Sunday, April 08, 2007

ROADTRIP: Mt Buller Kona Bike Park

As many of you know, I spend a lot of time out of the US these days. While this sucks from a racing point of view, it does allow me to occasionally do a bit of "mountainbike vacationing." A few weeks ago, I got a chance to sample Mount Buller Bike Park in Southeastern Australia (near Melbourne). Here's my report:

After arriving pretty late on Friday night, I awoke early to catch some breakfast and get up the hill for some biking. They've paired up with Kona to become one of their 17 groove approved bike park. While the prices were a bit steep (I dropped about AUD$200 for a days rental, which is about USD$150), I decided to hire one of their downhill bikes -- the Kona Stinky. It was this year's Stinky model in pretty good shape.

Mt Buller has a number of downhill runs, but most of them are pretty advanced. I picked the ABOM run, which was rated intermediate, instead of the International run, which at expert had several jumps and 2 meter drops. This was a wise choice, ABOM was extremely rocky, lots of square hits and pretty technical. Unfortunately, half way down I realized that the Aussies reverse their brake levers from Americans (left is back, right is front). Not before going over the handlebars once. But none the worse for wear, I made it down to the village -- about 1.7km.

After I completed my first run, I decided to hook up with a guide that was leading around another group of riders up from Geelong (near Melbourne). This was cool -- they were worse than I was -- and the guide knew a lot of less downhilly type rides around the mountain and village. This was great since I got to see a lot more of the mountain and get away from the developments. Unfortunately, you still needed to use the chair lift to get back up the mountain (the stinky is a really heavy bike). I believe that I may have used up one of my nine lives here -- I fell off once and felt like I was about to the six other times. This shot is over my shoulder as I went up the lift.

I got in about 7 or 8 runs before calling it a day. All in all, well worth the time and effort. For those of you thinking about making the trip, Mt Buller is about 4 hours drive from Melbourne.

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