Must-Ride: Flowtown, Falls Creek


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We don’t think anyone could have predicted just how spectacular Falls would eventually prove to be.

It was back in 2013 that Falls Creek opened their first stage of mountain bike trail development, the latest in a procession of alpine areas to acknowledge that ski seasons were becoming patchier than Trump’s policy detail, and summer is the way of the future. Back then, if you’d been a talent scout for mountain bike trails, you’d have put Falls Creek in the ‘has potential’ column – it was a place with all the bones for an incredible mountain bike park, but there was no meat. Let us tell you, there’s plenty of meat here now – we don’t think anyone could have predicted just how spectacular Falls would eventually prove to be. When you consider that Falls only began mountain bike trail development in earnest three years ago, and that the place is covered in snow for a good chunk of the year, it’s unreal how far it has come.

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Vandy drops off the end of Frying Pan Spur and into High Voltage, with the Kiewa Valley in the distance way below.

This summer sees the completion of Falls Creek’s fourth stage of trail development, including the opening of Flowtown, which will certainly become a signature trail for the region. We last visited Falls in 2015, at the end of the third stage of trail development, but with Flowtown now cranking, along with a regular shuttle service from the crew at Blue Dirt, Falls is the full monty. If you’ve got a mountain biking holiday on the brain, Falls has got to be on the list – it genuinely will go head to head with any of east coast Australia’s best mountain bike destinations. You could quite blissfully spend an incredible week in the Falls/Beauty/Bright zone. You could quite blissfully spend your entire life there, actually!

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Fresh mountain air and afternoon light, amongst the gums.
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Full throttle, on Flowtown.
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Flowtown is full of hits and gaps that are worked into the bench of the trail.

In the context of Victoria’s high country Falls Creek, Mt Beauty and Bright form a tight little love triangle at the eastern end of the strip of mountain bike towns that run across the region like a rich seam of gold: Mt Beauty, Beechworth, Yackandandah, Bright, Mt Beauty and Falls Creek. The Falls crew knew, that being a little more far flung from the population of Melbourne, they’d have to work hard to entice riders up the hill from Mt Beauty. But with visitor numbers doubling every year, and the hugely successful Ignition MTB event seeing almost 400 riders on the hill for Falls Creek’s opening weekend, the message is out there now.

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Lots of this caper to be had.

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The setting couldn’t be more spectacular: resting on the cusp of the Bogong High Plains, hemmed by views of the magnificent Kiewa Valley and rolling alpine meadows, Falls Creek is just a stunning place to be. The stark, white fingers of gums line the surrounding mountains, with the Bogong Dam a shimmering in the backdrop to the village. Sunset from the peak of Mt Mackay alone is worth spending the evening for – the view from the top of Australia’s highest public road across the range to Hotham is truly top notch.

The bulk of the trails are located in the huge bowl that naturally funnels you back towards the village – this accessibility is one of Falls’ real draw cards, with the trails starting and finishing literally on the edge of the village square. Exhaust yourself, and you’re not staring down the barrel of a long slog back to a brew. Stage 4 has also seen the development of a new beginner loop too, which keeps riders within cooee of the village, but is a great gateway into the broader Falls Creek network. Of course, the area’s sensational aqueduct trails, which we explored last time we visited, are all out there too if you’re keen on a mellow day in the mountains. Or, if something seriously epic is what you desire, then the legendary Fainters Track is a must-do as well – a multi-hour mission that traverses the ridges of the surrounding hills before dropping like a stone back into Mt Beauty miles away.


Check out coverage from our previous visits to Falls Creek too:


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Fresh brown trails, and a good set of rubber. Tip it in!
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Towards the end of Flowtown, the trail begins to weave into a few green gullies, crossing small creeks, before ramping up for a ridiculously fast finish.

