Monday, February 27, 2012

Bagging Buller

I have been missing in action these last few weeks.

Things have been getting very hectic, with work demanding a large slice of my time.

Looking south west, across the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula, to Kangaroo Island from 38 000 feet.

 This, combined with trail building and trying to fit a ride or two into the schedule has seen time absolutely fly by and regular maintenance at Flyboy HQ go sadly wanting.

My main excuse for not posting anything is that when I am away at work I have no interwebs access, so it has to wait until I arrive home again. Here in Oztraylia there is no such beast as free internet access at a hotel, unlike the rest of the western world.

This week just gone by ended  four days away, late Friday night, with an exciting landing in the belting rain here in Brisbane.

Green and yellow is precipitation. The pink is turbulence!! Yay for eyeball bounce!!

Did I mention it decided to rain again? No? Well we had something like 200 millimetres (8 inches) of rain on Friday which put paid to any advances in the trail building world. Not that I was going to take part in that particular days building anyway. My cunning plan to head south for a ride had finally come to fruition and was looking all the more cunning, as Victoria was forecast to have temperatures in the high 30s (90s F) and in particular, Mt Buller predicted to have high 20s. Couldn't have planned it better!

So, after a restful three hours sleep, I was back at the airport to board a flight to Melbourne. Luckily, I had pre- packed my gear, knowing how tight my turn around time would be friday night. Marcus, a work collegue and fellow Trek Fuel Ex8 riding MTBer was picking me up and whisking me to Mt Buller, a mere two hour drive away.

There is a MTB in there somewhere...

On arrival at Mt Buller, we were informed that Tex Perkins, the man responsible for the music in this post, was hosting his "Man in Black" Johnny Cash tribute concert that night and we couldn't drive all the way up to the village. We had to park lower down and climb two kilometres up to the village proper, a sure fire method to get the legs warmed up!

Once up in the village we quickly obtained a trail map from one of the MTB stores and headed out to hit the trails. The plan was to head out to Howqua Gap and back, so Gang Gangs was the first trail in the network that we needed to make this happen. My lack of sleep definitely put me on the back foot, even more than usual, skills-wise and I was glad we had decided to hold off on attacking the signature trail, StoneFly, until sunday when I would be well rested and sharp...ish. 

How many pilots does it take to find a trail? The picnic trail was

The trails out to Picnic Trail were quite nice. Then we hit Silk Lane outbound. Instead of MTB trail, it was just a steep downhill fire road with lots of large, loose rocks threatening to launch you over the bars when you least expected it. I must admit to feeling a bit dissapointed to lose so much elevation on such a nothing trail when we had enjoyed flowy single track leading up to this.

 The climb back up the Silk Lane singletrack, onto Corn Hill proved to be an uninspiring slog for the most part with stupidly tight switchback climbs better suited to walkers, not riders. The view at times was the saving grace through this piece of trail. The location certainly is sweeeeet, if not the trail at times. My advice would be to ride this trail in reverse. Go down the single track and climb back up the fire road. Probably totally against the rules, but there you go...

Breaking for a bite to eat at the entrance to Corn Hill trail, I couldn't help but feel a bit under-inspired so far. 

Sure, I was very sleep deprived. I am also a bit spoilt, getting to ride a lot of cool trails around this country and New Zealand. But I was trying to be as objective as I could. Many different sources had talked Mt Buller up over a couple of year period and I just wasn't finding the trails as "advertised". Where was the World Trail flow? So far, compared to this we have better trails at Mt Joyce, just a 1 hour drive from Brisbane. Maybe not quite the same setting (ok, nothing like this setting!!), but I was looking at the overall, wholistic experience and I was there to ride afterall.

Misty Twisty sounded like a trail with a lot of potential. Dropping down the mountainside through a large series of switchbacks, how could you go wrong? Well, you could make those corners tight and make many of them totally blind, with no sight line through the corner. Then, just for fun, make the climb out via 400 uber tight switchbacks that are about 30% unrideable to a sleepless zombie. Back at the Corn Hill junction I was hoping that StoneFly was going to be a brain-fryingly-awesome trail! 

