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RACING bikes is never the same from one time to another. There’s always another experience, another twist or turn of events that changes the outcome. While viewing elite racing from the sidelines, seeing one riders dominance it may appear that they can win with ease, or with a certain blasé approach to racing. This could not be further from the truth, as each race has new players, new conditions, and subtle variances. When the one rider does win all the time, it shows they are either supremely lucky, amazingly gifted, highly driven – or all three. We have seen such dominance by riders in previous iterations of the Real Insurance XCM Series, and across Marathon racing in the eastern states, in years passed. In 2012, Jenny Fay and Shaun Lewis showed utter dominance. Fay won all six rounds and the title, and Lewis won three rounds and the title – both incredible achievements. A six race series like the Real Insurance XCM Series highlights the amazing performances of our nation’s athletes, but it also provided a point score, which let those who might not podium, achieve a high level of consistency, and something they might be able to quantify their improvement by. The Real Insurance XCM Series is back in 2014, but not quite as we know it. As a series that started by tying together so many of the popular XCM races, it now has the backing of Cycling Australia – but not all event promoters. There will be five rounds: › Round One – Bright, Victoria, 10 March › Round Two – Batemans Bay, New South Wales, 30 March › Round Three/XCM Championships – Mt Joyce, Queensland, 6 April › Round Four – Woodend (Wombat 100), Victoria, 13 April › Round Five – Atherton, Queensland, 25 April And so we have a series of races backed by a governing body, but one that has only one race that is well known to Australian marathon racers, the Wombat 100. And the dates are very close together, putting immense pressure on work, budgets – and riders bodies. Is this the right move for a discipline that is currently one of the best mass participation MTB options? Tim Sheedy from Cycling Australia stated that they wanted the locations to be based on destinations with “great courses, great locations and strong community engagement.”
Seemingly in defiance to the Cycling Australia backed Real Insurance XCM series, four pre-eminent Marathon races have banded together to create The Maverick Series. Spread throughout the year, and on courses that are known to riders, from organisers who have a reputation on putting on a great event. This series is really appealing: › Round One: Capital Punishment, Kowen – Stromlo, ACT, 15 March › Round Two: Giant Odyssey, Forrest, Victoria, 26 April › Round Three: Kowalski Classic, Kowen Forest, ACT, 21 September › Round Four: Camelbak Highland Fling, Bundanoon, NSW, 9 November So there sit nine races within two race series’. Lots of options for a rider keen to give a marathon a go, but the decision for the nation’s elite about where to go for the best racing is much harder. Ben Mather, based in Tasmania, needs to consider the travel and associated cost more than a rider who lives in Sydney or Canberra “As an elite rider how do you chose between the two. The maverick is made up of existing races, so you know what you’re in for but goes against my ideal of mountain bikers and promoters supporting a governing body and working as one for the growth of the sport.” “On the other hand the XCM series is not the same series it once was. It has some unknown races and unknown venues. I might not worry about the series and just pick events that I want to do and have enjoyed in the past.” Jenny Fay won the overall Real Insurance XCM series in 2011 and 2012, and can see the difficulties of two race series’ that run concurrently in a tight market. “They don’t clash on the calendar but it makes for a long XCM season, with the first series not so sustainable for many reasons, this is for both riders and organisers.” “I think the outcomes of both series’ will provide some kind of foundation that can grow in time into what the Real Insurance Series was aiming to do, which is a good thing!” This could prove to be another interesting year in Australian Marathon racing. Will it grow, or will it be divided across an increasingly splintered calendar?
X-factor ANNA BECK
READY TO RUMBLE A beginners guide for women racing
can’t even remember my ﬁrst mountainbike race, but it would have been a slow aﬀair fraught with fear of trail obstacles, holding everyone up, ﬂat pedals and daggy sneakers. It would have started with low expectations, an overﬂow of nervous energy and concluded with beers. Some things still haven’t changed. In essence, I was brand spanking new to mountainbiking and it was all a grand adventure. When I am out on local trails, I see an abundance of women shredding yet I have never seen them at any races I attend and, trust me, I’m kind of like Santa for mountainbiking, without the gifts – I’m everywhere. I have no doubt conﬁdence, time constraints and personalities are just some of the things holding many women back from racing. Did you know that women who mountainbike make up, on average, a paltry 10-15 percent of all riders in the XC ﬁelds? If you compare this number to females racing downhill it looks good, which is a worry. I put it to you lady shredders to take up the challenge and enter a race! There are events for everyone from gnarly downhill, enduro, or crosscountry shredders to those who like their mountainbiking ‘on the side’ and prefer multi-sporting or participation events. Because you have taken my sage advice and are now oﬀ to Google mountainbike races in your local area, I have compiled a basic guide for the ﬁrst time racer.
