Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Little Ride In The Countryside

I have managed to talk a mate into some crazy all day ride down in country New South Wales. We have been in training, reasonably solidly, so that we don't embarrass ourselves too much.

But when an email like the following comes from the organiser I really do have to think twice about this insanity........

Unashamedly this email is to help you ask whether you are up to Thunderbolt’s Adventure. It’s not going to tell you whether you’re ready for it, that’s up to you. If you’re not 100% sure then you have some questions to ask and preparations to do (or gracefully bow out).

We’ve already had a few decide they won’t ride because the more they researched it the more they realised it wasn’t the right time for them to undertake such a big adventure.

If you’re not sure then sit this one out and we’ll let you know when another adventure comes along that isn’t as big as this one. You may want to still come to Gloucester and ride the Barrington's on your own, we can provide ideas on what route to take. There’s a 90km with 1500vm route available that we’ll publish.
I'm going to sit this one out

Please let us know if you no longer plan on riding

We are all adults, it’s totally up to you to get around the route and make it back to the pub afterwards.

There is no room for error. This isn’t a grand fondo. It’s not even the 3 peaks challenge. It’s further, higher, self supported, remote and you have to navigate mostly on gravel roads that could get washed out.

Long distance
The route is shaping up to be about 230km (we did say at least 220km in the advertising 😃 ). You will have wanted to have ridden over 200ks on the road. This isn’t the ride to push your longest distance. Even the flat sections of this ride can be slow due to the surface. Think you’re going to average 25kph? I doubt it. Most fit normal riders will be lucky to average 20kph with the dirt and the climbing. Remember your bike is going to be heavy. It’s going to have extra water, clothes and lots of food on it.

A lot of climbing
There will be over 5000 meters of climbing. That’s a heck of a lot. If you haven’t done that much yet, there’s a good training day for you. Those who have done lots of big climbing days will tell you that when you’re not up for it you’ll hit a wall. If you start walking all the hills, your time will completely blow out. There’s often no coming back and the flats will get hard too. An all day climbing base speed of 500vm/hour would be a starting point. That’s 10hrs of climbing alone.

You have to navigate
There will be no signs, no cheer squad or markers of any fashion. You won’t even be given a map. Do not reply on those around you to help you know where to go. Over the whole day you’ll likely end up out on your own. You should prepare you own maps and route notes. If you haven’t done this before, don’t learn on this ride. Remember there’s no mobile coverage. Make sure you know how long your devices will work if using electronic navigation. Make sure you’ve tested offline modes in GPS apps etc. A standard Garmin will likely need topping up with power during the ride. Unless you know how to save power on your phone, it too will die. Take a charging battery and backup navigation method.

Self Supported
You can’t pull out early if you didn’t bring enough spares, or get that weird mechanical that requires a special tool and replacement part. One of the joys of travelling through these remote areas is being self sufficient. It’s finding that right balance of having enough of the right gear clothing and supplies and the knowledge of how to use them, but not too much so you can keep travelling. You can’t top up your food with the exception of Moonan Brook Pub (I doubt they sell gels). In the end it comes down to you. Did we say there’s basically no houses or locals who you can rely on?

Most will be racing themselves for the adventure. Challenging themselves to see how they go. We aren’t providing timing or a podium. If you want to race other riders then make sure you run Strava on the ride. Someone will create a segment for the whole ride and you’ll be able to see how you went by looking at the leader board. You’ll also see riders trickle at the pub afterwards as in and gain bragging rights as you share stories of the adventure.

Eat & Drink (you can be merry later)
You will eat a lot. You will drink more than you think (if you’ve brought enough). Don’t turn up with a few pockets full of gels and a couple of bars and think it’s just like that 100ks you do but a bit longer. You’re out all day and some of the night. You’ll likely end up struggling to eat food during the ride (probably on the second big climb) eat anyway. Have a variety of food. I like real food. You’ll hit a wall if you get low on food. You’ll also drink more than you think. 2 bottles won’t cut it, find a way (and test it) to carry more. You can get water top ups at Moonan Brook at about 135ks in. Otherwise there’s no water, unless you want to drink whatever chemicals the farmers have sprayed on the land mixed with cow shit.

You’re By Yourself
Groups will possibly form. They’ll also break up. Don’t think you’ll tag along, it’s not that kind of ride. Choose to ride in a group if you like, but make sure for you own sake that you have everything you need. That you can take care of yourself. It’s not your fellow riders job to carry the beacon, or make sure you’re eating.

