Single Track Mind- Round 1

I’m slow.

Just thought I would start this post by sharing my most profound realisation of the amazing weekend I have spent in Kirrawak State Forest riding in the first round of the Chocolate Foot Single Track Mind Series for 2014.

Now before you think I am going to be disappointed by being slow, or some other such emotion (bahh boring!) it was the best weekend I have had in ages! The trails were unspeakably awesome, the people on the track all lovely and courteous while waiting for the slow people like me to get out of the way, and really it was just great.

Like all good weekends away mine started off with last minute packing which was closely followed by breakfast and coffee with Tim (my travel buddy for the weekend) and Ez. After some packing magic had two bikes, and a whole lot of gear stuffed into the back of the car and were on our way to Taree. Now I always think Taree is a long way away, probably a flash back to riding in the back of a troopy towing a trailer as a kid – however the drive is quick and easy aside from the pesky 100km/hr zones.

Arriving at the event site we checked in, received our chocolate feet (I am serious they  give you a chocolate in the shape of a foot at check -in. I never want to receive one with sprinkles on it) and set about checking out the tracks. I was expecting roots, and branches and all sorts of fun obsticles given the rather eucalypty nature of the forest we were in but the local MTB club had completed the mammoth task of removing every leaf and twig from the track and the trail was more groomed than I had ever imagines possible. Even better the track was essentially free of hills which is always a splendid thing.

So a shake down ride,some slack-lining and fish and chips saw us tired and weary and ready for the race the next day.

Capture

Race day came with my usual level of organisation. After breakfast we wandered down to check out how things were going at the event site knowing we had heaps of time to spare. Confident of the amount of time we had we ordered coffees and waited, and waited, and waited. I knew I wasn’t going to be even starting the race without caffine so I waited in line while Tim prepared himself. With 8 minutes to spare I was at tent, coffee in hand, beginning to prepare for the race. I made the race briefing, but then realised I was still wearing my normal glasses!

So anyway, I joined the race start line, sat up the back and rode along with the crew until I arrived near the start of the single track. Much to the amazement of those looking on I ducked off to the tent, retrieved my sunnys and politely waited until all the real riders had started while continuing to consume my coffee. I won’t go into detail, but the rest of my race continued in much the same manner with multiple stops food, general chatting and such good things. Needless to say I didn’t win, but I also didn’t come last – second last to be precise. That said I had amazing ride, chatted to some most excellent people who I was chilling with, and rode some amazing new trails!
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Mountain Bike Trails of Alice Springs

As i ride around Alice Springs on my mountain bike I often come up against a common problem. I don’t know where the mountain bike trails go, or what they are called. Being a nerd, and lazy, I felt I had to do something about it so I have started assembling my GPS traces into a map overlaid on Google Earth which shows all the trails I have ridden on the western side of Alice Springs.

My goal for the next few weeks or months is to ride every trail I can and record where they go, and how they interlink. Hopefully I will get some locals to feed me useful knowledge like names of trails etc.

Anyway this is an unofficial first draft of my map of the MTB trails of Alice Springs.

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East Side Mountain Biking

Smooth trails, great company and a patched up side wall. What could possibly make for a better day of mountain biking then that combination?

Today I went out riding with a group of keen riders from the Central Australian Rough Riders to explore the trails on the east side of Alice Springs, including some freshly cut trails that most people hadn’t ridden before. The riding was generally smooth with early sections serving up nice technical stretches, some well designed switchbacks and a few hills. Alice Springs really doesn’t know what a hill is, but to be honest I think I will be able to deal with that!

Today’s course and vertical profile.

As mentioned in  my previous post today was also the first time I’ve seen clouds since arriving in Alice Springs and I am convinced that the stunning scenery of Alice Springs is only improved by partially clouded sky.

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Mt Gillen 6hr MTB Enduro – Alice Springs

Ever arrived in a new town and wondered what the best way to get to know the local mountain biking scene? On Sunday I tried my fourth method and it worked out brilliantly. The method, signing up for an enduro race as part of a team, and letting someone else put you in the team!

So after a late start I rocked up at the Mt Gillen 6hr Enduro race in my new town of Alice Springs about 90minutes after the race had started to be met by some very friendly event volunteers from local club appropriately named the Central Australian Rough Riders. They told me I was in a team of four people, and that the second team member was out on the course so I had some time to get ready. Their advice on finding my team? Head in that direction and shout Stephen or Jacob…

Amazingly that worked and 5 minutes later I was getting myself sorted my first lap while chatting to Jacob (a super keen young rider who despite crashing on the 2nd lap stood at the finish line until the last minute praying to get a third lap in), while George (an awesome kid but more about that later) waited for Stephen to get back from his lap.

In the true spirit of enduro races twenty minutes later, when Stephen (a cheery American from Alabama) was back from his lap, the team set about helping Jacob change his bald rear tyre for the new one he has just won. It seemed like a risky tactic to change from a 2.2″ to a 2″ tyre between laps, but when compared to having to walk up most hills due to lack of traction it seemed like a good idea. Of course the tyre being replaced was tubeless, and the new one wasn’t – but who ever let that phase them.

Eventually it was time for my lap of the course. I set out full of vim and vigour ready to smash out a lap on new ground. Unfortunately I should have taken more heed of the week sitting in a car for 3600km, or the cold I am still fighting, because as soon as I reached the first hill I was panting like a dog and praying the lap would finish soon!

The course was brilliantly set up, and the trails out here are amazing. For anyone interested I would describe it as being flowy like Majura Pines, with the persistent sand and rocks of Appin (though not the technical ones). Despite sore lungs it was impossible not to enjoy the riding, and the friendliness of everyone out there was something every race should aspire too.

The course was shaped like an animal, I am calling it a dog, but I am open to suggestions…

A special mention is needed about the number of juniors in the race, with a competitive schools comp and heaps of juniors out riding anyway. These kids have serious skills!

At the end of the day there were presentations. The event organiser JP had put a lot of effort into making cool trophies and to finish the day with the same sense of fun the whole event displayed, awarded a series of prizes to people for non-race related prowess.

As the only team of 4 we kind of won by default, but that’s a win right?

The mood around the event site was awesome. Three cheers to JP, the volunteers and everyone there!

Daisy Hill Mountain Biking

Today I went out to explore the mountain bike trails at Daisy Hill Conservation Park for the first time. It is 5 days since it last rained so I thought that there would be a bit of mud lying around but that the tracks would generally be dry enough to ride. How wrong I was….

It turns out that the tracks at Daisy Hill hold water like nowhere else, despite 5 days on sunshine and winds many of the fire trails in the park were under an inch or more of water which made for a gloriously muddy ride. To make things better a few of the creeks were still swollen and what looked like shallow creek crossing turned out to be a hub deep hole on a number of occasions. Despite this I couldn’t have asked for a better day out because the fast flowy trails punctuated by rock gardens and water crossing made for a day to remember.

I rode about 35km inside the park, plus 7km each way to get there from the train station and it was all pretty awesome. You can see the maps and vertical profiles here.