Chicks in the Sticks 2017

Yesterday was a very busy biking day! Early morning saw me visiting the Chicks in the Sticks 2017 (all-female MTB event) at Mt Cotton, followed by The Big Push for Road Safety social ride in Brisbane city in the afternoon. This post is a brief run down of the Chicks in the Sticks event – Big Push post will be next!


Chicks in the Sticks 2017.

This event is Australia’s largest “Women’s Only” 3hr Mountain Bike Endurance race. It is hosted by the Rats Cycling Club and was held at Karingal Scout Camp (Mt Cotton, QLD). Last year I rode in this event and had an awesome time, this year I went as support. This event is one of my favourite in the riding calendar, and I always make an effort to go.

Why? Because it is ALWAYS a good day!

It was a beautiful morning and there was a great turn out. When I arrived at the race village, it was full of colour and bustling with the movement of families, kids and riders milling about, people catching up, preparations being made and checking bikes over.

The race village has a few extra additions this year, like a designated kids pop-up nature play area that was filled with games and activities for the families and kids that had come along for the day.

It was a great opportunity to catch up with mates, take some photos and wish the riders well.

Chicks in the Sticks 2017 - Bicycles Create Change

Chicks in the Sticks 2017 - Bicycles Create Change

It was great to see so many riders. I was particularly excited to see the range of ages. When I used to ride Enduro, one aspect that was most lacking for me what the low female participation rates in general, but particularly for women over 35. So I was thrilled to be in an environment where, for one MTB event at least, that this category was well above the norm! Hooray!

There were also lots of random giveaways and some great podium prizes. I  appreciate that this event encourages participants to dress up if they want to  – which adds an extra flair, colour and enjoyment to the ride.

Here were a couple of my favourites:

Chicks in the Sticks 2017 - Bicycles Create Change

Chicks in the Sticks 2017 - Bicycles Create Change

Chicks in the Sticks 2017 - Bicycles Create Change

Chicks in the Sticks 2017 - Bicycles Create Change

Chicks in the Sticks 2017 - Bicycles Create Change

The first event of the day was the Little Chicks in the Sticks ages 5-11 and 12-16 who had their own race before the main field took off at 9 am. As I was not riding this year, it was an opportunity to take some photos and videos, which was a new experience as I am usually in the ride, not watching from the sidelines! See my race start video at the end of this post.

Although I didn’t stay til the end, I had an awesome morning soaking up the colourful, happy vibe. I cheered on the riders, chatted to families who had ‘come to support mum’, checked out some of the new stock at the team tents and had a thoroughly lovely time.

A good day was had by all!

I was really inspired by the riders who participated ‘up the back’ of the pack – those who were being brave and gave MTB a go – some of them for the very first time. It was great to hear how many people had come after being ‘invited by a mate’ to come and try – people who would normally not have tried riding off-road being encouraged my a female rider-friend to give it a go. They were my favourite stories to hear. It takes a lot of guts!

This event is a wonderful example that it is possible to run a competitive MTB that caters for serious racers, as well as for those who are just starting out, want more off-road experience or who are there just to have fun. 

If you are keen to give it a go for next year, or know of someone you think might be interested, there are many different categories to participate in..

Chicks in the Sticks 2017

I tip my hat to the organisers who worked incredibly hard to make this day such a success.

A big congrats to all the riders who participated – you all did so well!

All the families and supporters who came as well made the day even better!

It was a brilliant event and I can’t wait to do it all again next year!

See you there!

3Plus3 MTB Event

Annette Dexter’s enthusiasm, support and fitness is unquenchable!  Her last race post was on the 2017 Bayview Blast MTB 100km marathon . Here, she gives an overview of the popluar Queensland MTB event – the 3Plus3. Thanks to Annette for her time and energy. We wish her luck on her next amazing adventure! NG.


SEQ 3Plus3 MTB Event

On the weekend of 8-9 July 2017, South East Queensland (SEQ) mountain bikers again made a good showing at the 3Plus3 event at Spicers Hidden Vale. The midwinter 3Plus3 has become a firm part of the local riding calendar, along with Hidden Vale’s 24 h and 4 h events in April, the Dingo Duo in October and the Epic in September.

Originally held as a December event, the 3Plus3 migrated to July on a permanent basis after being cancelled due to rain two years in succession. It now serves as a mountain bikers’ Christmas in July. Like other mountain biking events at Hidden Vale, the event offers an opportunity to camp on the 12,000 acre property, rather than staying in limited cottage accommodation at the resort.

Format

Racing takes the form of 3 h lap events events on Saturday and Sunday, with separate courses of approximately 9 km each day in 2017. Riders can choose to participate on one or both days, either as solo riders or in a team of two.

Age categories in the main event range from under-19 to over-50s, and a separate single-speed category is available. There are also kids’ events run across the weekend, with A, B and C grades riding laps of a 2.2 km course across both days and social riders completing the course on Saturday or Sunday only.

