Saturday, March 31, 2012

Into The Light

Trail Building.  A bittersweet experience.

I quite enjoy the therapeutic benefits of using my hands to create a section of trail that is both pleasing to the eye and flows well on a bike. There is something almost primeval about the satisfaction.

At times though I dislike, almost resent, the fact that I am stuck here digging when I could be riding my bike, like everyone else.

What has brought on these thoughts you may ask? Well, they are always bubbling along, under the surface. I am human after all! But more on that later.

This morning was another notch in the belt for the trail builders here on Wallum Froglet. Week 9 in fact. We have only missed two Saturday mornings due to rain since the 21st of January. I am itching for some riding.

Fellow MTBer and sometime radio presenter, Andrew Demack, came along this morning to lend a hand to the build day. He also brought his recording equipment along and thrust a microphone into some of the dedicated builder's faces (in a nice way, of course).

So, as we come toward the end of this massive effort, his questions got me thinking about how I feel about the work we have put in.

I can tell you that I am massively proud of the regular half dozen guys that have been there, virtually every Saturday morning, for the last 11 weeks. There are another twenty or so guys and girls that have contributed to the build when they had a spare Saturday and they are also champions.

The other 10-15 000 mountain bikers here in Brisbane should hang their heads. The amount of whingeing that takes place on MTB forums about the lack of places to ride, at times, is phenomenal. These keyboard warriors are also armchair experts in trail design, with most never having picked up a Rakeho to actually help out. The real flamer for me is when they post on our trail building thread and ask where the trail is located, so that they can come and ride it! My response to come along, help build and learn where the trail is always gets the "sorry mate, too busy riding that day" response from these tactless tools. Don't they realise we would rather be riding as well?

But these people weren't too busy to forego one ride to help create a little slice of heaven......

Yes, even the kids busted their tushes carrying rock, pushing barrows and grabbing tools for the adults. I am sure this young bloke got a blister on his index finger from all of the photos he took today! Sorry to anyone who had 20-odd photos taken of them in quick succession! I got a great laugh as I downloaded from the camera, literally hundreds of photos of this mornings efforts!

Anyway, I was pressed for time this morning, with my wife away in Sydney and soccer duties falling to me, on top of trail building. I was rushing around, trying to help as much as I could, set up the BBQ and keep an eye on the time so we wouldn't miss the round ball kick-off. This is when Andrew found me for a quick chat....Now, there is a good reason my company doesn't let us drivers talk to the media. As interviewees, some of us (me in particular) should just stick to dealing with 80 tonnes of Boeing 737 rather than articulating my feelings on trail building!

I felt a bit like a rabbit in the headlights, couldn't take my eyes off that damn microphone and noticed that I was talking about an octave higher than normal!! I am not looking forward to hearing this short interview played back and I am hoping Andrew can just dub in some cool music to drown me out.

Only a week or so to go now.......then we RIDE.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mid Week Sneaky

This Mountain Bike trail that has consumed all of my (and many others) saturday mornings this year is finally nearing completion.

I was able to sneak out today and finish up some minor gully crossings to help speed the build process next saturday morning. Some hidden tools certainly help in this endeavour, as I can cram in a ride, then dig some trail.

These little gully crossings can now be linked into the main trail this saturday.

Less than four weeks to go now folks!!

I am looking forward to having my saturdays back and going for a ride on this trail.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tropical Trappings

Swanning around the country again on a work sponsored holiday, I happened across this unusual addition to the standard mini bar.

You know you are in the tropics during wet season when your mini bar contains a torch.....Not sure how much it will cost me if I use it, but probably more than it is worth!

I am hoping to be home soon before I start to grow webbing between my toes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Avoiding the Rain

We, as a family, were lucky enough to jet off to Wellington, New Zealand for the weekend. We managed to escape four more days of rain here in Brisbane and enjoyed some of the best weather that Wellington had to offer.

