Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Older, But Wiser....?

Here we are at the end of another year already! This one has gone particularly fast and has had a lot packed into it, although I am not normally much of a participant in the "NYE event" that a lot of people seem to get caught up in.

At a bit of a loose end today, I thought a final mountain bike ride for the year might be the idea and in fact managed to squeeze two rides in! The first with a mate who is making a comeback after a BIG accident in Whistler and it was great to be out. Great to see him on the bike again as well.

The second ride was a solo effort to take in the view from Mt Cotton. The colours of the Australian bush are quite dull at the moment with it being so dry but there is the odd splash of colour where Eucalypts are bursting through their old bark to show their new skin.

This can be a solid ride as there is a bit of climbing to summit the hill, but I felt like I was breezing along as I recounted some of the things that I have been involved with in 2013.

Obviously I am very proud of my family. My kids seem to be making leaps and bounds in both their education and their physical endeavours.

This has not been without some pain, with at least one broken arm and a hellish looking black eye being suffered. But they are out there, trying. And they make me proud to be their Dad.

A very special thanks to my lovely wife, who is like the glue that holds us all together. She lets me play like with the kids and gives us plenty of leash-up to a point!

As for me, this year we built another amazing mountain bike trail, Ginger Gully, and saw the MTB movement gain further legitimacy with the founding of SEQTA and the winning of quite a bit of money in the form of grants for future trail builds.

I managed to slip away for a few days at a time to indulge in some bike packing trips when work permitted and learnt many lessons and saw some amazing sights.

Work has gone from strength to strength and I thank my lucky stars that I am in an industry that I enjoy.  It may not make any money but it makes it seem less like WORK, right?

Yes, it has been a good year all round and I look forward to 2014 being even better. I have some big plans afoot for my mtbing and if everything falls into place I will let you in on them at the appropriate time.(insert wink). A motorcycle trip around the South Island of New Zealand beckons but before I can get to that one a trip to the Snowy Mountains with the kids must be seen to. 

Yep, it is shaping up to be a great year ahead and I hope yours is too.

Cheers and thanks for reading this year. May the wind be always at your back and your bottle cage always be filled with a cold one. See you all in 2014.................

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Another Day At Work

Thanks to OutdoorGaz for finding this link. This is a really well put together video of the Air Tahiti operation.

I just wonder when the fun police are going to jump on this filming while at work.....?

In the mean time, enjoy.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cross Training

Now, I spend a lot of time away from home with work. About 90 nights a year which means a day either side of that night at least.

That equals lots of % of the year and while away I really enjoy getting outside into the fresh air. Sitting around 3 and 4 star hotel rooms may seem glamorous but honestly it doesn't make for a good mental outlook. Every opportunity to look around the town I happen to be in is grabbed with both hands.

For the last 6 months I seem to have been grabbing lots of Townsville and Mackay opportunities. These towns are in the tropics so while southern Australia is shivering in it's ugg boots, these towns are warm and dry. So, I have been walking/running around Castle Hill in Townsville and along the beach in Mackay to help maintain what hard earned fitness I can while I am away.

This brings me in a round about way to the subject of this post, that being my shoes. My cheap Nike runners were just not cutting it on the slippery crushed granite slopes of Castle Hill. I felt an injury, maybe a uber painful knee injury, was just a matter of time if I continued to push my luck. I needed some decent trail running shoes.

But what are decent trail running shoes? I didn't know but kept an eye out for something that looked the business wherever I went.

Well, wherever turned out to be HarbourTown outlet mall on the Gold Coast about a month ago! I was dragging along at the back of the family outing, you know, the dad that carries all the bags and is looking for, no HOPING for, a crazed gunman to suddenly open fire so that everyone has to run away. Yep, that was me.

Anyhoo, we wandered into a North Face outlet shop where some trail running shoes caught my eye. How did I know they were trail running shoes? Well, I took a punt as they had great knobs under them like a tyre on a dirt bike and looked "runner-ish" on top. The next thing that caught my eye was the "over 50% off" price tag. I don't do discounts that don't at least start with a 5, so this was looking good.

Cutting to the chase, I decided to try a pair of North Face Ultra Guide (I just found this link, no research was done beforehand!) runners. They had to be better than what I was using....right?