Event Evolution

In 2016, the event for the first time offered a separate social ride, with riders using an alternate course to the racers in an untimed event. For the Saturday social event, riders proceeded through transition to a short fire road descent, then up 007 trail, following Dodgem, Western Creek and Woodworm to the popular Plane Sailing trail, exiting halfway along for a descent to Ladder and a climb back to the main fire road, then turning away from race base to return along Gully.

Sunday racers followed the same course, while the Saturday race (and Sunday social ride) took in a short climb up Buckshot, the last portion of Plane Sailing and a descent through Snake to Juiced, followed by a loop through Airplane, Rock Bottom and Escalator. Escalator has had some much-needed spade work, so it is good to see older trails are not being neglected while Hidden Vale pursues expansion of the trail network further from the homestead.

The 3Plus3 remains a popular event, particularly for families. Participation has been growing from year to year, particularly with the addition of the social ride. A Saturday night Xmas feast is available for limited numbers and many riders appreciate an opportunity to stay on after the first day’s riding and catch up with MTB friends before completing the event on the Sunday.

Results

The 2017 overall win for women went to Imogen Smith, who was returning from serious hip and shoulder injuries sustained in a criterium race earlier this year. Imogen rode 14 laps across Saturday and Sunday in a total time of 6:36.

The men’s overall winner was Trek Racing’s Ethan Kelly, with 16 laps in 6:24.

Overall race results are available here. 

Source: Annette Dexter. 3Plus3 MTB Event 2017.

2017 Bayview Blast – Event Overview

This guest post is by Annette Dexter who is an avid mountain biker and rode the Bayview Blast Sunday 100km marathon for the first time this year. Annette has also been working tirelessly on the new upcoming RATS Cycling Club website. (Until it goes live see this RATS website). Thanks to Annette for this post. I appreciate you sharing your post, I know you are super busy – both on and off the bike! NG.

2017 Bayview Blast – Event Overview

The weekend of May 27th-28th 2017 saw the fourth edition of the Bayview Blast, run by the RATS Cycling Club at Bayview Conservation Park, Redland Bay (Brisbane). The race has developed significantly since its first edition in 2014.

The debut race featured two, four or six laps of a scrappy 13 km course and was run on a scorching hot November day. From 2015 on, the Blast benefited from Redland City Council’s development of a new race base on German Church Road.

New entry and exit trails (Wolf Peach and Sorceress) were added and the course length was increased to 25 km, with race options of one, two or four laps. In 2016, the race moved to a winter date, and the Blast is now a firm part of the national XCM series.

2017 Bayview Blast Event Overview

Race format – 2017 Bayview Blast

The 2017 Bayview Blast involved racing across two days.

Saturday racing included junior events with up to four laps of a 2.5 km course, team and corporate challenges and an all-comers fun lap. The 25 km Saturday race included a separate women’s start wave, with some thirty participants.

Sunday racing taking on either two or a challenging four laps of the long course, with the full-length event involving just over 100 participants and the half-marathon distance attracting a further 250 entrants, including teams. Sunday participants spanned a broad age range from juniors to over-60 racers.

Elite participation was down on 2016 due to a date clash with the Newcastle Port to Port stage race, but Michael England improved on his third place from last year to take the win in the men’s field in 4:50, while local Leela Hancox won the women’s race in 6:08.

RATS Cycling Club Events

The development of the Blast parallels other efforts by the RATS Cycling Club to foster women’s mountain biking in particular. The Chicks in the Sticks start wave in the Saturday race carries the same name as a women’s-only race run by the Rats at Karingal Scout Camp, a short distance from Bayview, and separate women’s racing is also available as part of the annual Summer Sprints series at Underwood Park.

Council and community support are also contributing to the development of an expanded trail network that is ultimately expected to link Bayview with trails at Karingal, West Mount Cotton, Cornubia and central riding opportunities at Daisy Hill and Underwood.

The future for mountain biking in Brisbane is certainly bright!

All results from 2017 Bayview Blast event categories can be found here.

Bayview Blast 2017

On the weekend, I participated in Brisbane’s Bayview Blast MTB Event.

This event is held by the RATS Cycling Club in conjunction with other partners.

I signed up for the social ride ‘Havablast 25 kms Women’s Chicks in the Sticks’ event to help populate and support the category.

Here is Zoe helping me ‘pack’ on the morning of my Bayview Blast ride – she never misses an opportunity to go for a ride!!

Bayview Blast 2017

 

This event is held over two days and the order of event looks like this:

Bayview Blast 2017
Source: Bayview Blast 2017

Bayview Blast 2017

Sat Race briefing

The Bayview Blast MTB 2017 Event

It was a stunning, sunny Brisbane day.

I had two mates and Zoe (who all came as supporters for the day) with me and we had time to set up a lovely picnic camp in the bush near the race start and get organised before race briefing. The junior events were still being held. I was on my singlespeed and had decorated it with flowers.

How was the ride?

