Tuesday, December 23, 2008


A LITTLE TRAINING RIDE that gone out of control. My ride today was meant to be a quick 2 hour spin around the East Link bike trail ended up being a little epic ride around Melbourne's inner suburbs. And quite it ride it was, 95.21 kilometers was the final tally and almost entirely ridden on bike paths away from cars.

IT ISN'T VERY OFTEN that I get inspired to go for a bike ride that is devoid of dirt, rocks and jumps, but for reason of doing something a little different, I decided to make the most of today's cooler weather condition and go for a road bike ride. Well, not exactly a ride on a proper road bike, but instead on my trusty clunker that is my commuter bike. A 1992 GT Borrego that was converted into a single speed courier bike by the previous owner, complete with matt black powder coating, decorated with left overs from my other GT bike builds. A Shimano 105 rear mech running with a 11-32 SRAM 8 speed cassette (Yes it does work), and old FSA cranks off Damien's Cannondale coupled with a 36T chainring off my BMX bike finished off with a set of Shimano Deore wheelset that nobody wants. This baby looks like a mongrel but it does its job of churning away road miles admirably well, all without breaking the bank or attracting any attention as it gets left out on the street. It was as stealthy as it can get.

SO THE IDEA WAS TO RIDE SOUTH along the new Eastlink bike trail to Carrum then head back home as the weather wasn't exactly looking too promising, but as I headed South towards the beach, the head wind was strong so I gave in and turned around and headed North towards Ringwood instead. With wind behind me I managed to get to Ringwood in less than 20 minutes with out too much effort. So I thought, why not explore other linking bike trails? Armed with a water bottle and basic essentials, I headed deep North into Mullum Mullum territory not knowing what to expect.

THE SCHWERKOLT COTTAGE wasn't exactly what I was expecting to find smack bang in the middle of Eastlink freeway crossovers, but that where it was. A historic remain of early German settlers built next to the Mullum Mullum Creek, these cottages have been immaculately preserved by Parks Victoria and have become a bit of local destination for BBQs or taking the dog for a walk (and pee). Smoke barns & homes built from stacked stones, a cellar built from a disused mine shaft and a display centre showcasing the antique machineries the early farmers used were highlights of this cottage. Looking at my bike resting against the caged display of tractors, I can't help and think my bike has evolved much.

I DIDN'T KNOW THE OLD KOONUNG BIKE TRAIL was now linked with the Eastlink bike trail, otherwise I would have turned around and headed home, but by the time I realised that I was in Doncaster and heading towards CBD was when I first noticed the city skylines. Distracted by the very cool looking exercise machines lining along the trail, I stopped at each pockets of exercise points and had a bit of play. Fell off the step machine a few time too as it was tough to master, and got the obligatory weird look from other trail users, but I didn't care. I said it before and I'll say again, I'm a big kid when it comes to play time. What's the point in life it you can't have some fun?

PROCEEDING ALONG THE TRAIL I soon reached Studley Park junction and much to my surprise, my knee wasn't playing up nor was I feeling any ill effects from my impromptu ride that was now really turning into a bit of a major event. Rode past Dights Fall and not really certain where I was heading next, I accidentally stumbled across Collingood Childrens Farm and St Helier's Convent which my colleague Jen had been raving about. By now I was ready for lunch and the Convent Bakery made a perfect place to stop for a bite. Luckily my backup stash of $20 note in my road side repair kit was still in there, albeit a bit grimy, so other than getting a bit of dirty look from the waiter, a chicken & avocado bagel with drink was demolished in quick succession.

NOW FUELED UP AND SUN'S SHINING BRIGHTLY, I kept riding along the Capital bike trail and it took me through Kensington then past the Melbourne Zoo, before reaching the Dockland precinct. As someone who works in construction industry, I can't help but take the time out to checkout the scenery. A lot of money has been sunken into this place and it look all trendy and very flash, but I couldn't help and feeling this was all very pretentious and wondered if people living around here were really happy, as undoubtedly it would have cost a decent fortune live here only to be stacked like sardines in apartment complexes and to have to put up with all the people, noise and blinding lights daily, with the niggling knowledge that this isn't a place to raise a family and in 10 years time this place will become an urban decay like it did in Southgate.

BY NOW it was getting into mid afternoon and what started as a late morning training ride was getting a bit out of hand, so before my body packs in as it usually would, I thought I do the right thing and start make my way home. The odometer on the bike was reading 65kms and that's pretty much bang on my usual endurance limit. So with my last $4.50 I stopped at the Southgate foodcourt and got myself a chocolate bar for the road and headed down the Gardiner bike trail, a path which I have ridden many times before to commute to work. Leaving he noise and the traffic of the city behind and heading east, the harsh concrete jungle and roads soon turn into something that I'm more familiar with, surrounded by trees, dogs, kids and people who are out there for no other reasons but to enjoy their local parkland in the sun, and I for one didn't mind that the last 25km of my 95km epic ride was finished among these surroundings.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


THERE ARE TIMES when riding a mountain bikes become a bit of a chore. It's hard to believe I know, but it happens to the best of us and I'm sure we have all been there before, when you just can't be bothered with it all. Paul's been there recently, nearly selling his beloved Epic & turn to the dark side to get Tarmac road bike, and more recently the evergreen Damien declaring also that he's lost his passion for mountain biking as well.

IN MY CASE, after the recent Kona 24 MTB race and, I must admit I have also lost a bit of my usual enthusiasm for mountain biking. OK, admittedly my previous weekend at You Yangs with mob from Bicycle Victoria was great fun, but I vividly remembering the climbs to the summit being a real pain in the arse, with my knees playing up and the constant struggle in forcing a myself uphills when other riders easily gliding by, a clear indication of my deteriorated level of fitness. Even yesterday afternoon's quickie through Lysterfield Lakes on board my beloved Xizang didn't bring much smile to my face. I need a change of scenery and road bike just doesn't cut it for me, although I am acutely aware that putting miles into road is exactly what I need to do to rebuild myself to be in any shape to tackle Otway Odyssey next year.

LUCKILY FOR ME, within my stupid little collection of GT bikes I have a BMX bike in the fleet, and as a bonus there are 4 BMX tracks all within 30min of driving from home, so this morning, instead of doing the usual one hour MTB ride, I decided to do something different and pay my local BMX track a visit. It was a novelty to be the only person at the track, but I guess being fairly early in the morning most kids are enjoying the chance to sleep in during the school holiday. This worked to my advantage as I didn't need to be self-conscious about my lack of ability on board a BMX bike compared to the much more youthful track companions, whom can take to air at will. The lack of other riders allowed me to quietly put in laps of practice around the track without being interrupted.

SO FOR OVER AN HOUR THIS MORNING, I was able to be totally absorbed in learning how to ride a BMX bike again under a clear blue sky. My only audience were a couple of magpies and they were content to watch me putting in fast sprint intervals, followed by laps of moderate track works to strengthen my knee and improve my breathing. Riding a small 20" wheeler also turned out to be a great way of refining my riding skills in general, be it clearing double jumps, pump rhythm sections, rail berms, and generally fine tuning my spatial awareness for things happen so much faster on a small bike, that unless I stay focused I tend to end up crashing. Granted I don't know if I really have progressed much from today's track work, but suffice to say I freak out a lot less now as I roll towards a table top jump at 40km/h.

Not to mention having the entire BMX track to yourself was an odd but refreshing experience.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

2008 KONA 24 HOURS, Forrest, Victoria

IT NEVER CEASES TO AMAZE ME that something so simple as riding a push bike can mean so much to so many different people. Kona 24 Hours this year was no exception. Some of us are out there for fun, some of us are out there with a point to proof, others are just out there whether they can ride or not but mostly people are there for a bit of mountain biking adventure.

TRYING TO EXPLAIN the concept of riding a bike nonstop for 24 hours is usually greeted with curious amazement or total ridicule by those who don’t ride, but what they fail to comprehend is that there are elements within a 24 hour event that cannot be easily summarised unless one’s had a go in participating and experience it firsthand. Call it a weekend camping event with bikes or whatever, but to treat this event with disrespect, it can cost you dearly.

THE BATTLEGROUND FOR THIS YEAR’S KONA 24 is once again in the magnificent Forrest MTB Park. A slice of mountain bike heaven carved out by none other than Australian MTB legend Glen Jacobs. It featured miles of twisting single track in an otherwise pretty isolated piece of Victorian bush land. Sweepers, berms, rollers and hip jumps are all signature Glen Jacob affair but for the reason of safety, the race organisers have opted for tracks without too many technical features. I find it a bit of shame because in my opinion, rider’s skill and bikes are progressing every year, therefore so should the track that we compete on. Cross country tracks needs to get more technical, not just to sort out road bike riders from true mountain bikers, but if Aussie riders are to take it to the international level and compete on par against riders around the world, we need more technical stuff to ride in.

