Sunday, September 02, 2012

Dingo stole me baby!

A sunset view from our Brisbane apartment, with Mt Coot-tha in the backgorund
For those not in the immediate loop, it may come as a surprise, even a shock that Heidi and I have pulled up our tent pegs and jumped over the ditch to ‘stralaia.

Motivation largely came from a desire for new work and recreational challenges, and the location we decided to pitch our tent was Brisbane, a city with an entirely undeserved reputation as Australia’s bogan capital.

After arriving, it was with trepidation that we explored the immediate world around our apartment, which my work had kindly put us up in for a month to allow the dust to settle.

What immediately struck us was the tremendous number of people out and about at all hours of the day, mostly using an uber-smooth bike super highway dubbed the Bicentennial bike path.

A rare quiet time on the bikepath

Stretching for almost 20km up and downstream of Central Brisbane on both sides of a lazy river at the city’s heart, the path was a great introduction to the city, allowing us to explore without the snarl and rush of traffic.

And explore we did, clocking up multiple laps up and down the river, crossing most of the bridges and linking up loops, all the while coming to terms with this new place which would become our home.

Having brought only one bike over on the plane with me, my singlespeed, and having reached the limits of fun spinning up and down the mellow bike path grades I also ventured out for a few runs, and was stunned to see morning groups of runners almost as numerous as the bikers. Clearly Brisbane was doing its best to cast off the flubber which has earned the country the dubious honour of world’s second most obese nation.

Early indications are that the H grade commuter race is as intense as anywhere, even rivalling the infamous Ferry Road drag strip. I can’t wait till I get my road bike to throw my hat in the ring and take on some hi-vis clad punters, and if I get sick of this there are plenty of hilly loops and a bubbling criterium scene to get stuck into.

Addicted as I am to the spinning of knobbly tires, it was only a matter of time before I explored the trsils, and with an old friend Andrew (a kiwi expat with 2 years in Brisbane) as a guide, I got the royal tour around the extensive maze of trails at Gap Creek behind Mt Coot-tha. I’m only just coming to terms with the criss crossing network, but already I’ve found the joy that can only come from shredding forest singletrack.

Singlespeeding the Gap Creek trails

The trails well built (apparently to IMBA standards), with the surface a curious mix of loose kitty litter over hardpack and plenty of dust (think Vic Park in the summer). A few rocky sections, structures and log rollovers thrown in keep things gnarly. Still sitting on the fence with tire choice (TC), with the Race Kings I’m rolling on doing okay, although a bit under gripped through some of the higher speed corners.

Elevations are a bit small with the biggest hill in riding distance, Mt Nebo just shy of 500m, but the well designed trails make great use of the limited height, and there is always a straight up the guts approach up the access roads if you are looking for a brutal hill climb.

Incidentally these same access roads make for great descents, with the large water bars at seemingly ridiculous intervals making for great jumps that kick you high into the air. While there are no landing transitions to speak of, the humps have just the right amount of kick to practice whips. While with seat up and weight forward I’m yet to approach the steez of the superstar riders at the Whistler Whip-off, I’m definitely improving. This will no doubt come to the relief of my poor XC wheels which have been taking a hammering from sideways landings.

I’ve tried a few of the steeper climbs on the singlespeed and come up short, my feeble legs no match for the grade and loose surface. Everywhere else the mono-gear is awesome, with no super high speed sections and plenty of corners and bumps to pump off. In summary the trails here are pretty awesome and this is only one of the riding areas with several around town yet to be explored.

Temperature this time of years is divine, a cool fifteen degrees in the morning reaching highs of mid twenties, all of which feels suspiciously like a New Zealand summer.

Warnings about the deadly critters inhabiting the forest are widespread, but as yet I’m yet to encounter anything more threatening than a vampire turkey lurking around the carpark outside work. The morning bird chorus is more of a remix of death metal yells, with the shrieking of various random birds bordering on annoying.

A deadly vampire turkey lurking outside the office

While I’ll be cautious about the more deadly critters, there is always the risk of being overzealous, with a work colleague regaling a tale of a recent immigrant whose reaction to a snake sighting caused an amusing but painful incident. Steaming down a trail he spied a brown snake (the ones to avoid) and his immediate reaction was to jam on the front brake, pitching him over the bars and supermanning onto the very snake he was trying to avoid. Apparently he got away bite free, but a broken collarbone was a fitting memento. Hopefully I’ll be able to avoid a similar reaction when my snake encounter comes!

So far Brisbane has rocked our socks, and if initial indications are anything to go by, it’ll be a fantastic base for exploring Australia and further afield.

Will keep you posted.


Unknown said...

Hey Ollie!
Great post - enjoyed it! and hope you continue to enjoy Bris-vegas.

Unknown said...

Welcome to Queensland Ollie. As you have discovered, its full of expat kiwis living the good life. If you get the chance, come north to the Sunshine Coast, the riding is superb, the traffic much less intimidating and we have beautiful beaches. Two years training on Brisbane roads was enough for me.

RossC said...

Welcome to Aus Ollie. Great to have you here.

Haven MTB Park said...

Nice one Ollie. Have a blast!

Unknown said...

Hey Ollie,

Sounds like you are settling in well. We'll be over on the 29th Sept and I'm keen to head down to Canungra for the 6 Hour on the Sunday. Not a bad track - had fun doing a 24hr race there a few years back.
Drop me an email with your contact numbers so we can hook up and I'll show you some of my favourite loops around Daisy/Bayview/Eastern Escarpment. My email is