For this event, I was resolute to keep my ‘ride not race’ perspective. For periods of time, I made sure I did this by forcing myself to ride behind a fellow rider, and not pushing to overtake for 10 minutes, but just to be content to sit on the speed set by the rider in front and go at their pace. It was an interesting exercise to deliberately ‘slow down’ – and one I admit was not all that easy to do, but I was glad I did it and I think it was a very valuable exercise to undertake nonetheless.

It was great to be back on a bike after a couple of months off. I was certainly not race fit, but really enjoyed the physicality of riding, riding a course I wasn’t familiar with and testing my mental training on the challenging hill climbs and long slogs. I didn’t see any other singlespeeds on the day and it was an interesting experience having to charge up sections to keep onto of my one and only gear, while those I was passing looked on at me often very incredulously as if I was making a deliberate personal point on the uphills!

Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, my approach for the ride was to do what I needed to do to get up sections, knowing that I would be gasping for air (like everyone else at the top – so my approach was to keep pedaling while going up and over (not just to the top) and to use the down sections where I was technically more confident as my ‘recovery’ period. Given my lack of fitness, this approach served me well on the day as I finished in a respectable time, did not blow my muscles out and felt surprisingly perky despite the hard work.

Bayview Blast 2017

Me giving the XCers a little bit of scare – GOLD!!

Post-ride?

An added bonus was that, on crossing the finishing line, I was accosted by the race MC who was calling the day and was quickly interviewed and awarded the ‘best decorated’ bike for the day. This little accolade landed me a free hour-ling massage voucher – Hazah!!

After that little interlude, I returned back to our picnic location to regroup and recharge the batteries. Later on, I was invited back to explain more about my PhD and this blog over the race megaphone for an impromptu interview, which went very well and saw me chatting with a few friendly female riders soon after. A very productive and satisfying day overall!!

Bayview Blast 2017

Our picnic spot trackside – Zoe & Sara holding the fort.

I’m glad I went and supported the Saturday event and helped fill up the Women’s category. The more ‘serious’ riders were registered for Sunday and I managed to talk one of the 100km Marathon competitors to write a blog post about that day – so stay tuned!

I think the organisers did a great job putting on the event, it must have involved some serious organisation and planning and I super appreciate the effort that was put in and the commitment of the volunteers. It is certainly no mean feat to stage such an event, which is why I wanted to support the local MTB club by participating.

Below is a Course Preview (video 2’55’).

Cairns 2017 UCI World Champs Working Bee

Hooray!! UCI World Cup starts this weekend!

I love the UCI World Cup events – in particular, the DH. It is my favourite annual race.

Much to the delight of Southern Hemisphere riders, Cairns has been included on the DH and XC schedule for the last couple of years.

For me, that has meant an annual pilgrimage to Cairns for the big event.

This year the World Champs round will be in Cairns, which means local tracks need prepping early.

So this post is a review of the last two UCI World Cup events – and an invitation to join the Cairns 2017 UCI World Champs Working Bee Team!

Great memories of the last 2 Cairns UCI World Cup Events

Last year I went to the Cairns UCI World Cup with mates and it was an all social affair.

Last year I posted about what a great event the 2016 event was and what blast it was catching up with old friends, making new ones and soaking up the World Cup vibes – here’s a few mates I managed to catch up with…

 

UCI DH World Cup

Above: Me and Ratboy (Josh Bryceland) – Peatty’s Team Mate/Mentee and British DH Champ and World Cup Racer. He has been on the UCI World Cup podium 9 times. He is also well known for his mad riding and hard partying ways. It was great I got to catch up with Josh last year as it ended up being his last year racing the Pro circuit and he retired soon after this photo was taken.

 

 

UCI DH World Cup

Above:  Me and Julien Absalon – the most winningest (and considered the best) Elite Men’s Cross Country (MTB) rider in the world …ever!! Too many accolades to list here…Woohoo!!

 

UCI DH World Cup

Above: Me and Troy Brosnan. Brosnan was Junior DH World Champ for 2010 and 2011. He won the overall junior world cup in 2010 & 2011 and Aussie DH Champion in 2011 & Oceania Junior Continental Champion 2011. In 2012 he went Elite, with a third overall in the DH World Cup (2014) and won the Fort William third round. He also won the DH World Champs bronze in 2014 and third overall for the 2015 and 2016 DH World Cup series. He is Australian National DH Champ for 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016 (*Phew!*).

 

Last year’s UCI World Cup in Cairns

For me, last year was a total contrast to 2015. I worked the 2015 Cairns event, which was epic given that it rained non-stop a week prior to race day.

This turned all the tracks into slick and slippery death-defying shoots covered in thick gluggy toothpaste!

Boy did everyone work hard that round!!! Ahhhh the memories!!!

UCI DH World Cup

(See Instagram @Bicycles_Create_Change for more past UCI DH World Cup pics).

Remember Cairns UCI World Cup 2015- aka ‘Rumble in the Puddles’?

If you need to refresh your memory of how epic the 2015 UCI DH Cairns round was – check out this 2’32” Badass mashup video…

…and yes…that is me in the opening sequence!!

