more downhill tracks opening up in the Cardrona Valley, and the Cardrona ski area opening its chairlifts for riders this summer from 27 December – 11 January.

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Dean’s Bank is a fast loop, crammed with great berms like this.

While it’s easy to get fixated on Queenstown and its glut of trails, you’d be mad not to spend some time in Wanaka too while you’re in the region. This sporty, genuine little town really struck a chord with us, and we’ll be back, you can bet your possum-fur undies on it.


 Where to stay:

Best Budget Option – The Wanaka Hotel. Located in the centre of town, a stone’s throw to the lakefront and close to the bars & cafes. Secure bike storage. www.wanakahotel.co.nz

Best Mid-Range Option – Edgewater. Located on the absolute lakefront – just roll your bike across the lawn and you’re away! Great coffee & check out the baked-to-order scones. Secure bike storage. www.edgewater.co.nz

Best Premium Option – Riverrun. A boutique lodge set on a working farm with direct access to the Clutha River walking & biking tracks. Secure bike storage. www.riverrun.co.nz

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Where to eat:

Breakfast – Federal Diner. One of Wanaka’s best kept secrets. Don’t miss the world famous (in Wanaka) cheese scones! Complete with bike racks. www.federaldiner.co.nz

Lunch – Kai Whakapai Cafe. Wanaka’s iconic lakefront café (corner of Ardmore & Helwick St). Kai Whakapai means “food made good”. Rehydrate with a local Wanaka Beerworks “Brewski”… Bike racks onsite…

Dinner – Francesca’s Italian Kitchen. Authentic pizza & pasta with a twist of Masterchef at great prices. DO NOT miss the polenta fries… www.fransitalian.co.nz

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We’d drive to Wanaka for the polenta fries alone. Francesca’s is a must.
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A Wanaka Beerworks ‘Brewski’ goes down a treat.

More info:

The Pisa Range is a mix of Dept of Conservation and Snow Farm, with a $10 honesty box for access. For more information:

http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/otago/wanaka-makarora/pisa-conservation-area-tramping-tracks/

 http://www.snowfarmnz.com/summer/mountain_biking

 

For more information about Wanaka, head to www.lakewanaka.co.nz  

Must-Ride: Skyline MTB Park, Queenstown NZ

Now get this: it’s real, and it’s only a few hours from the east coast of Australia. We’re talking about Queenstown, a true mountain biking paradise.

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Like a postcard. Just prettier, and with better jumps.

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The mountain bike gems of Queenstown are no secret – this place has always been a mountain bike hot spot – but in recent years things have gone from a quiet simmer to totally boiling over. The riding options in and around Queenstown are now so plentiful that you couldn’t dream of covering them off in just one trip: epic cross country loops, heli-biking, mammoth shuttle runs, the best dirt jumps you’ll ever see. And sitting, literally on top of the town, is the major mountain bike drawcard, the Skyline MTB Park.

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Serviced by a gondola that’ll get you to the top in just six minutes, the Skyline MTB Park is an ever growing beast. Local stalwart Tim Ceci of Vertigo Bikes explains: “Often new trails will get built on the sly, illegally, by locals. Then the next year, they’ll be incorporated into the park.” Already there are a huge number of runs, many of which are criss-crossed by other trails, allowing you to keep it fresh by stringing together dozens of different combos. Even if you came to Queenstown solely to ride the gondola accessed trails, you could easily fill a week with riding, hammering out runs until your hands can’t take it any more.

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From buff, machine-built flow trails…..
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….to steep, rooty, raw chutes.
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Drowning in a sea of green, beneath the beech.

With so many people fixated on ski resort riding in North America, we found ourselves asking time and agin:”Why fly to Canada to ride?” Sure, somewhere like Whistler may have more runs, but when you look at the complete package of Queenstown, it’s an unbelievably good option: it takes three hours to get there from Sydney or Melbourne, the town itself is pumping, the airfares are affordable, there’s bugger all time-zone difference and, most importantly, the riding is insanely good.

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New Zealand is already on the bucket list for many Australian mountain bikers, and we can’t stress this enough, Queenstown MUST be on your itinerary if you’re heading across the ditch.

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Where to stay: There are more accommodation options in Queenstown than you can point and bacon butty at, but we stayed at Pinewood Lodge, which is fantastic value. You can stay in dorm-esque backpacker rooms, or rent the new self-contained cabin like we did. (We’re too old to party with backpackers!). Pinewood Lodge is supremely well located, and it’s less than 100m ride to the gondola! They even have downhill bikes you can rent.

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Bike hire: There are plenty of places to hire a bike in Queenstown, but when our video man Sean ‘The Prawn’ Anderson needed a bike, we went to a true Queenstown original – Vertigo Bikes, located right in the middle of town. They have a massive fleet of downhill, all-mountain and trail bikes to choose from, as well as a range of other services from guiding to skills clinics and transport. Check them out here.

Where to eat: We’re going to offer the same advice we were given: Go to Fergburger. This ridiculously popular burger joint always has a queue (and we mean always!), it shuts for just a few hours a day, has a golden reputation the world over for serving some of the tastiest burgers out there. So good, we went there twice.

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Where to drink: Atlas Bar, on the waterfront, is the mountain biker’s watering hole of choice. Serving a great variety of craft beers, this little joint puts back into the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club with generous donations. They do excellent, great value meals too. Lock it in for a pint or four.

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Photo Feature Preview: Riding the Australian Alpine Epic Trail, first

December 6 was the day when hoards of frothing mountain bikers joined those who were already in town for the Australian Mountain Bike Summit to ride the Epic first. It was a real unknown, not even the locals had ridden it, anyone who found their way onto it or snuck in a ride before the open date were spotted on the surveillance cameras and busted custard accordingly. We even tried to pay the trail builders a visit earlier in the year when the trail was under construction, but the talk of being blindfolded and walking through the bush scared us off, so we eagerly awaited what was in store of this massive project.

To date, the project has received $125,000 in federal funding through T-QUAL Strategic Tourism Investment Grants, $375,000 in state funding through Regional Development Victoria. Mt Buller Mt Stirling Resort Management has contributed $225,000 and the Mansfield Shire Council a further $25,000.

World Trail began construction in November 2013 a 40km trail that takes riders from the Mt Buller Village all the way down to the valley floor at Mirimbah via some old favourite trails and the recently completed linkages. You begin by riding some of the existing network toward the top of the well-loved Stonefly track, and it heads even further into the wilderness along ridge lines and mountain tops with a mixture of old and new trails. The juiciest bit is the 7km descent that throws you down the mountain in the finest flowing singletrack you will ever ride. Then you cruise a 2.7km undulating trail along the Delatite river to Mirimbah where an uplift shuttle awaits (if you’re organised) to return you back to Buller. It’s a mind bending ride, a real tough undertaking and is not for the faint hearted. A lot of climbing is rewarded with fun descending, so expect some highs and lows, cursing and hotting, it’s a real epic day ride.

Mount Buller threw one hell of a party for the riders to celebrate the Epic opening, whilst the weather didn’t like to party as much, the day was a real blast. This is how it unfolded.

Australian Alpine Epic first ride 1
The drive to Buller is always a real pleasure, a true road trip in all respects. You pass through great country towns, it’s super scenic, and the approach to the big mountains always gets us very excited to ride.
We made it onto a really big billboard! Life is complete.
We made it on to a really big billboard! Life is complete. That Damian Breach photo is a real winner.
The launch of the Australian Alpine Epic Trail coincided with the inaugural Mountain Bike summit. Like the G20 Summit, but more focussed on mountain biking... Trail advocacy, event management, industry, media, land management and networking all went down in a fine gathering of the key playing in the MTB community.
The launch of the Australian Alpine Epic Trail coincided with the inaugural Australian Mountain Bike Summit. Like the G20 Summit, but more focussed on mountain biking… Trail advocacy, event management, industry, media, land management and networking all went down in a fine gathering of the key playing in the MTB community. The future is bright, and we were honoured to be involved and presenting in the Summit.
A visit to Buller can't be complete without a visit to the summit for a sunset beer.
A visit to Buller can’t be complete without a walk up to the summit for a sunset beer.

Australian Alpine Epic first ride 2 (2)

Australian Alpine Epic first ride 3 (2)

Australian Alpine Epic first ride 1 (2)

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Australian Alpine Epic first ride 6
Some hoppy goodness from the nearby town, Beechworth, Bridge Road Brewers.
The morning began with the old favourite trails that took us up high towards Mt Stirling. Dave from Albany, WA burns his altitude-trainied lungs in anticipation of what lays ahead in the fog.
The morning began with the old favourite trails that took us up towards Mt Stirling. Dave from Albany, WA burns his altitude-trained lungs in anticipation of what lies behind the curtains of fog.
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 9
Patty Young from Specialized Australia begins the famous Stonefly climb.
Don't be fooled, there's a lot of climbing to earn the descent.
Don’t be fooled, there’s a lot of climbing to earn the descent.
Way out in the middle of nowhere, tubes were blasting riders up the climbs. Alpine rave, anyone?
Way out in the middle of nowhere, tunes were blasting riders up the climbs. Alpine rave, anyone?
IMBA's Joey Klein enjoying an alpine pink lady at the Stonefly summit. This is his 9th trip to Australia, and the Epic blew his mind.
IMBA’s Joey Klein enjoying a crisp pink lady at the Stonefly summit. This is his 9th trip to Australia, and the Epic blew his mind.
Telephone Box Junction is not only a place to begin or finish a ride, with public road access closest to the best bits of The Epic, there is also COFFEE!
Telephone Box Junction is not only a place to begin or finish a ride with public road access closest to the best bits of The Epic, there is also COFFEE!
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Coffee in the middle of nowhere should not be that good, right? Wrong. The Epicentre serves up a stellar muddy heart starter as we approached The Epic.
Pop your head into The Epicentre for a realllllly good coffee, organic food, bike repairs, local advice and a bit of goody shopping.
Pop your head into The Epicentre at the Telephone Box Junction for a realllllly good coffee, organic food, bike repairs, local advice and a bit of goody shopping.
The signs we were waiting for.
The signs we were waiting for.
Bike Buller surprised riders again with a remarkably remote juice stall.
Bike Buller surprised riders again with a remarkably remote pedal powered smoothie stall. Free!
Cheers for the juice, but we had to pedal the bike/blender ourselves? Sheeeesh...
Cheers for the smoothies, but we had to pedal the bike/blender ourselves? Sheeeesh…
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 20
Beats water and and warm jelly snakes any day. Fresh fruit smoothies! Free!
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Free Epic smoothies!
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 22
This is where our photos become a bit thin in quantity… The descent began and it became really quite hard to stop and shoot, please accept our apologies, a full report is coming soon though we promise.
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 2 (1)
Feature packed, the Epic takes you through, past, around and over eye-poppingly gorgeous wilderness.
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 1 (1)
In true World Trail style, the flowing descent rewards all your efforts that lay behind you.
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 3 (1)
Imagine descending 7km of trail like this? Hardly any pedalling or braking, just dreamy flow.
When we couldn't yell any more, our bodies were exhausted, heads exploded, we were greeted by another remote surprise.
When we couldn’t yell any more, our bodies were exhausted, heads exploded, we were greeted by another remote surprise.
Free ice cream!
Free ice cream!
Never tasted better.
Never tasted better.
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 25
Specialized’s Nick Van der Linden rolls past another disgustingly scenic and fun piece of trail towards the end.
The Delatite river roared beside the final section of the trail, crystal clear and lined with massive green ferns.
The Delatite river roars along beside the final section of the trail, crystal clear and lined with massive green ferns.
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We were a part of something special, first to ride on the Australian Alpine Epic Trail. Done, but not quite dusted.
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 27
Brett and Aaron from Blue Dirt Mountain Biking were shuttling exhausted and muddy mountain bikers like mad back up to Buller from Mirimbah. Cheers, guys!
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Beats climbing. Well, climbing may well have been impossible by that stage. It’s exhausting to ride the full Epic!
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 29
Ryan De la Rue from World Trail celebrates on his finest work yet, he’s responsible for many happy mountain bikers now.
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The rain pushed the celebrations inside, but one last surprise from the folk at Bike Buller, fireworks to cap off a mega amazing day.

The Australian Alpine Epic is open, get to it people!

Stay tuned for a complete story, and a seriously amazing video of Ryan from World Trail shredding the Epic soon.

http://bike.mtbuller.com.au

Must-Ride: Mt Beauty, Victoria

Mt Beautys butts right up against some serious mountains. There's no concept of travelling to the trails, they're right in town.
Mt Beauty butts right up against some serious mountains. There’s no concept of travelling to the trails, they’re right in town.

Beauty breathes mountain biking; from the second you roll into town and spot the dozens of little jumps that locals have shaped into the roadside embankment, you know this a town that loves riding on dirt. The riding and the town are enmeshed, in a physical as much as a notional sense, with the singletrack fingers of the Big Hill Mountain Bike Park stretching out to stroke the main street.

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Getting into the trails is as easy as crossing the road. But once you’re in the trees, you quickly see why the Mt Beauty locals are so fit and such great bike handlers. These are physical, technical trails with some grunty climbs to be had, and the kind of whizzing singletrack that doesn’t excuse sloppy riding. It’s this challenge, and the local culture of laconic competitiveness, that has seen local talent like the Panozzo clan and XCE World Champ Paul Van Der Ploeg rise to international prominence.

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Current 24hr National Champ, Tory Thomas is just one of the elite riders who call Mt Beauty home. This place is the perfect training ground, whether on the dirt or road.

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Unlike so many of the bike parks around the place now, Beauty has been built by hand, not a machine. Benched, scraped and chipped into the tough earth by locals who never seem to stop building. There are plenty of old favourites, but new trails seem to raise their heads almost as frequently as the black snakes that love this woodland too. Because it is such a complex web of trails, grabbing some advice (or a local) from the local bike shop is worthwhile – there’s so much there, it’s easy to miss the best bits.

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Local Chris Panozzo, giving his side knobs a work out.

Outside of the bike park, your options are as limitless as your legs will allow; there are fireroad routes that disappear over far flung peaks and valleys, or if you’re a fan of road riding too, some of Australia’s best climbs are within easy reach. When the days get too hot (and they do in summer, after mid morning), the rock pools can’t be missed, they’re just a ten minute ride from town.

What really appeals about Mt Beauty is that it’s not an isolated destination; drive half an hour across the Towanga Gap and you’ll find yourself in Bright, or climb up further into the Bogong High Plains and you’ll soon reach the rapidly growing trail network of Falls Creek. This entire region is alive with cycling, and Mt Beauty is at its heart.

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The social riding scene in Beauty is a lot of fun. Mid-week arvo session with the local lads.

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Where to stay: Flow stayed at the Svarmisk Apartments. These stylish, funky standalone apartments have private bike storage, epic views, are totally setup for self-catering groups. They also have the advantage of being literally 30 seconds from the trails.

Where to eat: In the off season, Mt Beauty can be quiet in the evenings, so plan ahead. Lunches at the Mount Beauty Bakery are the ticket. And, of course, it’s vital you try a local ale or two. Sweetwater Brewery is Mt Beauty’s own craft brewer. The brewery bar is right in town, so drop by for a tasting. Check their site for opening times: http://www.sweetwaterbrewing.com.au

Sweetwater Brewery is the local craft brewer. Drop by for a tasting - they're open over the weekends, but check their website for exact hours.
Sweetwater Brewery is the local craft brewer. Drop by for a tasting – they’re open over the weekends, but check their website for exact hours.

Bike shops: Rocky Valley is the local shop, right on the main road into town.

Local knowledge: Head to the rock pools, on Rockpool Rd, to cool down after a morning shred.

Cedric Gracia: The Funniest Bugger in Mountain Biking

Still racing, 19 years after winning his Junior World Championship, Cedric Gracia continues to be one the most distinctive, hilarious and talented riders on the planet. Flow caught up with Cedric at a critical point in his career – as he prepares to come back from an injury that almost killed him – to talk about the past, the future and why he continues to race.


This interview originally appeared in Flow Mountain Bike magazine (remember that thing?) in 2013.


 

 So Cedric, where are you now?

Ah, man, I’m here in Andorra (in the eastern Pyrenees, between Spain and France), and it’s snowing again. I want it to stop! I want to ride so bad it’s ridiculous. And it’s too dangerous for avalanches to ski right now, too many of my friends have died in avalanches, so I’m inside.

I’m getting older, I’m 35 now. In the past I wouldn’t have cared, I’d just ski all day, but now I try to give myself a bit more structure and I have more respect for the mountain. I do my fitness in the morning, then my emails, my Facebook stuff. Then in the afternoon, when the weather’s good, I like to do ski-touring stuff – you know, pick a mountain top and climb up with the dog, ski back down. I always go with the dog. He’s my training partner.

I’ve been living here since I moved out from the US eleven years ago. I loved the US but it was always kind of difficult for papers and shit. And I didn’t want to move to France. France is good if you’re a foreigner; you can do what you want. But if you’re French living in France, you can’t do shit.

But Andorra, it’s good living here: cheap alcohol, cheap food, lots of girls, good party nightlife, close to Barcelona. It’s a tax haven too, which a plus.

But Andorra, it’s good living here: cheap alcohol, cheap food, lots of girls, good party nightlife, close to Barcelona. It’s a tax haven too, which a plus. I’ve got a good life here. I can ski or ride everyday, and I’ve been really involved in the bike park here. It took me four years to get those guys trusting mountain biking but now, from my house I can see the lift, which will take me to the top of the bike park.

 

You were a skier early in your career, too, right?

Yes, but before that it was BMX. When I was young, I was BMX World Champ, but I was getting tired. It was just always about racing and shit. So one day I just told my dad, ‘Fuck, I’m done with BMX.’ And he was like, ‘What do you mean? You’re World Champion.’ But I was just tired. I wanted to quit. I was 11-years-old. Every weekend I was skiing too, and it was getting hard to make the choice between skiing or racing BMX. But in BMX I was winning everything, and so my dad said he would support me with skiing if I wanted to go down that path.

I was14-years-old when I moved to a special ski school, about nine hours from home. So I gave it a go and started winning lots of races. I entered the French ski team. But it’s so hard and so expensive, and one day I asked my coach, ‘Is there any way I can make it to the World Cup?’ He said, ‘Yeah, if you work harder you probably could.’ But I was a teenager and all I wanted to do was party and smoke cigarettes with my friends. I felt like I was missing out.

So I took one year off and started to skateboard, you know, underground, in the garage, smoking with my friends. Then I started to realise perhaps this was the wrong trail too, so I went back to skiing.

Still, I thought ‘Ok, I’ll give it a go, I’ll go look stupid with my friend in spandex and stuff.’

 

How did mountain biking come into the picture?

One day some friends of mine asked me to try mountain biking, but back then all I said to them was, ‘This mountain biking is gay.’ I was coming from BMX, so I saw these bikes with front brakes and gears, and I thought it was for people who didn’t know how to ride. Still, I thought ‘Ok, I’ll give it a go, I’ll go look stupid with my friend in spandex and stuff.’

So I went to one race and won it. And my friend asked me, ‘Did you have fun?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I had fun… but does that make me gay?’

But I didn’t want to really race then, I just wanted to hang out with my friends, sleep in the tent, drink some beers and make some trouble. But I did a few races, I got sponsored by Sunn Bicycles and they started paying me some money, so then I could start paying for my friends to come along too. I’d bring along six of my friends, and I wouldn’t sleep in the hotel because I wanted to use the money to be able to have my friends with me.

 

You’ve been on a long path of recovery since you crashed at Val di Sol in Italy last year and had to have a complete hip reconstruction. Can you tell us a bit more about it all?