Time to drop down Corn Hill and head back to Buller Village then hit up Copperhead. Wait a minute..what is this? Corn Hill is a flowy, fast, heart-in-mouth at times, holler out loud, hoot of a trail! THIS is what we were expecting from Mt Buller!! Unfortunately, the fun is over all too soon, but leaves a huge grin on my zombie face.

Back in Buller village, we top up with water, then climb towards the mountain summit. The summit hides the trail head for the latest Mt Buller feature, namely Copperhead. 
The following promo video is shot totally in the bottom 30% of the trail. The upper trail looks nothing like this. False advertising?

Now this puppy would ideally suit an All Mountain Bike, Downhill Bike or at least a cross country dually with aggressive tyres fitted. I didn't have any of the above, so hit the trail with my over-inflated Maxxis Advantages! About a third of the way down I stopped to let some pressure out of my tyres and instantly began to enjoy this trail for the insane altitude drop that it is. Don't underestimate the ability of the humble Advantage!
The first two-thirds isn't particularly inspiring, as the trail just hops across a steeply downhill fire road.

Closer to the bottom it begins to wind through huge gum trees and demands deep comittment from the rider. Great stuff! Unfortunatley for us, the descent is huge and there is no chance of me climbing the mountain to ride Copperhead again today. For those of you keen to shuttle, the ticket is $48 a day.

After a short climb back to the car, we are quickly loaded and driving back down the mountain, still buzzing from the Copperhead experience. And I have always thought the only good snake was a dead snake....

Time to find some accomodation and fuel back in Mansfield. Did I mention the Man in Black concert? What about the two weddings and the 21st birthday that were on in town? Small country towns have limited accomodation at the best of times and we were in for an unexpected challenge......

What challenges would tomorrow bring?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Motor Bicycling

With my little bro bailing on me to go ride a "duck", I suddenly had a clear morning before heading back to the salt mines.

Too late to organise a MTB ride, I had to come up with a plan C. It was a nice day, being not too hot or too humid and I did have a jacket to wear now. Must be time to get the R1 out of the shed then!

Dragging all of my gear together and checking tyre pressures took about thirty minutes. Thirty minutes to let the butterflies grow. How would it go? Will I remember how to make the bike go around a corner? Will I have fun or was this going to be a big mistake?

As I sat on the bike to ride away, I was struck by how "in the bike" you feel when compared with riding a bicycle, where you are sitting waaay up high. Feeling awkward right away can't be good. I gave myself an uppercut and calmed down to concentrate on the basics of smoothness and throttle control. It is amazing how rusty you become with throttle control and sobering to realise how important it is to riding a motorcycle with the direct response that the R1 has to said throttle!

I rolled on to the Motorway heading south. The plan was to take in a pleasant loop up over Mt Tamborine to Canungra, the return home via Nerang. This route would necessitate riding some narrow, twisting roads. A sure fire way to focus my attention on the issues of the moment, namely throttle control and cornering ability.

View Larger Map

Shortly after getting off the motorway, I noted another large jap road bike following me. Great. A witness to my ineptitude! Stuck behind slow moving cars I concentrated on road position and where to look in the corners. One of the first things I noticed was how wide the road was. I had plenty of tarmac to select a line from, unlike in a car. This immediately made me feel more at ease and when the slow cars finally turned up a side road, I was able to up the pace gently and work on my lines. Funnily enough, looking in the rear view mirror I saw the following rider wobbling and running a bit wide on corners. Maybe I wasn't the only newbie out there this morning!

This part of South East Queensland is always picturesque and today was no exception. With thunderstorms scrubbing the sky clear the previous day, the colours of the mountain were particularly vivid, as if someone had upped the colour saturation on the entire world. I was starting to relax now and enjoy being out on the bike.

