Some Happy Riders Tales
Question - Which was your favourite day? Everyday was a highlight, but if I was to choose one it would be Thursday . . . . no wait Wednesday, actually Friday was also damn good . . . but there was also Saturday. Why? Because I love MTBing and the trails in and around Rotorua are sensational.
Question - Best meal of the trip? No, sorry can't limit to one. Each night gave a change of venue and a good choice of menu. Excellent.
Question - Could we have made the trip any better? I'm not sure how you would make it better. There was enough variety each day even though mostly located in Rotorua. I thought your mix of trails was excellent, and the timing for each day also good. The shuttles were scheduled for just the right times. The organisation throughout the 5 days was very professional and seamless (a testament to the pre-planning no doubt).
Grant (Flowtorua NZ Rotorua March 2014)
This trip blew my expectations out of the water. I think it is value in terms of the quality of customer service from Will and the riding memories that it has given. The organisation was faultless, accommodation great, food was top-notch, the group was awesome... and the trails weren't bad either! I had such a good time on the trip... but the come-down is awful! Cheers for the brilliant riding memories which have been added to the brain bank. Thanks Will.
Kieran (Flowtorua NZ Rotorua March 2014)
The trip was really well laid out and went very smoothly!
Grant (Giant NZ Rotorua March 2014)
Thanks Will A magnificent trip! Much appreciate your leadership, advice and assistance throughout. Cheers
Gary (Giant NZ Rotorua March 2014)
Well done Will. I loved it. 10 out of 10. The company the weather and great organisation made it a fantastic trip. I love a holiday where I can just turn up switch off and just go with the flow and not worry about anything else. I am still dreaming about Corners but in my dreams I am much faster and getting air.
Ravi (Flowtorua NZ Rotorua March 2014)
Thanks again for an unforgettable holiday. Cheers
Gil (Flowtorua NZ Rotorua March 2014)
Thanks heaps. I had ball.
Mark (Flowtorua NZ Rotorua March 2014)
It was an absolutely fantastic week away. I'd love to get a bigger group of mates together to come back again. Thanks very much for all your work, Will. You did a great job of organising everything. Well done. Cheers
Gary (Flowtorua NZ Rotorua March 2014)
Thanks so much for a great experience.
Rob (Flowtorua NZ Rotorua March 2014)
Overall an awesome 5 days and achieved what I wanted which was plenty of riding. I pushed myself hard doing more k's and m's than any other rides, but came through feeling great. Will, thanks for a superb trip. It was amazing all the "little" things that you thought of which added to the enjoyment including, snacks, drinks, daily photos etc etc.
Grant (Flowtorua NZ Rotorua March 2014)
Thanks for an awesome tour! I'm hard pressed to think how the trip could have been better. I’m sure you’ll see us back again soon. Julie (Flowtorua NZ Rotorua March 2014)
Great trip with everything taken care of so all you have to do is enjoy the riding. Great skills sessions and advise from the team to improve your riding, it was excellent.
Chris (Flowtorua NZ Rotorua March 2014)
Hi Will, I wanted to say a big thanks for a great trip in Rotorua and Taupo – such a blast.
Richard (Giant NZ Rotorua March 2014)
Hey Will wanted to thank you for an amazing trip, loved every minute of it! Looking forward to practicing some skills back home for when I can hopefully join you again. Favourite part of the trip? All of it - heaps of riding in Waka Forest, everything so well organised / easy / helpful. Had the best time.
Sophie (Giant NZ Rotorua March 2014)
We love having all your photos to enjoy!!!
Jim and Carol (Haute Route Alps 2013)
Question - Could we have made the trip any better? Very well run & organised. Didn't have to worry about a thing - everything was taken care of which I really like. Overall - great trip. Good variety of trails and lots of fun. Thanks Will.
Anthony (November 2013 - Giant Cycling Club Sydney NZ MTB Tour)
Question - Could we have made the trip any better? No change necessary. The accommodation was great, everything was very well organised. Will Levy made all feel welcome and included. The trails were fantastic - something for everyone. The best break I have had for a long time!
Dave (October 2013 - Flowtorua NZ MTB Tour)
Question - Highlight of the trip - EVERYDAY but I would say the Taupo trail day was pretty special
Which was your favourite day out on the bike and why? Again, EVERYDAY! The flowing trails we did with Gaz (NZO) were probably my favourite, not too technical, but fast flowy and super fun.
In your eyes was the trip good value? Yes.
Could we have made the trip any better? Don't see how it could have been better! Amazing weather, sweet trails, good bunch of riders and great organisation.
Sasha (November 2013 - Giant Cycling Club Sydney NZ MTB Tour)
Question - Could we have made the trip any better? Trip went really well; logistically everything went beutifully even for Anthony and his missing bike.
[Side note: Anthony's bike did not make it to Rotorua until the Wednesday afternoon. This was no problem as we had a 2014 Giant Trance 27.5" bike for him to use for the first two days, he did not miss one session]
In your eyes was the trip good value? Yes. Very.
