Saturday, December 5, 2009

2009 KONA 24 HOURS, Forrest, Victoria

KONA 24 HOURS was a mess this year. And for their superhuman efforts, this year's race belonged to Andrew Wade and Brenton McRae. Fittingly, Andrew's Wade's words below of summarise this year's event where everyone got more than what was expected in a 24 hour race. Enjoy.

If not for mega dollar bikes
They could be refugees
Fleeing from their ravaged lives
Or over from the seas.

One by one by one they comeEntering the field
Wheelbarrows are the choice for some
But mostly trolleys wheeled

They gaze around that football ground.
Searching for a base
To build their mini city
From where to make their race

We’d made good time and picked the best
All setup finally done
Marquees tents and all the rest

Now time farewell the sun

Some clouds the sky it does acquire
No star filled views tonight
By 10 o’clock it starts to spit
To bed I now take flight

I hear small drops upon the tent

A pleasant little noise
Sleep comes shortly now
Despite the campground noise

A bang, a flash I’m now awake
Reeling from the sound
Of a billion angry raindrops
Smashing to the ground

The tent it shakes from wind that roars
Across the footy field
Not rain for now it pours
From bed I do not yield

I contemplate checking
Our gear if it’s still there

But my bed so warm & cosy
Hardly do I care

The morning comes I do awake
And far to my surprise
The rain and clouds have gone
Replaced by clear blue skies

Egg and bacon, coffee too

We chat and wander round
Hearing tales of tents, marquees
Blown about the ground

As hours go by our friends arrive
And ready for the race
But so do some new clouds
And blue sky they displace

Paper, rock and scissors

Andrew Liu’s up for the first lap
We line the fence he passes by
We cheer and give a clap.

Timers on and guess an hour
Prologue traffic always slow
Steve readies now
As soon he’s the next to go

The first guys are in,
They sure are guns
Really belting they have been
On these slippery runs

Stephens off as Andrews in
First lap down today
It’s good to see Liu’s muddy grin
As he explains the lap away

My turn comes and I go out
To see the course first hand
Not bad for all the rain
But will 24 it withstand?

I struggle to warm up it seems

My heart and body cold
Not long before my legs do scream
Perhaps you are too old

But then I see that big grey climb
Memories of home
I drop it down a couple of gears
My chain it seems to groan

My heart rates up,
The legs are now live
I question now

If my lungs survive

It levels out I catch my breath
My heart rate doesn’t drop
Then I churn right through
The bog hole at the top

The trails familiar
From rides in past
But mud does add an element
Especially where it’s fast

On the road and down the hill

Not long this lap has to go
As I know the way from year before
No excuses to be slow

Down the hill and through the trees
Left right then dismount
Past the timing people
Now this lap will count

Brenton’s ready
Gloved hands slapped
Now he’s on his way
For 09’s virgin lap

One lap more each
Then night laps come
We double lap
For the late night run

We’re doing well
Too well in fact,
I miss handover
To my pair of laps

Good thing we’re close
I hear the call
I’m ready though
A minute more

We check the time
Well under an hour
An extra lap
If we keep this power

Doubles done
And rest achieved
Its singles now
A bit relieved

Yesterday we banked
On twenty four
But now it looks like
We could do more

At least plus one
Or maybe two
If this pace can
Just see us through

I check the time
If Brenton’s back by six past
Twenty six perhaps
If I can get through fast

………It can’t now be done
The time is past
I then recall
My clock a little fast

Some minutes go
And then he’s here
I say “one more”
“I’ll wait with gear”

I push and push
We want one more
I give it all
I’ll miss for sure

I bet its close
I think it’s lost
But what the hell
I’ll give my most

I make it back
There’s time to spare
Not much though
But I now don’t care

Laps Twenty Six
Of that we’re proud
And twenty second
Within our crowd

Results come out
I see with glee
That overall
We’re 53

The mud the rain
It’s over now
But this year
I’ll remember how

The colour all
The races became
Because the rain.

Andrew Wade - December 2009.