Ah man! That hip has cost me so much money! I already had to buy two Louis Vuitton handbags because of it! And now my wife wants a new car too! But I’ve got to keep her happy – she had to look after me for a month when I was in the bed, shitting on a plate, not able to clean myself. It was the worst thing ever. That’s why we went to Monaco and I gave her the credit card.

But really, I am very lucky. We had a party recently with the doctors and all the people who helped me. And the doctor was like, ‘Dude, I can’t believe you’re walking and drinking like totally normal, when seven months ago you almost died.’ Actually, I almost died twice. But I didn’t want people to know. Nobody knew how bad it was. Some of my friends on the World Cup were already worried, so I told my wife and the people who came to see me in Italy not to tell anyone. But it was bad. I was bleeding on the inside, from a big artery; I had only three litres of blood left in me. I was unconscious.

I was bleeding on the inside, from a big artery; I had only three litres of blood left in me. I was unconscious.

My wife was the one who saved me. She came from Andorra and she told the doctors, ‘It’s easy – either you save him or I fucking sue your arses.’ They lost a kid a couple of months before with a similar problem and my wife knew that, and so even though there was a language problem between my wife and the doctor, she could say enough to get the word ‘suing’ across. And get across the idea that if they didn’t fix me, their life would be shit.

So I went back to the block, and they finally found where the blood was leaking. I was so low on blood by then I was unconscious. And after that first operation, I woke up and saw my wife and my dad and asked them what happened. And they were like ‘Well, you died for a couple of minutes – we had to jumpstart you again with electricity.’ Man, I was fucking lucky.

But they still had to do the surgery to actually fix my hip and they weren’t going to do that in Italy. I couldn’t fly anywhere because I was still too unstable and my blood was still too low. So they injected me with EPO and iron to get my haemoglobin back up and then I in a couple of days flew me home. I was still very low though and nobody had the blood I needed – I’m an AB positive, and that’s quite rare. Eventually they got the blood and they could begin to do the surgery to reconstruct my hip.

‘Well, you died for a couple of minutes – we had to jumpstart you again with electricity.’ Man, I was fucking lucky.

It was pretty intense, there were six or seven people involved in the surgery. When you’re bleeding inside, it’s always very risky – because when you get opened up, you can very quickly lose whatever blood is left. With me, they only had the two litres spare, so they were scared that if they opened me I would die in two minutes. In the end it was a nine-hour surgery. It was rough.

My pelvis broke in 40 pieces. It was shattered. When they told me that, I didn’t believe them. I thought it was bullshit that a bone could do that. The doctors told me there’s only one guy in the world who can fix that – a French surgeon. And they told me I was only going to be the second person to have that surgery, but they didn’t want to tell me what happened to the first guy. Turns out he died because he didn’t have enough blood.

I have two huge scars – one on the front, one on the back – because they put me sideways into this special seat, with two teams of six people, one team on each side of my leg. They took only the bigger piece because the little parts will reform with time, and basically they have two plates, front and back, and they screwed all the parts back in between the plates.

I lost 17 kilos while I was in the bed. Man, when you’re that long in the bed, you don’t even know if you’re going to make it. Your doctors tell you that you might not even be able to walk. It’s rough. But now, I feel like nothing happened to me. I’m skiing, I can do squats, I’m riding. I’m fucking lucky.

 

The Sunn team you raced with early in your career was possibly the best mountain bike race team then or since. The talent was amazing. What was it like?

When I started with Sunn, I was thinking that other teams operated like that. But when I moved to other teams later on, I realised, ‘Wow, now I know why we blew all the company’s money!’ We were flying everywhere in the world. Sure, my salary was shit, but I was a junior. I wasn’t deserving to make much money. I was having a good time; I was with my mates, and we were travelling everywhere in the world first-class, and I had a bike that was probably ten times better than any other bike out there.

I was the worst guy ever to have on a team – I didn’t even train! But our bikes were so good I felt like I didn’t even need to train! Everybody thought we training so hard, but all I was doing was playing PlayStation and waiting for the weekend to get knackered with my friends. I had this idea that this was the life of an athlete, and I kept going like that until I realised I couldn’t keep it up forever.

 

You feel like the equipment made the difference?

Yeah, man. The bikes were built right there in the office; we could make as many changes as we wanted. My mechanic was also the welder, so we could make new frames without it costing more than the tubing and a little bit of time. I was trying different linkages, different geometry all the time. But the suspension, man, we were using telemetry back then. We were so advanced – we could tell everything about how the suspension was performing when the other teams had nothing. They were just bolting suspension onto downhill bikes.

We had all the best riders in the world. We were flying all over the world. We were winning everything, but more was coming out from the company than going back in. We were too ambitious.

We had computers, we had Olivier Bossard, the man behind BOS suspension. Looking back now, I was stupid. Because if I had taken it seriously, with the bikes we had, man, I could have smoked it. But I wasn’t ready; I was just ready to hang out with my friends and party.

Everything we had was so much better than everybody else. It blew the company. We had all the best riders in the world. We were flying all over the world. We were winning everything, but more was coming out from the company than going back in. We were too ambitious. We wanted more and more, it was everyone’s dream to be part of that team.

 

Do you have your old Sunn bikes?

I’ve still got all my old bikes, except one. It was the one I won my first World Cup on. Bossard didn’t want to give it to me because it was a prototype. And you know what they did? They fucking cut it in half and threw it in the garbage! I was so sad!

 

You went from one incredible team to another, the Volvo-Cannondale team. It’s amazing to think that Volvo was so invested in mountain biking.

It was good on Volvo. It was the second team that was looking really decent after Sunn. But we knew the bike wasn’t so good. I mean they always had these kind of freaky designs. But the riders they had – like Missy Giove and Myles Rockwell –they were cool. And I thought if there was another team I’d ever like to be on, it was Cannondale. They had this cool American pride kind of thing going on.

Then at the World Championships Cannondale came to me before the race, when I’d qualified I think fifth or seventh. They knew I could win, but again I wasn’t ready – for me the World Championships were another opportunity to get wasted on Saturday night in Mont-Sainte-Anne. Obviously I didn’t go too good.

Anyhow, they were scared that if I won they’d have to pay me a lot of money to join the team, so they came to me before the race to make me an offer. We’d been talking before, too. About two years earlier Cannondale had offered me triple the money I was getting on Sunn, but I’d wanted to stay with my friends so I declined the money.

After Mont-Sainte-Anne Cannondale really wanted me on board. They had just signed Anne-Caroline Chausson, but Anne-Caroline had said she’d only come on board if I came too. So they made me an offer I couldn’t decline. They were going to pay me in American dollars, and at that stage I was still on francs. So before the race I was making the calculation and I couldn’t believe what I was going to be getting paid. I told my mum and she said ‘This is bullshit. There’s no way they’ll pay you that much money – do you even know how much this is? Your dad and me never made that money.’ That was of course in the time when mountain biking was at its peak in terms of sponsorship. It was great.

Why make things so complicated when we can make it as beautiful and as fast with just a single-pivot bike? The suspension technology was getting better, so the bike could work as well with just a single pivot

 

The complexity of the Cannondale bikes then was pretty out there.

In terms of engineering they were making some pretty cool stuff, but I definitely had a hard time going fast on their bikes. They always had these crazy designs, like the Gemini with two shocks, and the Fulcrum with the extra chain drives, but in the end they realised it wasn’t needed. Why make things so complicated when we can make it as beautiful and as fast with just a single-pivot bike? The suspension technology was getting better, so the bike could work as well with just a single pivot, and that is what the Gemini ended up being. At the same time, it’s easier to sell a single-pivot bike too, because it can be made less expensive and people will have fewer problems with it.

In the beginning I think it was very hard for the Americans at Cannondale to listen to me; I was a little Frenchy, with red hair and piercings in my face, who loved to get smashed at the bar. But after a few good results they started to consider my opinion.

In the end we made the bike very simple – on my bike I even got rid of the floating brake arm. I was riding with Steve Peat a lot, and his Orange had the same single pivot but without a floating brake mount, and I asked him if he thought it made a difference. Peaty said he thought it was bullshit, so I got my mechanic to take the floating brake arm off.

But it was a good life with Cannondale. I was young, and you love to go to America when you’re young – the girls are hot, they have fake boobs. I was going to the beach lots, I was going to Sheep Hills in California and jumping around with my 4X bike. My life was good!

 

Your career took a pretty different turn after that, when you moved back a much smaller setup with Commencal.

It was cool to go back and ride with Commencal. After Max Commencal basically burned up Sunn, I always said to him if you build a new brand, I will come and help. And when I moved back to Andorra, it was time to do it now. He was like ‘Fuck, you’re going to cost me a lot of money!’ He matched my Cannondale team offer and helped out with some cars and stuff like that. The other part of the deal was that we were going to do it my way; I didn’t want any pressure on the result, I just wanted to ride my bike flat out and have fun. And that’s what I did.

But it started to get a little difficult. I was getting injured quite a lot, and my relationship with Max got a little bit harder, too. He had always been a little bit like my dad, and we had a few conflicts. Max didn’t want to always listen to my opinions. I knew, too, that Commencal had a view to taking on the Athertons, so I could see the time was coming to do something else. I mean, the Athertons were good for Commencal because Gee and Rachel could deliver the top results, but at the same time the image was very different to what we’d been building with Commencal for the last few years. But I think the break hurt Max, especially when I signed with Santa Cruz.

And now I have the CG Racing Brigade. There was no scope for me to join the Santa Cruz Syndicate, but Santa Cruz wanted to have someone who could make more of an image. So we started the Brigade, with a less serious image, more European.

I also saw the Brigade as a chance to put something back into the sport by supporting more juniors, riders who don’t have the support they might deserve. People supported and invested in me when I was young and it’s only really in the last few years I’ve really understood how much that support meant. So I thought maybe I should give back a little of what I got. It is hard though when you’re a private team! When it’s your own money you’re putting in, and sometimes perhaps people aren’t appreciating it.

 

Looking through photos for this feature, in just about every shot you’re whipping out or your hands are off the bars, or you’re throwing a big table-top. Is that just about fun or is it part of building that image?

Ha-ha! When I jump, it’s really hard for me to jump straight. But secondly, I’ve never been driven purely by winning. I love winning, sure. It’s a good feeling, but it only makes you happy for a second when you beat everyone else. It’s a funny thing. People think it’s a very hard thing to win a World Cup. But when it happens, you haven’t done anything different to the other days, it’s just all worked out this time. It’s funny how people put you to the top, they look at you different, like you’re so strong or some shit, but for you it doesn’t change anything!

It’s a funny thing. People think it’s a very hard thing to win a World Cup. But when it happens, you haven’t done anything different to the other days, it’s just all worked out this time.

For me the kids coming up and saying things like ‘Man, your suicide at the arch at Fort William was the best thing I’ve ever seen,’ I consider that much more important than winning. I love it when kids come to me and ask for an autograph, and it makes them and me happy. It’s my job to never say no to them. I hate to see people ignoring those kids because they’re thinking only about the race. I know the race is important, but it’s those kids who let us eat, who are buying the bikes and the gear. You need to be appreciative of that.

Sometimes I think about why I’m not more like someone like Gwin, someone who feels winning is everything. I think perhaps that’s how I was when I was young in BMX. Back then I wanted to win everything. But I think that’s why I left BMX after a few years, because I was winning everything and I got fed up. I’ve won some things in mountain biking, but never enough to make me think ‘That’s enough. I’ve got nothing more to prove. Fuck it, I’m going skateboarding now!’ I think I approached mountain biking more like a normal person. I wanted to mountain bike to be with my mates, to ride the bike parks with my friends. I like to go to the bar and talk about what we did that day on the trails.

A result might make you happy when you get it, but if I don’t get it, that’s ok. I’ll try again next week. At the end of the day, I’m happy about the weekend, because I ride my bike, I have fun, I see my mates. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I should be more focused on results, but this is how how I stay happy.

 

The whole nature of downhill racing has shifted over the past six years – we don’t see too many people partying like you’ve always had the reputation for doing.

For sure, mountain biking has got a lot more serious. People now realise you can’t get drunk every weekend and expect to win races. This used to happen before when the level was ok. But now it’s so tight, with everyone on the same second, everything counts.

It’s a new generation of kids who want to make a living out of biking. For them it’s their job. For me it was never a job, it was a lifestyle.

But I kind of miss those days. Those days for me were mountain biking! Now it’s too much like Formula One. It’s a new generation of kids who want to make a living out of biking. For them it’s their job. For me it was never a job, it was a lifestyle. I’m not judging the kids at the top now – it is the way it is. But only a few guys are at the bar now: Steve Peat, me, sometimes Minnaar… just the old dogs. There are a few kids still today – kids like Brook MacDonald or Josh Bryceland – when I look at their eyes I see the devil! I love those kids because they remind me of me. They want to do good, but they want to have fun. There are only a few, but in the past everyone was like that – there’d be 30 of us at the bar, the race was done and everyone was crazy. I remember winning Fort William with Kovarik; we took our prize money, five thousand pounds each, and put it on the table. We drank it all. I went home with ten pounds in my pocket. It wasn’t an issue, we were having fun, we didn’t care.

 

That image seems the complete opposite of so many of your fellow French riders. What was your relationship like with people like Nico Vouilloz and Fabien Barel?

Nico was jealous because I wasn’t training and I was starting to kick his arse. He had everything – everyone was basically sucking his cock. I had respect for him, but I didn’t want to be him at all. He always had his dad with him – I couldn’t deal with that. But we got drunk together a couple of times now he’s done racing, and I told him, ‘Man you know you were a dick – I loved to kick your arse because you were so proper with your mum and dad.’ And Nico said ‘Cedric you’re a dick,’ and he told me that being like that was the only way for him to win. It was funny we talked about it. He just needed everything to be totally perfect so he felt he could win. Now I’m older I understand, but back then when I was young and arrogant with piercings in my face, I thought he was a dick.

You don’t want to know what I did to Barel… When he came to the Sunn team me and my mates gave him an initiation. I would shit in plastic bags and chase after him with it, throwing it at him, I was pissing in buckets and tipping it on his head from above the doors. I did the worst things to him! I think I made him a little bit stronger to be a World Champ, I made him tougher. I definitely abused him.

 

As one of the riders who always rode 4X and downhill, how do you feel about the demise of 4X?

I always told them that if they don’t make bigger jumps, bigger rockgardens, this is going to die, because it’s getting closer and closer to BMX. Why would you race 4X when you can race BMX? I was still racing it though because it was a good chance to hang out with the boys and to relax and not always focus on downhill. Plus it meant I could ride my bike more, and on Cannondale, I could help Brian Lopes win races too.

I think it’s too bad that they never introduced an Omnium Championship, like at Sea Otter, with a winner across both downhill and 4X. It could have been better for everyone. Sure it’s hard to do both, but we’re professionals!

But they went the other way and made it more and more BMX, and it’s hard to compete with BMX guys who practice 30 gate starts a day when you don’t even have a gate!

 

You were the first of the serious downhill racers to get involved in the Red Bull Rampage – you even won it in 2003. Was that part of the plan?

Not at all! I was in Vegas and I heard they had a freeride event. I didn’t even know what freeride was about! I went along, I didn’t want to dig or anything like that, so I just started to shred all the way down without looking where I was going. Somehow I made it and got third or second. After that I started to build some big jumps and drops, and the bigger they got, the more fun I had. It was a good side job from the life of downhill, hanging out in the desert, drinking some beers, and afterwards we could go to Vegas!

Perhaps me getting involved in Rampage started to change the way downhillers felt about freeride. Downhillers have a lot more respect for freeriders now too. To jump some of those things takes serious balls!

I never, ever expected to win it. I was just going there to have fun, take some photos. I just wanted to shred down and be stupid. On downhill you can have fun, but you still have to go down the hill as fast as possible, but not here. It suits me really well!

Perhaps me getting involved in Rampage started to change the way downhillers felt about freeride. Downhillers have a lot more respect for freeriders now too. To jump some of those things takes serious balls! I think it was good for the freeriders to see other high-level racers like Gee Atherton, too.

But now I look at Rampage and I don’t want to go back. All these wooden ramps and shit! That’s not what Rampage is, that’s shit. Now it’s just turning into another slopestyle. It was big mountain riding – just a shovel and a pick to make your line then go. I don’t want to see wood in the fucking desert. And at the same time, I don’t want to deal with judges who give out points according to which drink sponsor you have on your helmet. This year it was lame; the judging was biased. Too much money involved now. When things get too serious, it kills it. More roots shows the brilliance.

 

Enduro racing seems to be gaining huge amounts of momentum, and I know you’re a believer in it too. Why?

For sure. Right now we’ve got the Enduro World Series, and it’s going to be huge all over the whole world. My sponsors don’t even want to hear about downhill anymore. It’s just such a small market for them. Enduro is a market that can actually support the industry.

Things are coming back now in terms of sponsorship because of enduro. Mountain biking is changing. Downhilling is great – you know, for the young kids it’s got a cool image – but you don’t sell many of those bikes at all. Enduro is all about guys my age, from 25 to 45. People who have jobs and a family, they make money and they just want a fucking cool bike to go hang out with their friends on the weekend. And you don’t need a lift. You don’t need anything. I understand that. That’s where mountain biking is going. And the sponsors understand that too.

The full Santa Cruz Syndicate and the Brigade are going to race enduro this year. And for guys like me, slightly older, we have a bit of an advantage too, because you need the endurance. It’s just a good kind of second career for guys like me.

 Sam Hill… he loved to win, but not just win, to completely smoke everyone. He doesn’t want to win by one second, he wants to win by ten.

 

You’ve raced against some of the greats of the sport. Who do you think is the best racer you’ve competed against?

Sam Hill was amazing. I mean, Gwin is good, but he never won like Sam Hill. Hill was just smashing people. Everyone was always saying that Sam is cocky or he’s arrogant, but I think he is just shy and he loved to win, but not just win, to completely smoke everyone. He doesn’t want to win by one second, he wants to win by ten. Obviously, having a family now, things are not the same, but I think he’ll be back on top next year. He wants prove that he’s still the fastest.

 

You’re 35 this year. You’ve achieved more in your racing career than most riders could ever dream of, and you’ve just suffered an injury that would kill many people. So why are you still racing?

That’s something I asked myself when I was lying in the hospital, for sure. But I think bikes are why I’m alive. It’s not about competing; it’s about riding my bike. My life is riding bikes. When I can’t do that, maybe I’ll leave the bike industry entirely. But it’s also for those 160,000 people who follow me on Facebook and the other fans all over the world – I feel like I’m an example for them. I want to keep riding to thank them. When you’re lying down in hospital for so long, reading the messages that people send, the goodwill, man it’s a big help. Maybe that’s why I still do it.

 

Interview: Intense Cycle’s Andrew Herrick

You’ve been in Intense for almost two years now, what is your background?

I’ve come from Selle Royal, previously being one of the partners in Crank Brothers with the original to designers and founders Carl and Frank. I was the commercial partner in Crank Bros while the others designed cool stuff. That business merged with the Selle Royal Group in Italy (Selle Royal, Brooks, Fizik etc) and when I finished there, I was looking at how I wanted to spend the next ten years of my life, after spending the last 25 in the bike industry.

I like challenges, and when the outcomes of these challenges we face are in doubt.  There has been a lot of really cool boutique bike brands that have gone on to be great commercial enterprises, employing lots of people and sponsoring riders. So I looked for one of those companies that can make a difference and fulfil a promise, and in that process I was talking to a lot of people, including Jeff Steber from Intense. Here I am now.

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Joining me was a chief financial officer and a chief operating officer/product director – Chad Peterson who came from Crank Brothers too, and before that he spent eight years at Cannondale, so he knows how to make mountain bikes.