Laying some tracks on Flowtown, the brand new creation from the folks at World Trail, was the main driver for our trip to Falls this time around and it left us a fizzing at the bung. This all-new 5.5km descent is a gem, linking seamlessly from some of the existing trails, you can effortlessly put together over 20 minutes of face-warpingly awesome descending from the peak of Falls all the way back to the entrance gates hundreds of metres below. The run from Frying Pan spur, into High Voltage, then Wishing Well and finally down Flowtown is just unbelievable fun. Finally, when you pop out on the main road, jelly-legged from almost half an hour of flat out descending, you’ve got the option of either jumping in a shuttle back to town, or taking in the gradual climb back up the recently opened Pack Horse track.

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Granite, gums, a giant on a Giant and good light.

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The visionaries at Falls who’ve made this all happen deserve all the success in the world. Like so many alpine areas, they had to overcome the winter blinkers that have commonly hampered mountain bike development in ski areas, but they’ve made it happen! Each year Falls has bulked up, and now it’s a true contender – make sure you’ve got it on the list this summer.

For all the details, including a full trail map, visit http://www.fallscreek.com.au/mtb

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Thanks for shredding for us, Paul! Sorry we made you crash.

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Rotorua's Latest and Greatest – Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain

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

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


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

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

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Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 29

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 83

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

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

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

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

Rotorua’s Latest and Greatest – Rainbow Mountain

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

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


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

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 9

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

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 19

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 29

 

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

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

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

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 55

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

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

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

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 66

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 83

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

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

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 118

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

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 127

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  • Four Shots - All Same Size
  • Mobile (new)
  • Two shots - vertically stacked, both landscape

 

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

Must-Ride: Stromlo’s Sweetest Six

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


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


1. Western Wedgetail into Skyline

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

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

2. Luge

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

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A stack of berms on Luge.
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Did we mention the perfect, bermed corners?

3. Pork Barrel and Double Dissolution

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

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Choices, choices, choices!
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The fast, playful Double Dissolution.

4. Blood Rock and Black Snake Gully.

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

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The technical, rocky climbs of Blood Rock might take a couple of cracks to get right, but cleaning them feels awesome.

5. Vapour

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

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

6. Trunk Trail

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

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

 

Must-Ride: Derby, Tasmania


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Queenstown and Wanaka: Top of the Pile


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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 95

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

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Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 125

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

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Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 28

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

Keen to do this trip yourself? We recommend:

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

Skyline MTB Park for some kick-arse trails.

Vertigo Bikes for quality bike hire and excellent guiding.

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

Queenstown Bike Taxis for all your shuttle services.

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

Edgewater Resort for the great rooms in Wanaka.

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

 

 

 

 

Must-Ride: Falls Creek, Victoria

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Flow Nation Mount Beauty-Falls Creek 12

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

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

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

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Cracking berms? Tick.

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

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Backcountry huts dot the plains.

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

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

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

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Stay: 

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

Eat:

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

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

Shuttles and guiding:

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

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Flow's Holiday Must-Ride Video Playlist

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

 















 

Must-Ride: Wanaka, New Zealand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Where to stay:

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

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

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

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Where to eat:

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

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

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

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

More info:

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

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

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

 

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

Must-Ride: Mt Beauty, Victoria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Must-Ride: Tathra, NSW

Tathra, oh Tathra… Tucked away on the far south coast of NSW, Tathra is a cruisy seaside town harbouring a sensational singletrack secret.

Stashed away in the hills that slope down to meet the golden sand is more great trail than you can squirt a leaky hydra-pack hose at. There’s almost 50km of some of the finest handbuilt trails imaginable; in fact there’s so much trail and so few riders that the locals are crying out for more more riders to drop by and help keep the leaves off.

We’re good Samaritans here at Flow, so we heeded the Tathrans cries for trail-clearing assistance. We packed the cars, loading in our cross-country bikes, and hit the road south. You can read all about it in issue #3, but watching the video above and casting your eye over the shots below should give you a pretty good idea of what you’re missing out on.

Flowing down the ‘Bridges’ trail. This is a must-ride.
Signposted and mapped trails, plus a full-stocked bike shop. You cannot go wrong.

Razzing around the ‘water tank’ trails on the south side of town.
It’s all about the burgers. Small town, big burgers.
The killer trails of Bermagui are just up the road.

Bikes, boards and bromance.

Two hands for beginners please.

