Sunday, 16 November 2014

Strava ... it's in the details ...

After Kim informed me last night that I was not needed in her Point to Pinnacle support crew today (I have no idea why), I suddenly found myself with a morning free.

I'll give you a second to digest that and come to the same conclusion I did ... Ride Time!


Yep, that's my route above (it's about 50kms) and I discovered all sorts of things ...

I discovered an Archery club which got me thinking about inter-sport compatibility ... I mean a group of people shooting arrows and a guy on a bike ... there has to be some synergy there surely?

Always a concern when you;r riding towards a bunch of archers
who are shooting at targets near you.
I discoverd this dog ...


Which led to me doing this loop ...


As I tried to find the owner to tell them that their dog (which wasn't wearing any collar) was out on the tangara trail attacking cyclists, or more particularly, attacking me (I never did find the owner, so if you know this dog please let them know as I love dogs and would hate to have to report it).

I also got to ride the track between Cambridge and Belbins Road which I've been meaning to check out for a while.


I'll just say that it isn't quite as flat as the highway, but I can see the attraction.

I discovered that Lauderdale has the World's smallest BMX track ...

That little circuit is the BMX track ...
Which is great, because (if Kim doesn't read this) I'll be able to head out for a ride in the morning and come back saying "Yea I just went and pumped out 20 laps of the BMX track before breakfast ... I know, I'm awesome." ... whilst skipping the small detail that each lap would take about 10 seconds and the only real concern would be getting very dizzy.

Lauderdale BMX Track  - It's small.
But most importantly, I got to do this ...

"Rambler" as written by a four(ty) year old cyclist ...
Yes, I confess it, I really did dream up an entire 50km circuit just so I could ride through Bellerive and strava write my nickname along Clarence Street.

I am that easily pleased, especially as I think someone now owes me $5 ...

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Heemskirk Falls

When I heard about the Zeehan MTB Hub, I immediately tried to figure out what trails might be involved ... and that started with the question "If I were planning a bit of mountain biking in Tasmania, what areas might I be enticed to head over to the West Coast to ride?"


I quickly concluded that Montezuma Falls and Climies Track would have to be in the mix, and that also makes you think about the Melba Flats Tramway which would make a great connection from Montezuma's to Zeehan if that's where the hub was based.

You'd also feel pretty confident that they'd want to include the Spray Tunnel, and if you go out a bit there's the beautiful Sterling Valley Track ... but then what?

I had lots of ideas (I won't bore you with them here) but when I got to see the list of potential trails, well there were a couple of inclusions that surprised me (mainly because I hadn't heard of them), and with a weekend to spare due to the cancellation of the Tullah Challenge, and with plans to head over to the West Coast anyway, I thought I'd go and check them out.

I started with Heemskirk Falls ...


And you'll notice that the photo above is not of Heemskirk Falls, and that's for one simple reason ...

I never got there.

To be honest, I never got even close.

You see when I started looking at routes to the falls (once I'd actually found out where they are), it became obvious that no one was really sure what the "Heemskirk Falls" route might be (yes that is why I chose it first).

Even more worryingly, there seemed to be a strong line of thought amongst the locals Zeehanites that the proposed track was actually supposed to be to the Upper Heemskirk Falls (I was even sent a map to this affect) ... and so with lots of exciting potential route options, I GPS'd the trails I thought had the best chance of taking me to either of the falls and I set off to ride them ...

Blue lines are what I thought might be routes to either Heemskirk or Upper Heemskirk Falls.
The red line is a rough approximation of the abandoned water race I was supposed to follow.
Ride one was the blue loop to the South of the Heemskirk Road out towards Upper Heemskirk Falls, and I'd chosen this route because it followed the route I was provided by the local business association and I figured the locals should know best.

You can just see a small white line mid left of picture which is the Upper Heemskirk Falls
It's just to the right of the telegrah pole above a dark green hill in the mid ground
Unfortunately, there had been a slight loss of information between what the guy who had been on the route had described and what I was told, and whereas I thought the route I was following was the old abandoned Tasman Water Race (shown roughly in red in the above map) it turned out it wasn't.

I later learned back in Zeehan that the Water Race is only still shown on the 1:100000 tasmaps, and that when I got to the first junction about 2kms into the ride, I should actually have jumped off the track onto the water race, not followed the left fork towards the river where I expected to pick up the water race.

I still had a great ride, by which I mean that just before I got to the Heemskirk River, the track disappeared and I ended up carrying my bike (sometimes above my head) for about a kilometre through thick scrub and overgrown tracks, I walked through a jack jumpers nest and got stung all over my legs, I waded through two deep creeks admiring all the tracks left by snakes entering the creek (while at the same time wondering exactly where they were now) and I crashed badly when plummeting down a track and hitting what can only be described as super glue masquerading as white gravel.