So you saw that Intense needed some love, and the outcome was in doubt?

I wouldn’t say that the outcome was ever in doubt, more so that we had challenges ahead of us that the whole team needed to overcome. It’s not an easy slam-dunk for any of us, but we’re certainly confident in the direction we are going. We should have that attitude when we wake up in the morning, right?

When you came to Intense, what elements did you see that needed help? 

It’s the same as with all small companies that need help, and that number one area is planning. So it’s planning on cash, inventory, marketing calendars, It is in every way, and a long term view that is needed where your actions can be predicted.

Intense have long been a ‘frame only’ option for consumers. This changed recently with the offering of complete bikes for sale. What changed there?

With the ‘bike and kit’ needing up to 180 day lead times, it’s a brutally difficult task. The Tracer was the first complete and also a test for 2014 bikes, we offered it as a whole bike, and not just a bare frame. Now all the bikes we see in our catalogue are offered with very specific spec in multiple levels, with the spec being carefully designed to go with each frame. It’s all been well thought out what parts we choose, some parts don’t go well with other parts, and we’ve done our testing to find what works best. Our riders like Chris Kovarik and Brian Lopes have told us what works, and we’ve been listening to those guys.

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The Tracer. 

We’re seeing more carbon frames from Intense. Coming from a brand with such a long reputation for welded aluminium frames, was the move to carbon a reluctant decision that has now picked up pace? 

No, I know that for sure it was not reluctantly it was simply due to the finally having the capability to do so. There are barriers to entry into the world of carbon bikes, you need technical know how, and you need cash. To over simplify thing, when you make an aluminium bike you order aluminium tubes then you weld them together. When it comes to carbon you need to plan 18 months ahead of time, and once the mould you make is open, that’s it. You can’t make small changes to the frame’s geometry or anything, you’re fully committed. And by the time the first carbon bikes arrive, you’re well into six figures of investment. So unless you have critical mass, you can’t be in the carbon game. So I don’t believe Intense went into the carbon business reluctantly it was just as soon as they were able to. And thankfully we did.

What was the first carbon frame from Intense?

The Carbine, a 26” 150mm travel frame. Now we go up to the Tracer with 160mm of travel in carbon. We don’t have a ‘super enduro’ bike as yet; you may see one of those from us in the near future, in aluminium and carbon.

The new Tracer was actually an aluminium bike before we made it in carbon. In fact if you take a carbon and the new aluminium Tracer, put them side-by-side they will cast the same shadow. They both share the same shapes, geometry and look. The aluminium frame mimics the carbon one because we hydroformed the aluminium frame tubing and then constructed it in our Temecula, California factory.

We usually make aluminium frames before carbon, because we can make them in our own factory, just right. You’ll actually see two new aluminium frames come out before our next carbon bike.

We currently have six bike frames in development; previously we’ve never had more than one frame in development at one time. All thanks to planning, resources, new engineers etc.

Shaun Palmer, he’s back! And Brian Lopes too. Why? 

We don’t look at them as retired World Cup riders, they are rock stars. Including Chris Kovarik and Claire Buchar, we have true rock stars amongst us.

Intense portraits / Mammoth /  (c) Rob Trnka 2014
Shaun Palmer.
Intense portraits / Mammoth /  (c) Rob Trnka 2014
Brian Lopes.

I hold them in the same reverence now as I did when they were in their prime. Brian Lopes is even still so competitive, with just having recently won the Kamikaze downhill and the enduro the following day!

Everyone wants to party with a rock star, so we want to make sure that Shaun, Brian, Chris and Claire get out there as much as possible. Now with the freedom of a growing company, they will be out and about a lot more. In fact Brian and Shaun are now in Roc d;Azur in France. Chris will be spending a lot of his summer in Australia visiting Intense dealers and riding with consumers, it’s really great.

Intense portraits / Mammoth /  (c) Rob Trnka 2014
Chris Kovarik, Claire Buchar.

What’s next from Intense? 

We’ll be developing a bigger global presence, for example we don’t sell into the second largest mountain bike market in the world, Germany. The reason for that is that we are growing so fast everywhere else that if we added Germany into the mix we would probably do a terrible job and we don’t want to do a terrible job anywhere, but if you do a terrible in Germany you are out, for at least a decade, haha.

There are many markets that needed work, we have a lot of blue sky above our heads right now and Australia is right up there on our list of partners that are with us as we push towards this new horizon for Intense Cycles. We are still so tiny for a company that is building two-wheeled Ferraris. That is why we are launching a new downhill World Cup team for next year; Ferrari always participates in Formula 1. A World Cup season without Intense is like a Formula 1 without Ferrari, we’ve been out for too many years so we are coming back.

Keep an eye out for the announcement of a new team soon. Bernard Guardia, Brian Lopes, Chris Kovarik and Shaun Palmer have been discussing the best strategy for the new team, and there is not going to be just a one-year view, it’ll be a long-term program built with real integrity.  We won’t be going in a buying a rider, the big companies can do that, we just don’t have that luxury.

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We’ve been watching the fast junior riders, for ones that we can help develop. They will be riding our new yet to be released downhill bike, they will have day to day coaching with World Cup legend Bernard Guardia, and guest coaching with Shaun, Brian or Chris.

So we have signed three young riders, one Spaniard, American and an Aussie.

They’ll be on our new downhill bike that will be an aluminium frame first, testing that will enable us to get it right just in time to open the mould for a carbon one. There is no secret that we’ll have a carbon downhill bike soon. By January/February we’ll know from testing the aluminium downhill bike how to make it perfect, then three to four months from there we’ll have carbon.

Which one do you ride? 

I’m on a Spider 29, I’m 6’2” and I like the feel of a 29er coming from a cross country background. I do a few marathon events, and I’ll do the Garda Marathon in Italy again this year. I’m 47 years old, and my bones don’t bounce anymore, I don’t need the big bikes.

Cheers!

 

Always Summer Somewhere: Riding Craigieburn and Nelson, NZ

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Picture yourself: pinned, silently drifting, surfing and jumping along some of the finest singletrack you have ever touched. The only audible sounds are of beech leaves heaving off pristine trail as tires smash its corners, take-offs and straight-shots. The humidity hanging in the air from the nearby Tasman Sea blows off your face, shoulders and hands as if it had never existed at all. This is perfection. This is New Zealand.

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After a few days of crushing hot laps in the Queenstown Bike Park, our crew stuffed itself aboard the HouseMartin van and a relic we’d picked up from a local rental outfit in town. Our rig read 350,000 kilometers on the odometer and was the third and final installment of vehicles we “tested” before leaving town. New Zealand is such a massive hub for backpackers and long-haul travellers that we couldn’t help but imagine the tales our pewter 10 passenger van, bikes in tow, had to tell under its remarkably intact exterior. Manual transmission, right hand drive, questionable high-speed shudders and all, old reliable “kept ‘er pinned” throughout our journey; up and down shuttle roads, along the highways of New Zealand’s south island and all the way to the “top” (of the island) to Nelson. This van was a clear winner – and proved to be so as we watched Anka and Sven battle with periodic stops to pump a perpetually slow leaking tire of the HouseMartin van on our way up north.

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We arrived in our quaint accommodations in the Craigieburn Range after driving nearly 7 hours past countless mind-blowing vistas. The plan was to ride up to the legendary Craigieburn Ski Field in the morning and to the descent of the adjacent Mt. Cheesman, about 16km down the road, in the afternoon. The crack of dawn came early and we all mobilized for what we knew would be a big day. The pedal up to Craigieburn, via the Craigieburn Valley Ski Field Road, proved to be reasonable, and everyone chatted and threw around jokes on the way up. The 7-kilometer ascent toured us past Craigieburn’s winter accommodations and ticket windows, complete with “tow prices” ($50/day NZ for club members), all left in solitude to sleep for the summer. When we arrived at the top of our climb, the forest canopy parted and we were met with the panorama of an open scree-filled alpine bowl, complete with dozens of avalanche start zones and a couple of precariously placed tow lifts down the center of the terrain. Sven pointed out our route of travel: a skinny looking piece of benched singletrack that meandered along the alpine bowl in and out of forested areas and back into the heart of the valley we had just climbed out of.

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The ride down from Craigieburn was everything a person with a bike could ask for. Technical, rocky traverses coupled with rooty sections that could be blasted over. New Zealand is a country so small, half of it could be crossed in 7 hours by our old-timer van, yet it felt so enormous that the terrain we encountered at each stop was so different from the day before it felt like another planet entirely. We were told that this descent takes most riders about a half an hour to ride in full at a reasonable pace, and it was clear that the pedal we did to get here would have been worth doing over and over again, had there been the time we needed. It was time to move on to Mount Cheesman.

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By the time our van chugged itself to the drop-off spot along the Mt Cheesman Ski Field Road, the sun was in the process of shutting down for the evening. We stood atop a view unlike anything we’d seen yet in New Zealand, and we took the time to appreciate the place where we stood. Once riding, we dropped into a few hundred meters of incredible alpine singletrack through tussock grasses, jumps and corners. We continued on to “Ride The Line” just as we saw the sun drop behind the mountain in our peripheral. The dimly lit trail ahead of us dropped virtually straight down the fall line and through the haunting-looking vegetation of the mountain beech (or “tawhairauriki” in Maori) forest we were in. When we weren’t hanging on through the chutes of Ride the Line with full trust our brakes, we were making pointed attempts to open up and look for speed in the places where it felt like we could get away with it. As the group spread out, we could hear each other yelling and shouting with disbelief and utter elation. It was hard to imagine that we could have stepped up the excellence of the terrain we rode earlier that day, but we were getting used to being surprised.

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We travelled north and then west along the West Coast Road in the dark; stopping only to drink beer and eat sandwiches sourced by Anka and Sven in a late night café…visit…in Arthur’s Pass. Canterbury was behind us and the West Coast region crept into our senses: the humidity in the air and the scent of the nearby beaches of the Tasman felt overpowering when we arrived late at night in the small town of Punakaiki. The next morning reared its head with the brightest sun and we found ourselves in cabins nestled within a jungle.
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A short visit to Punakaiki’s Pancake Rocks and a wicked refuel session at a local café put us back on the road as the HouseMartin van’s tire became more beleaguered; we were able to take more frequent photo opportunities while the floor pump was put back to work. State highway 6 delivered us north and then east to Nelson, and the 5-hour drive gave us all a chance to relax, share a few more tall stories and check out the views out the window.

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Nelson was more than fit to be the final destination for our adventure. We settled into a house perched high on the hill overlooking Nelson and the Tasman coast. Duncan made a single attempt to run along the 14% (and higher) gradient roads that accessed where we were and the sense of newness and excitement over things yet unseen hit our crew once again. As a small port city, Nelson has an international feel that so many towns around the world are missing. Its streets are lined with amazing restaurants, bars and cafes and it has the downtown feel of a tiny, cultured metropolis.

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HouseMartin got the vans and the arrangements in order to shuttle us all up to a local trail on top of Fringed Hill outside of (and overlooking) town the day after we arrived. This is one of Anka’s favorite “after work” rides, and while the challenge of getting to the actual trailhead was something we hadn’t yet experienced while in New Zealand, we were met with the usual stand-out singletrack we had grown accustomed to being introduced to. It was such a contrast from the terrain we’d seen in Queenstown and in Craigieburn, though: this trail had an older forest and gnarled roots everywhere. As Anka and Sven celebrated being back on their local trails, the rest of us awkwardly adjusted to riding over inconsistent roots and rocks and ups and downs; some of us met with the ground more than once, but still found a way to appreciate what this trail had to offer all the way to the Matai Valley.

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It was our final day in Nelson and HouseMartin chose to lead us out with a bang by booking a helicopter to access a trail that would otherwise take a few hours to get to by bike in the Richmond Mountain Ranges. We drove northeast out of Nelson and into the mountains again, along a dirt road and we parked at our “landing zone” in a quiet little campground along a river. This is also where we would end our day. As our pilot skillfully flew our group over a couple of trips to our starting point, we had the opportunity to experience the vastness of this region in New Zealand, bordering between the Marlborough and Nelson regions of the country, from above. As we waved goodbye to the heli, we all sprinted into the unknown of the trail ahead of us with an anticipation that had been fed by the immaculate network of trails we’d seen thus far. This…this was even better.

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The first few kilometers of the trail were high speed, benched and wide, with deep beech leaves spread everywhere. We were teased initially with this descent, as we soon began onto rolling climbs that graduated to full hike-a-bike terrain within a short distance. A short, but significant, burst of climbing landed us to “the top” of the trail according to Sven and Anka. We stopped for lunch and took for granted what we were about to ride. We were partially covered by forest canopy at this point and we sat along rocky outcroppings. It was hard to tell what we were about to ride. The singletrack further on was open and ripping, including root jumps and naturally bermed corners throughout. The beech leaves lay in piles along the trail and robbed us of just enough grip to fear the drifts we were getting into just as tires would regain forward traction to carry on. This was pure bliss.

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Our ride out on that final day sent us along a rolling 45-minute traverse to land us back to the old pewter relic and to a thoughtfully assembled BBQ, courtesy of HouseMartin. We regaled stories of our day – our near misses, triumphs and laughs. There was a sense, also, that we were all about to lose something, despite everything we had gained. This had been a perfect adventure through the Otago, Canterbury, West Coast, Nelson and Marlborough regions of New Zealand. We were all healthy, happy and had finished our week long affair with a fundamental appreciation of the absolute splendor of the country. It was cold and snowy in North America. Wait…why were we leaving again? We had barely scratched the surface of what New Zealand has to offer as a mountain biking destination. Sven and Anka of HouseMartin had meticulously designed a trip that brought us to as many heavy-hitting trails as we could access in a limited period of time. When it came time to say goodbye to our favorite South African buddies, we all felt a sense of appreciation and simultaneous sadness for having seen so little, while managing to cover so much ground. We would be back, and next time for longer; there was no doubt in anyone’s mind. The question was…could it come soon enough?

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Must-Ride: Meehan Range, Hobart

While we mainlanders have been making cruel (and basically untrue, of course) jokes about Tasmanians for years, it’s now their turn to laugh at us. Because when it comes to mountain biking, Tasmania is storming ahead of the rest of Australia in the trails-to-population ratio. Tasmania Flow Nation 114

The first part of our whirlwind trip to Tassie was spent unwrapping the brand new parcel of singletrack love that is the Hollybank Mountain Bike Park. Watch the video and read all about this fantastic new development here. Stop number two was in Hobart, or more specifically, the rabbit warren of great trails on the Meehan Range on the eastern shore of the River Derwent. On these steep slopes, a combination of professional trail builders and passionate volunteers have stitched together a network of over 30km of trails, which have now become the backbone of the Hobart riding scene. Tasmania Flow Nation 94 Slotted neatly in alongside the Tasman Highway, these trails bring mountain biking right up to the edge of suburban development; they’re the perfect example of what can be achieved when you have a council which ‘gets it’. Rather than driving the sport into the depths of some far flung state forest, Clarence City Council has encouraged the development of the network within a stone’s throw of backyard Hills Hoists. While we were there, we ran into every possible variant of mountain biker, from racers on a training ride through to groups of kids out for school sport, so the ethos of accessibility is obviously working, and it’s attracting droves of new riders. “Even a year ago, the carparks at the trailheads where typically empty,” says Simon French of Dirt Art, “whereas now you’re lucky to find a park even on a weekday.”

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Local pinner Ben Bradley of the Target Trek racing team. A lot of fast riders come out of Tassie.

Tasmania Flow Nation 89 Tasmania Flow Nation 159 It’s already an incredible playground, with an interesting mix of hand built singletrack, intermingled with machine-built flow trail. The network is also home to arguably the nicest view of Hobart you can reach on your bike, with cliff top trails offering you a beautiful outlook over the city, Mt Wellington providing an imposing backdrop. But as good as the current web of trails may be, it’s the proposed master plan being championed by local trail builders Dirt Art which has the potential to cement Hobart as the premiere mountain bike-friendlly capital city in Australia.

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Looking back east from town over the river towards the Meehan Range.
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The view from the cliff top trails back over Hobart is truly awesome.

In a nutshell, the Meehan Range Strategic Trail Plan seeks to consolidate and formalise the best bits of the existing network, and add up to 70km of new trail, bringing the proposed total up to a staggering 100km of dedicated mountain bike trails, all within a five-minute drive of the CBD. “The plan provides a range of iconic longer distance rides, while also offering a number of flow and technical all-mountain descents,” says Simon French. With mountain biking already booming in Hobart, if the entire strategic plan is realised in full, we could be looking at Australia’s own version of Rotorua, without a word of exaggeration – lucky then that the master plan contains expanded carpark and event centre facilities, because we get the feeling they’ll be needed! Tasmania Flow Nation 151 Tasmania Flow Nation 170 Tasmania Flow Nation 107 Tasmania Flow Nation 90

Must-Ride: Skyline, Rotorua

Having hosted the occasional event in the distant past, the site was the venue for the successful 2006 World Championships. Skyline handled the hundreds of competitors and thousands of fans easily. After all the bunting came down and the people went home, there were musings about permanent trails.

 Some rippers have lapped it out over 20 times in a single session, which means its like lapping a short course at high speed, usually only possible on a moto.

Before that could happen mountain biking needed to look like it was past its ‘fad’stage. It has. Our sport is now almost mainstream. The people at Skyline have seen how successful opening the gondolas up to bikes has been at their operation in Queenstown. But would it work in Rotorua like it has down south?

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It is a very different proposition. On the downside, Skyline Rotorua is only half as high as the Skyline lift in Queenstown, but Rotorua has double the uplift capacity and a much quicker turnaround. In Queenstown the mountain is schist, while the hill in Rotorua is made of dirt: that lovely central plateau stuff that is workable and free draining. The slope is not extreme overall, but there is a lot of contour to work with.

Rotorua trail building company Empire of Dirt are the dirt merchants. Adam King started the company with business partner Chris Martin to contract on trails in the forest. Having worked a good few years at Whistler he understands better than most the requirements for trails in a busy park. The Empire created a track for the Sprint Warrior, an event that headlined the 2013 Rotorua Bike Festival, and that trail has become the backbone of the trail system.

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Think of a really fast, very flowing piece of your favourite trail. Now, imagine the kinks taken out. Then extend it. Over several kilometres. Now you have some idea of the general feel of the Skyline MTB Gravity Park. There are currently six lines down the hill, ranging from SimpleJack, a rolling ribbon of dirt your grandma could ride, to some Grade 5 options that need a bit of a look before trying to go fast on. Even the SimpleJack is fun: some of the most skilful and experienced riders in town were grinning after a run down it. It is not gnarly, but it gets very interesting very quickly if you lay off the brakes. The higher rated trails have a lot of features, beautifully sculpted berms and jumps, nicely placed to make a run down the hill a pumping, flowing, blur of dirt for riders of every level.

Think of a really fast, very flowing piece of your favourite trail… Then extend it. Over several kilometres.

The thing that makes Skyline really work is its innate challenge: the shortness of the runs and the speed of the ride back up mean you are still buzzing from the trip down when you step off the gondola at the top.

So far the reviews have been good. Some rippers have lapped it out over 20 times in a single session, which means its like lapping a short course at high speed, usually only possible on a moto. It is not like mountain biking anywhere else for that reason. It is a must-do when you are in Rotorua!

Skyline Rotorua

 

Interview: Stan ‘No Tubes’ Koziatek

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that only a decade or so ago, most mountain bikers assumed that a flat tyre or two each ride was just part of the sport! But then along came Stan Koziatek, with an idea that would revolutionise mountain biking: ditch the tubes.

