Tag Archives: Mountain biking

MTB pleasure

The birthday candles are starting to bloom, confirming what the air is already telling us: winter is coming soon. The bright yellow banksia flowers formed little highlights in the otherwise green bushland as I rode my mountain bike along the trails this morning.

As is becoming usual, I started my ride in darkness, riding quickly along the fire trails to the place where I found a new single track the other morning.

The new single track is fantastic. A more experienced rider would enjoy the thrill of the bomb holes, berms, log drop offs, bump tracks and big jumps that have been created on the gently sloping ride. At first I followed the trail from where I joined it to one end, which was 2.5km away. I didn’t get a good change to explore the track in the other direction so am not sure how far it extends.

At the end of the new single track, I had the choice of following the fire trails for a loop or joining a different single track about 50m away. I opted for the fire trails because I was short on time and I wanted to get some confidence jumping the erosion bumps down some of the fire trail hills (I am enjoying the whole getting air thing).

It was a good way to start the day and I worked up quite a sweat.

Total: 10.6km MTB

Focusing on the basics

MTB dawn by Andrew Gills
MTB dawn, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

For the month of April, I focused my training on improving my MTB riding skills. It started with me having a shocking race at the iAdventure Sprint in late March, resulting in me buying a new bike the next day. I even bought a magazine called 128 Mountain Biking Tips.

My riding has improved out of sight over the past month. To the extent that I’ve reached a new plateau where I’m finding myself stressing while out riding, trying to force new breakthroughs.

This morning I started out riding a moderately challenging single trail at dawn. I struggled the whole way with my body feeling rigid and my movements jerky. I almost took myself out on a tree and had to walk a few sections due to self-imposed anxiety giving me the shakes.

It’s normal for this to happen when training and working on skills. I’m not the most patient person in the world (actually, that’s an understatement). I want to be good at mountain biking now; not in a year or two after I’ve had some practice.

The trick is to work out the best way forward. For me, thinking of mountain biking as training is a mistake that will stop me progressing. See, I rebel against formal training. I just want to go out an play; give me a routine or set me tasks and I’ll rebel. Even when I am my own taskmaster.

So, at the end of the frustrating single trail, I decided to relax by riding some fire trail. As I rode, I recognised that one of my biggest mountain biking mistakes is that I tend to look just in front of my wheel. This means I am constantly reacting, rather than establishing plans that can be more easily executed.

As I cruised the fire trails and a lovely easy flowing single track, I simply worked on keeping my head up to look at the trail ahead. It will take me some time to perfect this seemingly easy skill. I keep worrying about what’s under my wheels, fearful that I will get tangled up in something like loose sand or obstacles.

But, this month, rather than focus on my technical performance on the bike, I want to just enjoy some easy trails to build confidence and practice this whole looking ahead up the trail thing. Besides, now that I’ve signed up for the Brisbane Marathon, my focus discipline for May will be running; the rest of my outdoor activities can just be done for fun.


  • 15.7km MTB
  • 12.9km cycle commute (this morning)
  • 15km cycle commute(tonight)

Three different MTB rides in two days

in amongst the she oaks by Andrew Gills
in amongst the she oaks, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

With the Rogue 24 Hour Adventuregaine just one week away, I really hit my MTB stride this weekend with three very different rides. My goal after the iAdventure Sprint Adventure Race in March was to improve my MTB skills and, with the new bike giving me new confidence, this weekend I really tested my improvements.

It started Saturday morning when I hit the trails in Bayview for an easy solo adventure. I had just bought a magazine with 128 MTB skills listed in it so decided to try some simple things out. My focus for the ride was to get back in the saddle when riding downhill, lift myself up over small jumps instead of braking before them, to push out with the outside foot while cornering and to shift my weight forward when climbing.

It doesn’t sound like much but these are things I’ve never actually thought about before. I’ve always just been an MTB plodder who takes a tentative approach, rather than being aggressive.

I enjoyed my little 23.3km ride through the fire trails and single tracks of Bayview. I stopped often to take photos and enjoy the serenity, barely working up a sweat but not worrying about it either.

