Sunday, February 11, 2018

Muddy Trails of Glenrock

Welcome back! It's 2018 and the racing season kicked off with Rocky Trail Entertainment's Grand Prix Round 1 at Glenrock, within the city of Newcastle. This is not the first time Rocky Trail have used the Glenrock trails, previous blogs here 20172016. The lushly forested, well defined trails are always a hit with riders. A huge range surfaces were on offer this year with an overnight storm. The initial single track was particularly muddy, which transitioned into a dry, if not a little dusty section as well!

After placing on the GC Series podium the last three years running, we're back to do it again, racing with the JetBlack MTB team. It isn't going to come easy though, a quick scour of the Glenrock lineup  and particular our category was brimming with suitably fast names. Martin, head honcho of RTE, got us started well down the main access fire-trail, much further than previous years. With over 300 riders attending, this was one of the biggest GPs EVER! As per usual it was going to be important to be in the first group come the singletrack, a good early position to start from.

It was a hectic start but the open fire trail was suitably long enough to place on the back of the front group. Conditions on this first lap were slick but manageable in the rainforest section, most of the remaining trail was grippy if not dry. Eventually we found the wheel of team mate Michael Brown, which helped maintain pace and consistency. For some though these first few laps saw more action than they would have liked, a couple of local lads in separate encounters were off the bike, one with a broken frame, the other a possible collar-bone.

From gnarly downhill sections to the granny gear switchback climbs Glenrock has it all. RTE chose to remove some of the climbing from yesteryear, in place a smooth fire-trail back to transition. Everything was working well, our Pivot 429 had a service during the week, with the rear shock getting much of the attention. Slickonium grease from DIYMTB had the shock working a treat, evening out the trail. We have also been running our own nutrition over the last couple of years, finding what works for us. You can check out some of our previous reviews here. Anyway, it felt like we got our nutrition right again this round using High 5 products. Thanks to our team mates and family for the bottle hand-offs.

Over fifty JetBlack MTB Racing team riders were at Glenrock, providing a friendly atmosphere for all. It is great to have on-trail moral support and the transition expertise of a large team. JetBlack MTB Racing continues to be partnered with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment. Which allows us to ride how we like! In the results the team was well represented across all categories and delivered some top results for this event, good signs for 2018 and the GP Series. You'll see us at another event shortly!

Full results here.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

2017 National Cycling Carnival - Part 1

An early morning commute from Sydney had me arrive for the Opening address and Safety Brief at the velodrome. There was quite a bit happening, people arriving, bikes in and out of the velodrome and the offer of MTB setup/maintenance tips by members. The local velodrome experts were actively fitting bikes, albeit SS, brakeless, ultra-narrow type bikes and there was also amass of bunting featured both within the velodrome and out, looking like a tidy CX course.

I managed to get out on a track bike but didn’t spend too long on it, yes it felt weirdly narrow and never got “on-top” of the gearing provided.

More importantly after a solid year of CX racing I was keen to look over the technical aspects of the days course at “The Bundahdome”. Having never visited this location previously, I was surprised at the steepness of the marked course on the outside of the velodrome, this technical aspect of the course would be a clincher for many competitors. The off-camber slopes had me drop both front and rear 35mm tyre pressure a couple of psi to find more of the grip I was wanting.

Photo: N. Burton
Unsure of how the week was going to roll, I elected to race age group rather than open/elite for CX. Sus out the competition, have a bit of fun on the first day. Jamie Burton was back again this year, and Ty Domin was present, it was us three that headed onto the course in front of the remainder of the age-groupers, once the young-guns and elites had started. The course had a variety of sweeping corners, the usual CX style, a couple of barriers and a run up the flattest section of the velodrome before turning right and making way along the top of the velodrome. Some off-camber and short pinches later we headed around to the steep outside section of the velodrome. It got pretty interesting here, with switchbacks and well-off-camber traverses across the steep and loose course.

Early on in the event I came through a sweeping off-camber grassed corner and the bike fell-out from beneath me, picking myself up off the grass slightly startled I remounted having only dropped a couple of places. On the next couple of corners I figured out what the problem was, a lack of air in the front tyre, the bike was oversteering generally and washing-out when pushed. This lack of air issue would only make this CX event more challenging.

Jamie working hard to keep up. Photo: N. Burton
A couple of laps later we dropped Ty, after all he did have the wrong gear for 90% of the time, not that we had the right gear either. Jamie and I were duelling throughout the course, quite often swapping the lead. On the final lap just before the second last fast section I dropped a chain and had to dismount to rectify the issue. Fighting hard through the tough off-camber traverses, past lines of the DH heckling crew who seemed to be in full support of skinny wheels doing amazing things on dirt, I pushed a last ditch effort to make time back to Jamie, my front wheel battling me all the way.