His ‘No Tubes’ system took off and inspired countless other brands to offer their own tubeless solutions and now just about every bike out there now is either tubeless ready or can be converted to tubeless without much fuss. Thanks to Stan, our bikes are now smoother, faster, have more traction, weigh less and are far more reliable than ever before. We caught up with this quirky inventor to learn a bit more about the development of tubeless technology.

[divider]Stan the Man[/divider]

Given that thousands of riders already refer to you on a first name basis, it’d be good to learn a little bit more about you; can you describe yourself in one sentence? What are your top three passions?

Sure, I seem to see things differently to other people. And passions? I love designing new products, golfing and bow hunting (Flow: he’s serious about the hunting – punch Stan Koziatek in Google Image Search and you’ll see).

 

Are you glad you called the product Stan’s or do you sometimes wish you were anonymous?

I never actually planed on using my name for the product. But after a few months of sales, customers are the ones that started calling my products Stan’s, so we had to stick with it.

 

Where did your inspiration for No Tubes come from?

It’s a long story over many years. It all started with me finding a way to convert my standard rims to tubeless. Once I found a way to convert the rim I then needed a tire. At that time their were only two tubeless tires and the tread patterns were not good for my area, so I then started working on a sealant that would seal a non-tubeless tire.

Once I had a sealant started I started thinking: ‘If I can seal hundreds of holes within minutes, we can most likely seal punctures as they are made’. Then the rim companies started sending me their rims asking if I could make their rims tubeless. After working with many different shaped rims, I realised some rims would inflate tyres easier than others etc.

I then contacted two of the largest rim companies in the US and offered to design a rim for them, at no charge. They basically told me they have the best rim designers and did not need my help. After a few months I could no longer wait. I found extrusion companies in the US and a small rim roller and welder in California. I then designed my first rim and was not happy with that crappy design. I never sold one and started designing another rim.

My second rim was very good and won a bronze medal at the Olympics, but I still was not completely happy with this design. It still needed a rubber rim strip to make it tubeless. My third design was much better and worked great. Then with each rim design I improved the air taping, tire inflation and most importantly tire performance. I try to make all of my designs user friendly – I want my rims to mount tires with your hands and inflate either with a floor pump or with a small air compressor.

 

Tell us about developing the sealant – where did you look to as a starting point? Were there other industries/applications that you could draw from?

I designed my sealant from scratch, trying thousands of additives and related products until I found something that worked. I still test different products trying to make my sealant better and last longer.

 

We spend so much time looking at suspension technologies but comparatively little focusing on tyres, when arguably the tyre as the point of contact is where we stand to make the most improvements.

Definitely. Now that we can run tire pressures so low, and with my rim designs making the tire stable under high speed corning, we can change the tire designs and get more traction with much smaller knobs. Large knobs create lots of wind resistance and drag, and we can gain a few miles per hour with the same physical effort by smaller tyre knobs and dual rubber compound construction.

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You had a foray into tyre development with the Raven. Will we ever see more tyres from Stan’s? Is it correct to say that the Raven a bit of a showcase of what’s possible when combining tubeless tyres at low pressure with gummy compounds?

The only reason I designed my Crow and Raven tyres was because none of the tyre companies were willing to make a sealant-ready, lightweight tyre. I told them all years ago we were running sealant in their tubeless tires and soon most tires would require sealant to make them tubeless. As you see they are all making sealant ready tires. Tires that require sealant to run tubeless.

 

We saw some pretty interesting drawings of a rim you’d designed on Pinkbike a while back – http://www.pinkbike.com/news/stans-notubes-re-invents-the-clincher-mountain-bike-rim.html –  can you tell me more? 

The 52mm Hugo is designed so you can mount a fat 4.7″ tire with your hands and inflate it with a floor pump. I also extended the tire side of the rim upwards to help customers still running tubes have less pinch flats.

 

What ARE those little coral shaped clumps that sometimes develop inside a tubeless tyre?

We call them buggers. They form like a pearl, when a small part of dirt or dried sealant starts rolling around in your tyre, these clumps develop. They will get larger and larger and should be removed. Part of this is caused by the additives in my sealant. My sealant is force-activated and will harden underwater if enough force is applied! I must keep the percentage of this additive really precise, or my sealant would not work as well. If I add too much to a mix it will all harden in the drum!

 

Traditional tubeless systems haven’t been so successful in downhill. What are challenges here?

Rim designs are to blame for tyres burping when used for DH. Most rims are not designed well enough to trap air under the forces of DH, but my rims have no problem running DH tubeless. My Flow and Flow EX rims have won many World Cups on the pro circuit – in fact, the Flow EX just won the World Championships a few weeks ago in the men’s division and got second in the woman’s.

 

What are your thoughts on the Schwalbe Procore system?

For top riders I feel it will be too heavy. Most DH races are won or lost by thousandths of a second. You need the tyre and wheel to be as light as possible to win on the pro circuit.

 

Will road tubeless ever be widely adopted?

No question, it will take over for racing and for riders who ride several times a week. All the riders in my area have been running road tubeless for years and they would not go back. We sponsor two road teams: my racers tell me they have always raced on deep dish carbon tubulars. Now they are racing on my aluminum rims with tubeless tires and they are winning many races. They tell me they would never go back to tubulars.

 

What is it about Stan’s sealant that you feel makes it still an industry leader?

The additives that prevent it from freezing, even at -28 C, and which allow it to last longer that 24 hours in an open air test are expensive. There are companies out there making a lot of money with these sealants that freeze and don’t last a long time. I could make a less expensive sealant, but it would not be as good.

 

Must-Ride: Hollybank Mountain Bike Park, Tasmania

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Dropping in to steep slab section high up on Juggernaut at the peak of the park.

Our recent journey to the apple isle had two motivations, the first of which was to check out the brand new Hollybank Mountain Bike Park, just a few minutes outside Launceston. While mountain biking was first slated as a development option for the Hollybank Forest Reserve in 2003, it was only early this year that shovels broke earth and construction began on more than 20km of new trails. Local Tasmanian trail builders, Dirt Art, have been hard at work in the rocky terrain all year and now the goodies are on the table to be enjoyed.

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Surfing the loam.

There are three main trails in the park, all feeding into each other and allowing a natural progression; there’s something for riders still developing their skills all the way through to those looking to put a few dings in their rims on high-speed, rocky hammerfests. The 5.5km No Sweat loop passes through a wide range of vegetation and terrain, with no significant climbing and an all-weather trail surface that should allow year-round riding.

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The trail surface on No Sweat should handle wet Tassie winters and remain rideable year round.

 

While more experienced mountain bikers will likely bypass No Sweat for the more challenging Tall Timbers or Juggernaut, this kind of trail is absolutely key for growing the sport and we’re sure it’ll see a lot of use by tour groups, school groups and those getting into the sport. It also passes right by an incredible swimming hole, so note it down for a hot day. No Sweat eventually drops you back right at the trailhead of the intermediate rated Tall Timbers, which has some of the most incredible, loamy berms. Their perfect, rounded, bowled out shape is like they’ve been carved out the earth with some giant ice-cream scoop. After six kays of ripping flow-trail descending and mellow climbs, you find yourself with the option to take on Juggernaut, the real jewel of the Hollybank park.

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The berms on Tall Timbers are ridiculous. Like bottom out your fork and shock ridiculous.
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Inside lines and gaps are littered everywhere on Juggernaut, the key is spotting them when you’re flying through over the rocks.

Without a word of exaggeration, Juggernaut is amongst the best trails we’ve ridden in Australia.

Juggernaut is technically rideable as an out and back (a 20km return trip), but with the whole trail being easily shuttleable, we can’t envisage too many people will go climbing it. The access road to the top is a gazetted public road, though rather than shake our own car to bits, we took advantage of the shuttle services offered by VertigoMTB who can provide un uplift service for over a dozen riders at very reasonable prices. Check here for shuttle service dates.

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Rob Potter, one of Dirt Art’s team, can seriously ride. Here he takes on the steep line of Juggernaut – it’s a trail that will challenge a lot of riders.

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Without a word of exaggeration, Juggernaut is amongst the best trails we’ve ridden in Australia. Constructed in incredibly rugged, rocky terrain, Dirt Art have managed to blend the best of both machine-built and hand-built trails in one 20+ minute descent. Getting the trail building digger through involved some fairly hairy winching exercises apparently, but the results speak for themselves. Juggernaut possesses a technical challenge that few new generation ‘flow trails’ deliver. It’s fast, rough in places, and uses the natural rock features to find awesome rhythm with some steeper black-diamond lines thrown in as optional extras. Eventually the trail links back onto Tall Timbers to complete the return loop, or you can easily pop back out onto the access road to shuttle till your heart is content and your brakes don’t work any more.

Hollybank is the first cab off the rank in the North-East Tasmania mountain bike master plan, and with a lot more trail on the way we can see ourselves spending a lot of time in this sensational part of the world. Jump on a plane (or the ferry) and take a look for yourself.

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Must-Ride: Alice Springs, NT

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Like most people, when we first heard whispers of world class riding in the arid heart of Australia, we were dismissive, but curiosity got the better of us and we’re glad it did. We took the three hour flight from Sydney, leaving behind a miserable winter, and found ourselves in the most unique, ideal mountain biking environment that Australia has to offer.

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It’s not extraordinary that mountain biking exists in Alice (desert towns the world over have healthy mountain bike scenes, just look at Moab or Fruita), but what is incredible is the quality and sheer quantity of trails around town. There must be literally hundreds of kilometres of riding out there, if you know where to look. Previously you needed a local’s helping had to get around the trails of Alice, but thankfully finding desert gold getting easier, with the recent formalisation of trails around Telegraph Station seeing proper signage at trailheads and junctions for the first time. From these professionally built trails, it’s easy to link up rides further afield, with singletrack worming its way across the the landscape at all points of the compass.

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Given Alice’s population base, it’s impressive just how active the local club is. The Central Australian Rough Riders are a hyperactive bunch; when they’re not working with land owners to secure trails, they’re running events or petitioning MTBA to get their town onto the National Series Calendar. It takes serious determination to lure complacent east coast riders away from home, but the Rough Riders’ Easter in the Alice Muster event now attracts mountain bikers from across the country, and next year the event will be combined with a round of the Marathon National Series too, which should open even more eyes to what’s on offer in Alice.

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The accessibility of the riding around Alice is a key part of its appeal. The only transport you need to worry about is getting from the airport into town, after which it’s no more than a 10-minute ride to the trails in any direction. Accommodation providers get it too, and an increasing number of hotels and apartments are billing themselves as mountain bike friendly; we stayed at the Alice on Todd apartments, where bikes are so welcome we’re surprised they didn’t get given their own beds.

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Weather wise, there are parts of the year when mountain biking is pretty much off the cards – you wouldn’t want to be on the trails much after sunrise in the peak of summer – but Alice is at its best when large parts of the country are at their worst. Throughout winter you can bet the bank on 28-degree days, cloudless blue skies and the most spectacularly clear nights imaginable. Even though the middle of the day is prime for riding, you’d be mad not to get up early for at least one sunrise, it’s magical watching the ridge lines change from the cool grey of the pre-dawn to an absolute explosion of reds and oranges as the first sun rays hit. Time your trip right and you might even catch the desert in bloom. Seeing the wild flowers come to life in the desert is a pretty amazing experience.

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While at first glance the terrain around Alice all looks pretty similar, once you’re into the trails, it’s a different story. Riding in the desert throws up constantly changing terrain and surfaces too; the trails are an evolving, engaging mix of rock, quartz, sand, shale. Dodging potential side-wall slicers and floating over high-speed sandy patches becomes part of the fun. Luckily the almost complete absence of scrub means you’ve got visibility for miles, so you can always let it run and you’re rarely caught out.

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If we had to put our finger on what makes Alice Springs riding so appealing to us, it’s that it offers an experience that is uniquely Australian. The baking desert is one of the elements that characterises Australia – it’s the ying to the yang of the surf and beaches – but it’s the last place many of us explore, especially not on our bikes. One of mountain biking’s charms is the places it takes us and what it allows us to see, and we promise you, you’ll never have seen mountain biking in quite that same way as Alice delivers it. Check it out.

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The Melrose 18hr

With the new Rise Against record soothing my inner ear and a light snack on the passenger seat for sustenance, the 3-hour cruise from Adelaide to Melrose is full of epic postcard scenery; rolling hills, a pink lake (didn’t expect that one) and old crumbling stone homesteads littering knee high crop-filled paddocks. All very, very South Aussie as a Kiwi would say.

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Over The Edge, the beating heart of Melrose, and not just the bike scene – this place is the cornerstone of the whole town.

The purpose of this excellent adventure was the 6/18 hours of Melrose Enduro (that’s ‘ride a long time’ enduro, not #soenduro). As the event title suggests, the headliner is an 18 hour race contested by both teams and solo riders. The Friday midnight start time allows for the maximum use of a weekend and is certainly something a little different to your normal endurance event. 18hr riders have the option to get out of work at 5pm Friday, head up to Melrose, race till 6pm Saturday evening and have time Sunday morning for another singletrack expedition on the plethora of other trails not used in the race. Departing shortly after lunch Sunday even gets you home in the evening, keeping the other half happy. If the 6hr option is more your flavour, there’s time to travel Saturday morning and make the midday start.

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The warm buzz of race HQ on race night.

Melrose has this amazing ability to slow life down and sooth the spirit. Upon rolling into town you forget city troubles. From this moment, life is about banter with friends new and old, the latest and greatest bikes and generous pub meals (a necessity for those attempting the 18 hours solo, those crazy bastards).

The sign-on sheet held lots of familiar names, people with a lot of love for South Australia’s riding culture, with at least one of the 6 hour riders being a founding member of the Adelaide MTB Club way back in 1989, right through to weekend warriors and first time singletrack riders (converted roadies).

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The Over The Edge workshop is always good for a chin wag.

Having signed up for the 6hr event, but arriving on Friday evening to watch the 18 hour start , Over the Edge Sports in the main drag, the heart of Melrose mountain bike culture is a great spot to hang out. It’s gotta be one of the coolest bike shops in the country, filled with boutique frames and forks on the walls and uber bling build parts gleaming in glass cabinets.

This weekend, the shop has been turned into event central with space heaters and a coffee machine pumping out great brews all night. Here, talking shit about bike builds with the shop mechanic and other punters quickly brings around the midnight start time.

 

The atmosphere out on the main street was building as team riders, early arrivals for the 6hr and locals filed out of pubs, and 18hr riders who’ve tried to get in a few extra minutes of shut eye emerge from tents, motel rooms and campers to roll slowly around keeping legs warm. ‘Cops and Robbers’ was this year’s theme; each year there’s a different novelty le-mans style start. Those who had chosen to ride the larger wheel size (29ers) were assigned to be “Cops” having to try and gulp down a donut hanging on a piece of string hands-free! The “other” wheel sizes, Robbers, needed to run to the old town bank (now a really cool café) to steal chocolate coins from the vault. Gun fire signalled the start and luckily no bikes were hurt in the ensuring madness: the race was on!

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Any race that starts with eating a dangling donut is a good race.

I hung around huddled over a fire barrel to watch the first lap riders come through, Chris Jongewaard, riding in a team of 6 set a cracking first lap time of 28mins 24secs for the 10km course with several 18hr solo riders close behind (I think these guys may have forgotten the length of the race). It was about this time that I realised what a busy day lay ahead, 6hrs on the bike, something I hadn’t attempted before and for some reason had thought was a good idea to do on my new single speed sans any real training…So I went to bed.

My 7am alarm was not a welcome sound. Snooze…7.15am. I decided to wander over to event HQ, noting that the lead solo riders had already put in more than 100km with a tight battle going on out front but still smiles all round (probably grimaces).

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Glorious Melrose, with its picturesque, perfectly-benched singletrack.

11am came remarkably quickly. Time to prep my bottles, get my riding kit on (hot tip, an event is probably not an ideal time to try new shoes), have a bit of a warm up and before I knew, it was my turn to eat a dangling doughnut. The 6 hour was on!

Starting a race at the base of a mountain means one thing, the first bit of trail is going to be a climb; in this case, a long one. With about 150m of climbing per lap and my love of riding up things (ha), let’s just say I had heaps on fun on the descents.

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With the course being composed of about 90% single track, the concentration required to keep rubber side down for the full 18 hours is all part of the challenge. Some of the technical sections contour steep gullies where if you take your eyes off the trail for a moment to enjoy the scenery you’ll quickly become part of it. (The number of skids leading to no-man’s land reminded me of that). After a total of 5 laps I called it a day and set up at the race village to do some heckling.

The quality of trails at Melrose is certainly no closely guarded fact with many being hand cut and are super flowy with rocky descents, lots of features, bermed corners and nicely contoured climbs (wait, did I just say nice climbs?). “Dodging Bullets”, with its spiralling start through a tunnel, warp speed downhill sections and a jump through the living room of an old homestead would have to be my favourite.

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The iconic Dodging Bullets trail.
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Melrose singletrack requires flow and focus – it’s easy to let the front wheel wander and slide down the hill.

Eventually 6pm came and when the dust had settled, Matt Ackland riding a rigid singlespeed (this guy must hate himself) came out on top in the men’s 18hr solo, Philippa Roston taking out the women’s title and 6hr bragging rights going to Ollie Klein and Aurelia Strozik.

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“That was seriously the most mentally challenging race I’ve ever had,” Acko remarked at the end, inspecting his array of new blisters, “after 6500m of climbing, my legs are toast, I’d have happily traded the saddle for a bar stool 6 hrs ago but I just knew Kev (2nd place) would just keep coming at me. I had to dig deep.” When asked if he’d do it again, he cracked an evil grin and said, “see you next year!” See you then!

Interview: MTBA’s new CEO, Shane Coppin

From our perspective here at Flow, we’ve struggled to understand what it is that MTBA actually does and how it serves the mountain biking public. But with a new CEO at the helm we thought it was time to get a better understanding of the direction MTBA is heading, as well as giving MTBA a chance to answer some of the questions and criticisms that we so often hear about the organisation.

We asked you, our audience, to submit your questions and we put them to Shane Coppin recently over a couple of hours at Flow HQ. What are our overall thoughts? Shane Coppin is a realist; he knows that MTBA has lost its relevance for many riders, and he’s thinking about long-term solutions. Read on to learn more about how MTBA plans of righting its course.


So Shane, how did you come to be the new Chief Executive Officer of MTBA? What’s your background?

 

I studied sports science many years ago, worked in basketball, volleyball and commercial gym environments, before I moved into family businesses, construction mainly. I spent 15 plus years in the commercial sector, which teaches you a lot.

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You’re pretty upfront about the fact you’re not from a cycling background. Why do you think this will be of benefit in this role?

 

Well sport is business, let’s be honest about it. It’s a service business, mountain biking is the vehicle we use for delivering the service. Times change and I think you need to have a much more commercial approach to running the sport. A lot of the partners you deal with in this role are running commercial businesses too, so it helps to have that understanding, that likeminded attitude. I think it gives you that external perspective.

Also, I don’t bring any baggage into this role. I don’t have a past, or any preconceptions or predefined ambition except to make the organisation as a whole function better.

 

So if MTBA provides a service, what is it?

 

The value of a national sporting body is that they should be a facilitator for the sport, the whole sport. They shouldn’t be consumed with just the high-end, the athletes going to the Olympics; the eight year old, the sixteen year old, the sixty year old – they’re as much a part of the sport as any athlete at the elite level. Our job is to ascertain what they want, so we can deliver the services important to them – this could be education, coaching, pathways for development, commissaires, opportunities to participate at a national and international level, insurance, providing a safe environment for racing. Our job is to centralise the sport around one point, so we can speak with one voice.