Bart (November 2013 - Giant Cycling Club Sydney NZ MTB Tour)
Thanks, Will. You put together a fantastic 5 days - a great holiday. And thanks for all your encouragement and advice with the riding!
Question - Highlight of the trip - the trails
Question - In your eyes was the trip good value? Yes.
Question - Could we have made the trip any better? I really appreciated how well organised it was and your enthusiasm to keep riding when our energy was flagging (without that enthusiasm, I probably would have stopped at some point). And because of that level of organisation, we were able to get a lot of riding in, without needing time to organise ourselves or energy to think.
I loved the way in which you managed to get a group of adults lined up at the door on time, without being bossy.
With the riding, I liked the way there was no pressure to go fast.
I think your enthusiasm was contagious - the fact that you wanted and expected people to ride as much as possible meant that we did.
Having the trip to Lake Taupo in the middle of the trip was great. Nice to have a day where I didn't have to concentrate a lot on the riding and my upper body got a rest.
All up, I thought the trip was really professional, lots of fun, challenging, and really good for gaining confidence in descending! Thanks a lot, Will!
Alison (November 2013 - Giant Cycling Club Sydney NZ MTB Tour)
Hey Will, What a week. Eat, drink, ride, repeat. Plenty of laughs. And a little unfinished business. Cheers.
Liz (November 2013 - Giant Cycling Club Sydney NZ MTB Tour)
Hi Will, Just wanted to drop you a note to say how much I enjoyed the NZ trip and will be definitely booking in for the March Flowtorua trip next year. The legs are feeling the pain but going thru the video files last night still had the smile on my face. Thanks for all the hard work you and Laurie went to with every detail of the trip, all the support and great advice on the rides and making sure everyone had a fantastic tour. Exceptional value and worth every cent.
Chris (October 2013 - Flowtorua NZ MTB Tour)
It was a great trip and thanks again for everything you did to make things run so smoothly ... The organisation was excellent and everything ran very smoothly ... the trip itself was excellent and I wouldn't do the HR with anyone else.
Joseph (August 2013) - Haute Route Alps 2013
The trip was beyond my expectation. I'm pretty sure my boys [Shoko was the Team Tauge Team Manager] were satisfied perfectly, they became relaxed and made friends with other tour members...even though there were some language communication problems. When riders saw Joe at the goal or saw Will in the peloton, they really got encouraged and relieved. Thank you for your hospitality, we really appreciate everything you've done for us.
Y. Shoko (August 2013) - Haute Route Alps 2013
Hello Will - Thank you so much for everything on the tour. It made it a zillion times easier for me. I have low tolerance for things going wrong when I'm tired and hungry and I just know that would have happened without you and Laurie to organise me. I'm so impressed that you can ride all day and then sort us out in the non-riding times. You are completely unflappable! I really enjoyed it.
I don't think I would have finished the HR without being looked after. I would have struggled with messy transfers and disorganisation on top of riding. Thanks you and Laurie for all your care, support and organisation. It really showed.
Eleri (September 2013) - Haute Route Pyrenees 2013
Thoroughly enjoyed the trip from a riding perspective and ditto from a non-riding viewpoint. We believe the logistics were handled very efficiently and I appreciated the separate transfers between stages that TWT had organised. The support staff were also very good in catering to our needs - especially Gorka. Even the smallest request was attended to - there is no way that I would consider doing the Haute Route without the level of support provided by TWT. We are happy to endorse the HR TWT trips and gladly act as referees for any other interested parties. We both want to do it again!!!!!
Detlef -Rider- & Lisa -Non Rider- (September 2013) - Haute Route Pyrenees 2013
Detlef's youtube clip from Haute Route Pyrenees
The service and dedication provided is excellent. I am very satisfied with the service. It is an excellent way of entering the Haute Route.
Grant (September 2013) - Haute Route Pyrenees 2013 - This was Grant's second Haute Route with twowheeltours
The trip was excellent. Will's attention to detail and anticipation of questions, issues etc meant everything ran smoothly and of a high standard. Joe's support was also greatly appreciated and he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time with a cheery smile and words of encouragement. I can't think of anything that could have been done any better.
Paul (July 2013) - Private # 2 Tour France inc TdF 2013
Question - Highlight of the trip? Answer - Nothing in particular, but it all came together so well. Excellent organisation/pre-planning, a good amount of flexibility, excellent support from Joe, amazing photos which I didn't get on my last trip, good accom and meals, great riding with friends.
Ben (July 2013) - Private # 2 Tour France inc TdF 2013
Question - What was your favourite day on the bike? Answer - The two rides in the Pyrenees National Park. The scenery was simply spectacular, and because they are lesser known locations with less people, it just made the experience all the more special and unique compared to many of the name routes.
Terry (July 2013) - Private # 2 Tour France inc TdF 2013
Overall the trip was extremely well organised which was probably the highlight as it allowed us to just follow directions and not think too much!
