Monday, August 29, 2011

Road Trips on the Horizon - how geology makes the mountain bike experience

You have got to love a good road trip. You pack the car up to the brim with bikes, gear, food, tools, spares and head off to a new location to ride the bike. As a mountain biker, heading to a new location to ride is an awesome experience. You are pretty much taking your existing skillset honed from hours of practise on your local trails and seeing what you can do at a new location.
There are so many things that change from your standard riding locations. Different geology types produce different types of dirt (and/or rocks) which requires slightly different riding styles or even different tyres to be able to cope.There are also differing vegetation, logs, drainage components and other unique peculiarities that throw up a new challenge and stimulate the senses.
You have a pretty good handle of the riding conditions of your usual trails. For me it is the sedimentary dirt of majura, the volcanics of ainslie, bruce and stromlo that have shaped the way that I ride. The sedimentary dirt of majura is fast and nicely hardpack. You can rail corners, you don't need brand new tyres, and you can go super fast. The volcanics of Stromlo, Bruce Ridge and other areas around the ACT are super sketchy when dry, often have lots of rock, and are a real handful to ride fast. In order to get the most out of the ride, you need good quality rubber that allows for copious amounts of grip (or mad skills).
Back in 1993 I raced a national Round in Perth. The conditions on the ground were insane. They had this pea gravel that was impossible to ride when you weren't used to it. It was the sketchiest stuff I have ever seen. The rally car drivers have the same issues over there, so it is good to know that when you are trying to roll rubber over it, it causes some angst!
A unique challenge that I have faced for the last 5 years is the terrain in Adelaide at Eagle on the hill. Based in the Adelaide hills, this park has been carved out of an old quarry. They usually build quarries to do a couple of things, which includes getting rock! Eagle on the Hill is sketchy. You arrive after flying down, and try and ride the trails after being off the bike for a day or so, and you feel out of sorts. There is also a fair bit of rock on this course. At the end of the weekend, you have to get new tyres. They are just shredded, often with the knobs hanging off the tyre or just missing. I still love racing here though as it requires really good dirt skills to ride it fast.
The You Yangs in Victoria are based around a nice granitic mountain of sorts that pops out of the horizon outside of Geelong. You ride a fair bit of the course here on the rock. The resultant weathering over time has also produced sketchy terrain that requries you to pay attention at all times. I raced here a couple of years ago at a National Series. The practice day was awesome, in the dry, wicked trails to benefit a skilled rider. Come race day, the rain came barrelling in and turned the place to muck. There was still pretty good grip, but the energy sapping phenomen that water does to a trail became more apparent.
This weekend I am racing at Parkes in central NSW. The Back Yamma volcanics have weathered down nicely across the plain to produce some sandy trails that also have small semi-rocky outcrops to reward a skilled rider. The grip is pretty good, but the speed that you are doing the race at can cause some really hairy moments. The motocross bikes have also contributed to the excitment generated here, with false berms made of sand in a lot of the corners! So many tripod moments.
The main thing I am looking forward to this weekend is a DRY race!!! The last few I have done have been muddy. It's not that bad, but a wet muddy race equalizes a field, promoting strength to push against the soggy ground over skills to ride fast over loose material. The other good thing about the Back Yamm Bigfoot course, is that it is FASSSTTTT! Sub 4 hours for a 100km course. Road race type tactics, lots of logs over the tracks. It is truly a unique race that's for sure.
The attached photos are from the Back Yamma event last year. I loved the atmosphere of this event. Such a chilled event headquarters, kick ass course and good day on the bike. Just a matter of fine tuning a few things this week in my training, doing a course recce on Saturday and then lining up on the Sunday. Let's bring it! There are a really good number of fast dudes coming up from Canberra for this race. With any luck it will be just as fast as last year!

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