Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Lime Bay & A Quick Cup of Tea

After doing a tourist drive around the Peninsuala, we decided to go for a short ride around some of the trails at Lime Bay to test out my rebuilt wheel.

With some irony, I have to say that although my wheel held up really well, Kim's bike developed an ominous creaking sound which neither of us could pin down, and so we ended up pulling up stumps just 8kms into the ride and heading back to our car.

What was I saying in a recent post about keeping the local bike shops in business?

Anyway, it was still a nice ride.  I got to see some of the trails in drier conditions and I also got some useful feedback from Kim that maybe not as many people as I thought would enjoy the scratchy little section of single track just past the coal mines site.

I think her exact phrase was that "This was not what she expected." 

Kim's good at giving me feedback like that.  I might even make it a New Year's Resolution to take some more of it in.

Kim wanted to drop in and visit one of her ex-Treasury work colleagues (Gary) who owned a farm down this way for a "quick cup of tea" seeing we were in the area ...  just 10-15 minutes, then we'd go get a late lunch.

Nearly two and a half hours later, after a full on farm tour where I got to take my poor little pretend 4WD places it was probably never really intended to go ...

Notice the ute in front of me ... Gulp ... I have to go down there?
Scratching my poor little car.
.... followed by the promised cup of tea with home made sponge cake and lamingtons made by Gary's mum, we finally had to make our apologies and drag ourselves away to go and pick up the Monsters for New Years Eve.  I think both of us could have happily spent the rest of the afternoon just chatting away with Gary and his mum.

And that was the second ironic thing for the day.  Like all young monsters, Kim's kids are pretty straight forward in speaking their minds, and we hadn't even turned the engine off when we heard this shout from the neighbours backyard "Mummy .... we're not coming with you anymore, we're staying here tonight."

And that was the end of our New Year Plans with the kids.

Was it too late to go back for another Lamington?

Monday, 30 December 2013

Cape Hauy

Not all paths need be travelled with wheels ...

Start of Cape Hauy track just past boat ramp

let the steps begin

lovely wildflowers this time of year

lots and lots and lots of steps ... this is a five star walk
(we won't mention the terrible state of the road on the way in)

Getting closer.

Looking down

Did I mention my fear of heights?

To think our originaly plan was to kayak out here, but the forecast 3 metre seas put us off
there was barely a ripple on the water the whole day.

Us trying to be brave and get closer to the edge.

Back at Fortescue Bay watching the sun go down.

Not bad for $13 a night.
Well if you ignore the $12 we had to pay for a billy and $20 for a stove
because we forgot ours.

Yea, after our abandoned little trip up North we decided to head down to Fortescue Bay for a night (Much to my surprise Kim had never been down this way except to visit Port Arthur).

Probably our only regret was that we headed back home after just one night so we could spend New Years with the Monsters, only to find when we got back to Kim's house that they'd decided they wanted to spend the night with their Dad instead.


Could you imagine a post where I didn't find a way to make myself the hero?


Nor could I ... until today.

So it started back when that little twig went through my spokes and took out 13 spokes (yes, turns out I'd destroyed more than I first thought).

Kim and I high-tailed it back to Hobart the next day to see if I could get it fixed only to find that Avantiplus were closed, and the next two bike shops I took it to ... McBains and Ken Self Cycles only gave it the most cursory look before proclaiming that the wheel was dead, and no they didn't have those sort of wheels in stock, accompanied with a look that said what was I doing riding such an old bike anyway ... I mean a 26 inch wheel? Surely I knew they were so last decade?

A bit disheartened I returned home, and started looking online for options for both new wheels and new bikes.

The next day, a little better informed, I decided to do a run through Treadlies, Cyclingo, Bike Ride and Ride Bellerive to see if they had any wheels (or bikes I might like) in stock.

I was both surprised and delighted when I walked into Treadlies, showed the guy there (Ollie?) my wheel fully expecting the same response as yesterday, only to be told that he'd have it fixed and back to me in a few hours ...

Given he had to replace 13 spokes and true the wheel, I thought $40 was pretty darn good value.

Whilst at Treadlies, I also saw one of these ...

Trance X 29er 1, Bikes/29er Dual Suspension MTB Bikes

A Giant Trance X1 29er ... I so wanted one of these when they first came out a few years ago, but I wasn't convinced about the 29er phenomenon then, and to be honest I still couldn't decide whether there really were benefits in these bigger wheeled beasts and they didn't have a demo bike in stock with 29 inch wheels to try.

Anyway, with three hours to kill I headed off to Cyclingo but couldn't do more than ogle a fatbike through the window because they were also closed.

Next was a quick stop at Bike Ride to check out their Rocky Mountain range, but the price tag had me quickly retreating back out the door soon after I arrived.

This landed me across at Ride Bellerive where I first had to convince the sales guy there that I wasn't really interested in the $700 bike he was suggesting was perfect for me and that I wanted something a little better ... dare I say pricier.  He then tried to sell me a $1300 bike and I had to gently try and break his image of me as some post-Xmas specials shopper looking for a bike to take me along the clarecce foreshore trail.  I did this in my usual subtle way by suggesting I was thinking of something more in the $2,000 to $4,000 price range.

