2000km later…


The new Jamis Durango mountain bike

The new Jamis Durango mountain bike

Three months ago I purchased a new bike, a Jamis Durango 29inch Mountain Bike (MTB). At the time it was ‘on sale’ and cost about 2/3rds the normal price, so it was a desireable option for the price. The previous bike that was purchased new was a 26″ foldable bike, which travelled an estimated 20,000km over the time I had it, and last year was on it’s last legs. Before I purchased the Durango I had looked at road bikes, single speeds, cyclo-cross, even a footbike. But none of them seemeed to fit my needs – either I had to travel hours to purchase, price was too much for my budget, or I had concerns about the a bike’s ability to handle the sorts of roads I often travel on. “Roads” might even be a bit of a overstatement of some of the places I had taking the 26″ foldable and a 20″ foldable bike I had been riding before I purchased the Durango, so anything that couldn’t handle some rough tracks really wasn’t a viable option. No ultra-thin rimmed road bike for me!! Then I was in a bike shop in the nearest regional city to our home, and saw the Durango. “A mountain bike wasn’t necessarily the most desirable option” I thought, mostly due to them being heavier than other bikes, and greater tyre resistance on the road, but the more I thought about, the more the Durange seemed like a good choice. It also had disk brakes on the bike, and the lockable suspension front forks for the extra bumpy tracks, which seemed like a good idea for where I was likely to ride. So I purchased it.

 

Mud - there has been plenty of that this winter!

Mud – there has been plenty of that this winter!

Three months, and 2000km, later I am happy to report that the Durango has been, without a doubt, the best ‘fit’ for me of any bike I have ever owned. Not only has the bike allowed me to do some rougher and muddier trail rides (can you hear me giggling uncontrollably, and see me grinning uncontrollably as I negotiate large mud puddles on farm tracks near home), but it is a dream to ride on the bitumen too. My average speed on most rides on the new bike is about 5km faster than it was on my previous bikes – something that really surprised me as I thought the heaviness of the bike (around 14kg) would have the opposite effect. As far as long rides go, I have probably done a higher proportion of long rides on the Durango than on previous bikes – over the last few months I clocked up some rather long rides on the new bike, about 85km being the longest. But haven’t managed a 100+ ride like on the 26″ foldable, yet. Other notable road rides on the new bike include a 50+ km ride in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains with a local cycling group, two 65+ km rides to Albury and back, a 60+ km ride to explore some disused railway formations near Ryan and Henty, and a 50km exploration ride along a road called “Gluepot Road” (I had imagined there was a valid reason why they called it that, and so hadn’t attempted it on any of my previous bikes). With the very wet last few months, and often muddy stock and farm tracks, I would have been very limited on just about any other type of bike. This is where the mountain bike really came into its own as I felt a lot more confident traversing some of the very large puddles and mud patches I encountered on the various rides. A total of 2000km in 3 months is a decent effort, even on a much lighter road bike!

 

A bit of Edgehill Track in the tyres of the MTB

A bit of Edgehill Track in the tyres of the MTB

About the only things I needed to do were replace the seat that came with the bike with a more comfortable seat, and figure out a way to carry multiple water bottles, and other ’emergency’ kit such as spare tube, tools, money, etc. The seat replacement was easy – I replaced the seat with the ultra-comfy ‘big butt’ seat from a previous bike, problem solved. But the water bottles and emergency kit was a bit more complicated and I still haven’t managed to figure it out satifactorily. Not long after purchasing the bike I purchased a Topeak seat mounted bag which I thought would fix that problem but as it turned out the size of the bag when attached to the seat post / back of seat fouls the rear tyre. So the bag is mounted on the front of the bike in a rather weird way, but at least it “works” there (even if it looks a little strange) and doesn’t foul any other moving parts on the bike. That solution is still not quite satisfactorily, but as the bag cost me a whopping $90+ dollars, I figured it will have to do for now.

 

When I took the bike in for it’s 3 month warranty ‘adjustment’ service, the guys at the bike shop said the chain was already fairly worn, and when I told them how much kms I had done they understood why. And one of them made possibly the biggest understatement I have heard in a while : “sounds like you are enjoying the bike then”. Enjoying? Yes! Really really enjoying!

Eliana negotiating a large mud patch on Wyoming Lane near home

Eliana negotiating a large mud patch on Wyoming Lane near home

Hickman Lane flooded - very bug puddles

Hickman Lane flooded – very bug puddles

The staff at the bike shop suggested I convert the drive train (front and back cog sets and chain) for a more durable set, which would cost around $600 fitted. That would bring the total cost of the bike up to about $1000, still considerably below the $1500 I was quoted for a cyclo-cross bike I originally looked at. So I am hoping to have the conversion done as the budget permits. Another possible upgrade that might be worth me considering is an upgrade of the brake system from cable to hydraulic disk, but I have no idea how much that might cost.

