Video: The Briars Highland Fling has been flung

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The Briars Highland Fling, now in its eighth year, has a certain air of prestige about it. It attracts a massive field of over 2000 entrants, at 112km it’s longer than any other marathon in the calendar (there’s even a 100-mile option for those who require a bit more punishment) and the widely varied course is tough from start to finish. Needless to say, to win here is to notch up a truly notable victory. This year, the stage was set for a incredible battle. The Fling is the final round in the Real Insurance XCM series, and the big guns were all in attendance to sort out who was boss.

The Fling takes in all kinds of trails across its 112km – from open field, to pine forest, to the twisty singletrack of Wingello.

But before we get in the serious business of racing, it’s not-so-serious side of the Fling that also makes it such a great event. The vibe is fantastic, and the whole community of Bundanoon embraces the thousands of mountain bikers who descend on the normally sleepy township.  The town is decked out with silver painted bikes, local business owners don costumes for the Battle of the Businesses, and the main street is shut down, giving the whole town a festival feel.

The Battle of the Businesses is a hoot! It’s great to see how the community gets behind the Fling. You really get the feeling that mountain biking is doing great things for the town.

The inaugural Rolloff World Championships saw riders playing tactical warfare to extract the last microns of momentum on the tarmac outside town. Slick tyres, high pressures and aero helmets were all busted out, but in the end sheer mass proved the winner with Glen Leechburch taking the victory on board full knobby tyres at off road pressures.

Saturday’s Bundanoon Dash was a chance to stretch the legs pre-Fling. The short course looped out of town before finishing with a brutal smash up Constitution Hill.

Saturday afternoon also saw the traditionally frenetic Bundanoon Dash take place. This 10-minute blast around town finishes with a sprint up the cripplingly steep Constitution Hill. Andy Blair sent a message, stomping the climb to take the win. Once again, the vibe was unreal, with locals and visitors alike packing the side of the road and screaming like it was the upper slopes of Alp d’Huez at the Tour de France.

The sound of bagpipes divides opinion like religion at a dinner party. But love them or loathe them, the wail of pipes at a 5:30am leaves you in no doubt that you’re at the Fling!   Riders emerged from tents and campers to frosty air but blue skies – perfect racing conditions for the battle that was to play out.

All eyes were on the elites this year, and the depth of talent that had turned up to race was terrifying. In the men’s field there was Shaun Lewis, Dylan Cooper, Adrian Jackson, Andy Blair, Trenton Day and Matt Flemming, just to name a few. The women’s field was equally stacked; Jenny Fay, Rebecca Henderson, Peta Mullens, Jenni King, Jodie Willet… the front row of the start looked like a National Champs.

The 100 Miler category had some big names too, including none other than Jess Douglas, and alongside her, Naomi Hansen. The battle between these two would shape up to be one of the stories of the weekend.

Jenny Fay won every round of the XCM series this year. It has been a huge season for her and she’ll kick off the new year on a fresh team to be announced shortly. Her win in the Fling was gutsy.

Few people expected Jenny Fay to be seriously challenged in the women’s field. With five XCM wins this year already under her belt, the overall Real Insurance XCM series was as good as hers. Fay looked comfortable and confident the day before the race, saying “I know what I need to do. I don’t want to win by 10 seconds.”

The men’s overall series competition was a different kettle of fish. Shaun Lewis had a slight lead over Andy Blair, but with the Fling having more series points on offer than the other rounds, there was potential for Blair to snatch the series title if he could take the win. Lewis was keeping it cool, “Blairy’s definitely the guy I’ve got worry about,” he said, “I’ll be marking Blairy, and if it comes down to a sprint finish then that will suit me.”

Shaun Lewis (right), Real Insurance XCM series winner, picks it up, while big Troy Glennan charges on through. Glennan played a key role in the Fling, working for Lewis early on.

Ultimately, the race panned out a little differently. Jenny Fay did manage to hang on and take the win in the women’s but not in the comfortable manner to which she has become accustomed. Perhaps the toll of a big year of racing finally hit home? Fay was first across the line, but Peta Mullens was right on her heels. There were a few anxious and emotional moments for Fay while the un-timed transition sections were taken into account before she was finally announced as the deserved (and very relieved) winner. “I’m actually happy it ended like this,” said Fay, “it justifies that my win in the series wasn’t about a lack of depth in the field. I had nothing in the legs, so I just had to ride with my head, and I did that.”

The on-course confessional, where riders could confess their ‘doping sins’! Stuff like this makes the Fling a good laugh as well as a great race.

The men’s race was a tactical battle. Adrian Jackson, Mr Consistent, got away with the ever-aggressive Dylan Cooper and the on-form Brendan Johnston. Behind them, the battle between Blair and Lewis was playing out. Lewis: “A few things went my way tactically – the bunch split and it was Andy and I at the back, so he had to take the initiative.” Lewis, still on the mend from injury, admitted that Blair was “super strong” but soon after Blair was hit with the first of two flat tyres and his day was done. Despite sleeving his damaged tyre with gel wrappers and even a borrowed $10 note, Blair suffered a second flat and ultimately had to borrow a wheel. Lewis finished in fifth, with Blair in six with Jarrod Hughes bagging a commendable fourth, a huge result in such esteemed company. The mechanical dramas cost Blair in the series standings too, and he slipped from second to third overall.

Cooper, Jackson and Johnston grabbed the top three spots. Jackson gets the novelty cheque!

The top three spots of the Fling podium were occupied by Jackson, Cooper and Johnston. Jackson’s performance was no surprise to those who’ve seen his consistency all year. “I’ve been competing solidly all year and maintaining good fitness just through racing,” AJ said, “but today was hard – there are climbs the whole way, and no big descents you get a rest on.” Brendan Johnston was admittedly “wrecked” after grabbing third. “Dylan was just driving it in the singletrack, and that really hurt me,” he said. Dylan Cooper was also paying the price, cramping up hard as he crossed the line.

Ed McDonald, winner of the 100 Miler category, remarkably smiley for a bloke who has just ridden 165km!

In the 100 Miler category, Ed McDonald on his first race for Trek/Anytime Fitness, took the win. Naomi Hansen was able to hold off a rapidly closing Jess Douglas in the women’s, coming across the line just seconds ahead after 165km of racing. Douglas was eager to continue the battle, claiming “the motor was just getting warmed up!” but Hansen was, wisely, not having a bar of it.

And so it ended, the Fling was flung once again. A fantastic event in all respects, just remember to bring your ear plugs if you don’t like the sound of bag pipes at dawn.

The Bottom Bracket: A Standard It Ain’t

Standards, ain’t so. Welcome to the first in a regular series of stories on so called ‘component standards’ – where they came from, where they are going and why there are so damn many of them!

First up, the bottom bracket.

Bottom brackets (BB’s) are easily overlooked, yet are often to blame for that annoying creak and hard to find noises on your bike. BB’s have quickly gone from a simple concept and standard to one of the most confusing and least compatible bike parts on the modern market.

To set the record straight the BB has two simple jobs  – to provide a mechanism to fix the crank arms to the bike, and to provide a housing for bearings so the cranks can rotate.

Many of the new BB “innovations” have come across from the BMX and road cycling worlds. Originally these innovations were from the crank manufacturers moving on from the age old square taper configuration.  They were looking for stiffer, stronger and more durable methods of holding the cranks to the bike. Frame manufacturers are since to blame for the multiple offerings as they fight to maximise stiffness and minimise weight, whilst simplifying the manufacturing process. [private]

Square Taper

Still readily available and now common on cheaper bikes the square tapered bottom brackets offer great bearing durability.  However the thinly sized axle isn’t up to the rigors of increasingly demanding terrain and more aggressive mountain bike riding.

Square taper. Old school.

8 and 10 Splined

In 1996, Shimano released Octalink, a sturdier 8 splined interface addressing the strength and stiffness issues of the square taper. The likes of RaceFace, Chris King and Truvativ joined forces to create ISIS (International Splined Interface Standard), an open patent 10 splined interface that offered a competitor to Octalink. Bearing durability issues arose as bearing sizes reduced in order to accommodate the larger axle within the BB shell.

First it was the Octalink and then this, the ISIS came along.

External Bearings

Look back 5 years and it’s almost definite that your mountain bike would have featured an English threaded bottom bracket shell. This shell type is still considered the norm even though many high end bikes no longer use it. Threaded BB’s have gone through multiple incarnations of different axles and bearing placement, each with the promise to offer greater stiffness, durability and strength; but it wasn’t always the case.

Enter the outboard bearing bottom bracket. By placing the bearings outside the frame the bearing size vastly increased, offering improved durability.  It also enabled an increased axle diameter which improved crank strength and stiffness. Whereas previous systems required specific shell width and axle lengths, outboard bearings saw a far simplified market offering with most brands choosing a 24mm diameter axle and interchangeable BB.

Move the bearing outside the bottom bracket and you can get a larger and stronger axle. This english treaded bottom bracket it pretty much the standard. Except of course the other standards.

BB30 and Press Fit

Prior to the outboard system; Cannondale, a company known to do things differently, released the BB30. This system makes use of sealed bearings pressed into a larger non-threaded bottom bracket shell with circlips used to keep the bearings in place. This offered numerous benefits; the increased bottom bracket shell size creates increased surface area for adjoining tubes and so creates a stiffer and lighter frame. Other benefits included the ability to use an extremely oversized 30mm axle, creating a crank set with an amazing strength to weight ratio. Furthermore, the larger bearings offered the potential of greater durability.

The BB30. No more threads in the bottom bracket shell to mess up.

Outside of Cannondale, BB30 didn’t immediately take off though. However as frame manufacturers were pushing the boundaries of materials more than ever, the concept of pressed-in bearings was gaining in popularity. A newer take on the BB30 is the PF30 system, using the same 30mm axle as BB30.  The difference with PF30 is that it uses an even larger BB shell that holds an over sized pressed-in bottom bracket cup. This is easier to manufacture than the BB30 as the circlip slots are not needed.

PF30. A new take on BB30. Still the big 30mm axle but minus the circlip.

Furthering the theme of pressed-in style; the likes of Giant and Scott are sticking with a different standard; Shimano Press Fit. Here the bearing cups are pressed directly into a standard sized (un-threaded) bottom bracket shell.  It’s exactly the same concept as PF30 but instead it utilises a 24mm axle standard – exactly the same crank axle standard as that of the threaded outboard system. Additionally, Trek then have their own take on the 24mm axle system, using headset style bearings fit straight into the frame.

24mm on the left and 30mm on the right.

 

Shimano Press Fit. No more threads and still works with your old cranks.

Even More Standards and the Future

BB386 EVO, a very rare sight within the mountain bike world, is the newest idea being pushed by the likes of FSA. The concept is for more backwards compatibility between various bottom bracket offerings. It’s basically a wider version of PF30 and via the use of conversion cups just about any crank set can be used, with the exception of the narrower BB30.

With little differentiation and so many options, what does the future hold? It’s certain that press fit style bottom brackets will continue to gain momentum with undeniable benefits; lighter, stiffer and cheaper to produce. However, as long as the king pin Shimano lacks support for BB30, the bottom bracket world will remain in a stalemate without a clear standard. [/private]

 

The Bottom Bracket: A Standard It Ain't

Standards, ain’t so. Welcome to the first in a regular series of stories on so called ‘component standards’ – where they came from, where they are going and why there are so damn many of them!

First up, the bottom bracket.

Bottom brackets (BB’s) are easily overlooked, yet are often to blame for that annoying creak and hard to find noises on your bike. BB’s have quickly gone from a simple concept and standard to one of the most confusing and least compatible bike parts on the modern market.

To set the record straight the BB has two simple jobs  – to provide a mechanism to fix the crank arms to the bike, and to provide a housing for bearings so the cranks can rotate.

Many of the new BB “innovations” have come across from the BMX and road cycling worlds. Originally these innovations were from the crank manufacturers moving on from the age old square taper configuration.  They were looking for stiffer, stronger and more durable methods of holding the cranks to the bike. Frame manufacturers are since to blame for the multiple offerings as they fight to maximise stiffness and minimise weight, whilst simplifying the manufacturing process. [private]

Square Taper

Still readily available and now common on cheaper bikes the square tapered bottom brackets offer great bearing durability.  However the thinly sized axle isn’t up to the rigors of increasingly demanding terrain and more aggressive mountain bike riding.

Square taper. Old school.

8 and 10 Splined

In 1996, Shimano released Octalink, a sturdier 8 splined interface addressing the strength and stiffness issues of the square taper. The likes of RaceFace, Chris King and Truvativ joined forces to create ISIS (International Splined Interface Standard), an open patent 10 splined interface that offered a competitor to Octalink. Bearing durability issues arose as bearing sizes reduced in order to accommodate the larger axle within the BB shell.

First it was the Octalink and then this, the ISIS came along.

External Bearings

Look back 5 years and it’s almost definite that your mountain bike would have featured an English threaded bottom bracket shell. This shell type is still considered the norm even though many high end bikes no longer use it. Threaded BB’s have gone through multiple incarnations of different axles and bearing placement, each with the promise to offer greater stiffness, durability and strength; but it wasn’t always the case.

Enter the outboard bearing bottom bracket. By placing the bearings outside the frame the bearing size vastly increased, offering improved durability.  It also enabled an increased axle diameter which improved crank strength and stiffness. Whereas previous systems required specific shell width and axle lengths, outboard bearings saw a far simplified market offering with most brands choosing a 24mm diameter axle and interchangeable BB.

Move the bearing outside the bottom bracket and you can get a larger and stronger axle. This english treaded bottom bracket it pretty much the standard. Except of course the other standards.

BB30 and Press Fit

Prior to the outboard system; Cannondale, a company known to do things differently, released the BB30. This system makes use of sealed bearings pressed into a larger non-threaded bottom bracket shell with circlips used to keep the bearings in place. This offered numerous benefits; the increased bottom bracket shell size creates increased surface area for adjoining tubes and so creates a stiffer and lighter frame. Other benefits included the ability to use an extremely oversized 30mm axle, creating a crank set with an amazing strength to weight ratio. Furthermore, the larger bearings offered the potential of greater durability.

The BB30. No more threads in the bottom bracket shell to mess up.

Outside of Cannondale, BB30 didn’t immediately take off though. However as frame manufacturers were pushing the boundaries of materials more than ever, the concept of pressed-in bearings was gaining in popularity. A newer take on the BB30 is the PF30 system, using the same 30mm axle as BB30.  The difference with PF30 is that it uses an even larger BB shell that holds an over sized pressed-in bottom bracket cup. This is easier to manufacture than the BB30 as the circlip slots are not needed.

PF30. A new take on BB30. Still the big 30mm axle but minus the circlip.

Furthering the theme of pressed-in style; the likes of Giant and Scott are sticking with a different standard; Shimano Press Fit. Here the bearing cups are pressed directly into a standard sized (un-threaded) bottom bracket shell.  It’s exactly the same concept as PF30 but instead it utilises a 24mm axle standard – exactly the same crank axle standard as that of the threaded outboard system. Additionally, Trek then have their own take on the 24mm axle system, using headset style bearings fit straight into the frame.

24mm on the left and 30mm on the right.

 

Shimano Press Fit. No more threads and still works with your old cranks.

Even More Standards and the Future

BB386 EVO, a very rare sight within the mountain bike world, is the newest idea being pushed by the likes of FSA. The concept is for more backwards compatibility between various bottom bracket offerings. It’s basically a wider version of PF30 and via the use of conversion cups just about any crank set can be used, with the exception of the narrower BB30.

With little differentiation and so many options, what does the future hold? It’s certain that press fit style bottom brackets will continue to gain momentum with undeniable benefits; lighter, stiffer and cheaper to produce. However, as long as the king pin Shimano lacks support for BB30, the bottom bracket world will remain in a stalemate without a clear standard. [/private]

 

Mental Health Info for Flow-vember

Depression and anxiety are as real, scary and as potentially crippling to your life as any over-the-bars moment you’ll ever have. They’re also more common than tutus at a singlespeed race; in fact, approximately one out of five people will have to live with depression at some point in their lives and 14% of Australians are affected by anxiety each year.

Unlike wearing your knicks twice in a row, depression and anxiety are not something to feel ashamed or to feel guilty about. They’re not a sign of weakness, or a lack of personal strength, nor a ‘mood’ that someone can ‘snap out of’. These are serious conditions, and they need to be treated.

Perhaps the best news here is that mountain biking (well, any exercise really, but let’s not sweat the particulars) is good for you. In fact, recent research suggests that frequent, intense exercise can have the same short-term effect on the brain as some antidepressant medications. And it’s not just all those endorphins doing you good; that awesome sense of community found amongst mountain bikers and those rich interpersonal connections can genuinely support recovery from depression (in combination with treatment from a qualified mental health professional).

What can we all do then, to help prevent depression and anxiety? Firstly, look after yourself – there’s nothing brave about pretending you’re okay when you’re not, so if you notice a change in your thoughts of behaviour, act on it. All contact with mental health professionals is private and confidential, and if you let your family and your mates in on what’s going on for you, you might just find they can help you to get better.

Look after your mates and family – if you notice any changes such as mood fluctuations, withdrawal from usual activities (like your regular ride), excessive worry and negative thinking, changes in sleep, weight and appetite, poor concentration, fatigue, irritability or social isolation – make sure you tell your mate or family member that you’ve noticed something’s up, and that you’re there to help them in any way that you can.

Help break down the harmful prejudices around mental illness – for some bloody reason, we continue to hear false, outdated and harmful cultural messages about mental illnesses. Mental illness is not a myth, no more than a broken collar bone or scraped up chin – you wouldn’t leave your mate on the trailside busted and bleeding, and you’ve got just as much opportunity to help them in the case of mental illness.

Joining in on Movember as a Mo Bro or Mo Sista is a great way to show your support and help to breakdown stigmas about mental health problems.

Want to know more?

Accessing a psychologist in Australia:

The best place to start is to see a GP about a referral. GPs can offer medication advice if necessary, as well as refer you to either a psychologist or a psychiatrist. In Australia, Medicare will fund up to 10 sessions with a psychologist provided you have a GP referral, and many psychologists will bulk bill. If you are seeking a psychologist close to your home or workplace the following website might assist you: www.findapsychologist.org.au or call 1800 33 497.

Other Services:

The list below is just some of the people you can turn to for help and answers to your questions.  They are all just a web page or a phone call away.

 

beyondblue Australia
Phone: 1300 22 4636

Black Dog Institute
Phone: (02) 9382 4530

Lifeline (24 hours)
Phone: 13 11 14

Mensline (24 hours)
Phone: 1300 78 99 78

 

Australia

 

New Zealand 

Interview: Christoph Ritzler – Fox Racing Shox

Name: Christoph Ritzler.
Role: Managing Director for the European sales office for Fox.
Home: Bern, Switzerland.
Slices of lemon bun eaten during this interview: Just the one [good restraint].

 

Christoph, you’ve been with Fox for 11 years, roughly the same time Fox developed their first mountain bike forks.

