Fat Bike!

On the beach
A Fat Bike is a mountain bike with really fat tyres that allows you to comfortably ride on loose surfaces like sand and mud. My friend Murray let me ride his spare fat bike (a 9:Zero:7) yesterday while we did a bit of exploring on the trails between Coolum and Noosa.
On the beach
We started our ride heading north on the beach at Coolum. As soon as we hit the sand, I had a manic grin on my face – riding on a long wide beach was so much fun! With the wind at our backs, it was effortless to zoom along the damp sand. People we passed looked at us with a mixture of amazement and envy. Riding a bike along the beach is not something you usually see.
Noosa National Park
Once we arrived at Peregian Beach, we left the sand, and headed west through the Weyba section of Noosa National Park.
West WeybaWest Weyba
The thing that impressed me was how well the fat bikes performed on normal forest trails. They just soaked up the bumps over tree-roots and rocks. I rode as fast as I normally would on my dual suspension 29er. The ride was smooth, and I had heaps of grip from the big tyres. But the rolling resistance was low too. I didn’t feel like I had to fight against any sluggishness from the big tyres….
Floating over the Sand
… but when we DID hit spots of sand, I just floated over the top instead of getting bogged down.
Eventually we made it to Wooroi Forest at Tewantin. Wooroi is a beautiful place. It’s hilly in spots with many of the tracks winding through the rainforest.

Murray took me around some of his favourite tracks, and we finished by zipping down a fun new downhill track called “Milk Maid”. The fat tyres on the bike soaked up the bumps while giving me lots of grip on the track. I didn’t miss my rear suspension at all.
Soft SandCrash
After a bite to eat at Tewantin, we followed a few bike tracks back through the outskirts of Noosa before hitting the sand dunes in the Lake Weyba section of Noosa National Park.

It was quite challenging riding on the loose sand, and took a lot of effort getting to the top of the hills. We both found it difficult to control the bikes in some sections until Murray let a bit more air out of the tyres.
On the beachOn the beach
We left the national park at Marcus Beach, where we got back onto the beach and rode south back to Coolum.

All up, this ride was 61km and took a leisurely six and a half hours including breaks. We climbed a total of 588m, and I burned about 3,000 kcal. I’ll rate this one 7.5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.

Total distance: 61.36 km
Total climbing: 674 m
Average temperature: NAN
Total time: 06:37:23
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Coolum Epic

Rather than drive the car to our usual summer holiday spot at Coolum, I thought I’d ride the bike up from Lawnton. The route was just under 120km in length and included a fair bit of riding off-road through state forests and national parks. My friends Tony and Wayne rode with me for most of the way.

Beerburrum East State Forest
The first leg of the trip took us up to Caboolture on quiet roads, and then to Beerburrum East State Forest at the end of Pumicestone Road. It took us just over an hour, which was a lot quicker than I anticipated…
Flat TyreBroken Cleat

…which was just as well because Wayne got a flat tyre after running over a thumb-tack. Unfortunately it was in his non-tubeless tyre, so it went flat and stayed flat. But two spare tubes and 3 CO2 canisters later, we were on our way again – still ahead of schedule. We made good time even when equipment failure struck again and cleat fell off Darb’s shoe. Luckily, he didn’t lose any screws and was able to screw it back in quite easily.
Beerburrum East State ForestBeerburrum East State Forest

I like this forest because of the variety of different tracks. Plus it’s relatively flat which means you can easily cover long distances without much effort. We picked a few narrow tracks and rode off between the pine trees.
Park RangerTibrogargan

We met up with a friendly forest ranger along the way who just happened to be a mountain biker. He told us how much he liked 29er mountain bikes and tubeless tyres…. but he was preaching to the converted πŸ™‚
Cafe en Route

Our first major stop was at the Wildhorse Mountain service station where we topped up on “bike fuel” and water.

Mellum CreekMellum Creek

To maximize the amount of off road riding, we kept riding northwards through the forest until were able to pass under the freeway at Mellum Creek. From there we entered the Beerwah section of the forest and headed North-west towards Landsborough.
Dullarcha National ParkDullarcha National Park

Dullarcha National Park lies just north of Landsborough. The main trail follows the railway line north through the rainforest.
Dullarcha National ParkDullarcha National Park

Part of the trail is actually on an old disused railway track, which passes through a tunnel. The fun thing about the tunnel is that it bends enough so you can’t see one end from the other. This means when you’re riding through it, it’s pitch black. If you don’t have lights you need to be careful πŸ™‚

Kiels Mountain Overpass
After a tough climb between Mooloolah and Eudlo, Darb and Wayne left me to continue the final part of the trip at Palmwoods, near Nambour. They’d ridden to my place before the start, and had already covered about 100km. They caught the train back and I continued eastwards over Kiels Mountain. I’ve often seen the overpass while driving up the freeway to Coolum, but this was the first time I’d ridden over it.

