Flow Gone Troppo – Tropical North Queensland Part 3, Port Douglas and The Bump Track

From Cairns, to Atherton and now towards Port Douglas, Flow’s tropical trail exploration continues to put smiles on our dials.

Ryan De La Rue, may have had a brake malfunction, or is just completely insane. The speeds he reached down the Bump Track was frightening.
Ryan De La Rue, may have had a brake malfunction, or is just completely insane. The speeds he reached down the Bump Track was frightening.

The tropical north of Queensland is a fitting holiday destination for about three million reasons, it’s wonderfully warm, delicious fruit falls from the trees above, the water is enticing (but dangerous), forests are lush and if you know where to go the mountain bike trails are a blast too. The Bump Track, which riders in the popular multi stage race the RRR takes in on the final day is a must-do trail for a good hair raising run.

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Mark tames a ‘whoa boy’ with ease.

Perched up in the wild mountains behind the plush resort town of Port Douglas is The Bump Track. It’s not single track, it’s not purpose built flowing stuff like what we left behind in Atherton, it’s a classic old fire trail cutting through the jungle at rapid pace.

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Bump Track long jump winner competition goes to, Ryan for jumping nearly 500m.

“The Bump Track is full of ‘whoa boys’ so keep your wits about you” says a local rider, we all look at each other wondering what exactly a ‘whoa boy’ was. It took only a couple moments after we let the brakes off for gravity to push us down the fast track to find out what they were.

One of those descents that goes on for longer than you expect, the Bump Track is a classic not to be missed. It’s not an easy ride to do in a loop as such, and best accessed via a shuttle to the top, and riding into Port Douglas town from the bottom.

A river crosses our paths, how's the scene!
A river crosses our path halfway down, how’s the scene!

From the tablelands down to the rainforest at sea level we hurtled along with wide eyes dodging vines with spikes so strong they would pull you off your bike if you. We call them water bars, locals call them whoa boys, we all freaked out and we freaking loved it.

Racing side by side with our mates, we did our best to keep our wheels remotely close to the ground as we are launched by the many water bars along the way. Keep your eyes up though, the trail can surprise you with a tight turn at any moment.

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After cleaning up our wounded warrior who got a bit too much ‘whoa’ over one of the whoa boys, we were treated to a part of North QLD that we liked very much. A river crossing lined with fluorescent green vegetation, so tropical the mosquitos were as big as moths and mangoes floated into our waiting hands like magic.

We really felt a long way from home at that point as we reminisced of the crazy run down the Bump Track whilst cutting open a mango with out Lezyne multi tools, and munching on the sweet golden fruit.

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Cut open a mango with your multi tool, stringy but so incredibly sweet and tasty. Fresh enough?
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Going troppo with the loveliness.

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If the tide is right, you can take the scenic route from the bottom of the Bump Track into Port Douglas – the beach. Being such a long and flat beach, riding it is definitely an option. We missed it this time, but even riding into town on the road we were treated to high class resorts, lush streets and more mangoes falling from the sky.

The Bump Track was all the riding we got to do in the Port Douglas region, but only a short drive back to Cairns or Atherton there is more than enough. It’s a great option to plant your weary bodies for a few days holiday in absolute paradise.

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When in Port Douglas, do what Port Douglas visitors do, soak it in.
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Brekkie taco?
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Heaven, or Port Douglas? Same thing, really.
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Shit! A crocodile attacks our Australian born Kiwi!
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The Daintree Forest, greener that Kermit the Frog with gangrene.
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“Hi, I’d like to order two crocs, hungry ones please, we have well fed tourists”
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That old saying ‘Daintree, where the forest meets the sea’ is pretty darn true.
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Some nature is nice, some isn’t.
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Crikey!
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When in QLD, grab a XXXX Gold.
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The Lion Den, between Cape Tribulation and Cooktown. The best pub in the world, we could have stayed there for months.
This guy loves it at The Lion Den.
This guy loves it at The Lion Den.

From Atherton to Cooktown, with the Bump Track in the middle, good times and more to come. The final part of our Troppo adventures we land in Cooktown in time for the Crocodile Trophy to finish in town, and we even tagged along for the final stage.

 

Must-Ride: The Canberra Centenary Trail

“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” – Joshua J. Marine

Long distance riding isn’t something that I can say I enjoy. In fact, it wasn’t so long ago I would have rather rubbed my eyes with extra coarse sandpaper followed by a chilli infused eye bath than go on some epic long ride. But maybe as I have aged I have softened some and every now and then something grabs my eye as a must-do ride – no matter how long it is.

This time it was the Canberra Centenary Trail. From the very first time I heard about the plans for this trail I wanted to do it.  The idea of being able to ride around (literally) the town I live in and explore areas I have never been to grabbed me.

What is the Canberra Centenary Tail? It’s a ACT Government funded 140km (or so) muli-use trail that is a mix of singletrack, doubletrack, fireroad, road, and cycle path which all connects to provide a trail to easily ride or walk around the whole of Canberra. It is designed to be done in sections over multiple days. It was officially opened only a few weeks ago and is one of the hallmark features in Canberra’s year-long celebration of the Canberra centenary.

I had never ridden more than 100km before so it was a little daunting. Riding long distance is actually physically hard for me as I have spent most of my cycling life focused on very short distances and my body type revolts against too much time in the saddle. Usually I cramp, vomit, and then cry at the four-hour mark and I knew I had 10 hours or so ahead of me. But I had a plan; take it easy, go slow, rest heaps, eat heaps, drink a beer or two and enjoy it.

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The essentials. Gummie bears, salted cashews, multi-tool, watch, zips ties, two tubes (I am tubeless but these are good for tyre slashes and snakebite bandages), tyre levers, rim strips, c02 canisters (one wrapped in tape to use for tyre slashes), replacement hanger, rain jacket, spare gloves, pump, torx key (my multi-tool doesn’t have one), co2 head, and tripod for camera.

So, 7.15am yesterday I headed out alone on the trail, right from my doorstep, on a bike I had literally never ridden before. But I didn’t care, I just wanted to ride the trail and enjoy my own company for a whole day.

The ride was amazing and I recommend it to all.  It’s not an epic singletrack journey for the whole 140km but you have to remember that the trail is built for everyone.  The only negative was a lack of signage in the urban town centre areas (the signage in the off-road parts is perfect). The ACT government has yet to complete the urban signage and it did make my trip much longer than it needed to be (I got lost a few times). I was helped along the way by people who know the trail intimately and they acted as my call centre for directions. Make sure you do your research and know where the off-road trailheads are as you’ll be able to navigate with your phone to those points. Detailed maps are here. I can also answer any questions you may have so feel free to contact me.

(If you’re a hard core mountain biker and just want singletrack then the Murrumbidgee River section and the Northern Border region are a must).

In just under 11 hours I finished. Yeah I was stuffed by the end, that goes without saying, but not as bad as I thought. No chaffing, a little bit sore, only lost 1 kg, and had no cramping at all. I stopped heaps, drank beer, sat next to rivers, relaxed, chased kangaroos, got lost, had two meat pies, enjoyed an ice cream, chatted to folk along the way, and took my time. That was my plan. I had finally achieved something I had always dreamed about and that was what it was all about.

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The reward. It wasn’t as hard as I thought and the key was plenty of food, water and taking my time. Not every achievement has to be a race and I am more than happy to have my ride recorded in my head.

At the end of my trip I looked over Flow’s Facebook account and could see all the “Strava” comments. I didn’t even have a GPS or odometer with me and I was enjoyably blind to how far and how fast I had ridden.  It was refreshing, and I will say this as my parting words: Why is everything a race? Why can’t we leave behind our egos and just ride for the sake of it? That way you will actually get to enjoy the amazing environment you are riding through.

I will get off my soapbox now and let you enjoy my day through the photos.

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The morning started early and the weather was perfect as I headed towards the Murrumbidgee River. This section of trail is a highlight for us mountain bikers as it follows a pretty cool river.
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The river was running full and fast due to recent rains and the sound of the rushing water was a nice soundtrack to accompany the singletrack.
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Red Rocks Gorge is a famous part of the Murrumbidgee River and sometimes you will see people rock climbing.
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While some parts of the Centenary Trail are groomed by machines, some are more rural as you cross pastoral lands.
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These signs are your friends. When you’re away from the urban sections there’s little need to worry about what direction to head but unfortunately the urban areas are a little different. It pays to know the major trailhead locations as you cross between urban and off-road.
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Canberra does have beaches. Nice sunny beaches with no people to annoy you and there is actually a nudist beach just down the river from here.
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One reason the Centenary Trail was built was to highlight the history of the region. Several places along the route you are invited to check out historic landmarks and information.
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The trail takes you through some very different things and luckily Canberra has some old linkages that were used to avoid some roads.
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The views are amazing. As you actually circle the whole of Canberra you get many different views of the city, from many different angles.
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Isaacs Ridge is piece of Canberra MTB history. As the trail is designed for multi-use it doesn’t take in any of the pine forest singletrack but if you know your way you could divert for some fun on the way.
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One trail head is hidden right behind the War Memorial.
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My route took me past this place. I should have done a big skid down that hill and then they could have screamed, “stop the bikes”.
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Eating on a long ride is important and the great thing about the trail intersecting urban areas is the ease at getting the extra calories needed. It was actually good as it enabled me to carry less as I knew I would be able find food along the ride with ease.
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What is a bike ride without a bakery stop? Meat pie #1.
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Recent rain meant greener scenery but more water than expected in other sections. Nothing too hard to navigate through and actually better than the dust it could have been.
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Yep, there is a lot of fireroad riding, I am not going to lie. But realistically there would have been no other way to make the trail. I would have been too expensive and probably 350km in length if it was all singletrack.
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As you approach the gates of Mulligans Flat on the north of Canberra it feels like an entrance to a secret military base. I was actually ready for the strip search. Cameras, electric fences, and high security are all there to protect some very fragile and endangered flora and fauna.
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Again, the views take away any pain you may have. Despite what you may think about Canberra, it is set in a beautiful setting and when you ride around the city you get to see how the mountains wrap their arms around the whole town.
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Apart from kangaroos and a million birds (and one magpie attack) these were the only creatures I saw on the ride. It was cold, and that sucked, but it also kept the snakes at bay.
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This was a ride for fun and not a race. I frequently stopped for rests and to explore what the trail was showing me. I recommend that you take your time and do the same.
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NSW on the left and ACT on the right. This is how far north the trail goes.
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The trails along the Northern Border region are an absolute highlight of the ride. The crew at MakinTrax have done an absolutely amazing job in building what could be one of the best sections of trail in Australia.
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This was the hardest part of my ride. It was exposed, windy and pretty hard going as the fireroads and doubletracks were left behind for amazing singletrack that went on forever. If I was to recommend one section of the trail this would be it.
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Canberra really was miniature from way back on Oaks Hill. From there I could see where I had to finish, and it was a long, long way away.
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Refuel and bike check. The trails were a little wet as it had rained for a couple of days prior but surprisingly they weren’t too bad. I was riding a Giant Anthem Advanced 27.5 which was straight of out the box. I had only ridden up and down my driveway and this was its maiden voyage. It didn’t miss a beat, not a single problem, and even with a new saddle I was comfortable the whole ride.
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The Centenary Trail goes right past this landmark. I think I had about 40 kms left before I had completed my loop so I needed some extra carbs to help me finish. At this point I had never ridden further in my life. Any trail that goes past a pub is a good trail.
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You will find yourself on a cycle path or two as you navigate through urban spaces between off-road sections. These are a highlight of living in Canberra. The ease of getting around the city without having to use the roads.
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Hall is a small town north of Canberra and is right on the trail. It’s also a great place to re-supply with food and water – either before or after the long Northern Border section. The trail is multi-directional so you choose which way you go. I went counter-clockwise.
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By now I was too tired to take many more photos but at the base of those hills is where I started. Not long to go now.
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The scenery changes so much as you ride the 140km trail. Never was I bored of what I could see and this cork plantation was one highlight.
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You can’t have a ride in Canberra without seeing these. I wonder if they think we’re dumb to be riding our bikes rather than just lazing around and eating grass.

The Soapbox: Do you feel the love at your LBS?

Welcome to the Soapbox – a place where we invite you to express your opinion, no matter how well or ill-informed. A chance to vent your spleen, sing your praise, or chuck a tantie.

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Got something to blurt about? Send it to [email protected], and we might put it online. All Soapbox submission must be less than 500 words and will be kept strictly anonymous unless requested otherwise.

 

PLEASE NOTE: All Soapbox pieces represent the opinion of the writer solely and do not necessarily reflect the views of Flow!


A few weeks ago I made the emotional decision to change my local bike shop (my wife always says I’m too emotional… must be because I’m an artist).

I had been trying to stay very loyal to the one store and build relationships with both the owner and the crew that works there. A mate, who would arguably be the best mechanic in the whole area, works for this shop and we get on well. The shop also stocks the sweetest state-of-the-art bike bling. All the makings were there for a good long-term relationship; I was committed, there was friendship and the allure of shiny stuff.

But in the end it wasn’t enough. My LBS has to be somewhere I feel welcome even if I’m not coming in to pre-order next year’s $10k dream machine. My LBS has to be somewhere where you can just bump into your mates, share the latest stupid clip on YouTube, talk about the race from last weekend, trash talk the mechanic as he works on your bike and enjoy a beer after hours.

In many ways I’m probably a nightmare of a customer to have; I’m self-employed and often broke, I hate to pay full retail and I’m always looking to find a ‘deal’. But am I really much different from the rest of you? We all like a ‘deal’. The flip-side is that I can be a very loyal customer and advocate. And while the bones of a good relationship were there with my former LBS, the love wasn’t.

And so, I took a step into meat market of the ‘dating’ world, looking for a new LBS relationship.  I’ve walked walked down the road and spent $400 in the last four weeks on a pair of knicks, a new rear wheel that was sitting in the back room and I’ve had the bike serviced. Each time has been a pleasure to be in the shop, I’ve shared a cup of coffee, watched a young kid blow up a $2000 carbon rim with the compressor (loud noise! Poor kid!) and stayed back late on a friday evening drinking beer and watching someone else work hard. Could this be the love I’ve been looking for in my LBS?

What does your LBS mean to you? Is it just a place to do business? Or is it some extension of your riding group and club? Do you always feel welcome? We’d love to hear about your relationship.

 

Ride Rotorua Video: Top Ten Trails #5 – Split Enz

Like its musical namesake, Split Enz is a Kiwi national treasure as far as we’re concerned. On the day we rode this sinuous piece of singletrack it was so damp we ended up feeling like we’d spent six months in a leaky boat, but no amount of mist and rain could make us see red.

There’s no strait old line through this bit of forest, as the trail weaves for over three kilometres, before you take the next exit into Pondy DH. The mud left us looking a right dirty creature, but this trail never ceases to amaze us – from the first corner, Split Enz says, ‘I got you’ and we can promise you’ll be making the pedal or shuttle back up again and again. Who says history never repeats?

http://www.musicvf.com/Split+Enz.art

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Video: Friday Night At The Flicks

Yeti Tribe Gathering – Telluride, CO

Each year hundreds of Yeti Freaks from all over the world journey to the mountains of Colorado for a weekend of epic riding, tasty food, cold beer, antics, and camaraderie. This year we took the Tribe down to Telluride in the far-off corner of the state. Here we had amazing trails at our disposal and some of the best views that the state has to offer. We hope to see you all again next year.

Yeti Tribe Gathering – Telluride, CO from Yeti Cycles on Vimeo.


Nomads

Nomads from KAZ Productions on Vimeo.


Nine Knights MTB 2013 | Andi Wittmann | GIANT

It takes a special rider, and a special bike, to pull off the huge tricks you see at the Nine Knights freeride contests. In this video, Giant-sponsored rider Andi Wittmann takes us behind the scenes and talks about an event that he helped create, and also about the setup on his Giant Glory that he rode at the 2013 Nine Knights event in Livigno, Italy.

Nine Knights MTB 2013 | Andi Wittmann | GIANT from Sepp Morrison on Vimeo.


MTB Slopestyle Training With Matt Jones | Dirt Life with Matt Jones, Ep. 1

Enter the world of one of the best up-and-coming slopestyle mountain bikers in the UK, maybe anywhere.

This episode shows Matt’s training within the UK prior to his 2013 season and he talks about his goals for the up and coming off-season. Not to mention he shows us some of the new tricks he’s working on for 2014. A sick edit from a truly talented rider.


MTB Flatspin 360, Double Backflip, Backflip No Hander & More | Dirt Life with Matt Jones, ep 2

Dirt jumper Matt Jones has some seriously smooth style as evidenced from this web series. Episode 2 shows Matt crushing it on his bike at some seriously sweet riding spots in the UK and Barcelona, Spain.

Watch for episode 3 where Matt flies to Whistler, Canada for contests and to shred Whistler’s mountains on his downhill bike.


#throwbackthursday – 1992, Easton Moves Metal

In 1992:

– MTB marketing was pretty much the same as 2013.
– Easton was a leader in the production of tubing for MTB manufacture.
– McDonalds opens first McDonalds in Beijing China.
– The Summer Olympics are held in Barcelona, Spain.
– Rioting breaks out in Los Angeles following the acquittal of four white police officers accused of beating black motorist Rodney King.
– Prince Charles and Princess Diana separate.
– South Africans vote for political reforms to end apartheid and create a power-sharing multi-racial government.
– AT & T release video telephone for $1,499.
– A a hypothetical iPod Nano circa 1992 would have set back the teenage Nirvana or Boyz II Men fan around $3 million.
– There was no UCI World Cup for DH.
– Nicolas Vouilloz won his first of 10 UCI World Championships.

Flow Gone Troppo: Tropical North Queensland Part 2, Atherton First Look

Atherton is a wonderful example of those instances where strong passion, hard work and community spirit succeeds in making things happen.

What the locals and visitors have in the way of mountain bike trails now is astounding. The small town with a big heart desperately wants to be known for its quality and quantity of trails, and from now on they will be. What we found in those hills behind the town was pure gold.

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Atherton locals can see the obvious benefit in creating something new and exciting like mountain biking to hopefully bring hungry, thirsty and weary visitors to town, and give the economy that is largely built around the agriculture a boost.

The Baldy Mountain Forest Reserve and Heberton Range State Forest, a couple minutes drive, or ride from Atherton town, are now littered with a network of singletrack that will quench the desires of the most demanding mountain biker.

Flow will be returning to Atherton in mid November to film a full Flow Nation dedicated video and destination piece. For now, here are some of our highlights.

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A sugar mill steams in the distance, as we wind our way up from Cairns to the Atherton Tablelands.

The drive from Cairns to Atherton took just over an hour, and was a great experience in itself.

It’s usually about 5 degrees cooler up in the Atherton Tablelands than in Cairns, making the hour trip more worth while for a solid days riding.

Sugar cane plantations galore, between Cairns and Atherton the agriculture is diverse and healthy.
Sugar cane plantations galore, between Cairns and Atherton the agriculture is diverse but not as healthy as it used to be.
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The tablelands sit high above the coast, green and lush fields of coffee plants, legumes, bananas, sugar cane, pretty much anything grows up there. Even mountain bike trails grow aplenty.

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Bananas, XXXX and those classic QLD houses will remind you where you are.
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Local ripper – Belaihu buries himself in a mega berm down the popular Ricochet track.

The trail building team – World Trail have been behind much of the latest trail construction, with many hours sculpting lines into the hardpack dirt with well-operated machines.

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Gravity fans will love it here, with many descents sculpted into lines that can be jumped, doubled and ripped apart very hard and fast.
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Left, right, left, right, left, right, jump, pump, left, right. Ricochet is one of those perfect trails that World Trail are known for.

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Rocky armouring of the trail through terrain susceptible to damage will help the trails last years and years.

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The climbs are actually quite fast, its amazing how a well built climb can carry you to the top of the hill without that feeling of grinding away for ages in your lowest gear.

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Vice President of the local mountain bike club, Leasie Felderhof has approached the project with both a scientific and passionate angle, and we take our hats off to her and her team, things are really happening in Atherton.
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Mountain Bike parks with such great singletrack make travelling worth while.

Put Atherton on the list for trails to explore, they are well and truly worth it. The QLD aspect of the region is especially fun for those coming from interstate.

So, stay tuned for our complete video report from Atherton very soon.

 

 

 

The Soapbox: Should GPS Be Mandatory in Marathon Racing?

When bogans get involved the results are rarely good. A few months ago, the Brownie Points Burner 80km race, held at Taree, was thrown into disarray after local idiots decided to remove course markings. End result, lots of lost riders, some of whom ended up running out of water. It could’ve been a very bad day.

But even when markings aren’t stolen or altered, the potential for riders to go missing during a marathon race is always a worry for event organisers. Plenty can go wrong when there’s 100km of dirt to be navigated; when the red mist of racing descends, tired brains start missing things, or riders just simply follow each other like sheep, it’s easy to see how a rider can quickly find themselves five kay down the wrong fireroad and unsure of the best way out. In some instances, the results can be life threatening (take the 2012 Crocodile Trophy for example, when riders found themselves heading towards bush fires!).

Which leads me to ponder the question: should GPS units be mandatory during marathon races?

Obviously there are some barriers and the potential (and consequence) of getting lost is greater at some events that others. But with the costs of GPS units dropping rapidly, increasing numbers of riders are already using these devices to keep an eye on their progress, heart rate, power output or to manage their nutrition. With all this technology increasing utilised and increasingly more accessible, it does seem a little incongruent that we rely solely on bits of corflute nailed to a tree to make sure we don’t get lost!

There are plenty of advantages. Event organisers could upload a GPS file of the course ahead of race day, allowing racers to have a map right in front of their noses (on devices that have this capability); if a racer pulls this pin they can easily navigate their way back to the event centre; if a rider is badly injured, calling in help is a matter of simply providing the coordinates on the device and the heli is on the way. Ostensibly GPS units could even negate the need for expensive timing equipment. Perhaps this could lead to lower entry costs, offsetting the costs of buying the GPS unit itself.

On the flipside, mountain bike racing is already expensive enough as it is without imposing additional equipment costs on riders. Plus a GPS is no guarantee that riders still will not go a-wandering. It may be that this suggestion is one step too far towards the nanny state, but I do think it’s worthy of consideration.

 

 

Video: Ride Rotorua Top Ten Trails #4 – Huckleberry Hound

This combination of trails must easily be one of the most popular link ups in the whole forest. Huckleberry Hound and Little Red Riding Huck dish up a dizzying flow of playful jumps and berms that just keep going until your face hurts from grinning.

Hit these two trails in combination back to back and you’re in for almost 100 jumps over 4.4km, an uncountable number of berms and a bunch of signposted drops for good measure too. The whole shebang is so easy to shuttle too; the trail head is right at the Southstar Shuttle drop off and you roll out about 50m from the pick up point. Perfect.

It’s the kind of trail you can enjoy on any bike too, nearly all the jumps are rollable, and the grip is absurd. Fearless local pinner Keegan showed us how it’s done, hunting us down with his wild style, throwing everything into it as he whipped and scrubbed every lip.

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Young pinner.
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Old dogs.
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And this is where Keegan caught us. And passed us. In the air.

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Style for miles.

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A worms view of a mountain biker on the Huckleberry Huck trail, Rotorua, NZ.

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The Soapbox: Sex Sells, But MTB Should Be Better Than That

Welcome to the Soapbox – a place where we invite you to express your opinion, no matter how well or ill-informed. A chance to vent your spleen, sing your praise, or chuck a tantie.

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Got something to blurt about? Send it to [email protected], and we might put it online. All Soapbox submission must be less than 500 words and will be kept strictly anonymous unless requested otherwise.

 

PLEASE NOTE: All Soapbox pieces represent the opinion of the writer solely and do not necessarily reflect the views of Flow!


We want more women on bikes, yes? We all agree?

Good. Then let’s all put away the awkward semi-erections that we’re hiding under the keyboard and act like men (and I say men, because I’m overwhelmingly directing this at blokes).

Last week the mountain bike internet world went crazy for a very stupid video. I’m not going to go into too much detail – if you must see it, it’s not hard to track down on Pinkbike or VitalMTB – but essentially it was a video of boobs. Incidentally, they happened to be attached to a woman riding a downhill bike (and riding bloody well too) but let’s not kid ourselves for a second that the riding had anything to do with it.

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I don’t even know what this video was meant to promote and I really don’t care. Suffice to say that I, and probably plenty of other men, would really prefer it if mountain biking didn’t go down this path.

Come on, dudes, seriously. If you want to look at boobs that’s fine – I like boobs too, a lot – but let’s keep the ogling out of the sport. Simply, if we want more women in mountain biking, then this kind of objectification is not the way to go.

