In 2019 the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service will celebrate the 24th Anniversary of the Wests Cycle Classic. The Annual Wests Cycle Classic is one of the services longest running events having over the years raised millions of dollars.
The 24th Annual Wests Cycle Classic will be travelling through stunning terrain and tackling some challenging climbs whilst also having fun and raising money for your Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.
A small contribution from you helps us to continue this much needed support. The Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service is one we all hope we will never need but in the event we ever do, there could be no more dependable hands to find ourselves.
When: Tuesday 12 March – Sunday 17 March
Where: Port Macquarie and Bonny Hills with a visit to Jolly Nose MTB park, Bago Winery, Queens
Lake & Middle Bother Lookout
Distance: over 350km in 5 days
The Annual Wests Cycle Classic is a significant fundraiser for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, raising over $100k in 2018, and with your support last year I managed to be the 3rd highest individual fund raiser.
I enjoyed last years ride so much I had no hesitation in signing up again for another year.
I had a massive support through both private and corporate sponsors so a big thank you to every one that chipped in.
Once again I hadn’t spent a great deal of time on the bike so wasn’t sure how I’d go. I had been in training in the gym with Phil and Skinny and their crew at Vanguard Fitness so I knew I had leg strength I just wasn’t sure I had any endurance. Then with 2 weeks to go I had competed in a team of 4 in the jetblack 24hr race on our home track at Rydal and felt surprisingly good on the bike.
With an early start Wednesday morning I arrange to catch up with me old mate Fruz to crash at his place on Tuesday night. Pulling up to his house he greets me at the car.
Do you need to put anything inside.
Good your driving, we’re going out for my sisters birthday.
Now I know Lindal but hadn’t seen much of here since we left school Mummble30mummble years ago.
Anyhoo a fun night was had….
leaving Fruz’s around 5:30am I meet up with the support team at the helicopter base at Broadmeadow and we help finish loading the trailers before getting a lift up to Raymond Terrace for the start of the ride
Day 1 Raymond Terrace to Bulahdelah 97km
To be honest this is all a bit of a blur. Cruisey riding with a great bunch of people through gorgeous back country. There was laughing and antics and a lot of fun. My legs were holding up well. My sit bones, not so much.
Now it’s not a race. That gets stressed often. Almost as often as it get ignored.
Of course there were little sprints and climbs and descents where bragging points were earned. Saying that it’s all in good fun and egos are kept in check.
Every 2hrs or so it’s time for a drinks break where not only do you get to fill your water bottle up but they shovel fruit and cakes and biscuits into you.
While I’d raked up 110km in the 24hr that was in 16km stints with a couple of hours of resting, massage, and foam roller recovery in between. This was the longest steady ride I’ve done in ages and too be honest it’s a bit of a blur.
Luckily the scenery and company kept me distracted. We roll into Bulahdelah and check in. I was bunking with Scotty B again this year and we stowed our gear then wasted no time in hitting the pool for a cool down and nibblies with the gang.
Refreshed we joined Katie and Hilary at the pub for pre diner drinks. the others dribble in a few at a time over the next hour or so and we make our way out to the beer garden where we are greeted by a spectacular Sunset.
Life doesn’t get much better.
Until diner, that is. Where the meals are true country pub meals. Big, hearty and delicious. Ploughmans inn. Winner.
Out the front Kerrie cracks out the guitar and a sign-along ensues. the hat was passed around and the locals chip in a few coins and notes for requests.
I’d love to stay but I can’t keep my eyes open…
Day 2. Bulahdelah to Boomerang Beach 59km
Up at the crack of dawn where our handlers already have breakfast laid out. Fruit, cerials, toast, yogurt and bacon and eggs. It really is a blissful 5 days.
We’ll roll out steadily and keep the group together. We should get to the ferry in time for coffee but we all need to be on the same one and that’s the first one once every one gets there. Remember it’s not a race.
Yeah sure Bernard.
We roll out of Bulahdelah and turn on to a little back road…. Lets say the natives were restless as the pace goes up straight away the peloton gets stretched out. There’s 5 or 6 of us in the lead group. There is a bit of chop and changing and we all have a go on the front. We hit the dirt and the pace goes up again. I drop off and find myself in no mans land. I figure there’ll be steep hill down to the ferry where I’ll be able to catch back up. I was wrong.
