Sunday, 30 July 2006

Sunday 30 July 2006 - The Six Foot Track, Blue Mountains

It was an excellent day to attempt the Six Foot Track in the Blue Mountains, guests of Celia Cramer's, on an epic journey of discovery.

Brian, Rees, T-Bone, Whisperer and Stephe met with Tony (someone known to Celia, and a regular on the track) at Blackheath Station. We discovered that Celia and her crew were running at least an hour late, so we went ahead to Ford Reserve (down the Megalong Valley Road, near Nellies Glen Road) and waited there for Tony - who had offered to be our guide for the day. While waiting, there was the standard Sunday morning flurry of activity, as Whisperer went from bike to bike, laying on hands and generally getting them roadworthy (of course, this mainly meant Brian having yet another Sunday morning bike overhaul!).

T-Bone was still riding with his mangled forks - with about 1 inch of travel and zero damping - which proved impossible to do anything about on the side of the road, but made him amusing on all the stairs... (bring on the new RokShox dude).

At Ford Reserve we met with Russel and Rowan, who were also planning to join Celia - so, on the assumption that Celia's folk could catch us later down the track we all set off - with Russel and Tony racing off to an aggressive start (Tony had ridden the 15km down from Blackheath Station so was plenty warmed up - while the rest of us were still waking up!).

After settling down, we cruised through a bit of farm land, eventually coming on to some really excellent singles track with a nice up and down undulation, but a very clear net downward trend. Quite a few steps (and we had to be vigilant to remember not to take the side routes / shortcuts around the steps, for fear of creating more erosion), but a very entertaining introduction to the Six Foot Track.

Lots of interesting technical bits, a few stacks early on, a bit of blood (Stephe finally trashing his long suffering ankle bone), and some set photos, and then we reached the Cox's River.

The crossing was a challenge on slippery rocks, but we seemed to make it across without major feet wetting - and were then ready to start what turned out to be a 90 minute ascent - Russel and Rowan disappeared straight up the hill early, and we didn't see them again for the day (hope Jenolan Caves was great lads!).

The ride was a solid work out, on a fire trail with a loose sandy / light gravel surface, and just kept going on and on. Sort of like the first hill back out of The Valley at Coba Point, or the first hill on the way out to The Bucket at Mooney, only several hundred kilometres longer (!). Check out that profile!

It would be fair to say that we had enjoyed the single track, and - while we were impressed with the fitness challenge of the long hill - no-one was too upset about turning around at MiniMini Saddle and avoiding doing the same sort of hill again (and, apparently, again!) to get to Jenolan Caves. We were, at that stage, hopeful of perhaps going back up the single track, turning around and giving it another shot back down.

In any case, the ride back down the long hill was a blast, with Tony showing us a couple of excellent detours along the edges on our way back down. We had quite a few near misses, as folks discovered the sand was slippery and the run off was very tight - culminating in a fantastic rear wheel slide by Tony as he rounded a corner which Stephe failed to negotiate just behind him - and which Tony then turned into a long and elegant slide on his back down the hill about 20 metres (coming to rest just on the edge of the steep drop to the creek below!). Ah, the absolute inevitability of the pain which was to follow - lots of gravel in his arm, bum and back...

After a cautious re-start (which still turned pretty silly only a couple of minutes later) we all made it safely back to the river - with the bottom of the single track on the other side.

We stopped for lunch (which seemed extravagant, given that we'd barely done 12 km or so by that stage), and then met Celia and folks who had just arrived down the single track on the other side. After an exchange of pleasantries, we left them to explore the big hills, and we set off back up the single track.

It was a long hard slog (fairly sad, really, given that the trip length doesn't seem to entitle us all to have been feeling quite so buggered!), and we were pretty slow by the time we made it back to the cars for the trip home.

[Tony, demonstrating that he is indeed a legend, then rode from there back to Blackheath station where he had parked his car - over an hour up yet another ridiculous hill... We did our best to explain to him that this was a Silly Idea - but failed!]

