Monday, May 15, 2017


It was April and finally the WSMTB XC season has kicked off. Ok, there was a rained out start last month, to the effect that the trails have been suffering since. But Round 2 got off to a glorious start, mist in the hollows, but on the side of the Blue Mountains at the home of XC in Sydney it was all sunshine.

The dust started flying with the U10s and U13s, the U10s included juniors from age 3 on balance bikes, on their own trail. U13s completed a shortened loop of the main trail, with all the timing and lap counts the more senior riders are use to.

Over eighty riders had signed up for the round, and this time there was a re-visited twist. It has been a long time coming, but Lumley's is back. Some major time and effort by the small WSMTB XC trail crew has restored this classic climb. Had to cast our mind back, way back, to the last time this route was raced on.

Young gun Owen Gordon. Photo - WSMTB
In A Grade there were some of the usual suspects, the regulars, then there were the young guys nipping at the heels. The likes of Owen Gordon, who last year blitzed WSMTB B Grade, has made the move to A this year. Fergus Mackie - JetBlack MTB Racing, also joined in the A Grade fray.

Wheels kicked and cleats snapped from the call "GO", managing to reach the bottom of the first singletrack in the first half of the group. It then turned uphill and we went quickly from first half to virtually last.

From there focus shifted to staying in touch with the tail-enders and in-front of B Grade. A few B Graders slipped by as we battled it out for the remainder of the laps and it came down to a sprint finish with my fellow competitor.

James rolls one of the rock sections in C Grade. Photo - WSMTB 
The great thing about WSMTB is the inclusive atmosphere and of course the local RFS manning the BBQ, there is always plenty for that post ride recovery meal. It was a another nice morning out, fun on bikes for everyone. Awesome work by WSMTB!

Thanks to our supporters and partners JetBlack MTB Racing with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment. See you at another event soon.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Riddles of Rydal

Drifting at pace through the slalom trees.
It had been ages, a really long time, since drinks at Rydal. Our last visit to the trails just west of Lithgow was back in 2011 and 2012 with Fi, Joe and the Chocolate Foot crew (Gumby included). My wrap-up of the trails read  "With almost all of it being the twisty, on-camber, but mostly off-camber, flowing, but with plenty of tighter corners, SINGLETRACK. It all wrapped up on a fairly flat ridge-line and made the most of the land available". And not to much has changed!

The JetBlack MTB racing crew were all in attendance, we had a good measure of 4hr and 7hr riders, both in teams and solo. A mass of shades, chairs and tables, our bikes littering the grass, and looking down through the transition area it was pretty similar for everyone else. A good number of riders turning up for this round, maybe not as many as Round 1 at Glenrock but still plenty of competition.

Pinchy rises.
After a mild start at Glenrock, there was plenty of room for improvement and with a short open section before the endless singletrack, it was more crucial than ever at Rydal. A flurry of cleat-clipping and some mud we were into the narrow trails. It didn't go as planned for everyone, the self-seeding and XC style sprint start, saw some spills.

Happy with the start, the pace was manageable through the trees. It wasn't long and a few neat passing manoeuvres later and I found myself on the rear wheel of master-pedal-turner, Garry James. We were making good time and it was pretty smooth sailing wheel-sitting, getting use to the trail again particularly the newer and newest sections.

Pop-it or drop it.
A couple of laps with Garry and I found myself on the front and with a bit of breathing room, room for speed! Must admit Rydal did suit us, we have local trails that are just as twisty, tight and turny. Smooth fast cornering and connecting those corners was key for us, riding with some of the pairs teams it was easy to sense the over-braking and hard acceleration on the out of the corners they were doing.

Back in the race there were a couple of nice flying laps, lap three being our fastest before it all settled down to mid twenty five minute laps, at about 20kph. While keep up with the four-hour pairs was fun we were also keeping an eye on our team-mates. In this instance, at Rydal, they weren't inchingly close and just in front of us, this time they were just behind. Yes it felt good to be running with the teams as a solo, even if they were team-mates, riding the seven hour and in a team of three.

No troubling trolls.
A surprise find on the trail was BigDog, aboard his do-it-all long-travel bike. Super easy to follow, we had a good chat and then lost contact winding amongst the trees after a fast transition. From there it was a matter of holding on to as much smoothness as possible, fatigue was setting in, edges were getting dull.

Smashing a couple more gels and we were into the last hour, several quick in-head calculations and we would be heading out for a final lap with minutes to spare. Our team-mates, team of three, Elton, Browny and Shad were hot on our tail and Elton had just closed the gap on the final climb, second last lap. Elton handed over to Browny, who went down the transition like a startled gazelle. But, little by little the gap between us reduced, till we had made it onto Browny's rear wheel. Some chess moves later and we are on that final climb, Browny punches it out of that last pinch and sprints up the firetrail. There is a moment when all plans were to go with Browny, sprint those last final hundred meters, our quads had other plans.

A good day walking away with something to put on the fridge.
It was great to race back at Rydal and get a solid result in the second round of the Grand Prix Series. Thanks to our supporters and partners JetBlack MTB Racing with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment. Our new Ascent Cycling Enterprises custom built wheels and Mitas tyres continue to handled everything with ease and helped us remain fast throughout.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Rocky Trail kicks at Glenrock

Glenrock was host to the first round of the Grand Prix Series for 2017 over the weekend. Plenty of competition in respective categories with the likes of locals Jason English and Andrew Lloyd present. 
JetBlack MTB Racing was just one of the teams present amongst all the riders, our kit colours toned down this year but you'll still see plenty of flashes of fluro through the trail.

With over twenty riders in the four hour competition is was great to see our junior and pairs riders placing well.

Our solos and teams in the seven hour also went well with solid performances including overall line honours and fastest lap of the day.