Yes, one year after the first fork. But I was in the industry for long before that. I started racing mountain bikes, if you could call them races, back in 1984. I’ve worked with Tange, the tubing company who also made forks for a time, I was the first Specialized importer in Switzerland too, I also was in charge of Rockshox’s European business for eight years.

Tell us more about Fox’s move into making suspension forks in addition to shocks.

Bob Fox started Fox 38 years ago – he was a motocross racer, unhappy with the equipment, so he started making his own shocks and forks. Back then motocross forks had a stanchion tube diameter of maybe 36mm, but Bob Fox made this fork that had 44mm legs that was huge for the time. It really shook things up.

1989, he developed the first mountain bike rear shock for Cannondale, before their bikes even had front suspension. Then for many years Fox made only rear shocks. Interestingly the opportunity to make forks arose when Rockshox were moving away from San Jose in California. Some of the engineers didn’t want to move, so they contacted Bob Fox and began the mountain bike fork project. Some of those engineers are still there today!

The rear shocks were the driving force, but the forks were the start of something bigger, taking a $10-20 million company to a company that’s 10 times that size now. [private]

Is mountain biking the biggest side of the business?

It is, but the other sides are catching up. And interestingly, they’re catching up because we apply mountain bike technologies to the other areas – things like reducing weight with air springs, bottom-out control from our mountain bike shocks has moved into the motocross realm, and the linear air springs from our TALAS forks are now in snowmobiles and quads.

We’re also doing OEM supply for automotive businesses, like the new Ford Raptor which has suspension and off-road capabilities that you wouldn’t have been able to buy off the shelf before. There’s a general drive for lighter weight suspension overall, especially as we’re seeing more electric vehicles.

Can you give us an overview of how and where a fork or shock comes together?

Now we must define what we mean by ‘made’. There are certainly technologies that are simply not available in parts of the world any more, so different elements are completed or sourced in places all over the world.

For example, the tubing that we use, that used to be US made, that capability is gone in the US. Easton tubes are now made in Taiwan, so that’s were the tubes are made. Now if it’s a Kashima tube, it goes from Taiwan to Japan for coating, before coming to the US for assembly. You can see already why a lot of the costs are logistics costs. In some ways it’s crazy, but in other ways it allows us to focus in the US on the key processes that have the biggest bearing on the outcome of the product.

Foundries, castings, forgings – it makes no sense for us to do that in the US – obviously we need to have the right materials, but in the US we concentrate on the elements that are really tolerance critical.

I would say that the quality of suspension is the sum of its tolerances – we make relatively complex products that depend entirely upon how well all of the individual parts work together. It’s controlling those tolerances that dictates how sticky or not a fork is, the fluditity of the damping curve, how smoothly it transitions from compression to rebound. All of these details that dictate if a fork will feel good on the trail, that’s what we control in the US.

We have 45 CNC machines at Scotts Valley (California, USA) that operate 24hrs a day, six and a half days a week, and these machines do all the finishing of the incoming parts prior to the assembly. When you’ve got a fork bush that needs to fit perfectly to within 3/100ths of a millimetre, and that will make the difference between smooth and sticky performance, those are the processes we need to control ourselves.

Tell us a bit about the feedback process from consumers, distributors and racers.

Very little feedback comes directly from consumers, purely because their first point of call should be their distributors in their country. It’s very important what Greg Minnaar wants from his product, but his needs are very specific versus that of the products that we ship around the world.

So most of our feedback comes from distributors, through their service and warranty work. If there is an issue they haven’t seen before, we ask them to ship us the product and goes to the Quality Review Team and they define it is a manufacture issue, a design issue, materials, or is it connected to some environmental conditions.

Environment is important – sometimes you have a part or material that works everywhere, but then you go to Norway and the seal fails! It can be something in the soil, the particular conditions of the dirt, sand, even the humidity or temperature. For example, our automotive distributor here in Australia has a particular problem with quad bike shock seals, but only in Tasmania, so all the shocks in Tasmania get different seals that are little bit more sticky but which hold up to the soils there. Or in Holland, the people there tend to ride a lot of trails that are ancient dunes or beaches, and the conditions are so aggressive it can actually wear holes through the lowers, from the inside out. Sometimes, no matter how good your testing, the real world catches up in some places.

You can get situations where it comes back to a supplier too – like a few years ago we had problems with some air shocks getting ‘stuck down’. It turned out the supplier we had been using for years changed their own materials supplier, and when the temperature got below five degrees, the seal had problems.

Fox and Shimano have been working together for a few years now. How did that come about?

Yes, they have worked with us on 15QR axles, remote levers and more. The reality is that we are not a cockpit company, so even if we do a good job, we will not do it as well as a company that has expertise in that area. Plus, quality wise, Shimano is the best supplier you can have for the quality of the products, no doubt about that.

When it came to 15QR, it was a new standard, and the industry is not always happy about new standards. So partnering with Shimano, who could support the new standard with the necessary hubs and explain the new standard, it was important.

With Shimano too, the development is very thorough, step-by-step, so it made sense if were to bring in a new standard to do it with a partner like them. It takes more time, but it was worth it 100%.

A couple of years ago we saw Fox touting a fork with cast titanium uppers, but it never appeared. What happened?

That was very frustrating. Some background. Our forks have always been heavier than the other guys – with good reason, but still the lightweight has sex appeal. Also, we believe in metals and in that context, titanium is very sexy.

The prototyping was very interesting because of the technology that was involved. There was a casting process that was basically rotational, so it put all the materials on the outside to create a ‘skin’ – it was completely hollow. It was fantastic technology in principle, so advanced that there were only a few companies in the world that could consider it. But there were even less companies who could give us the quality and consistency we needed, so after a while we just had to say, ‘that’s it, enough’.

Still out of it we learnt a lot about maximising our abilities in lightweight design, so in fact our 2013 forks are lighter than the titanium fork was going to be anyhow. And affordable too! We never really talked about the price, but that fork would have been so expensive.

What about carbon?

We have definitely been looking at it. The weight savings really are minimal, but what is really interesting with carbon is rigidity, structural stiffness. But it’s not for all applications or all our needs. The things that are important, like parallelity, or where tubes must be round, not quite round, but perfectly round, this is where carbon is not necessarily the best fit for our needs.

Many things are possible – coatings on gliding surfaces theoretically. If you dream up the ultimate carbon fork it would definitely be a fantastic product, but it’s not producible in a steady, consistent form yet. We have also tested carbon in lowers already; they were stiffer than magnesium, but none was lighter.

I will not exclude composites from us in the future, but it’s not close.

Talk to us about electronics in suspension.

Well, I think it’s logic of any consumer good – it’s coming. The big questions will be, ‘What do you actually need? How much technology? How much money?’ Then this must be offset against whether or not it’s actually beneficial to your riding experience.

What we’re offering today with our iCD (Intelligent Ride Dynamics) electronic lockout is the equivalent of Shimano’s Di2 shifting. It does the same thing as what you would do mechanically, but it does it more quickly and more reliably, more intuitively. For whom is that important? For racers – the people who have the real need to be focused on everything but the lockout. For trail riders, it’s not so important.

It’s a convenience, a reliability enhancement. It can also bing some risks, for example weight and costs.

The next step is to add some intelligence to it, and this is what the Ei system of Lapierre has done. It’s a very nice system. It does with electronics what we have been developing with hydraulic damping over the years, i.e. making the suspension something you do not have to think about so much.

So to improve upon what we have achieved with damping, it becomes a question of how complex do you want the system to become. How many sensors do you want, how much weight do you want to add? Do you need heart rate? Global position system with the maps pre-programed? It’s all possible, but the question is the added cost against the added value to your ride.

I would say the Lapierre approach is impressive for a first approach. The average rider benefits from it without having to understand it. It’s like my iPhone – I just want it to work well, I don’t need to understand how it does it. And on the trail, I just want to have a good riding experience, I don’t need to know how it happens. That’s what most people want.

The other question is how to use electronics without taking away too much of the feedback that the rider uses, maybe unconsciously, to handle the bike.

Obviously electronics gives you 100 times more possibility to play with different things, but if people care or not, we don’t know yet. It’s a huge investment for everybody, no doubt, but at the same time if you don’t do it, you’ll be dead in a few years. It’s going to multiply the costs for the whole industry too, all the way down to the bike shops that will need to learn all about it and servicing it.

The other aspect too, is that no matter how good the electronics, the suspension that works the best is the one with the precise tolerances, with the nicely made valves, with the attention to detail.

This is the first year we’ve seen Fox enter the adjustable seatpost market. Can you tell us about the challenges there?

I think, like suspension, it’s one of those products that makes a huge difference to the riding experience. Especially on longer-travel bikes that have a higher bottom bracket. For me, personally, being a so so rider, an adjustable seatpost lets me lower my position on the bike in technical terrain but without having to have a low bottom bracket which would make it hard to pedal.

For us the decision to get into the seatpost market was because no one was making a post that was reliable enough – we were reading stories of people taking a second seatpost along with them on long rides in case their adjustable post failed. It wasn’t good enough. So our approach is take make something with Fox quality and Fox reliability.

When you look at a seatpost, it’s actually a very unusual design from a structural standpoint. It narrows as you get towards the point that must bear the load, there’s a lot to fit into a very narrow tube, and it’s hard to have bushings that glide nicely without any play too. When we embarked on the project, we were impressed by how complicated it proved to be.

It wasn’t long ago that we saw a Fox prototype inverted downhill fork pop up (on Aaron Gwin and Gee Atherton’s bikes). What happened to that project?

The upside down fork was aimed at a few things. First, it was about trying to make a lighter fork, and also a different feel in terms of the stiffness. It was fantastic through the rocks, but no good in a high traction corner, it was not stiff enough. The only way to get around it would have been a bigger axle, and then you would need to change hubs and all kinds of things. We even tried full steel chromoly axles, but it was not stiff enough.

We definitely gained in some regards, but in berms and under hard cornering loads, it was not precise enough. And it’s not like flex is always a bad thing, but this was to a level where it overrode the benefits. Still there were certain things we learnt that have made it into the new race fork.

Are there any particular athletes who have really added to the products through their feedback?

There are some racers you ask for feedback and they shrug their shoulders! There are others who are super analytical, who come back five or six times at every race until they feel they can master the track. Some guys can really formulate what they feel, and it’s not always the fastest racers who make the best testers. They might know what they need, but they cannot communicate it so well. So it’s our job to find the right language, to take that feeling from the rider’s hands to the engineers.

What a racer communicates may not be best for the public too. A few years ago when we released the Gee Atherton fork, which had Gee’s own damper settings, people were returning it, saying it was too harsh for them. They just weren’t fast enough to ride it.

It’s the same when you look at someone like Aaron Gwin. If you ride his bike, it is hard work. I could not ride his bike down a downhill track – I would be shaken! Where other guys are making their setups super plush, his bike is so hard. He could ride a fork with 120mm travel at some races, that’s all he uses sometimes. He needs suspension to save his arse when it really goes wrong. Everything else, he’s doing somehow. When I ride downhill, I need suspension so the tyres stay on the ground. He does it completely differently, he has his own physics.

Look at cross country racers too. When you see someone like Julien Absalon descending, he looks like he his rigid, but somehow he goes through rocks and he doesn’t bounce off anything! It’s like he dissipates energy somehow differently.

Finally, what is Fox’s finest achievement?

I think Fox’s finest contribution is that we’ve made suspension systems that are quite long-travel, efficient and lightweight. Honestly now, a six-inch bike weighs as much as my titanium race hardtail did in the 80s. And I think Fox has played a big role in that.

It’s funny how development happens incrementally. I remember back in 1988 I was in Moab and I was fit then. I was riding a bike with 2.2” tyres, huge for back then, but I could barely ride every day because I was so sore. Then I went back a few years ago, I rented a six-inch Turner bike, and everything felt too easy! I was not physically challenged. And I was looking at these trails I had to walk down back in 1988, and everybody, cyclists all abilities, were riding them. And I think Fox has been a real driving force in that.

 

A few questions from our Facebook page:

 

Will there be RC2 dampers on Fox 34 forks next year?

No – we see RC2 dampers as being better for gravity, for riders looking for the ultimate tune. more tuning is common. CTD is for all-round riding, which is where 34 forks will be used.

Will I get full travel from my Fox fork in the future?

For 2013 we’ve changed our air springs a lot. You will get full travel on all the new forks.

What are Fox doing to reduce their maintenance intervals? I just want to set and forget for 12 months.

How much do you ride, and where do you ride? There are certain bikes that are harder on the rear shock for instance too, where the rear shock is used as a structural element, or where it is more exposed to dirt and mud. For sure, on some bikes and some people, you can ride much longer than the recommended service intervals, but others not.

Mountain biking is a sport where you take some metal, some oils, some dirt and then you shake it. How long can you shake it before you need to service it? That’s the question.

On the newer forks, or forks with the new SKF seals, you can ride for longer and not have as much crap get in to your fork. In the little world of fork seals, it’s a real technology jump.

The new five-piece mounting hardware also reduces service time, it gives up to ten times the durability when compared to a DU bush arrangement. It also gives the same load reduction as Kashima coat. [/private]

 

Blinded By The Lumens

When it comes to the lumen output for LED lights, mountain bikers are like rabbits caught in the headlights – hypnotised by manufacturers’ claims about brighter light for less money.

Halogen globes, lead acid batteries and watts are terms that are all but extinct in today’s bike light market. Out on the singletrack we have entered the world of LED lights and lithium ion batteries, and when we want to compare light output now, we talk about lumens. [private]

Getting all luminary

The lumen has become the buzzword in the headlight market.

Most of us drool when we read that the lumen output on our most coveted model of headlight will double from one season to the next. But how many riders actually know what a lumen is? How it the measurement taken? Is it accurate? And is it really the only thing to consider when shopping for LED lights?

The lumen is a measurement of the amount of light contained in a certain area, as compared to a watt, which is a measurement of how much power is required to run a light. In theory, measuring the amount of light contained in a certain area should be more pertinent to lighting in mountain biking, where the key application is lighting up that singletrack at night.

Unfortunately this may not be true.

Many light companies claim their lights have a certain lumen output, but where do their stats come from?

Measuring lumen output accurately is a complex exercise and requires the use of an expensive piece of equipment called an integrating sphere. But don’t assume that all manufacturers get their light output stats this way. Some manufacturers use light meters, and some quote the lumen output from the LED manufacturer. These methods are not as accurate.

It’s not all about the Lumens

Falling in with the wrong crowd

Head units comprise more than just LEDs. They also contain lenses and reflectors, and these, together with the LEDs, will determine how good your LEDs are. You could have a headlight with the brightest LED ever, but if its lenses and reflectors are low quality and poorly designed, that headlight’s beam spread won’t cut it on a night ride.

Beam spread is critically important. There is no point having the most powerful LED if all it does is light up an area the size of 50-cent piece. LED lights need a strong bright spot and an even, wider beam to give you a nice balance of light out on the trail.

Heat is also a major enemy of the LED. (Think Superman and Kryptonite.) Heat can affect a light’s performance and running-time dramatically. So keep this in mind when comparing cheaper lights that claim to have the same lumen output as higher-quality units.

Good quality lights will include a heat sink in their design, to disperse the heat away from the light’s head unit (usually a nicely CNC-machined fins). By maintaining a cool operating temperature, the heat sink allows the light to run as close as possible to its claimed lumen output.

Cheaper lights don’t stand a chance of reaching, much less maintaining, their claimed lumen output once they are out of the box. El cheapo, poorly designed head units warm up all too quickly when in use on the trail, and they will overheat as soon as you stop for a mid-ride chat.

There is more to choosing your next light that the big numbers companies throw at you. Look a little deeper and see what else they have to help you see the path ahead of you better (and for longer).

A good hard look

Most riders think brighter is better, but where will it stop? There are manufacturers out there spruiking lights with over 3000 lumens – but do we really need that much light?

No matter how many lumens a light unit can produce, riding at night is always going to be riding at night. Light manufacturers will never be able to turn night into day.

In some situations lights cause bad glare, by bouncing off heavily populated forest areas. Your lights can also cause glare on cool damp winter nights, when the beam bounces off fog and mist as you wind your way around your favourite singletrack.

Let there be light

When searching for your next LED light set, consider more than just the price and the claimed lumen output.

Use the lumen output as a rough guide – remember most manufacturers can’t accurately measure lumen output, and even if they could, lumen output is one of many factors to take into account when looking at LED lights.

Beam spread and the functionality and reliability of the head unit are all important. Also consider the quality of the brackets that mount the head unit to your handlebars or helmet, the running time of the battery and the size of the light set as a whole.

Take your time. Work out what you need from a LED light set, and don’t be lured in by the lumen!

Some lights are there just for fun but on the trail you need more than a cheap toy to keep you safe.

[/private]

The Bucket List – An Ordinary Guy’s Journey Towards The 2013 BC Bike Race

**Join Mike Kennedy each month right here on Flow on his journey to the BC Bike Race

 

We all love to dream of living the life; railing endless berms of hero dirt, smooth flowing lines through lush forests, jumps, transitions, roost coming off the back wheel, bike and body in harmony. But as wise man once said “In dreams begin responsibilities” and it’s time for me to wake up and start living those dreams.

Now I’m no superhero, just your average weekend warrior. I love getting out with my mates for a blast around the local. I’m happy going on solo missions too – just me and that relentless training partner Strava! Night rides, 24 hour races with the four man wolf pack, downhill races, beers and BBQ at the local pumptrack challenge. I’ve had some great times. But somehow I never managed to make it to Mecca, the holy grail, the heart of darkness. Canada.

I’ve watched all the movies and always said, “that’s on the list…one day for sure”. Then earlier this year I pressed the button. The opportunity came to go Queenstown and ride with a couple of mates for a week. It was awesome. Not just regular awesome, super freaking awesome. Soon after came a quick trip to the redwoods of Rotorua. It may stink but it is so much fun nobody cares! The sweet trails lit a new fire in me, and I wanted more.

Mike Kennedy getting some training in on this way to becoming less than an ordinary guy.

Inspired by my mate Mark who just sold up and moved to Whistler, I came to the realisation that it’s now or never for Canada. The clock keeps ticking – it was time to buy a ticket and go.

I’ve done a handful of races over the years; the Mont24, the Scott24, the Polaris, some downhill, some cross country and lately some endures, all of it awesome fun. Then I heard about the BC Bike Race. It’s a seven-day stage race through the heart of British Columbia, a true test of mind, body and equipment. When I saw the footage and the endless ribbon of singletrack I knew I had to do it, this was what I had been looking for, seven days in an all you can eat singletrack buffet!

It wasn’t too hard to convince Mark that we should do it so into the diary it went and as soon as registration opened for 2013 we locked it in. Holy crap…it just got real.

So here I am, less than 300 days till I’m standing next to my buddy on the starting line in beautiful BC, staring down the barrel of 50-60km a day for seven days, gulp.