Enjoying the Bayview swamps

Enjoying the Bayview swamps

On Sunday morning team Whoops Witch Way had our weekly MTB ride. My sister bought a new mountain bike this past week and Sunday morning was her first ride on the new beast. It’s similar to mine but one model down (also a Merida Big Nine 29er).

We had a grand time riding the single tracks up at the top end of Bayview where there were plenty of rocky hills to challenge us. We rode 16.3 glorious kilometres and got the bikes nice and muddy.

Daisy Hill trails

Daisy Hill trails

An hour after finishing my ride with my sister, I was out at Daisy Hill Forest Park to ride with D from Scouts. He’s the leader and he invited me to join him out riding. D usually rides with a bunch of guys who sound like they ride hard. I was to discover that D, as the slowest of that group, is super fit and fast by my standards.

D took me along trails I’ve never ridden before and pushed me faster than I usually ride. I didn’t want to be left behind so pushed myself the whole 23km single track route.

D took the time to give me some tips for riding downhill and popping my bike over obstacles I previously walked over. Now all I need to do is to practice practice practice until I feel more confident riding at speed.

All-in-all a fantastic weekend of riding. I still found time for an afternoon nap on Saturday and to spend the rest of Sunday visiting friends so it wasn’t all training.


  • Saturday solo ride – 23.3km MTB
  • Sunday team Whoops Witch Way ride – 16.3km MTB
  • Sunday ride with D – 23.0km MTB

MTB and trail run

Team Whoops Witch Way had our Thursday night trail run tonight. With each of us having challenging events this weekend (she has an adventure race with her friend Saturday and a women’s obstacle race Sunday, and I have the 200km 2 Lumps Audax ride), we decided to take things easy on our run.

I had to borrow Mum’s ute (pick up truck) to get to the Audax ride on Saturday so I rode my MTB through the bush to my sister’s place. I just took it easy for the ride and enjoyed the experience.

Our trail run was easy. We walked up the hills and jogged slowly for the rest of the run. Our pace was just 7:30mins per kilometre (12:00 mins / mile).

Tomorrow I’ll be taking the whole day off training. I also have no plans to train on Sunday after Saturday’s Audax ride. But I will be picking the Purple Monster up from the shops tomorrow after getting the front forks replaced (they are seriously bent from when the bike fell off the car in December). More on the new-look Purple Monster tomorrow.

Total: 7.1km night MTB and 5.36km night trail run.

Daisy Hill MTB

Daisy Hill MTB by Andrew Gills
Daisy Hill MTB, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

My Whoops Witch Way teammate suggested a break from our usual routine with a morning MTB ride at Daisy Hill Forest Park. Not being one to miss out on the fun, I was quick to agree.

Daisy Hill MTB map

Daisy Hill MTB trails – Trails I rode are highlighted yellow

I arrived an hour earlier that my sister who had to drop kids off at vacation care. The sun had just risen high enough in the sky to save me having to ride under lights. Though the sun hadn’t quite won the battle over the darkness. I rode down the main trail to The 5 Ways. In the past, I’ve had to walk the hill on this section of track but I found it easy to climb today.

From The 5 Ways I rode Tunnel of Love. I almost managed to ride over the rock garden, just paddling the ground with my feet in the crux of the route. Given that I’ve always just walked over the rock garden in the past, I was pleased with the progress. The rest of the trail was smooth and fast. I started down Koala but explored a side trail that led to a section of fire trail on the park boundary. At least it gave me another chance to work on my fire trail hill climbing skills, which is handy in adventure racing because course-setters seem to like sending teams up fire trail hills. The ride back up Koala and Tunnel of Love to The 5 Ways was a good confidence boost, especially when I again managed to paddle my way through the rock garden without getting off the bike.

Things almost went horribly wrong as I dropped down Possum Box. I let my mind start to wander to other things like university assignments and work. Before I knew it, I clipped something on the trail, dropped down off a log step, started to go over the handlebars, managed to correct and found myself heading straight for a tree leading with my forehead. I don’t know how I pulled myself back onto the track and missed a trip to the hospital. But at least I got my head back out of the stresses of life and onto the trails.