 

But this year will be a little different. I’ll be watching remotely as I won’t be making the trek to Cairns this year for the big event (*sniff*).

2017 UCI MTB World Cup Calendar

Redbull’s Official MTB website has the follow details outlined for the current 2017 UCI World Cup Calendar schedule:

There are six rounds each for XCO and DH – and the World Cup 2017 is starting this weekend – woohoo!!

The World Championship heads to Australia and Cairns at the end of the World Cup season with a full program of XCO, XCE and DH racing on show.

I can’t wait!!!

The UCI is expected to confirm the calendar in late June and the dates will be subject to change until then so don’t go booking trips to the events until then! Scroll down for all the downhill (DHI) and cross country (XCO) rounds.

  • April 29-30: (DHI) Lourdes, France
  • May 20-21: (XCO) Nové Mesto, Czech Republic
  • May 27-28: (XCO) Albstadt, Germany
  • June 3-4: (DHI) Fort William, Scotland
  • June 10-11: (DHI) Leogang, Austria
  • July 1-2 (XCO/DHI) Vallnord, Andorra
  • July 8-9: (XCO/DHI) Lenzerheide, Switzerland
  • August 5-6: (XCO/DHI) Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada
  • August 26-27: (XCO/DHI) Val di Sole, Italy
  • September 5-10: (XCO/DHI) UCI World Championships, Cairns, Australia

Cairns MTB World Cup Working Bee Shout-out

As a member of Cairns MTB Club, I received this shout-out invitation for World Cup working bee helpers. So if you are keen to be part of the action and for anyone in the area… here are the details as sent to me FYI:

With the UCI MTB World Championships just around the corne, there is a way you can be involved now. The Cairns MTB Club has been asked to construct a new spectator/media trail in the “Vines” section of the Downhill track. We have been offered an incentive to get it done ASAP and we want to pass some of that incentive on to the people that help build the trail.
We need are people to help out on regular Saturday/Sunday morning working bees from 7:30am-10:30 am, for about six – eight weeks beginning on the 10th of June.
We do have a budget to meet so the quicker we can get it done, the less we spend on it, giving the club more funds to put back into trail maintenance and development. The job is to create a 1.5m wide riding/walking trail in “Vines” area running alongside the downhill track. There will be a lot of shovel and mattock digging involved.

The Reward

For every working bee (3 hours long) you can attend and do productive work you will receive a gift voucher to use at the bike shop of your choice.
 You can put it towards that new something you have wanted or you can donate the money back to the club to help fund the Black snake rebuild and extension. The Gift Vouchers will be handed out at the end, once the work is completed and has been approved by National Parks. All workers will need to “sign in” with their details at each working bee so we can keep accurate records of attendance and hours worked.
If this is something you are interested in getting involved with, please email Club President Craig at President@cairnsmtb.com with your expression of interest.

Reminder

The first Working Bee will be held on Sunday 10th of June and then every Saturday and Sunday morning until the job is done.

EWS 2017 Starts today

The Enduro World Series kicks off today in Rotorua NZ – Horray

This is going to be a great year for Enduro racing and it is awesome to see the first two rounds in the Antipodes – and with heaps of support, media and events going on there is something for everyone.

Here is where the series will be taking us this year –

EWS 2017
Source: EWS

I’m stoked the first round is in Rotorua. It was raining pretty hard for a while, so now the tracks are pretty muddy and slippery – a real physical challenge!

Great to see the full 7 rounds being held at Redwoods – much better than last times liaise over the other side – much better management and track link-up.

Nice to see the new (old) illegal track (now legal) as well as Dodds, and some of Whakarewarewa Forest’s best double black diamond runs being showcased for the event (see map and track overview at the end of this post).

Rotorua is the place to ride

Just 2 months ago I was in Rotorua riding exactly the same trails – it was our second year riding in Rotorua and I have posted previously about how impressed I am with the government, local business and community support that Rotorua has for mountain biking. The local community has some great authentic family-based initiatives, like the Dad’s n Lads project to get more Rotorua locals on bikes as well – so the push for more biking is not just for out-of towners.The infrastructure, encouragement and forward-thinking that Rotorua has for bike-based tourism is brilliant – they are most certainly leading the way.  And rightly so. Securing some big ticket international MTB  festivals such as Crankworx, this EWS round and the  Rotorua Bike Festival sends a very clear message that NZ is a principal mountain biking destination.

Round 1 is anyone’s game

It will be interesting to see what happens for this round – and for the season. Personally, I’m hoping Sam Hill is in superman form and give Riche Rude, Damien Oton and Jerome Clementz a serious run for their money. I’m also hoping that NZ local boys Wyn & Eddie Masters and Matt Walker strut their stuff and show ’em how to ride NZ style on home turf – it would be awesome to see Kiwis on the podium. In the Elite Women’s, Cecil Ravanel, Isabeau Courdurier and Anita Gehrig are set to battle it out with the rest of the field. What a top line-up. If practice was anything to go by many agree it is going to be a very exciting round!

