Oh right... I suppose I'm meant to put up a ride report of the new Mt Buller Epic Trail.
So I've had this one in the calendar for quite a while and with the warm weather we were having through late November, I thought we were in for a cracker of a day. Unfortunately, the weather turned and the forecast was for 10 degrees and storms at the top of the mountain. As the forecast temperature dropped, so did the number of riders.
In the end, it was just Nikolai and I.
It was raining on and off throughout the drive up there, with lightning flashes in the distance. I have to admit, I consisdered bailing a few times. In fact, as we got ready in the carpark, the rain really came down.
Heading up the mountain
Not to be deterred the event pushed on... with free champagne, OJ, hot chocs and canapes in the Village Square! Not too bad a way to start a ride! we picked up our wrist bands for the free shuttle and I received a lottttttttt of comments about the fat bike, mostly from people who have probably never ridden one and have no idea what they're capable of.
First fat bike on the Epic trail?
Being the launch of a new trail, there were some formalities with speeches from a local MP, the Mt Buller board and an IMBA rep (who was geared up to ride and didn't seem interested in speeching). Nikolai and I planned to hang back for the "official" start and roll out a few minutes after the crowds, but with the crummy weather and absolutely nothing on the line, it appears that everyone else had the same idea.
soooooo, somehow, we found ourselves in the front end of riders.
The Epic Trail takes in a bunch of the existing trail network, so there's not a bunch to report on the Gang Gangs/Picnic/Corn Hill sections. The fatty was going great, aside from the fact that I was running hardpack tyres in the mud, which made for a few interesting sideways moments. On the bomb down Silk Lane, I noticed that my headset was a little bit loose (which might have to do with the fact that Silk Lane is NOT Silky !)
A quick tune up at Howqua Gap Hut, then it was onwards and upwards on the Stonefly climb. This is a BIG singletrack climb and as painful as it can be, it's actually an incredibly well designed and rewarding climb to do. As I was learning, technical climbing is where the fatty really excels. LOADS of traction means that you can basically ride up the steepest, slippery pinches and over pretty much anything.... except for annoying rocks in the middle of the trail after a switchback. I managed an almost zero speed stack and gashed open my knee. Was quite a big cut - too big for my first aid kit, but thankfully another rider offered me a much larger wound dressing.
Was on my way soon enough winding my way up the climb to the sound of doof doof music drifting down the hill. Nikolai dropped off the pace and I continued my slow but steady grind up the hill, regularly passing folks on their skinny tyres. At one point, I even passed a guy on a CX bike... hardcore!
An hour or so after we started climbing, we popped back out on to the fire trail to find a DJ set up cranking out the tunes that we'd been hearing. This was the first of many surprises.... A decent break, some food, more headset fiddling and we were off, bombing down a huuuuuuge firetrail descent. wheeeeeeeee! With no suspension aside from my tyres, I was quickly left behind by pretty much everyone, but it was wide open and loads of fun after such a massive climb. This brought us to Telephone Box Junction, where Bike Related Industries
have set up for the summer as The Epicentre
We paused for a quick refuel, some photos before rolling off again down the hill....
.... which was unfortunately short lived, because it kicked us straight back into a climb. Nikolai was started to hurt, so got walking, but I was feeling great and settled in for the climb. This was all new trail, so no one had any idea what to expect. Up and up and up and up we went. Became a bit of a death march for some people, but loads of traction and 250km of commuting a week meant that I didn't dab once during this section. All of this hard work was rewarded with another surprise.... the pedal-smoothie van!
Out in the middle of nowhere, dishing out free smoothies.... that you had to put on the pedal blender. Somehow everyone found the energy to push the pedals a few more times for their freebie
Nikolai working for his freebie
Boosted by a sugar hit, we pushed on, down a bit, up a bit and repeat...
Then we started the main descent.
Oh my goodness.
what a trail.
Total of 10km descending, of which 7km is some of the most amazing, smooth, flowing singletrack. Huge berms. Big rollers. About 900m of vertical descent.
Everything's so rideable that speed is a matter of bravery. MASSIVE grins from everyone at the bottom of the descent.
And not only that.... FREE ICECREAM! As part of the trail launch, the good folks at Bike Buller had organised a Mr Whippy van at the bottom of the descent! w00t! Which we all discovered, sat really badly in the stomach for the final 2km ride to the shuttle bus pickup.
Anyway, it's a HUGE ride, but definitely worth it for that descent. Sure, the smoothie man and Mr Whippy van aren't always going to be there, but heck... make sure you're well stocked up, bring lunch and it makes for a GREAT days MTBing.
Big thumbs up