Mount Coolum
At this stage of the ride, it was hard work grinding up the steep road over Kiels Mountain. Halfway through the roll down the other side, I caught sight of Mount Coolum in the distance which marked the end-point of the ride.

One Last Hill
In keeping with the “off-road” nature of the ride, I chose a dirt track which skirted around the western side of Mount Coolum via another national park. Unfortunately rain had made the large rocks on the track slippery, and the gradient was a bit much at this stage of the ride, so I took the “safe” option and pushed the bike up the last hill.

Mt Coolum National Park
All up, this ride was 115km. It took just under 8 hours including stops. Moving time was just under 6 hours. I burned about 5,200 kcal.

It was easier than I anticipated – mostly flat except for the Eudlo and Kiels Mountain sections. I’d definitely do this ride again, especially with great riding buddies like Darb and Wayne. Thanks guys πŸ™‚

I’ll give this one 8 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.

Total distance: 116.27 km
Total climbing: 1207 m
Average temperature: NAN
Total time: 07:50:06
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Green Island

Green Island
Green Island is a small tropical island on the Great Barrier Reef, about 25km off the Queensland Coast near Cairns. Just over 500 metres across at its widest point, you can walk around it at a leisurely pace in about half and hour. It’s a popular tourist destination for visitors to Far North Queensland, so we decided to check it out while we were in the area.

Green Island National Park"Wunyami"
The Guru-Gulu Gurandji Aboriginal people are the traditional owners of the island. Their name for it is “Wunyami”, which means “Place of the hole in the nose”. Their story tells of a little turtle who swam to Green Island to drink some freshwater from a creek. Because there were many larger turtles trying to get a drink, he decided to drink from a crab hole filled with water. He didn’t realize it, but the little turtle woke the crab that lived in the hole. The crab pinched the turtle’s nose making holes in it. Eventually the little turtle grew into a big strong fellow. The other turtles noticed this. Because they wanted to be big and strong as well, they asked the spirits to give them all holes in their noses. When the Gurandji people heard of this, they paddled their canoes to Green Island and performed the first nose-piercing ceremony which then became part of the initiation ceremony on Green Island.

Tropical Beach
We had a relaxing time wondering around the island, following the boardwalks through the forest, and then walking along the sandy beaches.

Snorkelling at Green Island
We also did the touristy thing, and tried snorkelling through the coral.

Glass-Bottomed BoatSemi-sub
An easy way to see the reef without getting wet is either in the semi-submersible submarine, or the glass-bottomed boat.
Semi-subReef Fish
I enjoyed the submarine – it let us get up really close to the fish.
Feeding the Fish
The boat operator fed the fish while we were out, which excited the fish and the seagulls πŸ™‚
LizzieSea Shell
Green Island is a beautiful place. I’m really glad we took the time to explore it!

House Mountain

Rest Stop
My friend, Neil B, regularly organizes group social rides on Saturday afternoons. This week, he wanted to visit House Mountain, near Samford. I hadn’t ever ridden there before, so I jumped at the chance to explore some new trails with a large friendly group of people.

Riding BuddiesDaveCranky BastardRiding buddiesRiding buddiesRiding buddiesRiding buddies

For this ride, about 14 of us met at the “Jurassic” car park at Bunyaville, and started out towards Samford State Forest, a couple of kilometres to the South West…

Samford State Forest (Most of us call it “Ironbark” for short) has a lot more hills than Bunyaville. Today we slowly made our way to the high point up the “Three Sisters” track. I think it’s called this because of the three “humps” you have to grind up on your way to the top. They’re not difficult, but as with most climbs, they slow you down a bit, and tend to spread out a group of riders.

DrewSamford Railtrail
We then enjoyed a quick (80 km/h) roll down Burns Road on our way to the rail trail north of Samford. This part of railway line is popular because of the old tunnel at the end, affectionately known as “The Bat Cave“. The trail is used by horse riders, joggers, walkers and mountain bikers, and is a pleasant way to head north from Samford without having to go on busy Mount Samson road.
The Bat Cave
It’s always fascinating to peer into the “cave” through the fence, provided you don’t mind bats, or snakes πŸ™‚
Hike a Bike
But the real challenge of the ride is House Mountain, just behind the Bat Cave. It has some very steep climbs – some of which we had to push the bikes up….
The Big Drop
…but it also has some very steep descents, which are a lot of fun to ride down, before shooting out into a green paddock at the bottom.
River Crossing
We then followed some pony trails along (and across) the South Pine River back to Samford, before retracing our tracks back to Bunyaville. At some times of the year, this river crossing is impassable. Thankfully we haven’t had much rain recently, so it was easy to cross.

