Archive for the ‘MTB’ category

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We live in such a wonderful part of the world. Only 15km from the CBD, we enter an uninhabited bushland with so few signs to remind us that we are still in close proximity to civilisation. Mountain biking is such a great way to explore these bushland as one can cover much greater distances than on foot, and leave far less footprints than trail motorbikes and 4WDs.

So yesterday the three of us (Ian M, Terry B, and myself) took our mountain bikes to explore the SE area of D’Aguilar National Park. Earlier, I have plotted a route forming a circuit that covers all the places we were interested in riding, namely the Ferny Grove Rail Trail, Goat Track, and South Boundary Rd. These are all spectacular trails to ride (from my own experience and others who have ridden them) and to do it all on the same ride means triple the enjoyment! The trails are all unpaved so an MTB would be ideal although I’ve been told that this is also cyclo-cross territory.

All drove and met at the Ferny Grove station carpark which was our nominated start point. We kicked off at exactly 7am. We were all excited and fully pumped for the ride! Nevermind that we have the widest range of mountain biking experience, from Ian’s many years of off-road riding and multi-day adventures to Terry’s first day on the MTB. I’m somewhere in between, only started MTB riding about 2 years ago. I’ve learnt that for these kind of rides, road riding fitness can usually make up for the lack of mountain biking skills.

The first 3km was all bitumen road riding. We arrived at the start of the Ferny Grove Rail Trail only to find that the trail was closed! Orange fences stretches across the trail but since there weren’t any workers around, we decided to sneak thru. Apparently work has begun on paving this rail trail. We saw someone walking their dog on this trail so we are not the only criminals here. The 1.5 km rail trail was short but sweet. The idea of converting disused train tracks into riding and walking trails is absolutely brilliant and should really be heavily promoted everywhere around the world.

Ferny Grove Rail Trail (soon to be entirely paved)

The end of the rail trail brought us back onto quiet roads with a view of green pastures and horses left and right. The roads here are sharply undulating but is nothing compared to what we would later encounter on the dirt tracks. We entered another section of dirt track just before Mt Glorious Rd, a bit rougher this time. Terry took a fall in this section as he was getting back on the saddle after stopping. He is now partially covered in mud and blood but assured us that he is fine. Getting a battle scar so early in the ride must be frustrating.

We rode on the shoulder of Mt Glorious Rd for 3.5 km until the turn off to the start of Goat Track. Spotted a number of horse riders on an adjacent trail and a few roadies in the opposite direction, presumably on their way down from Mt Nebo / Mt Glorious. We stopped for a photo opportunity beneath the Goat Track sign before the 320m climb up to Mt Nebo. This was my third climb on Goat Track and I found myself enjoying it more with each climb. Doing it on the MTB felt a lot more solid than on my high racer recumbent fitted with 28mm tyres. We stopped several times on the Goat Track for photos. Somewhere along this track we begin hearing the songs of the bellbirds. Strong overcast meant that we get to ride in a very comfortable 21ºC, despite the temperature soaring above 30ºC the day before. Very lovely riding conditions.

The historic Goat Track went thru a major reconstruction after the 2011 flood

Start of the unpaved (one-way) section of Goat Track

An awesome view neutralises any climbing pain!

View from the Goat Track

Persistent climber Ian

The ascent didn’t stop at the top of Goat Track, so we continued climbing on Mt Nebo Rd and headed straight to the cafe. Climbing was slow but pleasant as we get to look back down on the Goat Track to the left as we inch our way up Mt Nebo. We arrived at the cafe and each ordered some eggs on toast with coffee. At the cafe, we met two other mountain bikers that just came up via South Boundary Rd and went on down to Lake Manchester after breakfast. Not sure where they’d go after that, but it sounded like an all-day ride given the distance they needed to cover.

It was nice and cool at 549m above sea level

With a satisfied tummy, we proceeded with our 1.5 km descent on Mt Nebo Rd and arrived at the start of South Boundary Rd. When I say descent, I actually meant ascent, 60m climb to be precise. On this part of town ascents and descents are mostly short lived, making it hard to tell if we were actually gaining or losing in elevation. Before entering the trail, we lowered our tyre pressure a bit for an increased traction on the loose gravels. Earlier at the cafe we checked the radar on Ian’s phone (only Telstra have mobile reception I think?) and it seems like there wasn’t going to be any incoming rain soon. By the time we hit South Boundary Rd, the rain came in, radar FAIL! Not to worry though, it didn’t last very long. Around that time, we all agreed that today’s weather was fantastic, and how grateful we were that the weather was nothing like the scorching heat the day before. South Boundary Rd was fun. This was my first time doing it in this direction, and it definitely felt like there’s more downhill than uphill, but I suspect Terry might disagree! Poor Terry could no longer generate enough power to turn the cranks on the steeper climbs, as he now adopts the hike-a-bike strategy. Mind you it’s not a strategy to be frowned upon, given that hiking the bike almost matches the speed of us climbing on the bike!