I rode back up to the top carpark to wait for my sister, having ridden 10.6km. After she arrived, my sister and I rode down to Turning Japanese. This is a fantastic flowing trail with a few log step offs, and some rock and slat bridges. I took some video footage of the trail to share with you. I only could capture the smooth flowing sections, not the technical stuff, because I had to hold the video camera (actually just my mobile phone) in my hand while riding.

Total: 20km MTB

Night MTB

After a long day in the office, I stuck my Ayup headlight on my helmet, swung my leg over my MTB and hit the single trails in Bayview Conservation Park. The days are getting shorter as autumn starts to make her presence known, so it was pitch black within 20 minutes of my setting off.

Once again, I found myself pushing harder and faster on the new Merida Big Nine 29er than I ever did on my old recycled MTB. The ride is so smooth that I can’t seem to help myself. I’m riding 50% faster than I was before I bought the new bike and am still just getting used to it. Though I’m sure that mean I’m probably heading for some bruises as well 😉

Bayview trails (yellow is my route)

Bayview trails (yellow is my route)

I started out on the Bensen and Blinkey single track. I used to have to walk over all the logs on this trail, as well as the sharp rocky bend through a re-entrant and most of the final hill up to Good Friday. But tonight I rode the whole trail; even managing to stay upright when I banged my left handlebar against a tree (I find it difficult to judge depth of field during the short dusk).

The next trail I rode was the steep and winding Grass Trees. I scuttled down the hill dodging the protruding grass trees that can cause the bike to stop suddenly if you get a pedal caught on them. It felt so good to be able to get down most of the trail with my feet clipped in, rather than having to use my feet as training wheels.

I flew down the Slippery Dip at 35kph, the fastest I’ve ever dropped down this bumpy sloping fire trail. The water in the creek at the bottom barely touched my wheels as I raced through across the rocks and continued to the Black Forest.

By the time I got to IO it was pitch black and my field of vision was limited to the broad beam of light my Ayup provided. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the thin vine along the side of the single track as I descended a challenging section before the creek. Next thing I knew, I was picking myself up off the ground, brushing the dust and dried mud off my jersey.

I cruised down the short section of fire trail to Sharks Tail at 30kph and then attacked the Sharks Tail single track with full force, riding down the stepped tree roots and through the deep ruts cut by the recent rains. I felt free and relaxed as I hit the smooth flowing flat sections of Sharks Tail, enjoying the sight of the red moon rising above the she-oaks.

Turing back up The Maze I started to pick up speed, averaging 14kph as I wound my way back up the gentle slope through the she-oaks. I’ve never ridden The Maze this quickly before but I’m in the zone and enjoying life.

It’s getting close to 7pm by the time I exit The Maze and I had promised my partner I’d be home for dinner so I hit the fire trail back to the Days Road exit to ride home along the main road, rather than battling back up the steep hills near Grass Trees.

I’m really loving my mountain biking now that I have the 29er, suspension and disc brakes. I feel confident out on the trails. But I am also glad I spent the past 18 months riding the Purple Monster because I know I learned a lot of good skills on it.

With the Rogue 24 Hour Adventuregaine just 25 days away, I am keen to get in as many hours on the trails as possible so that I can focus on navigating for team Whoops Witch Way, rather than stressing about the bike legs.

Total: 19.6km night MTB

Daisy Hill MTB trails

Tunnel of Love MTB trail by Andrew Gills
Tunnel of Love MTB trail, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

With Sunday being Easter and my teammate having young children, team Whoops Witch Way went on our weekly MTB training session today instead. It’s Good Friday, so we have a public holiday. Instead of our usual ride through Bayview, we drove further afield to Daisy Hill Forest Park where were hit some popular purpose-built trails. Our two-hour session was fun. We pushed ourselves to ride more obstacles and hills than we have in the past.

I took some short videos while we were out to give an impression of the ride. I used my smart phone so only rode with one hand while videoing us so it’s all on the easier trails. But hopefully it’s enjoyable to watch.

Total: 18.1km MTB

New wheels … first ride

New wheel ... first ride by Andrew Gills
New wheel … first ride, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

I picked up my new mountain bike today so, after a few well-earned days rest, I hit the trails and found out just how awesome the Merida Big Nine TFS100 29er is.

