Mountain biking in the Blue Mountains

Trip Start May 18, 2003
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, September 19, 2004

Today Mat offered to take me out west to the Blue Mountains for some mountain biking. It had been a few months since I had been cycling and I was keen to do get some riding in, even though I had never before attempted to ride off road down mountainous hills. Before heading off we changed the rear tyre on the bike I was riding to something that resembled a motor cross tyre; "the fatter the better" as Mat pointed out. Another feature on these bikes I had not tried before were the rather high-tech disc brakes. Whatever next, ABS?

The drive out to the Blue Mountains took about two hours, which did not seem like a huge distance when compared with the sprawling city limits of Sydney that I was becoming aware of. As we left the city behind us we passed under a toll sensor on the freeway that made an electronic tag in the car go 'beep', to signal the toll being debited from an account. There were normal pay lanes for drivers with hard cash but you didn't have to slow down if you had a tag. I was started to get an idea just how much Sydney residents rely on their vehicles.

Along the way Mat pointed out the remnants of Sydney's only theme park - currently closed and awaiting demolition to make way for the largest new motorway intersection in the southern hemisphere. From what I could see of the rollercoaster on the horizon, it did not look like I was missing much due to the parks closure. We also passed the Olympic stadium on the way, the focal point of the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

After leaving the multilane freeway for more suburban roads and then changing a little while later for single lane country roads I was aware of the increasing altitude. The road became more winding, until we finally reached our turn off and headed down a dirt track. At this altitude, about 600m, the temperature was just a touch cooler but the sun was still beating down and it felt like ideal cycling weather. For the next hour or so I followed Mat down some of the steepest and uneven tracks I have ever attempted to do on two wheels. As a novice on this terrain I soon realised that the faster I flew down these loose rocky tracks the easier it was to control the steering. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, especially when heading towards a bend at full speed, seeing the sheer drop on one side and the red sandstone wall on the other.

In due course we arrived at our destination. Well not quite. We parked our bikes and had to complete the rest of the journey on foot. After scaling a rocky hill we finally made it to a breathtaking viewpoint looking out over the rest of the Blue Mountains. Mat pointed out that there were more species of plants in this region than in the whole of Europe. And they are still discovering new species all the time. A few years ago a prehistoric species of tree was found in one of the canyons.

By the time I rode back to the car I had picked up a few scratches but was feeling exhilarated. Not long after we were in the car and about to head back a hailstorm commenced that consisted of marble sized hailstones. It seems we got back to the car just in time.
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