We’re going through the process of establishing loyalty programs, member discounts and the like. And those are things that we can leverage with volume. But they’re not what membership is all about; membership is about trying to create a national voice for mountain biking. Because without a national body, no one else will take those responsibilities for rider development or developing the sport. All the big promoters run great events, but they don’t have that responsibility of developing the sport, and that’s the ‘hidden’ side of membership that people don’t sometimes really see.

 

Late last year it was indicated to us the MTBA was on the way out, and CA was taking over. But then suddenly there was an about-face and MTBA was back running the national series. What happened?

 

Well I think it’s been on the agenda for many years to form one single cycling body for all the disciplines – similar to what all the other overseas nations have done. I think there was just a belief that this would just happen. But you’re dealing with three individual boards, with different corporate structures. MTBA doesn’t have state bodies, it’s a national membership body, whereas for the other disciplines they have state intermediary bodies which make decisions. With us, it’s the membership direct. So the theory of having one body is good, but how you go about it isn’t simple.

Last year there was no intention that Cycling Australia was going to consume mountain bike, I’m sure there weren’t some people in CA who thought this was the case.

MTBA had been struggling with the National Series so they had given the running of the National Series back to CA because it was losing money. Then of course CA also did a poor job of it and had lost money too, and financially they weren’t in a position to run the National Series again, so it was passed back to MTBA. It was obvious that it was happening – red flags should have been seen far earlier. Anyhow, CA terminated the agreement to deliver the events and the series was handed back to MTBA.

 

If CA and MTBA have both been losing money running the National Series, is it really viable to continue to do so?

 

It’s true that at the moment we don’t make money on National Series events. But it’s one of those hidden investments that mountain biking needs to make for its membership, so its members can attain UCI points to compete at international events. We’d love to get these events profitable, but we have a commitment to allow our riders opportunities to attain UCI points, and I think this needs to be recognised a little more.

We’ve gone for a very different model now which we think will reduce the costs. We’re working with suppliers now across the series, rather than ad hoc. Last year was terrible because we had no time. We’re trying to identify venues that can cope with the needs better, and we’re trying to make sure the financial risk is entirely with our organisation and not with the clubs at all. In fact, we’re making sure the clubs will walk away with something in their pocket at the end of the day. We want them to run these events and finish up with a few thousand dollars which they can then reinvest back into the sport. I can tell you, the National Champs at Bright, that club walked away with a lot of money. We’re not into trying to financially cripple clubs.

 

You did mention venues then. We hear a lot about the south-east centric nature of the series.

 It’s not currently a National Series – two states do not make a National Series

Oh yeah, it’s terrible. It’s not currently a National Series – two states do not make a National Series. Moving forward, we want to have every state and territory involved between the National Series and National Marathon Series. The thing is getting from where we are, with two or three states, to making it truly national. The next thing is trying to lock actual weekends away, so people and promoters will 100% know that there will be a national event on that weekend and can plan as such.

 

When we started out racing, the Nationsl Sereies was huge, but now it is much, much smaller, particularly amongst the non-elite riders. Why?

 

It’s lost its appeal. These events will only be a success if they’re supported by the general rider base – the juniors, masters, the general public. Why they lost their appeal, I don’t know. How do we regain that appeal?

As a first step, it has to be about running a cost-effective, more-affordable event for the masses. We have already lowered entry costs, and we’re offering discounts for people who enter all events. We’re taking the approach of making the events more family-friendly too. We want stuff for the kids to do, jumping castles, entertainment – I want to see clubs get inventive to see what they can bring to the table to make the events more appealing for families too.

Notice periods around the race calendar have been terrible too. We want to improve this, so people can actually plan their lives. As part of this we’re overhauling the calendar aspect of our website too. I mean this year has been hard, I spent almost three weeks purely negotiating with other events around the dates for our national rounds. In the past I think we had a very arrogant approach: ‘we’re the national body, you fit in with us’. That doesn’t work, we need to be far more coordinated with other events.

 

On the events side of things, there is now quite notably two competing marathon series in Australia – the National Marathon series and the Maverick Marathon Series. What are your views on that, and is this a realistic state of affairs?

 

It’s a bit of a shame. I think I can understand why it’s happened. I think it’s a bit of national level arrogance, and I think there are some personality clashes too. I don’t know all the players; I do know one event promoter well, Alan Vogt, and he has now re-affiliated his events with MTBA. And I put out an offer through Alan to the other event promoters to see if they wished to talk about aligning. Unfortunately nothing has come back at this stage.

Ideally of course I’d prefer to see one series. We want to deliver a great National Marathon Series, these people run extremely good events; it makes sense to be aligned, we just need to find away we can work together. We need to sit together at the table, and I’m open to it. Marathon fell apart, it needs to be rebuilt.

On the subject of series, I see someone asked about Gravity Enduro. We’re not interested in running a National Gravity Enduro series – we may look at a National Gravity Enduro Championship, but not a series, we just don’t have the manpower to do it.

 

Now, trails, a matter close to every mountain biker’s heart. What happened to IMBA Australia, and what’s happening in this area going forward?

 

Along the way I think IMBA Australia lost its core focus of what it was about, and we ended up in trail development, it became commercial. And no disrespect to Nick Bowman, I think he did a fantastic job, but I don’t think IMBA Australia becoming commercial was necessarily the right fit. It was all a bit disjointed, and with the commercial aspect it was perhaps a bit murky how it all fitted with MTBA.

In the past, IMBA was competing commercially with the same trail builders they were meant to police, and it wasn’t working. To me, that’s why IMBA lost a bit of respect. We’re the national body – what are we doing trying to build trails?

When I first came to this job, I realised the commercial trail building space wasn’t the area that IMBA should necessarily be in. In the end, Nick moved on, but the whole experience allowed us to ask if the program was really doing what it’s supposed to do, is there a need for IMBA Aus to be out there on its own?

In the past, IMBA was competing commercially with the same trail builders they were meant to police, and it wasn’t working. To me, that’s why IMBA lost a bit of respect. We’re the national body – what are we doing trying to build trails? There are dozens of companies that can do that, we don’t need to be there. I think as a national body, we’re far better off helping clubs understand the process of, say, leasing land, or promoting the great trail building work that has already been done in so many destination across Australia. We need to sit above the commercial aspect and make things better for everybody.

Ultimately we’ve decided that we’re not going to go with the IMBA name – Australia has progressed to a point that it’s entitled to have its own representative trails and advocacy body. So we’re bringing things right back under MTBA’s umbrella. Every member of MTBA will be a member of our trails and advocacy body. But our core focus now is to try and legitimise the governance of the trail building industry. We want to establish guidelines and standards around trail development and sustainability and the like. And that way, the curriculums of any trail building courses can be related back to that, and certifications can be related back to that.

From there, we want to recognise all those who work in the trail building industry, create a service directory or trail builders that will be provided to clubs. We’re less interested in master-plans and trail concept plans, and more focused on building a consensus around trail building standards.

 

For many riders, their only interaction with MTBA is as a provider of insurance so they can race. But what is the situation with MTBA’s insurance? What does it cover?

 

We have a combined policy with Cycling Australia, which means we can leverage pretty good premiums and cover. If you’re a member, you are covered for $5000 personal accident insurance, and that is a 24/7 policy. If you fall off riding to work you will be covered for that up to $5000. There’s a public liability aspect, so if you run into someone’s car or a pedestrian, you will be covered. There’s an element of income protection too. From November, we’ll be giving people the option of boosting up their own levels of cover too, if they want more than the standard $5000 cover.

Where you aren’t covered as an MTBA member, is if you’re racing at a non-MTBA sanctioned event. You’re covered to and from the event, but not when you’re racing.

In terms of day licenses, they also cover personal accident and public liability. The model of day licenses is changing though, so the pricing will increase. The idea is to recognise and reward our members more, so the day licence price will probably be doubling. At the moment, you can ride five or six events a year and it may still be cheaper to use day licenses, but that is changing and if you ride two or three events a year, a full membership will be the cheaper option.

We want people to feel and understand that by being a member, they’re helping facilitate the development of the sport, in racing, in trails, in every area.

We felt the model was wrong – it should be more valuable to become a member than use day license – so we’re trying to make membership more valuable. For instance, members now get other benefits, like clothing vouchers from Scody and discounted movie tickets. The aim is to encourage people to become MTBA members, not just buy day licenses.

A few people on your Facebook asked about dual licenses for mountain bike and road. We’d love to offer that, and we’re trying to work towards that. There are lots of things in play, and one of the difficulties is that CA has state bodies and we don’t; we’re trying to work out a way that doesn’t increase the costs for either party too much.

 

A more basic question; how is MTBA funded?

 

MTBA is funded 100% from members. There’s no government money directly. We don’t receive any funding from the sports commission. We receive a very minor amount via Cycling Australia, but it’s miniscule. MTBA is really quite unique – most national sporting bodies would receive 60%+ of their funding from the government.

 

We hear often that enough money isn’t spent by MTBA on supporting high-performance riders. Where does this funding come from, and how is it allocated?

 

Under the government’s Winning Edge concept, it’s all about results. Mountain bike is unique as the government only really recognises the cross-country discipline as it’s the only one you can win Olympic or Commonwealth Games medals in. Australia does extremely well in downhill, but we don’t receive any high performance funding, as it’s not an Olympic Sport. Even in Olympic XCO we didn’t receive any funding as the powers-that-be deemed that we didn’t have a strong enough chance at a medal.

I liken mountain biking a lot to surfing or snow boarding. Surfing does get funding, even though it’s not an Olympic sport, so we continue to lobby for that same kind of recognition.

So in theory, we don’t have a funding pool to contribute to all these developing athletes, which is why we lose so many to road teams. There aren’t so many big mountain bike teams that can afford to support developing Australian athletes as there are on the road either, so the lure of the road is strong. I don’t blame the riders for going.

But basically, your day license fees, your membership fees, they’re what gets used to support these elite riders. There is no separate source of funding for the elite program, so we’re trying to create a balance between supporting these people, creating a pathway underneath for development, at the same time as delivering everything else. You have to have a balanced approach to high performance. In the past, I feel there wasn’t enough money being put into development, I couldn’t even guess where the money was spent.

What we want to do is run upwards of 10 state-based junior development camps, from there we run an Australian camp, from there we run a National junior development camp

Our approach now is to invest significant funds back towards the grass roots level, so this year we’ll be employing one or maybe two development coaches. The role of these coaches will be to work with kids in this country and not spend all their time overseas travelling with one or two particular athletes.

These development coaches will work with riders all across the country, particularly juniors who may not have their own coaches, and they’ll be MTBA funded, not user paid. Through these coaches we can establish a database of promising junior riders all across the country; rather than just seeing these promising juniors once a year at the National Champs, we can go out to them, and have more regular contact

What we want to do is run upwards of 10 state-based junior development camps, from there we run an Australian camp, from there we run a National junior development camp. Now a lot of these camps will still be user-pays, but hopefully these camps will allow us to bring all our talented juniors together and will give us a groundswell pushing up, and that will give us more ammunition when it comes to lobbying government for funding, we can say ‘look at this, look at what’s coming, look at the swell of junior talent – we need you to step in with some high-performance funding’.

 

So there is no high-performance coach as such any more?

 

Yes and no. We did have Donna Dall and Jared Rando on contract, not full-time like Chris Clarke was, but on a more casual contracted basis. In truth, we don’t coach a lot of elite athletes – most of the riders we’re working with have their own coaches and we don’t want to force them to work with anyone.

So our coaching focus will be on the development coaching I mentioned before, and having a head coach at events like the World Championships.

 

One of our questions from our audience was about the split of how member funds are used. Can you provide some detail?

 

MTBA would spend, on insurance, staffing, organisation structure/operations, about 35% of its funds. 65% is then spent on camps, programs, events, payment for commissaires, trail development, everything else. So it’s a normal sort of business split. We have a small reserve, just like every business, to ensure longevity.

 

A lot of our audience commented on MTBA’s poor communication.

 

Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that MTBA has been very bad at communicating. In fairness, before my time, MTBA was really Tony Scott, Una Mackay and Nick Bowman. So things were stretched very thin, trying to service a wide range of activities. So I’ve made a conscious effort to expand our staff base. And communication is one of the first things we’re working on; I’ve engaged Stu Plant, and we’ve bought one of the CA communications staff across, so we now have a full time communications department. We now issue a fortnightly newsletter, our social media is now properly utilised. We’re making some big steps forward here; in everything we do, communication is key.

But I also want to stress, MTBA doesn’t have secrets, we’re a transparent organisation – if you want to know something, just ask – we work for members, and that’s who we answer to.

 

Finally, why should someone who is not a member become a member?

 

I believe in a wider community – I don’t like to get lost in the discipline splits of cross country, downhill, trials etc – the value of membership is creating an atmosphere that every member is part of something.

We want to create value for our members, by helping them know what’s happening in the sport, but keeping them informed about events, by making them feel part of the achievements of our elite athletes. Yes, there are insurance benefits and loyalty benefits of being a member, but it’s much bigger than that. We want people to feel and understand that by being a member, they’re helping facilitate the development of the sport, in racing, in trails, in every area.

The Soapbox: The Strava Conundrum

The other day, I showed one of these headcam videos to a very good friend of mine (who’s not sporty). He was genuinely confused as to why I bother – to his mind it was dangerous and somewhat pointless. He asked me why I ride; the answer was complex. I ride for a lot of reasons, nearly all of them intrinsic (as in the motivations are all intrinsic), including fulfilling a desire for challenge, matching challenge with skill, mastering a complex skill, being in nature, interacting with friends, and feeling a sense of accomplishment.

But more important than any of those things is the fact that mountain biking forces me into the moment in a way that very few other things can. I need to explain this a bit more. I struggle to be in the moment. My head is often miles away, in the future, or abstracting about something. It’s an effort to bring it back, and one of the reasons I meditate regularly. Mountain biking brings me into the moment in a very real and visceral way – if I’m not concentrating, I’m falling off (which hurts), but more than that, there’s no room when I’m riding for anything but the trail and my relationship to it, through my bike. It contracts the world down to a single experience, and I love it (Csikszentmihalyi describes this feeling as flow).

Because of these intrinsic motives, for me, mountain biking has always been about the internal experience. I’ve deliberately avoided using a trip-computer, a stopwatch, or even a watch when I ride, because I’ve never been interested in knowing how far I’ve gone or for how long, or how fast; the experience was enough. A satisfying ride was one where I was present and riding well (by my own standards).

Despite my misgivings, a while back I started using Strava on my rides. For those of you who’ve been living under rocks and haven’t heard of it, Strava is a novel concept that uses a GPS device to track you when you ride (or run, or do anything else outside). At the end of the ride you can upload your info to Strava and (here’s the cool part), it recognises which tracks you’ve ridden (or you can create new ones) and automatically calculates your time on that track. That in itself is good, but it also automatically rates your performance against your previous times, and against all the other people who have ridden that track (for a premium fee you can even rate yourself against others by age group or weight category). I got very excited about Strava when I first started using it – I even got a plug-in device (birthday present from my wife) that makes the GPS on my iPhone more accurate.

And then I realised that, without me being aware of it, my mind had been hacked.

OK, so I’m getting to the point… Here’s the problem: over the first few months, I started using Strava more and more (not just for mountain biking, but for running and in the gym with a heart-rate monitor). I’d get back from a ride and immediately look over my Strava runs to see if I’d improved my time on a given run. Worse, I started pushing myself harder and faster on the trails, not to challenge myself or immerse myself, or to increase my skills for their own sake, but to beat my Strava time. This came to a head late last year. I went riding with a good friend, and both of us felt we were riding really well. When I got back to the car I found that the Strava app had crashed about a quarter of the way into the ride (before any of the descents). I did not react well.

There it was – I was really upset – so much so that I kept getting repeating, intrusive thoughts about it. It took me a couple of days to get over it. My ride had been ruined.

And then I realised that, without me being aware of it, my mind had been hacked.

What had gone wrong? How had I gone from purely intrinsic motives, eschewing any type of extrinsic feedback, to being almost completely reliant on an external device for my mountain biking satisfaction? The answer is relatively simple and more than a little bit disturbing, because it has ramifications for me and for pretty much everyone else, far beyond mountain biking. By using Strava I had been creating a neurological reward loop based on our inbuilt desires for tribal ranking and approval. We’re competitive because we’re hardwired to be – through most of our evolution our survival (i.e., our ability to pass on our genes) has been largely dependent on our ability to attract a mate, the odds of which, in turn, were enhanced by our standing within our tribe. By getting immediate feedback regarding my standing within a group that I relate to (i.e., other mountain bikers) that (very primitive) part of my brain was getting excited about its status, especially when I moved up the ranks by riding faster. This was all happening subconsciously, but the feedback loop I’d created was making it seem more and more important, and overriding my original motives. I certainly don’t want to breed with mountain bikers, but my dumb-ass brain gets rewarded for behaviour that increases my potential standing within a group, even if it’s purely imaginary. Worst of all, I’d actually started to put myself at risk, by pushing myself to go faster for reasons that I didn’t have any real control over.

Worst of all, I’d actually started to put myself at risk, by pushing myself to go faster for reasons that I didn’t have any real control over.

The reason this realisation scares me so much is that something I really love was co-opted by a primitive part of my brain, because I used a piece of technology. Don’t get me wrong, I love tech, and there are a lot of awesome ways it can enhance us as human beings, but it’s also really easy to set up tech that hacks our really primitive functions. This is, no doubt, why Strava is so successful. There’s another popular piece of technology that does exactly the same thing – you might have heard of it, it’s called Facebook. Why do we use it? Mostly because it hacks straight past our conscious mind and into our primitive social-ranking system. Every time we get a new Facebook ‘friend’ that system is rewarded, every time we write a post and someone ‘likes’ it, we get rewarded (etc.). At a most basic level, Facebook makes us think we’re going to get laid. Have a think about this next time you get that almost overwhelming desire to check your Facebook newsfeed.

But Facebook is just one example of how technology can hack our most primitive systems, making us behave in ways that are counterproductive (or contrary to what’s important to us as evolved humans). The phone in your pocket probably does the same thing (and it’s got Facebook on it – yes, it does, doesn’t it…). If we’re not careful, we become slaves to our machines, pressing buttons for a neurochemical reward that make us feel good, instead of using that technology to enhance our lives.

So do I still use Strava? I’d really like to say no – that I went back to riding without any sort of recording device to get back to the pure internal experience. But, yes, I still keep using it. I’ve realised that I do enjoy a little extrinsic feedback (and, yes, I realise that’s because of everything I’ve written today), but I’m going to try an experiment: I’m going to try and use Strava as another piece of information, rather than my main source of feedback. I’m going to try and be mindful of my own intrinsic motives and subjective state when I ride, and use Strava as a way of reminiscing afterwards. I think the trick is to be aware of what’s going on so that you can make conscious choices regarding your behaviour (this is probably the trick to being a modern human being).

I’ll let you know how it turns out, and I’d love to hear what you guys think…

 

Read more of Jeremy Adams’ contributions to Flow here:

Reprogramming your brain: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/training-your-brain-part-1-reprogramming/

Skills acquisition: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/training-your-brain-part-2-skills-acquisition/ 

Riding with Flow: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/training-your-brain-part-3-riding-with-flow/

Are you a lone wolf or a pack hunter? http://flowmountainbike.com/features/are-you-a-lone-wolf-or-a-pack-hunter/

Why I mountain bike: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/the-power-of-purposeless-activity-aka-why-i-mountain-bike/

 

About the author:

Dr. Jeremy Adams 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 how to be human (www.eclectic-moose.com).

Jeremy is based in Melbourne and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com).

