Summer is really starting to show through here in Brisbane with more and more days in the high twenties which will soon break decidedly into the thirties. The magpies are breeding and attacking as always and the greenery has an unmistakably summery eucalyptus smell to it. To me, that is prevalent nowhere more so than in the Bunyaville State Forest. As a child I would come here on school excursions to the wildlife centre and from early adulthood in the nineties to the present, Bunyaville has been a mainstay in my mountain biking diet.
With the fresh new season upon us, I thought it fitting to renew my mountain biking options as well. I’ve talked about my Avanti Torrent before – a bike which I bought it back in 2010 when my attitude to mountain biking was very much about taking the roughest possible sections at the highest possible speed and, in a sense, “overcoming” the environment rather than moving through it. Over the years, however, that attitude has peaked and toned down to a decidedly slower pace. It’s also why I tend to blather quite a lot on this blog about low performance, casual dress for riding (all styles of riding – not just mountain biking) and generally not giving a shit about much besides enjoying the journey and the surroundings. OK, it’s not quite as pure and unadulterated as that – as a cyclist, I’ll always love bikes and gear but the focus has definitely shifted.
So while the things I want from cycling have changed, the Avanti Torrent remains and, being the anally retentive bicycle tragic that I am, it’s still in immaculate condition so there isn’t a particularly compelling reason to sell it. Then what to do with a rather nice, if fairly over sprung, twenty-six inch wheeled alloy trail bike? Well, ride it, of course. Thoughts came and went of replacing this bike with some kind of highly fashionable steel plus bike like the All-City Electric Queen, Surly Krampus, Surly Karate Monkey, Kona Unit-X or Jones SWB and if I suddenly found myself without a mountain bike at all, one of those is probably what I would buy but the fact is that I’m fortunate enough to already own a veritable treasure trove of bikes covering almost any imaginable cycling requirement so until the marketing gets the better of me and makes an utter hypocrite out of me for writing any of this, I will use all the cushy squish offered by the Torrent for extra comfort instead of extra speed and, as they say, “ride whatcha brung”.
But just because I’m not getting rid of this beast, doesn’t mean I can’t give it a little freshening up. So, in the spirit of enabling myself to not give a shit as much and as often as possible, I though that flat pedals might be a good start so I could ride in whatever shoes I happen to trip over on the way out the door. And if we’re talking about comfort, why not allow myself to sit up a bit? A shorter stem and some handlebars with a little rise should do the trick. Lastly, if I’m going to ride this thing spontaneously and carefree in whatever I happen to be wearing, I don’t really want to faff about with a hydration pack but since going into Bunyaville without a few spares and tools is a bad idea by any measure, I did the only sane thing I knew: get a saddle bag. So with my new, oversized saddle bag filled with a tube, mini pump and tools hanging off the back of my saddle like a giant scrotum, I was ready to roll.
Mid Saturday morning is the perfect time for a lazy bastard’s mountain bike adventure and, after deflecting several attempted magpie attacks on the way from home, I finally hit the dirt via the Old Northern Road entrance and made my way through the fire trails to the Jinker Track where I met a co-conspirator of MTB shenanigans who would also be the chief photographer on the ride (unbeknown to him at that point – thanks Mr T :)).
The trails were dry, loose and shaley but provided several hours of really good fun and the new setup on the Torrent was very much to my liking though a few more rides will be needed for me to know for sure. The flat pedals were the biggest shock to the system for me having ridden SPDs for more years than I can remember but aside from the occasional tendency to want to pull up on the pedal (something I reckon I can talk myself out of over time), the wide platform and ability to reposition my foot was great. The flats definitely came with a small performance penalty over SPDs but performance was far from what I was here for. Besides, my Scott Scale is still my “main” mountain bike and it’s SPD pedals aren’t going anywhere.
Maybe you’re asking why anyone would bother to tone down the pace of their riding to a lazy canter like this. Am I just becoming too old and broken for this? Have I found some new flavour of narcissistic smugness that I can use to thumb my those at others with? After all, isn’t the whole point of getting on a bike to revel in the adrenaline rush? To find glory though suffering? To push the limits of your endurance? Well, sometimes it is but there’s only so much time and devotion you can can burn on that stuff before you, your interest or your bike breaks. Eventually, you just wanna roll down your street and get lost for a while – to cruise through a place that’s more like rambling through your own back paddock than heading to the weekly race meet. Away from work, away from motordom to do something that achieves nothing more than just being.
After a few hours, though, my energy began to disappear, the day grew hot and it was time to start trundling back home with a stop on the way at the local takeaway shop for some lunch.
Until next time, watch those magpies and see you out there some time.