 

Must-Ride: Jindabyne, NSW

In the next issue of Flow (Issue #4) we are going to feature the trails and grand plans of mountain biking in Jindabyne.

The little township of Jindabyne, NSW is a small dot on the mountain bike map however recent work and future plans may mean that Jindabyne, and the greater area, could very easily become an Australian mountain bike mecca. There’s already a smorgasbord of trails in the greater Snowy area and Jindabyne is the perfect hub to explore them all.

The new trails between Tyrolean Village and the township of Jindabyne are just the start of those future plans and Flow got to ride them on a recent trip to Thredbo.

Probably like most, we normally drive straight through Jindabyne, however his time we decided to make the stop – and it was more than worth it. On top of the new trails in the video, the old network of trails in the Tyrolean area still running, and access has also been granted for all to ride the sweet network of trails at Bungarra (just a few minutes out of town).

Look out for a full feature in issue #4, and make sure you add Jindabyne to your list of favourite trail destinations. You can even grab a locally brewed ale just metres off the trail. Now that’s worth the trip alone.

Must Ride: Alice Springs, NT

Flying into towards Alice Springs from Sydney is like watching some incredible abstract painting unfurling in front of your eyes; a canvas of swirling colours and ripples, like a pond with a rock lobbed in. As you near Alice itself the ripples consolidate into larger and larger peaks and cliff lines, eventually compressing into the impressive McDonnell Range that looms over the town.

I’d refused to buy into the hype about Alice Springs, but as the wheels touched down and I saw the landscape around me from ground level for the very first time, I began to grasp the potential here. I lived for a few months in Moab, Utah, one of the most revered mountain biking destinations on the planet. Alice looked remarkably similar, with the same ancient crumbly escarpments, open terrain unrestrictive of trail building, big red rocks… it was all eerily familiar, albeit with the altitudes shrunk down a bit.

Like nowhere else in Australia.

When we hit the trails the next morning, early so as to beat the still-hot sun, it really sunk in: the crushed granite and quartz singletrack under my wheels was world-class, right up there with Moab. Over the next few days we rode trails that rivalled anything I’ve experienced in Australia, and around the world, and there’s so damn much of it.

Looks good, huh?

Three main trail ‘centres’ cluster around Alice, like a clover leaf, all within five minutes’ ride from the middle of town. And once you’re out there, you really out there, you can lose sight of town and civilisation in a heart beat.

For our visit, on the tail end of summer, the middle of the day was still roasting (winter is gorgeous all day long though) forcing us to ride early or late. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Sunrise and sunset is pure magic – “like swimming through cider” – with golden light making the reds and oranges or the landscape glow like they’re lit from within.

As the sun sets, the rocks change colours by the second.

I admit that I’m prone to effusive frothing, but Alice is the real deal. The terrain is magnificent and completely unique in Australian mountain biking. The trails are as endless as the sky is vast and it’s all there, three hours from anywhere in Australia. Drop by.

 

Road Trip: Go West, NSW

This feature first featured in issue #1 of Flow. Apart from some copies we may find in the back of a toilet somewhere, issue #1 is now unfortunately sold-out.

To avoid the sorrow of missing out on getting your hands on Flow magazine make sure you’re signed up to get your own personal copy. Being a Flow Royalty member also means you can avoid going to the local news agency as it’s delivered right to your door. This means more time on your bike and less time at the shops – win, win situation.


 

On my too frequent visits to the local bistro, I usually default to the $10 rump with pepper sauce. it is a good option – the value is undeniable and you get to cook it yourself, which appeals to the control freak in me. But sometimes I yearn for the crispy crumbiness of a schnitzel, or the barbecue tang of a rack of ribs.

Trail riding is the same. The old favourite trails will always cop a flogging, but occasionally you find yourself craving something new, fresh trails in far away towns, and topped off with nutritious post-ride parmigianas.

One tuesday evening, I was perched at the top of a cleat-marked rock on Manly dam in northern Sydney, a place that I’ve stopped at umpteen times. Squinting up through the evening’s smoggy haze, I could just make out the lumpy horizon of the Blue Mountains, like a grey caterpillar crawling over penrith. as sometimes happens – far too frequently for my wife’s liking – I began singing a village people song: ‘go west… life is peaceful there. go west… lots of open air.’