Now I’m pretty competitive kind of bloke and I want to enjoy the race and do well so 50-60 clicks a day means I need to start training now. I have a plan, which is to build some base fitness by doing about 100km a week and I want to do almost all of it on dirt. This training will evolve throughout the year and as I move into the final phase I plan to follow the 12 week training program of Canadian legend, Andreas Hestler. Currently I’m only averaging 57km per week so it’s time to pull my finger out get pedaling.

I hope that you guys and girls out there will follow me and my exploits throughout the year. I’ll need your support, feedback and encouragement as I head towards my goal.
You can follow my progress** on Flow every month as I show the body who’s boss and live the dream!

Mike Kennedy – wrong side of 40, right side of his Specialized Enduro.

The Bucket List – An Ordinary Guy's Journey Towards The 2013 BC Bike Race

**Join Mike Kennedy each month right here on Flow on his journey to the BC Bike Race

 

We all love to dream of living the life; railing endless berms of hero dirt, smooth flowing lines through lush forests, jumps, transitions, roost coming off the back wheel, bike and body in harmony. But as wise man once said “In dreams begin responsibilities” and it’s time for me to wake up and start living those dreams.

Now I’m no superhero, just your average weekend warrior. I love getting out with my mates for a blast around the local. I’m happy going on solo missions too – just me and that relentless training partner Strava! Night rides, 24 hour races with the four man wolf pack, downhill races, beers and BBQ at the local pumptrack challenge. I’ve had some great times. But somehow I never managed to make it to Mecca, the holy grail, the heart of darkness. Canada.

I’ve watched all the movies and always said, “that’s on the list…one day for sure”. Then earlier this year I pressed the button. The opportunity came to go Queenstown and ride with a couple of mates for a week. It was awesome. Not just regular awesome, super freaking awesome. Soon after came a quick trip to the redwoods of Rotorua. It may stink but it is so much fun nobody cares! The sweet trails lit a new fire in me, and I wanted more.

Mike Kennedy getting some training in on this way to becoming less than an ordinary guy.

Inspired by my mate Mark who just sold up and moved to Whistler, I came to the realisation that it’s now or never for Canada. The clock keeps ticking – it was time to buy a ticket and go.

I’ve done a handful of races over the years; the Mont24, the Scott24, the Polaris, some downhill, some cross country and lately some endures, all of it awesome fun. Then I heard about the BC Bike Race. It’s a seven-day stage race through the heart of British Columbia, a true test of mind, body and equipment. When I saw the footage and the endless ribbon of singletrack I knew I had to do it, this was what I had been looking for, seven days in an all you can eat singletrack buffet!

It wasn’t too hard to convince Mark that we should do it so into the diary it went and as soon as registration opened for 2013 we locked it in. Holy crap…it just got real.

So here I am, less than 300 days till I’m standing next to my buddy on the starting line in beautiful BC, staring down the barrel of 50-60km a day for seven days, gulp.

Now I’m pretty competitive kind of bloke and I want to enjoy the race and do well so 50-60 clicks a day means I need to start training now. I have a plan, which is to build some base fitness by doing about 100km a week and I want to do almost all of it on dirt. This training will evolve throughout the year and as I move into the final phase I plan to follow the 12 week training program of Canadian legend, Andreas Hestler. Currently I’m only averaging 57km per week so it’s time to pull my finger out get pedaling.

I hope that you guys and girls out there will follow me and my exploits throughout the year. I’ll need your support, feedback and encouragement as I head towards my goal.
You can follow my progress** on Flow every month as I show the body who’s boss and live the dream!

Mike Kennedy – wrong side of 40, right side of his Specialized Enduro.

Exercising/Exorcising Your Demons

**This article first appeared in BIKE magazine in July 2012 and the writer and BIKE MAGAZINE have generously let Flow re-print it in support of Movember.**

 

Once upon a very long time ago, I would regularly quit work on Friday, drive a few hundred miles late at night, sleep in the dirt, wake up the next morning and pay a stranger somewhere around thirty dollars, pin a numbered piece of paper onto my jersey, line up with a few hundred of my closest enemies, and spend the next one to three hours in a state of agony. Afterward, I would have a rattle in my lungs, my legs would be jelly, my back knotted, and there would be some varying coexistence of sunburn and gravel rash vying for attention on the exposed parts of my flesh. The immediate pain would be quenched soon after the riding was done with beer and camaraderie, more sleeping in the dirt, and sometimes more bike riding or racing. It was pure catharsis. I would contentedly drive the long drive home, sleep the untroubled and dreamless sleep of the dead, and return to the working week refreshed and fully alive.

Somewhere back then, during an interrogation by concerned family members, I came up with the excuse that I was exercising my demons. I thought it was a pretty clever play on words at the time. I’d wager I was not the first to make that connection between exercising and exorcising.

It is with a mixture of rueful irony and whimsy for lost youth that I can look back at who I was then and realize that the kid didn’t have a clue about what his demons really were. But, to give my younger self some credit, I sure did put a lot of effort into running away from them. The one to three hour races were buttressed with a couple hundred miles a week of riding, which devolved into a couple hundred miles a week of self-flagellation aboard a one speed. The racing itself didn’t really get faster, but the distances grew – 50 milers, 100 milers, 24 hours. Several years later, about when the joyful shine and catharsis had somehow left my racing, and racing was leaving me feeling mostly beaten, my demons began to finally take on forms that I could identify. That was about the same time I stopped racing.

Exorcising one’s demons would be defined as the act of driving them away, of cleansing the body and spirit, getting rid of the damn things good and proper. That never happened. So, in a way, that initially glib pun had been more accurate. I was exercising my demons – taking them for a fast ride, stretching them out a bit, letting them feel the lash – after which they would fall asleep for a little while. Hence the feeling of catharsis. I notice this now with my dogs. If they don’t get a whole lot of time to run around and dig after gophers and bite each other in the face, they will turn to acts of destruction. Plants will be uprooted, kitchens raided, shoes chewed, cats chased, and most of the usually obedient and well-trained stuff goes right out the window. Before I got around to figuring out what my demons are, that is basically how I acted when I didn’t get to ride, only on a more of a fucked up human scale. Riding until I turned myself inside out was how I could get tired enough to not be a self destructive asshole.

I know my demons now. There are a few of them. I have a pretty good idea where they came from, how I built them, where they reside inside me, and what they are capable of. Knowing all that doesn’t stop me from reacting to them the same way I used to, but there is some comfort in knowing where the urge to be an asshole is coming from. And taking the demons for a ride is still one of the best ways to calm them. It takes about an hour to exercise any one of them sufficiently to get it to back down and stop messing with me. Most days, that’s about all I need. A good hour of cross-eyed pain, after which I can relax and enjoy the rest of the ride, or I can turn around and go home, and sleep easily. At the end of that hour, words will not have meaning anymore, and all my well reasoned arguments against myself will have been reduced to nothing, leaving a sweet temporary clarity. Every once in a while, there might be three of them at once (for the sake of definition, common repeat offenders in this case could be the “I hate my job” demon, the “I am lazy and stupid” demon, and the “ghost of ex-girlfriends” demon), all petitioning to derail me. Those days demand somewhat longer rides. An exercised demon is a healthy, content, well-rested demon, less likely to induce me to tear up the furniture or chew the toe-box off a Sidi.

Once or twice a month, depending on how noisy it is in my head or on the home front, I see a man and talk about my demons. He charges me $150 an hour. He listens without judgment, pushes me to describe my feelings with honesty and lucidity, and offers nuggets of advice that seem really straightforward and simple and the kind of things that we should probably all be able to figure out easily, except they’re not that simple and we don’t figure them out that easily. I never feel like the cost of those sessions is wasted, because I always come away from them with some new kernel of knowledge that I might not have otherwise figured out. So I generally leave with good thoughts percolating in my freshly lightened and shrunk head.

One of those thoughts, and it bubbles to the surface every single time I walk out his door into the late afternoon light, is this: I really would like to go for a ride right now.

Video: Cape-to-Cape MTB Race Wrap

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Cape to Cape MTB 2012 is over for another year, and this time Flow was on hand to experience everything this magnificent West Australian stage race is all about. Watch our two part video to join the adventure.

 

The South West of WA is a magical part of the world and Cape to Cape MTB 2012 took in the best of it. Starting at the majestic Cape Leeuwin and wrapping up in Dunsborough four days later, 1100 riders went on a 220km journey through ancient Karri forests, past turquoise beaches, ripping through perfect singletrack, sliding on pea-gravel and hammering on fireroads through vineyards. Each day was a unique experience and that’s what stage racing is all about.

This race is a must-do in our minds. The setting, the sheer quality of the event organisation, the level of competition (the elite field was mind-boggling), the trails… it’s hard not to sound overly frothy, but it was just brilliant. Check out the videos above to join in the adventure.

 

Day 1: Cape Leeuwin to Hamelin Bay.

What a place to kick off a stage race. Blue oceans on three sides and whopping great hill to be climbed on the other! 1100 riders were in for a real treat.

The shortest day in Cape to Cape is also the hardest. 1100 riders clustered beneath the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse in breathtaking surrounds before charging into the sandy, hilly first stage. Day 1 is a mass-start and the buzz was tremendous.

After a four kilometre slug up corrugated fireroads, the now thinned pack was shot down a loose, dusty and rocky doubletrack at full speed. This was to be the vibe of day one; tough, sandy climbs and surfing-the-bike descents with hectic overtaking moves aplenty!

Day 1 was all about tough climbs and careening down fast, sandy descents. It was a hard slog, even though the stage was just 42km long.

The notorious beach leg was a less of an ordeal this year than in the past, with tides, swell and winds conspiring to keep the sands reasonably hard packed. Nonetheless, many a rider found themselves sinking into the sands if they couldn’t maintain enough speed to float across the top. It was tough, but rocketing past emerald green waves, sea water flying off your tyres, is a hell of an experience.

Hamelin Bay is simply beautiful. Riders by the hundreds plunged themselves into the emerald waters to scrub the dust and sand off as the sun began to drop over the horizon.

After the appropriately named Hamstring Hill, the stage finished in Hamelin Bay. Washing the dirt off in postcard perfect waters of the Bay, graceful stingrays looping about in the shallow waters, was the best possible way to cap off the day.

Day 2: Hamelin Bay to Xanadu Winery.

 

Cape to Cape picked up on day 2 right where it left off, with riders rolling our of Hamelin Bay in seeded groups of around 250 riders. Again a road climb weeded out those whose legs were stinging from day 1, before riders disappeared into the towering Karri forests that make this stage so special.

The Karri forests of day 2 were full of swooping, loamy singletrack and plenty of log roll-overs and jumps. This particular lip was the scene of plenty of carnage last year but caught fewer people out in 2012.

Perfect tunnels of singletrack, all tilted to just the right descending gradient, snaked through the trees, broken up by fast fireroads and the odd pinch climb. Poppy jumps over fallen logs, loamy soils, even an emu – the first half of this stage was sensational. There was less sandy slogging than day 1 too, but as the pace wound up during the final 20km, things got tough once again.

Soon enough the rows of vines that signal the nearing of the stage end rolled into view. Packs of riders, hanging onto passing wheels as best as possible, skimmed past seemingly endless rows of bright green grape vines as the course wound through vineyard after vineyard. Bemused tourists, enjoying a drop of Margaret River’s finest nectars, cheered us on from breezy verandahs, but it wasn’t long until we were doing the same, lounging on the grass at Xanadu Winery.

Day 2 finished with some fast fireroads through Margaret River’s most picturesque vineyards before wrapping up in the lush grounds of the Xanadu winery.

Later that afternoon, the pine forest just outside Margaret River township played host to the Red Bull Sundown Shootout, a compulsory side event for the top 20 men and top 10 women with time bonuses on offer. An individual time trial, the Shootout was a 2:30-3:00 rip through jumps and berms with one uphill slog thrown in for good measure. It all capped off with a straight run into a series of kickers lined on both sides by screaming locals! There were category prizes for local legends and best dressed too, which just added to the vibe.

Brendan ‘Trekky’ Johnson went off the front and grabbed the stage win ahead of Rohin Adams and Reese Tucknott on day 2.
Dylan Cooper at the Red Bull Sundown Shootout. He was charging…until he hit a ran into a tree off the last jump. He bounced back the next day, unlike Dan MacConnel who came off and chipped a bone in his thumb.

With just a minute and half between Andy Blair and Lachlan Norris, the Shootout had the potential to really shape the race outcome too. Blairy grabbed the win, bringing him back to within 35 seconds of Norris; suddenly the race was up for grabs again!

Not everyone took the Shootout too seriously!

Day 3: Xanadu Winery to Colonial Brewey – the Margaret River Special Stage.

 

Known as the singletrack stage, day 3 was the one that had riders buzzing. Perfect blue skies once again smiled on the mass of riders as we set out to sample the handicraft of MRORCA (Margaret River Off Road Cycling Association), the booming local club.

Lachie Norris ripping it up on the new Big Pine trail. This trail was the highlight in this jam-packed stage.

It was a singletrack feast! The new Big Pine trail is a flow-packed roller coaster ride – big respect to trail builder David Willcox for that one. The addition of a 25m log ride just makes it even better, even letting you gain a couple of positions in the race if you get it right. Endless berms that hug you like yo mumma, floaty table top jumps and the odd patch of pea gravel poking through to keep you watchful… it was bloody brilliant stuff.

Berms like these peppered the Margaret River pine forest – check out the video of day 3 above to see what we mean.

The day left riders with even bigger smiles at the finish line, winding up at the deliciously refreshing Colonial Brewery where pale ales and pizzas refuelled spent bodies. Once again, the Cape to Cape crew couldn’t have done a better job with the venue. Tony Tucknott also deserves a special shout out, his skills on the microphone are unrivalled. The man has golden tonsils.

Day 4: Colonial Brewery to Dunsborough.

 

As the race wound down, the pace ramped up. Day 4 was fast and furious from the get go and didn’t let up for almost 67km. At the point end, today was crunch time, for the rest of the field it was more about crunching gears and grinding teeth, trying to hold onto the fast bunches.

The final day of racing at Cape to Cape was one for the roadies – there was a good whack of tarmac a blasting along gravel roads. It’s actually great racing though, high intensity for the whole 66.8km.

To be dropped by your bunch and ride in no-man’s-land on the final day meant serious suffering as the race hammered along, flat farmland fireroads and hot tarmac sections. As the day’s end drew near, the focus switched from the wheel in front to staying upright! The final 6km through Meelup Regional Park was pure WA pea-gravel, the ball bearing trail surface that the South West is known for. To grab the brakes means instant skidding, so for tired brains it was no easy task to get to the finish line without some blood.

For the serious guys and girls, the race concluded just as it began. Lachie Norris held off Andy Blair’s last minute singletrack assault to win by 28 seconds and Jenny Fay kept up her reputation by obliterating the women’s field with an overall winning margin of 22 minutes. It was great to see the ever-smiling Norris take out the win, as it may be his last mountain bike appearance for some time as we heads off to the UK to race on a pro road team. Fay is on the mountain bike form of her career right now – she looks unstoppable moving towards the last race of the season, the Briar’s Highland Fling in 10 days time.

The Cape to Cape has grown from just 75 riders five years ago to over 1100 now, and it’s not hard to see why. This is one race that we think is going to prove as sticky and hard to forget as a Margaret River berm.

Cop that! Jenny Fay hoses down second place getter Jodie Willet, while Nic Leary (third) does her best to go unnoticed.
“And that’s for those socks”. The elite men’s podium was stacked like a National Championship: Norris, Blair, Hatton, Jackson and Adams – Cape to Cape attracts some real talent.
Get your bearings – check out our map of each day’s start and finish points for the Cape to Cape below.


View Cape to Cape MTB 2012 in a larger map

 

Bike Check: Cam Cole’s 2013 Lapierre DH Team

New Zealand big man Cam Cole really is a quite achiever of the World Cup downhill circuit. In 2012 Cam finished 11th overall and had consistent top 10 finishes including 6th at the final World Cup round in Norway. His results speak volumes, not only for his riding consistency, but also for the reliability of his bike.

Check out this Flow exclusive video of Cam and his 2013 Lapierre DH Team bike. [private]

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Cam Cole
Cam gives kilt-wearing spectators some flair at the Fort Bill World Cup.

Bike Check: Cam Cole's 2013 Lapierre DH Team

New Zealand big man Cam Cole really is a quite achiever of the World Cup downhill circuit. In 2012 Cam finished 11th overall and had consistent top 10 finishes including 6th at the final World Cup round in Norway. His results speak volumes, not only for his riding consistency, but also for the reliability of his bike.

Check out this Flow exclusive video of Cam and his 2013 Lapierre DH Team bike. [private]

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Cam Cole
Cam gives kilt-wearing spectators some flair at the Fort Bill World Cup.

Hibernation Is Well Over

If you have stayed active over winter, at the gym or out skiing or hiking, the warmer weather won’t catch you too much on the back foot.

If you have been hibernating over the colder months, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just climb out of the den, shake the dank cave air out of your fur and grab your bike. All you need is a couple of rides and you will start to feel the benefits, physically and mentally.[private]

Even though the heat has been around for a while and winter is well over it is never too late to get off the couch and back on your bike.

Getting back into an exercise routine will help you shed any unwanted kilos, give you more energy, make you sleep better and boost your immune system.

Exercise has huge benefits for your mental health, too. These include improving your memory and concentration, giving you a more positive outlook, boosting your confidence and reducing stress levels.

Checking the bike

First thing’s first. If it’s been a since you last rode your bike or did maintenance on it, book your baby (bike that is) in at your local shop for the once-over.

If you don’t know how to do it yourself take your bike to your local for a good tune up.

Your bike’s suspension needs regular servicing too, so make sure you ask the bike shop to service the suspension. (Some suspension types need to be serviced as often as every 20 hours of riding – check your owner’s manual.)

If you don’t drop your bike in for a full service, here’s a quick checklist of things you check yourself before that first ride:

  • Check air pressure in the tyres and suspension.
  • Confirm your wheel and seat post quick releases are done up nice and firm.
  • Make sure your brakes work and check brake pad wear.
  • Clean and lube your chain.

This quick check-over routine is something you should be doing before every ride, so get into the habit now.

Have you got the right gear?

As the days get longer, the southern sun gets harsher. So your summer riding gear needs to be lightweight, breathable and sun smart – you can actually get sunburnt through some of the fancy ventilated jerseys. Consider long sleeves for extra protection.

The correct mountain bike clothing can make a huge difference to your enjoyment of riding.

Make sure your jersey is long enough to cover your back when you are sitting on your bike – a line of sunburn between your knicks and top is not a good look.

Wear full-fingered gloves that cover the back of your hand.

And finally – and very importantly – wear sunscreen at all times.

A well-ventilated helmet is essential. You lose heat through the top of your head, and a good helmet will be designed to make the most of that air flow through a helmet. The skate-style lids are just not going to cut it.

A good helmet should be number 1 on your list of upgrades.

Using two bottle cages or wearing a hydration pack is a good way to ensure you have plenty of water and electrolytes to replace the fluids lost through perspiration. This is extremely important on a hot days.