What adds to the frustration is that the woman in this video can really ride. This video could’ve been about her skills or building her profile so she can get some sponsors, but instead the camera spends 80% of the time looking down her cleavage.

And it’s not just this video either. I don’t know often I’ve seen some stupid comment in a forum like ‘I’d give her six-inches of travel , LOL’ whenever there happens to be a photo or video of any woman who just happens to ride a bike.

In my mind, mountain biking can and should be a bit better than this. We’re not some hick sport. I really want more women to get into mountain biking but with hundreds of thousands of slavering mountain bikers spewing this kind of crap across the net, we’ve got a long way to go.

Flow Gone Troppo – Tropical North Queensland Part 1, Cairns

It’s easy to forget just how far north Cairns is, situated way, way up the east coast of our gargantuan continent. What comes with being so far north is not just beautiful tropical climates, sweet mangoes falling from trees, blonde backpackers lounging around the streets, epic coral reefs to swim in or oddly dangerous flora & fauna, it’s actually one of Australia’s most happening mountain bike hot spots loaded with premium trails.

It’s also easy to forget that Cairns mountain biking could also be thanked for putting us on the international mountain biking scene radar with the world stage being set in a World Cup in 1994 and a World Championships in 1996 in the steamy tropical jungle. April 2014 sees the return of the international elite riders, and Smithfield will once again go under the knife with a revamp of existing and some new trails to lift its game even further.

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A world away from your same old, same, same local trail that get really familiar after a while. And cold, oh so cold in winter. But not up here, the winters are especially glorious.

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On our journey from Cairns north to Cooktown and back, we took in some of the best destinations for our fat tyred exploits. Cairns, with direct flights from most major airports in Australia, is a quick hop-skip and a jump into paradise. Without a doubt, Smithfield Mountain Bike Trails are as iconic as the jungle itself, and riddled with fun singletrack.

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Dubbed ‘Australia’s iconic mountain bike rainforest destination’, Smithfield has undergone a few major facelifts over the years. The most recent was only last year and again new trails are being constructed ahead of the 2014 World Cup. With up to an astonishing 7 metres of rainfall in a year, and a lot of that coming down hard and fast during the wet season, the trail builders and maintenance team have worked so hard to produce sustainable and bloody good fun trails.

Signed, mapped and well marked. Lucy, as the jungle is thick and riddled with trails.
Signed, mapped and well marked. Lucky, as the jungle is thick and riddled with trails.

Playing in the bright red dirt, tree roots and rocky surfaces in the foothills of what the locals call Minjin Mountain, we ripped about on twisty singletrack, ducking big vines, and popping our wheels off the ground over small rises in the trail surface. The trails hurtle you through the forest so thick that the canopy blocks out sunlight in sections and your eyes adjust in only just enough time to glimpse what may – or may not – have been a legendary forest creature quickly retreating into the trees.

Mike Blewitt boosts out of the canopy, across a dry creek crossing and back into the greenery.
Mike Blewitt boosts out of the canopy, across a dry creek crossing and back into the greenery.

There is a great mix of everything at Smithfield, and it shows. We saw an extraordinarily wide spectrum of users from all walks of life, experience, age and bike style loving a couple laps of the trails on a warm weekday afternoon. The downhill trails via uplift are obviously challenging, as anything that points down in Cairns is, but the best way to enjoy the trails is to ride in, rip around and ride out.

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In the jungle, the mighty jungle, Tim Sheedy climbs with panache.
Well signed with cool names, built to last, with nice views of the tropical coast and vegetation you only find this far north. Mmm, Cairns.
Well-signed with cool names, built to last, with nice views of the tropical coast and vegetation you only find this far north. Mmm, Cairns.
Cairns is great, with a funny mixture of whacky tourist traps, and a great outdoor lifestyle. It's so QLD.
Cairns is great, with a funny mixture of whacky tourist traps, and a vibrant outdoor lifestyle. It’s so QLD.

There is 60km of the good stuff! The local club is super active, and their site provides loads of great information on the trails, conditions and events: www.cairnsmtb.com

Smithfield is one of many good riding destinations in Cairns, but most definitely the most popular. Only a short 15 minute drive from the city centre, and you have a whole lot of trails to explore, and even a sweet little pump track at the trail head car park to get the juices flowing.

In our minds what makes Cairns such a wonderful mountain biking destination is much more than just the sweet trails. Unlike some of our greatest trail spots we often road trip to there is just so much to do off the bike. Cairns is in the tropics and a bloody wild party town! The outdoor lifestyle is colourful, and exciting and due to the large amount of travellers, and especially backpackers, the night life is great value and fun for anybody.

In the cooler months of winter, Tropical North Queensland goes through their dry season, clear skies and consistent mid-20s temperatures making for absolute perfect riding conditions.

I could keep going on, and on, and on about it all but rather, here’s some more photos to show you how great it is.

Look appealing? It's nice, really nice to be riding in a tropical rainforest. Coming from Sydney, it was a real treat.
Look appealing? It’s nice, really nice to be riding through a tropical rainforest, coming from Sydney especially, it was a real treat.
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Ryan De La Rue from World Trail, one of the builders of these trails knows his way around Smithfield, its obvious, as he plays with the terrain at remarkable speed in freakish comfort.

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More trays are being built, and existing ones revamped for three world events coming to Cairns over the next four years.
More trails are being built, and existing ones revamped for three world events coming to Cairns over the next four years.

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The Wool Shed, Cairns backpacker party life personified.
The Wool Shed, Cairns backpacker party life personified.
A quick 40 minute boat ride away from the centre of Cairns is Fitzroy Island, with crystal clear waters, warm snorkelling and a super tropical outdoor bar, it's heaven.
A quick 40 minute boat ride away from the centre of Cairns is Fitzroy Island, with crystal clear waters, warm snorkelling and a super tropical outdoor bar, it’s heaven.

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For the purpose of the photos, to portray what you could be doing in Tropical QLD, we staged these photos…

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Bleached white coral beaches, and water with incredible visibility.
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Cheers!

For more information on the region, drop by this site: www.ridecairns.com

And we’ll see you again, Cairns, at the latest this April for the World Cup!

In the next part of our Tropical North QLD adventures, we head to Atherton where the single track is brand new and fabulous. Stay tuned.

 

 

Video: Friday Night At The Flicks

Manon Carpenter – The Wild Cat


Deity: Greg Watts – The Time has Come

Join Greg Watts as he unleashes months of pent up frustration and takes California by storm in the latest Deity edit, “The Time Has Come”!

Deity: Greg Watts- The Time Has Come from deity on Vimeo.


Ben Reid tears apart the Whistler MTB park | To the Point, Ep. 3


Nico Vouilloz – The Relentless Pursuit of Balance – Engineering and Development

In the last chapter of this video series, we follow MTB legend Nicolas Vouilloz as he travels to Colorado Springs, home of SRAM’s MTB Wheels Development team. Nico meets the engineers that developed the Roam and Rail wheels he raced on in the 2013 Enduro World Series season, with standout results like his win at Round 2 in Val d’Allos and his top 3 placements in Les 2 Alpes and Winter Park.


Late Season

Chris Raeber and Sasha Yakoleff do some late season riding at spots including Highland Mountain Bike Park and UNH Durham before old man winter comes and shuts it down.

Late Season from Lambchops on Vimeo.

Specialized Beats

Beat made ONLY with bicycle sounds. The only processing effects used were compressor, distortion, delay and EQ.

Specialized Beats from White Noise Lab on Vimeo.


Interview: Mark Frendo, Crocodile Trophy Winner

On Sunday, 27th October 2013, the 19th Crocodile Trophy finished on Cooktown’s Grassy Hill and for the first time in eight years an Australian claimed the win. Mark Frendo from Brisbane conquered the oldest and hardest mountain bike stage race in the world and after nine days, 900km and more than 15,000m of elevation he finished in 30:40:17, ahead of the Canadian Cory Wallace and Jiri Krivanek from the Czech Republic. 

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Congratulations on taking out the 2013 Croc Trophy in such a calm and collected manner. Firstly, who is Mark Frendo, and where the heck did you come from?

I’ve been around a while, I used to race cross country as a junior, that was pretty full on, and I raced the world championships overseas twice. After that I raced under 23’s, and decided to go to university. I stayed in cycling, mainly racing locally, a bit of road and track racing too.

This year I signed up for the Mongolia Bike Challenge. One of my mates lives over there, and he was keen for me to come over and race. I guess my old competitive instinct just kicked in, and I trained really hard.

My only focus was training, other that sleeping and working I was training. After a few months, I had the best form of my life.

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Mongolia was going really well, but I got sick and couldn’t do what I had hoped and trained for. The next event on the calendar was the Croc Trophy, I had been talking to Cory Wallace from Canada, in Mongolia and he talked me into it. One month out from The Croc I decided I would give it a go.

I tend to get really full on into things, and then take long breaks. I’m not the best at racing all year long, for a whole season. It’s full on or nothing.

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I’m not too sure if these events are particularly my strength or not, I guess I don’t even know what type of rider I am. I just really enjoy these longer races. I’m definitely not into 24 hour races though, they are much tougher than this I think! Haha.

What can you do in only one month to prepare for this?

It’s only become warm in Brisbane recently, so I only got a few rides in the heat to prepare for this, but mainly I did long, back-to-back six to eight hour training rides, predominantly on the road and two to three rides on the mountain bike. Sometimes, two or three of these long rides would back to back, to help with my endurance.

You led the race from the start to the finish, was that the plan?

I secured a few good minutes in the first couple stages, and that suited me fine. I never really had a bad day, and that is the key with events like this. You can’t afford a mechanical, a flat tyre or a day where you physically blow up.

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On one of the longer stages Cory Wallace was attacking me so hard and so often, that with 5km to go we were so smashed, that we rolled in together. I couldn’t let him gain any time on me, so I had to stick with him at all times.

Your thoughts on the event?

I always thought I’d do the Croc Trophy, but it’s had a fairly bad reputation for being a long road race on mountain bikes, on badly corrugated roads. But, over the years it has changed, and it’s certainly a mountain bike race now. The first few days in particular, we took in all the best trails of Cairns and Atherton. My favourite part of the race was in Atherton, those trails are great, with nice forests and singletrack.

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I can’t believe that more Aussie mountain bikers don’t do it. Hopefully with my win, more locals will see it as an option.

Will you do it again?

There are so many races out there, I’m keen to try some multi-day races in Europe and North America, so The Croc may go down the list a bit, but I sure have enjoyed myself and would love to race it again.

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Any tips for those thinking of racing The Croc?

Look after your bike and body, it’s tough.

 

Video: The Narrows | SRAM X01 | All For One

I had barely even had a chance to catch my breath from a contest trip in the U.S. when I got back to the Sunshine Coast and met up with my good friends from the Coastal Crew.

They were getting ready to leave for Narrows Inlet that same evening, on a trip that would be one of the most unforgettable experiences of their lives. Norbs gave me all the details – they had picked out this insane location in a secluded ocean inlet. Barges and boats were all lined up for bikes, dirt bikes, their truck, and five days worth of food and beer. It sounded unbelievable and I couldn’t help but be jealous of this adventure they were about to embark on.

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Next thing I knew, Norbs added that there was an extra spot available on the trip and it had my name all over it. The boat was leaving in three hours and I went straight into scramble mode. I enjoy a hectic lifestyle filled with unexpected adventures and it was a rush to pick the pieces up and pull them together so quickly. Coming off my last trip and heading straight onto a boat destined for the BC wilderness with the best crew ever, our bikes and a thirst for an adventure that would end up delivering memories sure to a last a lifetime was the best possible scenario for me to recharge. I couldn’t wait to see what was in store for us over the next few days.

The Coast always seems to surprise and this day is no different. Today finds us exploring just one small fork in the road but has us realize how far the land and the sea can take us. Standing on the bridge between these two mystery worlds gives a true feeling of what-if and what’s next. We witness a little of the unknown everyday and in our case you can never get to the end, all we can do is open our arms and take it in. Finding a balance in what the dark, vast ocean inlet can give you, and the gargantuan rain forest (we call home) can offer – Endless adventure.

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I grew up on the water, swimming, fishing or just boating around. I have this strong connection with water – a curiosity of what is lying beneath the dark glassy surface. The inlet was no exception.  Art, owner of Tooznie Outdoor Adventures Lodge, could see my love for fishing and was nice enough to take me out one morning. Art is one of a kind; he is a hard working, good guy with the best sense of humor. He would always set the mood right by cracking off jokes first thing every morning. It was the final day of the trip, when we got up bright and early to hopefully hunt down a lunker. Art has the best knowledge of the area and I was spoiled to get the goods on our twenty-minute boat ride in the first mornings’ light.

When we arrived at Art’s honey hole, I was giddy with excitement. I was given the low down on how to get the big ones in the boat. Art explained it wasn’t about brute strength, but more a game of finesse. The boat was sitting in a hundred feet deep or more when Art let me know, this was the spot. I dropped my live shiner with a four-ounce weight down to the depths. Once my rig got to the bottom it was only two seconds before I felt that familiar bite on the end of my line. When I set the hook, instantly I knew it was big and the look on my face alerted Art of the same. I played the finesse game all the way to the top. Gaining line, to have the fish just take it back. Slowly but surely I worked him to the surface where Art gaffed the big Lingcod and dragged it aboard. My jaw dropped when I finally got my eyes on the fish, followed by that satisfying fish slimy handshake with Art.

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When we dropped-in to the deep dark depths of the lush forest, we could only begin to see what has been saved for a lucky few. We slowly massaged, and in some cases – violently shaped some of the most natural flowing terrain into one of the most exciting trails to-date. We pushed our trail bikes into a perpetually perfect speed to carve berms and make those tranny’s we could see in the distance. The words from the boat stayed with me… “It’s not about brute strength it’s about finesse.” So, I tried damn hard not to over think our adventure and keep it simple. I think the boys did too and all week we just pushed further and took full advantage of being out there, in the wild making new unforgettable memories that would last a lifetime.    – Logan Peat

We can push, we can try, but knowing we will never-ever get to the end of this unique and mysterious landscape keeps us unsatisfied and wondering how far we can wander.

What you will see in the video and photos is the account of an unforgettable trip, a unique combination of amazing days of riding, searching, exploring, fishing and soaking every bit of life in.

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#throwbackthursday – 1996 – Dual Slalom At Thredbo and World Champs in Cairns

In 1996:

– John Howard became Prime Minster of Australia for the first time.
– After a court battle, the first series of Friends screens on the Seven Network, almost two years after it premiered in the United States.
– Osama Bin Laden is expelled from Sudan and moves to Afghanistan.
– Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales get divorced.
– Mad Cow Disease hits Britain.
– DVD’s Launched in Japan.
– Ebay started the online auction and shopping website, where people buy and sell goods and services worldwide.
– The UCI World Championships were held in Cairns.
– One footers in Dual Slalom were in fashion.
– Miles Davis was crowned National Dual Slalom Champion.

Video: Ride Rotorua Top Ten Trails #3 – Gunna Gotta

Built in 2004, Gunna Gotta, like B Rude Not 2 from last week, is another iconic Redwoods trail that recently received a facelift courtesy of the bulldozer’s blade. In this instance, the logging not only gave builder Dave Hutchings and the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club a clean slate to reshape the trail, but it also revealed some absolutely cracking 360-degree views!

It’s a fair pedal up Katore Rd to reach Gunna Gotta and its neighbouring trails, but it’s not hard to justify the climb. The vista is magic; on a clear day you can look north over Lake Rotorua to the coastline at Tauranga and to the south you might see snow-capped Whakapapa on the far side of Lake Taupo.

Morgan Wilson – the fella behind Zippy Central, a local cafe of legendary repute – might ride a rigid singlespeed, but even with only one gear to get him to the top, Gunna Gotta is one of his favourite trails. The new upper section wraps around the hillside, benched into the steep slope, and offering a fantastic outlook if you can draw your eyes away from the trail. After a kilometre or so, the singletrack plunges back into the forest, rejoining the original trail, chucking you about like a pinball before spitting you out on Katore Rd once again.

Follow the photos below to get a feel for the two distinct halves to this awesome trail.

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The tree won.

 

 

 

The hard road to Cooktown, Part 5

We rejoin our troupe of very sore, very dusty Croc’ers after stages 5  and 6 – some of the longest and hottest legs of the Croc. Stage 5 presented riders with a massive 163km, while stage 6 ran from Granite Creek Dam to Laura via the historic Old Coach Trail, an old mining travel route and contained some brutal climbs. Laura lies on the entrance to the Cape York Peninsula about 120km inland from the coast in Far North Queensland and is a small township of 80 residents, which was more than tripled by the Crocodile Trophy visitors.

At the pointy end, Australian Mark Frendo has maintained a very healthy 11-minute lead over Canada’s Cory Wallace. “I’m not looking forward to tomorrow’s stage, because I don’t think that Cory is going to back off”, said Frendo as he and Wallace both enjoyed a Paddle Pop in the 40+ degree heat at Laura today.

It was a rough trot for some of the Il Pastaio team. Big Martin did not enjoy the climbs of stage 6, saying, “Those were not hills, they were freakin’ ramps. Some climbing spurs would have come in handy today.” Young Phil had a barbwire fence incident as well on stage 5, while Old Pete maintained his perpetually happy mood which seems to make him ideally suited to multiday racing.

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Phil does his best Johnny Hoogerland impression.
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Martin questions the wisdom of riding 163km in the outback.
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It’s a lonely old road.

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Big Martin is built for the downhill which, thankfully, tend to follow the ups.
Big Martin is built for the downhills which, thankfully, tend to follow the ups.

Pro Rider Diary: Jared Graves – Enduro World Series #7

Well, the 2013 season is in the history books. After last month’s World Championships, I spent almost six weeks back home getting into the swing of a normal life and routine. It was tough getting motivated for this weekend’s EWS in Finale Ligure because I knew that my 2nd place overall was secure and that I couldn’t gain enough points to take the overall lead. Really, I wanted nothing more that to finish off the year with a win.

Regardless, I got some good training done in preparation. I thought of it more as a lot of riding and throwing in some random periods of going as hard as I could. After all, you don’t want to keep burning yourself into the ground when you have nothing to gain or lose in the overall, and you should be letting the body recover prior to getting things into gear for 2014.

Sunday – Shaun Hughes (mechanic of all mechanics) and I packed up and departed Brisbane for one last 2013 adventure to Finale Ligure, Italy for the 7th and final round of the Enduro World Series.

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Tuesday – Tired from travel and ready for bed, Shaun and I arrived at about 2am in Finale. We were met once again by Albert “the Albertross” Callis who had arranged our rooms to be ready for our late entry. With that, we were all set for some much needed rest before our big week.

Wednesday – We had time to check out the area and go for a spin to wake up the body. I felt surprisingly good and the body didn’t feel dead from travel…a good sign for the week. We met up with a few guys who had ridden here before and they showed us some good trails to ride. It was exactly what we needed and we rode for about 2.5 hours and snuck in two quick shuttles. Afterwards, we called it a day and went straight back to bed. Good first day.

Thursday – Today was the first official practice day. This is a bit of a change from the usual Italian format of less practice, and I was a bit worried about how it would play out. I knew that many people had ridden or raced here before and knew the courses well. But, as a competitor, you can’t think about that stuff; you just have to do what you can and hope it’s enough. In a way, I suppose I was thinking of it almost as preparation for 2014. I got in 10 runs for the day with a lot of time on Stage 4. I pinpointed Stage 4 as the stage where time could be made or lost; I could take some risks and “make my move” so to speak.

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Friday – More practice. I was really enjoying myself, feeling fast, and looking forward to the weekend’s racing.

Saturday – Racing Day 1:
Stage 1 – We rolled out at 8:30am for this fairly short stage that contained a variety of technical, flow, and short sprints. I had only ridden Stage 1 later in the practice days while I was a little tired, and had thought it was more physical than it was. I paced myself to how I thought I should and I rode well technically, but I soon realized that I was barely breathing. When you are fresh and your body is amped up for racing, you can go pretty deep and I realized that I had saved far too much. It was another rookie move and a good learning experience for next year. I still found myself right up at the pointy end of the race, just a couple seconds off pace.

Stage 2 – A really good overall test for the riders, but far from what I would call “the peoples’ favorite” to race. It was so hard to find the flow. The stage contained a solid minute and a half technical climb followed by 3 minutes of brake-dragging DH trails. And that was about as diverse as it got. My run was just too conservative; I took the climb hard, but ended up slow in a few sections because I spent too much time focusing on my lines, setting up for corners, and not crashing. But, I was on pace at the pointy end again. Nico Lau seems to love the tight techy awkward stuff and put some good time into all of us on this stage. I was happy enough to still be at the top of the results sheet, but I knew I was capable of much better. I was a little disappointed.

Stage 3 – I was determined to not make the same mistakes and I wanted the win on this stage. It was a pure DH stage; steep and very technical with only one 10- second sprint out of the start. I knew that if I could lay down a win on this stage, my legs were good and I would be in a good spot for the remainder of the stages.
My run went exactly as planned with a perfect balance of opening up the throttle without any major risk. It’s exactly how I should always ride. I got my stage win and I jumped into the overall lead after this stage. Jerome Clementz was super consistent in the early stages and was only 0.1 seconds behind me. Nico Lau should have been in the lead, but was late at a time check after stage 2 and was penalized 1 minute. It’s really hard to see riders penalized like this, but I’m sure even Nico would agree that rules are rules.

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Stage 4 – This is where the day got interesting. Stage 4 was the stage I had been looking forward to all week. It was time to do some damage. After stage 3, the organizers left us a very tight transition to Stage 4 and it took 40 minutes of solid tempo climbing to make it to the top. My heart rate was a fair bit higher than it had been on any other climb all week. A pace had to be held that would have been hard for amateurs to maintain without being penalized for missing their start times. Drama was brewing! Regardless, all the top guys made it up with about 5 minutes to spare before the Stage 4 start. Jerome was in the gate, goggles on, 10-second countdown started, when he was suddenly told, “NO, NO start, the stage has to be cancelled!” To go from race ready to stage cancelled in a 10 second time frame, CRAZY! It turned out that one of the later Stage 1 starters had been involved in a major crash and that there wouldn’t be enough day light left for everyone to complete Stage 4 once the course was race ready. So, it had to be cancelled. The welfare of the riders absolutely has to come first. But, as far as the race went for me, I couldn’t help but be very disappointed. Out of all the stages to cancel, they cancelled the one I had targeted. It seems there’s been a few similar incidents this year that have worked against me. Oh well. So, that was it for Saturday’s racing. I was in the lead overall, so I can’t complain.

Sunday – Racing Day 2:

Stage 5 – This stage was so much fun! Whoever built this trail needs to build more; they know what’s up! This was definitely the stage that people were most pumped on and every rider in the field could equally enjoy. It was just fast and flowy from top to bottom while still being physical. It was hugely enjoyable.
I had done three practice runs on Stage 5 and probably could have done more in order to get the most out of the trail. But, you can only do some much in practice.
My run was going really well until the last steep, rocky section. There were a ton of spectators and you can’t help but open it up a bit more in that atmosphere. I ended up overcooking a right hand kink, went head on into some bushes, head and shouldered a tree, and went full death grip in order to not crash! Somehow, I managed to stay upright. (Tip for the Day: It’s amazing what you can ride out of when you really try and don’t give up) But, I went from what should have extended my lead by about 3 seconds (so I’m told by people doing splits) to falling 1.2 seconds out of the lead before the final stage. No biggie in the grand scheme of things, but far from ideal.

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Stage 6 – Stage 6 was a repeat of Stage 2, and Jerome and I were almost dead equal on time. With the overall race win on the line, I knew it was going to be a tough stage. If I wanted the overall, I couldn’t afford any mistakes. My stage went fairly well, but it was so easy to make mistakes given the technical and tight nature of the track. Unfortunately, I made a couple small mistakes and my stage wasn’t good enough. In the end, I finished 2.7 seconds down and in 2nd place overall behind Jerome.

I came to Italy looking for a no pressure race and a win, and I was a bit disappointed to not get the win. I made my share of mistakes, but I know Jerome did as well. It’s not like he had the perfect race, and he still deserved the win. Although, without Nico Lau’s 1-minute penalty on Saturday, he would’ve ended up fastest over the two days racing. So, despite what happened, I have to say well done to him, too!

It’s been a great season. In closing, I can say that being so close to the win here will give me endless motivation while preparing for 2014. I can’t wait!

As always, thanks to Shauny for keeping my bike 100%, and to Albert for helping wherever he could. Good support at this level is mandatory and I couldn’t have got where I am without the help of these guys, the whole Yeti team, and my sponsors. So, thank you to everyone.

