Sunday, 12 October 2014

The trail I really want to ride, but can't get to the start line ...

There's a trail in Tasmania that I really want to ride.

I mean really, really, really want to ride.

And to my great surprise, I find I'm not alone.  Pretty much every adventure rider I've mentioned the trail to in the last six months has been making plans of their own to ride this trail.

But there's a problem ... getting to it

Or maybe, it's getting to it first, before it's just another trail that everyone's ridden.

There's a lot of attraction to teaming up with some of these other riders and riding the trail together, and I've genuinely been discussing options to see if we can make this happen, but there's also a strong attraction to the idea of figuring out how to get there by myself, and ride it alone, and that's what today was about ...

Take one packraft, add a bike and then attached it to a kayak ...

Turns out I can paddle at around 4 to 5km/hr towing a bike on a packraft behind my kayak,  but that's only with no wind or seas.  As soon as I headed around the corner into 20km/hr winds, even with quite small seas, my pace dropped to a crawl.

Then I basically stalled.

Turning wasn't much fun either.

So it's back to the drawing board for another plan to get to the starting line ... maybe putting the bike on a plastic sit-on-top kayak would help me move through the water faster?  maybe I could mount my bike on the back of the kayak with some form of outrigger system for balance?

There has to be a way ...

Did I mention that I really want to get onto this trail?

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Soaked in memories

I sat off the shores of the Huon River today, drowning in the memories of my childhood ...

Looking in towards 7 Inch Beach.
It was an overload of emotions pouring over me as I paddled slowly along the shoreline with every log, every rock, every inlet holding a memory from my younger life.

I have spent days and days playing on this one log now almost hidden by the water
They were all good memories, happy memories, and I just wanted to smile and laugh, but instead I found myself fighting back tears, or letting them flow, because today was a happy day, but also a sad one.

Today would have been my father's 84th birthday, but instead my family and friends gathered around the boat ramp that he built, stone by stone, all those years ago ... to say goodbye.

Kim and I had arrived earlier in the day and, with Dad's ashes in the boat with me, we'd gone for a ramble around all the places that Dad and I would wander together as he'd tell me adventure stories from his life ...

Then I went for one last paddle alone, well just me and dad, drowning in those memories, readying myself to say goodbye.

Rachel and Kath said their own goodbyes on the ramp ...

Before Ashley, Sam, Jayden and I paddled out to the end of the Island, and looking back towards our childhood home, we said our final goodbye ...

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we may come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.

Goodbye, Dad.

On ever on....

Friday, 10 October 2014

I am a Karcher man ...

I figure that every man that has a garage, an SUV that will get bogged as soon as it leaves a bitumen road and of course multiple bikes and kayaks, also needs a Karcher to clean them all with.

So I got myself one ...

Karcher Window Cleaner
Some may think I "missed the point", but I don't think so ...

I think I'll have the cleanest SUV windows in town.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Perfect Trail ...

I've been grappling with the question lately of what makes the perfect trail?

After pursuing this question around in circles for many days,  I've realised what most people would have figured out in seconds ...

It's the trail which is perfect for you.

I loved most of the trails we rode up on the Mainland, and as I was riding around Clarence this morning, I realised that riding all those bermed flowing trails has actually improved my cornering skills (true story - though it may still be an internal zen thing at this stage).

Now I wasn't a big fan of Clarence MTB Park when it first opened because I found too much of it too challenging and so I didn't like it.

But I get it now:  The rides at Clarence MTB Park (and the Meehan Ranges) are now (mostly) within my skill range and they provide me with a mix of relaxing and challenging riding that I enjoy.  What's more, the bits I can't do ... well I know they're doable if I just keep trying.

Which brings me to the trail that brought all this existentialist angst on ... The Juggernaught.   I've realised that I'm not a fan of this track right now because although I can get down it and while I really enjoyed parts of it, I don't have the skills or fitness needed to ride down it as it deserves to be ridden.

For one, I'm terrified of large jumps and drops ... do you see the incompatibility here?

But I still think that's great ... because one day, if I work on it, I will have those skills and I know that the Juggernaught is there waiting for me when I do.

In the meantime I've heard plenty of feedback from those who got out there today and I couldn't help but notice that the riders which I aspire to emulate are the one's who enjoyed it the most.

I love that they've got these trails to challenge them.

This morning I started the day doing a couple of short loops around Clarence - just up the green corp climb twice - once to check out the downhill track and the second time to check out the new section of trail (presumably built by Dirt Art - or at least it has their track feel to it).

I loved that I managed to ride up all but four of the switchbacks (Yep, I really am that bad a rider).  But I'm getting closer every time to getting them all.  I also loved that I felt comfortable heading down and around all the other sections ... even the downhill course.

Clarence is currently in my sweet spot for tracks (and pretty much everyone else's if the number of riders out there are anything to go by).

I also decided to head out and ride a Kellevie loop today, just because I felt like getting away from the crowds.  It was great to pull into the Kellevie park and only see one other car there after the busyness of Clarence MTB Park  ... and no guessing whose car it was...