Adrian (July 2013) - Private # 2 Tour France inc TdF 2013
Question - Highlight of the trip? Answer - Actually not one single moment, but rather the diversity of the riding/experience, including the off bike experiences of food/locations. Well organised. And I like the fluidity, whereby changes to rides can be made depending on situation at hand.
Andy (July 2013) - Private # 2 Tour France inc TdF 2013
Question - Could the trip be made any better? Answer - Unlikely as it exceeded expectations in almost every facet. Will and Joe were fantastic: helpful, even tempered and great fun. Will has an amazing tolerance for stupidity! Great trip.
John (June/July 2013) - Private # 1 Tour France inc TdF 2013
This trip will be very hard to beat!!! Other comments???? Will and Joe - legends!
Giovanni (June/July 2013) - Private # 1 Tour France inc TdF 2013
G'day Will - Just had a look at all the photos you sent me ..... AWESOME!! It just makes me want to go back there even more. There's some real rippers on there! Brought back some great memories.Trevor (April 2013) - Flow NZ MTB Trip 2013
Can't think of anything I would change. The weather was great and the trails were mind-blowing. Before going on this trip I new it was going to be good, but I never expected it to be soo much better than expected. This trip exceeded all expectations I had.
Ravi (March 2013) - Flow NZ MTB Trip 2013
I would like to thank you for the amazing time that was had in New Zealand, truly it was one of the greatest times of my life. The trip has made me fall in love with mountain biking as a whole all over again.
Pat (March 2013) - Flow NZ MTB Trip 2013
Article from the September 2012 Central West Daily
I wanted to take this opportunity to once again thank you for a fantastic experience at the Haute Route. Whilst the event itself was a cracker, fantastically well organised and incredibly challenging, just as I had hoped, your supporting tour was even better. I loved that I didn't have to think about anything after each ride, and not just because of the fact that I simply couldn't! A cold drink and Joe's friendly face at the end was invaluable, as was the serenity of each place we stayed, especially Risoul. And the fact that you were pretty much always available to everyone, both on the road and afterwards, certainly made everyone relaxed about the challenge we were all facing. Should I feel the need to be as physically challenged as that week ever again, and I should I entertain the thought of ever getting back on a bike, twowheeltours.com.au will be the first website I look at.
Simon (August 2012) - Haute Route 2012
So was a top bike trip, maybe my best ever considering the total package of fearsome intense riding, a very fine ride group, excellent support by Joe and yourself, and a great hotel at each end. Memorable.
Bill (August 2012) - Haute Route 2012
Article from Breathe Magazine Volume 6 Issue 2 2012
Article by Marg Fedyna pg 13 - 15
I can only repeat how much of a great time we had with you in Italy. Your selections of accommodation, restaurants and activities were superb. Your planning and attention to detail made everything run so smoothly.
Peeter (June 2012) - Private Italy June 2012
You are a master at your craft Will, and I don't mean cycling. Your thoroughness in making thoughtful arrangements to ensure we non-riders were engaged in the local cuisines and environments was second to none. Clearly you are a people person and the care and attention you put in to the non-riders holiday was very apparent and much appreciated. I had no idea I would enjoy a cycling holiday so much!!!
Gail (June 2012) - Private Italy June 2012
Our trip was great, thanks to you! Our first impressions, well how could you go past strawberries and chocolate! The crew in Stein am Rhein [Switzerland] were great, organizing shoes, hiring high quality Trek suspension bikes, helmets. Great service. All appreciated. Expert skills coach in Fussen [Germany], delicious food and beer, what more could you desire. Throw in the Disney castle, cascading river and enormous slugs! Not to mention a wonderful Swiss inspired BBQ. Plus another bonus, the dry weather. As well as tasty apple, rhubarb, apricot, kiwi fruit strudel with cream.
Scuol [Switzerland] was great. The variety of rides - single track, trails, ups and downs, amazing bridges, castles, churches and natural scenery. Vernie and his residence and gastronomical experience. Xavier, the welcoming fit young guide. We were lucky at Scuol, the "Sun was IN".
Even though the weather wasn't in our favour we still enjoyed our trip to Predazzo. Yvette and Alberto also welcomed us. Their local knowledge was great ; thick hot chocolates, Speck house food and local drinks. Will, your photos and cooking were certainly an added bonus. We have never had so many quality holiday snaps; especially of us on the bikes, the odd cow and even a [Fiat] Panda or two! So many memorable moments - riding at high altitude (2,500m) in the snow, riding into the field of grass and flowers near Predazzo. You captured everything in photos for us!
Helen (June 2012) Private MTB EU Tour - Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Italy
I will recommend you and your company to others and wish / hope / plan to do more organised rides in future!
Michael (May 2011)
Many Thanks and hope you see you on another weekend sometime in the future.
David (May 2011)
Thanks for being such a great guide. We loved having you lead our group.
Clay (August 2010)
I just wanted to thank you for doing such a wonderful job taking care of us. You really went out your way to make it a wonderful trip. You literally gave us the coat off your back and saved us on a special hill climb. One of the best parts of the whole trip was becoming friends with you.