Because I wanted a longer ride, I started from my place, which stretched it out to about 70km over 5 and a half hours (including breaks), with about 1,300m of ascent and just over 4,000 kcal. The more sensible route (from Bunyaville) is about 30km in length with about 750m of ascent, and takes about 3 hours including breaks. It rates about 8 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.

Total distance: 70.38 km
Total climbing: 1432 m
Average temperature: NAN
Total time: 05:39:03
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Mossman Gorge

Dreamtime Stories
Mossman Gorge is part of the traditional country of the Kuku-Yalanji Aboriginal people. We spent a few hours exploring this area with an Aboriginal guide as part of a small group tour organized via the Mossman Gorge Centre. The gorge is a popular destination for tourists, but the problem is that there isn’t anywhere to park at the end of the road where the gorge starts. So the Mossman Gorge Centre was built further back towards town with a huge car park, and regular busses that run every 15 minutes to take visitors up to the gorge, without having to hassle about where to leave the car.
Smoking ceremony
We started our walk with a smoking ceremony. This is a traditional way of welcoming visitors and protecting them from harm during their stay. Everyone walked through the smoke before walking into the forest.
Bush tuckerBush tucker
The rainforest is full of delicious food if you know where to look. Rodney, our guide, showed us some things we could eat, and ground them up for us one some stones which had been in use for centuries. We could still see the dents in the stones where nuts had been ground many times before over hundreds of years.
"Wait a while"Shelters
He also explained how the plant we call “Wait-a-while” was so important to his people. While we think of it as a prickly pest, it was essential in providing struts for building shelters. The spiky tendrils were useful for hunting snares and fish traps. The longer sections of cane could be cut open for drinking water, and it could also be used as a climbing aid for scaling tall rainforest trees.
Old meeting placeDreamtime Stories
The highlight for me was when we got to sit down and listen to the Kuku-Yalanji dreamtime stories…

When their ancestors came to rainforest, they didn’t know what they could eat. A good spirit named Kubirri came to them in the form of a man. He showed the people what they could eat, what things were poisonous, and how they could prepare other foods so they would be good to eat, and not harmful. Because of Kurbirri, the Kuku-Yalanji had lots of food and were happy.

But one day, Wurrmbu, an evil spirit came to live there. After this, food became more difficult to find, and people went missing. He was too strong for the people to stop. Thankfully, Kubirri said he would protect the people and the animals from Wurrmbu. He called the people and the animals to follow him up into the mountains. The animals followed him, but the people were scared and didn’t follow him.

While Kubirri and the animals were in the mountains, Wurrmbu cursed them and turned them to stone. If you look at the top of the mountains near the gorge, you can still see the forms Kubirri and the animals in stone. Kuburri stands between the animals and Wurrmbu, holding him back, and protecting them from harm.
Aboriginal Rock Art
At the rock shelter we got to see some old rock art. Rodney told us this painting of a turtle was thousands of years old.
Rock Pools
Rock PoolsRock Pools
Partway through the tour, we got to spend half an hour or so splashing around in one of the crystal clear rock pools, in one of the creeks that feeds into the Mossman River.
Rock Pools
Rodney said the water was about as pure as you could find in the wild, so I thought I’d taste it to see for myself. I agreed with him πŸ™‚
Kauri Pine
After that, we slowly wound our way back through the forest for some afternoon tea and a didgeridoo concert.

Can you hear the sounds of Kookaburras, Crcodiles and Kangaroos in his playing?

If you’re visiting Far North Queensland, Mossman Gorge is a “must-do” destination. If it’s your first time, make sure you book a tour so you can experience this wonderful culture first-hand.

Gold Creek

On Friday afternoon I was getting that familiar feeling of panic – I wanted to do a big ride, but didn’t know where to go. So I thought I’d be lazy and messaged my friend Darb “I don’t know where to ride tomorrow, have you got any ideas?”

“Somewhere cool!”, he replied.

“How about ….” I replied back detaiiling an wildly epic ride through D’Aguilar National Park taking in over 100km of tracks.