So strap yourself in for a great EWS series full of some awesome racing this season – let’s get it on!!

Source: Pinkbike. Follow Fabien Cousinié down the 7 stages.

EWS 2017 Starts today
Source: EWS

Source: EWS

Wyn Masters and Muffin take on Tassie Tracks

Ryan de La Rue – The Coming of a Champion

I was delighted to see that yesterday Pinkbike featured the below video of Ryan De La Rue (aka Muffin) and Wyn Masters on their main page video feed.

I know Ryan from back in the day racing Gravity Enduro in Victoria and have seen him around since at events like the Cairns World Cup. He was often away working for World Trails, but whenever we catch up, I’m always struck by his calm and relaxed personality and have thoroughly enjoyed his company.

I am spoilt by having exceptionally top quality men to socialise and race with – and Ryan is firmly in that group. He is honest, smart and genuine. I really appreciate that he doesn’t get sucked into the trash talk or ego/bike driven comparisons that many riders can get swept up into at race meets. This is all aside from the fact that he is wicked nimble on a bike and regularly has the Elite Men’s field crapping their pants.

So I could not be more pleased that he is getting more exposure and acknowledgement that he so rightly deserves. To me, Ryan has always been a champion rider. I’ve always appreciated that Ryan is accepting of all types of people and his ability to hold a meaningful and interesting conversation that is not about bikes for longer than 10 minutes – a rare skill at a mountain biking event indeed! I like how he is always himself and is just well…normal!

As an older female rider, I am very grateful for the presence of such strong and reliable men – not just at bikes races, but also within the wider community. In such a male-dominated sport, these men are wonderful advocates for the sport. Thier participation is invaluable as positive role models for other/younger riders and as ambassadors for inclusionary, quality, fun and skilled riding for all.

You know those guys…

Many of us who have been around the Downhill and MTB racing scene for a while have seen the various ways that all manner of men navigate their way into and around the racing circuit.  You are probably familiar with the full range of shit-hot rider characteristics being displayed at various times; bravardo, cocky, arrogant, composed, competitive, conviction, serene, smug and over confident.

I understand race-day jitters and the need to stay focused, but after the event is over – that is when the authentic champions really shine. I’m talking about the riders who go the extra mile like make an effort to chat to new people, stick around to cheer other riders on, takes the time to thank organisers and volunteers. These are the few classy riders who can think outside of themselves and who positively contribute to events and the biking community instead of just taking. In my eyes, these are the real champions.

What makes a true ‘champion rider’?

I agree that riders need a certain element of self-belief in order to ride hard and at their limit – so there is certainly a place for thinking positive and being assertive about your riding. However, there is a definite line between being confident on the bike, and being a wanker about being confident on the bike or just being a wanker who can ride a bike. As I have written about elsewhere, I maintain that the substance of a rider off the bike is just as important (if not more) as his ability to ride fast.

Thankfully, there are riders like Muffin and a handful of others like Jared Graves, Dan McMunn, Troy Brosnan, Kaine Cannon and Chris Pannozo who are truly ‘champion riders’ as they consistently prove through their words and deeds, that they are men of substance – as well as being bloody quick and stylish on a bike.

Best of luck Ryan!

So, for these reasons and more, I am thrilled to see Ryan gaining more national and international exposure for all the time, hard work and passion that he puts into his trial building work and his riding.

If you have the good fortune of meeting or riding with Ryan – have a chat with him and see if I’m at all mistaken …. that’s if you can catch him! I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

I expect we will be hearing a lot more about Ryan’s successful exploits in the near future.

Best of luck Ryan! Rip their legs off mate!

Follow Muffin on his adventures

Instagram: @rdlr

Facebook: Ryan De La Rue

See more of Muffin’s video adventures on and off the bike here.

Round 1: Garapine – 2017 Shimano Enduro Series

Well, after two weeks in Melbourne, it’s back to Brisbane and back on the bike. This weekend was Round 1 of the 2017 Shimano Enduro Series. It was at Garapine and although tired and not ride fit, I wanted to make the effort to support the event, my team and get back on the big bike.

Round 1: Garapine – 2017 Shimano Enduro Series

Despite a heavy commitment to uni for teaching and researching, I’ve committed to riding this series. I like the regularity of rounds and I look forward to them, even though I find the riding tough and I am not competitive as a racer, I derive great personal satisfaction as a rider and from challenging myself. Suffice to say, I can now more fully appreciate why there are not may academics my age riding Enduro!

See some more pictures from the day @bicycles_create_change or at the Instagram icon at the end of the post.

Changing from Masters to Elite – why?

It was a great day and I love riding the Garapine trails. This season is a little different from last year as I am registered in Elite and not Masters. As I am riding as an ambassador, I pose threat to the lead female riders and prefer to ride where there is more company – hence the change over from Masters. It is such a pity there are not enough older women Enduro riding to fill out all the divisions like Masters Female – where are you all, my fellow elder sisters?  I am more than happy to participate and make up extra numbers. In my view, there can be no genuine winners unless riders like me make up the rest of field – so I am providing a very valuable race day community service by filling out this division.