MY PARTICIPATION THIS YEAR was already determined 364 days prior during last year’s Kona 24 hours. Andrew, Caleb, Marissa and myself all made a pack to return this year after surviving last year’s slog. This year, we’ve managed to convince 4 more newbies to join in our little fanfare. Brenton, Stephen, Ben and Kathryn have all signed up. With them they bring a mixed level of personality and experience; but more importantly, right attitude towards the event – a healthy dose of adventure carefully mixed with some anxiety and hint of caution.
SEASONED VETRANS DON’T TAKE THIS EVENT ON LIGHTLY and after the disappointment of previous year, Paul’s return to this year’s event earmarked a new level of personal achievement for him. Now sporting Total Freedom Machine colours, it symbolised an end of his association with his previous sponsor Total Rush. Paul’s new green, red and white livery was comically close to a Christmas tree but there was nothing funny at about his preparation to this event. Toned up and ready to battle, the smiles in the camera was hiding a rider with a lot of point to proof; to please his new sponsor and redeeming last year’s disappointment. Not even his wife was immune from his drive to succeed. She was there shadowing his every move to ensure that no details are missed for his 24 hours of torture ahead.
IN A CLEAR DEMONSTRATION of outrageously sound organisation skill, Andrew has managed to bring everything bar a kitchen sink & plasma TV to this year’s event. Twin marquees, mushrooming tents of sleeping quarters in the field behind, gas heat lamps and plenty of food & drink making our team pit the envy of the field. Ben rocked up with boxes of mixed fruits enough to keep a zoo happy, with enterprising Marissa completing the picture with a laptop to time our progress. The ever cautious Kath brought a bed and massage roller just in case. Me? Lame excuse persists. From a sore knee resulting to my botched race at Bendigo 4 weeks ago, to being under prepared or whatever, no excuse was going to save me from this 24 hour that will sort me out whichever way I tackle it.

IN A CONTINUATION OF PAST YEAR’S FORMAT, the race was divided into 3 segments. First 6 hours will be on a circuit loop, to be followed by 12 hours of night racing on a separate circuit, then finally round up by another 6 hours of racing on a 3rd loop. The justification of this was to ensure that technically dangerous circuit are eliminated from the night laps. This I can’t argue, crashing hard in the middle of the night isn’t much fun. So at 1 minute past midday on 29th November, 2008, hundreds of riders set off into the single track to commence their event that would end in 23 hours and 59 minutes.

THERE ARE A FEW METHODS GOING ABOUT how one should tackle a 24 hour race. Pace yourself or go hard and blow up, rest then repeat, the choices are only limited by your imagination and resources. Common logic should dictate the soloist riders starting slow and finish slower, but often this aren’t the case as their progression are often more rapid than those who race in a team. 6 rider teams behave like a pack of wild dogs, barging their way through the course like hyenas after deer, while others seemed to be content to sit in their tents over a Power Bar watching others sweat out over on the course. Our pit was split up into 2 teams of 4 and the agreed strategy of taking things as it come provides ample opportunity for individualism in this event. Be a clown or taking it serious, there was a place for all. Andrew was out to put himself to test, while Ben, competitive by nature, was going to see to it that a non competitive cyclist can mix in with the season riders. Brenton, Steve and Kath showing some nerves while Marissa and Caleb cracked jokes with each other. All I cared about was that I was going to ride my bike again in Forrest.

WITH A TEAM OF 4 in our group it was awhile before it was my turn to commence my 24 hour campaign. Conscience of my deteriorated level of fitness and knee issues, my goal was to finish the race without incurring further injuries. Under the glaring eyes of the crowd at the transition zone, I proceeded to clear the very first steep hill climb after start / finish line, when I really should have walked up it. So out the window it went my conservative race approach, all within 50m of starting my race. As usual, the long non-technical climbs irritated me whereas descends and technical terrains kept me happy. If only the whole race was to be like that. A bit of overconfidence in a loose corner sent me crashing off the bike but beyond that little spill, my progress was linear and unexcitingly steady.

THE SECOND LAP after a round of rider rotation meant that by the time I headed out again, I would be tackling the night loop just before the sun set. There’s nothing like riding in a sunset in Australian outback. Wildlife stirs while air cooled. It was pure magic riding conditions. The lights I was carrying wasn’t necessary as there was still enough daylight to see where I was going, and this gave me a huge advantage over others who will have to track the same course in the darkness. Poor Kath, a total novice to night racing, had the unfortunate draw of tackling her first ever night lap unseen in total darkness and to no surprise she didn’t like it. By then Caleb also did his back in and had called an end to his race campaign, so after a quick conference Brenton and I would take turns to soldier on and see how far we could push.

DE JAVU. That’s all I can say about my body. Not long after I headed out again, my legs started to do the usual trick of cramping up just when I thought things were going rosy. This was becoming an annoyingly regular occurrence on all my long distance rides and I’m at lost how I can overcome this. Sure enough my knee soon followed suit, each heavy pedal stroke was greeted by a pain that’s just too complicated to write here. The ride back to pit soon turned into a fine balance between pushing in the dark and not packing my knee in. When I finally completed my lap, I was 20 min overdue. Upon my return to the pits, broken Matt (he destroyed his ankle a month earlier so no riding for 6 month) was there in our pit, drowning his sorrows over a beer with Sandy who also missed entering this event through indecisions, Both harbouring some regret for not being able to participate in this event while I ditched my bike and gone searching for some ice.
While I sat in pit nursing a knee feeling like a grapefruit and listening to Matt and Sandy discuss life’s trials and tribulations, Paul soldiered on unwaveringly by our pit. Paul’s event has been a quiet but determined progression, never buckled under pressure on his way to a strong solo finish. When Brenton returned from his lap, we all agreed we to take time out and get some sleep in preparation for a big push next morning.

GOOD AFTERNOON, Good Evening, Good Night and Good Morning- all of which probably mean the same to a lot of us over the last 24 hours. The sleep didn’t seem to reduce my swollen knee but the daylight did brighten all our spirit. Kath then Brenton went out first only to return complaining the new lap format being more difficult than it needed to be. But I was determined to give the 3rd circuit a go, despite going against sound advice from Caleb that I should sit out. You only live once and I was happy with my decision to head out as I got to ride the fabled Mariners Run, a technical track best described as being similar to the “Karate Monkey” track in Whistler, albeit without the steep gradient. The technical bits were immensely enjoyable despite the hill climbs doing my knee in again. A big wild slide while burning through a berm kept me awake for rest of my lap for otherwise a steady progress to the end. As I completed my lap I noticed no one but Kath was present. No doubt that everyone’s had enough of riding and gone somewhere for a cold beer. Content with finishing my stint and ready feet up, I had not noticed that Kath headed out for another lap so she can beat her XC racing nemesis Megan Lawson. For Meagan to be ahead of Kath in a race it was like waving a red rag to a raging bull – no way was she going to take this sitting down. An hour and twenty minutes later, Kath sprinted past the finish line and returned grinning like she’s just won lottery.

THE AFTERMATH OF AN 24 HOUR SLOG usually results in a field littering with walking wounded, but this year the carnage level seems to be down thanks to a less demanding track and milder weather. Our cause was made a lot easier by two particular individual’s endeavour, from organising entry to this event to picking up after others., credit must go to where it is due and we all have a lot to thank Andrew and Stephen for. Everyone took away something unique from this event, and for those who got something positive out of it, they’ll no doubt return to this place another day.

Monday, November 24, 2008


IT'S BEEN NEARLY 3 FULL WEEKS SINCE the Golden Epic Bendigo race event and my knee's still not 100% right, which is a bit of a worry because I really haven't had any time to ride my bike since. With Kona 24 Hours only 5 days away, I can still feel the odd twitch and twangs from my right knee. Things are not going so well either on personal side of things, as work is retrenching people and the girl I'm fancying declared that she doesn't want me as a boyfriend. However, neither of these were not unexpected, it's just another couple of disappointing holes in the highway called life, sometimes smooth sailing, other times full of confusing paths with odd carnage and pileups.

ON THE BRIGHTER SIDE OF THINGS, I've finally managed to go for a bit of ride yesterday and even though it wasn't an strenuous ride, the knee actually felt ok without too much pain. For a bit of laugh I rode my Ruckus tankasaurus hardtail with flat pedals and went for a spin around home looking for trouble... I mean things to ride. So anyway did a bit of stair riding at local schools, some downhilling along a farmer's paddock, grass slaloms at back of a golf course, being a stupid huckwit hucking off a loading bay and some trial riding over park benches - for the first time I've managed to hop onto a park bench without the help of SPDs. Ok admittedly I also promptly fell off it, but it was progresive riding for me, albeit in a tiny, unremarkable way. Ended up at the Jells Park carpark for a bit dirt slalom on loose gravel and managed to carve out a beautiful high speed turn with rear wheel drifting in a perfect arc, and caught a glimps of the gravel roost in the corner of my eye whilst doing so, and all this done without me falling off my bike for a change. :-)

I REMEMBER TYLER KLASSEN ONCE SAID IN "THE COLLECTIVE" MOVIE that what makes a guy happy in life are girls, cars, beers and bikes. Well after been away from my bikes 3 weeks, tired of work and not getting anywhere with the opposite sex, it was good to return to my first love, the simple pleasure of being a kid again riding a bike in whatever the way I wanted.