Kevin (August 2010)
Some Happy Riders Tales from our brother company mtnbike.com.au
Many thanks Will, I had a brilliant weekend. Very well organised from start to finish. Brie (May 2011)
AWESOME, AWESOME WEEKEND. GREAT VALUE, DEFINITE CONFIDENCE BUILDER, GREAT LEADER (THANKS WILL) GREAT GROUP OF WOMEN. I WILL DEFINITELY BE RIDING BACK IN CANBERRA AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!!!!! Linda (May 2011)
Everything was extremely well organised. Flawless execution and timed perfectly ... I’ve spent all morning planning when I can go back to tackle it again! Overall, triple thumbs up and I would recommend your company to anyone interested in these trips. Thanks again :)
Jill (May 2011)
Thanks Will, I had a fantastic weekend, and would highly recommend this trip. Look out for my name on the another session, it won't be my last!
Lisa (May 2011)
Great weekend - definitely keen for more!
Katie (February 2011)
Hi Will, Great weekend. I am still smiling. Thanks for the photos. I really want to be out on a trail, not stuck in a office. Hope to do it again soon.
Mel (February 2011)
Hi Will, I wanted to thank you for a fantastic weekend.
- Great organisation
- Great people
- Great Riding
Money well spent!
Frederic (February 2011)
G'day Will - Thanks once again for the weekend, I enjoyed every aspect of it. Great value all around, I'm going to try & fit another weekend in very soon.
Thanks for the fantastic experience you facilitated it so well, from the coordination of the logistics, which was excellent, to keeping us in one piece! I truly enjoyed my experience, the skills sessions and the beautiful locations you selected.
Elizabeth (November 2010)
Will, I thought the whole experience was excellent. Very professional, yet informal and fun. The progression from skills session to Sparrow to Secret to Stromlo was very logical and looking back, I can't believe I rode the Stromlo trails given my skill level before the trip. That is a testament to the building up of skills over the two days at a pace that suits the rider. Well done. The whole set up with the AIS is a brilliant score ... It also adds a novel "sporting" theme to the weekend ... I really enjoyed the rides with you ... because you would intuitively know when to ride in front for demonstration, then when to ride behind for assessment & instruction. It can be a fine balance between learning versus fun but I think you nailed it. Overall I will definitely recommend these trips to others ... I would struggle to even think of any suggested improvements to be honest ... I wish you all the very best and believe that you have the skill set and personality to make this business a success.
Nicole (June 2010)
Thanks so much Will for taking us on a memorable adventure which was so well organised. I loved that the weekend had structure, but was still so laid back with plenty of choices available to everyone ... The freedom you gave us to go into smaller groups and ride on our own was also appreciated as we could ride at our own pace, enjoy riding with our 'new friends' and feel like we could create own little adventure. Thanks again for taking the time to organise the food, accommodation, travel, skills day, bike transport, pick up and drop off and FUN, so well!!
Such a well organised weekend with a great group of girls and a lovely guide. I was really impressed by everything, from the food to the amount of riding we did and particularly being able to ride such different terrain.
Julia (May 2010)
I had an awesome time. It was really well organized & good value. Thanks Will!! ;-)
Hi there - just wanted to drop you a line to say thanks for a great weekend event ... I think you have a very good product ... Both Sonia and I got a lot out of it, and staying at the AIS was a real experience. I have emerged with some of my old confidence back.
Sandra (May 2010)
MTBO National Event Lithgow Area - finally, thanks to Will Levy of mtnbike.com.au for transporting a group of our interstate riders up to the events by bus.
David (Mar 2010)
Just wanted to say a big thanks again for the weekend, it was really awesome. I am having flash-backs of skyline as I type this and will definitely have to get down there again soon ... As far as feedback goes, I would rate you a 10/10. I have attended a few skills days before, and whilst they were run very well, I think it is a whole other level taking people touring and being able to maintain a comfortable social environment as well as a fun riding environment. Your enthusiasm and professionalism in running the tour will serve you very well on your quest for world domination!
Stuart (Mar 2010)
Will - We had the best weekend, thank you so much. We hope very much to come on another of your trips in the next few months ... Thanks again Will, the weekend was 10 times better than I was anticipating, and of course I thought it would be great anyway, and the company was excellent.
Libby and John (Dec 2009)
Hi Will - I just want to say thanks for a really great weekend. The trails, of course, were amazing, but I also really enjoyed the personal touch you added to the weekend - being a trail guide, giving tips on better riding, and lots of inspiration to go harder.
Good work Will – you’re an inspiration your someone who had a goal and went out and did it – I know in event planning the only time people speak up is usually when things go wrong – but I think everything went really well .Congratulation you should be really proud.