Photos, and GPS stuff here (Doug was kind enough to lend the GPS device to Rees, who managed not to break it!), with some highlights below. The photos are from T-Bone and Whisperer, so the order may not be quite right!

Here are the the folk that set out on the ride (Whisperer, Tony, T-Bone, Rees, Rowan, Russel, Brian and Stephe):

Bike maintenance:

Some of the scenery, and the famous Celia:

You've just got to love that profile:

Sunday 23 July 2006 - Manly Dam and Forestville

Following a very wet and miserable week, and a fairly sad and sorry Saturday, we were none too hopeful of a decent ride on Sunday... Celia had pulled out of the Old Great North Road, and the general consensus was that we should just do a local ride, and get it over and done with...

However, we were pleasantly suprised!

Whisperer, T-Bone, Brian and Stephe (where was everyone else, you may well ask) arrived at the Old Folks Home in Forestville at 6.45am, and cruised over to Manly Dam, via the pipeline entrance.

It was wet, sandy and you could feel the wear and tear on the bikes. But it was fun, and we seemed to be in fair form.

Thinking it might be a better option, we then rode up to the top of the Dam to Wakehurst Parkway and took the singles track down to Woodcutters Reserve (?), at Bantry Bay. Essentially, riding down 1,287,367 stairs. Interesting, at times entertaining, but not really an experience worth repeating...

We then rode along the track around Bantry Bay with lots of carrying of bikes, until we joined up with the Natural Bridge Track at the top of the Bluff Track (all names subject to confirmation by someone who actually remembers what they were called).

There was some good riding in amongst it, but mainly a day of tooling around in wet sandy conditions - and with at least a couple of nasty injuries to plague the following work week.

No photos, no GPS, no nuthin'! (come back Doug, we're missing you bad!)

Sunday, 16 July 2006

Sunday 16 July 2006 - Coba Point

To think that we were considering changing venue, given the ongoing threat of inclement weather - it was very lucky that we didn't: the day dawned sunny and bright, and we road in near perfect conditions.

Rob joined Doug, Rees, Ed, Brian and Stephe on a little adventure which was to have encompassed Coba Point (out to the first lookout and back, then out to the Coba Point lookout proper, and back), and then the plan was to travel along Smugglers Ridge to the end, drop over the edge, and then come back up the biiiiiig hills!

Unfortunately, the plan didn't get executed in quite that way. We spent quite a bit of time playing around on the Coba Point section (some rocks to go down with amusing attempts, and some stretches which proved quite challenging going up!), and had used up a fair bit of energy as we got into the return journey of the inital section before we were to head off to Smugglers. Then disaster struck - Doug managed to knock his back out somehow, and was unable to ride back out, so spent some time walking back.

Doug suggested we ride on without him (and we took him up on his offer), but Rees was exceptionally noble and stayed with him to nurse him home.

Ed, Rob, Brian and Stephe set off - only to be waylaid with a flat tyre. After we sorted that out, Ed decided he would join the retirees, leaving Rob, Brian and Stephe to explore Smugglers.

The good news is that Smugglers is nothing short of brilliant!

Although at least half the ride along the ridge line is just a firetrail (pretty but boring), the balance of the ride makes up for it. First there's a couple of kilometres of single track, which was fast and fun (a bit like the top of Manly Dam or Menai, after a fashion). Then, the great drop down to the river - probably a kilometre in total, and right up there with the most challenging technical descents we've had the pleasure of doing (including Spiders, the drop into Deep Creek from the North, etc).

Although it was probably all doable, we didn't manage to do it (!) - with each of Rob, Brian and Stephe alternately shining on some really tricky bits and then executing pretty bizarre over the handle bar type disasters. But it was just plain great!

Brian gets an award for the best exit over the side of the cliff, which (of course) we only award when the recipient comes out alive. Rob gets the award for the most aggressive approach to a tricky bit before bottling out at the moment of truth (but was in a lot of competition for this award with Brian...). Stephe fell down most things with occasional grace, but mostly just bone jarring stupidity...

