With the rise and rise of machine built trails a lot has been made over the new era of “groomed to death/may as well be a BMX” trail culture and I don’t want this to come across as one of those “oh the good old days… that’s not mtb…. blah” whines because that is not my intention. I’m not even sure if this has an intention or a point but anyhoo
Mountain biking is many things to many people, we each get out of it something that is uniquely ours. And to be honest I enjoy whooping around perfect berm after perfect berm on a freshly groomed trail as much as the next rider but, for me at least, the instant gratification of that pales to the joy of learning a tricky corner, picking a line that links to the next one and, finally nailing that bit of trail that up until now had the better of you.
I like Skinnys corner building philosophy, Expose some tree roots and let the line evolve….
I cut my MTB teeth riding the trails on Hassans Walls. They’re a little rough and ready but they bring a smile to my face every time.
We’re a bit unique up here with lots of easily accessible trails and not too many riders, at times I’ve felt there were more trails then people riding them. As a result the trails don’t get swept and groomed so much.
They are always covered in loose rocks (The infamous Hassans Walls Baby heads) sticks and leaf litter. Every time you ride them there is something different waiting to catch you out. You can’t switch the brain off and follow the same old line because sure and shit there’ll be a rock or a stick or a fallen tree. It certainly helps hone your reflexes.
I can hear the “sustainable” “IMBA standard” “Appease land managers” arguments come out and we’re always banging on about setting precedents and needing a foot in the door and crap like that but often I feel we try to reinvent the wheel every time we go to build a trail now days.
Case in point Gun Club DH trail.
It’s had many names over the years and truth be told I have no idea what the builders originally called it but it was known as the state track, Lithgow DH track, riffle range trail… but I think Gun club has stuck.
The love child of filthy Phil Lewis and his band of old skool misfits it was built in the 90s on council managed land with full DA approvals. Open to the public, it held a round of the Oceanias, a couple(?) of Nationals and some big state races. 20 years on and I can’t recall 20 maintenance days needing to be done on it. Sustainable? Yeah I reckon so. Fully IMBA standard compliant? I doubt it.
A single documented case user conflict or land manager being sued? Nope.
I remember a couple of very wet races, one in particular you could barely stand on the side of the trail with out getting washed down the hill. The “no riding wet trails”crew would have being turning fits but in the weeks and months that followed I reckon the trail was in the best condition of it’s life. Seriously it was so good. Phil was a trail building legend before trail building legends existed.
Back in the day Bumble Bee hollow and Little Thunder were bug bears of mine (Still are as evidenced by the video bellow) I don’t know how many times I ended up laying in the scrub several meters below the bottom corner of Little Thunder wondering how the hell I was ever going to ride it but when I finally got it, and every time since…. well I can’t give you that feeling in a bottle. I wish I could, I’d be worth millions.
But we get ahead of ourselves. CTMBC was born in1984 but even before that, Grant and Sulli, Meggs, Eric(?) and their mates had taken to riding push bikes on motorbike tracks, wombat trails and trails of their own makings.
One of the first MTB trails on Hassans walls was Toots Run, unfortunately the bottom section got destroyed by fire in the early 2000s but the top section had always been linked up with 2 other short sections on a trail that had you feeling like Luke Skywalker chasing the storm trooper through the forest of Endor on the speeder. The trail has, of course, become known as the Ewok Forest.
Across the other side of town was an old fire trail (or was it an access road for the pits?) that de-evolved back into single trail. Kids would use it was a way of getting their motos up onto the plateau and we started using it as a mtb trail. I think it was Brownie that built the bridge that in theory let you avoid the crystal clear and freezing cool natural spring at the bottom, in reality that bridge was always as slippy and frozen snot sprayed with WD40 and more often than not I ended up wet anyway.
Left Hand Gully wound it’s way down a very pretty gorge. Today it would be called a flow trail or something. Back then it was all just mountain biking. It strikes that balance of beginners being able to roll down with out too much drama and the more adventurous being able to scare themselves a little with sheer speed
Back over to Hassans and thanks to a procession of keen riders from Phil, to Tim, Jase, Brownie, Ego Skinny, Mal, Duke and so many more and at one stage there were 13 or 14 trails descending off the mountain
Town Houses made use of a road pushed in for communication towers, linking up with an old walking trail and again the trail is relatively easy at slower pace to me having one of my scariest (yet somehow coming off unscaved) crashes before I even got to the single trail trying to chase Joels time. Oddly enough this was the first trail on the reserve that I managed to ride “clean” i.e not only not crash but not put a foot down. I relive that feeling of accomplishment every single time I get up the rock ledge I fail in this vid.
Back in the day I had a Giant Warp. Even though it wasn’t the Warp DH and so had Vee brakes I thought it was the ducks guts. I had a lot of fun on that bike but the rock garden on CH6 was my nemisis. I seriously went over the handle bars so many times…
At the 2001(?) Nationals I drooled over the red and yellow ATX 1s but they were too big to ride up and so I only drooled. And then the AC come out. “Sex on wheels” one review called it. One had my name all over it.
Disc brakes were a revelation to me. Suddenly I could bomb through the rock garden and be able to pull up enough to get around the corner. Once again that feeling of first nailing it was euphoric. I tend to hit it a bit faster these days and I’m still a bit nervous heading in and still grinning like a fool heading out. As Meggsie says “momentum is your friend, right up until it smacks you in the mouth.
As rough and unkept as it is at times, CH6 still one of my all time favourite trails, largely for that reason
All the way to the other end of the scale Pony Express is the latest trail in the reserve. Built to replace the State Mine trail as a modern race track its short, sharp and has plenty of character. The approval process was long and drawn out and well documented else where. It has changed a bit over the years and there are plenty of Edits out there but Scotty Ts is still my favourite
Like Little Thunder before it, Mega Thunder has the wood on me. I’ve ridden it more often then not, actually I’ve never stacked it in mega thunder itself but it gets in my head and I never feel confident on it.
One day I’ll nail it and not look back and that will stay with me far longer then that good time I had carving berms in perfect loam.
So way back at the start I said I didn’t know if this would have a point. I guess it’s this: “Primative trails” have their place. They are fun, can be sustainable and not put land managers off side. They can help hone skills. but most of all: riding bikes is fun
Other vids of trails in the area
Me and Tal on Left Hand Gully
Me and Tal on Gun Club
The Crew on Gun Club, Pottery and others
Old Skool Me and Skin on Strathlone