Troy (June 2009)
Lunch on Saturday was totally perfect. Top quality and heaps of it! That was great just sitting around the bus talking about the ride. I liked the skills session on Saturday - that was great! The food at the AIS was great. The conversation to and from Canberra was great. I loved Mt Stromlo, even though I had more stacks there. It was a hard course, but coming down was wicked cool and made it worth the effort. Sparrow was awesome...in fact they were totally different. Your commentary was good and it was clear what we had to do. A large group of mates, a bonding weekend and not having to worry about the hassle of driving and stuff plus the great food at the AIS, it rocked
Shawn (June 2009)
Trip 31 Oct - 1 Nov - Skills Session with Ben Henderson
The organiser / hosts made it an enjoyable experience for everyone.
The transport was safe / the hosts took shifts with rest stops.
The tour catered for every level of both fitness and ability. You could ride as little or as much as you liked. There were ample opportunities to practice what was taught. The importance of local knowledge was evident. It would be difficult to organise such a quality trip yourself for less. EVERYONE had a great time.
Byron (Oct 2009)
Hi there, on the weekend I went to Canberra with Will Levy & his crew from mtnbike.com.au and it was excellent they organised it all and I had to do nothing but ride 'Sparrow, Mystery & Mt Stromlo', even got to ride with Ben Henderson he taught us some skills. I would just like to let everyone know what a good time it was and that it was well worth the trip. Will had organised food accommodation & all the riding.
Chris (Oct 2009)
Thanks once again for a great trip.
John (June 2009)
EXCELLENT!!!! Thanks Will....
Stacey (June 2009)
Below is the weekend review from Trailflix - it can also be found via the following link - Thanks Grant S
About 8 months ago, Will Levy (mtnbike.com.au) contacted me via the Trailflix website, asking if we could meet for coffee to brainstorm a MTB tour opportunity he was exploring and was seeking feedback for. Will’s idea was to take a mini-bus of Sydney riders & their bikes to Canberra for the weekend, ride 3 or 4 trails, feed them up, provide accommodation and transport them all over the place & back. So 8 months later, the tour business was ready to launch & Andy Hrelja and I climbed aboard Will’s first trip on Queens Birthday weekend to see how the concept turned out in reality. Good business ideas are often simple on first hearing but to be successful you really need to invest a heck of a lot of thought and effort to get it right. The fairy tale of a business idea born and then rolled out in a week only happens in the movies or on so-called ‘reality’ shows…
Will did the right thing in those months in-between our get-together and the launch: - developing a business plan, speaking with MTB industry people, meeting Canberra & ACT tourism authorities, , brainstorming and fine-tuning the details with his mates, getting quotes for everything and even designing his own 20-bike trailer (which he tells me has lead to a tad ‘trailer envy’ amongst some in the MTB community). The fact that after all that, he’s keener than ever speaks to my comment a week or so ago about the benefits of being passionate about what you do for a job. It’s obvious he loves doing this.
However, it’s what the market - not you - wants that’s important in business, and you have to admit, Canberra is seen as a pretty boring place by many Sydneysiders. Hell, I’m from Kiwiland and the Sydney locals are more apt to praise NZ’s boring parts…- Hamilton, anyone? I mean ANYONE? - than to give a nod to anything good in Canberra. Until recently, I too would have agreed. I’d never even been riding in Canberra until a couple of years ago, and then it was on some hack track no-one’s ridden before or since! So even before Will came along, I wasn’t all that enamoured with the idea of driving all that way just to ride crappy trails. After all, Sydney’s got some great trails and we certainly haven’t covered them all in Trailflix, even now. It wasn’t until I kept reading and hearing reports on Stromlo, Sparrows Hill & Majura, that I decided I’d better take the plunge, if only to shut the buggers up. But, it turns out they were right all along.
Canberra offers some of the best MTB I’ve ever done, vying for the title of Australia’s ‘capital’ of MTB (Yeah, well, that’s in my mind so maybe worth a debate with a few interstaters over a couple of beers!). But if you’ve never been to Canberra to ride, but like me heard about the great trails, then you owe it to yourself to go do it once. Warning though: you might, like I have, become hooked.
However, if you’ve actually done the journey and driven all that way as Grant Byrne & I have now done a few times, then you’ll know it’s a loooong way for a day’s riding., so the idea of having someone ELSE do the driving, feed and put you up was darned appealing…
Andy & I arrived at the appointed pick-up place (outside a Bike Barn in Campbelltown - they pick up at 3 locations around the city). It was 8 degrees on a cloudless morning – first one for months! - and we’d been checking the Canberra forecast for 2 weeks and it too looked pretty good.
Pretty soon, Will’s (hired) 20-seater minibus and huge canvas-covered trailer arrived. The trailer has been Will’s pet project for several months and it’s really well-built, though he admits the racking system is still being tweaked. It’s apparently harder than it should be to drop the cranks into and get them out of the steel holders so he’s looking at ways of making it faster. Backpacks & helmets in hand, we hopped on the bus to meet the guys (including one girl) on this, the first ‘practice’ tour:
Will, Carl, Laurie, Shawn (AKA Burge), Troy, Stacey, Kynan, John, plus Andy & myself. Friends of Will, mostly. Like most people into MTB, all were relaxed and we gelled quickly.Two were, though, first timers to MTB. “On a trip to Stromlo?!”, I grimaced. “Do you know what’s in store…?” Besides that, as I told the group, Andy has only been into MTB for 3-6 months and had never even been on singletrack before… so I figured it might be a more challenging weekend for some than for others. Even so, the newbies seem unfazed by what lay ahead.
