Melrose Fat Tyre Festival 2017

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Beautiful trails, benched into the hillsides of South Australian pastures.

This June long weekend is the 15th Melrose Fat Tyre Festival, and they’re celebrating by giving the FTF a theme that reflects the values of the great Melrose community: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle! That’s the theme of this year’s Melrose Fat Tyre Festival where mountain bikers and friends from around Australia will be getting together to celebrate Mother Earth on our bikes

Melrose has long been known for its chilled atmosphere and its inclusive nature

The Fat Tyre Festival and Melrose has long been known for its chilled atmosphere and its inclusive nature, where racing is secondary to relaxing, where the motor is overwhelmed by the pedal and the only fire of competition is the story around the campfire.

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Melrose Fat Tyre Festival where mountain bikers and friends from around Australia will be getting together to celebrate Mother Earth on our bikes! It is getting ‘in contact with nature’ whilst bike riding that makes our festival unique.

Watch the videos below and you’ll soon get the idea of what Melrose and the Fat Tyre Festival are all about – it’s easy to love this place! For more information, head to melrosemountainbike.com or https://www.facebook.com/otemelrose/

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We love Melrose’s quaint and low-key vibe.

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The Melrose 18hr

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

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

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

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The warm buzz of race HQ on race night.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Road Trip: Tom and Kelly's Excellent South Australian Adventure

Back in June NZ’s Kelly McGarry, Tom Hey, filmer Ross McKay and I jumped on four separate planes and embraced the four hour flight to Adelaide, South Australia from NZ. It was both Kelly and Tom’s first time in South Australia and this video goes part way in capturing our whirlwind seven day trip that included Great White shark diving, DH trail shredding, dam jumping, kangaroo eating, 16″ bike racing, 29er riding and not finding Troy Brosnan’s secret Flinders Range huck zone.
South Australia should be on every traveling mountain bikers bucket list. There is so much riding on tap and close to the city it’s just not funny, and it should be mentioned that World Cup DH shredders Conor Fearon and Troy Brosnan both hail from Adelaide.
Kelly and Tom only just scratched the surface with what is on offer in South Australia and both plan on returning soon in the mean time join them on this Excellent South Australian Adventure. 
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Road Trip: Tom and Kelly’s Excellent South Australian Adventure

South Australia should be on every traveling mountain bikers bucket list. There is so much riding on tap and close to the city it’s just not funny, and it should be mentioned that World Cup DH shredders Conor Fearon and Troy Brosnan both hail from Adelaide.
Kelly and Tom only just scratched the surface with what is on offer in South Australia and both plan on returning soon in the mean time join them on this Excellent South Australian Adventure. 
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Video: The Melrose Fat Tyre Festival

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The crew from the most excellent Kiwi publication and website, Spoke, recently made the journey to Melrose to soak up the good vibes of the Fat Tyre Festival. It was the third time they’ve made the trip to this tiny South Australian town, and that tells you something. The Melrose Fat Tyre Festival is unlike any other mountain bike event in the country, and this video captures what the FTF is all about perfectly.

This year, Queenstown-based freeride legend Kelly McGarry was there too, getting right into the swing of Melrose life. We can’t wait to get back there…

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Two Men, Three Bikes and a Subaru Outback – The Melrose Fat Tyre Festival 2013

Cram two men and three bikes into a Subaru outback, turn left and trek from Adelaide to the 2013 rendition of the froth fest that is the Melrose Fat Tyre Festival – the FTF. A quick look at the program and we had flowing singletrack, epic riding, rides with gravity legend Darren Berrecloth, and super D challenges ahead of us. Basically we were about to have a ridiculously good time.

Big beautiful vistas on the Bartagunyah estate trails.
Big beautiful vistas on the Bartagunyah estate trails.

The journey across the South Australian outback to Melrose is something of postcards. Old abandoned homesteads that look older than the hills litter the field and thoughts of Grand Designs can’t be ignored. Three hours later we arrive at Mt Remarkable, home of Melrose and the FTF, my heart murmurs as I think about the sweet single track I’ve heard so many stories about.

We loved the vintage feel of Melrose. The Fat Tyre Festival sets up shop in the main drag, closing the road letting riders safely noon around on the street.
We loved the vintage feel of Melrose. The Fat Tyre Festival sets up shop in the main drag, closing the road letting riders safely noon around on the street.

Held over the June long weekend the FTF brings a relaxed feel to a mountain bike event. You want to ride? (Eurovision Trail, thumbs up) Check out the shop? (it’s bling everywhere) Coffee? (of course) Learn about your bike? (Bike maintenance class) See a dude back flip a car on a BMX? (Crazy Kids). It’s all possible at the FTF and it’s up to you what you choose.

The super D challenge on Saturday was a highlight for the racer types (and no, I didn’t win). But the race was just the prelude to a great night which saw us having a BBQ and maybe just a few beers in the surrounds of an old shearing shed. The smell of a shearing shed might be the same the world over but this was a perfect backdrop to a uniquely Australian event. Great fun, a few drinks and good company, all talking bikes. Perfect.

The beginning of the "relaxed" super D on top of the Eurovision trail at Bartagunyah estate. The trail was fast and fun. If you couldn't pump and jump before the trail you could by the bottom.
The beginning of the “relaxed” super D on top of the Eurovision trail at Bartagunyah estate. The trail was fast and fun. If you couldn’t pump and jump before the trail you could by the bottom.

The FTF is a relaxed ride with your mates. It’s a bacon and egg roll before a ride (not recommended). It’s a mountain bike froth fest with riders of all abilities and styles all speaking the international language of mountain biking.

Bacon and egg rolls flowed in the morning before the ridding commenced. Coffee came from inside Over the Edge shop.
Bacon and egg rolls flowed in the morning before the ridding commenced. Coffee came from inside Over the Edge shop.

Anyways, there really isn’t any better way than to tell the story of the festival through what I saw. A collective of images that captured the event, from the people with the smiles, with the love of bikes and trails sandwiched in between.

Go and check out next year’s Melrose Fat Tyre Festival, it’s a peach.

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