I have been using these shoes now for about a month and have to say I am very impressed with their performance, especially as I know nothing about running or running shoes! They are very light and comfortable on the foot. The tread on the sole grips like shit to a blanket on the super-slippery crushed granite slopes of Castle Hill. So much so that I have not had one slip, not even a slight slip-grip even while running downhill. That in my books is awesome!

I assumed with the level of grip provided that the lugs might be showing signs of stress, especially after use on sealed surfaces as well. This isn't proving to be the case with no wear evident at this stage with about 50km on the shoes.

Who would have thought I would have any interest in trail running but here I am, getting out at every opportunity that I don't have access to two wheels and raising the heart rate. Oh, and having fun!

As a riding buddy of mine says its great to have the fitness to say "lets go hiking or riding or running or whatever" whenever you might like to and actually be able to do it. Not many 40 something year-olds can do that in this day and age. These shoes are a great addition to my arsenal of gear that lets me stay active and at this stage I would recommend them as no nonsense trail shoes.

Cheers and thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Skid Lid

Since I ambled back into motorcycling about 2 years ago there has been a need to update my gear as so much of it is almost 20 years old and/or clapped out. New boots, gloves and jackets have been procured to add some protection quality to areas where it was obviously lacking.

This unstoppable safety criteria met the immovable economic reality when it came to my skid lid though. Well, my little used Arai Quantum e stilled looked a million bucks even if the comfort lining was disintegrating, covering my noggin and shoulders with a sort of sticky, black dandruff. Nope, once I had it cleaned up and smelling fresh again I figured that it would do for the time being.

But.....Chillertek and I have been planning a motorcycling trip to New Zealand for next February and I knew in my heart that I would need a new helmet for that trip. His post regarding his helmet replacement project saw me revisiting the fact that my helmet was made last century! 1998 in fact was the year of manufacture and even doubling the conservative 5 year life recommended by the manufacturer saw me 5 years past replacement date. Yep, I reckon I got my money's worth there! Here it is below in June 2001 sitting atop my new R1 on a ride across the Fleurieu Peninsula . Both bike and helmet were new.

After much internet searching, telephone discussion and the fact that my brother got off his backside and bought a new helmet (I'll let him tell you about that) I felt ready to bite the bullet.

So I was off to the only bike shop that is open on a Sunday here in Queensland, the new Motobarn accessory warehouse. I had a firm...ish idea of what I wanted to spend and a couple of helmets in mind. These being a Shoei and a Shark.

I had issues with both though. The Shoei was blowing the budget and while the Shark was in the ballpark, it just didn't fit right and have that quality feel. That is when the salesman asked if I had seen the Kabuto range? "No, I didn't need a small tractor, I needed a helmet" I replied. No, Kabuto, not Kubota! "Oh, well no, clearly I have not", was my response. He proceeded to show me the range and I must say I was pleasantly surprised! They looked good, were very light, all the moving parts had a quality feel to them and it fit just as snugly and comfortably as a helmet well over twice it's price!!

I know that "you get what you pay for" in life and many say that if I don't spend a gazillion dollars on a lid then I don't value my safety, but if you want to push that line you would be driving a Volvo anyway, not riding a motorcycle.

Yes, there is a point where the marketing bullshit walks and safety meets cost. I "feel" that this helmet will balance that equation out but obviously really won't know until I actually get to try it out on the bike. I will keep you informed as time progresses, meanwhile, say hi to the Kabuto Aeroblade III.

Quality feeling vent actions, pinlock ready and inexpensive replacement visors. And VERY light.

Hopefully many miles of hassle free comfort lie ahead.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

What It Looks Like From The Front

If you have ever wondered what it looks like sitting in the front of a jet airliner during an instrument approach, simply click here to see as I can't seem to embed it.

The aircraft looks like a Jetstar A320 if I am not mistaken and the airport is Queenstown in New Zealand. It gives a great appreciation of how an instrument approach looks from the flight deck. The cloud layer isn't that thick and the visibility below it is excellent, so try to imagine if you will, what it looks like when it is dark, windy and raining as you break visual with the runway. Things happen very quickly!

This approach is an ultra-modern RNAV Arrival that uses GPS and the airplane's flight management computer to drive the autopilot(and in turn the aircraft) through a turning, descending arrival in mountainous terrain.