Open roads, no signage
We are just a bunch of people who’ve met on the internet going for a ride. The roads are open. There will be cars (along the first half at least). Normal road rules apply. You can’t just roll through intersections or ride more than 2 abreast. Drivers will not know that you are on the roads until they see you. If you’re uncomfortable with this, sit this one out. There won’t be signs warning you of steep descents or loose surfaces or corners without guardrails.

Alpine Weather
There is 1200m elevation difference between the start and the highest point. It could snow. It could also be very hot on the long exposed climbs. Don’t rely on the forecast. Further you won’t be able to grab that gillet from the support car. Take more clothes that you think. There’s nothing worse than needing to stop for a while and sitting in the rain freezing. The Tops has it’s own weather. I’ve seen it sunny and 28C at Gloucester and have been in cloud with sleet on the tops. Bring your jacket...

Farmers, tractors and cows
There’ll be farmers with tractors and possibly even dairy cows crossing the road. Don’t be silly. Be respectful and wait your turn.

Test Everything
Have everything dialled beforehand. Make sure you’ve riding rough gravel roads with your bike fully loaded. Don’t wear new shoes. Every piece of gear and way you use it should be tried and tested. If you haven’t done a long ride in those bibs then do one beforehand. You get the picture.

The Decision to Ride
It’s up to you to decide if you’re up to the adventure. It’s constantly up to you to continue to ride. If you’re uneasy about a section, you can return back another way, or re-trace your route. We’ll see you at the pub. There are surely other potential risks and hazards that haven't been outlined here.

Look after each other
We are all lovers of cycling and doing adventures. Look after each other. Respect each other. Have a laugh. 

Ahhhhh, how bad can it be?

I rode much bigger days than that during the Tour Divide on a much heavier bike. Right?! I have a dynamo hub, lighting and a cache battery to power us into the night. Right?!

The only resupply point on the ride is in Moonan Brook, at the pub. Mmmm...looks inviting.....

Really, how bad can it be......?


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Fitzroy Falls To The Valley

As you may have noticed over the last year or so, I have been a bit slack in keeping this blog up to date. While I have been doing plenty to blog about, well, doing that stuff takes up a lot of time and I have no time left to blog about it. Vicious circle eh?

In that vein, this post is a little late as the ride occurred waaaay back on the 28th of December. 

We were all down in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales for Christmas and having our bikes with us I was keen to do something a little different. Different to riding single track that is. I happened across a map of where to ride in the Southern Highlands and one ride lept out at me. The Fitzroy Falls To The Valley was a point to point forest ride with a net altitude loss of 500 metres (1650ft). 

I thought "that sounds pretty easy, especially as the kids haven't done a lot of riding lately"......

So, a few days after Christmas we catch the "Mum" shuttle to Fitzroy Fall carpark. Well, almost to the carpark. The trail heads back 300m in our direction so we just hopped out at the first turn off the sealed road, Gwen Rd and proceeded to kit up.

The road started as a rough sealed affair but very soon turned to dirt. Almost immediately we were at the Twin Falls lookout. There were a lot of people there, including a dumb German tourist who had to ignore the fence and stand right on the edge of the 1500ft drop in her thongs (flip flops to everyone else). No wonder they take a header off this mortal coil at times......

We quickly moved on so we didn't have to witness any sillyness. Well, apart from our own ride that is.

The trail consisted of the usual sandstone/sand mix that is found everywhere along the Great Dividing Range. The undulations weren't too steep and the kids chatted away, Chatting = good. Silence or whinging = bad.

We popped out onto a quiet back road for a while before plunging back into the bush on a fire road.

After dodging a bunch of four-wheel-drivers we had a little trouble finding a link track. 

Luckily I had downloaded a gps track of the trail but even with that to go on the link was really hard to find. Once we found it though it proved to be a very pleasant little section of single track with the odd downed tree that needed skirting around.

This link simply let us cut across the hypotenuse of the fire road network thus saving a little time. We soon met three other mountain bikers who couldn't find the link and had gone the long way. Win!

More good fire trail ensued. While it rolled up and down, there was no whinging so it must have been ok. It passed close to the edge of the escarpment in a few places which provided us with some glimpses over Morton National Park.

We soon came to the fun bit. Griffins fire trail drops off the escarpment something like 500m vertical. Well, not vertical but in a very business-like manner (5.2km). 