 

How was the day?

Registration was at 8, briefing at 9 and racing commencing at 10 am.  I presume the logic of the late race start is because Garapine is just under 2 hours from Brisbane and starting later will allow for as many riders to attend as to travel up and attend as possible. But equally, it also meant that we had 3.5 hours to complete 6 tracks within the time limit –  2 x Black Snake, 2 x King Brown, 1 x Blue and 1 x Dumb it Down.

Ordinarily, this was not a major issue, but on this particular day,  it meant riding in the heat of a very hot day. This was definitely a contributing factor for me as I’m still adjusting to Brisbane’s humidity and scorching summer heat, let alone riding bikes up and down in a full-face helmet and pads. But that is part of the beauty of race days – and the challenge – everyone else had to deal with the same conditions.

 

What was my approach?

Taking into account the heat, my physical tiredness and that this was the first time I had been back on my big bike ‘Trucka-sore-arse’, in nearly two months I decided that my approach for this round was to:

  1. Enjoy myself
  2. Ride at my own pace
  3. Use this as an opportunity to assess my hydration/food/exertion formula for effectiveness
  4. Focus on honing my psychological approach to riding this race and not pushing my physical skills to the max (ie. keep positive, monitor negative self-talk, maintain humour and sociability in the face of heat/tiredness, check to see what limiting thoughts come up and address them).

Track selection

It was a self- seeding, self-selecting round, meaning that as soon as a rider had started on their first track they then could choose in what order and when they wanted to complete the course.  I didn’t go crazy on the timed downhill stages, in fact, I was very reserved, just testing the waters. I rode two Black Snakes first. It is such a great track and I super enjoyed it, so my confidence was up. By the end of the third track I could feel my lack of fitness and the heat starting to take it toll – but I was mindful to keep any debilitating thoughts in check. I keep drinking water and eating and made an effort to keep moving. By my last trail I was thoroughly pooped. I left Dumb it Down til last, but the track was so blown out and chopped up that it was difficult to navigate and make any real headway, so I picked my way through, just happy to finish in time.

Also, I was conscious that I didn’t want to hold up the elite field who were ‘racing’ – it was an EWS qualifying round after all. I was happy to pull over on track and let others pass where, even though it slowed me down and in some cases, I stopped and got right off track for a few guys who were really careering on course. It was the right thing to do and getting my momentum back up was secondary to being safe, having fun and not over cooking myself. After all, it was a long, hot day and I still had to drive 2 hours home after the race.

How did other riders go?

The Defcon crew were amazingly supportive as usual. We had some good laughs, caught up on post-new year developments and generally had a blast. I had a few good chats with some other riders as we liaised back up the hills and I was happy that I looked after myself and was not suffering like other riders were. Taking the approach of focusing on my mental state paid dividends. I was able to genuinely remain positive and friendly throughout the day. I was in a much better frame of mind than quite a few other riders I saw suffering and complaining – and a few were really quite sick from heatstroke/dehydration. It stopped to help where I could offering water and food.

I have always been fascinated by how different people face the inherent difficulties of a physical challenge. I often wonder, given the immense and immediate benefits, why some athletes don’t train their minds and much as they do their bodies. It certainly helped me get through the day better.

Overall

I was very happy with my effort on the day. It was a great set up and I got to ride some of my favourite tracks. It had a great turn out with 300 riders. Some of the elite riders were really going for it on the day – as you can see from the results. I was able to catch up with a few mates I haven’t seen in ages – and it was great to see some other familiar faces as well. As an Australia EWS qualifier, I was half expecting to see Jared Graves and Richie Rude, but alas my plans to catch up with them were not to be. I can’t believe it has been nearly 2 years since I last chatted with them during the 2015 EWS season – boy how time flies!

Overall, I found the day to be quite physically draining, but that made it all the more satisfying. I’ll be buggered if I’m going to waste the opportunity to ride my bike with mates and have fun.

I’m looking forward to the next round!!

A massive thanks to Lachlan Ryan (and Co.) from Element for providing some great photos and this video on the day. It was awesome to see such a great variety of rider, divisions, ages, genders and skill levels being represented – kudos!

Yep- that’s yours truly yahooing in the video at 1’18”!

Defcon Team
Source: Element. The Defcon Team – me (4th from left) with my awesome teammates

Boys Backyard MTB Track

This post is an interview I had with Xavier and Will, two young friends who live in a Victorian country town about 1.5 hours out of Melbourne. I have been staying with family and happened to spot these two industrious lads out in a yard with shovels ablaze and bikes strewn close by, so I went to see what they were working on. We got chatting and I was impressed with their initiative and thoughtfulness in constructing their own backyard MTB track given their limited resources. The following interview details what we discussed. Thanks to the parents of both boys for permission to publish this story.

Two young friends make their own backyard MTB track

 

How long have you been living in this town?