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Apart from all that, it’s well and truly into the silly season for finalizing plans and sponsors for next year. I can’t totally relax just yet, but at least I can take a bit of a physical rest!

‘til next year and thanks for reading!!

Frame – Yeti SB66c Medium
Fork – Fox 34 float 2014 160mm
Rear Suspension – Fox Float X
Seatpost – Thomson Elite dropper
Wheels – DT Swiss 240 hubs, 500 rims, and Aerolite spokes, alloy nipples
Tires – Maxxis Minion 2.5 EXO, ghetto/split tube tubeless. 27psi F, 30psi R
Brakes – Shimano XTR race lever, Saint calipers, 180mm Ice-Tech Rotors
Derailleur – Shimano XTR Shadow Plus
Cranks – Shimano XTR 170-millimeter with Stages Power Meter
Chainring – Shimano Saint 36-tooth
Casette – Shimano XTR 11-36
Pedals – Shimano XTR trail
Chainguide – E13 LG1
Bars and Stem – Renthal 740mm Fatbar lite, 20mm rise, and 50mm Duo stem
Headset – Chris King
Grips – ODI Ruffian MX

Follow Jared on Facebook: Facebook.com/JaredGravesMTB
Follow Jared on Instagram: Instagram.com/JaredGravesMTB

** This content has been reproduced off Yeti Cycles with the kind permission of Jared Graves.

#throwbackthursday: 1993 Australian National MTB Championships (Cross Country)

This was mountain biking 20 years ago.

In 1993:

– The World Wide Web was born at CERN.
– Dyson sells the first bagless cyclonic Vacuum Cleaner.
– Paul Keating was PM.
– Jurassic Park the movie was released.
– “I will always love you”, by Whitney Houston spent 10 weeks at Number 1.
– A Country Practice is axed after 1,058 episodes by the Seven Network.
– The average cost of a house was $130,000
– Rob Eva took out the Australian XC and DH titles.

Interview: Bec And Dan Answer Your Questions

Here is your interview with Australia’s Bec Henderson and Dan McConnell of the Trek Factory Racing team.

We asked you to submit your questions and here are their answers. Some were light hearted and some more serious and in 10 minutes to you get to learn a little more about both Bec and Dan following their amazing 2013 World Cup season.

From super children, to race tactics, to domestic bliss – it’s all in here.

The Hard Road to Cooktown, Part 4.

Pre-race talk centred around the difficulty of the course and it was expected that today’s stage would be as unpleasant as the previous day. The initial climb, which was used during the Marathon Championship in April, was to be repeated twice and it came with a reputation for being a destroyer of bodies and minds. Furthermore, one of the descents was extremely steep and reputedly covered with large boulders and bike swallowing holes. Before we set off on the neutralised nineteen kilometre section, the sky clouded over and the rain started to fall. The peloton moved off in anticipation of the pain to follow.

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The start of the race was fairly comfortable and the first flat section resulted in a group of thirty riders working together in a fast-moving compact group. At this point, I was sitting at the back and quite enjoying the tow from ahead. But we were soon to hit the first long fireroad climb, where the group swiftly splintered, and the main contenders began to disappear into the distance. By this time, the rain had stopped but the remaining cloud cover was keeping temperatures cooler and much more bearable.

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Martin, pumped as.

At the top of the climb we turned left into the new Atherton Forest Mountain bike trails and the purpose-built downhill. I would have really enjoyed this, but for the fact my second water bottle constantly jumped from its cage. I knew that the temperature was sure to rise and I was not going to risk dehydration and so I stopped three times to pick up the hydration vessel in the knowledge I was losing time on my competitors ahead.

I managed to close on a group of three riders and entered the singletrack in better spirits. A couple of riders had come to grief in this section including third placed rider, Austrian, Christian Wenger, in my M2 category. Following this fast and flowy section, we made our second visit to the fireroad hill climb. I overtook a number of riders, who had passed me on the downhill track, including teammate Martin Wisata. At the top of the climb, I found myself with Belgium riders, Kristof Roelandts, and female race leader Liesbeth Hessens. As the race transpired, we were to stay and work together for the rest of the day.

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A few shorter climbs were negotiated until we topped out at 1200 metres and began a number of steep descents. Fortunately, these were not as rough as predicted earlier, and progress was made without any mishaps. During the final 35 kilometres, my Belgium counterparts and I shared the pace-making, swapping turns of pace at the front of our group of three. I was amazed at how strong Liesbeth was on the flatter sections, and she was keen to drive the group for extended periods of time.

I knew Kristof was breathing down my neck in the M2 General Classification and so this stage would provide an indicator of who was the strongest at this point. I tried to break away from the Belgium duo several times but they would eventually reel me back in. Now Kristof was refusing to hit the front and would take shelter behind us. I decided I could not break this Belgium partnership and I would have to wait to the finish and take it to a sprint. As we climbed the last short hill, I set off for the line but Kristof was able to come over the top and take fifth place for the stage and 20th overall.

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Cory Wallace, took the win on the day.

Unlike the dire predictions of the morning, this stage proved to be extremely enjoyable for most of the riders. Cory Wallace was able to utilise his superior mountain bike skills and take first place in the elite category. In M2 I moved into third place overall, mainly due to Christian Wenger’s crash. Only 13 minutes separates third through to sixth so the last spot on the podium is still wide open. Peter Selkrig cruised to victory in M3 to earn a hat-trick of boomerangs while Martin Wisata finished sixth and moved up to fifth overall in the M1 category.

Phil, threading through the single track.
Phil, threading through the single track.

Tomorrow, sees the riders travel 118 kilometres from Irvinebank to the working Cattle Station at Mt. Mulligan. With only 1600 metres of climbing and an altitude drop of nearly 400 metres, this promises to be a slightly easier stage albeit across some extremely rough trails.

 

Video: Rotorua Top Ten Trails #2 – B Rude Not 2

As Disney’s Lion King once observed, ‘it’s the circle of life’. When Be Rude Not To was bulldozed into oblivion back on 2011, it was a heartbreaking moment for thousands of mountain bikers who’d run their tyres over this incredible old trail. A tough pill to swallow perhaps but that’s the reality of building trails in a working forest.

Rather than mope, the Rotorua Mountain Bike club grabbed this opportunity to work with a blank canvas. Their mandate was to retain the shape and length of the original pinball ride; no doubt creating a trail that had as much flow as the original was a mammoth task.

With contour lines that had previous been hidden beneath the blanket of ferns suddenly revealed, it wasn’t hard to envisage the kind high-speed, jump-infested freeway that could be sculpted in amongst the stumps of the pines and redwoods. B Rude Not 2 was born.

Brad O’Mailey  from Mountain Bike Rotorua and local World Cup XCO elite racer Katie O’Neill nominated this trail as their favourite, taking the Flow crew for a rip through the berms, pumps and table tops on a misty morning. Already the redwoods are pushing their way back up and you know it’ll be only a few more months till ‘Rude is snaking through the trees once again. This one is a must-ride.

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2.7km of flat out flow.
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It’s easy to knock out fast laps of ‘Rude as well – the pedal back up the fire road is quick and mellow.
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With her seat at full height on a cross country race bike, Katie ripped the trail like nobody’s business. That’s one of the great things about Rotorua’s trails, you can enjoy them on just about any bike.
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The next day, this camera didn’t get off so lightly. Nothing like short-circuiting a $10K bit of equipment.
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Mick tries to hang onto Brad’s wheel.
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B Rude Not 2 starts right on the corner of Red Tank and Direct Roads, just near the tap.
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Excited? Just a little.

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The misty, wind-driven rain blowing up the valley made for an awesome sight, and if anything improved the ride. The soil drains so well, and the grip with a bit of moisture in the ground is insane.
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Big, fat berms. Lots of them.

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That big bushy green fella behind Mick is actually a young redwood. Rotorua’s redwoods grow faster than anywhere else on the planet. This guy was planted last Tuesday.

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The Hard Road to Cooktown, Part 3.

The team had two busy days, everyone is relieved actually to be on the road now and today we camp on the shores of Lake Tinaroo.

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So far our boys are faring well – Peter Selkrig was right in the lead group up towards Copperlode Dam today and finished on top of the M3 podium again! Currently 18th overall, in the category classification he is now an hour ahead of his nearest contender, none other than Simon Gillett, founder of the Amy Gillett Foundation! And I guess that’s part of the fascination of the Crocodile Trophy.

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Not only during the race, but also at breakfast, lunch and dinner the riders are rubbing shoulders with cyclists from all over the world. We were having a chat with Cory Wallace, Canadian National Marathon Champion today and comparing muesli choices for breakfast. Juliane was in the media car with Lotto Belisol team racer Maarten Neyens, who is here as a supporter for his team mate Sander Cordeel, who was talked into racing the Croc by our very own Adam Hansen, who races with them at Lotto Belisol.

Martin was fifth today and is now 29th overall. He had a tough day and in the humid conditions racing out of Cairns he got really dehydrated. After skulling five drinking bottles between finishing and dinner he was still thirsty.

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Phil was fourth today and is now 25th overall. He did well and had a bit of a scare towards the finish. He said he didn’t see any signs for more than 5km towards the finish and was almost going to turn around (after having just descended for 12km to Lake Tinaroo); luckily he spotted the finish arch just then after the next corner.

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All three are very excited – they are currently sitting in second in the team classification. Admittedly, 3 hours behind the leaders, a team from Cairns – but hey, you gotta be in it to win it and they’ll give it a good go again tomorrow.

A tough 90km+ stage with a 30km section on the new Atherton MTB Trails lies ahead, Peter briefed the boys (and Wallace and Page and some more overseas racers) on it – he raced the National Marathon Champs up here earlier in the year.

What lies ahead for the girls? Greer was part of the marshalling team today and helped out in the physio treatment tent and will travel in the lead car again tomorrow.

Juliane is planning a laundry day tomorrow in between interviews and press releases – the mango trees in town will be perfect to hang up the wet kits and in the Irvinebank heat it will all dry in no time 🙂 Irvinebank… where you can watch the laundry dry?

 

The Hard Road to Cooktown, Part 2.

Arriving in Cairns on Tuesday, Pete Selkrig and I were soon to meet up with Martin Wisata, the third member of the Il Pastaio / Rocky Trail Team. The next four days would be devoted to preparing as fully as possible for the 900 km of gruelling torture which would unfold over nine consecutive days in the hot and humid tropical conditions of far north Queensland. Both Pete and I had just competed in WEMBO’s 24 hour solo event two days earlier and so a rapid recovery was essential.

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My first impressions of the other riders was one of awe. There were so many Europeans, many with strong road backgrounds, and I instantly feared the worst, believing I was probably way out of my depth. An early training ride with some of the Austrian’s confirmed my worst fears. These Europeans meant business. The next few days involved acclimatising to the heat and humidity and a more sedate training ride with 24 hour solo specialist Cory Wallace from Canada and elite rider Mike Blewitt. By Friday, we were all becoming restless and were looking forward to the start of the race and the opportunity to assess what appeared to be formidable opposition.

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Smithfield

A 16 km ride from the centre of Cairns to Smithfield provided a perfect warm-up for the first stage of the Crocodile Trophy. The 70 plus riders looked anxious and the nerves were palpable. At last, we were called to the start line and the beginning of the first phase of the race was imminent. I glanced down at my Garmin and my heart rate had almost doubled. Suddenly, the elite riders surged from the start line and I was catapulted forward in hot pursuit. At the entry to the singletrack, New Zealand’s Hamish Morrin appeared over my left shoulder but suddenly he lost traction and hit terra firma. Only minutes later, one of the female riders was also making a hasty acquaintance with the dirt. Luckily, I was ahead of the chaos and proceeded to hunt down the early pace-setters ahead.

Anticipating the Start

The iconic trails of Smithfield will be utilised for the UCI World Cup in 2014 and it is clearly evident why. The trails are a pleasure to ride, with only a few short pinch climbs and flowy descents which incorporate a large number of lovingly constructed berms. Despite the hot conditions, with temperatures reaching 30 degrees, the tree cover and breeze provided enough protection to allow the speed of the race to remain high. During the final three laps, I had found a solid rhythm, and was picking off a number of the European riders who had wilted in the heat. It was necessary to drink plenty of fluids and I was able to find enough opportunities on track to keep my fluid levels adequately topped up.

Discussing Race Tactics

On reaching the finish line, I was shocked to find I had finished fouth in M2 (40-50 years), only three and a half minutes behind Hamish in first, and six minutes ahead of fourth. I also learnt that one of the favourites for my category, Austrian Wolfgang Mader, had crashed early, broken his finger and was unable to complete the first lap.Team mate Pete Selkrig, despite a fall, had finished in first, two and half minutes ahead of his nearest rival in M3 (50+) while Martin Wisata had accomplished a highly respectable fourth in M1. In the General Classification, Pete is 25th (1.47.30), Martin 26th (1.47.59) and I am 27th (1.48.38).

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Tomorrow will provide an all together different test, with the Crocodile Trophy travelling from Cairns to Lake Tinaroo. Eighty nine kilometres of racing and 2500 metres of vertical ascent await the riders, incorporating very steep climbs and descents. The Euro Roadies will be more at home on these roads and I expect some big changes to the overall classification.

The Hard Road to Cooktown, Part 1.

The infamous Croc Trophy kicks off in just two days, departing Cairns and trucking north through some of the hottest, toughest country in Australia to Cooktown.

With 900km of racing over nine stages in brutal conditions, the Croc is widely regarded as one of the most gruelling mountain bike events on the planet. Despite the inevitable suffering, the Croc attracts an all-star cast, always with a healthy contingent of masochistic European hammerheads.

This year, Flow’s going to be taking a more personal look at the Croc, viewing it through the dust-filled eyes of the Il Pastaio Rocky Trail Racing Team. Over the next week and a bit, we’ll be relaying their experiences to you right here. Every cramp, saddle sore and callous in its agonising-yet-strangely-rewarding glory.


Introducing team Il Pastaio Rocky Trail Racing

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Phil and Peter, wondering what they’ve let Martin talk them into.

Martin Wisata: Big Martin is at the Crocodile Trophy for the fourth time this year and will race in the Master 1 category. He says that it is a personal challenge to complete this grueling race every year, something that motivates him to train all year.

Croc Trophy Phil Welsch

Phil Welch: Young Phil will race in the Master 2 category and will report for us from inside the Croc peloton. The experience endurance racer was very surprised at the fast pace of even the training rides in Cairns that the European racers have been setting.

Peter Selkrig Croc Trophy

Peter Selkrig: Old Pete is an Australian ex-pro road racer and one of the strongest contenders in the Master 3 category. Very strong-minded he will be ready to withstand the attacks of his international counterparts.

Stage Plan 2013:
Stage 1    Smithfield (5 laps) / 35 km/900 m
Stage 2    Cairns – Lake Tinaroo / 89 km/2500 m
Stage 3    Atherton – Irvinebank / 80 km/2500 m
Stage 4    Irvinebank – Mt. Mulligan / 118 km/1600 m
Stage 5    Mt. Mulligan – Granite Creek Dam / 163 km/3000 m
Stage 6    Granite Creek Dam – Laura / 116 km/1800 m
Stage 7    Laura – Laura / 50 km/150 m – Time Trial
Stage 8    Laura – Hope Vale / 113 km/1100 m
Stage 9    Hope Vale – Cooktown / 50 km/500 m

Interview: Talking Nutrition, With Emily Miazga, The Real Power Girl

Emily Miazga is a real life Power Girl. A phenomenal athlete in her own right, Em is a multisport champion and a three-time winner of the gruelling Speights Coast-to-Coast in New Zealand.

Em is also a qualified nutritionist and the creator Em’s Power Cookies, an awesome ‘real food’ energy bar. Em left her adopted homeland of New Zealand recently, coming to Australia to support one of her athletes, Kim Hurst, in the WEMBO 24hr Solo World Champs. We nabbed her and sat her down in the Flow Lounge to chat; the most common nutrition mistakes, advice for nutrition newbies, high protein diet, cramping… we covered it all! Enjoy.

#throwbackthursday: Shaums March Gap Jump – Seven Springs, 1997

In 1997:

– Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule from the UK.
– Princess Diana was killed in a car crash.
– Mike Tyson Bites Evander Holyfield’s ear during a match and is suspended from boxing.
– Steve Jobs returns to run Apple Computers.
– Scientists in Scotland reveal the first successful cloning of an adult mammal a sheep named Dolly.
– Internet Explorer version 4 released.
– Notorious B.I.G. Shot killed in drive by shooting.
– The movie Titanic hits the big screen.
– Shaums March hits this gap jump.

“I have some great stories to tell the kids but I think there is one moment that will stand out for ever. 1997 was quite a year: I’d got sponsored to go out and have fun showing off the bikes and who I was. I was competing in the National at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania and I’d got knocked out early, so I was watching from the announcers’ booth. Freerider that I am, I was eyeing up a transfer jump I had spotted from the booth. I thought about how you could complete and, of course, I told the guys. But then one of them called me out on it. I was shocked because he was not only calling me out in front of the group we were with but on the loud speaker, too. Then they started pumping this jump up to the crowd for after the race – so I had to do it. It was a 45 x 10 foot transfer that was jumping across a turn, over the fencing and then bringing me back to earth lower down on the course. I rode it out and made an almost clean landing – less one crank arm that snapped off as I landed. I still have people who saw that jump and ask me about it to this day.”

Sources: http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1997.html & http://www.redbull.com.au/cs/Satellite/en_AU/Article/Quick-March-021242785490654)

Interview: Paul Rowney

Paul Rowney has some stories to tell, all delivered with a bit of mischief and down-the-line-honesty. His past holds a massive list of mountain biking accolades, including representing his country at the World Champs and Olympics multiple times.

But it’s his role as Mr Yeti that has kept him busy for most of the past decade, and now he’s adding a couple of new brands to the mix at Rowney Sports with Niner and Devinci too.

A regular drop-in at Flow HQ, this time we sat PR down in the Flow Lounge, offered him an ice-cream and a soapbox to chat about everything from the new 2014 bikes, to World Champs racing and learning Mandarin. Makes for an entertaining few minutes of vid, we think!

Video: Ride Rotorua Top Ten Trails #1 – Te Tihi O Tawa

Could you name your favourite trail in Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa Forest? With hundreds of kilometres of the world’s best singletrack to chose from, picking one trail as top dog is a big ask.

Gaz Sullivan – the force behind Nzo clothing – has spent more time in the forest than most of the trees have. He nominated Te Tihi O Tawa as his pick of the bunch.

A lesser ridden trail, Te Tihi O Tawa was carved from the native bush by Richard Caudwell and a small band of trail pixies in 2011. It’s up high in the forest, way up top of Tawa, and in the wet it transforms into a supremely slippery, fun, flowing challenge. It’s one of the greenest, most outrageously alive trails we’ve ever ridden. The ferns, moss, creepers and vines seem to fill the air.

In the dry it’s a grade 3, like you see it in the video, wet, it’s a grade 4. Te Tihi O Tawa feeds directly into Billy T, undoubtedly another mainstay of the forest.

A big thanks must be extended to the Tuhourangi Tribal Authority and the Department of Conservation – particularly Simon Alefosio-Tuck – for the creation of Te Tihi O Tawa.

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Must-Ride: Riding The Pass Portes du Soleil

The Pass Portes du Soleil is a heady mix of chair lifted descents, jaw dropping vistas and oh-so-much cheese. At a decent clip, it takes around half a dozen hours (maybe more) to complete the full circuit of this annual event, as it links up ten or so Swiss/French alpine resorts of the Portes du Soleil region.

It’s a superb experience, and that’s why thousands upon thousands of Frenchies, Italians, Germans, Swiss, Brits and more take part every year. To cope with the demand, the Pass Portes is now spread across three days, but even still the carnival buzz is irrepressible.

To tell the tale is no easy task. Ask a six year old to tell you how Christmas day feels, that’ll be a pretty close approximation. With a GoPro in hand, clad in layers of merino to keep the chill away on the chairs, and a brand new Lapierre Spicy Team to ride, Flow headed into the fray once again. We’ll let the pictures bring you the story.

My steed for the day, Lapierre's 2014 Spicy Team EI. There wasn't a better bike on mountain, as the ogling it attracted in the lift queue attested. 650B wheels, intelligent suspension, the new Rockshox Pike - quite the beast.
My steed for the day, Lapierre’s 2014 Spicy Team EI. There wasn’t a better bike on mountain, as the ogling it attracted in the lift queue attested. 650B wheels, intelligent suspension, the new Rockshox Pike – quite the beast.
Any day that begins with a German man named Falco taking you for a breakneck drive in the French Alps in 1980s M-series BMW, is a good day.
Any day that begins with a German man named Falco taking you for a breakneck drive in the French Alps in 1980s M-series BMW, is a good day.
Big day ahead, eat up. Pass another croissant, please.
Big day ahead, eat up. Pass another croissant, please.
It's not a race, but the number plate makes a good momento!
It’s not a race, but the number plate makes a good momento!
The event takes you to every major alpine resort in the region and you'll cover 80km+ during the day, nearly all of that spent descending.
The event takes you to every major alpine resort in the region and you’ll cover 80km+ during the day, nearly all of that spent descending.
Your lifts back up in between resorts are provided by a mix of chairlifts, gondolas and one massive telepherique (cable car) out of Champerey.
Your lifts back up in between resorts are provided by a mix of chairlifts, gondolas and one massive telepherique (cable car) out of Champerey.
The cable car out of Champerey gains you a huge amount of elevation is minutes, and treats you to a concentrated aroma of 60 mountain bikers who have been eating cheese and beer.
The cable car out of Champerey gains you a huge amount of elevation in minutes, and treats you to the concentrated aroma of 60 mountain bikers who have been eating cheese and beer all day.
On the cusp of summer, the flowers are just beginning to bloom. Pity the sun wasn't out, as this would've been a pretty special sight.
On the cusp of summer, the flowers are just beginning to bloom. Pity the sun wasn’t out, as this would’ve been a pretty special sight.
The descent from Champerey is a highlight, I did it twice, chasing some mad Frenchmen.
The descent from Champerey is a highlight, I did it twice, chasing some mad Frenchmen.
Picture yourself here. Feels quite good, doesn't it?
Picture yourself here. Feels quite good, doesn’t it?
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Do you think this is way?
What the hell is that smell? Oh, a raclette, of course. This smelly but very tasty cheese treat was on offer at most rest stops - it consists of melted cheese, a pickle and a small potato. The devil's trio of gas creation.
What the hell is that smell? Oh, a raclette, of course. This smelly but very tasty cheese treat was on offer at most rest stops – it consists of melted cheese, a pickle, some onions, and a small potato. The devil’s quartet of gas creation.
The rest stops all all totally stocked with bread, chocolate, fruit, all kinds of cured meats, hot pasta, coffee, beer, cheese and more. It's like a new hotel buffet in every resort. I think this is one of the few 80km rides where you can actually gain weight.
The rest stops all all totally stocked with bread, chocolate, fruit, all kinds of cured meats, hot pasta, coffee, beer, cheese and more. It’s like a new hotel buffet in every resort. I think this is one of the few 80km rides where you can actually gain weight.
The friendliest cows on the planet roam these slopes. They're milked by hand, so they're happy to be patted and they're completely unfazed by the mountain bikers hurtling by.
The friendliest cows on the planet roam these slopes. They’re milked by hand, so they’re happy to be patted and they’re completely unfazed by the mountain bikers hurtling by.
Yes, that is a chocolate fondue. I filled my Camelback.
Yes, that is a chocolate fondue. I filled my Camelback.
And yes, those are kegs of beer at a rest stop. Australian race organisers, take note.
And yes, those are kegs of beer at a rest stop. Australian race organisers, take note.
Sometimes you ride with new friends, sometimes you ride alone.
Sometimes you ride with new friends, sometimes you ride alone. With views like this, a solitary ride’s never dull.
Only one flat for the day, not too bad! There are plenty of broken bikes and bodies about the alps!
Only one flat for the day, not too bad! There are plenty of broken bikes and bodies about the alps, so I felt happy to get away intact.
Pass Portes snow
Not quite Manly Dam.
There was still a bit of snow about this year, so much so that there were fears the event would be postponed, but it melted just enough to make for a clear but muddy route.
There was still a bit of snow about this year, so much so that there were fears the event would be postponed, but it melted just enough to make for a clear but muddy route.
Man down. This particular descent was a killer, lots of big roots hidden in the puddles. Tentative didn't work, it was all or nothing.
Man down. This particular descent was a killer, lots of big roots hidden in the puddles. Tentative didn’t work, it was all or nothing.
A man with a tuba in the alps. Of course.
A man with a tuba in the alps. Of course.
80km through alpine mud is hardly a nice way to break in a new bike, but the Spicy is made for it.
80km through alpine mud is hardly a nice way to break in a new bike, but the Spicy is made for it. Sorry guys, I tried to miss the puddles, I swear.