Entrance to South Boundary Rd from Mt Nebo

Middle of nowhere at South Boundary Rd

Now imagine the sound of Bellbirds

We had the trail all by ourselves, no other MTBers were seen

Campsite along South Boundary Rd

We arrived at a campsite that has a comprehensive map of the area. Ian has a good knowledge of the tracks in this area, so he warned us that Centre Rd, the track that links South Boundary Rd to Mt Nebo Rd, is painful to climb. With that piece of information in mind, I wasn’t looking forward to doing it, but only later to discover that the route that I plotted doesn’t go thru Centre Rd, oh the relief! I somehow had the impression that because Centre Rd was so bad, any other alternative tracks can only be better (you can see where I’m going with this). We soon arrived at the connecting track that’ll take us to Mt Nebo Rd. It’s called the Holmans Track. The track starts with a steep descent, just barely rideable at my skills level. That’s the first sign of the horrid that was about to come. I was still being hopeful that the track would become better. I plotted this route, carefully avoiding any dangerous slopes, and selecting only routes that was frequently used with the aid of Strava heat map feature. So I trusted this route, and my riding companions trusted me. Off we descended and more descending and we soon came to this drop so steep that none of us dared to ride on it. Ian wanted to give it a go but wisely changed his mind later on. So what now? The alternative is to turn back and do the massive climb back up. I found myself in a state of disbelief that I have selected this course in my route planning. We proceeded with this crazy steep descent anyway (on our foot) as the alternative is seriously unattractive. Besides, there’s always a chance that the climb up from this on the other end wouldn’t be that steep. Wishful thinking I know but it’s in the human nature to always postpone the pain if given the option.

Second descent at Holmans Track

We began our descent and oh how incredibly stressful it was. It started pouring again which made it more miserable than it should be. When the steep section ended and becomes somewhat flat, I remember saying to myself “Phew, glad it was over, could have been worse”, and right after that, the trail led us to a cliff, my jaws dropped. We can see the bottom, and there’s a creek, far away down at the bottom. %#$@&! Well there wasn’t any other choice, we still had to get out via this trail, and at least now we know for certain the descent ends at the creek down at the bottom. Strava recorded an average -30% gradient with a maximum of -40%. I apologised to the gang for bringing them to this trail and at this point, it was clear to me that I made a mistake in the plotting. I have done the common mistake of placing points too far from each other so that the program automatically calculates the shortest route between the two points which isn’t necessarily the most cycle friendly route. Painful lesson! We carried on our miserable hike-a-bike down-the-creek and when we finally got to the bottom, the water level was already quite high. It’ll only get higher in this heavy downpour, so swiftly, we walked our bike across the creek. The deepest point reaches just above my knee. It didn’t matter that my shoes are completely soaked in water now because it’ll soon be anyway because of the rain. So what’s on the other side of the creek? It begins with a rideable incline but soon we come to a wall! Thunder was heard and lightning sighted. The trail quickly transformed into a mini waterfall of muddy water. Huffing and puffing and lots of stopping. Lots of fear too as I tried my best to maintain balance. Walking a bike has never been this difficult! With a bit of luck and massive effort, we reached the top of the wall and took an extended break. Fearing hypothermia next, Ian and Terry put on their wind stopper jackets. We were completely drenched. I said to Terry, in the hope of inducing some optimism “Well, it could be worse!” only to be responded with “Tell me how Melvyn!”.

Third and most insane descent!

No caption needed

Surely the worst is over now, and what a great relief I was right this time! The remaining climb up to Mt Nebo Rd was still steep but it was rideable. My calf muscles were sore from all the walking – even though we walked only 1 km but that took us 30 mins, so it was a nice relief using a different set of muscles pedalling. Another great relief was riding on the paved road when we got onto Mt Nebo Rd. We were finally doing some productive distance – not the miserable 2km/h at Holmans Track! Only 300m of riding on Mt Nebo Rd before we turned into Bellbird Grove where we had an awesome longish but gentle descent all the way to a sheltered picnic area at the end of the road. It was good to stay out of the rain even just for a few minutes. With about 10km to go, 3km of which on dirt, we took the opportunity to refuel while waiting for the rain to subside a bit.

We got onto the unpaved Link Rd as soon as we left the picnic shelter. Here we encountered an unexpected 1.5km long climb. We were all pretty exhausted at this point. I took it easy by stopping midway to enjoy the view and took some photos. Ian took a slow and steady approach without stopping until reaching a bend where he thought was the top but turns out there was more which resulted in a loud F word and a forced break. Terry looked like he was ready to give it all up but soldiered on hike-a-bike style and even managed to pull a smile for the camera. We were rewarded with a small view of Brisbane city skyline at the top but weren’t too excited as our desire now is simply to finish the ride. Three more short climbs followed before we got out of Link Rd for good. Interestingly, on our last unpaved climb, we went over the most upstream crossing of Kedron Creek. The creek was so small Ian didn’t even realise we’ve just crossed one.

An unexpected 1.5 km climb up Link Rd

Spotted some bee houses close to the end of Link Rd

Final unpaved road climb!

The remaining journey on the paved road must have been a breeze after what we’ve been through, right? WRONG! Two more killer road climbs were thrown at us. Another F word was heard, Terry this time. My MTB is currently on a 1×10 drivetrain, I had no choice but to adopt the roadies’ attitude of HTFU and get over it quickly and no whinging. The second climb was one of the hardest climbs I’ve done in a while. High cadence style don’t go well with the lack of lighter gears on a steep climb so I had to maintain a relatively high minimum speed thru out the climbs. Eventually all of us got over it but the gang must have thought I’m a masochist for choosing this route. Hopefully that long awesome descent that followed neutralises any negative feelings. We finally arrived back at Ferny Grove train station carpark after 6 hours 17 mins, covering 55 km, although it certainly felt longer and further than that! It was obvious on our faces that we were all feeling so grateful and relief to be back. Terry commented that this was the toughest ride he has done in a long time. Ian agreed it was tough but enjoyed the ride no less. As for me, it was hands down my toughest MTB ride. Thank you for the fantastically unexpected adventure Terry and Ian!

Strava ride profile

Tough Rider Award goes to Terry for doing this ride as his first MTB ride and perseverance despite the crash early in the ride!