This is unlike the old fashioned teardrop shaped descending turn of traditional approaches.

Thanks to the blokes who set the camera up and caught this little bit of footage.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Melbourne Meandering

My work took me to Melbourne for an overnight last week and we were lucky enough to stay in a city hotel rather than the usual airport version, so I got to have a stroll around the city streets for the morning.

The most obvious thing that you notice about Melbourne streets are the trams.

To the motorcyclist's eye though, you see the footpath parking. As far as I know this is the only place in Australia that it is legal to park on the foot path.

I can only speculate that this leads to higher rider participation rates as bikes just aren't as evident in other Aussie cities but that may simply be because they are hidden away.

Elizabeth Street hosts some large motorcycle dealerships and they also park some of their stock outside for the passers-by to ogle.

It is Melbourne, so coffee shops abound. You can park your steed right next to you while sipping a latte' or in this case, munching a meat pie.

Alas, my stay was short but I must say that I really like Melbourne as a city. It has great food and a real get-out -regardless-of-the-rubbish-weather attitude.

It was soon time to go dodging thunderstorms again.

Not much else going on around here at the moment but if something happens, you will be the first to know! ;)


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Final Figures

Thank you to all of my sponsors for your extremely generous donations. We managed to raise $2100 which added to a total just shy of $1.2M nationwide!

 As a bonus I managed to lose about 4kg(9lb) and gain a heap more fitness as well. 1025km(640mi) for the month wasn't a bad effort either. Now, I just need to keep that up.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hitting 1K

Made it!

Despite the storms,

to 1001.5km (626mi) for the month of October....with 2 days to spare.....

going to lie down now.

Might go for a ride Thursday though.........

Cheers for the sponsorship all.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Almost There

Well, October is almost over. With just 4 days to go I am at 938km(586mi) and have raised $1940 for kids cancer research, through the generosity of you guys out there. Thank you!

While I don't think I can wring any more money out of potential supporters (?), I know I can reach my target of  1000km for the month....just. Yes, although I have 4 days to do a measly 62km(39mi) I am working all 4 of those days. That makes it very difficult to get my butt on a bicycle, however even if I have to ride half the night on Thursday night I will make sure there is more than 1000km on the odometer!

There has not been anything much going on this month, what with all the bike cycling cycled, aviation committed and general butt scratching that has been going on. That pretty well filled the month but today we made time to head to the Queensland Museum for a look at a collection of Afghan antiquities that were hidden from the Taliban for 15 years or so. They were then rediscovered in a vault in 2003. Some of the pieces are dated at 2500BC and the kids had a great time going through the exhibits.

Probably my favourite piece in the museum was right inside the entrance. No surprise really, but it was Bert Hinkler's original Avro Avian which he flew SOLO from England to Australia back in 1928. Not the first to fly the route, but the first to do it solo in a single engine aeroplane. Back in the day Bert was in the company of Kingsford-Smith and Lindberg for the scale of his achievement. Very rarefied company indeed.

We really don't know how lucky we are here in Brisbane to have the original Avro Avian AND the original Southern Cross on public display. If these were U.S. relics, they would be hanging in the Smithsonian with Lindberg's Spirit of St Louis.

Ok. See you on the other side of the 1000k barrier.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Border Ranges Bikepacking Day 2

Well, my planned early start didn't happen.

I finally rolled out of bed at about 7:30 which is quite a sleep in for me. May have been something to do with the 152km the previous day? Anyway, I munched a couple of museli bars as I packed my kit up and pedalled off around 8:30am.

Darlington Park seemed like a very pleasant spot to stay...another time. I was heading south into the "Lost World" and was looking forward to seeing new country. Although it can't be too lost any more...it has electricity!

My legs were a bit stiff this morning but nothing worse than expected. I soon came to the Darlington Connection road which shot straight up the hillside to the west and disappeared at it's crest. The sun burnt itself into my back as I inched up the climb, dripping sweat as I crawled along. The first climb of the day is ALWAYS tough. After you get the hurt thermostat set for the day everything else seems fine...no matter if it is waaay worse. Anyway, the brake searing descent that followed soon cooled me off and it was back to motoring along valley floor again.

