December 10, 2009
It’s not a purpose built MTB track, but a network of interlinked walking paths. The paths are therefore not the wide flowing trails I am used to, but are really challenging in that the twist and turn through the bush erratically, are often quite narrow and closely skirt the (very thorny) trees. There are no berms, custom jumps or switchbacks, but there are rock gardens aplenty – varying from beds of small rocks and rock “paved” paths through some interesting rock faces and drop offs to spectacular downhill bits negotiating boulders 0.5 to 2m (2 to 6 foot) in size. Some of the last type of rock gardens looked impossible unless you’re Sam Hill or Steve Peat, but because these paths were made to walk and climb on foot, the transitions between are human step size and even my hardtail cleared them well. A wild ride at times but quite doable. Another feature of these paths is what I came to call “rock pinches” – a very narrow path (at times only 8-10cm (3-4 inches)!) wending between rocks up to 0.5m (2 feet) high. It is often impossible to pedal and, going uphill, the only way to keep momentum is rachetting the pedals. Some of the paths have been used for decades and have been worn 20cm (8 inches) into the ground. These are difficult to ride as the pedals hit the side of the path – forcing you to either power through or ramp up onto the edge of the path and ride parallel to it. The single tracks are narrow – 30cm (1 foot) on average. The grass grows right to the edge and often 1m (3 feet) high. This can and does conceal rocks. My pedals took a beating! There are a couple of places on the west side of Upper Dam where it is not possible to ride and I had to pick up my bike and climb. Maybe world class XC riders could do those sections, but I have my doubts!
For me the real excitement was exploring virgin MTB trails. Few of these trails are ever ridden (only walked) – in fact a couple of the few times I encountered people on the trails they expressed surprise that anyone would/could ride them. It is clear they are not made for MTB: you can be zooming along a clear sandy track when suddenly are presented with a nasty rock pinch, a set of rustic stairs or it just ends at a vertical rock face next to what appears to be a fishing spot. But it was just that unpredictability which provided the excitement plus the diversity of the intricate interwoven network of tracks that I am not sure I exhausted after 2 months of riding there 3-4 times a week.
Mt Stromlo, Canberra, Australia