Overheating can increase fatigue dramatically. Take it easier in the heat. One way your body copes with heat is to sweat – the air flow over this moisture on your skin helps your body maintain its ideal temperature. So even though you need to cover up from the sun, you need to let these air currents come into contact with your skin. Try using a breathable sunscreen.

Getting started

The first ride is going to hurt and the longer it has been since the last ride the more you will feel it. You will find yourself regretting your hibernation or your first ride – or both.

If your last ride was a 100km race back in March, don’t think you can pick up where you left off.

Ease back into riding. Start with some shorter rides and work your way up to the longer rides you were doing last summer. You will need to be patient, but it won’t take long. Building up your fitness slowly will help prevent injury.

At this early stage it is also important not to push yourself technically. That rock garden you nailed in April could nail you back if you try it now.

Try to ride outside of the hottest times of the day (11am–3pm). If you do ride at a hot time, choose an area that offers shade from the sun. If you are building up to a race or event, ride at the same time of day the race is on. This will help your body adapt.

Even Dylan Cooper stays away from the hottest parts of the day when out training.

If you are thinking beyond a return from hibernation and want to improve your riding this summer, start planning now. Set yourself goals. Work towards a race or event of some sort. Use a computer to track your speed on your favourite trail. If you can, use a heart rate monitor to gauge your fitness and make sure you are not overdoing it.

Be realistic with your goals and you will reap the rewards.

The days are getting longer and warmer, and it’s time to get back in the saddle. Making the transition from couch to singletrack is a simple process. So get back on your bike. [/private]

Buy It When You Get There

Mountain bike destinations that are a plane-ride away guarantee you the thrill of new singletrack, delightfully unfamiliar landscapes and memories that you’ll want to share with other riders for years. But flying with your bike can be expensive, with hefty weight penalties if you pack your bike bag the way you load up the boot of your car for a weekend road trip.

Whittle your luggage down until you’re left with just those few irreplaceable off-bike essentials. (I recommend an internet-friendly device, good hair product, quick-drying clothing and a merino jumper that never gets smelly.)

Then take note of these golden holiday extras, which are best collected at your destination. I say ‘collected’ because the hunt is half the fun. [private]

1. A tacky cigarette lighter

No, it’s not for cigarettes. One of the drawbacks of the mountain biking lifestyle is not having many excuses to seek out and use souvenir lighters. Because airlines do not look kindly upon flame-throwing devices, this little number is best picked up at your destination. If you planned ahead and packed a lightweight stove, saucepan and directions to an outdoors store for a gas canister, cheap home-cooked meals and quality coffee are yours. But without a flame, your meals will be less than satisfying.

A Parisian ‘feu’, seen here with Austrian milk and a Vietnamese coffee maker.

2. An all-purpose security blanket

If you head to a Kmart-esque market place, blankets come cheap. Pick one up and you’ll have security whenever you need it. Spread your new blankie over your bikes when you leave them in the hire car, to limit the likelihood of opportunity theft. Use it as a mat at your accommodation if your bikes require a warm indoor environment between rides. It’s also comforting to know that your blanket will make the car more comfortable if you luck out with hotels (or turn up after reception has closed – it happens).

Four-dollar travel assurance.

3. A GPS with international maps

I like maps and I enjoy using them to navigate. But if the words on the road signs are as unfamiliar to you as driving on the wrong side of the road, an in-car GPS can be quite useful (provided you have a car to put it in). In addition to the opportunity to make exciting route choices through small country towns, an in-car GPS has a tonne of holiday-enlightening features. These include: the tolls versus no tolls options, time estimates to interesting places and a list of hotels in any given area.

For additional holiday giggles, we set our speaker to ‘Paul’ from New Zealand: ‘Et the nixt igzet, turn lift.’ We imagine ‘Kevin’ from Australia would have a similarly amusing ‘iffict’ on our Kiwi brethren.

Spaghetti intersections made easy.

4. A friend in the know

It’s all well and good to Google your way around a country, but a mate who knows stuff can help you make the most of your time. In my experience, these mates tend to be called Mike.

On a recent trip, my mate Mike 1 assisted me in the purchase of a tacky cigarette lighter (see above), and then took the confusion out of Paris: ‘Mike, how do you order coffee here? How does the metro work? What can you tell me about the free bike hire system?’ Mike 2 is a walking encyclopaedia of European riding destinations. He likes maps and trails that go somewhere – like three countries in one hit.

‘Er, Mike, how do you plan to ride across this?’

5. Local trail maps

Not much beats arriving at a new mountain bike Mecca and planning where to take the bikes first, second and third. The more mountain bike-friendly the town, the more places you’ll find trail maps and the more confident you’ll feel that the small price you shell out will go straight back to the local riding community.

A trail map will also help you get your head into the local riding culture:

  • Is this place about singletrack descents, or climbs with amazing views?
  • Does ‘hard’ mean obstacle-laden or so steep you’ll bruise your stomach on your seat?
  • Is there food up high and chairlifts to get there?
  • How many days will it take to cover all the best bits?
Check the scale to discover whether squiggly bits mean steep ups or flowy downs.

[/private]

 

 

Focusing on the Fling

The main drawcards of the Briars Highland Fling, the Half (59km), Full (112km) and 100 mile (165km) events, are assembled from three distinct loops of fire trail and singletrack. The halfers skip the 53km middle loop, while the milers do it twice.

Flow caught up with three of last year’s winning riders, Trenton Day (Drift Bikes), Dylan Cooper (Rockstar Racing) and Jenny Fay (Rockstar’s Rockette) for their insights into what to expect. [private]

Stage one – The Ground Effect Stage – 27km

‘The first section is met with enthusiastic riders vying for hole shots and clear lines at the front,’ says Jenny, revealing the fast and furious feel of the opening straights for riders up the front of the pack. ‘So find somewhere within your comfort zone that doesn’t have you constantly screeching brakes and finding yourself behind average lines!’

‘It’s a good place to warm up,’ adds Cooper, whose experience at many of these events counts for as much as his laser cut legs. ‘Eat and drink early and suss the competition out. If you can ride in a group and share the work you’ll save a lot of energy later on when it gets rougher and hillier.’

Jenny Fay on top of the podium in the 2011 Fling.

While Trenton won the Half Fling last year in a super quick 2:07:47, he is quick to point out that, ‘the average ride time for the men’s 2011 59km event was 3:48:15. The women’s was 4:29:58. This is a pretty demanding day for any rider.’

It’s also a very fun way to spend a day, so pace yourself comfortably early so the event is more enjoyable later on.

If slow and steady is your preference, rest assured that even those who start fast settle down eventually. ‘With hundreds of riders around you, a fun atmosphere is created as riders settle into their own rhythms and the nervous energy that was present at the beginning starts to ease,’ assures Trenton.

The ‘Free Bike Wash’ creek crossing is also a talking point of stage one. Will you ride it, or will you run it? Or will you nervously watch the weather in the days leading up to the race and hope that the water levels out there are low?

Stage Two – The Shimano Stage – 53km

The Shimano Stage is reserved for riders doing the Full Fling and 100-mile. Riders in these categories (and these categories only) are given five minutes at either end of the stage to move between check points, restock and refuel, and, in the event of a train crossing past, have a bit of a chat.

The five minute feed stop brings with it some extra tactics. ‘Use all the allowed time allocated in the feed zones to take a breather. Replenish your pockets with food on offer,’ Jenny advises. ‘And don’t take on water alone in your bidons, include an electrolyte with glucose, vitamins and minerals.’ All three riders recommend taking food and/or fluids every 20-40 minutes on the bike.

Riders who started fast sometimes hit a reverse gear in stage two as constant climbing and time on the bike can start to take their toll. ‘Watch out for slower riders on the track, warn them in advance that you are approaching and be polite!’ Jenny cautions. She reminds us that the elite riders start behind the rest of the field and see a lot of other riders during the race.

There’s a lot of fun singletrack to enjoy in stage two, and clear communication is important to ensure ease of overtaking. For Coops, this is his favourite section of the race.

‘The single track flows nicely and you can make good time on it if you’re skilled. But don’t get overzealous in the techo bits, as you’ll use more energy than you think and wear yourself out for the last part of the race. It’s all about keeping fast but efficient.’

Dylan Cooper on his way to the win in 2011.

Stage Three – The GU Stage – 32km

Stage three brings the full, half and smiling miler categories together again. 32kms doesn’t seem too hard on paper, but it’s certainly no walk in the park so keep something in reserve. Even Cooper finds it hard: ‘This is where the pain hits, no matter how fit you are.’

‘It should be noted that this is both the longer and harder of the two stages that make up the half distance event,’ advises Trenton. ‘Firstly there are multiple undulations and decent climbs that lift the heart rate and burn the legs. The singletrack also becomes more technical and, with the addition of fatigue, could easily lead to a crash.’

Cooper agrees. ‘Topping up on gels and electrolytes is critical. It’s the most scenic part of the race, but hard to take in. Don’t let your body let go and don’t make mistakes because you’re not focussed. The last section is all about keeping it together when it counts.’

I think this is why it’s called the ‘Gu’ stage – if your legs are dead and your energy is fading, these life-saving carbohydrate gels keep you moving.

Jenny’s advice backs up that of the boys. ‘Be consistent with your riding efforts in the first half,’ she says, ‘and you will avoid going into the red or developing cramps over the last hilly sections.’ If you’re likely to overcook it early write yourself a note to eat, drink and pace yourself and stick it on the handlebars.

‘This is the most mentally demanding section on all riders, so be sure to encourage riders you pass or who pass you,’ Jenny’s final piece of advice as fellow Flingers are bringing it home.

While the focus and fitness of these elite riders separates them from the masses, the thought they’ve put into this event provides some useful insights for coming up with strategies of your own.

Whether you use this to tap into some extra energy, or just sit back and savour the day’s journey, crossing the finish line at the Fling is an achievement to be proud of. Soak it up, remember where you put your meal voucher, and catch up with your riding buddies back at the oval where it all began.

[/private]

 

Blair’s Marathon World Champs

[SV_VIMEO id=”51663139″]

Andy Blair, Australian Marathon National Champion, recently headed to France to contest the Marathon World Championships.

It’s fair to say that Andy didn’t have quite the race he was dreaming of; his Australian team mate, Jongewaard, was sidelined with broken ribs, the conditions were abysmal and  nothing really went to plan out on course. After rolling in 72nd place, Blairy will be more hungry than ever for next year. [private]

Andy’s form is unquestionably good – the Gu On The Go team (of which he is a member) just won the Scott 24hr overall, with Blair setting the fastest laps of the race. Andy is heading to WA shortly too, to defend his crown at the Cape to Cape, and soon after he’ll be looking to snatch the overall Real Insurance XCM victory from Shaun Lewis at the Highland Fling in NSW.

So grab a cuppa and biscuit and have a listen to how it all went down in the slop of Ornans, France. [/private]

Blair's Marathon World Champs

[SV_VIMEO id=”51663139″]

Andy Blair, Australian Marathon National Champion, recently headed to France to contest the Marathon World Championships.

It’s fair to say that Andy didn’t have quite the race he was dreaming of; his Australian team mate, Jongewaard, was sidelined with broken ribs, the conditions were abysmal and  nothing really went to plan out on course. After rolling in 72nd place, Blairy will be more hungry than ever for next year. [private]

Andy’s form is unquestionably good – the Gu On The Go team (of which he is a member) just won the Scott 24hr overall, with Blair setting the fastest laps of the race. Andy is heading to WA shortly too, to defend his crown at the Cape to Cape, and soon after he’ll be looking to snatch the overall Real Insurance XCM victory from Shaun Lewis at the Highland Fling in NSW.

So grab a cuppa and biscuit and have a listen to how it all went down in the slop of Ornans, France. [/private]

Breaking Dawn – There’s Something Special About the Scott

The Scott 24 Hour is a big event on the mountain bike calendar. It’s not only big in terms of participation, duration and challenges, but also in the number of unique experiences had from noon one day ‘til lunchtime the next.

With large-scale events like this one, I get as pumped by the chance to catch up with so many people in one place as I do about the riding. But there’s one part of the event I’ve never liked: the dawn lap. I’ve always struggled too much with trying to stay awake to look around and take it all in.

It’s the magic light of either the morning or evening that can spark those positive emotions and feelings. It’s only in a 24 hour race where you will get to experience both.

[private]But this year something clicked. I woke before my alarm, got dressed in my riding gear, jumped on the bike and was on singletrack sixty seconds later.  A strong yellow light streamed through breaks in the clouds sending everything around me into the background. It bounced off the shiny, mud-covered trails and gave the tyre tracks that wove through them a textured, golden shimmer. I turned a corner, looked up to the mountains in the distance and handfuls of yellow lit them up as well. Everything else was still.

‘I get it now,” I thought. ‘I suddenly get why people wax lyrical about the dawn lap.’

In a tough 24 hour, like the chilly weathered, mud splattered, never-overly-wet edition of the 2012 Scott, the sun streaming through the clouds was a sign that the hardest part of the race was over.

The rain was gone by the morning but some of the puddles remained.

That wasn’t an issue for team Swell Sketchy – a carpenter, two farmers, a math teacher come school counsellor, a photographer and a writer. I’d convinced everyone that we were better off asleep in bed between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

For us the Scott 24 meant a few fun laps and a great catch up around a mushroom heater but walks around the sprawling event centre revealed that an event like this is a myriad of things, for the many different riders involved.

Rosie Barnes from team Swell Shifty rides into the evening light.

Andrew Hall, riding solo for the Radical Lights Factory Racing Team, was still locked in a tight battle for the solo men’s podium when dawn arrived.

‘It is an honour to ride with both the top Australian and international riders,’ he said, after crossing the line in an impressive third place to reigning 24 hour World Champ, Jason English, and European 24 Hour Champ, Matt Page.

‘Having such a great field meant it really was a race from start to finish. Even at 6am the race was still pretty close – which is something we have not seen in a 24 hour solo in a long time.’

Alongside Matt Page and Canberra’s Ed McDonald, Hall is one of a select few who have come close to beating English at his game in recent years. And to do it again, in the mud and the cold had fans of the sport both shaking their heads in disbelief and nodding with respect. When Hall announced on Facebook that he did the whole race in the big ring, fuelled by 48 gels and electrolyte drink, my eyes nearly fell out of my head.

European 24 Hour Champion Matt Page was neatly sandwiched between winner Jason English and 3rd place Andrew Hall.

Getting through the Scott with a team is rewarding and motivating in a different way. For Karen Foat, racing with fellow Canberran, Claire Graydon, in the women’s pairs, it was good teamwork that made the weekend so special.

‘I really enjoyed the camaraderie of working with a buddy to battle through the night. It was reassuring that without any pressure, I knew she’d do her best and she knew I’d do my best and that’s all that mattered.’

Together, the girls’ experience, consistency and legs of steel paid off landing them on the top step of the podium come Sunday.

‘Once we’d made it through the night, I knew we could make it to the end!’

While the victory itself was exciting for the determined duo, Karen was quick to point out that the best part of the event was the riding.

‘The Scott 24 Hour is about heaps of people congregating to challenge themselves at all different levels and finish with that sense of achievement,’ she said after a well-earned shower and a sleep.

‘This year there seemed to be a return to the mountain biking atmosphere of old,” she elaborated. “Not too much agro or people racing for sheep stations, just people out there all riding our own bests and having a short chat while passing each other.’

Numbers may have been down but attitudes were certainly up.

Of course Flow Mountain Bike was at the race helping with the fun times.

One of the biggest winners in the attitude stakes, and perhaps the slightly quirky stakes, was Mike “Gumby” Brennan. Gumby slept through dawn. He rode in the event as a self-supported solo and carried his gear to and from the event on a BOB trailer. This added an extra 30km to a nine-lap total for the science teacher who is currently without a car.

‘About half way up the hill on my last lap I came across a rider who was struggling his way to the top. Given that the track had turned to custard over night I figured he could use the motivation to finish his lap more than I could use another 50 minutes pushing through the mud.’ Gumby slowed down to pedal with a rider who was suffering instead of pedalling past him to fit an extra lap in.

‘The grin on his face when we crossed the finish line, and the camaraderie in the “slow train” we collected as we finished the climb and came back down the hill made the whole weekend worthwhile. I know I’m not a fast rider so the opportunity to help another punter enjoy themselves and finish the race on a high is a real bonus.’

For Brennan, Hall and Foat, entering the Scott was as much about the chance to enjoy a world class course as having the time to enjoy the range of experiences the event makes possible – a common tie between most riders at this yearly event, whatever their goals or however many laps they hope to achieve.

Next year’s event will be a little different due to the WEMBO (World Endurance Mountain Bike Organisation) World Solo 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championships and the separate teams event being held a week apart. [Flow just learnt that the teams event will be a 25 hour race.  Watch Flow for more info.]

If this year’s edition is anything to go by, the racing on both weekends will not only be tight, it will also be a whole lot of fun. And with my newfound dawn lap enthusiasm, a little bit magical as well.

Also magical was a rainbow. Right place, right time.

The Scott 24 Hour is run by the Canberra Off-Road Cycling club and monies raised by the event are used to fund the club’s activities throughout the rest of the year. A very special thank you to the large crew of volunteers who ensure the event runs so smoothly and for making the event such a pleasure to be involved in.

For detailed results head here.

We will leave you with just a few more shots from a magic weekend.

[/private]

Breaking Dawn – There's Something Special About the Scott

The Scott 24 Hour is a big event on the mountain bike calendar. It’s not only big in terms of participation, duration and challenges, but also in the number of unique experiences had from noon one day ‘til lunchtime the next.

With large-scale events like this one, I get as pumped by the chance to catch up with so many people in one place as I do about the riding. But there’s one part of the event I’ve never liked: the dawn lap. I’ve always struggled too much with trying to stay awake to look around and take it all in.

It’s the magic light of either the morning or evening that can spark those positive emotions and feelings. It’s only in a 24 hour race where you will get to experience both.

[private]But this year something clicked. I woke before my alarm, got dressed in my riding gear, jumped on the bike and was on singletrack sixty seconds later.  A strong yellow light streamed through breaks in the clouds sending everything around me into the background. It bounced off the shiny, mud-covered trails and gave the tyre tracks that wove through them a textured, golden shimmer. I turned a corner, looked up to the mountains in the distance and handfuls of yellow lit them up as well. Everything else was still.

‘I get it now,” I thought. ‘I suddenly get why people wax lyrical about the dawn lap.’

In a tough 24 hour, like the chilly weathered, mud splattered, never-overly-wet edition of the 2012 Scott, the sun streaming through the clouds was a sign that the hardest part of the race was over.

The rain was gone by the morning but some of the puddles remained.

That wasn’t an issue for team Swell Sketchy – a carpenter, two farmers, a math teacher come school counsellor, a photographer and a writer. I’d convinced everyone that we were better off asleep in bed between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

For us the Scott 24 meant a few fun laps and a great catch up around a mushroom heater but walks around the sprawling event centre revealed that an event like this is a myriad of things, for the many different riders involved.

Rosie Barnes from team Swell Shifty rides into the evening light.