I passed through a small village, Hillview, that would have been a bustling place 50 years ago. Now while there are still quite a few residents, the abandoned houses tell a story of what once was. At least the community hall is in good order.

Pedalling down Christmas Creek road the undulations serve up both pleasure and pain for my tired legs. It is pretty country so the time passes quickly and before I know it I am at Stinson Park. This area is where Bernard O'Reilly made his way off the mountain looking for help for the survivors of the 1937 Stinson airliner crash. This was massive news in Australia at the time as the aviation era was still in it's infancy and Kingsford Smith, Hinkler and even that Lindberg bloke were household names. To think that a local farmer had the gut instinct and the bushcraft to just walk out into the rainforest and to actually find the three engined plane is incredible reading.

Anyway, I had read Bernard's book years ago and have always wanted to climb to the crash site to have a look for myself. It wasn't going to happen this trip, but I was going to climb up the "Stretcher" track. This is the path they brought the survivors down via. I knew it was going to be steep but wanted to make an on the spot decision once I was looking at the mountain side. The entrance to Gap Creek rd didn't look too intimidating...

But the hills surrounding me indicated something else. Very soon I was in granny gear, grinding slowly past various farm houses on what felt more like someone's driveway than a road. There were kangaroos lounging in the shade everywhere. Obviously, this was good country.

I was soon reduced to pushing my bike before I came to a gate adorned with signs.

Duly warned, I pushed onward, past some grazing cattle and then came to some old sheds and an outhouse.

Turning around, the view was fantastic!

Back to the task at hand, I tried to apply the common sense test to what I was proposing here. Initially I thought "no way can I get my bike up there".

I was at the right arrow. Check those contours!

Then I thought, "what if I just mosey up the Stretcher track to see what it looks like"?. Sure, why not? The worst that can happen is that I turn around because it is too steep.

As I started up the hill I looked back toward the sheds. The view was just getting better and better!

Arriving at the bottom of the stretcher track, it appeared to be a defined track along a small spine that ran down from the ridge line. Yeah, I could do this. So I did.

I started pushing with occasional stops to take in the view, water and some roasted almonds. The challenge of it was actually fun.

Of course, I was on snake watch big time. I soon spotted evidence of Joe Blakes but hoped that because the skin was in a small tree it would be a friendly snake. Although, we all know there is only one kind of good snake.....

Looking up the range to where I needed to be kept my enthusiasm somewhat in check.

Of course the final 20m or so of vertical were just that. VERTICAL! I had to skirt across the hillside, through the grass, to ease the difficulty but it did make it bloody hard to keep an eye out for snakes. I didn't hear any rustling which was reassuring but maybe they just weren't moving....?!?

Eventually I crested the ridge line!! It was about 10m across at the top and had a nice little line of single track running along it. Not from the cattle, but the Geocachers that frequent the hill. And the views? Fark yeah!!!

Even if I made it no further it was worth the effort so far for the view alone.The cool breeze that blew in from the east was icing on the cake. After soaking in the view I began to trace the ridge line north, toward the valley I needed to drop down into. I had tracked about 200m(yards) to the south by following the Stretcher track up but there was no option. It simply was not possible to follow my GPS line up the hill side.

I soon came to a rock outcrop that had vertical drop offs down the mountain side. The only way to climb it was by skirting around the left side, then using both hands....which made carrying a 20kg(44lb) bike pretty tricky.

I decided to leave the bike, hike over the top of the hill and walk to the spot where I needed to drop into the next valley. This would save me from pulling my gear off my bike and transporting it bit by bit possibly to find that it was in vain.

Once past the rocks it proved to be a very pleasant stroll. The ridge line flattened out into a plateau and there was a distinct track along it going right where I needed to go.

But right where I needed to go was a massively steep slope. It might take me all afternoon to find a way down, then I would have to find my way onto Jackson's Rd and across to my next hike-a-bike section along the "gazetted" Lancaster Rd. I had been applying the "is this sane" test to the whole climb so far but when I applied it here I was coming back with the answer of "probably not totally insane, but close enough that a bystander couldn't tell the difference" . Plus, the climb over the rock outcrop was stupid to attempt on my own. If there were two of us we could manhandle one bike at a time, but it just wasn't possible solo.

