Sunday, 26 February 2006

Sunday 26 February – Mooney

Mooney is an *excellent* mountain bike ride. There are now quite a few good ‘uns (rides, that is), but Mooney is definitely still up there as one of the all time greats.

Five of us set out this morning, in near perfect conditions. Mooney is one of those tracks where it’s theoretically possible to get from the beginning to the top, without once putting your foot down – and today was the sort of day you could pull it off: the track was clean and dry, the various rock beds were dry and not slippery, the loose rocky climbs were all do-able, and we were even able to get from one side to the other of the creek crossing (Rees’ “moonscape”) without a dab. But, unfortunately, no-one did it…

The main climb itself was hot (surprise, surprise!), but that was just an excuse – each person put a foot down for absolutely no good reason other than simple lapses of concentration. That said, it was still an excellent feeling to make it from the creek crossing to the top of the climb with just the one foot down… (and, taking the technical view that when we had to stop to climb over a fallen tree - that didn’t count!).

Once we got to the top (the water towers), we figured we would throw in the Orchard before stopping for a bite to eat – which was probably a good thought, but left the weaker ones amongst us pretty tired and hungry by the time we got back. However, all thoughts of a food shortage were banished when Brian finally came back to start acting his age – with a big attempt at Rock Brian (the previous attempt made for much better footage, and is to be found here). Rees gets a special mention for massively increased fitness – clearly, the mid-week sessions are paying a dividend. That just leaves, as always, Stephe bringing up the rear…

Whisperer seemed keen to take Doug on, on the big drop back to the creek crossing – but Doug showed his mettle, even with an eye issue that means he’s lost lots of depth perception. Proving that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, Whisperer was heard to remark that Mooney was “cute ‘n all, but a bit loose and rocky for a real ride”!

Doug also scores a gold star for being the *only* person to take on and cross a very full smart-arse creek at the start of the ride (the tide was well in, on the way out today).

Photos up here (with just the one video of Brian):

Sunday, 19 February 2006

Sunday 19 February – Menai

Well, well, well. Another weekend, another discovery of yet another brilliant place to ride a mountain bike!

I believe the initial impetus for Menai came from (a) a desire *not* to climb the hills at Bulli (!), and (b) a reference to the track from the “FatBoys”, with supporting comments from everyone we mentioned it to… In any case, we cancelled Bulli and set out early Sunday morning for Menai. Found the place pretty easily (despite the fact that *every* road in Menai is apparently called “Old Illawarra Road”).

After the obligatory group shot, we wandered off on what we thought was the trail set by the FatBoys (here is a comparison of the two tracks, demonstrating our propensity to meander off and check out what’s interesting, rather than follow a specific path!). The first stage was fun, fairly comparable to Ourimbah, but with more of a feeling of being out and about rather than constantly doubling back on yourself. We then crossed over the road to Lucas Heights, and did a small loop which dropped us into a classic teenager playground – lots of jumps and ramps, almost all of which spelled certain death! We played on the easy bits, then headed back off in search of the main track.

Came across a bunch of riders returning from an even earlier start, and got tips on where to go next. After a truly excellent long section, generally down, and with occasional challenges thrown in, we came across a bunch of motorcycle riders, who then gave us the next direction suggestion (future tip – where we dropped down at this point was fun (it’s very clear on the profile), but the climb up the other side was really hard (and hot!). It would be worth seeing whether we could come back the other way - dropping down the hill we climbed, and having an easier climb up the other way).
It was hot, very hot. We had a bite to eat, came across another couple of motorcycle riders and got yet another tip on where to go next. Just before taking that path, we checked out the opposite direction, which was great – a loop of relatively open fire trail on the whole, but some great climbing challenges thrown in regularly to keep us on our toes. Finally, we set off on the return journey – but it took a long, long time during which we all pretty well finished off our water – meaning we were a wee bit distracted for bits of the return.

The run to the finish was a blast – as good as anything Ourimbah has to offer, with speed, obstructions and lots of sandy berms for fun!

Edited to add, link to Google Map here.