 

25 Humans Of The Scott 25 Hour

The mechanics, the volunteers, the shops, the reps, the juniors, the child carers, the mothers, the fathers, the husbands, the wives, the racers, the photographers, the medics, the organisers, the food makers, the coffee brewers, the facility managers, the commentators, the supporters, the masseurs, the time keepers, the travellers, the maintenance people…. the list goes on.

This one is for all of you.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of CORC, and the one-off Scott 25 hour, we decided to honour the people with 25 portraits. Because without you there wouldn’t be an event such as the Scott 24(5) hour.

(Thanks to HONY for the inspiration.)

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“This is, I think, my 4th one as event director so it’s getting a little easier.” “I didn’t think it was easy on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning though, but now we’re into the event it gets easier.”
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“I am here helping out anyone who needs help with SRAM, RockShox, Avid or Travativ. Nothing really obscure has happened this weekend, it’s been an easy one.”
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“Mostly cuts and abrasions coming in so far.” “The most important thing we do is get people cleaned up and on their way, provide them with advice about how to keep their skin loss clean, and help with other follow-on advice.”
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“This is the most important job at a bike race.” “I like to think it’s about the hydration but it’s probably more about the caffeine.” “Mornings are definitely the busiest.”
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“It all happened too quickly to be scary.” “The pain is not too bad and the worst part is not being able to go out and do another lap.”
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“I got a good 6 hours sleep last night I reckon, which is probably a lot more than most people.” “It’s the key to a good lap. You have to make sure you rest well.”
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“I have been here since about 7am.” “I was in the registration tent in the morning and now I have been standing here for a few hours.” “One more hour to go and I will be back again at midnight.”
"I am the wife, and I am the mum, and a supporter." "It's actually pretty good. I get to sit here and drink wine."
“I am the wife, the mum, and the supporter.” “It’s actually pretty good. I get to sit here and drink wine.”
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“This is really, really different the the South African World Champs I was just at.” “It’s different in a good way. It’s really social and it’s good fun actually.”
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“There’s only a few hours left in the event and I am pretty tired.” “I really don’t want to move but I think I have to do another lap soon.”
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“My first bike fail ever.” “I wasn’t too bad, I didn’t come off, and am no longer a bike-snapping virgin” “It is all bit sad actually, it’s another couple of grand down the toilet so hopefully I can get warranty.”
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“We’ve sold about 80 pizzas so far and we’re only about 6 hours into the event.” “Hopefully by the end of the day 200 or more will be in the bellies of the riders.” “You’d expect the “fit” riding crowd to stay away but that’s not how we see, they love it.”
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“We got a call yesterday that there was a snake by one of the main thoroughfares.” “We got in a local wildlife ranger and it was all taken care of.”
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“It’s been a great weekend.” “Probably the hottest item in the repair department has been new chains.”
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“I just ran from Double Dissolution, the total opposite side of the hill and probably the furthest point away.” “I have no idea how long that took but I can thank my two flat tyres for a great morning run.”
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“I am here to communicate the riders’ numbers as they come past the start/finish gate.” “I have been here since 2am and the worst part of my job is trying to see the rider numbers when the plates get all bent.”
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“I have the most important job here this weekend. That’s riding bikes and drinking beer.” “Beer is probably the more important of the two as it hydrates.”
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“The worst thing about massaging mountain bikers is the hairy legs.” “I thought cyclists were supposed to have shaved legs?”
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“I was out here yesterday making sure all the septic systems and plumbing were working.” “When it doesn’t work like it’s supposed to it can make for a shit weekend.”
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“Australia is very nice.” “It’s been a long time dream for me to travel to Australia and I am very happy to be here.”
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“I am the mother of Robert, who’s riding.” “He’s been riding in these events for the past 10 years and every time we usually come out on the Saturday afternoon and support him.”
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“It’s only early on and I have worked on lots of demo bikes already.” “80 demo bikes have flown out the door, and that’s in only about 5 hours.” “The weather is good and everyone is happy so that helps.”
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“I have come all the way from southern England on a Army sports tour of Australia to compete in the Scott 25 and ADCC event.” “The best part about the race is the fact that we’re not racing in mud, not using mud tyres, not climbing grass banks, and generally the trails are majestic.”
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“My role is to baby sit Ruben so his mother can race.” “It’s a very, very important role for my daughter and I am more than happy to do it.”
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“No, I haven’t lost my voice yet.” “I think having done 20 or so of these events it just comes with practice.” “Maybe each one is practice for the next?”

 

The Soapbox: What’s The Obsession With Racing?

Welcome to the Soapbox – a place where we invite you to express your opinion, no matter how well or ill-informed. A chance to vent your spleen, sing your praise, or chuck a tantie.

Soap-Box-Masthead

 

Got something to blurt about? Send it to [email protected], and we might put it online. All Soapbox submission must be less than 500 words and will be kept strictly anonymous unless requested otherwise.

 

PLEASE NOTE: All Soapbox pieces represent the opinion of the writer solely and do not necessarily reflect the views of Flow!


What’s the obsession with racing?

This question came to me on a mountain bike trip to NZ back in Christmas. As I sat there at the trail head and observed the constant flow of people of all shapes, sizes and ages come to ride the magnificent trials of Rotorua it struck me that Lyrca, GPS devices, and type-A personalities were absent. No one looked like a “racer”.

As I looked into it a bit more that evening I couldn’t find much detail on racing in the region apart from a handful of significant events. It seemed that fun ruled the roost in this particular town and over a beer or three with a local who works in the industry, they fessed up that it’s hard to get the people of that region to come to a race.

I have also travelled far and wide with my bike and I have had similar experiences, especially in Europe. Most people I run into hardly ever race and instead preferred an adventure with friends. Racing seemed less of a priority.

But Australia seems to be different. One quick look at the Flow calendar and other online resources shows a schedule of weekend racing that could keep you busier than a one-legged man in an arse-kicking contest. Race after race, after race, after race; it’s endless. If I had enough money and time I could buy a van and race every weekend of the year and never see my friends and family again.

This race culture also manifests on the trail and social media. Australian mountain bikers seem obsessed with adding data collectors to their handlebars to monitor and share every millimetre of trail and aching heartbeat. My Facebook feed is filled with people telling me how far and fast they’re ridden and boasting of a KOM they’ve claimed on a 100 meter section of trail. I don’t get the same from my overseas Facebook friends, I just get photos of epic trails, views and beers.

The addiction to Lycra (the budgie smugglers of MTB) is also an anomaly, and that image too just says “race”.  Image is important, and in the same way a neck tattoo says, “I will punch you if you look at me again,” wearing Lyrca conveys the message that “I am here to race, perform, and my shaven legs will give me a 2.4 second advantage over the 80km race I am training for – now get out of my way.”

Australia is the only place I have ever seen such an addiction to racing. Do we all have something to prove? Were our childhoods that bad that we need pain of 100km racing to erase our memories? Is it just race promoters trying to make a buck or two? Does anyone actually think that wearing Lycra helps convey a good message?

Can’t we just ride for fun and back of the racing a little (and wear less lyrca)? I can bet you will have more fun not having to think of your calorie intake and what power watt measuring tool to get next.

The Soapbox: Carbon? Not For Me

Welcome to the Soapbox – a place where we invite you to express your opinion, no matter how well or ill-informed. A chance to vent your spleen, sing your praise, or chuck a tantie.

Soap-Box-Masthead

 

Got something to blurt about? Send it to [email protected], and we might put it online. All Soapbox submission must be less than 500 words and will be kept strictly anonymous unless requested otherwise.

 

PLEASE NOTE: All Soapbox pieces represent the opinion of the writer solely and do not necessarily reflect the views of Flow!


It’s going to take lot more than some market spiel about carbon being ‘five times stronger than alloy at half of the weight’ to convince me to ever ride a carbon fibre mountain bike.

Like most riders, I’m on a budget. I have two kids, a mortgage, plus two dogs that eat possessions rather than dog food. But I also love my mountain biking and I’ll work hard to find the cash to treat myself to a new bike every couple of years. This time around was the first occasion I’ve found myself seriously considering a bike with a carbon frame.

It was the weight, and the looks, that got me thinking about it. I read the reviews too, the ones that always talk about how nice carbon bikes feel on the trail. But I’m not going to do it. I simply don’t trust carbon fibre to go the distance.

I’m not saying I don’t believe the tech data that carbon bikes have more resistance to fatigue, or that they are stronger than aluminium when it comes to sheer strength. But until someone can show me a carbon bike that won’t break when I crash it onto a sharp rock, I’ll be sticking with a bike made from alloy. I’ve seen two frames just amongst my local club broken in the past three months from simple crashes that would’ve scratched an aluminium frame, but wouldn’t have meant handing over wads of cash for a new chain stay or main frame.

Maybe these blokes were just unlucky? Maybe they are hacks? Even if that is the case, it’s reason enough for me to stick with an aluminium bike for time being. I need a bike that will let me cock up and crash, or drop it onto a rock, without potentially costing me a thousand dollars. I can’t afford a mistake to cost me. That’s the real world for me, and that’s why I won’t buy carbon.

 

The Scott 25 Hour Pack List

This time last year we ran a couple of how-to articles leading up to the Scott 24 Hour race. One looked at how to prepare for the event a few weeks out. (Check them out here and here. This year, the weekend includes an extra hour of racing to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Canberra Off-Road Cyclists Club who organise this massive event.

Plans for a great weekend can unravel fast if you don’t turn up prepared. We’ve put together a pack list to ensure you ride well on the bike and make the most of the times when you’re not riding as well. Half the fun is enjoying the festival-like atmosphere after all.

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Flow’s 25 Hour Pack List:

Sleeping things: Tent, sleeping bag, mat, pillow, silk inner (so you can sleep in your warm sleeping bag in dirty riding clothes), alarm clock.

Riding essentials: bike, shoes, helmet, gloves, pump or CO2, spare tube, multi-tool.

Spare kit: knicks, jerseys, warmer kit for cold night laps, spare gloves in case yours get covered in sweat, frost or tyre sealant.

Camp clothes: warm jacket for sitting around and waiting at transition, trackies, favourite beanie, off-bike shoes.

Lights: fully charged helmet, bar and rear lights, chargers and a petzl, torch or keyring light so you don’t mix things up at the camp site and drink a bottle of lube instead of a Red Bull.

Race food: gels, bars, energy drink. Pack enough for an item or two each lap, then pack a bit extra in case you end up doing more laps because you broke your teammates. Gels are especially handy half way through a double-lap to keep your energy levels up.

Meal food: breakfast, dinner and a couple of lunches. Or pack some cash to take advantage of the food stands at the event. Dutch pancakes are especially popular.

Snack food: muffins, bananas, chocolate, things to graze on between laps. Bring enough to share around if you’d like to make some new friends or your bike desperately needs servicing and there’s a queue.

Campsite extras: flags or decorations that mates can use to locate your digs, chairs, table, music/race radio, coffee maker, whiteboard (or pizza box/piece of cardboard/scrap of something) to mark lap times on, permanent marker, anything that will make you feel warm and awake at 3.30am.

Repair pieces: this one will depend on what you have and what you know how to use. Spare tyres, brake pads, chain, extra tubes, sealant, zip ties and gaffa tape will get you out of most difficulties. Some riders will also pack a work stand and a whole shop worth of tools and spares. Read the pre-event info to see if a bike shop will be out at the race as well to reduce the stress should something go wrong on or between laps.

Novelty items: spoke lights, walkie talkies, tequila, microwave, beanbag, jelly snakes, dress ups, team sofa, pop-up change room, a heater that won’t burn down your campsite, a friend who comes out on Sunday with ice creams. We had a friend who took his cat, Fi Fi, once, but that was an accident. Always look twice before closing lid to your toolbox.


Have we missed something that will make a great weekend an even better one? Let other riders know in the comments section below.

The Soapbox: Six Things I Forgot I Loved About Mountain Biking

I joined a road team this year. I think it had something to do with trying something different. My local club were keen to get a women’s development team going and it seemed like a good way to keep fit.

I wasn’t so much interested in events in a competitive sense, but I liked the idea of working with a team. And I had a secret desire to Jens Voigt myself – dig as deep as I could to help someone across the line who cares about winning more than I do. I like the idea of discovering how hard I can push myself if I don’t have to keep something in reserve for the last few sections of singletrack.

The Jensing hasn’t happened yet; a matter of having picked the wrong races or the wrong categories, perhaps. If I’m on my own, a flat road just doesn’t motivate me to pedal the way the promise of sweet singletrack does. In fact, what I’ve learned most from the road is how proud I am to be a mountain biker.

Things I thought were common to cycling more generally are actually more particular to mountain biking. Perhaps I’d lost sight of the forest for the trees.

So, six things I forgot I love about mountain biking:

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Trail magic. Doesn’t happen on the road.

1. That you’re always guaranteed of having fun on a ride. Unlike other forms of cycling, how much fun you have doesn’t depend on the pace of the group. You can punch hard through some singletrack, practice new skills, try to see how far you can go without touching the brakes. There’s always something new to discover whenever you hit the trails, and this always makes you a better rider as a result.

2. People don’t care so much about how you look. Despite keeping an open mind about roadie stuff, people keep reminding me I’m a mountain biker. I’ve been told it’s weird to wear jeans on the podium, asked to remove the visor from my helmet 15 seconds before a race start, asked to remove my hat for photos. Someone told me the backpack I was wearing on a bunch ride created wind drag. Good. Cause the bunch ride was really slow. And in my bag was everything I needed for the rest of the day. Like jeans and a hat.

Post-race chillaxing. Matt Carling and Gaye Camm swap stories after their respective  races in the retro category (for bikes from 2000 or earlier).
This. This DOES NOT happen at a road race.

 

3. You can be self-sufficient at a race and still have a chance. I like being able to leave a few biddons on a table, fix my own mechanicals, and carry spares on my back. Self-sufficiency is valued on the dirt. And being self-sufficient doesn’t mean you’ll loose sight of the bunch and wonder whether you should DNF to save your legs.

4. Event websites give you a good idea about the atmosphere you can expect on the day. I keep reminding myself that people new to mountain biking probably find it hard to find out too much information on a basic club race. But of the road races I’ve entered, I too often end up asking other people about the rules, where to go, what to plan or expect. I can’t seem to find it out online. Having said that, the events I’ve entered have cost a lot less and the infrastructure fairly basic.

Some of the best stocked food stations we've ever seen, including.... bacon and egg sandwiches.
And this. This wouldn’t happen either.

5. I love that if I rock up to a mountain bike ride I can completely knacker myself whatever the overall speed of the group. Do this on the road and you’ll leave everyone for dead, or be left for dead – knackered by default, just for trying to hold on. A mountain bike race is my own personal time trial. And social rides are more start/stop, which keeps everyone together. Plus people bring different skills and speed to different sections of trail. I’ve never ridden behind someone I didn’t learn from.

Briars Highland Fling 2012
And women. Women are actually get prize money, respect and recognition in mountain biking.

6. There are categories at races for women. That doesn’t mean that there are always people competing in these categories, but at least they are there. You can race with the guys, but feel valued as a female. And if you’re lucky to land on a podium, it’s a really nice way to meet other riders who are into the sport in a similar way to you. I came second in a fictitious women’s category at a road event recently. It bummed me out that I never got to shake hands with the winner, say g’day and compare thoughts on the day.

There is still a lot that I’ve really enjoyed from discovering a different way of riding: new friends, new pacing strategies, riding in a large group, different event challenges, tactics and dynamics. But it’s nice to be reminded that the six simple things above are as important to the fun, inclusive feel of mountain biking as knobbly tyres and a big, dusty grin.

 

Pro Rider Diary: Tracey Hannah – Leogang : 2013 WC Round #6

Inevitable! Thats one of my most used words this season. When asked about my injuries, my answer is always, ”in a sport like this, injuries are inevitable“. Taking 5 years from a sport that I love just gave me a drive and a passion built of concrete. I realised this week that the reason I can continue through every injury is because I love this sport. I had a break and chose to come back, you would be surprised how refreshing and strengthening that is. I now have something to prove, and thats to ”never give up.”

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Coming into the final race of the season was weird for me. I had raced just 4 races and arriving in Austria knowing this was the last World Cup for 2013 actually made me feel un easy. All of a sudden the off-season was ever so close and the memories of the last one came flooding back. Not only had the last off-season been but a nightmare but this season didn’t really go as planned either.

I didn’t know what to expect as I had raced here just once over a year ago. Last year when the World Championships were here I was at home with crutches in arm. Racing this race was significant in both the positive and negative. I had come into the final race of the season without injury, but on the down side I had been through another World Cup season incapable of competing in every round.

Leogang3

The thoughts of injuries, teams, surgeries and the off season lingered in my mind as I got ready for practice on the first day. The hardest thing about riding is separating the way you feel in your mind from the way you ride your bike. Over the whole weekend I had a constant battle between the way I was feeling mentally and how I was riding physically. The first day of practice ended in not one run without some kind of crash or mistake. An extremely tiring first day.

Saturday we practiced early again and then seeding was later on in the afternoon. I went up for my first practice run and as I jumped down one of the sections I landed on a rock and smashed the drivetrain of my bike and had to roll down to the pits for repairs. The bike was ready just in time to make it up for one last practice run. I rolled down fast trying to practice my lines ready for the qualifying run that was to come later on. I made a few big mistakes but I wasn’t to worried as I had felt like i was just rushing the last practice run.

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Race day was upon us and I looked outside to a beautifully freezing, sunny day. I was in a great mood ready to go. The final race of the season had arrived and it was a perfect day to ride. I went up for some practice runs and it was a mess. In the 2 practice runs I did I was able to crash my bike 4 times. I had dirt and mud all over me, it looked like I had literally rolled down a hill of dirt and mud for fun.

Because of the way practice went I decided to sit down and consider what was going on. I realised that I had been putting pressure on myself to do well here, in a way I guess I felt I wanted to redeem myself for the lack of World Cup results that I missed out on this season. Finally I decided that I needed to race for me, race my best race. Relax on the bike and ride to my current best ability.

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One of my main goals for this race was to get through it without injury. I wanted to be as healthy as possible to have the best off-season I’ve ever had. With that in mind I headed up for my race run. I spent time warming up on the trainer before it was time to go. I was in the start gate, ready to go. I had a good run, it was the first full clean run I had all weekend. I was happy to get down with out a crash and not too many mistakes. I know that I rode slow but this season wasn’t the goal anymore. My eyes are on 2014!! I am healthy and ready to get fit and strong so I can have my best season.

I just want to take this moment to thank my fans, my family, friends, my team Hutchinson UR and mostly I want to thank my sponsors.

** The content was originally posted on www.traceyhannah.com and reproduced with permission.

The Soapbox: What’s the price of an awesome ride?

The sound of my SRAM XX1 chain ring grinding across the rock grabbed my attention for a split second, but not long enough for me to lose focus on the line I was trying to ride.

It was my sixth attempt on a seriously tricky section of trail, and each time I rolled into a particular point my chain would leave a gouge in the sandstone as I muscled the bike into an awkward chute.

Eventually I nailed the line and I was pumped, totally buzzing. I yelled into the bush like a kid and grinned for the next 20 minutes non-stop. It was fu#king magic.

It wasn’t until I got back to the van and the adrenaline had worn off that I even thought to have a look at my bike. There were a few scrapes and bits of pinky orange rock still clinging to the chain ring, but there wasn’t any real lasting damage. A good thing really, because I had no tools with me, and it would’ve been a long walk home if I’d busted a chain link or bent the chain ring teeth, not to mention the expense of replacing such a pricey item.

I was aware when I was eyeing up the rocky line, trying to decide if I was able to ride it, that there was a chance of hurting my bike. And after the first attempt and the crunch of steel chain on rock, that risk was confirmed. But it didn’t matter. I wanted to get that line ridden, and in my mind the potential for damage was worth the feeling I knew would come if I rode it cleanly.

But it did make me think; at what point do you decide the dollars at stake are too great? What is your price limit for an awesome ride?

I know plenty of people who won’t ride in the wet because of the damage it may do to their bikes, but then some of the best and most memorable rides of my life have been the ones where I’ve needed new brake pads and a chain at end (I’m looking at you, Capital Punishment 2010).

I’ve seen other friends absolutely gutted as they feed an XTR derailleur to the hungry spokes of their rear wheel, and equally I’ve seen some mates have a laugh as they tear off their second rear mech in as many rides.

There’s a particular trail my mates and I sometimes ride. We call it the Depreciation Trail, because the tight rock ledges and ruts invariably scrape paint from your bike. But we ride it all the same and laugh away the pain of gouged fork legs.

Of course your bike costs money to run, no matter how carefully you nurse it through the bush or shield it from mud. But to deliver the kind of experiences that I want, that feeling of riding a line that is right on the edge of your skill level, I know the price tends to rise.

I guess at the end of the day, it comes down to how you view your bike and what kind of experience you’re after. To me, my bike is an awesome piece of machinery, but it’s machinery nonetheless; things break, get smashed, wear out and need replacing… And when I look at the ledger, I know that on the balance of things, I come out way ahead.

 

The Soapbox: What's the price of an awesome ride?

The sound of my SRAM XX1 chain ring grinding across the rock grabbed my attention for a split second, but not long enough for me to lose focus on the line I was trying to ride.

It was my sixth attempt on a seriously tricky section of trail, and each time I rolled into a particular point my chain would leave a gouge in the sandstone as I muscled the bike into an awkward chute.

Eventually I nailed the line and I was pumped, totally buzzing. I yelled into the bush like a kid and grinned for the next 20 minutes non-stop. It was fu#king magic.

It wasn’t until I got back to the van and the adrenaline had worn off that I even thought to have a look at my bike. There were a few scrapes and bits of pinky orange rock still clinging to the chain ring, but there wasn’t any real lasting damage. A good thing really, because I had no tools with me, and it would’ve been a long walk home if I’d busted a chain link or bent the chain ring teeth, not to mention the expense of replacing such a pricey item.

I was aware when I was eyeing up the rocky line, trying to decide if I was able to ride it, that there was a chance of hurting my bike. And after the first attempt and the crunch of steel chain on rock, that risk was confirmed. But it didn’t matter. I wanted to get that line ridden, and in my mind the potential for damage was worth the feeling I knew would come if I rode it cleanly.

But it did make me think; at what point do you decide the dollars at stake are too great? What is your price limit for an awesome ride?

I know plenty of people who won’t ride in the wet because of the damage it may do to their bikes, but then some of the best and most memorable rides of my life have been the ones where I’ve needed new brake pads and a chain at end (I’m looking at you, Capital Punishment 2010).

I’ve seen other friends absolutely gutted as they feed an XTR derailleur to the hungry spokes of their rear wheel, and equally I’ve seen some mates have a laugh as they tear off their second rear mech in as many rides.

There’s a particular trail my mates and I sometimes ride. We call it the Depreciation Trail, because the tight rock ledges and ruts invariably scrape paint from your bike. But we ride it all the same and laugh away the pain of gouged fork legs.

Of course your bike costs money to run, no matter how carefully you nurse it through the bush or shield it from mud. But to deliver the kind of experiences that I want, that feeling of riding a line that is right on the edge of your skill level, I know the price tends to rise.

I guess at the end of the day, it comes down to how you view your bike and what kind of experience you’re after. To me, my bike is an awesome piece of machinery, but it’s machinery nonetheless; things break, get smashed, wear out and need replacing… And when I look at the ledger, I know that on the balance of things, I come out way ahead.

 

Opinion: Big Cities vs Small Towns – Part 1: The Big Smoke

Itinerant Kiwi Flow-ster Nic Learmonth has lived in towns of every shape and size, from cities of over four million people to a nine-street ‘township,’ most recently leaving her latest home, in Alice Springs, for a three-month stint in Melbourne. So Nic’s well placed to kick-off the big cities vs small towns debate.


Big cities are choice. And I really do mean ‘choice’. When you’re in a place with a population that’s measured in millions, you can easily spend a leisurely Friday morning at your desk mulling over the big decisions in life.

Which bike shops shall I visit this weekend? What bike models do I want to take for a test spin? Hey, wasn’t there a demo day on somewhere? Which trail was that, again? Weren’t Jo and Steve talking about heading out to the Youies on Saturday arvo? Hmm… but if I ride with them, I’ll be too stuffed to ride in Sunday’s six-hour.

And so on. Us mountain bikers who live in a big city are spoilt for choice.