Firstly, riding with suspension is a revolution. I used to have a mountain bike with suspension (an early 2000s Giant Yukon) but I never really rode it off-road (I used it to commute). So having travel in the front forks was such a confidence boost. No longer did my bike come to a screeching stop if I didn’t pop the front wheel up far enough over obstacles, but the suspension allowed the front wheel to roll over instead. Instead of slowing to prepare to dismount at every log and rocky creek bed, I found myself attacking obstacles instead.

Secondly, the 29″ wheels are magical. I found myself riding up hills I previously walked and rolling much more quickly along the flats. On my way home, I even managed to get most of the way up the twisting and turning Grass Trees trail, which is a huge confidence boost. The bigger wheels also mean I have more clearance under the bottom bracket, making it easier to ride over logs without getting caught on them. The only down side of the 29er is that it is a bit more difficult to get it through some of the tighter turns on the single tracks. But I’m sure that this is also just a matter of me getting used to the bike.

Thirdly, the hydraulic disc brakes are the bomb. After struggling all this time with dodgy V-brakes that got filled with mud, suffered cable stretch or plain failed on me, the reliable braking system is something to be celebrated. I found myself cruising down hills with speed, rather than holding the brakes out of concern that they’d not work if I needed them. I took a hill at 46kph that I’ve always walked down in the past.

As you have probably gathered, the new bike has increased my riding speed. I used to ride the trails in Bayview Conservation Reserve at between 9kph – 11kph (5.5mph – 7mph). Today, my average speed for a 25km ride was 14kph (8.7mph). It’s still not fast, but it does represent a 40% improvement in just my first ride, including 7km (4.4miles) that I rode after the sun set.

I have to give a shout out to the boys at 99 Bikes, Underwood. They were friendly, knowledgeable and patient. I spent about an hour test riding bikes on Sunday and they made sure each was properly set up for me. I never felt rushed to make a decision or purchase. In fact, I told them when I went into the shop that I didn’t have my credit card with me. I also liked that they didn’t try to sell me a bike outside my stated budget. I told them I was looking in the $600 – $800 price category and they only gave me $600 – $800 bikes to test ride; they didn’t try to force me to stretch my budget to the $1,000 – $1,200 price category. If anyone’s looking for a new bike, I would definitely recommend 99 Bikes (if you go to the Underwood store, tell them I sent you).

Total: 25.9km MTB

Getting geared up

I love outdoors gear. I think it’s one of the reasons adventure racing appeals to me so much: because it can involve cool gear. While today might be a rest day for my body, I certainly gave my credit card a good workout. But it was all essential adventure racing equipment.

It started with me going to the bicycle shop and buying the Merida Big Nine TCR 100 29er mountain bike that I looked at yesterday. I received a $100 voucher to use for accessories so also bought tubes, frame pump, bottle cage, tail light and cycle computer. The shop didn’t have any frames my size in the shop (17″ frame) but they should have the bike in by Thursday at the latest, which works out well because I’ll be in Perth (on Australia’s west coast) until Wednesday evening.

Then I stopped at Kathmandu to buy a deluxe saddle bag and cycling multi tool for the new MTB. I have one each of these for my road bike and am so impressed with the products that I decided to buy a second set so that I don’t have to change them between bikes.

I then went online to the Area51 website to purchase some team adventure racing gear. When I phoned my sister to confer with her, she mentioned that she too happened to be on the Area51 website doing the same thing. We bought:

While I was thinking about adventure racing, I also decided to skip the 45km Red Rocks to Coffs beach trail run on 21 April to focus on the 24 hour Rogue Adventuregaine on 27-28 April. I am going to be focusing on mountain biking until Rogue because this is a huge weakness for me.

Total: Trip to physio to get elbows pushed into my muscles, stretching and rest.

Forest trails

Forest trails by Andrew Gills
Forest trails, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

My legs feel great again after the weekend’s ride. The food and stretching of the past two days have done the trick.

This morning I took a short mountain bike ride through the bush. I needed some fresh air. The bush is lush and green from the recent rains, making for a glorious start to the day.

Total: 11.63km mountain bike ride