I didn't get however anywhere near the Upper Heemskirk Falls, which didn't worry me too much, this was exploring and it was fun exploring ...











By the time I got back to the car I was smiling ear to ear ... but I was also bruised, scratched, bitten, sore and wet, so not wanting to give myself time to start thinking about those little negatives, I instead headed straight to the start of the longer (and more promising) track into Heemskirk Falls, threw on my backpack and took off.

Somewhat regretfully, I choose to take the same backpack as used on my previous ride, rather than my carefully prepared second pack which I had put my pack raft in just for this trip...  I was to seriously regret this about 4 kms later when I pulled up next to the Heemskirk River for the third time today and saw this ...

Heemskirk River
Yep, Heemskirk Falls was about 400 metres downstream that way, and with a packraft it would have been a perfectly pleasant adventure getting there, but without it, I just wasn't tempted.

The ride in (and I guess out), wasn't particularly scenic, was it was wonderful riding fun, at least after the first kilometre or so which was pretty much all an uphill grind.





As to my third soujourn into Heemskirk Falls from the shorter eastern route, well it looked promising if you looked at the walking track layer on TheList.tas.gov.au, but the reality on the ground was that about 2kms from the highway, it became extremely overgrown and after pushing in for a bit more, then abandoning my bike and just trying to walk in, I decided I'd been scratched and cut enough for one day and headed back to Zeehan to find food and check out the Mineral Show which was on this weekend ...

As to my thoughts on this track, well it's hard to know without getting to either of the falls, but the glimpses at the river were really nice, and I think with a bit of new track building closer to the river (also creating a loop) and maybe an extension linking it to the Mt Heemskirk track it could have potential.

As for me ... now that I know where the water race is, I'm curious enough to want to go back for a wander up it (probably without the bike).  Similarly, I'd like to walk back into the top of the Heemskirk Falls with a packraft and check it out, maybe trying to follow the stream back up to the road ...  I love it when a days adventure pushes the fog of exploration out just that little further, tempting you to go on ...

Sunday, 2 November 2014

The Specialized Fatboy (Rambler and a Fatbike ...)

I have been drooling over fatbikes for years now ...


And just before someone else says it, I understand that for many riders fatbikes are just the latest 'funny' fad for bike shops to put outside their shops to lure customers in, but for me the idea of fatbikes is liberating ... the idea of being able to ride across soft sand and snow (hey, I can dream it will snow again) or pass gently over unexplored areas ... that's my perfect world ... a world where I can wander unbounded and think that maybe I'm riding where nobody has laid down tyre prints before.

Basically, I've wanted a fatbike before most people even knew they existed ...

No, I'll go one step further and say I probably wanted a fat bike before I even knew that fat bikes existed.

So you can imagine how excited I was on Saturday when I picked up the demo Specialized Fatboy from Bike Ride Hobart for a weekend trial.

Actually, you probably can't even begin to imagine it, because you have no idea of the plans I had for this bike for the weekend:  montage time ...








Yep, we (me and my fatbike are already a "we") were going to ride the sandy trails between seven and five mile beaches, we were going to be the first mountain bike that the Meehan Monster ran from, and we were even, if time allowed, going to have a brief scoot along the old Derwent train line to see how 'fat' handles abandoned rail-lines.

So you can imagine how utterly devasted I was when, just 6kms into my first ride, I headed up into some soft sand on seven mile beach and the chain came off and wedged so tightly between the spokes and the cassette that nothing, and I mean nothing, I did would dislodge it.

This is not the fatbike picture I wanted
See that chain wedged in there ...
After 15 minutes of pushing and pulling and twisting and levering, the only thing I managed to do was entertain a passing duck that came up to say hello ...


My riding day was over before it even began and my real problem was that Kim couldn't get to me for hours, I didn't know anyone else nearby who could come and get me, and as the chain was lodged in the wheel I couldn't even push the bike back home because the wheel was locked up.

The way I saw it, my only option was to try and carry it all the way home (it was, fortunately, amazing light) and feeling rather depressed I set off down the road, bike over my shoulder, trying to do just this.

A hundred metres later, already scratched and bleeding from pedal catches, I had to concede that there was no way I was going to be able to do this for 10 more kilometres.  I needed a plan B.

Fortunately, as I was staring out over Seven Mile Beach deciding what this plan B might be, I was saved by a good Samaritan in the form of Guy from Genesis Gym who pulled over and gave me (and the fatbike) a lift home.

Guy is now officially on my hero list.

Back home, I was able to quickly remove the rear cassette (it's amazing what having the right tools can do) and release the chain, which meant that night (as we had not two, but four monsters staying with us) we all went back down to the beach and had a play on the bike ...