First up, Australia’s cities are really nice places to live; last August Melbourne was named the nicest city to live In The World. For the third time running. Also in the top ten were: Adelaide (fifth), Melbourne’s archrival Sydney (seventh), and Perth (ninth). No wonder one in two Australians call a big city home. And thanks to our 13 million urban neighbours, city dwelling mountain bikers have our choice of choices.

Bike shops

A quick google reveals that I have seven bike shops within a 5-kay radius of my apartment in Melbourne. Of course, being in Carlton, two of them specialise in electric bikes, and a third stocks a full range of fold-up and electric bikes – including the BH Emotion Neo Jumper 650B electric mountain bike. See? Told you we have more choice than we can shake a stick at.

More bike shops equals more brands and models to choose from. Yes, there’s a reason Flow HQ is outside the Sydney CBD – riding past all those bike shops on Kent and Clarence streets gets very expensive very quickly.

Now, can I be bothered riding up those hills at Forrest this weekend, or should I drop by Dolomiti Electric Bikes on my way out of town?

Access to trails

The words ‘city’ and ‘mountain bike tracks’ might not seem like regular companions, but trust me, living in the city gives you access to a tonne of good tracks. Just load up your bike, grab a coffee and program Lysterfield or the You Yangs into Navman. Or grab some mates and spend the weekend dirtbagging and riding in your favourite singletrack destination. Once you’ve cleared that peak hour crush, every track in the state leads to your next feed station.

Events and demo days

Just in case you need some more motivation to get out, there is always a race, a festival or a demo day on somewhere in the city or within a few hours’ drive.

More people

Birds with like-coloured feathers love to hit the trails together, and living in a population-dense environment can only increase the odds of you meeting people with the same warped sense of humour and compatible weekly riding schedule.

Training’s easier in bigger cities, too. You will almost certainly live a respectable riding distance from your workplace, too, so you can pack in a solid number of kays every day. And let’s not forget that cities attract road cyclists the way a hearty steak draws the flies, so no matter where you are and what your training window is, there will always be a bunch ride to suit.

And if your current training bunch or singletrack crew is not quite you, no worries. The Urban Jungle riding scene is so big you can afford to drop them as quick as they drop you – there’s always a new club to ride with and another café within crawling distance.

The final word

These are the joys of living in the Urban Jungle. The choice is yours. If you live in the Big Smoke, take a big breath in – big city living can’t get much better for us singletrack fanatics.

Could this be the final word on the matter? Stay tuned for part two of ‘Big cities vs small towns,’ coming soon.

The AvantiPlus Hellfire Cup: Sharing the Holler

The AvantiPlus Hellfire Cup showcases the holler-worthy trails of Wielangta State Forest, 45 minutes from Hobart. The pairs format stage race with a festival atmosphere was ready to kick off in January, only the area surrounding the event was hit by devastating bushfires three weeks from kick-off. The race was rescheduled for November 21-24.

What goes up must come down.
What goes up must come down.

Flow caught up with Duncan Giblin, the driving force behind the Hellfire, to find out how the bushfire recovery effort has impacted the inaugural event. The bushfires didn’t reach the trail network used for the Hellfire so, like all keen trail builders, Team Hellfire have used the last nine months to build more great trails designed with hearty hollering in mind.

The AvantiPlus Hellfire Cup was born from a desire to hold a stage race that combined a festive atmosphere with a course that would make riders holler as they rode the trails. After much planning and a solid effort by our legendary trail team we were ready go in January 2013. We were looking forward to meeting people we had been communicating with from all round the world, sharing the new trail network we had put together.

Experience the Tassie bush through the twists and turns of carefully crafted trails.
Experience the Tassie bush through the twists and turns of carefully crafted trails.

We were ahead of our first year trail schedule and we couldn’t wait. We felt we had great mix of adventure riding, challenging sections and holler worthy trails. All things considered, the planets had lined up pretty well.

Then it happened. We found ourselves in the midst of Tasmania’s biggest bushfire for 50 years three weeks out from the race. We went from finalising things with caterers to jumping in our car, evacuating from our home. We waited anxiously to hear from friends and family who were unaccounted for.

The January bushfires had a big impact on our community.
The January bushfires had a big impact on our community.

Our community was severely hammered. People were homeless, the fire was still active and emergency services, civilian services and community members were now involved in dealing with an epic natural disaster. Fortunately there was no loss of life.

We had mixed emotions – we were so glad that everyone was safe but were very concerned about friends who had lost houses and businesses. With the fire still present near the race village, and everyone involved in managing the race now engaged in recovery and essential services, it was with a heavy heart we postponed the event.

Seeing the forest after bushfires is an eery experience.
Seeing the forest after bushfires is an eery experience.

Slowly some normality returned and Team Hellfire got together and thought about how we could use the extra time. We got busy with working bees and held a six hour mountain bike race as a fundraiser for our community. Then we started to think about how we could improve the overall stage race experience for people who would come to our event from near and far.

We’ve added some new services; like showers, activities for kids and child care bookings during race stages. We already have a massive prize pool for elite riders, but our events are as much about hanging out with people who like to scream in delight as they hit their favourite trails as they are about the racing. So we have focussed on new trail work – that’s why we ride and that’s what we want to share with people.

New works include a trail called “The Elevator”. Instead of riding up and down a fire road for the hill climb, the whole hill has trails cut from top to bottom in sweet, rich, loamy soil.

The more we rode newfound trails, the more we relished the fun we were having screaming and yelling on descents. We started to think about how cool it would be to share some of these trails.
The more we rode newfound trails, the more we relished the fun we were having screaming and yelling on descents. We started to think about how cool it would be to share some of these trails.

When designing the climb for The Elevator we wanted people to feel like they had really achieved something without it being impossible. We came up with a mighty good, short climb that winds along through stands of white gums overlooking open valleys. The race village looks very small, very quickly. When you head back down The Elevator into the race village you are met with 16 grippy berms that slingshot you back to earth.

Race sponsors, MTN Trails, will be adding some more new sections and refining “The Jet Tech Luge”. They are adding hard pack white clay corners in sections where the harder you ride when you swap lines from one corner to the next, the faster you’ll hit the open fire road.

Can you hear the holler?
Can you hear the holler?

“The Serpent” is another flowy trail that has been popular on our ride days – it’s getting better with more MTN Trails activity too. These guys have built a masterpiece of ridgeline single track that uses opposing berms to eject you onto a pump track rollercoaster. Then it shoots you through controlled scree drops before more pump sections. It’s fun. If you work hard, it’s even more fun.

The Serpent takes you to a fast open descent. If you want let the dog off the leash, you can disengage the brake fingers as you hammer out of the bush into a plantation track through more MTN Trails work. All this comes after kilometres of our hand built trails taking you through red clay and fast technical riding.

We wanted to hold a stage race with a festive atmosphere and a course that provided access to a mix of genuine adventure riding and superbly crafted trails.
We wanted to hold a stage race with a festive atmosphere and a course that provided access to a mix of genuine adventure riding and superbly crafted trails.

That’s just the first morning! The full course has stunning coastal trails for the Time Trial, old growth forest with crazy tramline descents in the adventure stages and a hard pack enduro course.

Remember when you first went exploring and found new trails? Did you holler? Did you grin so hard people thought you had something wrong with you at the car park? If so, we have something for you. Come share the holler.

Head to www.hellfirecup.com for more information on the event. Entries are open now, and close on 1st November 2013.

 

 

The Soapbox: Be Part of the Solution

Welcome to the Soapbox – a place where we invite you to express your opinion, no matter how well or ill-informed. A chance to vent your spleen, sing your praise, or chuck a tantie.

Soap-Box-Masthead

 

Got something to blurt about? Send it to [email protected], and we might put it online. All Soapbox submission must be less than 500 words and will be kept strictly anonymous unless requested otherwise.

 

PLEASE NOTE: All Soapbox pieces represent the opinion of the writer solely and do not necessarily reflect the views of Flow!


There’s been plenty of talk lately about the ‘dumbing down’ of trails and a desire to ‘keep them organic’. As someone who has been riding mountain bikes for over a decade now, I can appreciate the sentiment the authors of these articles express and I acknowledge that they reflect the views of a large portion of the riding community – especially those riders who have been around for a while. As Founder & President of South East Queensland Trails Alliance (SEQTA) (www.seqta.net.au) I also have a responsibility to tell the other side of the story.

We can’t forget that in many parts of Australia we are relative new comers to the ‘legitimate user group’ club, and that even the mere allowance of MTB riding still makes some land managers nervous. But huge progress is being made, thanks in no small part to the tireless efforts of local riders willing to play the long game, building relationships and trust. It’s also important to note that many of the ‘design flaws’ of modern trails cited in previous Soapbox pieces do indeed serve a purpose – for example a new trail needs to be built wide to allow the riding line to develop naturally over time. Many modern design features are also a necessary response towards massive growth in trail traffic over recent years and the trend towards ‘trail centre’ style riding.

Until mountain biking reaches a level of maturity where trail building and maintenance is fully funded and carried out by paid professionals, the responsibility for the trails you ride is yours. Right now, grabbing a shovel is as equally as important as grabbing your handlebars. If you’d like to see trails look a certain way, the only way to have that input is by being there when they’re being built or changed. But that doesn’t happen… According to Facebook’s analytics, there are over 26,000 people in the greater Brisbane region who list ‘Mountain Biking’ as one of their interests. Contrast this to recent working bees in the region that have seen as few as 3 people show up and ‘pathetic’ is the only word that can be used to describe the current level of on-the-ground involvement by the MTB community.

I’m also the first to acknowledge that the trail care movement needs to take some responsibility for this situation. Poor consultation and shoddy work in the past has lost the trust of many veteran riders, whilst on the other hand we’re not that great at engaging new riders either. What we do needs to be promoted and explained better, and innovative new ways of having riders participate explored. That is the reason I founded South East Queensland Trails Alliance. But the missing ingredient is you.

The real threat to mountain bike trails in Australia is not legalised trail care, it’s ignorance and apathy. If every rider put in one hour a year for their local trails, we could create things beyond our wildest dreams. It’s time for the riding community to stop talking about the problem and start being part of the solution.

 

The Soapbox: Keep the Trails Organic

Welcome to the Soapbox – a place where we invite you to express your opinion, no matter how well or ill-informed. A chance to vent your spleen, sing your praise, or chuck a tantie.

Soap-Box-Masthead

 

Got something to blurt about? Send it to [email protected], and we might put it online. All Soapbox submission must be less than 500 words and will be kept strictly anonymous unless requested otherwise.

 

PLEASE NOTE: All Soapbox pieces represent the opinion of the writer solely and do not necessarily reflect the views of Flow! Continue reading “The Soapbox: Keep the Trails Organic”

Singletrack Amongst The Vineyards – James Estate

Bacchus is the god of wine, Keno and meat tray raffles. He never rode a mountain bike; his toga would’ve got caught up. Graeme Scott doesn’t have that problem – he prefers baggy Nzo shorts to togas – but he’s still a god of wine, and he’s crafting his own version of mountain bike heaven amongst the vines.

Way up the Hunter Valley, out past the tour buses of Pokolbin, past the impossibly cavernous, open-cut coalmines, you’ll find James Estate winery.

It’s tucked away in Baerami, in the Bylong Valley, and hemmed in by the Wollemi National Park, a impenetrable wall of native bush and sandstone cliffs. The lower Hunter can feel a bit like Sydney moved two hours up the road, but this is proper country. The neighbours are a long way off.

Wine Bike45
You’ll find James Estate right up at the northern end of the Hunter Valley, where the wilderness kicks in. There’s nothing but untouched bush between here and Lithgow.

When I drop in on a Sunday, the smell of baking has me salivating. ‘I was never a baker until we moved here,’ laughs Graeme’s wife Christine as she hands me a warm choc brownie. I bite into it and it erupts in my mouth like a chocolate volcano. ‘You learn to do things yourself when the nearest shops are so far off,’ she tells me. This ‘do it yourself’ attitude is what has brought me out here.

I first caught wind of what Graeme Scott was up to about three years ago, when someone handed me a bottle of shiraz that had a crazed-looking warthog riding a mountain bike on the label: Jimmy Jack. The winemaker was a bloke called Graeme Scott, a mountain biker with a vision for sharing his patch of paradise. And the James Estate winery is paradise: on a late autumn afternoon, there can’t be many finer places to find yourself than standing on the balcony of the cellar door, wine in hand, watching the sun set over the Wollemi wilderness. But what this paradise was lacking was mountain bike trails.

Wine Bike22
Graeme Scott.

‘I’ve been mountain biking for ten years,’ says Graeme, ‘I just bought a pretty basic Trek, initially, to commute to work. But then the kids got into it and did a couple of races through the Hunter club, and I thought I’d have a go.’ The mountain biking of the NSW Central Coast spoilt Graeme, and after moving inland, he began to get antsy, frustrated by the lack of trails in his new hometown area. ‘After six months of trying to find trails, I looked out the window at my own backyard,’ he laughs. So he picked up a rake, and he and Razz the dog headed into the bush on the fringes of the property, to begin scratching in the makings of a trail network. That was four years ago.

Wine Bike Collage 2
Making wine is apparently a fair bit more complicated than drinking it. Graeme was kind enough to show us around the lab and ageing casks too.

Before we head to the trails, we tour the winery and Graeme explains the wine making process, dumbing it down for this beer-drinking philistine. I’m soon lost as Graeme explains how different fruit harvested from different blocks must be picked and barrelled at just the right time, and how the life cycle of the barrels must be managed, and the barrels matched to the wine. ‘I still remember taking a four-litre cask to a BYO restaurant,’ laughs Graeme, making me feel a bit better about my vinicultural ignorance. The laboratory, a funky mix of low- and high-tech, feels more like a mountain biker space. ‘It’s a real mix of art and science,’ Graeme explains. ‘You do a lot of things by feel and instinct, within the realms of certain boundaries – go outside these and it all turns to custard pretty quickly.’ That, I understand. Trail building is pretty similar. There are certain rules – the optimum radius for a turn, the right gradient for a climb – but doing what looks or feels right generally is right.

Wine Bike CollageFeel and instinct is how Graeme got started. It wasn’t until he went to an IMBA Tracks and Trails Conference a couple of years ago that Graeme learnt the science of trail building technique. It was around then that he began to realise the scope of the potential he had in his backyard. Dafydd Davis was the conference’s keynote speaker – Dafydd’s the man behind some of the UK’s most legendary trail centres – and what he said struck a chord with Graeme. It got Graeme thinking big about the future of the trails. ‘A worldclass trail centre needs three things,’ Graeme tells me, recalling the key point he took away from Dafydd’s presentation. ‘A stunning natural environment – tick; a brilliant set of trails – we’re working on that; and a great visitor experience of the region as a whole. Our region is certainly special, and we can develop the infrastructure in terms of accommodation,’ Graeme says. ‘It still gives me goosebumps, that whole concept of building a worldclass destination.’

Wine Bike43
It’s a sensational part of the world up at Baerami. The whole vineyard can be overlooked from a ridge walk high above the farmstead.

With that vision in mind, Graeme set to it, expanding his small network of tracks. Cutting in the trails has been a lonely task, especially since Graeme lost his dog Razz to a brown snake earlier this year. ‘Razz was an absolute legend,’ says Graeme, the emotion croaking up his voice. ‘He’d take bunches of riders out there. He knew the trails backwards.’ Unlike Razz, the winery staff just didn’t get it. ‘They thought I was nuts,’ he laughs. ‘I’d do a 12-hour day and then head into the bush with a shovel and rake for another few hours and come out covered in muck and all excited because I’d put in another 10 metres of trail!’ But Graeme stuck with it, convincing his boss, vineyard owner David Jones, that mountain bike trails would become a real drawcard for visitors.

Wine Bike30
Our favourite part of the singletrack is where it swoops out of the gums and runs along the fence line next to the vines.

Things became a lot more real when Rocky Trail Entertainment approached Graeme about the idea of holding an event on the property in March this year, as part of its Grand Prix series. For a racing crowd generally accustomed to hanging about in a state forest carpark, having a cellar door and facilities on hand is like paradise. Word spread fast. Wives and families who’d normally avoid races like the plague came along in droves until there were over 200 people camped out at the vineyard the night before the race with another couple of hundred filling every available bed in town. For the vineyard owner and the town mayor, it was a real wake up call.

Wine Bike38

‘The mayor was here on race day and he was just blown away by the number of people and how nice they were,’ recalls Graeme. ‘These were people who’d never even been into the area before, and now the whole town was doing a roaring trade, the coffee shops were full the whole time, the cellar door was busier than it had ever been.’ It was the turnkey moment, Graeme says: ‘For my staff and the whole community to hear person after person talking about the trails – it was amazing. Suddenly we had the mayor championing the importance of mountain bike trails to the local region.’

DCIM100GOPRO

The task now is to carry that momentum forward. Just a week prior to my visit, Graeme and National Parks staff had surveyed a 300-metre-deep buffer of bushland surrounding the property. That is now the swathe of bush that Graeme has to work with. The terrain is awesome; big hunks of rock that have tumbled into the valley from ridges above, with sweeping S-bend turns weaving through. Graeme’s cut over 10 kilometres of singletrack already and there’s scope for at least another 20 kilometres – more than enough trail to work up a thirst for a glass or two. ‘You can only put in so much trail yourself,’ says Graeme, ‘so we’re looking to apply for tourism grants to employ a proper trail building company.’

Wine Bike41
Graeme and Christine are thinking big. They’re great folk.

The wine industry tends to be very ‘wine-like’ – you know, photos of bearded men in heavy knits swirling wine in a glass next to a barrel and using words like ‘herbaceous’ and ‘minerality’. But that’s certainly not Graeme. He’s got his head in the dirt, not the clouds. As I pack my now dusty bike back into the van, with a few of Christine’s brownies for the road (and a couple of bottles for later, too), I feel buoyed by Graeme’s vision and enthusiasm. It’s one thing to build trails for your own fun, it’s another to have the passion to push things further and to share your creations with others. There’s still a long trail ahead for Graeme, and it’s sure to be full of twists and challenges, but that’s the stuff that makes the best singletrack.

 

Pro Rider Diary: Tracey Hannah – World Champs 2013

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The aftermath of what happened on the weekend still hasn’t really sunk in. Is this real, is what just happened true. Was I standing on the podium at the first World Championships that I have raced in 6 years? At my first race in 2 months due to yet another injury.

We arrived early in South Africa because the racing in Whistler was done and dusted. We had two weeks to spare before the World Champs. Arriving early was good because it means that we could get used to the horrid jet lag that was about to come upon us. The time change was completely opposite to that of Canada…. We were in for a shock.

Our Dad arrived on Sunday, the start of Worlds week. It was really great having him around, his advice to us in invaluable and irreplaceable. No one understands Mick and I like he does and no one has the mentoring skills that he is gifted with.

The day before practice I accidentally slept in ’til 11 am which didn’t set me up well for a week of early starts. I wasn’t sure what to expect or how practice would go since I had hardly ridden my bike. I changed frames completely and did just a few days of runs in Whistler a week earlier.

Berm

The night before practice, it turns out I was absolutely nervous as. I was excited, anxious and awake all in one. It was sure that I wouldn’t be sleeping for a while. I had finally fallen asleep what felt like 5 minutes before my alarm went off. It was time to begin a week of epic downhill racing which I hadn’t done since the World Cup in Val Di Sole at the start of June.

What an amazing feeling to be back on the bike, back where it all began, back on the dry dusty track that I love so well. 1 foot of dust and a mask for breathing. I felt so comfortable, so relaxed. I came into this race with so much knowledge. I spent the previous 2 months being injured walking the tracks and watching the last 2 World Cups. I felt like out of all my injuries I learnt the biggest lesson from the last one. I came in to the 2013 World Cup season with so much fear, and stress. I had a fear of crashing and injuries and I was stressed because I felt I needed to prove myself, I needed results so I could keep my name at the top of this sport. After breaking my collarbone yet again 2 months ago I took a step back, and asked questions about what is going on, why is this happening and what can I do to take the fear away but cope with the injuries. I feel like I learnt the most watching the 2 world cups that I would miss out on. I walked the tracks everyday for practice, I watched how people rode, I learned what was going on in their lives and where there at. Realising that racing downhill is more than 50% mental was the best knowledge I could’ve ever wanted. I do not regret my last injury because I learnt so much.

Sun

All week I had a big smile on my face, I had learnt to relax and finally I could use it in reality. I had taken away all pressure that I should feel and decided to enjoy riding as much as I love riding. When I can enjoy the bike I ride my best.

It was the morning of timed runs, the problem was that practice started at 715am with just a 30 min window. I decided to skip the practice and make the most of time to warm up for my timed run which would be just 1 hr later. As dad taught me the key is not to think to much before your run and decided at the right time what you will do. I rode that run so relaxed like it was another practice run, I pedalled here and there but it definitely wasn’t a race pace run. I got to the bottom among the first few riders so I waited for the top riders to come down with their times. Finally everyone had gotten to the bottom with their timed runs done and my time sat me in 2nd place for the day.

Kit

If there is anything that gets the butterflies moving its seating yourself in 2nd at the World Champs timed training. I spent the evening thinking about what had happened and decided not to worry about it and I reminded myself that the goal here has always been to relax, build confidence back on the bike and feel no pressure since the past few months haven’t gone so well with injuries and racing.

So I got up race day morning excited to practice and feeling ready to race. My practice went so well, I just love the speed that you carry on this track and the challenging sections through the top. I finished practice after 2 runs then I spent the rest of the day relaxing ready for my race run at 2:04pm.

Finish_line

It took a lot to control my nerves and not get all stiff. As soon as I’m nervous on the bike its a big fail. I warmed up on the trainer for what seemed like hours and finally it was time to go. I sat in the gate feeling really nervous so I didn’t think, the timer counted down and I waited for the feeling, finally my last words in the gate were ”yes I want to go for it “. I smashed out of the gate and down the track as fast as I could. I was sliding and drifting everywhere, the track was a lot drier than practice that morning. Onward I continued and made it to the pedal, it was so painful, for a moment I sat down and then I said “no stand up and pedal, we’re almost there”. I raced as hard as I could the rest of my run and came down with a time just in front of the girls already in the hot seat. From then I sat in the no #1 position for the next 12 riders until just 2 girls kicked me off and I ended up on the podium at World Champs in 3rd position.

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I knew that I had trained and I knew that the track suited me, but after the year that I’ve had I was really happy with the result. It had been 6 years since I’ve raced a World Championship race and I am so happy. On top of my own result Michael took the silver medal in the mens final which meant we both stood on the podium. Just awesome. Thank you so much for your support no matter the ups and downs. To my fans, my friends, my family, the mechanics, thanks to Mick for always being there, my sponsors and can’t thank enough my team Hutchinson UR!!!

After_podium

 

**This content was originally posted on www.traceyhannah.com and republished with her permission.

 

No Way In Hell: The Simpson Desert Bike Challenge

The 2013 Simpson Desert Bike Challenge – a sadistic slog through the hellishly hot sand dunes of the mighty Simpson – is just around the corner. Last year, Nic Learmonth was there to support her partner Chris through the ordeal.

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A lone rider presses on, with sweep and the convoy not far behind.

Into the wilderness

A car horn blared through the silence. Beside me, Chris inhaled sharply and sat up in his sleeping bag. It was 4:30am and we were both awake, waiting for this signal to begin our first day of ‘the Simpson,’ a five-day 10-stage race across the Simpson Desert.

Six months ago, when Chris told me he wanted to ride the Simpson, I had told him flat-out I thought it was a stupid idea. Out in the Simpson Desert, apocalyptic conditions were the norm, Last year the race had been held on the Oodnadatta Track, in South Australia, because the Simpson had transformed into a bushfire inferno. Even rainfall is bad new – in 2010 the race was run in the Great Victorian Desert in SA because rain in the Simpson had caused flooding.

Even when the Simpson Desert is not practising for the apocalypse, it’s hardly the place for a mountain bike race, I went on. This year’s course would cross some 600 kilometres of loose sand and corrugations and go over an estimated 700 sand dunes between Purni Bore, in SA, and Birdsville, in Queensland. Temperatures could range from 4°C to 45°C. Finishing every stage is the Holy Grail, though less than a third of riders in event’s 26-year-history have achieved it – and the race has medics on hand to ensure no one actually dies trying.

I looked at Chris. He was nodding. ‘I know,’ he had said, ‘Doesn’t it sound like fun!’

Simpson Desert Bike Challenge-4
Yeah, just keep going that way, you’ll find it.

In the beginning

We were both sick with nerves that first day. Chris had lined up a mate to be support, with me riding shotgun, but the plan had fallen through. Now I had the keys our friend’s Toyota Hilux and waves of nausea whenever I thought about the steep sand dunes ahead of me.