Andrew Hall, riding solo for the Radical Lights Factory Racing Team, was still locked in a tight battle for the solo men’s podium when dawn arrived.

‘It is an honour to ride with both the top Australian and international riders,’ he said, after crossing the line in an impressive third place to reigning 24 hour World Champ, Jason English, and European 24 Hour Champ, Matt Page.

‘Having such a great field meant it really was a race from start to finish. Even at 6am the race was still pretty close – which is something we have not seen in a 24 hour solo in a long time.’

Alongside Matt Page and Canberra’s Ed McDonald, Hall is one of a select few who have come close to beating English at his game in recent years. And to do it again, in the mud and the cold had fans of the sport both shaking their heads in disbelief and nodding with respect. When Hall announced on Facebook that he did the whole race in the big ring, fuelled by 48 gels and electrolyte drink, my eyes nearly fell out of my head.

European 24 Hour Champion Matt Page was neatly sandwiched between winner Jason English and 3rd place Andrew Hall.

Getting through the Scott with a team is rewarding and motivating in a different way. For Karen Foat, racing with fellow Canberran, Claire Graydon, in the women’s pairs, it was good teamwork that made the weekend so special.

‘I really enjoyed the camaraderie of working with a buddy to battle through the night. It was reassuring that without any pressure, I knew she’d do her best and she knew I’d do my best and that’s all that mattered.’

Together, the girls’ experience, consistency and legs of steel paid off landing them on the top step of the podium come Sunday.

‘Once we’d made it through the night, I knew we could make it to the end!’

While the victory itself was exciting for the determined duo, Karen was quick to point out that the best part of the event was the riding.

‘The Scott 24 Hour is about heaps of people congregating to challenge themselves at all different levels and finish with that sense of achievement,’ she said after a well-earned shower and a sleep.

‘This year there seemed to be a return to the mountain biking atmosphere of old,” she elaborated. “Not too much agro or people racing for sheep stations, just people out there all riding our own bests and having a short chat while passing each other.’

Numbers may have been down but attitudes were certainly up.

Of course Flow Mountain Bike was at the race helping with the fun times.

One of the biggest winners in the attitude stakes, and perhaps the slightly quirky stakes, was Mike “Gumby” Brennan. Gumby slept through dawn. He rode in the event as a self-supported solo and carried his gear to and from the event on a BOB trailer. This added an extra 30km to a nine-lap total for the science teacher who is currently without a car.

‘About half way up the hill on my last lap I came across a rider who was struggling his way to the top. Given that the track had turned to custard over night I figured he could use the motivation to finish his lap more than I could use another 50 minutes pushing through the mud.’ Gumby slowed down to pedal with a rider who was suffering instead of pedalling past him to fit an extra lap in.

‘The grin on his face when we crossed the finish line, and the camaraderie in the “slow train” we collected as we finished the climb and came back down the hill made the whole weekend worthwhile. I know I’m not a fast rider so the opportunity to help another punter enjoy themselves and finish the race on a high is a real bonus.’

For Brennan, Hall and Foat, entering the Scott was as much about the chance to enjoy a world class course as having the time to enjoy the range of experiences the event makes possible – a common tie between most riders at this yearly event, whatever their goals or however many laps they hope to achieve.

Next year’s event will be a little different due to the WEMBO (World Endurance Mountain Bike Organisation) World Solo 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championships and the separate teams event being held a week apart. [Flow just learnt that the teams event will be a 25 hour race.  Watch Flow for more info.]

If this year’s edition is anything to go by, the racing on both weekends will not only be tight, it will also be a whole lot of fun. And with my newfound dawn lap enthusiasm, a little bit magical as well.

Also magical was a rainbow. Right place, right time.

The Scott 24 Hour is run by the Canberra Off-Road Cycling club and monies raised by the event are used to fund the club’s activities throughout the rest of the year. A very special thank you to the large crew of volunteers who ensure the event runs so smoothly and for making the event such a pleasure to be involved in.

For detailed results head here.

We will leave you with just a few more shots from a magic weekend.

[/private]

The Soapbox: Two Little Words – ‘Road Trip’

I remember lying in bed on Christmas morning, back when I was a kid. I would lie there in the dark for what seemed like hours, until I thought I would explode, until I heard the words ‘Santa’s been!’ It was unbelievable how those two little words could make me feel like my insides were going to burst in excitement.

Fast-forward to middle-aged life. Now I have another two little words that invoke the same excitement: ‘Road trip!’

Road trips are like Christmas all over again. Early mornings as you’re too excited to sleep.

These days, instead of being yelled out by my old man, already half cut from drinking all the beer we’d left out for Santa, those two little words of joy come via SMS or email.

Despite being many years older, the excitement is still the same, and I go off like a fat kid in a lolly shop. Though these days I don’t wet my pants. Well, not usually, anyway.

Road trips are awesome for so many reasons. If there is anything better than going away with mates and knowing that for the immediate future your biggest headache will be finding the next cool bit of trail, let me know.

Road tripping gives you the chance to get away from normal life and all those usual chores, the grocery shopping, and the chaos of playing taxi to your kid’s Under 8 soccer team. That normality is replaced with shredding awesome singletrack and other, equally ‘onerous’ tasks – like finding the best pub for dinner. (Of course, you have to check out a few to ensure you find the right one.)

Food you don’t have to cook yourself always seems to taste different.

Being stuck in a car with a bunch of mates for a couple of hours would normally be as much fun as a One Direction concert, but put some bikes in the back and the boys can’t pile in quick enough.

There is one road trip myth, however, that I would like to dispel. I’m sure you have heard it: ‘What happens on the road stays on the road.’ This is not actually true.

That saying should go: ‘What happens on the road will be put on Facebook.’

After all, we all have a moral obligation to tell everyone we know about those times when our mates make gooses of themselves.

On a recent road trip 160mm all-mountain rigs were our weapons of choice. A group of us were out riding a trail that was littered with massive granite boulder roll-ins. A couple of the guys baulked at the top of one of these awesome boulders.

‘No, I’m not going down there. I don’t want to crash the Covert,’ one said.

His mate on a Mojo had to jump out of the way to let through an elderly lady who dropped in on a battered old GT I drive. She looked like a retired kindergarten teacher, but she smashed that rockgarden like Sam Hill.

The next day, we encountered a steep roll-in down a rainforest embankment. The two lads sporting egg on their face from the previous day hesitated at the top.

At the end of the day a road trip is more than fun, it’s about the riding and friendships.

One of the boys who had already dropped in pulled out his phone and called out from the bottom. ‘Hang on lads, I’ll just give the nice old lady from yesterday a call to see if she can show you how to ride it.’

I’m pretty sure that story’s still getting likes on Facebook.

You also discover things about your mates on road trips.

On one trip I shared a cabin with a mate, only to be woken in the middle of the night by the sound of someone revving a chainsaw. After a few seconds I realised I wasn’t listening to some crazed lumberjack on the loose, but my roommate snoring louder than I ever thought possible. Ear plugs were no match. My mate’s snores were loud enough to shake our bunk beds!

Not only do you have to share a room with a chainsaw but you also have to deal with dirty clothes that aren’t yours.

The next night, I shared with a different guy to escape the Chainsaw. My new cabin buddie was a big tough downhiller who reckoned he was hard as nails. When I went for a shower that night, I was stunned to see he had a smorgasbord of beauty products laid out, including a fluffy – and very pretty – loofah.

When I had finished my ablutions, I came out and said, ‘Nice loofah, Trev. I’d never used one before so I thought I’d give it a try.

‘I can honestly say my balls have never felt so clean and fresh.’

He blew up like a roadie out of razor blades and told me it was a dog act. But he had it all wrong, I told him, it would have been a dog act if I’d waited ‘til he’d used it.

Yep, when the car’s packed and we finally hit the motorway, it takes me straight back to childhood. I feel my veins pumping with that same juvenile excitement, that impatient anticipation for the unknown. The classic elements of a good mountain biking roadie – escape and discovery – take me to a different world and add to that growing treasure trove of stories and friendships. And all these good things, initiated by those two little words, are my grown-up equivalent to Christmas.

The end of a road trip is always the worst. Packing, cleaning and knowing you’re returning to “normal” life.

 

 

Josh Carlson, BC Shredding

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Josh Carlson is a true Frother (with a capital F). [private]

Josh made a name for himself in the mountain bike world as a cross country racer of immense skill, bringing his previous experience as a motocross rider to the trails. He soon gained a reputation as the fastest descender on the Nationals XC circuit, and possible the most enthusiastic person on the planet.

More recently, Josh has packed up and moved across the Pacific. Basing himself out of Vancouver, Carlso has been tearing it up on the booming Super-D and Enduro downhill scene across North America.

It’s the perfect discipline for him – a mix of balls out descending and horrendously fast-paced climbs. “I’ve actually popped blood vessels in my eyes,” Josh told us when we questioned him about the climbs. “It’s pretty crazy,” he froths, “you’re racing downhill flat stick, pretty much in your underpants, on bikes that most people just trail ride.”

Liam Renault caught up with Josh when he was in Whistler recently. Watch what happens when Carlso is unleashed on a techy, root-infested trail on his Giant Reign.

Boy can ride. [/private]

Gravitate Returns for 2012

“Come to Cairns,” they said. “You will never ride anything else as steep,” they said.

They were right. Cairns holds a special place in the history of mountain biking, especially within Australia. Lead by a group of hardcore, open-minded and adrenaline-filled individuals, who began taking quantum leaps forward to carve a new path in the scene. Literally. [private]
Gravitate was created in 2010 by the man who started it all, Glen Jacobs, as a gathering of the original crew. It was a reunion and a celebration of what it meant to be part of the ‘The Great Northern Hill Tribe’ with past, present and new members from all over Australia to take part in a week of rides and events catering to every discipline. Seen as an unexpected success, the Cairns MTB Club took on the running of Gravitate and have expanded it for future years.

One of the highlight events of the week is the dawn till dusk downhill shuttle day. 12 hours, 3500 vertical metres of descending.

In 2012, Gravitate once again returned. The week was hailed a great success with more riders, more sponsors, more prizes and more riding! Creek jump contests, meandering cross country adventures, 12 hours spent descending over 3500 vertical metres of the region’s wildest DH trails, epic all-mountain rides, a blast through history down the 1996 World Champs course, cross country pony express racing and downhill racing, kids’ skills days…

Who doesn’t love a good creek jump? Pool noodles and common sense optional.

Finishing the week off was the star event – the infamous ‘Jungle Dirt Bowl Jam’. A huge step-up from previous years, the hits were massively impressive. The local BMX and dirt jump crew once again showcased the masses of talent hidden to the rest of the country. And of course, the night would not be complete without a jam on the ancient behemoth that is the dirt bowl, carved out of the earth back in 1994 during the country’s first World Cup.

The Jungle Dirt Bowl Jam brought out the local BMX talent, as well as the mountain bike dirt jump contingent.

Massive crowds and overwhelming participation throughout the week helped prove the point Cairns is once again set firmly on the Australian mountain bike map.
No matter what you ride, no matter what bike, age, Gravitate has something for everyone. The region is in the process of some big and new exciting adventures in the mountain bike scene, including the ongoing bid to host the 2016 UCI World Championships; a 20 year anniversary for Cairns… Gravitate will continue to grow in size over the next few years.

The infamous dirt bowl high jump contest. Hours of head-slapping, crank bending fun.

There is no other place in Australia that comes even close to what riding a mountain bike in Cairns is about. It’s not only the terrain, but the culture, the people, the stories, the legends… If you think there is, Gravitate to Cairns in 2013 and find out for yourself.
A huge thanks to the tireless crew of volunteers and members behind the Cairns Mountain Bike Club for making the week happen. For more info, photos and the official Gravitate Movie – head to cairnsmtb.com and follow the links to Gravitate.

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Five days in hell

The 16 brave souls who rode in the Simpson Desert Bike Challenge, five-day multi-stage bike race through the Simpson Desert, are still cleaning the sand out of their ears after returning from the race over the past week, but there’s no wiping the grins off their faces.

This year the Simpson was a 572km, 10-stage race from Purni Bore in South Australia to Birdsville in Queensland. [private]

The Simpson Desert delivers varied but tough riding conditions, and participants go into the event with modest ambitions – completing the entire course is a monumental achievement, and one that the desert does not often allow.

In this environment, where sand moves like water and whole dunes can relocate in a day, the course often changes from one year to the next.

This year’s course sent riders along the French Line, the Rig Road, the K1 Line, and then onto to the QAA Line, to take in some 700 sand dunes – some over 30 metres high – countless corrugations and a sand storm.

Race director Mark Polley was pleased with the course: ‘This was the first year we’ve done all of the QAA Line. It meant we had no diversions (in the car to get riders across sections).

‘The course worked as I expected it to. It captured the essence of the desert and had challenges for the riders and technical 4WD driving for support crews.

‘It was a great success. It brought everyone together.’

In another first for the event, which is affectionately known as ‘Five Days in Hell,’ Sydney-siders Alan Keenleside and Murray Rook came first-equal.

Alan and Murray had prepared for the Simpson together, and they rode together throughout the week. At the end of the stage five Alan even paused at the top of the last dune, well in sight of the finish line, to wait for Murray to get up the dune so they could finish the stage together.

They had completed the 67km-stage in 41°C heat. Can a race this hard really be that much fun?

We sent our Super Sub Nic Learmonth along disguised as support crew for one of the riders to get the low-down. Stay tuned to read her account of the event.

The Birdsville Bakery’s camel curry and kangaroo and merlot pies motivated riders and support crews alike.
This was the largest meeting of fat-tyre (as in, proper fat) bikes in Australia. The 4-inch wide tyres are perfect for floating over the endless sand.
A typical pit setup for the Simpson. Check out that custom bike rack for the Ronn’s Rumblefish, the Ronnblefish.
Chris Turnbull gets ready for another long ride in the heat. [/private]

The Kowalski Classic

In the lead up to every new event, there’s usually a theme that holds the hype together. This might be the attraction of series points, or supporting a local club. Some races trade off their history, while for others it’s about doing something new. While there were a lot of things that were new about the Kowalski Classic, the biggest talking point was the trails.

 

The Kowalski Classic’s drawcard was always going to be the trails. Under the canopy of tall pines, the mysterious Kowalski brotherhood stitched together a singletrack web of unrivalled flow.

[private]The Kowalski Brothers have been building trails in the Canberra region since 1994. While this used to tick along fairly quietly, in more recent years there’s been a Kowalski explosion. This crew of shovel-wielding mountain bikers even have custom branded hoodies.

“I’ve been a Kowalski for almost a year now and it’s been a great thing to be part of,” reveals Tyno Hawke, outing himself as a member of the no-longer-so-secret crew of dedicated building buddies. “I get to hang out with a great bunch of people and make tracks that people love. The Kowalski Classic is just an extension of that – and Al’s truly disturbing endless tank of enthusiasm and energy.” Al is Alan Vogt, one of the main driving forces behind the Mont 24 Hour, this new marathon event and the trails they traverse.

The inaugural Kowalski Classic was held on the last Sunday of September just outside of Canberra. Half and full distances were on offer giving riders the chance to take in close to 90kms of purpose built trails in Sparrow Hill and Kowen Forest.

The Kowalski took in parts of the Mont 24 course too as it jumped from Kowen to Sparrow. Heavy rain two days prior made for absolutely perfect conditions under cloudless blue skies.

“What made the race so different to all of the other 100km races out there,” continues Tyno as we catch up after the finish line, “is that it’s almost entirely singletrack. It presents a completely different challenge to have a course where you have to be awake 100% of the time.” There was some fire road thrown in to remind riders to eat and drink, but it never seemed to last for long.

Biggest Wednesday was a new addition to the forest, sculpted perfectly and specifically for the race. Huge rock-reinforced corners, wooden kickers, long swooping turns… Ahhh, makes us want to be out there again!

While the pre-event hype built on the appeal of the course, a few other extras added to the relaxed, biking-as-lifestyle vibe that made for a great weekend. Race rego took place at the nearby Bungendore Royal Hotel and, if you timed it right, included watching the AFL grand final with mates or trying your legs at Roller Racing out the back.  The feed zones, filled with a collection of sweet and savoury treats of the type I might hope for at my next birthday party, were also a big hit.  And then there was merch. A biddon, event branded stem cap (motivation to train for next year?) and a plastic phone sleeve meant you felt like a winner just for turning up.

A few things didn’t quite go to plan. While it took another well-known Canberra trail builder, Paul Cole, a rumoured five days to put signage out on the course, you needed to be looking up and ahead to follow the many twists and turns. Back where I was in the field, riders gave each other a holler if someone continued along a fire road, head down, chewing their new stem cap.

Dylan Cooper made the call on the start line that the winning time to cover the 92km of trail would be four hours. He was wrong… by seven seconds. 4:00:07 for the victorious Canberran.
Riders grouped themselves into waves for the start and a decent fire road climb in the opening couple of kays spread the field out nicely so there were few bottle necks in the singletrack.

Up at the pointy end quite a few of the fitter folk took some wrong turns and rode more or less of the forest than intended. Hats off to Dylan Cooper (Rockstar Racing) and Peta Mullens (Anytime Fitness) for not only winning the event outright, but for staying observant when it was so easy to get distracted and roll with the flow.

Needless to say course marking and extra bunting will be ironed out for next year along with a few other tweaks to keep the racing fresh and fun. 12 months is a long time to wait for the next event though. What else do the Kowalskis have in store for the time between then and now?

Tyno comments that he’d like to see more riders enjoying a few different loops when they head out to these trails for a ride. “There are some real gems out there that get next to no riders most of the time, so there’s definitely scope to make some other fun options more popular.”

Were people stoked on the trails? You bet they were! Just ask Dave, top right. Bottom – the highway realignment wasn’t stopping this race, with an underpass linking Kowen to Sparrow Hill.

The Sparrow/Kowen network is becoming an increasingly popular social ride destination for Canberrans and out of towners. Trails and more trails are on the cards for the energetic Kowalskis, along with maintenance of the current collection. Chats are happening with the Parks and Conservation Service (who ‘own’ the land) about formalising the network, creating a trail head and producing maps.

The Kowalski’s endless passion for building trails is only usurped by their desire to share them. Rather than feel protective of trails built for specific races, Al sees the value in other event teams adding a sense of diversity to the ways the trails are enjoyed – provided there is mutual respect in both directions.

“We’re not opposed to other organisers running events over the trails we build,” says Al. “In fact we’ve really helped groups like Chocolate Foot (with course design, marking and event operations) and AROC (with course selection). These event organisers understand and appreciate the time and effort we contribute building these trails. They were very respectful and accommodating in their approaches to us with ideas for their races and tracks they’d like to use.”

More than the trails themselves, the generous, proud and bike loving attitude of the people who craft them is what made the Kowalski Classic such a great weekend. Its success lies in the fact that it’s not just a race, it’s a celebration of riding as a lifestyle. It’s the culmination of months of work that gives back to the mountain biking community in ways that reach beyond the impact of the event alone. The bacon, beer and other take home treats? Well that just made it sweeter still.