Rather than indulge my wild-eyed enthusiasm for such an ambitious ride on the first day of summer (the last few days have been very hot and very humid), Darb decided to give me a dose of common sense, and we eventually settled on a slightly shorter but just as tough ride to Gold Creek Reservoir.
Gold Creek Reservoir

Gold Creek has an interesting history. It was an important boundary for the Turrbal aboriginal people. It marked the south-western edge of their country which stretched all the way from that point north-east to the North Pine River. Constance Campbell Petrie writes:

This tribe all spoke the same language, but, of course, was
divided up into different lots, who belonged some to North
Pine, some to Brisbane, and so on. These lots had their
own little boundaries. Though the land belonged to the whole
tribe, the head men often spoke of it as theirs. The tribe in
general owned the animals and birds on the ground, also roots
and nests, but certain men and women owned different
fruit or flower-trees and shrubs. For instance, a man could
own a bon-yi (Araucaria Bidwilli) tree, and a woman a minti
(Banksia amula), dulandella (Persoonia Sp.), midyim (Myrtus
tenuifolia), or dakkabin (Xanthorrhcea aborea) tree. Then
a man sometimes owned a portion of the river which was a
good fishing spot, and no one else could fish there without
his permission.

In 1846, Tom Petrie passed through this area as a 14 year old boy on his way from the penal colony at Brisbane to Wivenhoe Station in the Brisbane Valley. What a long way to walk!

In the 1860’s, a small amount of alluvial gold was discovered in the creek (which is how it got its name).

In the 1880’s, the growing town of Brisbane needed more water. While nearby Enoggera Reservoir was able to supply water to many parts of Brisbane, it wasn’t able to get water to many of the higher locations around Brisbane because it was too low – and without a pump water can’t run uphill. A dam was built on Gold Creek at a point about 100m above sea level. This was higher than most places in towm, and so a gravity-fed pipeline was able to supply the water needs of the more elevated homes in town, 20km away.
Gold Creek
Today Darb and I thought we’d set ourselves a challenge, and ride from home to Gold Creek and back. We rode through Bunyaville, and then up to the top of “Ironbark” in Samford Forest. From there we slowly ground our way to the summit of Camp Mountain (up the short side), then rode down (and up) Centre Road in D’Aguilar National Park. Eventually we followed Gold Creek Road off South Boundary Road, down to the reservoir.

The only problem was, as it was the first day of summer, I ran out of water by the time we got to the reservoir. I was carrying 3 litres on my back, and 800ml of sports drink on the bike, but that wasn’t enough in the hot humid weather. Thankfully we were able to fully top up at an old house with a water tank near the reservoir. Just to be on the safe side I dropped a couple of micropur water purifying tablets into the water. It was fine.
"Dive Bomb"
We slowly rode back up Gold Creek Road, down (and up) Centre Road, and back into the Camp Mountain part of the forest via Bellbird Grove. Darb showed me “Dive bomb” – a fun track which lets you zoom down some steep trails under the powerlines, shooting you out near Mount Nebo Road. Unfortunately we were going in the wrong direction and didn’t want to add yet another large climb into the trip, so we gave “Dive bomb” a miss today.

This ride had some long steep climbs, and by the end of it, we’d slogged out over 1,850m of vertical ascent. During the 76km ride I burned about 4,500 kcal. We took about seven and a half hours including breaks. On a hot day like today, I’m rating this one 9.5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter. Consider topping up on water at the half way point, and you need lots (and lots) of energy snacks, plus copious quantities of sun-screen.

Total distance: 75.99 km
Total climbing: 1966 m
Average temperature: NAN
Total time: 07:34:35
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Somerset Lookout
Nick and his family were camping at Neurum Creek Bush Retreat (NCBR), and kindly invited Jason and me to ride with them thorugh the northern section of D’Aguilar National Park.

Neurum Camp Ground

NCBR is a popular camping spot not far from Woodford, about a one hour drive north of Brisbane. If you pop in there on most weekends, you’ll smell camp fires burning, steak sizzling, and notice dozens of tents, caravans, 4wds and kids happily rolling around the place on their BMX bikes. It’s ideally situated on the border of D’Aguilar National Park, and is a perfect spot for launching a full-day epic exploration.