So here is the run down…

The Durango mountain bike has overall been a great choice. It is durable, tough, good on all types of road surfaces (probably mostly because of the 29″ wheels), feels very saure-footed on slippery sections, and is heaps of fun. The price at the time of purchase, and the fact the little 20″ K-Rock foldable bike I was riding wasn’t really suitable for me to do long rides on, and the extra time it would take to save the money to get a $1000+ bike, were the main reasons I initially decided on buying the Durango. But after 3 months of riding anywhere and everywhere, I am glad I did.

Gluepot Road calls

Gluepot Road calls

 

Preview of a Rail Trail


Yesterday (Sunday 12h Oct) I was able to take part in a ‘not-quite-rail-trail’ ride. The reason it was ‘not-quite-rail-trail’ was because it followed as closely as possible where a planned rail trail would go, but was not on the exact route of the trail. The ride was planned by the Albury Wodonga Pedal Power group, a group of ‘lycra is optional’ cyclists who main aim is to enjoy the pleasures of cycling, having fun, excersizing and socializing ( website ).

The ride was to promote the idea of converting the disused Culcairn – Corowa railway line into a rail trail. These trails have become quite common in all areas of Australia, except NSW! Although it looks like that is soon to change.

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Landscape near Orielda Siding

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Various shots of riders on the ride

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Near Orielda Siding

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Probably the highest point on the ride, this was about 6km from Brockelsby, and a good place to have a rest before the final downhills into Brocklesby.

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Old timber railway bridge near Brocklesby

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Near Orielda Siding

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Burrumbuttock Silos and Station

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You can tell we are in the country

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Various types of bikes – Lloyd’s recumbent cycle. Other types of bikes on the ride included single-speed BMX, fold-up, road and mountain bikes.

The plan was that when we reached Brocklesby we would attend the dedication of a tourism site commemorating a mid-air collision of two Arvo Anson aircraft near the town in World War II.

BrocklesbyHotel_with_2_ArvoAnsons_0589Then we packed the bikes into the support bus’s trailer, found seats in the bus and got to enjoy the return trip to Walla Walla in motorised comfort, eating orange cake and discussing the ride and riding in general, and the future rail trail. And something happened that rarely happens for me – I had a kind-of post-ride ‘buzz’, a sense of contentment and almost extreme happiness that I don’t remember ever experiencing after a bike ride. Maybe that is because I got to spent time riding with other cyclists (a rarity for me) in the beautiful countryside and a very pleasant spring day.

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Bike trailer and packed at Brocklesby

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Some of the group.

Sore muscles and other enjoyable things


Mount Lawson Valley View and Flaggy Creek Gorge Hike

Yesterday Bec and the girls were at an ‘Adventurers Day’ in one of the ‘nearby’ regional cities, and so Jesse and I took the opportunity to engage in some hiking in the ‘church with the big blue, white and grey roof’. Thats just a fancy way of saying that instead of being cooped up inside a church building made of bricks, wood and plaster we spent it outside in the great outdoors. The weather forecast said there was a ‘possibility of showers’, but that didn’t deter us.

Mount Lawson State Park is located in Victoria (Australia) about 60km east of Albury / Wodonga between the Murray Valley Highway and Murray River Road. The information brochure on the park said it is known for it’s steep slopes, cliffs and prominent rocky bluffs and is described as semi-remote. Seems to me thats a pretty reasonable description! We set out for The Kurrajongs, where the hike was to start and made final preparations to our day packs and set off. The Flaggy Creek Gorge walk is a rugged walk (again, thats what the brochure said, and it proved very true) with a number of climbs and descents. The end of the path is at the Flaggy Creek Gorge waterfalls, which is definitely worth the effort to hike in to see.

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

Flaggy Creek Gorge

The scenery along the walk and at Flaggy Gorge reminded me somewhat of Missinghams Steps, a walk in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, except the cliff faces were not quite so sheer as what I remember seeing on the Missinghams Steps walk and other areas of the Illawarra. After the first ascent we reached Valley View. This provides views across the Murray River valley and looking north into what I would reckon is the Woomargama National Park.

View of the Murray Vallery from Valley View

View of the Murray Valley from Valley View

View of the Murray Vallery from Valley View

View of the Murray Valley from Valley View

Along the walk there were various interesting rock formations and I took some photos of some them.