(Photos by Steven Rowe, Brenton McRae and Andrew Wade)

Monday, October 26, 2009


IT IS HARD TO BELIEVE that it's been 12 months since I last tackled this event. Amazing how life can pass you by so quickly when the pressure of life takes over. Work, house hunting, mortgage, aging parents and a new girlfriend have all become the dominating factors in my life for the past 12 months. Yes I still ride here and there but the focus on racing was absent and the fire in the belly to do well at race events has long been replaced by food, wine, movies, and stress.

SO WHEN THE EVENT ENTRY arrived at my email inbox in July, the mental debate of whether to tackle this event or sit it out took its usual place in my mind. There’s a saying that “Competitiveness is a Curse” – a term for years that I have failed to comprehend - right now sitting here at my computer thinking if I should enter this event or not, the phrase “Competitiveness is a Curse” had all of sudden became crystal clear. I mean, who in their right minds would spend their hard earned cash just to go and “have fun” at the races? Only a handful of people will win, most of us will end up losing. Sure some people may say "It's just great to take part". Well in my view it means you are either just testing the water, got roped in by mates or you're not really taking the whole racing thing very seriously. We enter races because we all have a point to prove to ourselves. For the most dedicated and most prepared, they will come with podium aspirations, others will come with hopes of an above average finish, but for the majority of us mortals with 9-5 day jobs, racing’s an avenue to prove to ourselves if our riding skills are up to scratch, to test against others how good our MTB kung-fu are; and to take home the bragging rights to whomever would listen. As you pare it back to basics, we take part in MTB races because we’re all driven by our natural instinct in wanting to have an edge over another person. But, and this is a big subject here, the fear of a possible, totally utter failure by embarrassing ourselves in front of others for having your arse completely whipped by the rest of the field, and even worse, by your mates, that holds us back from doing what our instinct wanted us to do.

SO RIGHT NOW, I have at least 10 excuses in my head why I shouldn’t be entering this year, ranging from lack of funds, needing to spend quality time with girlfriend, to overgrowing lawn, the list goes on and on. But brushing aside all possible excuses, my personal fear was the thought of me being left painfully behind by others as result of too many cups of hot chocolate and lack of training over the winter. And as I'll be competing in a team with a friend, the thought of me taking him down with me from my poor performance is holding me back from entering. That’s it. Not because I don’t think I lack the skills to ride a bike fast, or scared of taking part in a race and possibly crash my brains out trying too hard. It was a case of simple pride induced fear of looking like a total loser in front of my friend.

SO A DOSE OF REALITY CHECK, I asked myself. Why the hell did I spend all that money on all those race bikes for? Why did I pay to join a MTB club? What is the absolute worst thing I have to lose beside pride? Judging by my performance in this event the previous year, there is no real reason why I can’t go out and give others alike a run for their money, even if it was for a glorious lap. I know I can be competitive as long as I race smart. I have the relevant experience, the right equipment, and the right team mate to get the job done. So why am I sitting here trying to rationalise my decisions and fretting about entering this race? The fire of competitiveness was building up by the hour, eventually burning hot enough for me to put aside all my doubts and the real possibility of becoming a laughing stock in front of peers, to again enter this event. Hell it will be a chance to really see where I am at if I’m scheduled to tackle the next two major race events, Kona 24 and Otway Odyssey.

FOR THIS YEAR, I have a new team mate for this event, Stuart Gibson replacing Damien Waddington who’s decided to go solo. However due to injury to his back, Damien was a scratch from this event. As this would be Stuart’s first race in Males Pair, I took on the leading role of organising the race marquee setup, registration and so forth. Got to the race site nice and early to cure any race nerves, and plunked our marquee conveniently next to the race line, just like how Damien would. With hours to spare before race commencing, I took on a reconnaissance lap to see what laid ahead in a new race course format and I liked what I saw. New single tracks linking on to the original race track, without any great deal of steep climbs or technical terrain. Perfect, although ever present dry powdery sand was a bit of concern, it was not enough for me not to take a gamble and try running the Maxxis 310 semi slicks dry racers. Again, what do I have to lose but the possibility of getting a puncture, when I can gain a huge chunk of speed by running super fast rubber?

SO TO THE RACE, being the earlier arrival between myself and Stuart I took on the lead lap. As usual a messy start was expected, the race commenced with a compulsory mad dash on wheels for a front running position, which all came to naught as we all got bottle necked at the single track entrance. Waste of energy but what can you do about it? So it was a case of taking my time and pick off slower riders as I move through the race pack, and hoping like hell that the boys (and girls) will be sorted from the men (and women) as the race settles in, the goal's to minimise the time lost playing cat and mouse with others and get a decent break from the maddening crowd around me.

