Bright to Freeburgh via Hillsborough Track

I have resolved to blog more in 2018, and as part of that, I thought I might post up some routes I’ve ridden, or that I’m planning to ride, with a map and a description. I thought perhaps I’d start with a short-ish evening MTB ride in my new neighbourhood.

This route starts in Porepunkah, though obviously you could start down the road in Bright. It crosses the bridge opposite Punkah pub, and takes the riverside track upstream. It’s a fun little ride, taking a nice flat gravel path aongside the Ovens, over a suspension bridge and onwards, emerging at the Porepunkah roundabout and onto the Rail Trail. This is followed to the Bright info point. From here, we hop onto the Great Alpine Road for a bit, then turn left at Fraser’s Lane and follow the Canyon walk into town. From here we head out to Wandiligong. The route isn’t hat important, but on this occasion I followed Wandi walk up Morse’s Creek through the (frankly packed) caravan park and into Pioneer Park

At this point, you’re officially into Mystic Mountain Bike Park, and there’s a plethora of possible routes out to Wandi, ranging from the road, the bike path or firetrail and even tricky singletrack. I mixed a few up, starting on The Highway, then Flying Solo, then a little firetrail which dumped me out onto the bike path, which I followed into Wandi, then round Centenary Avenue to Wandi Pub.

Opposite the pub, you turn onto Growler’s Creek Road, which is where the ride proper starts.

I called this ride “Banjo Country”, for no other reason that riding out along Growler’s Creek Road from the Wandi pub and vanishing into the bush does feel a little… backwoods. You follow that for a bit over a kilometre until you reach Hillsborough Track on the left. This is the beginning of the proper climbing, about 350m (or thereabouts) of it, from about 400m above sea level to a little over 700.

In the early part, you cross a couple of creeks and start climbing in earnest. On the evening I rode it, the lower part was a little sticky from a short spell of rain, and the track had obvioulsy been churned a bit from 4WD traffic, and there was definite evidence of heavy machinery, which made going a bit rough and slow. The humidity was fairly punishing too, but this would be fantastic on a drier, cooler day. You climb steadily until just under half height, at which point you find the first of a series of hairpins which zig-zag you up to about 650m elevation. This was probably the smoothest going of the ride, as the very last section, after a hard left turn, brings a less consistent gradient and some decent-sized loose rocks, which made climbing a little tougher. However the gap soon appears ahead of you and it’s a last blast to the junction with Wet Gully Track and the Reliance Track, which is the chosen descent.

Bit warm out.

Bit warm out.

Reliance Track is pretty steep, and with a fairly loose surface, which would make it very tough going in the opposite direction, but heading down is fun. I guess it’d be more fun with full suspension and 200mm discs. I did it on my XC hardtail, so kept the speed down to avoid boiling my brakes too badly, but in the lower sections the surface firms up, the gradient evens out and there are some fun waterbars to catch a little air from, before you fly happily down past the Bright Storage reservoir and onto Great Alpine Road.

From here, turn left and then shortly afterwards head right onto Old Harrietville Road for a quieter road experience.

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Once at the end of Old Harrietville Road, you have the choice of turning right and then left onto Back Germantown Road, which will take you back to Bright, or just taking the main road into town for refreshment. In my case, I hopped onto the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail and followed that back to Porepunkah Roundabout, at which point I reprised the Porepunkah riverside path back to the bridge.

This is about 40km round trip – about 30 if you start from Bright, and takes in a nice middle-sized climb over the ridge back into the Ovens Valley. There’s an alternative version of this that starts further up Morses Creek Road from Wandi, and drops you out at the old Harrietville Cemetery, but that’s a story for another day. And besides, it may be better ridden in the opposite direction, so I’ll save that one.

So that’s what I got up to the other night. More to come later.

Riding Update Jan 2017: It’s a biggie

So, it appears I haven’t blogged here for nearly a year. Doesn’t time fly? I guess it’s about time I posted an update.

When last I blogged, I was still trying to find my feet again after some time off the bike. I had officially declared I was quitting road riding, and was working with a psychologist to try and mitigate some of the worst effects and try to get back on the Mountain Bike at least.

It worked, partly. I rode one MTB race (retired) and did a few Zwift races, but there wasn’t enough momentum. I was still not where I wanted to be, though I was in a better place than I had been when I declared my retirement

As things turned out, mid-year I was offered a new job – and this proved to be the turning point I needed. This particular job offered remote working options, and so a plan began to form. A cunning plan. A plan so cunning, you could pin a tail on it and call it Mr Fox.