Check out www.selfpropelled.com.au for more information on the trail team, merch and events. If you live in Canberra, or are riding through, consider joining the Kowalski Brothers on a build day and give something back as well.
Registration was at the Bungendore Royal Hotel, perfect for catching the AFL Grand Final. Rawhide Roller Racing gave riders a chance to spin the legs, for better or worse.
Some of the best stocked food stations we’ve ever seen, including…. bacon and egg sandwiches.
Moooooooo.

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Backcountry with Anton Cooper

In the lead up to the 2012 World MTB Championships Flow managed to get a weekend in the backcountry with soon-to-be World Junior XC Champion Anton Cooper. This story and film captures the events of one of the coolest trail journeys we have been on yet with one of the coolest cats in MTB.

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The Poulter River MTB trail in Arthur’s Pass National Park, Canterbury, is one of the Cooper family’s favourite haunts – Anton has been coming here with his mum and dad and two sisters since he could walk.

Anton near Casey Hut
Anton rides a beech forest line near Casey Hut on the Poulter River, Arthur’s Pass National Park, Canterbury.

The trail is a 27km gradual climb up the Poulter Valley on the true right of the Poulter River. It is mostly on an old 4WD track that climbs up and across the many river washouts that cascade down the mountainsides. The trail wanders through a few impressive stands of mountain beech forest on the final approaches to Casey Hut. Mountain biking is permitted up to the Trust/Poulter Hut a further 6km along from Casey Hut. Anton and his dad Paul have ventured even further on foot to Lake Minchin where they often fished for trout. As we were to learn on this trip, Anton’s got a swag of handy fishing techniques that he’s developed over the years.

The backcountry hut system in New Zealand is a real blessing for mountain bikers, but even with a warm fire and a mattress at the end of the ride, Anton is still a very lightweight traveller. He takes a single Macpac pack and sleeps in a sleeping bag that can fit in the palm of your hand. On the night we spent in there – at the tail end of winter – the temperature plummeted to -7°C overnight. Cold enough to frost the inside of the hut windows and to freeze a drink bottle in minutes.

Icy crossing
Anton Cooper tries to cross an iced up stream near the Poulter River, Arthur’s Pass National Park, Canterbury.
Hoar Frost
Anton Cooper rides through snap-frozen grass during a hoar frost near Casey Hut, Arthur’s Pass National Park, Canterbury.

We shot some images at dawn the next morning and the hoar frost had turned every living thing in sight white with icicles. Impressive stuff. One of the river crossings on the return leg had an inch-thick layer of ice across it – not quite strong enough to support Anton’s frame and Trek.

The two-day journey was taken at a relaxed pace and it gave us a good insight into just how comfortable this then 17-year-old was in the mountains not far from his home.

It was no surprise to see him win New Zealand’s first ever Junior World XC Championship a few months later. Anton, it seems, is born to shine in the hills.

 

Casey Hut
Casey Hut, Arthur’s Pass National Park, Canterbury.
Casey Hut Refuel
Anton Cooper refuels in Casey Hut, Arthur’s Pass National Park, Canterbury. Man, this kid can eat!
Wheels
Pretty damn epic wheels for a 17-year-old … car’s not bad either.
Goat
Anton Cooper acting a goat up the Poulter River.
Plain
Anton Cooper soaks up the sunshine after a -7°C start to the second day of the journey up the Poulter River.

 

Kiwi Designer Develops New Trail Tool

More than seven years building mountain bike trails around Dunedin is what design engineer Gareth Hargreaves drew on when he tweaked the final CAD drawings for his new trail tool. Now trail builders throughout New Zealand (and soon Australia) are reaping the rewards.

“I was having to haul a grubber, rake and a shovel everywhere I was working, which grew old pretty quick,” he told Flow.

Gareth Hargreaves trail tool
Design engineer Gareth Hargreaves holds two heads of the five-in-one trail tool.

“I wanted to develop a tool that would do most things: cut branches, lever rocks, shift dirt, bench trail and pack down berms and weigh the same or less than a wooden handled grubber – my old weapon of choice.”[private]

Gareth or “G” as he is better known was doing some research when he stumbled across a picture of a fire fighting tool that some trail builders in Canada were using.

“I got inspiration from that and added a few hot mods I felt it needed.”

G’s day job is designing components for whiteware for Fisher and Paykel and so he had some impressive technology to play with through the concept stage, but he said the days on the hill – “the trial and error” were what made the difference.

“We trialled a mild steel head, steel pipe handle, different shaped raking tips, different sharpened areas – after spending so much time trailbuilding, I had a good idea of what weight I can swing all day.”

G the grim reaper
Design engineer Gareth Hargreaves holds the ultimate trail-building tool.

The mild steel of the first prototype proved way to soft, so version 2.0 used a modified shovel handle and Bisalloy 80 steel for the head.

“It worked much better, but I did manage to break a handle. The heads even proved to be DH trail builder-proof here on Signal Hill too, with Jana giving one a fair old punishing up there,” he laughs.

Version 3.0 used a sledgehammer handle and allows for easy replacement in the field if required. Eight months later and version 3.1 is already being developed with all the CAD design done after work and before his local Wednesday night ride.

“The profiling was done by the awesome lads down at Precision Profile Ltd and the final machining and welding is done here at work by me,” he offers.

The most recent version, which has gone into production, uses the Bisalloy 80 steel, a Hickory sledgehammer handle and weighs about 3.5kg.

G said it took 10 different models to get to the current design, but he now has 36 of the new ones “sculpting trails throughout Otago and Canterbury”.

Ground Effect cycling clothing company has long been a sponsor of G’s trails and were the first to put in an order for the new tool to help out on the other trail projects it supports.

The dream for G is to see trail builders throughout Australasia making life easier for themselves with his tool and making better trails faster. He is selling them for NZD$100 plus shipping. If you’re keen on one email G at [email protected]

 

Rakin it in
The trail tool has five different surfaces or edges to tackle every job encountered by trail-builders.
Trail tool
The first production run of the new trail tool.
G swinging
Design engineer Gareth Hargreaves has put in more than seven years on the trails to refine the ultimate trail-building tool.
Rake
The trail tool, designed by Gareth Hargreaves, is a cutting and finishing tool for trail-builders.
The man behind the tool
Design engineer Gareth Hargreaves with his now-production tool.

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Taking it to 11

SRAM popup store, Whistler Village, Canada, we sit in a classroom featuring many elements reminiscent of my old primary school. Sticker covered aluminium lockers, graffiti tagged desks and big whiteboards scribbled with suspension and SRAM gear doodles.

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Two lengths of rope hang from the ceiling for grommets and big kids to try reach the top for the chance to score a free t-shirt as they ogle at Brandon Semenuk wander in to grab a his custom Redbull helmet and knee pads from his locker. It’s pretty obvious that SRAM throw their full weight behind big events like Crankworx, they are everywhere, their riders are held high like the premium athletes they are, and their big figure novelty cheques hang on the wall from the likes of Stevie Smith, Kyle Strait and Jordie Lunn. The winnings from the events held a few hundred meters away on the lower slopes of the worlds most epic gravity fed mountain bike playground. And the select SRAM BlackBox athletes were encouraged to store their bikes inside too, so this small glass walled air conditioned space was a very, very cool place to spend way too much time hiding from the manic fury of Crankworx.

SRAM’s popup store in Whistler Village during Crankworx.

And what was Flow Mountain Bike doing there? We would be joining a select group of international media, SRAM pro riders, engineers and staff to take out a bike fitted with the hottest piece of kit that only a handful of people have actually ridden – SRAM XX1. The revolutionary eleven speed drivetrain with no regard for those old-school front derailleurs or chain guides. The drivetrain that was fitted to the winning bikes at both the Olympic Cross Country, and the Mega Avalanche – two extremely high profile events that really could not be any different at all.

Pro riders are held in very high regard in the SRAM family. Note the novelty cheques on the wall, they grew in quantity and dollar value as the week progressed.

Chris Hilton, from SRAM’s high end mountain bike drivetrain development department walks us through not only how it works, but their motivations behind this unique take on a drivetrain. Suspension frame design limitations, chain tension issues and creating a lighter system through the removal of parts, were some of the concepts tossed about in the early stages of XX1.

Simon Cittati from SRAM Europe talks us through the many unique features of XX1

So we dialled in the bikes, a mixture of Trek Slashes and Specialized S-Works Enduros and wheeled them out of the bustling Whistler village and onto the trails. Not one chainguide was fitted the dozen or so bikes in our bunch, and we all were so curious to see how it would fare when pushed hard. The trails we followed enduro guru Jerome Clementz through were rough, fast, unpredictable and wildly undulating. We mashed through the gears, back pedalled through bumps, used the entire range of gears available and forgot what we where doing out there and began to just soak in the ride.

An early prototype rear derailleur that had been in use many months before we knew it existed. They sure kept this project quiet.
Giving the S-Works Enduro a good razz around the trails of Lost Lake; fast, undulating and wild.

First impressions? The shifting is classic SRAM, positive and engaging, if a little smoother and lighter feeling than a standard X0 shift. The clutch mechanism (like the Type 2) tensioned derailler does not feel any heavier under your thumb to shift up into the lower gears, like you notice with a Shimano Shadow Plus derailleur and the extra click to eleven speed in the shifter quickly became the norm. Quite as a mouse and super smooth, the chain gildes on and off the chainring with no doubt of direction or stiction, stellar stuff.

The major topic of contention is how much benefit do you gain, not only just for the dollars. You are looking at about $450 for a replacement cassette, a wear item, and the $350 derailleur could still be swiftly removed in an unfortunate incident on the trail. The complete set (shifter, derailleur, cassette, cranks, BB and chain) will retail in Australia for around $1650 with a GXP bottom bracket, and $1700 for BB30. Chainrings range from $100-$150 in two teeth increments from 28-38. And then there is the topic of what ratio options cover what climbs and descents, who suits what size chainring and what type of bikes is this stuff really designed for? Does a standard 1×10 speed drivetrain with a chainguide lose enough on the XX1 to warrant the upgrade? And how much can you trust it without a chainguide? Well, Flow Mountain Bike is has since tested the XX1 group set on our regular trails to reach a verdict. A complete video review is coming soon. Turn it up to eleven! [/private]

Full video review on Flowmountainbike.com coming very soon!

 

For the Birds

August 26th was an exciting day for Canberra’s female mountain bike riders. Not only was Canberra the host of its second* women’s only mountain bike race for 2012 but it was the last Sunday of winter and the sun was out!

Held at Sparrow Hill, For the Birds (aptly named for the location some may say) is part of a growing event format to cater for female-only riders.  With race distances of either 10, 20, 40, and 60 kms and several classes it proved to be very popular with a wide range of women. [private]

With a very civil start time of 10am there was no frost to be seen and the temperature was 10 degrees and climbing. There was a buzz in the air and it was not just because of the coffee van. There were a lot of first time racers and their nervous energy was contagious.

The start of the 60 km race. Amazingly an early winter morning in Canberra that wasn’t too cold.

110 riders entered for what is planned to be an annual event. One noticeable inclusion was the number of young girls. Sure, there are usually a few hanging around at the local races to cheer on Mum or Dad but here there were plenty taking the challenge to race.

With so many young girls entered it showed that there is a good future for women’s racing in Australia.

Maizy (aged 10) and Verity (aged 8), were very excited about their 10km race though they had done, ‘too many races to count’.

‘We’re on a team’, they said proudly, ‘Team Salubrious Racing’.

It was starting to seem that the young riders were the more experienced. The Cycle Education team’s 11 year old Sonia had a quiet confidence about her as she prepared for her 10km race. Sonia finished 4th out of 15 riders-across all age groups.

For the first timers though it was all butterflies. The self-named Anxious Mothers team, usually found following their sons and daughters to downhill races around the country, were all racing for the first time and entered the 10km race for ages 40+. Though some said they would be more into the 50+ category if there was one!

Just one of the many first time racers Sally Adams was already talking about her next race at the finish line.

Lesley Vincent said there was no pressure and they were just there to enjoy themselves. Sonya Kristiansen added she just wanted to have fun and wore a pink tinsel wig and tiara on her helmet to prove it. On a borrowed pink bike, Helen Batt sure looked the ‘we’re here to enjoy ourselves’ part too.  However, Liz McMillan, who’s son David had left for the Downhill World Championships in Austria the day before, took the overall win on her brand new bike. Seems the Anxious Mothers had an ace up their sleeve!

Such a nice day for a race….or ride… or whatever you wanted. That was the vibe from this event.

The 20km race was the most hotly contested category with 46 riders entered in four age groups – open, 40+, under 19 and under 15. This race featured two ‘veterans’ of the sport in Cara Paton (nee Smith) and Cheryl Hulskamp (nee Woods). After a quick race briefing and reminder for ‘a hair and make up check’ from the race director Kris Nicholls, and they were off!

One loop later and Cara, the winner, emerged from the single track all smiles.  In 4th position was first-time racer Cass Du Boulay. (Check Flow in a few weeks when Cass tells her story about first time racing.) The youngest rider in this distance was Zoe Cuthbert who finished 11 minutes back in 7th position overall. With the number of young riders participating and doing so well, the future of the sport is looking very bright.

Cara Paton – winner of the 20km race.

Of the two other special mentions one must go to Belinda O’Connor, entered in just her second ever race, she said she was scared and nervous, not because she has limited vision but she was worried she would crash and it would be caught on the Go-Pro camera she was using to film the race. The other goes to Melissa Collins, racing just three weeks after the birth of her daughter Sierra. Melissa said it was hard but fun, and it definitely helped that she continued to ride throughout her pregnancy, including the day she went into labour.

Belinda O’Conner proving that riding your bike is all that matters sometimes.

The 40km race consisted of two loops and had 28 riders. The 60km was three laps and had 13 riders. These were both great to watch as a spectator as you could check the progress as the riders came through each lap. Most riders stopped to grab a snack or a drink and the crowd clapped and encouraged every one on to the next lap.

At the top of the hard long climb for the third time.

Claire Graydon took the 40km win just in front of Jacki Sculthorp. Lucy Burton in the under 17 group took 4th overall. Michaela Watts was first over the line in the 60km with Karen Evans winning the 40+ category and coming in 3rd overall.

Eventual winner of the 60 km race Micheala Watts trails 2nd place finisher Brooke Rowlands late on the first lap.

The most common phrase heard at the finish line was, ‘my legs feel like jelly’.  Fun was had by all involved, the huge smiles on everyone’s faces and the excited conversations more than proved the success of the event.

Smiles and excited conversation at the end of the race.

As always there has to be a big well done and thank you to all the organizers, volunteers and participants for making the event such a success. Further details can be found at www.forthebirds.com.au

Look out for more of women’s events as they gain popularity.  In Canberra next year there is a three race series stemming from the popular Dirt de Femme race held in April 2012. We at Flow will keep you posted on other events on our Event Calendar.

* Dirt De Femme was the first women’s only mountain bike race in Canberra. [/private]

 

 

Rolling fast on the big wheels, with Giant’s new Trance X29

The easiest way to make a decision may well be taking out any options, and Giant are not the only ones taking the knife to their range of bikes for 2013. Cutting both the 26” wheeled Anthem X and Trance X from the catalogue, we now only have 29er versions of what may well be two of Australia’s most popular dual suspension bikes. Trek and Specialized are doing it too, 29ers are becoming less of an option of choice, and more of the only option on the shop floor. [private]

We are well versed in the 100mm Giant Anthem X29, a solid choice for a wide variety of riders with a racier attitude. The Trance X however is Giants biggest selling dual suspension bike, at 120mm travel and geared at the all round rider it is no wonder you see them in droves on the trails. For 2013 we see 29” wheels, dropper posts on all but the cheapest of four versions, sensible knobby tyres, and a solid trail-oriented build kit.

She is a shiny one, the swoopy lines, slack seat angle and long front end junction sets the new Trance apart from the pack. Frame weight is 2.5kg with shock and in Australia they will start at a impressive $1899 and top out at $4699 for the premium SRAM X0 lightweight build. This model dripping with Shimano XT – the Trance X29 0 retails for a incredible $3799.
The dual link Maestro suspension design has not any seen and drastic changes to its format since 2005, and it carries across the whole lineup from the 100mm travel Anthem to the big Glory downhill bike. Proven, and trusted, supple and balanced.
Giant have clearly listened, and there are many frame shapes and features that are dedicated to bringing the rear wheel in as close as possible to the centre of the bike. Note the Single Spar (vertical tube connecting the seat and chain stay) is only on the non-drive side. Shifting it off to one side has allowed the chainstays to be shorter without comprimising tyre clearance and front derailleur performance. The Trance X29 is 10.1mm shorter in chainstay length than the Anthem X29, and only half an inch longer than its 26” predecessor Trance X. Those numbers alone should put many minds at ease, its not too long in the back end at all.
Nothing too extraordinary going on out back here, Giant are sticking with an open dropout system with a solid wind-up axle instead of the bolt up through-axle setups we have seen a lot of recently. The ease of use and performance seems good enough for Giant to stick with the original standard setup here.
Four cables enter the down tube from both sides – the derailleurs, seat post cable and even the rear brake hydraulic hose are routed internally. After multiple prototype locations the best possible entry location was decided on to attain the cleanest and most effective lines. Note the bolts on the underside of the downtube, from the factory Giant are unable to route the brake lines internally, bike shops or consumers have the option of routing them internally if so desired.
The long top and down tube junction is very unique in its appearance. We liked the fresh and curvy look to it, but we can understand why others may take a little getting used to it. Also, as we have grown to expect from Giant, the frame welding and paintjob finishes are neat clean, and classic bold Giant.
We are quite fond of Giant’s adjustable seatpost, it works sweet without the fuss. And the fact it comes stock on so many bikes at attainable price points is even more attractive.
There is no doubt that Giant have invested heavily in their mountain bike wheel program following on from a successful push in to the road bike market last year. Jeff Schneider Giant’s Global Marketing Manager for gear was on hand to show off the large range that shows deep collaborations with DT Swiss in more ways than just the hubs. The P-TRX 29er 1 we tested is a 1795g 28mm wide wheel set for aggressive riding, utilising DT Swiss hub internals and spoke bed technology seen in the brilliant DT Swiss Tricon wheels. Otherwise Giant has designed the rim, spoke pattern and hub shell in-house. A featherweight 1430g set of carbon 29er wheels are due to our shores soon also.
The rear brake only enters the frame for a few centimeters before popping out again, it makes for a clean appearance at that section but still leaves behind unused bolts on the underside of the down tube.
Sensible tubeless ready rubber for a wide variety of conditions, and a tough wheel set that suits a 120mm 29er perfectly.