Rock Formations

Rock Formations

Rock Formations

Rock Formations

Valley View Rock Formations

Valley View Rock Formations

After passing through Valley View we descended down onto a saddle and climbed again towards a location called The Oaks. This location didn’t seem to have any oaks at all. Maybe they got burnt out in a bush fire at some point. But we did hear a lot of Lyrebirds in this section of the walk. I hadn’t heard Lyrebirds for many years and it surprised me somewhat to hear them here. But the sheer number of different lyrebirds we heard in close proximity to each other was also something I don’t think I have experienced before. I remember hearing Lyrebird calls in Sherbrook Forest near my parents house when I was growing up. We would go for walks and we would hear lyrebirds and maybe even see one, but I don’t remember hearing a number of different birds in fairly close proximity to each other like in Mount Lawson State Park. We heard so many Lyrebirds that I concluded there must be a Lyrebird colony in this part of the park. But we didn’t see a single Lyrebird, only heard them. We saw a number of Wombat holes too. But no actual wombats except for a poor road-kill wombat on the main road that borders the park.

Interesting tree near The Oaks

Interesting tree near The Oaks

Cute little fungii

Cute little fungii

On the walk in we experienced some discomfort in the feet and legs, but the walk back ‘matured’ the discomfort somewhat. Especially the last descent from Vally View to the carpark at The Kurrajongs. By the time we got back to the car my muscles so sore and I knew that if I got into the car without doing some form of stretching or cool-down I would suffer the consequences. Even though I did some cool down stretches my muscles were pretty sore by the time I got home and I hobbled around like an old man for most of the evening. It didn’t help that I had started to get blisters on my feet too. But in spite of the muscle stress, we really enjoyed the hike. There is always a sense of achievement when one finishes such a hike!

GPS data for the hike can be found here: http://www.strava.com/activities/156101073 .

Friends of High Country Rail Trail: ‘Jarvis Creek Jaunt’

Last Friday my wife told me about a bike ride around the Tallangatta area of Victoria (south west of Mt Lawson state park, and about 40km from Wodonga). The official information for the site said it suited Mountain Bikes or Sturdy Hybrids. Armed with that information I decided to do a test ride on Eliana’s mountain bike around Albury on Friday. This produced a decision to NOT take her mountain bike on the ride – it produced a lot of sore muscles, which contributed somewhat to the muscle soreness on the Mt Lawson hike. So I decided to risk taking my foldable bike with mountain bike rims and hope that it would handle the roads / tracks and terrain ok. I needn’t have worried – it handled the whole ride superbly – much better than the one riding it!

Leaving home at about 6:45am on Sunday and having some pretty thick fog to negotiate didn’t bode well but by the time I was east of Wodonga the fog was starting to lift. Along the way, at Edben, I saw this…

Fog over Lake Hume at Ebden

Fog over Lake Hume at Ebden

… and arrived in Tallangatta about 20 minutes later.

The ride is a 48km rail trail / road and mountain track ride. For the first part of the ride it was fairly easy being along the High Country Rail Trail, which follows the formation of the Wodonga – Cudgewa Railway. The rails have long since gone, but today a large portion of the railway formation has been converted to a Rail Trail. Then we headed across a very empty Lake Hume into Old Tallangatta and started to climb towards the highest point of the ride. Along Georges Creek Road was a steady climb with some undulations. And then we turned into Mitchells Track (I think that was it’s name). At this point it was getting foggy again, and the track was very damp but not too slippery. This climb was rather steep, and went for about 3km, with an average grade of 7%. That means there were some areas where it was steeper! An ascent of 7% for that length on a bike ride is something I have never experienced before – previously I would simply walk the bike up hills like that. Even still, I managed it ok today and would try it again, although not so soon after a hike that caused so much muscle soreness (ie, the Flaggy Gorge hike). Eventually we turned onto Plateau Rd, which as it’s name implies follows the plateau and soon we arrived at the designated place for some morning tea. Damper, muffins, tea and coffee were on offer. I decided on a choc-chip muffin and a piece of damper. Yummy! Damper is sort of a bit like scones, but is associated more with the Aussie bush and was or is cooked around a camp fire by swagmen, stockmen, drovers, campers and other travellers. After morning tea we continued on our way, for the most pleasant part of the ride – the downhill bits! Normally along this part of the ride we would have had some awesome views, but while on Plateau Rd the fog was mostly below us and so all we saw was the peaks of mountains poking through a sea of fog.