OUR RACE STRATEGY was to rotate and do a lap each and break the event into mini-sprint laps over the 6 hours. So after the first lap full of traffic jam and pile ups, I gladly pulled in to our pit to hand the race over to Stuart, who took off like a banshee. Knowing Stuart was a strong climber and he’ll see to himself to do well in this event as the big hills are non-existent. Besides, Stuart was riding the latest specification of Specialized Epic S-Works race bike so he wasn't exactly going to be hanging about mixing it with others. Definitely not wanting to become a case of “all the gears and no idea”. There it is, personal pride on the line during a race. So with great turn of speed, Stu caught me by total surprise with his impressive lap around the course and returned from his maiden lap a full 10 min ahead of what than I expect him to do. This was looking good for our team, but so was the fear of letting Stuart down by going too slowly and undoing his hard work of flying first lap.

ANOTHER FEAR FACTOR was the presence of other riding mates who were also taking part in this event. Both Andrew Nurse and Matt Davis were present at this same event and they have set up their race camp uncomfortably close to ours. Although they're not competing in the same race category as Stu and I, the simple geographic proximity between us and them means the 'friendly rivalry' was ever present. If you fail or bail, they'll be the first to know.

DURING RACE EVENTS, or for that matter whenever I’m riding with others watching, I feel the pressure to be at my best, all the time, and I can't help it. I want to improve my best constantly, every ride. But the fear was that my best is pathetic in comparison to many. It's a pride thing. Really it was a case of do your best or don't bother. So after Stu's flying first lap it was now my turn to build on the momentum we have created. I was moving fast and not holding back. The combination of full knobbies at front with semi slicks on the rear was working well, aside from a few controlled slides and drift, the gamble of running 310 semi-bald dry racers was working well. By now the race pack had spread out nicely and it was time to really bang in fast laps. I saw both Matt and Andrew in front of me and I was catching up to both of them fast, but wasn't enough to overtake either before I reached the pit for Stu to take over again. Why did I want to catch and overtake Matt when it really didn't matter at the end of the day? It was a pride thing, ego? But I don’t like that word. Looking back, all that effort trying to chase them down was all a bit unnecessary..

IT WASN'T TOO LONG before Stu was back again and my turn to head out, a cycle we repeated until the sun begin to set and fatigue also starting to kick in. As usual, the cramp in leg crept in but this time a well prepared dose of sports drink and organic food saw the end of that. However there was a physical limit my body could take and hill climbs in mid ring was dropped into granny ring affair. Upon my return to pit, discussion was raised if I should let Stu take on a double stint to give myself time to recover. But then that was a defeatist talk and a polite way in saying the word "I am giving up"......Fear of looking bad in front of mate kicks in. Personal pride was at stake so as Stu returns from his lap, I was all gear to go for one last bash.

ONE THING ABOUT RACING AT NIGHT was the difficulty in recalling whatever happened that lap, as you’re too busy trying to work out what’s in front of you instead of running into it, especially when your body was fairly taxed, so I was glad that that I completed my final lap without crashing into anything that I didn’t want to, although I do recall having a few moments here and there. Nevertheless, I got back in time before the cut off time to allow Stu to head out for his final lap. Ditching the filthy bike with pride staying intact, I was quietly content that I’ve done my fair share of work in this race event. Looking across the marquees, Matt was in agony suffering from cramps, while Andrew was still out there in the darkness circulating somewhere, both of them having their own little ding dong battle all in the name of pride, and not wanting your mate to out do you.... is not fun, but I love it. Depending on your definition of fun I suppose.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Evolution of the Species – GT LTS

THE YARDSTICK BIKE OF THE MID 90S. You are not a true GT fanatic unless you recognise this bike. Like the original GT Zaskar which pushed things onto the next level, the GT LTS raised the bar and set a new standard for all to follow. A revelation of its time and a bike that holds special memories for those few who were fortunate enough to own one back in the days. I'm glad I've still got one.