Photos up here (again, with a couple of videos):

Sunday, 12 February 2006

Sunday 12 February – Redhill and Oxford Falls

Well, well, well – we’re getting a little bit exciting in our old age, and actually managed to do a different set of tracks today!

Started at the Academy of Sport fearing the worst after a very heavy rain shower earlier in the morning. But our fears were groundless – the tracks were in near perfect condition, with nice clean rocks and sand, and only occasional sink holes… After the climb, and some playing on the pink rock Whisperer suggested that we try another way down to the track which links us to Wakehurst Parkway. We foolishly followed him, only to find a series of near impassable rock faces between us and the bottom. Along the way we also saw the sort of rocks that the downhillers seem to think worthwhile (check this one out), but even feeling brave we weren’t quite that silly… The only footage of the worst of the rocks is a bit rude, and doesn’t show the very elegant job accomplished by Whisperer immediately afterwards (ah, life ain’t fair!).

We crossed Wakehurst Parkway, over to the singles track climb into Oxford Falls – which was a beauty. Unfortunately, Brian continues to be mature and refused to do anything really silly (and even when he did some almost silly things, he was cautious!), so by the time we’d finished the climb to the Aerodrome track he was tired, bored and cranky (we all know he can’t keep this up forever, he just can’t help being a legend and will be back soon!).

In any case, Brian’s less than cheerful disposition gave Rees a chance to once more demonstrate his unbeatable positive approach and he was almost whistling as we dropped down the Little Moab track beside the aerodrome.
Whisperer then led us on another new track back down to towards the base of Oxford Falls, and then linking back up to the Oxford Falls singles track. This time we took the standard Aerodrome track back to the bottom, with a hoot and a holler, much mirth and a good speed (even Brian was seen to begin to smile). After crossing the causeway, we stuck to the road rather than dropping in to Deep Creek, which turned out to be the best decision of the ride…

The hills beyond the Deep Creek turn off were a serious challenge (steep and sandy), but we each managed to nail at least one section – stand out mention to Rees, who decided to charge one hill and actually pulled it off; and Doug and Brian who put in a very solid performance to finish the final sets of hills in a race. While that was an excellent challenge, the real fun was the drop at the end back to Wakehurst Parkway. It turns out that one of the better downhills was just sitting there in our back paddock! Made all the more amusing by Rees’ completely out of control drop down, which he emphasised by singing all the way!

An absolute hoot, and worth every minute of the hills along the way.

Photos up here (but mainly videos, caution re the use of profanity!):

Sunday, 5 February 2006

Sunday 5 February – Old North Road (South)

With a very broad range of excuses from the usual participants, this most excellent of rides was left in the capable of hands of Doug, Brian and Stephe – at least we all had the pleasure of driving up together (on the Old Pacific Highway, of course – Brian discovered the peculiar joy that is driving back along that road after a long mountain bike ride!).

Doug and Brian seemed to be at the peak of their fitness, and were raring to go. After the long climb (and some brief consideration of Old North Road (North) as a possibility), they hammered off across the top of the ridge towards Wisemans Ferry. Unfortunately, Stephe proved unable to catch up so was forced into dramatic diversionary tactics – falling off a perfectly good, dry and clean track into the aptly named “Sheep Dip” pothole (and no ordinary pothole (it’s rumoured to be bottomless), he managed to become entirely immersed for a couple of moments before emerging sad, cold and unhappy…).

Following that incident, and the mirth it gave rise to (for Doug and Brian at least!), the ride got better and better, with Brian leading the momentum run to the top gate near Finch’s Line. Unfortunately, giving reasonable consideration to spouses meant that the side tour to St Alban’s and the road to the bottom of Wisemans Ferry was deferred to another ride.

The trip back was just as good as the trip out (again with Stephe flagging badly at the rear), and the Old North Road has yet again confirmed its place as the pre-eminent mountain bike ride in this region!

Photos up, at this link (including both very rare Doug footage (!), and a couple of short videos whose primary purpose is to humiliate Stephe in front of wider audience!). Some snaps below (you’ve just *got* to love that profile!):