Monday, November 3, 2008


WITHOUT any doubt will go down as the most difficult mountain bike race I have tackled this year. Fantastic organization by super friendly locals, outstanding prizes for very reasonable race entry fee with some great tracks and weather for the day, but I absolutely hated this event.

ANOTHER 4AM START FOR ANOTHER RACE. As the this event is scheduled to start at 8am sharp, it meant we had to leave home by 5am latest, as Bendigo is 2.5 hours drive away. I wasn’t sure I’d be doing this event as it’s the held a week after 6 Hour Surf Coast, but buoyed with last weekends strong finish and Sandy boasting on how great the Bendigo event was, I thought it would give this event a try. Strongly aware that this will be the first 100km+ off road race I’ve ever attended (the previous record was the Mad Ride @ 85km) I was pretty detailed in my preparation. Ate well the night before, packed plenty of food and water and even caught up with Sandy for a warm up ride the day before at Lysterfield Lakes. Sandy’s Anthem was developing some mysterious creaks, which was driving her bananas so a trip to Rob at TrailMix and 30 minutes later, the Anthem returned to Sandy minus any noise and was running like clockwork.

THE RACE DAY. Sandy rocked up a tad late and she was a bit scattered, with things everywhere. So we wedged her belongings into my car and convoyed to city so Sandy can drop her car off, as she planned to play a soccer match after the race (!). Got to Bendigo to be greeted by sunshine, great locals and a well set out race venue. The race started 8am sharp and knowing the huge task ahead, I proceed to ride at 70% of my ability and was happy to hang back and let others move ahead. The terrain in Bendigo was littered with baby fist sized rocks on bone dry red earth, nothing unusual but after last weekend’s tire blow out, I was taking extra care when going over the pointy stones. Another thing I noticed was that I was still not 100% confident on my GT I-Drive Race, possibly resulting from my crash into tree the weekend prior (confidence?), or maybe it was the loose stone over hard pack (terrain?) or whatever (getting old?), but I really didn’t have my usual flair when going into corners today. Not being able to carry speed through corners may not seem like a big deal, but at an 100km event, every kilojoules of energy saved from not pedaling was critical, so my slow in - even slower out cornering meant that I had to pedal that extra few cranks or push harder to get onto the next hill – this was going to get me later.

CHECKPOINTS. The professionalism of the organizers on this event the best I have ever seen in a race meeting. They had 2 dirt bike riders opening and sweeping the entire course and set up checkpoints at the nominated intervals. Before the race, participants can drop off as much food and water supplies they like at each checkpoint, and these would then be taken to the checkpoints by the organizers, so you don’t have to cart all the supplies. I dropped off 2 bottles at checkpoint 2 & 4 (they were a total of 5 check points) anticipating that’s where I’ll need the replenishment the most. When I got to checkpoint 2 looking for my bottle, it was nowhere to be seen. Someone had taken it. I was a little annoyed but not a huge deal. Then a racer called Matt Clark generously handed me his full drink bottle. Matt had retired earlier so he offered me what he had. (Thanks Matt I’ll try to find you and return your bottle). There’s something about the hospitality of country folks that you just don’t get in a city run race meeting. After taking the bottle and a banana handed out by the event official, I carried on and tackled the rocky grass hills that typified central Victoria.

THIS EVENT WAS PUNCTUATED by two major road sections. Yes, road sections as in riding on tarmac & gravel roads. This was something that I wasn’t expecting and the length of the road sections, from Sutton Grange to Redesdale put me into a shit mode. I mean, what kind of bollocks was this? A mountain bike race on the public roads, with cars, trucks and 4x4s buzzing pass every few minutes? All thoughts of negativity came flooding into my mind but I soon resigned to the fact that mountain bikes are capable of riding on any terrain, so I should just shut up and stop whining like a roadie. Still, the strong head wind, burning sun and incessant buzz of my Maxxis knobbies shredding itself on tarmac kept me in foul mood. Then I saw a sign that showed “60KM”, which lifted my spirit a bit. I’m almost there.

THE RIDE IN THE UPDATED REDESDALE TRACK, the original home of Kona 24 Hours Endurance race, was ok. I normally would leap at the chance to shred along tight single tracks, especially after just finished riding 20km on the road, but I was starting to feel tired and mood was still sour. So the next 16km of single track was ridden as conservatively as I could, only highlight being caught and passed by Giant rider John Claxton in the Elite Mans Class & his teammate. They caught up with me so fast I had to jump out of their way and it was amazing to watching them charging through the rock littered track at speeds that I cannot fathom. The locals, grown up riding on rough tracks, has bike handling skills that is years ahead of me, who’s pretty much been pampered by raked, smooth tracks. Mental note: Start broadening my horizons and ride on more variety of terrains. Time to get used to ride on rocks.

ROCKING UP TO CHECK POINT 4 after 17km of the old Kona 24 hour / 2009 Melbourne 12 hour enduro course, I was starting to cramp up in the legs. The flies, as usual, relentless in their pursuit of sweaty bodies. So much to my dismay, I was told by the volunteer that there was still around 55kms to go. At first I thought he was joking but then it dawned to me that the 60KM sign I saw earlier was indicating the distance to go, not distance covered. I was in trouble. So I made sure I packed as much fluid and bananas as I could before I setoff. This was not turning out to be a great day.

MORE ROAD RIDING FROM REDESDALE to Myrtle Creek into head wind put me back into absolute foul mood once again. Then I realized that I haven’t seen another rider since checkpoint 2 while I’m riding (except at checkpoints) meaning that I had no one to work with as a road pack to overcome the headwind. More negativity sank in but eventually I reached the final checkpoint 5, with 17km to go. I was tired from the whole day of lonely ride in the wind and cramping badly. I seriously contemplated retiring on the spot so I had to make a decision on what I want to do. Do I call it quit or bite the bullet and finish the race? Brain: 1. The volunteer said the next 17km of the race was some of the best single track around – I don’t want to miss it. 2. Damien once told me the secret of success in a solo race was– once you push past the pain barrier, things become easy again – I’ve now reached the pain barrier and I want to know if this is true. 3. I really wanted to finish my first 100+ Km race. 4. Ego. Body: NOOOOOOO. So in great pain and cramping in places I’ve never felt before, I slowly set off to tackle the 17km of single tracks that were masterpiece of man made off road cycling terrain, yet at the same time so cruel in its technical intensity to one who’s already been taxed to total exhaustion. Every single incline, no matter how shallow or steep, was dealt with on foot, and every descend and sweeping berms became a terrifying roller coaster rider as my legs no longer obeyed my command. My left knee was so sore it could no longer clip in or out of the SPD. I was shattered.

7 HOURS, 29 MINUTES AND 21 SECONDS after I left the start line, I rolled slowly towards the finish line pedaling on one leg only, completing the event as the absolute last classified finisher for the day (26th in full veteran men category). I could hear the crowd cheering as I rolled towards the line but I was in so much pain that I didn’t really care. The race announcer handed me a prize as I crossed the line and this I nearly dropped as my hand was so sore, I simply couldn’t hold on to it (it was a SRAM cassette). Falling into a heap on the grass, I was glad but at the same time pissed off in tackling the last 17km when my body was already a screaming mess.

Sandy ended up winning the Female Expert class – 5 hours & 54 minutes – being he only female in that category but nonetheless a great effort, with a handy $200 prize cheque. She had no problems whatsoever and totally loved the event.

On the way back to Melbourne, I realized that no matter how hard I train and prepare, I am simply physiologically unsuited to long endurance events. My metabolism rate is too high and that’s probably why I fare much better on short track racing or events with durations around 2 hours. Sandy, with very slow metabolic rates, easily finished this event with no ill effects. She also hates short track events with lots of tight turning, technical single tracks, requiring explosive power and quick reflex - which is something I seemed to love – and I loathed open non-technical fire roads with grinding hills – which Sandy loves. We’re poles apart. Sandy quizzed if I would return next year – I doubt I will but if I did, it will be either the sprint 25km race or 50km option.

To complete my day, Sandy’s Anthem nearly fell off the roof rack on the freeway and left a decent size dint on the roof of my car.

My right knee is in a lot of pain and I have trouble standing and walking, but surprisingly the rest of my body is feeling ok. Hopefully the knee will recover in time for the Anaconda adventure race & Kona 24 hours later this month. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


THE 2008 SURF COAST 6 HOUR will go down as one of my best endurance race event in recent memory. The past 3 months of steady work on improving my bike riding endurance, taking part in the Knobby Sport Dirt Crit events and heeding advice from others, as well just getting out and doing the hard yards seems to be paying off. An event with a happy ending.

IT ALL STARTED a few months back with emails from Matt asking if anyone was interested in doing the event. After reading up Troy Bailey’s website and the rave reviews on it, I put my hand up and was to form a team with Matt and Andrew Nurse as Men’s Triple. Unfortunately, due to interstate work schedules, I couldn’t commit, so it was decided that I best be left out to allow Matt and Andrew to proceed with the event entry. Luckily, as result of my interstate client’s delays & indecisions, I was given the all clear this weekend to race. Wasn’t keen on doing any more solo races after the less than successful Anaconda Series earlier this year, I went around hunting for riding partners and by chance, Damien was available and after a few phone calls later, an all clear was given for what should be a good team.