THE MID 90’S WERE A CRAZY TIME in the development of off road bicycles. It seemed every month there was a new dual suspension bike design being released. Doubts no longer existed that dual suspension was the way forward. The public was willing and eager to jump onto the dual suspension bandwagon and there were no shortage of choices.

SPEARHEADED BY THE NEW GENERATION of bike designs such as the Answer Manitou FS, Proflex, Cannondale Delta V and Trek Y series, the GT RTS was soon outgunned by these new comers as other manufactures grasped the rules of engagement. With availability of better suspension components, suspension travel has gone from 1.8” to 3.1” overnight and even though the GT RTS was still a great bike, (both factory GT DH racers Mike King and Nicolas Vouilloz held on to and kept racing the GT RTS as long as they could, even after release of GT-LTS) the writing was on the wall that a replacement to the rapidly aging RTS was needed desperately.

ONE OF THE CRITICISM of the old GT-RTS, though at the time of launch it was actually considered as strength, was its lack of a plush and active rear suspension. Public were becoming more educated and the demand for an active suspension bike that worked constantly increased exponentially. So in fall of 93, GT began testing an all-new design, designated LTS (Linkage Tuned Suspension), to restore GT back to forefront of dual suspension bike war, both from pure suspension performance perspective, as well as regaining lost ground in the showroom.

ESSENTIALLY A 4-BAR LINK DESIGN, the LTS employed the Horst Link that populates the entire Specialized FSR range today. As a matter of fact, if you look at the pre-2007 Specialized Stumpjumpers FSR range, you’ll be able to see LTS’s DNA lurking beneath these Specialized bikes. Equipped with then cutting edge Rock Shox Judy forks and Super Delux rear damper, the LTS provided incredibly plush suspension action that was unmatched in its price category. The LTS was so good, it took out MBA Bike of the Year in 95 uncontested, and the record sales of LTS globally meant Specialized had to take action to enforce the FSR design patent to ensure GT could no longer continue selling the LTS and evolution models after 1999.

WHEN IT CAME TO COMPETITION, the LTS crushed its opposition. The strength of the LTS was its versatility over different terrain and bump eating performance. Downhillers loved them, and the race results backed it up. The biggest winning margin in the history of World Cup DH race was established with a derivative model of the original LTS concept. The infamous GT LTS Boomerang. Ridden by Nicholas Vouilloz, the prototype GT LTS won on debut at the incredibly rough 1995 Cap d’Ail event by a massive 14.13 seconds, a record that remains unbeaten today. A year later at 96 Cairns World Championship, Nico, now onboard a Thermoplastic framed LTS DH running first generation Rock Shox Boxxers, defeated American sensation Shaun Palmer, who raced onboard the arguably the greatest DH bike ever, the Intense M1, to showcase how good the basic LTS design truly was, even against the latest generation of super bikes. An unknown British rider called Steve Peat was also winning British National and European regional events onboard a LTS. Back home, Michael Ronning, Scot Sharples and many other future World Cup racers also all kick started their racing careers onboard a LTS.

TILL THIS VERY DAY, the GT-LTS remained as one of the plushest mass production dual suspension XC bike ever made, and this is unlikely to be rivaled as the modern day XC bike design tend to employs air shocks instead of coil spring unit. As it was built during the 90’s, where fashion trend dictated that everything had to be CNC machine, anodized or ball burnished, it ensured a LTS cut an unmistakable profile in the crowd. However, the LTS was not without faults, despite all the astounding performance it offered. Soon it became clear that the multitude of pivots and bushings wore out all too fast, and the high mount shock mean the center of gravity was on the high side. Also, the scissor-action shock linkage means that when going down a steep hill with brakes applied, a V-brake equipped LTS will display one annoying trait – a tendency to ‘stink bug’, or rear suspension jacking up under heavy braking. This was easily cured by running a rear disc brake, so GT provided holes on rear drop outs on bikes built after 96 to enable a rear disc brake be fitted. However, as the threat of Specialized lawsuit on bikes with Horst Link design approached, GT had to abandon its most successful dual suspension design, one that enjoyed enormous global success both on the showroom floor and international race circuit, to commence a totally new and radical design in which the brand still depend on today. The GT I-Drive System.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


AT THE OFFICIAL TIMING TENT next to the start & finishing line, the race announcer had just broadcasted that there were less than 8 minutes remaining in 2009 Mont 24 hour MTB event. “It’s all down to Andrew now”, Damien says, forcing a smile. “Now it’s going to be really tight - it would be a shame if Andrew does not make it back in next 5 minutes”. I added. Then almost on queue, over the distant horizon, Andrew Wade muscled his way uphill and scrambled past the finish line to press home with a time of a 57:50 minute lap time in time to sending a sleepy Stephen on his way to complete the final team lap at this year’s Mont 24 hours MTB event.