Riding over Tamborine, I dropped down the narrow, winding road into Canungra. Following a bogan in a huge four wheel drive helped me keep my pace under control, if not my frustration. This idiot was using both sides of the road to maximise his corner speed. Too bad if another road user was comimg the other way. As soon as I could, I safely dispatched this menace, not wanting to be witness to a head on collision.

Pulling into Canungra, I stopped for a coffee and bite to eat at a cafe' frequented by bikers.

Relaxing under the cooling mist of water that the fans were blowing around, I took a moment to reflect on how much fun I was having....and how damn hot that bike looked!

I also noticed the perfect place to hang the GoPro for no vibration footage. Those rubber Oggy Knobs on either side of the bike are rock solid and would allow a forward or rearward shot. Hmmm....

Suiting up, it was time to head down to Nerang and ultimately home. This piece of road is relatively high speed with long sweepers and a few tight sections to catch out the unwary. By now, I had gone from individual riding actions, brake now-move your butt now-lean now-accelerate now all carried out oafishly and seperately, to smoothly doing all at once. Not having to think about each action separately freed up brain space to assess corner speeds and start braking later. Woo Hooo! It was starting to flow sweetly now.

Motoring along the freeway on the way home I also marvelled at how comfortable the bike was. Despite reading reviews on sports bikes for years and previous personal experience, lamenting the fact that they are painfully uncomfortable, I found the seat well padded and quite pleasant. I guess sitting on a narrow, hard bicycle seat for 4-8 hours at a time changes one's point of reference. So all of you that curse sports bike creature comforts, give yourselves an uppercut and "harden the f#*k up"!

 My concerns about the mustiness of my helmet were also a non event. At highway speeds I simply did not notice the smell and the helmet felt like the quality item that it always was, so I will persevere with my old lid and contemplate a replacement at a later date.

At home again, with the bike tucked away the shed, I had a grin on my face that even the thought of impending work couldn't remove.

No doubt, for some of you the content will be blocked in some countries. If you have AD/DC's Shoot to Thrill, play it in sequence with the video and you will have the full picture! If you feel the need to play "Barbie Girl" by Aqua, have a chuckle to yourself, but just don't tell me about it!

Now to plan the next ride and northern New South Wales is beckoning.
I think this is going to be fun!

Monday, February 13, 2012

It Must Be Saturday Morning Again

Saturday morning reared it's ugly head all too soon this week.

After putting in six hours of "trail build day"preparation during the week with Chris, I must admit I was slow to drag my sorry carcase out of bed at 5am. Not helping my cause was the fact that I had assisted a mate with a particularly large bottle of red wine the night before. My wife keeps delighting in quoting me on the night as saying "it would be irresponsible of me to make Jon drink that all by himself !" Geez, I'm a good mate. I really took one for the team Friday night and was glad I wasn't operating any heavy machinery Saturday morning!

We finally have access to the forest for one of our vehicles and it was a godsend not to have to carry all of our tools the 1 kilometre up the hill to where we are working. Yes, we needed all of our energy to push wheel barrows loaded with rock the last 400 metres or so! I was a lather of sweat after the first five minutes and progressed from here to being totally drenched before we had finished for the morning. Man was it humid!

As expected, the digging was tough. The steepness of the side slope necessitates a wide bench to ride on, which means mucho soil to be removed. In various spots on the low side of significant trees, retaining walls had to be build. This equals hauling more rock in the heat. Hard yakka for all concerned.

Now, my trail pixies who had taken 40 000 photographs last week were having a sleep in today, so the photographic documentation of the morning is somewhat scant. Here is all I managed to snap.

Now, while there may be no evidence of anyone actually working in the above photos, rest assured that everyone that came along put in a mighty effort. Jeff was just testing the line for us in that last photo. It always helps to have a bike on hand while building so as to get the flow of a certain section just right.