Up in front Rebok has fallen off the pack. I push hard to bridge across to him. Jump on behind for a bit, mate
I’m done I’m happy just to roll.
Not long after he take the lead and the pace is back on. We roll into the ferry not too long after the lead 4 who are all ordering coffee. The rest of the bunch are not too far behind.
I have a confession to make, I’m not a coffee drinker. But am happy to fill the water bottle and rest up while we wait for the ferry.
Cross the ferry we go and just up the road is the official drinks break.
Next we are into the National Park and across Mungo Brush.
It’s a long stretch of flat dirt. Rebok , who had played tail end charlie on day one, has a bit of energy to burn and shots off in the lead. Pete and I took the lead of the rest of the group at a more sensible pace. But it starts creeping up.
By the time we hit the rolling ̶h̶i̶l̶l̶s̶, I mean undulations I’m feeling a bit spent and I drop of the lead group as the bulls charge onward.
We regroup a few kms later at the end of the dirt. A nasty pinch climb greets us then its a great run down the hill to our school stop.
Now speeds in excess of 70km/hr may or may not have been reached. There may or may not have been some rubbing of bars at that speed…..
Anyhoo we roll into the school. Each year they pick a little school along the way and give them a quick speil about the helicopter service and bike safety. It’s a bit of fun and the kids get a bit of a kick out of it.
After that a game of soccor with the kids provided much hilarity.
Recess over and we roll out again. and those undulations keep coming. I was joined by Jodie and we reeled in first Bob and then Kerrie on the final flat stretch and we all rolled into our next night accomadation ready for lunch and then the beach, beers diner and sign-alongs.
Day 3. Boomerang Beach to Coomba Park and return. KOM day.
Each year 1 day is set aside as KOM day. KOM is “King of Mountain”. A hill is selected and all pretence of “it’s not a race” is thrown out the window.
Up hills have never been my strenght and I gallantly offer to do my duty as tail end charlie on KOM day. Up here for think’n’.
So yep there would be hills today but first a nice flat pedal along the lakes edge out to Coomba Park for morning tea.
The pace was much more sensible. For some reason the guys who had been setting the pace the last 2 days were all cruising along mid to rear pack… I wouldn’t like to accuse the boys and girls of saving legs for the hills especially since I copped out myself…
Anyhoo it was a lovely ride along the lake to a picturesque picnic spot for morning tea and then onto the dirt and into the hills. The KOM would ride 100m over 1km. Standard grade for the ‘Go but there were 3 or 4 nasty hills prior to getting there. Up the first one and down the other side nice and sensible.. sort of.
A while later we come to a downward stretch full of big kicky waterbars. Hitting the first couple I start to regret volunteering for the last rider job. I hang back a bit and have a bit of fun on the next lot. Much fun.
Then we get to the base of THE climb. and stop for a drinks break just to make sure we are all cooled down before tackling it 🙂
The big guns take off and I’m happy to spin up in last place.
We regroup at the top there is a left fork that goes to a lookout and a right fork that goes down the other side of the hill.
The offer is made for anyone who wants to go to the lookout they can. 9 riders move into the left fork. Riders who would come to be known as the evil 9 (later softened to the Naughty 9)
So, says ride captain Bernard. Does any one want to go to the lookout?
No hands went up. Nothing was said. But 9 riders are pointing left. Well OK onward Bernard leads the pack down. Except 9 riders go left.
No I have a dilema. As tail end charlie I’m mean to saty at the end of the pack do I go right or left or wait here.
Ah Wiggsie is with the 9 and he pre-rode the loop. The 9 are all strong riders, and we are near the top of the hill the lookout can’t be much further anyway (Except to get there the road descended back to the foot hils and climbed the next peak over….)
I opt to follow the main pack. Fun fast descent I set up for the first sweeping righthanded but note skid marks and Scott standing off to the side of the road.
Shit are you OK. Yeah it was Bolto but he got back on and kept going, had a bit of blood spurting out of him.
A couple of hundred meters later, at the bottom of the hill, there’s Bolto on the ground in some discomfort. 1 finger is obviously dislocated and he has lot of skin off his knee.
Our medic pulls up and goes into action.
I’m just goign to pop that finger back in.
The howl of a thoughsand banshees being slaughtered…. I have no idea how he didn’t faint. I almost did. But finger remained stubbonly dislocated.
That’s no good I’ll give you a block for the pain then we’ll need to get you to hospital…
Out comes a needle big enough to tranquilise Hannible and all his elephants. More screaming.
With Bolto packed up into the ute. we continue on. Mindful that the ute was behind us with the injured rider in it the pace was up.
Look at the treeeeeeees. Called Hilary. No one is paying attention to the beautiful surroundings. or some such.
She had a point. We were in regrowth Blackbutt forest and it was beautiful.
A photo was called for.
We get to the drinks break. Ride Captain looks concerned. He makes sure Bolto is Ok then Notes 9 riders are missing and has a small tantrum….
Now with the work he does for the ride I’d make him immune to fines and reverse awards but where’s the fun in that. Dummy spit award nomination.
The ute leaves to take Bolto into get some scans (Turns out a cracked knuckle. He put a bit of ducktape on it and completed the the next two days riding like a champion. they breed them tuff in Pacific National)
Bernard gets a text… A photo of the Nine on the lookout. I have proof of who they are for fines!!!! .
Anyhoo the naughty nine eventually roll into the drinks spot.
Mount up. Calls ride captain. You’ve 2 minutes and we’re leaving….
The rest of the day was uneventful. Back at Boomerang beahc for lunch then beach, beers, pizza and sign alongs
Day 4 Boomerang Beach to Nelsons bay via the Tea Tree ferry Buddy Day
Buddy day is a bit of a highlight of the 5 days. Riders are paired up for the day. The idea being you are not meant to go more than 2m from your buddy all day.
The group is split into strong riders and not so strong riders and a “random draw” pairs them up, um randomly. Except ride captain is open to bribary.
After Hilary rode in a Centennial jersey for KoM day her Pacific National commrades decided to punish her by organising for her to be paired up with Wiggsie. Wiggsie is one of our strongest riders. Despite Hilary’s protests she isn’t too shabby either. They’d be a strong pair but she’d get pushed out of her comfortzone a bit.
Last year I snuck into the not so strong riders hat and got paired up wth Beddo. It’s not a race… but we won.
This year they were sure I got put in the strong riders hat and I got paired with Rosemary. I didn’t know her real well but what I did kw of her she didn’t strike me as a weak riders.
We roll out of camp nice and early.
I’m happy for you set the pace. If you want to have a crack go for it. If not I don’t mind
I’m happy just to ride, I’m not competitive. lies Rosemary. I’m a little slow on the hills. Yeah right.
We roll up the first little pinch mid pack. Get to the second hill and Rosemary looks at me with a checky grin. Lets go. and off she shoots like a rabbit.
I only just manage to hold her wheel to the top of the hill and get in front to lead her down the other side. I’m rolling, not knowing how confident she is on descents. As fast as you can go. she calls.
Jill and Rebok are a super team and are well and truly off the front.
2 other strong teams Wiggsie and Hilary and Bernard and Al are in second and third. Not that it’s a race.
We get Bernards wheel and Al drags the lot of us across the gap to Hilary and Wiggsie. another pinchy hill and at the top Al and Bernard jump.
Go go go! calls my non-competitive buddy. Gravity is my friend when the front wheel is pointing down and we hit the bottom of the hill in second place. Not that it’s a race.
Some long flats punctuated with undullations comes next. I lead out. Tell me if it’s too fast or slow.
I’ll yell “Flynny” if I need to you slow down and just “Go” if it’s ok to go faster.
Um there was more “Go” than “Flynny” being called.
Rosemary takes the lead to give me a rest, not that she is pushing a great deal of wind. Being a fair bit slender than I am… Up the next hill. Wiggsie and Hiliry were closing.
First stop is at the bottom of this one… Not that it is a race.
Rosemary crests the top and I take the lead again and we descend like demons to screetch into the drinks spot in second. High fives. Not that we were racing. It’s not a race. Well unless you come first, second or third.
First and second teams get handy capped and have to start at the rear of the pack for the next section..
Back onto the dirt and we are happy to roll with the bunch. It’s not a race.
We reverse the Mungobrush section of day 2 with a detour down to shelly beach for a drinks break. What a pretty spot.
Usually this little camp ground is accessable by boat so pretty quiet. I felt a bit sorry for the cmapers who were enjoying a lazy Saturday morning in the little haven when 35 nutty mountian bikers roll in with their support crew….
Not sure who won that stage, probably Jill and Rebok. But it’s not a race so who cares really.
Back out and we roll down to Bommbah Ferry.
Ok final stage for the day will be a 27km flat stretch of tar between here and Tea Gardens. We have plenty of time. We need to be on the 2:30 ferry. Let keep the group together. If we sit around 22km/re that will give us plenty of time. Once we see the 50km/hr sign there’s 3km to go and you can all go for it. Not that it is a race…
Yeah nice plan.
About 1km in and the pace creeps up to high 20s.
Come on, says, the Wigg. No. replied Hilary.
They go anyway.
They get a gap. The pace hits the mid 30s.
They come back.
Theres some funny too and fro between Wiggsie and Hilary. It’s Buddy day. Says Hilary. There’s 2 buddies not just the 1…. They go again any way.
The peloton hit mid 30s. Hilary and the Wiggs get reeled in and fall to the back of the pack. Just behind us. They look spent. They were foxing.
How far now. Says Hilary. Whatever Wiggsie told her she felt it was time. Lets go!
The roar to the front again. Everyone is expecting them to be reeled in. They keep going.
I wasn’t any where near the front. I wish I was because if I was there I could tell you how the pace crept up and up. If only I had seen I could relate how the almighty hand of Jarred, by far the strongest rider in the pack, came to rest on his partners back. His partner being Kari, the elven pixie of a pocket rocket who was about to be shoved into warp speed 9.
Be this stage I had well and truly lost touch with the pack. Rosemary and I were now dead last, not that it matters it’s not a race, otherwise I might have seen the big fella, one hand on the bars 1 hand on his partners back, blow the rest of the peloton apart has he screamed up up 40km/hr..
In the end Hilary and Wiggsie held on and took over all honours. Well riden and smart. Bloody oath it’s a race!
Lunch, St paddies day beer at the pub while waiting the ferry and then a nice cruise over to Nelsons Bay.
Dress up night, Australiana. But what happens in the Bay stays in the bay.
Day 5. Nelsons Bay to Broadmeddow
Some hang overs to ride off. Day 5 would be pretty much all tar. Some nice back roads through beautiful country. but also some long stretches in to the wind.
To be honest it’s a bit of as blur. So much so I forgot to push start on strava and missed the frst 20km
Fun was had. Suffering was done and it was a releif to roll into each rest spot.
So there you have it. Another great year on the West Cycles Classic. Thanks to the generous support of my family and mates I managed to raise over $1700. As a group that figure was up around $40k and when all the corporate sponsorship rolls in it should be over $100k. Thanks all.
A big shout out to the team that put this together especially our handlers Annette and Steph for orgaining every thing so we just have to get up, ride and have fun. The drivers, Garry and Stephen, Bronny and her medical team and a whole hepa of others I’m forgetting. Bernard for keeping us in track which must be like herding cats through hot water and all the riders for the fun, games and laughter.
So we were hosting the 24hr on our home trails at Rydal. In return for getting the trails ready Martin offered us a free team entry.
We’ll just ride around as marshals. says I. I’ve had a few injuries and haven’t been doing a lot of riding.
You may as well be timed…
Richard was keen, Phil less so. What about you Mick
I have a bit to do on Saturday but could do a few laps late afternoon.
We’re not taking it serious you may as well be involved.
The team was entered.
I’d have to say I got a little excited the morning of the race but with the 3 of us there racing in a 4 man team we had a chat and agreed we’d go for double laps and go as hard or not as we wanted and if we weren’t feeling it we’d sit out and have some beers.
Set up next to us Gaz as doing it solo so we were happy to give Jodie a bit of a hand supporting his efforts
All good nice and casual.
Except 3hrs in someone looked at the times and realised we were just 30seconds of 3rd place an dnot far in front of 5th. I’m not a competitive person, or so I sometimes tell myself, but if I’m on the track I want to do my best. Game on.
Turned out the team we were chasing was that of a work mate from up at one of our sister mines. Definitely game on.
We began swapping back and forth from 4th to 3rd.
I was feeling pretty good, Mandy was out there massaging for Mind Body Intigration and I was lucky enough to get a bit of maintenance after each stint.
I’d forgotten how awesome the atmosphere is at a 24hr race. It’s really special. Last one I’d ridden was Dargle Farm in about 2005.
Music was blaring. At one point old mate came up to me and asks what time the music was going off as he was trying to sleep. It was 8:45pm…
It’s a 24hr race mate.
But we are trying to sleep!
You know the whole concept of 24hr race?/!
The music went off around 10:30. It came back on at 5:30 super load and techno. Sounds horrible but it was such a great pick up after a long night of riding
A couple of Rydal residents didn’t think so and rang Martin to complain. He invited them up for coffee and an egg and bacon roll. all smoothed over.
Anyhoo I get ahead of myself
We were doing well, each of us with very consistent lap times.
Mick turned up around 6pm. He is quick anyway and with fresh legs shot out for a couple of fast laps.
What the hell was that. Muddy says, coming over. We were wondering how you’d go when you 4th rider showed up. He has just punched out a 27min lap!
W’d all been lapping in the low 30s.
Pity he isn’t staying.
Richard goes out, we are up into 2nd.
Mick goes again. We are in first
I go expecting that was Mick last stint. It’s good while it lasts.
Katrina, I might drop you home and come back. Woohoo Mick is in it for the long haul.
We extended out a bit of a lead over night. Get almost 7mins up but come day break the teams in second and third sent their fast riders out for some catch up laps.
Long story short heading into my last lap there was about 3min between the top 3 teams, not bad over a 24hr race. I got back giving Mick a 1min lead. He brought it home well and We found our selves on the top step of the podium.
Fantastic event. Martin and Juliane put on a great show.
Thanks to outer image collective and Lithgow Council for the photos
Most people do Newnes ( or Starlight) Canyon as a round trip, climbing up the pipeline trail, working their way around the ridges and abseiling in. And don’t get me wrong that’s a great way of doing it but there is a lot to be said about doing it as an up and back from the bottom.
The canyon is off limits over winter as it is an important hybernation cave for bentwing bats and disturbing them during their sleepy time invariable leads to a percentage of them dying as there is no food around food them to replenish the energy it takes to come out of hybernation.
Anyhoo, I had planned to do this earlier in the year on the last weekend before the closure except in the week leading up NPs put out a notice that they were hazard reduction burning and all the canyons in the area were closed…….
Fast forward to the other end of hybernation season and we were good to go.
The plan was to ride down the maintenance trail from the locked gate, stash the bikes then make up way up to the cliffline and into the canyon.
I’ve done it this way several times and have always been able to get all the way up to the bottom of the abseil point (the top of the canyon) no dramas. However, last summer people were reporting deep swims in the tunnel and while that is normal after heavy rain the fact that the water hung around post rain had me thinking maybe something in the floor or blockage had changed.
Not tha I was too worried about long swims after the dry winter we’ve had but the thought of a deep wade through stagnant, bat shit filled water wasn’t that inviting. I needn’t have worried as the tunnel was as dry as a nun’s nasty.
But I get ahead of myself
While bikes arn’t necessary they do turn an hour long fire trail walk either way into the 20min ride and the ride down was uneventful, almost. Tina had a small off at the bottom of a loose down hill on a sandy corner and hurt her elbow. As a mad trail runner that didn’t bother her. a sore elbow would not stop her from running so no worries. We hide the bikes in the thick scrub and head across the river which is about as low as I’ve ever seen it.
Up the hill we went taking a bit more of a meandering route than I usually take which made the climb up fairly simple, then we took in the views down the Wolgan from the base of the upper cliff before working our way around into the canyon.
Entering into the lower canyon is like entering another world. The micro climate is completely different to the scrub out on the exposed hill side
This is magical, Flynny, says Sav as we make our way up through ferns, coachwoods and vines so big that at first you think you are stepping over a fallen tree, only to realise its a living vine.
I smile to myself, this is just the appetiser and I think that is the reason I like doing the reverse trip of Newnes Canyon. The starlight section is so awesome that when you come through it from the top you are in such awe of the top section that you kind of over look how spectacular this bottom section is.
And then, just as you are thinking the walls are petering out and the canyon is about to open out the upper cliffs encroach and suddenly the canyon closes in
And then we reach the Amazing Wallaby tunnel, better known as the Starlight section, high up the walls close in so much, become so twisted, and are jammed with chock stones that it forms a high narrow tunnel.
I feel on previous trips the glowworms were far more abundant, maybe that has to do with the dry winter, maybe it’s just the time of year as I think it’s around mating season for the flies, maybe it’s just modern headlights are so bright now you don’t notice the worms unless you tuen them off and give your eyes a few minutes to adjust, or maybe the bats had a wormy feast when they awoke
I have known people to absiel in here but be blocked by deep water in the tunnel so they had to prusik back out and abseil in further down. I also know of at least 1 group who pulled their ropes without checking the tunnel was passable and were forced to spend a couple of days huddled here waiting for rescue…. When absieling in the first person need check all the way through the tunnel before getting others to absiel or pulling ropes.
And after taking time to enjoy just being there we leave Ed and TJ to get about photo phaffing with their good cameras and the rest of us make our way back down
We have a bit of lunch and then explore up a side canyon called Upside Down canyon.
The bottom section of Upside Down involves some tricky climbs up through small holes. I made the first look far harder than it was mainly as I forgot had the go pro on a chest mount and had to do some contortioning so as not to scracth the crap out of it.
I remeber the water fall from previous visits and started brisging up, the walls were a tad slippery, I had no doubt we could get everyone up, what I did doubt thou was getting people back down safely without ropes… I’m sure there use to be a log or something here to make the down climb simpler.
Anyhoo despite knowing the top section has some pretty bit I decide it’s not worth the risk today so we turned tail and headed back down.
Ed and TJ are still phaffing so we sit back and just take in the surrounds
The ride back up the valley is a bit more difficult than the ride down but for a mountain biker it’s still better than trudging along a fire trail.
Party size: 7 mixed canyoning experience levels but all experienced outdoors
Timing: 6hr 20 with lots of photo phaffing and chilling out
People talk about their comfort zone as though it’s a place they want to stay don’t they realise your comfort zone is the most dangerous place to be
It’s been a bit of a tradition over the last 5 years or so that at some stage over the Easter long weekend we do a bit of a longer social ride. We’ve done the Lithgow-Glowworm Tunnels- Wolgan loop a couple of times. Lithgow to Capertee via Black Fellow hands trail, Long Swamp, Baal Bone Gap, Crown Station was a good one. Sunnyside ridge return. All good rides with a more sociable atmosphere
This year I thought we’d try something different, it would be a slightly shorter ride but broken up with a bit of a bushwalk up into the bottom of the delightful Deep Pass Canyon.
The idea gathered a fair bit of interest so even though i knew a few of the regulars had other commitments I was expecting a largish group. but when I rolled into the meeting spot it was just Shawie, Richard and Wiggo there.
We waited until the appointed time and with no sign of anyone else headed off just the 4 of us.
No dramas, we’re all about the same level of fitness so while not turning it into a race we were able to push a steady pace.
Dragon sky or some such thingie was on so the plateau was infested with 900 or so scouts and venturers out having a bit of fun. In times when people often whinge about kids sitting around playing computer games it’s great to so many kids out learning bush skills. We came across them in groups of 4s and fives as the navigated the maze of fire trials between check points.
Your going the wrong way! called Richard as one group came around a corner. We are not! replys girl with map and compass but no sense of humour. Her friends had a bit of a chuckle. Not her. Serious face. Eyes on the prize.
Anyway after a bit of a cold snap earlier in the week it was a pleasant day to be out riding and we covered the miles to the Mt Cameron fire trail turn off in good time and stopped for a bit to eat. From there it was down down and down into Deep Pass Clearing. An awesome walk in camp ground. The thought of lugging gear in and out the steep track on foot usually keeps the hordes at bay but today it was a little tent village.
After a bit of a look around the clearing we stashed the bikes and made our way up the head waters of Nayook creek to the bottom of the very pretty Deep Pass Canyon. It was on a very similar excursion (Riding, bush walk, swim) I first visited this canyon on a school camp back in the days of my misspent yooff.
A bit of time soaking in the ambiance then back down to the clearing for lunch then pushing out bike up the steep track up to Deep Pass Saddle and then the steeper trail up through the cliff lines before remounting and taking the back roads homes.
This was as far up as we went to day. It’s possible to scramble up into the canyon proper with out getting wet via fixed hand lines and an assortment of logs tethered to the walls in the narrow bit but cycling shoes aint the best option.
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