to practice. Take into account the time of the race in terms of what you will need to eat before, during and after. Don’t rely on the sausage sizzle and coﬀee van, though they are delicious, they’re not guaranteed at every race. Remember the essentials: bike, shoes and helmets. Don’t be that person who turns up sans the essentials.
CHOOSE LOCAL AND APPROPRIATE
Just picked up your bike and haven’t done much riding? Perhaps you are in the daggy sneaker brigade, which there is nothing wrong with by the way. It probably doesn’t need to be stated that choosing the hardest marathon in the region is probably not the wisest choice. Pick something local and easy to get to, and something within the realms of your ability. Most clubs and states will have a race series with beginner categories to try it out: a good way to start.
PLAN AND PACK
Sweet! You have entered the race: now what? Well, you need to plan for it and pack accordingly. Find out what time the race is, when you can register, if the course is open
PIMP YOUR RIDE
Get the once over from your local bike shop before you race, for your bike that is. There’s nothing worse than heading out to a race and ﬁnding that your brake pads are fully locked on and that you can hardly pedal your wheel, or that your gear cable has stretched and your bike sounds like a broken chainsaw. A basic service will pimp your ride and ensure your bike is safe and ready to race.
SET SOME GOALS
Be realistic. If you have done a scant amount of riding oﬀ-road and have never raced, aim to ﬁnish. If you’re a bit ﬁtter, set yourself a harder challenge (maybe not clipping out on track, ﬁnishing strong or beating your buddy — see below).
GET A BUDDY
It’s a great idea to have a buddy, who has raced already, come to the race and show you the ropes. While we are a friendly bunch compared to the other cycling discipline, it’s always nice to have a familiar face to guide you and hold your hand if necessary. That was ﬁgurative but, hey, whatever helps! Riding at threshold with a gut full of food is never a great idea.
DON’T UNDER EAT
Riding at threshold with no food in your gut is never a great idea.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY…
Enjoy the adventure. There are many races I cross the ﬁnishline vowing never to do it again, and ﬁve minutes later it’s the best thing I have ever done. The challenge, adventure, stories, friendship and camaraderie are the reasons I love racing my bike, and grassroots races are some of the most fun, lowpressure events out there. Plus, there’s usually a sausage sizzle afterwards, and sizzling sausages make everything amazing. AMB
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GRAVITY ENDURO: BOOMING IN OZ
NEW WORLD ORDER STORY Anna Beck PHOTOGRAPHY Tim Bardsley-Smith and Rocky Trail
THE LATEST DISCIPLINE TO HIT MTB IN OZ IS DRAWING RIDERS BY THE BUS LOAD. WE TALK TO PROMOTERS AND COMPETITORS ALIKE TO SEE WHY THIS IS SET TO BE THE RIDING GENRE TO RULE ALL OTHERS
ravity Enduro is the latest focus of cycling magazines, websites and mountainbike geek forums around the globe. In Australia, event promoters have jumped on the chance to bring the new race format to mountainbikers down under. The inaugural Enduro World Series was dominated by a homegrown hero in Queensland rider Jared Graves who took out numerous stage wins, and was second overall for the series. With local series’ in Australia achieving great success, two event promoters — Rocky Trail Entertainment and Alpine Gravity— have together committed to delivering Australia’s ﬁrst Gravity Enduro (GE) national series for 2014. Looking at the rise and rise of the format, it’s surely a move that makes sense. Exploring the evolution of existing championship disciplines XCO and Downhill, however, may provoke greater discussion as to the viability and continued
Lots of mates, lots of runs, different trails. You can see the appeal
Above: Gravity Enduro has come to Thredbo with the opening of their flow trail, giving options beyond the XC trails and the Cannonball DH run
Jared Graves has had huge success in the World Enduro Series, and knows how to train for the discipline
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Tested BIKE TEST TREK LUSH SL 29
Trek Lush SL 29 THREE THINGS WE LIKED 1. Superb handling in fast and slow corners, particularly for a big-wheeled bike with a lot of travel 2. Plush and efficient suspension 3. Hydro-formed alloy frame has great geometry and looks good too THREE THINGS WE’D CHANGE 1. Tubeless wheel set-up 2. Ditch the dropper post 3. Get rid of the white saddle and grips… I’m just too grotty TESTER BIO