Hmm… if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that you should always listen to the village people. I’d ridden north, I’d ridden south, and east is where the sharks live. It was time to go west. it was time for new bistros and fresh singletrack. Blueys, Lithgow, Orange and Parkes. It already smelled like fun.

Scribblies, Picnic and Hanging Rock and Lockyear’s

Our crew was five strong: Paul Rowney – a man of wizened years (and face), who has an infatuation with chilli and beers. Chris Benny – photographer to the stars. He bunny hops like roo on a trampoline and but has an aversion to hills of the upward variety. Mick Ross – toys with shaving his legs, but usually limits himself to trimming his chest. Greg Chalberg – this guy never crashes, ever. But I have it on good authority that he bears a surprising resemblance to Moby (or a timid Peter Garret). And me – usually excited as a spaniel and, when that’s mixed with singletrack, often bleeding.

It was blowing a wind stiff enough to push your teeth back into your gums when we pulled into Leura and cracked open the predictably red front door of the Red Door café. remarkably, we were on time to meet our guide, the disturbingly fit Chad Gossert. Judging by the absence of body fat on this man, I thought it wise to put honey as well as butter on the banana bread I wolfed down before we followed Chad in convoy out of town to the first stop of the road trip, Scribblies.

Chad wasn’t sure if Scribblies got its name from the preponderance of scribbly gums, or the fact the trails feel a bit like an excited child has drawn them onto a topo map in crayon in those five minutes the adults were out of the room. These popular, whoopy trails twist and turn back on themselves with endless turns and poppy little gaps jumps. Within seconds I was frothing like a puppy on a choker chain, drifting through flat and bermed corners, the sandy quartz flying off my tyres and getting whipped into my eyes in the wind.

This was exactly the kind of singletrack people had told me did not exist in the mountains. The flow was just insane, making the climbs feel so effortless that even Chris Benny was having fun.

I got a little too excited and tried to jump a gap that really required a motor to clear it. Let me tell you now, Scribblies’ dirt is a particularly abrasive variety, just the thing for exfoliating that unwanted skin from your chin. And it’s tasty too.

The Blackheath Sourdough Bakery is a must- do. Not only did the kindly gentleman sell us most of the shop for $17.10, but he didn’t laugh at the bleeding hole in my face. With most of our blood supply now digesting baked goods, we followed Chad out to hanging rock with the promise that the view would make us wet our chamois.

The trail in proved to be almost as awesome as the view itself, a classic fire road descent that had the crew chopping each other up like frustrated cabbies on George Street. The vista was properly stunning; a sheer drop of hundreds of feet, made terrifying by the 80km/ hour wind gusts and Mick’s game of trying to ‘skid’ rocks over the edge into the abyss. A hundred kilometres away, blurry behind its smoggy veil, Sydney could be seen at the end of the Grosse Valley. As Chad pointed out other rides in the area, which we didn’t have time to do, I had one of those surreal moments when you’re sure time has been stretched. It seemed impossible that just a few hours had passed since I was sitting in Sydney traffic. There’s nothing like fresh trails to reset your brain.

As we trundled to our next destination, Rowney lamented that for too many people
the adventure element has disappeared from mountain biking, replaced by clean, easy loops. Little did he know, we were about to get a double helping of adventure. Craig Flynn, president of the Central Tablelands Mountain Bike Club, is 100% Lithgow local. When we met up with Craig at the foot of Mt Victoria, he had lights strapped to his bike and he suggested we do the same; the sun was already dipping low. Cue Indiana Jones music, it was time for something epic.

After a gentle grind to the saddle of Mt York, we joined a ridge-running singletrack that, for me, was a highlight of the whole trip. Lockyear’s is a walking trail that seems handcrafted for mountain bikes. Loose, chundery descents, sandy bermed corners, steep chutes and lumpy sandstone: there’s something far more rewarding about a trail that has evolved perfect flow over time, as opposed to being manufactured that way. It finished with a plummeting descent that we did in the purple half-light of early evening, our pupils almost as wide as our smiles.