THE WEEK PRIOR to this event, I caught up with Tim Rowe at the Dirt Crit event and he advised me that Anglesea track was no hardtail country, so decision was made to give my butt a break and roll out my GT I-Drive Race for her race debut. The I-Drive Race, which I have only recently acquired from a home of neglect, needed some major work. After replacing the fork, headset, all the cables, seat post, saddle, grips, stem, handle bar, brake pads and wheel set later, this outcast was restored to former glory and was a surprising full 2 kg lighter than my other I-Drive 1.0.

THE PLAN WAS to for me to do 2-3 laps in a succession, as Damien was scheduled to arrive later. Somehow he managed to get here before race commencement. After some discussion the revised plan was to do 2 laps each before each transition, so each of us get one reconnaissance lap in before doing the second lap at racing speed. Andrew Nurse had to reorganize his race entry as Matt broke his ankle a week prior, so this will be his first Solo event & he naturally was showing some signs of nerve. As we readied for the start, Damien was cruising about preparing himself, while Victor, with military like precision in his race build up, was like a colt ready to bolt out of the staple.

SO TO THE RACE. Since I had zero knowledge of this course, starting at the back and work my way in made sense. The usual traffic jam at the first single track entry ensured a slow start for all but the fastest riders. So I stayed behind Nursey for the first 10min railed his tire tracks as he’s done a reconnaissance lap. A wise decision because the course was mostly covered with a very fine layer of dust making cornering, not to mention seeing and breathing a tricky prospect. Once I was warmed up, I fare welled Nursey and set off at a comfortable pace to make up for the lost ground. Beside the dust, I found the track much to my liking. The I-Drive, with it’s Giant Anthem-like short 3.2 inch of travel, was nearly perfect for this kind of course. It climbed like a hardtail, yet it had just enough give to take away all the jolting from trail without feeling mushy like longer travel bikes do. The Monorail / Larsen tire combination was doing a good job keeping me upright in sand so my progress through the pack was fairly rapid. Then it all felt apart.

ROLLING THROUGH A SAND PIT at a fair pace, the front tire bottoming onto something hard. Then burrrrrrp, the tire was off the rim & sealant went everywhere. Just super. No big deal, pull over and fix the flat. Then I realized I didn’t have my pump with me. Fcuk it I thought, ride the thing out, since Damien is waiting and time lost trying to borrow a pump and fixing flat would be better spent just getting back to pit. Surprisingly, riding on rim in deep sand actually wasn’t that difficult and as long as I kept the weight off the front tire, I could hold a good pace. Got plenty of crowd support as I made my way back, feel a bit like a wounded soldier in a parade. At the marquee, Damien had a good laugh before taking over – I seem to get a flat tire whenever he’s around. Victor was recovering after a serious case of head-butting a tree branch, while Nursey was still somewhere behind me minding his own solo business. A pretty eventful start for us all.

SOON, DAMIEN WAS BACK from his maiden lap and I was out for my next lap. With front tire fixed and good knowledge of the course now, the second lap was tackled with a bit more pace. By now, the field had spread out nicely so there were plenty of overtaking opportunities, which I seized whenever it presented itself. I must remind myself not to get too carried away during races, because when I get all excited I tend to end up making a mess. After overtaking 8 riders in a row going downhill at warp speed, my progress was to spectacularly end up against a tree. Basically a case of Newton’s Law in motion and I went straight in the sandpit, left knee first. Tree didn’t move a bit but I did and it hurt like hell. For a scary second I thought I also broke my leg because it was twisted awkwardly. Luckily a quick check up revealed nothing more than losing a bit of skin, so dug myself out of the sand pit to set off again, but now more wary of the type of stupidity I’m capable of.

FOR THE NEXT 4 HOURS, everything ran like clockwork. No more mistakes and I surprised myself by being able to finish this event without any major pain, suffering or negative effects that I usually get at the 4th hour. Damien was a seasoned endurance racer and he finished the event drama free. Teaming up with him always has a positive outcome. From his meticulous preparations prior to an event, to giving sound tips during the race, or just sit back and goof around while you are just bloody knackered and ready to throw it in, Damien’s experience and presence benefited all who was around.

We didn’t hang around for the presentation because it was already 10:30 when we finished packing. The compulsory post race McDonalds junk fest followed but somehow we lost Victor in our convoy. I was so tired that I had to pull over at Newport for a snooze (I must have a death wish) coughing up a tone of dust in shower and slept in till 10 Sunday morning. With a sore knee, I turned down all the offers of riding today and happily spend the whole day cleaning and tuning the bike for the next race, the Golden Triangle at Bendigo next weekend.

Special thanks to Steve Rowe for the great photos again, best of luck in your upcoming operation, wish you the best and hope to see you back in action again soon.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Woodend Mud Bash 2

WHO SAID LIGHTNING DOESN'T STRIKE TWICE? Well it was nearly another de-javu at this weekend's ride at Woodend. Mud caked bikes, Dana crashing, getting a little lost and me struggling way behind Paul were the order of the day.

AS USUAL, an email from Paul midweek started the ball rolling. The weather was a bit questionable with heavy rain on Friday afternoon casting a shadow on this ride. In the end, it was Andrew Wade who went to the trouble of looking up the long range weather forecast, checked the rainfall rate in Woodend in the past 24 hours and one hundred other little things which I don't even know about which got us over the line. No one was to pike from this ride.

SO 7am START AT KFC @ WESTGATE BRIDGE. Bloody hell, it was an early start. No big deal for Paul & Dana who lived in Port Melbourne, Andrew had to get up at 5am just to get to my place at 6:15am so we could carpool. Andrew however was not going to miss this ride, rain, hail or shine because he's just got himself a new bike, an 09 Giant Anthem X1. And quite a bike that was, 100mm travel, hydroformed tubing everywhere and not one single ounce of wasted material anywhere. OK I admit I have a soft spot for the Anthems. I admire it's design brief of making a "no-compromise" all out XC racer, built to do nothing but to go as fast as possible. A pretty brave move by Giant to bring out such an uncompromising short travel bike back in a time when big travel free ride bikes were all the rage. But looking at the number of Anthems at a XC race event today, Giant's decision proved to be an astute one.

ANYWAY, THE RIDE. As usual, Paul led the pack, fast and furious pace, followed closely by Dana, me and Andrew. I was being my usual self of an old school hold out, riding a hardtail (Zaskar)
running V-brakes among a fleet of Epics and Anthem. Probably a odd thing to do to but I'm truly comfortable with hardtails and V-brakes. The muddy single tracks and wet pine trails were littered with viciously exposed tree roots but it didn't slow me down too much. I was trying out the new Maxxis Monorail tire on this ride, although a good tire in it's own right, it soon became apparent these couldn't give me the same cornering confidence that a Highroller offered.

HOWEVER, MY BIGGEST PROBLEM was, and one that's going to concern me for the foreseeable future, was how far off the pace fitness wise I was compared to Paul, Dana and Andrew. I couldn't keep in touch with Paul, barely kept Dana in sight, and if Andrew was not on a maiden ride aboard his Anthem, he would also be long way ahead of me. I just didn't have the wattage or the stamina to keep up. Keeping them in check through winding single track was OK but as soon as the gradient went up, I was left for dead. My winter preparation appears to have been inadequate so I have a lot of work ahead of me. Hmmmm.

A RIDE WITH DANA would not have been complete without him crashing, or doing something spectacular then crash, or doing something stupid followed by a crash. Well Dana was about to break his jink on this ride until he didn't clip out in time and fell over while waiting for us at the trail head. At least this time he was prepared and had a wound dressing with him. Seeing Dana drawing blood made me ill but he soldiered on as if nothing happened nor did it slow him down a bit. Tough bloke Dana you are. Hope you've got a good private health insurance policy.

MECHANICAL 101. Besides remembering getting separated from Paul and Dana & getting a bit lost, I had nothing more to report. The Zaskar was running flawlessly, unlike the last outing at Chase the Sun Round 3. Andrew on the other hand, broke his chain on the way going up a hill climb. Combining mud, gradient, rushed gear change and Andrew's colossal wattage, the chain simply snapped under the strain. The picture on the right is Andrew getting down and dirty mending his new bike to health again.

Well that's about all, a good ride but it exposed my lack of pre-season fitness against the benchmark rider, Paul. If I was hoping to do well in the upcoming summer racing series, I'd better step up with my training program. On our way back home, Andrew was bubbling with enthusiasm with his new Anthem and was genuinly looking forward to Kona 24. Deep down, I know I have a lot of work ahead of me if I was to become a worthy riding partner for him in Forrest at end of November.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dirt Riders MTB race event

CRASH AND BURN. Well, it wasn't that bad really, but today was the first time in a long while that I've had a proper crash, Colin McRae style, on my bike. Got out of it surprisingly unscathed, other than a some superficial cuts on my left arm & leg and a big new hole on my cycling shorts, it was otherwise a fun racing event and a great Sunday ride.

