I did something entirely different today. The FOA crew organised a pre-Pushies “Gravel Grind”. See everyone’s been into the CX bikes recently and earlier this year I had just bought this old Specialized mountain bike from Chris and it wasn’t getting much use so I saw this ride advertised and thought, “Dammit, I gotta check this shit out.”
Now I am naturally pretty risk-adverse. I have crashed enough on the bike and thus I am fucking hopeless at mountain biking. I find bitumen roads only just traversable — but going fast over rocks and boulders and slipping about in gravel, dirt and random foliage just seems crazy.
But I figured this ride was on fire-trails and if everyone else was rocking CX bikes, I’d be OK.
So I rolled out at 7am in an incredible rush. I had underestimated how much more shit there was to do when riding a different bike, and a bike not really suited to long-distance stuff. And I realised an hour later that I had entirely forgot to put sunscreen on — a cardinal sin for a ginger. (So I am a tiny bit red in my face ATM. Ugh).
I gave myself an hour to cover the 15km to the start point. I would cover that distance on a road bike in 30 minutes or less, but on an MTB you can’t help but go at least 30% slower.
We all met at Ferny Grove train station and I met Zach, our guide for today. And soon we were away. I was a bit worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the CX’s but I soon realised I could manage.
So there were 5 of us. Me, Zach, Bennett, Brad and Nate. Bennett, Nate and Brad were all riding Specialized Crux‘s. They looked great — really loud colours which I guess humerously contrasts the fact they get so freakishly muddy and dirty in a race.
The road below is the top of the climb coming into Samford — a road I have ridden many times but not realised there was a gravel trail parallel.
This is Zach — our guide. He kept saying, “We haven’t got lost, yet.” I kept wondering about that “yet” bit.
“DON’T TOUCH ANY WRECKED CARS”
After crossing Samford Road we kinda shadowed these power lines for a bit. And then Zach was all serious saying something about, “Just don’t touch the wrecked cars and we’ll be fine.” I wasn’t quite sure what he was talking about.
“I don’t usually touch wrecked cars,” I thought.
But I made a mental note to reinforce my natural aversion to touching stuff like that. “I am definitely not going to touch any fucking wrecked cars”.
Soon I realised what he was talking about. We came upon, what I can only describe as a ‘wreckers yard’ in the middle of all this wilderness. It had all these very serious, homemade “PRIVATE PROPERTY” and “TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED” signs and there was the sound of a chainsaw — or maybe it was a mulcher — quite, quite near. I caught a glimpse of the guy through the twisted metal and junk and he looked pretty grumpy and hardcore. I kept rolling as fast as I could and once at a safe enough distance turned around and took the shot below just as Bennett and Brad came through. “Christ I hope they don’t touch anything,” I thought.
After that we accidentally stumbled through some massive running event. I googled around and I think it was THIS. We rolled through the marker cones (pic below) and thought little of it, but 500m later there was suddenly this HUGE crowd around the track. They were mostly kids but there were photographers and a big LED clock showing the race time.
Nate was in front and he hammed it up for the crowd doing this big TDF stage-victory salute. All the kids started clapping and cheering. It looked almost exactly like this:
So about 30% of this ride was taken up by taking photos for Instagram. “‘Grammin” as Bennett calls it . “Never-not-grammin”.
And as you know, I am not adverse to documenting adventures — but Bennett is a bit next level. When I am “documenting” I use a shitty compact camera and I mostly take photos while I am actually riding and do very little composing or contriving shots. But Bennett gets his inspiration from Prolly and Andy from Fyxomatosis.
A different view of the TV towers of Mt Coot-tha — from the north.
Nate and Bennett doing something that referenced something I didn’t quite understand
The city skyscrapers way in the distance
After the first big climb of the day — up from Bellbird Grove — we turned up Mt Nebo Road for a bit and then had a museli-bar break where the “Centre Road” fire-trail started.
Then it was time for more ‘Grammin!
We discovered this incredible beautiful section of Enoggera Creek and Bennett was all inspired and suddenly there was a flurry of ‘Grammin. But Bennett did take a rather amazingly epic picture of Nate. Here is Bennett’s shot.
WOW! And all I could do at that point was document Bennett and his endeavours.
Here is TAKE 1:
And here is TAKE 2 (which I think is the one that actually got ‘grammed’)
Then everyone got stuck into ‘grammin the Crux’s. It was gay abandon. I was happy for the rest time and the chance to LOL:
But the ‘grammin wasn’t over yet. This is Nate at the top of the next climb – which was pretty brutal I might add — horribly disappointed his reception was not good enough to upload a video he just took for Instagram. As we rolled on he said, “I’ll just keep the phone unlocked and hope it keeps uploading in the meantime.” TRUE STORY!
DOWNHILL (at last)
After a few more bits of up, we got to smash down. Going up on gravel and dirt is so unlike what I am used to. Although I was thankful for all the extra gears on a MTB (and the ability to really, really spin), it was still a struggle rolling up such a loose surface — and you couldn’t get out of the saddle much because the back wheel would spin or you would lose much of your effort just punching down the front suspension.
Most of the down we had experienced so far I had been on the brakes all the time just trying to limit any disaster. Zach advised us we were about to hit quite a “fast” section. So I found myself just behind Nate at this stage and just watching him smash down I decided to follow his lines and his amazing bravado. After all he had much thinner tyres than me and he never looked in trouble. So I started laying off the anchors and found myself hitting speeds in the 40s and the sense of SPEED was amazing. Of course you had no worries about car traffic and that incessant looking behind you always do when taking up all the road when descending on the bitumen.
The surface underneath was always a worry but once you rolled over a bunch of things that you thought would surely ruin you — and you kept rolling true — you got more and more confident. A tiny light inside my head started thinking, “With enough practise you might actually get good at this”.
TWO WEEKENDS OF WALKING
Naturally there was a hill or two a bit later that defeated me and for the second time in 7 days I had to jump off the bike and walk. This time my bike was about twice as heavy — but luckily the climb was no where near as long.
The hill pictured above was particularly epic. Even Nate was defeated only metres from the top. After I got to the top he was like, “I am gonna do that again and DO IT!”
I attempted to talk him out of it, but half of me wanted to see him try again and WIN!
Soon enough he was rolling down the hill as Brad and Bennett were still struggling up looking at him like he was DOING IT WRONG.
Here he is going down, looking so determined:
But it defeated him again at almost exactly the same point.
I took this photo of him (and his shame) and Nate said, “Thanks Dave.” I am not sure he really appreciated it. 🙂
The next bit of down I got adventurous enough to try to get a bit of “air”. In other words do a jump over a rise. I didn’t really succeed but I did break a spoke! EPIC! I soon felt this whirr from the back wheel and realised it was rubbing against the seat stay. Above is a pic of Nate getting my wheel true again so it didn’t rub.
OK! then we made it back to civilisation.