WHERE IS SPARROW HILL? WHAT IS THE BIRD? was theme repeated in my head as Damien and I headed north towards Canberra. This was our first ever interstate race event, so there was an elevated sense of of unknown and adventure. With the race site Sparrow Hills not marked in the Canberra town maps, and us driving to the beat of the song “Where Are You Going” by David Matthew Band in the car, it was going to be a road trip one way or another.

The first impressions of Sparrow Hills course was....dusty. Really dusty. Within 10 minutes of arriving to the camping ground Damien's car turned from black to brown. Powder fine dust means high speed but also low grip, plus zero visibility at night, which isn't something I look forward to in a 24 hour race event. But the massive thunderstorm night on the night before the race saw to the dust problem and ensured superb riding conditions for the race ahead.

RETURN OF DAMIEN. It has been a good while – almost 6 months – since Damien last competed in a bike race to set about demolishing the myth that you need to be on the bike regularly to be a competitive endurance bike racer. On the strength of his lap times throughout the event, one may as well consider he’s never left the racing scene. One might suppose that Damien had approached this event with breezy equanimity, given that he’s been absent from mountain biking for so long. In fact he had done nothing of the kind, taking the event by scruff of its neck. From volunteering to take part in the Le Mans style running start (where his marathon running strength coming into play), to systematically pacing himself through the entire 24 hours, his event was run with machine-like precision for maximum results. It was by no means plain sailing for Damien though. No 24 hours in the saddle ever are. Although you’d never tell from his demeanor, a laid back approach toward this event that in actuality was tackled with greatest efforts and intensity.

FOR MOST OF THE EVENT I have been one of the more appreciative witness to a superlative performance from both Andrew & Stephen. Their new Giant Anthems were good, there was no question to that, but the speed and efficiency in which both dispatched laps after another was most impressive, given that Andrew had been up all night organizing the campsite, while Stephen suffered from jet lag. No doubt their pre-event training program months prior paid dividends, although I haven’t exactly been idle either, despite somehow suffering a lack of motivation towards mountain biking & training weeks prior. As the sole rider equipped with the lightest bike complete with tubeless setup, my lap times were no match to Andrew Wade’s, especially on a track that was supposed to favor handling skill over raw power, spoke volume of Andrew 's & Stephen's vast improvement since Kona 24 hour event last year.

TO RIDE WITH DEATH GRIP was a skill that I haven’t had much practice of late, for the obvious reason that having your fingers covering the brakes minimizes the chances of running into trees. But with track being so incredibly smooth and most corners being wide open with no sniping apex hiding in the scrubs, using brakes almost felt like cheating. The I-Drive, deliberately set with 50% sag for maximum cornering traction, darted through corners with the precisions of a slot car. It was one of few rare occasions where more travel does not equate to greater performance.

Busily keeping myself preoccupied as I made my way through slower riders, I hadn’t notice that the race leaders were coming up behind, but then the said rider didn’t ask for overtaking room as I was holding a fast line through the pack, and he seemed content to follow. Although whoever behind was a far quicker rider than I am, as he had no trouble sticking to my back tire while I had to muster all I could to hold a fast tight line through turns. A slight mistake from cutting a corner too fine and in a flash, the said rider was through. Sporting the unmistakable RockStar Energy jersey on a Scott, the flying cyclist who just blown by me was none other then the MTB legend Craig Gordon.

Now running behind Craig, I was amazed to see how late he was braking, and how little brake he used when they are needed. Scything past the flotilla of rag tag cyclists log jamming the single tracks, it wasn’t merely that he was a strong rider, but his ability to maintain momentum in unfavorable riding conditions while picking his moment to pass slower riders, just like a sniper picking off his targets, that was the most impressive.