Jamie and I didn’t quite make up time to the front runner in the elite/young guns category but we had our first contest for this year’s NCC. Both of us winning our respective age categories, with Jamie pipping me by seconds for line honours.
The hecklers, cowbells and horns, for atmosphere. Photo: N. Burton
What has been great over the previous NCC is the availability of skills coaches or serious riders will to show/demo techniques for all to gain from. This year was a step-up from previous that I have attended with the addition of locals Dylan Cooper and Claire Whiteman for the XC crowd. Fastline Bikadamy was on hand for the Gravity/DH crowd again this year. I participated in both a Gravity and a XC skills session, first with MTBA National DH Junior Coach Indi Boer of Fastline Bikadamy, then in the afternoon with Trek rider Dylan Cooper of Ride Technics. I find as an experienced rider there is still plenty to take away from any skill session, and for me it wasn’t till the following day the lightbulb clicked on to what I had just experienced and gained from both sessions.
Stunt rider Indi Boer, Photo: CrummMTB

Monday, September 4, 2017

Stolling on Stromlo

There is no doubt we have a thing for Stromlo, it probably all kicked off ten years ago with our first attempt at 24hrs solo. Over the last ten years the mountain has taken shape, from bare dust bowl to an all inclusive cycling hotspot. We still visit Stromlo on a regular basis, albeit once or twice a year, for an event or two.

It is our first outing to Stromlo this year and much has changed, the houses and units are now verging in the parks fence-line, and the hillside shrubbery seems more dense. Again we are back for another round of the Rocky Trail Entertainment Grand Prix Series, the final round for 2017.

With so many kilometres of trails and a variety of ways to gat around there had been much talk of the chosen route. No matter what, our experience told us there were gong to be rocks and the standard hard-pack of Stromlo dirt. This time Rocky Trail had setup a different event centre, in the carpark and transition from the trails was via the path to the jump-park. We then exited back out onto the trails by going through the tunnel under the DH track.

It has been another massive year with the JetBlack MTB Racing team and like all the Grand Prix's previous this year, we were going to litter the hillside with our bright stripes. Things were heating up too in the GC and Age Group/Team stakes for many, as this was the last chance to gather valuable points before the afternoons presentation. We were all excited to get out on the trails!

Rocky Trail continue to move forward from lessons learnt, and this year they had thrown in some significant fire-trail climbs. This allowed plenty of passing opportunities, nutrition ingestion and particularly open the field up off the start, reducing the first lap or two of conga lines during the single track sections. 

It was a heck of a line-up this round, the JetBlack MTB racing team had brought our own guns but what ever the lure, there were a number of national representatives present. And as such the start was pretty fast, we managed a number of snappy laps before settling into a comfortable pace.

Super happy to continue to ride our Pivot 429 Alloy, it has been dependable baring our poor maintenance routine prior to the Singleton round. Our change last year to Shimano's XT 11 speed with a 30t Hope N/W cog has been the the perfect drivetrain for just about every event we have ridden this bike. (We'll talk about our CX steed another time.) We are also touting Ascent Cycling Enterprises wheels, switching from Stan's alloy rims to Nextie carbon wrapped in Mitas tyres. With Ascent Cycling Enterprises now being based out of the greater Canberra region.

There were no surprises on the day that the 30-39 age category was the most competitive in the 4hr. This amass of speed-freaks has been a constant for every round of the Grand Prix this year, and this round we were pretty happy to place 7th. The particularly good news was that we had sufficient points in the series to take both 2nd in our Age Group AND 2nd for the General Classification. A definite step-up from both results in both 2016 and 2015. 

Rocky Trail Entertainment delivered a diverse repertoire of course for the Grand Prix this year. Many thanks to JetBlack MTB Racing team for the friendly atmosphere, on-trail support and transition expertise. JetBlack MTB Racing has partnered with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment, to allow us to ride how we like. The team was well represented across all categories and delivered some top results for this event and the series. You'll see us at another event shortly!

Full results for this Round here.

Our previous event wraps.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Hits and Misses in Singleton

Getting it all right for race day can often be as hard as the race itself. We definably like to make it look easy but this round of the Rocky Trail Grand Prix we seemed to be on the back foot before it even started. To wrap it all up and summarise it all, here are our hits and misses.

All smiles for the start lap. Photo: Cat Sturrock


Singleton isn't to far from our base in Sydney, even still we opted for a casual late wake-up and breakfast on race morning staying local.

We were presented with a very crisp but sunny morning, the frost didn't last very long though.

Super dry conditions, with a fast and mostly smooth trail, a regular on the HMBA calendar.

The open trail offered plenty of passing opportunities, with copious amounts of flow and peddling. Just a couple of loose, sandy corners amongst a whole heap of fun.

Getting out with our JetBlack MTB Racing team mates and the rest of the Rocky Trail racers, a nice easy vibe out on trail. Plenty of opportunities to have a chat with those riding around us, good topics included CX and SS.