Riding experience I spent the last 10 years generally avoiding life’s responsibilities in order to ride bikes. The result being that I can do a one-handed track stand but have never paid tax Generally rides Bianchi Methanol 29” hardtail, plus a roadbike Height 171cm Weight 55kg Bike test track Lake Crackenback Resort and Spa trails, Thredbo trails, and Thredbo Valley Trail (TVT)
TEST Imogen Smith PHOTOGRAPHY Tim Bardsley-Smith
DRESSED FOR SUCCESS For ladies looking for an all-round trailbike, the Trek Lush SL 29 is hard to beat
he Trek website boasts that the brand sells more women-specific bikes each year than any other bike manufacturer. Fair enough. Trek is one of the world’s biggest bike manufacturers and has savvy and powerful marketing machine behind it. But it’s refreshing to see that the Lush 29 SL, Trek’s singletrack/trail offering in their Women’s Specific Design (WSD) line, is more than an exercise in market segmentation. Trek have incorporated all their best design and technological features into a frame and suspension set that delivers what their female consumers are looking for:
might have less strength and body weight to throw around, and can struggle to manoeuvre 29-inch trailbikes. I first rode the Lush down an unseen, tight technical trail of roots, rocks, stairs, logs – you name it – following behind a bunch of boys who weren’t particularly interested in waiting around. I managed to ride with them and even clean some stuff they walked and I felt great. I’ve ridden other 29-inch trailbikes before and not been so successful, but the Lush’s very responsive lowspeed handling and excellent suspension technology set it apart. This handling comes down to Trek’s custom G2 frame geometry and offset fork – designed so you can
“I’ve ridden other 29-inch trailbikes before and not been so successful” fun, confidence, and comfort. Trek have also put thought into the smaller touches, like paint and finish, to deliver a bike that looks feminine without resorting to typical girly details. The real success of Trek’s marketing, it seems to me, is their artfully simple communication of design features drawing their prospective riders’ attention away from, ahem, circular debates about wheel size and gearing choices, and back to what’s really important – frame and suspension technology. It takes more than big wheels and travel to inspire confidence, particularly, I think, for women like me who
have your 29-inch cake and eat it too. Although custom offset forks are nothing new, a big offset of 51mm means Trek can offer a bike with a longer wheelbase and a slacker head angle of 69 degrees (for stability), that can also make it through the tight stuff, as the offset fork makes the steering more responsive. This can also be coupled with a very short stem, which can also speed steering up. The QR15 front thru axle also contributed to the solid feel of the front-end, and should of course be standard on this sort of bike at this price point. Where suspension is concerned Fox’s 120mm CTD (Climb, Trail, Descend) forks
are always dependable and I think the three settings cover all bases, although I can’t say I know anyone who uses them for climbing, trail riding or descending, as such. On this ride (and most others with CTD forks) I used the full lockout only when climbing out of the saddle on bitumen, the trail setting for fire road and long climbs, and full throttle the rest of the time. The Lush is fitted with a Fox DRCV (Dual Rate Control Valve) shock with a smaller air chamber to handle small bumps, but which opens up to a second chamber for more volume at 50 percent compression. This means you get great performance over small, medium, and big bumps. Certainly I felt that the shock performed very well, with great comfort over small bumps, where lighter female riders often get a bit shortchanged by larger-volume shocks that are designed to soak up the sorts of obstacles that can scare you, but virtually motionless over the sort of terrain that gives you blisters. What’s more, the rear suspension was reasonably eﬃcient when pedaling, both in and out of the saddle. Suspension performance is also smoothed out by Trek’s Active Braking Pivot – designed to keep the bike’s suspension active under braking, so that theoretically you can brake later and less because your bike is absorbing more and you have greater control. I found this most noticeable at highish speed, particularly coming into corners over medium size bumps or rocks. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, although a little on the heavy side, the Lush
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