Photo Feature: Passportes du Soleil

And what about if one weekend every year, all the trails chairlifts opened up to a big ‘grand fondo’ style event, with no timing or racing, just a wristband that gets you food, drink and chairlift access.

It gets even better. Imagine doing a 30 minute flat out descent and arriving at a big tent, with cheese fondue, cold meats, beer, wine, chocolate, bread… Oh yes this does exist!

This may be impossible to happen in Australia, but this goes on in France and Switzerland, and is called the Passportes du Soleil and Flow was there again this year, basking in the sunshine of the alps with a myriad of trails at our glove tips.

80 km – 15 ski-lifts – 6000m of total downhill!

9 different resorts to start from :

– In France: Avoriaz, Châtel, Les Gets, Morzine and Montriond-Les Lindarets.
– In Switzerland: Champéry, Morgins, Torgon and Les Crosets.
  1000 m of total uphill climb

refreshment points. Start at any time between 7.30 a.m. and 9 a.m. from each resort.

Our start point was Les Gets, France and we made it back there as the last lift closes after hours and hours of descending. A truly life changing experience with the highest speeds, biggest views and cherries Euro dudes ever.

The two main centres; Chatel and Les Gets turn into a mountain biking festival with a huge bike demo system, night racing, expo’s, trials demos and live music. It’s a real buzz!

Flow’s tips for Passportes success:

– Set up your bike with meaty tubeless tyres.

– Take a real camera, it’s eye boggling out there.

– Start early, aim for the complete loop.

– Eat and drink everything within sight.

– Talk to everyone in the lift lines.

www.passportesdusoleil.com

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The Aussie alpine gang; Ged, Ash, Mark, Luke Skywalker, Andrew, Corey and Garry.

 

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Cheers!

 

Interview: Thinking Courageously with the Doctors of Body Geometry

Back in 1997, Bicycling magazine in the US published an article that would get half of their staff fired, scare the living hell out of huge numbers of male cyclists and ultimately send a whole new sector of the industry into overdrive. The article in question drew an undeniable connection between bike saddles and problems with your old fella; badly designed saddles were doing riders damage, it was that simple.

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Dr Roger Minkow.

It was this article that spurred Dr Robert Minkow into action; over the course a weekend this ergonomics specialist crafted up a prototype saddle which featured a dropped nose and a deep groove through the centre to alleviate pressure on the nerves and arteries which keep your man parts doing their thing. This Franken-saddle would eventually find its way back to Mike Synyard, founder of Specialized bicycles who backed the concept and employed Minkow. Fast forward 12 months and a staggering 500,000 of the new Romin (Ro-ger Min-kow) saddles had been sold. 500,000. In one year.

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Dr Pruitt. Making groping motions.

In the meantime Dr Andy Pruitt, founder of the Boulder Sports Medicine Centre, had been making a name for himself as something of a wizard of bike fitting. While others were either operating off ‘feel’ or simply accepting the status quo of bike fitting (i.e. you had to emulate the position of a European pro!), Pruitt was using hard science to make riders more comfortable, more efficient and injury free. He literally wrote the book on the subject. Amongst his pioneering work, Pruitt began looking at bike fitting from a third dimension – the ‘z-plane’, front-on – as well as from the traditional side-on x and y planes. Pruitt clearly demonstrated the link between the stability of the foot and its effect on the pedal stroke; most importantly he showed that the collapse of the arch and forefoot under pedalling leads to knee instability and consequently potential injury and a loss of power/efficiency. It was this research that lead to the birth of the Body Geometry shoe as we know it, which features customisable arch support and more varus forefoot support. The BG S-Works shoe, Specialized happily point out, is the most popular shoe in the road cycling pro peleton, ridden by 115 riders, of whom only 20 are sponsored or paid to ride the BG shoe.

The universe worked its magic and brought Minkow and Pruitt together under the auspices of Specialized, and Body Geometry was born. It’s hard to overstate the impact that the Body Geometry concept has had in terms of bringing truly ergonomic design to cycling accessories and components and making bike fitting ‘mainstream’. BG shoes, gloves and saddles are now widely acclaimed as the industry standard, and the BG Fit system has launched a massive number of competitors, with a host of the major brands now offering their own bike fit programs.

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Dr Kyle Bickell, Dr Andy Pruitt and Dr Roger Minkow.

The BG ethos has been that science must always take primacy, not ‘feel’ or traditional methods. This same ideal applies whether it be developing a new saddle, a pair of gloves, helping Fabien Cancellara achieve the perfect time trial position or ensuring Troy Brosnan gets more power out of the gate. Did you know, for instance, that Specialized test all of their BG saddles for penile blood flow by glueing a transcutaneous oxygen sensor onto the head of the penis of dozens of test riders? It’s true. We saw it happen. We’ll, not the glueing per se, but we did witness live a test that showed the difference in blood flow to the end of Stewart’s knob when we rode his BG saddle and an equivalent competitors saddle. Thus, Specialized BG saddles are proven to ensure adequate blood gets to your old fella to prevent damage.

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The other end of this wire is in Stewart’s pants.

Likewise, when it comes to gloves, Specialized were willing to throw the traditional notions of how a glove should be designed out the window. Over three years of development went into the new Grail glove, which ultimately reversed the common understanding of pad placement; rather than padding the points of contact, the Grail glove puts a supportive pad in hollow in the middle of the palm. The idea is to achieve pressure relief by balancing the distribution of pressure/force across the areas of the hand that would normally be doing none of the work. We’re looking forward to testing them out with a long ride on our rigid singlespeed.

Flow was lucky enough to spend a day with some of Specialized’s leading Body Geometry experts this week and we had a chance to pick their brains on a huge number of subjects (you could write on a post-it note all the things these guys don’t know about the body/bike connection!). We’ve always perceived that many mountain bikers regard ergonomics and bike fitting as not applying to them – that what we do on the trails is so far removed from the precise, controlled environment of a wind tunnel or laboratory, that things learnt there can’t translate to the dirt. This isn’t the case, clearly, but we wanted to hear it from the experts themselves, so we sat down with Dr Roger Minkow (saddles), Dr Kyle Bickell (gloves) and Dr Andy Pruitt (master of the bike fitting universe).

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Handyman, Dr Kyle Bickell.

There must be a lot of complication when it comes to bike fitting on a mountain bike, compared to a road bike.

AP: Yes, we do the whole fit with the bike in sag. You’ve got to get the bike to settle into its travel to its riding position, and this effects all the measurements. You certainly can’t take a static saddle height from road across to mountain bikes – you need to work out the saddle height with the bike in sag.

KB: When I got fitted for the first time, I immediately went home and tried out those same numbers on my mountain bike, and pretty quickly I found out that I wasn’t comfortable. I was up too high, I was getting calf cramping. You have to take the sag into consideration.

AP: With cross country, it’s a reasonably direct carry over from the road, sag aside. All the other mountain bike experiences, it’s very different. That said, with the rise of enduro, where guys are having to pedal what is essentially a downhill bike uphill, suddenly things like the pedalling benefits offered by a BG shoe are becoming important in disciplines were fit aspects were’t regarded as important before. Take for instance the 2FO shoe – it’s a gravity shoe, but it uses the exact same BG principles of varus / forefoot support and arch support as the S-Works road shoe. Guys like Troy Brosnan are embracing the concept, Troy swapped out the standard red arch in soles in his 2FO shoes for the blue with more arch support, as he could feel the benefits. I mean, some of those gravity guys might have a tattoo on their neck and their hat turned sideways, but they give their sport a lot of thought.

KB: They’re professionals, just more highly caffeinated.

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We’re starting to see power meters emerge much more in mountain biking. Do you use power meters in fitting?

AP: Yes and no. Power meters are useful for assessing a fit AFTER there has been time for muscular / skeletal adaptation – like a few weeks later. Any changes you see in power at the time of fitting are incidental and not necessarily accurate, and there’s no guarantee those power changes will be sustained in the real world. We use a power meter to ensure that any measurements we take are done at a consistent effort, for example a pressure map of a riders saddle.

We had an interesting conversation with Jess Douglas recently about dropper posts. She’s started using a dropper post on her race bike, not solely to get the saddle out of the way, but to allow her to change her position at times in order to engage different muscles periodically or give her body a rest. Obviously a bike fit is about achieving the ideal position, but she finds varying her position beneficial. Any thoughts on that?

AP: Yeah, do you remember the old Eddy Merckx story that he rode with a 5mm Allen key in his pocket, and he’d change his position during a ride a number of times as he fatigued and it’d help him feel better? Turns out that Eddy had a significant femoral leg length inequality – no position was ever actually right! He was changing for the pure sake of change. So without seeing this woman, I can’t say. But I’d say it’s change for the sake of change, and maybe that’s nice over a 24hr race, but I can’t imagine any performance benefit.

A hand question for you Dr Bickell. We’re seeing a lot of change in mountain bike bar width; can you tell us how wider bars are having an effect on people’s hands?

KB: It changes everything from the axis of the angle of approach, to the angle of your hand on the bar, through to the force application onto your muscles and your joints. There is a comfort position, which people may not feel is their most high-performance position, but it’s important to know where that is so they’re doing less damage over long rides. I think on the mountain bike there may be more opportunity for riders to shift around quite a bit, more so than riders do at the moment. One thing mountain bikers sometimes get, which is less of an issue on the road, is blisters which are a result of friction. Perhaps if more hand positions were used there could be a reduction in friction forces too.

As Dr Minkow and I were discussing just yesterday, a lot of the work I’m doing at Specialized is to compensate for the handlebar. We’ve been stuck with the same non-ergonomic handlebar for, on the road at least, a couple of hundred years now. It’s obviously time for some changes that are based on science. There are other creative solutions, and with what we’re doing with carbon fibre and 3D modelling, marrying those two together with ergonomics is a natural fit.

On the mountain bike, it’s more difficult than the road, as mountain biking isn’t as rigid a discipline as mountain biking, and the demands of mountain biking require more variation in bar shape whether you’re talking cross country, enduro, freeride downhill… it all changes the need of the rider with respect to the handlebar. I’ve actually looked at creating a forward sweep – if you look at what happens with positioning of the joints, a forward sweep is ergonomically very beneficial. Obviously it totally changes control of the bike, so we’re looking at what would have to happen with stem length with regard to the bar sweep. But there’s definitely need for some innovation in this area, because with the exception of rise, there really hasn’t been much change in this area. But that’s something we’ll be looking at.

AP: Body Geometry fit is about neutral joint placement, so with a drop bar we talk about a neutral handshaking placement on the brake hood, but on mountain bike, the way your hand rests on the bar isn’t neutral at all. So how do you correct that?

BK: As soon as you bend your elbows, which you need to do with mountain biking obviously for shock absorption, the only way to get that neutral joint placement is to have forward sweep on the bars.

AP: The idea is to think courageously about obvious things that have been missed in the last 100 years. But because this is a sport that is simultaneously based so much on trends but also on history and tradition, it’s really tough to break the ways that people do and think and about these things. Sometimes you’re even fighting ignorance. And so how do you combat that? How do you make people listen? The way to do it, is with science.

KB: I mean, just take a look at helmets. The pro peleton in road cycling was completely resistant to helmets originally. But then Laurent Fignon lost the Tour in the time trial to Greg Lemond because Lemond was wearing a helmet while Fignon’s ponytail was flapping in the breeze and slowing him down. Science was able to show riders that helmets were both safer and faster. The same goes with what I’m doing with gloves; essentially it’s a safety item, but we’re incorporating elements that will boost performance also.

AP: On the matter of bars, obviously outside of the discipline of cross country, some of the aspects of bike fit become less relevant, and bar width might be one of those. The variables of handling, you want a bar that’s wide enough to give you the leverage to stop the rocks and roots ripping it out of your hands. But some of the bars we’re seeing now are too wide for many riders. If I asked you to do a push-up, you’d self select, you’d determine the hand placement width at which you’re strongest, and it wouldn’t be 800mm apart.

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The trend towards riding without gloves tends to come and go in mountain biking. Dr Bickell, as a hand surgeon, you’d have some thoughts on that.

KB: Not just in mountain biking, but on the road too. A lot of riders ride without gloves because they’re looking for more feel – they find that a traditional glove, especially if it’s padded, limits their feel, that tactile feedback. Ultimately there are huge advantages in wearing gloves, but not if feel is sacrificed, and that was one of the major challenges with the Grail glove. We are looking at the friction forces very closely now; we think there are a lot of advances possible in terms of the friction between the bar, to the glove and the glove to the hand.

AP: It’s interesting to note there can be a trend away from wearing gloves. It’s so incredibly dangerous if you fall without gloves – that trend is totally in the wrong direction.

KB: “I’m too good to need protection.” That’s a dangerous trend. But there are a lot of other reasons beside protection. Obviously there’s the sweat element, you’re not slipping so much when you’re gripping so you need to grip less firmly, and there’s obviously an impact on force transfer.

Saddles in mountain biking. Obviously there are more constraints with mountain biking than on the road, in terms of people needing to be able to manoeuvre more and have the saddle pass between their thighs. Does this have an impact on the fit aspects of the saddle? 

AP: You know, we designed road and mountain bike specific saddles for a long time, but what we’re seeing is that people use what they like, wherever they like. It seems that riders are choosing what fits their needs. Of course we know a mountain bike rider has different needs – they move around a lot more, put themselves on the nose, get off the back – but we’re always surprised how many ‘road’ saddles end up on mountain bikes. There are a lot of people riding Romins that are really hard to get the back of, but the benefits in other areas for them outweigh the downsides.

RM: We design products that we think are for a certain group of riders, but then sometimes it gets picked up by a totally different group. So we have to be open minded too. The minute we stop being open-minded, we get behind like everyone else. In order to be innovative, we’ve got to take some chances.

KB: When it comes to design, the best feedback we get is from the riders. They tell us things about the product that we never thought to consider.

AP: That’s why having a large sample for rider feedback is so important. I mean, look at the Shimano Biopace chainring – that concept was launched off the feedback of three people! And look at what flop that was.

KB: I’m definitely the beneficiary of all that experience with the Grail glove project. I mean, we have had the project on the go for three years, and we’ve kept pushing back the launch date as we’ve acquired rider feedback. I’ll give you an example: we’d settled on a pad material which we felt was perfect, but we designed it and testing in the summer. But then it became winter, the temperature dropped by 25 degrees, and what felt great in the summer now felt like a brick in your palm in the winter. So we had to go back to square one with the material. Had we not had that level of patience and experience, we may have launched it and had a product that wasn’t right.

That patience issue is key. There is definitely a lack of patience in the mountain bike industry. 

RM: And that’s because of the money. The longer you take to release a product, the more money you lose. It leads to inadequate testing. I remember a grip we made about 10 years ago that we didn’t do enough testing on; this dealer from Santa Cruz came up to me and said, ‘I really like your grips… but when I park the bikes outside, all the grips melt off like ice cream!’. They were really good up until the time that they melted!

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If you had to convince a mountain biker about the benefits of Body Geometry, what one element of the BG system, or which single BG product would you point them towards?

RM: I don’t think it’s about individual products. I think it’s about the Body Geometry system. Once a rider, or a journalist, understands the method and science that goes into everything BG – be it a product or a BG bike fit – then they’ll trust it. They’ll trust it for the science behind and the level of testing that goes into it all.

AP: My advice to mountain bikers would be ‘don’t be afraid of fit’. Mountain bikers tend to be so free thinking and independent that I worry they sometimes think they’ll just work it out, when what bike fit can offer them is huge.

RM: I’d also say to mountain bikers, be careful of illogical trends. Be careful that you’re not so worried about looking a certain way that you’re not making choices that aren’t smart.

 

Cheers, Doctors.

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Road Trip: Tom and Kelly’s Excellent South Australian Adventure

South Australia should be on every traveling mountain bikers bucket list. There is so much riding on tap and close to the city it’s just not funny, and it should be mentioned that World Cup DH shredders Conor Fearon and Troy Brosnan both hail from Adelaide.
Kelly and Tom only just scratched the surface with what is on offer in South Australia and both plan on returning soon in the mean time join them on this Excellent South Australian Adventure. 
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Road Trip: Tom and Kelly's Excellent South Australian Adventure

Back in June NZ’s Kelly McGarry, Tom Hey, filmer Ross McKay and I jumped on four separate planes and embraced the four hour flight to Adelaide, South Australia from NZ. It was both Kelly and Tom’s first time in South Australia and this video goes part way in capturing our whirlwind seven day trip that included Great White shark diving, DH trail shredding, dam jumping, kangaroo eating, 16″ bike racing, 29er riding and not finding Troy Brosnan’s secret Flinders Range huck zone.
South Australia should be on every traveling mountain bikers bucket list. There is so much riding on tap and close to the city it’s just not funny, and it should be mentioned that World Cup DH shredders Conor Fearon and Troy Brosnan both hail from Adelaide.
Kelly and Tom only just scratched the surface with what is on offer in South Australia and both plan on returning soon in the mean time join them on this Excellent South Australian Adventure. 
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Interview: PJ Hunton – Norco’s Head Engineer

It’s no fluke that the sudden acceleration in Norco’s development coincided with the arrival of this man, PJ Hunton, Norco’s engineering manager. Having just taken delivery of the new Range Carbon 7.2 (read our first impressions here) we thought we’d catch up with man who’s largely responsible for that bike’s existence and ask him a few questions. [divider]Introducing: PJ Hunton[/divider] WEB_Feature_PJ_Norco-4-710x473 Norco has undergone a real transformation over the past half dozen years, both in terms of performance and brand appeal (at least in my opinion!). Can you tell us what was the catalyst for this rapid development, and what have been the key objectives?

The catalyst was an increase in our engineering horsepower. The objective was simple: to build better bikes that we want to ride. Whether this was the need for a faster, stiffer, yet more compliant road bike and the inception of technologies like Power Chassis and ARC or the need for a more efficient suspension system for mountain bikes, hence the creation of ART suspension, it was all based around improving the ride. What moment, or bike, do you feel has been the most important in Norco’s history (either long-term history, or recent)? Having only been here for six years, I am biased towards the recent history so I would have to say the development of the original Range, which was the first bike with ART suspension. This spawned into a full line of new full suspension bikes which made a lot of people take a second look at our brand. Looking at our 50 year history of designing bikes, however, there are several iconic Norco bikes that should be mentioned. The Rampage – the first bike with front suspension corrected geometry – and the VPS series of freeride bikes are both a huge part of Norco’s history.

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Then: the 1999 VPS1 was one of the most desirable bikes out there. The VPS (Variable Point Suspension) design and massive monocoque aluminium front ends became a hallmark of Norco’s VPS range for a number of years.

 

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NOW: Our new long-term test bike, the Range Carbon 7.2. Pretty amazing how far things have come in 15 years!

Norco’s carbon bikes are just awesome (we love the Sight and Range), and the brand’s development in carbon bikes seems to have been in fast-forward. Can you tell us a bit about the learning curve here? Norco has been designing and producing carbon road and hardtail frames for many years now, so carbon frame design is certainly not new. Carbon full suspension bikes are new to us, and from the design & engineering perspective, using carbon as the frame material presents incredible opportunities. Most visibly is the aesthetics of a carbon frame. There were some great advancements and creativity made in the industrial design of these frames and the resulting 3D CAD modeling strategies which were required to achieve these designs. Engineering the shape to accommodate pivots points and component contact points was also a learning process but a great one due to the potential for optimization of the frame structure. Combining the ID and engineering requirements into the final frame design takes a lot of iterations and even more machine testing before the true testing on the trail can begin.

Are we going to see one wheel size only? Absolutely not. Both wheel sizes will always have a place in mountain biking.