With this little bit of a nudge, we got to looking at some proper bikes and 20 minutes later I walked out of the shop with this ...

A $6,000 carbon Merida 29er.

Unfortunately it was only a demo bike, but given I've never ridden either a 29er or a carbon bike it was still nice to pretend it was mine.

I had it to play with for the rest of the weekend so I took it for a short spin down between Margate and Snug where I tore apart the times I'd ridden a couple of weeks ago down there on my Trek.

Yea, suddenly I understood why people like these bikes with the big wheels.

Then I took it for a ride up the switchbacks to the new cliff top track above Clarence MTB Park... and, well ... I didn't love it so much.

Although some sections were definitely easier and quicker, I really struggled with the wider turning circle around the switchbacks and what really surprised me was when I hit a few steep sections and stood up out of the saddle ... I just lost traction instantly.  There's got to be some trick to that.

What surprised me the most is that what I really loved about this bike was this bit ...

Remote Suspension Lock Out
The remote suspension lock out.  I thought this would be a bit of a gimmick, but man it makes a difference in speed when you're jumping on and off tracks and roads like I was down at Margate.

In short, I loved this bike, and although I was only thinking of buying it's baby brother at $4,200, it was looking attractive.

And then comes the evil bit.

You see, I jumped onto bikeexchange.com.au to have a look at prices for the different bikes I was considering, and the first ad that popped up was for a shop in Brisbane which was having a sale on Giant 29ers ... specifically they were selling the Trance X1 29er for $2,099 ... a full $700 off RRP and half the price of the Merida I was looking at.

I got a little excited ... I mean a $700 saving is a lot of money in my world ($2000 is even more) and it's hard to turn down a saving like that ... then I read the full advert and saw it was pick up only and that dream died ....

... for all of about three seconds, which was the time it took me to remember that Stephan was cruising around up that way somewhere with his van picking up a new outrigger ... a quick phone call, and yes he was currently in Brisbane, and yep, he would be happy to pick up a bike for me, and so a second phone call to the shop, and yep, they did have one in stock which they would hold for me until the 2nd of January ...

So that all just seemed to work out way too well and I'm just crossing my fingers that when Steph turns up there on the 2nd to pick it up that it is still there waiting for him.  Unfortunately I'll then have to wait a couple of weeks for Stephan to drive back down to Hobart with it, but the indication I got from the bike shops in Hobart was that it would take that long for delivery anyway.

So, I'm feeling a bit guilty and evil for abandoning my local bike shops to save a few hundred dollars, but at the same time I just had a look over my accounts and discovered (rather disturbingly) that I spent $1,030 at McBains and $375 at Avantiplus in the last calendar year (2013) solely on consumables and servicing my Trek MTB.

And I guess that's the balance in my world ... I spend my money both locally and on the internet and I'm sure I'll pay my penance in servicing and upgrades over the course of the next year for this latest purchase, but until I find a bike shop in Hobart that doesn't treat me like a cash register I think when I see an offer like that online I'm going to have to take it.

Still, makes me feel evil though.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Meehan Ranges Cliff Top Track

So I know I'm probably the last mountain biker in Hobart to actually get up here, but I finally got up to check out the new Meehan Ranges cliff top track that has been opened by the Hobart Trail Groomers just before Christmas.

I've updated the Meehan Ranges map and track notes on www.tassietrails.org to include this new track, so I won't go into the how to get there stuff, but my impression is that it is 650 metres of bliss along the cliff track and then it's a steep, and in places tight, little 150 metre push back up to the top (not sure if there are plans to try and switchback that a bit later on).

Coming back the other way (if you can find the trail-head) it's just a straight out fun ride, although that tight little corner on the way up (you'll know it when you ride it) seems even tighter when going down the other way ...

Overall though it's another great addition to the fast growing track network up in the Meehan Range Reserve and a credit to the guys who are putting in the time to put these trails out there for the rest of us.

Can't wait to see what's next.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Douglas Aplsey - Elephant Pass Circuit

To ride, or not to ride, that was today's question ...

... or maybe it wasn't so much a question as a reality.

Today's ride was supposed to be a late afternoon 'taster' on our way up to the North East where we had planned on hanging out until New Years just riding trails, sitting back on beaches and generally chilling for a few days and nights

Because of this, Kim's dubious look was probably warranted as I headed up 'E' road north of Bicheno and, firstly,  gaily ignored the "Road Closed due to unsafe conditions" sign about 800 metres up the road and plunged my car down into a great ditch in front of us whilst assuring her that I had got my Subaru Impreza through here a few years back and so "we should be OK" and then again when I finally did stop (at the next major washout about 3.3kms up the road) when I tried to convince her that taking off on an unknown 30+km ride at 2pm in the afternoon was in fact a 'taster' ride and not an ill thought out epic late in the day when we still had over an hours driving to go before we got to our planned stop for the night.