Anyway, the guys (there were no girls this week) punched out about 80 to 100 metres of trail. That leaves this 30 metres for next week, before we reach the gully crossing in the top right corner.

We will be through the crossing and climbing up the opposite hillside next week. This may require the use of a jackhammer to persuade some rock we ran into to play nicely, but just quietly, I am all for some powered assistance at this point!

Sunday morning dawned bright and shiny after light rain Saturday night and a quick ride up the trail revealed a nicely bedded down trail. We couldn't have planned the rain any better!

Sunday afternoon and it was off to Underwood Park to let the kids loose on their mountain bikes for a few laps of the track. We ended up with four kids and about six adults lapping, despite the heat and humidity. A wall of thunderstorms approaching from the west put a pleasantly cool end to the afternoon, with the kids bundled into the car and sent home, while Chris and I did some mad, single speed spinning through Daisy Hill forest to beat the rain home by about five minutes! No wonder my legs felt trashed today on my road ride!

All in all, a very productive and fun weekend.

The trail, so far........

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Another Part of the Puzzle II

Well, I have been waiting for a jacket to ride this new/old R1 and the call finally came yesterday that my "old faithful" Rivet jacket was ready to be collected from the dry cleaner.

Fully rejuvenated from 5 years of Flyboy neglect and Queensland humidity I must say it looks bloody good, considering I bought it in 1993! It is also unearthing some great feelings and memories in me......and my wife. I was showing her how good it looks compared to the pants part of the suit that is yet to be cleaned and I swear I could see in her face a wistful look, possibly thinking back to a trip we did in 1997 down to Phillip Island in our early courting days.

Or possibly remembering me with hair! That ugly bloke on the right is the Road to Nowhere guy.

Anyway, the jacket looks great and I will send the pants and my Brando jacket in for the same treatment. You can clearly see the difference from the jacket to the pants in this picture. No comments please on the 90s styling. I like it....

Funny how it works though. I had an email from the US yesterday saying that a particular Alpinestars mesh jacket was back in stock. So, I ordered it again (4th time) and am yet to get the "we regret to inform you" email, so I may have my choice of jackets soon. All that remains is to organise a helmet that doesn't smell like Granny Moses armpits and then I am free to rock!

I must admit that despite the...ahhmmm...costs so far, it has been a great trip down memory lane getting all of my gear in order. I hope that the riding will be as much fun as I remember. As all of my previous riding was continuous through my late teens, 20s and early 30s, it is slightly daunting to be getting back into it in my early 40s. I was flying with a guy of similar vintage last week and we were discussing motorcycles, as he had been a rider before having 3 daughters and he admitted to "losing his nerve" and getting out several years ago. Bloody brave guy to admit that to another bloke actually. I think much more of him as a result.

I hope my judgement is up to the task, as without it, choosing corner entry speeds and braking points might be guesswork. A clear recipe for disaster on a motorcycle. I am nervously looking forward to it. Perhaps a refresher training course might be in order?

I stumbled across this test from "back in the day" when my bike was at the cutting edge. Funny to read but, it is just as I remember the hype at the time. Trip back into the past with this 2002 R1 Test .

On another note, the mountain bike trail building here in Cornubia is powering ahead. I had a slight "melt down moment" in this post when I discovered I would miss out on the chance to ride a signature Australian trail due to trail care commitments. I have re-organised that trip and last weekend we had another strong turnout to trail building, so happy days!

Better still, because MTBers are a pretty fit bunch, they punched through all of the trail that we intended to build by 8:30am and I had to rapidly mark up another 80-100 metres of trail to keep them busy!!

Adding to this, a BBQ was thrown on by the local council bush fire services guys in appreciation of the efforts of the local mountain bikers. Remember, these trails are for the use of trail walkers, runners, as well as riders, but the only people to build or maintain them are the Mountain Bike community. As a result, we are finally gaining some serious traction with the landholders. To our credit (my opinion) we are pretty inclusive with regard to selling our trails as walking, cycling (and horse riding where appropriate). This coupled with some serious numbers on two wheels being counted out on the trail, has our political masters finally paying us some respect. I almost feel like a real estate developer, sway wise!!