The crawl out under lights was a challenge, especially for Chris Benny our photographer, who was on the point of literally crawling. At one stage he asked me to ‘leave me here to die’. I think he actually meant it. The lure of a pub meal pulled us through, though, and by the time we’d descended back to the car the smiles were fixed in place again. This ride was a bit of a game-changer for me, a real wake up call as to the kind of riding I’ve been missing out on lately – an adventure, rather than a pedal.

The Commercial Hotel welcomed us that night. Trivia was played, beers were drunk, though the absence of parmigiana from the bistro menu was a shocking blow. The Commercial’s steak Diane, a superb offering of fat on protein, went some way to easing my pain.

Commercial Hotel, Lithgow: 1 x steak Diane, 4 x James Squire Original Amber Ales

Rydal and Hassans Walls

‘Why is the rain bouncing off my handlebars?’ asked Mick. ‘Oh. it’s frozen.’ clever lad. Things get cold fast on the far side of the great dividing range, as we discovered that morning when a driving wind cut through our warmers and vests. Luckily Rydal warmed us up quick- smart. And no, Rydal is not a man. Rydal is the township that plays host to a recently installed cross-country race track, about fifteen minutes out of downtown Lithgow.

The local crew, as well as folk who travel from further afield, come here to race every Tuesday (except when it gets too cold for the time keepers) and to punish the side knobs of their tyres. If you like going round corners, you’ll be quite happy on Rydal’s 10-kilometre loop. It’d be a tough place to race, with little space for rest and constant accelerations to keep you on the rev limiter.

Speaking of rev limiters, while Chris Benny had been suffering on the trail the previous evening, his car, overwhelmed with empathy for its owner, underwent its own quiet meltdown and had a little under-the-bonnet bonfire. Putting safety first, and adding to the drama, young Greg locked his keys inside his car, where no one could steal them. To free them, we had to join the NRMA, which gave us a new unit of monetary measurement: ‘the Member$hip’. Our accommodation for the whole road trip came to just 1.3 Member$hips. Things were even more affordable for Mick, who’d left his wallet at home and didn’t have to pay for a thing.

With four men, their luggage, bikes and body odour now sandwiched into the one car, we headed back to Hassans Walls. Not, as it may sound, a medieval castle, Hassans Walls is an amazing rocky outcrop that towers above the plains on the southern side of Lithgow. It is littered with fast, punchy rim-pinging rocky descents, in complete contrast to Rydal. Even better, it can be shuttled in just a few minutes on a smooth dirt road. Blindly following our local guides down leaf-littered trails that moved beneath my tyres was unreal. I wasn’t sure if the tears streaming down my face were from joy or from the wind-chill making my eyeballs cry in pain. Craig Flynn reckons there are 15 unique descents from Hassans, all depositing you at different points around town. We’re itching to come back and have a crack at them all.

Less than hour and half down the road, our car doing some impressive wheelies, we pulled into Orange. I was relieved to find that our accommodation conveniently adjoined a drive- thru bottle shop, but disappointed to find that our accommodation budget didn’t stretch to five beds. Despite Mick’s pleas that he was chronic bed-wetter, there was some sharing.

Ophir Tavern, Orange: 1 x parmigiana, 3 x Tooheys Old

Kinross

‘We have a bogan problem,’ said Scott, Orange Mountain Bike Club president. He indicated the burnt-out cars that sat in various orientations (commonly upside-down, to make it easier to steal the gearbox) around the edges of the dirt carpark. ‘But at least they’re cashed up bogans,’ chimed in Steve. Fortunately none of the pine trees around the blackened shells had been caught aflame yet.

The trails of Kinross are a-grade: classic, sinuous pine forest singletrack. They are lovingly maintained, sometimes obsessively, by a core crew in the 50-strong club. ‘They staged an intervention,’ Scott tells me, ‘because I was out here trying to build trails with a broken collar bone and my arm in a sling.’ There’s over 30 kilometres of singletrack gold to be dug out, sometimes literally – with so much trail and so few riders, the pine needles can quickly bury the trail surface.