Speaking of carbon, the demand for carbon by the cycling industry is huge now, so much so that we’re already hearing about production delays because of supply issues. Can you envisage another material that we will see emerge in bike construction in the near future? In the near future, carbon is the material. Manufacturing processes will improve which will result in slightly lighter & stronger frames, but not significantly. I can envision composites and plastic material development to continue to the point where we could eventually mold a plastic bike with a strong tough skin and a light, structural honeycomb foam inside.   In your opinion, are we going to see mountain biking return to one wheel size? Absolutely not. Both wheel sizes will always have a place in mountain biking. It will be up to the rider to choose which size works best for them based on their riding style and objectives. There are obviously some frame and component engineering challenges associated with making 29” wheels work properly in longer travel applications but those are being solved as I type.   We’re seeing all-mountain bikes now with some very slack geometry up front, not far off downhill bikes from a few years ago – what do you think is the limit in terms of how far head angles can be pushed? Norco’s vision of an all-mountain bike is exactly that, one which can be ridden all over the mountain, both up and down so making the head angle slacker doesn’t make the bike better overall, just on the downhills. If you are talking Enduro bikes however, then the head angles could certainly approach DH angles because those bikes are very focussed on going downhill and it almost doesn’t matter if the bike is a real handful to pedal up hills.   Electronics: do you want them? Why / why not? In regards to electronic components such as shifting sytems, suspension control, seatposts, brakes, etc… if they can improve the ride experience and still be reliable, why not make them available for those willing to pay.   We’ve just taken delivery of the Range Carbon 7.2 as a long term test bike. What is your favourite thing about this bike and why? My favorite thing about the Range Carbon is how fun it is to shred down aggressive singletrack. The way it gobbles up bumps and is perfectly balanced to two wheel drift ‘round corners just makes me smile all the way down the trail. Not to mention the fact that with the push of a couple of buttons, I can comfortably and efficiently climb back up for more. Huge stoke for my Range Carbon right now!

Tassie Produce: Mates on the Blue Tier

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There had been talk of organizing a group of avid riders to travel over and ride the Blue Tier track, nestled up in the north east of the state, a trail that never seemed to get off the to-do list. It’s not far geographically from Launceston – it’s less than two hours to the Weldborough Hotel, the central hub for the region, nestled snugly at the tail end of the trail the perfect base for those who ride the trail to come home to.

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On the road out to the Blue Tier the scenery changes from loamy soils to the dolerite boulders and slabs strewn across Mount Stronach, flowing to the east of Scottsdale and it’s quartz laden soils and typical Australian bush. Before entering Weldborough itself, monstrous ferns and dense vegetation cover the road sides rising high above you on either side of the windy little road, providing a very different feel to the trails in comparison to most of the riding in the state.

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The Weldborough Hotel is the perfect place to set up camp, wind down and either recover or prepare for a day of riding. The smiles of our crew were made all the wider thanks to the micro-brewed local ales that the hotel proudly has on tap. By 9pm, everyone had called it a night, ready for a Sunday of shredding.

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The Blue Tier trail originated around late 1800’s, originally pushed in to allow access to the valuable the tin ore strewn amongst the rock. The tier became a mining area, and now is scattered with remnants of old mine shafts.The descent traverses across the side of a mountain range, with the bottom section of the trail being filled with big rock rollers, boulders the size of your head, sticky ruts and bomb holes the whole way down. It’s the kind of trail that makes you stop and push back up, sessioning sections again and again, to rail some of the rutted, rocky sections of trail. It’s difficult riding, for sure, as multiple flat tyres attested, but nothing could dampen the mood.

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All up, we clocked roughly 50km of descending, with breaks in between runs to recuperate and get our senses back together. No injuries, just a lot of laughs. The Blue Tier reminded us once again that it’s almost always worth the effort to leave your backyard and seek out something new and epic.

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The Soapbox: The Power of Purposeless Activity

You see, fun and play, the primary purposes of being a kid, are features sadly missing from the lives of many adults, and are most often absent when there’s some sort of psychological dysfunction (not sure if this is causal or consequential). I see this every day in my practice. When I take on a new client, one of my standard assessment interview questions is “what do you do for fun?”. Invariably, my clients respond that they don’t do anything. They used to, but somehow life has got in the way and they’ve stopped doing the things that they enjoy. More unsettling is the fact that whenever I ask the same question of any sort of group (especially in a workplace setting), invariably I get the same response.

The fact that so many people have forgotten how to have fun is both worrying and depressing. Why, come a certain age, do we stop having fun?

Before I go any further, it might be useful to explain what I mean by the terms ‘fun’ and ‘play’ (it appears that many of you have forgotten what they mean). Let’s define ‘play’ as planned or spontaneous activity that is performed for no obvious or productive purpose and which usually results in ‘fun’. ‘Fun’ is a feeling of immersion in the present moment, usually accompanied by feelings of pleasure or happiness, and an absence of worry or distraction by internal or external events. ‘Fun’ is often the result of ‘play’. Play can involve pretty much anything. In children, play is usually unplanned and unprompted, involves active use of the imagination (from a plush toy picnic, to full-scale imaginary war), and seldom (if ever) has any rules. In adults, play is usually a lot more confined and scripted, mostly because our lives are set out that way, and there’s not a lot of room for the unplanned. As we age we become less comfortable with spontaneity and more used to rules and deadlines. So if we ‘play’, we do so in constrained, preplanned, ‘adult’ ways. If we’re not careful, this can denude play of any fun!

So why, as adults, do we stop playing? Well, for starters, our lives are a lot more time-oriented and regimented than when we were kids. Play and fun are often considered not only to be the domain of children, but actually childish. We’re told from an early age, that study, work, and life in general, is hard and needs to be taken seriously. Consequently, we often approach our daily lives in a regimented and humourless way. Worse, we get drastically (and disproportionately) upset when our regimens are disrupted. We get angry when the train is late, or the traffic’s ‘bad’, or even when someone’s walking too slowly in front of us. We take the same route to and from work, buy the same things at the supermarket, the same sandwich each day, sit in the same seat on the train, and rarely engage in anything that’s spontaneous or unplanned. Spontaneous things make us uncomfortable or embarrassed.

We actually function a lot better when we’re having fun, mostly because we’re a lot less stressed and a lot more open to new ideas and experiences.

Nevertheless, we’re not supposed to be this way. We actually function a lot better when we’re having fun, mostly because we’re a lot less stressed and a lot more open to new ideas and experiences. Armed with this knowledge, I’m always amazed at how dour the workplace is, especially when productivity and effectiveness suffer for it. Not only do people not have fun at work, it’s actively discouraged, and (this is the worst part) looked on as unprofessional and inappropriate. Gah!

So, when we adults do ‘play’ it seldom feels as deeply satisfying as it did when we were younger. We’re seldom able to lose ourselves in the experience without being distracted by worries about work, or intrusive thoughts about our lives. Afterwards, we often feel slightly cheated – not enough time, not enough absorption, not enough fun. Even the things that we call play are usually watered down and socially sanctioned, resulting in a lot less passion and a lot less reward.

Now, one of the reasons that we associate play and fun with children is because, from an evolutionary perspective, once we reach sexual maturity (and can no longer rely on protection from parents) we’re obliged to take care of ourselves and our partners. In a very real sense, for the majority of our evolution (and still today) survival hasn’t been a lot of fun. It’s hard, brutal and unforgiving. In fact, it’s probably likely that we’ve evolved to regard play as a frivolous luxury that, at best, reduces the time available for survival-based activities (including vigilance, power plays, mating behaviour and aggression) and, at worst, actively reduces our chances of survival by reducing our alertness for danger. Consequently, play has become seen as a luxury that only children can or should engage in. Times have changed a bit, however. These days, our survival isn’t necessarily causally linked to our level of vigilance. In fact, excessive vigilance in the modern world tends to be interpreted as stress and manifested as anxiety. The result is a society of individuals who are constantly on the look out for non-existent danger, who jump at shadows, and who feel perpetually distressed. Although this worked great when we were in constant danger of being eaten (and when our life expectancy was around 35 years), it doesn’t work well for us now. With a life-expectancy of 70+ years, a life of unnecessary overvigilance is not only unpleasant, it’s actually likely to damage our health and reduce our lifespan.

In other words, in the modern world, play is the opportunity to engage in something that is outside of the usual evolutionary survival pathways that dominate most of our behaviour. In fact, no matter how we like to dress it up, most of our behaviour in a social and work context is tinged by our survival tendencies. Whenever we act aggressively, attempt to improve our social standing, go on a date, undermine someone else to look better, challenge our superiors, make a powerplay at work, or push for a raise, we’re unconsciously acting out primitive survival urges. Because play is the opposite of survival behaviour, it gives us a chance to chill, to interact in a cooperative way, and to (potentially) feel compassion for those around us. In other words, play might just be the one thing we need to get over our evolutionary, cut-throat past, and head toward a future that involves more cooperation and less ‘being an arsehole’ (read here).

We get a quite a large neurological reward for play-based behaviour… increased levels of dopamine, vasopressin and oxytocin, a cocktail that combines feeling good with feelings of connectedness and togetherness.

Interestingly, we get a quite a large neurological reward for play-based behaviour and the consequent ‘fun’. Social interaction in a nonthreatening environment results in increased levels of dopamine, vasopressin and oxytocin, a cocktail that combines feeling good with feelings of connectedness and togetherness. Engaging in a complex activity for the purposes of personal challenge, skills development or mastery (rather than to achieve a predetermined outcome) tends to result in feelings of absorption, accomplishment and satisfaction. In extreme situations, it can even result in a feeling that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi described as ‘flow‘: the feeling of complete and total immersion in an activity without any intrusive thoughts, or even an awareness of time.

So let’s redefine play. How about ‘behaviour that allows humans to override inbuilt survival instincts through social interaction and cooperation for its own sake (no mating or powerplay behaviour), without the need for a purposeful outcome, and which results in feelings of satisfaction and wellbeing’? That should open things up a bit.

So that’s why I mountain bike. For me, mountain biking is completely frivolous and pointless. I could ‘legitimise’ my behaviour by claiming that it’s exercise and that that’s good for me, but that would trivialise the experience. I mountain bike because, for me, it’s fun. I challenge myself, develop my skills and mastery of a difficult activity, overcome fears, interact with other people who I like in a noncompetitive way, and get to see pretty outdoor environments. And none of it has any purpose at all (i.e., it’s play). In fact, the whole activity is somewhat selfish. I burn petrol getting to and from the trails, buy mountain bike bling that I don’t need, and waste a lot of my time fiddling with my bike. And yes, I’m completely aware of the irony of self-centred behaviour on a crowded, resource-limited planet.

 Does it, however, make me a more effective person? Am I better able to work as a result? Am I a nicer person for mountain biking? Hell yes.

Mountain biking is a luxury and resource heavy. Does it, however, make me a more effective person? Am I better able to work as a result? Am I a nicer person for mountain biking? Hell yes. Having something in my life that lets me engage in an activity that I find meaningful for no particular outcome is awesome. It lets me focus on one thing without intrusions from the outside world; it lets me enjoy time for time’s sake; it lets me have fun. And, yes, because I live in an adult world with adult issues like appointments and reports and deadlines, it has to be scheduled, but within those scheduled times, I get to do something that has nothing to do with (and in the case of mountain biking is probably the opposite of) survival-based activities.

My advice? Pick your poison when it comes to seeking out a version of play that, for you, is genuinely fun. But please try not to fuck it up for everyone else. Try not to take your play (and yourself) too seriously. It’s supposed to be frivolous, so getting upset because someone else disagrees with you about your chosen form of play is sort of missing the point. Please remember that play is about engaging in behaviour that is the opposite of our preprogrammed survival states. So acting in a way that is aggressive, competitive, uncooperative, or just being a dick, isn’t play, it’s survival. Take a breath, chill, and have some fun. And remember that fun at someone else’s expense isn’t fun, it’s being a dick.

Oh, one more thing. A while back I wrote about values (here). If you want to take play and fun to the next level (in terms of extracting a strong sense of meaning, wellbeing and lasting satisfaction), try aligning your play with your values. Works a treat…

About the author:

Dr. Jeremy Adams 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 how to be human (www.eclectic-moose.com).

Jeremy is based in Melbourne and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com).

The Single Life: Building a Dream Singlespeed

As anyone who’s ever built a project bike from scratch will know, it’s a deeply involved process, both financially and emotionally. Join Pat, as he tells the tale of his own personal journey to rigid-singlespeed-weirdoness.

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[divider]The Single Life[/divider]

Why a single speed? Why, with all the ‘better’ options, am I going down this path? It’s something I’ve been asking myself over the past 12 months, as I mulled this project over in my head, and I think I’ve figured it out.

The first time I went down the single speed route it was onboard a ghetto mobile, it was vehicle to get me from A to B as simply as possible, with no fuss and onlt the occasional off-road adventure. It was basic in its rawest sense, an old double butted chromoly frame with a steel fork, an old rear mech locked out on the gear of choice and the bottom jockey wheel cut-off. It was shit, but it was the most reliable bike I have ever owned; rain, hail, pub crawls, uni commutes, the local trails, it was always there.

What is it that lures people to single speeds, what is the romance?

Surly Cog

For me I look at a singlespeed and the state of mind that goes with riding it and it reminds me of why I love riding bikes…simplicity.

For most of us, the joy of riding started out on a back-pedal braked BMX doing skids on the grass or concrete till the tyre exploded. We then maybe graduated to the local walking trails or fire roads or that family friend’s place in the bush, all of it on the simplest of bikes, and we loved it. I remember bombing some local fire roads with my mate after school, he was on his BMX and I was on my rigid Malvern Star, no matter how sore our hands were we’d still turn around and do it again. That was then and I can’t imagine how many variants of mountain bikes I have had since.

It was shit, but it was the most reliable bike I have ever owned; rain, hail, pub crawls, uni commutes, the local trails, it was always there.

But recapturing that simplicity is what I’ve been searching for – that basic bike to trail connection. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved riding all the different variants of bikes that we’ve had over the last couple of decades, but there’s always been that missing something. And for me it’s the pure honesty of a rigid single speed, there’s no hiding. After all these years of progressing your fitness, skills and technique, it’s raw, honest riding – you and the dirt.

So after more than 12 months of searching the web and forums I finally got all the bits of bling together to make by dream single speed. There were some obstacles on the way, but that’s part of the fun. What would a custom project bike be without the odd hiccup?

Over the research period I think I went through four or five different frame options and each point in time when I was just about to commit, something would alter the course: frame supply, a tenth review of the geometry, colour, style… the list goes on.

The swapping and changing of frames had been going on so long that I had ended up with an entire build kit sitting in the living room with everything ready except the frame, fork and tyres…a strange way to build up a bike some might say. But I knew what I wanted and how the bike needed to ride and the bar, saddle, seatpost, saddle, brakes, hubs and rims had all been carefully selected.

Tom Ritchey

Finally the sun began to shine and there was a bright shiny light at the end of the tunnel…glowing blue, white and red and smelling of triple butted steel. Enter the Ritchey P-29er. A classic beauty of a frame, with the brains (and countless hours of saddle time) of Tom Ritchey himself behind its creation. However, with the steel and the retro P-series race colours comes a 1 1/8th steerer, which was to be the catalyst for my next challenge in this epic build.

Niner Fork 2

With the frame locked in and sitting with the rest of the build kit on the living room floor (patient wife), the question of a fork needed to be addressed quickly. It turns out there are not that many high performances carbon fork for a 1 1/8 steerer out there, so I ended up parting with a decent chunk of cash and soon had a beautiful Niner carbon fork in my hot hands.

All along I’d been planning for a tapered steerer and a 15mm axle, but the Niner fork in a 1 1/8th steerer comes with 9mm dropouts. Now, there was no way a standard quick release was going to adorn my front hub. Some might say, “what’s the problem? Just run a normal quick release and keep it old school”, but in that case I might as well put some centre pull brakes on this bad boy….nah some things just aren’t worth re-living.

Tune Singlespeeder

Luckily I was able to find a happy medium, FRM do a rad solid axle kit for their hubs that will fit standard 9mm/10mm drop outs. The only issue was I wasn’t running FRM hubs – I’d already bought some Tune hubs! This however was not going to stop me. I realised that all I needed to do was drill out the end caps of my Tune hub, and then the FRM solid 9mm axle would fit right through. How hard could it be to drill out an end cap? Let’s just say that if you have a mate who is a fitter and turner and can do the job in about five minutes, just hand those end caps over and let a professional handle it. I quickly munted one before I handed over the power tools! Fortunately I could get another spare.

So with one slightly modified hub cap and two beautiful drilled out caps with a 9mm axle fitted it was finally time to get all the parts together and get this build rolling…. Bugger I’d need some tyres too if I wanted any rolling to be happening.

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I’d been throwing around some different big-bagged tyres in my head and amongst other rigid singlespeed riders, and had a couple of good options to consider. Just when I was about to settle on some Specialized Renegades, Maxxis decided to throw some rather lovely spanners in the works: not only did they release my favourite tyre, the Ikon, in a 29×2.35 option but they also threw the Ardent in a 2.4 on the table. The real kicker was that the Ardent was available (if you knew the secret handshake and enough lines from BMX Bandits) in an awesome skin wall tyre option. I was sold! Skin wall – there was no other tyre option that would be good enough for the steed, it had to be the Ardent 2.4 with skin walls.

Finally all the ingredients had come together and the result… well, I’m totally unbiased of course, but I think it’s jaw dropping.

Ritchey P-29erBuilt 3

Oh and by the way it rides unbelievably well! The beautiful custom Ritchey P-29er has been well worth the wait. And with everyone running around trying to decide on whether they buy a trail bike, or an all-mountain, or enduro bike, or back country or marathon, or god knows what, it’s refreshing to just roll out on this beautiful rig and just enjoy the trails. After all, isn’t that why we ride?

 

Build

Frame: Ritchey P-29er steel

www.kobie.com.au

As you can see from the photos the frame is breathtaking, but aesthetics alone don’t make a bike. I had been looking for some time at different frames and had come to the conclusion that steel was the preference, but I didn’t want a wagon to steer around the local trails. I wanted something that was going to be quick and not be too vastly different from the geometry of my race bike, a hard find, but I think I got pretty close. The Ritchey P29-er, was ticking all the right boxes, steel, horizontal dropouts (adjustable chainstay length), the ability to run single or geared and a sweet 70° head angle.

 

Fork: Niner Carbon fork 11/8

www.niner.com

There was much debate and to-and-froing over the fork, but with the Ritchey frame, my choices for a carbon monocoque fork with a 1 1/8 steerer were limited. The Niner forks are tried and tested when it comes to rigid single speed setups, and when combined with its sleek lines and the just the sweep that I was looking for, the Niner fork was a must have.

 

Wheels: Custom “Dimitri” built

Tune Princess front hub with a FRM 9mm QR (Carbuta Pty) and Singlespeeder D rear hub (www.eightyonespices.com.au )

I have been running Tune hubs on my race bike for some time now and have found them absolutely faultless. They are light yet superbly strong. The engagement and of the freewheel on the Singlespeeder D is fantastic and its oversized flanges give the wheel extra strength.

The FRM 9mm QR, is a great way of getting rid of some of the unwanted flex from a front axle when compared to standard QR setup, although it’s fiddly if you are not running a FRM hub.

 

Crankset: E13 XCX+Single

www.bythehive.com

I had been looking for a single speed specific crank set for a while, I wanted something that looked good, was stiff and didn’t weigh a tonne…enter the XCX+Single. The XCX+Single has a 30mm spindle – these are super strong cranks.