The mountain bike was left at home as this was to be purely a walking, eating and coffee sampling trip.

 But....I couldn't help noticing how many bikes were getting around during the few days we were there.
Those hill must surely offer some great riding.

I will be back.......

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Monday Motorcycling

With a new, ventilated jacket to help keep me a bit cooler, it was time to drag the R1 out of the shed, go for a ride and test it out.
The weather forecast looked clear for the morning, so I decided upon a loop down across the border into New South Wales via Natural Bridge, Tyalgum, Uki to Kyogle. Then heading back home via Woodenbong and the Mt Lindesay Highway. All up about 350 kilometres and quite do-able in the time I had between school drop off and pick up.

View Larger Map

So, I suited up. The new AlpineStars jacket fitted well and felt like it might withstand a slide down the road well. Not that I was planning on testing out it's crash worthiness. I threw the digital SLR in the backpack and as an afterthought, threw in my rain jacket because the ride was going to cover some rain forest riding.

About one kilometre from home as I crested a hill and looked to the south I could see dark, grey clouds hovering along the coast. As I entered the motorway, headed south, the whole of the eastern sky was dark and foreboding. Never trust a weatherman! A quick recalculation was in order to avoid getting drenched. Inland the sky looked much kinder, so I quickly decided to reverse the loop and go anti-clockwise.

It is always a bit of a bore getting to Beaudesert with quite a bit of traffic using this road and very little opportunity to pass safely. But once past Beaudesert, the road opens out and the traffic dries up. This section of the Mt Lindesay Highway is characterised by long straights with quirky, bumpy tight bends. Sometime over a rise. It is as if the old horse trail was simply sealed at some point with no consideration for the speed of modern (anything after 1925) vehicles. Yes, it certainly gets you attention!

Passing the Mt Barney turnoff the road starts to get a bit more interesting. Before you know it you are winding your way up the hillside to pass Mt Lindesay, via many 30-40km/h bends. To be consistent with the rest of the road so far, these are unpredictably bumpy as well! Best to keep something in reserve through this section. Mt Lindesay itself is the core of a long eroded volcano and the Queensland/New South Wales border actually runs right over the top of it!

From this point to the border crossing are many many tight bumpy corners. Great fun as long as there are no trucks coming the other way. At the actual border there is a cattle grid and the old tick inspector's hut. Cameras have now replaced the inspectors and there are two of these located just inside the New South Wales side of the border.

This next few kilometres of the Mt Lindesay highway are the reason you ride this road. Smooooth, constant radius corners that flow one into the next and very little traffic. It is pure heaven.

All too soon the road opens out again and I was turning left toward Kyogle via the Summerland Way.

The Summerland Way is a funny little piece of road. The top end near where the above photo was taken used to be narrow, twisty and very bumpy but over the years has had some work done to it. Now I find it to be a very underrated bit of blacktop as it winds it's way down a valley through farmland, with views back to Mt Lindesay, it is very picturesque.

Fairly soon I was rolling into the little timber milling hamlet of Grevillea and it was time to stop, stretch the legs and grab a bite to eat. Not much timber gets milled here anymore. Not for quite a while I would say, looking at the old timber sheds.
The bloke behind the counter of the general store is a typically friendly country bloke and is on for a chat, but I need to eat and drink to clear my fuzzy head. Too much work lately.

The selection of food is pretty limited, but I am feeling much better just a few minutes after scarfing this rubbish for morning tea!

The weather ahead has been looking a bit grim and I am contemplating cutting my loop short and returning via the Lions Rd to the Mt Lindesay Highway. I suit up and am about to head off southward when I notice that I have done 160 kilometres so far. How far can I get on a tank? Hmmm. Not sure as I have really only done one run on the bike and have no idea of it's actual fuel consumption. So, back past the bowser and I throw $10 of fuel in for good measure. This meagre 6 litres fills the tank, so now I have a range of 26km per litre to work from!