Well over an hour later, desperate for coffee and a toilet break, we stopped at a large servo outside Goulburn. While parked, I interviewed a few of the crew, starting with Stacey & Kynan, a couple. She’s into MTB in a big way while he’s an experienced kayaker, a possible Olympian. They’ve both done MTB up and down Europe, Canada and ther US and had a great time everywhere, Stacey even breaking a collarbone at Whistlers on a major downhill. Next was Shawn - a passionate roadie. Was certain he would take a tumble in this, his first MTB. (He did have 3 stacks. The last was off the side of Stromlo – when he landed on a ledge below a switchback, on his back with his legs through the frame, like a trapped crab.) Troy on the other hand took up MTB 18 months ago and is equally fearless & crazy. He reckons if you don’t come off, it’s not real MTB. Carl is a fanatical roadie and MTB’er. Like Will, he is as fast as. Thin as a rake and reckons his pending fatherhood won’t make a scrap of difference to his bike training schedule. (Take it from me, Karl: you’ll learn…☺). Karl is another with tales of European riding and his one about the MTB race that goes up and down mountains but also through the backstreets of three cobblestone-paved villages was fascinating. Laurie is another mate of Wills and this was his first time MTB. Like the rest of us, he appreciated the skills training and did very well, but by the end of Stromlo was exhausted not just from the trail but from the tension you get when you try something new over an extended period of time. Says he had a blast though. John was a traveler from the UK, on his way round NZ & Oz, doing 1 & 2-day trips and trying every adventure sport known to man. Mad about MTB and a very good rider.
Sprawled comfortably into the bus seats, with coffee and eats in hand, we journeyed on, arriving about an hour later than scheduled at Sparrow Hill, and keen to get out. Will’s admitted the ambitious time-schedule just needs to be tweaked and already he’s worked out where efficiencies can be gained without taking away from the relaxed feeling we all experienced.
Will had arranged for us to meet Peter Dowse, Director of Canberra’s Capital Bike Hire for some MTB skills training. His bike hire company will loan riders a mount for the weekend if someone doesn’t have their own or it’s not good enough. He sometimes makes end-of-hire-life bikes avail for purchase and even had a buyer on our trip but had none actually available. He also runs a program with the PCYC, guiding under-privileged kids in MTB riding & maintenance and was in fact in preparation himself for the downhill comp at Majura Pines the next day. Busy dude.
After setting up the bikes we all lined up for class. I’m a pretty average rider so always keen to take on board someone else’s insights. And Peter was a great trainer; getting us to ride more tightly round small-spaced cones, lean the correct way on a turn, tips on how to jump a log and tackle downhill more safely and quickly.
After about 40 minutes of skills, Will asked the group to divide themselves into the ‘advanced’ (fast/experienced) and the ‘others’ (newbies, slower). I stuck with the learners hoping to get more video & photos. And it was the right choice because about 15 minutes along the track our group stopped to do some sessioning, riding round the tight switchbacks that are common in Sparrow. Peter watched closely as we all made different but common mistakes; leaning to the wrong side, not taking the outer line, putting on a speed burst in the wrong place. The newbies were starting to get it and the rest were honing half-forgotten techniques.
Later on, Shawn, riding just behind Pete, stacked it when a huge rock, unseen behind a tree until you came right up to it, became his nemesis. Instead of just riding over it, he focused on it. Pete got us off the bikes, and broke the corner down for us, taking us thorugh it , step-by-step, then got us all to ride the corner a couple more times and it was as easy as – such is the benefit of sessioning. The group rode off feeling that much more confident. Of course that can lead to overconfidence and we had a couple of spectacular stacks after that! ☺
The ‘Bobsled’ downhill near the end of the ride was everyone’s favourite. After lining us up for what was ahead Pete just took off and I suspect barely touched the dirt on the way down. This section rides like the ‘Roller Coaster’ at Ourimbah – still one of the fastest rides we have on film - and I can’t wait to get back to this trail to capture the Bobsled in similar fashion at some stage.
We met a couple of packs of mid-afternoon roo’s on the way down but as per usual they were too chicken to race us and fled into the trees. Back at the bus all were satisfied we’d had a fantastic ride, though I quietly felt another hour on the bike to do the full loop wouldn’t have gone amiss for me. That being said, if I’d joined the fast group I wouldn’t have benefited from the extra skills training and I’ve already seen how that‘ll stand me in good stead for a long while. Lunch was massive: a huge filled roll (we picked fillings by email a few days before the trip), yoghurt, juice pack, water, a protein bar and a banana and I’d already had a bar or two so I was stuffed. We weren’t going to go hungry!