E-Thirteen Cranks 2

Tyres: Maxxis Ardent 2.4 with skin walls

www.kwt.net.au

The Maxxis Ardent’s have become a favourite of late; we have had the pleasure of having them on a number of test bikes, riding numerous trail types. They roll well on our local dusty hardpack trails yet still have the aggression need to bite into a loose corner. So when I found out they were making a 2.4” with skin walls the decision was final. While the skin walls may not be tubeless specific, they do tubeless up – just make sure you have soapy water, a compressor, sealant and some patience on the ready.

Syntace FlatForce 2

Stem: Syntace Flat Force 77mm (www.eightyonespices.com.au )

Handlebar: Syntace Vector Carbon High5 740mm 5° rise 8° sweep (www.eightyonespices.com.au )

Seatpost: Syntace P6 Carbon HiFlex (www.eightyonespices.com.au )

Syntace have always interested me as a brand, they avoid the mainstream approach and do things just that little bit differently. Take for example their Flat Force stem with its super low stack height and alternate mounting for the bars, below the stem’s centre line, which enables you to get those bars that little bit lower without having to run a -17° stem.

The bars are perfect for a single speed, nice and wide with a perfect sweep and offering that little bit of compliance that we all love from good carbon bars.

The compliance factor was also the reasoning for the seatpost choice as well. Syntace has developed this post specifically to gain as much flex out of it as possible without compromising its strength.

 

Saddle: Bontrager www.bontrager.com

A favourite of recent times with Flow, this saddle keeps you comfortable. While it may not be a featherweight, it’s definitely no anvil.

 

Grips: FRM 

As someone who lost their gloves some time ago, I’m always searching for a descent set of grips and these foam bad boys are mighty nice on the hands, especially when you’ve got no suspension.

The Soapbox: Are you a lone wolf?

A little while ago, Flow asked you guys whether you preferred riding with others, or by yourselves. The responses were interesting: most of you seemed to get more out of riding with other people, but often rode alone because it was hard to find other people to ride with, or because you were embarrassed by your skill level. In fact, unless the purpose of a ride was to train, pretty much all of you indicated that, if given the choice, you would prefer to ride with other people (especially good friends).

Humans get more reward out of experiences with other humans (especially ones we like) than we do from solo activities.

As a sport psychologist, I find this really interesting, because it follows both the research and my own experience as a mountain biker. It’s all about shared involvement: humans get more reward out of experiences with other humans (especially ones we like) than we do from solo activities. Our preference for doing things with others is probably an evolved one: being with the tribe is safer, but also allows for cooperative activity, increasing our chances of surviving (it’s easier to bring down a mammoth with your mates). As a result, we get a buzz from doing things with other people that is harder to get by ourselves.

The fact that mountain biking is a challenging, absorbing, and fulfilling experience in its own right also enhances the group experience. Typically, we enjoy ourselves more when we’re doing something that is engaging (d’uh), but also that requires our full attention and a reasonable skill base. When we do this with other people, it stands out even more. This is probably why mountain biking is a great way to form friendships. When we share intense experiences with others, we’re much more likely to form strong bonds a lot quicker (you’ll also notice this sort of thing happening when you travel – sharing novel experiences with others forms a close connection because we’re much more open to experience in situations that require a lot of our attention, and where having support makes us feel more comfortable).

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Interestingly, when we ride with others we appear to encode more intense memories of the experience than we do when we’re by ourselves. Think about your own experience: chances are you have much more vivid memories of your last shared ride than from your last solo effort.

All of this adds up to an area that’s been a research interest of mine for some time: what types of exercise give us the most psychological benefit? Watching people punish themselves on treadmills in the gym (and hating what they’re doing) it’s pretty obvious that any psychological benefit is missing in action (even though they might be getting a physical effect). Researchers have shown that regular exercise improves mood, increases resilience, and decreases stress, anxiety and depression. But this only happens when we voluntarily engage in a physical activity we enjoy. Most interesting is that fact that this effect is enhanced when we exercise with other people (especially those we like). So mountain biking, especially with other people, tends to tick all the boxes for psychological benefit.

This is probably why mountain biking is a great way to form friendships. When we share intense experiences with others, we’re much more likely to form strong bonds a lot quicker.

Having said all that, there are times when riding with a group can be a pain, and a solo ride can be thoroughly refreshing. Groups add an element of competition, and it can be exhausting to feel like you’ve always got to outdo your riding buddies. Needing to go faster and harder every ride also adds an element of risk – although it’s great to be challenged, pushing your limits every ride whether you want to or not, can be dangerous or just scary, reducing the pleasure you take from the experience.

Without the pressure to perform, or the need to have other people around to see you rail a berm, a solo ride can be very pleasant – an opportunity to take things at your own pace, to stop and practise the things you want to work on, and to enjoy your own company for a while. Of course, it goes without saying that riding solo should go hand in hand with the good practice of letting people know where you’re going and when to expect you back, and to carry a mobile phone that gets reception where you’re riding.

My advice? Take some time to think about why you mountain bike and what you want to get out of it. If it’s all about the training or time by yourself, then don’t stress about finding people to ride with. But if mountain biking is about shared experience with people you enjoy spending time with, it’s worth making the effort to get out there with others. If you don’t have anyone to ride with, or your friends are always busy, check out the various riding forums, or local clubs, for riding buddies. It might feel awkward to begin with, but mountain biking is a great way to build friendships quickly. Three rides later, it’ll be worth it.

 

In summary:

Why ride by yourself? Training, time to self, chance to practise without pressure.

Why we ride by ourselves (even if we don’t want to): embarrassment, no one to ride with, low confidence.

Why ride with others? Increased psychological benefit, more fun, feels more memorable, added safety if things go wrong, increased challenge, chance to form good relationships.

The downside of riding with others: peer pressure, excessive competition, less chance to slow down or practise.

 

About the author:

Dr. Jeremy Adams 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 how to be human (www.eclectic-moose.com).

Jeremy is based in Melbourne and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com).

So Frenchy, So Lapierre. A Factory Tour.

The largest premium bicycle brand in France, is a part of the large parent mob of Accell Group with Ghost Bikes and Hai Bike. And since last year, the popular dual suspension models using the OST+ (a variant on the excellent four bar linkage, Horst Pivot design) patent held by Specialized ran out, so we’ll be seeing more of these bike all over the world.

Lapierre pump out 110,000 bikes annually, how many spokes does that add up to?

With the frame construction coming from Taiwan, and part of the world’s assembly, Lapierre still maintain the assembly and distribution of the European share of the market’s bikes right out of the Dijon facility. Gilles Lapierre, the son of founder Jackie Lapierre maintains the name in the business as the general manager.

Lapierre Dijon 1
The Burgundy Region, simply stunning, like a postcard wherever you look. Vineyards in the front, trails out the back.
Lapierre Dijon 2
NSW Lapierre sales dude, Luke, moonlighting as the big boss, Gilles Lapierre.
Lapierre Dijon 3
The modern and stylish offices of Lapierre sit alongside the original building. Since 1946, Lapierre have been based in Dijon.
Rows of frames ready for assembly.
Rows of frames ready for assembly.
Behind the secret door, in this big room, is the future. Lapierre's R+D department was strictly off limits, damn it!
Behind the secret door, in this big room, is the future. Lapierre’s R+D department was strictly off limits, damn it!
We charmed the staff to let us shoot photos in their testing room, where frames are tested to their death.
We charmed the staff to let us shoot photos in their testing room, where frames are tested to their death.
Lapierre Dijon 19
This poor Zesty frame was having a hard time in the grips of the machine. The noise alone was enough to make us cringe, as it is beaten, stretched and pounded in the name of sacrificial testing.
Lapierre Dijon 20
This machine tests the brake mounts on an aluminium frame. It’s amazing how much stress they put into the bike, we watched it withstand amazing forces through the frame.
Lapierre Dijon 21
Alignment testing of the new downhill bike’s pivot points and lateral surfaces. Precise.
Lapierre Dijon 23
This looks technical.
The 2015 bikes were being detailed, and photographed for the new catalogue. All done in house.
The 2015 bikes were being detailed, and photographed for the new catalogue. All done in house.
Lapierre are mighty proud of their heritage, this old mixte was lying around the factory, attracting just as much attention from us as the 2015 bikes.
Lapierre are mighty proud of their heritage, this old mixte was lying around the factory, attracting just as much attention from us as the 2015 bikes.
Some of the wheels are custom built in house.
Some of the wheels are custom built in house.
Mesmerising to watch, as the wheel builder laces spokes into a hub like dropping spaghetti into a boiling pot.
Mesmerising to watch, as the wheel builder laces spokes into a hub like dropping spaghetti into a boiling pot.
Carefully assembling and setting up the new bikes for European distribution.
Carefully assembling and setting up the new bikes for European distribution.
The electric bike market is going bonkers in Europe. Their Lapierre Overvolt electric bike with the Bosch motor is a seriously amazing machine. When Bosch have a service centre in Australia, we'll have access to them. Think dialled geometry, suspension and components with a motor. Hauling ass!
The electric bike market is going bonkers in Europe. Their Lapierre Overvolt electric bike with the Bosch motor is a seriously amazing machine. When Bosch have a service centre in Australia, we’ll have access to them. Think dialled geometry, suspension and components with a motor. Hauling ass!
Remy, the engineer behind so many bikes, designs and especially suspension. This guy rules, happy to openly chat about the e:i Shock Auto system, and the finer details of frame design.
Remi Gribaudo, the engineer behind so many bikes, designs and especially suspension. This guy rules, happy to openly chat about the e:i Shock Auto system, and the finer details of frame design. His close relationship with Nico Vouilloz is key to the suspension design process.
Remy on his 'lunch loop' aboard a prototype road bike.
Remi on his ‘lunch loop’ aboard a prototype road bike.
Not in Australia any more.
Not in Australia any more.
When in France, ride an FDJ team bike through the Burgandy roads. A stunning region!
When in France, ride an FDJ team bike through the Burgandy roads. A stunning region!
Holy chateau!
Holy chateau!
Ash from Yarra Valley Cycles, VIC, giving the road bike a bit of Aussie treatment.
Ash from Yarra Valley Cycles, VIC, giving the road bike a bit of Aussie treatment.
Lapierre bikes are born in the most amazing part of France.
Lapierre bikes are born in the most amazing part of France.
So much frigging fromage!
So much fromage!
Only a few hours drive from Dijon is the Passportes du Soleil region. With chairlift accessible trails for days. Morzine, Chatel, Les Gets, Morgins, and Champery are one of the local testing grounds for their bikes.
Only a few hours drive from Dijon is the Passportes du Soleil region. With chairlift accessible trails for days. Morzine, Chatel, Les Gets, Morgins, and Champery are one of the local testing grounds for their bikes.
Corey from The Ultimate Ride, Alice Springs, reflects on the contrast from his home trails, to the French Alpes.
Corey from The Ultimate Ride, Alice Springs, reflects on the contrast from his home trails, to the French Alpes.
It was then time to get busy, with a passport in our Camelbaks, we participated in the Passportes du Soleil event on 2014 Zestys.
It was then time to get busy, with a passport in our Camelbaks, we participated in the Passportes du Soleil event on 2014 Zestys.

Nico Vouilloz: Interviewing a Legend.

Special Stages 1-3 of the Val d'Allos Eduro World Series

Flow was so incredibly fortunate not to just meet the legend, but to ride with, dine with, share a few chairlift rides, do this interview and get to know the enigmatic character a little more. Riding behind Nico was like watching a movie with special effects, slightly sped up. There is no reason or explanation or words to describe what we saw. In the tight, slippery and steep trails of the French Alps, Morzine and Les Gets we valiantly followed Nico for as long as we could. The subtle weight shifts and direction changes he made as he played with the super-technical terrain was hard to believe.

Nico’s recovering from a couple knee surgeries and a wrist injury sustained earlier this year, but he’s still motivated to school the younger racers in the Enduro World Series. We sat down with him over a delicious aperitif, here is what he had to say.

Nicolas VOUILLOZ - Valloire - EWS #3 - 2014

Flow:

How does it make you feel to know that you’ve inspired many people, myself included? I did have posters of you on my bedroom wall as a kid.

Nico:

It feels good. I’ve met many people who were fans and now we are friends, so it feels good.

F:

What are you up to these days?

N:

I’ve got a great life. I travel with Lapierre, race and do a lot of product testing. I like this, I’ve always liked playing with my bike setup even when I was racing.

F:

You haven’t been back to Australia since 1996?

N:

I loved Australia! The reason I haven’t been back is because I’m always travelling, so I don’t have any time for actual ‘holidays’. I would love to come back though, in the future. I still remember the race and especially the party after (laughs) in 96.

F:

Do you still have the same passion for racing that you had at the height of your career?

N:

I still love to race, but I don’t think that I’m as serious as I used to be. I’ll keep racing though, I still enjoy the feeling of practice, the atmosphere of competition, but maybe not the pressure of the podium (laughs).

F:

You haven’t raced in a while, how do you think your results will be when you return?

N:

I need to get some fitness back (laughs), but about the results I’m not really sure. Sometimes I feel good racing, I hit the lines well, and other times I don’t.

Test Lapierre Spicy Team 6

 

F:

So you seem like you’re more relaxed about your racing?

N:

Yes definitely. Now that I’m not as focused on the podium I can ride and see what happens. If I come tenth or fifteenth it doesn’t matter. When I was racing in the past for the podium I was focused on every little thing- the bike, the track, the settings.

F:

You won an EWS race last year though- you’re still pretty quick!

N:

I was so happy when I won that race. I had had some crashes and mechanicals in the previous races, and I arrived super fit. When I saw that I had beaten Jerome that old feeling came back to me- like I was young again.

Test Lapierre Spicy Team 4

F:

Had you done many enduro races before the international rise and the Enduro World Series began last year?

N:

I had done some- local races here in France, like our special endure series. I had also ridden the megavalanche, so I knew to an extent what the races would be like.

F:

Does it make you feel good knowing that you were a pioneer of downhill racing and seeing how far the sport has evolved today?

N:

Yes definitely. The progression has been amazing, from bikes with no suspension, to today’s bikes which have features like adjustable geometry and the amazing suspension. Another thing I’ve seen is now you have to start the sport early today, whereas I started the sport at 15. These days you would never make it from that age.

F:

Are there any younger riders on the scene today that remind you of yourself?

N:

I think Troy Brosnan is very like myself. He is very light, and the way he moves around the bike reminds me of myself. He tucks and pumps and weaves. On the other side of things, Loic Bruni amazes me. He looks so effortless on the bike- he looks still and not like he is fighting the bike at all.

F:

Do you reflect on your rivals much? Does anyone stand out?

N:

Steve Peat. Our rivalry went for so long. I never felt like I had any other rivals for more than a season!

F:

Do you have any negatives, looking back on the racing scene?

N:

I wish they changed up the tracks more. Even if you love a track, it gets boring and repetitive coming back there year after year.

Test Lapierre Spicy Team 3

F:

What do you think the differences between you and Steve were?

N:

I was the straight guy. I trained and raced. He was the cool guy and didn’t mind to party a bit…sometimes a lot.

F:

So you were the straight guy?

N:

Yes (laughs). When I’m racing I’m racing. I don’t need time to drink beers, I just stick to my goals with my team and my bike.

F:

Do you think everyone needs to have that attitude these days, seeing as the top level racers are all so close to one another?

N:

Yes. I think when Sam Hill was racing it was cool to just ride with talent, but now you definitely need to be training hard and be focused to be at the top. Also, it’s not possible now to be so far in front. Everything needs to go right for you to win a World Cup as there are ten or so riders all so close to one another.

Damian McArthur 2014 Lapierre-91

F:

Lapierre Gravity Republic rider Loic Bruni and Loris Vergier are from the Nice region where you’re living, have you had much to do with their development?

N:

Not really during the race season. They have all the support they need. I help them during the off season, doing testing and discussing their riding.

F:

You said you’ve seen the development of the bikes, could you outline what you think of the modern equipment?

N:

These days the bikes are more like a motocross bike without the engine! (laughs). Everyone has a longer bike these days as well. Here at Lapierre every year we change up the bikes a little bit. This year we had ten different linkage configurations to trial on the new Supra Link downhill race bike, to get the best suspension curve possible. We had to try every one, and then we had to evaluate if the front and rear worked well together. The new bike is a single pivot, we have been able to achieve the best curve without the use of an axle path design. This testing, like all of our testing, takes a long time. 

F:

So the testing is very important!

N:

Yes, I think that the testing with Rockshox over the winter has resulted in the better results this year. The bikes have been set up so perfectly through this testing. The bikes will keep getting better as we keep testing as well…

F:

What is the number one most important thing with testing for you?

N:

With testing, when you win a race you know why you’ve run the race, whether that be through your suspension, tire pressure. When you evaluate these features, you can use them in the future knowing that they work well.

Test Lapierre Spicy Team 2

F:

You ride a Lapierre Spicy with e:i Shock, what do you see as the future for the e:i Shock system?

N:

I think it is the future. The product can still to be developed, so there are no detrimental effects to the suspension.

F:

What do you like most about the e:i suspension?

N:

Probably just that you don’t have to think. It’s so simple.

Test Lapierre Spicy Team 1

F:

We heard Lapierre were testing e:i Shock in conjunction with a GPS tracking system for the World Downhill Champs in Pietermaritzburg?

N:

Who told you about that?…

F:

What were some experiments you did back in the day when you were trialing things to improve your performance?

N:

I was doing some crazy things with the aerodynamics, wearing skinsuits…I was also doing some stuff with spoke tension. For example four crossing spokes and low tensions- so flexible but still supportive.

F:

Were any of your methods ahead of your time?

N:

At the World Championships we used to have a screen that could show video of two riders at the same time, so you could see the different line choices. This was good. We used a lot of video with French Cycling Federation.

F:

Who has been your longest sponsor?

N:

Lapierre! They’re a great brand.

F:

What can you see for the future?

N:

I know I’ll be testing and doing a bit of racing with Lapierre for the next couple of years, but after this, who knows?

F:

Nico, thanks a lot for your time today, and good luck with the return to racing!

N:

Thanks Mick, anytime!

[divider]Nico bike check[/divider]

Nico had his Lapierre Spicy at Les Gets, in its exact spec from the Valloire Enduro World Series. Check out some of the finer details here, click the photos for info: 

Must-Ride: Cairns and the Tropical North

Flow Nation Gorrell Track 29

But for Australian mountain bikers, that pilgrimage is to Cairns. This tropical paradise in Queensland’s northern reaches is the sweaty, un-tamed birthplace of mountain biking in Australia. It’s where our sport bloomed, where the limits were pushed and incredible talents grew quickly like sugar cane in the rich volcanic soils.

Flow headed not just to Cairns, but we mapped out a rough plan to explore some of the riding in broader region too. It turns out that while the nation’s mountain bikers have been focused elsewhere, the local contingent have been working harder than the bed springs in a Cairns backpackers – this place is officially going off!

Join us for a three-day razz around the region as we get a taste of the trails on offer at Smithfield, Mareeba, Atherton and the Cassowary Coast – three incredible areas all within a short distance of Cairns. Watch the vid, get your froth on, then head to www.ridecairns.com for more info.

[divider]Smithfield[/divider]

Read more about our time in Smithfield here.

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[divider]Port Douglas[/divider]

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[divider]Mareeba[/divider]

Read more about the riding in Mareeba right here.

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[divider]Atherton[/divider]

See more shots from Atherton and learn more here, or watch a video all about the trails here.

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[divider]Cassowary Coast[/divider]

Learn more about riding the Gorrell Track right here.

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Mission Beach at sunrise

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Flow Nation Gorrell Track 18

 

Flow Nation Gorrell Track 13

Wait-a-while vine. It'll stop you better than any four-piston brake.
Wait-a-while vine. It’ll stop you better than any four-piston brake.