What could be more challenging, or more fun than leading a several dozen riders with a wide range of skill levels on a 65km cross-country trek through some tough but beautiful country?
After last years amazing ride from Beerburrum to Woodford and back, some friends asked if I would organize a similar ride this year. The only problem was that last year we did it in the dry season, and this year it was at the end of the wet season with flooded creeks, muddy tracks, and downhill sections that were mountains of wet clay.
A few days earlier I checked out the route with some friends – some of the old dry trails had turned into long mosquito-ridden swamps, and I was keen to ensure that I didn’t spoil people’s fun by forcing them to trudge through vast tracks of unpleasantness like this.
As I arrived at the Matthew Flinders Rest Area before the ride, I was overwhelmed to find 41 eager mountain bikers raring to set out on this adventure. Forty one! This was going to be a mammoth task – ensuring no one got lost, everyone kept together, and everyone had a good time, even though the group ranged in skill and fitness levels from beginner to advanced. Thankfully, my friends Eric and Darb agreed to “ride shotgun” at the rear, and Eric supplied a couple of walkie-talkies so that we could keep in touch and know what was going on. (What a fantastic idea – we must use these again on bigger rides!)
And so we set off. Snaking through the pine forests of Beerburrum. As we reached an intersection that might confuse people I asked one of the people at the front to stop there and act as “traffic cop” to point following riders in the right direction. This is a great strategy I learned from some of the guys at Bushrangers Mountainbike Club on an earlier ride.
At our first major climb, I rushed ahead to get a few photos of everyone trying to make it up the hill. Keen photograoher, Tim, decided he wanted to lie in the middle of the track and capture riders on the way past. It was a miracle no one hit him, or tried to use him as a log rollover.
Most people made it part way up, but Rick (who had never ridden this hill before) showed the rest of us how it was done. Well done, Rick!
After just over an hour of riding, we made it to our first rest-stop at the lookout where people soaked in the view of the stunning volcanic outcrops while others took the time to recover.
The next stop was the Hennessey Hill downhill track. This is a steep man-made track with jumps, berms, drop-offs and rock-gardens. It’s challenging, but fun to ride. Darb thought he’d “push the envelope” a bit and descend with a bit of speed. Here’s what happened. (I’m the silly looking guy in green at the end of the video that almost got run over).
Thankfully, no one was hurt badly, and everyone had a lot of fun.
We continued our adventure westward, along some red dirt tracks and up yet more hills. A few of the riders were starting to tire, but no one complained – which is amazing for such a large group.
The final obstacle before our rest at Woodford was the creek. Some people, keen to reach the destination, rode through it. Other people (like me) who had an aversion to wet feet removed their footwear and walked through. Either way, it was impressive watching so many mountain bikers cross a creek, like a herd of stampeding cattle.
A few people took the opportunity in Woodford to have a quick rest, while others raided the local cafes for all manner of cycling fuel. We split up, and went to different shops so as not to overwhelm the place.
From Woodford we headed north-west out of town, avoiding some the boggy spots I’d discovered earlier during the week.
It was fascinating to watch how a group of people with a common goal were so effective as team – especially at obstacles like barbed-wire fences, where a wrong move could puncture a tire, scratch a frame, or rip lycra.
And then it was time for the last major climb of the day – a 2km tough little ascent called “Radar Hill”. Some people walked, some people powered up, others spun in granny gear, but everyone made it to the top.
The descent from Radar Hill is amazing. Once you start, there’s no turning back. Your brakes won’t stop you. It’s a controlled slide to the bottom. Most people walked it, but a few daredevils rode it. Everyone got to the bottom in one piece.
At the Mount Beerwah picnic ground, some people took the time to enjoy the amazing view…
…while others took the time to recover.
“Not long to go now” I assured people – many of whom were starting to feel like they were at the limit of their endurance.
We had one last big descent to tackle – Porfiri Road. This nasty rocky “road” has gobbled me up twice in the past. It’s a very challenging descent. Several people were able to ride it. Most rode it part-way, and walked some of the trickier bits. Amazingly, no one was hurt.
Stokes Road at Beerwah was our last stop before disappearing into the forest again, and completing the final leg of the trip.
From there it was a reasonably easy roll along the bike path back into Beerburrum.
All up we rode over 65km in about 7.5 hours including breaks. We climbed about 1,000m in 30 degree heat. I burned about 3,000kcal.
I can’t really give this one score on the tough-o-meter. For some of the newer, less experience riders, this one was off the scale – pushing the boundaries of their ability. For them it rates at least 10 out of 10.
For some of the more experience riders (and comparing it with the brutal ride that we Eric, Darb, Jason and I did last week) it rates about 7.5 to 8 out of 10.
But, more importantly, as a social event for like-minded people who love exploring the outdoors, this ride couldn’t have been any better. I thouroughly enjoyed it.
Thanks everyone for coming. Thanks especially to Eric and Darb for helping to manage the group.