ALPINE DELIGHT AT FALLS CREEK; IGNITION MTB FESTIVAL AND MTBA GRAVITY ENDURO CUP ROUND 4
Over the last couple weekends Rachel and I have been extremely fortunate to spend quite a bit of time at Falls Creek. Located roughly 6hrs east of Melbourne and just under 5 hours from our base in the Yarra Valley, Falls Creek is one of Australias premier ski resorts that has welcomed mountain biking with open arms over the last couple of years.
With maximum elevation of just over 1800M, or 6,000Ft quite the canvas is on hand and the resort team has put their best foot forth in terms of getting some quality trails on the ground.
Over the weekend of the 17th and 18th Blue Dirt mountain biking had their annual Ignition MTB Festival. Rachel and I hadn't been before, however this year we were fortunate enough to be asked if we'd like to run some sessions for beginner and intermediate riders over the weekend. This was our first time formally coaching, and it was ace! All of the riders progressed a massive amount over the space of a simple 90 minute session.
For the beginners we ran some pretty basic drills on the principles of braking and more importantly maintaining traction and control whilst braking. This was done in hopes of providing these riders with more confidence to tackle more challenging trails over there course of the weekend with the knowledge and confidence that they could maintain control on terrain that previously made them uncomfortable. Seeing our beginner students step up to ride some fairly steep slopes with control and traction made our day and more importantly made their weekend!
After our beginner class we had 4 Intermediate classes to run - one of the cooler things to see was some of our beginner students turning up later on for an intermediate lesson and seeing how much progress they had made over such a short period of time.
For our intermediate sessions we focused on some more complex skills with more emphasis on practical trail time. For this particular weekend we worked on angulation through corners. Angulation is simply the technique of angulating the bike through a turn - for those interested in practicing this at home, set up some cones in a line with a comfortable amount of space between each. Aim for at least 4 cones so you get the hang of transitioning between turns. Use the cones as a "Slalom" and as you weave between cone, practice leaning the bike over to the inside. A good way to do this is concentrate on extending your inside arm - this will cause the bike to 'rock' onto the side knobs of the tyre. For example, as you turn left, you would straighten your left arm. As you turn right, straighten your right arm.
With angulation it's extremely important to keep your body, for the most part, central and stable. If you physically lean into the corner (think a moto GP rider) your weight distribution is no longer over the bike and more importantly the contact patch of the front tyre - in loose conditions this can cause the front end to break traction - not what you want!
Angulation is particularly useful for a lot of trails here in Australia. Big banked berms tend to do a lot of the work for you - in these cases rotation through the hips and ensuring they are pointing to your chosen direction ie. the exit/your line is important.
However, in Australia we have a lot of raw single that tends to head in a straight line as far as the crow flies, although it often weaves or 'snakes' on it's way from A to B (eg. not many big, banked berms often seen in movies, bike parks etc.).
By angulating the bike you can not only maintain speed but actually pump the terrain and build speed. As you are staying fairly central (ie. not physically moving your body mass and weight patch) you are simply just working the handlebars with your arms (when done correctly, the rest of the bike will follow). A really, really good example of this in application done perfectly (far better than what I could ever hope to do) is Bryn Atkinson. If you head over to his youtube or Instagram page he has some great videos that show this technique. The chest mounted POV GoPro videos are great because you can see the separation between him and the bike - ie. the bike is being worked and manipulated, yet he remains composed, strong and in control.
After what felt like 2 seconds at home we were back up to Falls creek the following weekend for the MTBA National round. We almost didn't show up (I voted no, Rachel forced me to ride) after the heavy snow falls during the week however on arrival we were beyond stoked and extremely surprised to see how good the trails were - the Falls Creek trail crew went above and beyond re-routing the course and clearing trails for the race and by the weekend we were left with immaculate dirt and a super fun and physical course.
Stage 1 and 5 were the highlights - both used "Big Fella" - a recent addition to the network and by far my favourite trail on the mountain. It starts off fast and technical with stunning views down to the valley before it descends into the tree-line.
Racing went well for both us with Rach pulling 2nd place in Elite Womens and I took home the bacon in expert mens! This 2nd place also placed Rach 2nd overall in the MTBA national gravity series overall - a phenomenal result for her first season racing!
Looking back those two weekends at Falls Creek were nothing short of spectacular. The Trail's on hand have matured well from the inception of the Falls Creek trail network and with recent additions it is definitely on my short list for places to ride in Victoria, and it takes the cake for the most beautiful place in Victoria to ride a mountain bike in my opinion.
If you've got a spare weekend free it's a must do. Make sure you stay the night up on the mountain, or at least stay up until the sun drops behind the horizon. Nothing Beats a Falls Creek sunset! If camping is your thing I'd tip my hat to Pretty Valley - located about 15minutes-ish drive down the pretty valley road it's a seriously rad spot. You can also take a dip in the lake if it's a hot night!
For food check out Attunga - beautiful views (especially at sunset) and the food is great. Prices are reasonable and the staff are extremely accomodating. Good coffee can be found on the hill at the Blue Dirt cafe by the shuttle pick up. Lunch options are somewhat thin on the ground during summer.
The Blue dirt cafe has some pretty tasty pies and sausage rolls, which if I recall correctly, were from the Mt Beauty bakery. Otherwise you can trek up the top of the village to cafe Milch - I didn't go to Milch this time around, however last summer I did and it was a great spot.
A big shoutout to the Blue Dirt mountain biking family for playing such a pivotal role in growing our mountain bike scene here in Victoria and for putting on Ignition - what a time!
Lastly, thanks to everyone that keeps us rolling;
LIV Cycling AUS (Rachel)
Blue Dirt Mountain biking (Rachel)
Rocky Mountain Australia/Adventure Brands Australia (Howie)
DHaRCO Clothing (Howie)