In October, it all came together, and I left Sydney altogether, and moved into the glorious Ovens Valley, NE Victoria.

Yes, I now live at the foot of Mount Buffalo, right in the middle of 7 Peaks country. Specifically in Porepunkah, a dormitory village for the neighbouring town of Bright, the famed cycling and tourist mecca.

Since I got settled in, I’ve been riding more often, in more scenic surroundings, with safer roads and nary an argument. I’ve had the grand total of one moderately close pass from a driver but – get this – it didn’t bother me in the least.

I haven’t hit the mountain roads in earnest yet (notwithstanding one ill-prepared, spur of the moment assault on Buffalo), but I’ve been riding the MTB on some amazing trails and doing a lot of flat-to-rolling road. I’ve been up and down the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail enough that I know every bump and ripple between here and Gapsted. I’ve thrown my hardtail down the one-of-a-kind Hero Trail, encountered snakes, magpies, kangaroos and wombats and generally had a great time of it. I’m slowly dropping the weight back off, and transitioning (again) from couch-potato-who-used-to-ride-bikes-a-few-years-back to masters racer and MTB explorer.

You might say I’m back.

Not being much of an early bird, I haven’t yet managed to get out for the famous 6am Bright bunchies, but it’s a new year and the mornings are clear, so that’s going to happen soon. I’ve met a few of the locals, I’m getting familiar with Mystic MTB Park and I’m planning lots of rides on the long local mountain trails, some sensible, some on the adventurous side.

And the blog? Well, I might blog a few local routes, and maybe get some picks at the upcoming Audax Alpine Classic, but I’ve also got a new project in the works, which I’ll announce here soon.

Lastly, for those readers who I know in person – I know some of you exist. Yes, I have spare rooms. Come on down!

 

Hack or Bodge?

My house is not large, but it’s dominated by two things. Things that will be obvious when you walk through the door.

The main one is bikes.

Followed closely by guitars.

But mainly bikes.

There are bikes and bike components all over the place. There are at least four complete bikes, two bare frames (one broken, one waiting for a rebuild). There’s a large set of shelves full of random components like cassettes, stems, seatmast caps, seatpins and saddles. There are a couple of packing crates full of old cranksets and derailleurs. There are tools everywhere. Plus workstands, turbo trainers, rollers, bottles and all the other ephemera of the mid-life cyclist.

So I decided to fix the problem, using the problem.

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Say Hello to PowerZwift

PowerZwiftI love Zwift. It allows me to get some kilometres done in the safety of my own home with no fear of rain, snow, hail, sunburn, crashes, cars, trucks, vans or pedestrians with headphones on. Right now, it’s probably my primary source of kilometres.

Of course, using software so often means I’ve started to become a bit of a Zwift power user. I’ve got tweaked configs and third-party add-ons like ZwiftMap. I also run Zwift on multiple computers depending on where I am and which version of The Paincave I’m using, and because I’m a techie I reinstall my Operating system a lot, and doing that manually is a complete pain.

So I wrote some PowerShell code to automate Zwift and make my life a bit easier.

Well, I had a bit of free time last night, so I packaged it up, added some enhancements and uploaded some of it to GitHub as PowerZwift, free and Open Source, for other Zwifting techies to use.

It allows you – at the moment – to:

  • Download and install Zwift
  • Download and install ZwiftMap
  • Start Zwift and ZwiftMap from one command
  • Toggle startup music on and off
  • Switch easily between circuits (“Worlds” in Zwift-speak).
  • Create Windows Shortcuts to start Zwift in a specific World with one click.

If you’re on Windows, you might find it useful. If you’re on Mac or iOS, sorry, but this won’t help you much – but there are lots of hacks for you nonetheless.

 

The evolution of a paincave

There’s a new thread over at Zwift.community asking about people’s current training setups, so I thought I’d go back through my photostream and find some of my recent setups. My paincave has been through more iterations than I care to think about, and luckily I didn’t photograph them all, or I’d be here all day. Read on for pics and ramblings

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Racing and Riding update w/e 16 Jan 2017

So, we’ve made it to 2017 after what can only be described as Year of The Utter Shit, so where are we at?

Well, the start of the new year formed a convenient, if arbitrary watershed to try and re-establish some old, good habits. I’m now attempting to follow a structured training plan from The Sufferfest, though I’ve had to build in some very generous variations due to things like work/on-call commitments and wanting to actually ride outdoors occasionally. Nevertheless, some weight is dropping off and some watts are going on. I’ve had two “new threshold” notifications from Training Peaks in January so far, and my Smart Scale has been congratulating me occasionally. Who would have thought* swapping a quiet beer for an hour of sweat on a bike would be so effective?