We spent a whole our whole of our second last lap with @jasonenglishmtb, a rare period to mix it up with one of our very best. Bikes, Di2 and the juggle of training featured along the way. #whosdomestiqueareyou You can read Jason's account of 2017 WEMBO Italy here.

Learning on race completion that some of our solo team mates finally got a smooth run at a Grand Prix. There has been much banter between us, with mechanicals and sickness favouring CrummyMTB throughout the year. This round though, a solid performance without issues. Can't wait to see what happens at Stromlo!

Gloves are off and the fight to pull back time is on. Photo: Cat Sturrock


It is to easy to make excuses and on quick reflection a lack of proper preparation had significant effects on all our misses.

Some ghost shifting from what had been super dependable Shimano 11spd was the first sign. Thankfully it was on the back half of a lap and we eased it back to transition to see what the problem was. All bar two threads of the shifter cable were connected, the source of our shifting problems easily identified. Our quick race kit didn't have cable but our team sponsors, The Odd Spoke, had provided the team with a box of common kit. The old cable out, new one in and dialled-in faster than we had ever done before (even in a workshop environment) with our upgrade to full-length outers helping the process.

Arm warmers were off at this stage but gloves were still on, but further rattling was coming from the bike. So while out on the trail we paused for more reflection, finding issues with our chainring bolts. Again we nursed it back to transition from the returning section, called benefit of the doubt, and just re-torque the bolts.

The re-torque wasn't sufficient, again we paused finding the bolts loosening. We finished another lap with a visit to the JetBlack HQ tent. Our mind had been racing, searching to find a solution, after all we had run this chainring (32t) on the bike previously (we have been running a Hope 30t for all other courses this year). The fix jumped out at us and we hastily made the required adjustments, swapping the chainring around, providing the chainring bolts more area to grab when tightened.

We went on to finish the four hour race, seems our Pivot 429 is in some need of attention and for us to be better prepared leading up to events. Thanks to our supporters and partners JetBlack MTB Racing with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment. 

Ascent Cycling Enterprises support us with custom built wheels and Mitas tyres, proven as a fast combination.

Get your 2018 Giro d'Italia Grupetto tour tickets here.

Last years Singleton Round writeup.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Rocking, rolling, riding.

It all kicked off in Rocky Trail style and a unanimous vote, for the long uphill fire-trail start from behind the Shimano flag. While the sun was out it still remained a cool morning, riders from around NSW and the ACT chose to begin their day with the challenges of Ourimbah MTB trails.

Morgs from Shimano kept us company during the first couple of laps.
A quick sprint up the hill and we all slotted into the single-track without to many complaints. Around us we had many of our JetBlack MTB Racing team mates, no slouches on the bike in their own right and grouped up together they made formidable teams. As always a couple of stragglers were swept up in the mix of the first fast lap and many of the short fire-trail sections were perfect passing opportunities. It felt comfortable getting started with the team around us, some recently smoothed sections of trail were a great surprise.

Over the first few laps we kept up with Shimano's Morgs, and it was all going swimmingly till his bike started to seriously clatter. Morgs is fast and we had other some fast riders with us, both solo and teams. Morgs pulled over for a quick inspection for the source of the racket and unfortunately we didn't see him again. For us it wasn't smooth sailing either, a scraping sound began emanating from the back brake. We pushed on, an up hill fire-trail was the perfect spot to stop and have a look, it wasn't good but it wasn't seriously bad. Opting to not carry a multi-tool this race was the first sacrifice, and in this instance a little metal on metal rub would be the second. Something had to give and the rub would eventually stop. Back on the bike!

A couple of fast descents and we made it back to the general space we had been sitting before stopping. Transitions were smooth, the scraping was dyeing down and there were just enough spots out on the trail to eat and drink. No one was having a perfect run though, one of our fast competitors motioned us through, they seemed a little rattled and didn't hold our wheel. Our mind started to race, how many laps to go, what sort of effort was going to be needed to round this race off.

Thankfully there was plenty of positive vibes out on course, particularly from our JetBlack MTB Racing team mates. We even had a couple of team mates that weren't able to race, they still turned up radiating cheer for all as on-course marshals (see the video below). We held on to make it onto the podium, the second time in the GP series for this year. Whoop!

Ourimbah is one of our favourite trails to visit, made more special by a solid result in this, the third round of the Grand Prix Series. We've now got some nice points in both 4hr General Classification (GC) and Age Group. Thanks to our supporters and partners JetBlack MTB Racing with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment. 
Ascent Cycling Enterprises continue to stand true behind their great customer service, supporting our custom built wheels with Mitas tyres, a fast combination.

You can read the JetBlack MTB Racing team blog on AMB here
Get your 2018 Giro d'Italia Grupetto tour tickets here.