The forest changed almost immediately from the typical dry sclerophyll forest that is the Aussie "bush" to something much more tropical like. We liked it!

This was a brake burning descent and my climbing senses were tingling. This happens whenever I ride down a road that is too easy, too steep. 

I have been caught out with some massive climbs over the years shortly after a road tips steeply downhill. But today was meant to be about descents, right? This ride had a 500m net drop, right?

At the bottom of the descent the trail followed Yarrunga Creek. It was a pleasant rolling ride but the increase in temperature here in the valley was noticeable. It had gone from maybe high twenties to almost mid thirties Celsius. Not ideal and Miss 14 started to whine a little.

Griffins Farm turned out to be a nice flat area alongside the creek that would make a great campsite in cooler weather. We checked it out while Miss 14 rested. 
I must pencil in some bikepacking around here.....

Now, there WAS one climb in this ride that the brochure mentioned but it was only 150m (500ft) and one that I thought the kids would have little problem with. The issue was that someone was getting "hangry" and wouldn't do anything about it. "I'm not hungry" was shot back at me when I suggested (several times) that she eat something. Arriving at the creek crossing, where the climb out began, I enforced a sit down rest break to try to restore some equilibrium to a short person because frankly, it was starting to piss me off! 

When you are deep into a ride, self rescue is the only option which I thought I had taught the kids over the last few years. You can't give up because there will only be embarrassment at one's weaknesses if you can't get yourself out of what you have got into..
No folks, I was not happy!

After a respite it was time to get the ugly bit of the ride over and done with. This first entailed crossing the creek and the kids excitement at this bode well for the climb.

That excitement quickly fizzled though. Why is it always hot as hell when you are climbing. No seriously, why does the wind stop and the sun seem to beat down upon you?

The next 1.5km and 500ft of climb were hot (my Garmin said 38C/100F and our progress slowed to a crawl. Well, actually it stopped altogether quite a few times. I ended up pushing Miss 14's bike quite a bit as she could only barley walk up the hill. When I offered the same for Will he said "No, I am going to do this" and wouldn't accept any help. 
Bless his little cotton mtb socks!

Some more sitting seemed to help......

National Parks Dept rangers passed us in a ute and asked if we were ok, had plenty of water. Yes, we sure did. That might have been the problem as the kids were hauling 3 litres each from the start of the ride. They would still have at least half that now and it would be dragging them back but you can't bring too much water with you in Australia!

Eventually we crested the climb and exited the National Park onto Jack's Road. There was much rejoicing!!

The road became a little more civilised now but I think the kids were cooked. I HAD forgotten about their relative lack of fitness. Three weeks of sitting around in the air conditioning since finishing school had turned them into marshmallow. Even the sight of an Echidna crossing the road did little to excite them.

The 13 kilometres from here took about 50 minutes even though they were for at least half of the ride on sealed road. We arrived into a very hot Kangaroo Valley township and headed straight for the pub for a jug or two (or was it three?) of squash(soda) and something to eat.

Despite the whining, the heat and that one bugger of a climb the kids did actually do really well. The ride was a solid  38km(24mi) with 500m climbing but thankfully also 1500m descending.

It is a ride that I would highly recommend to anyone visiting the area. In cooler weather it would be a doddle. The views and sights along the way make for a pleasant few hours in the saddle. Maps can be found at the Southern Highlands Visitor Centre in Mittagong or below from Strava.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Hello 2017 !

I usually manage to get out on a ride for New Years Eve or New Years Day. Sort of a modern tradition that embraces a couple of aspects of life that are important to me these days - that being cycling and being outside in the elements.

This past New Year I fulfilled the latter but the bike stayed firmly planted on the bike rack attached to our camper trailer for these two auspicious days. Not that it mattered much though. I was still outside, camping in the Snowies with the kids and some good mates and that is what counts. Heck, we even forgot that it was New Years eve until fairly late in the evening!

Kids trying to disappear from the panorama! ;)

Quiet camping (in mild luxury mind you) and some hiking around the Blue Waterholes area made for a rather pleasant day.

There were some great views over an unexpected waterfall. The drive in and out was rather pleasant as well.

Roll on 2017.....


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Jesus Christ! Its Your Birthday!

Well, another year has almost run it's course. They do seem to be sliding by uncomfortably quickly these days. All the more reason to squeeze more into each one before it is too late.