We then faced the famous three hills of the Valley to get back out to the cars - which Stephe walked, Rob rode and walked, and Brian - the hill climbing legend - rode. Very impressive indeed!

Photos and stuff are here (all 125 of them!). In addition, Rob's version of the profile, track data, heart rate and stuff are here. And a silly video of a couple of folk here.

Motley crew riding along the start:

The view and the starters (Doug, Rees, Ed, Stephe, Rob, Brian):

Playing on the rocks:

Great scenery, check the sky!

Brian, Rob, Stephe on the Smugglers Ridge descent:

The joy of having made it down; and then the exhaustion of the hills on the way out!):

Monday, 10 July 2006

Sunday 9 July 2006 - Redhill and Oxford Falls

Again, with the planning for the weekend in tatters, it was a miracle that the boys organised a ride at all... Doug's thoughts reproduced below (Doug, Richard and Ed made it along):

I haven't prepared today's photos etc, it'll be a few days… there aren’t many anyway as the batteries ran out (whoops)…

The ride was really good... did it from beacon hill, highly recommended, don't know why we stopped doing that bit.. the playground at the top has been vastly improved, I reckon you could spend an hour there….

Richard and I had heaps of chain suck which took the gloss off the last bit… this link reckons it's the small chain ring, I'm going to get a new one.

Photos (such as they are) are here, some samples below (and there is also this cute video of Richard thinking that one day he'll be a rider again):

Saturday 8 July 2006 - Oxford Falls and Redhill

Mountain bike riding is a funny business, eh!

After a week of mass confusion, Brian, his son Joe, T-Bone and Stephe managed to make it to Morgan Road for a quick Oxford Falls / Redhill loop.

The day started badly, with repairs to each bike as we rode along the early stages, and deteriorated when T-Bone buckled his front wheel down along Deep Creek, and then finally (after a puncture intermission), it came to a crashing end for Stephe when his trusty Giant VT2 snapped the frame at the seat stay on a none too challenging "wheelie drop" section... (see photos below). Let me tell you, it's a long walk out.

In short, a disaster.

That said, there were good bits: Joe showing us that real talent (as ever) is with the young; Brian taking on the scary bits all over again (he's back, Ladies and Gentlemen, and "don't it feel good"), and T-Bone getting out there and demonstrating that there isn't anything that worries him at all anymore (well, other than a buckled front wheel that is!).

No GPS or track photos (sorry), but the scary broken bike photos are here (and below):

Updated: Stephe managed to get a new frame midweek, from the chaps at Phantom Cycles, at Tahmoor (ask for Kerry). Fantastic assistance, quick response, and they were able to work out a new Giant Reign frame, and swap all the old bits and pieces over (together with new bits where required) - for a very reasonable price. All in all, a good outcome - still waiting on Giant to give me a view on the 'out of warranty' claim for a bike that just should not have broken in that way...

Sunday, 2 July 2006

Sunday 2 July 2006 - Coffs Harbour Mountain Bike Marathon

It's been a while coming, but here's a ride report for the Coffs Harbour Mountain Marathon.

It was a 100Km race through the hills behind Coffs Harbour and Nana Glen on the first weekend of July.

The day started crisp and cold - and that was near the beach at Coffs. I drove over the ranges inland to Nana Glenn showground (Russell Crowe's "home" town), and on the way the temperature dropped from a cool 9 to 3, 2 then 1 degree at the showground for the race start. The sun was still behind the hills and fog was still sitting on paddocks around us. As the 180 or so riders got their bikes out and kitted up, there was a slight reprieve and it seemed to lift a degree or two. I did a couple of kay’s as a warm up, but by the end my feet were numb and my face felt like it was about to crack up. Oh the joy, and I hadn't climbed a hill yet.

After a short delay for the start, suddenly they did a 10,9,8 count down and we were all off. It started with a 3k flattish section, and everyone hustling for a decent position. My HRM went straight to 160, as I tried to get into a decent position before we hit the first of the hills.. so much for my plan of "pace myself in the beginning"... and keep below 145!

