GUEST POST: An MTB journey of self-discovery

Thank you to Amber at From Desk to Dawn for this guest post! Head over to check out her page and to read my latest on some of my favourite places to visit in New Zealand. 

Bio: Newish blogger, oldish writer. I'm an accidental financial professional trying to find my calling in life. I enjoy riding bikes and going places, often at the same time. Passionate about finding out what I'm passionate about.

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I’m 25. I’m from Victoria, Australia. I work in a high rise and I hate it.

I’m an old hat road rider, but relatively new to mountain biking.

Admittedly, Victoria isn’t known for mountain biking. It’s not really known for anything – aside from AFL, and Melbourne, which I’ve talked at length about before.

Nonetheless, a couple of years ago I decided to give this awesome-appearing sport a go. I haven’t looked back. Admittedly, I have a long way to go. But the journey so far has been amazing.

This is my mountain biking story.

What made me begin?

Riding is awesome, and always gives me that impenetrable sense of freedom. Only on a bike do I really feel like I’m in control of my own life. But simultaneously, it is only on a bike that I feel I can let go.

I work in a Melbourne high rise doing something commercial. I’m a frustrated, caged wanderer suffering from a serious case of the “get me out of here” blues. I’m stuck in the desk job for a bit longer, until I can bail on this conventional life. I’m a cyclist and most at home on two wheels. Living in a concrete jungle of a city, I have always found road riding calming. But something was always missing from my riding experience.

What was it?

Nature. Trees. Roots and shoots.

That’s why I turned to MTB.

My first mountain bike ride

After having this epiphany, I contacted my bike mechanic mate and asked to borrow a mountain bike for the weekend. He obliged, and lent me a Cannondale. At this point I had no idea about much to do with mountain bikes (aside from the general bike knowledge I had from my road riding), so little did I know it was actually a great bike to begin on. The 26” wheels (now quite uncommon on mountain bikes) meant that it was easy to get the bike going and to ride uphill.

So, I set off to Lysterfield, Victoria. I knew it was “the MTB park” in Victoria, and that it was home to the 2006 Commonwealth Games mountain biking course. Because I don’t have a car, I had an interesting adventure on the train to Belgrave station, and rode down through the Lysterfield North Extension to get to the park itself.

Once there, I found you actually needed skills to do this MTB thing. I stuck to some green (beginner) tracks and generally had an awesome day. I knew immediately I was hooked.

From there, onwards and upwards

It might seem a bit pre-emptive, but I knew this was for me so I decided to purchase a mountain bike. I do not do things by halves, and so I was happy to invest. And invest I did.

I knew I was more interested in cross country and trial riding than downhill, and so a hardtail was the logical choice. I also knew from my knowledge of bike mechanics that a hard tail is easier (and cheaper) to maintain and service than a dually. Less comfortable, for sure, but who the hell needs comfort?

My mate was able to get me a carbon frame hard tail at cost, so I jumped at the opportunity. I didn’t really know it at the time, but this was a damn decent bike. Having used the crap out of it now, I rate it very highly. It’s a racey bike. Full specs are here. I love the bike as much as I love my cat. I know it’s weird.

Then, exploring the MTB world of Victoria

After checking out Lysterfield, I decided to venture west to Forrest. Forrest is a small town a couple of hours’ drive from Melbourne, and it happens to contain some of the best singletrack in the country. It is lush and green, unlike many other Victorian MTB parks which are pretty dry and brown. The town itself only has about 200 residents, but gets a lot of business from bikers who come to enjoy the trails.

When I first rode there, on my brand new mountain bike, I explored heaps of single track and fire trails and learned the pain of a climb in the forest!

There are two trail heads in Forrest – the Yaugher Trail Head and the Southern Trial Head. Plenty of fun available, with tracks of all abilities available.

The You Yangs

Next, I was off to the You Yangs. A purpose-built mountain bike park halfway between Melbourne and Geelong, the You Yangs has over 50km of mountain bike tracks, and caters to all abilities.

The You Yangs

When I first went, I saw lots of families with little kids on mini-MTBs riding the easier trails. It’s a really friendly and popular MTB hotspot. You never feel alone at the You Yangs. I reckon if I got a double flat and needed help, I’d only have to wait 15 mins on any trail before some biker came along and offered assistance.

I found the You Yangs a great place to get my skills up, when I was still a beginner. Highly recommend. If you don’t have a car, it is possible in theory to get the V Line train to Geelong and get off at Little River station – the park is maybe a 40 minute bike ride from that station. However, you’d likely be buggered by the time you got to the park! 

Off to Tassie to ride the North South Track

As I progressed in this magical world of MTB, I decided I wanted a better challenge. I’d heard whispers of a track down the side of Mount Wellington, Tasmania, that was meant to be one of the best pieces of single track in the country. I decided, what the hell, I’ll go do it.

I’ve written about the North South Track before, but I need to reiterate here how incredible it is. You get to literally ride across a boulder field, with a sheer cliff drop to your right. You get to descend a massive mountain through lush forests. You get to do jumps off ramps and logs on the way down, if you’re that way inclined (I’m not). One of the best bits is probably the view from the top of Mount Wellington, before you descend. It took my breath away.

Top of Mount Wellington, Tasmania

My biggest takeaway

I love all riding, and I still road ride often, but in my opinion MTB is the superior brand of bike riding. I’ll probably get crucified by the weekend road warriors for saying that. Sorry guys, but MTB is more challenging, requires more full body fitness, and has more varied options and sub-specialties.

If you love the outdoors but are stuck in a city doing something you don’t care about, like me, MTB is the perfect weekend reprieve from the general crappiness of your life.

MTBers are the best – a wonderful, helpful community. On the road, if I need help I may not get it. On the tracks, every single rider I pass says hi. When I stop for a rest, everyone who passes me asks if everything’s good. I’ve been offered help more times than I can count. It’s a great community and one I’m proud to be part of.

Invest in MTB – you won’t regret it. Oh, and if there’s a zombie apocalypse, your mountain bike is going to be of far more use to you than your road bike. Because I think about these things.

Where to now?

I now have a modicum of MTB skills. I still road ride, mostly to commute to and from work. I still hate my job and need an outlet, and mountain biking is of great assistance to me in this regard.

However, I want more. I want to travel and MTB at the same time. My next one will be, I hope, riding through Cambodia and Vietnam on a mountain bike (or possibly a hybrid – I haven’t quite worked it out yet). Riding in the wilderness inspires me in every way possible. Feeling at one with both nature and machine is truly amazing. I’m grateful to have stumbled upon this deeply satisfying sport.