When I set about designing Dirty Mega March I had envisaged smoking 3 days at Mt Buller, then with a robotic like symphony of athletic prowess thanks to my newly installed core muscles, I would spend another day stealing Snozza’s MTB KOM’s at Lysterfield back in Melbourne.
As Arnold once said to a weathered gun shop owner (RIP) – Wrong. I probably could have ridden my bike on Tuesday, that’s to say if I had a road bike and there was a very flat road to a cafe somewhere. Instead, the wise decision was made just to do the ‘cafe’ part of that equation, I was in no position to protest either.
So, instead of more Go PRO screenshots of my imaginary ripping around Lysterfield park, today is a little summary on Buller and even a few dubious tips if you want to head up that way for yourself.
My first obvious tip is around trip design, which you think I would have learnt by now of course. Unlike Meribel, Whistler, Queenstown or any other location where you are 100% chairlift enabled, there is a finite number of days you can continue to punch out big days on the bike. Like a porn star with a greedy double booking agent, at some stage you’re going to run out of juice and your performances will start to suffer. This is especially true for racing, which takes things up a notch, so plan accordingly.
After 3 days of approximately 12 hours on the bike in total, there’s also the small matter of a laundry melt down that was verging on a WHO alert and one dirty motherfucking Nomad. The bike needed a good clean as well, best to avoid the NZ customs rubber gloves on Phase 2 arrival:
I have to say, odd Maxxis tire melt down aside, the Nomad 3 was insanely awesome all weekend. Its a bike that needs to be ridden in terrain becoming of it, and Buller provided just that, fast, rocky and varied. I think I need to fuck around with the Fox 36 fork a bit still, but everything else is dialled. For those out there wanting to know (2 of you), the XTR/X01 drivetrain was flawless all weekend, even under some seriously retarded shifting thanks to my flogged out state. Ok then, time for a few quick tips about Buller and back-to-back MTB Festival racing!
Mt Buller low down
It didn’t occur to me at the time, but this was the only place other than Perth that I’ve ever ridden in Australia. Also felt a bit silly that after all the years of coming to Melbourne for work and then spending the weekends buying jeans I didn’t need on Chapel street (nothing to do with the sales staff) like a total cunt, that I had been missing out on what was on offer.
What I’m trying to say is that Melbourne has a number of good options on the MTB front and whilst Buller is only one, its the closest big alpine action around. Factor in about 3.5 hours to 4 from Melbourne, assuming you’re flying in and need to snag a rental. You’ll want to stop along the way and take photos of the DOON to whatsapp to your mates that A) It actually exists and B) make some reference to serenity etc:
And now, some dirty rapid fire tips, no Bull:
- Accommodation – We stayed at the Aeski lodge, which I have to say was fucking awesome. Great set up and facilities and very close to the main village. Probably best to fill it up, as its a self help lodge that can take up to 46 people, so its a question of economics really as to how much you want to pay per night. Scope the website and try to get a decent sized group, which you want anyway for running a train on the EPIC descent. More expensive for non-members, but I think worth investigating if you have a big group
- Food – Its slim pickings on the ground from a cafe and restaurant perspective, so don’t expect a mini Whistler. This is still a winter business proposition, so pack your own food. If I hadn’t had Snozza to go to a thing he called a ‘Supermarket’ and then done a thing he mumbled was called ‘cooking dinner cunt’ then I would have starved.
- Getting around – I’m not dumb enough to outline that Strayla is a fucking big place, so if you’re visiting from out of town and don’t have a resident Snozza, then its rental car city (fingered) or dare I suggest it, a camper van? depends on how much abuse you want on the drive up and back
- Bike shops – Whilst the culinary scene is slim pickings, bike shops were ok, a couple to choose from and I was able to find anything I wanted in the main store off the village square, they even sorted my rear tire mid race, so can’t complain – thanks boys. Take hard to find spares, but for most things you’ll be covered here.
Logistically its challenging enough that you wouldn’t just rock up here by yourself. You really need an event to come to, or a well planned trip with a group to make it worth while, so best to base a trip around either one of those scenarios.