Anyway, to my very few regular readers, I hope you have a great Christmas and enjoy the chance to spend time with the people who are special too you, while enjoying too much food and possibly too much fine drink. For that is what the silly season has become to us some 2100 years on. I am sure that it was Darwin tthat said traditions can be changed or adapted as required?  Or something to that effect.

While you ponder that circuitous route to the point I was making may I simply wish you all a very merry Christmas. Make it what you will but please enjoy it.

Merry bloody Christmas.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Just Like A New One

I posted up a little while back here that I was sending my R1 down to Sydney for some much needed suspension work. I also proclaimed that I would post "in about a month" about riding with my little Bro down in Sydney.

Well.......that "month" seems to have morphed into 9 months but just like a new baby, it was probably worth the wait.

What happened I hear you ask? 
Weeelllll, the bike went to Sydney with Rick as planned in that post above. It then sat at Chillertek's house for a few weeks until he had time to take it out to Teknik Motorsports in Penrith. They had done work on his 2000 model R1 which Steve was very happy with. 

I wasn't in a huge hurry for the bike, what with winter approaching and Teknik took me at my word. "No rush" I had said and they certainly didn't rush. Just over two (2) months later I had a call saying the bike was ready to be picked up. It took Steve another few weeks to get out there to pick it up. When he did finally make the trip I received a phone call from him - "did your bike have a dent in the tank and a cracked fairing?" Hell, no! I said, it was almost unmarked - rare for a 14 year old bike.

To his credit Steve went in and approached them for me. They denied doing any damage or knowing anything about it. Grrr.

I sent an email, courteously pointing out that the bike was unmarked when it went in and asked what they were going to do about it. Belatedly, to their credit and with minimal arm twisting, they agreed to pay for the damage to be fixed at their cost. Clearly they knew they had caused the damage as there is no way you would wear that sort of cost if you knew you had not caused it. Both Steve and I are a bit pissed off that we had to challenge them. They should have been upfront and told us they had damaged it. This grubbiness is what turned me off the motorcycle industry years ago. If you fuck up, admit it, fix it and move on.

While a positive outcome, it meant the R1 had to stay in Sydney for another month or two for a visit to Sydney City Smash Repairs. While it was in there I took the opportunity to get a few small blemishes fixed up at my expense. The result is one very tidy looking R1.

Between picking the bike up from Teknik and dropping it at SCSR, Steve took it for a spin with one of his mates, Geoff. After a good day out he splashed some fuel in the tank to get him to the smash repairers. Well, that fuel must have been contaminated as the bike then began to miss and only run on a couple of cylinders under 3000rpm! 

I finally made the trip down to Sydney to pick the bike up in October, with Rick again kind enough to lend me his trailer. Throwing the mtb in as well, I planned on hitting a few trails along the way.

I bought a new set of spark plugs and a fuel pump gasket while in Sydney. I planned on cleaning the tank out and throwing the new plugs in myself but there simply aren't enough hours in a day so after another month I decided to drop it to the professionals at Ultimate Yamaha.

 I did enjoy the road trip down and back though, with a stop in to visit the folks. The signage around Coonabarabran was a little different, with planets of the solar system dotted along the highway at representative distances from the sun (well, the observatory at Siding Springs representing the sun).

The Yamaha dealer said the fuel filter was full of black gunk but the plugs weren't too bad - they did fit the new ones while in there though. I discovered the bike has a K & N air filter (score!) and that they balanced the throttle bodies. The number 2 cylinder was a fair way out of balance so it is dialed and now the bike idled smoothly as well.

Riding the bike home from the shop the engine felt silky smooth. the suspension feels tight and compliant and best of all - it is ready to ride!! I do need to set the suspension up and I must admit, I don't feel comfortable asking Teknik where to start. I guess I will just have to figure it out myself. I will post up my thoughts on the suspension work once I get a chance to dial it and put some kilometres (metric miles) on the new squish.

Today is the first day of Summer and it is a scorcher. I may need to wait until March 2017 for it to cool down enough to ride.

Luckily I am not in a hurry............

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Re-Igniting That Spark

For the last year or so I have found it pretty difficult to push myself hard on a bikecycle. I don't think I have entered more than a single race since this little race last June as the motivation simply has not been there. I guess if I am totally honest, I have been lounging on my laurels for a while and didn't feel a burning need to prove anything to myself.