Seven years ago Xavier moved here from another town. He was already riding up there and had started riding a motorbike when her was two or three. Will was given a pushbike when he was three and still has the same bike and has been riding ever since. We like riding in the street and testing out our new bikes.

How long have you two been friends for?   

Since grade one – which was in 2013. So we have been friends four years.

Boys Backyard MTB Track

Why did you make the mountain bike track?

We did have a few bike tracks but they all got washed away in the floods. So we decided to make our own just for us. We also made it for guests to have fun – and because it is in the backyard and not near the river like the other few before, this one won’t get washed away.

We just used all scraps from here and there are got some shovels and just got started.

How many bike tracks have you made?

We decided to have one main one before we had this area, it went all around the garden.  We did it just to do big holes in the ground and do rallies down and jumps on. Now we’re not really like jumping, we’re doing more skills and obstacle stuff which is more advanced.

Do any adults help you make the tracks? No, only our neighbour does (kid the same age).

Do any other kids ride your tracks or help? Not without our permission, since it is on our property.

How did you decide on the design of the track?

Designing the track meant that we got the ideas from our heads and talked about it.  Then we started playing with ideas and decided what were the good ideas and put those into the track. Then we had something there with the things we wanted and we just keep going. We also used our prior knowledge from magazines and we have experience scootering (riding scooters). We also got some ideas from skate parks. Then we just made it!

How long did it take you to make it?

Well before we were both here we worked a little bit on the track, but we were just mucking around. The next time we really got started. The track has moved a few times, but now it is in Will’s backyard so we don’t have to move it again and we can work on it anytime we want to. When we started, it probably took us two hours to get the main loop in, but we still work on it and change it – like today we spent an hour fixing up the rock garden and making a log bridge. We still haven’t finished and there is still a bit more to come.

The track started happening really when there was the start of a berm and we wanted to have a rough time (make it rougher). So we started using wood pallets then we have some whoops to work the bike’s suspension and then included starting points and finishing points.

What are the skills you wanted to practice? Why did you put those obstacles in? What is that you will achieve? We want to practice our balance, remembering all our manoeuvres and just have fun. We are going to need to practice in case we need these skills for when we go riding on the volcanos nearby. There are a few tracks around the mountains here and they go over and around the volcanos in this area, so you need to be prepared to ride volcanoes with these kinds of skills.

 Why do you like riding bikes? Well to keep fit and generally keep your heart rate up and for just having fun. It can be useful from time to time – say someone needs to get to a bus station or from the train station to another train station. Or just around town. We actually use the bikes quite a bit. Then there are the days we can always go bike riding. Mt Tarrengower has got a really cool bike track. We also do trips down to the shops, so maybe mum needs some milk. So I ride down to the IGA and buy the milk and return it to her.

Here are some key parts of the track

Boys Backyard MTB Track

 

Boys Backyard MTB Track

Sand on LHS is being developed into a berm – lead into the rock garden

 

Boys Backyard MTB Track

The rock garden

 

I love this story. I find it very heartening that young boys are self-initialising such a productive, healthy and creative venture – as adults I think we need to encourage such activities. I love that the families of both boys were super supportive and encouraging of their ventures as well – what great role models for others. This skills track is not only a great way to develop bike skills, keep fit and cement a friendship, but it is also a brilliant example of two young mates working cooperatively to build something original and solely suited to their own needs. I love that materials, know-how and fun were just applied without any limiting self-doubt – and the results more so enjoyed as a result. The origin of having their own ideas melding it with their experience at scooter/skate parks and ideas from magazines demonstrates how trusting and confident they both are – of themselves and each other.

The resilience, creativity and practical application of putting this track together, which may seem basic to some, is a fantastic example of perseverance, following through with an idea and trusting yourself (and/or a mate) to work on a project together and see it through. I like how these boys demonstrate the willingness to put the work into a project –  and to just make it happen.

Now that they have the main part of the track established, Will and Xavier will be able to develop and modify it to suit their skills and interests as they develop. I see this track as a great accomplishment. I don’t know many adults that are this industrious, proactive and collaborative in progressing their friendship and love of bikes. A valuable and quietly inspirational lesson for us all. 

Best of luck to the friendship of Will and Xavier – and for their future track building and bike riding adventures!

Indigenous Mountain Bike Project

While travelling the Northern New South Wales coast this week, I had a chance to catch up with some indigenous mates. We got chatting about bike riding. Lots of the local kids on the missions use bikes to get around, meet up with friends, go fishing or hang out at the local skate parks. BMX is pretty popular and I also saw some mountain bikes getting around. After our chat, it got me thinking. I decided to find out if there were any programs specifically supporting local NSW indigenous cyclists. The most prominent program that popped up was the Indigenous Mountain Bike Project (IMTBP) and it also piqued my interest for other reasons, like program viability.