The riding action
As I said yesterday its easy to sum up the riding action in Buller, and I quote:
“Its either fucking up, or fucking down”
Yes, a simplification, but not wrong… Not a lot of undulating terrain here, so you’re either working it or flying down a descent. The terrain turned out to be a lot rockier than I had anticipated, which would have pleased the Dok no end, could have snuck out post ride for a quick science perv.
There is a bit of something for everyone here, a lot of DH action with the chairlifts, plus plenty of XC fodder for those on Specialized Epics (80% of the crowd) and of course, just general trail riding. I suspect your best bet is a mid travel 29er if you wanted to come here for an extended period for trail riding, on account of how much motherfucking climbing you end up doing.
Be prepared for a mix of super fast and rocky double track, to hero dirt forest single track, its got a huge range of variety to go around, so you’re not going to get bored any time soon. There is a lot of trail here, so ideally get the trail map or snare a local who knows the ways, obviously a bonus.
The big question though is what about that EPIC Trail? Its well publicised and promoted, but I think that the main thing to take into account is that in reality its an overlay of a whole lot of existing trails to make up a 50km single ‘trail’. Granted, I didn’t ride the first 37km’s, thus saving myself a lot of grunting, but for most of us it will be all about the last 13km’s of awesome DH action.
As far as I could tell, everything else was already in place, they simply built the final descent to cap it off and make the ‘Epic’ certification. My advice would be to ride the whole thing on day 1 if you’re there for casual riding, then just head back and do the final part on subsequent days. Yes, the last part is that good that you’ll want to tap it again and again. You know that feeling where you have a new squeeze and you both just want to keep smashing it every chance you get to the point no one wants to go to a restaurant with you? Yeah, its a bit like that…
Continuing with that theme: Its fucking fast… Fucking fun… and fucking well made. Best done with a group of mates, mainly as you’ll pin the fuck out of it in a train and its best to have someone on hand should you eat shit, like I did obviously, as you’d be a bit fucked if you came unstuck alone down here, so bear that in mind.
The only other tip is that you end up at the bottom of the mountain at Mirimbah, so you need to time it around getting a shuttle back up, which run at: 9am, 11:30am, 2.30pm and 4:30pm. There’s a decent cafe at the bottom, so get there about 1 for lunch, then hit the 2.30pm shuttle. Its a 15km ride back up the mountain, to be fucking avoided at all costs if you’re on a proper ENDURO bike. Again a massive thanks to Snozza and Stu for the
punishment tour guiding around Buller and the inside intel.
The racing action
My main tip here is perhaps do some research and planning when approaching an MTB festival… Especially if you want to be competitive. I entered races that had cool names, without really digging deeper. To be fair, I wanted a bit of a bootcamp to shock me back into the real world of proper terrain and racing… Fuck me with a nightstick as thats what I got.
I did get massively caught out by the event on Sunday obviously, the Ballsack Burner, which with close to 5 hours and 80km’s meant that the small tank was pretty empty come Monday. Bearing in mind that EWS will be 7 to 8 hours on course though, it was a necessary evil to contend with. If you race a lot and want to be at the sharp end, then probably a better tactic to go with quality over quantity and importantly: Pre ride the courses!
Everything was pretty well organised and drilled, so good work to Rapid Ascent for that… Aside from the results, which aside from the ENDURO race were whack. It took a few days to fix the Saturday race, but the Ball burner is still well wrong, which I guess is a good summary of the event!
My final piece of advice: Race these things with mates. I have said it before and I know its obvious, but the only thing that made Sunday bearable was being able to share/maximise my ridicule with Snozza. The ENDURO on Monday would have been a lot more fun with a crew, so something worth planning together.
If you’ve never been to an MTB festival, its worth a crack, hard to jam as many events into one weekend as this, so good for some saturation. Speaking of which, my legs are still recovering and today is about ramming in some final chill time before punching out of Melbourne to head to NZ! Phase 2 of DM2 beckons… Stay tuned!