Fog below Plateau Road

Fog below Plateau Road

Eventually we turned onto Jarvis Creek Road, which marked the descent into Old Tallangatta. And coasted down the hill to where we would join the rail trail once again. Then it was back along the relatively gentle grades of the rail trail back into Tallangatta. The Friends of the High Country Rail Trail did a great job of organising the event, and providing morning tea, and provided check points along the way and an official rider at the back of the group to catch any who I guess couldn’t go any further. Some of the riders this year had done the ride in previous years, there were some like me who had never done the ride before, and there was even one rider who did the Jaunt as his first ride. After some lunch at Tallangatta I headed home and waddled inside, with sore muscles but that much sort after sense of achievement.

GPS data for the ride can be found here: http://www.strava.com/activities/156511052 .

 

 

Autumn, Hair and 10 or so bikes


Recently I joined a cycling group called Albury Wodonga Pedal Power. Evey year they do a weekend ride of the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail and this year it was in May. The trees were in the grip of their Autumnal Leaf Change when we embarked for the township of Bright (Victoria, Australia) late on Saturday afternoon to meet up with the group. After a fantastic tea of Vegetarian Penne (for me) and Cajun Chicken (for Jesse) at one of the local eating establishments with the rest of the group, and with the temperature getting colder than Joe Hockey’s national 2014 budget, Jesse and I decided the best thing to do was to head back to our accommodation.

Ovens River, Bright

Ovens River, Bright

Bright, and indeed the whole region where it is located, is very picturesque in Autumn with the deciduous trees turning all shades except green. Even the vineyards were changing their colors, which was a new concept to me – I didn’t know that grape vines changed their leaf color in Autumn.

Grape vines in autumn colors

Grape vines in autumn colors

Apparently even the hair of teenagers can change color in Autumn too!

Teenager in Autumn

Jesse the Teenager in Autumn

The next morning we woke up fairly early and had a breakfast of ‘Mini-Meal’ muesli bars and ‘Up and Go’. John, the older Heavy Metal devotee gentleman who was sharing our room who had a night on the town and got back to the room after we had already fallen asleep awoke not much later and by 8:30 we were ready to depart for our rail trail adventure.

The morning was nothing like the weather forecast which said it would be warm and sunny. Even in the afternoon the weather was nothing like the forecast. The dart board used by the weather men must have moved when they threw the dart to decide what the weather for the day was going to be. And so we had to set a pretty fast pace for a little while after starting the ride to warm ourselves up and get the blood pumping. At Eurobin we all stopped for a few minutes for all the group to catch up and for a slightly late introduction to the ride from Anne, the ride leader.

Eurobin rest area

Eurobin rest area – most of the rest areas are former railway stations, and have a railway motif.

Then it was on to Myrtleford and morning tea. The portable stove made an appearance and soon there was hot water for all sorts of hot drinks, along with various cakes, slices and biscuits. By this stage Jesse had broken a personal record for the longest ride. Previously he had ridden about 22km as a longest ride. But he was to do even better. After we finished morning tea we headed west towards Everton. This meant an ascent of Taylor’s Gap, a 7km steady climb, which was then followed by an equally steady descent towards Bowman station site. By the time we reached Everton Jesse had more than doubled his previous cycling ride personal record having cycled 58km! Well done Jesse!

Scenery near Taylors Gap

Scenery near Taylors Gap

Hume and Hovell Monument

Hume and Hovell Monument – these monuments are dotted all over the place where the two explorers travelled in the 1820s. This one is about 5km from Everton.

At the start of the ride there were 14 of us riding. By Everton there were 10 finishers (although only 9 are in the photo below for some reason).

The Finishers

The Finishers

At Everton we split into two groups – 5 took the support bus up to Beechworth, and the other 5 decided to ride the Everton to Beechworth climb – 16km most of which is fairly relentless climbing up a approximately 3% grade. It was made tougher by the fact that we had already ridden 58km before we started the climb. But the 5 of us set off and headed up the hill anyway. The muscles continued to get more sore and the heart pumped harder and the sweat flowed freely but we eventually made it, arriving at Beechworth around 2:30 in the afternoon. There were congratulations all around at having achieved what we did, then it was into the cars, some heading for a very late lunch and others heading for home.

Old chimneys near Beechworth

Old chimneys near Beechworth

Beechworth Railway Station

Beechworth Railway Station

On the way home I had a meeting at the church, and one of the people at the meeting was the driver (I think he said) of the last train to Bright. So all the activities for the day had some connection with the Bright and Beechworth railways! It is certainly a different dynamic riding as a group, and while I enjoy the ‘lone ranger’ cycling around home it was great to be part of a group that all had a common goal.

Here is a link to the GPS data for the ride: http://www.strava.com/activities/142469827 .