This, however, is a bit of a self defeating outlook. People (well, me) need a challenge in life. This challenge recently presented itself as a MTB race down in Grafton, NSW. The G Bom 9 hour race is hosted by the Grafton Cycle Club and features a 6 hour race for the kids. The kids did this race last year and were extremely keen to have another go this year. This led to us Dads figuring that as we were taking the kids down to the race, we may as well have a pedal around to fill in our time. Highly motivated race desire right there!

My race prep started 4 days before the race when I retrieved my trusty, if neglected, single speed from it's hanging space in the roof of the shed. It needed a bleed of the brakes and a change in gearing before it was ready to race. I bled the brakes...........but the gearing wasn't too bad.......was it........?

One lap of Cornubia later and I pronounced the bike ready to race. I, on the other hand, was a wheezing ball of sweat.

 No problem I thought. Bom Bom forest is as flat as a shit carter's hat.

Training? Check!

Home off a red-eye flight, some sleep then throw the kids and bikes in the car. Drive 3.5 hours and set up tent in empty paddock. Pre-race prep? Check!

Luckily for us a large group of fellow RATS had made the trip down to race as well. These well organised souls were kind enough to make space under a RATS shelter for our motley crew. Much support equipment was lugged into said shelter then we were ready to rumble.

The forecast for the weekend was for a little rain but race morning started cool and a little overcast. Nothing too ominous though. The race start time was a very civilised 11am.

The kids were pumped.

11am came and went though with no sign of proceedings getting under way. Not to worry, as soon after we were marshalled down a fire road for the mass start. I was leading off for the Dads and young Angus was kicking it off for the kids.

Chatting to some other racers on the start line and I find I am chatting to a mate of Mick Eyb from Taree! (Mick was in the room next to me at "The Y" in Banff last year and raced the TD on a Single Speed) Soon enough we were off, powering up the fire road for a few kilometres to help spread the field. I was soon spun out on my 32-18 gearing and puffing like the wheezy fat kid with the half time oranges. But I was having fun! The lap went quite quickly with several riders being passed while the red mist had descended. A quick change over with Chris and I settled down with the kids for a 30 minute break.

 Gus soon handed over to Lucy for her first lap. It would prove to be the fastest of the day......out of all of us!

 All too soon I was out again for a fun, traffic free lap. Coming back in I spied William waiting for his turn. He was looking psyched!

A 9 Hour race sounds like a long time but the reality is that swapping laps with a team mate makes the time absolutely fly by. Before we knew it we were heading toward the 5 hour mark. Then the  gentlest of rain began to fall. Just enough to cool us down.

The rain continued to fall lightly. My next lap was interesting as the trail had altered completely. The grippy line was now the slippy line and the loose stuff was where the grip was. Interesting.

Around now the second of the 2 Race Track format was opened up, meaning we headed off on a completely unsighted track. The rain was starting to tip down now and the largely clay soil was beginning to really stick to the bike. I was glad I was running single speed because the people with gears were starting to have all sorts of problems.

After a lap that seemed it was never going to end I popped out onto the finish straight, heading to transition. People lining the track were telling me that the race was cancelled and this would be it. What? Yeah, sure it was shitty riding in this muck but isn't that what mountain bike racing is about? I don't like not finishing something I start so I was actually a bit pissed off to have the race stopped. Even when my chain came off about 50m from the line! Yeah, it was muddy!

Lucy was out on the night lap (2nd track) as well and I must admit I was a bit worried for her safety after all the dramas I had witnessed with other geared riders on that track. I need not have worried though as she came through about 15 minutes later to finish her team's race. I sensed she was a bit miffed that the race was called as well. Sometimes I fear she is too much like me!

Anyway, we all had a good weekend. The tracks in Bom Bom State Forest are flat and pedally, but they are still fun. To cap things off, the kids came in 2nd in the Under 15 Team of 4 category.

Unfortunately Lauren was still in the shower and missed the podium

The Dad's also fared well, placing 2nd in the Mens Team of 2 category. Not bad for two old blokes on single speeds!

The light soon faded and many pizzas were eaten, much chocolate milk drunk and 4 tired kids didn't take too much convincing to go to bed. Come to think of it, the dads weren't exactly night owls either.

Thanks to Bom Bom Racing for putting the event on and to our fellow Rats for letting us muscle in under the shelter and be a part of the Rat Pack.

That was fun. Maybe a spark of interest has finally been reignited?