Chris, on the other hand, had done loads of prep for his journey; endless rides, research and an impressive number of reps through the online checkout.

Chris’s desert rig was a Surly Pugsley he called the Black Ox. Now equipped with a 4.7″ Big Fat Larry tyre on the front and an Endomorph on the back – on 80mm rims – and a frame bag with a hydration bladder, and drink bottles loaded on either side of the fork, the Black Ox looked like the offspring of a touring bike and an oil rig.

Our friend Ronn had matched Chris’s prep, detail for agonised detail. Ronn was riding a ‘skinny’ tyre regular mountain bike, a Trek Rumblefish. Whereas Chris’s nutrition plan was a tightly scripted parade of chemically balanced goos and drink powders, and a mountain of bananas, Ronn’s included things like bacon and eggs for brekkie, and lollies on the bike.

That morning I found Ronn trying to secure a packet of Twisties to his bike without crushing it. ‘They’re 67 percent carbs, you know,’ he assured me. Our mate Maurice watched on in despair. Maurice was taking his role as Ronn’s support person very seriously, and having Ronn do something himself was not part of Maurice’s game plan.

The support crews had paired up so every rider would have a support vehicle ahead and in the back convoy. Maurice was tag-teaming with our friend Cec and her husband-rider Dave. I had paired up with Paul, who was supporting his partner, a determined young Kiwi lass called Melanie. Paul was delighted to hear that I planned to do the front convoy every morning, meaning I’d be first out and last in every day.

All too soon it was 5:20am. I wished the crew good luck and joined the front convoy. Our 16 riders would not set off until 6am. We drove out of camp, leaving them standing by their bikes and shivering in the pre-dawn cold.

As possible as possible

The convoy was a mix of experienced four-wheel drivers and newbies. As we trundled along on the French Line, nerves weighing heavily on accelerator pedals, race director Mark Polley talked us through tricky sections of the road, which traversed sand and small dunes.

Simpson Desert Bike Challenge-7
Even getting to the start line is hard work.

When we got to the lunch spot, some 80 kay and five hours later, we were all quietly relieved not to have gotten bogged yet. Maurice and I set up a shade shelter between our two trucks and sorted out chairs and snacks and cold drinks for our riders. Gav, our neighbour, was supporting his wife Suzie and their friend Lynton, pulled out a stretcher so Suzie and Lynton could lie down. I hoped our riders did not notice this luxury – it was far too late to upgrade our setup.

Lynton was first in. He pedalled his Scott Spark over the finish line to ecstatic cheers from us support crews. We trailed around after Lynton, congratulating him and offering to carry things and generally getting in the way as he weighed in and staggered over to Gav’s pit of luxury. Lynton collapsed onto the stretcher, sucking down the water like someone was threatening to take it from him.

Simpson Desert Bike Challenge-5
Pre-stage weigh ins and post-stage weigh outs are all part of the fun.

Riding buddies Murray and Al were next through, then a couple of others, and then Maurice called out ‘Nic, there’s Chris!’ He was scooting down the back of the last dune, clearly stuffed, but looking very pleased with himself, with Ronn just behind. At weigh-in, Chris discovered that unlike everyone else, he’d actually gained weight since the pre-stage weigh-in. Dr Mal and co-pilot Peter instantly signed on as full-blown members of Chris’s fan club.

At lunch Ronn and Chris were full of chat: ‘It’s hot,’ they said, ‘My legs hurt,’ they told us, over and over, while Maurice and I scuttled about fetching this and cooking that, and filling up water bottles for the afternoon’s water stops. They were whinging, but at least they were whinging about the right things.

We’re not in Kansas anymore

That afternoon Chris and Ronn and the rest of the mid-fielders tried to keep up with the fast kids. They discovered the fast kids were good company: Alan and Murray were Simpson Desert repeat offenders. They’d trained together in Sydney, and their laps up and down the beach every weekend had really paid off – these two were strong in the sand. And Lynton, a previous race winner, though he’d yet to achieve a 100 percent in the Simpson, was a gentleman from start to finish. These three welcomed the middle pack into their ranks for their 10 minutes of glory.

Meanwhile, Sweep, who considered himself a bit of a hunter, hoped to bag some big game during the race. The riders had to travel at a speed of at least 12km/h to stay ahead of Sweep and the back convoy. In a desert environment, that’s a difficult pace to maintain. As we neared our first rider, the radio chatter increased:

‘Sweep, I think your speedometer is out.’

‘Oh no, we’ve blown a tyre. Sweep, can we borrow your spare?’

‘Sweep, stop! We need help with our radiator.’

Despite our best efforts, we soon collected Melanie, Adam, Suzie and Lou, who, at 74-years-old, was everyone’s hero.

Melanie climbed into the truck with me. She looked shattered.

‘I thought I’d be able to get a bit further before Sweep got me,’ she said.

‘What are you talking about?’ I asked her. ‘It looks like bloody hard work out there. Be proud of how well you’re doing, missy, ‘cause we sure are. Now get on that radio. We need some help distracting Sweep.’

Coming unstuck

At the briefing that night I could feel our confidence growing. Sure, the race was hard, but with a bit of butt cream for the riders and low-two for the four-wheel drivers, it wasn’t impossible. We just had to keep doing what we were doing. Easy.

Mark set us straight: ‘Stage three is tough,’ he said. ‘Most of you riders will not make it.’ All but three support crews would be travelling in the back convoy for this stage so we would be able to collect all the riders. Sweep tried to hide his glee.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Michael Dalton crests dune #436. Just three hundred to go.

But when we arrived at the lunch spot behind Sweep the following morning, many of us still had empty seats. Most of the riders had gotten through, and we found them clustered around the medic team’s ute, where they had been begging for scraps like stray cats. Chris and Ronn had managed to con Mal and Pete out of their lunch and a couple of cans of coke.

The desert amped it up for the afternoon, turning on the heat and dropping the wind to an insipid warm breeze. We waved the riders off, knowing we’d see many of them again very soon.

As the convoy progressed down the Rig Road and started scooping up half-cooked riders, we heard that Melanie ‘needed to be picked up’. Sweep drove on to find Melanie slumped under a tree. We put her in my truck and cranked on the air conditioning. Melanie’s cheeks were flushed in the heat, but under that she was pale and her eyes were sunken in. She told us she had been feeling dizzy and that she had fallen off her bike eight or nine times. Sweep was worried.

‘Follow me as fast as you can,’ he said. Breaking away from the convoy, we rushed Melanie to the medics at the next water stop. There, Dr Mal did a quick assessment through the car window and decided to rush her on to camp. He and Pete pulled away at a fair clip, and I followed with Melanie.

The dunes got bigger and steeper – far more intimidating than the terrain of the day before. But with an unwell rider in the passenger seat, there was no time to hesitate. Mal radioed info on the angle and surface of each dune crest, and I put the foot down.

Simpson Desert Bike Challenge-9
Basic things become luxuries in the desert.

Our patient was just starting to perk up when we arrived at camp. Reminding Melanie to stay in the truck, I jumped out and told Paul that Melanie was still pretty rotten but she was a lot better than when we first picked her up. Paul looked shocked. This was all news to him. But Mal was pleased with Melanie’s progress. She was just 300g down on her pre-stage weight – after drinking some three litres of water on her way to camp. The doctor’s orders were to keep drinking and resting.

Chris filled me in on his afternoon. The 41°C heat had crushed everyone, slowing them on the sand and leaving them too tired to ride smart through the corrugations. Chris had lost a drink bottle when the cages on the Black Ox’s fork snapped under the strain of the constant vibrations. Then Ronn had pulled over, telling Chris he would catch him up.

It turned out that on top of the three cokes and the bowl of spag bol he’d knocked back at lunch, Ronn was also combating a chest infection. Several vomits later, Ronn was well and truly on his own. At the next water stop, where Chris waited for him, Ronn had a good long think about whether he wanted to continue. But after he and Chris dropped their tyre pressure – to 10psi on the Ronnblefish, and 5psi on the Ox – Ronn decided to keep going. Now riding over steep, soft sand dunes, Ronn managed to keep Chris in sight for the remainder of the stage.

Back at camp, Maurice agonised over what to do – ‘Ronn’s sick, but he won’t stop. He’ll run himself into the ground.’ Cec and I offered to dob Ronn in to the medics, but Maurice decided to see how he went the next morning.

Falling apart

On day three we discovered the desert doesn’t always play nice. The front convoy stalled at the base of a 20-metre monster of a dune, just three kay out of camp. The riders could see our headlights on the skyline.

The pressure was on to stay ahead of our riders. If they caught us, we would have to stop, and there would be no support for the riders at the lunch stop. Mark and a few other officials cleared the dune and raced away to set up the water stops and lunchtime shade while the rest of us waited our turn to tackle the sand monster.

Meanwhile, the mid-fielders formed a peloton of sorts with the fast kids. They charged down the road that had stalled the convoy, passing a couple of vehicles that had fallen behind to re-attach a flyaway car part.

Simpson Desert Bike Challenge-3
Sheer bloody-mindedness is the real must-have for this event. Andrew Hellier has what it takes.

Peloton chit-chat revealed that Murray’s Salsa Mukluk was called ‘Heavy Judy,’ because that was what Sydney’s recreational cyclists said when they saw Judy’s Endomorph tyres. The skinny-tyre brigade continued to defend their bikes to anyone who would listen, but Ronn and Terry the Greek, both fit riders, both on skinny tyres, fell behind whenever the group hit sand dunes.

Terry scored a round of applause when he arrived at the lunch spot well ahead of his previous times. But when he climbed off the bike, his legs buckled under him. Throwing Terry’s arms over their shoulders, his support crew proudly walked him to their lunch setup, another five-star effort, where Terry received a cold foot bath, a shoulder rub, and Greek music and dancing.

Simpson Desert Bike Challenge-1
Terry and his proud-as-punch support crew gave it everything.

In our pit, Chris was eating anything that was left unattended, while Maurice was trying to find something Ronn could keep down. Eventually, we snuck Ronn some of Chris’s instant mashed potato. Ronn didn’t throw up, so Maurice and I made fresh batches of mash until both lads were full.

The mercury continued to climb, and the afternoon was hard on the riders, who pedalled 50 kays in a straight line on sand, in 46°C, with a headwind. Chris summed it up as ‘the epitome of Simpson misery’.

Hitting the wall

On the fourth day, the Simpson handed out 47°C and sand-heavy winds. The front convoy pulled up to watch a bloody-red sun rise over the salt lake before Poeppel’s Corner. Meanwhile, Chris and Ronn were in the front pack, where everyone took a turn out in front, fighting the wind. Though nothing was said, the stronger riders quietly aided their mates by doing longer stints.

The afternoon brought many riders to the limits of their endurance. Everyone struggled on the red sand. It was finer and softer than the yellow sand they had been riding through, so all the tricks the fat bikes had learned (like riding outside the vehicle tracks) did not work. They resorted to pushing their bikes up dunes.

Over the radio, the back convoy listened intently to reports on Terry the Greek’s valiant fight to stay ahead of Sweep. But eventually that fine red sand reduced the cast of 100-percenters to seven. Chris and Ronn finished just 20 minutes ahead of Sweep.

Simpson Desert Bike Challenge-8
Al Keenside and Murray Rook still smiling after 80 kays.

Out of the desert

The first dune of this last day put the hurt on the tired riders – even Lynton groaned as he pedalled up it. But things got easier. The rain from the night before had packed the sand down, and the distances between the dunes increased.

Little Red was the last dune of the race – and at 30 metres, it was also one of the tallest. Only Murray managed to ride all the way up Little Red’s steep face.

About two kays from the lunch stop, Al and Murray asked if anyone wanted a stage win. The trail had morphed into a proper road, optimal conditions for skinny tyres – Ronn and Terry went for it.

On the other side of the lake, us support crews saw Terry approaching the morning stage finish line, with another rider closing in fast. It wasn’t until the two riders crossed the line together that we recognised Ronn. Maurice was caught without his camera. He was in deep disgrace.

As other riders trickled in, we overheard Mark talking to Sweep on the radio. Melanie had double punctures and was now running with her bike to stay ahead of Sweep. ‘You can’t help her,’ Mark said. ‘The rules say only a rider can help another rider,’ he added, raising his voice. Al and Murray jumped back on their bikes and hoofed it back down the road, with Chris and Adam just behind.

Al soon returned, wheeling Melanie’s bike. He paused a few metres before the finish. Then the main posse arrived – Melanie was running, with Chris and Murray on with side of her, and Adam riding in slow zigzags behind to stall Sweep. Al held out Melanie’s bike, Le Mond start-style, and Melanie pushed it those last few metres.

 

All the way to Birdsville

The final stage was not a race – the riders travelled in a convoy of their own, with just Sweep behind them. Everyone else had driven ahead to Birdsville. (Where we were immediately distracted from our duties by delicacies like cold beer and the Birdsville Bakery’s curried camel and kangaroo and claret pies.) Our bellies full, we congregated at the official race finish line, outside the Birdsville Pub. Maurice and I weren’t going to miss Ronn crossing this finish line: Maurice nipped into the pub and bought a bottle of champagne.

Simpson Desert Bike Challenge-2
The milk and honey at Birdsville.

Mark, on the radio to Sweep, fielded an urgent message from rider number four. That was Ronn. Maurice stepped forward, holding the bottle of wine and flutes: ‘What’s wrong with Ronn?’

‘He wants you to buy him a bacon and egg pie from the bakery.’

Maurice laughed. We could hear the engine of Sweep’s truck in the distance – no one was going to leave now.

Then the bunch appeared on the horizon. As they got closer, we could make out one rider clearly in front. It was Lou, proudly leading the riders to the finish. Chris rolled to a stop in front of me. Around us, support crews and riders crowded together, hugging and shaking hands and congratulating one another. Covered in grime and sweat, Chris threw his arms around me.

‘That was the best trip ever,’ he said.

Simpson Desert Bike Challenge-6
Last stop: The Birdsville Hotel.

In the end, Al and Murray were placed first equal, with Lynton in third. Chris and Ronn did far better than they had dared hope, coming in fifth and sixth respectively, and joining the select few in the 100-percenters club. But the Simpson had been tough, and we celebrated every rider’s achievements at the post-race festivities later that night.

Afterwards, Chris told me he had had mixed feelings about arriving in Birdsville.

‘It was really neat to get to the finish and to see all you guys there,’ he said. ‘But it was sad to leave the desert. I wanted to keep going.’

The Simpson Desert Bike Challenge raises money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. So support the RFDS and back a rider by clicking here.

The Soapbox: Why I Shop Local

Welcome to the Soapbox – a place where we invite you to express your opinion, no matter how well or ill-informed. A chance to vent your spleen, sing your praise, or chuck a tantie.

Soap-Box-Masthead

 

Got something to blurt about? Send it to [email protected], and we might put it online. All Soapbox submission must be less than 500 words and will be kept strictly anonymous unless requested otherwise.

 

PLEASE NOTE: All Soapbox pieces represent the opinion of the writer solely and do not necessarily reflect the views of Flow!


I’m using my time on the soapbox to ask ‘why’. Why can we jump online and buy parts from overseas for less than the wholesale prices our local bike shops can buy them for from the local distributors?

I love my riding and living in Sydney with all the sandstone tracks my bike cops a hammering. It seems to be every 12 months I will go through a couple of chains, chainrings, derailleur hangers, derailleurs, cassettes, brake pads, tyres… The list goes on. Maybe I’m a poor rider and even worse maintainer of my bike? Back to the point.

I have made the decision to support my local bike shop, so I buy my all spares from them; I want them to stay in business. But I know a lot of my mates buy from overseas because they get what they need at prices that are sometimes 40-60% cheaper. I don’t blame them on one hand when the family budget is tight.

I don’t think our domestic shops or distributors are at fault. I can’t help but wonder, are we, our local distributors and our local shops being fleeced by the large companies? They know that we are now able to buy in a global market. They know that the so called ‘high cost of transport’ is no longer an excuse given the fact online retailers can provide free shipping on many items. Do not they know that their actions puts pressure on our local shops? Or don’t they care, as it is all about the bottom line?

Whatever the case, I encourage you all to support your local bike shop. You may find they offer way more than than those overseas suppliers – it’s called customer service. And campaign to your local member of parliament to see if our leaders can’t do something to even up the playing field!

Done! Ahh! That feels better.

Four Technology Trends We’re Excited About

Eurobike, the cycling industry’s biggest annual peep show, has drawn to a close, offering us an opportunity to assess the state of play when it comes to mountain bike technologies and trends for the coming year.

The overarching movements in mountain bike development for 2014 is towards versatility. Despite the fact mountain biking has more sub-genres than there are spokes in a wheel, the most impressive technological advancements have stemmed from the quest to develop do-it-all bikes. Each year, that garage de-cluttering enigma of the ‘one bike quiver’ draws closer!

So what are the new technologies and trends that are helping to bring this dream ever closer?

Geometry designed with stability in mind:

2014 sees a solidification of geometry trends that have been afoot for a number of years now. Longer top tubes, slacker head angles, shorter stems and wider bars. And it’s not just all-mountain bikes that are receiving this treatment too, with cross country and trail bikes gaining a level of sure-footedness and confidence that hasn’t been seen before.

Web_News_FirstBite_2014Trance-5
Giant are one brand that have evolved their geometry markedly for 2014. Longer, lower and more confidence inspiring is the trend.

If there’s one brand that’s indicative of this trend, it’s Giant. For years we’ve thought that Giant’s bikes were too short and too step; for 2014 it’s like someone flicked a switch over at Giant! All of a sudden, bikes from the world’s biggest manufacturer are appearing with the kind of geometry and cockpit setup that can instil confidence into even most nervous rider. The new Trance series in particular captures this geometry trend perfectly.

Bigger forks:

We’ve said it many times here at Flow – stiffness=confidence=more fun. Unless you’re racing at the pointy end, the small weight penalty of a through axle or larger diameter stanchions on your fork is well worth it.

PIKEMASTHEAD
The Rockshox Pike and the FOX 34 series bring a whole new level of front end stiffness and damping performance to the trail riding market.

FOX may have established themselves as the kings of the burly trail fork, initially with the 36 and then with the 34 series, but it’s the revitalised Rockshox Pike that has got us truly foaming. With 35mm stanchions, options for 26″, 27.5″ and 29″ all at very reasonable weights, it’s the fork to beat in our mind for 2014.

Single rings:

The expansion of SRAM’s single-ring 11-speed drivetrain solutions is a big deal, with a lower priced X01 version now sitting beneath the premium XX1 groupset. Clearly it’s only a matter of time before this technology is available at even lower price points.

No matter how strong an advocate Shimano may be for the front derailleur, there’s no way they can ignore the popularity of single-ring drivetrains. We eagerly await their response to SRAM’s move.

SRAM's single ring XX1 and X01 drivetrains are pushing bike design, not just drivetrain design, in new directions.
SRAM’s single ring XX1 and X01 drivetrains are pushing bike design, not just drivetrain design, in new directions.

Ok, you lose some gear range with a single ring drivetrain, but it’s amazing how little you find yourself wishing for a lower or taller gear than is offered by SRAM’s X01 or XX1 drivetrain. The tradeoff for the silence, simplicity and low weight is well worth it in our opinion.

We’re also starting to see bike manufacturers embrace the true potential offered by single rings. The new Specialized Epic World Cup is ultimate example. Without a front derailleur, Specialized have been able to give this bike massive chain stays for incredible stiffness, shorten up the rear end for better handling and lighten the whole bike up too.

Options for wheel sizes:

There are two sides to the coin when it comes to the sudden onslaught of 650B bikes. On one hand it’s very confusing out there now if you’re not sure exactly what you’re after. On the other, the big positive is that riders now have options galore to match their preferred wheel size to their riding style.

The Specialized Enduro 29 takes 29" wheels into new long-travel realms.
The Specialized Enduro 29 takes 29″ wheels into new long-travel realms.

What has been interesting (and unexpected) from our perspective, is that 650B bikes haven’t just been introduced in the longer travel arena where the 29″ wheel was seen as inappropriate or infeasible. We’d predicted 650B to dominate in the market from 130mm up. Instead, we’re seeing 650B bikes throughout the entire spectrum of mountain biking, including cross country race hardtails and short travel 29ers, firmly seen as the domain of 29ers previously.

We’re concurrently seeing more and more long-travel 29ers too. Bikes like the Specialized Enduro 29, Niner WFO9, Yeti SB95 and BMC Trail Fox are all combining big wheels and big travel to great effect.

In 2014 it’s clear that there are no ‘rules’ about wheel size suitability any more, and this gives riders more freedom to pick their favourite wheel size, no matter what style of bike or riding they want to do.

What new trends have got you pumped or confused?

Four Technology Trends We're Excited About

Eurobike, the cycling industry’s biggest annual peep show, has drawn to a close, offering us an opportunity to assess the state of play when it comes to mountain bike technologies and trends for the coming year.

The overarching movements in mountain bike development for 2014 is towards versatility. Despite the fact mountain biking has more sub-genres than there are spokes in a wheel, the most impressive technological advancements have stemmed from the quest to develop do-it-all bikes. Each year, that garage de-cluttering enigma of the ‘one bike quiver’ draws closer!

So what are the new technologies and trends that are helping to bring this dream ever closer?

Geometry designed with stability in mind:

2014 sees a solidification of geometry trends that have been afoot for a number of years now. Longer top tubes, slacker head angles, shorter stems and wider bars. And it’s not just all-mountain bikes that are receiving this treatment too, with cross country and trail bikes gaining a level of sure-footedness and confidence that hasn’t been seen before.

Web_News_FirstBite_2014Trance-5
Giant are one brand that have evolved their geometry markedly for 2014. Longer, lower and more confidence inspiring is the trend.

If there’s one brand that’s indicative of this trend, it’s Giant. For years we’ve thought that Giant’s bikes were too short and too step; for 2014 it’s like someone flicked a switch over at Giant! All of a sudden, bikes from the world’s biggest manufacturer are appearing with the kind of geometry and cockpit setup that can instil confidence into even most nervous rider. The new Trance series in particular captures this geometry trend perfectly.

Bigger forks:

We’ve said it many times here at Flow – stiffness=confidence=more fun. Unless you’re racing at the pointy end, the small weight penalty of a through axle or larger diameter stanchions on your fork is well worth it.

PIKEMASTHEAD
The Rockshox Pike and the FOX 34 series bring a whole new level of front end stiffness and damping performance to the trail riding market.

FOX may have established themselves as the kings of the burly trail fork, initially with the 36 and then with the 34 series, but it’s the revitalised Rockshox Pike that has got us truly foaming. With 35mm stanchions, options for 26″, 27.5″ and 29″ all at very reasonable weights, it’s the fork to beat in our mind for 2014.

Single rings:

The expansion of SRAM’s single-ring 11-speed drivetrain solutions is a big deal, with a lower priced X01 version now sitting beneath the premium XX1 groupset. Clearly it’s only a matter of time before this technology is available at even lower price points.

No matter how strong an advocate Shimano may be for the front derailleur, there’s no way they can ignore the popularity of single-ring drivetrains. We eagerly await their response to SRAM’s move.

SRAM's single ring XX1 and X01 drivetrains are pushing bike design, not just drivetrain design, in new directions.
SRAM’s single ring XX1 and X01 drivetrains are pushing bike design, not just drivetrain design, in new directions.

Ok, you lose some gear range with a single ring drivetrain, but it’s amazing how little you find yourself wishing for a lower or taller gear than is offered by SRAM’s X01 or XX1 drivetrain. The tradeoff for the silence, simplicity and low weight is well worth it in our opinion.

We’re also starting to see bike manufacturers embrace the true potential offered by single rings. The new Specialized Epic World Cup is ultimate example. Without a front derailleur, Specialized have been able to give this bike massive chain stays for incredible stiffness, shorten up the rear end for better handling and lighten the whole bike up too.

Options for wheel sizes:

There are two sides to the coin when it comes to the sudden onslaught of 650B bikes. On one hand it’s very confusing out there now if you’re not sure exactly what you’re after. On the other, the big positive is that riders now have options galore to match their preferred wheel size to their riding style.

The Specialized Enduro 29 takes 29" wheels into new long-travel realms.
The Specialized Enduro 29 takes 29″ wheels into new long-travel realms.

What has been interesting (and unexpected) from our perspective, is that 650B bikes haven’t just been introduced in the longer travel arena where the 29″ wheel was seen as inappropriate or infeasible. We’d predicted 650B to dominate in the market from 130mm up. Instead, we’re seeing 650B bikes throughout the entire spectrum of mountain biking, including cross country race hardtails and short travel 29ers, firmly seen as the domain of 29ers previously.