It was about 12 years since I'd raced competitively and suddenly I remembered why... all those seriously fit (and young) guys that do serious training do this sort of thing. Hmmmm what am I doing here?

The first "hill" was a 45 min, 12k grind. My plan was to pace myself for the first 50-60k then see what I could do with the last 40. The pace was pretty hot, and there were tight cut-off times at the one and two third checkpoints. If we didn't get in by the cut off time, we’d get diverted back to the start. From the top of the first "hill" we descended down some gnarly fire trail into the next valley. Suddenly the "heavy" Turner came into its own territory, and I made up some time on the racing whippets. The descent came to a sudden end with a foot deep, wide water crossing. Wet feet were inevitable, and sub-zero mountain water brought me back to my senses. Bugger, had just warmed up.

The course undulated through the next valley along a mix of firetrails, some downhill sketchy gravel fire road was interesting as I was drifting around a wide corner on the edge of traction when a family 4WD appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the road, kind of right on my line. Somehow I made it round but probably left them with an image of desperation that wasn't the best ambassador-ship for mtb!

The valley gave way to some overgrown fire trail that was really sweet single track. Good grip, undulating and a steady climb. The pack had spread out and where I was in the field (about 2/3 down), there were clumps of two and three riders. Before long I hit the half way point on the top of the second ridge. At this point I had ridden close to 3 hours at an average heart rate of 150, and was starting to feel it. I had some food, a bit of a stretch and carried on my way after convincing myself I couldn’t chicken out now and take the “easy” short cut back to the start. I'd been pacing with a couple of other guys and we took off down another excellent descent. A mix of old and new fire road, single track, water bars, blind corners, creek crossings, wheel swallowing ruts etc. I survived to the bottom with a few moments, and made up a few places. (Go the Turner!) Into another valley and ....mud, more mud and wheel sucking ...mud. The bike put on a few kilos, and seemed to grind forward. It soon cleared, but the extra effort brought a new level of pain .... cramps. My quads were saying enough, but there was 30k and another ridge to climb over. The track turned into some of the sweetest single track - like Ourimbah for a few kay’s, and that gave me new wind. It soon passed as we began the "big climb" - 10km of uphill grind.

My quads were burning, but I pushed through, and by the top had picked off about 12 riders. Happy with that! The final 12km descended the initial climb and was a welcome blast through the rainforest down to Nana Glen. Did the final 3k hardly able to push on pedals without cramps locking me up.

Arrived at the finish without ceremony, in 6h 14m the young un's having finished over an hour before.

Didn’t totally disgrace myself in my age group though :)


Sunday 2 July 2006 - Menai

A ride we hadn't done for a while, and perhaps the last out that way for a while.

The day started with Brian getting lost on the expressway (there's some argument that it was actually his navigators that got lost, but let's not quibble over that just now, eh), and Doug getting lost at the airport (which is harder to do, but there's no question that Rees' involvement there is significant!).

We then bumped into two locals meeting at the starting point (the school at Lucas Heights), and they invited us to join them in checking out 'their backyard'. Being the agreeable chaps we are, we joined them for what turned out to be a relatively aggressive take off, without the luxury of our usual very calm and slow warm up... Clearly, we were being 'blown off', and so we took the hint and went our separate ways.

After that, we tooled around Menai generally, finding some enjoyable little single trails here and there, but with more mucking about than normal, bumping into lots of people, going back over old ground a lot, and generally not really having a good time.

Initial highlights included both Brian and T-Bone engaging in silliness off a big rock, and some subsequent rock play was also mildly entertaining. We never really worked up a sweat on the rest of the ride, Rees was suffering back aches, and unfortunately, we seem to have lost some of the magic that was previously Menai!

Photos and stuff here, including some short videos, some of which are mildly amusing (I recommend this one (ignore the first bit!)), or these for the same view of T-Bone, Brian, and Stephe doing stuff that seemed scary at the time, but kinda doesn't look that way on the video(!) - some photo samples below: