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Mount Wellington – North South Track, Hobart, Tasmania

IMG_2496 “Aren’t you going to be cold at the top ?” The taxi driver asked as we gained elevation up Hobart’s Mount Wellington. It was a cold & wet autumn morning and we finally broke through the clouds on our ascent up the mountain road, in the battered Toyota Prius taxi. The look on his face when I told him where we were going and what I was about to do was a picture. Obviously mountain biking on real mountains is not for everyone.

As I was in Hobart for only 2 nights I didn’t want to miss out on a run down the North South track which runs bizarrely from South to North. The trail head is at the Springs area on Pinnacle road approximately three quarters from the top of the mountain. The 12km trail had been described as the “best singletrack in Australia”, quite a claim !. After riding a fair bit of the trails in WA although nothing on the east side, my curiousity had got the better of me.

Earlier that morning after failing to find a bike shop that was open to hire bikes past 1pm the previous afternoon I was at the Specialized Demo at the Cenotaph park, after providing my ID/Credit card etc the SWorks Camber 29 bike was being expertly set up for my height and weight care of the Specialized Australia mechanics.  Luckily care of the “Bike Ride” shop in Hobart they had asked me to come to the demo as the store Specialized camber demo bike they had was missing when we got to Hobart just before closing time on the Saturday afternoon. The demo team said come back in an hour once I had a good feel for the bike, but the guys from the shop have me the nod as I had told them I would be riding the North South track. They say the trail takes 2 hours to cycle. 1 hour into my Demo I was still in the taxi after reaching the trail head. IMG_2502 After a pointer from a local guy unloading his bike from a van in the carpark I found the trail head. North South track found, right then…let’s have it. Luckily the forest canopy kept me warm and after a few minutes I could take off the jacket and buff scarf. A few little climbs, dips and bus stops, the trail flowed really well. A few double black diamond obstacles lay to the left or right of the trail. After recovering from a heal bone injury (and a significant threat from the wife about injuring myself again) I left these well alone. The damp bright green moss and the quality of the singletrack reminded me of some of the Afan trails in South Wales where I often used to enjoy riding with my buddies in the UK. IMG_2499 IMG_2506Soon I got to a large rocky field which was quite a spectacle. Less  daunting than it looked, I cleared it ok. Knowing the locals I had seen in the carpark would be catching up soon I was not hanging around. Eventually the trail opened up to a Rangers hut in a clearing. Time for an energy drink and a breather. I chatted with a few walkers and then went to explore the hut. It was a respite for walkers on the mountain in adverse conditions. Luckily the sun was out by this point so I didn’t need to use the hut for its intended purpose.

IMG_2497IMG_2504By this point I was getting used to the bike and the next section of the trial was seriously good fun. I hit a few steeper sections, berms and small but floaty jumps, the elevation was now starting to drop a bit. The surface was changing to a loose dusty & rocky base. I was weaving the 29er wheels carefully through every corner, not only because of my wife’s threat, but also the fact that this was my first proper ride on a 29in bike. This section was so much fun, I wish it had lasted a lot longer. IMG_2498 IMG_2500 The bike was soaking up everything the trail and I gave it, and was I starting to feel more confident floating the bike over the peaks of the trail. A few river crossings and climbs and I was back to the cover of the forest. The trail carried on with a gradual descent until it steepened up again and started to drop via a few switchbacks into the Glenorchy mtb park.

 IMG_2509

 A quick stop to look at the park map, and then it was onward down the North South trail. A few forks avoiding black runs and it was nearing completion . I railed the final berms through the bike park jump section and I could see Tasola park, which I recognised as the exit of the trail. Upset that it was over, but knowing I had a demo bike to return meant a few minutes descent on the road and picking up the bike path back into Hobart. It had taken 1 hour to do the route and now I had to get my head down for a fast 10km hike to get the bike to the Demo in the park. I gave the bike back muddy, with my legs aching and sporting a hugh grin. IMG_2510 Was it the best trail in Australia – I cannot say, but certainly the best one I have ridden so far :). Overall I was very impressed with the Sworks Camber 29er Carbon, the SWorks carbon crank (XX1 gearing), Command post, and the Roval carbon wheels. It soaked up everything very well, but it felt too big to properly throw around. For now I will stick with the 27.5 Anthem at home. Carbon cranks and rims may have to go on the wish list though 🙂

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Won’t Back Down – The Steve Peat story

If you have been hiding  under a rock for the last 6 months, maybe you do not know about the new Steve Peat MTB movie, “Won’t Back Down” which was released in June this year. After not being able to track down a copy I rented a copy on ITunes and watched it this weekend.

The documentary style movie, made by Clay Porter delves back into the early days of downhill racing and closely tracks Steve’s career up to the present day. Using a lot of old race footage, it shows the close rivalry between Nico Vouilloz, and the obvious influences from the likes off Jason McRoy and Shaun Palmer.

I have been a fan for many years so it was great to see some of the early footage of particular events and races (and world champs attempts) that I had only read about previously. The story was told very well, and with real passion for the man from his friends, relatives and competitors. He has had some real achievements during his 21 year career at the top of the sport. He holds the title for the most world cup wins, and probably has the biggest following. At the age of 40  he still rides in the top 10 on the world cup circuit !. It is no surprise that he has inspired so many people in the sport, and would be a big driver in the UK churning out so many podium worthy riders over the last 10 years.

I highly recommend this film to anyone who follows downhill racing, or wants to know a bit more behind the MTB legend that is Steve Peat.

 

90’s Nostalgia – Sprung Mountain Bike videos

If you don’t know about the Sprung videos in the 90’s maybe your head was buried somewhere, or you were still in nappies. Either way they are worth a watch. They were the one of the first well edited mountain bike movies, with a banging breakbeat & funk soundtrack and interesting shoots at locations and races around the world. This is before the sport took itself too seriously and before the whole thing became a professional polished machine like it is now. Sprung 1 & 2 have been on youtube for a while now, but 2 weeks ago they have just added Sprung 3, 4 & 5 also. Great to watch whilst on the trainer 🙂

Enjoy !

Links below:

Sprung 1 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtkkxER1PO0
Sprung 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaC_dvhhkMc
Sprung 3 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eP19sdt077M
Sprung 4 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9ad2PnKw-Y
Sprung 5 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXN0N42gDDI

Tips for using eBay

Lots  of people around the world use eBay to buy and sell bike components. They are all stolen or damaged right ? Wrong. Lots of people are genuinely selling items that they no longer need or have spare after upgrades or they having a clearout etc. the list goes on.

You should exercise some caution though when buying or selling any major components on eBay. I have been buying and selling bikes and components on eBay for almost 10 years now and bar one minor incident, I have never really had any real problems. Over this time I have saved 1,000’s of pounds, and also managed to recycle a lot of my own gear.

It is easy to fall into the trap of online auctions, you see something you want and can easily get carried away on how much you spend. Early on during the auction, ask yourself what is the item worth to you, how much do you want to spend, will there be another opportunity ?

Other than the obvious things to look out for such as sellers with either poor ratings or a low number of transactions, there are some other things to watch out for on Ebay:

Buying

> Item has incorrect title or pictures. Eg title says “gt frame” and the picture is a specialized. Avoid this like the plague ! Its very dubious and I always assume they are stolen.

> Item has a vague title or description. Eg title says “full suspension bike” and description does not give much more detail. If the picture is of a high end bike and the owner could be  either too thick or lazy to write any more, however if you had paid money for the bike new, chances are the owner would know a lot more about it. Avoid !

> Item is a high end custom bike but not much detail re components. Eg. Seller describes bike in one sentence but yet the bike is£2000 and has lots of custom components. If they had built it personally, they would know precisely what they were selling and would make the effort to describe. Similarly sellers sometimes do the opposite and cut and paste a generic bike description from the manufacturer. In this case I normally ask a number of questions about the item to gauge the seller’s knowledge of the bike.

> Item is being sold for a friend. This is almost an excuse used as the seller claims they know nothing about the bike. Ebay accounts are not too hard to set up, why would the owner want to sell via someone else ?. Avoid !

Questions to ask seller could be more details, ask for more photographs (particularly if there is any damage described), serial number including a photograph – this often stops people dead in their tracks. If it all goes quiet after this question you have just avoided buying a potentially stolen bike.