Just a few short kilometres down the road at Old Grevillia (I thought the new one was old!) I can see the cloud on the ground down the valley and the rain is starting to dot my visor. I am just short of the turn off up the valley along the Lions Rd but if I continue I am going to get a very wet backside and more importantly, camera. I reluctantly turn around and start northbound up the highway.....oh well....I have been waiting for about 15 years to ride the Lions Rd so another 6 months won't hurt.

Retracing my steps I find the road is wet in places. Heavy showers have passed through, but missed my passage thankfully. I am soon back at those last few kilometres from the border and blast into the twisties. I soon come up on a slow moving caravan and in years gone by would have wished a pox on these road snails. But today I just turn around, go back to the beginning and start again. Ahh the benefits of age and mellowing! An uninterrupted flow ensues until the border crossing looms into view again. A quick photo stop and it is time to head for home and school pick up.

I only have to do about 100 of those 124km.

My actual ride route looks like this now. About the same number of kilometres was ridden, just as an out and back rather than a more balanced loop.

View Larger Map

The Tyalgum coffee shop will have to wait until another time.

Oh, and the jacket worked as advertised. Got to be happy with that!

P.S. Here is a link to this ride as seen by the man from Motorcycling Paradise .

Friday, March 9, 2012

Everybody Hates These Cyclists

You know the ones......we all want to kill them....yes, even other cyclists....

Warning- Language not suitable for little ears.

Picked up from Bicycles and Icicles

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Little Red-Head Riding to Redland Bay

With my trail care commitments I have been unable to take Lucy along to the regular kids ride at 10am on Saturday morning at Daisy Hill. The rain has also left a very disappointed little girl moping around on Saturday afternoons, so I promised her a ride on Sunday.

Luckily, good friends invited us down to Redland Bay for lunch on Sunday. I then began formulating a cunning plan to squeeze a kids ride in as well, because the route to Redland Bay can take in Bayview Conservation area (and it's MTB trails) along the way. It would also be a challenging ride for a nine year old to test herself.

So we readied ourselves, a little behind schedule, to set off on our little adventure. A certain little red-head was very excited. I was also a little thrilled at the prospect of riding through the bush with my not-so-little girl. She just seems to be growing up and exuding so much confidence lately.

First up were some walking paths here in Cornubia. All very familiar to us as these paths form some of our regular after school ride route. As a result, Red was zipping along and gabbling twenty to the dozen all the while.

As we then had to traverse a short section of busy road, the concentration face was bolted on and we made sure we stayed well left through here. I must admit, I wasn't apprehensive about her making the distance at all. I was most apprehensive about riding along this section of road. Putting my life (and my daughter's) in the hands of other road users is a bitter pill to swallow for me and I do avoid these situations, where I can, as a matter of priority.

Anyway, we survived this short stretch of Sunday drivers unscathed and were quickly plying the back roads of Mt Cotton where small acreages dominate the landscape. Spotting Shetland Ponies and regular became the game until it was time to refuel.

About one kilometre down the road we turned off and entered Bayview Conservation area. I floated the idea that we could ride via single track or via fire road, pointing out that the fire road was probably faster and hence, we would be able to swim sooner. The little voice chose fire road and off we charged!

Only the odd stop for a drink was required. The questions were flowing freely though. "Hey dad, what are those squiggly lines on that tree?" "Hey Dad, did you see that goanna?"

With the layout of the trails, we did have to do some single track to get to our destination. This section of grass trees is, for me, the signature section for Bayview as it is always a bit surreal riding through the Grass Trees while negotiating the narrow single track. Lucy was riding really well and having a ball by this stage!

The only negative squeaks emanated when we were tackling some prolonged climbs and our speed was quite slow. The main area of concern wasn't that she was getting tired. It was that she was missing out on swimming time! So, a helping "dad hand" on her back through the climb raised the speed to adequately stifle these squeaks. It also raised my heart rate somewhat!