Feels funny to be on this high after the low I felt last week when faced with the massive building effort that I was slow to realise was staring us in the face. Some great support during the week from the other LCTA Trail Care coordinator (thanks Chris), as well as the massive effort by the volunteers on saturday, was more than enough to resurrect my spirits after my ....erm...blow out.

I am soooo looking forward to this weekend's effort. Here is were we will be this week.....the wide angle hides the steepness of the slope.

Fun times ahead!!!!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Part of the Puzzle Solved

It turns out that as I was typing my last blog entry, Mr USPS was winging my new boots to me! These little beauties turned up on Friday.

They were promptly tried on by my 7 year old foot model, who proclaimed them to be cool.

Once I finally got my feet on them, I proclaimed them to be the right size and fit. Perfect! I am pleased with myself as I saved $150AU (about $4000US) by searching around online.

No luck on the jacket front though. Almost before I finished typing the last blog about the gear I was waiting on, I recieved the "we apologise" email to say that the ALPINESTARS T-GP PLUS TEXTILE JACKET YOU ORDERED IS CURRENTLY ON BACKORDER.  Why does the motorcycle industry jerk you around? Why list it for sale if it is on backorder? Why do they type in all CAPs? All the online shops I use for bicycle gear list an expected date for arrival in stock. All three of these motorcycle shops have listed the jacket as in stock, yet all three have sent a similar email quoting a stock arrival time of mid February to mid March. I would rather just have the truth straight up.

Now to try to find a supplier here in Oz.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Attempted Ride

With a slight respite in the weather and a mere day or so at home, I attempted a ride along some of our silky ribbons of tar earlier in the week. This ride resulted in  a rescue mission by the Minister for War after my front appendage developed a bulge about 30km from home.

That tyre is only 23mm (slightly less than 1") wide and shouldn't have that kink in it. Interestingly, once at home in the garage it proceeded to EXPLODE with all the force of a 30-30 gunshot, almost causing the Minister to wet herself. Glad I wasn't riding it at the time and she was standing in a waterproof part of the house!

On another note, my lovely new R1 hasn't been out of the shed except for a brief run to the bike shop to peruse summer jackets and boots.

I am pleased to say that a pair of Sidi Vertigo boots are in the safe hands of the USPS and hopefully winging their way Down Under as I type this.
On a slightly negative note, I have ordered an AlpineStars T-GP Plus Air Jacket from two large North American motorcycle shops, only to have them both reply after several days that they do not, in fact, have them in stock and promptly returned my money. Nor can they get them any time soon. Bugger!

I have just placed an order with , who assure me that they do in fact, have the jacket in stock and will whisk it all the way to Down Under for just 25 bucks! I will wait with fingers crossed that there is no "we apologise" email!
As far as I am concerned, this jacket is required equipment here in Queensland as at this time of year as it is bloody humid. I must be getting old, as the thought of sweating my arse off while riding the R1 is not at all appealing. Add to this that my leather jacket is still at the cleaners and it is a no brainer. No protection = no riding.
The other thing keeping me of the motorcycle is my helmet. It smells like an old ladies house with its combination of air freshener and mouldy, musky damp and I cannot see how to fix it, short of hitting it with the pressure cleaner. This may be terminal for the helmet and I am a bit averse to shelling out the $650 it will cost here in Oz for an Arai Vector 2 helmet. Although, the Vector 2 has a completely removable liner, which, if my current helmet had the same, would solve the problem that I currently have (and will no doubt have in the future here in Queensland), so maybe it will be in the my best interests to just "bite the bullet" and shell out for a new lid.

Either way, I am looking forward to my parcels turning up in the post......