Zwift.community has been launched by a good friend of mine and I’ve come on board as an early adopter and admin

In news of actually turning some pedals, I’m racing again two months earlier than expected. Thursday saw me enter a Zwift KISS Race on the spur of the moment, because that’s a thing now, and Saturday saw me racing on dirt for the first time in… ages.

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A quick riding update

If you’ve read my previous post on quitting the road, you’ll know I’ve had some struggles lately with riding tarmac. Well, there’s some good news.

I’ve been working with a psychologist for the last few months, and with some changes of routine and a decent reset, I’m starting to get some kms done on the road bike again.

Gratuitous commute pic

A photo posted by Jason Brown (@thecrankset) on

So, what are the key factors here?

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On quitting the road

Today I quit riding my bike on the road.

I announced this via Twitter, but didn’t write a blog post immediately, for reasons which should be apparent from the tweet announcing it.

 

Even as I’m writing this, about twelve hours after I made the decision,  I can feel my chest tightening and my hands shaking, but I think I need to explain this decision in detail.

And to do that, we need to go back in time a little bit. Continue Reading →

On Being Stateless in Zwift

So I joined Zwift just recently. Sure, I’m a little late to the party, but reasons.

Anyway, while signing up, Zwift allows you to select your nationality, and offers a veritable cornucopia of nations with which you can identify. For instance, you can show the world you’re from  The Faroe Islands, Kiribati or the British Virgin Islands. If you’re a pedalling priest, you can select the flag of the Holy See. Wow. So many flags.

So I went looking for my flags.

Now, I carry two flags on my bikes.For the uninitiated, the flag on the left is the bleeding eyes of Sufferlandria. Black for Suffering, White for Purity of Suffering and Red for Suffering.

I didn’t really expect the Sufferlandrian flag to be available in Zwift. It would have been a nice little easter egg bonus, but I didn’t expect it. Nevertheless I did feel a mild stab of disappointment when I couldn’t find it.

So obviously I went off hunting for my other flag – the actual flag of the actual country in which I was actually  born. Wales. A Red Dragon on a field of white and green.

This flag

article-0-0E594C4B00000578-538_468x286You know what? It’s not there.

A country of 20,779 km2 and over three million people. Just not there. A country that has its own damn wikipedia. A country with its own legislative assembly, national anthem and capital city.

But I can’t select that flag. Oh no. I can select the flag of “Neutral Zone”, whatever that is, but not Wales.

I can select the flag of The Falkland islands, a flag which actually has a sheep on it. Jesus, you’re just trolling now, aren’t you?

Zwift, you need to get your shit together. Seriously.

 

 

(Update: Apparently, Zwift use ISO 3166 and ISO places Wales under the UK. Apparently. But not The Falklands. Which is a British dependency.)
(Update 2: There’s also no Scottish flag, no Ulster flag, and no European stars. But you can select the flag of Pitcairn, a tiny island nation with fewer than 100 residents)

The Hills Are Calling

Back in April 2014, I had a crack at Everesting Garie Beach Hill in the Royal National Park. That particular attempt was aborted when my front light cut out during a fast, windy descent, which resulted in me hitting a pothole, puncturing, nearly dying of an adrenaline overdose, then calling it due to actual objective danger.

The switch assembly on the light, it transpired, had vibrated itself loose, and since I was carrying charging equipment but no actual spare light, there was no going on.

That was, as far as I know, the first attempt at an Everesting on Garie. I’d selected it for proximity to Sydney, a nice constant gradient, and a manageable number of target laps – 44. It really is – aside from the rough surface – an ideal Everesting hill.

In September 2014, Pat Dellagiagiacoma and Paul Karis completed the first everesting of Garie as a pair, a fine effort and worth some applause.

Now, in September 2016, the 8848 Royal National Park event will see a mass participation Everesting attempt on this hill in aid of The Cancer Council. This is a fantastic cause to ride for, and since it’s a supported event you won’t run into the problems I (and others) have run into. There’ll be mechanics, medics, food, drinks, support and other riders on your shoulder all the way. The road will be closed, so you won’t have to deal with any traffic. You don’t even have to do the 8848 solo, since there’s a team option. You should totally do it, if you can scrape together the entry fee. Do it.

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