Out on the trails - other than three dumb-ass trailbike riders who thought it was hilarious to ride past me, then drop the throttle and shower me with rocks and pebbles, and some old timers who were driving through in their ute,  I had the hellfire trails all to myself.

What's more, I 'discovered' several sections of single trail which I hadn't previously known about just  by riding around and keeping my eyes open (Rambler's hint - Hellfire is going to be fun this year).

So I rode, and I explored, and the day passed as the day should pass.

It was another perfect trail day for me, because I was enjoying the riding and enjoying the day.

It is that simple I think.

So, after all this thinking, I've tempered my guilt of not loving the Juggernaught as it is, because I realise that it isn't the trail that is wrong, it's the experience I had there and also that I'm not yet ready for that trail.

So I'll continue riding the trails I enjoy, trying out the trails that challenge me, and watching the likes of Danny Macaskill who show us that you can ride things you thought were impossible.

And in the end, I hope we'll all agreed that every trail is a perfect trails ... for someone, and we won't disparage those who can't ride them, or dumb down trail features, so that we all can ride them.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Mountain Bike Tourism (revisited)

It's post trip time, which can mean only one thing ... (no not unpacking) ... it's time to analyse my expenditure.

Yep, I may be a keen mountain biker, but I also really struggle to reconcile what I read about mountain biking being a huge and lucrative tousism market (with cyclists reportedly spending around $250 per person per day) with what I see on the ground, which is usually this ...

... empty trails and empty car parks.

Now on this latest trip, I saw pretty much what I expected:  The Mountain Bike parks (and rail trails) on the edges of the large population centres of Melbourne and Canberra were really well used, but once we got away from Lysterfield and Mt Stromlo, we pretty much had the trails all to ourselves.

We didn't see another soul at Tathra or Colquhoun, we met one local guy at Blores MTB Park and there was a small school group (5 or 6 kids) doing some runs at the Nowa Nowa MTB Park, but that was it.

As I have done in the past (see here and here and here) I quantified our own expenditures, and found that this nine night trip (well 11 nights if you include the two nights for me on the ferry) cost about $3500.  This roughly broke down into ferry and flights 19%,  accommodation 26% ($93 per night),   food, drinks & miscellaneous 32% ($110 per day), Petrol 12% ($44 per day - we covered around 2,500kms), and event entry fees 11%.

Remember though that this is for two of us, so if you ignore our ferry and flights and event entry fees, it cost us about $125 per person, per day for accommodation, food, entertainment and fuel.  ie. that's what we spent in the places we visited.

This is, according to the statistics, only half the normal expenditure of the average cycle tourist and yet we regularly ate out, we went to the tourist sites, stopped in lots of cafes, we stayed in reasonable ($100) hotels most nights and we had pretty high fuel expenses due to our dispersed itinerary.

So Kim and I, as 'independent' cycle tourists, yet again failed to meet our spending targets, in fact we're apparently in the bottom quartile of expenditures, so we're well and truly the cheapskates of the mountain biking world.

At least we would be ... if we weren't the only people we met out there.

But here's the other thing (and you are going to either think I am mega-awesome or without a life when you read this next bit) I actually mapped our expenditures (well most of them) to the mountain bike parks we visited, and it looks something like this ...

Our rough route
So the red line roughly shows our route (in a counter clockwise direction starting in Melbourne).  the White bubbles are the mountain bike parks we visited, the yellow $ signs are where we stayed (and the size roughly indicates how much money we spent), the blue $'s are where we spent money on food and accommodation (the Canberra one is a bit hidden) and the black $'s where we fueled up.

You can download the Google Earth file here if you're really interested (and because I put so much work into doing this).

Why I did this is because it illustrates what I think is a really interesting point:  Just building mountain bike trails is not by itself sufficient to attract spending in your area, even if the riders do come.

I spent a whole day riding the trails around Lysterfield and near Healsville ... but I spent most of my money back in Central Melbourne.

We hit three mountain bike parks on the south coast of Victoria, and spent a night (and our money) in Bairnsdale, but we barely bought more than a coke and a light lunch in the local communities around Heysfield, Lakes Entrance and Nowa Nowa.

Tathra on the other hand provided an enticing combination of accommodation and trails and that combination (and where it was located on our travel itinerary) had us hanging around and spending money there ... but ultimately it was back up in Canberra (where things are more expensive) that we spent most of our money.

So is there a take home story from this?  well maybe just that even if you build it, and we come, if you're doing it for tourism purposes you really do need to take a wider regional perspective to the benefits ... because whilst these trails (and events) did coax about $2,500 out of Tasmania and pumped it into the Mainland economy, ultimately, for me at least, I need a reason to stay in these local areas that's better than the reason to move on, and often the promise of a wider range of accommodation, entertainment and food options in the next decent sized town along the route will coax me to move on from where I am, leaving little more than my "thanks" to the local builders as I leave for the next area.

Just my thoughts.