We’re concurrently seeing more and more long-travel 29ers too. Bikes like the Specialized Enduro 29, Niner WFO9, Yeti SB95 and BMC Trail Fox are all combining big wheels and big travel to great effect.

In 2014 it’s clear that there are no ‘rules’ about wheel size suitability any more, and this gives riders more freedom to pick their favourite wheel size, no matter what style of bike or riding they want to do.

What new trends have got you pumped or confused?

Interview: MASSIVELY CHAMPTASTIC – Paul Van Der Ploeg

Paul Van Der Ploeg 9

Flow caught up with newly crowned XCE World Champion Paul Van Der Ploeg at Durban airport as he prepared to fly home to Victoria via god-knows-where – “I’ve got like a 27 hour flight home. I was a bit of a tight arse because Worlds was costing me so much that I just booked the cheapest flight I could.”

Anyone who has ever crossed paths with this amicable giant of a man will know that he’s one of the true characters of Australian mountain biking – a smiling, hilarious, unassuming fella. For us here at Flow, seeing Paul don the World Championship stripes was a golden moment. Congratulations, you mad big unit!

What a moment! The jersey suits you, Paul! The beard, not so much.
What a moment! The jersey suits you, Paul! The beard, not so much.

Continue reading “Interview: MASSIVELY CHAMPTASTIC – Paul Van Der Ploeg”

The Soapbox: Dumb and Dumber

Welcome to the Soapbox – a place where we invite you to express your opinion, no matter how well or ill-informed. A chance to vent your spleen, sing your praise, or chuck a tantie.

Soap-Box-Masthead

 

Got something to blurt about? Send it to [email protected], and we might put it online. All Soapbox submission must be less than 500 words and will be kept strictly anonymous.

 

PLEASE NOTE: All Soapbox pieces represent the opinion of the writer solely and do not necessarily reflect the views of Flow!

 


Are modern trail building trends making our trails too tame? Or does the current depth of equipment and trail choices stop riders from thinking for themselves?

As our sport gets bigger, trail networks get formalised (or legalised), dodgy North Shore gets pulled down so no one gets sued. To get larger numbers at races, organisers make the courses ‘achievable.’ This is sold marketing speak as gentle enough for newbies, and more challenging for skilled riders if they up the speed.

Challenging? Not really. Or at least there might have been a small ounce of serious challenge until someone moved a boulder, cemented the dirt around an obstacle (Hammerhead at Stromlo comes to mind), or axed themselves early on prompting organisers to bunt it off.

No wonder gravity enduro is gaining momentum – it rewards riders who have a well-developed skill base without relying as much on the balls that let you shred a downhill trail with a modicum of success.

So the question comes up – with increased accessibility, are we dumbing down our trails? In part, yes we are. We’re also building trails that have more qualities of same-ness than difference. It’s starting to feel a little generic. Formulaic.

Web_Feature_Trail_how_to-3

But established mountain bike loops and managed trail networks aren’t the only places to ride, they’re just the locations that are easiest to find out about if you don’t know where else to look.

In any case, some of the most-loved trails are built with multiple skill levels in mind. But it doesn’t mean you can’t turn a green circle into a black diamond with some playful choices on your part.

Riders are like sheep sometimes. They follow the dominant line, on the most used trail, with the dominant bike used for that type of riding.

At the other end of the spectrum, people bang on about how hard something is if they can’t get it first go, giving the wrong impression about it to their mates. That doesn’t make it technical, sonny. It just makes it technical for you.

To hear some rider talk about the ‘technical’ sections of Wingello is ridiculous. Or Sparrow. Or Forrest. Want to see what technical is? Go see the trail building practices that the norm overseas. The BC Bike Race in Canada is well known for its technical singletrack stages in a way we don’t see on our shores at all. And the model in Europe is more about climbing for half the morning to get to a summit, then hauling down a walking trail where you honestly don’t know if each new section is even possible on two wheels or not.

A good rider is an adaptable one. It’s only laziness that is forcing you to stick to trails that are too easy to excite.

The Top Five: I Can’t Run an Event Without…

Martin Wisata is one half of the Rocky Trail Entertainment team. Each year he runs more than 20 different events, from 24hr races, to downhills and gravity enduros.

He needs to be prepared for any contingency, so what are five must-haves items in his event kit?

When preparing an event a lot of time is spent packing: tents, banners, tables, chairs, prizes, generators, fuel, water, star pickets, computers, number plates, certificates, bikes,… and the list goes on until the trailer and the car are full to the brim. But besides the things you see at an even here are 5 key ingredients that make a successful Rocky Trail event:

1. Duct tape and cable ties

No matter if you go for a ride or build a house – those 2 items should always be in your pocket. How anyone can run an event without them is beyond me.

2. Smart phone

It really is the swiss army knife for nerds. The main apps I use at events is the weather radar, fire radar in summer, the camera and tweeting race updates. Apparently you can even call people with those things… amazing.

3. Bottle opener

Once you have had a purple hand because you opened 450 Czech finisher beers with a wrench you will never leave home without it.

4. Hammers and long nails

While we always prepared for our own tents we started to think of other tents from sponsors and spectators too. Long nails are the cheapest replacement for tent pegs and we always bring an entire box full of them. Once it gets windy and tents start to fly we are ready to peg away.

5. Extra bunting

Usually the track gets prepared 1-2 days prior to an event but once the race starts riders find sneaky lines, also known as creative line choice or cheating, and we head out there to gently remind them where the track goes but double bunting the cheat lines.

Web_Feature_top_5_rocky_trail

 

The Top Five: I Can't Run an Event Without…

Martin Wisata is one half of the Rocky Trail Entertainment team. Each year he runs more than 20 different events, from 24hr races, to downhills and gravity enduros.

He needs to be prepared for any contingency, so what are five must-haves items in his event kit?

When preparing an event a lot of time is spent packing: tents, banners, tables, chairs, prizes, generators, fuel, water, star pickets, computers, number plates, certificates, bikes,… and the list goes on until the trailer and the car are full to the brim. But besides the things you see at an even here are 5 key ingredients that make a successful Rocky Trail event:

1. Duct tape and cable ties

No matter if you go for a ride or build a house – those 2 items should always be in your pocket. How anyone can run an event without them is beyond me.

2. Smart phone

It really is the swiss army knife for nerds. The main apps I use at events is the weather radar, fire radar in summer, the camera and tweeting race updates. Apparently you can even call people with those things… amazing.

3. Bottle opener

Once you have had a purple hand because you opened 450 Czech finisher beers with a wrench you will never leave home without it.

4. Hammers and long nails

While we always prepared for our own tents we started to think of other tents from sponsors and spectators too. Long nails are the cheapest replacement for tent pegs and we always bring an entire box full of them. Once it gets windy and tents start to fly we are ready to peg away.

5. Extra bunting

Usually the track gets prepared 1-2 days prior to an event but once the race starts riders find sneaky lines, also known as creative line choice or cheating, and we head out there to gently remind them where the track goes but double bunting the cheat lines.

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Pro Rider Diary: Jared Graves – UCI World Championships

I’ve been keen for World Champs all year, as it was my only goal with DH racing for the season. All of the other DH races I did this year were just to get selected for the national team and get to Pietermaritzburg, while not risking hurting myself for the enduros in the process. There was certainly an added level of pressure for the race given that it was my only DH racing objective. But, since Enduro racing was the season’s focus, I also felt very relaxed going into and throughout the week.

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The Bike –
 As most people reading this probably know, I decided to ride a bit of a different bike to 99% of other riders for this race. I decided to ride my stock SB66 Carbon instead of my DH bike. The bike set-up was essentially no different than the bike I’ve been on at all of the Enduro World Series races this year. The only real changes were a Fox Float 36 180mm fork up front, Shimano Saint brakes and crank, and a Shimano Ultegra 11-23 road cassette. I also took the dropper post off for this race, too. There were so many jumps on the pedaling section that there wasn’t any sustained pedaling before you hit another jump. And, in my opinion, you should be standing up giving it all you have, not sitting on your bum! But, at the end of the day, there were two main reasons for deciding to go with the SB66c. The first being that it has been the bike I’ve been on all year and it was the set-up I was used to and comfortable on. I knew there would be sections of the track where I would lose time on the smaller bike, but also sections where I would gain back time. The second reason is that the SB66 is such a capable bike. I knew it would be able to handle everything the track had to throw at it. With both those points in mind, I thought it was an obvious choice for me.

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Tuesday -
 I arrived in Pietermaritzburg in the afternoon straight from the EWS in France last weekend and was feeling pretty tired. There wasn’t any practice for the Elites until Thursday, so I had a couple of days to do some spins, play with my SB66c (built specifically for this race) on the XC course and settle in.

Wednesday – Track Walk
. The track was more or less the same as it was last year with only a few minor changes at the bottom and a whole lot more jumps on the pedaling section in the middle (to reduce the pedaling). I wasn’t sure how the track changes would fit the smaller bike, as I needed the pedaling to make the most of the smaller bike’s strengths. But, I would also carry better speed through the jumps and it would probably even out. 
The biggest difference was how dry it was! It was just deep powder from top to bottom; like riding mud without the moisture. Masters World Champs were run the previous week and the track was a lot rougher than usual. I knew the top section (with a lot of corners, some rock gardens and technical steep sections) would be tough to ride as fast I could on my DH bike, but the SB’s capabilities continually proved itself to me this year when things got hairy. Overall, the course is a very fun one to ride and most riders had a lot of positive rings to say about the course and the updates.

It seems to be the people who have never seen the course who have the most negative things to say about it. In person, it was certainly far rougher and more of a “real DH track” than it looks from some helmet cam run that was put on the Internet. Throw in multiple 45-60ft jumps, and there was plenty to make it a worthy World Championship DH track.

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Thursday – First Practice. I 
got four runs in today. The first two runs were just to get a feel for the track, find a few lines and get them drilled into my head. Then we made a few small set-up changes to tire pressure and fork adjustments, and went up for two more runs to start picking up a little speed and get all the jumps done. The dry slippery track was definitely tough at first, but I started getting the feel for it all on my last two runs. I got used to the dirt and started feeling a lot better and was hitting all the jumps on my third run and was feeling pretty good about things after my fourth run. I achieved everything I wanted for the day and finished the day feeling happy!

Set-up changes – My bike needed some other changes that I just didn’t have time to do with the short practice time. My fork went off to Fox for them to work their magic, where they made some internal changes to give the fork better small bump sensitivity and then stiffen up in the last part of the travel. I also decided to go to full DH tires. They may be a bit slower rolling, but the lighter EXO sidewall tires were a bit too squirmy on the high-speed impacts and I couldn’t push hard enough in some key sections. One thing that blows my mind with a course like this is why everyone wants lightweight wheels. There’s no major accelerating on this track, which is the only situation where light wheels would be faster. This track is flowy and you carry consistent speed the whole way down, and rolling weight can be your friend. A heavier wheel that is up to speed will naturally want to stay in motion more than a lighter wheel, so it made perfect sense to go to a heavier more stable tire. I also kept with the ghetto tubeless set-up I’ve been using all year, and it worked without issue all week. It’s definitely harder to mount a stiff DH tire in this way, but super mechanic Polarbear Hughes had no major dramas getting it done for me. He didn’t even need tire levers; it must be his big polar bear paws!

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Friday –
 Second Practice. They extended practice to four hours today, which was very welcome. My plan was to get in five runs, get up to speed, and make sure I had done all sections flat out. There was only one very short practice session planned after today, so it was vital to be at least 95% up to race speed by the end of the day to know what it was going to feel like come race day.

Junior Race Day – 
This was race day for juniors, and we had our two Yeti shredders ready to go with Richie Rude and Jay Fesperman. After silver at World Champs last year, Richie was now the hot favorite for the race. He’s a big strong lad who isn’t afraid to huck some gaps and get loose, pedal at everything flat out, and basically just dominate the track! He was ready and the track suited him well. Jay was also picking up speed each run and looking fast, and keen for his first World Champs experience as a first year junior rider. And, as it turned out, Richie’s day went absolutely perfect and he smashed the field! Almost 6-seconds faster than 2nd place for a very convincing win and the title of 2013 Junior DH World Champion! Needless to say, the Yeti pit was a happy pit on Friday afternoon! Jay also showed some great form with a 12th place and one of the fastest times for the first year juniors. He’ll no doubt be hungry for a medal next year!

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Saturday – Seeding Run. 
Well, they still call it seeding, but it doesn’t really make sense because they still run the same start order for the finals. But it’s a good opportunity to test your warm up and get in a solid full run to see how you stack up compared to others. The biggest news of the day was an overnight rain that had slicked up the track a little. Being in the first 1/3 of riders to start their run was a bit of a disadvantage as the track was definitely a bit slick for the early starters. I wasn’t worried, as it was Sunday that counts. In the end, I was happy coming in 7th fastest and only 4-seconds off the fastest time. I cruised the top section and was only about 90% on the pedaling, and my heart rate didn’t get within 20 beats of maximum heart rate during the run. I knew I had a lot more to give tomorrow and my confidence was high! We made a few more small tweaks on the bike; some more low-speed compression and an extra PSI in both tires (as they were still a bit squirmy on a couple very high speed G-outs). 
I got in a good 45 minute trainer spin to make sure any lactate was out of the legs, had a quick massage and did some stretching, and relaxed all afternoon with my feet up while trying not to think about race day tomorrow.

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Sunday – Race Day. I slept like a rock all night and woke up feeling fresh; a perfect start to the day! We had a 1.5-hour practice session and my plan was to be up top at 9am to be one of the first guys down the hill and try to squeeze in three runs. The track was drying out again and I wanted to make sure I was 100% certain where I could push hard and where things were getting a bit dusty and slippery again. I accomplished my goal and squeezed in three runs. My last run was perfect and I was as ready as I was going to be. 
I’m not going to lie – the next four hours of sitting and waiting for your start time sucks! You just want to get this thing done! I was feeling a bit nervous, but well under control. I knew I was definitely a lot calmer than a few other guys who were cruising around with a look of complete confusion on their faces. Body language says a lot, and something I definitely used to my advantage with 4Cross racing. Look confident, act confident, and be confident! 
 3:08pm was my start time and after what felt like an eternity it was almost time to go. My warm up went well, my body was ready, and my bike was ready. 
My actual race run was a bit of a blur. The track had deteriorated quite a bit from the morning’s practice and was very dry and loose again, just how I like it! I knew that you had to be fresh to make the most of the jumps and pedaling at the bottom, so I made sure that I stayed smooth and clean up top to preserve energy. I took it easy on the pedaling and just pumped to maintain and gain speed on everything. When I got to the pedaling section my breathing rate was well under control and I still felt fresh and I got good backsides on the two main 60ft jumps. This was probably the most important part of the whole run; if you didn’t get good backsides and pump from the jumps, you lost a lot of speed and momentum into the pedaling. I got into a good rhythm by not going too hard early and sustained my power over the whole straight. At the end of the pedaling and jumps, I still had a lot left in the legs and lungs. You just get another gear come race run, and I felt like I may have not given enough. I also found I couldn’t pedal too hard. Pedaling any harder and I would’ve completely flat landed every jump on the straight. I was in a good position to finish strong.

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I gave it all I had over the last minute, pedaling wherever I could and trying to stay off the brakes in all the high speed turns at the bottom. In the last 10 seconds, I knew I was on a good run. I just kept going with all I had and crossed the line over 12-seconds on the fastest time to that point. My time goal had been 4 minutes, and I just missed it by coming in at 4.01. I had set myself up for a long afternoon in the hot seat…just as I had planned!

For more than an hour all riders went slower. A few came close, but I was still in the lead. With only six riders to go and it was Mick Hannah who finally beat my time. I was kind of bummed, but Mick is super strong on this track and was one of the hot favorites. So, it was no surprise that he knocked me off the top spot. From then, I just hoped my time would hold for a medal, as this was my big goal for the season.

With only three riders left, Greg Minnaar was due in next and his first split was blazing fast. He lost some time in the middle, but went a full second faster than Mick Hannah in the last 40 seconds of the track to get into the lead by a mere .3 of a second, leaving me in 3rd.

So, with two riders to go, I was sitting in 3rd….c’mon!!! I just want a medal!! My goal at the World Cup here last year was top-5, and I got pushed back into 6th by 5 THOUSANDTHS of a second. I really didn’t want that to happen again. 
As luck would have it, Steve Smith pushed too hard and went down. That’s part of the nature of Worlds, everyone pushes harder than they normally ever would at a World Cup and a lot of guys crash. I was gutted for Steve; he deserved a good result and was riding the best he ever has, but it wasn’t his day.

Then there was just Gee Atherton left, his first split was faster than mine. But, he looked like he was laboring in the last minute of the course. As he came to the line and was outside my time, I knew I had secured 3rd place and was so happy! I couldn’t believe it, the day had worked out just like I’d hoped and I found myself with my first ever medal for Elite DH World Champs! Yewwwwwwww!

So that’s that. I’m all packed up and on my way home. World Champs was like the icing on the cake of an already great season. We still have one last EWS race to go, but I’m already excited for next year! Thanks for all the support this season from everyone. I’d especially like to thank my sponsors, there’s been a lot of people over a lot of years who have done a ton to get me to where I am right now!

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Setup

Frame – Yeti SB66c – medium
Fork – Fox Float 36, 180mm @90psi
Shock – Fox Float X @ 180psi
Wheels – DT Swiss 240 hubs, Aerolite spokes, 500rims
Tires – Maxxis minion 2.5 Front, 3C Maxx Grip @27psi – Rear Maxxis High Roller 2, 2.4 Maxx Grip @31psi, Both Ghetto/split tube tubeless
Cranks – Saint 170mm
Brakes – Saint, 200mm rotor front, 160mm rotor rear
Cassette – Ultegra 11-23
Derailleur – Saint
Shifter – Saint
Chainring – Saint 40t
Pedals – Shimano prototype (stiffer engagement)

Chainguide – E-13 Lg1
Seat – WTB Devo Yeti Team Edition
Seatpost – Thomson Masterpiece
Bars and Stem – Renthal 740mm Fat Bar Lite, 50mm Duo stem

Grips – ODI Ruffian MX
Headset – Chris King

Racing the Trans Savoie – 20,000 Metres of Descending Across Six Days

The first ever Trans-Savoie Enduro race in 2013 sold out its 70 odd places within a few seconds of entries opening. Back in January when I received the golden email saying I had a place, excitement was a major understatement.

On the 16th of August I arrived in Val D’Isere for six days, 250km, 20,000m vertical descent and 28 timed stages of technical alpine enduro racing.

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Racing consisted of up to five timed descents each day, with a combination of riding, uplifts and buses to regain elevation after each stage. Most timed sections were upwards of 15 minutes and 1000m vertical drop each time, over some of the most technical, exposed and steepest natural terrain I have ever experienced. Racing them unsighted meant treading the fine line between speed and safety, and made for many dodgy moments! Ali Jamieson the English race director used his extensive knowledge of the Haute-Savoie region to link together some of the most incredible descents in the French Alps.

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The event organisation was great with a team of 30 volunteers pulling down the small tent village each day and us riders arriving to our tents and bags in place. A group of marshals rode out early each day to check and mark the course and set up for the timing of the stages. The excellent team of chefs provided great food all week.

The UK company Sportident provided the timing system which worked perfectly with no issues at all. Riders carried a timing chip attached to your pack, a Marshall would tag you on at the top of each stage then another would do the same as you hurtled to a stop at the bottom. At the end of each day the data for each timed stage was uploaded and soon after all riders had completed the day the overall results were displayed at the timing tent, a really great system.

Other highlights were the great bunch of racers from all over the world, lots of laughs and a great level of healthy competition and camaraderie between competitors. The scenery was absolutely amazing too, with peaks, glaciers and waterfalls everywhere.

A few points I would make for those perhaps looking to do this or a similar race:

Training:

Although this race had a lot of descending fitness still played a big role in the results, especially towards the end of the week as the fatigue built up. A few of the days were close to 80km of riding so they are big days on the bike. I calculated I had done roughly the same amount of timed racing on the first day as I had done in the whole Victorian Elevation series last summer.

Racing trails ‘blind’ is hard to train for but at least if you have that mindset and ride really conscious of preserving your bike and body, it helps. We had to carry everything with us for the day, so riding and racing with a 5kg pack is also something that takes a bit of getting used to.

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Bike Setup:

A six-inch travel enduro bike seems the bike of choice for this type of event.

I raced on a Yeti SB66C, which was perfect all week; really capable on the descents, pedals well and is still light for the long days on the bike.

I ran a 1×10 XTR setup with a Saint rear mech and Saint chain device, a 50mm stem with wide Renthal bars, and XTR trail brakes. A dropper post goes without saying. Almost everyone was running DH casing tyres, I didn’t and had no flats but I think luck played a big part in that! My only mechanical was a destroyed mech, which was pretty good for a week that took its toll on frames, wheels, tyres, brakes and bodies.

I think the 26in was a good option too, as the thousands of super tight, awkward steep switchbacks were hard enough to get around with the smaller wheels!

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After five hours of total racing time over six days I was really happy to end up in fourth place behind Rene Wildhaber (6x winner of the Mega Avalanche – Wildhaber cracked two ribs in a big off on day three and still gave us a lesson on how to ride a bike!), Armin Beeli (incredible young Swiss talent), and in third Neil Donohue (current leader of the UK enduro series).

It was such a great experience, with a fantastic group of people and I learnt a lot from the week. If anyone is thinking about entering a race such as the Trans-Savoie, go for it, you will not regret it!!

Personal thanks to Yeti Cycles Australia and Teva shoes, and for everyone’s support from back home!

 

Feature: Australian Riders Find Creative Ways to Excel at the Top

Last weekend’s UCI World Championships racing confirmed that Australian’s are excelling in every discipline of mountain biking right now. Limited resources have meant some creative solutions have allowed them to get there.

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Australian’s Mick Hannah (L) and Jared Graves (R) relax after receiving their 2nd and 3rd medals at the 2013 UCI World Championships.

Like a lot of Australian mountain biking fans, we watched the World Champs this weekend from our computers and our phones. Instagram, Facebook, Redbull.tv, news sites, press releases, Twitter…

When one media source stopped short of giving us the information we were after we switched to the next. Sensations of promise and suspense amplified the excitement of some nail-biting results.

These new forms of spectating have certainly changed the ways we engage with sport. They bring us detail, in real time, at a level more personal than ever before.

The disjointed nature of these new forms of engagement means we can easily miss some big picture observations. Like the fact that last weekend has just demonstrated that Australians are currently excelling in not a few but every discipline of mountain biking. And they are doing so in some unique and exciting ways.

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Paul van der Ploeg celebrates winning the 2013 Cross Country Eliminator World Championships.

The weekend’s medal haul in South Africa saw Australians on the podium in Downhill, Trials, and the Eliminator. Meanwhile Bec Henderson and Dan McConnell have turned heads at every race this season in the cross-country World Cups. The fact that they are sitting first and third in their respective series’ highlights the relationship of steady progression to ongoing support.

Looking beyond the last few days, other recent successes are also important to note. Jared Graves is bringing home the medals in Enduro. Peta Mullens and Jarrod Moroni claimed second in the Cape Epic, a nine-day UCI stage race. Irish national and Australian resident, Jenny Fay, pulled off a fourth place finish just over a week ago at her very first Marathon World Cup.

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Pete Mullens and Jarrod Moroni at the 2013 Cape Epic

Men, women, juniors, seniors, imports, the future for Australian athletes looks bright. But despite these results, the writing between the lines of last weekend’s ecstatic press releases is how underfunded most of these athletes are.

Mountain Biking Australia awarded nine athletes $2000 to help with their World Championship campaigns. This points to what a small amount of money the organisation has to put toward any aspect of our sport in first world terms. At the same time, it highlights what a luxury it is to be able to travel the world to participate at all.

The decision to distribute these funds based on selection criteria for competition, irrespective of other (often financial) factors that impact these athletes’ ability to perform, was a controversial one. The main argument against this has been that perhaps our junior riders could do with financial assistance more than those signed to factory teams.

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Arguably Jared Graves is one of the most talented mountain bike riders the world has seen.

This argument is an important one. It’s not a coincidence that every Australian rider excelling at a world level in mountain biking right now has been working toward goals such as these for a very long time.

It’s also odd that, given the basis for MTBA’s decision, current BMX World Champion, Caroline Buchanan, wasn’t on the list. These selection criteria bias single-discipline expertise. This is another interesting ‘grey area’ in relation to performance development, outputs and proficiency. Most of the Australian athletes excelling at a world level right now are doing so in multiple cycling events.

