Trip report: Night Mountain Biking: The Oaks Trail
Mountain bikers: Matthew Buchhorn and Albert Chetcuti.
It was an overcast night that greeted us as we both ventured out into the unknown. Not that we’d hadn’t done the Oaks trail before, that we’d both hadn’t done it in the dark!!
The trip was planned to coincide with the full moon, but unfortunately that afternoon a heavy layer of cloud had drifted across the blueys, negating the advantage we had with this timely adventure.
We meet up at the Glenbrook rail commuter car park, noting that there were no other crazy mountain bikers willing to take the challenge that lay ahead of us. Considering this night was the first day of winter, we were surprised by the “relatively” warm air temperature by blueys standards.
In the car park, we fine tuned our machines and our lighting systems, as local rail travellers looked on thinking………”What the hell are these guys up to?”.
We boarded the 19:13 silver bullet heading west which would transport us to the start of the Oaks Trail in Woodford.
It was here that our different tactics of lighting really showed. Matt had lights which basically turned night into day. A series of three 3 watt LEDs produced an amazing amount of light at full strength. I, on the other hand, had a completely inadequate system comprising of LEDs, halogen, and incandescent lights (4 in total) mounted on the handlebars, helmet and front forks.
Mat led the way, while I followed the glow from his “headlights”. Riding in the dark was very interest and different. The adrenalin really gets pumping as you end up riding much faster than in the daylight because you can’t see as much. I was just a matter on holding on tight, using your balance and allow the bike the do all the work.
Short downhill runs were mixed with up hill sections that required 1st gear to reach the top. We briefly stopped at the top of the hills, to catch our breath before continuing into the darkness.
Riding at night was very surreal. The air was cool and refreshing, the track devoid of weekend warriors and ambient light. We were occasionally treated to bursts of full moon light which bathed the track with enough light that you could ride without lights. Unfortunately the moonlight disappeared behind a thick blanket of cloud just as quickly as it had appeared.
After many short hills, we reached the top of the ridge and could see the lights that illuminated the Sydney basin. We were both looking forward to the next part, the fast and long downhill run to the Oaks. Matt took the lead and raced off reaching speeds of 50 kph. I cruised along at 35 kph, enjoy the fruits of all that uphill riding. Luckily, the moon had broken through the cloud cover and we were treated to the additional light illuminating the way.
We reached the gate at the end of the trail and had a short break. We checked our lights and still had plenty of battery life left. From here, we continuing along on the single track section. The adrenalin was pumping again as this section has a few bends that were difficult to see in the dark. I missed one of the turns completely, just missed a tree and ended up in the scrub. I got back onto the track and continued along eventually catching up to Matt. The going was fast and fairly easy as the track is narrow and you just have to go for it at maximum speed.
Towards the end of the single-track section we took the more technical and rocky downhill section which eventually reaches the road. We reached the Glenbrook Creek causeway in just under 2 hrs after leaving Woodford station. All that was left we the steep climb out of Glenbrook Creek gorge and back to suburban Glenbrook.
A fantastic trip. Highly recommended !!
Some photos will be on the web soon.