Kim on the fatbike
Albeit that some of the kids were less successful than others ...

Preparation ...
The launch ...
And we're moving ...
Nope, we're done.
I took the opportunity to test it on the dry sand and I was amazed at how easily and stably it turned.  It's amazing what 4.6 inch tyres can do - my normal bike would have felt like it was on marbles, if I could have ridden it there at all.

I may (I'm not saying I did) have also ridden it down the steps onto the beach, and if I did (and I'm not saying I did) I reckon I would have been amazed at how smooth and easy it was, even when hitting the soft sand at the bottom of the steps at speed.

Unfortunately (or maybe just proving it never occurred) there were no witnesses to this great feat of riding because someone has said the word "pizza" and so all four monsters and two dogs were running down the beach in the opposite direction to get fed.

Sigh.

Sunday dawned wet, windy and cold, but finally around 2pm and with only hours left with my beautiful fatbike, I knew I had to at least get it out into some real soft sand ... cue five mile beach.


If you've been down to the Seven Mile Beach Protected Area (it's a Public Reserve soon to be a golf course) then you'll understand why I think it's the perfect place to try a fat bike.  Whilst not the most scenic place in the world, it has a network of roads and multi-use trails used mainly by walkers and horse-riders that are basically just soft sand ...


I ended up spending over two hours just following my nose around the peninsula and out to Sandy Point (there is unfortunately for the environment, but fortunately for my purposes, what look like a whole lot of illegal four wheel drive trails through the dune territory out there) and after Saturday's disappointment, today was just joy, joy, joy ... albeit hard earned joy.















Whilst Fatbikes don't turn soft sand into highways, they are a revelation in terms of where they will take you.  It is still relatively hard work and I only averaged 8.2kms an hour which is really slow even for me.  Fatbiking on soft sand felt like riding slightly up hill all the time, but with that said most of what I was riding today I wouldn't even have attempted on my normal 2.4 inch tyres.

Fatbikes take you further, but they don't take you everywhere.  I still couldn't ride it up one or two of the steepest pinches, and you do sacrifice a lot of top end speed out on the harder gravel roads (unless you're prepared to stop and spend 10 minutes putting more air in the tyres).

But in their environment, they're amazing.

I also really wanted to see if they could handle rail, but other than a sneaky little foray down the train tracks at the Cenataph on my way to returning the bike on Monday ...



.. I didn't really get to test the bike on railtracks, nor did I get to go and chase down the Monster.

I did however form some opinions on fatbikes (and this bike in particular).

I think the promise of fatbiking could meet my expectations.  My only real concern on saying that is this bike had super-wide 4.6 inch wide tyres whereas I would prefer something in the 3 to 4 inch range and I don't know how much of the benefit I would lose from these narrower tyres.  I also don't know if I can put narrower tyres on this bike.

I loved many aspects of this bike - I loved the geometry, and the weight (lack of) was outstanding, but there were also bits I didn't like - it has grip shifts (which I actually love) but there's no indicator on them as to what gear you're in and as the gears on the demo bike I had were jumping all over the place, I found this particularly annoying.  The handlebars also seemed wider than I'm used to, and although the carbon forks were great for weight reduction, if I wanted to put some racks on this to go on a multi-day trip then they would become a problem I think.

So ... I think I'm still looking.

The Specialized Fatboy costs just under $2,500 and that's just a bit too much for me right now given the amount of rides in Tassie I could think to take it on and because I think I'd want to change a few too many things on it ... though if and when they sell the demo bike at a discount I might change my mind.

Avantiplus Sandy Bay have a fatbike for $1,500 but as much as I like the look of it, it also has no easy way to attach racks and it also has a triple chain ring up front and everything I've read about fatbikes says that's an issue when you really let the tyres down (if you don't know you generally ride these things with around 5 to 10 PSI in the tyres).

Cyclingo have a Kona fatbike for hire which I was keen to ride, but then I found out it would be $250 for the weekend and that's a bit rich for my pocket.  I also know there's a fatbike outside Ken Self (I think it is a Mongoose) and Ride Bellerive are getting in a Norco fatbike ... so there are options.

In terms of why you'd want a fatbike in Tasmania, well there are some great potential trails out there ... The West Coast beaches, (anywhere from Granville Harbour to Temma) and there's St Alban's Bay, Henty Dunes, Peron Dunes ... just a quick skim down the 4WD trails in Tasmania page shows a number of rides that are on my bucket list  Then (if fat works on rail) there's the old Derwent and Scottsdale train lines waiting to be ridden ... but in the end, there's still probably only a dozen rides in Tasmania that really call out for a fatbike ... and that's a lot of money for a few rides.

Oh the anguish of decisions ...