National Indigenous Centre for Excellence (NCIE)

This is a NSW specific biking program. This was one of the many LIFE (Lifestyle Innovations For Everyone) programs run by the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence (NCIE). The actual centre is based in Redfern, Sydney, but the actual MTB program had services and trips spread out all over the state. The central NCIE focus is to provide services, training and opportunity to increase health, life skills and talent for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. NCIE has an array of educational, arts and culture, a conference centre, sporting, recreation, social, health and wellness services that develop skills, enterprises, occupational and technical opportunities and the like – all aimed at improving the learning, development and positive lifestyles for its members.

The Indigenous Mountain Bike Project was one of the services the NCIE offered and it was created to get more indigenous people riding bikes. It was launched January 2012 and the main driving force, legs and faces of this project was Sean Appoo and Ben Bowen.

Indigenous Mountain Bike Project (IMTBP) – Background

The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet states the program as being:

“The Indigenous Mountain Bike Project is run by the Lifestyle Innovations For Everyone (LIFE) team at the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence in New South Wales. The aim of the project is to promote bike riding as a form of physical activity to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of all ages and health levels. The IMTBP has a fleet of 19 bikes for use by staff and program participants.  The program offers:

  • regular bike trips for groups of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people around Sydney
  • entry into local and regional mountain bike competitions
  • workshops on bike maintenance and safe cycling skills.”

Some key details about the Indigenous Mountain Bike Project.

  • This project ran From Jan 2012 until June 2015, whereupon it looks like the project was stopped. During those three years, the project held many social and skills rides, supported and attended events, had a good social media presence on Facebook and built up a community of active and enthusiastic cyclists.
  • Of the 19 bikes used, 3 are hybrid bikes and the other 16 are mountain bikes.
  • The fleet was not just used for training and maintained programs for new beginner riders, but were also used in local and regional MTB competitions, races and events.
  • The program was operational and participated in the Inaugural Koori MTB Cup in 2014.
  • The project had a team of representative riders who raced events such as the JETBLACK 24Hr, Koori MTB Cup and the Huski 100.
  • When the bikes are not being used for programs, events, trips or for local and regional MTB competitions, the NCIE staff use them to ride to and from meetings during work hours.
  • Other local inner city rides and meet ups were an adjunct feature of this program getting more people on bikes – local businesses, commuters and weekend rider forums popped up with riders sharing trip reports, ride details, invites for meet ups and technical knowledge.
  • The program received quite a bit of publicity and was feature in an SBS featurette in June 2015 (see below).

The IMTB Project Facebook site

Although no longer actively used since May 2015, the IMTBP Facebook site is still a testament to the range of biking services, popularity and community that this project built. There are numerous videos event posters and invites, people posting their trails via mapmyrides and sharing details for upcoming rides and active discussion forum for all levels of fitness, ages and cycling types.

There are a series of videos detailing the IMTBP team and adventures on MTB trials and during the JETBLACK 24 hr race at the LIFE TV YouTube channel, which show skills sessions, training, the IMTBP team riding in various events and it also has a few IMTBP rider profiles which are good to see. It also demonstrates the time and effort that many different people put into this project.

So what happened?

On the face value, it seems like the Indigenous Mountain Bike Project was a ‘success’. But what does that mean and how do you measure it? What were the outcomes of this project? It seems to have got a good following, achieved its goals of getting more indigenous people riding and created a thriving community that had a good presence – so what happened to this program? Did funding run out? Did attendance wane? Was there no one to hand over to?

The only indication given was this post on Facebook group on June 2015.

IMTB PRoject
Source: IMTBP Facebook page

But this post gives few details about the status of the IMTBP (but certainly showcases the massive effort and impact Sean and Ben had during their time there).  Even though Sean and Ben are ‘wrapping up’,  it is unclear if that means the IMTB project finished as well. If it did, then why?

I called the National Indigenous Centre for Excellence LIFE Team’s 1300 866 176 phone number as provided online. I wanted to find out what happened to this project. But the number was disconnected. I tried the NCIE landline (02) 9046 7802 and had to leave a voice mail message. So I still don’t know what happened. Seems strange…

Why do some of the best projects fail to continue?

It can be incredibly frustrating and unfortunate that community programs such as this one can be planned, funded and implemented, yet are not sustainable to endure and provide such a valuable service. These kinds of scenarios occur all the time in the community/international development sphere. Whether it is a community group or multilateral international aid organisation, sustainability and how/why projects finish is a massive industry issue.

In my field of International development – one organisation decided to meet this issue head on. I will never forget seeing the 2008 Engineers without Borders Failure Report and watching David Damberger talk about what happens when an NGO admits failure – and hearing of project insights that were learnt, yet rarely acknowledged or shared.

I am by no means suggesting that the IMTBP was a mistake or ‘failure’, merely making the observation sad that such a positive biking program that obviously had community popularity and traction was not able to continue operating – which begs the questions – why not?

I thought back to my chat about bikes with my indigenous mates earlier this week. I wondered if the program was still operating would there be even more Koori riders? With such a strong community following and uptake, why was this initiative not picked up by local/national councils? Are we short changing the next Indigenous Anna Meares or Cadel Evans? What a great biking and community initiative – and what a pity it has not prevailed!