So, back it was to be! Not surprisingly, it was pretty easy to get down the hill. I even rode the lower section of the Stretcher track and my brakes lived to tell the tale!

Coming up with a plan for the rest of the ride I decided that my original Plan B reroute would likely be just too much extra to make my scheduled train in Casino tomorrow afternoon. I needed a Plan C.

What to do? What to do? As I filled up with water from the tank at Stinson Park I decided to back track the way I had come and ride up Duck Creek rd (not having done enough climbing today....) to O'Reilly's Guesthouse where I could camp the night then ride via Canungra, Mt Tambourine and the V1 bikeway to home. That way I could self rescue and probably would not run out of time. I did need to be home for work on Saturday morning.

I was feeling a bit flat riding back to Darlington Park. Maybe it was the fact that I had dragged my bike up a 230m(755ft) hill side after riding 35km(22mi) but I think it was probably more the disappointment at not being able to follow the plan. Perhaps the 770m(2525ft) climb that was looming had something to do with it!

I picked up some water and an ice cool icecream at Darlington Park and pressed on. I was soon heading along Duck Creek rd and at the pearly er steel gate.

It was getting late in the afternoon, I had a big climb ahead of me and I was not exactly swimming in water. I needed to keep the pace up- but not too much otherwise my thirst would suck my Camelbak dry. A delicate balancing act. So, I walked quite a few sections that I would normally ride. "Just to keep the heart rate down" I told myself.

I managed to get to the main lookout at just the right time. I caught the sun setting over Mt Barney and Mt Lindesey.

This lack of light as well as the lessening grade spurred me on. Past Luke O'Reilly's farm.

The setting sun was sending shafts of light through gaps in the rainforest canopy along here and small patches of forest floor were glowing like they were on fire. It was the most amazing thing I have seen but alas, I could not do it justice with the camera.

Once again, my tail light was pressed into service as I grovelled up the last few climbs to O'Reillys. Cresting the last climb, I jumped on the bike and began to pedal. Instead of smooth forward progress I had a bump-bump sensation. WTF?! Jumping off I soon saw the problem.

My non tubeless tyre had delaminated and the bumps would not clear the rear of the bottom bracket. I deflated the tyre some and pushed the last 1.5km into O'Reillys.

I located some much needed water, then was pleased to see that I had some service on my mobile(cell) phone and made that call to home. The drive up to O'Reillys is VERY twisty and I didn't want my lovely, by now slighly overtaxed, wife driving it in the dark so I opted to camp and she very kindly(again) agreed to drive up and pick me up first thing in the morning.

I had a great nights sleep and was up early in anticipation of my rescue truck.

When the cavalry arrived she was in great spirits and seemed to be enjoying herself very much. I mean, how could you not with a beautiful mountain road to drive, kangaroos lounging along the roadside, view that went on forever and me to pick up?!! We had a delicious breakfast at Canungra in the cafe' frequented by motorcyclists whose name escapes me before driving back to Brisbane.

Ride stats for day 2 are below.

Both days total 222km(140mi) and  4210m(13800ft) of climbing.

So, another bikepacking trip was done and dusted. Like the last, it had not gone to plan but again I was okay with that fact. The navigation this time had been spot on. That was an issue last time, so nav problem solved.

This time my issue was an ambitious route plan. I sort of knew that I would struggle with the hike-a-bike bits as I was time limited to 3 days. With another day up my sleeve I am sure it would not have been a problem so I can wear that, although the rock outcrop was a deal breaker while solo. Some scouting rides might iron out this crinkle in my plan, but then again, they need time to undertake. 

The tyre problem was completely out of left field, though I have had it happen before, there is no way to predict when it might occur and I'm not going to put new tyres on the bike for each ride. Maybe if I was going to cross the Simpson Desert I would put new boots on. If I had pressed on westward my wife would have had an even longer drive to retrieve me. I also would have struggled to make contact as phone reception is very sketchy where I would have been that night and I really don't want to press the level 2 rescue button on the Spot.

All up I am pretty happy with how it panned out. I have learn a bunch more about bikepacking and about my own personal capabilities and that is what it is about. Getting out there into the bush, out of my comfort zone and testing one's ability to adapt and cope.

Cheers and thanks for reading.