We sat round on folding stools that Will had had tucked somewhere and enjoyed tales of the ride, discussion about the trailer construction and looking forward to the night ahead and another ride before dusk. Pete talked about his work with underprivileged youth & MTB and I told Will it would make a great short docco if I could get back there and spend some time filming it… Time = my greatest challenge.
The 2nd troop arrived back about 20 minutes later with their own tales of glory, having done the entire 30-odd km loop and loving it. About 45 minutes later we were checking in to the Australian Institute of Sport, our overnight accommodation. Check-in’s were well-organised (like the whole weekend); They had all our names and room allocations already listed. Plus they have all sorts of security - cards and guards - to protect the professional athletes, I guess, from yobs entering (mind you, they did let US in…).
The halls of residence rooms are spartan but functional, with 4 beds in 2 rooms, a TV room with a couch & table, small kitchen with stove, microwave, fridge, sink and all the dishes, and a large bathroom with shower, toilet and a tub to wash clothes. There are separate laundry facilities but we’d all brought enough for the weekend.
We agreed to throw our stuff into the rooms and then those who were keen to go out for the late afternoon ride to head back outside. It had been decided earlier that it was too late to drive all the way to Majura Pines and instead we would ride the local ‘Mystery Ride’. 10 minutes later, most of us turned up. Shawn had injured his ankle on his altercation with the rock so decided discretion was called for and a nap would be a bonus. The riders congregated and while we had been advised riding in the AIS grounds is not allowed, I think we must have forgotten that as we trundled off through the walkways to the next trail, officially known as a ‘mystery trail’ because it’s not a sanctioned ride.
That being said it would have to be one of the many highlights of the trip. The trails are:
1. Less than 5 minutes away from AIS
4. Unlike any trails I’ve been on in Australia. Tight single-track, ducking under branches and between sparse trees, yet mostly fast-flowing & rolling. Will says it equates to a superb single-track he did in Massachusetts and that’s one of his lifelong favorites. To me it’s like a hill I rode in France with a group of Sales guys while in Cannes on a conference. That one was a magic day with a few spills the only downside.We rode about an hour ’til just after 5 when it was getting too dark to avoid some of the low branches. Carl and a few others were disappointed they didn’t have lights otherwise they said they would have gone for another hour. It was that good.
Back at AIS we showered and took a wander round the place trying to spot famous athletes (met at lunch the next day a young woman rider from the Aussie MTB team who was there for the weekend doing some training on Stromlo. They reported they loved it but team members experienced two major injuries – a smashed face and a sprained wrist on the black diamond). On our informal AIS tour we saw the new and old swimming pools, plus the big arena… but I guess we already had built up a reputation, because all the well-known athletes were in hiding. My new autograph collection would have to wait… Then it was buffet dinner – all you can eat & (soft) drink - plenty of food choices and a great dessert. Pasta, bread, salad, rice dishes, curry, chicken something, fish something else – and all healthy. As it was 7pm, I had built up this huge appetite and fair tucked in, though after several return trips to the buffet, I could barely stand up! It was like Xmas dinner back home…
That evening we dropped one of the guys off to his friend’s birthday dinner while the rest of us hung out at a city pub, watching rugby while imbibing a few of the local ales. Nothing too extreme in the drinking stakes but the option was there if you wanted to make a night of it. Half the group sat out under the clear sky with the gas heaters taking the chill off the Canberra air and the rest of us inside watching the rugby and chatting. Very relaxing. Met one of the local tourist entrepreneurs who is putting together a website on Canberra MTB and he asked if I could send him some photos and video, so that’s on the list…
Day 2 got off to a great start with a crisp pre-breakfast ride at Mystery Hill. I enjoyed it even better this time thru and I told the guys to head off while I took a few shots of the area. Even so I caught up with them when we crossed paths just 10 minutes later. Managed to get a little video but really they & I just wanted to ride. A massive breakfast was enjoyed by all, shortly thereafter. this was becoming a habit I could get used to. I wondered if I was too old to apply for the AIS…Actually I seriously think I put on a kilo or two over that weekend…so don’t think this is your Weight-Watchers, low-fat bike tour – far from it…
Andy, meanwhile, ate like a horse and still looked like a hunger-striker victim! At work we think he must have some sort of warped space or black hole inside him because the food goes in while he never appears to gain so much as a gram. Renowned at work as ‘The Food Vacuum’, he finishes off anything left out after someone brings in sandwiches or cakes from a meeting. I’m guessing he’s probably an alien criminal, stuck here on earth to help cause some of the world’s food shortages! AIS were probably very bloody lucky we were late arrivals at the breakfast, because if Andy had gotten in any earlier, there could have been a food riot.After breakfast we left luggage in a couple of rooms and headed to the bus, excited about talk of Stromlo on what looked like a fairly good day weather-wise, though clouds looked a little dangerous over to the west.