I HAVE BEEN LAYING LOW LATELY since my recent trip to Canberra to watch the Nissan UCI World Cup event (see separate blog), and got a severe case of chest and throat infection for my trouble in watching the world's best battle it out at Stromlo. So really I haven't been doing any significant bike rides since, other than the occasional short rides on bike paths and a lap or so at Lysterfield Lakes to test out how my chest felt. Let's just say I got bored enough sitting at home I've managed to teach myself how to build wheels & bleed brakes.

So when good o' Kath emailed this week saying she's heading out for a training ride, I jumped at the opportunity. Don't know what others friends of mine have been doing of late, but no one seems to be riding anymore. Anyway, during our ride, Kath mentioned that there was a race on again at Beconsfield this Sunday, and she was going to check it out, so I thought, hell why not do a race, since I quite like the Beaconsfield track and small club race scene, not to mention that it beats sitting at home eating medication and fixing bikes on a Sunday.

PERFECT WEATHER THIS MORNING, blue sky and light wind. Got up early, happy and cheery, got myself sorted and motored down to the GWS Scout Camp, thinking that's where the race was held but when I rocked up, there was no one but some scout girls doing orienteering. OK somethings not right here, so after a few frantic text messages to Kath, I was on my way to the correct race venue. The event was due to start in 30 minutes, so it was a bit rushing around getting myself sorted before the race. Thank god Kath was there and helped me with registration, otherwise I'd probably forgotten half of the race essentials in my haste to get to the starting line.

SO TO THE RACE. As usual I got all excited at the starting line and when the flag dropped, I took off like a rabbit. It probably wasn't the smartest thing to do but I thought hell why not? A fully rigid crappy MTB leading a train of fully suspended superbikes, might as well enjoy a bit of limelight while I can. So first half lap I was going pretty quickly and doing well with only a couple of riders managing to keep up with me (one of them eventually won the race), until we came to the section where there's a boulder step up. I could remember everything in detail - went down the steep hill a bit too quickly, tried to lift the front wheel to step onto the boulder, but no, got it wall wrong. Front wheel first crashed into the boulder, followed with a big ugly sound of metal grinding on stone, and ended up in a massive nose wheelie position but somehow didn't crash. That head-on encounter with the boulder bent my front wheel and the tire burped out half the air. (I run Stan's) Phew, lucky escape - could have been a lot worse. So turned the bike upside down, jumped up and down on the front wheel a bit to straighten it out so the rim doesn't rub against the V-brakes pads and got the pump out and furiously pumped away to inflate the half flat tire. Soon all good, set off in I think 7th or 8th position, now with a lot of work to do to catch up with the leaders. Probably a bit ambitious really but I can see them about 1km up the hill so it was worth a shot to see if they can be caught.

THE BIG STACK. Not sure what the others were doing, but I was catch up and passing others without too much difficulty, all except the top 3 riders which were no where to be seen. I was feeling good and in catching and overtaking slower riders, I got all excited again, probably a bit too much because I was going very hard the on downhill sections, braking late, double jumping tree roots, doing cutties and drifting out of turns. Then I came to this place where there stood two trees, side by side with j.u.s.t. enough of a gap to squeeze a riser handle bar through. I saw it coming and I thought I'd be OK, as I cleared it in lap 1 no dramas. Big mistake. The right hand side of my handlebar clipped the tree trunk, and before I could say "oops" I went down like a pile of shit. Bike was a twisted pile of mess, another flat front tire and in doing so, managed to cause a little road block for all other riders behind. Don't quite remember how I actually crash landed but after the race one of the guys approached me to say I did a pretty spectacular barrel roll into the ground bum first and I was lucky that he didn't run me over!

RIDING WRECK. So after picking myself up and making sure that I was still in a functional state, I got stuck into my bike, straighten my bars, seat post, untangle gear & brake cables plus chain, then proceed to panel beat my front wheel back to a rideable shape and re-inflate my front tire again. Stan's goo's amazing. The front wheel's taken a beating but somehow it still held air, right to the end. So wobble-wobble-wobbly off I go again, this time definitely no hope of catching the leaders. That crash shook me up pretty good, very lucky to get out it so lightly, and because it had been a long awhile since I've had a proper crash like that, survival instinct took over and I rode like a grandma for the rest of the race.

Was pretty glad the bike held up for the rest of the event and I crossed the finish line shortly after without further dramas. Normally I'd be annoyed with myself for messing a race up but today I was just happy to ride again and didn't do anything more damaging than a bent front wheel. Well, I was pretty chuffed actually, I totally enjoyed the event and I still had enough left in my tank afterwards to do another lap with a friend after everyone's departed.

So that's it for now. Time to go to do some laundry and fix a broken GT. Once again thanks to Steve Rowe for great photos.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Round 3 - CTS Series 2008

A ROUND TO FORGET. Here I'm, finally sitting down warm and dry after spending over 3 hours cleaning my bike, my race kit and myself, I'm finally calm enough to reflect on what should have been. Looking back at my piss poor effort today at CTS Series Round 3, I have nobody to blame but myself for not staying in shape since last round and not thinking through carefully enough on which bike and tire setup I should have been running.

IT WAS KNOWN for a week in advance that Sunday was going to be a wet race. Whilst I was registering myself on line last Monday, a regulatory weather check on the BOM website forecasted that both Saturday & Sunday was going to be wet. Anyway, for reason of optimism, I decided to run 310 dry racers on my Zaskar for Sunday, thinking that my bike handling skills would make up for the tire's lack of grip in the wet conditions. Had I set the bike up with Hutchinson Mosquitoes wet racers as per the year before, I'm pretty sure that I would have written today's blog with a lot more positive tone than now.

SO LAP 1, instead of the usual start dead last at the back of the pack and work my way through the group, I've decided on a reasonable start today and work myself into the race. I was in cruise mode chatting with Damien, both of us sitting in the mid pack somewhere. Damien's finally back on saddle after disappearing off the radar for over a month, and it was good to catch up and chat. Although the track was damp, the 310 tires were actually working reasonably well, and I didn't have too many issues until I hit the first mud patch. OH MY GOD. It was like watching butter sliding over a hot pan. How I didn't fall off there and then, only heaven knows. Well, at least that woke me up and shut me up, no more chatting with Damien, it was time to get serious, if I was going to try stay ahead of Damien, I'd better cover some distance on the fire roads before we both get to the single track section near the Dog Kennels, which is always wet and dicey, even during summer.

EVERYTHING WAS GOING OK, going fast where I could and taking extra care on the wet areas, I've built up a nice 3 min gap over Damien by the time I exited the Dog Kennels, which wasn't as bad as I had imagined. On the climb up to the single track, the chain exploded. BUGGER! So turn the bike upside down and getting into the mechanic mode, I quickly checked the bike for the damage. For a fleeting second I though my race was done, as the chain was wrapped so tightly around the frame and middle ring - it snapped as result after a major case of chain suck. After few minutes of cursing and fumbling, I managed to free the chain and re-joined the broken link with the handy little SRAM Power Link that race organiser wisely issued to everyone. By then Damien's already long gone and I've got a long way to go and catch him and make up for the lost time.

THAT CHAIN, now caked solidly in mud, was griding away the middle ring horribly. It wasn't long before I had to put the middle ring out of action as some of the teeth was pretty badly bent out of shape when the chain blew up. So I was forced to mash it out in the big ring for entire Lap 2. It won't surprise me if Lap 2 will be my fastest lap of the race as I had no options but to crank hard over everything. Caught up and flew past Damien, I was getting used to the slippery track but I had a niggling feeling that I won't be able to keep this up for long, and sure enough, I was right. Half way through Lap 2, the heaven opened up. Not quite bucketing but enough to make sure that the greasy sub soil would be dragged on to the surface after a knobby tire have tore through the saturated top soil.

LAP 3 WAS HORRIBLE. Never before have I gone around Lysterfield Lake so slowly and yet at the same time, holding on for my dear life. With the ground now nicely churned up by tires full of knobs, I was ricocheting through the single track like a pack of loose Skittles down a Safeway isle, out of control, and sliding wildly whenever the contour changes. Over some parts of the track, it was like riding on a bar of soap. How I escaped today without a single crash is beyond me. At one stage going down a relatively shallow & straight section of single track, I was understeering AND oversteering at the same time just trying to keep the bike on a straight line! Fishtailing wildly at 40km/h in a single track isn't cool. And because I cannot maintain momentum, I'm forced down to use the granny gear wherever there was any hills, which is the last thing you want when your chain's already on it's last legs, so at the end of the lap 3, seeing Paul who's already decided to pack it in for the day (for similar reasons), I also made the decision to end the senseless destruction on my bike and potentially myself, and call it a day.

So the damage bill at the end of the day are:

  • worn out brake pads, front and back.
  • a mangled chain
  • bent middle chain ring
  • blown rear hub seal
  • sticking freewheel
  • probably need a new set of brake and gear cables

Looks like I'll be going to Kat's shop, Croydon Cycle Works this weekend shopping for spares.

Looking back, I would have done a lot better if I had ridden the little rigid Bravado today with Highrollers on. At least she'd be far easier to clean and much less dicier to ride in the mud.