‘Flickable’ was a word tossed about many times during Giant’s presentation, they went out to create a bike that was different to the Anthem, and more fun to ride. 29ers by default are generally harder to flick about on the trail but the Trance wasn’t adverse to getting lary and playing about, let the big wheels roll!
For Aussie and Kiwi riders we feel the Trance X29 will be immensely popular, only the steepest and tightest trails would ever test the limits of the longer wheelbased 29er, but on the open trails it’s unstoppable and ever so stable.
Gobbling up the rockiest trails where 29ers have there moment to shine, the Trance gets down to business, 120mm of travel and big wheels are a super stable combination.
Longtime Giant World Cup XC racer Adam Craig has turned his focus to the Enduro / Super D scene lately, he joined us on the ride aboard his fifth generation prototype Trance 29er. Adam had more input into the geometry of this bike than any model prior, and above all the motivation was to create a 29er that was fun to ride. Adam also lined up at the Mega Avalanche mass start endurance downhill, not too many 29ers up on that massive glacier.
World All Mountain Champion Carl Decker is a mad pinner, super low to the ground and fast, we took great delight in attempting to hold onto his wheel when speeds got frighteningly high. [/private]

 

 

Rolling fast on the big wheels, with Giant's new Trance X29

The easiest way to make a decision may well be taking out any options, and Giant are not the only ones taking the knife to their range of bikes for 2013. Cutting both the 26” wheeled Anthem X and Trance X from the catalogue, we now only have 29er versions of what may well be two of Australia’s most popular dual suspension bikes. Trek and Specialized are doing it too, 29ers are becoming less of an option of choice, and more of the only option on the shop floor. [private]

We are well versed in the 100mm Giant Anthem X29, a solid choice for a wide variety of riders with a racier attitude. The Trance X however is Giants biggest selling dual suspension bike, at 120mm travel and geared at the all round rider it is no wonder you see them in droves on the trails. For 2013 we see 29” wheels, dropper posts on all but the cheapest of four versions, sensible knobby tyres, and a solid trail-oriented build kit.

She is a shiny one, the swoopy lines, slack seat angle and long front end junction sets the new Trance apart from the pack. Frame weight is 2.5kg with shock and in Australia they will start at a impressive $1899 and top out at $4699 for the premium SRAM X0 lightweight build. This model dripping with Shimano XT – the Trance X29 0 retails for a incredible $3799.
The dual link Maestro suspension design has not any seen and drastic changes to its format since 2005, and it carries across the whole lineup from the 100mm travel Anthem to the big Glory downhill bike. Proven, and trusted, supple and balanced.
Giant have clearly listened, and there are many frame shapes and features that are dedicated to bringing the rear wheel in as close as possible to the centre of the bike. Note the Single Spar (vertical tube connecting the seat and chain stay) is only on the non-drive side. Shifting it off to one side has allowed the chainstays to be shorter without comprimising tyre clearance and front derailleur performance. The Trance X29 is 10.1mm shorter in chainstay length than the Anthem X29, and only half an inch longer than its 26” predecessor Trance X. Those numbers alone should put many minds at ease, its not too long in the back end at all.
Nothing too extraordinary going on out back here, Giant are sticking with an open dropout system with a solid wind-up axle instead of the bolt up through-axle setups we have seen a lot of recently. The ease of use and performance seems good enough for Giant to stick with the original standard setup here.
Four cables enter the down tube from both sides – the derailleurs, seat post cable and even the rear brake hydraulic hose are routed internally. After multiple prototype locations the best possible entry location was decided on to attain the cleanest and most effective lines. Note the bolts on the underside of the downtube, from the factory Giant are unable to route the brake lines internally, bike shops or consumers have the option of routing them internally if so desired.
The long top and down tube junction is very unique in its appearance. We liked the fresh and curvy look to it, but we can understand why others may take a little getting used to it. Also, as we have grown to expect from Giant, the frame welding and paintjob finishes are neat clean, and classic bold Giant.
We are quite fond of Giant’s adjustable seatpost, it works sweet without the fuss. And the fact it comes stock on so many bikes at attainable price points is even more attractive.
There is no doubt that Giant have invested heavily in their mountain bike wheel program following on from a successful push in to the road bike market last year. Jeff Schneider Giant’s Global Marketing Manager for gear was on hand to show off the large range that shows deep collaborations with DT Swiss in more ways than just the hubs. The P-TRX 29er 1 we tested is a 1795g 28mm wide wheel set for aggressive riding, utilising DT Swiss hub internals and spoke bed technology seen in the brilliant DT Swiss Tricon wheels. Otherwise Giant has designed the rim, spoke pattern and hub shell in-house. A featherweight 1430g set of carbon 29er wheels are due to our shores soon also.
The rear brake only enters the frame for a few centimeters before popping out again, it makes for a clean appearance at that section but still leaves behind unused bolts on the underside of the down tube.
Sensible tubeless ready rubber for a wide variety of conditions, and a tough wheel set that suits a 120mm 29er perfectly.

‘Flickable’ was a word tossed about many times during Giant’s presentation, they went out to create a bike that was different to the Anthem, and more fun to ride. 29ers by default are generally harder to flick about on the trail but the Trance wasn’t adverse to getting lary and playing about, let the big wheels roll!
For Aussie and Kiwi riders we feel the Trance X29 will be immensely popular, only the steepest and tightest trails would ever test the limits of the longer wheelbased 29er, but on the open trails it’s unstoppable and ever so stable.
Gobbling up the rockiest trails where 29ers have there moment to shine, the Trance gets down to business, 120mm of travel and big wheels are a super stable combination.
Longtime Giant World Cup XC racer Adam Craig has turned his focus to the Enduro / Super D scene lately, he joined us on the ride aboard his fifth generation prototype Trance 29er. Adam had more input into the geometry of this bike than any model prior, and above all the motivation was to create a 29er that was fun to ride. Adam also lined up at the Mega Avalanche mass start endurance downhill, not too many 29ers up on that massive glacier.
World All Mountain Champion Carl Decker is a mad pinner, super low to the ground and fast, we took great delight in attempting to hold onto his wheel when speeds got frighteningly high. [/private]

 

 

Local Loop – Andy Blair

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Aussie Marathon National Champion, Andy Blair drags Flow Mountain Bike around his local trails of Queanbeyan. He loves the European Alps, as well as the race tracks all over Australia but he still rates his local loop as his most favoured trails in the world.

 

Andy grew up riding these trails, literally out the back door of his parent’s house. A strong contrast to the purpose-built trails we usually ride around Canberra, these are raw, aged and rugged. Crafted by years of motorcycle use, they tested our bike handling skills to their limits.

We did our best to follow the smooth riding race whippet up, down and around these wild trails in what turned out to be quite an epic ride indeed.

Take a ride out the back of Queanbeyan and you may find a flash of red, white and black sniper pinning it through the trees at warp speed.

 

Blairy shows off his Felt 9 carbon race bike. Talk about customising.
For such a well-versed racer, Andy frothed on a little bit of an adventure. Flowing singletrack or groomed turns gave way to raw trails and epic vistas, riding this stuff strikes a balance between training rides and real mountain biking for Andy.
The man of the moment in Aussie marathon racing. His Dedication to the sport, success and approachable manner makes Andy Blair (AKA Manly Flair) a pleasure to share a podium, casual ride, yarn, or a meal with.

 

Bike Check – Brook MacDonald’s Mondraker Summum

Brook Macdonald AKA ‘Bulldog’ is one seriously fast Kiwi. He has a tendency to tear apart World Cup downhill courses rather than dilly-dallying down them. So, what bike can handle such a hard life? We check out his Mondraker Summum in detail, we feel sorry for this poor bike.

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Brook pilots his Mondraker down the mighty Mont Sainte Anne downhill track

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Bike Check – Brook MacDonald's Mondraker Summum

Brook Macdonald AKA ‘Bulldog’ is one seriously fast Kiwi. He has a tendency to tear apart World Cup downhill courses rather than dilly-dallying down them. So, what bike can handle such a hard life? We check out his Mondraker Summum in detail, we feel sorry for this poor bike.

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[private]

Brook pilots his Mondraker down the mighty Mont Sainte Anne downhill track

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Preparing for the World Championships

The Australian Junior Downhill Team has a solid legacy. For the last 15 years, the team has consistently been at the top when it comes to country rankings for the Junior Downhill World Championships, and almost every Aussie pro downhill racer has been part of the team before hitting ‘the big time’.[private]

I was a member of the team from 1997 to 1999. So I was stoked to be offered the role of Australian downhill coach. It’s an important job, with the main responsibility being to assist the junior riders to be the best they can be at the World Championships.

I was absolutely pumped about working with the team – pumped and shitting myself.

I know a lot about racing, especially racing in foreign countries where they talk funny, but coaching would be a fairly new game, and looking after half a dozen Aussie downhill guys in a foreign country was definitely going to be a new experience.

Raising the bar

It began with the selection of the long team and a training camp in Canberra just before final selection. The long team – that’s nine guys – were invited to attend. Every one of these lads has buckets of potential and was a strong candidate for the team.

‘Leave the downhill bike at home,’ they were told. ‘Bring your cross country bike, and be ready to train.’

For seven days – 25-odd hours of training – the squad trained like seasoned pros, pushing through obviously painful muscle fatigue at the beginning of each training session. (Nothing gets past this eagle-eyed coach, not even copious amounts of swearing, grimacing, laughter and finger-pointing.)

The guys learned about training, nutrition and the amount of work and dedication it takes to be a pro racer.

Then it was time for the selection committee to choose the final team – no easy task. When you have nine junior athletes who would each have finished in the top 10 at the National Championships, you know you have a talented squad.

Henry Blake and Brent Smith narrowly missed out. I can’t give these guys enough credit for the effort they put in. Henry and Blake are worldclass athletes, and they are more than deserving of a spot in a national team, but the bar had been set so high.

The final selection comprised Connor Fearon, Joey Vejvoda, Thomas Crimmins, Jack Moir, Dean Lucas, Luke Ellison and David McMillan. Danielle Beecroft completed the team line-up. This crew is the next chapter of Australia’s downhill legacy.

Racing

It was time for phase two of the team’s World Championship preparation; it was time to go racing. We went on a pre-Worlds trip to the Mont-Sainte-Anne (Canada) and the Windham (USA) World Cups, to give the team some experience racing at the pinnacle of our sport. It would be serious and fun all at the same time.

A trip like this requires solid planning – I had no grey hairs until I started working on it. Former Junior World Champion Amiel Cavalier (dubbed ‘Mechanic’ by the lads) agreed to come along. Amiel did an incredible job of wrenching, mentoring and tormenting the lads.

‘Coach’ Jared Rando (left) and ‘Mechanic’ Amiel Cavalier

On 16 June after six weeks of solid training and preparation, the team met at Sydney airport with a handful of nervous and excited parents in tow. We said our goodbyes and then braced ourselves for the first hurdle: getting through check-in.

The team showed great cohesion as we employed the ‘mass confusion’ technique to reduce our excess baggage costs. (Going up to the counter, dumping bags and bike boxes everywhere, playing dumb and being really nice to staff. It worked – the staff could not move us along fast enough!)

Photos of bags
Check-In with all this luggage is always a gamble but of you put on a smile and flirt sometimes you get a good deal.

World Cup, Mont-Sainte-Anne

We arrived at the first World Cup in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada a few days early and spent the time training and preparing to race. Strength and conditioning and downhill riding sessions were followed by ice baths in the nearby lake and discussions about how we could best make use of the one day of on-course practice. The World Cup schedule is not kind to first-timers. The team would have just one day of practice on the track before they had to qualify the following morning.

All part of a normal day. Homemade ice-baths, re-fueling, race preparation reviewing helmet cam footage, and of course, trying to fit everything into the car.

It was going to be tough – the team would have a maximum of 10 runs before they had to try to qualify against the best riders in the world on one of the toughest tracks on the World Cup circuit. Throw in the fact that most of the pros already knew the track like the back of their hand, and our guys were faced with a monumental task just qualifying for the final.

Downhill racing is not just a five-minute race. The big thing with downhill racing – and this is something many people don’t understand – is that a race is three days of training and practice to prepare for that five-minute race. To do well, you need to be fit enough to make it through training and still feel fresh on race day.

Practice went really well. Most of the gang punched out at least eight runs and still felt fresh afterwards. (All that training was paying off.) And SRAM, our next-door neighbours in the pits, kept the team’s bikes nice and fresh.

The juniors were ready for their first-ever World Cup start.

There was relief, disappointment and excitement in the pits after the lads came down from their qualifier runs. Jack and Dean had made the cut, along with Connor, who was travelling and riding with his pro team. The others missed out.

It’s a tough gig. All that work for just one day of practice and one qualifying run. But that’s racing. The guys who didn’t make the finals were already focused on the next race and helping out their team mates who had made it in.

In typical Dave McMillan style there isn’t much left of this corner.

Connor finished 28th. Jack ended up 44th and Dean was 56th. With their lack of experience on the track, these results were incredible.

Danielle, who was travelling with her pro team, crashed out in qualifying.

Racing in the World Cup at Mont Sainte Anne was a great first experience for the guys. We came away with smiles all round and a fresh bag of tricks for Windham.

World Cup, Windham

Windham is a tiny town in the middle of nowhere in New York State, USA. The team was staying in a holiday house. We made use of the surrounding grounds for our strength and conditioning sessions, and cut in a small downhill track for the guys to play on.

The training and preparation never stops. World Cup is big time and you have to be as professional and focused in all areas – not just on the track.

The team faced similar challenges to qualify at Windham. The track was shorter than the one at Mont Sainte Anne, packed with massive jumps, and it was extremely dusty, with big crosswinds – scary stuff.

It’s a hard thing to put your fear aside and approach a race in a tactical manner no matter what the conditions. But Danielle and the lads did it with style, approaching the course and the race conditions like pros.

World Cup courses are something different from home and high speed is generally part of any track. Luke Ellison takes the speed with style.

In the qualifiers, Connor, Jack and Dean made the cut again, with the others narrowly missing out. Danni also qualified, despite a less than perfect run. And once again, those who missed out took it in their stride, signing up for a Gravity East Series race straight after the qualifiers. (Davey came second and walked away with US$300 for his efforts.)

Race day saw some extremely tough conditions. The track was totally blown out and the wind was gusty. Despite these tough conditions, Connor, Jack and Dean put on a good show. Jack finished 63rd, Dean was 55th and Connor had an average run but still managed to place 42nd.

Danielle crashed in the finals. A few weeks later, she found out that her shoulder that had been dislocated and popped back in while she was racing at Mont-Sainte-Anne and Windham. Respect!

Coach and Mechanic also taught the team some other valuable life skills.

World Champs, Leogang

The whole team put on one hell of a show when we got to the World Championships at Leogang, Austria (31 August – 2 September 2012). Everyone rode really well, with Connor Fearson and Danielle Beecroft each securing a third place. I am proud of every one of the team – they proved once again that the Australian Junior Downhill Team is a force to be reckoned with. Their journey, from the beginning of the National Series to racing the World Championships, has been long, hard and exciting, and it has all paid off. This crew of talented downhillers now know what it takes to race at the top, and being part of the Australian Junior Downhill Team is part of an ongoing journey in the tough world of downhill racing.

The memories and friendships are what will last forever.

The junior program would not be possible without the support of MTBA. We extend a huge thanks to them for supporting racing at domestic and international levels, and for making development programs like ours a reality. [/private]

Specialized 2013 Machines

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The trails of Cairns are legendary, steeped in history and a firm part of Australian mountain bike folklore. Some of Australia’s greatest racers and most influential mountain bikers have come out of these steamy trails – think of the likes of Ronning, the Hannahs, Kovarik and luminaries like Glen Jacobs. It’s a special place. [private]

It was even more special recently when Specialized came to town, bringing with them a dealer show of astronomical pizzazz. Specialized have a remarkably strong presence in Cairns. Tie in the fact that the famous Smithfield trails have just been revamped and it’s clear to see why this steamy location was picked as the location for the Big S’s 2013 Australia/New Zealand launch.

Over the course of a solid day on the trails at Smithfield (and during some in-depth sessions in the dealer show) we got the low down on the most exciting bikes in the new range. Here are the standouts.

The new Enduro Expert Carbon is the highlight of the range as far as we’re concerned. It’s one of the few 26″ bikes in the line up (outside of the pure gravity bikes) and it is a world apart from the 2012 version of this bike in many regards.

The Enduro series has been a favourite of ours for a while now. They’re a great all-mountain bike, with amazing descending capabilities. In years past these bikes were, if we’re being honest, a little bit of a slug on the climbs. They had the gears to get you there, but the suspension kinematics left the bike sitting well into its travel. That has all changed for 2013.

Specialized have drastically rework the suspension action of the Enduro and it’s a far superior bike as a result. We spent the bulk of our trail time at Smithfield on the Enduro. Smithfield is definitely an area more suited to shorter travel bikes, but we genuinely didn’t feel out of place on the Enduro. Its climbing performance, especially with the TALAS fork dropped to its shorter travel setting and the ‘Trail’ mode engaged on the CTD rear shock, was excellent. Close your eyes and you’d swear you were piloting an Stumpjumper FSR up the hill.

The sub 13kg weight is amazing (though the sub 12kg weight of the S-Works version is even better!), achieved in part by the switch at Fox 34 fork with a 15mm axle, rather than running a burlier 36mm stanchioned fork as in years past.

There will be some who lament the loss of the 36, but it’s a change we welcome – if you need more fork than this, consider the Enduro Evo. The new 34 series fork is a little shorter than the 36 too, meaning that lower bar heights are possible, again improving climbing performance.

With an increase in rear suspension travel to 165mm, there’s plenty of forgiveness when you want let it rip on the Enduro. The Enduro’s equipped with Specialized’s own Command Post adjustable seat post, as well as the grippy rubber (a Butcher 2.3″ up front and Purgatory out back), clearly communicating this bike’s descending intentions.

For 2013 Specialized have rolled out their AUTOSAG rear shock technology to most of the dual suspension bikes in the range, including the Enduro, making ideal suspension setup a two second job.

If the budget won’t stretch to the Expert Carbon, the Enduro Comp shares all the same key features (ie. improved rear suspension, AUTOSAG, Fox CTD fork and shock) but with an M5 alloy mainframe instead of carbon. If you’ve got money to burn, take a look at the S-Works Enduro; with SRAM’s XX1 drivetrain and a Cane Creek Double Barrel air shock, there is no finer all-mountain bike on the market right now.

The Epic is a proven world beater; World Cups, World Champs, Olympics. For 2013 the range of Epics is massive and highly refined.

With an Olympic gold medal recently added to its trophy cabinet, the venerable Specialized Epic range is on a bit of a high. For 2013, Specialized has a huge array of Epics in carbon with just a solitary alloy option.

The Epic range scores not one, but two S-Works models this year, with SRAM and Shimano XTR options. While the S-Works Epic pictured above is shown with a SRAM XX drivetrain, production versions will in fact come with the revolutionary SRAM XX1 drivetrain, so you can feel just like Kulhavy.

Perhaps the biggest story with the new Epics is the introduction of AUTOSAG rear shocks. Not only does this speed up suspension setup, but way this system automatically balances the rear shock’s positive and negative air pressures finally means that Epics will run the correct negative pressure! This should translate to greatly improved small bump performance.