Flowy, grippy, with enough elevation change to keep you honest, the Kinross trails are the kind of loop that I wish existed in every town. Anyone can ride them, but at speed you’re on the edge, especially if you clip an errant pine cone. There are some real challenges, including a switchback that is so tight I’ll buy you a hamburger if you can ride it. But on the whole it’s pure in-the-groove stuff.

Broadway Hotel, Parkes: 1 x Avondale schnitzel, 1 x cheese platter, 1 x Pizza Hut Plank, 4 x Tooheys Old

Parkes

The Kinross groove is mighty, but it couldn’t match the display of groove that went down later that afternoon in Parkes, when Greg found the jukebox. I don’t think the Parkes farming and mining community quite grasped the funny side of the ABBA, the Bee Gees and at least four other boy bands being blasted out at 4:30pm on a Saturday arvo. I was happy to slink outside to take a pretend phone call.

The town was bristling with mountain bikers, all in Parkes to race the annual Back Yamma Bigfoot, held in the Back Yamma state forest, about twenty minutes south of Parkes. I met riders from as far away as Melbourne and Brisbane, and we ran into Jason English who wanted eating partners for a pre-race, all-you- can-eat assault on Pizza Hut. We opted instead for a bistro famed for it’s plethora of schnitzels, Parkes’s Commercial Hotel, and it did not disappoint.

Parkes has a great vibe and particularly welcoming locals (thank you, random pub youth, for telling Greg he looked like both ‘Moby’ and ‘Peter Garret’ in the same sentence). The Broadway Hotel was the perfect place to bunk down – its guest list seemed to consist mainly of itinerant old men who smoked while crapping in the shared bathroom, and it was well stocked with dairy products that were at least 12 months out of date. At $55 a night for three (or 0.2 Member$hips), that’s entertainment you can’t beat.

The glorious morning that greeted the Back Yamma Bigfoot the following day was a welcome change from the frosts of Lithgow and Orange. Race organiser, Rocket Rod, was clearly happy with how the day was shaping up – the only hiccup was provided by some particularly creative bogans who’d placed a dead roo in a port-a-loo and then dragged it around an empty paddock. Bogans in Orange: you’ve just been upstaged.

Fast, flat, dusty and wildly fun, the trails of Back Yamma were such a contrast from
the rocky descents of Lithgow or the pines of Orange; this road trip had served more
sweet variety than the confectionary aisle in a Blackheath deli. It was sensational riding at Parkes; sweeping bends that were full of hidden lines and ruts to keep you on your toes, slippery quartz-filled corners, dipping gully runs, bursts of yellow canola fields, and some of the straightest, longest fire roads in the universe. All of it covered in a powdery red dust that stuck to our faces, leaving us looking like a pack of manic Oompa-Loompas. Powered by who knows how many pizzas, English won the race (surprise!) As the rest of us crossed the finish line, I was drawn to the prodigious BBQ, where I soaked up the chilled-out vibe, chatted with the big family groups who’d made a camping trip out of the weekend and enjoyed the feeling of warm sun on my tired legs.

Our last stop in the road trip complete, we packed a couple of spare steak sandwiches and began the four-hour jaunt back home to Sydney. A week on the road, complete with dusty bikes, smelly socks and a head full of great times on new trails, can’t be beaten. Heed the Village People and go west – good times await. Disco never lies.

Must-Ride: Bikes and Brews Tour, Part 1

You know those perfect moments on the trail, when the light is amazing, the riding is mellow and you’re just in 100% cruise mode?

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Just a few weeks ago, Flow headed to Beechworth, Mt Beauty and Bright in north-east Victoria. We were there for the Bikes and Brews tour; three days of amazing riding, delicious breweries and good times.

Along the way, we shot some video to capture what the region is all about. Here’s a little taster from a particularly golden afternoon in Beechworth.

We’ll have the full video up soon and you can read all about the Bikes and Brews tour in issue #2 of Flow, out 9 January 2013.