This will be my last race at Chase The Sun Series, as I'm away at Mt Hotham next round to indulge my other passion, snowboarding. Hopefully by the time next Ananconda event come around, the 12 Hours at Reedsdale, I'll be less flabby and a bit fitter. Need to do more training with Kat and James. No more excuses not training for the next event as spring will be coming around soon.
Thanks to Steve Rowe for braving the wet, cold and misery to take great photos again.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The History of GT Bicycles

People often ask me - what is it with me and GT bicycles? It's a topic that comes up very, very often. Well, unless you were really into mountain biking since its infancy in the early 1990s, or perhaps BMX racing during the early 1980s, it's a hard to appreciate what GT was like during peak of its power. Myself, and many others around the world, still recall the glory days, and watched in despair as the brand neared brink of extinction, before the recent return to prominence of this famous brand.

So, the history of GT Bicycles.

IT IS THE EARLY 1970’s. Moto Cross takes off and MX racing is big. Between moto’s parents allow the youngsters to race bicycles on the big dirt tracks. Dad’s get involved and Bicycle Moto Cross was born. In 1973, a father named Gary Turner is one of the dads that goes to Moto Cross races and watches the kids racing, including his own. He notices that the bikes are heavy, slow and fragile. Gary is not only a musical instrument repairmen with experience welding things like trumpets and trombones, but is also a professional drag racer and has experience welding and building cro-mo “rails” or chassis, for drag racers. With the high grade aircraft cro-moly tubing used for dragsters, Gary starts to make frames for his son to race at the MX track. His son’s bike gets noticed and Gary starts to supply the frames to other kids and building his reputation one frame at a time.

Product Highlights:

  • 4130 Cro-mo Frames / Forks

1974 THE BEGINNING. Richard Long owns and runs a bike shop in Orange County, California. He notices Gary Turner and his frames. He notices that they are selling and that people want to know how to get them. Richard calls Gary and asks him if he can stock and sell the frames. Gary agrees and the most famous partnership in BMX history starts.

1975-1980 BUILDING A BRAND, ONE FRAME AT A TIME. Things happen fast and soon Richard and Gary invested in a shop dedicated to making top quality Cro-moly BMX frames in Santa Ana. In 1979 they incorporated into GT Bicycles, Inc. Richard sold his bike shop and began selling frames as fast as possible to bicycle distributors across the USA and into Europe. Business is huge and so is BMX. GT begins to sponsor BMX racers. Richard is the business and marketing genius and Gary is the engineer and craftsmen. Little did they know that in 20 years they would build together one of the most well known bicycle companies in the world.

Product Highlights:
  • 4130 Cro-mo Frames / Forks
  • 4130 Handlebars
  • Forged Stems
  • 4130 Seatposts

1980-86 THE GLORY DAYS OF BMX. GT expands exponentially every year and enters the new off shoot sport of BMX, Freestyle. The first frame designed by Gary for freestyle, the Performer, becomes a legend in freestyle and, still today, in 2002, is one of the most recognized brand names in juvenile bicycles. The company moves into new digs on 2300 Container Lane in Huntington Beach California. Soon, they grow from one office into 4 separate buildings that handle welding, warehousing, shipping and administrative. During this period GT would come to dominate BMX racing as the sport matured into a worldwide phenomena. GT establishes itself as the preeminent racing brand in the sport and begins to dominate the race venues that would lead to the nickname “the firm”. For better or for worse GT goes from garage to corporate in a big way.

Product Highlights:
  • Full assortment of USA made BMX frames and parts
  • Full assortment of USA made Freestyle frames and parts
  • Performer frame and GT Freestyle parts challenge Haro for dominance in the market place.
1987-1994 BMX DIES WHILE GT MOVES INTO MOUNTAIN BIKE. As the late 80 ‘s approached, BMX racing tapered off and the BMX business got hit hard. In light of this Richard turned his focus onto the new sport of Mountain Biking, although he never forgot BMX and in fact turned up the heat on his competitors. In November of 1987 GT showed its first line of 5 mountain bikes at the young Interbike Show in Reno, Nevada. 5 years into the MTB boom many said that GT was too late and too BMX to make it in this market. Those that knew Richard Long thought other wise. Within 5 years GT came to dominate the sport of Mountain Bike racing as it did in BMX with a massive marketing effort led by a large international race team that raised the brand to a high awareness level on a global scale. In 1988 GT moved from the 4 separate Container lane buildings into a specially built facility on 17800 Gothard street in Huntington Beach for the next 5 years. Many would say that this was the high water mark for the company in terms of culture and profit. In January of 1988 GT bought its way into dealer direct distribution with the acquisition of Riteway products in Placentia Ca. Within 4 years GT purchased 3 more distributors across the country and became a national force in the IBD market. During this period GT started to make and assemble complete bikes. The complexity and scope of the business increased yearly and soon GT was a 125 million dollar company. In 1991 GT signed World Champion Julie Furtado to it’s international racing team. Julie would go on to win more World Cup’s than any rider of her time. On the men’s side GT signed up Junior World Champion Nicholas Vouilloz who would dominate DH like no other rider in history and has yet to be dethroned. Also signed was Rishi Grewal, a pioneering MTB racer that had style and flash to match the GT image. Many other world class racers would join the stable of Team GT in the early 90’s to form one of the most powerful MTB teams in history. Also implemented at this time was Project ’96. A “no holds barred” attempt to design and produce the fastest track bikes in the history of the sport for the US Olympic Track team. This would be a multi million dollar effort and would eventually lead to the UCI banning most aerodynamic design aspects from bicycle racing due to the revolutionary bicycles that resulted from this award winning and medal winning venture.

Product Highlights:
  • 1988: Full assortment of USA made 4130 BMX and freestyle frames, components and accessories
  • Complete BMX bikes sourced from Taiwan, range expands to over 10 models Introduction of MTB line with 5 models: Outpost, Timberline, Tequesta, Karakoram, and Avalanche all featuring triple triangle technology. This would become a GT hallmark of frame design Dyno brand name introduced to market place as a hard core freestyle brand.
  • 1990: MTB range expands to 12 models including the Titanium Xizang LE and the ill fated 700D series of trekking / cross bikes.
  • Dyno brand name introduced to market place to be a less expensive line to complement GT.
  • 1991: The legendary USA made Zaskar (frame only ) is introduced. This is one of the first USA made aluminum frames that can withstand the rigors of offroad use.
  • The Quatrefoil off road tandem is introduced.
  • 1992: Huge proliferation of GT innovations such as the Groove Tube, Flip Flop stem and 2 x 4 forks are introduced.
  • GT “Tech Shop” concept introduced to allow GT shops to buy custom USA made Titanium, Aluminum and Cr-Mo ATB frames.
  • Taiwan aluminum arrives in the form of the Pantera
  • 1993: RTS hits the market and GT becomes a leader in full suspension.
  • GT USA begins to assemble complete adult bikes with the RTS-1 and Zaskar LE.
1994-JULY 1996 TRAGEDY KILLS THE DREAM. As GT prospered and grew the competition could do little but watch. Many wondered what the secret formula was to GT’s run away success and wondered when it would end. As the fall of ’95 approached business was better than ever. BMX racing was coming back and GT was on top. Richard had crafted GT into one of the few, if not the only, bicycle company in the world that was a top supplier of not only BMX bicycles and products but adult bicycles as well. Combined with the might of the Riteway parts business GT was the dominant US cycling company in the USA in 1995. That year GT left the old building on Gothard and moved into a sprawling warehouse back in the original town of GT, Santa Ana, California. With twice the space for both warehousing and office GT kept growing and growing. In October of 1995 GT Bicycles Inc. went public on the NASDAQ stock exchange with the help of Bain Capital, a well known investment bank in Boston, Mass. Richard and Gary were turned in multi millionaires over night. As the 1996 Olympics approached the company was at full throttle and hitting on all twelve cylinders just like Richard’s BMW 850i. Life was good and Richard lived it to the hilt. Motorcycles had always been a passion of Richard’s and with his new found wealth he indulged his habit of speed by owning no less then six high performance cars and four Harley Davidson motorbikes. A particular model caught Richard’s eye, the new monster bike made by Honda called “Valkyrie”. Built on the Gold wing platform it was basically a horizontally opposed 4 cylinder car engine stuffed into a motorcycle frame. It was huge. Richard took delivery of the bike a week before the 1996 NORBA national at Big Bear. With a few rides under his belt Richard blasted off toward Big Bear on the bike to watch Team GT crush at the races once again. However, Richard never arrived. On the way up the hill to Big Bear, on the winding route called the “back way”, he was killed in a wreck with a pick up truck that turned left across his lane in front of him. Thousands of stunned spectators and racers listened in disbelief as the announcer read the news. The man who was bigger than life, who almost single handedly built a 250 million dollar public company was dead at 46 years of age leaving a wife and two sons. From that point on GT would never ever be the same. There has always been and will continue to be speculation of the role that the big bike played in that wreck. But it cannot change the fact that Richard Long, the life force behind GT, was gone. The very next day a Board of Directors meeting was called by Bain Capitol, who had control of GT (much to the dismay of Gary Turner) and told Gary and the other members that GT was to be sold as soon as possible for the highest possible price. Only they would know of this plan.