Our race was initially marred by a slow start from mid-pack, better self seeding would help next time.  Getting down the singletrack of Glenrock was a pleasure no matter what the pace, but over the first three laps or so it was hard to find some nice open and clear trail.

Once riders were better spaced out it was all froth and whoops, from the organic lines to the man-built obstacles. Every moment a rush, tyres screaming to hold the variety of terrain, our fastest laps were number 3 and 4.

Then the trail pointed up, switchbacking through the trees and past some of the most scenic views from the trail. The pain and agony bites deep as our thumb searches for another gear in an attempt to spin all the way to the top.

On lap seven it was evident there would be room for just one more, one a last effort particularly on the climb out. Once again it was great to race the Grand Prix Series, thanks to our supporters and partners JetBlack MTB Racing with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment. Our new Ascent Cycling Enterprises custom built wheels and Mitas tyres handled everything with ease and helped us remain fast throughout.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

2017 Willo Enduro

Leading up to the Willo Enduro we were pretty excited. Over our summer we had managed a trip down to the Southern Highlands and ridden much of the trail with our crew. It had been in near perfect nick, fast, hard-packed and near dry.

Every time we had raced at Wingello previously, wether it was the local club or a larger event, it was always a great event on superb trails. The SHCC 5hr Enduro 2010 RIP WilloSTM Wingello 2011.

With all this in mind we had prepared a dutiful bike. Ok, truthfully there was little preparation, it was the same bike we commuted, chased roadies and trained on. Steel frame, 1x10 and some nice trimmings, a real road-hog.

That said it would have been easy to change out some tyres as the forecast worsened, rain in Sydney and on the coast. But in the spirit of adversity, skilfulness and adventure we stuck to our original bike and plan.

So it was we left rainy Sydney and headed south where the rain eased to patch showers. A left turn to Wingello and follow a small group of cars along the pine-tree lined forestry dirt road to the hub of the action, teaming with hundreds of keen riders.

Turning up for the Willo Enduro is a real who's-who of mountain biking, and the event was included as Round 1 of the National XCM Series. A quick glance at the sign-on board, Cooper, Henderson, McConnell, Blair and Kwan, just to name a few.

But for most it was a chance to catch up with friends, ride some sweet trails in a friendly atmosphere, sharing in the camaraderie that mountain biking brings.

Our race happened in multiple of stages, first there was the start, fast flat fire-trail, making our way close to the front of the pack before we entered the singletrack.

Then it was in this initial single track all our hard work on the start was undone, dropping our chain in a moment when we forgot to be hardtail-smooth.

The trail was slippery, especially now that the 75 and 50km riders were already out in front of us. Now that I dropped my chain, there were those 25km riders that passed me all conga-lined in front too.

On every fire-trail or open trail section we made it passed a few more riders, finding speed in space. We had to make every attempt to keep our bike on the trail, the lack of substantial knobs on our chosen tyres making grip in every corner very difficult.

After the initial stage the trail was littered with tail-end 50 and 75km riders who would graciously give a little room at opportune times. The trail conditions weren't improving but there was a good mixture of trail as we transited through the Wingello forest.

Thankfully the RFS was on hand to point us in the right direction at major intersections, in fact all the volunteers were helpful, from rego to presentations. The RFS helped us transition during the race from the traditional end of the Wingello trails back towards the aptly named the Wall, the KOM for the 75km riders. 

The Wall was followed by another tough ascent, but with the faint sound of tunes pumping from transition all energy was mustered to punch up the pinch and find ourselves on the return trail, making our way through the shelters and onto the final straight.

We were pretty happy to collect a podium spot for our efforts, thank to our supporters and partners JetBlack MTB Racing with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment. Our Ascent Cycling Enterprises custom built wheels handled a couple of close calls and helped us remain fast throughout.

You can read "the facts" by Ed McDonald here.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Nambucca Valley CC The Tulk #2

Nambucca Valley Cycling Club have been running a number of twilight races over summer and we were able to get along to one over the weekend. Held on private "MTB lifestyle" property near Kempsey the trail is continually being developed and the 8km of marked trail we rode was fairly flat, fast and flowing. 

While it was fast and flat, there were a number of man-made features, themed sections, natural obstacles and corners to keep the mind busy. Aptly named by some as "The Jellyfish" after it's gently meandering shape as viewed from space, the mostly 1m wide trail cut through bush and farm-scape.

All up the weather was hot, but some wind kept the temperature reasonable and the dust fairly low. We had received a good amount of rain the night before which helped settle the dry conditions. It was still dry and hard packed in most sections, the others just being dry/loose.

Our host, head trail master, landowner and all-round-nice-guy lead us out on the first lap, it was fast for a social race. We hadn't gotten out for a sighting lap, so the perfect person to show us round was the exact person on the front of our little group.

The first short open fire-trail section on the second lap we switched to race tactics to see who I was riding with. We slid to the front and put some higher effort in, pushing to the edge of grip through corners and getting up speed early on the way out.

At first the gap opened little by little, with all the corners it was hard to tell how far big gap was. But after a while and a couple of laps later it seemed we had control of the proceedings. As it went from dusk to night we tried not to drop the pace, keeping the pressure on ourselves to maintain our heart rate and general speed.

In the end we lapped just about everyone and it felt like we had kept a constant pace throughout the three plus hours. It was a small but dedicated crew in attendance, nothing quite like the normal events we go to. A massive shoutout to NVCC for putting it all together and giving me a chance to have fun at a unique location.

Our first outing in the new JetBlack MTB Racing kit with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment as partners.

We rode our Pivot 429 Alloy with custom wheels by Ascent Cycling Enterprises and X-Fusion fork from DIYMTB.