In the UK the MET police are threatening to open up the database of stolen bikes to the other police forces in the UK. I cannot believe they don’t do this already in this modern age of the interweb !!

This is a good site in the UK for further advise and checking your frame numbers against.

http://checkthatbike.co.uk/

Receiving something that is damaged

When your item has damage that is not described or dimensions or something else that is not precisely as described you have a right to get this sorted. Most sellers want to keep their reputation, and the power in eBay disputes is heavily on the side of the buyer. I have had money given back after making a fuss about dented wheels, steerer tubes that were described with different dimensions etc. Basically the description should be 100% accurate

Selling

The most important thing to remember is be honest. If the item has a scratch, mention it. If it could do with a service, mention it. Spell out every single detail, colour, size, used for….., etc. This will avoid the dumb questions and hopefully give the buyer some faith that you are honest and know what you are doing.

Happy eBaying 🙂

 

 

 

 

There is a first time for everything…….

When world renowned scientists are performing an experiment and trying to obtain a desired result, they are very careful about what they change between each time they repeat the experiment. They change one factor at a time, so that they can gauge what has caused the result they receive. They would never change many factors at the same time as they would not know what caused the desired result.

I wish I had adopted this policy in early January 2014, when I went to Turner Hill with a buddy to do a few laps of the track there. I was on a new bike, with new tyres, on a new track, and riding with SPD clip in pedals for the first time (on an mtb anyway). It is really no wonder I had a parting with the bike. If you know how unpredictable WA pea gravel is, then you know how easy it is to under steer or lose control of the front of the bike. This is exactly what I was faced with, the front of the bike sliding out and to avoid falling on rocks or hitting the fast approaching tree, I snapped my foot out of the SPD clip at such a speed that my body was not ready, and I could feel that something tear in my ankle.

After a visit to the GP, an ultrasound and starting Physio it was confirmed that I had some minor damage to my achilles, there was a visible lump in the side of tendon 😦 Boo hoo.

It is now nearly 4 months later and I am still not back on a mountain bike. However, thanks to the good work of my 2nd Physio (I sacked the first one), a lot of exercises and daily icepacks it is now getting stronger and the tendon is slowly repairing. After a few test rides and flare ups, I have now got to the point where a 5km road ride is ok, and I have been doing this every 2 days. I was pleased to be told this week that this weekend I should try a 10km road ride and see how it responds. It has been a very painful and slow recovery, and it has been so frustrating to be off the mountain bike for such a pathetic little injury.

I have gone over the whole thing in my head a million times. The sad thing is in 4 months if I had of properly stacked it and broken bones, they would most likely be healed by now. Obviously in retrospect, I probably should have adopted the scientists approach. One thing at a time. Slowly, slowly catch that monkey………….

650B or not to B ?

After ignoring the wheel size debate for years, I finally have a valid contribution to the argument. I have always thought that the 29 inch wheel is too much, too much gyroscopic effect, too much change to geometry etc. most wagon wheel bikes you sit on top of rather than in. For the tight technical trails in the UK I don’t see the benefit, but here in WA where a lot of the trails and races are a bit more open and less technical it makes more sense. However, for my personal riding style (on the edge of control making continual last minute steering effort) riding a bike that needs more body English is not what I am looking for.

Welcome the 27.5 wheel. I personally thought it was marketing hype until I tested one. I started thinking that a 26″ wheel may be a disadvantage for xc racing in WA when almost everyone is on 29ers. I was looking for a short travel lightweight rig with 27.5 wheels. And then I walked into my local Giant dealer and saw the new 27.5 Anthem Advanced. After a test ride I must say I was pretty impressed. It had both great climbing and descending ability, I certainly noticed the better rollover benefits of the bigger wheel, and it was almost as nimble as the trusty old 26″ wheel.  I was sold, so after a huge 25% discount, I was the proud owner of a 27.5 Anthem advanced.

I have ridden it about 4 times now and it is significantly faster than my stumpjumper on trails, particularly those xc trails. More to come on that bike and it’s mods later. Now all we need is a good range of wheels and tyres for the 27.5 converts 🙂

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