Passing by the chicken farm at the end of Days Road raised some choice nine year old comments that I will not repeat here! I must admit, the battery sheds do stink and the hot air that is being exhausted from the sheds isn't exactly the wafting of a gentle summer breeze. It must be as hot as hades in there for those poor chickens....

Out via Days Road and our little ride was almost at an end. Just a few kilometres of blacktop separated us from our post ride catch-up and swim.

I was very proud of my little girl's performance throughout the ride. She didn't really grizzle and was happy to be out on her bike, riding through the bush on a warm March afternoon. Stats wern't important either, but she did ride 17 kilometres with 300 metres of climbing on a warm, humid day.

On reflection, as I type this post, I see the value of this blog to me. Granted, it may be self indulgent drivel for the most part, but it's real value to me is that it demands I really think about what I have done on any particular day and it serves to highlight pivotal moments in my (and my family's) day to day lives that may otherwise go unnoticed. It is cliched, but it really does seem like just yesterday that I was first handed a tiny, pale faced baby that I had no idea what to do with and now here I am, indulging in my favourite past time with one of my favourite people in this world.

Does it get any better than this?

Yeah, actually, I think it will.........

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Another week away at work, another idea for a MTB ride! I have seen some awesome trail building videos about the work on this mountain...

...and I will be back there again next week with all afternoon to kill....

While away, a package arrived from the States.
My body double modelled the new acquisition for me.

His choice of motor-bicycling shorts leave something to be desired in the way of abrasion protection. Batman pyjama shorts aren't quite Draggin Jeans!

Anyway, finally home from work at 11pm last night after two weeks on the road/ in the skies and the alarm was set for 6:30am today.

Trail building was scheduled for 6am and I was keen to get along after last weeks wash out, but I really needed some around 7am it would have to be. I shook the short person out of bed at 6:45am, as he was slated to be the official photographer again.

Upon arrival at the coal face I was met by many soaking wet volunteers. Wet, not from the light rain, but the high humidity and the massive exertion that was being put into moving wheel barrow loads of rock 400m (1/4 mile) up the trail for the gully crossing.

We have a great crew of regulars who are turning up, week in, week out to help build this snaking ribbon of single track goodness to the top of one of the highest points in Logan. This is also being supplemented by a group of semi-regulars who are helping as their time allows. It gives me hope that there are still some "givers" out there in a world of selfish "takers". I wish bucket loads of good Karma on these givers.

The bush is looking amazing at the moment. With all of the rain we have had lately, the green highlight certainly doesn't need exaggerating with any fancy effects. All of these photos are straight off the camera, taken by my seven year old chief photographer.

I have to laugh at times as I review the photos he has taken. They are obviously from the perspective of a seven year old boy. This week it looks like he discovered the zoom function....

He even found time to help out....

With the gully crossing finally crossed, it was time for some self congratulation and goofing off. Young Andrew is always copping flak for appearing in a few photographs pushing an empty wheelbarrow around. This time he decided to fill it.......

...just a shame it wasn't with something useful!

So, the crossing has been crossed. Crossing the crossing is a crossing point in this trail build! We now have less than 300m of trail to go before we can stow the trail building tools in the shed for a while. Hopefully, this last bit of trail should take no more than four more Saturday mornings of our time, then we can all get back to doing what we love best.

I plan on riding up there tomorrow morning. I will just sit and appreciate the sheer beauty of the engineering for a while....then scream back down with my (remaining) hair on fire!

This trail is going to be a polariser of MTBer sentiment. Riders will either love it or hate it.

There will be no in between.

I can't wait.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Bagging Buller II

We eventually found the last room in Mansfield. It was located in the very pleasant Delatite Hotel and despite it not being airconditioned (on a 38 degree C Day) we grabbed it, thankfully. We decided to spread the wealth and ate at the Mansfield Hotel, just across the main street. They have a beautiful beer garden and the food was quite tasty.