It’s interesting to see Magura brakes on many of the Epic models; in fact, there is a huge variety of brake manufacturers on display across the whole range (SRAM, Shimano, Formula, Magura and Tektro). It would appear that the inconsistency Specialized and other big brands have experienced with some SRAM offerings in the past few seasons have forced them to cast a wider net.

The Demo line up has grown to four bikes; two carbon, two alloy. We think the sub $4000 Demo 8 I, pictured here, is going to give the pot a good old stir in the budget downhill market.

While Troy Brosnan seems to be doing his best to keep himself out of action (get well soon, mate!), the bikes that he and Sam Hill ride are going from strength to strength. The release of the highly limited team replica Demo 8 Carbon has been well publicised, but it’s the unveiling of a Demo 8 at the opposite end of the price spectrum that has us pumped.

The Demo 8 I, pictured above, comes in at under $4000 and is oozing with well considered spec. Fox and Rockshox suspension, SRAM X9 Type II derailleur, brilliant rubber… there just aren’t any holes in this bike’s armour for the price.

It will interesting to see how the market responds to the regular (non team replica) Demo 8 Carbon; it shares the same frame as the team bike with the exception of the custom 135mm rear end, but comes with a far more modest component spec. Will people pay more for the carbon frame, or will they opt for the gorgeous specced alloy-framed Demo 8 II?

Specialized continue to lead the way with serious women’s mountain bikes. Hardcore female cross country racers now have a bike of unparalleled drool-worthiness to swoon over – the S-Works Fate Carbon. With a weight in the 8kg range, it’s the finest women’s race bike we’ve yet seen.

A big round of applause to Specialized for the Safire – a proper women’s trail bike, complete with Command Post and bash guard.

For women’s trail bikes, it’s awfully hard to go past the 2013 Safire Expert. This is a proper tough nut trail bike; 2×10 drivetrain, big-bagged tyres and a dropper post. It’s a bike that recognises there are women out there who don’t take the B-line on their local loops and who need a bike that is made for technical riding.

The obvious hole in the Specialized women’s lineup is a dual suspension 29er. With a lot hassling we did manage to get an admission that a 29er women’s dual suspension trail bike is next on the agenda. Our best guess is that it’ll be will look an awful lot like the current Camber.

With 150mm front and rear, the Stumpjumper FSR Comp Evo is your classic hard-charging 26er. It’s also the shortest travel 26″ bike Specialized are bringing to Australia in 2013.

If there was one overarching theme of the whole 2013 range, it was the dominance of 29ers. This may come as a shock to some, but the shortest travel 26″ bike available in Australia next year, is the Stumpjumper FSR Evo Comp which packs 150mm travel. If you want less travel than that, you’re on a 29er. The New Zealand market has the option of the S-Works Stumpjumper FSR, with 140mm front and rear.

While some will disagree, we have to give Specialized praise for the courage of their convictions; they have clearly made the call that they feel 29ers are just the better option for all categories of bike with less than 150mm-travel.

The S-Works Stumpy FSR 26, left, is New Zealand only, and it looks exquisite. To the right is a lairy beast we cannot wait to try out – the Stumpy FSR Expert Carbon Evo. It certainly appears to have the potential to change people’s opinions that 29ers are built for pussy footing about.

For aggressive trail riders who want something a little more climb friendly than the Enduro, the most exciting bike in the lineup is the Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon Evo 29 (pheeew, that’s a mouthful!), which looks primed to bust the perception that 29 = cross country. Proudly pushing big wheels in the 140mm range, with big rubber, Command Post, 720mm handlebar and slack geometry, it looks like you could get yourself into a lot of trouble on this machine! We didn’t manage to grab a ride on this bike, but we hope to have a test in the near future.

iMountain Bike

Think you just railed that downhill section or nailed that climb like a World Champ? Want the proof so your mates don’t call bullshit?

The cost of owning a cycling-specific device can be hard to justify, but many of us already own an easily modifiable substitute product: the smart phone. There are many apps available for iPhone (and Android) that claim to replace the old bike computer, heart rate monitor and even the newer GPS unit – but are these apps any good for mountain biking?[private]

We tested five popular iPhone apps to see what they offer and how they compare: MapMyRide, Strava Cycling, MountainBikePro, Garmin Fit and iBiker. (Sorry Android users, your day will come soon.)

The low-down on bike computer apps

Some cycle computer apps are designed to track your fitness progression, some show you where to ride and others are designed to help you compare your awesomeness to others. The apps tested share many tracking features: speed, distance, elevation, and post-ride route-mapping and ride history, to name a few.

The information-gathering capacity of these apps can be expanded with aftermarket sensors and receivers to gauge heart rate and cadence.

Seeing as all the tested apps make use of your phone’s GPS for live tracking, they do chew through battery life. We had up to as 50% battery burn in just 2.5 hours of use.

Where you put the phone is the hardest part and possibly the biggest downside compared to a cycle-specific unit. There are bike-specific phone cases, but the phone’s large size doesn’t lend well to on-bike mounting for off-road use, and it’s not easily accessible while in your pack.

MapMyRide (Free)

This is a popular app and has a growing community of users, which means there’s a great deal of ride information available for download.

Users can find cycle routes within their locality, and rides of specified distances. When you ride these routes, live tracking can help you stay on track. This feature exists for both road and MTB riding, and it’s a neat feature if you’re unsure of where to go.

MapMyRide is one of the more comprehensive apps available. It also offers a complete food tracker and training history for those on a mission.

Strava Cycling (Free)

Racing your mates and pushing your own limits online – Strava has certainly become a popular (if painful) form of social networking.

Strava takes your total ride and breaks it into segments. So, your regular loop might consist of a popular climb and a popular descent. With this app, you’ll be able to compare your times in these sections against others by just turning on the app.

While more for those with a competitive edge, Strava Cycling does give you the ability to see where you stand, performance-wise, and that alone can motivate improvement.

The functionality is great. It has an easy to use layout and has useful features such as the elevation and speed graphs to look at post-ride.

MountainBikePro ($6.49)

This is the only mountain bike-specific app on test, and it’s jam-packed full of features.

All the apps we tested trace your movements via GPS and, because the mapping is done through cellular data, if reception is poor, your app’s mapping service will be too. To get around that, MountainBikePro includes an offline mapping feature for those rides where no phone signal has gone before.

While this feature is dependant on you downloading the map before you lose connection, it is a useful function if you’re about to ride in an unknown area. The offline maps are in topographic format and offer enough detail to find the nearest main trail or way out.

MountainBikePro also provides seriously in-depth detail, ranging from the weather info, a compass and total ascent stats to altitude. The layout is clear and in an easy to use, too. Just watch that battery life if you’re planning an epic.

 

Garmin Fit ($0.99)

Made by Garmin, the market leaders in cycle-specific GPS units, the Garmin Fit app has many useful features.

iTunes connectivity within the app and to wireless transmitters is available. (Garmin even sells its own iPhone ANT+ connector.)

There’s a function to lock the screen while still keeping the app visible at a lower brightness level – perfect for conserving battery life if you want to be able to see your phone while you’re riding.

Garmin Fit makes for a great training app and allows users to upload their data to Garmin’s online training database, Garmin Connect.

Simple to use, the Garmin Fit app did not chew through the battery life as quickly as the other apps on test.

iBiker (Free)

Don’t be fooled by the name. iBiker is not a mountain bike-specific app; it’s more a fitness tracker.

The iBiker has a calorie tracker and connection to iTunes, and makes for a pretty neat heart rate monitor when paired to the appropriate sensors. This app can be used for running, hiking, indoor spin classes and cycling.

But if you’re serious about getting fit and want one app to take to every form of workout, iBiker is well worth your consideration.

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Justin Leov: Lessons from a Life in DH

Earlier this year Trek World Racing’s Justin Leov announced the 2012 World Cup DH season would be his last. The likable Kiwi has spent eight years racing World Cups at the highest level and collected almost 20 top-10 finishes.
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Justin Leov, Dunedin, New Zealand
Trek World Racing’s Justin Leov, of Christchurch, New Zealand, reveals the most important lessons he learned after eight years at the top of the sport. Credit: Adventure Media Group/Derek Morrison

The 27-year-old has won the Garbanzo DH at Crankworx and several Norba DH races during his career. He is currently the reigning New Zealand Downhill Champion and US Grand Prix of MTB Champion .

Justin rates his World Cup podium, in Andorra in 2009, as one of the best moments of his life.

For 2012 he campaigned for the second year in a row alongside the unflappable Aaron Gwin on the Trek World Racing team. We asked Justin to spill a few key learnings from his DH career and what recipe was required to dethrone his teammate and the 2012 UCI World Cup Champion (yes, with a round to go).

“The only way someone will beat Aaron Gwin is if they are prepared to sacrifice every other aspect of their life for the training involved and have the desire to win as much as he does,” Justin smiles.

“There are a couple of guys coming up that I see that commitment in. I will definitely be watching over the next few seasons just to see how fast this sport is going to get. Every year of my racing career the speed of the elite racers has lifted and now with Gwinny at the top it’s pretty ridiculous really.”

Justin has been one of the most consistent riders on the circuit and the most dependable. We asked him to share his secret to staying grounded when it gets crazy.

“I’ve always just tried to concentrate on my own program and what I need to do to be ready for racing,” he shares.

“It’s not always been easy though – in this sport there is a lot riding on a race run so sometimes nerves and doubts creep in and you need to try to block them out. It helps to have a plan for the weekend and just try and tick off the boxes. Being prepared with your race is really the key – then you can just concentrate on the things you can control.”

Over the course of his career, along with top-10 finishes, Justin collected a lot of friends and respect from his fellow peers. We asked him how important this was to his game plan.

“It’s very important to have good relationships with your team mates,” he explains.

“You spend so much time in the hotels, travelling and around the pits – you need to have good friendships to make the atmosphere a relaxed one. I’ve been lucky over my career to have really good team mates. I’m not a super-social person on the circuit – I maybe could have got out there a bit more to talk with other riders. When I am racing I like to keep to my team bubble a little bit – I’m there to do the most I can for my team … that’s what I’m paid to do. Often after the race we’re so mentally and physically drained all we want to do is have a team dinner and chill out.”

We ask Justin what he will miss most from the World Cup circuit:

“Most of all I’m going to miss the feeling of a top race run,” Justin offers.

“Being on the edge for 3-5 mins pumped up with adrenaline is quite a feeling. When you cross the finishline and see the crowd going nuts and see the time is good – it’s pretty much the best feeling any racer can have. I will definitely miss that.”

Justin Leov at Val di Sole, Italy
Justin Leov on the pace at the 2012 UCI World Cup DH at Val di Sole, Italy. Credit: Trek World Racing/Sebastian Schieck

My Top Five Most Important Lessons

1) Hard work pays off – and it is years and years of hard work. No one gets to the top and stays there without this.

2) Concentrate on what you can control, don’t worry about what you can’t.

3) Be yourself and don’t turn into a dickhead when you have good races and start winning.

4) Always put in 100%.

5) And this is most important – have fun, why do it if you’re not?

 

Justin Leov at the 2012 UCI World Cup DH at Val di Sole, Italy
Justin Leov, one of the friendliest men on the circuit, is all smiles at the 2012 UCI World Cup DH at Val di Sole, Italy. Credit: Trek World Racing/Sebastian Schieck

Justin Leov: Career Highlights

2004

Turned pro

 

2005

5th World Cup, Angel Fire, USA

6th World Cup, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada

7th World Cup, Pila, Italy

13th World Championships

13th World Cup DH Overall

 

2006

20th World Cup DH Overall

 

2007

1st NORBA National, Snowmass CO, USA

1st G3 Race, Key Stone CO, USA

7th World Cup, Mount-Sainte-Anne, Canada

4th Overall in NORBA Series, USA

21st World Cup DH Overall

 

2008

6th World Championships

6th World Cup, Schladming, Austria

7th World Cup, Fort William, Scotland

8th World Cup, Maribor, Slovenia

8th World Cup DH Overall

3rd Sea Otter Classic DH

2nd Oceania Championships DH

1st NORBA DH Deer Valley

 

2009

4th World Cup, Maribor, Slovenia

5th World Cup, Vallnord, Andorra

6th World Cup, Schladming, Austria

7th World Cup, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

6th World Cup DH Overall

1st Crankworx Garbanzo DH

1st New Zealand Downhill Champion

 

2010

8th World Cup, Leogang, Austria

9th World Cup, Maribor, Slovenia

14th World Cup DH Overall

14th World Championships

3rd Overall Pro Gravity Tour

2nd Crankworx Garbanzo DH

 

2011

6th World Cup, Windham, USA

8th World Cup, Leogang, Austria

8th World Cup, Fort William, Scotland

9th World Cup, La Bresse, France

10th World Cup, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada

9th World Cup DH Overall

3rd US Open

 

2012

1st New Zealand Downhill Champion

10th World Cup, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada

1st New Zealand Super D Champion

1st US Grand Prix of MTB Champion

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Charlie’s Angels

Charlie puts the call out to the local Angels to participate in an action-packed two-day mountain biking event in Whistler, BC.

Where in the world would you find 240 women riding bikes en masse? Infamous mountain bike event organiser and Charlie extraordinaire Tony Horn answered the call of the women in Whistler two years ago by initiating the area’s most successful ladies-only mountain bike event. [private]

Now in its second year, Charlie’s Angels drew record numbers and pitted bona fide shredders against first-time wannabe racers in a downhill / cross country monolithic mash up.

The girls were split into three teams based on riding strengths, personality and choice of battle weaponry: Jill vs Kelly vs Sabrina. The aims? To find out which Angel team would reign supreme, and to crown the fastest individual of the weekend.

Day one was a downhill time trial in the Whistler Bike Park; day two was a 24km cross country race on some of Whistler’s most beautiful and technical singletrack.

This was no ordinary race event. For a start, all of the volunteers were men. These male vollies – or ‘Bosleys’ as they were soon affectionately dubbed – were encouraged to take their roles with a pinch of cheekiness.

A lack of attire was popular theme, much appreciated by the Angels, but the effort the Bosleys put into their aid stations blew the girls away. Fresh cocktails served à la Love Boat, freestyle raps, disco lights and boom boxes dotted course, as Charlie and every Bosley went all out to ensure the girls had a fun weekend of racing, jam-packed with entertainment.

Here’s the best way to tell the story – with photos.

The hills are alive. Two hundred and forty cross country Angels at the start line. The ladies were blessed with a prayer composed for the occasion by Seb Kemp, who was wearing a dashing leopard print thong. Things turned serious afterwards as the women were led into battle with a compelling Lil’wat First Nations’€™ song encouraging them to ride with power and strength.
Other law enforcers were found during the downhill race, with the Bosleys taking their job as marshals very, very seriously.
The breakaway group wastes no time getting a good lead on the rest of the pack. On a side note, the three women in front here all in the ‘over 30s bracket’.
Fanny Paquette floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee and secured ninth-place in the cross country.
Her name is Brandi Heisterman-Houlding, but ‘Wonder Woman’€™ might be more apt. A few kilometres into the cross country, Brandi starts to put serious time between herself and second place. She took the win with a 10-minute lead. After crossing the finish line with time to kill, Brandi decided to head out on another bike ride.
Quit your noodling, boys! Avoiding being hit by these giant wieners on the downhill course was damn near impossible.
After two punchy climbs and a big descent, and then this road up to Yummy Numby proper, the pack continued to thin. Climbing fire roads is never fun but it’€™s ok when you’ve got some company.
Coconut water, bananas or hard liquor. You decide. While the ‘€˜aid’ station was a welcome respite for some, others chose to pass on the cocktails and focus on the race. But the Bosleys cheered on all the gals, whether they stopped for refreshments or not.
Katrina Strand sucks up the last big jump on the course, taking the downhill win and eventually the overall win as well. Katrina has dominated this year on – the little bike and the big one. Going into the race, Strand had been worried she was too tired from a full-on week of coaching and she had decided not to take things too seriously. Her performance just goes to show what a relaxed attitude can do for your racing. [/private]

Charlie's Angels

Charlie puts the call out to the local Angels to participate in an action-packed two-day mountain biking event in Whistler, BC.

Where in the world would you find 240 women riding bikes en masse? Infamous mountain bike event organiser and Charlie extraordinaire Tony Horn answered the call of the women in Whistler two years ago by initiating the area’s most successful ladies-only mountain bike event. [private]

Now in its second year, Charlie’s Angels drew record numbers and pitted bona fide shredders against first-time wannabe racers in a downhill / cross country monolithic mash up.

The girls were split into three teams based on riding strengths, personality and choice of battle weaponry: Jill vs Kelly vs Sabrina. The aims? To find out which Angel team would reign supreme, and to crown the fastest individual of the weekend.

Day one was a downhill time trial in the Whistler Bike Park; day two was a 24km cross country race on some of Whistler’s most beautiful and technical singletrack.

This was no ordinary race event. For a start, all of the volunteers were men. These male vollies – or ‘Bosleys’ as they were soon affectionately dubbed – were encouraged to take their roles with a pinch of cheekiness.

A lack of attire was popular theme, much appreciated by the Angels, but the effort the Bosleys put into their aid stations blew the girls away. Fresh cocktails served à la Love Boat, freestyle raps, disco lights and boom boxes dotted course, as Charlie and every Bosley went all out to ensure the girls had a fun weekend of racing, jam-packed with entertainment.

Here’s the best way to tell the story – with photos.

The hills are alive. Two hundred and forty cross country Angels at the start line. The ladies were blessed with a prayer composed for the occasion by Seb Kemp, who was wearing a dashing leopard print thong. Things turned serious afterwards as the women were led into battle with a compelling Lil’wat First Nations’€™ song encouraging them to ride with power and strength.
Other law enforcers were found during the downhill race, with the Bosleys taking their job as marshals very, very seriously.
The breakaway group wastes no time getting a good lead on the rest of the pack. On a side note, the three women in front here all in the ‘over 30s bracket’.
Fanny Paquette floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee and secured ninth-place in the cross country.
Her name is Brandi Heisterman-Houlding, but ‘Wonder Woman’€™ might be more apt. A few kilometres into the cross country, Brandi starts to put serious time between herself and second place. She took the win with a 10-minute lead. After crossing the finish line with time to kill, Brandi decided to head out on another bike ride.
Quit your noodling, boys! Avoiding being hit by these giant wieners on the downhill course was damn near impossible.
After two punchy climbs and a big descent, and then this road up to Yummy Numby proper, the pack continued to thin. Climbing fire roads is never fun but it’€™s ok when you’ve got some company.
Coconut water, bananas or hard liquor. You decide. While the ‘€˜aid’ station was a welcome respite for some, others chose to pass on the cocktails and focus on the race. But the Bosleys cheered on all the gals, whether they stopped for refreshments or not.
Katrina Strand sucks up the last big jump on the course, taking the downhill win and eventually the overall win as well. Katrina has dominated this year on – the little bike and the big one. Going into the race, Strand had been worried she was too tired from a full-on week of coaching and she had decided not to take things too seriously. Her performance just goes to show what a relaxed attitude can do for your racing. [/private]