THE FINAL LAPS 22 laps in, at 10:45am Sunday morning, Damien returns from his last lap of this event. “The maths tells you one story, but it’s not quite that simple.” I observed. Although Andrew Wade knew precisely what story the maths told. If our team were to stay in ccontention with others, it was absolutely essential that Stephen heads out and do another lap. Before he set off for his lap, and acutely aware of the difficult task ahead, Andrew said he'll push himself to limit so the team can have a fighting chance to stay in touch with others. Asleep in the caravan and totally unaware of the situation, Stephen was ushered out and very reluctantly waited for Andrew to return from his lap. With less than 10 minutes remaining before the event concludes, doubts were raised that Andrew would make it back in time. In the end, through a superb final lap effort by Andrew Wade, the team managed to fend off 6 other rival teams to retain our position. Through the combined effort of Andrew, Damien, Stephen and myself, and the usual immaculate pre-event preparation by both Andrew and Damien, our endeavours paid off handsomely, in the process rounding off the Monte 24 event as the best 24 hours MTB race meeting that I have ever attended.


Category: Open Class Male x4
Overall Standing: 51th out of 141
Time: 24:55:34

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I KNEW WHAT WAS REQUIRED, but the trick was to seek out the right information and persuade myself to go with my final assessment. In clear or consistent conditions, the 50km between Apollo Bay and Forrest are a daunting proposition, but on this overcast February morning, the trail ahead was far from clear, and not for the first time, there was every chance that it would be decisive. Exceptionally dry weather in the past month have turned the trails ahead bone dry, and the real possibility of a decent down pour during the day would turn the powder dry dust into unrideable muck on the impossibly steep terrain that is the south face slope of the Otway mountains.

THE BRAVE SOLUTION was to take Maxxis’s renowned, but rarely seen Maxxlite 310 dry racers. If they negotiated the loose gravel, the Taiwanese flair for mixing fast rubber onto super lightweight casing would pay off handsomely on the asphalt hill climb sections and bone-dry dirt tracks. But I am nothing if not cautious and, been warned by others who are all running regular XC tires, there was every chance that I would revert back to the conservative choice of general-purpose XC tires, or worse, wet weather spikes if heavens opened. In the end, it was left to Bureau of Meteorology, spurred on by knowledge that most of the 50km trails ahead were sealed, to convince myself these dry racers would work.

HAVING TAKEN THE 310s, I could scarcely believe my eyes when I saw how gravelly and rough the trails were. Loose gravel with sharp edges littered the trail, ready to tear apart the featherweight 310s. On the assumption that I can no more nurse these tires over rocks than nurse a baby, the idea of not getting a puncture throughout the race seemed as fanciful as a bull tiptoeing through a china shop. But the gamble worked like a charm. Semi-slick racers saw me through the impossibly steep Wild Dog Road asphalt climb, as both Andrew Nurse and I scythed our way through the field of fellow competitors and devoured the lead of others who’s had started the race ahead of us. With a stupendous run on loose gravel heading into the Mt Sabine Fire Tower, I left Andrew and others behind with each crest, but the race was far from over.

STRIPPED DOWN TO ABSOLUTE BARE ESSENTIALS, the titanium Xizang was about as feasibly light as possible without resorting to exotic carbon fiber and expensive parts. To my way of thinking, the Xizang still felt nervous and nowhere as surefooted as the Zaskar but it was no denying it was well suited to the task ahead. Never a fan of hill climbs, the lean bike allowed me the rare pleasure of overtaking other competitors on the ascend, instead of being overtaken. Where traction was available, the 310s amazed myself, and opened eyes of many others following closely behind, by staying resolutely glued to loose dirt & gravel over steep terrain and generally behaved it self, but the trade off for running such a specialized skinny tires was surefooted grip & traction. So the downhill run into Kaangalang Rd trail was an absolute shit my pants affair, as the bike pinballed between deep ruts down the insanely steep and badly eroded dirt track, as well as drifting at will in gravelly corners. Unflinching commitment was required going into each bend and it became 5 km of balancing act between wanting to go fast and not crashing out; the possibility of flipping over the bar onto my head a constant threat.