Product Highlights:

BMX bikes:
  • 1994: “Fueler “ frame introduced, at the time it was one of the only dirt jump specifc frames in the market. The Fueler featured massive over size cro-mo tubes with plate cut dropouts and 1 1/8” headtube.
  • 25 models in the combined GT / Dyno line
  • 1995: Fueler is offered as a complete bike.
  • Power Series tubular cro-mo cranks introduced.
  • Line grows to 27 models and over 20 framesets.
  • Powerlite and Robinson lines are also introduced with a combined total of 16 models.
  • 1996: Aluminum hits the track with the all new “Speed Series Team” . This is a huge step for the former Cro-mo driven BMX product line. GT applies lessons learned with Zaskar production into BMX technology.
  • GT and Dyno both feature price point Taiwan frames to capitalize on the trend. There are now 50 models between GT/Dyno/ Powerlite and Robinson.
Mountain bikes:
  • 1994: RTS becomes a complete line of suspension bikes.
  • GT is the first company to mass produce a functional full suspension bike in Taiwan.
  • GT introduces a line of road bikes.
  • High end custom bikes are ridden by the US Olympic Team
  • GT is the official sponsor of the US Team through the Olympics in Atlanta.
  • The ground breaking LTS, a 4- bar linkage frame is introduced in the January of 1994
  • The LTS wins the 1994 “full suspension shootout ” among all the major brands.
  • 1995: LTS ruled the MTB line up and GT is the first to supply dealers with a fully functional 4 bar linkage MTB made in the USA and damped by the infamous ALPS 5 by Fox.
  • The Karakoram won “1995 bike of the year”
  • 1996: Adult line features two complete suspension platforms in the LTS and RTS. RTS dies a quick death at the hands of the functionally superior LTS platform
  • LTS-2 and 3 is the attempt to bring LTS technology to an affordable price. The Rock Shox coil sprung 2 is a hit. The elastomer sprung 3 is late and a dud.
JULY 1996-1998 THE SALE. Even Richard’s death could not at first slow the massive inertia that GT generated. Business kept growing and GT soon purchased distributors in the UK (This deal was actually consummated in the months prior to Richard’s passing) , France and Japan in the months after Richard’s death. GT moved to an even larger 300,000 square foot facility a few miles down the road in June of 1997. This latest location was a fully integrated manufacturing, assembly and warehousing facility. The stock price, after a dip following Richard’s accident, soared as high as $22.00. However chinks in the armor started to show and the weak organizational fabric that was previously held together by Richard’s sheer force of will was starting to rip apart. By the fall of 1997 a few corporate suitors had secretly come and gone. The focus of senior management was not on the company and the internal forces within were often at odds. Sales goals were missed, forecasts were wrong, product delivered late, massive recalls occurred. The numbers slipped and so did the stock. However the money kept flowing like water out of a broken dam and to all outward appearances GT was as healthy as ever. In the summer of 1998 GT introduced a new suspension platform called “I drive” that was the next step in suspension technology. The global press, 60 publications in all, were given the royal treatment at an all expenses paid junket to Las Vegas, Nevada and Brian Head, Utah to view and ride the new bikes. However the party was spoiled when on the first night of the press intro the surprise announcement was made that Schwinn had just bought GT for 175 million dollars. Stunned GT employees walked around as though in a daze and wondered what their fate was and what would happen to their world.

Product highlights:

BMX bikes:
  • 1997: Monocoque constructed “Box series” chainstays appear for the first time on the Speed series team.
  • Shimano V-brakes are used for the first time on a GT BMX bike.
  • Spin wheels are introduced to BMX.
  • 1998: Aluminum is introduced to freestyle by the groundbreaking “Show” flatland frame. With close input from legendary flatlander Rueben Castillo, Robert Kahler and Jeff Soucek designed a frame specifically for the discipline of flatland that has yet to be equaled in the business.
Mountain & Road bikes:
  • 1997: With the massive press of the 1996 Olympic Superbike 2, and the revolutionary “STS” technology GT threw out new model after new model on the adult side.
  • Carbon fiber and aerodynamics drove the Mountain and Road lines respectively.
  • In 1997, GT introduced 3 new carbon fiber high end LTS full susp. MTB’s and 3 new Aero road bikes including the alien looking Vengeance triathlon bike.
  • The Vengeance was based on the old SB-1 or first generation Superbike and turned out to be a template for almost all TT bikes in used in the world today due to the enforcement of stricter rules governing aerodynamics brought about by the SB-2 and others.
  • 1998: STS technology drove the product line and GT introduced the LOBO DH bike.
  • Full suspension represented almost 80% of the models over $1000.00.
  • The LTS –2000 won “Bike of the Year” .
  • GT hires Steve Peat for DH and Team Saturn rides our bikes on the road.
  • Summer of 1998, I drive is introduced to the press with one of the most controversial launches in the history of the bike business.
10/12/1998 - 9/11-2001 THE QUESTER YEARS. In reality Schwinn had not purchased GT. An investment company, not unlike Bain Capital, Questor had purchased Schwinn bicycle from Scott USA in 1997 as Scott sought to escape the US bike business and focus on Europe. The mighty Schwinn Organization had been downsized to virtually nothing but a marketing organization by then. They had no manufacturing, no global presence and more importantly they had no big factory and no huge Riteway parts business. From the onset of the purchase Questor underestimated both the power of the GT brand, the intense pride of it’s employees and the complexity of it’s operations. However, Questor Senior management did instantly alienate large amounts of vital personal upon their first few visits to the Santa Ana plant. Instead of conserving needed senior talent, they disparaged and denigrated key players that left the company headless and open to the whims of the top dogs at Schwinn. Schwinn Sr. management, having had time to get close to Questor over the past 15 months, then moved into the power vacuum and asserted control and used influence to make sure that GT was cast in the worst possible light. From the start Questor could not control the strong personalities and internal factions of Schwinn and GT. They sought “synergies”, they wanted to “leverage strengths”, they talked management speak better than anyone but could not understand bike culture and what motivated bike people. At the same time the US bike business and European businesses continued to tank. The market had matured and problems previously masked by double digit growth were exposed by thinning margins, massive overheads and dropping sales. Rah, rah speeches, and gung ho memos were replaced by cost cutting, lay-offs and closures. As Questor desperately tried to stem the red ink the business suffered and so did the brand. In spring of 2001 it was obvious that Questor and the banks had decided to get out. Spending was frozen, payments to vendors and subcontractors were stopped. The writing was on the wall. Questor through their holding company, Schwinn-GT inc, declared bankruptcy on 6/27/01. Five years to the day that Richard Long had died. The once mighty duo of bicycle companies was sold to Pacific Cycle through bankruptcy court on 9/11/01 for 86 million dollars. This represented an almost 175 million dollar loss to Questor and a much larger blow to the bicycle community.

BMX bikes:

  • 1999: Niche takes over the line with the products firmly going into three categories
  • BMX racing: Speed Series sets the tone for all the models
  • Trails: Fueler, Bump and Thumper mark a new segment for GT
  • Freestyle: Dominated by the Show platform and “Vert” bikes
  • 2000: ULTRABOX !!!. An all new creation by PM Robert Kahler and Industrial Designer Alec Tam blows away the BMX world. With super exotic monocoque technology the Ultrabox gives GT a much needed boost in the BMX market place.
  • Fueler and Show platforms carry on in their respective categories
  • 2001: In an effort to catch up to the rider owned companies GT switches the focus to the X Games crowd and starts to market their athletes more aggressively with an all new model line up.
  • Vert legend Dave Voelker and new schooler Jamie Bestwick are the centerpieces for the new line of jump bikes.
  • Ultrabox leads the charge in the shrinking BMX category and the Show carries on unchallenged in flatland.
  • 2002: Basically a bust due to the bankruptcy.
Mountain & Road bikes:
  • 1999: I-Drive is born and marks a new chapter in MTB suspension technology. Suspension guru Jim Busby invents a whole new way to suspend the bicycle.
  • The buzz is huge and so is the hype. GT features the technology on 7 models for an across the board roll out designed to leave the competition in the dust.
  • LTS carries on in it’s last year and the final model, the XR-1000, with sealed bearings and FOX air shock is actually the finest LTS ever made and sets the stage for light weight cross country full suspension bikes.
  • 2000: GT acquires the Syncros brand and gets into the Tour De France. With a vastly revamped road platform GT does what only Cannondale has accomplished and is the second US bike brand in the Tour de France.
  • The new line of triple triangle road bikes is as light or lighter than the competition and has a much smoother ride making it a natural for team Lotto to use in the brutal classics of the spring.
  • The I-Drive line is refined and lightened.
  • The world beating DH-I is used by the team to replace the aging Lobo platform.
  • In August Roland Greene pilots a prototype I drive to a silver medal at the 2000 world championships in Madrid, Spain. It is the highest ever finish for a suspended bike in a UCI world championship.
  • 2001: The new I-Drive Team (inspired by the bike Roland raced) weighs in at about 24.5 pounds and brings I-Drive onto the race courses of the world in numbers.
  • The Dh-I is released as the most affordable and highest performing DH bike to date.
  • The emerging extreme category is addressed by the Ruckus hardtail.
  • The Zaskar Team weighs in at an unbelievable 22.5 pounds.
  • 2002: The only real news is the Ruckus I-Drive which is the new standard for free riding.