Over half the group had not experienced Stromlo before so this was another new adventure for them and a chance to re-explore for the rest of us. The car park at 10:00am was mostly empty so maybe the locals were away for Queens Birthday holidays. There were a few guys on the trails but as they say, there are no traffic jams in heaven.
The tracks are described in the Stromlo Trail Page so I won’t go into them in depth here, suffice to say I wasn’t up for the Black Diamond again. Up or down, it’s as hard as it sounds but well worth it if you have that level of skill. Being a newbie, Andy was happy to start out easy so we started round the novice track, which is at the base of the hill, all on the flat. Video camera in one hand, steering with the other, I followed he & Will (the rest had taken off already) and got some footage on the flat.
Feeling adventurous, Andy spotted a couple of piles of dirt and a trail and sped up them only to find the downside was more or less a straight drop. Spectacularly, he tumbled arse over tit. I was still carrying the video cam but had inadvertently turned the bugger off so it’s etched in memory but nowhere else. Shame. It was pure YouTube gold. He was shaken but not stirred – luckily the dirt was soft - and we carried on up the green track where he decided a tad more care might be in order. That made it easy for me to jump off the bike a few times and convince him to slow down so I could get more video. Nothing to do with hoping for another stack.
Overall though, I was really enjoying the riding, plus I didn’t want to interrupt other people’s biking, so I didn’t get as much riding footage as I would have liked. I decided to leave that for another time …We caught up to Will, Laurie & Shawn who were looking for a tool kit to do some minor bike-surgery. Will had loaned his out earlier and not had it returned. Repair done, we rode on, and up and up to the top. It’s a long steady ride with copious rocks and stunning views for miles.
By now a degree of fatigue had set in, so more than a few of the group were looking to reap the benefit of all that uphill expenditure. Near the top Shawn had a stack equal in scope to Andy’s tumble. He ended up on his back, crablike, over the ledge with his legs through the frame and seemingly unable to move. I had seen it all and AGAIN didn’t capture it on film (I was riding just ahead) and leapt off to extract the bike from his Cirque de Soleil-like position. He was largely unhurt and carried on but - like Andy - took it somewhat more gingerly thereafter. Having heard the MTB pro from the day before talk about ‘smashed face’ and ‘fractured ankle’ something must have reverberated.
At each major junction the lead riders stopped and we all gathered for the next section with Will giving some description of what lay ahead. I’m pleased to say I enjoyed Stromlo more this time because I knew what was coming up plus I had those new switchback and corner-handling skills that we’d acquired the day before so I was a lot faster even while I felt more in control.
At the end of the downhill, after some great little jumps, you skirt round the BMX track. A few drops of rain had started to fall but not enough to stop us all heading back up to the BMX start line (me downhill a ways with camera at the ready) to do a BMX trial. Several stacks and one broken bike (Will – I forget what he broke, but it was apparently unrideable afterwards) didn’t take way the immense fun that was had by all. I managed to get Andy stacking – twice! – and will include it in some bloopers at some stage.
But by the time the canvas was pulled over the trailer, the raindrops had become a drizzle and we knew we’d seen the best of the day. But apart from wanting to get back to Sydney for a dinner that night, I would easily have been talked into staying the rest of the 3-day weekend…
Lunch, showers and AIS checkout followed. And stories galore. I managed to get a few interviews in between the food, and decided then I had missed my calling: not an IT guy/filmmaker but a professional athlete with access to unlimited grub. Hell, I’m salivating just imagining it…!
Before we hit the Federal Highway Andy asked Will if it was OK to stop at a fireworks shop and buy a few crackers for his kids, since you can’t buy them anywhere outside Canberra and only on THIS weekend in the year… Unfortunately they have NSWales-ians all worked about and won’t supply unless you flash an ACT license., i.e. YOUR ACT license, not your 3rd cousins… so he missed out showing his Sydney-based kids what home fireworks was all about. (Possibly saving someone’s eyesight, somewhere later in life!)
About 20Km out from Canberra I asked Will to stop, and I jumped off the bus, ran ahead along the Federal Highway and stopped to film the bus rolling on by and then ran up to them & jumped on. Anyone watching would have thought I was crazy and they’d have been right. Such is the lot of the filmmaker.
All in all, a memorable weekend : the riding – superb; the food – too much; the travel & accommodation – well-organized; the comradeship – typically keen MTB blokes (and token girl who was fantastic fun and a much better rider than many) who were laid back and loving it.
On the return journey, sleeping ensued for some but the adrenaline was still flowing for others so it was shared stories. Near Sydney, the dream was over for most of us but for Will it was just beginning. I interviewed him while he drove and I could tell that the stars are definitely still in his eyes. The weekend trial run had been a success and a few of us had already said we’d love to come back and do it again.
For Will, he has (at time of writing) 3 more trips already in the calendar and then he’ll see what comes out of the woodwork. A week after my editorial entry about the weekend someone dropped me a mail asking me for his website (mtnbike.com.au), so his adventure is definitely underway…