NONETHELESS, spirits revived the moment I reached the summit leading into Yaugher State Forest, as it meant the worst of the hill climb was well behind me, but the tension was still palpable, for the Keen’s Timed Descend down the fabled Red Carpet Hills was still ahead, where the tight single track offered no room to hide the slow and terrified. Fortunately, the dirt track was well packed and as I generally don’t fear technical single tracks, the timed run down the mountain became easy meat in the end. Of course, I had no hope in setting the time chart alight with my conservative run, but the satisfaction of finishing the toughest MTB race event in Victoria, without any major mishaps or injury was an award in itself.

Finally, congratulations to James and Sharon for being engagement at the finish line, in front of hundreds of event participants. Ballsy way to ask for someone’s hand, where rejection is not an option to be endured.


Category: Open Class Male 18-39
Overall Standing: 80th out of 425 in Open Class Males
50 km Race Standing: 47th /225 entered

Time: 3:35:43

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Evolution of Species - GT RTS

WHAT A HEAP OF SHIT. That was my very reaction when I completed my first downhill stretch of dirt on board this rebuilt GT RTS. Hard to believe this design was, by all accounts, the absolute cutting edge in dual suspension design back in early 90s. In fact, it was so good it managed to bag numerous gold medals by the likes of Nicolas Vouillez, Julie Furtado & Walter Braendli at MTB World DH Championship in 1992 & 1993.

WIDELY REGARDED AS THE WORLD'S FIRST competitive production downhill bike, it was also no less a capable XC racer, although any XC racer worth his salt would never considered racing a dual suspension bike. Before the advent of platform damping (heck this thing doesn't even come with a rebound adjustment - front or back!), it was one of the few dual suspended MTB that could be pedaled up a hill as efficiently as a hardtail MTB, while still being able to tear down a hillside with added speed and control. Paired with then the finest available suspension fork, the Rock Shox Mag 21 custom built for GT RTS, the Noleen coil damper, it provided a massive 48mm (1.8”) of travel at front and 56mm (2.2”) at rear. Because quality suspension dampers in the market didn't really exist back then, the GT RTS had an ingenious mechanical lock out designed into it, meaning the suspension only worked when you're coasting or charging along, but as soon as you put power down, the suspension locks out and bike would climb & accelerate like a hardtail. Absolutely ridiculous by today's standards but it was the best pedalling suspended bike back then, as most other dual suspension bikes couldn't climb any hill without flexing or bobbing like a power line in a windy day.

THE KIND OF DOWNHILL EQUIPMENT that was considered high performance back in 1990s, is a complete joke by today's standard. Take the WTB Velociraptor tires - hailed as one of the best mountain bike tire made, IT exemplified what people considered race worthy in the pioneering days of downhilling. By changing the rotational direction of the tire, it would become either a downhill tire or XC racing rubber simply by changing the way a tire spins. Burning through the dry dirt tracks on my regular trails, these tires grips like chalks on black board and feels like they were made of timber. Brakes - what brakes? This bike's been around for 2 years before V-brakes were invented and disc brakes only existed if you rode a motocycle. Trying to pull up in a hurry was definitely a case of 5-finger white knuckle affair, none of this one-finger operated hydraulic disc brakes that you and I take for granted nowadays.

TODAY, WE CAN CHOOSE FROM bikes with advanced designs such as FSR, DW-Link, Maestro, VPP, I-Drive and so forth, all of them enabling us to go faster on knarlier terrain with less effort. We get to ride better bikes today thanks to early pioneering bikes such as GT RTS - it's success in racing changed people's mind about suspension bikes which no longer had to be needlessly heavy, unreliable and flexy, and its eventual widespread acceptance by the racers worldwide was instrumental in kicking off the progression of MTB designs. Mountain bikes have come a long way since the formative years of the 90s, and we all ride a better bike today thanks to likes of the GT RTS.

As a final point, the GT RTS also hold a special spot with me, as I had one in 1994 - took me working 3 years for $5 an hour in a bike shop to afford one. It was my very first proper GT MTB, and this was the bike which ignited my passion GT bikes that lasted to present day.

*Update* Well well well. Shortly after this bike was restored to former glory, the bike suffered a terminal crack on the rocker linkage which extended right to the bottom bracket shell. Quality control and frame construction just isn't the same in 1992. Time to rebuild another one - if I can ever find another replacement frame.