THE PACIFIC YEARS. On 9/11/2001 Chris Hornung, then owner and CEO of the highly successful Pacific Cycles, LLC, managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat in a Denver bankruptcy courtroom and snatch away the prize jewel of Schwinn from the seemingly invincible Huffy Corp. 3 years later, Huffy would file for bankruptcy as a result of this loss. Hornung knew very well that whoever possessed the number three most well known name in American brands would have the golden key to the mass merchants floor space for a very long time. And he was right. However, very few people know that the sr mgmnt team at GT had a deal with Huffy to off load GT to a private equity firm the minute they won the auction for @25 million dollars. But as they watched the horrible spectacle of the twin towers burning and collapsing the irony of that image as personal metaphor could not be shaken.

2003, RISING FROM THE ASHES. PC had Schwinn….and they knew exactly what to do with it. Make Money. They had the bikes ready to go. They had PO’s with Walmart, Target and TRU. PC was a well oiled sourcing and delivery machine and Chris punched the gas pedal and accelerated towards one of the most successful moves in the bicycle business. However none of this applied to GT. PC had no idea what to do with this once high flying IBD brand….the mass was not interested and PC had no infrastructure to support it. All of the GT crew in Foothill Ranch and all of the Schwinn crew in Boulder were given their walking papers in the weeks that followed the sale of the company. The buildings were emptied. The equipment was sold or moved to Madison. All the accumulated history and people scattered to the winds. There was no Schwinn / GT left. At Interbike 2002, one of the most famous battles of all time in the IBD occurred when Chris Hornung and Byron Smith attempted to embrace the IBD at Interbike in Las Vegas. In three days of raucous, often highly vocal meetings, Chris and Byron tried to impose a whole new way of doing business on the IBD dealer base. It was complete disaster. No one signed up and it ruined the reputation of the brands until this day. But in mid November a senior member of the PC staff, Bob Ippolito, once one of Richard Longs’ right hand men, saw some potential in GT and asked Chris to keep 3 key members of the GT product and international sales team. He agreed. A tiny office space was found in Lake Forest in Feb of 2002 and GT was back in business. Sort of. From a high watermark of over 2000 global employees to three people is hardly “back in business” . But the small team, with the addition of three more staff, went to work to make a line of bikes for the 2003 season. None were sold in the USA. All were sold internationally. Richard had been the first, besides possibly Cannondale, to understand the importance of a global brand strategy. GT had purchased four international distribs, the UK, Japan, France and Germany prior to being bought by Questor. They were the first US brand to do so. Every other major American brand has done so since, as well as some Asian brands. GT was ahead of the curve here but the BK lost all of this momentum. However there were many ID’s that were still very interested in the brand despite the financial woes it had encountered. Their countrymen had no idea of the demise of GT to any great extent so the brand was still viable and powerful. So the 2003 model year was in actuality a moderate success. This impressed Chris and gave him some inkling of the power of the GT brand that he had purchased for virtually nothing…..

Product highlights:

  • I-Drive Marathon- Featured on the cover of BIKE (Germany) magazine buyers guide, full XTR fullie weighing in at 25 pounds.
  • Ruckus Dullies- One of the first lighter weight 6 inchers
  • Not much else as the GT crew was essentially cooking with left overs…….

2004, A HARD YEAR. With some success under their belts and a steady pay check in hand the meager GT crew did their best to follow in the footsteps of the once mighty brand. Prior to the sale to PC and the bankruptcy, plans were afoot to revolutionize the I Drive system introduced in Brian Head Utah in 1998. The goals were to simplify, lighten and improve the I drive suspension system. However it would prove very difficult to bring out a piece that would compete with the horsepower that the majors had acquired during those years that GT floundered. Specialized Trek and Giant were hard at work in the black arts of carbon frame construction and aluminum Hydro-forming and those two specialties would come to define the business in the middle part of the decade. To not have those processes involved in your design was to not have marketable products. Due to many internal factors GT did not have access to those processes and hence was handcuffed to good old mitered tubes and welding……this was to be a problem. While GT grew its lower priced business the high end languished as the majors rolled out model after model of incredible workmanship and weight. GT could only watch as the peloton of high end business rolled away.The rework of the new I drive system was slow and painful. However two new models of short travel full suspension were introduced. The marketing effort was not enough to make a dent in the onslaught of the competition however and the new platform was not well noticed.

Product Highlights:

  • IDXC 1.0 and 2.0 The reinvention of I-Drive for short travel.
  • The first full suspension bike that uses a Shimano BB tool and a 5 mm allen key for disassembly and service.
  • Ruckus FlowtaThe first Air / Air free ride bike from an American brand
  • Zaskar Team Sub 23 pound hard tail is a hit in niche markets like South Africa and Norway…the bike reinvigorates the Zaskar name in the world of racing

2005, THE REVIVAL. Slowly but surely the GT development engine gets more gas as two years of success convince PC that it is worth paying attention to not only GT but the IBD market in general. The international business is gaining steam and the US market is not a total failure. Team GT/ Hyundai is actually a good presence at the races and with Brian Lopes and Hans Ray representing the brand, press actually gets generated. With more engineering and design resources added the GT product team resurrects the “G-Box” concept bike for the 2005 Eurobike show. This gets noticed. Also a new 5 inch platform is introduced that uses the new idrive system and finally lays to rest the old eccentric based system. A new era has begun. The international markets begin to take notice of these new designs and sales begin to creep up. The IDXC 1.0 gets the coveted “Gear of the Year” award from Outside magazine. The last year for any eccentric based fullie is offered. After 7 years of history the original I drive design is gone.

Product Highlights:

  • I-Drive 5 All new 5 inch all mountain platform. Uses same flex bone technology as the IDXC platform and a new modular drop out system.
  • ZuM Zaskar Urban Machine. A new breed of city sport bike

2006, RETURN OF THE I-DRIVE. This is the year that all the full suspension models employ the new I-Drive system. The DH-i which is under a complete redesign will not be offered this model year. Also offered to the amazement of many is the IT-1….the commercialization of the original Gear Box design first shown in Anaheim in 1998. While not perfect it represents what could be done if a small group of passionate people work hard to make something unique happen. The IT-1 is fully functional production gear box design using a Shimano Nexus hub mounted centrally in the frame. The bike gets large amounts of press inside and out side the industry. To the lay person it represents something new and exciting in the world of bikes. The IT-1 sets the stage for a larger introduction of gear box designs.

Product highlights:

  • IT-1 First production gear box design.
  • Zaskar All new hydroformed frame. The lightest aluminum MTB frame ever produced by GT.
  • Double Down Kustom Kruiser super chopper.
  • I-Drive 7 All new freeride platform using the new I Drive system.
  • GT Ruckus 29" MTB for the singlespeed crowd
  • Kustom Kruiser All new line of totally aluminum cruisers. The lightest most rust proof cruisers available

2007, THE YEAR OF CARBON. After extensive preliminary research and development GT is ready to offer carbon in more categories than every before. Road, DH, XC are all addressed with new carbon frames or structures. The new carbon road platform is met with excellent sales in key markets such as South Africa, New Zealand and Norway. The I-Drive 5 platform is also totally revamped and now meets the need of the market place with a great riding frame in a lighter more responsive package. Also introduced after almost two years of testing and development is the all new DH-I, the lightest production downhill bike available. With the former DH-i, although loved for its pedaling and handling characteristics, getting a bit long in the tooth, the product team at GT knew that they had to redefine the bike in order to compete with the best out there. Using the I drive technology in a whole new package that allowed for better optimization of the system the GT engineering and product team brought out a bike that is a state of the art piece for today’s DH courses. It is met with universal acclaim. Also offered is the new Carbon I drive 4. This is a complete ground up redesign of the I Drive 4 cross country platform.

Product highlights:

  • DH-i - All new downhill bike that weighs in under 40 pounds
  • I Drive 4 Carbon - All new 4 inch XC platform that combines a mind boggling new front carbon triangle with a super light rear aluminum triangle for a bike that offers the best of both worlds.
  • Carbon road All new proprietary road platform spread across three models.
  • I-Drive 5 complete frame redesign that moves away from the “Flex bone” to a new forged I-Link as used on the ID 7. Also employs a modular drop out system.

That is all for now, 2008 marks a true return to form for GT Bicycles. With the introduction of the all new GT Zaskar carbon hardtail, Marathon, Force, Ultrabox 2 carbon BMX and GTR Series of carbon road bikes, GT have come a long way from the 2002 bankrupcy. To celebrate 20th year since introduction, GT also released a limited edition of GT Zaskar Re-Issue, in gloriously retro ball bearing burnished finish and decals to mimic the original Zaskar. In the pipeline, new GT Fury carbon downhill bike and Force carbon bikes are under development test by racers Bryn Atkinson, Jill Kintner and legend Hans Rey. Let's hope GT will continue and return once again to its glory days.

Article extracted from GT Bicycles Taiwan website & edited accordingly. www.gtbike.com.tw