Lovedays Road
We started the ride with a long climb up Lovedays Road, ascending 400m in about 8.5km. We had fresh legs, so the climb only took us about 50 minutes. We then got to enjoy a brief downhill respite before starting the next long climb.
Hoop Pine Forest
The trail took us through different types of forest including this Hoop Pine plantation, on the way to the summit at Somerset Lookout.
Somerset Lookout
Eventually, after another hour of climbing, we made it to the lookout on the western escarpment with some spectacular views out towards Somerset Dam.
Somerset Lookout
The long climb to the top was worth it for the panorama.
The Gantry
A couple of Nick’s daughters met us at “The Gantry” with a delicious lunch and a bit of fresh water to top up with. “The Gantry” was once a busy sawmill in the early 20th century when the surrounding forest was logged for Cedar, Eucalyptus and Pine. The quiet lawns around the old sawmill are an idea spot to relax and enjoy lunch.
Dianas Bath
From the Gantry, we rode down the “Mother of all descents”, dropping almost 500m in the space of 10km, to the beautiful rock pool at Dianas Bath.
Dianas BathDianas Bath
Some of us decided to jump into the cool blue water and wash off the heat, dirt and sweat. Others just had a bit of a paddle on the edge of the pool. It’s a serene place with unusually blue water. And it’s difficult to get to: we had to ditch the bikes and hike about 500 metres through thick scrub to get to the rock pool. It was worth the effort.
And then the hard work began. The climb from Dianas Bath back to the Gantry is one of the toughest ascents I’ve ever done. After a slow grind to the top of Dianas Bath Road, we then had to contend with the notorious “A-Break”. This heart breaking track has a couple of km of dusty hills with gradients in excess of 30%. It’s exhausting work. I pedaled what I could, and slowly walking up the rest, one step at a time, pushing my bike. I rarely push my bike up hills. If possible I always try to ride them. But this monster beat me.

After an hour and a half of hard uphill work, we finally made it back to The Gantry where we topped up our water and started the final leg back to Neurum.

This ride has a whopping total ascent of 2,200 metres with three big climbs – Lovedays Road, the Climb back from Dianas Bath, and a difficult little grind just before the final descent back to the starting point. The entire 67km trip took us eight and a half hours including breaks, during which I burned over 5,200 kcal. Technically a couple of the descents are challenging. physically, the climbs are very demanding. You need to be very fit (or slightly insane) to attempt this ride – especially in hot weather. This one rates 10 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter. Complete it, and you can brag about it for years to come. Bring lots of water, food and patient super-human friends.

Note: Dianas Bath is on private property. The owner currently allows walk-in access only. Please treat it with respect, clean up any mess you make, take all litter with you, and be courteous towards anyone else who is using the waterhole.

Pilba Peak

Jungle Bridge
Pilba Peak is a Mountain Biking Park in Mulgrave, near Cairns in North Queensland, run by Dan Foley of Dan’s Mountainbiking. Dan kindly invited me up there for a ride and a look around. He named it after the aboriginal name for Butcher Bird, “Pilba”.
Camping GroundCamping Ground
The 100 acre property is nestled in a valley bounded on three sides by the steep slopes of the Lamb Range, Little Mulgrave Forest Reserve and Danbulla National Park. Dan has built an amazing facility with a large camping ground, and kilometres of tracks winding through the rainforest, up and down some of the punishing slopes in the area.
Little Mulgrave River
We started our ride near the banks of the Little Mulgrave River, then slowly made our way up one of the steepest switch-back climbs I’ve ever done, which Dan affectionately named “The Ladder”. I had to push my bike part of the way up, and was relieved to eventually reach the top.
Steep Descent
Like all good climbs, the pay-off is the fun you have on the way back down. We had a hoot dropping back down from the peak into the forest below.
Steep Descent
Just make sure you get as far back on the bike as possible when you ride these descents. They’re pretty steep in parts, and once you start going down, it’s difficult to stop.
Spiky TreeKauri Pine
Once back in the cool shade of the rainforest, Dan pointed out a few of the amazing plants native to this part of the world, including (yet another) spiky tree waiting to maim an unsuspecting passer-by, and an old Kauri Pine towering over the forest.
Jungle Bridge
There are miles of challenging tracks winding through the jungle, over tree routes, through creeks and over leaf-litter, as well as a couple of fun bridges that pass over some of the steeper creek crossings. It takes a bit of courage to ride over them the first time, as they bounce around a bit, but they’re a lot of fun once you get the hang of it.
Most of the tracks finish off back at the camping ground, where you can enjoy a cool drink before heading back into the rainforest for more steamy North Queensland mountain biking goodness πŸ™‚
Dan's Mountainbiking
Surprisingly, this “Guided Jungle Trail” ride with Dan took us about an hour and a half, during which time we covered just under 6km. It was a lot of fun, with a variety of different tracks to suit different skill levels, including a “Pro” course for those feeling partilcularly masochistic. Dan is a great riding buddy. What he has achieved at “Pilba Peak” is outstanding.

On the tough-o-meter, I’m rating my short ride 8.5 out of 10. I was huffing and puffing by the time I got to the top of “The Ladder” but was grinning like a cheshire cat for the rest of the time.

Thanks, Dan for a really enjoyable ride!

Total distance: 6.13 km
Total climbing: 324 m
Average temperature: NAN
Total time: 01:47:17
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