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Caroline Buchanan is another multi-sport talent.

Van der Ploeg has been racing road, cyclocross and cross-country this year. The bike Graves raced to a bronze medal in the downhill is the same bike that has just seen him win at the Enduro World Series. Mullens moves between road, cross-country and marathon.

These aren’t unusual stories. On one hand, racing in multiple disciplines helps these athletes in terms of sponsorship, expenses and prize money – a creative solution in the face of limited resources. On the other, there’s a lot to be said for cross-disciplinary fitness and expertise.

Come Monday morning, we were certainly excited by the great rides we witnessed over the weekend. What we’re seeing right now is a number of riders, who’ve worked hard to find inventive ways to race at the top. They’re getting results across the board.

The fact that most of these individuals are not just excelling in a single area? We can’t help but wonder what this might mean for research, funding and scientific models that continue to focus on narrower, discipline-specific notions of performance and expertise.

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Bec Henderson on her way to another world cup win.

 

Interview: A Face of Back Country NZ – Ditte van der Meulen

It’s hard to say which one is more famous – Ditte van der Meulen or her orange bike. Ditte’s pedalled that effervescent icon through some of New Zealand’s roughest backcountry and straight into the pages of photographer partner Dave Mitchell’s Mountain Biking South and Mountain Biking North guidebooks and calendars, and Ground Effect catalogues.

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So how did this quiet, low-key physio from the Netherlands come to be the face of backcountry mountain biking in New Zealand?

Finding the trailhead in Kiwiland

 

“I’m a physio and there was no work in the Netherlands when I finished my training, so I did a whole lot of travelling, working in different countries in Europe and Middle East. Then I thought, ‘Hmm… where else could I go?’ I’ve always been into the outdoors, and I met quite a few New Zealanders in Saudi Arabia, and they said ‘Oh, come and have a look at New Zealand.’ And so I did, and I stayed. 

I picked up my first mountain bike in New Zealand, actually, in 1992. Being Dutch, I’ve always biked – as in commuting to school, to university, work, you know, dah-de-dah, but never as a sport. But I managed to score a locum at Mt Maunganui, and got in with some people that were into mountain biking. I got to borrow a bike and I never looked back.

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I travelled around New Zealand for a bit. When I permanently immigrated here, in 1995, I decided to come to Christchurch because the work was here. I was doing a duathalon on some mountain bike tracks at Bottlelake Forest, and I was racing against a girl and we were really level. We ended up talking after that and she said ‘I’m in the Canterbury Mountain Bike Club. You should come for a club meeting.’ And so I did, and I did a whole lot of rides with the club, and that’s where I met Dave.”

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Going feral

 

“Basically, you had to prove yourself to be invited to come riding with Dave’s inner circle. You had to prove that you weren’t just, you know, a flat rider, so to speak, and that you didn’t mind carrying your bike and doing a bit of harder stuff. I definitely remember the first trip we did. I guess I qualified because I wasn’t moaning and I wasn’t too far behind. And that’s how I got into the group that Dave was biking with. That’s how it all started. 

I like backcountry, big trips. A bit of carrying I don’t mind, and climbing rather than flat riding. I’m not very good at the flat. I like singletrack as well, of course, but not obviously man-made singletrack. A variety, really. I think the most I’ve carried my bike has been a two and a half hour up-hill, on no track, on tussock, basically. 

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We try and go as light as possible because otherwise it’s just really awkward, especially if we’re doing a lot of climbing or singletrack. Dave and I can just get away with a 25 litre largish daypack each if we’re doing an overnighter. We take just one tiny little sleeping bag each and an inner, and a coat and a change of clothing for in the hut – one pair of long johns and one top. That’s about it – the rest is all food. We’re cold at night quite often, especially if the fire in the hut is not that good or there is no firewood. We sacrifice a bit of warmth for comfortable riding. 

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If anything, sometimes I take too much. But you just never know what the weather is doing in the backcountry, so I tend to take a little bit too much and then end up carrying it. I have only ever in my real, real early days been caught out in shorts in a southerly here – I should have taken longs, which I didn’t do. But that was before I got to know that the Canterbury weather can change. Now I tend to dress for the carpark and then take stuff off.”

Hardcore five-star accommodation 

 

“Dave and I bought a campervan, and it’s been fantastic. We still only really go away if the weather forecast is good, but with the campervan we can arrive late and we don’t have to put a tent up, we just pull up and roll our bed out. It has allowed us to go away more. With the campervan, we’re away three out of four weekends in the summer, I would say, and the odd winter weekend. Yes, I definitely recommend it!”

The oranje beest 

 

“I have a Giant Anthem. I had been riding a 29er for quite some time. I’ve always been a hardtail girl but Dave has just talked me into full suspension. On our last holiday I was on a hardtail and Dave was on a full suspension, and I could see that he was a lot less tired than I was at the end of a ride, and it looked more comfortable. So I got myself one and I must admit he was right. 

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It’s just a cross-country bike, with only about four inches or so of suspension. It’s been great. It climbs really good. Because I want a bike that climbs really well. It’s a lot more comfortable, and I’m not completely worn out after a long day. I’ve still got a 26er hardtail as well. If I go for a ride by myself after work, I might use that. But for bigger trips, it’s the Giant full suspension.

That was the other thing: these Giants come in real boring colours, and I said, ‘I don’t want to ride a grey bike like so many others.’ So Dave organised it to be painted. It’s sort of coppery orange now. Very nice. Being Dutch, orange is my national colour.”

On being recognised…

 

“Sometimes I see the Ground Effect catalogue and think ‘Oh, not my photo again’. But I always have a helmet on and it’s only people that know me that recognise me, otherwise it’s ‘Oh well, it’s just another mountain biker’. I have different helmets and packs, and a couple of bikes – one is orange, but one is silver-looking. So I look a wee bit different in different photos.

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Dave and I do get recognised at times. We’ll be out on a trip and people will say ‘Oh, are you guys the Ground Effect guys?’ – from the photos, I guess. And I go ‘Yes, he’s the photographer.’ “

Mountain Biking North and South with Ditte

 

“One funny thing that somebody asked me – she said, ‘Have you done all the rides in that book?’ So yes, I have done all the rides in both of Dave’s books. (For the record, that’s 75 backcountry trips, totalling some 3670 kays, with around 64,601 metres of elevation, assuming Ditte did every ride just once.)

I reckon people in New Zealand don’t utilise the backcountry. I guess they find it too hard to organise or do, or don’t know how. A few people have given some good feedback on the books, where they’ve read about these so-called missions and they’ve gone and done them. So Dave’s books have made it a bit easier for people to go and do it. But we hardly see anybody when we are out there – get out of the bike parks and ride backcountry.

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Most rides are on Department of Conservation (DOC) land, so there is hardly anywhere that you need permission. Most of it is all ‘Oh, just go and do it’. There are lots of Conservation areas that have just sort of gone over into DOC hands. So read up and go and do it. That’s what we do, you know. We just get a map and read up and think ‘Oh, that would be cool to do,’ and then maybe check with DOC and see if we can, and then we just go and do it.”

For more of New Zealand back country, check out Flow’s Going Wild feature, or track yourself down a copy of Dave Mitchell’s Mountain Biking South and Mountain Biking North

 

 

Opinion: The Five Trail Building Must-Haves

The legendary Kowalski Brothers are a trail building force of tsunami-esque power. They wash over the forest, picks in hand, and when the tide recedes only perfect singletrack is left behind. We thought we’d ask Des Kowalski (aka Alan Vogt – the man behind the Kowalski Classic and the Mont 24) what his top five items were for any epic trail building session.

 

Kowalski’s build trail the old fashioned way – hand-tooled and all delivered with that quiet, brutal finesse necessary to dig the dirt and deftly pluck big rocks from one spot to somewhere much better. It is physical work and hard on body, tools and clothes. I am known to go full stick when building trail and will often come home a little shattered, bruised and certainly bleeding (just like an epic day ride!), but over the years I have fine tuned a selection of must-have items that accompany me into the forest for a day on the tools. They make me happy and range from the simple to the downright essential. Like a seat belts, helmets and underpants, it now just feels weird to be without them. If you suffer from a trail building disorder, then these must-haves may help make your day in the woods be an even better one.

1. Sock covers.

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They may look bad but they have purpose.

A simple cuff of fabric (like the last 6 inches of a pair of pants) with elastic stitched around one end to hold them in place, these are the perfect device for stopping soil and little stones from getting inside your shoes as you clear the trail, dig holes etc. Standard uniform for landscapers, they are just the ticket to keep the grunge off your fancy racing socks too.

2. Good, grippy gloves.

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Get good ones.

Swinging tools forms a big part of my trail days and in the past I have lost the odd tool mid-flight due to crappy gloves. Those budget leather gardening gloves are the worst, especially if they’ve ever gotten wet. Once that happens, even simple fine motor tasks become awkward and frustrating. I wear out a lot of gloves and have tried pretty much every model at the hardware store and I have found that well made leather, synthetic leather or the ones with specially moulded silicon fingers are best for trail work. They allow you to get a firm grip on tools and boulders etc. and they have great dexterity making them ideal for random acts of English dry-wall (making nice rock berms). Right now my favourite gloves are Mad-Grip. They grip… well, like mad.

3. Steel cap boots.

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These are not steel toe and shortly after this photo was taken his toes were chopped off.

They might not be the most comfortable option for walking on uneven ground, but they are way better than MTB shoes, runners or Ugg boots on account of rocks. Kowalskis are known to haul disturbing amounts of rock around and many are the big heavy kind and they are not kind to feet. My toes might be stubby, but I kind of like the way they look so steel cap shoes are a must have. You can get away with sturdy hiking boots, but it helps to have reflexes like a cat if you do.

4. A tool box.

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The trusty old tool box.

Kowalskis don’t build trail with just one tool, so it helps that I have a huge van – it is the best tool box ever. Sure, it’s a bit heavy and has a rubbish handle, but it never leaves me wishing i’d brought this and that. EVERYTHING FITS! In there right now are thirty trail markers, a wheel barrow, a rock trolley, five fire rakes, two hoes, three saws, two pairs of clippers, two block splitters, two landscapers rakes, three picks, a crowbar, three shovels, post hold digger, a trail compacter, timber, power tools, a case of soft drink, 15L tub of water, a box of snacks, a partridge, bikes and all the gear I need for a ride (should the urge to test new trails overtake the need to push forward).

5. The ultimate Smoko kit.

Wagon Wheels: massively under-rated. For too long have these biscuits lived in the shadow of the Tim Tam.
Wagon Wheels: massively under-rated. For too long have these biscuits lived in the shadow of the Tim Tam.

Kowalski’s burn a lot of energy as they ply their craft (especially our lot), so having an abundance of snacks on hand goes without question. But as with their taste for sweet flowing single track the Kowalski’s won’t stuff any old thing in their mouth – they know what they like – so we have it for them. Must-have foods: Weston’s Wagon Wheels*, Killer Pythons, sweet crunchy apples, bakers muffins, muesli bars and Chup-a-Chups. Must-have drinks: Coke, water, Up and Go and a thermos of tea with honey (that’s mine man, get your own!). Cafe furniture: milk crates, a plank of wood and tree stumps. These must-haves make for the perfect break wherever you happen to be working the trail. Note: Chocolate coated Scotch Fingers are a suitable substitute for youngsters who have no clue as to the mystical qualities of the Wagon Wheel. Kids these days…

Go with the flow son, go with the flow.

 

If you want to learn a little more about the Kowalski brothers then check out our feature on the whole crew.

 

 

Pro Rider Diary: Jared Graves – Enduro World Series #6

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Val d’Isere – France

Mentally, Round 6 was one of the toughest weekends of my life. Since racing the Val d’Isere World Cup downhill here last year, I have been looking forward to coming back. The town of Val d’Isere is so cool and the surrounding mountains provide beautiful views; the kind that make you stop and feel lucky to be where you are.

Tuesday – Arrived in Geneva after a long flight from Colorado. And by long, I mean hugely stressful. I don’t recommend going to Europe from the US, with stopovers in Canada. I had a 1.5-hour layover in Toronto before my flight to Geneva. In that time, I had to collect my bags (some of which didn’t make the flight leaving Denver…including my bikes), clear customs, re-check my bags, change terminals, and go back through security. Dripping with sweat and running everywhere through terminals, I barely made my flight. I finally landed in Geneva and had to complete more paperwork in order to have my bikes delivered to me in Val d’Isere after they arrived. Our good friend and fellow Yeti Freak, Albert “The Albatross” Callis would be my team help for the weekend. He picked me up at the airport and we were on our way. We arrived late Tuesday, got settled in, and pretty much went straight to bed.

Wednesday – Albert had his bike here, which was a similar to mine. So, I was able to go for a bit of a ride today and spin the legs. I can’t remember the last time I tried to ride a bike with the brakes set the opposite from how I run them, it’s such a dramatic change. I found some easy single track along a river to spin along and I was so scared every time I got on the brakes…not a confident feeling at all! Not much else today and I was just trying to stay awake with the time change; getting over jetlag was the main priority for the first couple days. I’m also sure I’ve racked up about a $250 phone bill today trying to get through to the airport and delivery company as to the whereabouts of my still undelivered bikes. Everything was automated voice messages (in French nonetheless). Where is a real person to speak to?!?!

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Thursday – REALLY hoping my bike shows up today. I have some changes that still need to be made to get it race ready and I’m getting stressed! A couple small training sessions today to get the body ready for racing with some plyometrics and a few intervals, but I decided to stick to the road to avoid having to deal with Albert’s backwards brakes…haha! My bike was supposed to be delivered this afternoon, but it never came. I’m starting to border on RAGE! At about 9pm, I was starting to get ready for bed, when a delivery guy texted saying he was here with my bike…yewwwwwwww! So happy, I could now go to bed stress free and hopefully get my first good night’s sleep.

Friday – track walking day. As is normal with the French format, Friday is set aside to walk stages. It takes about three hours to walk down just one race stage, so you have to pick a trail to walk and hope it pays off. The obvious choice to walk (according to the map) was the top of Stage 1 and then cut across to the bottom half of Stage 3. That’s what we did and it seemed like a lot of people had the same idea. If only I would have been given an earlier heads up that Stage 2 was the one that you really needed to walk. My legs were already feeling blown out after almost four hours of walking, so there was no chance I was going up for another three hours on them. A small easy spin for an hour before dinner, make sure the bike is 100% dialed for day 1 of racing, then off to bed.

Courses: The format for this weekend was three different stages with one practice/sighting run on each course, and then racing on twice on each course, making a total of six race stages.

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Stage 1/2 started by using the exact same start as the World Championship DH skiing course, which was pretty cool. From the top of the Gondola it made for a brutally steep, bike over shoulder hike, to the very top for our first two timed stages. The course was fairly flowy and fast, and I thought it was very cool they just taped virgin trail through grassy fields and used some very cool natural features of the terrain. There were so many dips and holes and natural berms and it was super fun…the sort of trail I would absolutely love to get a full days riding on to get to learn properly and really get up to speed. From the top natural grassy stuff, it went in to some very rough and unused single track that had okay flow. The track eventually joined back into some DH type switchbacks near the end and finished on part of the XC world cup track’s descent from last year. I enjoyed the stage and felt confident on it.

Stage 3/4 had so much going on with very tight and awkward trail, without much flow through most sections. It also used some bike park trails in small sections to give you a bit of a mental break from looking for lines, which was nice. The hardest part came after massive storms rolled through and turned the stage super greasy and slippery. I just tried to remember three key points for this stage, all of which completely stalled me out in practice.

Stage 5/6 was very long at 17 minutes and very physical. Similar feel up top as Stage 1/2; with a lot of natural grassy flowing stuff. I really enjoyed that and hope they do more of that stuff in the future. That was a big thing I heard from people this weekend; racers enjoyed the flow of a lot of sections, but sometimes things got a little awkward and flow (and fun) was lost. The middle of this stage had a fairly prolonged climb, a good few minutes with another minute or two of flatter stuff as you crested the top…a huge leg and lung burner! The bottom 1/3 dropped into steep wooded switchbacks before a few more short punch climbs before the finish.

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Racing – Stage 1 – Found my flow straight away today, and didn’t have that first run tight riding like other races this year…PUMPED! Everything went well, and I was eating into the 20-second interval that I started behind Jerome Clementz. The only problem was the dust. It got to a point where all I could see was his dust. I just couldn’t push to get any closer in the last minutes of the stage as it steepened. I couldn’t see where I was going and the dust just lingered. I was happy to take some time out of him to start the day, but a little annoyed about the dust. Still a stage win to start the day…can’t complain!

Stage 2 – Such a rookie start, my brain was out of gear and I crashed into the very first turn. I just completely over cooked it, so dumb! I didn’t panic; it was an 11-minute stage and I got back into my rhythm. From there, I rode almost perfectly and was catching Jerome again, but the dust became the biggest issue again and I couldn’t push. Once I got to within 8 seconds of him, that’s where I stayed. I had to accept that was as close as I was safely able to get to him and keep any sort of visibility. The last thing I needed was to smash a rock and get a mechanical because I hit something I couldn’t see. Finished with another stage win and feeling happy.

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Stage 3 – Lunchtime storms rolled in right on time. At least dust wouldn’t be an issue. The storms however made for quite a long delay before we actually got to ride. Conditions were now super slick and mud tires would have been the call. But, travelling by myself (and travelling light), muds weren’t an option, which made for some wild times! My run started really well…for about 45 seconds. Anyone who raced this weekend got a feel for how bad the visibility was in the heavy fog. Combine fog with only one practice run to remember hundreds of sections of track (impossible) and I found myself coming into a turn through the fog with no visibility and I launched straight through the tape and down an embankment. I was soaking wet and covered in mud, including my gloves. By the time I got back to where I left the track, Fabian Barel had caught me (so I had lost 20 seconds). We ended up riding the whole run together and I tried to push to build small gaps on the pedaling sections, but Fabian was right behind me. And my mud covered gloves made it very difficult to hang on to the bars…it was like having cakes of soap for grips. I got all the way to the last turn when I decided to put the bike down one more time and I slid for what felt like an eternity! I got back up and my number plate was missing from my bars, but I found it and grabbed it quickly. I could feel that I’d hit my thumb pretty good and was disappointed to have just thrown away another 15 seconds on the VERY last corner. The 20-second lead I had over Jerome had turned into a 25 second deficit after this stage. I was feeling very frustrated. Once I finished, I realized that I had put an 8 inch long gash down my right quad and that it was bleeding fairly heavily through my shorts, and I could feel my thumb seizing up more by the minute. Time loss, nagging injures to deal with, and still a full day’s racing tomorrow. My mental state just took a massive blow, and I was very frustrated.

I also felt bad for my good buddy Justin Leov, who was sitting 2nd overall just behind me after the first two stages and would have been in the lead at the end of the day’s racing but he suffered a puncture and lost 7 minutes on this stage. Racing can be brutal sometimes!

Stage 4 – Due to the delays and storms yesterday, Stage 4 was delayed until Sunday morning. After a night full of rain and freezing conditions with fresh snow up the top of the Gondola, it was time to head to the top of the mountain for an 8am start. This was going to be a rough one; my thumb had swollen up fairly well and hanging onto the bars was difficult. As my run got going it wasn’t too bad, but I had to go easy through any rough sections. I just didn’t have the strength to hold on with my left hand, combined with freezing temperatures that made my thumb feel even weaker. I had to try and survive and limit the time loss as much as I could. It was a pretty bad stage for me, but not as bad as it could have been. I made it down and was still hanging onto 3rd place overall. Jerome won the stage with another solid run and set himself up in a strong position for the overall win.

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Stage 5 – This ended up being the final stage. We had more delays with heavy fog up top that made getting a helicopter in impossible (should anyone hurt themselves). The race was simply unable to go ahead if the medical situation wasn’t up to par, which is a good decision. This however meant that we would only be racing this stage once, instead of the planned two runs.

My thumb was feeling much better as the day warmed up a little. Some brief sunshine and some much needed ibuprofen helped, too! Overall, I was feeling really good about this stage after our practice run. My plan was to make sure I stayed 3rd overall, stay safe, and try and push to make up the 26 seconds I was behind Fabian Barel and take back 2nd overall for the weekend. My run went great; I rode almost perfectly…just like the final stage in Whistler two weeks ago. By the midway climb, I had caught and passed Fabian (who started 20 seconds ahead of me) and had my 40 seconds man, Jerome Clementz, in sight. So, I set out after him. I pushed right to the line and was right on his back wheel as we crossed the finish. What a perfect way to end what started as a very rough day! I got back into 2nd overall, and was only down 11 seconds from the overall weekend win. I was really happy, but a bit disappointed at some less than ideal circumstances and some rookie maneuvers on my part that cost me the top step of the podium. Fairly bummed as well that they decided not to run Stage 6. After taking 40 seconds off Jerome on Stage 5, I could have gotten the win if the race had gone its intended full distance. Not sure why we didn’t do Stage 6, as we had all afternoon to do it!

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So that was it, round 6 of the Enduro World Series done and just one round left to go in Finale Ligure in Italy in October. But for now, I’m at the airport in Geneva, my bags packed, and on my way to the Downhill World Champs in South Africa this weekend! Been excited for this race all year, can’t wait!

Frame – Yeti sb66c Medium
Fork – Fox float 34 2014
Rear Suspension – Fox Float X
Seatpost – Thomson Elite Dropper
Wheels – DT Swiss 240 hubs, 500 rims, and Aerolite spokes, alloy nipples
Tires – Maxxis Minion 2.5 EXO Front, 27psi, Maxxis MinionDHR2 30 psi rear, ghetto/ split tube tubeless
Brakes – Shimano XTR race lever, Saint calipers, 180mm Ice-Tech Rotors
Derailleur – Shimano XTR Shadow Plus
Cranks – Shimano XTR 170-millimeter with Stages Power Meter Chainring – Shimano Saint 38-tooth
Cassette – Shimano XTR 11-36 Pedals – Shimano XTR trail
Chainguide – E13 LG1
Bars and Stem – Renthal 740mm Fatbar lite, 20mm rise, and 50mm duo Stem
Headset – Chris King
Grips – ODI Ruffian MX

 

** This content was originally posted on the Yeti website and has been reproduced with the permission of Jared Graves.

The Soapbox: The Melting Pot Keeps Getting Murkier

Cyclocross is so hot right now, the latest darling of the industry, with races on seemingly every other weekend at the moment. It’s a cool sport, a bloody tough one, and it’s capturing a lot of interest here in Australia. We’re fans of CX, but this video recently released to promote Giant’s new range of CX bikes just left me a little irked. Why?

Cyclocross was a sport that sprung out of the muddy, cold, shitty autumn and winter of northern Europe, when the road racing season was at an ebb. The classic image of a pack of mud-covered mad Belgians, slogging it up a shredded grass slope with their bike slung over a shoulder is pretty damn cool.

What’s being shown here is not cyclocross. It’s mountain biking. But on a bike that’s ill-suited to the task.

Adam Craig is a phenomenal rider, an absolute demon. But watching him here just feels awkward. On a mountain bike, Adam can tear a trail to pieces, on cyclocross bike, he can bunny hop a log. Twice. From two different angles. In mega slow-motion.

If Adam did this on his mountain bike, do you think we’d look at it twice?

Mountain biking is already becoming increasingly easy. Racetracks are tamer than ever, people bash b-lines around every obstacle they see. And now all of a sudden we’re being encouraged to take to the mountain bike trails on a bike that makes even the most basic of skills something worthy of a super-slow-mo double take? Hmmm….

I know there are folk out there who will call me a hater, so I reiterate my belief that you can ride what you like, where you like, by all means. If you want to take a cyclocross bike onto the mountain bike trails, go right ahead. There are no rules about what you can and can’t ride on the dirt.

But in a sport that already has 700 sub-disciplines and prize categories form master single-speeders to sub-junior unicyclists (seriously, have you stuck around for the presentations at a marathon race recently?) do we need to drop cyclocross into the mountain bike melting pot as well?

Can’t mountain biking just be mountain biking?

 

 

Interview: Josh Carlson, Chief Frother at Giant – Part 2

In part one of our interview with Josh we learnt a bit about his history and how he became a mountain biker. In part two we find out how Josh transitioned from cross country racing into Enduro and how his choice to pack up his (and his fiancé’s life) and move to Canada wasn’t as simple as we all think.

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Almost running out of money, having some bad crashes and poor form almost derailed his dreams.

We all make tough choices in our lives and for Josh his have finally paid off. When we look at Josh, and most pro mountain bikers, we only see the rewards, we don’t see the hard work, the sacrifices, and the challenges. Watch this second and final part of our interview to discover more.

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