You can't really see how steep that washout is, but it's proper 4WD territory,
Anyway, we eventually got ourselves together and took off on what I knew (from my previous trip up this way) would be an initial steep climb up to the old Heritage Falls Car Park at the top of Thompson Marshes.

Yay, the top.
But we got there, and in my simplistic thinking, that was 'job done' and it was meant to be all gentle undulations and eventually downhill back to the car from here.

The first section, along a surprisingly well maintained fire trail, was everything I expected ... with lots of nice wildflowers and some interesting trail to ride, though it did take longer to get to McKays Road than I had thought it might ...

Once there, I expected McKays Road to be a fast riding gravel (forestry) road so I was a but surprised when we came out onto it and it was very overgrown (needed slashing) with obvious water ruts starting to wash away the roads surface.

I was even more surprised 1.3kms down the road when suddenly there wasn't a road at all, but just a big pile of logs in front of me.

Somewhat confused I checked my GPS, which assured me that I was on the correct path, and it was then that my not so quick mind realised I was staring at a dismantled log culvert (bridge).

Thus followed a little adventure where firstly we stumbled on a large Tiger Snake as soon as we stepped off into the bushes (the surprising thing being that I was the one that almost stepped on the snake, but it was Kim that had a tiny stress attack and vowed that there was no way she was continuing on), then after I convinced Kim it would all be OK, I promptly kicked open a jack jumper nest, which poor Kim (who was following me) stepped onto and was thus attacked by some very angry ants.

All that was before we even clambered down the cliff like face (as the snake was on the track) down into the creek ...

Somehow though we finally managed to work our way down into the creek, and then back up the other side where we were able to carry on as the road making gods intended.  (PS. I did notice that there appears to be a way around this section of road by turning off onto another fire trail before joining McKays Road and following that around - you can see it on any online satellite map).

The riding was pretty good on this side of the bridge, although I was just wondering out loud why there was so much grass growing up through the road ...

... when we came to a second washed out bridge, requiring another (though slightly easier) scramble down into the creek and back up the other side.

That's when (somewhat confusedly) the trail became really overgrown ...

and although it was very pretty, as snakes were high up in both our minds from our recent encounter our speed was pretty slow as we scanned left and right for any unpleasant encounters of the reptilian kind.

Which is kind of ironic, as it was here, about 15kms from the car that I rode over the umpteenth million stick on this ride, only to have this one break, flick up into my back wheel and promptly rip 9 spokes out in the 2 or 3 seconds it took me to stop.

That hadn't happened before (and is by the way why you see Kim walking in the photo above).

Now some things get you down (like driving two hours to a trail head and realising you forgot your helmet), and some things are just so unexpected that they're kind of funny, and despite being a long way from my car, this one fell into the latter category.

I quickly considered my options, and realised that parking my car 3.3kms up a closed road reduced those options somewhat  (as otherwise we could have just headed out onto the main road and hitched or ridden back to the car).  

Turning around wasn't something I was interested in (especially recrossing those washed out bridges), and my attempts to convince Kim that (a) she should just continue on by herself to the car or (b) she should give me her bike and I'll continue on to the car were both very quickly knocked back and so began a twenty something kilometre walk/unicycle back to the car.

I say 'unicycle' as on the downhills I locked out my front suspension and basically threw all my weight over the front tyre and coasted down the hills resting on my palms.  Just for the record, I wouldn't recommend it as a riding style.

Because of my slow pace, I can describe the next section of road in exquisite detail, though I won't because it's quite boring.

We did discover why the road is so overgrown (it's because you can now no longer get onto it with a vehicle where Dakins Road becomes McKays Road) as there is a stream in the way.

and we also discovered that there were still a lot of uphill sections between here and the car (it is pretty much undulating the whole way, but with some quite big undulations or at least so it seems when you are pushing your bike up them).

However there were also some lovely fast gravel sections, some fun technical washed out sections and lovely rainforest as well ...

In fact if we hadn't experienced my misadventure I would have said it would have been quite a quick ride back to the car.

With all that said, I was very, very happy to get back to the car around 6.30pm and even happier that I managed to get the car back out through that washout further down the road.

By the time we were sitting in the Pub at Bicheno eating a decent steak and sinking a beer life was in fact feeling pretty good indeed.

Yep, it may have been a premature end to our planned multi-day adventure, but if things don't go wrong in life every now and then, well maybe it's not the adventure you should really be having.

 And I wouldn't want that.


PS.  Here's how you know you've got the most awesome girlfriend in the world ...  Dinner conversation at the Bicheno Pub ...

Me: "So, our options are really to head back to Hobart, or maybe Launceston, to see if I can get a new wheel."

Kim: "You can't get one anywhere around here?"

Me: "No, there's no real bike shops on the East Coast, and although I might be able to find a cheap wheel, I need a strong wheel that's going to survive my kind of riding, and that's probably a $400 to $600 wheel from a decent bike shop."

Kim: "Really?  I don't know why you don't just buy another mountain bike instead ... you said you wanted a 29er ... you should just get one."

... and that's just one more reason why she's so awesome.