The Mansfield Hotel as seen from the Delatite Hotel.

Up early the next morning, we joined the masses at what must be the only coffee shop open early on sunday mornings. Mansfield is actually a thriving little community, very different to the sleepy fuel stop I remember fiffteen years ago, as we rode our motorcycles down to Phillip Island.

Suitably refuelled, we again headed for The Mountain to have a look at SoneFly. We climbed the mountain in the comfort of the car, with the sky getting ominously darker. As rain drops began to spatter the windscreen I recalled an old Australian saying that is more often applied to Melbourne, but will suffice to describe the whole state of Victoria for me. "If you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes because it will change"! Even though the forecast was for another 38 degree C scorcher, the actual weather at the top was 14 degrees C and about 100 metres visibility. Not a huge problem in itself, but the rain was making it a little uncomfortable.

We weren't the only ones caught by surprise. Several motorcyclists were hunkered down in a coffee shop waiting for the rain to clear as they had not thought to bring wet weather gear, while revellers from last night's concert were getting about in black garbage bags-cum-rain ponchos.

After looking at the BOM radar site and seeing that the only rain in Victoria was at Mt Buller and was moving quickly through, we decided to wait an hour or so and then head out. After all, we had all day to ride. There was no rush for once.

After about two hours wait the rain had stopped but we were still shrouded in cloud. We decided to gear up and head out for a look

Gang Gangs trail was quite grippy in the wet. Loamy soil and granite rock works well when wet and the tree roots were easily avoidable, so confidence was high of a successful day in the saddle.
That was until we got onto the fire road over toward Howqua Gap. The granite roads and the rain were forming a grinding past that was "white anting" our bikes, even as we pedalled along. With the thought of having no brakes left and being quite a way from the village, we very reluctantly decided to call it on the day and head back to Melbourne and hit up some trail there.
Marcus is no stranger to having to make hard calls. He was on a Mt Everest climb last year when his team had to make a call to turn back from about 25 000ft due to an approaching storm. His group turned back, but another group in the same area decided to press on. One of their team died of exposure. A tough call with all the training and preparation that goes into a summit attempt but it just isn't worth the consequences. Not that today's call was that critical!

So, StoneFly will have to wait for another trip. As we backtracked we came across some more of world trails latest handywork as seen here. Given a few more years, I am sure that more of these link trails will be completed and the uninspiring fire roads will be removed from the mountain bike network.

The seven second sum-up? As it stands, as a cross country rider, I probably wouldn't make a trip to Mt Buller just to ride the trails unless you were planning to spend 4 or 5 days there and soak up the total experience. The location is beautiful, but there are better trails that are much easier to access in other parts of the country if you have limited time and/or budget. My opinion needs to be seen through the prism of us not actually getting to ride Stonefly. Maybe that trail would have rocked our world and changed our perspective. I came here to "bag Buller" and add it to the list of places I have ridden, but feel that I am "bagging Buller" instead......

Plan B for the rest of the day was to drive back to Melbourne and have a look at the You Yangs trails.
When we got back to Melbourne a couple of hours later the temperature was in the mid 30s celcuis and very dry. Good!
The You Yangs themselves are a small range of hills covered in stunted gums. There is no ground cover beneath the canopy which makes the area look very bleak to a Queenslander more accustomed to seeing greenery everywhere.

The trails themselves are bloody good fun though! They are extremely flowy with small technical features to launch off and pump on.

The climbs are very sneaky, as they are flowy as well. You find yourself pushing very hard on the climbs just because you feel like you should be going faster.
We hooked a couple of laps of the western trails before bad light stopped play. We were also about to get wet again with a line of thunderstorms approaching.

We retreated to Marcus's place to recover with pizza and beers and to plan our next interstate mountain biking experience. I have been told that Forrest is the Rotorua of Australia. Fingers crossed for some dry weather......